Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Biography of Robert Chapman

Just submitted to Scripture Forum. A while ago the Moderating Committee there graciously invited me to contribute book reviews to their forum. I have not been very faithful in contributing, but I hope to change that in the future.

Title: Robert Chapman
Author: Robert L. Peterson


Having wakened from whatever sleep I had last night with an obtrusive head cold, I took a sick day and settled down with this delightful biography of a delightful man.

In reading this book I encountered a remarkable servant of Christ. Robert Chapman (1803-1902) enjoyed a comfortable and cultured upbringing, but was converted to Christ in 1823. At the time of his conversion he held a promising career in law; after his conversion his business became “to love others and not to seek that others shall love me,” (p.13). He responded to criticism of his early preaching attempts by saying “There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ,” (p.29, original emphasis). Page after page reveals that this is exactly what he did.

The book records his tireless efforts in the gospel in Barnstaple, England, as well as his four missionary trips into Spain and his tour through Ireland on foot. We learn of his missionary zeal, financial dependence on the Lord, life of simplicity, and ministry of hospitality.

Of interest to many will be the accounts of his interactions with other leaders in the early Brethren movement. Darby could say of Chapman “He lives what I teach.” And again: “We talk of the heavenlies, but Robert Chapman lives in them,” (p.114). One thing that struck me was Chapman’s hospitality, a characteristic rarely associated with those who remain unmarried. He was “a missionary to missionaries” and many of God’s people found themselves refreshed and encouraged in his home.

Peterson writes as a careful and skillful biographer. He is careful by being well-researched, and by remembering that his subject had faults, even though, as in Joseph’s case, one must struggle to find them; He is skillful by organizing his material both chronologically and thematically.

Both Chapman and, it would seem, his biographer held more open views of reception than readers of this Forum would. But Chapman’s passion for unity—which lay behind his views on reception—is still good for us to hear. It should also be pointed out that Peterson does not have as much difficulty finding faults in Darby’s life as he does in Chapman’s; whether or not his criticisms of Darby are justifiable is a matter I am not qualified to judge.

Nevertheless, let us obey the command of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:29 (“honor such men”) by reading this biography. I recommend it to every Christian, especially to young men and women. In a day where Christian role models are those who show up at meeting nine times out of ten, we young people desperately need Christian biography of this calibre. Within these pages we shall discover the key not only to individual spiritual renewal, but to revitalization of our assemblies as well. Robert Chapman may have died over a century ago, but through this biography his love, life, and hospitality have today ministered to a worn-out Christian’s physical and spiritual needs one more time. May it not be the last time.

Resource Details

Number of Pages: 210
Publisher: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc.
Publication Date: 1995
ISBN: 0-87213-691-4


John Kim said...

Sounds good. What's the title of the book again?

MJK said...

Hi john kim. The book is simply called "Robert Chapman." Check it out on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Robert-Chapman-L-Peterson/dp/0872136914/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/002-5974016-3092806?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187794854&sr=8-1

God bless you with your blogging,