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The fellowship of the dead

Posted by on 11 September, 2012 in Australian History, Biography, Church History | 4 Comments

I wonder if any genre has so much to offer the believer as biography. There is wonderful fellowship to be had among those whose lives ended even before ours began.

Muster of the dead

Hundreds of lives have been recorded. People whose faith and joy in God changed our nation and our world. Key figures in Australian history include F. W. Boreham, Lionel B. Fletcher, John G. Ridley (though I’ve yet to find a full biography published for him), T. C. Hammond, Archbishop Mowll, A. W. Pink, John G. Paton, Robert Harkness, Paul White, Leon Morris, etc.

Those with significant, but less direct, connection to Australia include Charles Alexander, J. Wilbur Chapman, R. A. Torrey, Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, Thomas Spurgeon, Gipsy Smith, Henry Varlay, George Muller, J. Sidlow Baxter, etc.

Other key figures worthy of your attention include Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Jim Elliot, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley, John Wesley, Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, Adoniram Judson, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Newton, William Carey, William Wilberforce, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, etc.

No doubt many others could be added to this list… please feel free to do so in comments. But first, allow me to whet your appetite with a brief biographical tidbit from the life—or should I say death—of Jonathan Edwards.

Oh, that we may kiss the rod

The Rev. Aaron Burr served as the second president of Princeton University. When he died in 1757, his father-in-law, Jonathan Edwards was chosen to replace him as the third president of Princeton University. Edwards left his family to follow later and went to Princeton alone. He served in his new role for just five weeks before smallpox tragically ended his career.

Edwards’ wife, Sarah, was notified of his death by a letter sent from his doctor. On receiving the letter, Sarah wrote to her recently widowed, and now fatherless, daughter (Mrs. Burr) at Princeton.

My very dear Child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud! Oh, that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives; and He has my heart. Oh, what a legacy my husband and your father left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother,

Sarah Edwards

Wow. What a faith. What a God!

Grace to you.

About Jason Harris

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Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, and accounting and is currently a research student and lecturer in the School of Business at James Cook University, Cairns. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

Comments (4)

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  • avatar

    Elizabeth

    So true Jason.

    I picked up an Amy Carmichael biography not long ago from a second-hand bookstore in the city. It was horrifying to read about all her experiences in India trying to save those temple children.

    But encouraging to read about someone willing to give up their life in the service of others, especially mistreated orphans, for His name.

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    Carmichael is one biography I have never read. It really should be high on my list because she was one of the dominating inspirations to Jim Elliot who’s life has affected mine profoundly. Thanks for adding her name to my list!

  • avatar

    Jeremy Crooks

    Thanks Jason.

    Most of these dead people seem to have lived quite a long time ago. Do you have any recommendations for people who have been dead for less than 20 years? I would love to read about some people who were alive at the same time I have been too.

  • avatar

    Jason Harris

    Leon Morris died in recent decades. I’m not sure about Paul White. And of course Billy Graham is still alive. The other recent one is Jim Elliot who would likely still be alive today had he not died in the manner he did (his wife is still alive).

    Otherwise, I suppose we tend to wait a while so they become less controversial… (that’s a whole ‘nother post!).

    I know John MacArthur (still living) has a biography written about him (by Iain Murray I think??). Bob Jones, Jr. (death c. 1990) has a biography in print. John Vaughn (still living) has one in print. Phil Pinero (still living) has one in print I believe. Don Carson wrote a biography of his father that’s reviewed on this site somewhere. C. S. Lewis has an autobiography in print (death 1963). Um… I’m not sure, but I suspect there are biographies in print for D. Martin Lloyd Jones, J. I. Packer (still living), John Stott (death c. 2011), etc.

    Unfortunately, I’m still busy reading the old classics to explore the more recent guys as much as I’d like.

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