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A Tribute to Philip Eveson of London Theological Seminary

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Date July 15, 2008

[On Saturday 14th June 2008 the graduation took place of the London Theological Seminary, and at the end there was a service of thanksgiving for the retiring principal Philip Eveson who for decades has been the resident tutor at the Seminary, the pastor for years of the adjoining Kensit Church and then for a long period the Seminary Principal. I was asked to preach on this occasion.]

Psalm 92:13-15 Planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age; they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’

It is a great honour to be speaking here today, one I have much anticipated and eagerly accepted with the utmost sincerity. I was delighted to have such a stage on which to express my thanks to God for the work Philip Eveson has done at LTS over these many years. The stream of students who have gone from Aberystwyth to prepare for the ministry here have all profited from their time, especially my son-in-law, Gary Brady, one of the early graduates. Philip, you were in Aberystwyth theological college in a pastoralia year when I began my ministry there. So we have come full circle. I am particularly delighted that the succession issue has been resolved so satisfactorily and admirably in the appointment of Robert Strivens to follow you. The finest institutions and churches have been ruined by failure at the point of succession, and I thank God that again he has been merciful in bringing Robert to work with you and after you.

This psalm compares the growth in grace of the believer to the growth of a beautiful tree, a palm tree or a cedar of Lebanon. The wicked spring up like grass, he says in verse 7. Today it exists and tomorrow it is cast into the oven, but the righteous grow like a cedar of Lebanon. The years go by and they are still there, erect, beautiful, strong. It is a picture of the church which Christ builds which prevails against the gates of hell. Let us look at this tree:


Every tree has a beginning. There is the acorn and there are those circumstances in which it can put down its roots and grow, and so it was with you, planted in a godly home, the Word of God and the Lord’s Day loved, your father an elder in a church which for a time had the ministry of Glyn Owen. As a boy you sat under that preaching as my sister-in-law did when she was a student in Cartrefle College. You grew in wisdom and stature; in favour with God and man. You became acquainted with Welsh Calvinistic Methodism not from a book or in a course in Church History but from men like your parents and the people who could talk feelingly of God’s dealings with them. A number of them had been converted as young people in the 1904 revival especially through a visit of R.B.Jones of Porth in the Rhondda Valley when he came to nearby Rhosllanerchrugog. We are reminded of those people just how attractive they were as Christians. Mrs Harris was one of them, living in the old people’s home in Aberystwyth and when I would visit them and speak on a Sunday afternoon 40 years ago this pint-sized lady would always be the first to give a public word of thanks when the service was over. ‘Now you listen to what this young man has said,’ she would say to the other residents. ‘I thank God that in 1904 the Lord met with me and saved me . . .’ Her son Hywel was the local Art teacher, a Presbyterian elder who lived opposite me.

So we were both favoured in knowing some of those people. My mother was saved through her uncle’s influence. He was converted in the 1904 revival. You and I were planted in the house of God. Everyone is planted somewhere; everyone comes under some influence or other. We could have been planted in a pub, or in a den of atheism or cynicism, but we were planted in a place where Jesus Christ was loved and honoured. What an immense privilege. We were prayed-for boys. What a responsibility.


The fledgling grows; the young tree spreads out its roots and branches. So we came to know the Lord for ourselves in the loneliness and isolation of Christian conversion, I in March 1954, and soon we found ourselves rubbing shoulders with a splendid group of men, many of them just a few years older than ourselves. We met them in camps and conferences and Bible rallies. They spoke to us of someone they called ‘the Doctor,’ and later on of someone named John Owen. I thought they were either both dead or both alive. So in 1958 I saw in the Western Mail that Dr. Lloyd-Jones was preaching at Eifion Evans’ induction service at the Memorial Hall in Cardiff, and that was my introduction to Calvinistic Methodism. I loved the sight of those pews full of black-suited men and hatted women, the seriousness of it, the sheer volume of the hymns as we sang Toplady. Then Dr. Lloyd-Jones himself as he rose and preached on being an ambassador for Christ. Why was it different? Why was it so important? Why did I need to know? How could I find out? I did so in a number of ways. Hearing him once a year on his visits to Wales, and then reading Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. I have been reading it again this week and am just overwhelmed with it. It is like good wine which, we are told, improves with age. Then meeting his ‘boys’ and the kind of warm, good-spirited, classless, evangelistic, orthodox, experiential Christianity that they all lived and proclaimed. Among these ‘boys’ I am thinking of I.B.Davies, and his sons Wynford and Andrew; John Thomas, Huw Morgan, Gareth Davies, Eurfyl Jones, Arthur Pritchard, Emyr Roberts, Gwilym Roberts, Eifion Evans, Glyndwr Jenkins, Vernon Higham, Don Hooper, Gilbert Evans, Hubert Clements, and Peter Clements, Eryl Davies and John Davies, Geraint Fielder and Hywel Jones. That was just the Calvinistic Methodists. There were also the Congregationalist men like Derek Swann, Maldwyn Munday, Malcolm Evans, Luther Rees and Neville, Elwyn Davies, Noel Gibbard and Peter Jeffery (who later became a Baptist). Then there were the Baptists like Omri Jenkins, IDE Thomas, Emrys Davies, Malcolm Jones, Alun Watkins, Geraint Morgan, Graham Harrison and the Jenkins’ brothers, Cecil and Dennis, Neil Richards and Sulwyn Jones. Many more could and should be named. We didn’t know what we had till they were gone. Only three of those men are still in the pastoral ministry. Weren’t we favoured to be surrounded by such an array of role models, spread across our little Principality? The Doctor’s boys were the men from whom we learned our theology, what books to read, what real evangelism was, what was pastoring. Of course with their kindness and support went an accountability. If a man in such an influential position as a seminary lecturer begins to wobble or lead people astray then we cannot be silent. What is happening? Whatever opportunity to do harm we have from our pulpits, how that is multiplied in teaching those who are going to teach others.

