Thomas Charles of Bala by John Aaron

Having recently read Thomas Charles’s Spiritual Counsels, I was excited to get into this new biography of this formerly unknown-to-me servant of Jesus Christ. Rather than a reprint from earlier times, this book is a fresh production by John Aaron. The preface showed that Aaron’s previous work has been more geared to translation and editing so I began reading wondering if he could handle the unique task of biography writing. When I finished this book, I wondered no more. He could and did. It matches the quality of many of the fine Banner of Truth biographies in print.

The quality of biographical writing is one thing while the biographical subject is distinctly another. What of Thomas Charles? Let’s just say I tip my hat to this humble but zealous man whose life was all wrapped up in Jesus Christ. He is not as well known as some other preachers but deserves to be in their circle. Why is this so? My conjecture after reading this biography is that he was less bombastic than others but not less effective. He probably didn’t dominate a room when he entered, nor did he feel the need to. In modern parlance, he was comfortable in his own skin. In more spiritual language, he was aware of his God-given spiritual gifts and he quietly, persistently put them to steady use for God’s glory. We must get through our fleshly fascination with the spectacular to fully appreciate the faithful following of “the still, small voice”. When we emerge from that fog, we find that the results are often more rooted and can extend farther. Think of Charles as an Elisha following the Elijahs who called down the fire in great Welsh revivals.

Like Elisha’s vision in the school of the prophets, Charles’s innovation in the creation of Sunday Schools to teach doctrine and reading so as to enable Bible reading was a master stroke that affected Wales for generations. His wisdom in Bible printing for the common people in Wales showed incredible spiritual perception as well. Charles lived in Bala, which was the spiritual wasteland of Wales even after the great revivals, but by Charles’s death Bala was the most lush green field of spirituality in Wales.

His life story was instructive as well. His is a test case for the value of diligent labor enveloped by a love of his Lord. He died shy of his 59th birthday and its cause humanly speaking was overwork. Yet he died triumphantly, without an ounce of regret, on his sick bed saying, “There is a refuge”. Well, there is. This biography reminds us.

Like in so many biographies of great servants of God, we see the valleys of suffering walked through. Death of children, the poor health of his wife, early ministry setbacks, and his own bouts of debilitating heath including severe frostbite of his hand was the shape of his agonies. As always in these great lives, these sufferings were the anvil on which the Spirit hammered a spiritual masterpiece.

This is a wonderful biography. Much of the last chapter strikes me as an appendix to prove his orthodoxy in doctrine, but who would doubt it by the end of his life’s story? I need biographies like this one. They remind me of things I’m prone to forget. I predict you will love this lovely biography as well.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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