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The Poor Man’s Morning And Evening Portions

A Review Article

George M. Ella | Added: Oct 19, 2022 | Category: Reviews


A poor man’s portion enriches the believer’s soul

Happily, many years ago, I discovered a true Biblical, devotional and practical display of the gospel in Robert Hawker’s works. I had never seen anything before which came up to their high spiritual standard though I had previously studied the works of the finest Christian authors. Here were gems indeed for all Christians. Though the work under review was designed in their original production to suit the poor man’s pocket, they made me richer by far as a child of God.

Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was a minister in the Church of England which had been foremost in spreading the truths of the Reformation in England and whose ministers led the revivals of the 18th century. It is thus a blessed miracle for me to find a strictly Presbyterian Publishing House praising and re-printing Hawker’s works. It is a miracle of grace to me because the founding fathers of modern Presbyterianism had condemned the Church of England outright and appealed to the revolutionary Caesar, Cromwell, to have them outlawed and persecuted claiming they were ‘malignants and drunkards’. Thus, on the anniversary of the Bartholomew Night persecutions in 1645, that persecuting evil was perpetuated against the Church of England ministers irrespective of the pioneer Reformers who had graced that Church and the many Puritans who were still in it. They were all classified as ‘drunkards and malignants’ and outlawed with grave punishments for those who used the Prayer Book and not the Presbyterian books of what they called ‘discipline’. Instead, a counter, man-made, rational reformation was enforced on Commonwealth Britain under the military control of private armies. It is thus no wonder that Church Historian Professor Gunnar Westin of Uppsala University claimed that with the exception of John Durie the Commonwealth divines could not distinguish between reality and myth.

Encouraging signs of denominationalism being overcome

Today, many of the descendants of their counter-Reformation Presbyterian founders have gladly turned from the political idea of a state-controlled Church, ruled by a semi-secular ‘Solemn League and Covenant’ manifesto and are showing a truly reforming, brotherly spirit. This is especially true of the Reformation Heritage Press publications who have brought out a number of fine, Christian works written by those who were formerly denigrated by the 17th century Presbyterian rebels. These publishers are now reprinting Hawker’s best-known work for the second time. Thus, the pure gospel overcomes denominational, spiritual rigidity and overcomes institutional divisions. 

A dubious introduction

The needy break with past follies is not quite completed, however. Sadly, in Joel Beeke’s, brief Introduction to Hawker’s work, that editor cannot resist looking back nostalgically at the former dark days of the Neo-Presbyterians of the Major, Buchanan, Knox, Melville type, rooted in French Jesuit humanistic philosophy and introduces a tasteless piece of Presbyterian propaganda by comparing Hawker to that pioneer of rationalism, Samuel Rutherford. Bible-believing Christians were perplexed by the Banner of Truth’s ‘Easy Reader’ versions of John Bunyan and Robert Trail in which both evangelical stalwarts were reshaped to agree with the rationalism of Andrew Fuller and given a dumbed-down vocabulary. Reformation Heritage happily keep to Hawker’s original text but make the mistake in their Introduction of allying Hawker with the Father of Fullerism, Rutherford, who was a pioneer of that dark philosophy called the Enlightenment. He was also a fratricide, regicide and mystic, who persecuted the brethren, even the Congregationalists who had left the Church of England with the Presbyterians. Rutherford removed the Covenant of Grace from the hands of Christ and placed it nominally in the peoples’ hands, providing they were represented by the monarchical Presbytery. He also changed much of the Everlasting Covenant of the Father and the Son into a Covenant of Works with man and deified what he called ‘the covenant of nature’, and the ‘law of nature’ like Fuller after him. Rutherford, according to his own claims, built his church on the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle beside revolutionary politics and the voice of a mob ready to take up arms and follow him.

Why make such a blunder?

We must ask what purpose could be found in comparing Hawker’s spirituality to the mock religion of the ‘imperative voice of nature’, nature’s light’ and ’nature’s instinct` which were the results of fallen man’s apostacy? Are the modern Presbyterians striving to give an ignoble past an air of respectfulness? 

Happily, such a lame Introduction does not spoil Hawker’s work which shines in and displays the Lord’s sovereignty, grace, mercy and love portioned out for morning and evening blessings throughout the year.

No modern, large, easy-readable script used

One other disappointment for an old man with bad eye-sight is the photo-copied print used for Hawker’s work which is rather cramped, unclear and small. A modern text converter into a larger format could have done the copying almost as quickly and would have made the text more appealing and readable. I could not read the many notes and Bible verses without a magnifying glass. 

Lastly on the down side is the price of the poor man’s book originally printed in penny portions. Pricing such a facsimile now at over thirty dollars, pounds or euros is hardly doing the poor a favour, nor the not-so-poor.

