Anthony Norris Groves: Saint and Pioneer by G. H. Lang

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Although his name is little known in Christian cirlces today, Anthony Norris Groves (1795-1853) was, according to the writer of this book, one of the most influential men of the nineteenth century. He was what might be termed a spiritual pioneer, forging a path through unfamiliar territory in...


Although his name is little known in Christian cirlces today, Anthony Norris Groves (1795-1853) was, according to the writer of this book, one of the most influential men of the nineteenth century. He was what might be termed a spiritual pioneer, forging a path through unfamiliar territory in order that others might follow. One of those who followed him was George Müller, known to the world as one who in his lifetime cared for over ten thousand orphans without any appeal for human aid, instead trusting God alone to provide for the daily needs of this large enterprise.

In 1825 Groves wrote a booklet called Christian Devotedness in which he encouraged fellow believers and especially Christian workers to take literally Jesus’ command not to lay up treasures on earth, but rather to give away their savings and possessions toward the spread of the gospel and to embark on a life of faith in God alone for the necessaries of life. Groves himself took this step of faith: he gave away his fortune, left his lucrative dental practice in England, and went to Baghdad to establish the first Protestant mission to Arabic-speaking Muslims. His going was not in connection with any church denomination or missionary society, as he sought to rely on God alone for needed finances. He later went to India also.

His approach to missions was to simplify the task of churches and missions by returning to the methods of Christ and His apostles, and to help indigenous converts form their own churches without dependence on foreign support. His ideas were considered radical at the time but later became widely accepted in evangelical circles.

Groves was a leading figure in the early days of what Robert Govett would later call the mightiest movement of the Spirit of God since Pentecost—a movement that became known simply as the Brethren. In this book G. H. Lang combines a study of the life and influence of Anthony Norris Groves with a survey of the original principles and practices of the Brethren movement.

Read Sample Material:
Selected Quotations
The Word of God 


G. H. Lang


Think not on a holy life, but on a holy moment as it flies; the first overwhelms the heart by its immensity, the other sweetens and refreshes by its lightness and present stimulus; and yet a succession of holy moments constitutes a holy life. —page 57

If your love glows towards Him, you will have almost an instinctive sense of what will please Him, and that will prove to be a holy life, when followed on from day to day. —page 57

Nothing more truly denotes the freedom with which Christ sets free than liberation from the thraldom to money, much or little. —page 75

Oh! when will the day come, when the love of Christ will have more power to unite than our foolish regulations have to divide the family of God? —page 121

How slow we are to learn that all the discipline of life is to prepare us for eternity; that nothing that has not God in it, is either worth caring for or desiring. —page 376


Norris Groves is one of the spiritual giants of the nineteenth century Brethren movement, and his story is told by another, and perhaps the final, giant among the Open Brethren, G.L. Lang. Though Exclusive (and, perhaps today, many Open) Brethren tend to credit Darby for the original Brethren principles of meeting, a strong case can be made–and it is implied if not expressly stated by Lang–that Groves was in fact the spiritual father of the movement, even in absentia in Baghdad, and particularly in his immense influence on George Müller. Not only so, the author refutes the idea that Darby's principles which led to the great division in 1848 were the movement's original principles; indeed, they were not even Darby's original principles. The author, Mr. Lang, interweaves Groves' story and his theology, especially though not limited to his ecclesiology, within the context of this biography, and he decries the declension from original principles of meeting among the "Opens," manifested even so early as the latter nineteenth century. In my opinion Lang was the last of the great Open Brethren, slightly outliving E.H. Broadbent. Lang was firmly in the line of Groves, Müller, Craik, Chapman, and Broadbent, a pantheon whose teaching of what they called "church truth" is unparalleled in the history of the church since the apostles' demise.

G.H. Lang does an excellent job of setting forth the issues that shaped both Groves and the Brethren movement. It is encouraging to know the processes by which many attached to the Brethren have drifted to where they are today. Encouraging because it points out the processes that led to departures from early convictions and provides examples of spiritually profitable fellowship with all of the LORD's children in the face of such departures. All churchmen should read and seek the mind of the LORD on the issues laid out in this book.

This is a very well-written and detailed biography of an exceptional spiritual man, written by another exceptional spiritual man. It also includes a pamphlet written by Groves entitled, "Christian Devotedness" which sets forth the teaching of trusting the Lord with your needs. This teaching was literally exemplified by Groves who, together with his wife and small children, closed his dental practice in London, sold all they had, gave to the poor and then headed for missionary service in India. Outstanding. Finally, the book sets forth how the Brethren began in the early 1800's by a handful of men who met together in the simplicity of the New Testament only to see many missionaries later be sent out to Africa, India, China and other places. I've marked it up and read it so often in the past 5 years I'm sure I'll soon be re-ordering it.

So few have heard of this dear brother yet he was used greatly of the Lord in the early day of missions in the early 19th century. His pioneer work not only in missions but having a more biblical, book of acts picture of the church is powerful in the history of the church. Such biographies must be read in our day. I am glad this has been reprinted.
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