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: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/lord-shaftesbury

History Faces Bar

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

James Alexander Haldane Establishes Congregationalism in Scotland

James Alexander Haldane died on February 8, 1851. James, along with his older brother Robert, left an indelible mark upon Christianity in Scotland.

Born in Dundee on July 14, 1768, orphaned at the age of 6, and educated at Edinburgh University, young James joined the navy at the age of seventeen, as a midshipman aboard the East India Company’s “Duke of Montrose”.

After four voyages to India and China, he was appointed Captain of “The Melville Castle”, in 1793. The ship’s sailing was delayed, however, leaving James time for more reflective pursuits.

It was during this period that “he commenced to read the Scriptures from a sense of propriety rather than any concern about his soul” (Cyclopaedia of Modern Religious Biographies, page 241).

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He sought out a Dr David Bogue, a pastor in the vicinity of Portsmouth, and requested that he might partake of the Lord’s Supper. Dr Bogue was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society and he pressed upon Haldane the claims of Christ upon his life.

Haldane quit the navy before The Melville Castle sailed, choosing to take up a religious life instead of his captaincy. That was 1794.

Sometime in the next two or three years he found the salvation for which so long he had sought. He left the established Church of Scotland when the General Assembly of 1796 refused to promote aggressive evangelisation.

At that time he became acquainted with Charles Simeon of Cambridge. In his company Haldane toured Scotland 1797, distributing tracts and trying to awaken spiritual interest. In May 1797 he preached his first sermon, at Gilmerton near Edinburgh, with encouraging success.

That same year he and brother Robert founded The Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home, which gave the impetus for the development of the Congregational Churches. James was ordained as a Congregational minister in Edinburgh.

James Haldane married twice in Edinburgh, in 1793 and, his first wife having died, again in 1822.

In 1799 James was ordained pastor of a large independent congregation in Edinburgh. That group was the first to be known as a Congregational Church in Scotland.

After his brother inherited the family wealth, he built a church or Tabernacle, for James’ Congregational church in Edinburgh in 1801. From 1801 until his death James Haldane preached prodigiously and “counted it his privilege for nearly 50 years to preach the Gospel …” in the Tabernacle, Edinburgh’s largest church. In 1808 James and his famous brother Robert “embraced Baptist principles” (Dictionary of the Christian Church, page 447).

James Haldane contributed to current theological discussions with articles on church order, refutations of heresy and exploration of various Bible books and doctrines.

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

William Shrubsole Jnr Writes Hymns

William Shrubsole Jnr was born on November 21, at Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, England in 1759. His father was a churchman and hymn writer who raised his son in the faith. When young William became a hymn writer in later years there arose confusion as to which of the two Williams actually wrote various works.

Young William was originally employed as a shipwright and in 1785 he went to London and became a clerk in the Bank of England. His career prospered until he eventually became secretary to the Committee of the Treasury.

In London he forsook the Church of England, spending the last 20 years of his life with the Congregationalists.

He took an active role in the Bible Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Religious Tract Society, holding offices in these organisations. And he was a lay preacher.

He was a director and secretary of the London Missionary Society, and contributed hymns to the Evangelical Magazine, Christian Magazine, Theological Miscellany, Christian Observer and Youth’s Magazine.

About 20 hymns were written by him, but only one is in some of today’s hymnbooks:
Arm of the Lord, awake! Awake!|
Put on your strength, the nations shake,
And let the world, adoring, view
Triumphs of mercy done by You.

Some authorities consider this to have been actually written by his father (of the same name), who is best known for the hymn tune he composed, “Miles Lane”.

It is interesting to see a verse of “Arm of the Lord, awake” that is no longer included in today’s hymnals:
Arm of the Lord, Thy power extend,
Let Mahomet’s imposture end!
Break papal superstition’s chain
And the proud scoffer’s rage restrain.

The hymn was written in 1780 – and both William Shrubsoles (Senior and Junior) were living at that date.

It is interesting also to note the fervour of the day as expressed in hymn lyrics. The notion of England being the great missionary force to the nations is captured in the final verse of Shrubsoles’ Missionary Hymn.
Oh that from Britain now might shine,
This heavenly light and truth Divine,
Till the whole universe abroad
Flame with the Glory of the Lord.

William Shrubsole Jnr died at Highbury on August 23, 1829.

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.

John Williams Transforms Polynesia

On November 20 John Williams was clubbed to death and eaten by cannibals on the island of Erromanga in the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu). It was 1839 – and he was 43 years of age.

Born in London 27 June, 1796 at Tottenham High Cross, he came from evangelical stock, his father a Baptist and his mother influenced by the Calvinistic Methodist movement. At age 14 John was apprenticed to an ironmonger and was soon managing the business.

At age 19 he was converted to Christianity and joined the Calvinistic Methodist Tabernacle Church, where Rev Wilks taught him grammar and exegesis.

At the age of 20 he offered himself to the London Missionary Society.

