Robert Chapman: Apostle of Love
Robert L Peterson
Lewis and Roth Publishers
210pages, £4.64 (Kindle edition)
Star rating: 4 stars
A letter from overseas was once addressed simply to ‘R C Chapman, University of Love, England’; yet so well known was its intended recipient and his reputation that it was correctly delivered to Robert Chapman, the Pastor of an Assembly of Christians in Barnstaple, Devon. Charles Spurgeon once described him as ‘the saintliest man I ever knew’.
This self-effacing, humble man rubbed shoulders with and was consulted by the likes of Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor, J N Darby, George Muller and even Gladstone, the Prime Minister, yet was always reluctant to see his own name in print lest it draw attention to himself and detract from the Bible and the Lord. Raised in a wealthy family and educationally privileged, Chapman became a prosperous lawyer, only to give it all up soon after his conversion and adopt a simple lifestyle as a Pastor in a deprived area of Barnstaple where he served the cause of the Gospel for seventy years, still preaching in his ninety eighth year and enjoying remarkably good health.
Chapman was one of the leading lights of the early days of the Brethren Movement, deeply grieved by the splits that occurred under the influence of men like Darby. As well as faithfully pastoring his own congregation and showing remarkable grace towards those who opposed him, he had a deep burden for Gospel work in Spain and Ireland and was a lifelong adviser to and supporter of Hudson Taylor’s CIM. Chapman undertook three lengthy journeys in Spain and one in Ireland, covering the vast majority of the ground by foot so that he would have maximum opportunities to speak personally to people about his Saviour.
From the beginning of his ministry, Robert Chapman wanted his home used as a spiritual retreat for Christian workers and this ministry was used to the blessing of many. A lifelong single man, Chapman exercised great practical and spiritual hospitality to all his guests, even insisting on cleaning their shoes each evening; the nearest expression he could find of washing their feet. Chapman was a man of strict personal discipline; even in his nineties rising at 3am in the morning for extended times of personal devotions and physical exercise.
This is a fascinating and inspiring account of a little known saintly man and provides some interesting insights into the churches of the 19th century and the growth of the Brethren movement. You can’t read this and fail to be humbled by the example of such a Christ-like man while, at the same time, being drawn afresh to the Christ he served so selflessly and faithfully for so many years.