William Franklin Graham Evangelises the Nations

William Franklin Graham was born on November 7 in 1918, in North Carolina.

Born four days before the end of World War I, Billy was reared on a dairy farm in Charlotte, North Carolina. During his childhood he helped on the family farm and spent many hours reading a wide variety of books in the hayloft.

In the fall of 1934 Graham yielded to the claims of Christ through a series of revival meetings under Mordecai Ham, a traveling evangelist. In March, 1938, “on the eighteenth green of a golf course”, he promised the Lord he would devote himself to preaching the gospel.

The next year he was ordained by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention. His theological training came from Florida Bible Institute (now Trinity College in Florida) and Wheaton College in Illinois. He married fellow student and daughter of a missionary, Ruth McCue Bell, who had grown up on the mission-field of China.

Graham pastored the First Baptist Church in Western Springs, Illinois, then became an evangelist for Youth for Christ, which was founded to reach youth and servicemen during the second world war. In this capacity he preached across the US and also in Europe in the post war years, coming to attention as a young evangelist.

He became a nationally known figure with his 1949 Los Angeles CrU.S.A.de. That Crusade was initially scheduled for three weeks but ran for over eight, in a huge tent erected in downtown LA.

In 1950 The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association was born, and since that time he has “preached the gospel to more people than any evangelist in the history of the church, reaching nearly 215 million people in more than 185 countries and territories. Hundreds of millions more have been reached through radio, television, video, film, and webcasts throughout the world.

Many of his crusades were extended, including London which lasted 12 weeks, and a New York City crusade in Madison Square Garden in 1957 which ran nightly for 16 weeks.

It is estimated that two million individuals have responded to the invitation given at the close of his sermons.

Whilst he has his critics, some saying he is too ecumenical and others that he is too Arminian, many have found the Saviour as a result of his clear-cut gospel presentation.

Billy Graham’s ministry has been augmented by his weekly “Hour of Decision” radio program which has run for more than 50 years, “Decision” Magazine with more than half a million subscribers, and World Wide Pictures which has become one of the foremost producers of evangelistic films in the world.

Many of the 25 books written by Graham have been best-sellers. He has been sought out by presidents and leaders and given many honours. Since 1948 he is the most frequently included person in the Gallop organisation’s Ten Most Admired Men in the World.

CF personal note: My parents found Christ when Billy Graham preached in Sydney in the late 1950’s. I remember attending a tiny wooden Methodist church in West Wyalong where we heard Graham by landline from the Sydney Cricket Ground. I also remember asking a man, “Where are my mummy and daddy?” He replied, “They’ve gone to the front to talk to someone about Jesus.” My parents were transformed, their marriage saved and they went on to plant churches.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Archibald Thomas Robertson the Baptist Scholar

Archibald Thomas Robertson was born in Virginia, USA, on November 6, 1863.

At the time of his birth the American Civil War was already turning against the South, and so Robertson’s family suffered the loss of most of their fortune through the war. The Reconstruction had devastating effect on the family’s fortunes, so AT’s father, who had been a country doctor and a plantation owner, took his family to work on a small farm in Statesville, North Carolina.

Robertson was a preaching scholar, enjoying both his study and his time in the pulpit.

In the early 1900’s Robertson was a founding member of the Baptist World Congress now known as The Baptist World Alliance.

This Southern Baptist scholar is remembered especially for his Harmony of the New Testament.

Altogether he wrote 45 books, each displaying a scholarly grasp of theology.

His biographer tells us that “Dr Bob”, as he was affectionately called, “wore out a dozen Greek Testaments in his lifetime” (page 125).

In 1914 his ministry was also broadened through a series of summer Bible conferences with D.L. Moody and F.B. Meyer, introducing Robertson to thousands of pastors and layman alike.

W.R. Moody – son of the famous evangelist – invited Robertson to speak at the Northfield Conference … sharing the platform with such men as Dr R.A. Torrey and Campbell Morgan.

Concerning liberal theology with its downgrading of Scripture. “his arrows were swift and deadly” against it (Baptists and the Bible, page 303).

Nevertheless, he did accept Theistic evolution (Biography, page 181), nor would he be dogmatic concerning millennial views (page 187).

On Monday, 24 September, 1934, he was lecturing in the Southern Baptist Seminary, Kentucky, when he became ill and unable to continue, due to a stroke. He was taken home, and entered the presence of his Lord before the day was through.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon The Star Preacher

This is the day that Charles Haddon Spurgeon resigned from the Baptist Union of Great Britain!! It was 1887.

History refers to it as the ‘Downgrade Controversy’, a sorry spectacle of modern theology creeping into the denomination he loved.

He wrote in The Sword and the Trowel his reason for his withdrawal:
“Believers in Christ’s atonement are now in declared union with those who make light of it; believers in Holy Scripture are in confederacy with those who deny plenary inspiration; those who hold evangelical doctrine are in open alliance with those who call the fall (of Adam) a fable, who deny the personality of the Holy Ghost, who call justification by faith immoral, and hold that there is another probation after death … yes, we have before us the wretched spectacle of professedly orthodox Christians publicly avowing their union with those who deny the faith…”

Spurgeon came from a lineage of independent ministers (his father and grandfather) and was converted in a primitive Methodist chapel. In 1850 he was baptised as a Baptist, due to the influence of his employer, and formerly joined a Baptist congregation.

That same year he gained a place at Cambridge, joined a Baptist congregation there and preached his first sermon at age 16. His gift for oratory was immediately recognised, and by 1852 he was a Baptist pastor.

