Peck Converts St Louis

This is the day that … John Mason Peck set out on his missionary tour to St Louis, Illinois.

It was 1817 … and St Louis was “a rough river town with a few clusters of houses. A Christian witness was almost unknown.”

Peck had been born 27 years earlier (on 21 October, 1798) in Connecticut. Brought up in Congregationalism, he was converted at the age of 17 – and “almost immediately was propelled by a whole constraining love for the lost that drove him relentlessly the rest of his life seeking souls for Christ” (Biblical Evangelist, Volume 16/4).

In 1811 he joined the Baptist Church and soon entered Dr William Staughton’s Baptist College – the only school in America at that time for training Baptist preachers. It met in Dr Staughton’s own home! And there were only five students.

Here Peck wrestled with “Latin, Greek and Hebrew, philosophy, theology and English.” It was a 12-month course! (Tales of Baptist Daring, page 91).

Then came the Baptist Triennial Convention that appointed Peck as missionary to Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky. “Peck threw his hat in the air for sheer joy!”

They set out in a one-horse wagon – Peck, his wife and three children, one of whom was still a baby. Some give the date as 25 July, others 26 July.

They arrived at their destination 125 days later, with Peck himself “a sick man, dangerously stricken”.

They were in the midst of a “hard-drinking, uneducated, uncouth, profane people. Saloons abounded. Knifings, killings, shootings were commonplace.”

But with a co-worker, James E. Welch, Peck devoted every fibre of his being to spreading the gospel.

Within two months the first baptisms were held. A church was erected. In three years there were 50 schools established in Illinois and Missouri.

A Bible Society came into being as the result of his labours.

He would ride for months, from one lonely cabin to another, telling the good news of salvation. “In blinding blizzards, drenching rains, bone chilling cold, scorching sun, fording rivers … and finding his way through uncharted wilderness,” Peck pursued his God-given task.

There were troubles with the mission board back in the East. New leaders who opposed missionary work “as contrary to Scripture”(!) were able to terminate his support!

But Peck stuck to his post. The work continued to prosper. He founded a Bible college that saw “hundreds of men enter the ministry or missionary service.”

And he commenced and edited a religious journal – The Western Pioneer.

The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopaedia tells us that he deserves the epithet of ‘father’ of the American Baptist Home Mission Society.

He was truly a remarkable man of God whose zeal never abated.

He died in Illinois on 14 March, 1857. He had lived to see “2000 flourishing Baptist churches” born during his ministry.

His 53-volume diary was destroyed, but Rufus Babcock preserved much of it in an early biography.

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.

Donald Gee – Pentecostal Pioneer

This is the day that …Donald Gee was born in London, in 1891.

He was converted at the age of 14, under a Welsh revival preacher, Seth Joshua, who also influenced the young Evan Roberts. When a missionary lady asked him if he would be a missionary when he grew up he was troubled by the question of total surrender to God.

He attended Pentecostal prayer meetings and there met a Baptist minister in need of an organist. Gee offered his services and enjoyed seven years of tutoring under this man of God. During the first world war he had opportunity to preach in a country hall. He promoted the Second Coming of Christ and the Pentecostal experience, which people “tarried” for in those days.

At the age of 29 he became pastor of a Church in Edinburgh, and in 1924 was “one of the 15 foundation members of the Assemblies of God in Great Britain”.  Eventually he was chairman of its board.

His Bible teaching ministry took him around the world.  He founded and edited World Pentecost magazine on behalf of the global Pentecostal movement.

Initially seeing no need for “teachers” in the Pentecostal experience he later came to realise the deep need for clear doctrine and effective instruction. In 1951 he was appointed principal of the A.O.G. Bible College in Surrey, England, where he practiced his conviction on a new generation of ministers. He did much to promote the ministry gift of ‘Teacher’ among Pentecostals.

The Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements describes him as “renowned for his judicious counsel and the thoughtful care with which he avoided extreme positions on issues of contention within the Pentecostal movement”.  He was known as “The Apostle of Balance” (pages 330-1).

Lester Sumrall, who knew him personally, tells how Dr Gee “often said, ‘What we need is balance’” (Pioneers of Faith, page 77).

This man of God died in a taxi on 20 July, 1966 – returning home from the funeral of one of his best friends.

At his own funeral John Carter, his friend for over 40 years said, “A gifted writer has laid down his pen. An eminent Bible expositor will teach no more. A distinguished editor has vacated his chair. A renowned author has concluded his last volume. A veteran leader has left our ranks. A great warrior has fought his last battle. Our friend Donald Gee has fallen asleep.” (from Pentecostal Pioneers Remembered by Keith Malcomson)

My Woman of Faith

Last week I wrote how dependent wives can find it easier to be a ‘woman of faith’ than their husbands do in being a man of faith. A dependent person must look to God to protect them against the weaknesses or vagaries of those who have responsibility or power over them. In Colossians 3:20 we learn that obedience in children involves ‘faith’, since it pleases God and only faith does that (see Hebrews 11:6).

When a wife, child or dependent person happily submits to the leadership of someone who could possibly disadvantage them, they are likely doing so because they really trust God to protect them and provide for them.  This predisposition to trust God is an advantage in prompting a wife to be a woman of faith. Often men struggle to trust God because they are more likely to correlate their own physical efforts with the income and provision that comes in.

Here are two examples that have come to mind from my life journey, where my wife, Susan, has been my woman of faith, while I have been a man of fear. On one occasion I had stepped out, as a young married man, attempting to start my own business. I had worked out exactly how much money we needed each week and we were right on the line. Then, just a few days later our landlord arrived to advise that he was putting the rent up nearly 50%. As I walked back into the house, after farewelling the landlord, my head was spinning with the news and the new challenge. I had no idea how we were going to make ends meet. Susan, met me at the door, fairly dancing on the spot. She was just SO excited. She praised the Lord and exulted in how exciting this was. I was stunned! How could she be so delighted when we had just received such bad news? Yet she was right. It turned out to be an exciting and wonderful time for us and we didn’t get swept away into bankruptcy. God was good and still is today.

On a later occasion I was at Bible College in New Zealand and had arrived with very little money in the bank. Susan and I had three children by then and the youngest, Matthew, needed new shoes because he was growing fast. Susan asked me several times for funds to buy new shoes and I kept putting her off. I was afraid to use up a large chunk of what little money we had. There was no visible source of further funds and this money was to keep us going for many months yet.

Finally, when I tried to duck the question yet again, Susan challenged me point-blank. “You don’t trust the Lord to provide, do you?” The surprise and rebuke in her tone humbled me, because she was right. She chided me that God would provide. We were in Bible College, learning to be ministering people, so we should be the first to trust God. Here I was in fear and holding tightly to the little that we had, rather than trusting God. Suitably challenged I decided to give some of the money away – as well as releasing funds for the shoes. In very short order we received a much larger gift from friends in Australia. God was good to us, but He needed my woman of faith to shake me out of my fear.

I am hardly qualified tell others to be men and women of faith, when I have been so prone to doubt. But allow me to encourage you, whether you are a dependent wife or child, or an income earning person. Please become a man or woman of faith. It’s the best way to live.