Anthony Ashley-Cooper Blesses the Helpless

Anthony Ashley-Cooper, Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, was born in London on April 28, 1801. He was to become the “outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century,” writes JC Pollock in his magnificent biography of this man of God.

Born into aristocracy, young Lord Ashley had his course in life moulded by a godly housekeeper, Maria Mills. When he entered parliament in 1826 he brought his strong evangelical convictions to bear on a variety of social evils.  Child labour … cruelty to workers … “in the mines and the factories, in the prisons and asylums, among the waifs of the cities and the toilers on the rural farms, he effected reforms by which life was simply transfigured. Existence for countless thousands was scarcely tolerable until he came to their relief. He revolutionised the whole industrial world” (Dr FW Boreham).

Lord Shaftesbury became president of the British and Foreign Bible Society and worked alongside such other evangelical bodies as the London Missionary Society and the Church Missionary Society.

At his death, on 1 October, 1885, thousands lined the streets to pay their final respects as the funeral cortege made its way to St Giles’ Church.

The Temperance Society Band played Safe in the Arms of Jesus, and in that vast crowd there were none that doubted that was true of “the poor man’s Earl” – the Seventh Earl of Shaftesbury.

A more complete history of Lord Shaftesbury can be found at:

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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:

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Samuel Zwemer Apostle to Islam

Samuel Zwemer was born in his father’s Reformed Church parsonage, April 12, 1867.

He was the 13th child (of 15) of Adrian and Katherine Zwemer, Dutch folk who had emigrated to America 18 years earlier.  Adrian was pastor of a Reformed Church in Michigan.

Adrian raised his children to serve the Lord and so all six of the girls became schoolteachers and five sons entered the ministry. One son died as a missionary in Arabia.

In 1890 Samuel was ordained, and the following year ventured forth to Arabia as a missionary. Years later Zwemer learned that his mother had dedicated him for missionary service when he was a baby.

While at college, Zwemer and two friends determined to become missionaries to the heart of the Moslem world, Arabia. But no missionary society would accept them for such a field, so they created their own, the Arabian Mission.

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On 18 May, 1896, in Baghdad, he married Amy Wilkes, a Church Missionary Society (CMS) worker from Australia who he had gotten to know by teaching her Arabic.  The CMS were not overjoyed about this, however, and required Amy to repay the cost of her journey to the field.  Samuel did so – and thereafter joked that he had ‘purchased’ his wife in accordance with Arab custom!

His ministry among Muslims earned him the title “The Apostle to Islam” – and for 40 years he edited The Moslem World, a magazine devoted to evangelising those people.   Fifty books came from his pen. Amy once said, “Samuel is always writing”, and this intensity of energy and entrepreneurial drive persisted throughout his life. Samuel was also a powerful preacher.

He travelled extensively and accepted many influential posts, including lecturing at Princeton Theological Seminary and speaking at major conventions around the world. He was highly successful at raising money and at energising others to missionary service. He loved the Moslem people and did all he could to reach them, personally, with print, and by meeting their needs. At one time he set up a rudimentary mission medical base, using the knowledge he had acquired and his wife’s professional training as a nurse.

Zwemer’s travels took him to the USA and UK, but also to South Africa, various parts of the Middle East and to Indonesia.

Zwemer’s younger brother, Peter, died in Arabia, and so too did the first two girls born to Zwemer and Amy. Zwemer took their deaths as inspiration for his unrelenting zeal to reach the Moslem world.

In 1937 his wife died.  Three years later (at the age of 73) he married Margaret Clarke, “considerably younger”, who had worked as his secretary.  She died 10 years later, whilst he lived on another two years, passing to his Reward on 2 April, 1952, following a heart attack, at the age of 85.

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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:

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Dr Theodore Leighton Pennell Medical Missionary

Dr Theodore Leighton Pennell died on March 23, 1912, at the age of 45.  His conviction was – in his own words – “a missionary, like a soldier, should obey without question, and go where he is sent.”  And go he did – to North-west India, on the border of Afghanistan.

Pennell was a brilliant medical student who won numerous honours during his studies. He achieved his academic supremacy despite being devoted to Christian work as well as his studies. He worked among the working class lads of Euston Road, supporting the working boys’ club in Tottenham Court Road.

He was son to a gifted missionary doctor who had served in Brazil and died when Theodore was but a lad. His mother then saw to his education and also impressed upon him that missionary service was the highest call on a man’s life. He was keen to get to the field as quickly as possible, but his mother restrained him until his studies were complete.

He was 25 years of age when he went to India – and his widowed mother went with him!

In 1892 lie went out to India as an honorary medical missionary under the Church Missionary Society, and was at first appointed to the existing Medical Mission at Dera Ismail Kihlan. In 1893 he was transferred to the village of Bannu, on the North-West Frontier of India, where he had the responsibility of opening up a medical mission.

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He erected a hospital – of sorts – and before long “he was treating as many as 220 patients a day” (Blazing New Trails, by A. Wallace, page 80).

He also incurred the wrath of the Moslem mullahs, who would often stone him when he attempted to preach.

Dr Pennell adopted Indian dress, ate Indian food, and became proficient in their tongue.  Once, during a visit to Lahore, he attended a service in the Cathedral, only to find that the verger denied him entrance into the “English” pews.  After nine years in Bannu there were 26 converts.  Fear of Islamic retaliation kept many from placing their faith in the Lord Jesus. The year 1903 saw him awarded a silver medal by the Indian Government for medical services rendered, and in 1911 he was awarded a gold one.

