As will be seen by reference to page 51 of the following Memoir, the Author deemed the few remarks regarding the late Mr. R. C. Chapman which I made in this year’s Report of the “Scriptural Knowledge Institution” worthy of insertion in his book: and to this favour he has added another in very kindly requesting me to write a few lines by way of introduction to his work. I cannot decline the opportunity thus afforded me of expressing my sense of the gracious influence which the godly walk and testimony of our beloved, departed brother has, for more than sixty years, exercised on my own spiritual life, and of commending this Memoir (which I have read with great interest) as presenting a very fresh and life-like portrait of a spiritual guide, given by our ascended Lord to His Church, whom we do well to “remember,” and whose faith we do better still to “follow.”
My own personal acquaintance with Mr. Chapman commenced, so far as I can remember, in the winter of the year 1841. I think it was on the evening of a Lord’s Day, after he had been addressing a Sunday School in the afternoon in another part of the city, that he met a few believers of varying ages in an ante-room of Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, before the evening meeting, and conversed with us about the manifestation of Himself, by the Lord Jesus to His disciples, after their night of fruitless toil, as recorded in the twenty-first chapter of John’s Gospel; and the peculiarly tender and sympathetic tones with which he recited the words “Children, have ye any meat?” are, after all the years that have since elapsed, still fresh in my memory and heart.
Since then, again and again, has his mere reading aloud of the Word of God edified me, and I fully endorse the remark of a Christian friend who once said to me, “To hear Mr. Chapman only read a psalm is as good as a sermon!”
Is it not well to enquire, “What was the reason of this impressiveness of his mere reading or recital of the words of God?” Doubtless the flexibility and skilful inflections of his voice had something to do with it; still more, his unusual grasp of the deeper meanings of Holy Scripture; but these do not, I think, fully account for the fact referred to, which is testified to by so many. I believe the true explanation is to be found in the intense reverence for and love of the God-breathed words with which the Holy Spirit endowed him. In a fuller sense than is true of most of us, Psalms 19 and 119 were the expression of his soul’s habitual attitude towards the “living oracles.” One result of his listening so intently to the Voice of God was that Mr. Chapman excelled in the habit of speaking to God in prayer, intercession, and thanksgiving; and so his holy intimacy with the Father grew more and more. He “walked with God,” like Enoch. He “considered the Apostle and High-Priest of our profession” with unwearying diligence, and he yielded himself to the leading of the Spirit of God with strenuous endeavour; and thus it came to pass that, in reply to any loving enquiry after his own welfare, he could, out of a full heart, habitually say (as he said once to a few of us who encountered him in the streets of Leominster, as we were all on our way to breakfast at the “Waterloo House,” and asked him how he was), “Satisfied with favour, and full of the blessing of the Lord!”
The silence of this man was golden. He could be silent, and, when he was, one hesitated to break the silence, remembering that “waters that babble, in their course proclaim their shallowness, while, in their strength, deep streams flow silently.” If one could wait till he broke the silence, what followed was well worth listening to!
Yet, he could be as innocently playful as a child. It was a rare treat to see and hear Mr. Chapman and Mr. Hake together. I remember once (it must have been in the “sixties”) when both were dining with us one Lord’s Day at Sydenham Hill, Bristol, Mr. Chapman looked across the table at his Brother Hake and enquired, “Why were you so silent at the meeting this morning, dear Brother?” Promptly Mr. Hake replied, “Because, dear Brother, I judged that there were those present who could speak more to edification than myself.” Mr. Chapman took no immediate notice of this answer; but presently, addressing myself with a merry twinkle in his eye, said, “Dear Brother Wright, do you remember that very humble man named Saul, who when he was wanted could not be found, for he was so very humble that he had hidden himself amongst the stuff? And, dear Brother Wright, you will remember that, not long after, that very humble man seized a javelin and would fain have pinned David to the wall, because he was jealous of him! “This indirect but most plain hint that pride may sometimes ape humility, was not lost upon Brother Hake, who turned imploringly to his seemingly unmerciful friend and exclaimed, “Oh, Brother Chapman, Brother Chapman, this is too bad!” while the righteous smiter chuckled aloud at the effect which his parable had taken, no doubt of opinion that he had administered to his well-beloved brother an “excellent oil that would not break his head.”
It was my happiness once to hear Mr. Chapman expressing his views of biographies, and one of his remarks fixed itself in my memory. “If you want,” said he, “the perfect model biography, you may find it in Genesis 5:21 to 24 and Hebrews 11:5, where we have the Holy Ghost’s biography of Enoch.”
Three things, I believe, constituted in Mr. Chapman’s judgment the excellence of this biography. First, its brevity; secondly, its simplicity; thirdly, its heavenly point of view. Again and again, whilst reading the following pages, have I thought how the present Memoir is conformed to this inspired ideal. It is not too long, it is artless in construction, and it views the whole life and course of its subject from the standpoint of God’s sovereign, rich, and unfailing grace. Applying the pregnant thought so beautifully expressed on page 109, lines 8 and 10 from top, it may be truly said that throughout this concise Memoir one sees, not so much Robert Chapman, bat the Lord God of Robert Chapman. Thus the servant of God is not glorified, but God is glorified in him.
The selections from Mr. Chapman’s addresses, hymns, and weighty sayings will, through the blessing of God, continue the precions result of the teaching, of his lips, and “feed many.”
13 Charlotte Street, Park Street,
Bristol, Nov. 22, 1902.
Mr. Chapman’s Best-known Hymn.
Oh, my Saviour crucified!
Near Thy cross would I abide;
There to look, with stedfast eye,
On Thy dying agony.
Jesus, bruised and put to shame,
Tells me all Jehovah’s name;
“God is love,” I surely know
By the Saviour’s depths of woe.
In His spotless soul’s distress
I perceive my guiltiness;
Oh, how vile my low estate,
Since my ransom was so great!
Dwelling on Mount Calvary,
Contrite shall my spirit be;
Rest and holiness shall find,
Fashioned like my Saviour’s mind.