As I’ve been considering additions to my library, one of the commentary sets that caught my eye recently was the Poor Man’s Old and New Testament Commentary set by Robert Hawker. The first thing that drew me in was the name. I had never heard of Poor Man’s, but it got me thinking there was going to be a good cost to benefit ratio in there somewhere for a frugal guy like me. The second thing that intrigued me was the endorsements. I highly respect Dr. Joel R. Beeke and a am a fan of Charles Spurgeon, so their words definitely had weight for me. Here’s a bit of what they each had to say about Robert Hawker:
“Hawker excels in Christ-centered, experiential divinity. He was taught by the Spirit how to find Christ in the Scriptures, as well as how to present Him to hungry sinners in search of daily communion with a personal Redeemer. For the genuine Christian, here is devotional writing at its best: it is always warmly Christ-centered, eminently practical, personally searching.”
—Joel R. Beeke
“There is always such a savor of the Lord Jesus Christ in Dr. Hawker that you cannot read him without profit . . . Full of devotion and sweetness.”
—Lectures to My Students, vol. 4, by Charles Spurgeon
And the third thing that drew me in was the price. Some commentary sets can run you into several hundreds and even thousands of dollars. At the time of this review, Poor Man’s Old and New Testament Commentary is available from LOGOS Bible Software for a mere $126.95, which is a $345.05 savings when compared to buying these twelve volumes in print.
Given the strong endorsements from Beeke and Spurgeon, I was curious to find out a bit more about Robert Hawker. Here are some of the things I found particularly interesting about his life:
*Lived from 1753-1827.
*Married Anna Reins when he was 19 years old. They had 8 children together.
*Studied medicine and served in the marines as an assistant surgeon.
*Received a Doctor of Divinity from the University of Edinburgh.
*Diligently served the poor and oppressed.
I don’t have any major research projects going on right now, so my current regular interaction with LOGOS Bible software is my reading plan to go through the New Testament via The NET Bible in six months. I love the passage guide that shows up to the left of the reading window, allowing me easy access to all of the commentaries in my library that correlate to the verses I’m currently reading. Each day as I’ve been doing my daily Bible reading, I take a few extra minutes to dig deeper into the text using the Poor Man’s Old and New Testament Commentary.
As you begin utilizing this commentary, you’ll soon realize there is a consistent layout across the commentary set. As you scroll through a commentary, each section is broken up by the heading of CHAP. 1, CHAP. 2, etc. Following that, the first thing you’ll encounter is CONTENTS, which starts with a brief summary of the chapter. For example, here’s the summary for Matthew 18:
“The Lord Jesus is here teaching his disciples humbleness. He speaks of his own, and his Father’s good pleasure, for the salvation of every one of his little ones. The Chapter is closed in a parable.”
Next you come to the actual commentary about the verses, sometimes covering one verse at a time and other times a range of verses. For example, here’s the commentary for Matthew 18: 15-20:
“15–19. I pray the Reader to remark, the affection Jesus insists upon, to subsist between brethren. And indeed as they are members of Christ’s body; brethren of Jesus, and of each other; one spirit moves in all. 1 Cor. 12 throughout.
20. To the little infirmities, which from the remains of indwelling corruption, may, and will, occasionally break out, how precious is the direction of Jesus. Oh! that it were more generally adopted in the Church of Christ! And what an unanswerable argument doth the Lord here leave upon record, for the constant meeting together of his whole body, both in private and public ordinances. Zech. 2:5, 10, 11. Matt. 20:28.”
You’ll notice there are some cross-references in the above quotation. These are hyperlinked in the text, so you can mouse over them to read the verse(s) or click on the link to view that passage in a separate window.
Each section comes to a close with REFLECTIONS. The best way I could describe this is part sermon and part prayer. For example, here’s the reflection for Matthew chapter 18:
“How truly blessed is it to have our hearts brought under divine teaching, and made like the simplicity of a weaned child. See my soul in the instance of these disciples of Jesus, how much our minds are wedded to the concerns of this world. Oh! for grace to be converted, and become as little children, that we may be truly great in the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed Lord Jesus! may I never lose sight of this promise that thy presence is eminently manifested in the assemblies of thy people: for sure I am, that all the beauty and glory; all the power and efficacy; all the success and blessing, which can be derived from ordinances, can only be derived, because Jesus hath assured his Church, that wherever two or three are gathered together in his name, there he is in the midst of them, and that to bless them.
Thanks to my dear Lord for this beautiful and instructive Parable. Yea, Lord! my debt was so great, in ten thousand talents as made me insolvent for ever. In vain were it for me to say, Lord have patience with me and I will pay thee all. Never to all eternity, could I have done it. Oh! then add a grace more to the merciful forgiveness of all; and incline my heart to be merciful, even as my father which is in heaven is merciful! Precious Jesus! help me to imitate thee in all things!”
That’s the rhythm of things in the Poor Man’s Old and New Testament Commentary set: contents, reflections, repeat…contents, reflections, repeat…
What has moved me most about this commentary set is the reverential and worshipful tone in Hawker’s writing. Many of the other reference works in my library have a lot of great information, but at times can feel a bit dry. Hawker’s awe, wonder, and love of Christ and His word drips off of every page. I felt as if Hawker was drawing me into a time of worship and praise each time I read. This was a real first for me while reading a commentary. I would have expected to respond this way when reading the Bible, a spiritual classic, or possibly a devotional book, but certainly not a commentary. This was a welcome surprise.
In addition to spending time in the commentaries, I’ve also been making use of the Poor Man’s Morning Portion and Poor Man’s Evening Portion daily devotional readings, which are also included with this set. If you’re familiar with other morning and evening devotions (i.e. Spurgeon), these will feel quite familiar. Since I use my iPhone as my alarm clock, I’ve found the easiest and most consistent way to access these was using the Logos Bible app. I read the morning portion while I’m waiting for my first cup of coffee to finish brewing and I read the evening portion right before I go to sleep. Similar to what you find in the commentaries, the morning and evening portions display Hawker’s love of God and His word. There are many precious gems to be mined here.
I have felt extremely privileged to have the opportunity to interact with the thoughts and writings of Robert Hawker. Over the past few weeks I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of the fuller body of his work, but I know that it has already helped me to grow in my faith. And while Robert and I won’t meet this side of eternity, I have the distinct feeling that he will be mentoring me through his writings for years to come.
My overall rating for the Poor Man’s Old and New Testament Commentary set is 5 stars. Highly recommended!
Disclaimer: This product was provided by LOGOS Bible Software for review. The reviewer was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.