Remembering Dr. D. Martin Lloyd-Jones

            I do not remember when I first learned of Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, but it was shortly after I became a Christian. One of the first books I read was Arnold Dallimore’s, George Whitefield: The life and times of the great evangelist of the 18th century revival, which I purchased in 1970 while I was still in the United Methodist Church. There is a picture of Whitefield on the front cover which was owned by Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones had retired from the ministry at Westminster Chapel in 1968 due to health problems. He had a serious operation (I think for cancer), but he was convinced before the operation that everything was going to go well because he had a great peace about the work God wanted him to do in preparing his many books of sermons for print. Luther had that same kind of peace when the plague ravaged Europe at the beginning of the Reformation and he quoted Psalm 118:17—“I will not die, but live, and tell of the great works of the Lord.” In 1968, I was not a Christian. 1969 was the year of my conversion and there is a detail that connects me, however distant, with Dr. Lloyd-Jones. Lloyd-Jones had been invited to speak at the Pensacola Theological Institute in 1969 by Dr. Don Patterson and hosted by McIlwain Memorial Presbyterian Church. The Institute was scheduled to start on August 17, 1969, a Sunday. That was also the date that one of the worst hurricanes in the history of the United States made landfall along the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, Hurricane Camille. That was also the day that I first began to pray. The Lord had been working in my heart for about a year, but I had not yet truly prayed. It was all theoretical to me. I knew God existed and that I was accountable to Him, but I still believed that I could be good enough to receive His approbation. Then, a deadly hurricane hit my home state and started its dangerous trek towards the city where I lived. I was truly afraid, for the first time in my life, and I prayed that the Lord would spare me. A few weeks later, Don Patterson took a call to First Presbyterian Church in Jackson, MS and, in the providence of God, our paths would cross in 1970 and I would become a member of his congregation. And a few months after Hurricane Camille, I would pray earnestly for salvation.

            I think the first book by Lloyd-Jones that I read was Preaching and Preachers, lectures he gave at Westminster Theological Seminary. I soon bought other books, particularly his series on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, which consisted of Friday evening lectures to the members of Westminster Chapel. His writings were mesmerizing, particularly for a young man who had been given the pablum of works righteousness his whole life. It never entered my mind that someday I would be able to visit with him in his home in London, but such are the ways of God. After graduating from seminary in 1976, I took a call to a church in Bailey, MS, a rural community. Having also read many books published by The Banner of Truth Trust, I wanted to visit Great Britain and soon purchased tickets to fly there on my twenty-sixth birthday so that I could attend the Leicester Minister’s Conference. One of my friends in Mississippi, Sonny Peaster, a ruling elder who later served as a Banner Trustee, connected me with Iain Murray who graciously planned many of the details of my trip and the people who would host me over there. Flying out of JFK, I arrived at London Gatwick airport about 7 AM, Greenwich mean time, and was met by Peter Golding, pastor of Hayes Town Chapel in greater London. I stayed one or two nights with Peter and Hillary Golding, but they were especially beneficial. Peter had often driven Dr. Lloyd-Jones around to preaching engagements inasmuch as the latter never learned to drive and never owned a car. The first night I was at Peter’s house, he asked me if I would like to visit with “the Doctor” the next day. I will never forget his telephone call to the Lloyd-Jones. Bethan Lloyd-Jones answered the phone and Peter said in that inimitable British accent, “Mrs. Lloyd-Jones, this is Peter Golding. Is ‘the Doctor’ in?” Everyone in the British Christian community referred to Lloyd-Jones as “the Doctor.” He had been the assistant to Lord Herter, the Queen’s doctor, and was advancing rapidly in the medical profession before walking away from it all to preach the gospel. He was trained as a cardiologist and was a true doctor of the heart as a minister. After a few minutes of conversation between Peter and Lloyd-Jones it was determined that he could devote some time the next afternoon for a visit with me. 

