The last time, probably, that Robert Chapman and Denham Smith were in the same meeting (October, 1884), Mr. Denham Smith expressed the wish that Mr. Chapman’s “Life “might be written. Mr. Chapman’s ready reply was: “It is being written, dear brother, and will be published in the morning.” Only on High is it truly written, and only there can it be fully appreciated. But the exhortation to remember our guides who have spoken to us the Word of God, to consider the end of their conduct, and to imitate their faith (Heb. 13:7), is a warrant for seeking to recall, as far as possible, some of the features of a life in which God has been so truly glorified.
As a man of faith and prayer and devotedness to God, the name of R. C. Chapman is known far and wide, though few are left who knew anything of his early Christian course except by hearsay, and fewer still have any knowledge of his earliest years. The few facts concerning him that follow are fully reliable, having been kindly communicated by one who knows them well—his sister—the only one who could give them. This sister, Miss Arabella Chapman, of Clifton, is the only survivor of a large family, and, though in her ninetieth year, she was at her brother’s side from the time he was taken ill, June 2nd, 1902, till he was called to his rest. Being one with him “in the Lord,” she found it “a great comfort to be with him to the last, and likewise to be among so many dear brethren of one heart and spirit.”
Boyhood and Youth
Robert Cleaver Chapman was born in Denmark, January 4th, 1803, where his parents resided at that time. His mother felt the importance of a child’s early years, and taught and trained her children herself till they were nine or ten, seeking to instil high principles and a love for learning. While in Denmark Robert Chapman had lessons from a French abbé, and he was then sent to a school in Yorkshire, where he made good progress. He studied European languages, and purposed to acquire Eastern ones. He had a passion for literature, and desired to give himself to it; but though the Chapmans had been rich, the position of his father—Mr. Thomas Chapman—had in this respect undergone some change, and it was needful for the son to pursue a course that would bring remuneration; therefore, though with some reluctance, he studied law and became a solicitor. In this profession he soon occupied a good position, and had he pursued the course on which he started, there is little question that the high honours to which it can lead might have been his. But God had honour in store for him, great and abiding, such as the world cannot give.
In later years Mr. Chapman was a frequent visitor at the Firs, near Wellington, the residence of Mrs. Hanbury, who recently fell asleep at the great age of 108, and Miss Charlotte Hanbury in her Autobiography writes of him:
“He told me much about his boyhood. He was devoted to his mother, whose company was his greatest pleasure. It was a matter of entire indifference to him who was present at the table, or who was absent, as long as she was there. She was a lady of influence and decided character, and her conversation was his great delight. Others in the home-party used to say: ‘Robert is a philosopher; Robert won’t do much.’ He listened to what were declared to be his incapacities, and believed what he heard, which hindered the development of his talents. Thus he was told he could not sing, but later in life his ability was known to all his friends. He was an excellent student, and he admits that he was a learned youth, modestly adding: ‘I would not say a learned man.’ At sixteen he turned his earnest attention to the study of the Bible, and continued this with such diligence for four years that he gained a thorough acquaintance with the whole Book. Then its subjects began to impress his heart.”
As further evidence of the good use Robert Chapman made of his early years, the following may be added:
“In his travels abroad he can easily preach in five languages… He used to tell me much of Italian literature, and notable people of Italy, as well as of the history of other countries; indeed, his fund of literary knowledge distinguished him, independently of his great spirituality.”
At the time when his mother’s influence specially affected him, she had been brought under the power of teaching that was not evangelical, and therefore she did not teach him the Gospel, though she always said it was her chief prayer that all her children might be led to love the truth. Though he was a great attraction at evening parties in London, to which he was often invited, he was a religious youth, and his state at this time seems to be described in one of his hymns:
“Blind from the birth, I would be wise,
And all the mystery know
Of fair Creation’s ceaseless groan—
Of man’s estate and woe.
“I toiled and spent my strength for nought,
I vexed my soul in vain,
Till I beheld the risen Lord—
Thy Son, the second Man.”
He expressed it in another way by saying he made it his business to judge the Bible, and did not allow the Scriptures to judge him.
The following, which is taken from a letter written in 1894, to the late Mr. W. E. Gladstone, then about to retire from office, who courteously acknowledged it, is a fuller record of Mr. Chapman’s early efforts, and of his first knowledge of Christ, while it contains expressions of his maturer acquaintance with Him:
“The undersigned, in his years of youth, sought diligently, and with strong purpose, to establish his own righteousness, in hope thereby to obtain eternal life. In the eyes of all who knew him he had become a blameless young man, religious and devout; but, by the Spirit of God and the Scriptures that were his early morning meditation, he was taught to weigh himself in the balances of God, to see his own guiltiness in the light of God’s justice, his own uncleanness in the light of God’s holiness. Then by the Spirit of God was revealed to him Christ his righteousness, Christ his sanctification; he was taught to call God his Father, and to make the pleasing of God his business in life. In this path walking, he has been for threescore years and ten drinking a cup of true blessedness (earnest of the eternal), and making every bitter thing sweet in that cup, with soul at leisure to seek the welfare, temporal and eternal, of all around him.
“Since the entrance of sin and death into the world, the demands of the human conscience are such that nowhere can the conscience find peace but in the atoning sacrifice of the Son of God, and such are the cravings of the heart after happiness, that only in the fulness of the Godhead, dwelling bodily in Christ, can the heart be satisfied; yea, that peace, that rest, can neither man find nor God bestow, save in the once crucified Son of God, now the Great High Priest at the right hand of God, able to save to the uttermost all that come to God by Him.”
From Darkness to Light
The turning-point in Mr. Chapman’s life came when he was about twenty. He was invited by Mr. John Whitmore—an elder and greatly valued Christian worker at John Street Chapel, Bedford Row—to hear the well-known James Harrington Evans, and in a few days a great change was apparent to those who knew him. Dr. G. F. Maberly, whose recollections of Mr. Chapman date back to 1844, says the account he heard was as follows:
“One evening as Mr. Chapman was walking near John Street Chapel, Bedford Row, in evening dress, one of the deacons or elders standing at the door felt that he must go and speak to him. Apologising for his intrusion as a stranger, he asked him if he would kindly come into the chapel to a meeting. Mr. Chapman responded to the invitation, and the Lord met with him.”
Another account is that he became acquainted with Mr. Whitmore in the way of business; but, however it was, it is certain that God used him and Mr. Evans to accomplish His gracious work of calling the self-righteous young man out of darkness into His marvellous light, and that it was through the ministry of Mr. Evans that he received his earliest instructions in the Gospel of God’s grace and the things that pertain to life and godliness. This being the case, a brief notice of Mr. Evans and his ministry cannot be out of place, and, indeed, is necessary if we would see how Robert Chapman—as a “genuine son”—followed out to their legitimate conclusion those principles on which Mr. Evans sought to act, which so greatly affected his course as a servant of Christ, and for which he endured not a little. Let us remember that links between different generations of God’s children—links of a true succession—such as that between Mr. Evans and Mr. Chapman, are links for eternity; let us also, as servants of Christ, take to heart the fact that the after-life of those brought to God is often affected by the character of the one whom God uses in their conversion, as well as by the way in which he deals with the Word of God.
James Harrington Evans
Dr. Evans — a clergyman at Salisbury — took great interest in the education of his son Harrington, who was so forward in his studies that he obtained a scholarship at Oxford at the age of fourteen; he gained his degree of B.A. so early that he was known as “the boy bachelor”; and he proved to be a man of great ability. According to his father’s purpose he became a clergyman, and though at Oxford he was for a time foremost in worldly pursuits, his early training, and especially “the power of a mother’s love,” had their restraining effect. He obtained a curacy in Staffordshire in 1809, and the rector, telling him he took too much trouble with his sermons, and should read printed ones as he himself did, sent him a volume, which had a result he little anticipated, for the perusal of it led him “to comprehend and embrace the blessed and fundamental doctrine of justification by faith alone.” Thus proving for himself that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, he preached that Gospel as few did in the early part of last century. Removing the next year to Milford, in Hampshire, he was zealous in his work, but, while souls were converted and godly persons were attracted to visit the place, such strong disapprobation of his plain preaching was expressed that the rector, whose sentiments were entirely opposed to those of his curate, gave him six months’ notice to leave.
Mr. Evans had already become exercised before God as to his position in the Church of England, and, though some of his friends sought to help him to view matters in a different light, “it was all in vain; the baptism of infants, the union of the Church with the State, and what he considered to be the consequent absence of holy discipline in that Church,” caused him to leave it. This he did m January, 1816, when he and his wife were baptised by immersion at Taunton. After a time Mr. Evans went to London, and Mr. Henry Drummond, M.P., erected for him spacious buildings in John Street, where his preaching attracted many from all parts of London. As connected with Robert Chapman’s subsequent course, it is interesting to observe how Mr. Evans sought to be guided by Scripture. His son, the author of his Memoir, himself a clergyman, says:
“Whilst Mr. Evans himself held the doctrine of believers’ baptism, … he always firmly maintained that he could not be the pastor of a Baptist Church, as it would involve the rejection from Church fellowship, and from the table of the Lord, of many whom God had received, and who might, from their holy character, be advanced to higher rewards in heaven than many who agreed with him on the subject. He, however, invariably suggested a candid and prayerful consideration of the subject, … leaving it to the decision of conscience and judgment, as in the sight of God.
“A careful examination of the Word of God on the subject of the Lord’s Supper had satisfied Mr. Evans that the family of God should meet around His table every Lord’s day, and the Lord’s Supper was therefore celebrated every Sunday evening… These were always peculiarly happy seasons, in which he enjoyed much of the Master’s presence… In the admission of members into the Church, he was most cautious that they should first give satisfactory proof of vital godliness; but, if he were assured of this, he considered that, however weak and feeble they might be, they ought to be united with the saints of God in order to their being nourished by the means of grace, and associated with other believers.
“Mr. Evans judged ‘the calling an untried, unproved, and therefore unknown man to the title and office of pastor, although the individual might be most richly endowed with both gift and grace,’ to be ‘ most hazardous,’ and he considered that ‘ if anyone in the Church shall prove himself, by the exercise of gift and grace, to be possessed of any one or more pastoral gifts, such as visiting to edification, expounding the Word,’ etc., ‘ such an one ought to be welcomed as an especial gift of God, received, and valued.’ ‘While the usual plan most commonly proves a failure, this can scarcely be anything short of a great blessing, through the power of the Holy Ghost’.”
This sketch would be incomplete without an indication of the character of the preaching and teaching which must have made a great impression upon so young and ardent a listener as Mr. Chapman, and had no small effect upon his course and ministry. The following summary, though condensed, is given in the words of the Memoir. Mr. Evans was for a little while fascinated by Sabellian error as to the person of Christ, on account of which he never ceased to be humbled. Being by God’s grace delivered from this,
“His mind was gradually but firmly fixed in the conviction that the Son and the Holy Ghost are, with the Father, truly, properly, personally God. He fully declared the total and entire depravity of man by nature, without ability to turn himself to God; the free, sovereign, electing love of God, flowing through the Cross of Christ; and the absolute need of the power of the Holy Ghost to commence in regeneration and carry on in sanctification His work in the soul. He was fettered by no shackles of human system, and felt himself at full liberty to proclaim the Gospel as free to every creature under heaven. His standard of holiness was a very high one; he deeply felt the importance of a decided separation from the world in the Christian, and thought it ought to be manifest in the dress, furniture, table, and domestic arrangements of the child of God. Union amongst God’s people was always his avowed and cherished object, and his longing for it thus found expression in a letter to his father: ‘ Oh! when will those days come when party names, party distinctions, party separations, shall cease?’”
These quotations give some idea of the man under whose influence God was pleased to bring Robert Chapman, when in grace He called him to reveal His Son in him.
The Oil of Joy for Mourning
The experience through which the newly-awakened one passed when God’s light shone into his soul seems to be recorded in his Hymns and Meditations. Dwelling on the words, “The winter is past” (Song of Solomon 2:11), he writes:
“Lord, I remember Thy dealings with me! When Thy hand at first arrested me, and Thy Spirit convinced me of sin, my cup was bitter with my guilt and the fruit of my doings; my joy was turned into mourning; my soul was like a salt land, accursed of God; the hail and storm swept away my refuge of lies! I was alive without the commandment, once; ignorant of the holy law of God, while yet I was under it; but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.
“Then all was dreary winter within, and therefore it was winter without. Sick was I of the world, hating it as vexation of spirit, while yet I was unable and unwilling to cast it out. I found no city to dwell in—I wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way.
“In the good and set time Thou spakest to me, saying, ‘This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing.’ And how sweet Thy words,’ Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee!’
“How precious the sight of the Lamb of God! and how glorious the robe of righteousness, hiding from the holy eyes of my Judge all my sin and pollution!
“Then did the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb did sing. In Jesus crucified—in Thee, my Lord, my soul found rest, and in the bosom of Thy love.
“Ere I knew Thee I had no stay to my soul; my every cistern proved broken. I had no kind and faithful Friend, almighty, all-wise, unchangeable, to soothe my grief and bear my burden.
“But in all that dismal path I now see Thy hand! I was under the curse, but Thy truth has made me free. The winter is past, for I am in Christ Jesus, walking no longer after the flesh, but after the Spirit—the rain is over and gone.”
Thus was he called by God “into the grace of Christ,” and taking his stand at once and decidedly as a confessor of His Name, and owning Him as Lord, he was baptised as a believer and attached himself to the assembly of Christians in London in which Mr. Harrington Evans ministered the Word. Having learned from the Scriptures that it was the will of God that believers should be baptised, he went to Mr. Evans and expressed his desire to carry it out. With commendable caution Mr. Evans said, “You will wait awhile, and consider the matter.” “No,” said Mr. Chapman, “I will make haste, and delay not, to keep His commandments.” How blessedly he adhered to his purpose through his long life is well known. Not many years ago he said to a friend, “Beloved brother, I have no time to be in a hurry; and the only thing I make haste about is to keep the commandments of God.”
Those who have in any measure been led in the same path know that the step just referred to could only be taken at some cost:
“The offence of the Cross has not ceased; no sooner did I know Thee and confess Thee, than I became a stranger to the sons of Hagar (who genders only to bondage), whose child I was by nature. Thy love drew me aside from the path of the worldling, whether wicked or devout; I became an offence to those I forsook, even those of my own flesh and blood.”
