Charles T. Studd

 

Cricketer and Pioneer

 

 

 

 

By Dr. Richard Anderson, Baltimore UBF

 

 

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” (Acts 1:8)

 

At least two burning questions arose in my mind as I read about Charles T. Studd’s powerful and fruitful life of faith.  First, what was the secret of his Spirit-filled life?  Second, is there any such great work of God intended for me (and us) in this generation?  This report has been prepared and organized as an attempt to address these two questions.

 

You must be born again!

 

Charles Thomas Studd was born in 1860, the third son of a wealthy English planter named Edward Studd, who made a fortune in India and returned to England to spend it all.  He spent it at hunting and horse racing and gambling, and on a magnificent country estate for his family.  However, a friend forced him to attend a meeting by D. L. Moody, who was holding an evangelistic campaign in London at the time.  As a result, in 1877, Edward Studd was converted to faith in Christ and his life completely changed.  Edward Studd lived only two years after this, but he immediately gave up his gambling lifestyle and devoted his house to holding Christian meetings to preach the gospel to anybody and everybody.  In particular, he began to make every effort possible to bring about the conversion of his three sons, Kynaston, George, and Charlie (or C.T., which stands for Charles Thomas).  Later, C.T. wrote, “I was not altogether pleased with him.  He used to come into my room at night and ask if I was converted.  After a time I used to [pretend to be asleep] when I saw the door open, and in the day I crept round the other side of the house when I saw him coming.”  However, as C.T. was going out to play cricket one day, a preacher who was visiting the Studd household caught C.T. unexpectedly and asked, “Are you a Christian?”  C.T. knew the fact of the gospel, but he had never thought about his faith, and religion was boring to him.  C.T. tried to escape the question but the preacher would not give up.  The preacher challenged C.T. to thank God for the free gift of eternal life that God had given him through Jesus’ death on the cross for his sins.  The preacher pushed him, “Will you say ‘thank you’ to God for His gift?”  At this, C.T. did get down on his knees and say ‘thank you’ to God.  C.T. writes, “And right then and there joy and peace came into my soul.  I knew then what it was to be ‘born again,’ and the Bible, which had been so dry to me before, became everything.”

 

Go…and tell…how much the Lord has done for you.

(Unless love is expressed, it dies)

 

At that time cricket was the most popular sport in England, and cricket was a great passion in C.T.’s life.  C.T. was the type of person who gave everything he had to something, so he spent hours of intensive practice and preparation at cricket, determined to be the best, until he mastered every aspect of the game.  Over the next six years, from 1878 to 1884, C.T. progressed to become perhaps England’s greatest cricketer ever.  He became the Michael Jordan of cricket and his name was known throughout England.  His two older brothers were also top players, though not quite at his level.

 

But during this time cricket became an idol to him and his faith in Jesus grew cold.  Later, C.T. wrote, “Instead of going and telling others of the love of Christ, I was selfish and kept the knowledge to myself.  The result was that gradually my love began to grow cold, and the love of the world began to come in.  I spent six years in that unhappy backslidden state.”  But God was merciful to C.T. and as he rose to prominence in the cricket world, there were two old ladies who set themselves to pray that he would be brought back to God.  God worked when his next older brother George, to whom he was especially attached, suddenly fell sick with a life-threatening illness.  As C.T. sat by George’s bedside, while George hovered between life and death, C.T. could not help the thoughts that kept flooding into his mind: “Now what is all the popularity of the world worth to George?  What is all the fame and flattery worth?  What is it worth to possess all the riches in the world, when a man comes to face Eternity?”  And a voice seemed to answer, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.”  Now all George cared about was the Bible and the Lord Jesus Christ, and God taught C.T. the same lesson.  In God’s love and goodness, He restored George to health, and immediately C.T. went to hear Mr. Moody.  C.T. writes, “There the Lord met me again and restored to me the joy of His salvation.”  Further, God gave C.T. desire and action to try to persuade his friends to read the gospel and to talk to them about their souls.  C.T. writes, “I cannot tell you the joy it gave me to bring the first soul to the Lord Jesus Christ.  I have tasted almost all the pleasures that this world can give…., but I can tell you that these pleasures were as nothing compared to the joy that the saving of that one soul gave me….I found that I had something infinitely better than cricket.  My heart was no longer in the game; I wanted to win souls for the Lord.”

