"AS I SEE IT"
Volume 2, Number 6, June 1999
["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek. Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God. The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.
AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com. You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address. Back issues sent on request.
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WILBUR M. SMITH: THE MAN AND HIS BOOKS
If you have read the dust jackets of even a few Christian books, you have no doubt seen the name Wilbur M. Smith. He is frequently quoted as recommending this or that Christian book. His words are commonly found on book jackets, placed there by the publisher with hopes of enticing the customer to buy the book.
The discerning student will rightly ask "Who is this Wilbur Smith, and should his recommendations be taken seriously?" I hope to briefly answer this two-fold question.
Wilbur Moorehead Smith (1894-1976) was the pre-eminent expert in Christian books, generally speaking, in the twentieth century. His expertise was acquired by dint of much reading and great expenditure of money. Let me trace his career.
Smith was born in Chicago. His father was a wholesale fruit dealer and orchard owner and a man of some means; he was also on the board of Moody Bible Institute for many years and a long-term member of Moody Memorial Church. As a result of his father's relationship to both of these famous Christian institutions, Wilbur, even as a youth, had frequent contacts with the great names of Evangelical Christianity in the first quarter of the 20th century: R. A. Torrey, William R. Newell, James M. Gray, Billy Sunday, Gipsy Smith, Mel Trotter, Harry Ironside, A. C. Dixon and a whole host of others. During high school, Smith was pretty much set on a career in botany, but God intervened, and Smith spent a year at Moody Bible Institute, then attended the College of Wooster, leaving there in 1917. He pastored four churches in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania over a period of two decades (1918-1937), the last one with a membership of 1,700. Smith was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1922.
In 1934, Smith was chosen as the third editor of the famous Peloubet's Select Notes on The International Sunday School Lessons, a once widely-used annual series. He edited the volumes for 1935 to 1972.
Smith was a professor of Bible at Moody Bible Institute for a decade (1937-1947) when he left to become one of the founding professors of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His tenure at Fuller ended in 1963 when he resigned from the faculty because of theological "drift" at Fuller away from the great fundamentals of the Christian faith. He then taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Chicago suburb of Deerfield for half a dozen years.
Besides his teaching, Smith seemed to have his hand in a great many other things. He was approached by Billy Graham to be the first editor of Christianity Today, but he declined. He did serve as one of the editors of the New Scofield Reference Bible, and wrote, besides the Peloubet volumes, about two dozen other books, plus many, many articles for Christian publications.
Smith suggested that the conscientious pastor would read at least 100 books per year--to my knowledge, I have never met one who did--which implies that that was his own practice. He certainly had sufficient reading material to keep himself occupied, for he accumulated a personal library of 25,000 volumes! (it is now housed as a special collection at Fuller Seminary). Spurgeon's library, in contrast, totaled around 12,000 books. By his own admission, many of these volumes Smith never even opened much less read (thousands of books were sent to him free by publishers, in hope that he would read and favorably review them). Nevertheless, Smith gained an expertise in Christian literature that was unrivaled in this century, and it is just in this area that Smith shines.
As an author, Smith is more informative than interesting. His every book OOZES with bibliography. In fact, most of his books are more or less extended annotated bibliographies. But for the individual diligently searching for the best books on a broad range of Biblical and related subjects, Smith is a soon-appreciated and usually-reliable guide.
The Peloubet's Notes volumes do not provide an exhaustive bibliography for Bible study, being limited to the texts and passages that came up for study in that series, but for each lesson, there is a bibliography provided of recommended commentaries, relevant topical books, articles from Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, appropriate sermons and even audio-visual teaching aids. I had a notion some years ago to glean these recommendations and compile them into one volume. I even wrote to Baker Book House, which I believe owns the copyright on the Peloubet series, to suggest such a volume, but they had no interest in the idea.
Smith's first book on books to gain a wide readership was Profitable Bible Study (214 pp.). It was published in 1939 by the W. A. Wilde Company, and ultimately underwent two revisions. Besides recommendations on Bible study methods and habits, it includes a listing of the first 100 books to obtain for a Bible student's library. Obviously, being 60 years old, it is somewhat out of date, and I would differ with him on some of the books he does recommend. Even so, it is a good place to start.