But he had begun to learn of Him who said, “I have set My face as a flint,” and with “purpose of heart” he followed on to know the Lord, with a dread of dishonouring Him. On one occasion he said:
“I remember the time when I was afraid to die, and this fear should follow every unconverted person; but on coming to Christ, and being saved by Him, I passed from that state to another, that of being afraid to live, for I feared that if I lived I might do something that would dishonour the Lord, and I would rather die a hundred times than do such a thing. But, thanks be to God, I did not remain long in this state, for I saw clearly that it was possible to live in the world without dishonouring God. I understood that when Christ died we who believe died in Him, were buried with Him, and rose again with Him to be seated with Him in heavenly places. As such He sends us into the world, according to that word, ‘As Thou hast sent Me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world’ (John 17:18). Hence our character below should be that of persons sent down from heaven. Here we should have no inheritance, for our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour. Such was the purpose of God in saving us, and such is mine in this world.”
Gain counted Loss for Christ
As he thus fell in with the purpose of God, all other literature—in which he had so delighted— at once gave place to the Holy Scriptures, which were now read in a very different spirit, and he became, and continued to be for well-nigh eighty years, a man of the one Book. When at the seaside with some of his young relatives he would say, “Let us come to the Bible.” That Book he read in its original languages, and possessing an acquaintance with the very letter of it beyond that of many of the so-called Higher Critics, and discerning its spiritual lessons by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, he only saw increasingly the perfect harmony of the whole. He proved the truth of the word, “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and they shall have no stumbling-block.” Few men since the days of the Apostle Paul, we may say, more fully followed his steps in counting loss for Christ what previously had been gain to him. Indeed, with a little variation of language as to his course before he knew Christ, Philippians 3 is a true picture of his experience. His mother used to say, “Robert always has a passion, whether literature or the flute, and whatever he takes up he pursues diligently.” There is little question that the same thing might have been said about Saul of Tarsus, and we may well thank God that in the man of the nineteenth century, as in the man of the first century, that passion was by His grace laid at His feet. As in Paul’s case, earthly ambition gave place to heavenly—the one great ambition of being well-pleasing to Christ his Lord.
Robert Chapman evidently soon learned what “pure religion and undefiled” is, for, separating himself from the world, he found delight in visiting the poor. He was particularly interested in a poor, old, blind woman who had no one to take her to the meeting. Thus walking humbly in the path of service at hand, he was soon led of God to further service appointed by Him. Mr. Pugsley, of Barnstaple, who married one of Mr. Chapman’s cousins, went to London to visit him, and being much struck to see this young man thus interesting himself in the poor, soon felt that Robert Chapman had learned and possessed something of which he himself was ignorant; this led to his conversion. They prayed and read the Word together, and Mr. Pugsley returned to Devon a changed man, whose true devotedness to the Lord became evident to all.
Mr. Chapman felt that he was called of God to give himself to the ministry of the Word. When his friends told him he would never make a preacher, his reply was, “There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ; my great aim will be to live Christ.” It was by God’s grace that resolution was made, and by the same grace it was kept (Phil. 2:13). That he did live Christ, over seventy years, no one who knew him can question. Many have heard how J. N. Darby, when on one occasion he heard some brethren speaking of R. C. Chapman as a good man, but deficient in knowledge of the heavenly calling, reproved them with the words, “You leave that man alone; he lives what I teach!” As a result of that life of devotedness, which can be fully estimated by the Lord alone, his ministry has borne fruit which could never have resulted from any measure of mere human eloquence.
Early Ministry at Barnstaple
It was on the invitation of Mr. Pugsley that Mr. Chapman visited Barnstaple in 1831, which led to his taking up his abode there in April, 1832. His own account—given to Mr. G. F. Bergin a few years ago—of his connection with the chapel to which he first went, and of its being left for the building which will always be specially associated with his name, was as follows:
“When I was invited to leave London and go to minister the Word of God in Ebenezer Chapel, then occupied by a community of strict Baptists, I consented to do so, naming one condition only—that I should be quite free to teach all I found written in the Scriptures. This I continued to do for some time with blessing from the Lord. A brother who visited me in those days urged me to set aside the strict rule that none but baptised believers should be allowed to break bread. I replied that I could not force the consciences of my brethren and sisters; and I continued my ministry, patiently instructing them from the Word. I well knew at that time that I could have carried the point with a large majority, but I judged it to be more pleasing to God to toil on to bring all to one mind. I was enabled to bear with their unduly pressing a right course; I could not have thus waited had they been pressing a wrong thing, such as infant baptism. In due time, through patiently waiting, and by the blessing of God upon us, we were brought to be all of one mind.
“A little time after that some Christians resident in Barnstaple, who held the strict views which we had abandoned, demanded that we should give up the use of the chapel. I carefully examined the Trust Deed, and found that in not one particular did we set aside its provisions. Yet we gave them the chapel, just as I should give my coat to a man who demanded it. You will not be surprised when I tell you that ere long the Lord gave us a much better chapel. He will be no man’s debtor.”
The grace and patience with which Mr. Chapman acted in this matter is further expressed in a letter, written in 1893, which should have special attention in days when division is lightly thought of:
“When, sixty years since, I came to this place, I waited for unity of heart and judgment among the company who called themselves Baptists; and when, by the power of the Scriptures, the greater part of them were minded to throw down their wall, we waited on in patience for fulness of unity of judgment. For this I was blamed by men of much grace, who at that time were endeavouring in the south of Devon to bring about a joint testimony of saints to the full truth of God. What we now enjoy here of mutual love and the Spirit’s unity would never have been our portion had any other course been taken.”
The interest Mr. Harrington Evans took in Mr. Chapman’s work at Barnstaple, where he sometimes visited him, and the high esteem in which he held him, found expression in some of Mr. Evans’ letters, which greatly contribute to our knowledge of what he was at that period of his life. Three years after Mr. Chapman settled in Barnstaple he had a serious illness, concerning which Mr. Evans wrote to the church at John Street in the following touching manner:
“September, 1835—This day brings a letter informing me of the dangerous illness of our beloved Brother Chapman. What a lesson as to the uncertainty of all things here below is thus afforded us! It is not long since I felt the need of a caution, lest I should glory in his strength, so strong did he seem as to bodily strength. And now, it may be, as a flower of grass, which a breath of wind scattereth, so may he fade. This will be received (d.v.) at your church meeting; need I suggest that it be especially set apart for him and the dear people committed to his charge? Absent from each other in body, yet present with each other in spirit, between seven and eight to-morrow evening we may meet at the throne of grace together, and beseech the Father of all our mercies, and our support in all our troubles, on his behalf, with a simple, childlike confidence that, if for the Divine glory, he may be restored to health and prolonged usefulness in the service of Him whom he loves. To the praise and honour of God’s most free grace I say it, and with a deep remembrance that but for the atonement of the Son of God he could have nothing before him but the blackness of darkness for ever, that, among those whom it has been my mercy to have known upon earth, I have seen few indeed like him: a child so loving, a servant so ready, poor in spirit above most, and withal bold as a lion, and gentle as a nurse. What he was, I know the grace of God made him, and I trust in my heavenly Father’s love that it will be our mercy to see him yet abounding more and more to the praise of that grace for ever.”
The answer to these prayers may still call forth our thanksgiving to God (2 Cor. 1:11), and remind us that we cannot estimate the far-reaching effect of believing prayer.
From various references it is evident that whenever Mr. Chapman visited London his ministry was much valued:
“May 30, 1842.—R. Chapman has just left us. He slept here last night, after preaching for me at John Street. Oh, what a man of God he is! What grace does he exhibit! Courage, meekness, love, self-denial, tenderness, perseverance, love for souls—all springing out of love of Christ and God—seem beauteously blended together in beautiful symmetry. But by the grace of God he is what he is, and by the grace of God (may we not add?) we can be what he is.”
How these words confirm the statement in Mr. Evans’ memoir concerning himself: “In reviewing his private character as a Christian, perhaps the distinguishing feature was humility”! On September nth, 1846, Mr. Evans writes:
“I found beloved R. Chapman all that he ever was, and more—more like Christ, more self-denying, gentle, and full of love—one of the most remarkable instances of Divine grace, especially showing itself in this, a strong stimulant, or rather stimulator, to lead others to covet and aim at the greatest grace, and the most patient encourager of its very weakest display.”
In the same year, m conversation with a friend, Mr. Evans, in speaking of the power of influence, referred to Mr. Chapman as an example, adding:
“He is one of my stars. I hold him to be one of the first men of the age He has no ebbs or flows. He can always realise his acceptance. But then he is indeed a child, ready for anything, everything—it matters not what—to wash your feet, or go and preach Christ in the market-place within a stone’s throw of a baited bull; it is all one to him, if he can do his Master’s will.”
Thank God, this was true to the end, above fifty-five years later.
Fellowship with other Servants of Christ
But we must go back in thought to 1832, and it is interesting to observe that in the very year that Robert Chapman went to Barnstaple, with the stedfast purpose of seeking to learn and carry out all the will of God, George Müller and his friend and fellow-labourer, Henry Craik, took up their abode in Bristol. These servants of Christ had already been exercised about many things at Teignmouth, and on the evening of August 13th, “at Bethesda Chapel, Mr. Müller, Mr. Craik, one other brother, and four sisters—only seven in all—sat down together, uniting in Church fellowship, ‘ without any rules, desiring to act only as the Lord should be pleased to give light through His Word’” (Dr. Pierson’s George Müller, page 99). Thus, though unknown to one another, these dear brethren, then comparatively young, were being led in the same path of subjection to God’s Word, and in the course upon which they entered God sustained them till He called them higher—Mr. Craik in 1866, Mr. Muller in 1898, and Mr. Chapman in 1902—the path of each being truly that of the just, shining “more and more unto the perfect day.” Though evidence of the exact date is lacking, it seems clear that Mr. Chapman and Mr. Müller must have met soon after 1832.
Early in the same second quarter of the last century, some servants of Christ in Dublin and other places were moved to give themselves to the diligent study of the Scriptures, and made an effort to carry out what was written. This, as we have seen, Mr. Chapman had for some time been doing; consequently, when he and they were in God’s providence brought together, they found themselves in many respects of one mind, and thus new links were formed.
In the matter of Christian fellowship he gladly went where there was room for the whole Bible, and a readiness, so far as he knew, to carry out the will of God according to the Scriptures. Where this place was given to the Scriptures he felt there should be no hindrance to fellowship, but he would allow no compromises; indeed, at a Conference at Leominster on one occasion he surprised those present by saying that rather than make any compromise in this matter he would prefer to die. He would not acknowledge sectarian titles, and if the name of a religious denomination was mentioned to him he would say that it grated upon his ears. But his heart went out to all who are Christ’s, and such, whatever name they bore, were welcomed by him, even as in his intercessions he embraced the whole Church of God. Speaking of the oneness of all believers he said:
“Unless we have a spiritual understanding of this Divine unity we cannot rightly grieve for the divisions of God’s people. By looking into this glass we discover the nature and the guilt of schisms and divisions.”
Though he never failed to give baptism a high place as expressing the believer’s burial and resurrection with Christ, and was accustomed to baptise in the river Taw at Barnstaple until he was eighty (when he thought it well to leave this service to others), no one ever more strongly withstood the teaching that there is anything saving in it. His mind on the subject in connection with fellowship is very clearly expressed in Mr. Muller’s record of his own exercise of heart about it. In Some of the Lord’s Dealings with George Müller vol. i., page 202, he writes:
“In August of 1836 I had a conversation with Brother R. C. on the subject… This brother put the matter thus before me: Either unbaptised believers come under the class of persons who walk disorderly—and in that case we ought to withdraw from them (2 Thess. 3:6)— or they do not walk disorderly. If a believer be walking disorderly, we are not merely to withdraw from him at the Lord’s table, but our behaviour towards him ought to be decidedly different from what it would be were he not walking disorderly, on all occasions when we may have intercourse with him, or come in any way into contact with him. Now, this is evidently not the case in the conduct of baptised believers towards their unbaptised fellow-believers… The Spirit does not suffer us to refuse fellowship with them in prayer, in reading and searching the Scriptures, in social and intimate intercourse, and in the Lord’s work; and yet this ought to be the case were they walking disorderly. This passage (2 Thess. 3:6), to which Brother R. C. referred, was the means of showing me the mind of the Lord on the subject, which is, that we ought to receive all whom Christ has received (Rom. 15:7), irrespective of the measure of grace or knowledge which they have attained unto.”
His attitude towards those who are known as “Exclusive Brethren “was characteristic. Any who knew him would never thus describe them in his presence. He sometimes spoke of them as, “Brethren dearly beloved and longed for,” and sometimes described them as, “Those brethren whose consciences lead them to refuse my fellowship and to deprive me of theirs.” By this expression he meant that they were acting conscientiously, but that their consciences were not guided by the Spirit: of God through the Word, and therefore were not fully under the power of the love of Christ. He mourned that a servant of Christ should by his dictum lead, and that other servants and children of God should be led, in a course so contrary to love and righteousness, and did his utmost to hinder it; but he deemed it far better to suffer rejection than himself to reject those who were walking in the fear of God and in subjection to His Word.
Mr. Chapman’s mind with regard to divisions in God’s Church is well expressed in the following circular-letter, which was dated January, 1846. Had this been taken to heart (instead of being criticised, as it was) the evil which developed, and still prevails, would have been nipped in the bud, and many would have been saved from untold disasters through fresh divisions, of which they have had such painful experience:
“Certain Brethren in the Lord in different parts of the kingdom having agreed to set apart the second Wednesday of the next month for prayer and humiliation, on account of the divisions in the Church of Christ, it is proposed to all to whom those divisions are a grief to join in the above service.
“If, as is commonly confest, the present low estate of the people of God be the bitter fruit of their having so long time grieved the Spirit of God, then is it not the highest aggravation of their guilt that they have so little mourned, either jointly or singly, publicly or privately, for grieving the Holy Ghost?
“Manifold, indeed, are the evils that have grieved Him; and it becomes saints to seek of God a spirit of judgment concerning all those evils. In the meekness and gentleness of Christ, it is urged upon the consciences of saints to consider especially the dishonour done to God by different opinions and judgments among His children concerning His truth, inasmuch as the unity of mind between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—which the unity of the Church should represent is a unity of wisdom as well as love, and of counsel as well as of operation.
“Different degrees of attainment in grace and knowledge, and differences in gifts and offices, must of necessity have place among the members of Christ; but such diversity is of God, and works unity; contrarieties of judgment concerning the truth always check the fellowship of saints, and, if not mourned before God, gender strife and division.
