Golden Jubile Issue
Denis Clapham, Birmingham
The beginning of the work
The first issue in September 1945 came out soon after the end of the last World War: a war which had a crippling effect on the life of nations, of families and not least on assemblies. International aggression had ceased, but a new way of life had to be faced, and the rebuilding undertaken of much that had been shattered, or greatly weakened. As far as assemblies in the U.K. were concerned, certain brethren in the West of England met to consider what they could do to address the prevailing conditions. Out of this the Precious Seed magazine was born.
In introducing the new magazine they wrote: ‘This magazine owes its inception to the strong conviction of several brethren in the South-West, that conditions today call for renewed attention to New Testament church principles and for revived interest in the important and widespread gospel work carried on in fellowship with the assemblies.’
‘We firmly believe, not only that there is a definite responsibility upon Christians to follow the New Testament pattern in church life and service, but that when spiritual conditions are right this has in fact proved, and always will prove to be, the very best method for building up a healthy and vigorous assembly life, maintaining a clear and pure witness to the fruits of God, promoting true unity, and encouraging aggressive gospel work’. It is a pity that space does not permit the inclusion of all they wrote, although, if the demand for a reprint of this initial statement made us feel it were justified we would readily consider how it could best be undertaken.
At that time our good brethren were ‘LOOKING FORWARD’, for they concluded their introduction by asking readers ‘to be indulgent toward the shortcomings of the magazine in its present form, remembering that shortage of paper imposes such severe limits on the size of the magazine, (It was 9¾" x 7¼", before the introduction of metrication, and limited to eight pages including the cover) that it is impossible to carry out the full programme we have in mind’.
Who were these brethren on whom the Lord saw fit to lay this burden? Who were they who were ‘encouraged by welcome signs that the Lord has been guiding, and by evidence of widespread sympathy with our objects’? And who began a work which has, in reliance upon God alone, continued until now - fifty years on? These were the brethren who comprised the original Committee:-
A.G. BOWERMAN (Taunton)
W.A. CHILCOTT (Cheddar)
W.D. DUNNING (Yeovil)
CHARLES McEWEN (Exeter)
H.C. ROLES (Yeovil)
A.J. TOWNSEND (Exeter)
JAMES H. LARGE (Barnstaple)
HUMPHRY LERWILL (Barnstaple)
SECRETARY C. GAHAN (llmirister)
C.H. DARCH (Taunton)
E.F. HULBERT (Taunton)
The development of the work
To begin with, the magazine was probably intended to be ‘A Bible Monthly’, as the reduced reproduction of the first cover indicates, but in the circumstances Volume 1 appeared in sixteen parts between September 1945 and May 1948, so that actually it was issued bi-monthly, and grew to sixteen pages in size, including the cover.
If tribute were to be paid by name to all who have contributed articles down the years we would almost certainly have to produce a special supplement. This would be scant reward for labours, in many cases undertaken by servants of Christ who were preaching the gospel and ministering to the saints continually in all parts of the British Isles. It is of great consolation to us to know that their labours were not in vain in the Lord, and that having served their generation they have gone on ahead of us to receive from the righteous Judge their due reward at that day.
Just as most of those who continued to supply fresh spiritual food in the early decades have finished their course, so it is with Committee members. Only Mr James H. Large remains of the original members, and through abundant mercy he is still in the enjoyment of divine things, and brings forth fruit in old age.
We would not forget to mention those who have co-operated in supplying reports of the Lord’s work, nor of those on the Committee who have conducted the Reports Section, together with past and present secretaries and treasurers, without whose diligent service all that has been entrusted to us could not have been undertaken ‘decently and in order’.
But we are living in a constantly changing world which in many ways is so different from that faced by the first Precious Seed Committee. Today, we have to recognize that, for all the well-meant talk of renewal and restoration, carnal expedients will not achieve desired spiritual ends, nor will compromise result in an expression of the unity of the Spirit. The New Testament prophetic scriptures warn of that which we are to expect and the way in which the present dispensation will close. Fifty years on, the present Committee is still faced with the great responsibility of providing meat in due season for the household of God. He who cannot fail His people, who has proved faithful at all times, will surely continue to be our Help. We still seek by His grace to hold to the original objectives set before those whose steps we follow.
Precious Seed averages around 17,000 copies per issue (now normally produced fives time a year and running to thirty-two pages, plus the cover), of which number somewhat over 4,000 are sent overseas. We aim to bear in mind the many different needs of our readership, and not to lose sight of the fact that here in the U.K. we are living in a very sin-sick world, and at a time when in the religious sphere the advocates of syncretism - all roads lead to God - are inevitably, and rapidly increasing in a pluralistic society. The way ahead for us is plain as we seek to maintain the distinctive characteristics of scripturally ordered assemblies, and by means of the printed page to go on contending earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints.