Chats from a Minister's Library appeared in 1951 (W. A. Wilde Co.; 283 pp.; reprinted by Baker ca. 1972). It is a compilation of radio addresses by Smith delivered while teaching at Moody and articles he wrote later at Fuller, dealing with various aspects of Christian books, authors, and related topics. The reader must be very dull--or very, very well-read--if he can read these discussions without learning much of real value.
A Treasury of Books for Bible Study was published by Baker Book House in 1960 (289 pp.; reprinted 1974). It, too, is a compilation of previously issued material, in this case articles first published in Moody Monthly. Like the articles in Chats, they deal with a broad variety of subjects relative to Christian books, authors, and Bible-related topics. The chapters on Bible dictionaries, and on E. W. Hengstengberg's Christology of the Old Testament are particularly valuable.
The last and, I think, best book about books by Smith was The Minister in His Study (Moody Press, 1973). It had it origins as a week of special lectures delivered by Smith to the student body of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in the Fall of 1972, about 3 years after Smith had retired from teaching. It is a "short course" for the preacher on what to study and how to most efficiently preserve in usable form the fruits of that study. It is so full of information that in some places it has both endnotes and footnotes. I have read and re-read this volume, and have gleaned it for bibliography, purchasing many volumes on the strength of Smith's recommendations alone, and rarely with disappointing results. Get this book by purchase (I've seen it several times on the used market) or loan and feast on its riches.
Of non-book books by Smith, there are many, though I have read only three or four of these. He wrote three biographies, the first about radio preacher Charles E. Fuller, A Voice for God (W. A. Wilde Co., 1949; 224 pp.), one about Will Houghton, third president of Moody Bible Institute, titled A Watchman on the Wall (1951), and his own autobiography, Before I Forget (Moody Press, 1971; 304 pp.). In this latter volume, strangely Smith fails to record his conversion experience (though I have no doubt he had one), which suggests that perhaps the book wasn't written soon enough! (F. F. Bruce, in his autobiography, In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past [Eerdmans, 1980; 319 pp.], makes the same omission, but I fear for a very different reason).
At least two topical books by Smith still possess real merit. The Supernaturalness of Christ (W. A. Wilde, 1940; 235 pp.) is an apologetic defending the Biblical presentation of Christ as a supernatural Person who performed supernatural acts, including rising from the dead. Therefore Stand (W. A. Wilde, 1945, and often reprinted; 614 pp.) is Smith's longest and most famous book. Using Paul's experience and address in Athens (Acts 17:16-34) as his basic framework, Smith presents a strong apologetic for Biblical Christianity against the attacks of rationalism, intellectualism, anti-supernaturalism and "science." The book does have the weakness of adopting a day-age/old earth perspective. I expressly remember reading this book the week of my graduation from Bible college 25 years ago. It permanently and positively impacted my thinking.
I also own Smith's The Atomic Age and the Word of God (W. A. Wilde, 1948; 363 pp.) which I have not read at all, but which I value because it came from the personal library of Noel Smith. The Biblical Doctrine of Heaven (Moody Press, 1968; 317 pp.) is another unread Smith-authored book in my possession. In due time.
Smith was a diligent, patient, and careful student, who usually gives full documentation of his sources. He has been my chiefest (but by no means sole) guide in my search for the best books for Bible study. I have profited immensely from his own writings, and from those of others he directed me to.
EXCERPTS FROM WILBUR M. SMITH'S WRITINGS--
"I am assuming that a serious-minded minister will set aside not less than three hours each morning, for five mornings a week for study." (THE MINISTER IN HIS STUDY, p. 11). Does he assume rightly?
