Review of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The First Forty Years by Iain Murray

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The First Forty Years, 1899-1939, by Iain H. Murray, The Banner of Truth Trust, 1982, 394 pp.

This is the first time I’ve ever read a “biogr.” A what? A half biography, of course. I am glad to find out that Iain Murray later wrote the second “aphy” half as David Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of the Faith, 1939-1981. And for good measure Murray wrote a full biography on the same man as Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981. The end of this half-biography does find a nice middle-point in Lloyd-Jones life. It was in the late 1930s that he transitioned from being a preacher in Wales with the Calvinist Methodist Church to one in London at the Westminster Chapel.

It is easy to like Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He was orthodox in theology and a dedicated preacher who left a promising career in medicine to become a pastor. I was glad to see that he counted among his influences the Puritans (p. 97), Jonathan Edwards (p. 253), and B. B. Warfield (p. 286). He was also a proponent of inerrancy and fought against the errors of modernism, socialism, and Barthianism (p. 191, 291). Most of all he preached sin and the gospel; that message which is sorely needed in all ages.

But, methinks, it is the likability of Lloyd-Jones that causes some problems. Murray notes this himself. A common complaint against his ministry was that people were coming to hear Lloyd-Jones preach not because of his message but because of the interest he gained in making such a drastic career change. Whether this was the case or not, Lloyd-Jones was definitely used by God as an instrument to the conversion of many.

Murray’s own liking of Lloyd-Jones makes his account at times border on hagiographic. Lloyd-Jones is almost a messianic figure who is wildly successful in everything he does. It would be hard to recommend this book to pastors or seminary students because it is unlikely that they could much relate to this level of success. While Lloyd-Jones apparently received regular and abundant praise, the average minister toils away often unheralded, in many cases for decades in some small corner of the world to convert a single soul. One can certainly be glad for the success of Lloyd-Jones work and pray for the success of Christian preaching in all places, but the biography of some other pastor might better prepare one for the realities of the difficulties and disappointments to be expected in the pastorate.

Murray, as in his other works, certainly does his homework and provides a lot of detail. But it could have been shorter. I just didn’t find that much interesting in these almost four hundred pages to keep me going. Without having yet read Life of Martyn Lloyd-Jones, 1899-1981 I’d recommend skipping the present book under review and just reading the full biography.