During a brief trip home to England for an operation for the removal of a loose cartilage in his knee, his mother took ill in India and died. In 1908 he married a well educated Parsee lady named Alice, who heartily shared in his medical work. He also did much toward education, and included sport activity for the male students, to help strengthen their physical frame. Pennell wrote a captivating book about his experiences in northern India, “Among the Wild Tribes of the Afghan Frontier“.

On his return hundreds of Indians gave him a rousing welcome.  He recalled that when he first arrived hardly anyone would even give him a drink of water. Two years later he again returned to England, taking Alice with him. He needed to recuperate from a severe attack of enteric fever. The demands of his work had taken a toll on his body and his resilience.

Back in Indian in March, 1912, he was operating, when he caught septicaemia, and passed into his Saviour’s presence. Just a few days earlier a younger doctor from London, William Barnett, who was sent to work with Pennell, also died of septicaemia in the Bannu Hospital at the age of 32.

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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:

John Kitto with Deaf Ear and Ready Pen

John Kitto was born in Plymouth on December 4, 1804.

His father was a drunken stonemason, and young John was a ‘sickly infant’. At the age of four he was sent to live with a grandmother, and the stories she told (albeit of fairies and giants) developed a hunger for learning in the young child.

As he grew older, Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe and Gulliver’s Travels became firm favourites.

And then disaster struck! In 1817, while apprenticed to his father as a stonemason, a fall from the roof of a house – 35 feet to the ground – left John unconscious for a fortnight. “When he awoke one morning he asked for a book…” Thirteen year-old John could see, but he could not hear. He was deaf for the rest of his life.

He worked in the Plymouth workhouse, then at a library. Anthony Norris Groves, pioneer of the early Brethren movement, met Kitto and “gave decision and evangelical tone” to young John. He took Kitto on as assistant in his dental surgery. Kitto then did printing with the Church Missionary Society and went to Malta in 1827 to distribute tracts in various languages.

When A.N. Groves gave up his profession (and 1200 pounds sterling a year!) to become a missionary, 25 year-old Kitto went with him – to Baghdad. “Early in 1831 plague visited the city … and in the first fortnight 7000 died”, including Mrs Groves.

Groves and Kitto returned to England, and John Kitto took up his pen to write articles for a Christian magazine… For 20 years he wrote and wrote – “it regularly occupied him 16 hours a day” (Doing Good, by R. Steel, page 253).

In the process of his extensive literary exploits, Kitto became Doctor of Divinity and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, besides being a member of several foreign societies. He paid other visits to the East, and wrote numerous books on his observations.

His Daily Bible Illustrations (eight volumes) became a best-seller.

Spurgeon commends it highly – a work “we have read with an enthusiasm that few works can inspire…” (Sword and Trowel, 1868, page 153). Spurgeon adds that the records of Kitto’s perseverance gave him “the first impetus to literary study” (page 151).

This remarkable man of God married … had nine children … and suffered much ill health in his closing years.

He died in Germany (to which he had ventured for health reasons) on 25 November, 1854, at the age of 50.

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:

Lord Shaftesbury Stands Up for the Abused

This is the day that …Anthony Ashley-Cooper died in 1885 at the age of 84.

Better known as Lord Shaftesbury, he has been described as “the outstanding Christian layman of the 19th century.”

He was born on 28 April 1801 at 24 Grosvenor Square, London, the oldest son of the sixth earl of Shaftesbury. With strong family connections and good academics at Oxford he was well set for a political career. He became Lord of the Admiralty in 1834, but he chose not to run for prominence in any party, in order to more effectively help people in need.

A committed Christian he was active in support of organizations which took the gospel and the Bible to ordinary people, such as the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Church Missionary Society, YMCA and the London City Mission.

His first social cause was the plight of lunatics who were treated most inhumanely. He stuck with that cause and changed the relevant legislation through his life.

His next cause was to limit the working day in mills to 10 hours per day. This was vehemently opposed but he eventually won out. He was a man of action and he strengthened his case on many issues by first-hand investigation of the conditions. He visited hospitals and met many who were maimed and deformed through their working conditions.

He then campaigned against women and children being used in mines. Children as young as four spent 12 hours a day on all fours, pulling carts in the dark. He freed women and any child under 13 years from working in mines.

Then he took on the cause of boys apprenticed to chimney sweeps. Then came education of the neglected poor, leading to the setting up of “ragged schools” through which 10,000 children were assisted in his lifetime.

Then he turned his attention to providing quality housing for underprivileged, creating model villages and establishing thousands of well-equipped homes that were affordable to the working class.

Always the aristocrat he was keen to promote evangelical endeavour where he found it. However he objected to the Salvation Army due to its equal treatment of women in leadership, to which he disagreed. He labelled William Booth as the “antichrist”.

It was he who led the fight against child labour … five year-olds ankle deep in water working pumps in rat-infested mines … children forced to climb and clean chimneys by unscrupulous masters … and the cruelty often inflicted upon small children who worked 12 or 14 hours a day in the mills.

He was chairman of the Ragged Schools Union for 39 years … he supported the newly formed British and Foreign Bible Society … and the Protestant Alliance … and the Church Missionary Society … and the Young Men’s Christian Association (which was Christian in those days!) And more!

On his deathbed he asked for Psalm 23 to be read to him each morning, and “frequently those present heard him murmur his favourite prayer, ‘Even so, come, Lord Jesus’.”

Don Prout recommends: If you can get hold of a copy of John Pollock’s biography of this great man called Shaftesbury, the Poor Man’s Earl, read it! Or Grace Irwin’s The Seventh Earl is equally fascinating. Or, I Stand Alone by Jenny Robertson.

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.