It seems an unprofitable activity, to review one of the worst books I’ve read, but actually the very reason why the book in question was bad is also, at the same time, a healthy challenge. I should probably add that I don’t read a lot of biographies and autobiographies, while I’m sure there are some great ones out there then I’ve never really been particularly interested them. Perhaps it’s an extension of an inherent self-centeredness on my part : why read about someone else when my life is more interesting? Hopefully, that’s only a small part of it.
Anyway, I picked up Comfy Glasgow: An Expression of Thanks by George Mitchell because it had been resting unread on my bookshelf for a number of years (I think around five) and it looked like it could be an interesting account of a Christian living in a deprived area (I based this on the logic that all of Glasgow is more or less a deprived area). It also had a series of good reviews on the back including one by Derek Prime whose name I recognised and generally approved of.
As you may have guessed from the understated title; the book was somewhat of a disappointment. But let’s deal with the positives first: it’s well written and it’s very much about an ‘ordinary’ Christian, not someone who is a big deal, well known or had a Damascus Road conversion. Mr Mitchell lived your bog standard life, if it can be reduced so.
Therein, does not lie the problem. Just because his life was ordinary does not mean it could not have been interesting. In fact, I hoped this would make it better: seeing the trials and struggles of the average Christian. Regrettably, this wasn’t so. Mr Mitchell’s account of growing up is, as a review on the back says: “historically, culturally and socially excellent, doing justice to the great City of Glasgow.” But the issue in question is that the book is not spiritually excellent.
Potentially to my shame, there are only a few Christian books which have ever had a profound effect on my faith: The Love of Christ by Richard Sibbes is one of them. If you are tired and weary of the fight of faith, downhearted and struggling, stagnating and cold, discontent and untrusting, spiritually miserable, longing in anyway to be so much more than you, feeling that you stuck in a rut and going nowhere; if you are going through hard times, tests of faith, trials and afflictions of any kind or if you are abounding in every way and knowing blessing upon blessing then this book is for you for the topic it covers is medicine to any soul and Sibbes is for good reason called the heavenly doctor.
He does not content himself with merely pointing the reader to Christ, no, he goes out of his way to win the reader to the lavish affection of Christ for his people. Mainly using chapters 4 and 5 of the Songs of Solomon he goes through the process of a Christian who is asleep to and his love Christ (“I slept but my heart was awake.” Songs 5v2) and how that Christian awakes and finds Christ again. For Sibbes Songs of Solomon was all about Christ and his Church and he applies it excellently in this regard. One of my favourite quotes was:
“Sometimes she [the Church] is all compounded of joy, vehemently desiring kisses of her beloved. She holds her beloved fast, and will not let him go; and sometimes, again, she is gone, hath lost her beloved, is in a sea of troubles, seeks and cannot find him, becomes sluggish, negligent, overtaken with self love, after which she has smarted in her omissions, as here again, she is all fire for Christ,”