            Wednesday, March 23, 1977, began early. Peter wanted to show me various sites of great Christian significance before we visited Lloyd-Jones. Our first stop was Bunhill Fields where many of the Puritan ministers are buried. We also visited The Evangelical Library in which building the Banner once rented space; the home of John Wesley and his third story “closet” where he retired to pray; and various other sites. Peter was a great guide. After lunch, we started our trek to Lloyd-Jones’ home via the London Tube. I have no idea what part of London he lived in, but I will never forget when he answered the door. Humility was evident in his countenance and demeanor in a very obvious way. I have told people that he answered the door like he was a servant of the house, perhaps a butler. He was perhaps the greatest minister of the 20th century, but he was cloaked in humility. But, was not Jesus also like that? 

            As I entered his home, there was the picture of Whitefield in the foyer. And Lloyd-Jones and Peter Golding chatted for a few moments about R. T. Kendall, who had succeeded the Doctor at Westminster Chapel. Kendall was deeply involved in writing his work, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649, which was really an attack on the Westminster Assembly. Kendall set forth the thesis that the Westminster Divines had gone beyond the views of John Calvin on the extent of the atonement. I have read Kendall’s work and studied the views of Calvin in both his Institutes and his commentaries. I delivered a paper on Calvin’s view of the atonement at one of the Russia Pastor’s Conferences in which I showed from a multitude of quotes from Calvin that his views were the same as the Puritans. Perhaps I should send that out as an article to those on this email list.  

            For the next couple of hours, I engaged in the most wonderful conversation with Lloyd-Jones about a wide variety of subjects. He started with the Reformers and Puritans, perhaps because of the work of Kendall. I vividly remember him saying that the Great Awakening was a return to the emphasis on the doctrine of justification by faith whereas the Puritans had stressed the new birth more. Of course, both must be preached and believed. John 3 deals with both and the order in which we experience them. Lloyd-Jones stated, though, that justification by faith is the doctrine that God uses to work the new birth in a sinner’s heart. Then, he started talking about B. B. Warfield. The one point that stood out to me was his explanation of why Warfield was overly scholarly. Warfield’s wife was badly hurt on their honeymoon and was bedridden for the rest of her life. Warfield had to study by her bedside as he took care of her every day. As a result, he became a little too scholarly. Thirdly, we talked for a while about the whole experience of preaching. Finally, we talked about the best form of government. Lloyd-Jones, the Britisher that he was, believed that the best form of government was a benevolent monarchy. As an American, I stated that I felt that the best form for both church and state is Lex Rex, the laws of the Prince. I fear that some people probably mistake my view for a democracy which is really nothing more than “mob rule.” Without good laws and rules, the government of any society will be carried out by those who can convince the most people to side with them. Whether those people are persuasive or coercive, the result will be the same. The government of that society will be according to the rule of man. The rule of man is always tyranny in the end. 

            So, here is what I learned from Lloyd-Jones. He was encouraging me to be a preacher. First, he wanted me to preach the way the Reformers and evangelists of the Great Awakening; that I would neither overemphasize nor underemphasize the new birth; and. that I would preach justification by faith alone. Subtly, I think he was telling me to read the Puritans, but preach like the Reformers and the Great Awakening ministers. Second, he was encouraging me to focus on true spirituality and not become overly scholarly. And, third, he encouraged me in the whole experience of preaching and what to expect. As I reflect on that visit 45 years later, what stands out to me is that he obviously had a plan for our conversation. It seemed to flow naturally, but the Doctor was making sure that the health of my heart was addressed through the preventive medicine of the Gospel. A spiritual cardiologist always thinks in such terms. 

            As the meeting drew near to an end, Dr. Lloyd-Jones signed one of his books which I had brought with me, Christian Warfare: An Exposition of Ephesians 6:10 to 13, this way: “D. M. Lloyd-Jones: To remind you of your visit with me on March 23rd 1977. Romans 1.16.” I have never had a hard time remembering that visit. He was truly a remarkable man raised up by God and I am not sure we have anyone like him today. 

Dewey Roberts, Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Destin, FL

Please send any contributions to: Vanguard Presbytery, PO Box 1862, Destin, FL 32540

NOTE: One of Vanguard’s ministers, Ryan Denton, has written a new book on Augustine, Augustine the Evangelist: The Zeal, Hope, and Methodology of the Bishop of Hippo. It is available through Reformation Heritage Books.                 

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