"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « The Divine Intention of the Cross by Pastor John Samson | Main | "I've Been Reading...": Quotable Quotes from Excellent Books, Issue 3 »

    Top Ten Books on Piety, Sanctification, Spiritual Growth

    Recently I posted an excerpt from William Gurnall's classic work, The Christian in Complete Armour and mentioned that this was on our top ten list of books of all time on piety, sanctification, spiritual growth. A visitor asked what the other books were on this list. The following list is in no particular order but consisitute our top ten. No doubt many of you will have different books on your list so feel free to post those that have had an impact on you. These are not in any particular order.

    1. The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ
    by Walter Marshall - Hands Down, the best human-authored book on sanctification ever produced.

    2.The Life of God in the Soul of Man by Henry Scougal
    Critical work! Sanctification occurs because the human soul has been united to Christ and participates in the divine nature. A person is a Christian because of what Christ has done for us, not what we do for ourselves. The Christian life is the same as He and continues to live and intercede for us. He is our sanctification.

    3. The Bruised Reed by Richard Sibbes
    If you lack assurance, are hurting, weak and suffering under the burden of sin, read this book, and by reading you will be amazed how helpful this is to yourself and your ministry to others.

    04. The Mortification of Sin by John Owen
    Truly an amazing book. John Owen never dissapoints. Our favorite Puritan author. In a related work, Owen's treatment of the Holy Spirit is the finest we have ever read.

    05. Crook in the Lot (Hardback) by Thomas Boston
    One of our favorite books of all time. While this book is about providence and the sovereignty of God, the depth of Boston's biblical insight will help you better get a bird's eye view of reality resulting in a life of genuine piety. We studied through this book with our early morning men's group and the result was changed lives.

    06. The Fear of God by John Bunyan
    This is a great book to give anyone new to the faith and a blessing to those who have already been Christians. A true classic which I am currently reading and benefitting immensely from.

    07. Everlasting Righteousness, Horatius Bonar - The Everlasting Righteousness may be the best book on the doctrine of justification by faith alone ever written. Presented here in modern English and spelling, Bonars classic book is a clear and accurate explanation of the heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Although this book is about justificaiton, this is the most foundational book we have found as a basis of understanding sanctification.

    08. The Doctrine of Sanctification by A.W. Pink
    Here Pink compiles the best teaching on sanctification through church history.

    09. Holiness by J.C. Ryle
    Truly a rich little gem that is to be read and reread. Classic!.

    10. The Christian in Complete Armour by William Gurnall (Pub. 1662-1665)
    This is, no doubt, the most comprehensive work ever written on the subject of spiritual warfare. It’s a massive tome, but there are few books in existence that I would recommend more highly. Very Edifying. A must own for your library.

    Ok ... those are the top ten but I will list some others which come close
    Renewal As a Way of Life: A Guidebook for Spiritual Growth Richard F. Lovelace
    Desiring God by John Piper
    The Cross-Centered Life by C.J. Mahaney (Author)

    Posted by John on June 1, 2007 01:05 PM


    Have you read "The Quest for Holiness" by Adolf Koberle? If so, in your opinion, how does it compare with the ones you have listed here? Koberle was a Lutheran.

    Thanks! Great list!

    Back in August '06 I put up my top ten on the same subject. We have a number of the same books. Here is my list (without my comments):

    10. The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence

    09. The Bruised Reed, Richard Sibbes

    08. Words to Winners of Souls, Horatius Bonar

    07. Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life, John Calvin

    06. The Pleasantness of a Religious Life, Matthew Henry

    05. The Christian’s Daily Walk, Henry Scudder

    04. Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit, Matthew Henry

    03. The Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall

    02. Vital Godliness, William Plummer

    01. The Life of God in the Soul of Man, Henry Scougal

    John, the timing of this article seems most providential. One of the gentlemen in my mens group wrote to us, the day before you posted this, desiring for our group to "get serious" and quote, "I'd like to suggest we begin the next phase by looking at probably the greatest issue in our personal lives and that being growth in personal sanctification and holiness."
    Thank you for a wonderful list of guides to assist us in this next phase. Your number one listing sounds like a perfect starting point for us.

    Warmest regards,

    This has been a huge theme for a lot of Christians lately, at least from my perspective, that is a move towards not just a head knowledge but a heart understanding and seeking of Holiness. The Banner of Truth Conference two weeks ago spent three days focusing on just this, our pursuit of Holiness and our Sanctification as saints. I just finished Thomas Watson on The Great Gain of Godliness. I would recommend this as a good book as well to look into where as it highlights the fear of God as the key factor to an authentic pursuit of holiness. Thanks for the book list.

    Has anyone ever read John Webster's "Holiness"? This is a fantastic book indirectly related to this issue and worth the read.

    While the list is great, I assume that if you're saying "all time" it would include recent works. I'm surprised Desiring God is not on the list and would definately rank it high on my own list.

    Yes it is a great list. If you are interested I have posted another list of suggestions here:

    Personally, I do not believe that any work on this subject can top Lewis Bayly's "The Practice of Piety."

    Thank you for a very interesting and helpful list. I'm confused about the numbering at you list Marshall's as "the best" yet list him at number ten. So is Marshall number one or ten? Also, I don't know if you make it a practice to respond to comments, but I would love to know your thoughts on Koberle's Quest for Holiness. It really is a must read for anyone doing a thorough study of sanctification.

    I just finished reading the first two chapters of "Quest for Holiness." I read that far because it took me the full two chapters to clearly see where he was going with his strange creation of pelagian strawmen out of Augustine, Aquinas, and virtually all Christian mystics and intellectuals. I suspected that he was going to turn out to be of the "Neo-orthodox" sect of Modernism, but the third-from-last paragraph of Chapter 2, in which he states a plain Reformation doctrine, and one which would be fully agreed to by virtually all of those he attacks, by quoting Barth and Kierkegaard, confirmed my guess to my own satisfaction. I doubt if I will continue far enough in my reading of this misleading book to see if it shares Barth's views of Scripture as fallible, etc.

    If I have formed a false impression from not finishing the book, I hope someone will correct me.

    By the way, I would replace Koberle with C.S. Lewis' more solidly Protestant and traditional "Miracles." If the meaning of "Reformation Theology" in the board's name means "Reformed," rather than "Protestant," Lewis might not be your choice, because he is no thoroughgoing Calvinist.

    I've read most all of those in the top 10, but I still go back to Bryan Chapell's Holiness by Grace. It changed my whole way of approaching sanctification.


    If I recall, I believe Chapell got many of his ideas for his book on sanctification from "The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification: Growing in Holiness by Living in Union with Christ" by Walter Marshall

    Waiting for our King!!
    Kathy C

    William Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life

    The following reformed works are worth a look.

    1. Holiness - Ryle
    2. Possessed by God - Peterson
    3. The Message of Holiness - Tidball
    4. More Like The Master - Jaeggli
    5. A Passion For Holiness - Packer
    6. The Pursuit of The Holy - Ponsonby
    7. Works of John Murray Vols 2&3
    8. Gods Way of Holiness - Bonar
    9. Renewal as a Way of Life - Lovlace
    10. Sin and Temptation - Owen

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