Truth must also move the heart.
Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, one of Britain’s great evangelical churchmen, was called by the late Wilbur M. Smith the “greatest Bible expositor in the English-speaking world.” Dr. Lloyd-Jones, who retired in 1968, is recuperating from serious surgery.
When called to the Christian ministry at age 27, Lloyd-Jones was a brilliant young doctor on the staff of Lord Horder, physician to the royal family. With no formal theological training, he and his wife, also a talented physician, went to South Wales where he made the Bible his full-time text as he ministered to a small Presbyterian congregation. He soon became known as a dedicated and disciplined expository preacher.
He was called in 1938 at G. Campbell Morgan’s bidding as associate minister of Westminster Chapel, and became sole minister in 1943.
Lloyd-Jones preached 45-minute sermons on Sunday mornings and hour-long expositions at night. His Friday evening Bible studies, begun in 1952, attracted 1,200 persons. He taught without interruption for an hour, and many listeners wished he would continue longer. He took 12 years in expounding the Epistle to the Romans.
Until his recent illness, Lloyd-Jones traveled widely and preached regularly. When not ministering elsewhere, he is in his favorite pew at Westminster Chapel, supporting the ministry of the present pastor, R. T. Kendall, an American Southern Baptist with an earned doctorate from Oxford. Westminster Chapel still draws one of the largest morning and evening congregations in London.
The Pulpit Eagle Turns 80
Question: Your early credentials as a gifted young physician presaged a brilliant medical career. What prodded you toward the pulpit, and was there a deep struggle?
Answer: Yes, there was a very great struggle. It went on throughout my last 18 months in medicine. I literally lost over 20 pounds in weight. Friends said, why not continue with medicine and preach occasionally? I tried that, but it didn’t satisfy. I was more interested ultimately in people than in their physical diseases. I became increasingly impressed that most of my patients were suffering from functional and not organic troubles.
Q: What influences shaped your decision?
A: I belonged to a Welsh Presbyterian church in London. But I was greatly attracted by Dr. John A. Hutton, later to become editor of The British Weekly, who was then minister of Westminster Chapel where I attended occasionally. While he was not an expository preacher, he was very dramatic and impressed me with the power of God to change men’s lives. The time came when I no longer wanted to be a physician who acts as a preacher only occasionally; I wanted to be a preacher who at times might act as a physician. To my surprise, my decision got tremendous publicity in the press because of my staff position with Lord Horder, physician to the royal family.
Q: By the early 1930s, I’m told, word had spread of your “gift of wisdom” in diagnosing spiritual malady and of your scientific exposition of Scripture.
A: I deliberately went to South Wales, to a small mission center of 93 members, to do pioneer work. The mission, under the Welsh Presbyterian Church, was in both a mining district and a center of steel and tinplate works. Many of the people were dock laborers. Partly because of the extensive press coverage—some of it annoyed me greatly—the church was filled from the very first. There were amazing conversions. In my 11½ years the church grew to 530 members and the attendance ran about 850.
Q: When did you first meet G. Campbell Morgan whom you succeeded at Westminster Chapel?
A: I went to hear him during meetings he was conducting in Swansea. A friend of his in the congregation introduced me to him. I didn’t see him again until early December 1935, when on a miserably foggy night I spoke at a Bible Witness Rally in Albert Hall, the biggest hall in London. Campbell Morgan was present and almost the next day I got a letter from him inviting me to preach in Westminster Chapel on the last Sunday of 1935. In 1937, when I was in the States to address preassembly evangelism meetings of the then United Presbyterian Church (North), my itinerary took me to Philadelphia. There the presiding minister told me that in the congregation would be Dr. G. Campbell Morgan who had arrived the previous night from England. My heart sank. From the pulpit, I noticed him sitting in the front. Just as I began to preach I saw him pulling out his watch; he was going to time me. For some reason that stimulated me, and we had a good service. The first one to greet me at the close was Campbell Morgan; then, as people gathered, he slipped away. I knew intuitively that he was weighing an invitation to me to join him. That June night in 1937 he decided to invite me to Westminster Chapel. When he later learned that I was scheduled for a teaching post in a Welsh theological college the following year, he asked me to come for the interim to alternate preaching services with him. In September 1938, I came; six weeks later I received a unanimous call to serve as associate pastor.
Q: What was it like to labor in the shadows of such a giant?