So you saw what was very great about these Calvinistic Methodists, and we are so thankful to God that you appreciated that heritage. It would have been so easy when leaving the Bro Cymraeg for London to have patronised those emphases, smiled condescendingly and said some thing like . . . what is the phrase, ‘We thought we knew everything in those days’? Ugh! Then you might have begun a dalliance with the various fads that have come and gone over the past forty years as Church Growth has sold its beguilements to the professing church. Remember ‘Come Together’? It was a sort of musical evangelistic event which was promoted as the answer to church decline and outreach. But we had the Calvinistic Methodist heritage, enfleshed in Dr Lloyd-Jones and evident in his boys. This was an anchor to us which saved us from drifting onto the rock of stunts. What am I talking about? Last night in my son-in-law’s manse I was turning the pages of the two mighty volumes of the Calvinistic Methodist Fathers1 which has been translated as an extraordinary labour of love by an Aberystwyth boy, John Aaron. His father was professor of philosophy at the university there and one of the most beloved members of staff, a Baptist deacon. John has given to the non-Welsh-speaking world these definitive two volumes and the Banner of Truth has published them. What would we do without the Banner of Truth? Often I want to give three cheers to the Banner for its work. Those splendid volumes will tell the world who were the Calvinistic Methodists and what they stood for. The forthcoming companion volume to that is Iain Murray’s new book2 on the lessons we can learn from Dr. Lloyd-Jones’ ministry. That is a sufficient introduction to Calvinistic Methodism, but I can make my own summary for ourselves concerning matters I consider important. Such truths and attitudes as these:

a] That Jesus Christ is a not firstly a friend and encourager, but a Saviour and a Saviour from the guilt and shame of sin. The angels said, ‘Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sin.’ So the law of God needs to be preached because sin is the want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God. And the Spirit of God needs to be appealed to in order to come and help us because when he is come he will convict of sin and righteousness and judgment to come. So our evangelistic preaching always had a vertical dimension, preaching the law from God and coveting the Spirit from God to do what we could not do.

b] We believed men were dead in trespasses and sins. They that are in the flesh cannot please God and so we drove men to the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. All they could bring to him was their guilt and need. We had no confidence in man’s alleged free will. We believed with Luther in the ‘Bondage of the Will’. ‘Go to God,’ we urged men. ‘Cry to him for life, for a new birth, for a new heart, and don’t stop crying to him until you know he has heard you.’ We had no confidence in mere decision. We were deeply distrustful of the so-called altar call or invitation system. Those ten arguments at the end of the Doctor’s Preaching and Preachers was wholly persuasive of the folly and harm of that methodology.

c] We were persuaded that all who professed new life in Christ had to manifest that life. By their fruits you shall know them. Many shall say ‘Lord, Lord’ in the Great Day but Christ will say ‘Depart from me, I never knew you.’ He once said, ‘These people worship me with the lips but their hearts are far from me.’ ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord’. So we were taught to spell out the biblical demands of a holy life.

d] Calvinistic Methodist preaching sounds forth a clarion call to repentance. Faith and repentance cannot be separated. You can take your ten pound note to the bank and protest as a good creationist that Charles Darwin’s portrait is on it. ‘Give me a 10 pound note with the Queens’ head alone on it,’ you might plead, but the teller will inform you that that is impossible. That every ten pound note has Darwin and Queen Elizabeth on it. So every new convert trusts in God but he also turns from his sin in repentance. ‘You turned from idols to serve the living God’, says Paul to the Thessalonians.

