Henry Havelock Christian Soldier

Henry Havelock was born on April 5, 1795, in Bishop Wearmouth, in Sunderland England, the second of four sons to William Havelock a well-to-do shipowner and his wife, Jane (Carter).

So serious minded was he as a lad that his school friends called him “Phlos” – an abbreviation for ‘Philosopher’.  But there were others who taunted him with cruel jibes – “Methodist”, “hypocrite”, for it was known that he prayed and read the Scriptures daily, as his godly mother, Jane, had taught him to do.

For a while he went on to study law, and then at the age of 20 we find him entering “The Rifle Brigade” of the British Army. It is interesting to note that all four of the Havelock boys became soldiers.

By this time his faith had lapsed, even bordering on Unitarianism.  But mid-Atlantic, on his way to India in 1823, he is befriended by Lieutenant James Gardner, “a humble, unpretending man, just twenty-one”, and a Christian.

Gardner loaned Havelock the Life of Henry Martyn – missionary hero of the CMS – and The Force of Truth by well-known Bible commentator, Thomas Scott.  Gardner’s gentle testimony led Havelock to the Saviour.

In India Havelock fought in the First Anglo-Burmese War of 1824 to 1826.

On 8 February, 1829, Havelock married Hannah Marshman, daughter of one of the great Baptist missionaries to that land, a co-worker with William Carey.

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Havelock took his new faith and the example of his missionary in-laws to heart and began distributing bibles to all the soldiers. He also introduced all-rank bible study classes and established the first non-church services for military personnel.

It was 23 years before promotion came his way – first to Captaincy, then Major in 1843, Lieutenant Colonel in 1844, and eventually Brigadier-General in 1857.  During this time his Christian convictions and witness remained steadfast.

On Sundays “a flag would fly over his tent” as an indication that he was at prayer and others were invited to join him.  The influence spread through his battalion until they were known as ‘Havelock’s Saints‘!

It was in 1857 the Indian Mutiny took place – thousands of rebels demanding “the extermination of every European in India” (Brave Lives and Noble, page 283). Havelock retook the city of Cawnpor, but not before the English population had been massacred.

Havelock, with 1000 troops, marched to Lucknow to rescue the besieged Britishers – 1,700 of them, including women and children.  “The advance to Lucknow forms one of the most stirring chapters in our military annals” … ‘Havelock’s Saints’ “earned a hundred VC’s!” (1000 Heroes, by A. Mee, page 565).

He arrived on 25 September and held out against the 10,000 rebels until Colonel Campbell’s Highlanders arrived, and Lucknow was saved.  But two months later Sir Henry Havelock died in Lucknow, overcome by exhaustion and dysentery.  To Sir James Outram he had said: “For more than forty years I have so ruled my life that when death came I might face it without fear.” And to his son, also wounded and needing care, Havelock had said: “Come, my son, and see how a Christian can die” (Modern Christian Biography, page 220; Way to Glory, by J Pollock, page 252).

Many towns bear testimony to the affection which England held toward her amazing Christian soldier. Streets and Inns named after Havelock are in abundance. His statue stands in Trafalgar Square, paid for by public donations. Although the statue goes unnoticed by today’s generation its dedication brought together one of the biggest crowds ever seen there.

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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: www.donaldprout.com

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

Henry Martyn the Translator

Henry Martyn was born on February 18, in Cornwall, England in 1781.

In 1791 he started at St John’s College, Cambridge. He was saved in 1800. In 1801 he was the top Mathematics student in his year (called Senior Wrangler) and he also won a Latin prize. He was gifted in languages, as was later revealed in his successful translation work.

When Martyn tackled his translation work on the mission field he mentioned in a letter that he was drawing from grammar books in Latin, Greek, French, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Hebrew, Rabbinical Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Ethiopic, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Sanscrit, Bengalee and Hindoostanee and wanted a Celtic grammar as well.

Yet at the end of his studies, all of Martyn’s academic achievements left him wanting. He noted, “I obtained my highest wishes but was surprised to find I had grasped a shadow”. This recognition of the emptiness of human achievement, despite his own excellence, must have undergirded his willingness to serve the Lord sacrificially. He not only gave up his homeland and career opportunities for mission service, he also left behind the one love of his life.

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After theological studies at Cambridge, Martyn was appointed curate at Holy Trinity to the godly Charles Simeon who was thus his spiritual father or mentor. And from thence he sailed forth to India as chaplain to the East India Company (1805).

He left his heart with Lydia Grenfell in his native Cornwall. She did not follow him to India and he never made it home to see her again.

Henry Martyn made several major contributions through his life of missionary service. His translation work gave the scriptures to the Indian and Persian people. Also his life of personal sacrifice for missions has shone as an example to many. He also promoted ideas about missions which helped to formulate the vision and activities of future mission endeavours.

