Book Review: A Manual Of Devotion

A Manual Of Devotion, by Thomas Frank Gailor

This particular book was written by the chaplain of the University of the South towards the end of the 19th century, and it is interesting to see what devotion meant to someone in such a milieu at a time when devotional literature was much more serious than it is today. This book was written by the author out of the daily experience of a religious man with his students, some of whom were committed believers but some of whom were not. It should be noted that this book is a mixture of material that is sound along with much material that is unsound, largely because the author takes as his starting point mainstream Christianity, which has adopted some rather unbiblical attitudes and some rather Hellenistic language. Even in those cases where the author is dealing soundly with biblical verses in translation, using the psalms as aspects of prayer, which is precisely the right sort of attitude to take regarding prayer, a lot of these prayers are introduced in ways that would be most familiar to a Hellenistic audience, so it is, to give one example, that Psalm 130 is listed here as De Profundus, admittedly a Latin translation of its opening about calling to God out of the deeps, but still, a title that tends to alienate most readers from the material.

This is a book that, sadly, does not have a table of contents, and that sort of thing makes it far easier to list the contents of a work. That said, this work begins with the creeds and discusses what the author believes it takes to be a Christian. Interestingly, this appears to be his starting point, which leads to the implication that the author views creeds (something not as well understood today). After this comes a discussion about prayers, and here the author includes a great deal of prayers for many circumstances, including personal prayers, prayers at public worship, some of which resemble the normal forms for prayers offered as part of the public liturgy of various churches, and prayers relating to family. It is at this part that the author includes as part of devotions parts of the Bible, and prayers that are taken from the scriptures, such as the Lord’s Prayer and various psalms. It is this which is the strongest section of the book and which gives the book a strong value in devotion, in the recognition that biblical prayers make for effective aids in devotion, so that people can pray over words of the Bible that express their spiritual and emotional state.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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