George Henry Lang: An appreciation by Benjamin Howard Mudditt.
G. H. LANG came into my office and into my life one morning in 1946 when he called to enlist my help in publishing his memoir of Edmund Hamer Broadbent. I was in mid-life and had been serving the Lord as a Christian publisher for some years. The way had often been difficult, but His compassions had not faded. Yet He had more vital and deeper lessons for me than I had so far learned, and though I did not know it, He had sent His teacher to carry out my further education. If Montague Goodman had been sent by God's mercy, to bring me the assurance of faith, G. H. Lang, I was to discover, had been sent to teach me the dependence of faith. Montague Goodman had emphasized trusting in God; G. H. Lang was now to point to the responsibility of walking with God. I had learned that I need not be a fool in order to remain a simple Bible believer; I was now to be taught that the simple Bible believer must learn to distrust his own wisdom, and to become a fool, by worldly business standards, for Christ's sake. Montague Goodman had demonstrated the reality of God; G. H. Lang was now to demonstrate the daily, practical reality of a Heavenly Father who knows what things His children need, and who expects them to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. I was rejoicing in having been born again; I was now to learn that the calling of the new-born is to enter into the Kingdom of God.
Yet my teacher may well have remained unaware of what he was teaching me, for he taught almost exclusively by life and example, and hardly at all by lip or pen. Indeed, I can remember almost nothing that I learned from him along the merely theological or expository level. With some of his exegesis, I had the temerity to disagree completely. I was rather shaken when he insisted on dedicating to me by name, his last substantial work, Pictures and Parables, [now entitled ‘The Parabolic Teaching of Scripture’] for if I had written such a book, much of the directly exegetical comment would have been very different. But this represents but a fraction of the work; the majority of the book—possibly nine-tenths—consists of moral, ethical, spiritual challenge and stimulus that has a dynamic force rarely met with, and, in my judgment, unsurpassed. I believe that as time goes on, this aspect of G. H. Lang's writings will be recognized in its true greatness, and the small proportion of controversial matter be relegated to its true unimportance.
He was born on Nov. 20, 1874. His father had died within 14 days of his eightieth birthday, and the son died on October 20, 1958, within 31 days of his 84th birthday. His father, a lifelong member of the Exclusive Brethren, but at the end of his days, more from the fear of man than from choice, had a responsible position with Messrs. Olney and Amsden, then both deacons at Spurgeon's Tabernacle. Converted intelligently at 7 1/2 years of age, through his stepmother, G. H. Lang made a start in due course in business in London, and moved to Bristol in 1898, where he married Florence Mary Brealey, the sister of George Brealey. He held posts in the insurance world but resigned in 1899, in consequence of being called on to renew Insurances in favour of a local brewery, which he felt that in conscience he could not do. He was Invited to act as pastor of Unity Chapel, Bristol, where he ministered for some nine years, and then felt led overseas. In the course of 2 1/4 years of travel, he helped at Union Church, Ootacamund, as well as in Burma. Egypt and Tunisia. Upon his return, and until the outbreak of the first World War, he helped at Clayhidon with the Blackdown Hills Mission. During the war, he ministered frequently to his much-tried brethren who were in Dartmoor Prison as conscientious objectors. After the war, at the initial suggestion of E. H. Broadbent, he began a series of journeys in Europe that were to take him to Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland and the Balkans. While in Germany, he visited the Bible School at Wiedenest, whence he made a journey into Poland in the company of Johannes Warns, whose magnificent treatise on Baptism has just been published in this country, in a translation by G. H. Lang. There followed further service in Egypt and elsewhere, and with the coming of the second war, and advancing years, his spoken ministry was increasingly restricted to this country, and a period of most fruitful written ministry began. In later years, he suffered from increasing bodily weakness, and was often in much pain. He was quietly called home during the evening of Monday, Oct. 20, 1958.
He was a man unique in our generation, without doing violence to that much-abused word. His presence in the home was a veritable benediction; the atmosphere of sainthood seemed to be upon him. As a friend remarked, "I think he is the most apostolic man I know." I have never met any man who cared less about money, or who was more diligent in seeking first the Kingdom of God. In consequence, he lived a life of what we ordinary men would call miracle, as this one incident of many possible will shew.
We were discussing the publication of his book, The Epistle to the Hebrews. The costing figures shewed that the minimum possible price would have to be 16/-. "My brother, "he said, "many of God's children cannot afford 16/-. We must reduce the price." So, author and publisher put their heads together to see how much less they could sell a book for, with the necessary consequence that both would make less out of it. Crazy? Yes, by worldly standards, but what cared he for those? He was seeking first and only the Kingdom of God; and God, according to His promise, would begin to take affairs in hand. When we had got the price down to 15/-, but could get no lower, he asked by how much we would need to reduce our costs in order to sell at 12/6d. "By £200", I replied. "Then we must tell our Father about it", he said, and without more ado, we both dropped on our knees in my office, and he very quietly and sincerely explained to his Heavenly Father the position, and asked that if the book were to be published for the benefit of His children, the sum of £200 might be sent; but that if it were not to be published, the funds might be withheld. Prayer over, he went on his journey to the Midlands and North for ministry.
The next morning, I received a letter from him: "My dear Brother, the Lord has sent us His first £100. Yours in His love, G. H. Lang." I learned later, that on arriving at his destination, he was told that a brother had asked to see him. Though it was late, he went at once. "I have £200 I want to give to the Lord's work, Mr. Lang", was the astounding statement, "I would like you to help me to distribute it." Note: G. H. Lang did not, as we lesser men would probably have done, replied, "Thank you, my brother, I asked the Lord for that very sum this morning, you are the answer to my prayer." Instead, he asked what the donor would like to suggest. The donor named ten brethren to whom he would like to send £10 each, and asked Mr. Lang to send on the money, if he agreed that they were worthy brethren. "And then, Mr. Lang," went on the donor, "I would like you to have the other £100 for your books."
On the Saturday morning, after a week of travel and ministry, he came once more into my office, and laid on my desk a cheque for £100. "The Lord has fully answered, my brother," he said, and went on to tell me how, after missing a train and having to go by bus, he had been given the cheque at the bus stop by a Christian friend who wanted to have a share in his written ministry. Such experiences, and they were not infrequent, are part of the answer to the friends who used to ask me why I took the risk of publishing the works of an individualist such as G. H. Lang. Another, and greater part of the answer is that I conceived it the privilege of my calling to publish books of spiritual power, literary gift, and original thought, and that if my friends would write books of similar quality, I would gladly publish them, even were I to disagree with them on some points, as indeed I did with G. H. Lang. But Prof. Bruce has written a study of G. H. Lang's works in the current issue of The Witness, which I commend to those interested.
While he was the author of more than 20 works, one of his greatest contributions to the church of God was his translation from German of the works of Erich Sauer, The Dawn of World Redemption, The Triumph of the Crucified, From Eternity to Eternity, and In the Arena of Faith. His last journey abroad was to visit the Sauer’s home in Wiedenest, where living in a garden room for some three months, he completed the English MS of The Triumph of the Crucified.
“The Harvester” December 1958