Lessons from History part two: Andrew Reed, ‘While Christianity Lives, Charity Cannot Die.’

Is the responsibility to proclaim the message of salvation and to care for those with deep social problems necessarily in competition with one another?

It is possible for the two to compete, I suppose. But do they have to? Should we simply write off anyone who talks about the advantaged disadvantaging themselves for the sake of the disadvantaged as speaking postmodern gibberish? In this series of posts, we are looking to great leaders of the past to see if this is necessarily so. Today, we are looking at Andrew Reed.  Though Andrew Reed’s name is not as well known as Charles Spurgeon’s, his commitment to the gospel and to pastoral and preaching ministry was just as great.  

Brian Edwards writes in the foreword to Ian Shaw’s biography, 

“That the name of Andrew Reed should be better known will be obvious to all who read Dr Ian Shaw’s excellent biography…Here is the story of one of the truly great preachers of the Victorian age, who built up a church of under one hundred to one regularly numbering around two thousand, during his half century as pastor of New Road Chapel…He also maintained a world vision for gospel work across the rapidly opening continents.  Above all, Andrew Reed is to be remembered for his vital work in establishing three orphanages, two homes for what we call today ‘learning disabilities’ and a ‘hospice’ for those with severe physical disabilities…By the time of his death in 1862, this Mr. Great Heart – described in his day simply as ‘the orphan’s friend’ – had provided homes for 6400 children and adults from among the forgotten of society…Misunderstood by friends, ridiculed by opponents, betrayed by those he trusted and hampered by narrow bigotry, Andrew Reed was a giant in faith and self-discipline who passionately believed that every individual had value simply because they had been created in the image of God – and that nothing would be impossible if he reached out for the hand of God.”

Ian Shaw reminds us of Reed’s firm commitment to biblical theology and to the ministry of the Word,

“In his theology, Andrew Reed was strongly evangelical – marrying the evangelical urgency of the Evangelical Revival with the certainties of Calvinism. He emphasized the importance of Christian experience, both of salvation and of ongoing knowledge and experience of the presence of God in a person’s life…As a preacher, Andrew Reed stands amongst the front rank of his generation…His messages were warmly pastoral and thoroughly evangelistic. Under his ministry nearly 2500 new members joined his church, the majority of whom were converts through his preaching.  Andrew Reed was also an important thinker in the field of revival, and in his time helped promote a Calvinistic antidote to Charles Finney’s teaching…Reed was also a man of great pastoral sensitivity, spending much time with those in need…His burden for those who had never heard the gospel was very great, particularly in the new developing mission fields…”

Yet at the same time, Reed was thoroughly devoted to showing the love of Christ to those in severe distress. He did not see this as competition at all.  In fact, Shaw writes,

“The ministry of Andrew Reed was truly holistic – between the responsibility urgently to proclaim the message of salvation and the need to care for those with profound social needs there was ‘perfect harmony.’ Both were part of the gospel of compassion that he believed should motivate the true Christian. In 1828, speaking at the induction of a fellow-minister, he justified this approach: ‘Whatever has a tendency to meliorate the sufferings of humanity, to disperse the darkness of the mind, to subdue the vices of society, to restore man to a divine obedience, and to attach his hopes and his thoughts to an unseen eternity, you will see as in perfect harmony with the spirit and letter of your commission.” To Andrew Reed, this was the epitome of true faith: ‘the best evidence and surest nourisher of life’ was ‘action, action – holy and benevolent action! Exercise is at once the cure and preventative of a thousand religious ailments.’ The Christian was to be benevolent in the practical and devotional realm.  Spiritual riches or earthly wealth – these were to be freely shared…This compassion was directed particularly at the most needy, and is summed up in a memorial tablet placed in the London Orphan Asylum in 1863.  It depicts Andrew Reed bending down and reaching out towards three little children: in one hand he holds a plate of bread, and in the other a Bible. That was the heart of his Christian compassion – the Bread of LIfe and bread for life, both offered together…This was the compassion of Christ, and in this Andrew Reed wanted to imitate his Master.  The impulse to charity and compassion was the hallmark of the true Christian. As his own life drew to a close, this thought filled him with great consolation: ‘While Christianity lives, charity cannot die.'”

For more, see Ian Shaw, Andrew Reed: The Greatest is Charity

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