My reading of this book reminded me of the prophecy of Daniel – ‘Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever’ (Daniel 12:3). The author selects people who once spread gospel light throughout Britain and were luminaries in the history of the church.
He chooses Aidan and the legacy of Lindisfarne as his starting point, and then proceeds with biographical sketches of John Wycliffe and the early Lollards, Thomas Bilney, George Whitefield and William Wilberforce.
Under the title Let God arise an implicit appeal is made to the Head of the church to raise up Spirit-anointed leaders in our day, whose lives and ministry may similarly impact the nations.
Sir Marcus Loane, previously Primate of Australia, condenses his subject matter into quite brief and readable chapters, but he is not deeply analytical. Perhaps he is content to whet the appetite for further reading and fuller examination of these ‘landmarks in church history’.
The penultimate chapter is considerably longer than the previous ones, and introduces J. B. Lightfoot and New Testament scholarship. I found it hard to wade through the mass of detail, some of which did not seem very significant or harmonise too well with the preceding subject matter.
So it was a relief to reach the Appendix in which the real heartbeat of the author is detected in his appreciation of Elizabeth Clephane and her hymns. Anyone who appreciates the rich thought of her most famous hymn, ‘Beneath the cross of Jesus’, deserves to be read with appreciation.
Perhaps this little volume will stimulate readers to pray that the message of ‘Christ and him crucified’ will again impact church and national life as illustrated in this paperback. The dark days through which we are now passing cry out for those who will lead many to righteousness and will shine like the stars.
Clearly, the author and publishers desire this, and have expressed it in the introductory text: ‘We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us what you did in their days, in days long ago’ (Psalm 44:1).