"[N]o great preacher of the English world plays golf three times a week, as I know some ministers do." (THE MINISTER IN HIS STUDY, p. 12)
"I have done nothing that any other man in the Christian ministry cannot do, providing two things: that he has a love for study, and that he has a passion for work, all by the grace of God." (CHATS FROM A MINISTER'S LIBRARY, p. 6)
"One last word--and a simple one--the acquisition of books, a knowledge of the titles of books, and the construction and revision of bibliographies, all will mean almost nothing unless the books are opened, read, studied, meditated upon, and their truths are allowed to weave themselves into the warp and woof of our lives." (CHATS FROM A MINISTER'S LIBRARY, p. 8)
"On this, then, the Scriptures are clear, that one of the greatest causes, perhaps the most important of all causes for unbelief is the determination of men to continue in sin." (THEREFORE STAND, p. 166)
"One thing is certain--if we are going to depend upon our intellect, our own genius, however great, our own scientific researches, and humanly-developed philosophies, there is no ground whatever for expecting that we can discover for ourselves any more than did the Greeks of old, of those things which the human heart most needs, a knowledge of God, an abiding hope, victory over sin, and final truth." (THEREFORE STAND, p. 204)
"Now the Greeks sought this truth, but with all their seeking, with all their discoveries, with their vast accumulations of facts, with their profound exploration of the human soul, and the analysis of the processes of the human mind, the Greeks failed to find the truth, and they knew it." (THEREFORE STAND, p. 239)
"Athens knew about everything that was knowable, except the most important things: she did not know God, she did not know what to do with her sins, she did not know where to find a life of peace and joy and victory, she had no hope, and she knew nothing of a life to come. That is exactly where men are today who have excluded God from their thinking, who deny the Bible to be a divine revelation, and who are stumbling and groping about in the twilight, or even deeper darkness, of the mind of fallen nature." (THEREFORE STAND, p. 265)
RESTATING THE OBVIOUS ABOUT BIBLE TRANSLATIONS
George Orwell (pseudonym for Eric Blair) of ANIMAL FARM and 1984 fame is commonly quoted as saying that circumstances have "sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of the intelligent man." I have been unable so far to track this quote down to its exact reference, but inasmuch as I have seen it ascribed in three different sources to Orwell, I feel safe in assuming that it really is his remark.
The churning, muddied waters of the present English Bible translation dispute have sadly obscured the obvious and most basic truth of the whole matter. That basic and obvious truth which cries out to be repeated is this--The whole PURPOSE for having a Bible translation--the very reason for its existence--is to convey in words which people DO understand the meaning of words (in the Greek and Hebrew originals) which people DO NOT understand.
Let me say it again--the sole justification for producing and publishing any Bible translation is so that those who do not understand the words in the original languages can nevertheless gain access to them through words they do understand in their own language.
Most English speakers cannot read Greek or Hebrew (or Aramaic--the language used in parts of Daniel, Ezra, and one verse of Jeremiah). Therefore, if they are to have access to the words inspired by God in those Biblical languages, they need a translation of those words into English. But we must be cautious here: the degree to which an English Bible translation fails to accurately, clearly, and fully convey the meaning and content of the originals,--to that degree it FAILS to attain to its very reason for existence. Any obscurity, ambiguity or inaccuracy that exists in a translation--and is knowingly allowed to remain in that translation--is an affront to the very purpose for that translation's existence.
Let us come to specifics. By now, almost everyone involved in the King James Bible controversy knows or should know that there are archaic and obsolete words in the KJV which either puzzle (at best) or mislead (at worst) the common Christian reader. "Prevent" in I Thessalonians 4:15 does not mean what we today always mean by that word, namely, "to stop, hinder." That word as used in 1611 meant "to precede" and the reader back then would not have stumbled over its meaning. The reader today, however, will stumble over it. "Well, why not just put a note in the margin telling the reader that 'prevent' means 'precede'?" Rather, why not simply put 'precede' into the text so there is no need here to search the margin?
"Spoil" in Colossians 2:8 invokes images of decay and putrefaction, whereas the underlying Greek--and "spoil" to a 17th century English reader--means "to despoil," or, to use a more common synonym, "to plunder, take as plunder." Even though "spoil" in the text here will surely "spoil" the understanding for the modern reader, some still insist that it must remain in the English translation at all costs, regardless of the effect on the reader's understanding. "Plunder" should be the reading in the text. "To the margin! To the margin!" they cry. "In the text! In the text!" the basic principle of translation replies.
