Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings
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A note


by Bill Carson


I  was looking at the books in a used book shop in Grand Rapids, Michigan several years ago when I came across a small, brown volume that had obviously seen better days. The title on the spine was almost impossible to make out and I set it down again on the shelf. Then, my curiosity aroused, I picked it up again and opened the brown, discolored pages, to find a real gem.

While I had heard of James Durham and read a few of his sermons in Christopher Coldwell's Anthologies, the only book of his that I had any familiarity with was his Concerning Scandal. Incorrectly thinking of Durham primarily as a writer of polemic, I was pleasantly startled to find such a warm, experiential treatment of the Song of Songs. I determined to put the whole on Fire and Ice, and here it is. It was a lot more work and took a much longer to complete than I expected, but truly it was a labor of love. I hope that the perusal of Durham's work will further the Christian growth of the reader.

The copy I found in Grand Rapids was published in 1723 in octavo size (4 inches x 6 inches, or 16 x 10 cm) and about 1 1/4 inch (3cm) thick. It has 372 pages, but the title page is missing. The book has had several owners: it has a 19th Century bookplate from the Religious Tract Society Library, 56 Paternoster Row, London. It is also signed "George Gerald Nika, Chicago, Ill, 4/1948." There are several handwritten notes in the front of the book regarding its author and date. Unfortunately Pastor Nika stamped several of the pages with his name and underlined, circled, and ticked various passages with different colored inks, and all this hard use has broken the spine and caused a few pages to fall out. Nevertheless it is a beautiful book and it was a genuine pleasure to read as I prepared these web page. In order to share this pleasure with you, I have prepared a PDF file (3.8MB) of the first page and Durham's exposition of chapter 5 verse 2, "I sleep, but my heart waketh."

Durham's Exposition of the Song of Songs was originally published posthumously in 1689 and copies are quite rare. It was republished in 1723 (my copy) and again in 1840. The 1840 edition modernized the text by replacing the italic quotations with quotation marks, changing the Scripture references to the 19th Century style with Roman numerals, and taking out the contractions. In this way (as may be seen in the PDF file, in the first column of page 194) 1 Theff. 5. 6. and Rom. 13. 11. Let us not Sleep, but watch and be sober. becomes Rom. xiii. 11, "It is high time to awake:" and I Thess. v. 6, "Let us watch, and be sober;". Interestingly the very few typographical errors in the 1840 edition follow the even fewer errors in the 1723, leading me to conclude that the 1723 was the examplar for the typesetter. (If only modern books--or this web page-- could be so accurately made!)

The Banner of Truth Trust published a photo litho reprint of the 1840 edition in 1982, and again in 1997, as part of their Geneva Commentary series. The reader is encouraged to purchase a copy. It is available from Cumberland Valley Bible Book Service in the U.S.


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