Saturday, April 25, 2009

The widespread Ministry of the Metropolitan Temple of London

My wife and I boarded an underground train (commonly called the tube in London) to visit the old and still famous church called The Metropolitan Temple. It was nearing sun down by the time we reached the tube gate at Elephant Circle. After walking the stairway to the street level we started a couple blocks until we reached what is the front of the church. Only the front of the original church still stood, for the Tabernacle of Charles Spurgeon's time burned down in 1898 (excepting the front portico and basement), and rebuilt along similar lines. It was later burned down for the second time when hit by an incendiary bomb in the longest air raid of World War II (in May 1941). Once again the portico and basement survived, and in 1957 the Tabernacle was rebuilt on the original perimeter walls, but to a different design, obviously taking away from what was probably a most beautiful place during the time the famous Spurgeon pastored here.

Now the sun was hidden and darkness filled the barren, creepy streets as my wife and I hasten back to the underground railway gate to get back to the hotel at a safe time.

Having more than a simple interest in this famous church I picked up a book the next day which started my research into its history which I will be briefly share.

The fellowship of this famous congregation goes back to the year 1650, thirty years after the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers to America, and at the time that Parliament had just banned Baptist meetings. The meeting grew rapidly under its first pastor, William Rider, who apparently died in the plague. Then Benjamin Keach came who led the church through much persecution, and built its first chapel near Tower Bridge as soon as freedom came to Baptists in 1688.

Dr John Gill became the pastor in 1720 and served for 51 years. He was one of the greatest biblical scholars of his time. Then came Dr John Rippon (in 1771), who served for 63 years, building the church so that it became the largest Baptist congregation in that time.

The next long and notable pastorate was that of C. H. Spurgeon in 1853. His arrival soon led to such crowds thronging the chapel that services had to be moved to a vast hired hall in the Strand, and then to the Royal Surrey Gardens Music Hall, where up to 10,000 people assembled. During his ministry he had built up a congregation of 6,000 and added 14,692 members to the church.

The present site was thought to be the site of the burning of the Southwark Martyrs. For this reason the foundation-stone bears the words: 'The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” C. H. Spurgeon pastored the church for 38 years, founding a pastors' college, an orphanage, a Christian literature society and The Sword and the Trowel magazine. Over 200 new churches were started in the Home Counties alone, and pastored by his students. His printed sermons fill 62 volumes.

Some years ago I gave to one of the colleges I graduated from, a first edition of one of Spurgeons books entitled, Lectures to my Students, with a presentation therein “To Rev. Charles Davis from Mrs. C. H. Spurgeon.” Needless to say it is a collector’s item.

We have grown to the twilight of our life, but know the future of which these great preachers ministered is shortly to come.

“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! “--Romans 10:15

In the words of an old Episcopal bishop, Phillip Brooks, “If God called you to preach, never stoop to be a king.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Westminster Abbey-the place where the famous are laid to rest

I don’t believe I have ever been in London, but what I would visit the famous Westminster Abby because of the uniqueness of the place.

Westminster Abbey presents a pageant of British history – the shrine of St. Edward the Confessor, the tombs of kings and queens, and countless memorials to the famous and the great. It has been the setting for every British Coronation since 1066. Today it is still a church dedicated to regular worship and to the celebration of great events in the life of the nation.

This church became known as the “west minster” to distinguish it from St. Paul’s Cathedral (the east minster) in the City of London. Unfortunately, when the new church was consecrated on 28 December 1065 the King was too ill to attend and died a few days later. His mortal remains were entombed in front of the High Altar.

Westminster Abbey is dedicated to St Peter. In 1540 Henry VIII had designated the Abbey a cathedral with its own bishop and diocese. However when the bishopric was dissolved in 1550 and the church made a second cathedral in the diocese of London some lands belonging to the church were exchanged or sold off. Some of this money was used for the repair of (old) St. Paul’s cathedral, hence taking funds from St. Peter’s church to pay St. Paul’s cathedral. Hence the origin of the phrase “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

I have always been in awe with the many unusual buried designates. The reason is that the Abbey contains some 611 monuments which does not include the graves or memorial stones on the floor and wall tablets. It contains the most important collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the country since well over three thousand people are buried there. Notable among these is the Unknown Warrior, whose grave, close to the west door, has become a place of pilgrimage. Over the exterior wall at the west door is the inscription, “MAY GOD GRANT TO THE LIVING-GRACE. TO THE DEPARTED-REST. TO THE CHURCH & THE WORLD-PEACE AND CONCORD. AND TO US SINNERS-ETERNAL LIFE.”

Some of the more famous people buried in the Abbey are: Poets/writers: Geoffrey Chaucer, Edmund Spenser, John Dryden, Dr Samuel Johnson, Charles Dickens, Robert Browning, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, John Masefield.
Scientists/engineers: Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Telford, Charles Darwin, Lord Kelvin, Ernest Rutherford, Sir J.J.Thomson. Musicians: George Frederic Handel, Henry Purcell, John Blow, Ralph Vaughan Williams. Actors: David Garrick, Sir Henry Irving, Dame Sybil Thorndike, Laurence Olivier. Architects: Robert Adam, Sir William Chambers, Sir Charles Barry, Sir George Gilbert Scott, George Edmund Street, Sir Herbert Baker. Politicians: William Pitt Earl of Chatham, William Pitt the Younger, Charles James Fox, William Ewart Gladstone, Ernest Bevin, Clement Attlee. Military/Naval/RAF: Prince Rupert of the Rhine, Field Marshal George Wade, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Admiral Thomas Cochrane, Lord Trenchard, Lord Dowding. Others: David Livingstone, Sir Rowland Hill, William Wilberforce, Baroness Burdett Coutts.