And what shall we say of "corn"? To a 20th (and 21st) Century American, that word describes only one particular species of plant, identified in the Linnaean system of classification as Zea mays, and sometimes called in older books "Indian corn" to distinguish it from the grains brought to the New World by white Europeans. To read that Jesus "walked through a corn field on the Sabbath day" conjures up images of Iowa in the summer, when the true scene was more like Kansas wheat fields. Corn/Zea mays is a native American plant (like watermelon, sweet and white potatoes, sunflowers and most kinds of beans) and was wholly unknown in the Old World, including Palestine, until after A.D. 1492. To allow the older English "corn" to remain in English Bibles is guaranteed to mislead most contemporary American readers, while "grain" (a word ultimately descended from the same Indo-European root as "corn") creates the correct visual image. I recall a day in a hermeneutics class which I was teaching in which a student became vehement, even belligerent, in his insistence that "corn" in the KJV certainly meant CORN (Zea mays) and not "grain" as the instructor was teaching. Had this zealous and misguided student been reading an English translation which read "grain" instead of "corn," he would have been spared this experience (and no doubt others) of grossly misunderstanding an English version.
There is also the problem of proper names. What reader of the New Testament has not been greatly puzzled on finding "Jesus" in Acts 7:45, and Hebrews 4:8? And who is Elias (Matthew 27:47)? and Eliseus (Luke 4:27)? and that strangest of all, Osee (Romans 9:25) which I always thought sounded more like a brand of hotdogs than an OT prophet? Of course, these are merely Greek (or Latin) attempts to represent those whom we meet in the English OT as Joshua, Elijah, Elisha, and Hosea. Why confuse the reader by retaining the obscure and divergent forms? Why leave these stumbling-blocks in the reader's path? (And yes, I know that Moses is a Greek form of the Hebrew Moshe, but since we are accustomed to this Greek form as the name of the OT prophet, as we know the Savior's name in Greek form--Jesus, and not the Hebrew Yeshua--it does not cause confusion, especially because it is used consistently in our translations).
Then there are the infelicities that now plague the KJV. Try reading Song of Solomon 5:4 ("my bowels were moved for him") to a junior or senior high school group. And what shall we say of "ass" and "asses"? How much better to use in translation the contemporary equivalent, "donkey" which will not distract the immature reader. And who ever read I Kings 21:21 "him that pisseth against the wall" in public? If it is embarrassing to read--and it is--why not substitute a euphemistic term, such as "male" as the NIV does? Proper decorum--and the avoidance of an unnecessary distraction--demands that we substitute "illegitimate" for "bastards" in Hebrews 12:8, and "mute donkey" for "dumb ass" in 2 Peter 2:16.
And we come to unintelligibilities. Where is the person, unaided by the Greek text, a foreign version, or a modern English translation who can make heads or tails out of 2 Corinthians. 6:11-13?--"O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. Ye are not straitened in us but ye are straitened in your own bowels. Now for a recompense (I speak as unto my children), be ye also enlarged." And where is the average twelve year old who cannot plainly understand the NIV here?--"We have spoken freely to you, O Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts. We are not withholding our affections from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange--I speak as to my children--open wide your hearts also."
And space fails us to speak of "against they came" "fetched a compass" "durst not behold" "listeth" and literally a thousand and one other obscurities that unnecessarily cling to commonly-used English Bible translations, for no other reason than tradition. Certainly they are not retained because of enhanced intelligibility.
And there are positive inaccuracies in the KJV, as in all Bible translations in all languages. The Greek text of Titus 2:13 (there is no variation in the various printed Greek texts here) clearly and unambiguously teaches that the two terms "great God" and "savior" apply to one and only one person in this verse, namely, "Jesus Christ." This is one of the strongest "proof-texts" of the Deity of Christ in the entire Greek NT. The KJV's rendering "the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ" [and that comma WAS present in the original 1611 KJV] is at best ambiguous (it always puzzled me), and at worst separates the terms and applies them to two persons, namely God the Father, and Jesus Christ. Because the KJV fails to unambiguously and clearly teach in this verse that Jesus Christ is both "our great God" and "savior," it is an erroneous and deficient translation (see similarly 2 Peter 1:1).
