Anthony Norris Groves Renounces Materialism

Anthony Norris Groves was born at Newton Valence, in Hampshire, England, on February 1, 1795.

He studied dentistry and surgery, building a successful dentistry business in Exeter. In 1816, at the age of 21 he professed faith in Christ, but he is described as “a typical middleclass convert to evangelical High Church Anglicanism”. That same year he married his cousin, Mary Berthia Thompson.

Groves had a heart after God which was displayed in both his philanthropic interests and a growing desire to serve God on the mission field. In the ensuing years he came under the influence of Calvinistic teaching and came to a much stronger personal experience of faith.

Groves was impressed by the Bible’s teaching on possessions. He dedicated the whole of his property and the biggest part of his income to the Lord’s work.

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Groves communicated his convictions about possessions in a small booklet called ‘Christian Devotedness’, based on the Christ’s instruction in the Sermon on the Mount, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth”. Groves lived that message and argued that others need to take Christ’s words seriously.

That book had a profound impact on a young Prussian pastor who had settled in Britain, named George Mueller, who applied Groves’ insights to his own life of faith and in the establishing of his faith based orphanages. Mueller is remembered for his astounding confidence in God’s supply, rather than reliance on human sources of wealth. At least part of his amazing confidence came from the inspiration of A.N. Groves.

Groves had to delay fulfilling his call to missionary service, principally because of his wife. Mary was unsaved when he married her and she opposed Anthony’s desire to go to the mission field. It was thirteen years before the couple reached the mission field of modern Iraq.

Mary was eventually converted by the same influences which strengthened Grove’s faith – around the time of the birth of her third child – and she consented to being a missionary also. In 1825 Groves gave up his profession and business to pursue theological studies at Trinity College, Dublin. At that time he met and associated with John Nelson Darby, founder of the Plymouth Brethren. Groves’ new appreciation for the simple New Testament model of Christianity led him to give up his theological studies, stating that “ordination of any kind to preach the gospel is no requirement of Scripture”.

In 1827, when Groves withdrew from Trinity College, he expressed the ideas which define the early Brethren movement. “…we should come together in all simplicity as disciples, not waiting on any pulpit or minister, but trusting that the Lord would edify us together, by ministering as he pleased and saw good from the midst of ourselves.”

Groves and his wife, Mary, finally set out for Baghdad, with their two young sons and three Christian friends. The six month overland journey was perilous and took them through Russia and Persia. By December 6, 1829 they had arrived in Baghdad, which was at that time part of the old Turkish Islamic Ottoman Empire. Groves was the first Christian missionary to take to gospel to Baghdad since it fell to Islam centuries earlier. They had no financial backers and expected the Lord to meet their daily needs.

Groves’ sister married George Mueller. Both Groves and Mueller opposed Darby’s “tendency of domination” in the newborn Plymouth Brethren movement. Groves chose to emphasise “the love of Jesus … instead of oneness of judgement in minor things” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 440).

With George Mueller, Groves became “a founding father of the Open Brethren” (Who’s Who in Christian History, page 294).

During the three years in Baghdad plague ravaged the city. Civil war had broken out, bringing siege and warfare. The city was also devastated by flood, typhoid and cholera. 60,000 of Baghdad’s 85,000 inhabitants died of the plague, including Mrs Groves, and their baby girl. Two thirds of the houses were swept away in floods.

Back in England in 1835 Groves re-married, to Harriet Baynes, and prepared for years of missionary service in India. “He sailed for Madras, and thenceforth in many places he ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ” (Twelve Mighty Missionaries, by E. Enoch, page 37).

In India Groves returned to his dentistry profession, supporting himself as the Apostle Paul had done. Thus Groves is regarded by some (such as Robert Bernard Dann) as the Father of Faith Missions, as opposed to those who go to the field with the backing of a mission organisation.

After Groves’ first tour of the Indian missions he came to his own ideas about improving cross-cultural mission activity. Groves encouraged his Indian converts not to adopt western culture, but to apply the Bible directly to their culture, being Biblical and not cultural converts.

In 1842 Mr and Mrs Groves adopted a child of eight as daughter, “an orphan who was commended to their care by her father on his death­bed”. They undertook this charge as for the Lord. The girl came to faith in Christ at a young age, was very effective in her assistance to their ministry and was “in every way, as a beloved daughter”.

