A few years ago Joel Beeke and Reformation Heritage Books republished a slightly edited version of Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts. It contains daily readings gleaned from his dozens of books. Winslow himself made the selections and arranged their order. It has become my favorite devotional book of this sort, surpassing The Poor Man’s Morning and Evening Portions by Robert Hawker, William Jay’s Morning Exercises and Evening Exercises, and even Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening. Admitting to the latter may get my Baptist credentials yanked! But Winslow has risen to the top primarily for his warm, simple, Christological focus. He applies the Gospel pastorally in his writings. Consequently, his Morning Thoughts not only help me in my own spiritual walk they also provide an example of the kind of preaching and teaching that I want to provide the church I serve.
Too much preaching today–even Calvinistic preaching–has very little of Christ in it. Yet, in his preaching and teaching Paul resolved “not to know anything…except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). I am afraid that too many of us pastors have not thought deeply enough about Jesus Christ and His Gospel even to understand that statement, much less to own it. If Christ is all, then all of our preaching and teaching should center on Him and extend from Him. His person and work should inform all of our pastoral thoughts and ministries. As I see it the great burden of all pastoral ministry is to help people recognize more and more who Jesus is, what He has done, and why that matters in every circumstance and event of life. When Christ is recognized He is irresistible even to the weakest faith. As faith apprehends Him, life, strength, joy, delight, satisfaction, hope and encouragement are nurtured. This is how the Christian life is to be lived–by ongoing, simple faith in Jesus Christ.
Winslow understands this and fills his writing with this perspective. I highly commend him to you in this new year. Sam Hughey, at The Reformed Reader, has done us a wonderful service by making Winslow’s Morning Thoughts (as well as his Evening Thoughts) avaiable online.
Here is the entry from the former on January 1.
How solemn is the reflection that with a new cycle of time commences, with each traveler to Zion, a new and untrodden path! New events in his history will transpire- new scenes in the panorama of life will unfold- new phases of character will develop- new temptations will assail- new duties will devolve- new trials will be experienced- new sorrows will be felt- new friendships will be formed- and new mercies will be bestowed. How truly may it be said of the pilgrim journeying through the wilderness to his eternal home, as he stands upon the threshold of this untried period of his existence, pondering the unknown and uncertain future, “You have not passed this way heretofore!”
Reader! if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, you will enter upon a new stage of your journey by a renewed surrender of yourself to the Lord. You will make the cross the starting-point of a fresh setting-out in the heavenly race. Oh, commence this year with a renewed application to the “blood of sprinkling.” There is vitality in that blood; and its fresh sprinkling on your conscience will be as a new impartation of spiritual life to your soul. Oh, to begin the year with a broken heart for sin, beneath the cross of Immanuel! looking through that cross to the heart of a loving, forgiving Father. Do not be anxious about the future; all that future God has provided for. “All my times are in Your hands.” “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain you.” Let it be a year of more spiritual advance. “Speak to the children of Israel that they go forward.” Forward in the path of duty- forward in the path of suffering- forward in the path of conflict- forward in the path of labor- and forward in the path to eternal rest and glory. Soon will that rest be reached, and that glory appear. This new year may be the jubilant year of your soul- the year of your release. Oh spirit-stirring, ecstatic thought- this year I may be in heaven!