Why You Should Read Alexander Moody Stuart: a Memoir
Some books belong to the category of ‘must have’. Alexander Moody Stuart: A Memoir belongs to that category, and perhaps especially for ministers of the gospel it is a ‘must read’. It becomes clear soon enough why Robert Murray M‘Cheyne on first hearing him preach was immediately anxious for his close friends Andrew and Horatius Bonar to come under the influence of his ministry too. For Alexander Moody Stuart exemplified the famous bon mot of E. M. Bounds, the American Civil War chaplain (and prisoner-of-war): ‘Men are God’s method. The church is looking for better methods; God is looking for better men.’ These pages, then, part biographical, part autobiographical, tell the story of such a man whose memorable preaching, pastoral counselling, and consistent lifestyle left an abiding impression on a generation of Christians.
The story of the Christian church is punctuated by the names of great men and women. We know their names. But often the names of those who influenced them are forgotten. Although it may seem that God has worked in the lives of individuals only, the truth is that when he works in new and fresh ways he characteristically brings together a ‘brotherhood’ of men: In the fourth century Augustine was surrounded by his friends; in the sixteenth century John Calvin formed the closest of bonds with other ministers; in the seventeenth century men were very conscious that they belonged to an entire ‘Puritan brotherhood’; while in the eighteenth century men like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield belonged to an entire network of like-minded men, while John Newton, hymnwriter extraordinaire, regularly gathered with his friends in the Eclectic Society. We know these names, while the names of others in these spiritual brotherhoods have been too easily forgotten. So it is also with the remarkable brotherhood that was raised up in Scotland in the first half of the nineteenth century. Who can forget Robert Murray M‘Cheyne? Many know of Andrew Bonar only because of his memoir of his friend; thankfully, we still sing Horatius Bonar’s great hymns. But—perhaps partly because the present biography has been too long left to gather dust in the lower shelves of old libraries, the name of Alexander Moody Stuart, whom they all esteemed so much, has been forgotten. Yet it took only one encounter with his preaching for Robert M‘Cheyne to say, ‘I have found the man.’
The best Christian biographies do three things for us: they instruct us; they challenge us; and they inspire within us a desire, not to clone ourselves in the image of the subject, but to follow him in the ways he followed Christ. Alexander Moody Stuart does that for us. It comes from an era when God raised up a wonderful variety of men with diverse personalities and gifts shaped by individualized providences, and gave each of them a spiritual burden to discharge in their lives and ministries, while drawing them together in a fellowship and work they all sensed was larger than themselves. Here is a biography that conveys a sense of what it is like for the hand of God to be on a man’s life, calling him, shaping him, and using him to minister to others. And, like Andrew Bonar’s memoir of their mutual friend Robert M‘Cheyne, there is a touch of heaven about these pages.
There is much in Alexander Moody Stuart that helps to recalibrate our Christian lives. There is much in it that ministers of the gospel will find speaks directly to them. And all this is because there is so much in it that breathes love for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Is it any wonder it is a ‘must have’ and a ‘must read’?
A new edition of Alexander Moody Stuart: A Memoir is now available from Banner of Truth.
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