Book Review—In the Shadow of Grace

Reviewed by Jason Button.

In the Shadow of Grace: The Life and Meditations of G. Campbell Morgan. Compiled and edited by Richard Morgan, Howard Morgan & John Morgan. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007. 144 pages, Paperback. $12.99.

(Review copies courtesy of Baker Books.)
button_morgan.jpgPurchase: Baker | CBD | Amazon

ISBNs: 9780801068171 / 0801068177

DCN: 242.4

LCCN: BX7260 .M555

Subjects: Devotional, G. Campbell Morgan

Richard Morgan is an ordained Presbyterian minister and a national leader in spiritual autobiography and issues of aging. He is the author of several books in the field of aging and spirituality.

Howard Morgan is currently the chairman of Chicago Theological Seminary, a trustee of Court Theatre of Chicago, and the life director of Lincoln Park Zoo and Executive Service Corps. He served as senior vice president of Citibank for 41 years and as director for The American Bible Society and St Ignatius College Preparatory School.

John Morgan, a newspaper columnist and a former pastor and now a Quaker, teaches ethics and philosophy at a community college.

G. Campbell Morgan has been held in high esteem as a model preacher for over half a century. However, many of the younger generation may be unfamiliar with him. I’m aware of only three full-length biographies of G. Campbell Morgan (the most notable being that of Jill Morgan):

  1. Harries, John. G. Campbell Morgan: The Man and His Ministry (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1930).
  2. Murray, Harold. Campbell Morgan: Bible Teacher (London: Marshall, Morgan and Scott, 1938).
  3. Morgan, Jill. A Man of the Word: Life of G. Campbell Morgan (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1952; reprinted by Baker Book House, 1972; reprinted by Wipf and Stock, 2005).

However, a number of shorter biographies can be found in books, in periodicals, and on websites. I would direct the interested reader to a very well-written biographical sketch by Dr. Sam Horn (here, and here). His biographical sketch concludes with a prayerful request, “May the Lord raise up such preachers in our times.” Such a request should not be overlooked.

The writings of G. Campbell Morgan have been preserved for the church in various forms. Many of his sermons and Bible lessons have been published as commentaries (e.g., The Analyzed Bible, The Gospel According to…), monographs (e.g., The Crisis of the Christ, Discipleship, The Teaching of Christ, etc.), and a sermon set (The Westminster Pulpit). Some of his letters have been reproduced in a book complied by his daughter-in-law, Jill Morgan, entitled This Was His Faith.

The appearance of In the Shadow of Grace is a bit surprising for a few reasons. In many circles the legacy of G. Campbell Morgan has been forgotten or, shall we say, overshadowed by his successor, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones’ legacy has been perpetuated thanks to the loyalty of his Calvinist followers, especially of the book publishers. No single decade has gone by since his death that his sermons have not been in circulation. (Iain Murray’s monumental, two-volume biography of Lloyd-Jones (Vol. 1 and Vol. 2), published by The Banner of Truth Trust, has contributed greatly to awareness of his life and ministry.)

Morgan was a conscientious Bible expositor. He avoided scholasticism and many of the raging theological debates. However, it is clear that he held to an Arminian system of soteriology, repudiating the Calvinist teaching of reprobation and holding to the possibility of falling from grace. He took a position on the various theological issues, but he was always grieved when theological debates unnecessarily divided the church of Christ.

To those who are familiar with him, he is known as a man of the Word. In questions of doctrine, he strove to adhere to the express words of Scripture. He wanted to know what the Bible said. He wanted to preach and teach what the Bible says. He desired to be a man of one Book.

One other obstacle to a greater awareness of the life and ministry of G. Campbell Morgan must be attributed to the silence of the publishers. It has only been within the past decade, or less, that limited permission has been granted to Wipf & Stock publishers to reproduce a number of Morgan’s works. The quality of these reprints leaves a bit to be desired, but at least they are being reprinted. (After writing this review, I discovered that Ambassador-Emerald Int. has also reprinted a few books by G. Campbell Morgan and the biography by Harold Murray (see here). Kregel Publications has printed a few titles in Spanish. These resources can be found at CBD.)

