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All articles in category Historical

July 2018
Articles > Historical

The Haldane brothers and the quest for evangelical unity (1)

The remarkable Scottish brothers Robert and James Haldane lived at a time of significant spiritual awakening in Protestant churches in Britain. Born in the 1760s and converted in the 1790s, they ministered at a time when Protestant evangelicalism was expanding rapidly in the wake of the Great Awakening of the mid-eighteenth century. Both were actively involved in many of the evangelical enterprises that emerged in this period and characterised it. By any standard, the brothers are remarkable for what they were able to achieve in the course of their full and active lives. They were born (Robert in 1764, James in 1768) into a wealthy...

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July 2018
Articles > Historical

150 years of beach missions

In 1850 Llandudno was laid out as a watering-place for holiday-makers. 18 years later, on 26 August, a small man with thick black whiskers was sauntering along the beach. Heavy bathing machines were either standing or being dragged towards the sea by cart horses, as ladies were taking their dip in flouncing bathing gowns. Gentlemen were requested not to walk on that part of the promenade. The children were from wealthy backgrounds and, for most of them, church attendance and family prayers would have been normal. Josiah Spiers watched the children fetching pebbles and seaweed, when he thought, ‘Why not encourage the children to make...

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July 2018
Articles > Historical

Patrick Hamilton: first Scottish martyr of the Reformation (2)

The trial of Patrick Hamilton for ‘heresy’ took place in St Andrews Cathedral in Scotland on 29 February 1528. For an eye-witness description of the occasion, we are indebted to one Alexander Alane (Alesius) (1500-1565). Alane had previously spoken out against Lutheran teaching and consequently been sent by Archbishop Beaton to convince Hamilton of his errors. But it ended up with Hamilton converting Alane! Alane wrote: ‘I was myself an eye-witness of the tragedy, and heard him answering for his life to the charges of heresy which were laid against him: and he was so far from disowning them, that he defended and established them by...

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June 2018
Articles > Historical

Patrick Hamilton: first Scottish Reformation martyr (1)

St Andrews in Scotland is today famous for its golf course and the magnificent beach that featured in the film Chariots of Fire. Its university is famous as the place where Prince William and Kate Middleton met. In the sixteenth century, St Andrews was the seat of power for the Catholic church in Scotland and boasted the supposed relics of its patron saint, namely an arm, three fingers, a kneecap and a tooth! On the cobblestones near St Salvator’s College the initials ‘PH’ are engraved, and not far away the initials ‘GW’. These stand for Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart, and mark the places of...

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June 2018
Articles > Historical

Billy Graham: 1918 – 2018 Part Two: 1949–2018

Had Billy Graham’s life ended before September 1949, he would have died virtually unknown. But, the Christ for Greater Los Angeles rally changed all that. Billy called it a ‘watershed’. From the success of those meetings, Graham and the team embarked on more than a half century of ministry, bringing the gospel to more people in more nations than anyone in history. As well as some extraordinary success, the rest of Billy’s life includes controversy. Some critics said his ministry was ‘not of God’; some admirers seemed to disapprove of any criticism at all. A balanced approach is needed.1 Crusades ‘Crusade ministry’ would be Graham’s...

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May 2018
Articles > Historical

Billy Graham: 1918 – 2018 (part one 1918 – 1949)

Billy Graham’s death on 21 February brought to a close one of the most remarkable Christian lives of the 20th Century. In 1983, when US President Ronald Reagan presented the evangelist with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in America, he said, ‘His contribution to the wellbeing of the human race is literally immeasurable. The world is a better place because of Billy Graham’. While not everyone would agree with that assessment, in 2006, a year after his last crusade, Graham made it into Gallup’s annual list of the top ten most admired men in the world for the 50th time.1 Mr Graham...

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May 2018
Articles > Historical

Billy Bray (1794-1868)

There is a genre of Christian biography which delights in recording the doings and sayings of eccentric preachers, and William Trewartha Bray – Cornish miner and Methodist local preacher, small, spare and wiry of build – falls into that category. If his name is mentioned, most people know little if anything about him beyond the occasion when he said, ‘If they were to put me into a barrel, I would shout Glory! out of the bunghole’. There is, however, much more to this servant of God than some of his more remarkable sayings. He was born in 1794 near Truro, in Cornwall, at the village...

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May 2018
Articles > Historical

LETTER FROM AMERICA: Billy Graham and the American presidents

Often regarded as ‘America’s pastor’, Rev. Billy Graham was vastly influential in the United States and around the world as a minister and evangelist. Ever a simple and humble man, he was close friends with nearly every US president since Truman. Born in 1918, he was alive from the presidency of Woodrow Wilson to that of Donald Trump. Graham treated each president with transparency and grace. His goal was ‘to bring out the best in people, even presidents, because that tended to be all that he saw in them. Whatever faults they had, he would not be the one sitting in judgment’ (Time, 21 Feb....

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May 2018
Articles > Historical

The Reformed tradition on Israel is diverse

Is the Reformed tradition historically supersessionist? That is, have theologians following the Calvinist trajectory always taught that the church supersedes Israel without remainder, such that the non-Jesus-accepting people of Israel and that little territory on the Mediterranean are no longer theologically significant? One might think so. After all, John Calvin wrote that because the Jews did not ‘reciprocate’ as willing partners in God’s covenant, ‘they deserve to be repudiated’ (Institutes, 4.2.3). There is only one covenant for Calvin, so the new covenant did not replace the old; yet the church is the new recipient of the Old Testament promises made to Jewish Israel. There is...

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April 2018
Articles > Historical

David Brainerd

David Brainerd was born 300 years ago, on 20 April 1718, and died on 20 October 1747. His father was Hezekiah Brainerd and his mother Dorothy (née Mason). On his mother’s side, an impeccable pedigree of Puritan preachers both in England and New England, and a great uncle who had been Oliver Cromwell’s chief justice, brought prestige and distinction to the family. But it is the sixth of their nine children, David, who we remember. From his birthplace Haddam, in the Connecticut River Valley, David Brainerd’s life has shot a meteoric flame, the likes of which has seldom been known. In David Brainerd, servant of...

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April 2018
Articles > Historical

William Chalmers Burns (1815-1868)

A missionary in China was once asked if he knew a fellow-missionary by the name of William Burns. ‘Know him, sir? All China knows him; he is the holiest man alive’. Given that it is now 150 years since William Burns died, these words were spoken a long time ago. And certainly he has not been forgotten in the intervening period. But it is inevitable that to a growing number of Christians Burns should be a complete stranger, or, at best, a mere name. Inevitable, but regrettable; Burns for many reasons deserves still to be widely known. Kilsyth William Chalmers Burns was born in Dun,...

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April 2018
Articles > Historical

J C Ryle

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