 

You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you

 

After Mr. Moody left to return to America, C.T. wanted to know what his life’s work for the Lord Jesus Christ was to be.  He wrote, “I only wanted to serve Him, and I prayed to God to show me.”  He decided to study Law until God would show him, but he found it was impossible to conscientiously go into any business or profession.  It seemed thoroughly inconsistent to him.  He wrote, “God had given me far more than was sufficient  to keep my body and soul together…how could I spend the best years of my life in working for myself and the honours and pleasures of this world, while thousands and thousands of souls are perishing every day without having heard of Christ?”  He was struck by Jesus’ word, “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”  He became determined that his life should be consistent with what he believed and set himself to find out what was God’s will for him.

 

C.T. had zeal and a vision for saving souls, but he still lacked the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which would grant him deep joy and peace, as well as clear calling and mission direction for his life.  After attending a Bible study, he and a friend realized that they lacked the perfect peace of a certain Christian worker they had heard about.  They got down on their knees and asked God to give them this best blessing.  Afterward, C.T. continued to pray earnestly, and through reading a book called The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life, learned that the reason he had not received was that he had not surrendered himself fully to God.  He learned that he had been bought with the precious blood of Jesus, but he had been keeping back from God what belonged to Him—himself.  C.T. writes, “As soon as I found this out, I went down on my knees and gave myself up to God in the words of… [the] Hymn: “Take my life and let it be, Consecrated, Lord, to Thee.”  He found that the next step was to have simple, childlike faith to believe that what he had committed to God, God was also willing to take and keep….his part was to trust, not to do.  He wrote, “From that time my life has been different, and [God] has given me that peace [which transcends all understanding] and that joy which is [inexpressible].” (cf. Phil 4:7, 1 Pet 1:8)  It was not very long after this that he was invited by a Christian brother to hear the report of a missionary who had just returned from China, and who spoke earnestly of “thousands of [Chinese] souls perishing everyday and night without even knowledge of the Lord Jesus.”  Though he had never before thought about leaving England, C.T. became convinced that God was calling him to China.”

 

Anyone who loves his father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me

 

He thought, however, that he would not decide right away because people would say that he was led by impulse.  Therefore, he resolved to ask God and prayed that God would guide him by His Word.  The one thing that he thought could prevent him from going was the love of his mother.  But then he read Jesus’ words, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me,” after which he knew it was God’s will and decided to go.  But the next test was the biggest of all: opposition from his own family.  Even one relation whose witness had been a great blessing to him told him that he was making a mistake, saying to him one evening, “Charlie, I think you are making a big mistake.  You are away every night at the meetings and you do not see your mother.  I see her, and this is just breaking her heart.  I think you are wrong.”  It was so hard to hear this from someone who had been such a blessing to him, but they prayed together, C.T. saying, “I just want to do God’s will.”  That night C.T. could not sleep, but it seemed as if he heard someone saying these words over and over again, “Ask of Me and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” (Psa 2:8, KJV)  C.T. wrote, “I knew it was God’s voice speaking to me, and that I had received my marching orders to go to China.”  Still, later, in further agony, when C.T. wavered and almost turned back, he desperately asked God to give him a message and, opening his Bible, read “A man’s enemies are the members of his own household.” (Mic 7:6, NIV) From that moment he never looked back. 

