F W Grant
Frederick William Grant (1834-1902) was born into a God-fearing
Anglican home in the Putney district of London, England. Presumably in
his teenage years he became a believer while privately reading the
Bible. He went on to King's College School, in order to be groomed for
a position in the British defense department. But getting those
positions often required inside connections to pull the necessary
strings. Disappointed, at the age of twenty-one, Frederick went to
In the 1850s the Church of England was aggressively opening parishes
in the Canadian frontier. Frederick was examined and ordained as an
Anglican priest, though he never attended their standard seminary
training. About the same time he also delved into medicine. Whether
this was his first profession, or a sideline, we do not know. But he
patronized a pharmacy owned by a believer who had a literature rack.
The pharmacist fellowshipped with an assembly, which Frederick had
assumed was a place to be warned against. But reading the literature,
he became convinced that the authors were not in a dangerous sect, but
rather, were faithfully presenting the Word. He and his brother,
Robert, who had also come over to Canada, and had become an Anglican
priest, left the "systems of men" as they referred to them, around 1860
after embracing the truths they had discovered. F. W. lived in Toronto
before moving to the United States, where he lived in Brooklyn, New
York and then in Plainfield, New Jersey.
Amid all his labors for the saints of God, he did not shirk that
lofty responsibility to be a godly husband and father. The Grants were
the happy parents of four children, Frederick, Robert, Frank, and
Samuel Ridout states, "His place in the hearts of the saints
rests...in his identification with the Word of God. Unknown to many in
the flesh, who have profited by his ministry, with little of what may
be called popularity, or the magnetism supposed to be so essential in a
leader, he is lost sight of in the precious truth which it was his joy
Grant's emphasis on numerics has received mixed reviews, and it is
probably safe to say that most Bible students do not read his The
Numerical Bible, issued in seven volumes, for his notes on numerics,
but rather for his devotional comments. When C. I. Scofield worked on
his notes for the Scofield reference Bible, he had Darby's Synopsis and
Grant's Numerical Bible on his desk. Grant's large book, Facts and
Theories as to a Future State, was recommended by C. H. Spurgeon, who
said it was "the last word on the right side of every question
discussed" about the state of the soul after death. It is not as
readable as Sir Robert Anderson's book, Human Destiny which was written
on the same topic, but it is far more complete. Anyone who is seriously
studying this topic should get Grant's book. It is perhaps his most
important work. As with William Kelly and J. N. Darby, Grant was
engaged in issues confronting the whole Church. These men were not
playing church in a pinched circle of devotees, trying to be the big
fish in a little pond. Their work shows their burden with the issues
that all saints faced, regardless of affiliation. They wrote about big
issues for a wide audience.
Grant hated denominationalism. When he saw saints dividing and
circles of assemblies forming, each circle unreconciled to the next, he
mourned, "Our shame is public. It requires no spirituality to see that
exactly in that which we have professedly sought we have failed most
signally. 'The unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' is just most
surely what we have not kept.'" Ironically he was perceived as the
guiding spirit behind the "Grant party" in North America.
The telling of how this happened is also the telling of Grant's
darkest hour. H. A. Ironside devotes a chapter in his book, A
Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement to this painful ordeal. Of
course H. A. I. was quite biased in favor of brother Grant. There he
says that "In America F. W. Grant had become by 1880 the leading figure
among the exclusive Brethren. His platform gifts were not of a high
order but as a teacher he was unexcelled. Many consider him, to this
day, the superior of Darby himself in accuracy and spiritual insight,
but he always held himself as but a disciple greatly indebted to J. N.
Darby. Up to the last, the two were fast friends, though for a number
of years there had been slight doctrinal differences between them."
To look in the best light at why these "slight differences" fueled
such debates, we need to lift ourselves out of our present era. Today
it is easy to become comfortable with sloppy, haphazard, and careless
Bible teaching. We are surrounded by many who assume that doctrine
doesn't matter. But Grant lived in the golden era of biblical
exposition. Scholarship in general, especially in England, had reached
a high water mark in the 1880s. To those who do not bother their heads
about accuracy and truth, the discussions and controversies of that day
seem painfully trivial, as they divided over the north and south side
of a hair. But these brethren engaged in debates brought on by a zeal
for biblical accuracy.
