Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Wong Ming-Dao

What a remarkable character! I've just finished reading his autobiography 'A Stone Made Smooth' which tells the story of the first 50 years of his life. He didn't have an easy childhood - his father committed suicide shortly before he was born, leaving a family struggling with poverty. He was converted at the young age of 14 but walked a rocky spiritual path before coming to a more settled doctrinal position. Once he began preaching he proved to be a powerful but uncompromising teacher, and therefore gained for himself many enemies...
"Why did I encounter opposition? Apart from the fact that I rebuked prevalent sins both in the world and in the church, and that I opposed not only false prophets but also the apostate teachings of modernist, there was another reason. It was that I opposed all traditions in the church that did not harmonize with Scripture. There are some believers who regard these traditions as equal authority to the Scriptures... I cared not about how many truths some preachers had uprooted from the Bible, nor how many traditions had been added by others, whatever I found in the Bible I accepted - no less and no more. It was not surprising therefore that certain believers both misunderstood me and opposed me."
He has much to say to those in Church leadership positions, but also speaks of day to day difficulties in walking the Christian life. I found him at times to sound harsh and unloving, but I suspect that some warmth is lost in translation. Overall, a fascinating read, but I would like to know more about his subsequent imprisonment which lasted 23 years and his continued ministry in Peking after his release at nearly 80 years of age.
A Stone Made Smooth by Wong Ming-Dao, published by Berean, £5.95

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Did you know...?

In the time of Calvin, some people named their dog 'Calvin' to show how much they despised the Reformer!
Taken from John Calvin, by Simonetta Carr (see post 07/07/09)

Thursday, 9 July 2009

John Ashworth

It was a pleasant surprise to read about John Ashworth in the Banner of Truth magazine for this month. I am referring both to this man from C19th Rochdale himself as well as his autobiography 'Life and Strange Tales'. Alun McNabb had clearly been bowled over by reading about him. In his address to the Leicester Ministers' Conference 2009 he is quoted as going so far as to say 'how this generation of preachers would profit from feeding on such a book'[!] What not many people might know is that the book which Alun had been reading was a Gospel Tidings publication, which in crude terms means us. Yes, us here! Gospel Tidings began as the brainchild of Leslie Rowell (he deserves a biography) in 1965. A magazine was started which finally ceased only last year, but in the late 1960s and early 1970s an absolute rash of books got published, despite financial hardships. I know this for sure because my Dad was part of all that. He did the distribution side of things. This has continued to the present day, now via the Bookshop. Leslie Rowell was himself struck by reading John Ashworth when a pastor of Hope Chapel, Rochdale, and thought it worth bringing back out of obscurity. The original autobiography ran to 4 vols, but he creamed off the best into a single hardback. This was in 1972, and that book itself has now become like snow in the Sahara. So this is why Alun McNabb with Phil Roberts at Tentmaker Publications have got together to reproduce the Gospel Tidings edition (with our full co-operation). Phil tells me that he will very likely do a hardback run, but that to make it easily affordable it will be mainly available in paperback.
Another striking Rochdale character around the same time was another John - John Kershaw. Gospel Tidings also reprinted his autobiography in 1968, and it has sold so well over the years that we still have stock of a re-reprinted edition. It is a hardback (£9.95). Kershaw was staunchly free grace, unlike Ashworth actually. He became a Strict Baptist minister and his congregation built Hope Chapel - yes, the place where Leslie Rowell was to come a century later!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Calvin Anniversary

This tremendously refreshing book about Calvin is an introduction aimed at youngsters (6-11yrs) and produced with great quality. Simonetta Carr intends this to be the first in a series about famous figures from Church History. She has come up with a winning combination in getting the artwork done by a real artist. There is a lovely original watercolour and many full page black & white drawings often betraying a certain whimsical humour. A map, timeline and some historical titbits give further aid to understanding Calvin's life and thought.
It has already been well reviewed in the GS magazine.
John Calvin, by Simonetta Carr, published by RHB h/b, £10

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Mr Pipes and the British Hymn Makers

There are a few 'Mr Pipes' books around, but this is the first time I have properly looked at one. Mr Pipes is a fictional character, an older Christian who befriends a couple of American children on 'vacation' in Olney, Buckinghamshire. Through a series of daytrips Mr Pipes introduces them to the joys of sailing, horseriding, pipe organs, birdwatching, and many other thoroughly British activities, all the while teaching them about many of the well-known British hymnwriters. The fiction flows well, the biographical sections are fascinating, and the spiritual content of the hymns is not ignored but rather explained and applied. I like the style. Before I started reading I didn't quite expect an American author to write that well about British hymnwriters, but I actually think Douglas Bond has a good grasp of British culture, history and phraseology. The only slip-up I have found so far is that he thinks the Brits have cream in tea (as in cup of tea). Yuk!
Hymnwriters included are: Thomas Ken, Isaac Watts, Charles Wesley, William Williams, John Newton, William Cowper, Augustus Toplady and Thomas Kelly. There are also chapters on Scottish Hymnwriters, Anglican Hymnwriters and Women Hymnwriters. A bonus is that the written music is included for the hymns that are quoted in full.

Mr Pipes and the British Hymn Makers, by Douglas Bond, £9.95. Written for 9-12yr olds. Recommended.