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Book Review: The Hidden Life by Adolph Saphir

March 4, 2011

I heard about this book from Fred Sanders in his excellent and highly recommended book on the trinity The Deep Things of God. It can be a bit dry at times, but it is very thorough and an important book to work your way through if you are in need of deepening your understanding of what it means to be trinitarian. Just as important and perhaps more enjoyable is Sanders blog. It is theological and historical and wonderful.

Sanders recommends and uses Adolph Saphir’s little known book The Hidden Life: Thoughts on Communion with God throughout his book. Intrigued by the excellent quotes, I found an affordable edition and was blessed to use it as devotional material for the past few weeks.

Saphir was born to a prominent Jewish family in Hungary (?) and was later converted with his entire family through the ministry of a Scotch Presbyterian missionary. He studied for the ministry in Glasgow and Scotland and became a Presbyterian minister, eventually working his way to London and began a teaching ministry that appealed to Christians from various denominational backgrounds in the 1860’s and 1870’s.

The Hidden Life is an extended meditation on James 4:8, “Draw Near to God and He Will Draw Near to You.” Saphir’s contention is that this verse is ultimately the core of the New Testament message, that through Christ a way is made to draw near to God, and that He will draw near to us. I would describe the book as a theological and practical meditation on how to have communion with the trinity in everyday life. One word of caution, this is the kind of book that will keep you from being able to stomach anything from your local Christian bookstore.

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