April 11, 2017

Apart from the occasional mealtime conversation at a Banner of Truth Conference, to my great disadvantage, I did not really get to know John Marshall. John J Murray’s succinct, yet fulsome, biography paints a most helpful portrait indeed. I read it in one sitting (it’s only just under 70 pages) and found myself satisfactorily informed, greatly stirred, genuinely challenged, definitely uplifted, and almost moved to tears. John Marshall was not only soundly converted but a living embodiment of Romans 12:1 – 2, ‘by the mercies of God, presented as a living sacrifice…not conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of his mind…one who was seeking wholeheartedly to prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.’

From his Irish lineage, to his time at Oxford, his reputation as ‘stroke-oar’ in Balliol’s eight, his involvement with the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union, his happy marriage and loving family, his commitment to the reformed faith, his position and influence with the Banner of Truth Trust, his work as an open-air preacher, his ventures into Eastern Europe, his significant pulpit and conference ministry, his long expository and pastoral ministry (45 years) at Alexandra Road Congregational Church, Hemel Hempstead, and, most of all, his battle for the truth, the gospel, the reformation and revival of the church, all this, and much more, are set forth in a clear and easy way. The biography is not only a faithful record but a rich devotional stimulant to the prayerful reader. Most impressive of all is the way in which John faced the obvious pain of cancer at the comparatively early age of 67yrs, the stark reality of death, and his final victory in Christ as he passed over to be with the Lord for ever. Some men are great and some men have greatness thrust upon them. John was all energy and all commitment from the day of his regeneration to the day of his glorification.

The contents of the book is in two parts – part one is the biography. The larger part two contains eight of John’s memorable writings and conference addresses. These are minutely researched, wide-reaching in perspective, pertinently relevant, certainly original, and deeply effective. For example, “John Rogers was the first of the protestant English martyrs” under bloody Mary, “The Puritan Woman” is a scintillating overview and exposition of Proverbs 31:10, drawing upon the 17th century. Walter Marshall’s book, “The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification,” is a classic and still greatly needed today for believers seeking holiness of life. The Skegness believer, “Thomas Scott,” was one who struggled not only to arrive at “The Force of Truth,” but who learned to interpret the darker providences of God for his life. John Marshall brings the real character into our century. Similarly, “Rabbi Duncan” has a good deal to teach us about Christian Assurance – still a problem in some reformed circles. We are pointed again and again to Jesus Christ and His shed blood, which goes on cleansing us from all sin.

How many believers have thought about “Mental illness from a Christian perspective?” Or, how much thought have we given to the inconsistent “Prophet Balaam” – even though the churches seem to have many like him today, who hinder and injure the people of God? And those who heard John J Marshall’s final sermon, preached at the Leicester Minister’s Conference, April 2003, will never forget it, or his pointed application of “Slaying Giants: A sermon on 1 Samuel 17:42-47?” It was a costly delivery for it took him a week to recover from the energy expended, in his – by now – cancer-riddled body. The book “JOHN E MARSHALL – Life and writings,” is beautifully produced, contains several periodic photographs, including previous attenders of BOTT conferences, and grabs the reader’s interest from the opening page. Highly recommended reading – for all who want to know and serve the Lord better in the power of the Holy Spirit.


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