A: He was a great pulpit master, in many ways the greatest I have ever heard. He was also a very kind and very generous man. But I always wanted to be myself; I never wanted to duplicate him or any other preacher. My main concern was to convey the message to the best of my ability. I believed the message and that God would honor my efforts. Between us we alternated morning and evening services monthly. Our congregations were almost identical in number during the entire year we ministered together before the war.
Q: What impact did World War II have?
A: It was shattering. I well remember Sunday morning, September 3, 1939. A radio bulletin was to be given at 11 o’clock, so we delayed the service until the unsettling announcement came: war! Immediately everyone expected air raids over London. Since our chapel had no facilities for sheltering people, we dismissed the congregation. That very day, in fact, an air raid warning sounded, though it was a false alarm. People who could move out of London did so and our congregation dwindled to about 300. We blacked out the church windows and moved the evening service to mid-afternoon. In a flying bomb attack, a bomb dropped just across the road in June 1944, and blew off half the chapel roof, so that for 14 weeks we met in a borrowed hall with about 150 people. Only 100 to 200 were left of Campbell Morgan’s great congregation. Campbell Morgan retired in 1943 and died in 1945.
Q: Were you ever discouraged to the point of wanting to forego a pulpit ministry?
A: No, never. During the war I traveled extensively throughout Britain, at least two days a week, for combined meetings or special services. In 1947 many people urged me to take the superintendency of the Forward Movement of the Welsh Presbyterian Church, but I stayed in war-scarred London. The congregation had slowly begun to build, and at war’s end roughly 500 people attended quite regularly.
Q: Once the Nazis were repelled, what happened?
A: People began to return to London. But we lost the vast majority of our membership; the prewar remnant that remained was middle-aged and elderly. We developed a virtually new congregation. In 1948 attendance reached 1,300–1,400 people and we opened the first gallery. The National Centenary Exposition in 1951 brought throngs to London, and for the first time since Campbell Morgan’s day the Chapel was again completely filled as 2,500 persons at times crowded the auditorium, first gallery, and balcony.
Q: If not in numbers, how does one then measure the effectiveness of such a large pulpit ministry?
A: By an atmosphere of expectancy in the services, for one thing. We placed notice in the pews that the minister was available for private conference after each service. I spent well over an hour service after service with individuals seeking conversion or counsel.
Q: Word reached America that because you were not only steeped in Scripture but also abreast of medicine, science, and history, nonevangelical intellectuals were attracted to your preaching.
A: I was invited to speak at the Inter-Varsity Fellowship conference in 1936. During the war years I served as their president. Students came in large numbers, especially after the war. The New Testament scholar, Professor R. V. G. Tasker, attended on Sunday nights; he forsook liberalism and told me that under my ministry he became convinced of original sin and the wrath of God, and that led to a complete change. There were others in whom an evangelical faith was revived.
Q: You and I met in 1966, I believe, to discuss the projected Berlin World Congress on Evangelism. You declined to be either a participant or observer. You were also, I think, the only minister of a major church in London that did not cooperate in the Graham crusades? What kept you on the sidelines?
A: This is a very vital and difficult matter. I have always believed that nothing but a revival—a visitation of the Holy Spirit, in distinction from an evangelistic campaign—can deal with the situation of the church and of the world. The Welsh Presbyterian Church had roots in the great eighteenth-century evangelical revival, when the power of the Spirit of God came upon preachers and churches, and large numbers were converted. I have never been happy about organized campaigns. In the 1820s a very subtle and unfortunate change took place, especially in the United States, from Azahel Nettleton’s emphasis on revival to Charles G. Finney’s on evangelism. There are two positions. When things were not going well, the old approach was for ministers and deacons to call a day of fasting and prayer and to plead with God to visit them with power. Today’s alternative is an evangelistic campaign: ministers ask, “whom shall we get as evangelist?” Then they organize and ask God’s blessing on this. I belong to the old school.
Q: What specific reservations do you have about modern evangelism as such?
A: I am unhappy about organized campaigns and even more about the invitation system of calling people forward. Mark you, I consider Billy Graham an utterly honest, sincere, and genuine man. He, in fact, asked me in 1963 to be chairman of the first Congress on Evangelism, then projected for Rome, not Berlin. I said I’d make a bargain: if he would stop the general sponsorship of his campaigns—stop having liberals and Roman Catholics on the platform—and drop the invitation system, I would wholeheartedly support him and chair the congress. We talked for about three hours, but he didn’t accept these conditions.
