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: www.donaldprout.com

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau Moves Men and Mountains

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau was born in Richford, Vermont, USA, on November 30, 1888, into a deeply religious Plymouth Brethren family. His two sisters became missionaries to China.

Not a preacher, not a reformer, not a gospel singer, not a hymn-writer, but a businessman who learned to give Christ first place in his industrial life. Remember that the Lord does not call every believer to stand behind a pulpit, or sing like a nightingale!

Robert was the fourth of eight children, ran away from home at the age of 13, and gave up school at 14 in favour of working in an iron foundry! He continued his education by correspondence. In his late teens he was living in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake. He made money selling pictures of the earthquake and during the rebuilding he was introduced to the welding torch, which became his favourite tool.

Godly parents, Caleb and Elizabeth LeTourneau, were praying for this rebellious son, and at 17 he made a commitment to Christ. By the time he was 28 he was working as a mechanic – and had eloped with his 16 year-old bride.

Robert and wife, Evelyn, became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Matthew 6:33 – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you” became his life motto.

In 1909, at age twenty-one, LeTourneau moved to Stockton, California, and began a dirt-moving business. There he built his own scrapers, exploiting the welding skills he had previously learned. At that time scrapers were pulled behind Caterpillar tractors.

LeTourneau had borrowed $4,500 to start his business and he put himself into it with zeal and willingness to innovate.

A significant change came in 1931 when he “made a deal with God”. That year he had lost $32,000. He felt challenged to make God a major partner in his business so he transferred 90% of the shares into a charitable trust and declared “God owns my business”.

The next year he switched to making scrapers, bulldozers, cranes, etc. His 1932 net income was a positive $52,000. He built the first all-welded scraper with electric motors to adjust the blade, and he invented the bulldozer blade that attached to the front of a caterpillar tractor. In 1932 he used rubber tires instead of steel wheels for the first time on heavy equipment when a customer complained that the steel wheels sank in the sand.

In 1937 LeTourneau came up with the idea of a self-propelled scraper, rather than one that is pulled. When Caterpillar refused to make the components he needed, Le Tourneau built it himself. This put him in direct competition to Caterpillar. Development of the self-propelled, scraper-earthmover in the late 1930s placed R. G. LeTourneau Inc. in the forefront of the earth-moving and heavy equipment industry just as World War II was beginning. “Seventy percent of earth moving machinery used by the Allies in World War II was supplied by his company!”

LeTourneau brought dozens of innovations to the industry he helped to create … and millions of dollars have been channelled into evangelical Christian work as a result.

He once said, “If you’re not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love Him: if you don’t love Him, it proves you don’t know Him. Because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him.”

He was known as “God’s Businessman” because 90 percent of his company stock was given to the LeTourneau Foundation, which sponsored Christian missions in South America and Africa and financed educational projects. He pioneered industrial chaplaincy for his employees and travelled each weekend to tell large audiences how to apply Christian principles in everyday life. Thus be became a mover of both men and mountains.

Robert G. LeTourneau died in Longview on 1 June, 1969.

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.

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 www.donaldprout.com.

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 www.donaldprout.com.

Joseph Medlicott Scriven Unsuspecting Hymnwriter

This is the day that … Joseph Medlicott Scriven was born in County Down, Ireland, in 1819.

He entered Trinity College, Dublin, intent on following a career in the army – like his father.

Poor health prevented this.

He fell for a lovely young woman, but on the eve of their wedding she accidentally drowned. He never recovered from the shock. The Irishman began to wander, hoping to forget his sorrow. At age 25, he finally settled in Canada, where he worked as a school teacher.

As a committed Christian connected with the Plymouth Brethren his faith led him to do menial tasks for poor widows and the sick. He often worked for no wages and was regarded by the people of the community as a kind man, albeit a bit odd.

He later fell in love again and planned to marry a wonderful Canadian woman. But again, tragedy struck. His new fiancée, Eliza Roche, died after contracting pneumonia.

“With failing health and meagre income … he became greatly depressed” (Companion to Baptist Hymnal, by W. Reynolds, page 422).

In 1855, a friend visited an ill Scriven and discovered a poem he had written for his ailing mother in faraway Ireland. Scriven didn’t have the money to visit her, but he sent her the poem as an encouragement. He called it “Pray Without Ceasing.” When the friend inquired about the poem’s origins, Scriven reportedly answered, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

Scriven never intended for the poem to be published, but it made its rounds, and was set to music in 1868 by musician Charles Converse, who titled it “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” It has since become one of our greatest hymns.

And at the age of 67 Scriven was found drowned … “whether suicidal or accidental” no-one knows (10 August, 1886).

A monument is erected to his memory in Port Hope, where he lived and wrote his immortal hymn
What a Friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear;
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer …

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.