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.

Thomas Chatterton Hammond Keeps Sydney Anglicans Evangelical

Thomas Chatterton Hammond died on November 16, 1961.

This man who was later to shore up evangelicalism on the other side of the world, was born on 20 February 1877 at Cork, County Cork, Ireland, youngest son of a farmer. Following his education at Cork Model School Thomas became a railway clerk at the age of 13.

He was involved with the YMCA, a very evangelical movement in those days, and received Christ. He was then led into full-time street preaching and mission work. This “evangelist, apologist and theological educator” cut his evangelistic teeth as an open-air preacher on the streets of Cork. The “boy Hammond”, as he was called, soon aroused the ire of Roman Catholic passers-by.

This was followed by two years of training, two years of itinerant evangelism, and then, in 1900, he entered Trinity College, Dublin. He became a rector of the Church of Ireland in 1905.

On 23 January 1906 Hammond married Margaret McNay, whose family had been closer to him than his own. He was an effective pastor, but also engaged in broader issues. He became a prolific pamphleteer and he had few equals as a public speaker, with “pungent and well-ordered eloquence”. As clerical superintendent of the Irish Church Missions from 1919 he controlled a large staff engaged in educational, welfare and evangelistic work. He wrote Authority in the Church (1921), a study of Anglican episcopacy and in 1926 he toured Canada and Australia, defending the Book of Common Prayer from threatened revision.

He became involved in the work of Inter Varsity Fellowship and “from this connection came an invitation to write an introductory hand-book of doctrine. In Understanding be Men was the result, an outstanding best-seller.

He was nearly 60 years of age when appointed Principal of Moore College in Sydney, Australia. He found the college understaffed and under-resourced, so he threw himself into building it up. Through his position there he greatly bolstered the evangelical emphasis that the Sydney Anglican Diocese became famous for.

One of his disappointments was that his more populist book, “In Understanding Be Men” became a standard text and was popular with the laity, while his more mature works—Perfect Freedom (London, 1938), a study in Christian ethics, Reasoning Faith (London, 1943), on Christian apologetics, and The New Creation (London, 1953), on the theology of regeneration—did not command similar support.

His weekly “Principles of Protestantism” radio broadcast opposed the teachings of Roman Catholicism and impacted many. And “T.C.” Hammond was ever ready to debate his opponents, finding the colonial situation much tamer than the tough environment in which he had grown up.

“T.C”, as he was affectionately know, retired from Moore College at the age of 75, and at the age of 84 he heard the Saviour’s “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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.

Louis Thompson Talbot Leaves Booze for the Pulpit

This is the day that Louis Thompson Talbot was born in Sydney, Australia, in 1889.

His father, an assistant manager for Tooth’s Brewery, had married Bessie on the very day she had arrived from England. In the early 1900s Louis’ older brother, Jim, was converted at a gospel meeting in Redfern, New South Wales. The preacher was Loyal L. Wirt, who had served as a missionary in Alaska, and was the father of Sherwood E. Wirt, who later became editor of Billy Graham’s Decision magazine.

Jim felt the call to Moody Bible Institute, Chicago, and the clash with his liquor-selling father was awful.

With the help of his mother’s prayers, Louis, now in his manhood and still unsaved, became restless, dissatisfied, disillusioned with the liquor business. He dreamed of America and a new life. His brother Jim was to be a preacher: “Why couldn’t there be two preachers in the family?” So “Louie” followed his brother Jim to Moody Bible Institute, ready for a fresh adventure.

Louis had some form of a conversion experience when Wilbur Chapman preached in Sydney Town Hall in 1909. The following year he travelled to the USA. He was far along in his studies at Moody when, under the preaching of John Harper of London, he was genuinely converted.

In the years that followed, Louis Talbot became a well-known name in the evangelical world. He went from pastorate to pastorate in the United States and Canada until he received a call to the great Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, the very church the mighty R.A. Torrey had founded. Dr. Talbot was also president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). He had met and married Audrey Hogue while pastoring a Congregational church in Paris, Texas.

The story of Dr. Louis Talbot’s activities in Los Angeles is impressive. He came to a church of 1,200 discouraged members and left it with 3,500 and the future bright. He came to a debt of over a million dollars and left the church free from debt and with thousands of dollars raised on new promotional enterprises. He extended the missionary program to where literally hundreds of American missionaries and native workers circle the globe, supported by this great church. There were 300 students in the Bible Institute when he arrived but there were more than a thousand when he finished. His ministry over the air was phenomenal.