“Will not God set His seal of approval to any attempt of His children, however feeble, to seek of Him, in His own way and order, unity both in judgment and in love?
“If any company of believers be found thus aiming with godly perseverance at unity, will not strife cease among them, and brotherly love wax fervent?
“Who shall set a limit to the progress of unity among the true members of Christ, if that unity is first sought rightly, even by a handful of saints?
“Meanwhile, happy they who, like Daniel, chasten their souls before God in secret, confessing their own sin and the sin of fellow-saints, not seeking their own things but the things of Christ, and not discouraged by the unbelief or indifference of others, knowing that God, who seeth in secret, shall, at the latest in the day of Christ, reward them openly.”
Life at New Buildings, Barnstaple
It was this spirit, with a hearty carrying out of the exhortation to be “given to hospitality,” that characterised the humble residences at Barnstaple, Nos. 6 and 9, on opposite sides of the short street called New Buildings. These abodes of peace and love are known to many throughout the world, and remembered with gratitude. No servant of Christ ever went there without finding a loving welcome and true sympathy, and few can have left without carrying away some deeper sense of the blessedness of trusting God, and seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. No. 6 was from the beginning Mr. Chapman’s dwelling, and in one of the rooms of this most simply furnished abode he who was truly “great in the sight of the Lord” breathed his last. Some time back a friend offered him the use of a better house, and desired him to occupy it, as being more suitable, but he declined the offer, saying he desired to continue where any Christian, even the poorest, could come to him without hesitation.
When he first took the house, he asked the Lord to send him some of His servants, to whom he might show hospitality. Some came, and his heart was filled with joy; but after a while he was left without anyone, which so grieved and perplexed him that he was led to the Lord in self-examination, and said: “Why, Lord, dost Thou not send Thy children to me?” When speaking of this some years after he added: “I have never had to repeat that question, for since then I have had no lack of visitors under my roof.” For many years Mr. Chapman cleaned the boots of his visitors, and put them at the doors of their rooms. Once, when this was referred to, he said: “It is not the custom in our day to wash one another’s feet; that which most nearly corresponds to this command of the Lord is to clean each other’s boots.” We well know that he only named this as a sample of the loving and lowly service to one another inculcated in John 13.
Mr. Chapman rose very early; but he retired early as well. For a long while he prepared his own breakfast and took it alone; but in later years he joined others at breakfast at 7 o’clock, dinner being at 12 o’clock. There was great cheerfulness at the table—words of wisdom and grace were constantly heard; but no room was given for conversation to degenerate into frivolous talk. It was also a rule of the house that no one should speak ill of an absent person, and any infringement of this rule called forth a firm though gracious reproof. After breakfast, Mr. Chapman gave an exposition of Scripture—preceded by a hymn, and followed by prayer — which was greatly valued. A hymn was sung after dinner, and one after tea was followed by a brief portion of the Word and prayer.
Guests at Mr. Chapman’s table ever found a plentiful supply; but nothing was allowed to be wasted. Once when the table was being cleared he was heard to say, “Take the crumbs and give them to the birds, for ‘your heavenly Father feedeth them’.” Ten or twelve years ago, when he had been grieved by hearing of some rather wasteful habit, he put his thoughts into a verse, which he repeated at the breakfast table of the house in which he was staying, remarking that it was the principle he desired to express. It was at once said, “That should be printed.” A heading being suggested, he was well pleased with it, and at once accompanied his host to a printer’s. As first printed it was as follows:
If mustard or salt I take more than I use,
Let straightway my conscience the waster accuse;
My Lord who redeemed me, whose Name is my boast,
Said, “Gather the fragments, that nothing be lost.”
Mr. Chapman’s Fellowship with Mr. Hake
Before the two houses at New Buildings were so closely linked together, No. 9 was for some years occupied by Miss Paget. In Anthony Norris Groves’ Memoir mention is repeatedly made of two devoted sisters in Christ at Exeter—the Misses Paget. One was taken to be with the Lord; the other removed to Barnstaple, and became well known there for her godliness and readiness to every good work. Mr. Groves writes of visiting her there in 1852, and says, “I slept at dear R. C.’s, and they were all most affectionately kind.” When she fell asleep, nearly forty years ago, Mr. William Hake, of Bideford, removed to that house, and thus became more closely linked in fellowship and service with Mr. Chapman, till he too was called home in November, 1890. At the back of No. 9 some new rooms were added, including a large one for meals and meetings. In this room was held the weekly meeting on Thursday evening known as the District Meeting. It was so called because Christians in fellowship at Grosvenor Street were invited in turn, according to the district in which they resided, to tea and a Bible-reading after. This meeting was much valued; friends often came to it from neighbouring towns, and visitors would try to make their stay include a Thursday evening. For many years it was both pleasant and profitable at the meetings to hear conversation chiefly carried on between “the patriarchs,” as Mr. Chapman and Mr. Hake were called, though others joined in it In this room, at a special meeting for young men, Mr. Hake was present the very evening before he was called to be with Christ.
Mr. Chapman so deeply felt the parting with his fellow-labourer that he was not able to be present at the burial, and on that day only saw two or three friends in his own room. His account of the last day of their long service together, and the peaceful departure of dear Mr. Hake at the ripe age of ninety-five, as given in The Golden Lamp for December, 1890, will be read with interest:
“Barnstaple, Nov. 5th, 1890,
9 New Buildings.
“On Tuesday morning, November 4th, my beloved fellow-labourer, Brother Hake, joined us at our early breakfast hour, seven o’clock. In the afternoon he rendered loving service by bearing me and others company to the station to cheer a visitor who was leaving us. Returning together, we held in my room our usual Tuesday afternoon prayer-meeting, in which beloved Brother Hake took fully his part. At our tea-table at six o’clock we had a goodly company of young disciples of Christ, to whom Brother Hake spoke joyfully on the words, ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.’ The meeting afterwards began with:
‘We go with the redeemed to taste
Of joy supreme that never dies.’
All who sang, and some who heard outside the room, felt that the singing was heavenly, the deep bass of the dear aged one perfecting the harmony. After prayer, the first Psalm was read. Brother Hake took occasion to draw contrasts with the walking, standing, and sitting of the first verse: ‘Enoch walked with God; Elijah stood before the Lord; David sat before the Lord.’ After he had thus for about an hour been the brightness of the assembly, his speech failed, but with support he walked to his bedroom. Our dear young Brother Idenden sat up with him. I joined them about four o’clock in the morning. Brother Hake grasped my hand, and held it until he could hold it no longer, and breathed out his spirit to the Lord at 7.10.
“His beloved daughter Mary is sustained of God. Surely our God is the Father of mercies and the God of comfort. He is ‘ wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working’.”
The following brief account of the fellowship of these two men of God, also from Mr. Chapman’s own pen, bears date November 30th, 1890. It was not printed.
“It pleased God in the year 1831, in this neighbourhood, to bring together the dear departed one and myself at the house of a relative—a child of mine in the faith.
“Our hearts were presently knit together in the fellowship of the Spirit, according to the words of the Lord, ‘ That they all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us.’ Each found the other a lover of the Scriptures, and bent upon obedience to the Lord without reserve.
“Brother Hake was then residing in Exeter. In April, 1832, I left London to reside in Barnstaple, giving myself altogether to the work of the Lord. Some years after, in answer to our joint prayers, he came to Bideford, where he had a school; thus communications became more frequent, and fellowship closer. In 1863 he came to Barnstaple, since which time, up to the hour of his departure to be with Christ, we have been yoke-fellows in the work of the Lord, our two houses, Nos. 9 and 6 New Buildings, making together a home of rest for the servants of God, and of resort for young disciples, where we, their elder brethren, have sought to cheer them on their way.
“Our fellowship has been ever growing, and during its fifty-nine years’ continuance, never was strife or bitterness between us. The dear departed one was wont to say, ‘Ah! dear brother, we never had a jar.’ It was given us by God’s grace ever to hold fast God’s truth—His whole truth—in the Scriptures, also the form of sound words devised by the infinite wisdom of the Spirit of God. Our hearts were assured of the fulness of the Word of God, and that, while colour can be found in it for well-nigh any false doctrine, any error, no error can abide the test of the whole Scripture. Thus we daily contributed each to the other’s treasure of grace and truth.
“In regard to the Scriptures that have been fulfilled, our unity of judgment was blessedly complete; as to what is yet to be fulfilled, we attained to an excellent measure of unity, which was growing to the end.
The guidance of our steps,
The ordering of our ways,
The rule of our household,
we always waited on God together for His mind. If, on conferring together, we found ourselves of one mind, we laid our unity before God for His perfecting; we remembered the fault of Nathan and David, who, knowing in part the will of God as to the building Him a temple, failed to lay the matter before God for the perfect revelation of His will. If judgment did not agree we waited on God to give us oneness of mind, and neither of us ever took a step against the judgment of the other—hence no strife, no bitterness!
“The obligation of John 17 to oneness between the children of God, like unto the oneness between the Father and the Son, will be fulfilled in a coming day; if not now fulfilled, the obligation is immutable as the Fountain Head—God the Father’s love in His Son.
“We have endeavoured, in foreview of the Judgment-seat of Christ, to tread the path in which the whole Church of God should be found walking. The fruit of such obedience could not but be a keeping of the unity of the Spirit, in lowliness, meekness, and love; schism and division being far away!”
In a volume called England, Home, and Beauty, H. B. Macartney, M.A., the son of Dean Macartney of Melbourne, gave a lengthy description of a brief stay at New Buildings in 1878, when visiting this country.1 He left greatly impressed with Mr. Chapman’s profound knowledge of the Scriptures, but not less with his kind considerateness for all with whom he came in contact, and his true lowliness of mind. Mr. Macartney’s conclusion, that “communion with God makes him childlike,” was an evidence that he himself could appreciate what was spiritual. He said Mr. Chapman reminded him of Moses, and Mr. Hake of “Aaron, the saint of the Lord,” and he describes the lessons in humility that he got, both at the tea-table and in more personal intercourse with Mr. Chapman.
This shows part of one side of the short street called New Buildings, A Christian woman is standing between the door and window of No. 6, which was Mr. Chapman’s humble abode. It was from this house that devout men carried the body to the cemetery.
Interest in Mr. G. Müller’s Great Work
Two incidents may be given here, one connected with Mr. Chapman and one with Mr. Hake, and both with Mr. George Müller, with whom, as has been intimated, they were always closely linked in bonds of fellowship and service.
In Mr. Müller’s narrative, under date of Feb, 19th, 1842, he tells that means were “again completely spent.” When he went to the Orphan Homes before breakfast he found a letter containing is. which had arrived the previous evening. “This was not only a sweet proof that our Father remembered our need, but it was also like an earnest that He would supply us this day with all that we required.” In the box he found 1s. another letter came with 1s., and one of the labourers gave 4s. 10d. Thus the day was provided for, but evening came, and there was no bread for the next day, the Lord’s day. Mr. Müller left the Orphan Homes, for, he writes, “I expected Brother R. C. to arrive a little after eight at my house”; but he took a brother with him, that he might send back anything the Lord supplied.
“A few moments after, Brother C. arrived, and he had not been more than five minutes in my house when he gave me half a sovereign, which he had brought for the orphans;…and then, between nine and ten o’clock, sufficient bread could be bought.” Mr. Miiller adds: “Observe! for the trial of our faith, the Lord had allowed us to be kept waiting so long. When, however, Brother C. had arrived, having money for the orphans, he could not delay giving it at once, a matter most worthy of notice.”
This brings to mind what Mr. Hake once told me of those early days. Mr. Müller went to meet him, and took his bag. To all offers to “carry your bag” he replied, “No.” When they reached his house Mr. Hake gave him some money he had for him. “Now,” said Mr. Miiller, “I will tell you that the reason I did not allow any one to carry the bag was that I had not anything to give for doing so.” Such incidents may well encourage faith and prayer, and to these one other reference to Mr. Chapman in Mr. Midler’s narrative for the year 1845 may be added:
“On 15th November Brother R. C. arrived, to labour for a little while in Bristol. I communicated to him my position with reference to having to remove the orphans from Wilson Street, and I had his judgment also as to its being of God that I should build. This dear brother’s judgment greatly encouraged me. His visit was to me of great help in this particular, especially in stirring me up yet more to bring everything in connection with this matter before God. He also laid it on my heart to seek directions from God with reference to the plan of the building. He said: ‘You must ask help from God to show you the plan, so that all may be according to the mind of God’.”
In 1848, when the first of the five Orphan Houses—which stand as a witness to the fact that God answers prayer — had been erected, Mr. Chapman wrote from Bristol to Mr. H. Heath, who was at Barnstaple:
“Pray, dear Brother Heath, with your helpers, for what is needed to fit up the new Orphan House. God has begun to send.”
Though it may seem going on a long way, this seems the most suitable place to quote—from the Report of “The Scriptural Knowledge Institution” for 1902—the testimony of Mr. James Wright to the fact that Mr. Chapman’s prayerful interest in this great work never failed. After stating that it “owes its existence, and largely its history, instrumentally, to the effectual, fervent prayer of one man, whom God raised up to accomplish it,” Mr. Wright adds:
“The phalanx of praying souls that the Holy Spirit has banded together to sustain and forward it by their believing supplication and intercession, have become, like David’s supporters of old, ‘a great host like the host of God.’ But, as in that ‘host,’ there were some preeminently ‘mighty,’ so also with the modern parallel, there have been amongst the secret pleaders with our ‘Father, who seeth in secret,’ the mighty, the mightier, and the mightiest. One whom, I believe, I may safely class with the last named has just passed away from earth, and it is his decease that leads me to make these remarks. Robert Cleaver Chapman, late of Barnstaple, Devon, was one of George Müller’s oldest and most intimate friends. More than once, in critical periods of this work, Mr. Müller sought and obtained his valuable counsel. This confidence Mr. Chapman responded to by always showing the liveliest interest in the progress of the Institution. Throughout the sixty-eight years of its existence he has been its helper by continuous intercession. It was the knowledge that he was such a mighty spiritual helper that led me, in the spring of 1901, to visit Barnstaple for the purpose of gaining the expression of his judgment upon our contemplated alteration of the conditions of admission of orphans; and I need hardly say that it was no small confirmation that we were really led of God in the matter, to learn, as I did, from his own lips, that he most heartily and unreservedly approved of our modifying the conditions by receiving orphans bereft of only one parent. Well-beloved, single-eyed ‘servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,’ thou hast ‘fought the good flight, thou hast kept the faith, thou hast finished thy course’; may grace be given to us to follow thee as thou didst follow thy Lord!”