He married Mary Chauner and together they set sail for the Society Islands of the Pacific in December, 1816, sent out by the London Missionary Society. The mission team collected another member at Rio de Janeiro then travelled on to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania). There in March 1817 Williams preached the first evangelical service on that soil, defying official church opposition by preaching in the open air. In May they arrived in Sydney and established good relations with Governor Lachlan Macquarie, on the promise of good trading prospects from the Pacific Islands.

On November 17, 1817 John and Mary arrived in Tahiti. John mastered the language in 10 months and was ready to preach! Williams was one of those unstoppable missionaries who seemed to take every obstacle in his stride. He was regarded as the most enterprising missionary in the islands.

He set to work building a boat – the first of five – which would enable him to sail to the other islands. But such a course of action did not meet with the approval of the mission directors back in England.

It was the old, old question, oft to be repeated: Who knows best – the man on the field where the action is, or the administrators in their office back home?

“The years that followed were tainted by conflict – sometimes heated and bitter – as Williams in flagrant violation of the directors’ mandate continued his nautical activity” (From Jerusalem to Irian Jaya, by Ruth Tucker).

In December 1821 Williams and his wife visited Sydney for three months, where he preached and addressed public meetings. He also bought a ship with Rev Samuel Marsden’s reluctant approval, to trade between Raiatea and Sydney; and he engaged Thomas Scott to teach cultivation of sugar-cane and tobacco to the people of Raiatea. Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane was so impressed by Williams that he supplied stock to the mission and gave him magisterial authority for the islands.

In 1823 Williams travelled from the Society Group to the Hervey Group of islands and discovered Rarotonga where most of the inhabitants were soon converted. Williams later translated parts of the Bible and other books into Rarotongan and the Rarotongan’s asked him to create a civil and legal code for them, based on Christianity.

In 1838, when Williams had become a public figure, he returned to Sydney in the newly outfitted mission ship Camden, and drew considerable crowds to his meetings. He was returning form London (1834-1838) where he had given evidence before the committee of the House of Commons on Aborigines, and so was influential in the establishment of the local Aborigines Protection Society. In 1837 he published “Narrative of Missionary Enterprise in the South Sea Islands” throwing valuable light on Polynesia.

It is recorded that during his 22 years of ministry, this Apostle to Polynesia saw 300,000 natives brought to Christ. He taught them to build houses and furniture, churches and schools, and raise sugar cane. Natives were trained as teachers and as missionaries to other islands. The Rarotongan translation of the New Testament was printed during his lifetime.

“In 1823,” Williams wrote, “I found them (the Raratongans) all heathens; in 1834 they were all professing Christians. At the former period I found them with idols … in 1834 congregations amounting to 6000 persons assembled every Sabbath day; I found them without a written language, and left them reading in their own tongue the wonderful works of God” (Epoch Makers of Modern Missions, page 127).

Williams believed that Australia had a divine responsibility to take the gospel to the Pacific.

On 20 November, 1839, at the age of 43, he visited the isle of Erromanga, and was clubbed to death by hostile cannibals. His is one of the great stories of missionary endeavour with which every Christian should be acquainted.

Another famous missionary, John Coleridge Patteson, was martyred in the New Hebrides in 1871. That account can be found posted for September 20, 2008.

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.

Rowland Hill with Scandalous Style

This is the day that … Rowland Hill was born in 1744, in Shropshire, England, son of Sir Rowland Hill, a baronet. He was afforded education at the best schools, but he chose to relate most with the common man. He scandalised his superiors by undertaking open air preaching and visitation before he was ordained.

This colourful character, whom Spurgeon described as being full of fun in the pulpit (and meant it as a compliment), was one of the outstanding evangelicals of his day.

Hill was converted at the age of 18 and entered the Church of England ministry. But reproved by the bishop for his desire to preach everywhere – “in season and out of season” – he finally opened his own “Surrey Chapel” in London in 1783, which he built with his own funds. At the opening service on 8 June, he took as his text: “We preach Christ crucified” (I Corinthians 1:23). (In later years this same pulpit was occupied by the great F.B. Meyer.)

Holding strong Calvinistic views, Hill joined with Augustus Toplady in the controversy against the Wesleys. As an open air preacher, due to the influence of his friend George Whitefield, Hill often preached to 20,000 at a time. He loved to use personal anecdotes and attention catching comments, but was deemed to go too far at times.

“The Countess of Huntingdon”, we are told, “rejoiced in the success of his labours … but the name of Mr Hill is mentioned in her ladyship’s will as one of the men who was not to be permitted to preach in one of her chapels!” Perhaps his quaint wit, of which anecdotes abound, and his eccentricities would have been too much for her ladyship’s genteel congregations!

He was one of the founders of the London Missionary Society and the Religious Tract Society. And this latter movement gave birth to the British and Foreign Bible Society, of which he was also an ardent supporter.

Rowland Hill died on 11 April, 1833, and was buried in front of the pulpit from which he had dispensed the Word of God for 50 years. His last words had been: “I have no rapturous joys, but peace – a good hope through grace – all through grace.”

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.