“The Saving Power of God at Work in the Marine Corp”

September 28, 2009

In November of 2002 our son graduated from Boot Camp in Parris Island, SC. That same month Solid Ground published its first edition of J.R. Miller’s classic devotional “Come Ye Apart,” the book that was used to confirm God’s call upon our first born son to join the Marines. Now for the rest of the story.

 

The Lord was gracious to use the Marines in the life of our son, as he was challenged every day concerning his faith in Christ. He had numerous opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to others he would never have met had he not joined the Marines. While stationed in Okinawa, Japan he had men join him in his room while I would lead a Bible Study over the speaker phone. Because he was 14 hours ahead of me I would lead the study at 6:00 in the morning. It was a wonderful time that I will never forget.

 

The year he completed his four years of active service I went out to spend a long weekend with him in California. On the Saturday Night before Easter Sunday we sat at a restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He reminded me that this was the very place he called me to tell me that one of his Marine buddies had come to faith in Christ and was preparing to be baptized. This man came to the Lord after hearing our son give his testimony at a Corporal’s course just a month or so earlier. 

 

As we were preparing to leave his cell phone rang and it was another of his Marine buddies calling from Minnesota. They had been stationed together in Okinawa and he was one of those who gathered in his room for our long-distance Bible Studies. He said to my son, “Guess what I am doing tomorrow?” Before my son could guess he said, “I have been asked to share my testimony before my church. Guess what I am going to tell them?” My son said he did not know. His friend said, “I am going to tell them how the Lord used you to open my eyes to see my need for Jesus Christ.” When my son shared this with me, with tears in both our eyes I said, “Can you now see why the Lord directed me to Psalm 15?” 

 

A P.S. to this story is that recently, three years after leaving the Marines, my son received a phone call from his former roommate at Camp Pendleton. This man had been relentless in his ridiculing my son’s faith in Christ. After three years he was calling to tell my son that he had recently come to Christ, and he wanted to apologize for the way he treated him because of his faith, and to thank him for being such an example to him. Truly the Lord is good and the Lord is great. What a joy it is to serve Him!


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“The Righteous Man Swears to His Own Hurt, and Does Not Change”

September 25, 2009

 

Seven years ago these words from Psalm 15 came home to me in a way that I will likely never forget. My oldest son was faced with a very important decision in his life: should he enter the US Marines? He asked me to pray about his decision, knowing that he had recently become a Christian, and thus was questioning his early enlistment which he did some seven months earlier. I asked him one simple question: Did you raise your right hand and take an oath to defend this country? He said yes.

 

That night I prayed for my son and his decision, and the Lord brought to my memory the words from Psalm 15, “The righteous man swears to his own hurt, and does not change.” I then went and read over the passage and prayed for my son’s decision. In the middle of the night I woke up with these words from Psalm 15 repeating themselves louder and louder. I was beginning to sense that this contained the Lord’s answer to my son’s dilemma.

 

Come Ye Apart - J.R. Miller

Come Ye Apart - J.R. Miller

The next morning I rose and turned to the July 11th reading from the book “Come Ye Apart” by J.R. Miller, a book I was considering making into a Solid Ground reprint. The reading for that morning was taken from Matthew 14:9 and entitled A Royal Coward. The text expounded that morning was, “For the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.” That which was to be given to Herodias’ daughter was the head of John the Baptist. The devotional for the morning began:

“Herod called himself a king, and yet see what a poor slave he was, what a craven coward! He was sorry he had made the oath, exceedingly sorry. His conscience was not altogether dead. He did not want to kill John…He hated himself for having been caught by Herodias in her plot, to have her long-cherished revenge. Yet, he was so much a slave that, although he claimed to be a king, he had not the courage to refuse such a request.”

 

As I read this devotional my thought immediately turned to my son, his dilemma, and Psalm 15. It was then that I read the last paragraph of Miller’s devotion:

“There are some things we have no right to swear away. Things that are our own we are always to do with as we have sworn. According to the Scriptures, a good man, having sworn to his own hurt, changes not.” 