Billy Graham wrote in the Foreword to Talbot’s biography, “Dr Louis Talbot was one of the spiritual giants of this generation. As pastor, Bible teacher, author and educator he influenced not only me but thousands of theological students and pastors. His faithfulness to the infallibility of the Scriptures and the gospel has been an inspiration to me for many years” (For This I Was Born, by C. Talbot).

A Talbot quote which sums up his evangelical conviction says, “Whether or not one believes in its reality, the resurrection of Christ is of vital consequence to every person on earth. It is the “touchstone of destiny” for all mankind.”

After many years as president of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, Louis Talbot died on 22 January, 1976.

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 Gotch Ridley Impacts Australia

This is the day that … John Gotch Ridley was born in Darling Point, a suburb of Sydney, Australia, in 1896.

Young John was given a book by his Bible Class teacher – The Life of Hedley Vicars. This New Year gift told of a Christian soldier and, in his own words, became “one of the moulding influences of my young manhood” (Milestones of Mercy, page 25).

Three years later, at the age of 18, he responded to a powerful message on the (premillennial) Second Coming of Christ, in the Burton Street Baptist Tabernacle, under the ministry of Rev. William Lamb … and that same ‘glorious hope’ never left him. In written and spoken word, the return of our Lord was a constant theme.

Then there were days in the A.I.F. (Australian Army) – and overseas service. Still a teenager, he was to be found “in the cold and mud of French battlefields” during World War I. Severely wounded – a bullet passed through his neck and tongue (but God had plans for that tongue to proclaim His gospel) – he was awarded the Military Cross – for his acts of bravery & action in battle at Bellicourt 1918 for risking his own life by bringing ammunition & ration to the front line and also for rescuing the wounded.

Ridley returned to Australia to enter the Baptist ministry.

But a “shocking nervous breakdown” followed, and we see him travelling the outback in a horse-drawn wagon doing bush mission work.

After his marriage to Dorothy Chapman in Sydney on 18 August, 1926, he became an itinerant evangelist. The hand of the Lord was obviously upon this young evangelist. Souls were saved in outback homesteads, open-air meetings, churches … everywhere!

As strength returned – and with a loving helpmeet beside him – John G. began his evangelistic ministry. He became a well known Convention speaker, both in Australia and overseas, despite continual ill health.

As a “prolific & terrific writer” writer he wrote fourteen richly Christ-honouring books and numerous tracts, coloured with eloquent and stirring prose.

On a Sunday night of November 14th, 1942 he impacted another man who became famous Australian Christian ministry. Illiterate former criminal Arthur Stace heard Ridley trumpet a message about Eternity, based on Isaiah 57:15. Suddenly he interrupted his message and laying his prepared notes aside the highly disciplined soldier-like preacher raised his loud voice and cried: “Eternity, Eternity, I wish that I could sound or shout that word to everyone in the streets of Sydney. You’ve got to meet it, where will you spend Eternity?” Arthur Stace dedicated himself to serve God that night and walked outside to write the word ‘Eternity’ in beautiful Copperplate script with chalk on the pavement. For the rest of his life Mr Eternity continued to echo Ridley’s “Eternity” sermon on Sydney’s pavements.

Ridley co-founded the prophetic & premillennial voice of the Herald of Hope magazine. He assisted as a Chaplain in the Everyman’s Welfare work among the troops during World War II, and with others, founded the Australian Institute of Evangelism, later known as Ambassadors for Christ.

In one of his many poems he anticipated his ‘home call’:
I shall meet them in the Glory …
Those dear friends I’ve grown to love;
When we gather ’round the Saviour
In the happy home above.

David Brainerd of the back woods;
William Burns, that flaming heart,
Good McCheyne and Andrew Bonar,
Men who loved the better part …

Richard Baxter, wondrous writer
of the “Saints’ Eternal Rest”,
Holy Edwards of New England,
Of the purest and the best.

C.H. Spurgeon, prince of preachers,
Strong his influence to me;
Moody, Matheson and Moorhouse
– what a gathering there shall be.

Friends of mine in life’s long journey,
Though unworthy of their band,
Yet I hope to stand among them
When I reach the golden strand …

On 26 September, 1976, “the tired warrior fell asleep in Jesus”.

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.