A Visit to Ireland
In the year 1848, when Mr. Chapman wrote to Mr. Heath the words before quoted, he was on his way to Ireland, being accompanied by a brother named Shepherd, though how long this brother was with him is not clear. The following, written from Bristol, February 1st, shows how he valued the fellowship of his brethren:
“I leave to-day at half-past two, it God will, for Cork, with the prayers of the saints here as well as yours to strengthen me. It was a precious meeting for prayer last evening. Brother Müller asked everything for Brother Shepherd and myself that we ourselves could have mentioned; he is well in body, though not so strong in body as in faith. Peace, peace be with you all!”
His letters from Ireland, some of which, it is hoped, will be given in a separate volume, tell of the darkness of the people through the power of Romanism, of many opportunities of speaking of Christ, of much opposition from some who were influenced by priests, and of great comfort in visiting children of God. He contrasts as well as compares Ireland with Spain, which country he had already visited:
“The Roman Catholics here, both priests and people, are very far above those of Spain; there both deride their own religion and scoff at all religion, here a false religion (which is yet not pure error but the truth corrupted and perverted) is ignorantly held in reverence. I found in Spain indifference and scorn; here is a vexed and troubled conscience seeking rest and not knowing how to obtain it. I reckon myself favoured of God to speak to such consciences.
“I gave a small sum to a farmer’s wife to distribute among the poor in her neighbourhood; she said, ‘May the Almighty God and the almighty Virgin Mary bless you!’ These blasphemous words are not always on the lips of Roman Catholics; but almost always the blasphemy and idolatry of them are in the heart. Still, Ireland is better than Spain. Superstition is better than profane irreligion. Conscience speaks here and afflicts men with dread of death, and generally they hear me with reverence when preaching Christ.”
The previous year had been one of severe famine in Ireland from the failure of the potato crops through disease, and Mr. Chapman speaks with much tenderness of the sufferings of the people.
“It is a great mercy that a penny procures a pound of Indian meal, and that turf is plentiful. Thus I have great comfort in distributing alms, and have not seen a cottage without a fire. I have heard from eye-witnesses such tales of the misery and death that reigned during the famine as I hope not to forget; yet only grace can make God’s judgments profitable. This may be seen, alas! by the spiritual condition of the poor Irish in these parts. The land looks desolate; but the inhabitants who have made it so—how barren, how dreary and gloomy the state of their souls!”
These letters show how Mr. Chapman breathed the atmosphere of prayer, and how truly he had learned to fulfil the word, “Set not your mind on high things, but condescend to things that are lowly” (Rom. 12:16, R.V.).
“At this place (Castle Island), I found no child of God; but I have not been alone, and have been the rather making intercession for the saints and the world, because I have not had the brethren with me… I am at a plain but cleanly inn, not unsuited to a pilgrim; it has been a house of God to my soul; its inmates hear me willingly.”
Mr. Chapman was always a great walker; and in his early days would walk to Mr. W. Wreford’s, twenty-five miles from Barnstaple, to breakfast. This power of walking he made good use of in Ireland. On one occasion he writes:
“I was obliged to use conveyances; but, oh! how much rather do I choose to travel on foot for the work of the Lord, and communion with Him! “…On Thursday I walked to Nenagh, in Tipperary, speaking of Jesus by the way; the distance about twenty-four or twenty-five English miles. His rod and staff comfort me; I fear no evil. There is no better means of access to the hearts of Roman Catholics than by talking with them on the highway: they are not then restrained by fear of priests or of each other.”… “A poor man whom I overtook a little way from Dunleer offered to carry my knapsack, and for the first time since I came to Ireland [over two months] I parted with it to another. He was a Roman Catholic, and told me that he had twice been compelled by priests to put away the New Testament, which he had taken pleasure in reading.”
Mr. Chapman laments that in many places he met no child of God; but in some he speaks of earnest Scripture-readers and their labours, and occasionally of a godly clergyman, one sentence being very characteristic of a man with whom relationship to God was of supreme importance: “A brother who, I think, was a clergyman of the Establishment.”
Perhaps enough has been said about Ireland; but two thing’s more may just be noticed. Mr. Chapman spoke of the trials of the rich in the South and West as being in some respects beyond those of the poor, and while he found greater quietness in the North, with “the light of the Scripture, and many temporal blessings,” he lamented that the form of godliness was generally held fast while the power was denied.
“And no less faith is needed to sustain me in preaching the Gospel and conversing with these than in the darkness of Popery in the West and South.”
Some Features of his Life and Ministry
From his early days until he had reached a great age, Mr. Chapman was diligent in open-air preaching, and through his preaching at the annual fair at Barnstaple, and still more frequently in the town and neighbourhood, he became well known. But it was especially his life that told on the people of that town, and made him such a true witness for God. Many, it may be, who had little regard for the gospel he preached knew that he lived what he taught, and that he was a “man of God.” In the days of travelling by coach it is said that one morning the coachman remarked to a number of passengers, “You need not insure your lives today, gentlemen; Mr. Chapman is going with us.” Mr. J. S. Anderson, of Italy, when in Barnstaple, in 1900, visited a Roman Catholic, who asserted that all Protestants must be lost, because they are outside the true Church. But he suddenly paused, and added, “Well, let me tell you there is one Protestant in Barnstaple who will get to heaven, if anybody will.” “Who is that? “said Mr. A. The reply was, “I don’t know his name, but he lives in New Buildings. He is the oldest and holiest man in Barnstaple.”
Dr. Case, of China, mentions that in June, 1901, he accompanied Mr. Chapman to see a man who had sent for him. This man was not one of Mr. Chapman’s usual hearers, but he had watched his godly life, and, now that he was ill, desired that he would visit him.
Some years ago Mr. F. S. Arnot, off the coast of Africa, met a company of soldiers returning from India, and one of them told how he was led to Christ. He lived at Barnstaple, and often returned to his mother’s house early in the morning after “a night’s spree.” He at times met an old man who spoke to him about his sins, and he would push himself into the hedge or anywhere to avoid him. He enlisted into the army, and sailed for India, and when he was ill and thought himself dying he remembered the old man, and wished he could see him. He had observed that he carried a Bible in his hand, so he asked a nurse to bring him a Bible, by means of which God was pleased to reveal Christ to him.
Mr. Chapman would sometimes say, “I have had a large congregation this morning,” and on enquiry-it was found that he had been speaking to some solitary person, or even a child, as he took his walk. He esteemed it a privilege to speak to anyone, and made much of what he called “a Sychar-well ministry” (John 4:5-30). In journeying he watched for an opportunity of bearing witness of Christ; but his words to fellow-travellers and others were always gracious and wise, and never abrupt or forced; he would not interrupt one who was reading or otherwise occupied, but would lift his heart to God and wait; and, when he spoke, his unfailing courtesy generally secured him a hearing. It was doubtless natural to Mr. Chapman to be courteous; but certainly grace strengthened this trait in his beautiful Christian character. He did not regard abruptness or austerity as evidences of spirituality, for he found no traces of these in Him whose character, as set forth by the “fine flour” offered in God’s sanctuary, was perfect. No little service was taken for granted, or allowed to pass, unacknowledged by him; indeed, in this respect he made much of little. Let no one imagine, however, that courtesy means softness, for enough has been said to show that he who was always so courteous was equally firm and courageous to do or suffer the will of God. Neither does genuine courtesy imply any sacrifice of truth; rather must it be said that such service as that described above could only be rendered by one who was pre-eminently true. Horatius Bonar’s forcible little piece, “Be True,” written by Mr. Chapman on a fly-leaf of one of his own Bibles thirty or forty years ago, may be taken as a better portrait of himself than a photographer could give:
“Thou must be true thyself
If thou the truth wouldst teach;
Thy soul must overflow, if thou
Another’s soul wouldst reach:
It needs the overflow of heart
To give the lips full speech.
“Think truly, and thy thoughts
Shall the world’s famine feed;
Speak truly, and each word of thine
Shall be a fruitful seed;
Live truly, and thy life shall be
A great and noble creed.”
Thoughtfulness for others is very closely related to courtesy, and this, too, was very marked in Mr. Chapman. No one who ever had the privilege of staying with him needs to be told how he cared for the comfort of his guests, especially if out of health, and left nothing undone to make them feel at home. But his thoughtfulness extended to little things of life. To save trouble in his own house, he kept a good mat at the door, with a politely worded request that visitors would use it, and he was equally careful himself in entering any other house. When visiting he carried something to put down if he used a bath in his room, that no injury might be done to the carpet, and the tray on which things were placed for his use in the early morning, he would carry down and hand with a kind word to a servant. It was his constant care to give as little trouble as possible; and when he said, “Remember, I am nobody,” he meant it. He often remarked, “I find I am treated as a man of high estate”; and in later years, “I find everywhere friends conspire to make me think I am an old man.”
In addressing an envelope one day, Mr. Chapman said, “I am always careful not to make the postman swear”; but at one time his letters were not so easily read as in later years. In former days he used to write a good deal on Scripture (though he invariably tore up what he had written), and this caused his writing to become somewhat illegible. One day Mr. Hake took him a note he had sent, and asked him to read it. Being thus made conscious of the habit he had fallen into, he took it to heart, and made it a matter of prayer that he might not again try the patience of his brethren or waste their valuable time by indistinct writing—with what result those who were favoured with his letters know.
Mr. Chapman was a man of remarkable self-control. During his long course of service in the church he at times had great provocation, yet was he never moved, except to sorrow for those whose spirit and words were so contrary to Christ. When he was opposed he bore the opposition in patience, and when any turned from him he pursued them with his prayers, and any expression of love it was possible for him to give. Those who knew him longest bear witness that they never heard a hasty or ungracious word escape his lips. A common saying at his house was, “It is better to lose your purse than your temper.”
It is no wonder that a visit from one who was so full of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ,” and at the same time so faithful in his adherence to the truth of God, was esteemed a great favour, whether to an assembly of Christians or to a household. Mr. J. R. Caldwell, in kindly writing the following brief notice of such a visit to Scotland, bears a testimony which many would endorse:
“Some twelve years ago we had the great privilege of a visit from Mr. Chapman. Although at that time well-on in the eighties, he was mentally and physically fresh and vigorous. He rose early as was his wont, yet was able to address meetings nearly every evening, and his ministry was such as to leave a lasting impression upon all who heard. It was indeed ministry of Christ; ‘grace and truth’ were combined Mr. Chapman chiefly emphasised the reading of and meditation upon the whole of the Scriptures. He used to say: ‘Every error may be based upon some part of Scripture taken from its connection; but no error can stand the tes of all Scripture.’
“His was no monkish austerity. A bright, genial, loving and attractive spirit drew out the confidence even of the little ones. He used to play with our little girl, then two or three years old, in the afternoons at a childish game on the carpet, just as if he were a child again himself; and one morning before the household was awake, he had made a paper kite for our son, then about six years old, and was out with him by nine o’clock helping him to fly it. Truly the memory of his visit remains with us as a precious illustration of how far God can reproduce in a believer even here the image of His Son.”
Mr. Chapman often asked, “How do you read your Bible?” and, as before intimated, he sought to cherish in all, especially the young, the spirit of reverence and love for the whole Bible, and the habit of reading it regularly, and of prayerfully meditating upon its blessed truths, for nourishment of soul and strength in conflict. The following are some of his weighty words on the use of the Holy Scriptures:
“The Book of God is a store of manna for God’s pilgrim children; and we ought to see to it that the soul get not sick and loathe the manna. The great cause of neglecting the Scriptures is not want of time, but want of heart, some idol taking the place of Christ. Satan has been marvellously wise to entice away God’s people from the Scriptures. A child of God who neglects the Scriptures cannot make it his business to please the Lord of Glory; cannot make Him Lord of the conscience; ruler of the heart; the joy, portion, and treasure of the soul.
“If the Word of Christ dwell in me richly, it will teach me to do everything and to look at everything in relation to God. And remember this, if the Bible be used aright by anyone, it will be to him the most pleasant book in the world. If I serve it well it will serve me well. The children will say: ‘What a lovely book the Bible is!’ And they will not want anything to please and interest them in comparison with the Scriptures, when handled by one whose heart is full of the love of God. Beloved, remember it is one thing to read the Bible, choosing something that suits me (as is shamefully said), and another thing to search it that I may become acquainted with God in Christ; that I may be fashioned like unto Christ; that I may first of all please God by my affections to Him; that I may find in Him my deepest joy; and that He may find His banqueting-room in my heart. If I read the Bible with this end in view, the Spirit of God will always make it to me better than thousands of gold and silver, and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb (Psa. 19:10). But supposing I do not, then I turn the Gospel of Christ into the law of Moses without knowing it, and, instead of paths of pleasantness and peace, the Gospel of Christ becomes bands of iron.”
Mr. Chapman’s judgment of what is known as Higher Criticism is well expressed in a little allegory which the mention of the subject one day at table drew from his lips:
“One day, while walking in the noon-day light of a mid-summer sun, beneath a cloudless sky, I was accosted by a person wholly a stranger to me, who, with kind, condescending air, made offer to show me the way. I saw in his hand a lantern, and in it a lighted farthing candle. Pity checked my rising laughter; so, as gravely as I could, I declined his offer, and went on my way. I was afterwards told that his name was Higher Criticism.”
In his ministry it was his habit to dwell much upon the great things of God, as some of his own words in subsequent pages will show. Above all things, the Cross of Christ was his theme—the love and the wisdom therein expressed—hence his deep and true humility and his unfailing spirit of worship. It was his delight to enlarge on the varied glories of Christ—as the Son of God in His eternal fellowship with the Father; as the Word revealing the Father; as the Lamb of God atoning for and putting away sin; as the Surety of His people, drinking for them the cup of wrath; as the First-begotten from the dead, whose resurrection is a pledge of theirs; as the High Priest after the order of Melchizedec, full of the tenderest sympathy for the tempted, and ever living to intercede for us; as the Head and Bridegroom of His Church, who will soon come to receive her to Himself; as the King of Israel, under whom all God’s promises to that nation must be fulfilled; as “the last Adam,” in whom and under whom, as Head, all things in heaven and earth are in the fulness of the times to be united (Eph. 1:10). Especially was that eternal state of glory, in which the full value and results of the Cross shall be seen, ever before his mind, so that dear Henry Dyer used to say he was “a man of Eternity.” But this is what he himself said every Christian should be—a man of Pentecost, filled with the Spirit; a man of the Scriptures, ever feeding on them; and a man of Eternity.
