2007-08-20

2 Peter Reviews


Here are two reviews from the 1860s of

AN EXPOSITION UPON THE SECOND EPISTLE GENERAL OF ST PETER by the Rev THOMAS ADAMS, Rector of St Gregory's, London, AD 1633. Revised and corrected by JAMES SHERMAN, Minister of Surrey Chapel, Edinburgh: James Nichol 1862

1. From The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle 1862 (see p 682)
The works of Thomas Adams are now completed in three volumes. They are of singular excellence. Dr Angus, in his interesting memoir of Adams - who must be distinguished from Thomas Adams of Wintringham, a man who came into the world a century after his namesake -speaks of him as equal sometimes to Latimer or Baxter for pungency, and to be compared with Taylor for fancy, and Fuller for wit; and in one sermon, "The Temple", to Howe for grandeur. Southey leads the way in this eulogium.
We cannot follow either critic to this length of praise, but assuredly Adams was a wonderful man; and his style, for beauty and rhythm, far exceeds that of most of the Puritans. We wish emphatically to say - what is often said as mere commonplace - that we count these volumes a very valuable contribution to our revived Puritan literature. We hope that Adams' works will not be placed on the minister's or student's shelf to remain there unopened. Sibbes' works, in two volumes, have also appeared. He is better known than Adams, but we do not like him so well. Still, his writings are worthy of his fame, and this edition is enriched by a memoir of singular merit for its painstaking care and liveliness of composition.

2. From The United Presbyterian Magazine 1863 (see p 129)
CONSIDERED strictly as an exposition, this work cannot be rated high; nevertheless, it is a work of great value, and deserving of a place in every considerable theological library. The reader will find in Adams a rich variety of intellectual refreshment, and of spiritual instruction. Though not a Nonconformist, he was a Puritan; though a Churchman in the days of Laud, he was a Calvinist; though not an ecclesiastical dignitary, or distinguished by university honours, he abounded in deep and varied learning. Adams very much resembled Bishop Hall, of whom he was by some years the senior. In both we have not only the same learning somewhat ostentatiously displayed, but the same fondness for antithesis and quaint conceits; the same richness of scriptural illustration; the same pungency and pathos in appealing to the heart and affections; the same fervour and soundness of doctrine. Inferior to Barrow and to Jeremy Taylor in many respects, he may yet be fitly compared to the former in the thoroughness which exhausts his subjects, and to the latter in the poetic splendour of his imagery. One of the attractions of Adams is his curious and admirable portraitures of the manners of his times. He is remarkable, too, for his power and skill in the detection of motives and characters; and for the mingled wit and scorn with which he denounces fashionable vices and errors. Yet, along with burning rebukes, we have sweet and gentle comfortings. Doubtless the modern reader will find in some parts of the writings of this racy old divine something like tediousness; but, at the same time, he will acknowledge that he is always original, fresh, hearty, honest, full of matter, and plentiful in ornament. Hisquaintness will be often a relief from the monotony of modern writing, and his ingenuity cannot fail to delight. The commentaries of the Puritans (of which this is the first) are furnished by Mr Nicliol at as cheap a rate as the series of Puritan Divines. He is enabled to confer this boon on the theological world in consequence of the gĂȘnerons gift of the stereotype plates made by the late Mr Sherman, by whom they were originally issued at a much higher figure. We hope the encouragement given by the public will ensure the completion of the plan.

Adams' Style Again

This is again by Mulder


His sermons for the most part follow a scheme inherited from classical and medieval rhetoric: a logical ordering of the ideas explicit in the text arranged by the nicest ingenuities of balance and antithesis. Occasionally he frees himself from this rigid, traditional framework to follow the method, more popular by his time, which clarified the text, raised the doctrine, followed it with the reasons or proofs, and concluded with the uses — evidence that he was a transitional figure working in both old and new ordering, sometimes logical, sometimes purely verbal. Scholastic and Euphuist join talents.

A crucifix


Adams' sermon on Christ's passion A crucifix is available here at Chapel Library.

Adams' Style


In his 1955 essay in The Harvard Theological Review entitled Style and the Man: Thomas Adams, Prose Shakespeare of Puritan Divines, William Mulder wrote

The Spartan discipline of so many Puritan preachers, the plain style, seemed to Adams itself a danger. While intending that nothing should detract the mind from the truth being presented, the plain style might actually fail to do justice to an idea, or might even misrepresent it. To convey great or complex impressions required aids to the imagination; on the other hand, to convey things simple and common, platitudes for example, required a presentation that would shock the mind into attention lest their very familiarity breed indifference. To be sure, Adams had the Puritan distrust of the five senses, “the Cinque Ports where all the great traffic of the devil is taken in, ... the pores whereby Satan conveys in the stinking breath of temptation.” Yet with precaution, and for hallowed ends, God’s minister could appeal to them, “That you may Conceive things more spiritual and remote by passions nearer to sense.” It is thus less shocking to find in a Puritan collection a sermon titled “The Crucifix” for it is “a fair and lively crucifix, cut by the hand of a most exquisite carver - not to amaze our corporal lights with a piece of wood, brass, or stone, curiously engraven, to the increase of a carnal devotion but to present to the eye of the conscience the grievous passion, and gracious compassion of our Saviour”.