One Way to Start Reading More Church History

Do you read much church history?

If not, let me suggest that a good place to start is The Swans Are Not Silent Series, written by John Piper. The “swans are not silent” phrase comes from an event during the life of St. Augustine (A.D. 354-430). During a retirement party for St. Augustine, a close friend named Eraclius said, “The cricket chirps, the swan is silent.”

piper-john-2Eraclius was to be St. Augustine’s successor and the task of following this theological giant was the subject of that statement. Eraclius suggested himself to be a cricket and St. Augustine to be the silent swan.

However, as Piper suggests, the retirement of St. Augustine did not lead to doctrinal silence. The influence of St. Augustine has been tremendous throughout church history. And this book series, now five books in all, seeks to paint just a small picture of the significance of men and women throughout church history.

In each book, Piper celebrates a common truth in the lives of three individuals.

  • Book One is entitled The Legacy of Sovereign Joy: God’s Triumphant Grace in the Lives of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.
  • Book Two is entitled The Hidden Smile of God: the Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd.
  • Book Three is entitled The Roots of Endurance: Invincible Perseverance in the Lives of John Newton, Charles Simeon, and William Wilberforce.
  • Book Four is entitled Contending for Our All: Defending Truth and Treasuring Christ in the Lives of Athanasius, John Owen, and J. Gresham Machen.
  • Book Five (the one I am currently reading) is entitled Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ: the Cost of Bringing the Gospel to the Nations in the Lives of William Tyndale, John Paton, and Adoniram Judson.

I cannot commend these works enough. Piper’s historical sketches of these saints are both devotional and provocative. You will learn about their backgrouunds, their contributions to the church and be inspired to emulate their character.

It would make a great Christmas present to any fellow believer.

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