Bitesize Biographies is an easy-to-read and simple-to digest series that looks at both well-known and lesser-known people from Christian history ranging from the early Church Fathers to the late twentieth century. This collection examines the lives of seven key figures: John Chrysostom, Thomas Cranmer, Matthew Henry, John Knox, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Francis Schaeffer, and Augustus Toplady. Discover how these godly men came to the faith, what their spiritual struggles were, and how they impacted the Christian church.
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John Chrysostom could perhaps be called an enigma of his day. He had neither desire for politics nor ambition for ecclesiastical advancement. He preferred to live the simple life of an ascetic and had no cravings for the fame, riches, or luxuries that came with life in the metropolitan cities of his day. However, in God’s great providence, he is now recognized as one of the doctors of the church. What has made him so revered and remembered?
In this short biography, Earl Blackburn examines the life and times of this great preacher who has left such a mark upon the Christian church to this day.
This is truly a charming, informative, and inspiring book. Blackburn, as an experienced pastor himself, has sought out those aspects of Chrysostom’s ministry that show the strengths—courage, humility, faithfulness, doctrinal integrity, confidence in the power of proclamation—that every pastor should covet, while pointing to the weaknesses and troubles endemic to the historical context of bishop John. I found not only the subject, but the style of presenting it, to be engaging and provocative of high thoughts.
—Tom J. Nettles, professor of church history, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
This biographical treatment, far from being a dry and aloof account of an obscure figure, is delightful and engaging. My old friend, Earl Blackburn, has succeeded in introducing and endearing me to my new friend, John Chrysostom.
—Arden Hodgins, pastor, Trinity Reformed Baptist Church, La Mirada, CA
Earl Blackburn has served as a church-planter and pastor in the ordained ministry for over 35 years and has traveled extensively preaching in pastors’ conferences in Europe, Africa, and Asia. He is the author of Jesus Loves the Church and So Should You: Studies in Biblical Churchmanship and contributor to Denominations or Associations. He currently serves as a pastor at Heritage Baptist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Thomas Cranmer, one of the Reformation’s most famous martyrs, can accurately be described as the architect of the Church of England, and consequently, of the worldwide Anglican communion. Despite this, compared with other key figures of the Reformation, little has been written about him in recent years.
This omission is both remarkable and understandable: remarkable, because undoubtedly Cranmer’s involvement in England’s break with the historic Roman Church was crucial—a break which formed the foundation for the freedom of the gospel in England for the next 450 years; understandable, because his was no dramatic conversion loved by story tellers—rather he undertook a life-time journey away from the Roman sacramental system to an understanding that heaven was the gift of God to all those whom he loves. And, despite the fact that we are all fallen men and women, we so often want to see our heroes as giants, able to cope with every situation life throws at them without faltering—Cranmer was not such a man.
This book looks to assess his life from the perspective of a twenty-first-century evangelical Christian—that is someone who accepts the Bible as the final authority on what God requires of men and women in this life. It is a term that Cranmer, as he neared his famous, dreadful, and glorious end, would have been happy to have applied to himself.
Colin Hamer is currently chairman of a charity that works with the homeless and other vulnerable groups. Following his graduation from Liverpool University in 1972, he spent a short time teaching before he pursued a business career that has lasted 25 years. He has been an elder at Grace Baptist Church, Astley, Manchester, for 20 years.
The name of Matthew Henry will always be associated with his famous commentary. All over the world there are Christians who still appreciate the value of his work. For 300 years his exposition of the biblical text, devotional comments, practical wisdom, warm theology, and helpful insights have been of immense value to Christians both in their private devotions and family worship. Preachers and teachers of God’s Word have also found his work a useful tool in the preparation of their sermons and Scripture lessons. Matthew Henry died at age 51, greatly respected during his life for his preaching, wise counsel, and published works. Since then, his catechism and advice on prayer—as well as his popular commentary—have been a source of spiritual nourishment to many.
Philip Eveson is a Welshman who has studied biblical languages and theology at the University of Wales, Cambridge, and London. He has been the minister of Kensit Evangelical Church for 25 years and is former principal of the London Theological Seminary, where he had lectured since its inception.
As well as modeling the Church in Scotland, John Knox laid the foundation of an extraordinary forward-looking new state—way ahead of the time in such matters as education, social welfare, and democracy. The Reformation had its effect in all spheres of national life. Knox roused the common man to a sense of his true dignity. He said, “Before God all men are equal. In matters of religion God requires no less of the subject, be he ever so poor, than of the prince and the rich man.”
Educationally, the Reformation gave a great impetus to literacy as the common people learned to read the Bible for themselves. Knox brought forward the first comprehensive scheme of national education, where every parish would have a schoolmaster and every notable town a college, and where the children of the poor would have their education free. The importance of education became a basic characteristic of the Scots both at home and abroad.
This short biography is the ‘essential’ John Knox with all his passion, power, and devotion to Christ. It is Knox at his pithy best without the frills and distractions. We are all indebted to John J. Murray for distilling the Scots Reformer into an intoxicating elixir. This appetizer that will no doubt tantalize readers to further feast on the whole of the life and works of John Knox.