The Lord’s Coming and the Eternal Future
It was, indeed, as a man of Eternity that he dealt with the great matter of stewardship, setting a high value on the time and opportunities the Lord may give for service here, with the assurance that all our time below is a time of sowing, and that with the sowing the harvest must correspond. In the same spirit he looked at and spoke of the coming of the Lord, showing how truly he entered into the mind of Christ as expressed in two utterances of John 17, which to the natural man may seem contradictory: (1) “/ pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from the evil”; and (2) “Father, 1 wilt that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am.” Thus concerning the hope of the Lord’s coming he writes:
“That hope to me, how cheering—
Else hopeless and forlorn!
Oh, hasten Thine appearing,
And bring the cloudless morn!”
But his patience and his readiness to continue in service are set forth with equal clearness:
“Patient, His coming will I wait,
Content awhile in tears to sow;
Sure is the harvest, rich and great,
Of all my sorrows here below.”
And his expressions even to the last day of his life were in full accord with what was written long ago:
“I would not wish my battle done
Ere he shall bid me to be gone:
Already is the victory won—
The spoil, the triumph, mine.”
The following words were spoken at a private meeting in 1887:
“There are two ways of looking at the coming of the Lord. If I be in the constant spirit of worship within the veil, according to Hebrews, I shall see the future as does Christ. Over 1800 years ago He said, ‘I come quickly.’ And whereas, in point of desire, I put nothing whatever between that object and my soul, because Christ puts nothing; yet, on the other hand, if you ask whether the fervency of my love to the Lord and the brightness of that hope are diminished, because I see that He must take time to make that coming worthy of Himself, I say, No: He waits patiently, and so do I.”
Some will be glad to have also Mr. Chapman’s carefully expressed thoughts as to the difference between what we usually call the millennium— that is, the thousand years of Revelation 20:4-7— and the final, perfect state that lies beyond it:
“The next coming time is only a glorious porch to what lies beyond, and we ought to consider it more distinctly than we do. If Scripture were more accurately read, we should see that the golden sceptre of Christ’s rule on earth will be more excellent in its nature than in its extent. Any thought of universal peace throughout the world will not bear the test of Scripture. That the nations will learn war no more will be true only of those who learn from Israel to love God. Israel’s faith will be as great then as their unbelief has been in the past: they will practice no arts of war, nor will they build walls round their towns and villages. Those nations that learn of Israel will be like Israel; but my persuasion is that for those outside the limits of the golden-sceptre rule, it will be the dominion of the iron rod, according to Psalm 2, to break in pieces and consume, even till the setting up of the great white throne. The millennial state also is a corruptible state, whereas the new creation will be incorruptible.”
“I judge that it was given to the Apostle Paul to carry us invariably into the final state, wherein God will have His perfect rest. In Ephesians 1:10 we read, ‘ That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth.’ This I take to mean that when all preparatory times have run out, God will head up everything in Him who is the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. He brings in a new creation which can never be marred, and in which God will be all in all, and the creature nothing. Romans 8:20-23 speaks of that new creation, the glory of which is above our comprehension. ‘The liberty of the glory of the sons of God’ I cannot but take to be the incorruptible, final, and perfect state, which shall perfectly glorify God and be His everlasting rest, being secured from corruption in the immutability of the last Adam. If we are to be in full fellowship with God, that which is His chief desire must be ours, and we must ever have mind and thoughts fixed on that state in which God keeps everlasting rest.”
On the weighty subject of God’s dealing with the lost, Mr. Chapman was accustomed to speak with great solemnity and deep feeling:
“God, in judging men, never executes His judgment without long-suffering shown, and abused; witness the flood and the nations of Canaan. But when he does begin He makes it a short work. Not till the mystery of iniquity has come to its height will God interfere, and the consideration of these ways of God increases our faith and love in adoring Him, and fills us with pity for the world. It becomes God to give Satan and man full time for their perfect manifestation, in order to the manifestation of His equity in dealing in final retribution with the devil and his angels and with man. In the Scriptures the retribution of God in final punishment is far more spoken of than the eternal torments of hell, and we should never speak of these apart from the manifestation of the equity of God.”
The High Estate of God’s Children
As inseparably connected with the high and holy truths referred to above, Mr. Chapman was wont to dwell upon the calling of believers, the reality of being justified by Christ, “made the righteousness of God in Him,” being “born of God,” and thus standing towards Him in the true relationship of children, and being owned by Christ as His “brethren.” No one ever taught more plainly the utter ruin of all men in Adam; none could ever have dwelt more upon the high estate to which the redeemed are raised in Christ. He pressed the importance of distinguishing between the past and the present—what we were as children of Adam, and what those who have received Christ are as children of God. The word unworthy did not find much favour with him; he deemed it not strong enough to describe our lost condition by nature, and he did not think it befitting that children of God should speak of being unworthy to draw near to Him. Many have heard him put the question, “Can you think too highly of yourself?” He believed that only as we see the dignity of our standing in Christ can we feel the unworthiness of our ways, judge ourselves aright before God, and make true confession of our sins. One secret of holiness is a true judgment of sin, and a constant dealing with God about it; not simply about sinful actions, but the sin that dwelleth in us. The following words from Choice Sayings and Meditations should be pondered:
“The sinful thought of the heart is, in the sight of God, the act: evils in life always proceed from evils nourished in the heart.”
“Can I, or any other creature, search out all the depths of sin that dwelleth in me? Ah, no! But, Lord, I give thee thanks that I was crucified with Thee, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that I might no longer serve sin.”
“After we have been able, by the grace of God, to subdue any besetting sin, and it seems to be dead, let us still be confessing to God that it is within us. By thus doing we shall show that we are not living on the victory, but on God Himself.”
Mr. Chapman did not simply contrast the state of the redeemed with that of those still in their sins, but also with that of Adam in Eden. He would never allow that Adam’s original condition could be correctly described as one of fellowship with God, and insisted that our portion is far higher than that of Adam in innocence. God as Creator, Adam could know and worship; but the fellowship to which we are called necessitates a knowledge of God as Father, which could only be given through Christ’s redemption, and a nearness to God as children by heavenly birth beyond that which any creature, even an archangel, could have on the ground of creation. Hence, if anyone spoke to him of getting back to Adam’s state, he would say, with energy: “Back to Adam’s state! I would not change places with Adam before the fall for a hundred thousand worlds.”
The following are some of his words on the subject:
“The elect of God in Christ are distinct from all other creatures of God, in that they have life derived from Christ, of which we have a type in the woman’s derivation of life from the man (Gen. 2:21-23). She, as distinct from all other creatures, had life from her husband. The life derived from Christ is a life of new creation, and that distinguishes all who are made the righteousness of God in Christ. The glory and beauty of the new creation is, of necessity, in the feeblest babe in Christ, and such an one is worthy of God’s love and delight: ‘Thou hast loved them as Thou hast loved Me.’ Such must be one in point of relationship to God, and together make up the Church, or assembly, of God. There must, indeed, be diversity, in consequence of diversity of character, according to the relative position of the members in the body; but all have the common life, all are children of God, and constitute the wife of Christ” (Rev. 19:7; 21:9).
The mention of Adam naturally recalls the fact that Mr. Chapman made much of the title of Christ as “THE LAST Adam”; and connected with this it may be remarked that while some, whose fellowship he highly valued, dwelt almost entirely upon dispensational distinctions between saints of different periods, it was his habit to give greater prominence to the essential and eternal oneness of all the redeemed of all times.
“It was specially given to Paul to set forth Christ as ‘the last Adam.’ It seems to me that the word ‘all’ is used in the same way in both Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15:22. “All” in Adam die through Adam, and ‘all’ in Christ have life in Him. This must be common to the elect of God of every age, every one being created anew. All have life derived from the Son of God, whether before or after He had come in the flesh; all have one common relationship, being children of God, which no creature, as such, can be; all are raised up out of creatureship to a standing in Christ. The distinction between the smaller measure of understanding and communion [before Christ came], and having life ‘more abundantly’ [since His coming (John 10:10)], is one thing; but the relationship to God must be true of every one created anew, and there is that in which God cannot but delight in the feeblest of His children.”
But we must not fail to remark, also, that the ministry of the Holy Spirit of God was ever prominent in Mr. Chapman’s teaching. He insisted upon the truth that only by the teaching and regenerating grace of the Spirit can a proud sinner become a poor sinner, and receive the knowledge of God as the God of grace. And often did he exhort children of God to consider what hindered the working of the Holy Spirit, and affirm that if unhindered the Spirit must do what He delights to do—unfold from the Scriptures the things of Christ, the deep things of God.
“Take heed, my soul, and watch and pray,
Lest thou the Spirit grieve,
Who makes thee know the Father’s love,
And in the Son believe.”
And to help in this he affirmed that the example of Christ in His walk on earth should ever be before us, as the one only standard of holiness. If we set up a standard of our own, we may soon pride ourselves on the thought that we have attained to it; but if we take God’s standard we shall see how far short we ever come, and be truly humbled.
Mr. Chapman often used to say that if we neglect the consideration of Christ as our Example, we shall not greatly value Him as our High Priest. Of late years more than ever, perhaps, he constantly referred to the priestly ministry of the Lord, and one of his favourite messages to others was: “It is not said: ‘There is such an High Priest’; but,’ We have such an High Priest’.” He distinguished between the advocacy of the Lord according to 1 John 2:1, and His intercession as set forth in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and taught that while the child of God who yields to temptation is the object of the Lord’s compassion and advocacy, it is given to the one who resists temptation to prove His sympathy as High Priest. A question was once put to him which has doubtless at some time or other arisen in many hearts: “Seeing that Christ had not a sinful nature, how could He be tempted? “to which his reply was as follows:
“To an unregenerate person temptation cannot cause pain of a heavenly or spiritual kind; to one born of God it does. The more like God His child is, the more keenly he feels temptation to sin. To the Son of God—who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and undeniable; who was separate from sinners; who knew no sin; who was without sin— the darts of temptation must have been inexpressibly painful. He suffered, being tempted, and in that He was tempted He is able to succour them that are tempted, who, being born of God, can feel, as the unregenerate cannot feel, the pain of being tempted to evil. There was nothing in the Lord Jesus to respond to temptation.”
Value of Mr. Chapman’s Hymns
As the experiences and characteristics of David may be gathered from his Psalms, so the special features of Robert Chapman’s experience and ministry found expression in his Hymns, some verses of which have already been quoted. Many of these were written for use at Barnstaple, and were published in 1837; but additions were made in more recent editions, though the theme of all is the same—“the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow.” His sister remarked most truly that it is only those who knew him that can fully appreciate his hymns, for they alone know how fully his life corresponded with them. Meditation on these hymns will be found very helpful to communion with God. The tendency of the day is to turn to hymns of a lighter character, but let us remember that nothing more influences our habit of thought than the hymns we constantly use.
No one can read his hymns without being impressed with the deep reverence of every expression, and those who knew Mr. Chapman are aware that this spirit characterised all his utterances and all his ways. Intimacy and familiarity are quite different. He could say to the Lord, “Lord, Thy glory doth not confound us,” and of Him, “He loves not to keep stately distance.” His thirst for knowledge of the love of Christ thus finds expression:
“I would, my Lord and Saviour, know
That which no measure knows;
Would search the mystery of Thy love,
The depth of all Thy woes.”
His response to that love, of which indeed he knew not a little, is forcibly expressed:
“Lord Jesus, my soul loveth Thee! my heart locks Thee within it, as its precious jewel, and rejoices in Thee as those that find great spoil. Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee… I am bold to say, I love Thee, Thou gracious, glorious, and lovely One! and Thou, hearing me, dost approve my words.”
Here is the intimacy of deep love and communion; but we can no more imagine Robert Chapman addressing the Lord, or speaking of Him, in those free and familiar terms that sometimes grate upon the ear in these days, than we can think of Paul or John doing so. To him, as to them, Christ was THE LORD, while he and they alike proved His deep and true sympathy as One who was partaker of “flesh and blood,” and knew the reality of “being tempted.”
It will be noticed, too, how many of Mr. Chapman’s hymns are addressed to God the Father. Mr. W. Lincoln used to remark how difficult it was to find hymns of this character in modern hymn books, and Mr. Chapman felt the same lack. It was natural to him to speak thus to the Father, because he so fully entered into the truths that the Son came to declare the Father, and then to be the Way to the Father. Faith cannot stop short of God Himself, and we truly honour Christ when we draw near to the Father through Him. His ideal of a hymn was that it should lead the soul through the Cross of Christ to God Himself. Those who heard his prayers in public will remember that in them also he chiefly addressed the Father. Yet let no one imagine that he did not also address the Son; indeed, some of his truest expressions of adoration and worship are spoken to the Lord, as in the beautiful hymn beginning,
“My soul amid this stormy world
Is like some fluttered dove,
And fain would be as swift of wing
To flee to Him I love.’’
Sir Edward Denny—himself the author of some of the choicest hymns in the English language—describes it as “sweetly expressive of the heart’s longing for Him.” The same may be said of many other hymns, though few are so well known as,
“O my Saviour crucified!
Near Thy Cross would I abide;
There to look with steadfast eye,
On Thy dying agony.”
It is difficult to select from Mr. Chapman’s hymns, because all are so rich, but two or three may be given which seem truly to bring the man himself before us. The following shows how he turned from present things, because his eye and heart were fixed on the invisible and eternal:
“The worldling’s portion I refuse,
His glory I disdain;
My God was pleased His Son to bruise—
The Lamb for me was slain.
O’er Eden lost I sorrow not—
The garden marred by sin;
To me is given a happier spot,
A Paradise divine.
My heavenly Father wakes mine ear;
His Holy Spirit’s voice
Proclaims the day of glory near,
And greatly I rejoice.
God works at leisure and at ease,
In time and season due;
The pathway of His deep decrees
Jehovah will pursue.
The heavens and earth that wax not old,
Exulting faith surveys,
Where God shall all His Name unfold
And justify His ways.
His mansions are before mine eyes,
Where discord ne’er is known,
His pleasant land, His paradise,
His city with His throne.
Now Jesus reaps His full reward—
His joy is now complete:
The Lamb the universal Lord,
His foes beneath His feet.