In 1881, John Nelson Darby spoke for the last time at the Bible
conference in Croyden, England. He spoke from Romans 7 , and referred
to the new birth and the sealing of the Spirit. F. W. Grant listened to
the entire message, but was "perceptibly upset" by some of the
doctrines promulgated that he stood up before the meeting was adjourned
and walked out. This was noticeable enough that brothers J. B. Dunlop
and Major McCarthy spoke with brother Grant at length to arrive at some
resolution of the issue.
In the magazine, Helps By The Way, which Grant edited, he printed
his brother Robert's spirited article on the topic. Back in England it
was viewed as an attack on Darby's teaching, and they told Grant so. We
cannot go into a blow-by-blow account of what happened to F. W. Grant
at this time. The score cards seem fairly diverse, depending on if you
are listening to H. A. Ironside or Napoleon Noel. We do know that
shortly before Darby died in 1882, he wrote a booklet about the sealing
of the Spirit, answering Robert Grant. But F. W. was so cautious, that
by the time he finally published his own booklet, to answer his
accusers from across the waters, Darby was with the Lord.
The timing was not in Grant's favor. To publish just then appeared
to be an attack on a dead man who, of course, was not present to defend
his position. The English hymn writer, Lord Adelbert P. Cecil, told
Grant that his manuscript was inflammatory, and pled with him not to
publish it; if he did, division would follow. He answered, "If the
truth will divide us, the sooner we are broken to pieces the better."
Grant's statement was partially reported, leaving the first phrase
out, "If the truth will divide us..." The impression left was that
Grant was bent on causing division, truth or no truth. Grant's motives
were judged, and his words inaccurately reported.
In 1883, Grant published the booklet. Cecil's warning was not idle.
A breech followed in 1885 which affected hundreds of assemblies and
thousands of saints. To seal these proceedings, in 1889 Cecil was
returning from a visit to Native American believers when he lost his
balance and fell out of a small boat in the Bay of Quinte, off Lake
Ontario. Hearing the news, F. W. wrote his brother, "Dear Cecil is
drowned and with him goes all hope of healing the division." With
evangelist Alfred Mace, Cecil was seen as Grant's chief disputant.
After F. W. Grant's homegoing, brother Mace wrote a letter to Grant's
widow, apologizing for his part in this sad division. With sorrow Mace
confessed to others that "we came over to get Mr. Grant."
Grant's maturity in the grace of God shows through the dark times of
1881-1885. He had been blind-sided by the enemy. The painfulness of it
was that the instruments used had been some of his most cherished
friends. If those times seem like dense velvet, remember that Grant
continued to mine rare and beautiful jewels from the depths of God's
Word to lay against that background. These gemstones sparkle in his own
writings, and in the spoken and written ministries of the Lord's
servants that he influenced, such as John Bloore, Inglis Fleming,
Robert Grant, B. C. Greenman, J. B. Jackson, P. J. and Timothy
Loizeaux, R. J. Reid, and Samuel Ridout.
Ridout was privileged to care for brother Grant in his final days,
and he also wrote the sketch of his life in Hy. Pickering's Chief Men
Among the Brethren. Ridout says, "The passion of our brother's life,
the desire that consumed him, was to make Christ more precious, to make
His Word more loved, more read, more studied. He made a significant
utterance shortly before his departure. Propped in his chair, with the
Bible open in front of him, as was his custom through the days of
weary, helpless waiting, he turned to the writer of these lines, and
with a depth of pathos, glancing at his Bible, said: "Oh, the Book, the
Book, the BOOK!" It seemed as though he said: "What a fullness there;
how little I have grasped it; how feebly expressed its thoughts." Thus
he passed to be "with Christ" at Plainfield, New Jersey, on 25th July,
1902, on his sixty-eighth birthday."
Harry Ironside visited the venerable Donald Ross in Chicago just
after word came that brother Grant was with the Lord. Ross himself was
just two months short of his own homegoing. "Mr. Ross was a patriarchal
figure with long flowing beard. He sat in a big chair, and when his son
Chas. Ross mentioned that I was with exclusives, he asked sharply
'which branch?' I replied, 'With those who refused the judgment against
F. W. G.' 'Oh,' he said, 'I'm glad of that.' Then after a moment or two
of silence, he exclaimed, 'Frederick Grant is in heaven!' 'Yes,' I
replied, 'He is with the Lord.' 'Frederick Grant is in heaven!' he
declared a second time with peculiar energy. Again I answered as
before. Almost fiercely he exclaimed, 'I tell you Frederick Grant's in
heaven! Aye--and they were glad to get him there! A little clique of
them tried to cast him out of the church of God on earth. They let him
die, so far as they were concerned, in the place of the drunkard or the
blasphemer. But oh, what a welcome he received up there! And he's with
Cecil now and the two are reconciled. Soon I'll be there too--and we'll
all have fellowship together at last.'"
