John Owen Pens Puritan Prose

This is the day that … John Owen died in 1683, at the age of 67.

He has been called “the Calvin of England” and “the theologian of the Puritan movement”.

James Packer writes, “In an age of giants, he overtopped them all” (Quest for Godliness, page 191).

His writings, “weighty with learning”, fill some 28 large volumes. Many of these have been reprinted in our day by the Banner of Truth.

Born in Oxfordshire in 1616 (the exact date is unknown) where his father was a Church of England clergyman, young Owen entered Oxford University at the age of 12 and graduated with B.A. and M.A. degrees seven years later, on 27 April, 1635.

Ordained by the Church of England, but not converted, it was some years before he came to know the Saviour. He attended a Presbyterian Church to hear a famous preacher of the day, Edmund Calmany, only to discover a substitute preacher was in the pulpit. Nevertheless, the sermon based on Matthew 8:26 found its mark. Conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. He married Mary Rooke – had 11 children – left Anglicanism to join the Congregational Church, and in the 1640’s found himself “reluctantly” a chaplain in Oliver Cromwell’s army (History of Preaching, by E. Dargan, Volume 2, page 178). He buried seven of his children before losing his wife as well.

With the advent of King Charles II to the throne, Owen found himself ejected from his position as Dean of Christ Church (for not being an Anglican!).

One year after his wife died he married a wealthy widow (21 June, 1677), which enabled him “to keep a carriage and a villa” (Puritan Profiles, by W. Barker, page 299).

In the closing six years of his life he devoted himself to writing. His massive commentary on Hebrews is “a work of gigantic strength as well as gigantic size”, wrote Dr Chalmers (quoted by Spurgeon, Commenting on the Commentaries, page 188).

And his The Death of Death in the Death of Christ sets forth the “classic Calvinistic statement of the atonement”, that Christ died only to save the elect (Puritan Profiles, page 297).

John Owen, like many other famous non-conformists, is buried in Bunhill Fields, East London … in “unconsecrated ground”, because he was not a member of the Church of England.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Emily Chubbuck, Judson’s Faithful Helpmeet

This is the day that … Emily Chubbuck was born in 1817, in New York State, the fifth child in the family. Her family was poor and her health not substantial. She suffered from frequent headaches.

In childhood we find her working in a woollen mill 12 hours a day … then school teaching … and finding some fame as an author. Her success in writing books for children, teaching such principles as the Golden Rule, and as a contributor to several newspapers enabled her to buy a better home for her parents and see them out of their own hardships.

When Adoniram Judson, America’s first foreign missionary, returned from Burma on his first furlough in 30 years, he read one of her books (she wrote under the pen-name of Fanny Forester).

Impressed by her ability, Judson suggested that she write the biography of Sarah, his second wife, who had died a few months previously.

As they worked together on this volume, friendship blossomed into romance, and on 1 June 1846, the 58 year-old pioneer missionary wed the 29 year-old writer.

Back in Burma, Emily and Adoniram laboured faithfully for the Lord. She wrote: “Frogs hop from my sleeves when I put them on, and lizards drop from the ceiling to the table when we are eating, and the floors are black with ants…”

By 12 April, 1850, she was a young widow – Judson had died during a sea voyage recommended for his health. But she did not know she was a widow – alone in Burma with baby Emily – for another four months!

She was deeply pained in her loss, yet she could do nothing more than soldier on. Her personal struggle is beautifully penned in the following verses taken from a longer poem, addressed to her mother.

“Sweet mother, I am here alone, In sorrow and in pain;
The sunshine from my heart has flown, It feels the driving rain—ah, me! The chill, the mould, the rain.

“And when for one loved far, far more, Come thickly-gathering tears,
My star of faith is clouded o’er, I sink beneath my fears—sweet friend, I sink beneath my fears.

“But, gentle mother, through life’s storms I may not lean on thee;
For helpless, cowering little forms Cling trustingly to me.—Poor babes! To have no guide but me.

“All fearfully—all tearfully, Alone and sorrowing,
My dim eye lifted to the sky, Fast to the Cross I cling—O Christ, To Thy dear Cross I cling!”

This brave woman returned to America to care for the Judson children, until she died of tuberculosis on 1 June, 1854, at the age of 37.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Vance Houston Havner 75 Years a Preacher

This is the day that …Vance Houston Havner died, in 1986.

He was born in a small community nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina (USA), October 17, 1901.

He made his “peace with God” in the woods after hearing his father preach an old-fashioned gospel message. Vance was 10 years-old at the time.

By the age of 12 he was licensed to preach by a local Baptist church – and ordained at the age of 15. Newspaper records of the “boy preacher” speaking to a 1,800 strong congregation – when he was only 12 – are incredible to read.

He found himself drifting into the ‘new’ popular liberal theology. “It did not become malignant in my case,” he later wrote, “but I did have enough of the virus in my system to preach popular sermons that converted nobody.” Then he read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism and returned to the evangelical faith.

He married Sara Allred in 1940 – and preached on the day she died 33 years later (Just a Preacher, page 19).

His biography, Journey from Jugtown, by D. White, and his own autobiography, Three Score and Ten, tell the whole remarkable story.

After a series of Baptist pastorates, Vance Havner devoted himself to an itinerant ministry across America. He was also a regular speaker at Moody Bible Institute Founder’s Week.

His solid prophet-like preaching was combined with a homespun folksy style that earned him the nickname “The Will Rogers of the Pulpit”.

He wrote 38 books – and every one a gem!