 

I sat there stunned. A third time this passage had come to me as my son prayed for wisdom. That morning he called me and asked for my advice. I simply said to him: “Son, I want you to get to a quiet place and open your Bible to Psalm 15. Before you read that entire Psalm, pause and ask the Lord to open your eyes to see what He would have you do.” Less than an hour later he called me back and told me that he was going to follow through and enter the Marines. After he made his decision I told him about the way the Lord brought that text to me, and read him Miller’s devotional. Next time I will tell you the rest of that story.   


 

“How do you decide what to Publish?” Part 2

September 4, 2009

In addition to the four answers given last time to the question above, there are a few more reasons we will pursue a particular project. I will briefly give these additional reasons.

 

Fifth, I have been asked to work with others on projects that would be too big for them to do on their own. One example would be “The Collected Writings of James Henley Thornwell” which we did a few years ago in conjunction with Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. They have helped us do several projects, including “Famous Women of the Reformed Church” and an upcoming one, “A Theological Interpretation of American History.” Another example would be the book by John Murray, “Calvin on Scripture and Divine Sovereignty,” which we did this year in conjunction with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, as we celebrated the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth.

 

SteppingHwardpic

Sixth, I have been enabled by Calvary Press to take over projects I had done while serving as head over that work so many years ago. Joe Bianchi of Calvary Press has been kind enough to allow me to take over some very important books, such as “Stepping Heavenward” by Elizabeth Prentiss and “More Love to Thee: The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss” by her husband George L. Prentiss. In addition, Joe turned over “The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit” by B.B. Warfield, as that was a title I conceived of many years ago while on Long Island. I am very thankful that our relationship with Calvary Press has remained strong all these years.

 

Seventh, I have been approached numerous times by living authors to launch new projects that have never seen the light of day. We have been privileged to publish four books by Christian apologist James R. White, including “Pulpit Crimes” one of our best-sellers from 2006. We are in the process of publishing the third book by Ray Rhodes, Jr. in our series on Family Worship. When this one is completed we will have a month of daily activities for The Reformation Season, The Thanksgiving Season and the Christmas Season. These books have all been very well received. A dear friend, David Dykstra, wrote his first book in 2006 entitled “Yearning to Breathe Free: Thoughts on Immigration, Islam & Freedom.” This book has had a significant impact due to its timely subject matter and the biblically sound approach of the author.

 

As you can see, there is no simple answer to the question, “How do you decide what books to Publish?” By the way, you may have noticed that we did not give the answer, “Will it sell?” Solid Ground is committed to truth. Our goal is to produce books that will be true to Scripture. We are convinced that the Lord will honor our work as long as we remain true to our original mission. We ask for prayer as we go forward in these tough economic times. We are in need of wisdom from on high as we go forward. One of the passages that has encouraged me for many years is found in Psalm 90:17, “And let the beauty of the LORD our God be upon us, And establish the work of our hands for us; Yes, establish the work of our hands.”


“How do you decide what to Publish?” Part 1

August 31, 2009

 

This is another question I often face as I speak with people about Solid Ground Christian Books. There is no simple answer. In fact, there are several answers to that question, depending upon the angle from which the question is faced.

 

First, I publish books that have ministered to me in my walk with the Lord. An example of this would be Benjamin B. Warfield’s book entitled The Power of God Unto Salvation.WarfieldPowerofGodSalvationpicOne of my dearest friends from Seminary days introduced me to Warfield and to a sermon titled “The Paradox of Omnipotence” which centers upon the rich young ruler in Luke 18. That sermon struck me over 30 years ago and it has ministered to me dozens of times over the years. After beginning Solid Ground I learned that the sermon was contained in a book of sermons by Warfield that was out of print. Thus I was thrilled to bring it back to minister to others as it had done to me.

 

Second, I publish books that I have discovered in the midst of my daily diggings on the Internet. There are times that I will be looking for books recommended by men like Spurgeon in Commenting and Commentaries that are no longer available. I will then go and search on used book sites until I find a clean copy that I can purchase for a reprint. This is the most common method.

 

Third, I publish books that have ministered to others and who tell me I need to reprint them. There are numerous examples of this method, including A Pastor’s Sketches which was rediscovered by David Vaughn, long-time missionary in France. There have been dozens of people who have been used to encourage me to pursue significant projects. It was Pastor Michael Nevarr of Virginia who is responsible for The Works of Thomas Manton, as he gave me the initial idea, gave me his set to use for the project, and even helped raise some financial help to see the project completed. Jim Cote of Maine sent me a photocopy of Edward Payson’s book Sermons for Christian Families many years ago and kept reminding me of the need for that book. I thank the Lord for people I have never met who have been used to recommend books that are now a significant part of Solid Ground. This is truly a team ministry.

