THE GOSPEL OF SOVEREIGN GRACE
by Henry Atherton
(CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, First Edition, 2014, p/b, 162pp, £6.90 from Amazon, ISBN 978-1502941756)
This book is published to mark the centenary of the founding of the Sovereign Grace Union in 1914. In the main, it is a collection of addresses by Rev. Henry Atherton, first secretary of the Sovereign Grace Union and includes a very interesting biographical introduction by Dr. Gerard Charmley of Leeds.
This is a most interesting book in that it contains, in a well set out manner, the simple principles of Calvinist teaching on the doctrines of sovereign grace. It is this, therefore, that the objective of the book is set – to examine what causes great enthusiasm in some quarters and confusion in others on the subject of Calvinism. It is a look-back and preparation for going forward. It is a very Protestant volume!
The look-back starts prior to, and leads on to, the formation of the SGU at a time when godly men stood vehemently against the trend of distributing ‘Infidel, Popish, and Arminian Tracts” by encouraging the people of God to engage in ‘making manifest the savour of divine truth in every place.’ It was in 1914, that the forerunner to the SGU (The Brighton Sovereign Grace Mission) was reorganised under the presidency of Rev William Sykes, Vicar of Hillsborough and Wadsley Bridge, Sheffield, and supported by Rev. Henry Atherton, Grove Chapel, Camberwell as secretary. It was under Atherton, as the first Secretary of SGU (later as President of the Union), that the influence and activity of SGU really progressed.
Henry Atherton was born in Wigan in 1875, his father was a verger, churchwarden and Bible class teacher, and worked as an evangelist with the Church Association. Atherton forsook his parents’ faith and gained a reputation as a gambler and a drunkard. He was not to stay in this state. Having witnessed the sudden death of a man, the young Atherton came under deep conviction of sin, and was converted to Christ. He entered the ministry and got involved in evangelistic work and publishing pamphlets on matters of topical church interest. He was associated with the Trinitarian Bible Society and the Ministers’ Relief Society and was Deputy Grand Chaplain of the Loyal Orange Institution of England. He was granted the freedom of the City of London.
The contents include 15 chapters, mostly sermons from Atherton, and on reading them it is clear that he was very tenacious and faithful in proclaiming sound Protestant truth. It is rare, even in this day, to find a book that clearly sets out why Calvinism is sound biblical doctrine as well as giving a concise understanding of Protestantism. It is an excellent collection, well presented, and because the publishers have no heart for profit but for the distribution of sound biblical material, it is well priced. I heartily recommend the book, knowing that the purchaser will be fully blessed by it.