 

Many had said he was making a huge mistake to go and bury himself in the interior of China because he would lose the opportunity to use his faith as a famous athlete to influence the young men of England.  But they were wrong.  Through this decision and the same decision to go to China by six other Cambridge University young men, some also athletes, others military officers, the Cambridge Seven was established, and their ministry before leaving for China sparked a revival that swept across the universities of England, Scotland, and Ireland and even to the U.S.  They traveled from university to university, delivering their testimonies of their love for Jesus their Lord and Savior, and their broken heart for the many Chinese who had never heard of Christ.  With their tall, muscular, athletic build and military bearing, they didn’t look like typical Christians.  They wanted to hear what Studd, who had made the biggest score at cricket in Cambridge, had to say about religion.  It was as if a powerful Sunday Worship Service message was being delivered by the star player on the U. Maryland football team.  The students listened to them with undivided attention, and many were moved to tears and came to Christ.  In his farewell address held in Exeter Hall at Oxford, C.T. Studd said, “Are you living for the day or are you living for life eternal?  Are you going to care for the opinion of men here, or for the opinion of God?  The opinion of men won’t avail us much when we get before the judgment throne.  But the opinion of God will.  Had we not, then, better take His word and implicitly obey it?”

 

Everyone who has left houses…or fields for My sake will receive a hundred times as much.

 

According to the will of his father who had passed away, C.T. was to inherit a large sum of money at the age of twenty-five.  But Jesus’ words on the subject of money seemed very clear.  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” (Matt 6:19)  C.T. was struck by the example of the early church in Acts, “Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” (Acts 2:45)  And finally, Jesus’ words to the rich young man were, “You still lack one thing.  Sell everything you have…and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Lk 18:22)  These words seemed as equally binding on him a present-day disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ as on those to whom they had been spoken.  Therefore, in light of God’s word, the plan he presented to Mr. Hudson Taylor, the director of China Inland Mission was to give away his entire fortune to Christ, and take the golden opportunity offered to him of doing what that rich young man failed to do.  At the time, he was twenty-three and Mr. Taylor said he could take two years to think about it, but to C.T. it was simply a matter of obedience to the black and white statements of God’s word.  C.T. wrote, “God had promised to give a hundredfold for everything we give to Him.  An hundredfold is a wonderful percentage; it is ten thousand percent.”  This was not a fool’s plunge on his part.  It was his public testimony before God and man that he believed God’s word to be the surest thing on earth, and that the hundredfold interest which God has promised in this life, not to speak of the next, is an actual reality for those who believe it and act on it.  Making an estimate on what his inheritance was, leaving margin for error, he began giving before he even knew what the exact amount was.

 

Just before his wedding on the China mission field, he presented his missionary bride Priscilla Stewart with the left over money, having found out the exact amount of the inheritance.  But she, not to be outdone, said, “Charlie, what did the Lord tell the rich young man to do?”  “Sell all,” he replied.  “Well then,” she said, “we will start clear with the Lord at our wedding.” 

 

If you obey my commands…my joy [will] be in you and your joy [will] be complete

 

The Seven sailed from England in February, 1885.  Four months after arrival in Shanghai, they were scattered far afield in inland China.  There was nothing glamorous about missionary life in the interior of China.  The stench of dung, mingled with the stench of unwashed bodies was everywhere.  Disease was common, especially among the poor, peasant class…  The first eighteen months for C.T. consisted of immense journeys by mule, foot, house boat, plowing through mud, sleeping in dirty Chinese inns...getting to grips with the language, and, above all, many days and hours spent in close communion with God and His Word.  The outstanding lesson C.T. learned during this period was to become a man of one Book.  From this time onward it became a principle of his life to read the Bible, almost to the exclusion of other books, marking it copiously, and receiving it in the attitude of a little child, in simple dependence on the Holy Spirit to illuminate the Word to him.  Thus, living in direct communion with God through the Word, he never afterwards felt the need of help from man to sustain and guide his spiritual life.  A great secret of his life was his early morning hours with God.  He wrote “I generally awake at 3:30 am and feel quite awake, so have a good read, etc., and then have an hour’s sleep or so before finally getting up.  I find what I read then is stamped indelibly on my mind all through the day; and it is the very quietest of times, not…a sound to be heard, saving that of God.  If I miss this time I feel like Samson shorn of his hair and so of all his strength.”  It was remarkable what joy he had under conditions that were a total contrast to the comforts with which he had been surrounded in his beautiful home.  But C.T. wrote, “We have just been having a talk about Chinese hardships!!! And we want to know what they are…  This is far the best life, so healthy and good, lots to eat and drink and good hard healthy beds, fine fresh air; and what else does a man want?

