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Forsaking All for Christ: a Biography of Henry Martyn

By B. V. Henry
August 2008 | Review by Ruth Burke
  • Publisher: Chapter Two
  • ISBN: 978-1853072291
  • Pages: 168
  • Price: £45.87
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Book Review

Henry Martyn was born in Cornwall in 1781. Soon after his conversion at Cambridge University, he became interested in the evangelisation of the Muslim world and it was to that work that he dedicated his life.

Following ordination, he spent five years in India working tirelessly for the gospel. Due to ill-health, he transferred to Persia in the hope that the climate would suit him better. He spent eighteen months working there. While travelling through Turkey, he died at the age of only thirty-one.

During his life he saw few come to faith in Christ, but he translated the New Testament into Urdu, Arabic and Persian, and inspired others to carry on the work in Muslim countries.

The author of this book is himself involved in missionary outreach among Muslim people, and his book is written very much from that perspective. He sets Martyn’s life and work in its historical, political, geographical and cultural context. The illustrations are mainly drawings and paintings of contemporary scenes and characters.

B. V. Henry, however, wants his work to do more than provide ‘a mere historical or biographical sketch’ – he aims to prod his readers into ‘personal reflection and self-examination’. Any study of the life of Henry Martyn must surely have this effect, and certainly the reader is struck by his devotion to Christ, personal holiness and self sacrifice.

The book also contains brief sketches of other characters associated with Martyn’s story, such as David Brainerd (his role model), Charles Simeon and William Carey.  It even sheds some light on the subject of his relationship with Lydia Grenfell.

An enormous amount of research has obviously gone into this book. The author states that he hopes it will prove suitable for use ‘in Bible and mission schools as a text book’. If I had any criticism at all, it would be that the large number of footnotes, end-notes and references in the body of the text can become slightly irritating to the ordinary reader.

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