Brian Clatworthy, Newton Abbot, Devon, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
‘Where there are not faithful ministers of the word of God, the people decay’, Prov. 29. 18 GNV
The background to the biblical text quoted is likely to have been Exodus chapter 32 verses 25-26, where Moses calls upon the people of God to break away from spiritually wrong practices and show their faithfulness and loyalty to the Lord, and to His word. In 1945, a small group of believers were similarly exercised in what they perceived at the time as the pressing need to re-affirm New Testament Church principles in the assemblies.
Leading this group of concerned believers was Charles Gahan, a peripatetic evangelist and Bible teacher, who, along with others, met at a conference in Taunton, Somerset to determine the way forward. The decision that these brethren came to was to publish a new magazine, entitled Precious Seed, which first appeared in print in September 1945. Later, in an editorial in 1954, Charles Gahan gave a brief resume in retrospect as to how the magazine had come into existence and its raison d’être. He stated, amongst other things, that:
‘To launch a new magazine during the difficult closing days of the Second World War was no small undertaking, and it was only under a deep sense of urgency and responsibility that we ventured to do so . . . and a number of brethren from various parts of England reached the unanimous conclusion that the situation called for wider systematic instruction in Scriptural principles of gathering, and the encouragement of greater interest in the work carried on in connection with such gatherings. It was the considered opinion of these brethren that the need could best be met by publishing an attractive magazine containing sound exposition of New Testament principles of worship and service, together with reliable information of evangelistic work carried on inconnection with the assemblies of the Lord’s people . . . In view of this, and all the circumstances of the case, they were satisfied that a magazine with these special objects in view was amply justified. Precious Seed, therefore, was born out of the deep conviction that the great need of the moment was a reaffirmation of the vital importance of New Testament Church principles in assembly life and service’.1
It seems, as well, that the ethos of the new magazine would be to encourage individual study of the scriptures so that, paraphrasing Luke chapter 1 verse 4, ‘their readers might be certain about the things that they had been taught’.
Inevitably, when something new appears, there will always be those who are quick to judge motives, and Charles Gahan knew what it meant to endure the slings and arrows of criticism. He was a man, however, of great conviction and resilience, as evident from the fact that he had once been imprisoned for being a conscientious objector during the First World War. Surprisingly, one of the major critics of the new magazine was the then editor of The Harvester, Frederick Tatford, who insisted that there was no need to produce a new magazine as it would simply be a duplication of the objectives of that magazine. It is clear, though, from the comments of Tim Grass that, ‘the difference between the two publications is immediately evident, and this appears to have been one of those occasions where Tatford’s irritation got the better of his editorial judgment’.2
Undaunted, Charles Gahan continued to be involved with the work of the magazine as Secretary and Chairman of the Committee for over 27 years. In that period of time circulation increased exponentially until it peaked at over 20,000 copies per issue. Although the original intention of the first Committee overseeing this work was that it would primarily be for distribution in the South West of England and South Wales, it soon circulated throughout the United Kingdom, and the regions beyond. Today, the magazine has been rebranded ‘International’, which is a measure of how well respected it is throughout the English speaking world. The magazine has run continuously since 1945, and this year marks the seventieth anniversary of its publication. Although it has undergone certain changes over the years, it has never lost the vision that Charles Gahan et al articulated at the outset of their endeavours.
Charles Gahan was born in Liverpool in 1895, but spent most of his service for the Lord in the Barking area of London, and South West England. He devoted his energies to evangelism, and the teaching of the word of God. Through his pioneer work, especially in Open Air activity, including the use of a Gospel Caravan, and Tent Missions, many individuals were saved, and a number of assemblies were established following these different forms of outreach. There are still individuals alive today (one in the writer’s own assembly) who owe much to his pastoral care and words of encouragement. During his lifetime he wrote a number of excellent articles for Precious Seed, which can still be read online. Here is a an example of both his spiritual and judicious insight as he handled the difficult subject of ‘election’ in Ephesians chapter 2 verses 21-22, ‘It is the Habitation of His Choice. The Church, the habitation of God, is a chosen Church and its members are a chosen people. The New Testament word for this doctrine is the word “elect” or “election”, and few words have given rise to more heart-burnings than these. Nevertheless, it would be foolish to allow this to hide its importance from our view; as we are at present constituted we can only know a part of God’s ways. To us there may seem to be strange discrepancies and perplexities in the doctrine of election, but it is only seemingly so. God is just in all His ways: “Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne”, Psa. 89. 14; we must patiently wait the dawning of that glorious morning when the light of perfect comprehension will make all things clear and plain. That God has an elect people the Scriptures abundantly show: “God who hath saved us ... not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began”, 2 Tim. 1. 9’.3
Other assembly publications have discontinued for a variety of reasons, but Precious Seed International continues to be read across the world, either in hard copy or online. A fitting tribute, then, to Charles Gahan, and those likeminded brethren whose faith we are encouraged to follow, Heb. 13. 7.
1 Precious Seed Volume 6 Issue 2, 1954.
2 Tim Grass, Gathering to His Name, Paternoster, 2006, pg. 401.
3 Precious Seed Volume 24 Issue 4, 1973.
AUTHOR PROFILE: He is an elder and active member of a pioneer assembly work in Newton Abbott. For many years he has been welcomed as a ministering brother in the south of England and has written a number of articles for the magazine. He is married and has two children.