Saturday, April 16, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "Men Of Purpose" by Peter Masters

I love books that anthologize true stories of conversions to Christianity.  It may sound like quite an esoteric niche, but there are actually many volumes of this nature around, characterized by varying degrees of quality.

This interesting volume, MEN OF PURPOSE by Rev. Peter Masters, current pastor of London's famed Metroplitan Tabernacle [yes, his church is the continuation of C.H. Spurgeon's legendary pastorate], is actually a sequel to the same author's earlier and  more famous MEN OF DESTINY [also a great read] but I found it be a superior book in many ways.

UK publishers The Wakeman Trust's revised edition from the 1990s [Masters originally published MofP in 1973] brings into one beautifully  illustrated volume eleven great lives, each detailing an experience of personal conversion to the God of the Bible.

Whereas Master's  earlier volume told many familiar stories of renowned Christians like Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and Alfred The Great alongside more obscure life stories, this sequel focuses almost entirely on men who gained fame for things OTHER than their Christian faith... and this distinction  arguably makes it a more interesting volume.

In MEN OF PURPOSE we read the "faith biographies" of, for example, World Class Composer Felix Mendelssohn, the brilliant but sickly Jewish musician who somehow found a real and personal faith in Christ through his family's probably-fake "conversion of expedience" in anti-semitic early 1800s Germany;  food industrialist Henry Heinz, who built a 19th century food-processing fortune upon the biblical ethics of hard work and a-- then-unheard-of-- fairness and care for his thousands of employees; and novelist Daniel Defoe, who invented socially conscious journalistic fiction and wrote novels of harsh realism that still resonate today.

Masters also fills out the volume with several stories of great scientists who had abiding faith in Christ and the scriptures:  Michael Faraday, Lord Kelvin, and Sir John A. Fleming among them. 

All 11 of these stories are well-written tales of men who left lasting examples as leading secular personalities whose lives were changed drastically by a sight of real Christianity.

I was particularly engaged by Master's account of Defoe's amazing personal trials and failings.  The picture painted is of a very flawed man who nevertheless used his enormous writing talent [possibly the greatest of his time] for social good and to point men and women to "that light which lighteth every man which cometh into the world." This article in particular was a very uplifting read.

Since reading these stories I have also been listening to much of Mendelssohn's powerful body of work [especially his magnum opus ELIJAH], and I am eternally grateful to Pastor Masters for introducing me to this marvelous and complex musical genius.

Special note should also be made of the beautiful outlay of the book, which utilizes many archival photos, paintings and sketches to a really great and relevant effect.

In short I would recommend this little book highly to any Christian male.  What you will read here is worth a hundred sermons about the real purpose of life and manhood.

The 11 profiles are titled as follows:

- Michael Faraday: The Dawn of Electricity
-Henry J. Heinz: Founder of a Food Empire
- Felix Mendelssohn: A Composer's Journey
- Lord Radstock: The Lord Apostol
- James Clerk Maxwell: Genius at Work
- Philip R. Bliss: The Heart of a Hymnwriter
- Fred Charrington: Ex-Brewery Heir
- Lord Kelvin: Spearhead into the Unknown
- James Montgomery: The Prodigal Poet
- Sir John Ambrose Fleming: Pioneer of Power
- Daniel Defoe: Father of Modern Journalism