Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Best Book You Have Never Read

"I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:20-21, ESV)

Ichabod Spencer lived those words.  A pastor from 1828 to his death in 1854, twenty two of those twenty six years were at one church, Second Presbyterian in Brooklyn, New York.  While Mr. Spencer had his faults, one area he excelled at was what I would call 'pastoral evangelism'.  He was incredibly skillful in using the Bible one-on-one, showing unsaved people the condition of their heart and then pointing them clearly and accurately to Jesus' work on the cross for rescue and pardon.

Many of these conversations were with people who attended his church.  In some cases these people knew themselves to be still unconverted, and came to him hungrily for help.  He was able to aid them in seeing a wrong belief about God or about themselves that was hindering them.  In other cases, the people thought themselves already Christians, but pastor Spencer's watchful and kind probing helped them see more clearly.  No two cases were alike; he met many different people and he was skilled at telling them what they needed to hear.  He definitely did not use a cookie-cutter or formula, but he did use the Scriptures a lot. 

We would know little of this, had Pastor Spencer not blessed the Christian world by writing down fascinating narratives of many of his conversations.  Originally published in two volumes, they have more recently been reprinted as one.  The book is overall, one of the best books I have read, ever; definitely in the top 10.  I know of no other book like it.

Two cautions:
  • As a Presbyterian, Pastor Spencer believed in infant baptism by sprinkling and this comes out in a few of his conversations.
  • Pastor Spencer sometimes counseled women privately.  Happily he remained above reproach, but I would not recommend anyone do this.

From's description:
Follow one of America's most beloved pastors as he goes on visitation. These sketches are the notes Spencer compiled after visiting seekers in his community. They were first published in 1850 and 1853 toward the end of the remarkable ministry of the man known as "The Bunyan of Brooklyn." These 77 case studies were drawn from detailed notes that Spencer collected from his extensive home visits throughout New York City. At the time of its publication, A Pastor's Sketches was one of the best-selling books in America. It is currently required reading in three seminaries. A forgotten gem!
If you don't want to buy a print copy, you can also download both volumes as eBooks from at no charge.

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