In 1852 illness forced Groves to return to England, where he died at the age of 58, in the home of George Mueller on 20 May, 1853. Groves had given up his own earthly possessions, and so he had no home of his own to return to.

Groves did get to see his most promising Indian disciple, John Christian Arulappan, successfully build a network of churches based on Groves’ principles of missionary outreach. Grove’s innovations continued to be picked up and developed by others after his death.

It is to be noted that Groves’ conviction that we should not hoard possessions but trust the Lord to provide significantly impressed Mueller, who was then taken as an inspiration to Hudson Taylor, whose faith principles inspired many interdenominational faith missions.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

Harry A Ironside Gives In to God

Harry A Ironside passed from time into eternity during a visit to New Zealand, on January 16, 1951.

Born in Toronto, Canada, October 14, 1876, Harry Ironside grew up in the Plymouth Brethren movement. His parents were eager soul-winners, and his dad was known as “The Eternity Man” because he frequently asked people, “Where will you spend eternity?” However he died at age 27, when Harry was only 2 years old.

Harry’s mum also had a newborn baby and so she struggled to maintain her infant family. What Harry lacked in finance and education he made up in abundance in his religious inclinations. However, he had not found true salvation.

When the family moved to San Francisco, when he was ten, he even started a local Sunday School and preached to average crowds of 60, including some adults. When he heard Dwight L Moody preach in his city to a packed Pavilion, Harry prayed that he would one day have a similar ministry. 42 years later he became pastor of the church which Moody founded.

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In 1889 an old evangelist friend of the family, Donald Munro, challenged Ironside that the boy’s preaching did not make him a Christian. This so impacted Ironside that gave up his Sunday School and struggled for six months over the issue of his salvation.

In February 1990, at age 13, he trusted in the truth of Proverbs 1:24-32, and confessed Christ as his saviour.

Soon after his conversion Ironside joined the Salvation Army and won his first convert in the open air preaching. Then with six months of training he was commissioned as Lieutenant. Later, during General Booth’s visit to San Francisco, he became “Special Orderly Officer to the General”, and Captain. General Booth influenced me more than anyone else …” he testified later, “with the need of reaching the lost for Christ.”

Ironside worked full time around California, preaching and working for the Salvation Army. But whilst wholeheartedly agreeing with the Salvationists on their evangelistic emphasis, Harry found it difficult to agree with their teaching concerning Holiness, the Second Blessing. He saw that the Salvationists looked for personal holiness from within themselves, when it came from the work of Christ. He was almost burned out after five years of constant and vigorous work for the Army.

So he resigned, and for 30 years became widely known as a Brethren evangelist and Bible teacher.

He helped British evangelist, Henry Varley’s San Francisco campaign in 1897and there took an interest in the pianist, Helen Schofield, who was also an ex-Salvation Army member. The couple were wed on January 5, 1898 and a year later their family started. That union lasted for fifty years.

The life of an evangelist was taxing. In the years from 1916 to 1929, Ironside was constantly on the move, preaching nearly 7,000 times to over one million people. He had no vacations and was always busy, even in sickness and weariness.

In 1930 he became pastor of the famous Moody Memorial Church, and also travelled extensively to speak at conventions. Most weeks he would leave Chicago on a Sunday night and not return until the following Saturday, so he could preach on Sunday.

He also accepted frequent ministry invitations in Britain, and also travelled to Europe and Palestine

Thirty books came from his able pen. His writings make him one of the most prolific Christian authors in the 20th century.

He was related, by marriage, to Mr Robert Laidlaw, well-known New Zealand businessman and author of The Reason Why.

Ironside is described as one of the greatest Bible teachers the world has ever known and the most known Christian leader of his era, outside of Billy Sunday whose funeral he preached. He was affectionately known as “the archbishop of Fundamentalism”.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at:

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at:

John Nelson Darby Births Brethrenism

John Nelson Darby was born on November 18, 1800, at his Irish parent’s London home.

