The low point in the history of Christendom came in the late ninth and early tenth centuries—a period when much of Europe was overwhelmed by barbarian raids and widespread civil disorder, which left the Church in a state of disarray. As Howe shows, however, the destruction gave rise to creativity. Aristocrats and churchmen rebuilt churches and constructed new ones, competing against each other so that church building, like castle building, acquired its own momentum. Patrons strove to improve ecclesiastical furnishings, liturgy, and spirituality. Schools were constructed to staff the new churches. Moreover, Howe shows that these reform efforts paralleled broader economic, social, and cultural trends in Western Europe including the revival of long-distance trade, the rise of technology, and the emergence of feudal lordship. The result was that by the mid-eleventh century a wealthy, unified, better-organized, better-educated, more spiritually sensitive Latin Church was assuming a leading place in the broader Christian world.
Before the Gregorian Reform challenges us to rethink the history of the Church and its place in the broader narrative of European history. Compellingly written and generously illustrated, it is a book for all medievalists as well as general readers interested in the Middle Ages and Church history.
The following articles appear in this summer 2014 edition:
1. Self-Denial – in which Isaac Ambrose expounds Mark 8:34, showing that self-denial must be a cardinal feature of Christ’s true disciples.
2. The Almost Christian – George Whitefield shows from Acts 26:28 that having the trappings of religion is not the same thing as having true saving faith.
3. God’s Regard for His Own Glory, Seen in the Saving of Sinners – in which Stephen Charnock illustrates the rich glory of God as can only be seen in his redemption of sinful men.
4. Charity, in Respect of Other Men’s Sins – John Howe teaches from 1 Corinthians 13:6 that believers should never rejoice over the failings or misfortunes of others, and should be predisposed to grant them the benefit of the doubt.
5. A Word to the Aged – comforting and insightful teaching from William Bridge for those who have nearly run their course.
The Puritans in Verse: A Psalm of Praise – Richard Baxter.