“Peerless”: Review of Hartman’s Divine Penology

Decretum Books will soon be re-publishing L. B. Hartman’s phenomenal book on justice and hell, Divine Penology (public domain), which will include a biographical introduction. This has been a fascinating project, as no significant biography of Hartman exists at present. Appendix B in the new publication is a glowing review from Christian Work: Illustrated Family Newspaper, Vol. 67, in 1899, which captures many of my own thoughts about the work, idiosyncratic as it is. It is printed here in hopes it will whet your appetite for this “peerless” treatise.

This is a masterly work and deals with a subject which at the present day is being too much neglected and lost sight of. The Word of God sets forth clearly that there is such a thing as punishment or penalty for sin. This is retributive justice, and the doctrine of it has as clear and firm foundations in fact and the nature of things as it has in revelation. The doctrine of retribution is one which cannot be ignored with safety. No sincere inquirer after truth but will be strengthened and helped by a careful perusal of the sublime truths set forth by the author of this peerless book. I call it peerless, as it stands almost alone at the present time in its presentation of this truth. It is logical, concise and carries conviction in its utterance. There has never been a time when such a book was more needed. There is no disguising the fact that much of the prevailing weakness of the public conscience—municipal corruption, commercial chicanery and the worldliness pervading our churches—are largely due to want of conscious moral obligation and responsibility to God, and this state of society loudly calls for a book like this. A return to this phase of Christian thought, especially in these days, when scoffers are denying the existence of hell or of any form of punishment in the future, is encouraging, especially as presaging a return to solid foundations of reasoning and of Bible principles. If we are to ignore Divine Penology we may as well ignore and lose our faith in the Bible itself, for the Divine Word is full of it, and even he that runs may read. The best book on Divine Penology is the Scriptures, and the next best on this subject that we have seen is this little volume by Dr. Hartman. It should be read by every Christian and by whomsoever desires to search out and to know the truth.
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