From fifteen to nineteen years of age he studied at Trinity College, Dublin, where he gained many honours including the gold medal in the classics. He studied law at Trinity and was admitted to the Irish Chancery Bar, but he left shortly to pursue spiritual matters. His conscience stopped him from practicing law, for fear that he would end up “selling his talents to defeat justice” (We wish this concern afflicted the entire legal profession).

In 1825, soon after conversion, and much to his father’s annoyance, young Darby applied for Deacon’s Orders in the Church of Ireland. He was a High Churchman, so devoted to church tradition that he even disowned the name Protestant. He “thought much of Rome, and its professed sanctity, and catholicity, and antiquity….I held apostolic succession fully, and the channels of grace to be there only.”

From this closed position, thinking of true church authority coming only by successive transfer from Christ’s apostles, Darby swung to building a movement which is counter to that stance, yet displays its own exclusivism, as seen in the Exclusive Brethren.

Beginnings of the swing were evident when he started meeting with the others for the Lord’s table beginning in the winter of 1827. He resigned his curacy in 1828, yet still kept one foot in the state church, while meeting informally with the brothers around the Lord’s table. Though Darby was still a Churchman, the Lord was gradually opening insights to him concerning the Church. In 1928 he wrote a document called “Considerations of the Nature and Unity of the Church of Christ” which the Brethren regard as their first published pamphlet.

A forceful personality, Darby was not shy to express his opinions. He wrote a treatise titled “The Archbishop of Dublin is a Sabellian!” – and Darby would have no fellowship with heretics. (A Sabellian believed that Father, Son and Spirit were but modes of God, not distinct personalities making up the one, triune God.)

As Darby met to break bread with a small fellowship of earnest believers in Dublin his teaching gift quickly became evident. He also met with a similar group in Plymouth, England, led by Benjamin Wills Newton, but by 1845 a split took place over some prophetic issues and how ‘closed’ the fellowship should be.

At the age of 30 his contemporary, Francis W Newman, tells of their first meeting: “His bodily presence was indeed ‘weak’. A fallen cheek, a bloodshot eye, crippled limbs resting on crutches, a seldom-shaved beard, a shabby suit of clothes, and a generally neglected person, drew at first pity, with wonder, to see such a figure…”

This unimposing figure, yet distinguished scholar, was to influence the evangelical world with his Christ-exalting ministry, his emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, and his dispensational prophetic teachings.

Thus we have the early days of the Christian Brethren Movement, and Darby was certainly their most gifted teacher in those early days.

“He was an itinerant man of few domestic pleasures, a man with magnetic electric personal qualities combined with a tyrant’s will to lead…” is Ernest Sandeen’s appraisal of him (The Roots of Fundamentalism, page 31).

His hymns are still sung in Brethren meetings, and his translation of the New Testament is still used by some of the old-timers in Brethren circles. One of his hymns is:
Jesus, we wait for Thee, With Thee to have our part,
What can full joy and blessing be But being where Thou art.

About 40 volumes also came from his able pen, his Synopsis of the Bible probably being his best-known work.

Darby’s dogged commitment is evident in such exchanges as one recounted by Francis Newman, who expressed that he wanted his children to be rich enough to get a good eduction. Darby replied: “If I had children, I would as soon see them break stones on the road, as do anything else, if only I could secure to them the Gospel and the grace of God.”

Neatby gives this grand summary of Darby’s life: “the maker of Brethrenism as a system, its guiding and energising spirit throughout, was John Nelson Darby. In the grandeur of his conceptions, in the irresistible vehemence of his will, in his consummate strategical instinct, in his genius for administration, and most of all in his immense personal ascendency, he stands unrivalled amongst the Brethren. His energy was stupendous. He was working for Brethrenism before he was thirty, and when he was eighty he was working as hard as ever; nor had he been known to relax his efforts—efforts put forth up to the full measure of his great strength, and often beyond it—during the whole of the intervening time.”

About the time of his death at the age of 82 there were some 1,500 assemblies across the world which esteemed him as their founder or guide.

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 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.

Henry Moorhouse Teaches Moody How to Preach

This is the day that … Henry Moorhouse was born in 1840, in Manchester, England.