Within five years in India he had completed his translation of the New Testament in Urdu (known then as Hindoostani). His journal tells of the joy he found in this work – “What a source of perpetual delight have I in the precious Book of God! Oh, that my heart were more spiritual, to keep pace with my understanding…” (Memoirs of H. Martin, compiled by J. Sargent, 1848, page 241).

One of the challenges of these early translators is that many Bible concepts are not readily translatable into cultures where the concepts are not known. Such Bible truths as grace, redemption and hope are not readily known in other tongues and cultures.

CF Note: I once heard a Christian minister tell of a Moslem woman who asked him to help her convert to Christianity. When he asked why she wanted to make this change she told him that the Christian concept of ‘forgiveness’ was not part of Islam. Similarly I learned that some Australian Aboriginal tribes do not have a mechanism to restore people back into their community once they have been banished for bad behaviour. Cultural challenges such as these confronted Henry Martyn’s translation work.

Martyn’s diary notes also make reference to his “beloved Lydia”… although historian Sargent actually suppressed her name in the first edition of his best-seller biography of Henry Martyn, cited earlier. The call of God upon his life meant that he must say “Farewell” to the one he had hoped to wed.

Martyn’s diary also refers to the fellowship he enjoyed with William Carey and Anglican clergyman David Brown (of Jamieson, Fawcett and Brown Commentary fame … and with whom Carey did not enjoy sweet fellowship!) (Carey, by S. Pearce Carey, page 145).

Martyn was an intelligent and sensitive man, who respected the cultures to which he went. Rather than adopting the cultural arrogance which some other missionaries displayed, Martyn wrote, “I learnt that the power of gentleness is irresistible and also that these men are not fools. Clearness of reasoning is not confined to Europe”.

After a decade of evangelical ministry in various parts of India, Henry Martyn proceeded to Persia and there took up the task of translation anew. He also supervised translation of the New Testament into Arabic. By 1812 his Persian New Testament was ready for the printers. But our missionary did not live to see his work in print. On October 16, 1812, in Tokat, Armenia, Asia Minor, on his way home with high hopes of meeting again his Lydia, Henry Martyn died, at the age of 31.

It is interesting to note that Martyn’s Urdu and Arabic translations were not only a help to the Christian missionaries but were well read by the Moslem leaders.

On his return journey toward England, Martyn chose to travel through Persia, Damascus and Arabia, hoping to improve his tuberculosis and find scriptural manuscripts. His friends in Calcutta tried to dissuade him but he set out in 1811. On his way to Constantinople he died, whether from his own sickness or the plague which was raging at the time we do not know.

Thus closed the book on a man who put all else aside, in order to make an investment in the Kingdom of God.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

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: www.donaldprout.com

Thomas Charles Births a Bible Society

This is the day that Thomas Charles was born in Wales. It was 1756.

Despite a Christian upbringing, it was not until the age of 17, when he heard Daniel Rowlands expounding Hebrews 4:15, that “he was conscious of a real conversion of heart”. It was 20 January, 1773.

It is interesting to note that there seems to be a ‘time’ for certain things, as Solomon tells us. Thomas Charles lived at a ‘time’ of evangelism, Sunday Schools and the birth of Bible Societies.

Ordained as a Church of England curate (21 May, 1780), he soon fell foul of his parishioners for “giving free instruction to children after Vespers. His rector considered this to be such a shocking innovation that he was at once dismissed” (Sweet Singers of Wales, by H. Lewis, page 55). It is probably true to say that his evangelical preaching had something to do with the dismissal also!

He joined the Calvinistic Methodist and commenced ministering in the town of Bala. From henceforth he would be known as “Charles of Bala”.

He travelled extensively around Wales, giving birth to the first Sunday-Schools Wales had ever known. It was a time of extensive revival in Wales, but there was a shortage of Bibles. Rev Charles sold Welsh language Bibles to meet the need.

Rev Charles was visited by a 15 year-old lass who had walked 27 miles to obtain a Bible from him. Mary Jones had saved her own money to buy the Bible and then walked the miles to obtain it. Charles had just sold his last copy, but was so impressed with Mary’s diligence that he gave it to her anyway, telling her the other buyer would just have to wait.

Charles visited the Religious Tract Society in London in 1802 and pleaded with them for Scriptures. The Society had to turn him away. Providing bibles just was not in their job description. As the members discussed the request, the Rev. Joseph Hughes said, “a society might be formed for the purpose–and if for Wales, why not for the Kingdom; why not for the whole world?”

Mary Jones’ devotion to possess a copy of God’s Word prompted the founding of the British and Foreign Bible Society on March 7, 1804, spearheaded by the Rev. Thomas Charles.