Of this unique man of God Billy Graham writes: “I do not know of any man in my generation who has stirred revival fires in the hearts of so many people throughout the nation as Vance Havner. Great crowds of people have packed churches and auditoriums to hear him preach. Whenever I see a book by Vance Havner I immediately purchase it …”

Dr. Havner once said, “I’ve never known a time when I didn’t want to preach. The desire was always there.” In 1973, he was named “Preacher of the Year,” by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Protestant leaders called him, “The Dean of America’s Revival Preachers.” During a hospital stay in the late 1970’s, Vance was told by Billy Graham, “You can’t go home just yet. We preachers need more sermon material!”

On 12 August, 1986, this pulpit giant went home to be with the Lord for whom he had preached for 75 years.

Some Vance Havner quotes :

“We are the salt of the earth, mind you, not the sugar. Our ministry is to truly cleanse and not just to change the taste.”

“Too many churches start at eleven o’clock sharp, and end at twelve o’clock dull.”

“Plenty of church members are shaky about what they believe, while not many are shaken by what they believe.”

“Some preachers ought to put more fire into their sermons, or more sermons into the fire.”

“The church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints.”

“The preacher is to comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.”

Christian should attend to, “the outliving of the inliving Christ.”

“To some, Christianity is an argument. To many, it is a performance. To a few, it is an experience.”

“George Palmer said before he died: ‘I’m homesick for Heaven.’ It’s the hope of dying that has kept me alive this long.”

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Oswald Chambers who Never Wrote a Book

This is the day that … Oswald Chambers was born in 1874, in Scotland … the author of 30 best-sellers, who never wrote a book!

“Thirty-two volumes bear his name on the cover, including My Utmost for His Highest, (which has been a blessing to thousands in their daily quiet time), but he never knew about any of them!” (Christianity Today, Sherwood Wirt, June, 1974).

His parents had been baptised by Charles H. Spurgeon and his father was later ordained to a Baptist pastorate by that same ‘prince of preachers’.

Oswald’s conversion took place on the way home from hearing Spurgeon preach. Oswald remarked to his father, “had the opportunity been given, he would have given his life to Christ.” The wise parent told him that he could do that very thing then and there … so it was “standing under a gas lamp in a London street” Oswald Chambers began his Christian pilgrimage (Os. Chambers, by D. Lambert, page 12).

He studied art, entered Bible College, married Gertrude Hobbs, and founded a Bible College in Clapham, England.

After four years as principal of a Bible Training College in Dunoon (Scotland), from 1911-1915, Chambers sailed for Egypt to join the staff of the YMCA, as a chaplain among the troops during World War I. He arrived in Egypt on 9 October, 1915, and many of his Bible lectures, given to thousands of soldiers solidly over the next two years, were taken down in shorthand. He was rushed to hospital in Cairo, and on 15 November, 1917, God took his servant home … at the age of 43 years.

It was then his wife gathered his writings: scraps of paper with scrawled notes, never intended for publication. Friends who had sat at his feet and taken notes of his messages sent them to her.

So it was, Baffled to Fight Better, rolled from the press shortly after his death …

In Chambers’ biography by his wife, Dinsdale T. Young pens this tribute in the Foreword: “Whenever I met him he did me good. He had a richly endowed mind which he reinforced by ceaseless study and prayer. His utterances in public were charming in form, rich in suggestion and full of ‘power from on high’. In his delightful and spiritual writings his works do follow him” (page 9).

And so the name of Oswald Chambers lives on in the 32 books he never knew he wrote!

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.

Ramon Lull, Missionary to Moslems

This is the day that … Ramon Lull was stoned to death by a Muslim mob in North Africa, in1316.

He was born on the isle of Majorca, off the coast of Spain, in 1232. In teenage days he served as a courtier to the king of Aragon, and was educated as a knight. After a life of ‘utter immorality’ (to quote his own words), at the age of 30 he experienced a vision of “the Saviour hanging on the cross” and dedicated his life to God.

The composition of the “vain song” he was composing was now neglected as he gazed at that figure “in great agony and sorrow”. He penned a quaint verse:

Pardon I sought at break of day;

contrite and sad, I went straightway

my sins before the priest to lay.

(Bear in mind that this was 200 years before the Protestant Reformation).

Ramon Lull felt the call to missionary service almost immediately. But it was almost another 30 years before he boarded a ship bound for North Africa. By this time he had written a number of books – “the most voluminous author on record” (Man, Myth and Magic, volume 59)! There are volumes on grammar, politics, medicine, law, Antichrist, geometry, astrology, homiletics, theology – you name it, Ramon Lull seemed to have written on the subject. “Two hundred and forty of his books still survive”, although we know he wrote many, many more (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 608).

And he had equipped himself for his missionary expedition by learning Arabic from a Moorish slave.

“Since Thou, O Lord, art ever ready to aid … how can any Christian fear to preach our holy faith to the infidels,” he wrote.

His biographer, E.A. Peers, states that the conversion of unbelievers “was the ruling passion of his life” (Fool of Love, page 28).

There were three missionary journeys: the first at about 60 years of age, when he was imprisoned and then expelled from the country; the second when he was 75, and again he faced imprisonment and then banishment; and the third when about 83! He even commenced writing a new book during the voyage (page 102)! This time he was stoned to death. Marcus Loane, in By Faith we Stand, gives the date as 30 June, 1315 (page 71). However, most books say 1316.

With all his curious beliefs (the Pope refused to canonise him because it was believed he practised alchemy), he can claim the title of “first missionary to the Moslems”. He was utterly devoted to the service of Christ.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com.