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A Man of God

September 16, 2020

Dear Prayer Partners,

Thank you for joining us in prayer today for revival and our prodigals. The Bible says, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (Jam. 5:16 NLT). My wife gave me a desk plaque with a quote from E. M. Bounds when I started preaching back in 1996. It remains as a constant reminder of the value of a righteous person. “Preaching is not the performance of an hour. It is the outflow of a life.” Whether it is preaching, plumbing, or project management the truth is the same.

I read a small book recently by Robert L. Peterson & Alexander Strauch called, Agape Leadership. The subtitle was: Lessons In Spiritual Leadership From The Life Of R.C. Chapman. Chapman was a patient and gentle man, affectionately referred to as “an apostle of love.” Charles Spurgeon called him, “the saintliest man I ever knew.” James Wright, director of Müller’s Ashley Downs orphanages, spoke of Chapman’s “intense reverence for and love of the God-breathed Words [of Scripture]. Chapman’s life was steeped in the Scriptures. He would only accept a doctrinal position after much study of the whole of Scripture so that he was confident of its compatibility with Scripture rather than just with a few select passages. He was firm on “essential doctrines and scriptural principles” and “balanced his teaching with godly understanding and love.”

Robert Cleaver Chapman lived from 1803 to 1902. He pursued a legal career in London and became an attorney of the Court of Common Pleas and an attorney of the Court of the King’s bench. After inheriting a small fortune, he was able to set up his own law office in London. Since his teens, he had been interested in spiritual things, but while in London he began reading his Bible. Responding to an invitation to attend John Street Chapel, Chapman heard a message by Harington Evans and trusted Christ as his Savior. Harington began to mentor Robert and took him to the slums to distribute food, provide clothing, and share the gospel with the poor. Chapman said, “There are many who preach Christ, but not many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ.” In the end, Chapman did both.

About ten years after his salvation, Chapman left his legal profession to help a small, troubled congregation in Barnstaple. He lived by this text: “And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Despite the differences of opinions and strong traditions at Barnstaple, Chapman served with patience and gentleness as he waited on God to work in the hearts of the people he shepherded. Chapman sought unity with a passion. He was, “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4: 3).

He was a man who continually practiced giving to those in need. “And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). He gave away most of his fortune. When visiting George Müller in Bristol, he handed him some money for the orphans, not knowing that Müller had nothing to feed them the next day. This kind of care and compassion marked him all through his Christian life.

Although he remained single, his home was always open to those needing a place to stay. His request to his guests was that they leave their shoes outside their room at night so he could clean them. Since the custom of foot washing was no longer the norm, he felt that this shoe cleaning was a humble act of service he could do that would be similar.

His life was characterized by prayer and worship. “He was known as a person who pleased God” (Heb. 11:5). John Nelson Darby said, “We talk of the heavenlies, but Robert Chapman lives in them.” Chapman was a godly man and he loved to worship. Many of the 165 hymns and poems he wrote centered in the cross. Here are a few verses from one of his best known hymns:

O my Saviour Crucified!

Near Thy cross would I abide;

There to look with steadfast eye,

On thy dying agony.

Dwelling on Mount Calvary,

Contrite shall my spirit be;

Rest and holiness shall find,

Fashioned like my Saviour’s mind.

Many of his hymns were compiled into a hymn book and sung at Bear Street Chapel. There was a regular Thursday evening sing at Chapman’s house where they practiced new songs and the church became known as a mature, worshipping church.

His hymns also reflected Chapman’s love for all God’s people. “Thy brethren, Lord, are my delight, I love them strong or weak; They all are precious in my sight, The froward and the meek.” He went out of his way to help and welcome all the believers. Even those who had differing views.

These are just a few lines about a man who was referred to as a man of God or “the holy man” even by those who had little care for God. I hope it will inspire us to learn more about this great man and, more importantly, emulate the qualities he developed in his life.

Love in Christ,

Bryan and Rachel


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