Now God my heavenly Father’s Name
Is hallowed evermore,
His glory shining in the Lamb—
I see it, and adore.”
It is well known that Mr. Chapman did not occupy himself much with the news of the day. One day a boy asked him to buy a newspaper. “Does it give yesterday’s news?” “No, sir.” “Has it to-day’s news?” “Oh, yes, sir.” “And has it to-morrow’s news? “The boy’s surprise at the last question may be imagined; but Mr. Chapman holding up his Bible said, “This Book gives me the news of yesterday, and to-day, and of to-morrow as well.” We may be sure he said a kind word to the boy; and the incident may remind us of the comparative value of man’s news of the passing moment, and God’s tidings concerning His Son, which have reference to the future as well as to the past and the present.
Everybody thinks specially of Mr. Chapman as a man of prayer. His delight in prayer, and his joyful looking forward to the unhindered fellowship of all God’s children in the future, both find expression in the following hymn:
“O how I love in solitude,
Great God, to speak with Thee,
For Thou, whose grace my soul renewed,
A Father art to me!
With Thee how sweet to be alone,
And in full tide of prayer,
Lord God of Hosts, before Thy throne,
To lay the bosom bare!
From Thee no secret thoughts I hide,
No mysteries of my soul;
To Thee, whose Son was crucified,
With joy I tell the whole.
Thus surely Thy confiding child
Thy close embrace obtains,
And by Thy friendship is beguiled
Of all his griefs and pains.
For freedom to rejoice and grieve,
Where none but God is nigh,
All other friends full oft I leave,
Though not without a sigh.
But soon the Bridegroom shall appear:
Then shall each wedding guest
Unfold to his companions dear
All secrets of his breast.”
The blessedness of access to God was used by him largely in the way of intercession. He said:
“It is well for a child of God to pray for himself, but a more excellent thing to pray for others. God honours the spirit of intercession.”
This he regarded as his special ministry. He prayed for “all men,” from the King on the throne to the humblest of his subjects. Our late beloved Queen knew not that throughout the whole of her long reign she had the unfailing intercession of one man in her kingdom! Only the day of Christ will show what she and many more owe to his prayers. But in this, as in all else, “the household of faith” had the first place; servants of Christ and families of God’s children known to him were much on his heart, and he took in, as has before been remarked, the whole Church of God on the earth.
On the day of Mr. Chapman’s burial, a lady remarked that she said to Mr. Chapman, “I should be thankful if you would kindly remember our children in prayer.” He replied, “I cannot begin to pray for your dear children.” She said, “Oh, of course you have so many to pray for”; but he made haste to assure her that he had already begun, which was indeed a comfort to her heart.
Mr. Chapman never failed to take notice of children and to speak some kind words to them, and he sought to encourage parents in training them for God. One of his questions was, “What do you seek most for your children?” to which the usual answer was, “Their conversion.” “Is that all? “would be his rejoinder, and he would press the importance of opening the mouth wide to God on their behalf. “Ask not merely for their conversion, but that they may be well-pleasing children of God and servants of Christ.” One of his last messages by a father to his boys was: “There are so many people who are satisfied with just knowing they are saved. Tell them not to be satisfied with this. I want them to study the Word, and grow in the knowledge of God. Tell them I want them to become intimate with the Lord Jesus Christ.” Many will remember his searching question concerning a little one, to which he seldom got an affirmative reply: “Does he obey at the first word?” This was his idea of obedience, and the question was natural to a man who in all his ways sought to deal thus with his heavenly Father.
One other hymn may be given which expresses so fully the heart and mind of Christ towards His people, as exhibited in the beloved apostle of the Gentiles, and also in himself as one of his true successors of later days:
“Thy brethren, Lord, are my delight,
I love them strong or weak;
They all are precious in my sight,
The froward with the meek.
I serve them, Lord, for they are Thine,
The Father’s gift to Thee;
The Spirit, by Thy Blood divine.
From prison set them free.
Since love will crave return in kind,
And prize it more than gold;
If my due recompense I find.
My joy can scarce be told.
Then with new strength my loins I gird
To magnify Thy name,
Thou Son of God, the living Word,
The Father’s spotless Lamb.
But if I be the less beloved
While I love more and more,
For froward saints to sorrow moved,
Still I Thy name adore.
And still the froward ones I serve—
Thy members, Lord, are they;
Hold Thou me up, nor let me swerve
From Love’s excelling way.”
Helping and Encouraging Younger Brethren
Though scarcely needful, it may be as well to say that Mr. Chapman did not regard the public ministry of the Word as a light matter. No one could press more strongly than he did that every one who has by grace been made a child of God should be a witness for Christ; by life continually, and by speech as God may give opportunity and ability. Once, when asked if it would not be well always to teach young believers to do something for Christ, he replied: “Oh, no; I would not teach them to do something, but to do everything as unto the Lord.” He would encourage younger brethren to go on quietly with God, seeking, by prayerful meditation on the Scriptures and the help of elder brethren, such knowledge of the grace and the will of God as would give preparation of heart and mind for any service to which God might lead them, whether in this land or other lands. But he would discountenance haste in giving up any occupation, even for more time in service, unhesitatingly judging that this should never be done until there was full assurance of God’s will, with the fellowship of godly brethren in such a step. Mr. Henry Heath was a striking example of one thus taught and led of God. The power of his life and ministry was known to many; but it may not have been so generally known that in his younger days he was specially linked with Mr. Chapman—as Timothy was with Paul—and that his progress in the heavenly school was such that in 1846—when he was only thirty-one—Mr. Chapman’s account of him was that “through his grace and gift he has so commended himself to all that he is received as a peculiar boon of a Father’s love.”
Mr. Chapman’s estimate of what a servant of Christ, who is called to give himself entirely to the work of the Gospel or shepherd-work in the Church, should be, was a very high one:
“The servant of the Lord Jesus must be instant in season and out of season, knowing that he is the Lord’s messenger to every one with whom he has to do, and ever learning of the Lord; seeing that he is to be continually ministering to others, he must be receiving fresh supplies from the God of all grace through all channels. Meditation on the Word and prayer should occupy the chief part of his time. In his public ministry and in his private conversation he should aim at hearts and consciences, seeking in every way to magnify Christ and abase the creature. In short, he should set the Lord always before him, and so walk in His steps as to represent Him to every eye.”
As Mr. Chapman himself could not fail to do things reverently, so he encouraged others to aid in doing all things “decently and in order.” He was always punctual in beginning meetings, and equally desirous that they should be closed at the proper time, so that household matters might not be disarranged or servants be made late. At the annual meeting at Barnstaple the time was fixed for closing, in a becoming manner, before it was necessary for those from other places to leave for trains. In such meetings it was his great desire to promote fellowship and edification. To his mind these were inseparable, for no one taught of God will consider that fellowship is ensured by the mere fact of a number taking part in a meeting. Only in the measure in which speaking to God and speaking to one another are in the grace, wisdom, and power of the Spirit of God, can there be true fellowship, and this must result in edification. He regarded the assembling of God’s children in the name of the Lord Jesus as one of the greatest things in God’s account, and equally so in the judgment of the powers of darkness; as that in which God specially delighted, and that against which Satan directed his most subtle attacks.
An extract from a letter from Ireland (1848) shows how he endeavoured to keep things in their right place, and desired that no account of himself should be allowed to hinder the great matters of worship and ministry of the Word:
“Beloved Brother Heath will take heed as to the time when he reads my journal, that greater matters may not give place to it—I mean, the worship of God and the ministration of the Word.”
The help Mr. Chapman rendered in Conferences, and in special meetings of servants of Christ before the word “Conference “became so general, it is impossible to estimate. His words were always weighty; but his influence—the very atmosphere his presence created—was even more powerful. He used to say that whilst he gladly gave himself to intercession for larger meetings of which he heard, he specially valued those smaller ones in which it was possible really to confer over the Word of God. Many gratefully remember his help at Leominster and Yeovil. He did not cease to attend such Conferences until he was over ninety; and when he could no longer be present, he still welcomed notices of them for prayer, and often wrote some words of greeting and help. The following is one of his letters:—
“9 Nev Buildings,
“Barnstaple, August 29th, 1900.
“Dear Brother Bennet,—The purposed meetings at Yeovil are a solemn matter before God, our Heavenly Father, as you and I well know. In spirit and in prayer I shall be present.
“Let me say that now, more than ever, I find rest in beginning and ending my every day with God. We, a royal priesthood, are thus true to ourselves, who are one with our Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God enthroned. Our matters we know are His, from greatest to smallest; His greatest and least are, in like manner, ours—as we grieve not the Comforter who dwelleth in us.
“‘He shall be satisfied’—how precious the truth! Christ is glorified; but not satisfied. Only in the new heaven and new earth can this come to pass.
“Looking on to this, my heart, dear brother, is more and more yearning over the blind, self-deceived, unre-.generate world, praying for them, and, as God gives opportunity, speaking to them. What they deride must come to pass—judgment, severe and terrible (Rev. 9:20, 21), and that, alas! will bring on, we know, the final, eternal judgment (chap. 20:15).
“Oh, the grace that makes us to differ! How unsearchable the riches of that grace!!! Farewell, beloved brother.—Yours affectionately in Christ Jesus,
Robt. C. Chapman.”
Probably his last message to a conference, written for September 3rd, 1901, was as follows:
“He that at supper-time had leaned on the bosom of the Lord Jesus, afterwards (see Rev. 1.) fell at His feet as dead; but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”
Delight in Discovering God’s Grace in Others
In his exhortations to the children of God, he never took the position of being above them in attainments; he never spoke as one who thought he knew or experienced something which others had not entered into; he did not, so to speak, beckon them from a height, but sought to lead them on as one by their side. And in personal intercourse, doubtless, many felt humbled by the fact that he gave his brethren credit for so much grace and obedience, while their very intercourse with him made them conscious that he was, indeed, far above them in spiritual experience and devotedness to God. It is the “poor in spirit” who make much of Christ, and they alone will be true helpers of others. This blessedness was Robert Chapman’s.
Of Jehovah’s Anointed One it was said: “His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord “(Isa. 11:3, R.V.); not only was He Himself the great Example of “the fear of the Lord,” but wherever He saw any evidence of that fear He delighted in it, and such evidence He found where others would have overlooked it (Matt. 12:20; Mark 12:34). In this respect, also, His servant, Robert Chapman, was His follower. Like Barnabas, when he saw any evidence of the grace of God he was glad, because, like him, he was “a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” I remember the pleasure with which Mr. Chapman once read a free translation he had just made of a sonnet by the great Italian painter and sculptor, Michael Angelo, of which a friend has kindly sent me a copy:
“My life, a voyage o’er a tempestuous sea
In a frail bark, draws near the common end
Of all men. I, as others, must descend
Into the grave. What profit now to me
Pencil or chisel? Where the gain to be
In highest art a monarch? Can I bend
God’s sin-avenging justice to befriend
My helpless soul that would of guilt be free?
Nor saints nor angels can my ransom give
From the two deaths that are before mine eyes—
The first at hand; the twain my righteous doom—
But on the cross, the sinner to receive,
God’s Son spread out His hands. He hears my cries;
To Him I look and triumph o’er the tomb.”
A True Bishop
Mr. Chapman was a true bishop in God’s Church, or, as he would have said, a shepherd of the flock. In Barnstaple he gave himself much to visiting, and when staying elsewhere would always enquire for sick ones, and, if time permitted, go to see some. He made much of family life as the sphere in which heavenly relationships might be displayed, and taught many lessons of wisdom as to the ordering of a household. He believed that “there is more glory brought to God by a man ruling his family according to Christ, than even by a just potentate ruling a kingdom,” because for the ruling of a kingdom no pattern is found in the path of Christ on earth, nor are there any instructions in the words of Christ or His apostles.
“Rule in the family should be according to Christ. It is required of the child of God as a husband that he should represent Christ. Is he a father? Then it is required that he show the very image of God the Father to his children. Is the wife a child of God? She has a favour from God such as is not to be found in any relationship which rulers bear to each other—even to show forth the future Church in glory in her subjection to Christ, for surely Ephesians 5:does not refer to the Church now, but to the Church as she will be, and that is the pattern for us to aim at. Again, are there children? Christ is their pattern. Are there servants? He is their pattern in subjection. Christ is also the pattern of rule to the master.”
Mr. Chapman’s sympathy in all family matters was so well known that not a few went to him for counsel in difficulty. The good fruit resulting from his wise and gracious help in some painful cases cannot, of course, be widely known; but a Christian lady has entrusted me with the following, which may be taken as a true example of his godly care and wisdom. Though written in the third person, it is her own experience that she records:
“Over twenty years ago a young Christian husband and wife so disagreed that each became a great trouble to the other, and separation was the result. The wife, in the kind providence of God, was taken by her sister to see Mr. Chapman and Mr. Hake, but when she went she was in such a rebellious state of mind that, on leaving them, she said to herself, ‘Never more will I go to see these old men.’ Subsequently, however, she had a very kind invitation to visit them, and the Lord led her to accept it. Nothing could have been kinder than the welcome she received.
“The evening she arrived was that of the District Meeting, and dear Mr. Chapman, taking James 3 as the subject, dwelt on the evils of which the tongue could be guilty. Lack of love and patience with her husband were sins in which she had indulged, so she remained in the room till all but Mr. Hake and Mr. Chapman had left, and then said, ‘It was too bad to expose me before all those people!’ ‘Dear sister,’ answered Mr. Chapman, ‘I had not a thought of you when the Lord led me to the subject of this evening; the Holy Spirit has no doubt been speaking to you.’ This evidently was so. Very heavily had the case of the separated husband and wife been laid on Mr. Chapman’s heart, and afterwards on Mr. Hake’s, and many were the times they united in believing prayer for them; and the loving, gentle ways in which the wife was encouraged to pour out her trouble, and was prayed with and counselled, could not have been surpassed. Mr. Chapman did not deal with the wrong of the husband; he sought to point out and convince her of where she had erred, so that in humility and repentance for her part in the evil she might take her right position before God, always assuring her that when she could through grace quite acquiesce in His will, and thank Him for chastening her, He would take up her cause and give her what had become the desire of her heart—re-union with her husband.
