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Confessions of a Biographile II

The Necessity of Biographies

I would urge you, my friends, to read biographies of choice servants of God. I do not think it is a stretch to use Hebrews 6:12 in support of this appeal: imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. My own love/hate relationship with biographies has been recorded in several entries in my private journal. Recently I read some of these entries and decided to share them (with some editing) in the hope that God would impress upon your hearts the need to study the men and women who have gone on before us. Now for the next entry:


My calloused and cold soul must be pricked many times in many ways before the sharp siphon finds life. And then it is hardly enough to maintain the faintest heartbeat for God. Why is it that my soul can only stand back at a distance from the great company of men that truly knew God? If I strain my eye I can see them far, far away, barely recognizable, but distinct as great men with great faith. How come they seem so foreign to me? They are so far beyond me. And if I ever am able to get close enough to them through the medium of their biographies and writings to hear their beating hearts my suddenly enlarged soul shrinks back in shame. I feel like I am trampling in the courts of God. I defile the holy place by audaciously allowing a sense of affinity. I cannot bear to stand in the arena of my study with this great cloud of witnesses looking down on me from my shelves. I plead grace as my excuse. Grace is why I am here.

Mr. Spurgeon, Mr. Carey, Mr. Brainerd, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Bonar, Mr. Rainesford, Mr. McCheyne, Mr. Martyn: I would beg your forgiveness for vicariously entering into a spiritual hunger and thirst after righteousness by pondering your words and your lives. But once in the thrall of hunger and thirst for righteousness, once with the glorious fullness of God, once broken in my appeal for communion, you fade. I am no longer aware of you. I thought I was hanging on to your coattails. I wasn’t. I was groping for your God. The Common Denominator among you mediates between me and your God – the man Christ Jesus. And, like the poor woman in the press of the crowd, I have stretched myself out as much as I can to touch the fringe of His robe knowing that a touch, and only a touch, will fill my soul. Sirs, I am not hanging on to your coattails. I am hanging on to your Lord. I shall never have the great influence that you have had. I mourn the lack of education that you have had. I lack the spiritual and mental prowess that each of you possessed. But I can love Jesus as you did. I can bow my knees as you did. For the thing that you and I have in common is the only thing that makes all the difference: the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Today I read Murray’s Spurgeon v. the Hyper-Calvinists and from The Life and Diary of David Brainerd.

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