 

Fourth, I publish books that have been available during my lifetime but have gone out of print. Several publishers like Banner of Truth, Kregel, Baker and others have allowed some great books to go out of print. When I discover that they have no plans to bring them back into print I then take up the project and follow the advice Lloyd Sprinkle gave me many years ago: I do it myself. One example would be James Buchanan’s work The Doctrine of Justification. Considered the best work ever produced on the subject, it was unavailable until we gave it a new life. It had most recently been reprinted by Banner of Truth, but they had no plans to bring it back again so we did it, and hundreds have been enriched by its thorough treatment in our fuzzy age.

 

I hope to have a second entry in response to this question in a couple days.


“That Man Taught Me How to Teach Children”

August 28, 2009

In our last blog I shared the story of my discovery of Richard Newton, the man Spurgeon called “The prince of preachers to children.” This time I’d like to share about the other man William Blaikie mentioned in his chapter on ministry to children: John Todd. 

 

John Todd (1800-1873) was born and raised in Vermont and his life was filled with early tragedy. His father was killed in an accident when John was quite young and his mother was so deeply affected by his death that she suffered a severe nervous breakdown from which she never recovered. John said that his mother had only a few lucid moments the rest of her life, so he grew up without mother or father to care for him. But the Lord became his father and mother and nurtured him for Himself.

 

Todd came to Christ by grace and sensed a call to the ministry. After receiving training at Yale College and Andover Theological Seminary he was called to his first church in Northampton, MA where he was privileged to pastor Edwards Memorial Church, named in honor of Jonathan Edwards, one of Todd’s heroes. 

 

In addition to serving as a pastor in several places, Todd also wrote books that had a profound influence all over the world. In the Preface to one of his books he wrote a brief note to his son in which he explained the reason he wrote books, despite the amount of time it took him. He explained that every penny made from these books was sent to care for his aged mother who stood in need of around the clock attendance. He told his young son that this was a way he sought to honor his mother in her time of deep need.

 

One day I was reading a chapter in Richard Newton’s book “Bible Warnings” when I came across another blessed providence of God. Newton paused in the middle of his sermon to tell a story to the children about how he came to be able to teach children. He said that he had been asked if he would be willing to serve as a Sunday School Superintendent while he was in college. He said he had no idea what he was doing, but he said yes. What he did not know was that one of the responsibilities he would have was to bring an address every Sunday afternoon to the whole Sunday School. He had no experience. He was but 19 years old, and he did not know where to begin. As God would have it he came across a book of sermons to children just published by John Todd which changed his life. That book, which we have published as “Feed My Lambs,” became his tutor those years, and Newton declared that day, “That man taught me how to teach children.” 

 

Todd taught Newton and Blaikie later acknowledged that these two men were the most gifted in America at speaking to children, and we have been privileged to bring their books back before our needy world in these dark, yet promising days. To God Alone be The Glory!

“The Prince of Preachers to Children”

August 27, 2009

A few years ago I was reading a chapter in William Blaikie’s book “For the Work of the Ministry” when I came across his comments about ministry to children and the peculiar gifts of two men in America: John Todd and Richard Newton. I knew who Todd was for I had already published his book titled “Feed My Lambs,” but I had no clue about Richard Newton. Immediately I began to search for information about him.

 

I learned that he was a minister who served in the Episcopal Church primarily in Philadelphia, and he had written more than two dozen books, primarily consisting of sermons to children. I then went to a used and antiquarian book site and found that many of these books were available from the mid-late 1800’s, so I ordered some to see for myself.

 

I will never forget the day I went to my mail box and found a few packages containing some buried treasure. The first box I opened was volume one of Newton’s series entitled “The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young.” I unpacked the book and began to flip through it and noticed a large photo of Newton with a facsimile of his distinguished signature underneath. I then saw that above the photo of Newton were the following words: “Dr. Newton is the prince of preachers to children.” C.H. Spurgeon. I was stunned. I had no idea that Spurgeon had such a high opinion of this man. Now I knew that I had rediscovered something special.

