Three Christian biographies that will inspire
Reading a Christian biography plunges us right into the life and legacy of great men and women who have already “run the race set before them.” Biographies inspire us to greater deeds in our own lives, or warn us away from dangerous spiritual pitfalls.
Here are three biographies of men who lived in each of the last three centuries. Two of them are autobiographical and have stood the test of time for several generations. The third contains biographical snippets written alongside the writings of a great preacher from the 20th century.
Out of the Depths: The Autobiography of John Newton Revised and Updated by Dennis R. Hillman (Kregel, $11, 160 pages). There has been a lot of interest in British reformer William Wilberforce this past year due to the movie Amazing Grace. Alongside interest in Wilberforce also came a rediscovery of his friend John Newton.
The classic hymn “Amazing Grace” written by Newton is immediately recognized by people, both inside and outside the church. The testimony of Newton’s conversion is a great story of God’s grace to preserve him from early death and to bring him to belief in the Gospel. Newton penned this account as a series of letters, and saw them published in 1764. Modern readers, especially those wanting to share this story with children, will appreciate the work of Dennis Hillman in updating the language and style. Let me encourage you to read through this short biography with your children, perhaps alongside teaching them some of Newton’s hymns.
John G. Paton: Missionary to the New Hebrides by John G. Paton (Banner of Truth, $24, 534 pages).
What would compel a Presbyterian Evangelical Calvinist Scotsman to travel across the globe to live in a land of cannibals? After all, when the first time missionaries came to the islands of the New Hebrides they were clubbed to death within minutes of landing.
The compulsion was the Gospel. John Paton could not get “the wail of the perishing heathen in the South Seas” out of his conscience. Having grown up in poverty, Paton had worked through a program of self-education, and in 1858 he left for the islands. Among various trials, he soon felt the pain of losing his wife and child to death. However, he kept his post, persevered under trial, and witnessed the Gospel penetrate into the hearts of the lost islanders.
This autobiography is a compelling account of his missionary experiences. It sold widely upon first publication, and has continued to be well-loved ever since.
In the Shadow of Grace: The Life and Meditations of G. Campbell Morgan by Richard, Howard, and John Morgan (Baker Books, $13, 144 pages).
For no particular reason that I can think of, one of the first Christian biographies I remember reading was A Man of the Word: Life of G. Campbell Morgan, written by his daughter-in-law Jill Morgan. I remember greatly enjoying the story of the “Prince of Expositors,” and wanting to also “Preach the Word in season and out” as Morgan did. Billy Graham said of Morgan, “I always considered G. Campbell Morgan one of the greatest Bible expositors of his generation.”
Here is a new volume on Morgan, compiled by his descendants. It brings us some previously unpublished writings dealing with the theme of difficulties in life. In creative fashion, the material is interwoven with biographical information from Morgan’s own life, showing that he had firsthand knowledge of trials.
This is a slim volume, so it is not the place to start in your reading on the life of Morgan. However, if you are already a fan, this will add to your comprehension of the man. Plus, the book gives much on which to ponder regarding death, illness, and tragedy – a quick but compelling book.