 

However, they endured many hardships in order to bear fruit in the work of God.  The first house he shared with his wife had a bed that became infested with scorpions.  For five years their neighbors greeted them with curses whenever they left the house.  But eventually the power of the gospel melted many hard hearts and produced men who could overcome any persecution.  At the end of one message that Jesus is able to save [anyone], one Chinaman said, “I am a murderer, an adulterer, I have broken all the laws of God again and again.  I am also a confirmed opium smoker.  He cannot save me.”  But they presented Christ and he accepted the good news.  He said, “I must go to the town where I have done all this evil and sin, and in that very place tell the good [news].  He did so, was arrested and received 2,000 lashes with a bamboo cane.  Yet, when he could escape from the hospital, despite their trying to stop him, he returned to the same town.  They were ashamed to flog him again, so they imprisoned him.  But crowds came and listened to him preach through the small open windows and holes in the wall.  Finally, they gave up and set him free, because he preached more inside prison than out.  The conclusion of C.T. and his coworkers, “Such men are worth saving.”

 

They returned home in 1894, after ten years in China.  The health of C.T. and his wife, after four children, was greatly weakened.  At the birth of the first child, something went seriously wrong with his wife Priscilla.  But C.T. was unwilling to go home to England without a distinct message from God.  He wrote, “I felt the Lord must hear and heal, for we had trusted Him and He is so faithful….so I knelt down and in the name of the Lord anointed her with oil.  Immediately the trouble ceased.” (cf. James 5:14, 15) This happened once more when C.T. himself was ill to the point of death.  Their philosophy had been, “Let us rather go home broken down in health rather than broken down spiritually.” 

 

Whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it

 

For six years from 1900 to 1906 God also used C.T. Studd’s family to minister in Ootacamund, South India, the same region where his father had made his fortune.  It was his hope that the people would remember not Studd, the seeker of wealth, but Studd, the seeker of the salvation of the souls of natives.  But it is the last and greatest era of C.T.’s life to which I now turn—China, then India, and now, finally, the heart of Africa.

 

In Liverpool in 1908, C.T. saw a strangely worded sign that caught his attention: “Cannibals want missionaries.”  He thought to himself, “Why sure they do, for more reasons than one.”  When he went inside, he heard a man who had walked across Africa say that many explorers and big game hunters had been there, but no Christian had ever gone to tell of Jesus.  Deep shame sank into C.T.’s soul.  God said to him, “Why don’t you go?”  C.T. was fifty years old and had been in ill-health for fifteen years.  How could he face tropical Africa?  But the answer came to him, “Am I not the Good Physican?”  A Committee of Christian businessman agreed to support his journey, but the doctor’s report said, absolutely “No”, he should not go, and the Committee dropped him.  His answer to them was, “Gentlemen, God has called me to go, and I will go.  I will blaze the trail, though my grave may only become a stepping stone that younger men may follow.”  He was suffering from terrible asthma, and later he would suffer several heart attacks, weakness and sickness, lose all his teeth, and have gallstones.  People said he was tempting God by going at it again.  Even his wife did not approve.  But his theme was “Forward ever, Backward never.”  He became famous for having said, “Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.”  His initial trip was only to explore the southern Sudan, but as he went, God gave him an amazing revelation that, as he wrote, “This trip is not merely for the Sudan, but for the Whole Unevangelized World.”  To human reason, it was ridiculous for an old, sick, poor man to think like this.  But twenty years later, the Worldwide Evangelization Crusade had indeed been established and had reached Africa, Asia, and South America; it continues today.

