Thomas Kelly Irish Preacher and Hymnwriter

This is the day that … Thomas Kelly was born in Ireland, in 1769.

After graduating from Dublin University he set his mind to practise law. But an evangelical conversion took place, and from henceforth his steps were directed toward the Christian ministry.

Ordained by the Church of Ireland in 1792 his strong evangelical preaching soon aroused the opposition of the Archbishop. Pulpits of the churches were closed to Thomas Kelly. So he became a Dissenter – building places of worship and preaching in independent chapels – and seeing the Lord bless his ministry with many turning to Christ.

“He was an excellent Biblical scholar and a magnetic preacher”, writes John Telford (Methodist Hymn Book Illustrated, page 169).

His able pen composed 765 hymns, several of which “rank with the finest hymns in the English language” (Dictionary of Hymnology, by Julian). These include:
The head that once was crowned with thorns
Is crowned with glory now…

And –
We sing the praise of Him who died,
Of Him who died upon the cross…

Possibly his most well-known would be :
Look, ye saints, the sight is glorious,

See the Man of Sorrows now;
From the fight returned victorious,

Every knee to Him shall bow;
Crown Him! Crown Him!
Crowns become the Victor’s brow.

At the age of 85 he suffered a stroke, which resulted in his death the following year (14 May, 1855). His last words were: “The Lord is my everything” (Who Wrote Our Hymns, page 106).

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.

The Church of England is Born

This is the day that … Henry VIII was excommunicated by the Pope of Rome. It was 1533.

He was 42 years of age, had sat upon the throne of England since 1509 … and (in 1521) had been awarded the title “Defender of the Faith” – by Pope Leo X!

Why? Because Henry had taken up his pen and denounced Martin Luther as a heretic.

Henry VIII was a loyal son of the Roman church. Until, that is, he set his eyes on Anne Boleyn! This raven-haired beauty, incidentally, “had a sixth finger on her left hand, a deformity she skilfully concealed…”

The problem was that Henry was already married to Catherine of Aragon … and after “16 years of repeated pregnancies” there was still no male heir. So Henry decided that his marriage was not legal in the first place – after all, Catherine had been the widow of Henry’s brother … and didn’t Leviticus have something to say about that? So he demanded that the Pope annul the marriage.

The Pope, however, stood firm. He may not have done so had it not been for the fact that he (the Pope) was “really a prisoner in the hands of Charles V of Spain … who was Catherine’s nephew”!

Suffice to say Henry divorced Catherine … married Anne, who was already pregnant (January, 1533) … and passed the Act of Supremacy (1534), which states that he is “the Supreme Head in Earth immediately under God of the Church of England”.

By September, 1533, Henry already had his roving eye on Jane Seymour.

Thus Anne was declared to be guilty of adultery, beheaded on Tower Hill … and Henry married Jane less than a month later.

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.

Calvinism is Born

This is the day that … John Calvin was born in 1509, in Noyon, France.

He was to become the outstanding theologian of the Protestant Reformation … although not all Protestants would agree with some of his doctrines. But it must be confessed that many a giant of Christian history acknowledges the impact of Calvinism upon his life. Knox, Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, Martyn Lloyd-Jones and James Packer are names that immediately spring to mind. “The longer I live,” wrote Spurgeon, “the clearer does it appear that John Calvin’s system (of theology) is the nearest to perfection.”

Calvin was one of the few reformers who were not an ex-priest. He studied law in France – had a “sudden conversion” in his early 20’s, and in 1536 published the first edition of his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion. This volume has been described as among the “world’s 10 most influential works”.

From 1541 until his death (on 27 May, 1564), Calvin dominated the social and religious life of Geneva … despite the fact that he held no government position, nor was an actual citizen until 1559.

From the pulpit of St Peter’s Cathedral he preached his way through book after book of Holy Writ, lecturing to theological students and preaching five times a week. Taken down by a stenographer, these messages have found their way into print. There is a commentary on every book of the Bible – except Revelation! For example, Calvin preached 200 consecutive sermons on the book of Deuteronomy – published by Banner of Truth in a 1,300 page facsimile edition of the 1583 original.