 

But then something happened that sent chills down my spine. I had also received that day a small pamphlet I had ordered by Charles Bridges (also from the 1800’s) which was entitled “An Address to Young Persons upon Confirmation.” When I opened it I noticed the following inscription:

 

Joannna M. Hogan

from her friend & pastor

Richard Newton

February 21st 1855

 

And there I saw the exact same signature I had just seen in a facsimile form in the book mentioned above. I could not believe my eyes. What a profound providence!

 

Since that unusual day I have gathered up all I can find by Dr. Newton and have published a full dozen of his titles to children. These have now gone all over the world and have begun to touch the hearts of young and old alike. These are not just books of sermons to children; they speak to any and every age, for they speak of Christ and His glorious Gospel. 


“The Shakespeare of the Christian Heart”

August 26, 2009

These words were used to describe that great man Archibald Alexander (1772-1851) of Princeton. His fellow professor Samuel Miller said, “I solemnly believe that Dr. Archibald Alexander is the greatest man who walks the earth.” And Charles Hodge added, “There was something sublime and beautiful in the humility of old Dr. Alexander, when he found himself at the feet of Jesus.” It was Theodore Woolsey who said, “Dr. Archibald Alexander was truly the Shakespeare of the Christian heart.”

 

David Calhoun, author of the recent two volume History of Princeton Semnary, said the following: “Dr. Archibald Alexander created and shaped Princeton Seminary. He impressed his viewpoint and personality upon it as few men have ever stamped an institution. He modeled both ‘piety’ and ‘solid learning’ – and he would not let the seminary lose sight of either. From him came all the motifs of the Princeton theology, but Dr. Alexander was not content to teach Bible and doctrine. He aimed to send out warriors of the cross.”

 

I had read a book by Dr. Alexander entitled “Thoughts on Religious Experience” which has been published for years by Banner of Truth. I knew from this book that Dr. Alexander was a man of God and a man of wisdom. I did not know that he was also a gifted preacher. Theodore Cuyler, in a book recently quoted, said the following about the preaching of this man: “His sermons were like the waters of Lake George, so pellucid that you could see every bright pebble far down in the depths; a child could comprehend him, yet a sage be instructed by him.”

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I was shocked to learn that Dr. Alexander published a book of sermons for Christian families at the end of his long, productive life. For years he had been asked to produce a book of short sermons that could be used in the Christian home when a family was not able to sit under a faithful ministry. He hesitated for years but finally sent forth a volume containing 37 sermons setting forth the basics of the Christian faith and life. We have entitled the volume EVANGELICAL TRUTH: Practical Sermons for the Christian Home. It contains over 560 pages of material “a child could comprehend…yet a sage be instructed.”

 

 

“That woman will be the death of me.”

August 24, 2009

Joseph Addison Alexander (1809-1860) was the third son of Archibald Alexander, who was the first president and professor of Princeton Seminary in 1812. J.A. (as he was known) distinguished himself as a student and later a professor at Princeton, where he served alongside his father for several years.

J.A. is known today primarily for his outstanding commentaries on The Psalms, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark and Acts. But in his day he was also known as a powerful preacher. Charles Hodge said of him, “Taking him all in all, he was the most gifted man with whom I have ever been personally acquainted.”

A few years ago I purchased a copy of the first volume of his published sermons, which have been out of print more than a century. I looked over the volume and decided to begin by reading a sermon on one of the shortest texts in the Bible: “Remember Lot’s wife.” I began to read the sermon and soon found myself completely captivated. I can recall thinking to myself as I was reading, “This is a great sermon.” As I continued to read those words kept coming into my mind. As I was drawing near the end I was preparing myself for a letdown, as I have seldom read a sermon that was “good to the last drop.” But this time I was surprised to find that this sermon ended in a way that seemed perfect. I was deeply impressed with the words of the text, and they still come to mind regularly in my life.

It was shortly after this experience that I “happened” to pick up a book by Theodore Cuyler entitled “Recollections of a Long Life.” The first chapter that caught my eye was titled “Some Famous American Preachers” because the first names listed at the head of the chapter were The Alexanders. I read his personal experience of hearing Archibald Alexander, of whom he said, “he has not had his equal since the days of Jonathan Edwards.”