The publications aspect of the work
Running parallel with these aims, which Precious Seed has promoted now for half a century as a charge from above, The Committee launched a publications ministry in 1968 which is self-financing. We list on the next page the range of publications which it has been our privilege to produce since then.
Date Title Author/Editor(s) Reprinted
1968 - Outlines studies in the Minor Prophets - J.B. Hewitt - Out of print
1970 - Church Doctrine and Practice (selections from P.S. 1945-70) - JH.CEH - 1971, ’75, ’84
1970 - Historical Books of the NT. - Brynmor Jones - Out of print
1971 - The Book of Ezekiel - F. Cundick - Out of print
1971 - The Revelation and Future Events - E.W. Rogers - Out of print
1972 - Outline studies in the Pentateuch - J.B. Hewitt - Out of print
1972 - Colossians and Philemon - J.M. Davies - Out of print
1973 - Galatians and Philippians - W. Trew - Out of print
1975 - Floods upon the Dry Ground - S. Jardine - Out of print
1977 - Treasury of Bible Doctrine - JH/CEH - 1991
1979 - Day by Day through the NT. - DC/tH/MH - 1983, 89
1981 - The Local Church - J.H. Large - Out of print
1982 - Day by Day through the O.T. - CEH/MH - 1992
1986 - Day by Day in the Psalms - AS - 1991
1988 - Rise up my Love - CEH
1992 - Prophetic Profile - G.B. Fyfe
1992 - The Minor Prophets - IS
1992 - Directory of NT. Churches (originally compiled by J. Heading) - JH - Revised by Precious Seed
1994 - What About? (1) - MH
1994 - Day by Day - Moments with the Master - CEH
1994 - What About? (2) - MH
All Precious Seed publications still in print can be had, while stocks last, from P.S.P., P.O. Box 8, NEATH, West Glamorgan, U.K., SA11 1QB. (Please send remittance with order).
The same commit thou to faithful men
In seeking to draw this brief summary of the history of Precious Seed to a close, it seems only fitting to record that in the May-June issue of 1963 Mr Large prevailed upon others to take on the responsibility of editorship which he had shouldered for seventeen years from the inception of the magazine. At that time Mr Gahan wrote:
‘Yielding to pressure from Mr Large (who has felt for some time that, in view of the future, younger men should now be taking up this responsibility) the Committee have appointed Dr John Heading of Southampton and Mr Cyril Hocking of Cardiff as Joint Editors’.
Thus began a fruitful partnership which was to last for fifteen years until Mr Hocking’s burden concerning the work in Israel prevented his continuing with the day to day responsibility of editing. Those who had the privilege of working on the Committee during those years recognized that each of these brethren was singularly fitted by God for what they devotedly undertook, and often wondered at the capacity they had to discharge their responsibilities.
With Cyril Hocking’s visit to Israel in 1978 Denis Clapham was called upon to assist John Heading until the latter’s failing health necessitated, in 1985, his relinquishing any further active role. Since then, and following the homecall of John Heading in 1991, we have proved, in conscious weakness, that ‘our God is able’. How true is the scripture, ‘He faileth not, and forsaketh not his saints’. From 1986 Denis Clapham and Arthur Shearman have acted as Joint Editors, the one with responsibility for Articles, and the other for Reports and Book Reviews.
It would have been comparatively easy to maintain a continuity of articles by reprinting material of a bygone day. We are glad to say, however, that a steady flow of fresh material has been supplied us, enabling us to provide seasonable food and timely help. Coupled with this, the necessary financial support has remarkably kept pace with inflation and the rapidly escalating costs of production. The facts are that for the last thirty-two years, ‘lean’ years and ‘fat’ years have been evenly balanced. God is to be praised for this continuing support by His people, which has made it possible for us still to produce Precious Seed without charge.
Finally, our prayer would be, to echo Mr. C. Gahan’s words, that our God would yet raise up, and mark out, younger men to carry on this task. There is a need for spiritual men today, just as there was half a century ago, both to ‘look on the fields’, John 4. 35, to ‘look to yourselves’, 2 John 8, and to look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh’, Luke 21. 28. ‘He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him’, Ps. 126. 6. What a day of rejoicing the coming Golden Jubilee will be, most of all for The Sower who died and was buried, when ‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied’, lsa. 53. 11.