I just can’t subscribe to the idea that either congresses or campaigns really deal with the situation. The facts, I feel, substantiate my point-of view: in spite of all that has been done in the last 20 or 25 years, the spiritual situation has deteriorated rather than improved. I am convinced that nothing can avail but churches and ministers on their knees in total dependence on God. As long as you go on organizing, people will not fall on their knees and implore God to come and heal them. It seems to me that the campaign approach trusts ultimately in techniques rather than in the power of the Spirit. Graham certainly preaches the gospel. I would never criticize him on that score. What I have criticized, for example, is that in the Glasgow campaign he had John Sutherland Bonnell address the ministers’ meetings. I challenged that. Graham replied, “You know, I have more fellowship with John Sutherland Bonnell than with many evangelical ministers.” I replied, “Now it may be that Bonnell is a nicer chap than Lloyd-Jones—I’ll not argue that. But real fellowship is something else: I can genuinely fellowship only with someone who holds the same basic truths that I do.”
Q: You haven’t been a Keswick enthusiast either?
A: I refused to speak there. I was unhappy about the so-called Keswick message concerning sanctification. I considered it unscriptural and have tried to show why in my volumes on Romans 6 and 8. To me, sanctification is a process, and the Keswick formula “Let go and let God” is quite unscriptural. Today Keswick no longer requires speakers to adhere to the doctrine of a modified perfectionism.
Q: What great emphases do evangelicals too much neglect?
A: To me, the missing note in modern evangelicalism is the matter of godliness, or what was once called spirituality. We evangelicals are too smug, too self-satisfied, too healthy. The notion of being humbled under the mighty hand of God has gone. We live too much in the realm of a pseudo-intellectualism and an emphasis upon the will. The heart is being ignored. I see no hope until we return to the great emphasis of Jonathan Edwards who, though a brilliant intellect and outstanding philosopher, put ultimate emphasis upon the heart. By the heart I mean the whole man, with special emphasis on the emotional element. Today a vague sentimentality has replaced deep emotion. People are no longer humble; there is little fear of the Lord. Modern evangelicalism is very unlike the evangelicalism of the eighteenth century and of the Puritans. I’m unhappy about this. The genuine evangelicalism is that older evangelicalism.
Q: Was it not also intellectually and theologically powerful?
A: Tremendously so. But today we have a pseudo-intellectualism that is theologically shallow. We need both brilliant theological comprehension and the warm heart. When I first came to England evangelicalism was nontheological, pietistic, and sentimental, and I stressed engaging the intellect to its maximum. But now many evangelicals are far too conscious of their intellects; some are preoccupied with secondary things like the Christian view of art or of drama or of politics.
Q: You would surely want the Christian intellectual dimension to be strong enough to expose the shallowness of all speculative alternatives to the great truths of revelation?
A: Of course. But that alone is not enough. The most important chapter in the Bible today from the standpoint of modern preaching is 1 Corinthians 2. Without the demonstration of the Spirit’s power, all theology leads to nothing. My key verse, in a sense, is Romans 6:17, “Ye have obeyed from the heart the form of sound words delivered unto you.” While truth comes primarily to the intellect it must move the heart, which then, in turn, moves the will. Today many people go no farther than having the form of sound words; others place their emphasis upon decision. Both approaches ignore the heart.
Q: What evangelical gains and losses are noteworthy in Anglican circles and in the free churches of Britain?
A: The main trouble at the moment is confusion.
Q: In the free churches as well as the Anglican Church?
A: Yes; particularly among the Anglicans, but among the others as well.
Q: Why so?
A: Because the technical linguistic and ecclesiastical “experts” have wrested control from the theologians. Concessions have been made to so-called scholarship, and there has been a slide toward a liberal view of the Scriptures and of particular doctrines. James Barr’s Fundamentalism correctly represents some of this country’s prominent evangelicals as having quietly and subtly crossed the line by concessions to higher criticism. At stake is the loss of a doctrine of the full inspiration and inerrance of Scripture.
Q: In view of the loss to England, what do you think of the evangelical exodus, that is, of James Packer’s move to Canada, of Colin Brown’s to the United States, and of John Stott’s heavy overseas ministry?
