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Gentle and lowly


Title: Gentle and Lowly

(The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers)

By Dane Ortlund

Publisher: Crossway

This wonderful book is about the heart of Christ for sinners. It emphasizes that Christ’s heart is the opposite to what we think. For those in Him, Jesus is always waiting to impart his tender love. That is who Jesus is.  Dane Ortlund, its author, is an elder at Naperville Presbyterian Church, Naperville, Illinois and chief publishing officer and Bible publisher at Crossway Publishers also in Illinois. This is Dane’s most recent book and was only published in 2020. He is also editor for the “Knowing the Bible” and” Short Studies in Biblical Theology” series.

When I first read about this book in a review from The Good Book Company, my ears pricked up for two reasons. Firstly, it mentioned that the book had arisen out of the author’s study of the works of various Puritan writers - Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Richard Sibbes and John Bunyan. In fact, at the end of the book in the acknowledgements, Dane Ortlund tells us that he has been studying Thomas Goodwin’s book “The Heart of Christ” for ten years!  The Puritans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries wrote many Christ centred books, often basing them on one verse, as in the case of Thomas Goodwin. Having read some Puritan books myself, I was keen to hear from someone who had studied various Puritan texts in depth. Secondly, the book seemed a little different in emphasis from some of the books I had read recently. Often, I choose books about the cross of Christ e.g. The Amazing Cross by Jeremy and Elizabeth McQuoid or The Glories of God’s Love by Milton Vincent (two excellent books) but the exceptional reviews of “Gentle and Lowly” were describing a book, not only about the completed work of Jesus but about the very compassionate heart of Christ for sinners every day. As one reviewer writes at the front of the book,

“It is an invitation to experience the sweet consolations of a Saviour who moves toward us with tenderness and grace, when we deserve just the opposite from him.”

Dane Ortlund helpfully explains the purpose of the book in his introduction.

“You might know that Christ died and rose again on your behalf to rinse you clean of all your sin, but do you know his deepest heart for you?  Do you live with an awareness not only of his atoning work for your sinfulness but also of his longing heart amid your sinfulness?”

The book is divided into twenty-three short chapters each based on a Bible verse and filled with his own and Puritan insight. Jesus walks off every page and I found that after reading each chapter, I just wanted to come to Him and open myself up to Him. So often when we are sinful or suffering, the last place we feel like going to, is to Him. We hide away and think He is angry with us. This book emphasizes that Christ’s heart is the very opposite to what we think. Jesus is always waiting to impart his tender love, mercy and forgiveness. That is who He is.

 Through these chapters, the very heart of Christ is explained from different angles. Starting with the famous verse in Matthew’s Gospel (Chapter 11 verse 29) “I am gentle and lowly in heart” from which the book gets its name, we are treated to a thrilling treasure trove which includes consideration of the heart of Christ, His gentleness, His compassion, His sympathising with us in our weaknesses, His friendship, His intercession for us and many more facets of his tender mercy and love. Let me give you an example from the opening chapter.

Come to me, all who labour and our heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light Matt 11 verses 28-30.

Referring to these verses Dane writes,

“In the one place in the Bible where the Son of God pulls back the veil and lets us peer way down into the core of who He is, we are not told that He is “austere and demanding in heart”. We are not told He is “exalted and dignified in heart”. We are not even told that he is “joyful and generous in heart”. Letting Jesus set his own terms, His surprising claim is that He is “gentle and lowly in heart” ……And when Jesus tells us what animates him most deeply, what is most true of him---when he expresses the innermost recesses of His being what we find there is gentle and lowly.”

This book has pure Christ centred treasure on every page and I thoroughly recommend it to you. I have now read the book twice and it will be one to which I will return often for spiritual food. Each chapter stands on its own and is devotional in character. It would be a particularly good book to include in a “quiet time” -- at the beginning or end, as it is thoroughly Biblical and points us and draws us to Jesus our tender friend.

A final quote from the chapter entitled “A Tender Friend”.

“Here is the promise of the gospel and the message of the whole Bible. In Jesus Christ we are given a friend who will always enjoy rather than refuse our presence. This is a companion whose embrace of us does not strengthen or weaken depending on how clean or unclean, how attractive or revolting, how faithful or fickle, we presently are. The friendliness of his heart for us subjectively is as fixed and stable as is the declaration of His justification of us objectively”.

Review by Marian Lovatt

Marian is a new member of St Margaret's having retired to Angmering last September. Before moving she lived in Eastbourne, where her husband was vicar of All Saints' Church. For many years she was a primary school teacher in Nottingham and Eastbourne. She has two daughters and six grandchildren.