Hawker’s preface to the morning portions

In Robert Hawker’s own Preface to the Morning Portions, he introduces his Bible texts and sermons as a means, designed by the divine hand, to promote the Redeemer’s glory and the people’s happiness and comfort. His starting point is the Covenant of God in Christ and our Saviour’s work in fulfilling all its conditions throughout all time and in eternity. This, Hawker describes as following the ‘whole tenor of covenant love which runs through the Bible,’ which proves to be a ‘perpetual source of joy and consolation all the day.’ 

This Covenant teaching whereby God in Christ pledge themselves from eternity to redeem a special people and take them safely and totally to a heaven prepared especially for them is a most neglected gospel in the modern so-called Christian world. Now, amongst most would-be Christians, it seems, God’s sovereign Grace is reduced to a facility of fallen man’s will and the Atonement is seen as a ‘take it or leave it’ article designed for fallen man’s sinful grasp. Here the reader is reminded twice daily of the once and for all time and eternity fulfilled Covenant love of Christ for his people and their free gift received to partake in the life of God in Christ. Hawker urges his flock of hearers and readers to see that ‘all the promises of God in Christ Jesus are yea and amen, unto the glory of God by us`. 

Hawker’s Preface to his evening portions

Here, Hawker sets forth Jesus as the whole of the believer’s portion, to live upon in time and to all eternity. He explains the difference between what a believer might think and do and what Christ has thought and done for him. He wishes us to see how Jesus is the whole in redemption and the glorious inscription over the gate of Heaven is ‘To the praise of the glory of his grace wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.’ Hawker’s one aim is to make sinners aware of the love calls of Christ and receive His love-tokens.

Good news daily, monthly and yearly

Hawker continues in this choice persuasion throughout his January portions praising the unchangeable mercy of Christ in keeping all His promises but warning those who believe that salvation is all of man as God’s free-will agent that all their works will come to naught.

So, daily, monthly and yearly, through his morning and evening portions, Hawker wisely and evangelically uses the Scriptures to show God’s eternal love through Christ for His elect whom he advises to pray daily for insight into God’s own charter drawn up for our security in Christ which is sealed by God’s ‘Yea and Amen’ and cannot be broken. Thus, the main theme in all the portions is the sufficiency of God in His Fatherhood who keeps us in Christ because we are the gift of God to Christ and betrothed to Him, anointed by the Holy Spirit and made one with God. So, we are constantly urged to look to Jesus the author and Finisher of our faith. 

Self-instilled faith is a useless commodity

If we become self-possessed in our faith and forget who gave us it, Hawker reminds us what sufferings Christ went through to redeem us from our sins by suffering punishment where we, fallen, vile and sinful creatures, ought to have suffered. However, greater love hath no man than Christ who shields us from condemnation by the shedding of His innocent blood. Any Christian, when he sees pride rising up in himself, should consider the travail of the Redeemer’s soul whereby the sorrows of hell compassed Him and the snares of the devil were set before Him but yet, Jesus suffered to prevent us sorrowing in hell or being snared in the devil’s traps ourselves. Hawker makes it clear that the sinner who is full of himself has no room for Jesus. Horrified by the thought, Hawker prays ‘No, let me be poor and needy, empty and in want, wretched and helpless in myself; for then I am sure my Jesus will be most precious.’

Long and short words of eternal grace

Some of the morning and evening portions are quite lengthy but others are as short as they are succinct. An example of the latter is given to us as the year grows to its end, on the morning of December 27, when Hawker comments on Isaiah 54:10 with the words:

For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed: but my kindness shall not depart from the, neither shall the covenants of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.

What a rest is here for a poor redeemed sinner to stand firm upon, in time, and to all eternity! Well may he cry out concerning Jesus, and his great salvation in him, ‘He is a rock, and his work is perfect.’ Yes, yes, thou Lord God of my salvation: thou art my dwelling place in all generations. My soul, look all around thee, look within thee, look everywhere about thee. Search, behold, examine diligently, what else will or can afford thee any security. And think what a dying world it is in which thou art dwelling, or rather travelling through. What friend, what brother, what child, what relation, can give thee help of soul, or even of body, when thou most shalt need it? Think what a day, a week, an hour, may bring forth! Amidst all these changes, is Jesus thine, doth he tell thee, that ‘though mountains depart, and hills be removed, his salvation and the Father’s covenant of peace is the same? Shout, shout, my soul, and begin the song, which in a dying hour will only swell louder, ‘Salvation to God and the Lamb!

A life for eternity begun and completed in grace

Hawker closes his last portion for the evening of December 31 with the blessed benediction Paul utters in 2 Corinthians 13:14,

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

He proclaims that for Christ’s flock the year begins in grace and ends in grace and will do so for us ‘until grace be consummated in everlasting glory. Amen and Amen’.

PS: This wonderful book is available to the financial poor through the gracious service of Internet Archive who provide a free version for online reading or for downloading purposes. These can be enlarged to suit any eye. For those without online facilities, these are provided by most public libraries and charity organisations free of charge.