A: I have great regard for these men. It’s very sad when a country loses evangelical scholars and leaders. They should stay here in Britain and fight. But it’s hard to fight things out in a mixed denominational situation. Anglican evangelicalism today has an identity crisis; the same holds for other compromised churches, many of whose leaders and teachers of students disown basic Christian doctrines. For dedicated evangelicals to labor in such circles ultimately suggests that these truths do not matter. Today priority must be given anew to the doctrine of the church. Too many people regard institutional organizations as the church. I believe in evangelical ecumenism. I believe evangelicals should combine forces—not to form a new denomination, but for fellowship and cooperation. Such mutual strengthening is the hopeful way into the future.
Q: You have a great sense of humor, your friends say, but seldom use it in the pulpit.
A: I find it very difficult to be humorous in the pulpit. I always feel in the pulpit that I am in the terrible position of standing between God and souls that may go to hell. That position is too appalling for humor.
Q: You’ve cancelled four months of preaching engagements, I’m told, because of your hospitalization and recovery last year. Friends are eager for some word of your physical condition.
A: I’m such a sinner that God has always had to compel me to do things. I struggled a year and a half before entering the ministry. Then, in the beginning of 1968—I was 68—I naturally thought of retiring. But I carried on, until, when facing major surgery in March that year God clearly signaled me to leave Westminster Chapel in order to put my sermons into print and to prepare spiritual reminiscences. That was God’s assurance just before surgery that the surgery, though serious and radical, would be successful. I shall curtail itinerant preaching and concentrate on writing. The last six of my twelve volumes on the Epistle to the Romans and the last two of the eight volumes on Ephesians are soon going to press, and I am ready now to commence spiritual autobiography.
Politics, Civilization, and End Time
Q: What do you think Christianity ought to say to the economic situation today?
A: I think the great message we must preach is God’s judgment on men and on the world. Because man is a sinner, any human contrivance is doomed to fail; the only hope for the world is the return of Christ—nothing else. It amazes me that evangelicals have suddenly taken such an interest in politics; to do so would have made sense 50 or 100 years ago, but such efforts now seem to me sheer folly, for we are in a dissolving world. All my life I’ve opposed setting “times and seasons,” but I feel increasingly that we may be in the last times.
Q: What undergirds that conviction?
A: To me 1967, the year that the Jews occupied all of Jerusalem, was very crucial. Luke 21:24 is one of the most significant prophetic verses: “Jerusalem” it reads, “shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” It seems to me that that took place in 1967—something crucially important that had not occurred in 2,000 years. Luke 21:24 is one fixed point. But I am equally impressed by Romans 11 which speaks of a great spiritual return among the Jews before the end time. While this seems to be developing, something even more spectacular may be indicated. We sometimes tend to foreshorten events, yet I have a feeling that we are in the period of the end.
Q: Would you agree that even if we might have only 24 or 48 hours, to withhold a witness in the political or any other arena is to withdraw prematurely from the social responsibility of the Christian and to distrust the providence of God? Might he not do something even in the last few hours that he had not done before? The closer we get to the end time, isn’t it that much more important to address public conscience? Must we not press the claims of Christ in all the arenas of society and remind people, whether they receive Christ or not, of the criteria by which the returning King will judge men and nations?
Peace, Silver Stilled and Iced Transparent
Oh, the gratitude
for comfort in the quietude,
the solitude of silvery mornings,
winter-stilled in silence,
iced transparent with tranquility,
glistening pure with peace.
No wistfulness, no longing for spring’s first burst of beauty,
summer’s fervent radiance, autumn’s harvest heat.
No emptiness, no yearning for family sharing,
friendship caring, people-glow. All sufficient
is this inner warmth of God’s own touch,
healing heartache, soothing sorrow, sweetening soul’s bright
song with patience—patience that knows once winter
has begun, icier days will deeper purge and follow
with denser snows to insulate and feed
while like a seed held deep within Love’s core,
I await unfoldment, confident of design, designer;
comforted by wonderment of winter-meant peace:
peace polished crystalline without,
peace poised diamond-like within. So blessed,
I rest in reverent, calm content.