It was said by his friend, Beza, that when Calvin preached “every word weighed a pound”.

Harsh discipline was meted out (at least, by today’s standards) to law-breakers, a system of education was devised, a prosperous trade in cloth and velvet was established with other countries, even a sewerage system was introduced that made Geneva “one of the cleanest cities in Europe” (Who’s Who in Christian History, page 131).

And his Institutes grew from six chapters to 79.

W. Stanford Reid writes that Calvin became “the dominant figure of the Protestant Reformation in the middle of the (16th) century” (John Calvin – His Influence in the Western World) – an assessment surely none would question.

When he died in 1564 he was buried in a common cemetery without a headstone, according to his wishes. His gravesite is unknown to this day (Christian History magazine, Volume 5/4).

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.

William Townsend Births Wycliffe

This is the day that …William Cameron Townsend was born into a Presbyterian family in California, in 1896.

In 1917, after joining the Student Volunteer Movement in his teens, he was selling Spanish Bibles in Guatemala. But 2000 Cakchiquel Indians had no use for the Bible in Spanish, a language they could not understand. He was confronted by the question: “If your God is so smart, why hasn’t He learned our language?” That did it! For the next 13 years Cameron Townsend devoted his life to mastering the Cakchiquel language and translating the Scriptures for them to read.

It was 1929 when he completed the New Testament, by which time he had caught the vision that became “the world’s largest independent Protestant missionary organisation (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker, page 353), to assist missionaries in the task of learning a foreign language, reducing that language to writing, and translating the Scriptures into it.

In 1934 he founded Camp Wycliffe in Arkansas for that very purpose – now known as Wycliffe Bible Translators/Summer Institute of Linguistics.

By the end of the twentieth century a mighty missionary force about 5000 strong was busily engaged in translating God’s Word into hundreds of languages and dialects, dedicated to the task of reaching the thousands of tribes who still had no Bible in their own language.

Billy Graham described him as “the greatest missionary of our time” (ibid, page 351).

It is to be confessed that “Uncle Cam” never quite fitted in to the evangelical framework of the majority of his workers, or supporters. Involving his translators in “government-sponsored social programs”, his defence of socialism in Mexico and his co-operation with Roman Catholics, have all caused controversy for Wycliffe Bible Translators over the years (see ibid, pages 353-354).

But none can argue with his conviction that “the greatest missionary is the Bible in the mother tongue.” And thousands of dedicated evangelical missionaries are doing what they can to bring the gospel to every nation, in their mother tongue.

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.

Dr Barnardo and the Children

This is the day that … Thomas John Barnardo was born in Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1845 … “and the doctor doubted whether or not the new baby would live”.

The little one survived only to become “desperately ill with diphtheria at the age of two. Doctors failed to detect a heartbeat … Funeral arrangements were made and the undertakers arrived; but as they came to lift the small boy into his coffin the movement caused his heart to give a slight flutter …” (Biography of Dr Barnardo, by N. Wymer, page 11).

We pass over his interesting childhood and come to his 17th year. On 26 May, 1862, he accompanied his two brothers – unwillingly – to hear the testimony of a “once dissolute actor” – and that night young Thomas came to know the Saviour.

He joined the Open Brethren … was baptised at a local Baptist chapel … and was led a step further in his spiritual pilgrimage by hearing Hudson Taylor speak.

He studied medicine at the London Hospital, engaged in street preaching and involved himself with helping the homeless waifs in the Stepney slums.

He commenced “The East End Juvenile Mission”, in a donkey shed, in 1870. By 1873 he had taken over larger premises … then “he built a village at Ilford to provide homes for girls.”

So the movement grew and grew.

By the time of his death – 19 September, 1905 – he had admitted 59,384 children to his Dr Barnardo homes, helped 20,000 to emigrate (to find employment), and materially assisted a further 250,000! (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 105).

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.