“Some months later Mr. Chapman, being in the Lord’s service in the town where the husband lived, called upon him, and asked him to go for a walk with him. In speaking of this afterwards, Mr.—— said: ‘The singular part of it was this, Mr. Chapman never said one word to me of my conduct, but in the presence of such a holy man I felt how base I had been.’ He sought his-wife, and each desiring forgiveness of the other, reconciliation and re-union followed; the dear husband with tears asked his children’s pardon for his treatment of their mother, and she also confessed her share in the evil.
“Some years after, Mr. Chapman conducted the service when their three children were baptised, and both parents and children were on different occasions happy visitors to him. Greatly did he rejoice in having been a peacemaker.”
The wisdom shown in dealing with this husband and wife characterised Mr. Chapman in dealing with difficulties in the Church. On one occasion, when he visited a town in Devon to seek to render help in some serious trouble in an assembly of God’s children, he made no reference to the difficulties in the first meeting that was held, but dwelt much upon the calling and responsibility of the Church. He afterwards remarked that his aim had been to -give special help in present troubles; doubtless lie had done so.
Faith and Thanksgiving
For the supply of temporal necessities, Mr. Chapman looked to God alone. In this respect, also, his life was a life of faith in God. Whatever he possessed he gave away, and whatever came to him he used for the Lord, meeting, of course, the expenses of his own house, which was generally pretty full of visitors. On one occasion, when a sum of money came by post, he took it, as it was, to an aged servant of Christ who had long been an earnest evangelist, and was dependent upon the Lord for himself and his family, all being in feeble health.
Mr. Chapman has been known to go to the railway station with the assured conviction that God would have him take a journey, and on the way, or at the station, has received the money needed for the ticket, though the one who gave it knew not that his purse was empty. Various incidents of this kind are told, and his experience of God’s care must have been great in his many journeyings; but the only ones of which I have details are the following. The first has been narrated to me by Mr. W. Marriott, who heard it from Mr. Hake, and the second by Mr. G. Fisher, who, for a time, rendered help to Mr. Chapman, and accompanied him when travelling.
Many years ago Mr. Chapman and Mr. Hake were on a visit to South Devon, and, as usual, they had very little money. Before the time for their return to Barnstaple Mr. Hake handed Mr. Chapman his railway fare, retaining his own. Knowing his loving readiness to impart to others, he asked him more than once if he had the money all right, but only received the reply, “Our Father knows all about it.” On the way to the station Mr. Hake again asked about it, and, with some hesitation, Mr. Chapman confessed that he had been to see Sister B——, who, being ill, was in need of some little luxury, and he had given her what money he had to procure it. Mr. Hake said, “I expected you would be doing something of that kind; what are you going to do? “He received the same reply, “Our Father knows all about it.” Just before the train drew up a friend came hurrying to the station, and, expressing regret for being late, said, “Here’s a guinea for you, Mr. Chapman, and one for you, Mr. Hake.” Mr. Hake said he felt greatly ashamed to think that Mr. Chapman had so much more faith than himself.
On one occasion, when Mr. Chapman and Mr. Fisher were leaving Leominster, neither of them had any money. Mr. Chapman had received some money while there, but had given it to a needy brother in the meeting. They walked to the station, and on the way Mr. Fisher said, “I have no money.” Mr. Chapman with his usual calmness answered, “To whom does the money belong, and the cattle upon a thousand hills? “When they reached the station a gentleman got out of a train, gave Mr. Chapman a five-pound note, saying, “I have had this in my pocket for you for some time, and am glad to meet you,” and got in again. Mr. Chapman said to his companion, “Dear brother, will you take the tickets?” and, after a time, said again, “To whom does the money belong?”
The “spirit of faith” always leads to thanksgiving, and those who had but little acquaintance with Mr. Chapman must have heard him affirm that thanksgiving should be the constant business of the child of God. Often did he ask the questions, Do you count up your mercies? Do your thanksgivings keep pace with them? On one occasion, at a meeting of a few believers, after he had dwelt upon Ephesians 5:19, 20, a spiritually-minded sister said, “I do give thanks; but why am I not always singing and making melody in my heart to the Lord? “The answer was, “If I be not giving thanks always for all things to God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, the cause must be that I have some little concern of my own in a corner.” By this he meant that if we walk in true fellowship with the Father and the Son, by the Spirit, and recognise that all our matters are ordered by our Heavenly Father in perfect wisdom and love, we must be giving thanks; but if we treat our matters simply as our own, seek to deal with them by our own wisdom, have regard to their results only as they concern ourselves, and fail to bring God into them all, in the spirit of faith, with the assurance that He controls them for His own glory and our truest blessing, our harp will soon be hung on the willows.
Having proved the reality of trusting God himself, Mr. Chapman was able to encourage others to do the same, and no one could more earnestly have pressed the truth that it is not only those whom God leads to give themselves entirely to the ministry of the Word and the care of His people who have occasion for the exercise of constant faith in Him. All God’s children are called to walk by faith, and faith is needed to deal aright with property or business, or to fill any position in a manner worthy of Christ. We can only carry out the Lord’s exhortation, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” as we truly receive the promise that follows, “And all these things [which, He had just said, your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of] shall be added unto you.” One great object—it may be said the great object—of Mr. Chapman’s ministry, public and private, was to encourage and strengthen faith, and to show the folly as well as the sin of unbelief. He was told of a sister in Scotland who had once been in “easier circumstances,” but having used her all in the service of Christ, said she had now nothing to look to but the Living God. Mr. Chapman calmly replied, “Tell that sister from me that I would not give up that but for all the gold in the Bank of England.”
Best Days and Circumstances
We often speak of the difficulties of the times, and with truth; but Mr. Chapman insisted that the present times are the very best for us, and that as our lot is cast in them there is abundant grace to enable us to fully please God. In the closing years of his life he would often say that these were his best days; he had prayed that his last days might be his best, and God had made them so. The mention of “best days” brings to mind Mr. Chapman’s words about the best circumstances for the believer:
“Those are my best circumstances that best serve to try faith, help humility, and check self-will.”
With this a few of his utterances with regard to trials may be given:
“It is the greatest misfortune that can happen to a child of God to have no trials. Trials are sent to lead to the Word of God, and entire dependence upon Him.
“Why did Christ suffer being tempted? Was it not that He might be able to sympathise? What practice would there be for the skill of the able physician if he settled down where there was no disease?
“If you have no trials, how can you comfort others with the comfort wherewith you yourself are comforted of God?
“Take out of life the bitterness of unbelieving fears, the bitterness of mortified pride, and the bitterness of disappointed self-will, and there will be very little left that is not sweet.”
Quoting such words naturally leads to the mention of the little book called Choice Sayings— known by many, and greatly valued. It has been translated into French and German, and one of the Indian languages. C. H. Spurgeon, who was always a lover of Robert Chapman, remarked on seeing this little volume, “The gold of that land is good,” quoting Genesis 2:12. It need scarcely be said that its title was not given by himself; indeed he would not recognise the book for a long while, until Mr. Hake said that, as these sayings went forth as his words, he ought to read them, and, if he deemed it needful, revise them. The sisters in Christ who enriched many by jotting down these weighty words from his public ministry have long been with Christ, but their service remains. A, volume of choice deeds might easily be compiled if even all still remaining who have known our beloved brother were to tell what they know; but for the full knowledge of them we must await the judgment-seat of Christ, when the good works that are not manifest now will no longer be hid, and God will be truly glorified by all that His grace has wrought here below.
Visits to Spain
One special and continuous subject of prayer with Mr. Chapman was the spread of the Gospel in all lands, and visits to New Buildings were paid by servants of Christ from many countries; but in the Lord’s work in Spain he took special interest. Accompanied by two brethren (Mr. Pick and Mr. Handcock, of Barnstaple), he had visited it in 1838, when it was fast closed against the Word of God, and journeyed from place to place, speaking of Christ as God gave opportunity, and praying that God would yet open Spain to the Gospel. In 1863 he had the joy of guiding into that land Mr. W. Gould and Mr. G. Lawrence, whom he left there. Concerning Mr. Chapman’s first visit to Spain, Mr. Henry Payne, who, through hearing Mr. Chapman speak of that country, had his heart drawn to it from his youth, and went there to labour in the Gospel in 1869, writes as follows in his Spanish paper, El Evangelista:
“When Mr. Chapman determined to visit Spain, his relatives and friends used all their efforts to dissuade him from such a course, for at that time Roman Catholic unity was established by law, and they feared for his life if he ventured to proclaim the Gospel in the land of the Inquisition, when the power was in the hands of the clergy. But nothing moved him from his purpose. He told his friends that he counted on God for help in all circumstances, that he was persuaded it was the will of the Lord that he should go; and even if an assassin took his life, though the act would be a violent one, it would, nevertheless, give him entrance to his Father’s home above.
“He travelled through the country, generally on foot, in order to have better opportunities for speaking to persons alone. He found the people, as a rule, ready to listen to him when no one was near to overhear what was being said. Even then the people hated the clergy, but fear caused them to be exceedingly reserved. No doubt Mr. Chapman’s countenance, which revealed his kindness of heart, was a great help to him in securing the ear of the people. He told me that one day when he was seated in a diligence in Spain, though he had not opened his lips, a man and a woman began to quarrel furiously in French, and at last the woman said, ‘I affirm that I am as innocent of that of which you accuse me as is that holy man of God sitting in the corner, who anyone can see is going straight to heaven’.”
An incident related by Mr. E. H. Glenny in North Africa is worthy of record. Though it is not quite clear which visit is referred to, the time would indicate that of 1863. A gentleman, who was in Spain as a pioneer representative of a missionary society, when going in a diligence to the city of Seville, found himself seated by an elderly gentleman who quietly commenced to read his Bible. What followed is related in his own words:
“I soon introduced myself, and quickly found that we were on the same errand. And as I had travelled far and wide in many lands, I proffered my services as travelling companion. Mr. Chapman at once expressed his thanks and handed me his purse; this greatly took me by surprise, and I thought I was in the company of a very good man, but a little ‘touched in his upper storey.’ On our arrival in Seville, we were surrounded by a crowd, and a man demanded money to convey our luggage to the hotel. This was provided for in the funds already paid, so I stoutly resisted the imposition. In the midst of the altercation I felt a hand gently tapping me on the shoulder, and, as I turned, Mr. Chapman said, ‘Pay the man the money.’ Hotly I replied, ‘Indeed, Mr. Chapman, I shall not. Here is your purse, and you can do as you like, but I won’t be taken in like that.’ Never shall I forget the scene which followed. Quickly taking from his purse the amount demanded, Mr. Chapman took the man’s hand in his, and, as he placed the money in it, told him that he was quite aware that it was an imposition, but that he had come to his country to tell the glad tidings of salvation, that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.’ The money must have burned in the man’s hand as he stood there and listened to the Gospel story.
“A great change already began to pass through my mind as to the one who was my travelling companion, and instead of feeling my own importance as a great and accomplished traveller, I felt more as a child compared with him.
“After tea Mr. Chapman asked if I would like a walk, to which I readily assented, and we spent some time together in passing from one part of the city to another. Presently, Mr. Chapman turned to me with the question, ‘Brother, do you know the way back to our hotel?’ ‘Know my way back! Why, no, Mr. Chapman; I have never been in this city before.’ ‘Very well, then, let us ask God to guide us.’ Instantly, and before I had time to exclaim (which I did), I found myself drawn to the entrance of a side street, and heard Mr. Chapman in prayer, telling the Lord that we were in this city as His servants, and asking Him to guide us to the hotel, and to give us an opportunity of speaking to someone about his soul. I was dumb. I knew nothing about this intimate intercourse and spirit of constant dependence upon God, and I just followed on. Presently, as we went down the street, Mr. Chapman, who had been scanning the names over the shops, stopped, and said, ‘That is an English name; let us go in.’ It was a bell-hanger’s, and, as we entered, a man in a paper cap came out from an inside room. Going towards him, and holding out his hand, Mr. Chapman said, ‘You are English?’ ‘Yes, that I am, and right glad I am to hear my mother tongue.’ Mr. Chapman then said, ‘We are here to preach the Gospel,’ and asked the bell-hanger if he was converted. ‘This is the first time since I came into this country any one has asked me such a question, or cared anything about me. If that is your errand, you had better come inside.’ I followed, wondering what would come of it. Mr. Chapman’s Bible was out at once, and soon a most interesting conversation over the Scriptures was going on. The man was deeply in earnest, and prayer followed. Then, on rising from his knees, Mr. Chapman said, ‘We are strangers in the city; will you kindly direct us to —— Hotel?’ ‘Direct you, sir; I’ll go with you every step of the way,’ was the ready response, and he did so, whilst I was deeply impressed with the character of the man of God into whose presence and companionship I had so unexpectedly been brought.”
The gentleman who related the above said that some years after, when he was in Seville again, he sought out the bell-hanger, and found that, as the result of the interview described, he was truly-converted, and was seeking to serve God by living and preaching the Gospel. He speaks also of the indelible marks Mr. Chapman had left behind him. Mr. Chapman himself once said that on his landing in Spain some Government official recognised him, and told him that he had been led to Christ through his speaking to him some years previously. His last visit to Spain was in 1871, when he wrote to Christians at Barnstaple:
“Your prayers for me have been answered step by step in my journey, by inward comfort of the Spirit and by outward leadings of God… My heart is full of joy to see what God has wrought, and the tokens of yet greater things.”
With reference to a place at which Mr. Chapman stayed for a night, Mr. Lawrence wrote:
“We were warned against speaking to the landlord about our ‘religion,’ as he was such a Carlist. In the morning Brother Chapman said to him, ‘There is one thing which English and Spanish people need more than anything else.’ ‘What is that?’ ‘Peace with God,’ Mr. C. replied. ‘Have you that peace, my friend? I have had that peace through our Lord Jesus Christ for many years.’ The man seemed astonished, and asked if we had any little books like those we gave away in the train, which he saw in the hands of some people. We soon supplied him.”
This is the small Workshop in which Mr. Chapman used the Lathe, and often occupied himself in other ways, for so many years. His apron is seen hanging on the door, and his cap is on the bench
Mr. Chapman left Barcelona January 15th, 1872, and the next day wrote to the friends there from France:
“How precious to us, beloved ones all, is the remembrance of your love. Truly our parting was at the mercy-seat. We send you ‘Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever’; ‘Great High Priest’; ‘Great Shepherd of the sheep.’ Both on the Spanish side of the border, and on the French, we had good opportunities. The Lord opened the mouth; may He open the ear! The French are willing to listen, and do not seem hardened in indifference; at least, those we have met. Farewell. God bless the little ones!”
