Reviewed by Jeremy Walker
28 October 2022
Fawcett, John. Christ Precious to Those Who Believe, Free Grace Press, 2022. 288 pp. £9.49
Some Christian books sadly neglect Christ. Some Christian books are about Christ properly. Few Christian books are full of Christ. Happily, John Fawcett’s gem is one of them.
I first read Christ Precious to Those That Believe: A Practical Treatise on Faith and Love (usually known as Christ Precious) in about 2014 or 2015. I was on an aircraft travelling to preach. I have a scrawled note on the front cover to the effect that, should I die before I reached home, but the book survived, I wanted my family to read it.
Sadly, one of the challenges was the relative rarity of copies. I spent several years gently badgering various publishers about a reprint. Whether or not my solicitations had any effect, I have no idea! In any case, I could not have been more satisfied to discover that Free Grace Press were republishing this book. They do not state which original edition they have used, though the first seems implied. It is also worth noting that the whole has been lightly, and for the most part very sensitively, updated (and Americanised) in its language. All this considered, I want warmly to commend Christ Precious to you.
Fawcett was born in Lidget Green, near Bradford, Yorkshire, on 6th January 1740. Converted under the ministry of George Whitefield in 1755, he was initially attached to the Methodists but eventually joined the Baptist cause. In 1765 he became pastor of Wainsgate Baptist Church in Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. He united in his person and ministry the vital piety of the evangelical revival with the doctrinal purity and ecclesiastical stability of the more evangelically minded Particular Baptists. This happy blend permeates his writing, including his hymns (“Blest be the tie that binds” is one of his) and other productions, of which Christ Precious is probably the best known.
Fawcett’s starting point for his treatise is from 1 Peter 2:7: “Therefore, to you who believe, he is precious.” Our author is concerned for Christ’s dignity and glory in the gospel, where he is seen to be most precious to those who believe.
Fawcett’s scheme is simple. He first enquires about the character of those to whom Christ is precious. Then he teases out the evidence that true saints give of being among those who believe. He considers the fruits of their faith, and we see something of that vibrant Christianity which delights in and desires after Jesus the Lord more than anyone and anything else. The third section, in which he rises to heights of holy eloquence, shows in what respects Jesus Christ is precious to believers. He covers such topics as Christ’s person, names, offices, love, throne, commands, day, house, and benefits. As Fawcett sweeps across the sacred territory, we are not only amazed at how little we trust, value, love and esteem the Christ set forth but wonder how a Christ so set forth would not draw all men to himself—O for more preaching in this strain!
While the whole is eminently practical, a brief closing section urges us to put these truths to work in a spiritually productive way.
Fawcett’s style matches and adorns his substance. Even his prose is poetic. There are points at which the writing rises to the most splendid strains of language befitting the subject matter. His delight in Christ sweeps off the page and into the reader’s heart. Fawcett is natural, even spontaneous, weaving in prayers and praises as he goes, both his own and those which might spring from a heart moved by his material. He has a happy knack for weaving Scripture words and phrases into his meditations so that the whole sings with divine force. He communicates the highest theology with the deepest feeling: he loves the gospel of Christ in its simplicity, clarity, purity, immediacy, and beauty; he loves the Christ of the gospel in his majesty, dignity, glory, beauty, and humility.
This book, then, both enlightens and enlivens the heart. It is full of Christ. It probes the nature and quality of your faith and makes it purer. It displays and extols the person, work and character of Christ Jesus and makes him more exceedingly precious in your eyes. As you enter into its substance and become accustomed to its style, it should make your soul sing. It will not only teach you more about Christ; it will also teach you and model for you how to respond to his dignity and beauty, to the praise of the glory of God’s grace. It is why I still want my family to read such a book. I want you to read it, too.
At the end of the second chapter, which deals with the character of the people to whom Christ is precious—that is, those who believe—Fawcett offers a model of the awakened sinner’s address to God, as his own soul is moved with the truths he is handling. The following is his petition:
Almighty and everlasting God, my Creator, my Preserver, and my Judge, before whose solemn tribunal I must shortly make my appearance. I am a poor individual of the fallen race of mankind, shaped in iniquity, conceived in sin, and chargeable with actual transgressions almost without number. I have brought myself under the condemning sentence of your righteous law and rendered myself deserving of your everlasting displeasure. It is high time for me to awake out of sleep and to inquire, with the utmost seriousness and the deepest concern, whether there is any possible way of escaping that wrath which is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.
