Thoughts on Religious Experience

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By Archibald Alexander | Edited and Introduced by Nicholas I. Coulston Foreword by Joseph C. Harrod

A lively Christian faith is the result of a heart and mind saturated in Scripture. Through God’s gracious revelation of himself to his people, the church learns more of God’s mercy, grace, and justice. The Christian has no reason for a cold, lifeless faith. However, religious experiences need not be equated with ecstatic frenzy. Reformed Christians are often charged with holding doctrine that results in a languorous life. Charismatics, on the other hand, are said to possess little doctrine yet have an authentic and experiential faith. Is the Christian faith a choice between truth and experience?

Archibald Alexander brings the reasoned mind of a gifted pastor-scholar to the issue of Christian experience. He addresses some of the more complex components of the Christian life, such as the experiences of young children in the faith. Is the faith of a child to be judged on different grounds than the faith of an adult? This perennial question turns Alexander’s mind to the general evidence of regeneration in all believers. Alexander naturally turns to spiritual warfare and backsliding, the peaks and valleys that every Christian will inevitably face. And with a pastoral pen, he finally addresses the experience of the death of a Christian and the proper understanding of death as release from the enemy.

Thomas Brooks (1608–1680), born of Congregationalist stock, served in ministry during the uproarious time of Puritan England. Following a stint in naval chaplaincy, Brooks shepherded his small, dignified congregation until the powers within the Church of England shifted, leaving him with a revoked ordination and, therefore, no pulpit. Even so, Brooks served his congregation through publishing classics like Precious Remedies Against Satan’s Devices. Observed in this, and numerous other treatises, is his knack for application and quotable sayings. Though his pulpit was reestablished before his death, his most prized credentials were never stripped away, he is remembered as a man who loved the gospel and preached it to his flock with unrelenting conviction.

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