Sir Robert Anderson

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Biography

Then said Great-Heart to Mr. Valiant-for-Truth: "Thou hast worthily
behaved thyself. Let me see thy sword." So he showed it to him. When he
had taken it in his hand and looked thereon a while, he said, "Ha! it
is a right Jerusalem blade." -- The Pilgrim's Progress

Sir Robert Anderson (1841-1918) was one of the few who could engage
in controversy without being contentious. Many wish they could
"convince the gainsayer" but, unable to keep a cool head, they instead
confirm the gainsayers in their heresies. The homey saying remains
true, "If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen." Robert
Anderson was one of those rare Christians who did not become blistered
under attack.

He called himself "an anglicized Irishman of Scottish extraction."
Born in Dublin, Anderson, as a youth, learned that no one who has not
been converted can be a child of God. He wrote, "As time went by, my
conviction deepened that I had not been 'converted.' But owing to my
early experience and to the restraints of a Christian home, I continued
to lead 'a religious life.'"

The year 1860 saw sweeping revival in Northern Ireland. New
spiritual longings were awakened by the conversion of one of his
sisters through attending meetings which J. Denham Smith was holding in
Dublin. "The fact of my sister's conversion still held me, and I
cherished the thought that the next Sunday services in the kirk might
bring me blessing. But the morning service left me more discouraged
than ever; and I made up my mind that if the evening one brought no
relief I would give up the quest, and seek to enjoy life again as best
I could.

"The evening preacher was John Hall. He boldly proclaimed
forgiveness of sins and eternal life as God's gift in grace,
unconditional, to be received as we sat in the pews. His sermon
thrilled me. Yet I deemed his doctrine unscriptural, so I waylaid him
as he left the vestry and on our homeward walk tackled him about his
'heresies.'"

Hall met Anderson's challenges by quoting Scripture. Having answered
every question, he faced Anderson on the pavement and solemnly repeated
his appeal: "I tell you as a minister of Christ and in His Name that
there is life for you here and now if you will accept Him. Will you
accept Christ or will you reject Him?" Anderson later said, "After a
pause, I exclaimed, 'In God's Name I will accept Christ.' Not another
word passed between us, but after another pause he wrung my hand and
left me. And I turned homeward with the peace of God filling my heart."

Anderson was soon preaching the Gospel himself. The revival spread
to Sligo, and when George Trench went there to carry on the work, he
asked Anderson to join him. The clergy were unsympathetic and the
evangelists were treated to a crusade of ridicule in a local newspaper
which accused them of being impostors, preaching for filthy lucre's
sake and getting their salaries from a committee in London. One issue
published a letter (said to have been picked up on the road), in which
they were taken to task for embezzling the contents of their money
boxes! Worse still, there appeared a seemingly genuine account of their
getting drunk at a picnic! When Trench had to return home owing to ill
health, some doggerel verses described the quarrel which led "the
Trencher" to desert his pal, "Handy Andy." The attacks only advertised
the meetings. Many attended out of curiosity or looking for amusement,
and spiritual power was continually manifested in conversions.

Around this time, Anderson was called to the Irish Bar but was soon
redirected into secret service work in connection with the "Fenian"
terrorists. This led to his crossing to England. First in the Home
Office, then at Scotland Yard, and finally in retirement, he remained a
Londoner for the rest of his life.

Duty made him a relentless tracker of criminals. But "the
dynamiters" would have been more than surprised had they known that the
man who hunted them down was author of many books on the Bible and the
Christian life. No less amazed would have been many a burglar had he
come upon the Central Intelligence Department (CID) Chief giving a
Gospel appeal in some mission.

Anderson became the director of Scotland Yard just as the "Jack the
Ripper" murders were taking place. Sir John Moylan in his Scotland Yard
and the Metropolitan Police states that "the period 1890 to 1900 proved
to be one during which there was an almost continuous decrease in crime
. . . By signal successes in sensational murder cases such as that of
Neil Cream, the poisoner, and Milsom and Fowler, the Muswell Hill
murderers, and by steady achievement in the less advertized, everyday
business of dealing with rogues in general, the CID built up in the
'nineties' a world-wide reputation for efficiency in crime detection .
. . Crime reached a low watermark in 1899." The period of Sir Robert
Anderson's service as Chief of the CID was 1888 to 1901.

Anderson was deeply concerned about prison evangelism, and was
considered an authority on prison reform. Up to that time, most prisons
followed the dungeon pattern -- thick, iron bars, slits of windows,
faulty ventilation and semi-darkness in the cells. As is still true,
the prisons created far more criminals than they cured. One bit of
Anderson's sage advise was this: "The restitution of stolen property
ought to be insisted on. A burglar should not be set at liberty until
he had disclosed what he had done with his booty. This would go far to
abolish the market for stolen property and even put an end to stealing.
If necessary, the thief should compensate the individual robbed by work
done and paid for in prison."

Some of his books such as Criminals and Crime, The Lighter Side of
My Official Life, and Sidelights on the Home Rule Movement may never be
reprinted. But his writing on things eternal continue to bear fruit. C.
H. Spurgeon said the book, Human Destiny, was "the most valuable
contribution on the subject I have seen." This volume deals with
denials of the biblical doctrine of eternal punishment, important
because currently certain evangelical leaders have adopted these
denials.

His book, The Silence of God, was a great comfort to perplexed
souls, especially during the First World War. The Coming Prince
contains one of the clearest studies available dealing with the seventy
weeks of Daniel's prophecy. Others of his books are, In Defence, Daniel
in the Critics' Den, The Hebrews Epistle, The Honour of His Name, The
Bible and Modern Criticism, The Entail of the Covenant, Misunderstood
Texts, The Lord from Heaven, Forgotten Truths, and Redemption Truths.

He enjoyed warm fellowship with such eminant servants of Christ as Horatius Bonar, James Gray, A. C. Dixon, and C. I. Scofield.

Anderson abhorred irreverence and levity in the things of God. He
wrote, "We may come down to our own level, as it were, when reasoning
with others about their conduct or their attitude to the dread
solemnities of life. But no one of a reverent spirit can fail to be
distressed by the flippant language in which 'the glorious Gospel of
the blessed God' ( 2 Cor. 2:17 , Weymouth) is sometimes 'huckstered.'"

A friend described Sir Robert Anderson this way: "On the platform,
he appeared warrior-like; in conversation, he was professor-like; in
friendly intercourse, brother-like. Throughout his life, he bore the
true test of Christian manhood: the better known, the better loved."

John Bjorlie

Further reading:

Chief Men Among the Brethren, by Hy. Pickering

The Life of Sir Robert Anderson, by A. P. Moore-Anderson

First Name
Sir Robert
Last Name
Anderson

History

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