This was the first of many Bible Societies which took the Word of God to the nations. 69 other Bible organizations formed in just ten years. The British and Foreign Bible Society funded such diverse translation work as William Carey, Morrison’s Chinese Bible, Henry Martyn’s Persian translation, a Mohawk gospel of John and a translation for the Pacific islands of Rarotonga.

Rev Thomas Charles continued his evangelistic work. During one of his itinerant preaching tours he nearly lost his life in the intense cold. Frostbitten and racked with fever his life was in imminent danger. One old Christian – thinking apparently of Hezekiah – prayed that 15 years would be added to Brother Charles’ life (II Kings 20:6).

Remarkably, it was just 15 years later, on 5 October, 1814, that Thomas Charles said, “There is refuge,” and passed into his Saviour’s presence.

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.

David Brainerd and the Indians

John Wesley said, “Let every preacher read carefully over the life of David Brainerd,” and distributed his life story to all his societies. So while this post is only a summary, I commend to you a review of David Brainerd’s biography.

This is the day that … the “fire fell” at Crossweeksung, in 1745.

Twenty-seven year-old David Brainerd had been expelled from Yale College three years earlier, and had turned his eyes toward the mission field, among the Red Indians.

His diary almost becomes monotonous with “spent the day in prayer and fasting for my beloved Indians.”

He tells of preaching through a drunken interpreter, of riding 50 miles a day to Indian encampments “down hideous steeps, through swamp and most dreadful and dangerous places … pinched with cold … an extreme pain in my head.” At times he coughed up blood.

But on 8 August, 1745, about 64 Indians – men, women and children – gathered around him. He preached to them on the parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14:16-23) and, to use his own words:

“The power of God seemed to descend like a rushing mighty wind… Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarcely one was able to withstand the shock of this surprising operation. Old men and women who had been drunken wretches for many years and some little children, not more than six or seven years of age, appeared in distress for their souls… There was almost universal praying and crying for mercy … numbers could neither go nor stand…”

In the days that followed more and more Indians cried: “Guttummaukalummeh!” (“Have mercy on me!”).

By October, 1747, Brainerd was on his deathbed in the home of the famous Jonathan Edwards, and on 9 October all the trumpets sounded as this 29 year-old man of God passed to his Heavenly reward.

William Carey read Brainerd’s Journal, and went to India. Robert Murray McCheyne read it, and went to the Jews. Henry Martyn read it, and went to India and Persia. Jim Elliott was also motivated by David Brainerd’s example. May it inspire you also.

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.

Philip Doddridge Speaking into Lives

This is the day that … Philip Doddridge was born in 1702, the 20th child of a London tradesman.

“So feeble the spark of life that he was first laid aside as dead” – until a servant girl noticed a movement … and the child lived. Except for sister Elizabeth, all the other children did die in infancy.

By the age of 13 he was orphaned, and a prosperous gentleman named Downes became his self-appointed guardian. He grew up in a godly environment, both at home and school. “Although he could never tell when he was first conscious that Christ was his Saviour, he knew that he loved Christ and was in fellowship with Him…” (Life of Dr P. Doddridge, by H.J. Garland, page 14). He “openly confessed his Lord and joined the Church” (of England) on New Year’s Day, 1718.

The Duchess of Bedford offered to send him to university and pay all fees for his theological training. But by this time Philip Doddridge had swung to the non-conformists (those who did not ‘conform’ to the state church or ‘conform’ to the rules of the Prayer Book).

Thus it was that he became pastor of the Chapel Hill Congregational Church in Northampton for 22 years, during which time he opened an Academy where 200 young men were trained for the ministry. It is said that he had a student read to him, even whilst he was washing and shaving…” (Gospel in Hymns, by A. Bailey, page 66).

He married Miss Mercy Maris on 22 December, 1730 … and he wrote The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, which is mentioned in the biographies of William Wilberforce, C.H. Spurgeon, Henry Martyn and Mary Slessor as having an influence upon their lives.

He wrote 364 hymns, many of which are still to be found, and used, to the present day. One of the best known is …

O happy day, that fixed my choice
on Thee, my Saviour and my God …

Others include :

Awake, my soul, stretch every nerve
And press with vigour on …

Hark the glad sound, the Saviour comes
The Saviour promised long …

O God of Bethel, by Whose hand
Thy people still are fed …

His hymns were usually written to be sung after his sermon, “given out by the presentor and sung a line at a time” (Life and Hymns of Doddridge, by H. Garland, page 30).

Philip Doddridge died in Lisbon, Portugal, on 26 October, 1751. Among his final words, spoken to Lady Huntingdon, were: “My tears are tears of joy. I can give up my country, my loved ones and friends into the hand of God; and as to myself, I can as well go to Heaven from Lisbon as from my own study in Northampton. I am more afraid of doing wrong than of dying” (ibid, page 53).

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.