Heinrich was born into a family of serfs in Weyer, Germany in 1174. This novel is a story of his family and his times. He is bound to the patriarchs, the plots of land around Weyer, the priests of the town, and the penance they pronounce on him and others. This was daily life for the common people of the little German community.
Young Heinrich learns much about life in a fallen world as he lives among many people who are strangers to God’s grace. It is a world full of repression, revenge, resulting resentment, and grief. It is a world of greed, envy, and endurance in the face of unfair treatment. It is a locale where priests live for themselves rather than living as servants of the Lord.
On the other hand, God’s world is one in which grace is richly manifested. The author, C.D. Baker, portrays a bountiful grace in this well-crafted book of historical fiction. A disgraced woman, Emma, and her illegitimate son arrive at the monastery gates one day and are settled into a nearby cottage. These outcasts must silently endure the questioning, accusing populace. Over time, the woman and her son befriend Heinrich. Their friendship is a gift of God’s grace to all parties. Grace is also seen in the foresight of Heinrich’s gentle mother prior to her death and his appointment to a job that opens up new opportunities for him.
The local church leaders, who should be proclaimers of gospel grace, profess salvation by works. Christ’s sufficient atonement is hidden behind their insufficient pronouncements of penance. A heavy penance is placed on Heinrich that becomes overwhelming to him. He ends up being gone from his children and family for years. And instead of being freed from his sins as a result of paying penance, he is more burdened with them. Heinrich struggles and reflects in the midst of some very difficult choices. Will he continue to pay penance? At the risk of not completing his penance, will he show grace to others and sacrifice his own needs? His decision comes at great expense to himself, as well as great profit in spiritual ways. After years apart, he catches a glimpse of his sons as they journey with other children who are part of the Children’s Crusade. His love for them propels him through the Alps in pursuit of them. This is a picture of the greater love of the Father as He sovereignly pursues Heinrich.
A good story is more than a plot. It involves character development. This is a good story. Heinrich grows through childhood trials, a miserable arranged marriage, and through learning to stand on principle. He begins to see the light of grace in the midst of the dark drudgery of daily life.
This volume is also a well-researched, vivid account of common life in medieval villages. The reader will become acquainted with superstitions, the use of fear by religious authorities, and the longing of serfs to be free men.
Readers of the initial volume in this series, A Journey of Souls (available from PrestonSpeed Publications), will want to read this volume. Herein, they will find an engrossing story and attention to historic detail. Readers should come away with reminders of grace and how grace and mercy come into our fallen world at times when we least expect them. This book turns our attention from the despair of this world and our works to the grace of God that is truly greater than man’s sin.
- Byron Snapp
Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia. He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina. He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren.