D. Patrick Ramsey and Joel R. Beeke, An Analysis of Herman Witsius’s The Economy of the Covenants. Reformation Heritage Books and Christian Focus Publications, 2002, pb., 67 pages. $12.99. ISBN 1-89277-722-3
Reviewed by Ray Van Neste
The Economy of the Covenants is generally regarded as the magnum opus of Dutch theologian Herman Witsius and was written to promote peace among those divided on covenant theology in his day. This little volume was written to give a detailed outline of the almost 1,000 page original. In a preface to the reprint of Witsius’s work, J. I. Packer says Witsius “has been unjustly forgotten” and he goes on to refer to Wistius as “a masterful Dutch Reformed theologian, learned, wise, mighty in the Scriptures, practical and ‘experimental’ (to use the Puritan label for that which furthers heart-religion).” It was indeed this combination of characteristics found in his “On the Character of a True Theologian” (recently reprinted by Reformed Academic Press) which drew me to Witsius.
In the little book here under consideration, Ramsey and Beeke have intended to provide a help to those desiring to read Witsuis’s key work. In their introduction they state three ways in which their outline can be used:
- A summary study guide providing a quick overview of Wistius’s arguments. This can be of help since the language may seem difficult to one first attempting such study.
- A group study guide.
- A quick reference guide. It will enable one to quickly reference Witsius’s key points of argument on a specific issue.
I think this book succeeds as a tool in each of these regards.
Additionally, there are about 20 pages of biography including an overview of The Economy of the Covenants. This is very valuable in setting this work in context and also in introducing (perhaps) a new generation to this incredible man of God. May the church be blessed with more leaders who are both convictional and charitable, learned and pious, studious and experiential.
Susan and Richie Hunt, Big Truths for Little Kids. Good News Publishing, 1999, hb., 160 pages. $12.50. ISBN 1581341067
Reviewed by Ray Van Neste
As parents of three we are always looking for material that properly handles biblical truths and connects them well to every day life for our children. Probably the best book we have found so far in accomplishing this is Big Truths for Little Kids, by Susan and Richie Hunt. What’s more, this book accomplishes this by combining a catechism with modern day stories. For parents who like the idea of using a catechism but are unsure how to start (like we were) this is a wonderful asset.
The book is arranged in about 30 segments with each one containing about five catechism questions and a story which illustrates the truths found in those catechism questions.
The stories alone would make this book with purchasing. The stories flow one from another in an ongoing narrative following everyday life for a family where the mother and father hold family devotions and teach their children the catechism. The children provide wonderful models to your children as they encourage each other in learning (Scripture and the catechism), obeying, sharing their faith, and encountering those who mock their faith. At the same time, the children and the parents are not portrayed as perfect or unrealistic, but you encounter them as they struggle and admit their failures (parents and children). Highlights for us included reading early on in the book of one of the children’s friends being converted and, later, of one child deciding to pray for another child who was particularly difficult.
If the book is worth purchasing for the stories alone, its value is immeasurably increased by the interweaving of the Westminster children’s catechism. We found it to be very accessible to our three-year-old and, in the early parts, even for our two-year-old. The catechism helps you to cover the whole range of basic biblical truth and leads to questions from the children which can be very profitable. Of course, since it is the Westminster catechism and is written by Presbyterians, the baptism section comes from a paedo-baptist viewpoint. One can adapt this in a number of ways. With our young children I just adapted and skipped certain questions. With older children you could easily substitute the baptism section from a good Baptist catechism. A Baptist revision of the Westminster’s children catechism is available online at www.founders.org/library/pcat.html (questions 96 to 101 relate to baptism). As far as I can tell the only significant change in the Baptist revision is the baptism section. This site allows one to view the basic catechism used in this book and allows one to print off the Baptist version for free. The fact that older children will almost certainly ask why you are making a substitution only means you will have an occasion to discuss the issue!
Using the catechism with our children has been particularly meaningful to us as parents (as some of you who are long experienced in this will affirm). Oh the joy, when asking our three year old, “Why did God make you and all things?”, to hear him promptly reply, “For His own glory” [pronounced by him as “gwory”]. Then how sobering to have our little boys repeat after us phrase by phrase, “I am corrupt in every part of my being.” Interestingly when I ask them if they can go to heaven in this state they shout with gusto, “No!’” This exercise more than any other has helped to bring home to them their own need of the gospel, such that our eldest has often spoken of his need and desire for a new heart. We have greatly enjoyed and benefited from this book and heartily recommend it to all. This would make a great gift to parents as it would not only provide for training for the children but would also, no doubt, provide much teaching for the parents as well.