This latest book, In the Shadow of Grace published by Baker Book House, is another exception and has been compiled and edited by some of Morgan’s grandchildren. Falling short of its subtitle, The Life and Meditations of G. Campbell Morgan, it is rather a reflection upon the life and ministry of G. Campbell Morgan. As such, it is very similar to Jill Morgan’s This Was His Faith; however, it goes beyond his letters to include excerpts from his sermons. Many of the excerpts in this volume are said to be previously unpublished, so there is a bit of fresh material here.

If you have read little or nothing by or about G. Campbell Morgan, this book is a short and easy read with some very nice excerpts from his sermons and letters. However, I cannot say that this is the best place for a newcomer to begin. I would encourage you to find a copy of Jill Morgan’s A Man of the Word.

Just as any biographical sketch will unavoidably be colored by the knowledge, thoughts, and ideas of the biographer, this volume is no exception. The Preface (to a large degree) and the Introduction (to a smaller degree) are unfortunate examples of this tendency. The Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlewaite, president and professor of theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, exhibits a very clear feminist agenda in her Forward to this book.

The three grandsons—Richard, Howard, and John—introduce the book by explaining their journey back into the life of their “famous” grandfather. Their main purpose in this book is to focus on Campbell Morgan’s “life crises and the faith that arose out of them” (p. 17). They want the reader to see that “while life’s troubles can sometimes make us feel like we are living in shadows, grace reminds us that shadows are not possible without the sun, without the light of grace… . Grace is God’s promise of light, which is always there even if we are not aware of it” (p. 20).

In the Shadow of Grace is divided into eight chapters, beginning with the time when “the Bible came alive to him” (p. 23) and moving on to his initially being rejected for the ministry, to the loss of loved ones, and to growing older. It ends with his facing his final days. Each chapter is prefaced by an introduction to the particular period or event under consideration, followed by excerpts from Campbell Morgan’s sermons and letters. Most of the excerpts are brief, and a few are headed by an editorial note to keep the flow of thought. Endnotes identify the source of each excerpt.

Some of the most memorable and touching aspects of this book are the comments pertaining to how Campbell Morgan dealt with the loss of his sister and first child. In writing to a friend who was dealing with a loss, Morgan wrote that “you will be led into a place of quiet assurance that God is too wise to make any mistake, and too good ever to be unkind” (p. 45). “Morgan was never the theologian who propounded sublime truths that were never experienced, but the wounded healer, whose comfort came form the God who comforted him” (p. 54).

The final page of this book includes a eulogy given by Lloyd-Jones. He said, “He, surely, was the supreme illustration of the fact that God always gives His gifts at the right time… . This great evangelistic movement [Moody and Sankey] had come into the whole life of the Church, and what was needed above everything else at that point was someone who could teach these converts. And ‘a man came from God whose name was George Campbell Morgan,’ and he came at the critical moment, at the very right time” (p. 121).

A nice feature of this volume is a list of Suggested Readings. Its aim is to be suggestive, not comprehensive, so it lacks a full listing of the works of Campbell Morgan. One very happy addition is the Internet address of Dr. Sam Horn’s biographical sketch of Morgan (found here). As to Morgan’s extant works, Tim Leaman, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church (Taylorsville, MD), has compiled “A Complete Chronological Listing of the Published Writings of G. Campbell Morgan.” Tim has given me permission to share this list here.

All in all, In the Shadow of Grace is a welcome, new publication on the life and ministry of a man who has been left in the shadows, so to speak, for too long. My desire is that the publication of this book would renew interest in the life of this eminent Bible expositor and that further study into his life and labors would be a help and encouragement to today’s Bible expositors.

button.jpgJason Button received a B.A. in Bible from Bob Jones University (Greenville, SC) and has begun work on an M.A. in Theology. He serves as the Book Review Editor for SharperIron and is the creator of TheoSource, a project to compile comprehensive lists of recommended books for Bible study. Currently, he is a layman serving in various roles at West Ashley Independent Baptist Church (Charleston, SC). He is married to Tiffany, and they have two children, Caris Joelle and Asa Livingstone.

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