Thursday, 2 April 2015

Two Secondhand Books

I have on my shelf two fairly old secondhand books. Each of them belonged to one of my great-grandfathers, and I think they say something about what they valued in life. 

My mother's mother's father had a copy of William Gurnall's "Christian in Complete Armour". The date of the edition is 1862. It has a decent binding, though not deluxe, and it has suffered over the years. It was originally the property of a Mr Williamson of Notting Hill (or at least, he was the first to put his name in it) but it was given to my great grandfather on 8th Sept 1920, as a present from a Mrs Thorpe of the Aged Pilgrims' Asylum in Camberwell. I am curious as to whether the book was a kind of official gift associated with some service rendered to the APA, if so, what had Grandad Carpenter done for them, and was Mrs Thorpe connected to, perhaps a daughter of, Mr Williamson?

Whatever the history of this copy of the book in my family, there is no doubt about the value of the work itself. William Gurnall was a Puritan minister from Kings Lynn who ministered for a long period at Lavenham in Suffolk. He remained in the Church of England after the Act of Uniformity in 1662, which lost him many friends amongst the 2000 and more who were forced out. It was during his ministry at Lavenham that he wrote the three volumes which became the full Christian in Complete Armour. John Newton,
Oswald Beaumont Carpenter
with Sainsbury's staff in 1899.
the slave trader turned pastor and hymn-writer (Amazing Grace, amongst others) said that if he could only have access to one book beside the Bible, he would choose Christian Armour. Charles Spurgeon said the work is "peerless and priceless; every line full of wisdom. The book has been preached over scores of times and is, in our judgment, the best thought-breeder in all our library." It is a book which has had wide appeal across doctrinal and denominational divides; when the Banner of Truth produced their abridged and modernised version in 1988 it was in part at the behest of and with a foreword by David Wilkerson, Pentecostal pastor and author of The Cross and the Switchblade. 

My grandad Brunker gained the book through marriage to Ruth Carpenter, daughter of Oswald Beaumont. I know he had read it, and valued it, as I have, although in my case not this copy which is possibly too fragile for comfortable reading. I am glad to have it because of family history and the evidence it shows of where my grandad and great grandad were at. 

The other book is a beautifully bound edition (1876) of the Methodist Hymn Book (or A Collection of Hymns for the Use of the People Called Methodists). It too came into my family second hand (the second hand book thing is clearly deeply rooted with us, on both sides of the clan). It was originally given
as a presentation to a Mrs Slater on the occasion of her laying one of the memorial stones at the new Wesleyan Chapel, Etwall, Derbyshire in 1883. I think that this chapel was in effect an extension of an existing building. In the book a Leicester address has been crossed through From what I can tell, Slaters were quite prominent people in the Leicestershire Methodist scene, hence her being asked to lay a foundation stone, I guess. 

The only other address is in St Albans Road, Watford and dated 1897. I have always assumed that this is in my great grandfather John King's handwriting and was his address, but I can't be sure. I know that he lived further into London, in the Hornsey Rise area, and that his son, my grandad, subsequently lived in Watford. 

What interests me with this book is that my great grandfather had it at all. He was a Gospel Standard Strict Baptist, and strictly speaking this Arminian volume should have been on his naughty shelf. But I love it! I think it is one of the greatest collections of hymns ever put together, and for anyone interested in Charles Wesley's hymns, as given a light editorial tweak by his brother, it is still an invaluable source. And I often wonder if John King actually looked on the hymns here with as much affection as I do, even though it would have been anathema in the chapels where he preached. Certainly my grandparents loved this book and its contents, and I am so glad to now have it in my care. 

If you are from a family with generations of believers, be glad. Value anything which connects you to your godly forbears. Above all, value the common faith, the common gospel, the common Spirit, the common Saviour and the common Lord. Be thankful for your ancestors' prayers - though you may have had no overlap with their lives, who said they didn't pray for generations yet unborn? And why not pray for your as yet unborn grandchildren and great grandchildren too? And ask yourself: What loved books or other evidences of a real faith may one day pass from you to them?

I am thankful for Oswald Beaumont Carpenter and John King. Without them, I wouldn't be here. 

In more ways than one.