Bert Cargill and James Brown 242 pages, Paperback. Published by John Ritchie, 40 Beansburn, Kilmarnock, Scotland. ISBN-13: 978-1-912522-67-5.
I recall as a young boy, that my father had a book called Chief Men among the Brethren. My memory is of grainy photographs of be-whiskered, gloomy faces, without a ghost of a smile; I did not feel encouraged to read any further in this austere looking tome. However, over the years I have learnt to understand and appreciate the debt owed to these men who were raised up by God to light a torch and raise a standard against the largely sterile state religion of their day. One unfortunate legacy of this revival is the appellation ‘Brethren’, which, with the arrogant definite article, has defined in the opinion of many those who have sought to benefit from the godly lives and teaching of these men and others of like mind.
This book is the third and final volume of the ‘Christian Heritage Series’ tracing the history of gospel witness from the 14th century. The present volume brings into focus the work from the late 18th century and on through Victorian days. I discovered from reading this book that behind the gallery of sombre faces of childhood memory, lie the histories of men of God, who sacrificed much, travelled the world at great personal and family cost and, from backgrounds of privilege and academia, reached out to the poor and the lost both materially and spiritually.
The greater part of this book recalls the legacy of hymns left on record during this period, many of which form the backbone of our 21st century hymnbooks, and are unrivalled by more modern writers in their appreciation of the Lord Jesus. They remain an essential aid to worship, full of doctrinal truth, memorable and uplifting.
There are also chapters given to the origin of books and printed matter to assist study of the scriptures, and a brief history of some great Christian philanthropists whose life-work lives on. In undertaking this series of books Cargill and Brown have provided a work of real benefit for the people of God.