A: No; I’m afraid I don’t agree. It seems to me that our Lord’s own emphasis is quite different, even opposed to this. Take Luke 17 where we read, “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives … until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came …” You can’t reform the world. That’s why I disagree entirely with the “social and cultural mandate” teaching and its appeal to Genesis 1:28. It seems to me to forget completely the Fall. You can’t Christianize the world. The end time is going to be like the time of the Flood. The condition of the modern world proves that what we must preach more than ever is “Escape from the wrath to come!” The situation is critical. I believe the Christian people—but not the church—should get involved in politics and in social affairs. The kingdom task of the church is to save men from the wrath to come by bringing them to Christ. This is what I believe and emphasize. The main function of politics, culture, and all these things is to restrain evil. They can never do an ultimately positive work. Surely the history of the world demonstrates that. You can never Christianize the world.
Q: Let’s grant that the regenerate church is the New Society and the only enduring society, that the world as such can never be Christianized and turned into the New Society, and that apart from regeneration there is no participation in the kingdom of God. Having said that, does not the church nonetheless have a mission of light and salt in the world? Even if the institutional church is not to be politically engaged, does not Christ wish to expand his victory over evil and sin and all the forces that would destroy him, by penetrating the social order with Christians to exemplify godliness and justice? Are they not to work for good laws and a just society, even though they cannot hope to Christianize society?
A: Certainly. Such effort prevents the world from putrefying. But I regard it as entirely negative. I do not regard it as anything positive.
Q: Is it not possible that here or there at some points Christian effort might bring about what in quotation marks might be called “Christian culture”?
A: No. It will never come. All Scripture is against that. It’s impossible. In the present world situation—surely it has never been more critical—all civilization is rocking, and we are facing collapse, morally, politically, and in every other way. I would have thought that surely at this time our urgent message should be, “Flee from the wrath to come!”
Q: Would you therefore encourage young people to consider the pulpit ministry or a missionary call above every other vocational call?
A: No. That’s something I have never done and never would do. Such a decision must be a personal call from God. But seeing the critical danger of the world we must surely urge people to escape. It’s amazing that any Christian could be concerned about anything else at this present time.
Q: Would you be happier if Sir Fred Catherwood, your son-in-law, were in the Christian ministry rather than in his present political work in the European Parliament?
A: No, I wouldn’t. In fact, I was glad he resisted when pressure was brought upon him to go into the ministry. I’ve always tried to keep men out of the ministry. In my opinion a man should enter the ministry only if he cannot stay out of it.
Q: Did you indicate to him the remarkable contribution that he could make in the political arena?
A: Yes. But I also said that he should never—speaking as a Christian—claim that “this is the Christian political view.” That approach was the mistake of Abraham Kuyper. Kuyper placed himself in a compromise position: a Christian minister becoming prime minister and then needing to form a coalition with Roman Catholics and claiming Christian sanction for specific political positions.
Q: Was there some ambiguity about evangelical doctrine in your own earliest preaching?
A: In the early part of my ministry I preached regeneration as the great message, but not justification (George Whitefield did the same for a time, you know). I preached what I was sure of. I neglected the Atonement, but within about two years I came to see that was an incomplete message.
Q: Do you think that present-day evangelical preaching too much neglects the doctrines of Atonement and justification while emphasizing the need for the new birth, and thus unwittingly gives the impression that God tolerates sin?
Q: Do you see any prospect for evangelical renewal in England?
A: I really don’t. Nothing but a great outpouring of the Spirit—which is what I meant by revival—can possibly retrieve the situation.
Q: How would you chart the next 20 years of world history, if we have them? What will give way, and what will endure?
A: I’m afraid I see nothing but collapse. I think that democracy is the ultimate position politically; we’ve passed through all other forms of government. But beyond democracy there now looms either dictatorship or complete chaos. The end is more likely: 666 is the number of man, and this is democracy—man worshiping himself, his own likeness. I’m not sure at all that we have 20 years. Several factors are present that have never been present before. In the past, great civilizations in various parts of the world would collapse but would not devastate the rest of the world. Today the world is one vast whole. What happens in one place happens everywhere. I think we are witnessing the breakdown of politics. I think even the world is seeing that. Civilization is collapsing.
Q: What parting word have you for the secular man or woman who does not take Jesus Christ seriously?
A: I can only say: “Flee from the wrath to come” and “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Carl F. H. Henry, first editor of Christianity Today, is lecturer at large for World Vision International. An author of many books, he lives in Arlington, Virginia.
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