And I could write at length of the KJV's fourfold reference to the Holy Spirit, Third Person of the Trinity, as "it" (John 1:32; Romans 8:16, 26; I Peter 1:11), which in my opinion comes little short, if indeed it comes short at all, of blasphemy. Baptist theologian Emery Bancroft ascribed this horrid translation to Socinian influence among the KJV translators (see Emery H. Bancroft, Christian Theology, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1961; revised edition], pp. 147-8). The Socinian doctrine of the Holy Spirit was roughly the same as that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, whose translation--alone of modern Bible versions--also refers to the Holy Spirit as "it." [I hope to address this subject at greater length in a future issue of AISI].
And then there is "faith" instead of "hope" at Hebrews 10:23, and the very frequent failure of the KJV translators to give the correct force of the Greek definite article in translation (often omitting the article in translation--under influence of the Latin Vulgate--when the sense and meaning of the passage demands that it be inserted), and many other inaccuracies of greater or lesser import, which will perhaps occupy our attention in the future.
Now, some will insist, "But these are small matters"--little foxes that "spoil" the vines, if you will. In reply, let me say first, I do not think obscuring the Deity of Christ (as the KJV does at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1) and virtual blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by repeatedly referring to Him as "it" are small matters. But beyond this, I affirm that anything--ANYTHING--which unnecessarily puts an obstacle between the present-day Bible reader and a better understanding of the Word of God is wrong and evil. To enslave English readers to a single translation which is often archaic and obscure, occasionally wholly unintelligible and sometimes plainly inaccurate when other versions that remedy these defects are easily accessible is a monument to mere human tradition and is, as it were, to spit in the face of the very purpose of Bible translation, and to deny to the mere English reader the fuller knowledge of God and His revelation he could have if, IF such obstacles were removed by use of a revised translation which conforms to current English usage, and the infallible standard of the original text.
A VOICE FOR GOD: THE LIFE OF CHARLES E. FULLER by Wilbur M. Smith. Boston: W. A. Wilde Co., 1949. 223 pages, hdbk.
Probably the first nationally-famous "radio evangelist" was Charles E. Fuller. His weekly one-hour broadcast, "The Old-Fashioned Revival Hour" was heard nation-wide (and via short-wave, even world-wide) in the 1930s and 1940s over dozens of stations and at least two national networks. Undoubtedly, tens of thousands found Christ as a result of these broadcasts and hundreds of thousands, probably millions of believers, were strengthened in the faith.
Charles Fuller was born in 1887 in Southern California. He grew up in an orange-growing family, and continued in that business until well into adulthood. He was not converted until age 30 in 1917, when he went to hear wrestler-turned-evangelist Paul Rader. Shortly thereafter, Fuller (whose wife was converted some years earlier) felt called to preach. He studied three years under R. A. Torrey at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), and pastored in Placentia, California 1927-1933. Fuller sensed God's leadership in beginning a weekly radio broadcast after leaving the church. Over time, this grew into the national broadcast mentioned earlier. At first produced in a radio station, ultimately Fuller's broadcasts were presented live on Sunday afternoons from the Long Beach Municipal Auditorium before audiences consistently numbering between 3,000 and 4,000. These broadcasts were characterized by clear Bible preaching and excellent music. Listeners often drove hundreds, and sometimes thousands of miles to be present at a service. Somehow, these Sunday services never developed into a local church. Many of Fuller's listeners sent their tithes to support the broadcast.