In April 1854 he was ‘called’ to the pulpit of the Baptist congregation at New Park Street, Southwark. Within a few months of his call his powers as a preacher made him famous. The chapel had been empty yet within a year the crowds that gathered to hear this country lad of twenty forced the enlargement of the building. At twenty-two Spurgeon was the most popular preacher of the day.

The Metropolitan Tabernacle in Newington Causeway was opened for service in 1861, accommodating six thousand people. There Spurgeon ministered until his death, and, fully maintained his popularity and power as a preacher until illness disabled him.

Spurgeon found increasing distance with fellow Baptists, due to his strenuous and unbending faith in Calvinism. He saw their indifference to orthodoxy. He thought they laid too little stress on Christ’s divine nature, and that the Arminian views which were spreading among them tended to Arianism. He keenly resented the ‘down grade’ of modern biblical criticism. Conviction grew in him that faith was decaying in all Christian churches. Consequently he announced his withdrawal from the Baptist Union, which declined to adopt his serious view of the situation.

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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Benjamin Keach Punished for Preaching the Truth

This is the day that … Benjamin Keach was arrested for publishing a children’s book!

It was 1664, in Aylesbury, England. Keach was a 24 year-old non-conformist – that is, he refused to conform to the teachings of the state church. He was a Baptist.

In those days religious toleration was at a low ebb – non-existent might be a better word.

Such was the antagonism toward religious non-conformists that the judge tried to find a way to impose the death sentence. When the jury found Benjamin guilty only of misquoting a single verse of Scripture, Judge Hyde bullied the jurors into finding the defendant guilty of other charges.

Two years earlier 2000 ministers were ejected from their living because of their refusal – among other things – to submit to bishops and use the Prayer Book.

Parliament had passed a law (the Act of Uniformity) designed to bring all Christians under the banner of Anglicanism.

Benjamin Keach was actually preaching when the soldiers arrived … “violently laid hold of him, tied him and threw him to the ground. Then they declared their intention of killing him by riding their horses over him. As the men spurred their horses forward, an officer appeared and at the last moment saved the preacher from a horrible death” (B. Keach, by R. Dix, page 11).

He was charged with printing “a seditious and venomous book” entitled The Child’s Instructor – a book that taught doctrines contrary to the Book of Common Prayer.

Especially noted were his views on the baptism of believers (rather than infants), and that “it is the gift of God that makes a minister of the gospel and not learning from universities or human schools.”

Keach was sentenced to a fortnight in prison, two hours in the pillory, fined 20 pounds Sterling (a small fortune in those days) and his book was publicly burned.

While in the stocks in the public square he preached to the people and they looked upon him as a hero. Rather than pelt him with rotten vegetables they respected him. Keach’s preaching was so effective that the sheriff threatened to gag him. When a Church of England minister spoke out against Keach the crowd responded by scorning the minister for his godless life.

Like thousands of others, Benjamin Keach suffered – more than once – because of his faith in Jesus Christ and because he believed a man’s religion is not bound by the state – but by the Word of God (ibid, page 15). In this Keach was recognising the higher government of God over our lives than the governments imposed by men. Just as the early apostles declared that they must obey God and not man.

Sixty books came from his pen, he introduced hymn-singing into Baptist services, and for many years preached to large congregations … even up to 1000 people.

By the time of his death in 1704 (at the age of 64) he was one of the best-known Baptists in all 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. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Alexander Campbell Unites the Restoration Movement

This is the day that … Alexander Campbell was born in 1788, in Ireland.

His father, Thomas Campbell, was a Presbyterian minister connected to the Secession Church in Ireland and Scotland, concerned about a faith that was Biblical and personally real. Due to health reasons, Thomas sailed for America on 8 April, 1807.

Eleven months later the family followed … shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland … and then re-united in New York on 29 September, 1809.

Leaving the Presbyterian church, father and son launched “the Christian Association of Washington” with its basis – “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”

A study of the subject of baptism led them to accept immersion as the proper mode.

For a time they united with the Baptists … but such issues as “election” and “the law” led to a parting of the ways. For about seven years he published The Christian Baptist, seeking to correct errors he saw in the church of the day.

Alexander united others who were keen to re-establish New Testament Christianity, free of the religious trappings of denominations. A major contribution came out the Great Western Revival, and especially Cane Ridge, Kentucky, where amazing Pentecostal style experiences came upon the crowds. Barton Warren Stone led this revival and led its followers to declare that they were “Christians” free of sectarian trappings.

Alexander Campbell harnessed this group and others to create and lead a movement known by 1827 as

the “Disciples of Christ” (known in Australia as “Churches of Christ.”)

Alexander married twice, first to Margaret Brown and then, following Margaret’s death, to Selina, who comforted him at his death.

Alexander Campbell was a top student as a child, and an able preacher. He initially shunned debate as contrary to the spirit of Christ. When he did finally engage in debates he proved himself an able debater with any who dared to enter the fray. Among them were Robert Owen, a sceptic, and Bishop Purcell, a Roman Catholic. In this latter debate Alexander Campbell had no hesitation in identifying Romanism with “the Babylon” of John and “the Man of Sin” of Paul (Debates that Made History, by Haley, page 161). Other debates revolved around the issue of baptism – Campbell holding its utter necessity if the soul were to be saved.

One writer tells us that Alexander would preach “from two to two and a half hours without a break”. Even before the Houses of Congress he held forth on John 3:17 for one and a half hours – in May, 1850 (Apostle of Christian Union, page 10).

His desire to restore the unity of the church, however, resulted in yet another denomination.

Alexander Campbell died on 4 March, 1866.

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.