Theology on fire

I next read his personal experience of hearing numerous times J.A. Alexander in the pulpit. Of J.A. he said: “Oh, how his grandest sermons linger still in my memory after three-score years—like the far off music of an Alpine horn floating from the mountain tops.” Cuyler’s words sent me back to read more and now I have published both volumes of Alexander’s sermons, and entitled them THEOLOGY ON FIRE. Cuyler went on to write something that both startled me and made me laugh, “One of his most powerful and popular sermons was on the text, ‘Remember Lot’s Wife;’ and he received so many requests to repeat that sermon that he said to his brother James in a wearied tone, ‘I am afraid that woman will be the death of me.’”

Why Solid Ground?

August 21, 2009

Dozens of times over the last eight years we have been asked the simple question, “Why Solid Ground?” That simple question can be answered in several ways, depending upon the perspective of the person asking the question.

 

Sometimes the questioner is asking why we are involved in publishing Christian books when there are so many other companies that do the same thing. My answer to that question would be that I am convinced that there are hundreds of volumes no longer available to the serious Christian at a price they can afford. Thus we are bringing back books that are often rare and thus very expensive, and offering them at the fraction of the cost. This is how I would answer the question to some.

 

On the other hand, the questioner is often asking the precise question, “Why Solid Ground?” In other words, why did I choose that particular name for this company? That answer is a bit more complicated.

 

It was nine years ago that my precious wife and I relocated our family from Long Island, New York, where we had been for 19 years, to Birmingham, Alabama. I was in the midst of a significant change in careers when we began to find one closed door after another. Our savings was about gone and our prospects were so low that our only way of survival was to sell my most precious earthly possession: My Books. 

 

We began to cry out to the Lord for direction as the doors continued to close. One night when we were both at the very end of our rope we literally were crying to the Lord for direction for our future. Having already sold most of my most valuable books, the thought came to my mind that perhaps I could try to start reprinting old books once again as I had done eleven years earlier when I began Calvary Press in Amityville, NY.

 

As soon as I shared this with my wife she responded, “Now I feel like we are finally on solid ground.” Instantly I said to her, “That’s it. That’s the name.” She did not know what I meant, so I said to her, “That will be the name, Solid Ground Christian Books.”

 

So you see it was at a time of deep despair that the Lord gave birth to this new work, and the name came at the moment the cloud lifted and an answer was given to our desperate cry for help. How gracious of the Lord to bring us to the end of ourselves before opening our eyes to see once again that He is Jehovah Jireh, the Lord who provides.

 

 

“Mothers of the Wise and Good”

August 19, 2009

It was nearly a year ago that I had my last conversation with my mother before the Lord called her home. Although she was 87 years old and I had enjoyed her for 57 years there will be an empty spot in my heart until the day we are reunited with our Lord in glory. It seems fitting that the very first book that was published at Solid Ground was the book “Mothers of the Wise and Good” by Jabez Burns.

 Mothersofwise&goodpic

   The word mother is a special word regardless of the language as it  expresses in one word all that is packed inside our hearts as we think  of the one who carried us, delivered us, nurtured us, and one day  tearfully “let us go.” The book by Jabez Burns contains dozens and  dozens of brief articles describing the life-long influence of mothers  upon those who rose up to become people of influence in later life.

 

 In this book one will meet the mothers of men like Augustine, Alfred  the Great, Isaac Newton, Philip Henry,  Jonathan Edwards, John &  Charles Wesley, Philip Doddridge, John Newton, George Washington,  Richard Cecil, Timothy Dwight, and dozens of others.  Women will find this volume to be a source of great encouragement as they face the trials and challenges of motherhood.  Men will find this book to be a challenge to them as they seek to become men of whom their mother will be proud.

 

Elisabeth Elliot called this book, “a fascinating catalogue of mothers of the wise and good.” And Susan Hunt said, “I have looked for a book like this for many years. Every mother, grandmother, and spiritual mother will find great help and hope in this book.”

 

Having sold out the many thousands of copies of the first edition, we have produced a brand new updated edition with larger print. It is a wonderful gift to give a new mother.