Libraries at historic locations can be wonderful experiences. Last month, Sharon and I were at a library in New England where we were able to hold in our hands some very rare Bibles.
One Bible was a gift that Mrs. C. H. Surgeon gave to Dwight L. Moody. She stated in a note in the front of her husband’s Bible that she was giving Moody this treasure because she was confident he would preach the gospel. What a powerful testimony about Moody’s ministry of preaching and leading people to Christ.
The Bible contained the margin markings by the great scholar and orator, C. H. Spurgeon. You could tell how he had meticulously read through the Scripture and, using his own style, cross-referenced key passages and themes.
I looked at Sharon and my host, Mark Ballard, president of Northeast Baptist College in Bennington, Vt., in amazement as to what I was holding in my hands. Then I turned and said to the archivist, “Do you know what you have here? There are institutions that desperately want this Bible in their collection.” He just smiled.
My immediate thoughts were of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. That collection is absolutely incredible. Anyone who knows anything about Spurgeon would be remiss not to schedule a group or private tour with the seminary staff.
The second Bible Sharon and I saw is called the “Signature Bible.” The man who originally owned the Bible acquired the signatures of great preachers of the Word and dignitaries that spoke at the 10-day Bible Conferences Moody hosted in Northfield, Mass., the town of his birth.
The conferences, where as many as 12,000 people attended, were initiated in 1880 with an attendance of 350. The conference grew and by the 1920’s reached its largest number of participants, although it began to decline in the 1930’s.
By the way, Moody started two schools near Northfield, one for girls and other, a few miles away, the Mount Herman School for Boys. Moody’s goal was to provide the best possible education for young people without privilege, and he enrolled students whose parents were slaves as well as Native Americans and people from other countries. This was unprecedented among elite private schools at that time. Much like Missouri Baptists, Moody viewed Christian religious education as an essential mission of the schools.
I held the “Signature Bible” in my hands and looked at the distinguished autographs of great lights of the past. My mind raced through American history as I saw the signatures of former Presidents of the United States, such as Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. While they added stature to the group of signatories, I was much more interested in the Who’s Who of Christian leaders of a bygone day.
The archivist handed me a list of all the speakers for the conferences. Some of the names included: Charles M. Alexander, Henry Ward Beecher, John A. Broadus, George Buttrick, Samuel Chadwick, James M. Gray, W. H. Griffith-Thomas, Sam Jones, Harry Fosdick, Fanny Crosby, Alexander MacKenzie, F.B. Meyer, G. Campbell Morgan, E. Y. Mullins, Andrew Murray, George C. Needham, C.I. Scofield, Ira Sankey, A. T. Robertson, A. T. Pierson, Ruth Paxson, J. Hudson Taylor, R. A. Torrey, Henry Clay Trumbull and the list goes on for two single-spaced pages. I spotted most their signatures in the blank pages of the “Signature Bible.”
Amazing collection! I thought, “I have many books written by these Christian leaders of the past. I have read their sermons and teachings.” The ministry that many of us have today is because of these leaders of the past and we stand on their shoulders to teach and preach the Word of God.
Take time today to remember those who taught you and mentored you to walk with the Lord in a relationship of faith guided by the Word of God. The person who comes to mind may be your parents or a Sunday School teacher or a pastor or just that person who lived the life of faith as a testimony for you. How about jotting them a note of thanks.
We also stand free today because of those who may not have preached behind a sacred desk or written a book, but they served and some spilled their blood and died protecting our precious freedoms, especially religious liberty from the political zealots of the past and present on foreign and domestic soil. Find a former or active military person and express your gratitude. The upcoming Memorial Day holiday is to remember the shoulders we stand on today.