Men of Borrowed Light

28 08 2007

As someone who only has 29 (ok nearly 30!) years of life tucked under their belt, I find that my hall of heroes from church history is constantly expanding – as I get to read more biography and theology. Five years ago as I commenced my pastoral ministry in Armagh I read Iain H. Murray’s Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years and was introduced to a way of thinking and ministering which I trust will stay with me for the rest of my service for God. Since then I’ve been privileged to read of, listen to, and in some cases meet, men and women of God who have blessed me, challenged me and given me a strong sense of inspiration to grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In these summer months as my time in Armagh has been drawing to a close I’ve been challenged by some other great lives in God’s work. Arnold’s Dallimore’s Spurgeon: A New Biography lifted the lid on the life of a man whose sermons have touched me deeply, as they have millions of others. David Fountain’s treatment of the life of EJ Poole Connor, Contending for the Faith, had likewise inspired me about the need to stand for the Lord (even if I didn’t agree with all of the author’s conclusions or assertions). Iain H. Murray’s The Forgotten Spurgeon deepened some of the tones and hues introduced by Dallimore and communicated a profound sense of what it means to truly minister and lead, even if all of society is out of joint with your message.

During these past couple of weeks I’ve been enjoying Andrew Bonar’s Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray M’Cheyne. M’Cheyne has transformed daily Bible reading for many believers including myself, but I find that I am sadly ignorant of the details of his short life. The memoir (particularly the sections lifted directly from M’Cheyne’s own journal) is moving me and helping me as Carolyn and I face a new sphere of ministry.

In terms of heroes, M’Cheyne provides a welcome perspective. There is a tendency in all of us to set men, and even eras of history, on such a pedestal that we find ourselves spiritually paralysed in our own here and now. A few nights ago I was blessed by M’Cheyne’s own reflections on reading the life of another great man of God. His journal entry for March 20th 1832 records these words:

“Read part of the life of Jonathan Edwards. How feeble does my spark of Christianity appear beside such a sun! But even his was a borrowed light, and the same source is still open to enlighten me.”

Here, surely, is the antidote to chronological and personal depression – to remember that our God and His grace are unchanged and unchanging. How I need to remember my own smallness in the shadow of great men who have served our Saviour in the past, but how I need to pray that the light which they borrowed, is still available today if only I would give myself more humbly, fully, and selflessly to God and His glory. I know that I will never be a fraction of the Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeons, M’Cheynes or Edwards of church history – but I can look up to their image in my hall of heroes and ask their God to maximise all of my paltriness for His honour.

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