Fuller also established the Fuller Evangelistic Association, which besides supporting as many as 16 traveling evangelists in the 1940s, also funded Fuller Theological Seminary which was begun in Pasadena in 1948. Perhaps the seminary is Charles Fuller's greatest legacy. The school was begun as an alternative to the apostate denominational seminaries in the East (Princeton, Harvard, Yale, etc.) but with the expressed goal of "impressing" and "wowwing" the liberal, apostate theologians with the Fuller faculty's world-class scholarship. An additional very serious error in practice was the typically neo-evangelical repudiation of separation from apostasy. In spite of the doctrinal soundness of the original four faculty members (Wilbur Smith, Carl F. H. Henry, Harold Lindsell, and Everett F. Harrison), the school, lured by the siren-song of "intellectual respectability" soon began to drift badly from the fundamentals and hired faculty who for the most part had been trained at the very seminaries Fuller was intended to be an alternative to. Typical of this was Charles Fuller's own son Daniel (this information is not related in this book). He was sent for seminary training to Princeton, followed by three years of study under Karl Barth, the father of neo-orthodoxy (another name for "unbelief"). When Daniel was finished with this training, he had abandoned Biblical inerrancy and other fundamental Biblical doctrines, upon which his father's ministry were entirely based. What makes this incident all the more amazing is that Mrs. Fuller, before her marriage, had attended the University of Chicago for a year and had the apostate professors there turn her completely against the Bible, from which she was rescued only by the grace of God. That the Fullers would deliberately expose their only child to these same influences, knowing full well the devastating effect they had on Mrs. Fuller earlier in her life is simply beyond rational explanation.
Smith's book ends with Fuller's radio ministry in full flower and the new seminary going great guns. Little more than a decade later, many thousands of financial supporters did withdraw their support when it was learned in the early 1960s that the seminary was departing from the faith. Charles Fuller, in his 80s, knew of the charges of apostasy at the seminary and did nothing to remedy the situation. Ultimately--I don't know when--the radio broadcast was revamped and renamed "The Joyful Sound."
For accounts of the seminary's founding, and foundering doctrinally, see Wilbur M. Smith, Before I Forget (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971) pp. 283-295--a wishy-washy account; Carl F. H. Henry, Confessions of a Theologian (Waco, Tex.: Word, 1986), pp. 114-143; Harold Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), pp. 106-121; and the sequel, The Bible in the Balance (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), pp. 183-243, both very frank and hard-hitting accounts; and especially, George M. Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangelicalism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987).
Smith's biography of Fuller reads more like a publicity piece than a serious, balanced biography. It is effusive and fulsome in its praise of Mr. Fuller. It brought to my mind the image of an overly ripe Red Delicious apple--all mushy and unappealing once you get inside. Another serious defect of the book is of course its date, scarcely a year after the founding of Fuller Seminary, and lacking the perspective of events in the 1950s and 60s which took the school far from its Evangelical roots. It also could not cover the last 2 decades of Fuller's life. I am unaware of any more recent and more complete biography of Charles Fuller.
Profiles in Evangelism by Fred Barlow. Murfreesboro, Tenn.: Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1976, 215 pp.
The late evangelist Fred Barlow originally wrote these 46 brief biographical sketches for The Biblical Evangelist, edited by Robert L. Sumner. Barlow selected 46 leading Christian figures especially noted for bringing people to Christ and has capsulized their lives and labors for the Gospel's sake. Most lived in the 19th and 20th centuries, though there are several from the 18th century and even one from the pre-Reformation era. At the time of writing, about ten of those profiled were still living, though now only one of them is.
Some of those presented were famous evangelists: George Whitefield, D. L. Moody, Gipsy Smith, and Billy Sunday. Others were noted pastors: Charles Spurgeon, DeWitt Talmadge, and George W. Truett. Still others served the Lord as missionaries: David Brainerd, William Carey, Adoniram Judson, J. Hudson Taylor, and "Praying" Hyde. And yet others worked with the "down and outers" of society: William Booth and Mel Trotter. And some were noted for their music: Ira Sankey and Charles M. Alexander among these.
Many were and are famous; some profiled were wholly unknown to me before reading. But all were used by God to bring lost sinners to Himself. They set us a worthy example which we would do well to follow.
I do wish that Mr. Barlow had included a line or two of bibliography for each person described, so that those who stirred my interest could be further studied, without the trouble of searching unaided for good books about them.