e] Calvinistic Methodists preached the whole Christ to the whole man. Have you received this prophet who will teach you how then you should love, this priest whose blood makes a comprehensive atonement for your sins so that you are completely accepted in the beloved through Golgotha alone, and are you serving this king who has all authority in heaven and earth? You are not at liberty to take some of his offices and claim their benefits without also submitting to his claims. Believe upon the LORD Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.

f] There is a tension in the life of every believer and we find it in Romans 7. We don’t follow the Doctor slavishly, but we give him weight and respect when we part company with him. Every believer knows the battle of the flesh lusting against the Spirit and the Spirit lusting against the flesh. The battle that Job had in the midst of his sufferings is a battle we know today and expect to be fighting on our death beds, and any alleged Christian secret of a life that makes it all resting in God is bad news. That certainly we learned from our beloved friend. Part of the benefit of the Experience Meetings was to help struggling Christians dealing with those tensions and feelings of wretchedness.

g] Every Christian should enjoy the full assurance of faith. This is something that was characteristic of New Testament believers, that they knew the one whom they believed. They could say, ‘My beloved is mine and I am his.’ They could cry, ‘What shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?’ They affirmed ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’ They did not believe that such confidence was presumption but that it came from trusting the promises of God made to mere believers. There were times when the Calvinistic Methodists saw the Celestial City’s turrets shining very brightly indeed.

h] They believed both in the preservation and in the perseverance of the saints, that all who were born of God were kept by the power of God unto salvation, but all who were born of God also endured to the end, that only those who persevered in faith and obedience have any grounds to believe that God is preserving them. God’s work of preserving comes to light in my persevering.

Those eight truths suggest some of the emphases of Calvinistic Methodism, and I am so glad that they are truths you Philip have always loved, been faithful to, and have emphasized to the students here. They are our heritage and I believe it is a grand and worthy heritage, and that it is not a narrow parochial heritage; it reflects Highland piety and also the best of Dutch reformation beliefs and practice. It is Princeton under Alexander and Hodge and Warfield; it is the Free Church College when the Bonar brothers and M’Cheyne were sitting at Chalmers’ feet. I do believe whenever there will be a turning again to God in a great awakening that these truths again will be better known and loved and proclaimed in all their mighty helpful relevance, more so than they are at present. This is Biblical Christianity, and I have said that you were favoured in being planted in the house of the Lord and favoured in flourishing in the courts of our God through the influence of these men, these many Welsh role models, who believed and lived these truths that I have summarized. What favoured flourishing in the courts of our God!


So here is this dreaded term ‘old age.’ Americans don’t do ‘old age’ they do ’empowerment.’ But here is a most positive perspective on old age; They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. (v.14). They have obviously been bearing fruit because we are told that ‘still’ they will go on bearing it. They have evidently been very fresh and verdant men because we are told that they will ‘stay’ fresh and green. So it is with you. You have borne fruit:i] Your teaching has been very fruitful though you have had to face the teasing of compiling a Hebrew language study-guide used in the Seminary. Teaching is a very lonely business. I cannot remember when last I heard someone in our Prayer Meeting praying for lecturers in theological seminaries. They pray for all kinds of para-church activities, preachers and missionaries, but rarely for lecturers. They are the forgotten men of the church – and particularly the compilers of Hebrew study-guides. You have borne your teasing well. But I have found theological college professors indispensable. There is the task Paul gives to Timothy to instruct faithful men, who in turn will be able to instruct others also. I can go so far in mentoring my students and modelling for them Calvinistic Methodist preaching, but I am so glad of a theological college I can trust whence I can dispatch my students with confidence where men will stand in loco pastoris and say to them so much better than I can, this is the history of the church, this is the background to the Old and New Testaments, this is systematic theology, this is why these books were written, and this is their content.

Your teaching has been fresh and green and fruitful. You were alert to the dangers of the New Perspective of the apostle Paul long before I had heard of it, and your book on the subject3 was one of the first to appear. We are much in your debt for that. You were not crying wolf. This has become a real Trojan Horse. A good mutual friend was recently preaching at the graduation of an evangelical college – not in England or Wales – and there he talked to the staff before and after the exercises, and his heart sank as one lecturer told him that he had discovered a way of reconciling the traditional approach to justification as a forensic declaration of God imputing the righteousness of Christ to the believer with the approach of the new perspective and its merger of sanctification and justification. I do not believe it can be done without great compromise to the finished work of Christ and his accomplished redemption. You saw this danger before any of us. You have also had some things to say about certain trends in Anglican evangelical theology – a certain imbalance – which have been very useful.

