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Biography of a Remarkable Man

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Robert Chapman: A Biography
Robert Peterson, Loizeaux Brothers Inc. 1995

We all have a few people we can say had an incredible impact on our life, and on our faith in the Lord. If you were able to get nineteenth century preachers together such as Spurgeon, Darby, Hudson Taylor, and George Muller, and ask them to tell who influenced them the greatest, they would all point to the same man—a man you probably never heard of.

His name was Robert Chapman. Born in 1803, destined to be a lawyer, he was converted at John Street Chapel in London, England and soon tried his hand at preaching. His preaching was not great, but he would say, “There are many who preach Christ, but not so many who live Christ. My great aim will be to live Christ” (pg. 29). Eventually, after much growth in the Scriptures and evangelistic concern, Chapman would leave his legal studies, his fortune, his prospects, and commit himself to small works of ministry, most notably in Barnstable, south-western England.

There he made his home, never marrying, but giving himself to the Lord’s work. His home became a resting place for missionaries and preachers, and his gift of encouragement was so appreciated by those weary and hurt.

Those who met him and experienced his faith would say things like: “What grace does he exhibit. Courage, love, self-denial, tenderness, perseverance—all springing out of a love for Christ. He ever is more like Christ, more self-denying, gentle and full of love.” His teaching ministry and evangelistic passion saw him take trips to Spain, Ireland, and elsewhere—all walking trips through towns and countryside, with many coming to know the Lord.

Chapman once said, “My business is to love others and not to seek that others shall love me.” A great preacher once wrote of Chapman, “He lives what I teach…” Spurgeon would say, “Robert Chapman was the saintliest man I ever met.”

Often in the Epistles we hear of ‘brothers’—unnamed, invisible, and seemingly not very significant. Chapman is sort of like that—few know of him, few ever heard of him, and few would ever know of his quiet influence on the bright light preachers of his day. And yet, there in a quiet, poor, insignificant village on the western coast of England where Brother Chapman served our Lord, lived our Lord and loved—and his influence for the Lord’s purposes, and ours, will only fully be known in the light of eternity.

Kevin Mahon
May 2017