I feel a ray of hope spring up in my soul, since you have said in your holy Word, “you have destroyed yourselves, but in me is your help.” Jesus Christ, your only begotten Son, came into the world to save sinners, such as I am. This is no delusive supposition, no uncertain report; it is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. But I learn from the sacred Scriptures that he who disregards this testimony, who receives it not in the love of the truth, who believes not in the Son of God, the appointed Savior, must everlastingly perish. I learn from your Word that pardon of sin, deliverance from condemnation, and the enjoyment of eternal felicity are inseparably connected with true faith in Christ.
Do mercifully impart to me that divine illumination, without which I shall neither know the way of peace nor believe the truth to the saving of my soul. O teach me to know myself, the deep depravity of my nature, the guiltiness of my whole life, the purity of your law that I have violated, the inflexibility of your holiness and justice that I have offended, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and my own utter inability to do anything toward delivering my own soul out of that state of misery into which I have brought myself. Bring me to an acquaintance with you, the only true God; and with Jesus Christ, whom you have sent to redeem and save the lost and the undone, whom to know is life eternal. May your Holy Spirit set before me in the most powerful and engaging manner the glory of his person, the sufficiency of his sacrifice, the efficacy of his blood to cleanse from all sin, the perfection of his righteousness to clothe the naked soul, the fullness of his grace to supply every need, and his ability in every respect to save to the uttermost, all who come unto God by him.
May that precious gospel, of which Christ crucified is the sum and substance, appear to me in all its truth as the testimony of God; in all its sacred importance as the Word of life; in all its fullness, its suitableness to my case, its preciousness, and its glory—that I may be enabled to receive it with full and entire approbation, as a system most honourable to God and safe for man, and that I may believe it with my whole heart.
Let me be a partaker of that faith that is connected with true repentance of sin, a sincere attachment to Jesus Christ, a subjection of heart and life to his will and government, a holy indifference to all that this present world can afford, and a sincere and constant endeavour to obey your commands. May I receive and embrace the truth as it is in Jesus so that it may dwell and abide in me in all its sacred energy and sanctifying power, working effectually in me as it does in all those who believe. Thus let my heart be purified by faith, and give me an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in you. Never let me be a stranger to the joy of faith; but fill me with all that joy and peace in believing that arise from the view and manifestation of pardoning mercy, through the precious blood of your dear Son; to whom, with yourself, and the blessed Spirit— the one eternal God—be equal and endless praises! Amen.
He immediately goes on at the beginning of the third chapter to hymn the love of God in the person of Christ:
God has magnified his love and set forth the riches of his grace toward us in a manner that should effectually allure our hearts to him. While we were enemies and rebels in open arms against him, he was pleased to send his beloved Son to die for our sins in order to redeem us from sin and hell. He, who is the brightness of his Father’s glory and the express image of his person, became a man of sorrows for our sakes. In the greatness of his condescension he called himself the Son of Man, but all the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him. He was declared to be God manifest in the flesh. He came down from his Father’s bosom and became man, not to condemn the world of mankind but to give his life and blood for our sakes, to make his soul an offering for our sins, to suffer in- conceivable anguish and sorrow, and to die for us, that he might bring us back to God and happiness. He poured out his soul to death to secure us from the deserved wrath and vengeance of God. He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was on him, that we through his stripes might be healed. He was stricken and smitten and afflicted by God, that he might open the way for us to partake of divine mercy and render the offended Majesty of heaven a more proper and a more engaging object of our love.
He is the beloved Son of God, the first and the everlasting favorite of heaven, the highest object of his Father’s delight; he is the great peacemaker between God and sinners, the chief messenger of divine love to men. If he had not undertaken to make peace by the blood of his cross, we would have continued as children of wrath forever. We would have been in the same state with the fallen angels for whom no Savior is provided and to whom no promise of pardon and reconciliation is made. To us the Child was born, to us the Son was given. He came to deliver us from our state of enmity and rebellion, to save us from sin and its dreadful consequences, from the curse of God’s righteous law, and from everlasting destruction. His heart was pierced for the sake of sinful men. The messages of his own and of his Father’s love he has written to us in lines of blood; he sealed the covenant of peace between God and man with the blood of his cross that he shed for us, to procure the remission of our sins. This is that Divine Savior who, though disregarded by many, is precious to those that believe.