Sunday, July 14, 2013

Jesus' Hidden Years at Nazareth

I found a treasure among the books my paternal grandmother owned. It is Rev. G. Campbell Morgan's The Hidden Years at Nazareth, a little devotional gem. My grandmother, Alice Williams Linsley, was ordained a Baptist pastor in 1925 in California. She had served on the evangelistic team of Mordecai Ham (1877–1961), an Independent Baptist evangelist from Kentucky to whose invitation Billy Graham walked the aisle. Grandmother Linsley was an avid reader and people sent her books from England and India (where she was born). This little book is no longer in print and isn't even listed among the publications of Rev. G. Campbell Morgan.

G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945) was born on a farm in Tetbury, England, the son of a Baptist minister. When Campbell was 10 years old, D. L. Moody came to England for the first time, and the effect of his ministry, combined with the dedication of his parents, made such an impression on young Morgan, that at the age of 13, he preached his first sermon. Two years later, he was preaching regularly in country chapels during his Sundays and holidays.

In 1886, at the age of 23, he left the teaching profession, for which he had been trained, and devoted himself to preaching and Bible exposition. He was ordained to the Congregational ministry in 1890. He had no formal training for the ministry, but his devotion to studying of the Bible made him one of the leading Bible teachers in his day. His reputation as preacher and Bible expositor grew throughout England and spread to the United States.

In 1896, D. L. Moody invited him to lecture to the students at the Moody Bible Institute. This was the first of his 54 crossings of the Atlantic to preach and teach. After the death of Moody in 1899, Morgan assumed the position of director of the Northfield Bible Conference. After five successful years in this capacity, he returned to England (in 1904) and became pastor of Westminster Chapel of London. His preaching and weekly Friday night Bible classes were attended by thousands. Leaving Westminster Chapel in 1919, he once again returned to the United States, where he conducted an itinerant preaching/teaching ministry for 14 years. Finally, in 1933, he returned to England, where he again became pastor of Westminster Chapel and remained there until his retirement in 1943. He was instrumental in bringing Martyn Lloyd-Jones to Westminster in 1939 to share the pulpit and become his successor. Morgan died on May 16, 1945, at the age of 81.

Among his published books, one that is no longer in print, is my favorite. The title is The Hidden Years at Nazareth, copyright 1898 by Fleming H. Revell Company (then known as "Publishers of Evangelical Literature"). With the recent interest in the Gnostic Gospels and speculation about Jesus' hidden years, one would think a publisher would jump on the money-making potential of this little book and reprint it!

Over the next few weeks, I am going to make that slim but precious volume available in short segments. Here is the first segment.

The Hidden Years at Nazareth
by Rev. G. Campbell Morgan

The soul's first vision of Jesus is of Him as the Saviour. When we so know Him, He becomes to us the exemplar, leaving us an example, that we should follow in His steps. He is more than an example in any ordinary acceptation of that term, for He not only reveals to us the pattern of our lives, but He also brings the power by which we may grow up into Him in all things, and so reproduce in actual living the perfect and wondrous pattern that He shows.  But we must clearly understand that we never get back into the life of Jesus save by way of His death.  His death is evermore the gate of life to man - not only a gate to the eternal life that stretches beyond this place and time of conflict, but the gate into the eternal life which we live today, if we are living in direct and positive communion with Himself. Having known Him as the Saviour, and having found our way into the realm of life at the cross, then He becomes our example, and all that He is in the revelation of the fourfold gospel marks His intention for His people.

Now, beloved, let us seek to learn the purpose of Christ for us in one particular department of life.

It is not given to every man or woman to serve God in public places; the great majority must live their lives outside any prominent sphere, and as part of a very small circle of relatives and acquaintances. Men will not hear even the names of the great mass of people who are living their life throughout the world today. I want to know what there is in the life of Jesus that helps such persons.

We are accustomed to think of Him as one in a public ministry, as the man of the market-place and the crowd, the teacher who "spake as never man spake," the healer whose touch brought life and blessing to hundreds, the man who rebuked sin in high places and spoke words of infinitely sweet pity and kindness to the child and the young disciple; but the greater part of His life was not lived in those places where we have grown most familiar with Him, but in quiet seclusion, where the great crown of men and women will always live in this world.

Yet how little we know concerning that period! How meager is the biblical information! I do not say it is not enough; I believe it is enough; but in the mere matter of words, how small it is!  I have the story of His birth, and then I lose sight of Him for twelve years.  Then I see Him again, going out to His Jewish confirmation, becoming the son of the law in that Jewish congregation, asking questions of the doctors, and answering theirs. Ah, it is a wonderful glimpse, a glittering flash, and then I lose Him again for eighteen long years, at the end of which time He come to be baptized of John in Jordan, and begins His public ministry, and I see a few rapid pictures of miracles and tears and love and sympathy, and He is gone! If you will write, in the manner in which the lives of the men of today are written, the story of the daily life of Jesus, how diminutive and meager it is!

What of those eighteen years? Where was He? What was He doing? As one whom He has ordained to preach His gospel in this public ministry, I am intensely interested in the way He spoke to men and acted among them in His public years; but the majority will feel that they would be better served by a revelation of how He acted amid the commonplace surroundings of everyday life.

To be continued...

Part 2 is here.
Part 3 is here.
Part 4 is here.
Conclusion is here.


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