 

While visiting Sudan, he learned that beyond the southern frontier, in the Belgian Congo, were vast masses of people as depraved and destitute as those they were seeing in the Sudan, but in greater numbers, who had never heard of Christ.  This region lay between the Nile River and Lake Chad and was the largest unevangelized region in Africa at the time.  God spoke to him again, “Dare you go back to spend the remainder of your life in England, knowing of these masses who have never heard of Jesus Christ?  If you do, how will you meet Me henceforth before my throne?”  Eighteen months later he returned to Africa—two men, C.T. aged fifty-two and a twenty-year old coworker.  On the eve of parting, a young man had said to him, “Is it a fact that at fifty-two you mean to leave your country, your home, your wife and your children?  But to C.T. it was the sacrifice of Christ that was truly great.  He responded in the inspiring words for which he is perhaps most famous, “…If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”

 

On his first trip to the heart of Africa in 1913, C.T. led the establishment of four mission stations in an area inhabited by eight different tribes.  A serious illness of his wife required him to return to England, but he was able to return to Africa in 1916, as she had recovered sufficiently to undertake the expansion of the mission into the World Evangelism Crusade with workers in South America, Central Asia and the Middle East as well as Africa.  Supported by his wife's work at home, Studd built up an extensive missionary outreach based on his center at Ibambi, and although she made a short visit to the Congo in 1928 that was the only time they met again since she died in the following year.  Two years later in 1931, still laboring for the Lord at Ibambi at the age of seventy, Charles Studd died, but his vision for China, India and Africa had indeed expanded to reach the whole unevangelised world.

 

In a letter home C.T. gave a last backward look at the outstanding events of his life.  “As I believe I am now nearing my departure from this world, I have but a few things to rejoice in; they are these: 1. That God called me to go to China and I went in spite of utmost opposition from all my loved ones.  2. That I joyfully acted as Christ told that rich young man to act.  3. That I deliberately at the call of God…gave up my life for this work [in Africa]….  My only joys therefore are that when God has given me a work to do, I have not refused it.”  Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on a July day in 1931, C.T. Studd went home to be with His Lord whom he had loved so dearly and served so faithfully! The last word he spoke was "Hallelujah"!  Over one thousand native Africans saw him to his grave.  He was Bible teacher and shepherd to the end.

 

In conclusion, C.T. Studd is remembered for his willingness to risk all for Christ.  He compared Christians without heroism to Chocolate Soldiers, who dissolve in water and melt at the smell of fire.  He called them sweeties, bon bons, lollipops.  The true Christian soldier should be braver than the bravest - scorning the soft seductions of peace and her oft repeated warnings against hardship, disease, danger and death, whom he counts among his bosom friends.  While reading about the powerful life of C.T. Studd, I began to wonder if the Holy Spirit would care about my relatively small life and ministry.  But my mistake was to judge by quantity and scope rather than quality and depth.  God determines the quantity and scope as He decides, but it is our responsibility to pursue quality and depth.  As the Holy Spirit raised up C.T. Studd as God’s man to do God’s work in his generation, the Holy Spirit is still looking to raise up God’s man to do God’s work in my generation.  If there is even one soul that God has entrusted to me to shepherd and minister, this one person is of infinite worth.  I pray you may have gained some encouragement and inspiration from C.T. Studd’s life.  May God bless you with the power of the Holy Spirit to be Jesus’ witness through your own life and ministry.

 

 

 

References

 

Grubb, Norman.  1933.  C.T. Studd: Cricketer and Pioneer.  Christian Literature Crusade.  Fort Washington, Pennsylvania.  (This printing, 1994)

 

Wholesome Words: Christian Biography Resources, and links.  Online at http://www.wholesomewords.org/biography/biorpstudd.html.  Last accessed, 7 November 2003.