—Dale Walden Johnson, professor of church history, Erskine Theological Seminary
John J. Murray served as a pastor at Oban Free Church (1978–1989) and Edinburgh Free Church (1989–2002). He was also assistant editor of Banner of Truth Magazine.
Unexpected? Yes. Unwelcome? Certainly, for Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones was dismayed by what was happening.
The date was the December 14, 1926, and the national newspapers were using startling headlines concerning him: “Harley Street Doctor to Become a Minister” and “Leading Doctor Turns Pastor.” For two days, Lloyd-Jones’ family home in London was besieged by newspaper reporters who all waited in vain to interview him. Lloyd-Jones even refused to pose for a photograph. There were good reasons for his negative response. He was essentially a shy man and disliked the publicity intensely. But more to the point, he had not yet informed his employers at the hospital of his decision to leave medicine to become a church pastor—and they were not pleased to hear the news first from the newspapers.
There was a deeper reason for Lloyd-Jones’ dismay at this unexpected publicity. For him, the newspapers could not understand why he was leaving the medical profession, especially when he was set for a brilliant medical career and at only 26 years of age. The press was only interested in news, and the more sensational it was, the better. However, the living God had been dealing with Lloyd-Jones and he felt an irresistible call from heaven to preach the gospel of Christ.
Every Christian should know more about the life and ministry of Dr.D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Whether you have a slight acquaintance or have read the official two volumes of his life there are still important insights and practical lessons to be gained from reading the observations of those who knew and loved him for many years. No other man equaled Dr. Lloyd-Jones in a recognized command of the situation. There is the fascination of the great adventure he set out on when he left his medical career in London to become a preacher in Aberavon. There are the books and the recordings of his preaching which evidence his remarkable clarity and warm cogency, his unswerving loyalty to Christ, his undaunted courage. A profitable couple of hours lie before anyone reading Dr. Eryl Davies’ study of this admirable man.
—Geoff Thomas, pastor, Alfred Place Baptist Church, Aberystwyth, Wales
Eryl Davies is research supervisor at WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology) where he was principal and lecturer from 1985 until 2006, and is an elder in the Heath Evangelical Church, Cardiff. He has written many books and papers, such as Heaven Is a Far Better Place, Human Cloning and Truth under Attack.
When Francis Schaeffer was converted to faith in Christ he at first refused to call himself a Christian because he thought Christianity was the “unreal stuff” he had experienced at church. What he discovered was a whole new way of life. From then on his great desire and commitment was to tell others about God, that the Bible is true, and that it answers the big questions of life that philosophy can only raise.
Schaeffer trained for the ministry and was sent, with his wife Edith, to Europe. They established child evangelism work and he developed a profound understanding of contemporary culture and the state of the church. He experienced a spiritual crisis which made faith and prayer more real to him, and founded the L’Abri Fellowship. Here, thousands of people have heard about the God who is creator and savior. In his last decade, Schaeffer became famous for his Christian film series and his anti-abortion stance.
As Mostyn Roberts reviews the life of this man of God, variously called a prophet for his prescient analysis of trends in culture that explain where we are today, an apologist, and even a philosopher, he shows us that fundamentally Schaeffer rejoiced, to the end, in being a pastor and evangelist.
Francis Schaeffer . . . is arguably one of the five most important evangelical leaders of the second half of the twentieth century. This brief but excellent summary of his life and ideas is a helpful reminder of his importance. As a genuine prophet, Schaeffer’s assessment of our times and of what we should be doing about them is, if anything, more relevant today than when he first wrote.
—Ronald Macaulay, founder and director, Christian Heritage
This is a masterful introduction to Francis Schaeffer. In one concise summary you get both the biographical outline as well as a comprehensive overview of the ideas that this remarkable man communicated and lived out. My hope is that Mostyn Roberts’ book will enable a present generation of Christians to grasp these vitally needed truths.
—Andrew Fellows, director, English L’Abri Fellowship
Mostyn Roberts has been the pastor of Welwyn Evangelical Church in Hertfordshire since 1998 and has taught systematic theology at London Theological Seminary since 2002.
What is one to make of a man described as ‘strangely compounded, peculiarly constituted, and oddly framed’? It conjures up in the mind an image of Stevenson’s Mr. Hyde, or Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Hugo’s Quasimodo. But such is J. C. Ryle’s (1816–1900) description of Augustus Montague Toplady (1740–1778), author of what has been called the best-loved English hymn.
One wonders why someone would bother writing a biography—or reading one—about a strange, peculiar, odd person. Nevertheless, Ryle declared that no account of Christianity in England in the eighteenth century would be complete without featuring remarkable Toplady.
Douglas Bond is the head of the English Department at Covenant High School in Tacoma, Washington. He holds degrees in education and history from St. Martin’s University, and a preliminary certificate in theology from Moore Theological College in Australia. Bond has written numerous works of fiction, many of them for young people.