Signs Of The Times


I’ve just been reading the foreword to a slim volume by a gentleman named John Ritchie. Here are the first few lines, under the heading “A FRIENDLY WORD TO PREACHERS”.

A marked feature of the days of Gospel grace in which we live is, the large and ever-increasing number of earnest young preachers and soul-winners who are being raised up and sent forth to make known the glad tidings of salvation to sinners, in home and distant lands. The Lord increase their number and keep them right with Himself, so that they may be used of Him in the blessed and honorable work of gathering in the lost. No happier, no nobler work exists on earth…

Encouraging words, eh? That is, until we turn over the title page and glance at the information that the publisher provides. Have you any idea of when John Ritchie wrote those words?

See below for a photo of the book’s cover. Is that any help?




Well, you can’t judge a book by looking at its cover, as the old adage has it. This is a reprint, from an American publisher - hence the spelling of the word “honorable” in the extract above. It was quite popular, or so it seems, because it came out in 1987 and was reprinted each year up until 1991.

Now, it’s out of print. When was it originally published? In 1910.

It’s worth reading that extract again.

A few months ago, at a small and select gathering, I asked the following question: “Anyone seen any signs of revival breaking out anywhere recently?” It was a rhetorical question, an ironic remark - but, to my amazement, up went a number of hands. In conversation afterwards, I came to the conclusion that the signs seen were either from very far away, or had no evidence for them other than the unsupported words of an unreliable witness.

An acquaintance of mine saw the title of this slim volume, flicked quickly through its pages, and tossed it down with a sneer of cold contempt. Not for true scholars of the Word, but reading for idle reprobates! He hadn’t taken the trouble to read that foreword, or there he might have noted the following.

Whatever books you read, whatever teaching you hear, whatever “helps” you use or “subjects” you have suggested to you, let them guide you to the Word of God, never from it. Do not traffic in unfelt truths, or deal in other people’s diggings: make the truth your own…

Ritchie lived though “days of Gospel grace” that we have never known. Over the next few weeks, I’ll try to pick out a few of the points that he makes. Even at this distance in time, they may do us some good.