It is “Veil known that Mr. Chapman never saw visitors on Saturday, and until quite recently he did not take food on that day. Much of the day was spent in meditation and prayer; but he also spent a good deal of it in his workshop, finding in exercise of body rest of mind. He was very expert in the use of the lathe, and, though he gave more time to it on Saturday, it was his habit to take this kind of exercise regularly, which, doubtless, contributed not a little to his usual good health. The workshop—like everything else with which he had to do—was kept very clean and orderly. He continued his habit of rising between three and four in the morning to give himself to prayer and meditation on the Word almost to the end, but latterly he needed rest at intervals during the day.
Until quite recently Mr. Chapman’s voice was heard in public, and occasionally his address was given in full in a local paper, the editor of which highly esteemed him. At the Barnstaple annual meeting in June, 1901—the last which he attended—he stood on his feet exactly one hour; he gave out the opening hymn from the desk, and then prayed, read several portions of Scripture, and spoke with much vigour. When it was suggested to him that it would be wise not to go out in the evening, he said he could not remain away; but he did not take any part.
On June 2, 1902, he rose as usual, but it was evident that he was poorly, and in the afternoon he fell with a slight stroke of paralysis, affecting the left side. From that time he was quite helpless, and was lovingly cared for by Mr. E. Pearce, who had, first with his wife’s assistance and then with that of his sister, long and faithfully ministered to him.
Mr. G. Hake, of Bideford, and Mr. G. Fisher, who had both been constant visitors, with readiness to render help, were much by hisl side, and took their turn in sitting with him; and Mr. Wilson and Mr. Idenden kindly came some distance to minister to him. During most of the ten days he was very restless, and constantly desired to be moved, but showed no impatience. He said to Mr. Pearce, “If you’ll be pleased to give me a helping hand, you’ll do me good and yourself no harm.” For all attention he was very grateful, and said his comfort was that he had a great Surety. Another expression was, “Be of good cheer, for you shall see all this as it is, in the glory”; and another, “Such kindness never was shown to a man whom I have long since named, ‘Good-for-nothing’.” The following utterances, taken down by those who were at his side, tell how God’s comforts delighted his soul (Psalm 94:19) during these days of absolute helplessness as regards the body; some of them were often repeated.
“I often think the thought: The members of Christ will never come to the end of ‘It is finished’. We shall be learning from day to day more and more, but what we .shall come to will be the unsearchableness of the work.”
In reply to, How are you this morning? he said, “God is dealing very tenderly, very lovingly with me.”
“I can lie quiet now by faith.”
“My times are in Thy hands.”
In prayer: “Heavenly Father, Thou knowest Thine aged servant’s needs; Thou considerest; Thou pitiest.”
“Remember that, as you are a member of Christ, He is your wisdom.”
With reference to those gone before, he said: “They are waiting for what is perfect and satisfying to God.”
“My heavenly Father is dealing well with me! but the question is, How am I dealing with Him?”
Asked if in pain, he replied: “Oh, no, not in any pain; but it has been so ordered that I should be made perfect in weakness.”
“Let the hand be full of love and diligence; it is worth something.”
One said: “You are longing to go home.” “Yes! but I am full of purpose to please God.”
“Did you ever find the wisdom of God make any mistake?”
“God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (This was spoken slowly, deliberately, and with special emphasis on the leading words.)
“Oh, how precious the Gift of God! and to be brought into His light and liberty!”
“We have the whole heart of Christ. It is all ours.”
A message of love being given to him, he replied:
“Dear Brother S—— has shown me deeds of love, and now he has sent me words of love.”
“They shall be all taught of God.”
“The worst thing on our part is unbelief.”
“‘I believe God,’ said Paul in the shipwreck; and what beloved Paul says I am repeating continually.”
“Truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
“In the 17th of John we have our likeness to Christ.”
“The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (This Scripture was often repeated.)
“We are taught to be one with Christ in death, burial, and resurrection.”
“Who is this that cometh up out of the wilderness leaning upon her Beloved? “
“Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.”
“Thou art with me.”
“I shall see Thee as Thou now art.”
“It is finished.” (This he said many times.)
“Of all the works of God, the deepest is the cross and resurrection “
“‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, Thou art with me I’ll fear no evil’—but why? ‘Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me’—that is, Thy guidance and Thy strength.”
“The only wise God knows exactly what is my case, and is ordering it.”
“So He giveth His beloved sleep “To the question: “Are you His beloved? “he promptly answered, “Yes, certainly. And so are you.”
“The work is finished: nothing to be added. I have finished the work Thou gavest me to do.” These words were said several times.)
“That I may glorify Thee.”
“On the third day God did raise Christ.”
“Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”
“Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?”
“We have borne the image of the first Adam; we shall bear the image of the Last.”
“The dead in Christ shall rise first.”
“The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
“Made the righteousness of God in Christ.”
“He was made sin for us, Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
“That we might be made—What? ‘The righteousness of God in Christ’.”
“We could not be made the righteousness of God in Christ without the Spirit of God dwelling in us.”
“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“Whom He predestinated, them He also called— whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
“God grant us to be strengthened with might in the inner man.”
“And to wait for His Son from heaven.”
“No rest but in Christ Jesus.”
“We know not yet what we shall be, but we know that when He shall appear we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He now is.” (This was the most frequent of all his utterances during his illness. He placed special emphasis on the word know, and usually added the word now.)
Some of his words in prayer were:
“Accept thanks for our great High Priest.”
“Oh, heavenly Father, great is Thy loving kindness, and Thy care for me.”
“Oh, heavenly Father, in the smallest matters, help!”
Mr. Chapman was, of course, quite unable to be at the annual meeting at Barnstaple, June 11th, from which, it was said, he had not been absent for seventy years, except in 1871, when he was in Spain; but his state of feebleness gave a special tone to it, and there was much thanksgiving and prayer for him. The clearness of his mind on the things of God, even to the end, may be judged by the following words, spoken that very day and repeated at the meeting. When Mr. Pearce, referring to 1 John 3:2, said, “Dear Mr. Chapman, do you long to go home to see Him?” he replied, “I bow to the sovereignty of God my heavenly Father; I have no will but His”; and added, “We know that God is love, and if, with love of which there is no measure, there be conjoined wisdom which makes no mistakes, what becomes us, His children, but to be full of thankfulness.”
On June 12th serious symptoms manifested themselves, and about 8.50 that evening this beloved servant of Christ entered into his rest,, to await with Him the blissful moment when the body itself shall be raised, and he shall in every sense be conformed to the Lord whom he so faithfully served. In his own words:
“The spirit from its house of clay
Is fled, and dwells with Thee;
Both what is gone and what remains
Were ransomed on the tree.”
The following words fell from his lips after 7 o’clock on the evening of his departure:
“‘Our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.’ In my advanced years I am happy in God.”
“I have peace with God.”
“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
“Peace within and rest.”
“Whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
“That we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus.”
“The peace of God that passeth all understanding…”
This—at 8.20—was his last utterance. Thus the end was in beautiful harmony with the whole life, and a fulfilment of the promise, which, when quoted to him that very day, he with energy finished, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee!’
If we would characterise Robert Chapman in a sentence, surely we should say, “He was a man of faith.” He was a man of prayer because he was a man of faith. “Unbelief lightly esteems both our own prayers and those of others,” while faith sees that “it is a high place that is given to the prayers of saints.” Faith accepts the testimony of God, both concerning ourselves and concerning Himself. Faith apprehends Christ as the Saviour of the lost, and as the One in whom we have acceptance before God. Faith thus enters into the reality of things unseen, and, reaching on to what God has prepared for His own, makes us pilgrims and strangers here. Above all, faith takes hold of God Himself, and leads to a walk with Him—a life moulded by diligent and prayerful meditation in the Holy Scriptures, such as is portrayed in Psalm 1.
This is not an age of faith. But as on the darkest night the few stars that shine may be even more conspicuous, so, thank God, in these days of feeble faith He still has His witnesses to the fact that He is the living God, and that the faith which lays hold of Him as such can lift men above the pursuit of wealth or fame, and enable them to walk with Him in true humility, as becometh those who “look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,” prizing the opportunity given for service amidst present difficulties, and rejoicing in the promise that “His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads.”
Prominent amongst such was Robert Chapman, and we cannot but feel the loss of one who had a heart for every burden, sympathy for any one in sorrow; whose life was given to the service of Christ in His members, and to constant intercession on their behalf. But our comfort is that, whoever may be taken, “Jesus Christ [abides] the same, yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” Let us profit, too, by the example of Elisha, who, when he smote the waters, said not, “Where is Elijah? “but, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” and his faith was honoured. The Lord knows the need of His people, and is able to supply it; they who set their hope in God and cleave to His Word will never be ashamed.
For him who has been taken we rejoice, because the “far better” portion is his. Though, to a man whose fellowship with God had been growing for nearly fourscore years, the change was more one of locality and surroundings than of heart and mind, yet it must have been very real. He now enjoys in fuller measure that communion with the Lord which he so prized; all feebleness and suffering are for him things of the past, and the worship he loved to render to God his Father and to Christ his Lord will never be interrupted. In faith and love he “walked with God” here, and God has taken him to continue that walk in a higher sphere. And while, on the one hand, God’s holy Paradise is enriched by the reception of such a worshipper, on the other hand, we can say of him what cannot be said of the holiest on earth, that sin no longer troubles him, and that Satan can no longer assault him. As he himself expressed it:
“No guilt can there benumb the soul,
Escaped from Satan’s wiles;
Atoning blood perfumes that place,
And nothing there defiles;
Ceaseless my new and holy song,
And sung with heaven-born skill,
Of Christ the Lamb that soon shall be
Enthroned on Zion’s hill.”
Thus, in deeper communion and untiring worship, he still waits, waits with the Lord, in fuller intelligence and with more ardent anticipation than he knew here—though not, it may be, with more assurance—for the fulfilment of his expectation that—
“Jesus at His appointed hour
In glory shall appear;
Then, fashioned by His mighty hand,
We shall His image bear.”
And not for this alone; but even as Christ is expecting till His enemies are made His footstool, so those with Him are waiting in holy fellowship for the kingdom of the world to become the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, who shall reign for ever and ever. Seeing, moreover, that—as Mr. Chapman often reminded us — the Millennial Kingdom of Christ is to the Eternal State but as the porch to the building, we may rest assured that those above, in their joyful looking onward, do not stop short of the time when “He that sitteth upon the Throne” will say, “Behold, I make all things new,” and when, in the fullest sense, the Lord who died on Calvary “shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.”
May this brief sketch of Robert Chapman (whose life, as already said, no one can write) and his own words, both in the preceding and the following pages, minister to the faith and hope of many! May we be followers of him as he followed Christ, and know more of his experience, as expressed in the following verses!
“No more we seek a resting-place
Where thorns and briers grow;
No Eden now is found on earth,
But sin and every woe.
Faith sees the Paradise of God,
The better heavenly land;
That holy city faith espies,
Not built by human hand.
O earth! we only ask of thee,
When saints in Jesus sleep,
A grave which, till the Bridegroom come,
Our brethren’s dust shall keep.
We ask thee no inheritance,
For we are pilgrims here;
Our God new heavens and earth shall make—
Our Father’s house is there.”
Burial in Barnstaple Cemetery, June 17th, 1902
It was only natural that Christians should assemble from all the neighbourhood at the burial of one who was so highly esteemed, and who, in fulfilling the charge to “feed the flock of God,” had been the helper of so many; but from distant places also—even as far as Dublin—servants of Christ had journeyed to be present. A large number of the inhabitants of Barnstaple, besides those accustomed to worship at Grosvenor Street, in like manner gave expression to their respect for one who had lived such a lowly life of godliness amongst them longer than almost any of them could remember.
As many as could find a place in the good-sized meeting-room—where Mr. Chapman’s presence had been familiar from the time of its erection—joined in praise for God’s grace to His beloved servant, and for the gift of him to the Church for so long; and some of his own hymns were sung, expressive of that hope which was so dear to him. Of the many present who might with profit have taken part, few only could do so in the allotted time; but words were spoken as to his being a man of the first psalm, and as to the simplicity of his walk with God, the faithfulness of his testimony, and the constancy of his intercession.
Not a few, however, were able to render the last service of carrying the body from the house to the meeting-room, and then some distance to the cemetery. About eighty brethren—six at a time— esteemed it a privilege to bear the precious burden to its final earthly resting-place.
At the grave believers were reminded of Mr. Chapman’s love to the Scriptures and confidence in them, and an earnest appeal was made to any of that large company who had not received Christ. Dr. Henry Soltau also spoke specially to the many children present, as one who had himself, when a child, been commended to God by Mr. Chapman, and had also known him and been helped by him from his earliest years. With further thanksgiving and prayer, and some hope-inspiring words from 1 Cor. 15, the body was committed to the dust to await the blessed moment of resurrection glory.
It may be of interest to mention that Mr. Chapman was buried in the grave in which the remains of Miss Paget were laid forty years ago. By the rules of the Board that grave might have been appropriated and used for a second burial after the lapse of twenty-one years; but without effort on the part of those interested, it had been preserved for its present occupant.
Some of Mr. Chapman’s beautiful verses, which follow, will form a fitting conclusion to the first part of this little volume. They may have been suggested by the expression of the desire of a servant of Christ, who fell asleep many years ago in North Devon, that his name, which was written in heaven, might not be engraved on any tombstone. The lines will find a response in the hearts of those who, knowing “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins,” are rejoicing in hope of that “redemption of our body” which the Lord by His power will soon bring to pass.
The Pilgrimage Finished
Beloved! why garnish the tombs of your dead?
Why grave ye the name on the stone?
Behold how the traveller rests in his bed,
His pilgrimage finished, right well has he sped,
To Jesus the spirit is gone!
The finger of Mercy has written each name
In durable letters of blood;
Go, read it by faith in the Book of the Lamb,
The record for ever and ever the same,
Laid up in the bosom of God!
Companions depart in the watches of night,
To meet us at dawning of day;
The Bridegroom is coming with power and might,
The ashes are ransomed and dear in His sight;
Then why at the tomb will ye stay?
Once Jesus could weep—He forbids not the tear
At winding the clay in the shroud;
Yet speaks from His throne to the circumcised ear,
Reminds us how quickly the Lord shall appear,
And points to the bow in the cloud!
1 As Mr. Macartney’s reference to Mr. Chapman’s father has been widely copied, it seems needful to remark that both as to name and official position it was incorrect.