It is generally agreed that J.N.
Darby, William Kelly and F.W. Grant are looked upon as the three
prominent teachers among the early brethren. By 1880, F.W. Grant had
become the leading figure among exclusive brethren in America. His
platform gifts were not of a high order, but as a teacher he was
unexcelled. Though he could go into the deeper truths of Scripture in
his teaching, he never lost his enthusiasm and joy in the gospel. Many
consider him to be superior to J.N. Darby in accuracy and spiritual
insight, though he held himself as a disciple greatly indebted to J.N.
Darby, and the two were close friends.
We recognize the tendency
to make much of man, and thus unknowingly fall into idolatry by giving
glory to some instrument whom in His grace God has seen fit to use,
rather than to Himself. We lean unduly upon the hand that would point
us to Christ, and too often make priests of those who are reminding us
that we are all priests. We close our lips in the presence of the
ministry of those who are telling us, "Ye may all prophesy." Thus we
abuse the very gifts given by our glorified Head. One lesson which we
may learn from the removal of beloved and honored servants of Christ is
not to make too much of these--to "cease from man"--to cling more
simply to Christ alone. Thus will we honor the servant by turning to
the Master, and be kept from the shame of idolatry.
the thirteenth chapter of Hebrews speaks of our "guides" or "leaders"
in verses 7-9,17,24. We are told to remember those who had passed away,
and imitate their faith. We are to obey those who remain, realizing
that they are charged with weighty responsibilities, and are to salute
them in all honor and affection. Scripture, then, not only warrants but
commands the remembrance of those whom God has given as leaders of His
people. To forget them means, too often, to forget the truth they
brought, and paves the way for that "building the sepulchres of the
prophets" by a godless posterity who are indifferent to every warning
spoken by those prophets. There is a sober, discriminating way of
dwelling upon the ministry of faithful servants which encourages our
own faith, quickens the conscience, and stirs us afresh to follow them
as they followed Christ. To remember such is to remember the Word which
they taught. There can be no higher honor to a servant of Christ than
to merge him, as it were, in the truth he ministered. Believers recall
the memory of those who have left their greatness in our hands--the
Word of God.
It being now a whole century since brother F.W.
Grant's death, we felt it profitable to publish another of his many
writings, accompanied with some facts as to his life and ministry of
which the present generation may not know. Frederick William Grant was
born in London on July 25, 1834, and passed into the presence of the
Lord on his sixty-eighth birthday in 1902, survived by his wife, three
sons and a daughter. His conversion was occasioned by the reading of
the Scriptures himself, and not through the instrumentality of others,
as was reportedly also the case with J.N. Darby. Brother Grant was
educated at King's College School with the expectation of securing a
position in the war office. When this did not materialize, he went to
Toronto, Ontario at the age of twenty-one.
At that time the
Church of England was opening parishes in the new parts of Canada, and
F.W. Grant was examined and ordained to the ministry without having
taken the regular college course. According to his son, Frank Grant,
his father was also practicing medicine in Canada at that time, and
thus got to know the owner of a local drug store who was in the
assemblies, and kept pamphlets written by J. N. Darby and other
brethren on display in his store. It was from reading these pamphlets
and studying the Scriptures that F.W. Grant received further light on
the Scriptures and left the "systems," by resigning his parish and
taking his place among the so-called brethren who gave no recognition
to clerical titles. He than came to the United States, where he lived
in the city of Brooklyn, NY, and then in Plainfield, NJ, until his
death. He is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Plainfield, NJ.
F.W. Grant's claim for a permanent place in the hearts of the saints
rests--as it does with any, but with him more ostensibly than with
most--in his identification with the Word of God. He is lost sight of
in the precious truth which it was his joy to unfold. His passion, the
desire that consumed him, was to make Christ more precious, to make His
Word more loved, more read, more studied. What views of the Word and
its truths he gave us! What thoughts of Christ! These abide.
one aim was to build only the pure Word in all his ministry, and of him
it can be said, "Not I, but Christ." Brother Grant did not believe in
passing over truth with a few vague and glittering generalities. By
habit and by faith he was a painstaking inquirer into minute points
which would escape the attention of the casual observer. He longed for
a revival of gospel work among the assemblies. His heart well-nigh
broke at the indifference, the unbelief, the lethargy that hung like a
pall upon many of the beloved people of God. How he yearned over them!
