James Montgomery: 1771-1854

Son of Irish parents invited into Christianity by the Moravians and moved to the western shores of Scotland. Soon Mother and Father were off to missions work in the Caribbean (Barbados and Tobago). At age 6 James was entrusted to a Moravian boarding school in the country near Leeds. Both parents succumbed to tropical diseases.

James was later apprenticed to a shopkeeper and eventually to a print-shop. He had a consuming interest in literature and in poetry. But unfortunately his subject matter took on a worldly slant and the faith encounters of youth slipped into the shadows.

Meanwhile France was going through the throes of Revolution and his employer published some pamphlet materials suspected as seditious against the British Crown. Jail for the old man and an easy acquisition of the shop for his Assistant (the Sheffield Iris).

Montgomery continued with pamphlets and some materials for the theatre. He was soon in trouble for some more of his output and suffered two different jail sentences of several months each. The Good Life was proving false. The early, muffled calls of conviction for sin were now registering somewhere inside. By age 30 the struggle had become intense. Secular notoriety came with the publishing of The Wanderer of Switzerland (an epic poem). But no peace. James’ younger brother knew of his conflict and persuaded him to attend a Wesleyan Chapel. There he heard the preaching of Adam Clarke and William Carey. Both would become his friends and persistent correspondents.

The battle got no easier. Indeed “Madame Bubble” had a very strong hold on this man of letters. At age 43 however the words of another old Moravian preacher broke the carapace of the heart (@1814).

Forty years remained for “works meet for repentance”. Evangelism. Missions support. Bible translation. Sunday School teaching. Funding for “ragged schools” and numerous Gospel Hymns (over 400, including Angels From the Realms of Glory; O Spirit of the Living God).

Hear some of the golden words:

O Spirit of the living God,
In all Thy plenitude of grace,
Where’er the foot of man hath trod,
Descend on our apostate race.

Give tongues of fire and hearts of love
To preach the reconciling Word,
Give power and unction from above,
Whene’er the joyful sound is heard.

Be darkness, at Thy coming, light;
Confusion, order in Thy path;
Souls without strength inspire with might;
Bid mercy triumph over wrath.

Doug Blair, Waterloo, ON


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