|Fire and Ice: Puritan and Reformed Writings|
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In 1687, Willard began a monthly lecture series on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which continued until shortly before his death in 1707. Over that 20 year period he preached 250 sermons, enough to fill a very large folio volume of almost 1000 pages. When published in 1726, it was the largest book every printed in New England and required the services of most of the print-shops to produce it. The book had a long list of subscribers (advance purchasers), including the fathers of Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. Nevertheless, it was called, "The greatest book ever to come still-born from the press" and was promptly forgotton. The era of Puritanism in New England had past, and Willard's orthodoxy with it.
How can one man preach on the Catechism for 20 years? Willard's book shows him to be a man of no mean organizational and analytical skills. Over and over, the reader is amazed by the sheer economy and compactness of his exposition, for Willard wastes no words. He covers his subjects with a breadth as well as depth, nevertheless in a simple and clear style. He covers a lot of ground in 250 sermons, but he says nothing twice.
The original title of the book is, "A Compleat Body of Divinity in Two Hundred and Fifty Expository Lectures on the Assembly's Shorter Catechism wherein The Doctrines of the Christian Religion are unfolded, their Truth confirm'd, their Excellence display'd, their Usefulness improv'd; contrary Errors & Vices refuted & expos'd, Objections answer'd, Controversies settled, Cases of Conscience resolv'd; and a great Light thereby reflected on the present Age." And that is just what this book is.
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