You spotted those things, but you did not expend the limited energy we have in sniffing around for error. Life is too short to major in finger-pointing. Much of your work has been done in writing commentaries such as those on Genesis4 and Leviticus5 which I always consult first of all when looking for help in understanding the text. I am sure those books will never go out of print.

ii] Again in this picture of being fresh, green and fruitful we have an emphasis of attractiveness. People are drawn to a park, a grove or an orchard. I am so glad that you and your wife have made yourselves so accessible during your years here. Firstly by the students as they come with their questions and problems. What a pastor to them you have been! I can remember that one conversation I had with my college principal was invaluable in assuring me of my call to the ministry, and when I met him 38 years later he told me that every day he had prayed for me. ‘Come to see me for coffee and tell me about your work. It gets a little demoralizing simply praying, “Lord, help Geoff Thomas.”‘ You have also been accessible to your fellow staff members. There is nothing starchy or standoffish in your character and so the good relations you have as a staff are largely through your own example. Again, you have made yourself accessible by your presence in ministers’ conferences, at Leicester and Westminster and Bala. You are there as an ambassador for this Seminary.

iii] Again you have been fresh, green and fruitful in your preaching. It has been a delightful burden to be the pastor of the Kensit church for many years and to be the lecturer here. You have a gift to preach and we hope that in your return to our needy Principality you will have many opportunities for some significant ministry amongst us, and that your last years will be your best years. We hope that your preaching will sparkle like your new tie (given to you by a former Korean student) sparkles today. I am looking forward to your return to Wrexham and to your coming to Aberystywth to preach for me. If no more books come from your pen we will not be unduly alarmed, for there are so many books, but if you stopped preaching or preached less, that would be a real loss to the church. Our greatest need today is to preach the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.

Finally let me come to the great theme of our preaching.


There is the great message which this man, like a cedar in Lebanon, covered in fruit in old age is proclaiming. It is this theme, ‘The LORD is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’ This is the theme of London Theological Seminary, and the theme of every true Christian preacher, and may you and I, while life and thought and being last or immortality endures, preach these three truths:

[I] The LORD is upright. He is absolutely straight. When troubles gather and come running into my life, at times one hurrying on the heels of another, the Lord is upright. He does not afflict willingly. All the ways of the Lord are just and upright altogether. So often we have to admit, ‘It was good for me that I have been afflicted that I might learn thy statutes.’ He has caused goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives. He can never wrong us or ours in whatever lies before us.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense but trust him for his grace.
Behind a frowning providence he hides a smiling face.

The Lord is upright, though we are often bruised reeds and do the things we would not do.

[II] He is my Rock. Often, Philip, you must say of your dear Jennie, ‘She is my rock,’ and Jennie will say of you, ‘He is my rock.’ But when I raise an eyebrow you quickly will smile and say ‘The Lord is our rock.’ We are so thankful for your partnership here. Alun McNabb’s long blessed ministry in Dudley ended a few years ago and the church has been searching for his successor. One of their council said to me, ‘When Alun retired we lost two people. We lost Margaret too.’ So it is with LTS; the Seminary is losing two workers. But to the Seminary too the Lord is your Rock. When the world shakes, and the foundations are being destroyed there is a Rock we have to turn to and cleave to. It is higher than ourselves!

How often in the conflict when pressed by the foe
Have I fled to my Refuge and breathed out my woe.
How often when sorrows like sea billows roll
Have I hidden in Thee O Thou Rock of my Soul.

We often say to one another in Aberystwyth, ‘How do people cope without the Lord? How do they handle the floods of pain and despair that come into their lives without a Rock to stand on, without a Rock to protect them?’ Until the end Jesus Christ must be for us the Rock of Ages.

[III] There is no wickedness in him. How wonderful to be assured that this whole cosmos is in the grip of a God in whom there is not one atom of evil whatsoever. You go into him; and you go in and in; you go in and in and in; you go in and in and in and in; and you go in and in and in and in and in and there is no wickedness at all in him. He has no past. He has no dark corner somewhere that he has to hide. He doesn’t tell the angels not to go to a certain place. Shine through him the light of his own holy omniscience and you will discover that there is nothing but the sheer goodness and perfection of God in all he is and all he does. Every dealing of God with us comes from his blameless heart. Blessed are the people whose God is this Lord. May you preach him in life and cry in death, ‘Behold the Lamb!’


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      [On Saturday 14th June 2008 the graduation took place of the London Theological Seminary, and at the end there was a service of thanksgiving for the retiring principal Philip Eveson who for decades has been the resident tutor at the Seminary, the pastor for years of the adjoining Kensit Church and then for a long […]

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      [On Saturday 14th June 2008 the graduation took place of the London Theological Seminary, and at the end there was a service of thanksgiving for the retiring principal Philip Eveson who for decades has been the resident tutor at the Seminary, the pastor for years of the adjoining Kensit Church and then for a long […]

  1. The Great Exchange: Justification by faith alone in the light of recent thought (Leominster: Day One Publications, 1996).
  2. The Book of Origins, Genesis simply explained (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2001).
  3. The Beauty of Holiness, Leviticus simply explained (Darlington: Evangelical Press, 2007).

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