Still today, a daily pattern of worship is offered with services representative of a wide spread of interest and social concern, are held regularly. In 1965-66 the Abbey celebrated its 900th anniversary, taking as its theme ‘One People’. Such a theme seemed to be fitting for a church which, through a long history of involvement with the developing life of the British people, has become known throughout the world.

I have never yet been to the Abby but what I was able to sit and worship via a hymn or homily being given by a resident minister.

There are probably not many churches that enshrines as many as this one, but there is a place that will have a far greater number of noble people. They were probably not Kings or Queens or people of great position, but they will be esteemed above all but the name that is above every name.

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;” -- Philippians. 2:9-10

Saturday, April 11, 2009



Across the table sat the famed Scottish preacher and author, George B. Duncan, whose ministry has spanned the globe. For more than 51 years he had pastored in Wortking, Carlise, Edinburg, and Cochfasters, Scotland, before retirement in 1977. But his ministry has continued in his lectures and books around the world.

The seventy-six year old Anglican preacher, born in India of missionary parents, is widely known for his writings; and to ministers, who have followed the Keswick speakers, have read nearly every morsel of this unique man's books.

I was privileged to be sitting, listening, and sharing, with such a man. It didn't take me long to put away any bias I may have had, because flowing from this man was a fervor of kindness, meekness, and humility; that I had seen in so few.

No longer was I just interested in how he structured his sermons or prepared those addresses. I wanted to find out how he had become the saint he appeared.

While others were sharing what they were doing or had accomplished, I just wanted the small talk to end and just to feast on the endless experiences he had obtained while walking through the Book beside the Lord Jesus.

In the course of my ministry, I have met many outstanding and dedicated men, but never was I as intoxicated by the love this one had for Christ. The words and outlines others were longing for had been replaced by the single theme that was a reflection of the speaker's life.

It was not mere words carefully alliterated and ably acted out, but the actual presentation of Christ in him being portrayed before us.

The wonder of the message in John 1:12 had truly come to reality. "And we beheld His glory. The Glory of the only begotten" What John saw in Christ was God and what I saw in this man was Christ.

I returned home after two days and nights having shared with one of God's greatest servants of our day. Not wanting just to be a better spokesman of His message, but to allow Him to live through me. Col. 1:27 “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

"Christ in me the hope of Glory,"
has new meaning.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Are You a Survivor?

I Am A Titanic Survivor

No, I was not aboard on the night of April 14, 1912 when the Titanic made her maiden voyage, hitting an iceberg and sinking two hours and forty minutes later early on April 15.

Three short years from now, in 2012, will be the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the most famous ship that ever sailed--The Titanic.

This lesson should be ever before us, because this ship used some of the most advanced technology available at the time and was popularly believed to have been described as “unsinkable”. However, it does resulting in the deaths of 1,517 people with nearly 700 surviving, making it one of the most deadly peacetime maritime disasters in history.

One of the most famous stories of the Titanic is about the eight-member band that had assembled in the first-class lounge in an effort to keep passengers calm and upbeat, continuing to play music even when it became apparent the ship was going to sink.

There has been some argument about the last song played. None of the band members survived the sinking, so there has been much speculation about what their last song was. A first-class Canadian passenger, Mrs. Vera Dick, alleged that the final song played was the hymn "Nearer, My God, to Thee." But Walter Lord's book A Night to Remember popularized wireless operator Harold Bride’s account that he heard the song "Autumn."
It would be wonderful if it had been the hymn, since it represents what ones prayer should be in a time before death.

On Sept. 1, 1985, the wreck was found lying upright in two pieces on the ocean floor at a depth of about 13,000 feet 400 miles south of Newfoundland.

Actually, I had never researched much about the Titanic, until recently when I went to the Mineral Area College Fine Arts Theatre and heard adjunct professor Leigh Graf do a one-woman show entitled, “Sweet Kingwilliamstown.” The production was written, produced, and preformed by Graf based on the true events and word-for-word accounts in the disaster.

She created and developed her story around the lives of two people, Nora O’Leary and Daniel Buckley, but also plays four of the seven friends of Nora during the performance.

Graf’s monologue was based on things that would take place on board for these who were lowly third class passengers.

For more than an hour she kept me spellbound. She was flawless, not only with her Irish accent, but did not make one mistake in the recitation.

The performance was so realistic that she had me boarding the Titanic, sitting beside Nora, and communicating with her other friends, as Graf used various voice reflections to create one scene or go to another.

When the ill fated ship goes down, Graf had me swimming and crying for help as did so many that early morning.

Nora was picked up on lifeboat 13 and lives to tell the tragic story. She became a domestic in New York City. Upon returning to Ireland for a visit a few years later, she married Thomas J. Herlihy and then remained in Ireland where she raised her son and four daughters. She spent the remainder of her life in Ballydesmond where she died on May 18, 1975. She is buried in the parish churchyard just a few feet from fellow survivor, Daniel Buckley.

Like Nora O’Leary, I am glad I am a survivor.

I have traveled on nearly every type ship, plane or other transportation vehicles and still sing or pray for safety when I board.

Life is described as a journey here on earth that comes to a divide; one going one way and the other another. One is a broad way and many are traveling that way, and the other narrow with few going in that direction. Many believe the way most are going is the unsinkable way, but like the rich and famous or poor domestic’s on the Titanic who perished, we need to ask ourselves, “Will my spiritual ship float went I meet the Lord?”

Are you a survivor?

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead who were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works,”-- Revelation 20:12-13.