I just finished Thomas Hooker’s (1586-1647) The Poor Doubting Christian Drawn to Christ. The book was published in 1629 while Hooker was still in England, where he remained until 1633 when he came to the Bay area of Boston. Hooker’s known not only for his preaching and theology, but also for being the founder of Hartford, CT and has been called “the father of democracy” by many. Hooker was one of the eminent first-generation Puritan American theologians and this book reflects typical Puritan pastoral counseling. The book is in many ways very similar to The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes, published only a year later in 1630. Whereas The Bruised Reed focuses more on the issue of assurance The Poor Doubting Christian deals a little more with what keeps us from coming to Christ in faith, both before and after conversion. Hooker spends the entire book dismantling the doubts and fears a person might have that would keep them from running whole-heartedly into the free grace held out to us by Christ. It was an excellent read and one very helpful in the struggles of conscience that keep the unbeliever and the believer from coming to Christ without holding back. Hooker again and again holds out the preciousness of God’s promises, and how these promises scattered all throughout the Bible are as the ships that take us to the shore (Jesus). All of our fears, our remaining sin, our failures in duties, our laziness in spiritual disciplines, and even our doubts should not keep us from grasping the promises of God nor should we think we have to improve in these areas in order to receive those promises. Instead, we go to the promises, meaning we go to Christ, which are the means by which God then helps our faith, helps us fight sin, and helps brings peace.
Thomas Prince, pastor of the famous Old South Church in Boston says this in the book’s foreword.
“I would recommend it to those desirous of having the impediments which hinder them from applying by faith to Christ, removed; and by divine help, would learn the happy way of going first to the promises of Christ, and then therewith to Christ himself; and in this way daily living on him and deriving from him all their strength and blessedness.”
There are many short and long quotes throughout the book I found helpful. Here are a few to get just a taste of the whole.
“What Scripture ever said, that the greatness of man’s sin could hinder the greatness of God’s mercy?”
“The truth is, (which I pray you’ll notice), it is not properly our unworthiness, but our pride and haughtiness that hinders us from coming to Christ; for we would have something from ourselves, and not all from him.”
“God sometimes gives, and sometimes delays to give. But God’s love is as constant when he gives not, as when he gives.”
“And a man’s faith may be somewhat strong, when his feeling is nothing at all….Therefore build not your comfort upon sense and feeling, which is to build upon the sand; but go the promise, as to the rock, for it.”
“Thus hold to the Word, and the devil will be tired, weary, and leave thee. Keep here, for if he catches you wandering after sense and feeling, you are gone.”
“O poor broken-hearted sinner, here is your Savior; he is come down from heaven to speak peace to your soul in the pardon your sins. You that hunger for a Christ, here he is to satisfy you. You that thirst for Christ, here he is to refresh thee. You that have long sought him, he says, ‘Here I am, and all my merits are yours.’”
“There is more power in God to show mercy to thee, than power in sin to destroy thee.”
“Despair has slain his thousands, but presumption his ten thousands.”
“We must not look too long, nor pore too much, or unwarrantably upon our own corruptions within, so far as to be disheartened by them from coming to the riches of God’s grace.” “It is fit, and we ought to see our sins; but we must not stay too long there. See them we must, but not fasten on them, so as to shackle us from coming to Christ.”
“The Word must ever be in your hands, and the meditation of it in your hearts.”
“The way to make the soul lean upon Christ, is to pluck away all those deceiving props.”
“To expect faith without a promise [to cling to], is as if a man should expect a crop of corn without seed; for the promise is the immortal seed of God’s Word, whereby the Spirit breeds this faith in the hearts of all that are His.”
“Whatever strength you need, fetch it from grace in Christ; and whatever comfort you lack, fetch it from Christ….Bring but an empty believing heart with you, and the oil will never run out, and the meal in the barrel will never decay, but it will continually supply thee as it did that poor widow.”
Resolve to wait upon God and don’t give up before He comes to you. “Now take heed of this. If the time seems tedious, and your heart begins to sink, and your spirit is weary; take heed of flying off, take heed of shifting for thy own comfort and looking to base ends and aims. No, hold thy mind to and keep your eye of faith upon the promise, and stay it out until God sees the time fit. And know, it is the best time, when it is God’s time.”