He ministered Christ to the soul! He fed the lambs and sheep with the
tender grass of divine grace, truth and love.
No earnest soul can
pass through this world without being called upon to contend earnestly
for the faith. All who would be loyal to our Lord must expect to endure
hardness for Him. Though brother Grant did not seek controversy, when
he felt the truth of God was involved, he did not shrink from declaring
what he believed to be the Scripture doctrine, and holding to it at all
Any notice of brother F.W. Grant's ministry would be
incomplete without reference to his ecclesiastical views and position.
Of these he made no secret, steadily maintaining them. He believed in
the sufficiency of the name of Christ and the person of the Lord as the
center of gathering for His saints. He believed in the presence and
competence of the Holy Spirit to order and control the assembly of
God's people without the intervention of human officialism or
unscriptural ordination. Above all, he believed that a right attitude
of heart toward the Lord was indispensable, without which all else was
as "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal."
He was not indifferent
to the dangers of a place of separation, "outside the camp" from the
sects and divisions of Christendom, over which he mourned. Not
shrinking from the path, he warned against either an unscriptural
narrowness or an equally unscriptural indifference to what he believed
concerned the Lord's honor. He was persuaded that a true basis of
fellowship could only be had in accepting and acting upon all the
doctrines of the Word of God. He did not believe true fellowship could
be secured by ignoring questions of doctrine or discipline upon which
saints had formed different judgments. With largeness of heart to go
out, as he did, in love to saints of God of whatever name, he felt and
expressed the need of greatest care in maintaining scriptural order,
according to the truths of the unity of the Spirit.
weighed heavily upon brother Grant. He felt and deplored the tendency
to leave ministry in the hands of the few. He maintained from Scripture
that "ye all may prophesy" is not a dead letter; that every brother,
according to the measure of the gift of Christ, was responsible to use
that gift. It was not that he held any different view upon this than
what is common to the saints, but he felt most deeply about it. He
feared the danger of things crystallizing into form, and warned again
and again as to it. May every one of us hearken to his admonition.
large number of excellent expositions were truly Grant's life-work. He
had for years been impressed with the absolute perfection of the
Scriptures to its least "jot and tittle"--a truth we all accept. But
with him it became the absorbing thought of his life, and he put it to
the test to the full extent of his powers, often amid weakness and
illness. F.W. Grant left a great legacy to the Church in his many
published writings, the greatest of which is perhaps the Numerical
Bible, consisting of seven volumes of his own Bible translation and
accompanying notes, which are based upon the finding by his study that
in every part of Scripture, a significant numerical structure exists.
Sadly, Grant did not live to complete the whole Bible, though he was
restored from a serious illness to complete the New Testament, along
with parts of the Old Testament. When near death he uttered in prayer,
"We fail and are set aside, all human strength passes, but Thou
abidest, Thy Spirit abides, Thy Word abides."
Shortly before his
death, F.W. Grant made a significant statement to his beloved brother
in Christ, Samuel Ridout. Sitting propped in his chair, with the Word
of God open before him, as was his custom through his last weary days,
he glanced at his Bible and said with a deep pathos, "Oh, the Book, the
Book, the BOOK!" He had spent every particle of strength, and all his
reserve vitality was gone. He felt this, and his most acute suffering
was the sense of his inability to go on further in the things of God.
It seemed as though he said, "What a fullness there; how little I have
grasped it; how feebly expressed its thoughts." May these words from
this dying servant of Christ lay hold of many a heart. Is it "the Book"
with us? The one Book, always that? Oh, beloved, he speaks to us all
still, and says, "Make everything of the Book!"
Some other titles by F.W. Grant are Leaves
From the Book, The Atonement, The Crowned Christ, Lessons of the Ages,
The Prophetic History of the Church, Mysteries of the Kingdom of
Heaven, A Divine Movement, Facts and Theories as to a Future State,
Spiritual Law in the Natural World, The Numerical Structure of
Scripture, Genesis in the Light of the New Testament, Lessons from
Exodus, God's Evangel, Deliverance, Peter's Conversion, The Two
Natures, The Sovereignty of God in Salvation, and more. In addition, in 1880 the monthly magazine, Help and Food, was started with F.W. Grant as the editor, which position he retained until his death in 1902.
The preceding memorial has been compiled from Remember Your Guides by Samuel Ridout; At Home With the Lord by Samuel Ridout; F.W. Grant: His Life, Ministry and Legacy by John Reid.
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