Christians want to dedicate their lives to the glory of God. But how do we do that? In this episode of Open Book, Stephen Nichols is joined by Joel Beeke, who introduces the best book he has ever read on sanctification.
Dr. Stephen Nichols: Once again, we're in the office of the president of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. Dr. Beeke, it's good to see you again.
Dr. Joel Beeke: Good to be here.
Nichols: We're sticking with the Dutch. We've had Bunyan; now we're sticking with the Dutch. It's Willem Teellinck, and I just want to read this line from the intro, the two opening lines from the intro. This book is entitled The Path of True Godliness, and this is also one that you assisted in the editing of. "Christians know that the practice of godliness is no easy task. They want to glorify God, but often do not know how to go about it." This book steps in and tries to help. Tell us about this book. Why this book?
Beeke: Yes. This is great. Let me back up and say that the Puritans, English Puritans, wrote several thousand volumes, and the Dutch Further Reformation divines also wrote several thousand volumes of wonderful Reformed spirituality writings of all kinds. The father of the Dutch Reformed movement, that is akin to the English Puritan movement, is Willem Teellinck. What happened to him when he was a young man, God enabled him to go over to England for a while to study. He met a young lady and came into one of the Puritan families and was just overwhelmed by their family worship and the godliness of the people, and was absolutely convinced that's what the Netherlands need. Well, he ended up marrying this young lady and then took her back to the Netherlands, and he wrote 129 volumes in his short life.
Beeke: He died, I think, when he was fifty or fifty-one.
Nichols: Oh, my. Wow.
Beeke: Sixty-nine of those got published in the Netherlands, and sadly the other sixty manuscripts are lost. But one of his most important books was this book on sanctification. In Dutch it's called The North Star, and then the subtitle is The Path of True Godliness. It's rather difficult to use that first title in English, so we just call it The Path of True Godliness, went with the subtitle.
Nichols: It's like our true north [star], this book.
Beeke: What he's saying is, you really get all your sanctification ultimately from Jesus, but you've got to live it out in this life. But you get it by looking to the north star. Jesus is the north star, you see? In him is all your strength and all your sanctification.
Nichols: Before we go any further on this, you need to give us an honest confession here. When you're in the Netherlands, do you ever search for these lost sixty manuscripts?
Beeke: No, it's pretty helpless.
Nichols: Oh, okay.
Beeke: There's a whole body of scholars over there called the Dutch Further Reformation—the best translation probably—but in the Dutch it's called Nadere Reformatie, the “Nearer Reformation.” What they're trying to do is they're trying to bring the Reformation closer to home and to the heart, as Robert Burns said, "To men's business and bosoms." How do you live the Christian life in every area of your life? So, it's very much like the Puritans. There's a whole group of scholars there called the Dutch Further Reformation group and they have a periodical, so these guys have ransacked all the libraries. They know a lot more about it than I do.
Nichols: But you're pretty diligent, so I don’t know.
Beeke: Here's what my life has been involved in. When I handed in my doctoral dissertation to Dick Gaffin, actually, at Westminster Seminary, and showed it to him, he said, "Now, you've got to translate the Dutch classics." I'm not that fluent in Dutch. I can't be a translator, but I'm good enough to be an editor. So, I took that seriously because the Dutch have translated somewhere around a thousand Puritan books into the Dutch language, and the English translated maybe five or six Dutch Reformation classics.
Nichols: You want it flowing back.
Beeke: I want it flowing back. We've done this series called the Classics of Reformed Spirituality, and we've done eight books in this series now. We've done men like Voetius, and Schortinguis, and Teellinck, and then Lodenstein. We want to bring these names forward because these guys are great, great writers. They stress sanctification as well as justification. Now, this particular man, Willem Teellinck, I always say to people at conferences, “This is the best book I've ever read on sanctification,” because it's so Christ-centered. At the same time, he'll challenge you to live more for Christ and to be more conformed to His image. It's very searching and convicting, but he also doesn't leave you rest without dedicating your entire life to Jesus Christ, every facet of it.
Nichols: Do you remember when you first read it? Or how you first came about it?
Beeke: I do. There was a lady in the Netherlands whose name was Annemie Godbehere, and she's the translator of this. She began translating back in the 1980s, and she sent me four or five books she did from Teellinck. Those were her first efforts; she improved greatly over the years. She passed away, actually, a couple years ago from cancer. When I read this one, I said, "This one really is worthy of printing. We’ve got to work on this one. This is something special." And we've sold close to ten thousand of these. I think we'd sell a lot more if people were more familiar with the name of Teellinck, but I've done my best to try to sell this book.
Nichols: I would say so. I find this really fascinating because I think this represents the feeling, who's going to disagree with the idea that we need to glorify God and enjoy him forever? Who's going to disagree with that as a Christian?
Nichols: The question is, How do I do that? Especially, how do I do this in this context that I live in?
Beeke: That's right.
Nichols: As you look at a book like this, I just think it can be very helpful to just flesh that out for people.
Beeke: How to really live the Christian life. I mean, it's in these pages. It's a great book. It’s a great book.
Nichols: Well, thanks for bringing Teellinck to our attention. Glad you have this book, made this available to us in English, and appreciate the time in your office. Thank you.
Beeke: Thank you.
Nichols: I'm Steve Nichols, and thanks for listening to Open Book, a podcast about the power of books and the people they've shaped. Want more of Open Book? Listen to past episodes at openbookpodcast.com or find the show in any podcast app. Open Book is a listener-supported outreach of Ligonier Ministries. We'll be back in the library next week, so please join us again for another episode of Open Book.
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