Alfred Place Baptist Church

The in-between time 2008

It is the end of semester at the university and the students who drifted in last September have drifted home. I was offered no redundant goldfish as last year; the street is quieter and we have more room to park the car. Numbers are a little smaller in the congregation but a number of the students stay through the summer months. We were actually 40 in the Prayer Meeting Tuesday night, the largest of the year. But the summer vacation has not started and so we are down on Sundays. We will have vacationers in July and our big conferences in August. Then in September the students’ ever younger faces will appear again, though I must wait a year for my grandson and his wife to appear; he is taking a gap year after leaving school. We have an interesting pattern for the year.

On Saturdays at least once a month a new feature in the town is a long line of stalls in North Parade selling French and Algerian market produce, cheese, olives, dried fruit, pancakes, cordials and concentrated drinks, hats, ladies’ scarves and veils. It is good to hear French spoken on the street. We wandered up and down on Saturday afternoon for half an hour and I bought olives. I have eaten too many today.

We had a Chinese couple from Malaysia for the week-end. They had written to me from Penang wanting to visit and wanted to be sure that I was preaching. So they went to London for the first week and then came to us by bus on Friday. How zealous he was for the doctrines of free and sovereign grace. Penang has 2 million people and their 20-strong congregation is the only place they know of where free grace is proclaimed. He reads my sermons. About 18 of us met in the Manse at our customary Sunday night fellowship at 8.15 and we fired questions at him about his journey to God, his work, the situation in Malaysia today and his visits to China. He is a manager in a manufacturing plant. He wanted to know as much as possible about Dr. Lloyd-Jones and my contacts with him.

I have bought John Muether’s new biography of Cornelius Van Til and will take it to the USA with me next month, and also Iain Murray’s new book on Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Mentioning books I have a friend in Swansea almost two hours away, who is 76 and for fifty years he has distributed tracts on a Saturday afternoon. He once could give out a thousand but now gives out about 700. He has given out millions. A bachelor, he has had shingles and though this began seven weeks ago he is still in enormous pain around his middle, front and back. It has left him depressed, and he has determined to sell his library of 4000 books. He asked me down to list and evaluate them. Some are quite valuable, and all are excellent – Banner of Truth, Protestant Reformed, etc. He has all the Banner sets, and his favourite is the Works of Thornwell. I am taking my time in urging him to bring the folk in to take apart this fine collection as he is depressed, and no one should make a big decision when they are not well. I am going to examine the prices on the web of some of these fine old sets of his – like the 200 year old Works of Isaac Watts in fine condition. He groaned and twisted with the pain while I was there. It was a particularly bad day. He has no relations who are Christians and is afraid that if he does not act in these next months he might die and a nephew will just get rid of all his books without appreciating their value and importance.

We enjoyed reading John J. Murray’s book ‘Catch the Vision.’ It chronicles the recovery of the doctrines of the reformation in Britain and further afield, underlining again the importance of Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Some 200,000 copies of the story of Eric Liddell by John Keddie had been translated into Chinese, approved by the Chinese government, and are ready to be shipped to China in time for the Olympic Games.

GEOFF THOMAS