R. C. Sproul. The Prince’s Poison Cup. Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008. 35pp. $12.24.
As a parent, I often try to come up with ways to present the truths of the gospel in a way that my children can understand. Often, I find myself frustrated in the task. It is highly difficult to allegorize the gospel without completely missing major, important truths. Thankfully, R. C. Sproul has made this task much easier by bringing us The Prince’s Poison Cup.
The story we find in the pages of this well-illustrated children’s book is mainly the allegory of the gospel couched in the answer to a little girls’ question about why medicine which makes us better tastes so bad. This affectation helps young readers to understand that they are hearing a clearly fictional story with a bigger, real-world meaning. The allegory itself is a sweeping picture of the overall story of redemption history—creation, fall, and redemption.
In the allegory, a great king created all things. The king’s subjects rebelled against him by drinking the water in a fountain in the center of the king’s garden. That water caused the people’s hearts to turn to stone, and their stony hearts led the people to hate and fear the loving king. In order to rescue his people, the king sent his son to drink a cup of poison, a poison made up of all the king’s anger for the rebellion of his people. When the prince drinks the poison, the king arrives, raises him from the dead, and drives off the enemy who had deceived the people. Then the hearts of many of the people are changed from stone to flesh, and they come to receive fresh, healing water from the prince.
Sproul has done an excellent job of bringing the details of redemption history into a readable children’s storybook. My children grasp the flow of the story. They feel sorrow when they see the people rebel. They squirm when the prince drinks the poison. They rejoice when the people’s hearts are changed and when they are restored to fellowship with the king. And, thankfully, they understand that this story represents the bigger truth of what Jesus did to help them to be made right with God.
There is no doubt that this book was written to teach young ones the truth of redemption history, but it can help grown-ups too. We need, from time-to-time, to take a fresh look at the gospel for the encouragement of our own souls. We need to be reminded of how God, by his grace and for his glory, changed our stony hearts into soft hearts that could receive his free gift of mercy. We need to remember the horror that the Lord Jesus suffered in order to consume the wrath of God that we deserved. We need to remember that to embrace the sin of this world is to choose a slum over a garden. We need to remember that God is the great King who cannot and will not be defeated by the schemes of the enemy. We need to remember that it is good to take the message of the prince’s sacrifice to all those who need grace.
I offer a wholehearted recommendation of The Prince’s Poison Cup. Parents, grandparents, and Sunday School teachers all could find ways to use this book. Even youth workers and grown-up pastors can benefit by having on their shelves a resource that so simply and beautifully captures the big picture of God’s plan. R. C. Sproul has given us a great gift by taking the time to write for us such a sweet little book.
[Disclosure: Reformation Trust has offered a free hardcopy of this book to me in exchange for the publishing of this review. The publisher did not in any way influence how the review was written, not asking for a positive review, but simply asked that the review be honest and thoughtful.]