For the first 20 years of his life he was constantly in trouble and in prison more than once. But at the age of 21 “in the engine room of a warehouse,” a young Christian pointed him to Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

The biographer tells of the outcome. Henry Moorhouse “saw, he believed, he rejoiced, he confessed, and he was ready from that hour to bear witness for Christ…” Before long he was preaching the gospel, on street corners and in packed halls.

And he is best remembered as the “man who moved the man who moved millions.” In ‘Life of D.L. Moody’ by his son, a whole chapter is devoted to the influence of Henry Moorhouse: “Moorhouse taught Moody to draw his sword (of the Spirit) full length, to fling the scabbard away and enter the battle with a naked blade” (page 140).

Henry had become a preacher with the Plymouth Brethren and had learned the importance of expository preaching. When Moody visited Dublin in 1867, he was told of the preaching of a zealous young Brethren evangelist named Harry Moorhouse. By this time, Moorhouse had established the reputation of being one of the leading evangelists in England. Initially, Moody was not very impressed with young Moorhouse. To Moody, Moorhouse appeared to be so young and frail. Moody, however, did invite Moorhouse to visit him in Chicago, not expecting him to come.

Moody’s wife, Emma, upon hearing Moorhouse, told her husband, “I like Moorhouse’s preaching very, very much. He is very different from you. He backs up everything he says by the Bible.”

On one occasion, young Moorhouse challenged Moody, “You are sailing on the wrong tack. If you will change your course, and learn to preach God’s words instead of your own, He will make you a great power.”

When Moorhouse first arrived in Chicago, Moody was unexpectedly called out of town and asked Moorhouse to preach for him at Farwell Hall. Moorhouse preached nightly for one solid week on the love of God using the text of John 3:16. When Moody returned, he was greatly surprised to find Moorhouse still preaching. As he listened he discovered Moorhouse was still on the same text, and that souls were being wonderfully saved. Moody confided to a friend, “I never knew up to that time that God loved us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out; I could not keep back the tears. I just drank it in. So did the crowded congregation. I tell you there is one thing that draws above everything else in the world and that is love.”

Not only was there an emphasis on more use of Scripture in Moody’s sermons (“Stop preaching your own words and preach God’s Word,” Moorhouse had said to him), there was also a new emphasis on God’s love for the sinner. “Moody’s evangelistic preaching was to take on a different tenor than that of so much previous revivalistic preaching in the American tradition.”

Henry Moorhouse died on 28 December, 1880, at the age of 40. Among his dying words were these: “If it were the Lord’s will to raise me up again, I should like to preach more on the text, ‘God so loved the world’.”

He seemed to pass away, but means employed by the attending physician revived him.

“Why have you brought me back to such dreadful suffering?” he asked of those at his bedside, “I was in heaven …”

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

Wilson Carlile Founds the Church Army

This is the day that … Wilson Carlile died, in 1942.

Carlile was born in Brixton, London on 14 January, 1847. His favourite toy as a child, he tells us, was Joey Billy, a wooden doll that he played with until “arms and legs and hair had been lost.” But, adds Carlile, “Joey Billy taught me to love poor, disreputable, broken things.”

He suffered from a spinal weakness all his life, which hampered his education. He entered his grandfather’s business at the age of thirteen but soon moved on and learnt fluent French, which he used to good advantage in France trading in silk. He later learned German and Italian to enhance his business, but was ruined in a slump in 1873.

After a serious illness, he began to take his religion more seriously. He was converted by reading Mackey’s Grace and Truth, given to him by a Plymouth Brethren aunt and was confirmed in the Church of England.

Speaking of his conversion he says, “I have seen the crucified and risen Lord as truly as if He had made Himself visible to my bodily sight. That is for me the conclusive evidence of His existence. He touched my heart, and old desires and hopes left it. In their place came the new thought that I might serve Him and His poor and suffering brethren.”

He acted as organist to Ira D Sankey, during the Moody and Sankey missions and in 1881 was ordained priest, serving his curacy at St Mary Abbots in Kensington, together with a dozen other curates. The lack of contact between the Church and the working classes was a cause of real concern to him and he began outdoor preaching. In 1882, he resigned his curacy and founded the Church Army, four years after the foundation of the Salvation Army.

He was known as “the archbishop of the gutter”!

He continued to take part in the Church Army administration until a few weeks before his death.

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