And Then There Were Ten

My lovely little Baptist church recently held its Annual Christmas Prayer Dinner.  We received amongst us some very special guests – Ten seminarians who are in training for the priesthood, accompanied by their priestly mentor, Father Chris Cook, and who live in the old convent at St. Matthew’s.  It proved to be a heavenly admixture!


We convened by candlelight before a beautifully adorned tree with a full smorgasbord of food and fellowship to enjoy and our beautiful Savior to adore.  And my Baptist brethren found reason to take heart and an example upon which to draw.


Our young friends of a differing ecclesiastical stripe brought with them the joy of the Lord, humble yet earnest spirits, good-natured personas and a simple yet profound gratitude to have been invited and to be with us.  They stood amidst the assembly of the saints in the house of the living God and gave praise to the Almighty, offered encouragement to their fellow believers (whether Roman Catholic or Protestant evangelical) and afforded a most memorable witness to the salvation that is of Jesus Christ.  They sang with gusto, ate heartily and mingled and schmoozed like seasoned, convivial veterans of Palm Beach or the upper west side of Manhattan – and I haven’t even mentioned the fabulous roast beef that Father Chris brought as a goodwill offering!


I know that the Catholic Church has taken some serious hits over the last fifteen-to-twenty years, but if these young men have anything to say about it, the future for Roman Catholic Christianity is bright.  These young men love Jesus, and want others to know that Jesus loves them.  “The Ten,” as they playfully and descriptively identified themselves during our evening together, brought to my reminiscence another group of comparably earnest young men for Christ – The so-called “Cambridge Seven.”


Their names were William Cassels, Stanley Smith, C.T. Studd, Arthur Polhill, Cecil Polhill, Montague Beauchamp, and D.E. Hoste.  These men studied together at Cambridge University in England and together went to serve their Saviour in China, arriving in Shanghai March 18, 1885 (or, as or British friends would say, 18 March 1885).  Their work for the Gospel abroad was both pedestrian and profound.  It is not for nothing that the Gospel has exploded all across the vast land-mass that is China. 


Cassells at age 36 became the Bishop of the first diocese to western China.  Stanley became as fluent a preacher in Chinese as in English.  Studd, who had in faith given away his fortune, ministered in China, India, Britain and America and in Africa.  The thousand Africans who escorted his dead body to his grave attest to his worth.  Arthur Polhill ministered and evangelized until his retirement, enduring the Boxer Rebel1ion and the Revolution of 1911.  Cecil Polhill labored in Tibet, praying, “The Lord make us to be inextinguishable firebrands, so that no matter how cold the reception of our message may be, the fire may burn on and on.”  Beauchamp became a tireless and devoted evangelist, later serving as chaplain to British troops during the First World War.  Hoste succeeded the great Hudson Taylor as head of the legendary China Inland Mission, was interned by the Japanese during the Second World War, and was the last to die, in London, in 1946.


The Holy Spirit honors the labors of such devoted servants as these.  Biographer John Pollock says this of these seven men in his tribute, entitled “The Cambridge Seven:  The True Story of Ordinary Men Used in No Ordinary Way,” that their lives and work will not be forgotten by the Christian Church:


“Their social background, in an aristocratic age, and their athletic prowess at a time when organized games were first becoming popular, ensured them the widest hearing.  Their refusal to be content with the formal piety which characterized their class endeared them to the masses, for whom religion was still the core of existence …. [Alongside of any cultural flaws] must be placed the splendid sacrifice of the Seven, their wholehearted devotion to the call of Christ, their intolerance of shoddy spirituality in themselves or others, and their grasp of the urgency of the gospel to unevangelized millions overseas.  And, particularly relevant, not one of the Seven was a genius.  Theirs is a story of ordinary men, and thus may be repeated, not only in countries of the West but in lands which were the mission fields of a century ago but now send missionaries themselves …. The gospel of Christ is unchanged and His call is unchanged.  The Cambridge Seven illustrated how that call may be heard.  It is a call to ‘lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest.’  It is a call for dedication.  Above all it is a call to the consecration of the whole man, as the prelude to fruitful service …. The message of the Cambridge Seven echoes down the years from 1885:  ‘God does not deal with you until you are wholly given up to Him, and then He will tell you what to do.’”


The devotion of the Cambridge Seven clearly resonates with The Conshohocken Ten with whom we shared a beautiful evening in the Lord.  Agatha Christie wrote her classic mystery, “And Then There Were None,” against the backdrop of a series of gruesome murders predicated upon the motive of vigilante justice.  I would like to entitle this essay, “’And Then There Were Ten,” as a word of encouragement to our young friends who bring such an enthusiastic earnestness to the ministry and promotion of the Gospel.  One is given fresh encouragement that today’s egregious displays of vigilante justice as spawned by a nauseating and pervasive self-righteousness will be soundly trumped by the sacrificial love of Jesus as embodied by these princes of the Church.  Religious practice in the West may be in decline for now but, if these young men have a say, the Gospel will have a fresh hearing and a whole new day!


Bradley E. Lacey

January 2018