Saturday, August 02, 2008

Hilary's Family Tree - Part 2

Hilary's family tree (part one - David Moneypenny - is here) includes another interesting man - her great-great grandfather Henry Charles Bowker (1839-1920) was a 19th century theologian and a close associate of the famous dispensationalist E W Bullinger.

[Bullinger is renowned for writing a series of influential books, including The Companion Bible. My uncle Harvey Shaw, Baptist postor at Killicomaine Baptist Meeting House in Portadown, bought me a copy for my 21st birthday. I had first met Hilary just a few weeks previously, completely oblivious to the historical connections between her and my new Bible!]

HC Bowker was a member of the Trinitarian Bible Society,(their slogan is Founded in 1831 for the circulation of Protestant or uncorrupted versions of the Word of God) and he's mentioned quite a few times in Juanita S Carey's biography of Bullinger (Kregel Publications, 2000). She reveals that Bullinger was also an Orangeman, a member of LOL 481 in Walthamstow, and had become its Worshipful Master in 1881 - he was the vicar of Walthamstow and St Stephen's from 1870 - 1888.

It seems that they met when HC had retired to Northwood in Middlesex, by then aged 70. He joined the TBS a year later in 1910, became a member of both its committee and finance committee. He began to help Bullinger on his monthly prophecy magazine Things to Come (reprinted edition available here as a 7 volume set) and also helped write the notes to The Companion Bible. Things to Come included articles by famous theologians and writers such as Sir Robert Anderson, Horatius Bonar, Philip Mauro, Ivan Panin and CH Spurgeon.

From 1881 - 1891 HC was the minister at Culmington in Shropshire. When he left, the parishioners presented him with a beautiful engraved silver teapot, which we inherited a few years ago. Here's a detail:

The biography says of HC that "...he gave up much of his early days for truths which he held strongly; but was patient with all men, and slow to strive, for, he frequently said, 'all of us err somewhere, and I may be erring here'. He was a ripe scholar, and a Christian gentleman..."

In 1911, HC contributed a series of articles to Things to Come entitled "The Gospel of the Glory of Christ". When Bullinger died on 6 June 1913, HC Bowker took on the task of completing the notes for The Companion Bible and took over the editor's job on Things to Come, with both publications now being funded by Sir Robert Anderson. The completed Companion Bible was finally published as a complete 6 volume set in 1922. Its' appendices are marvellous!. Most of the New Testamnent notes were written by HC Bowker.

With the onset of the Great War, life in wartime Britain became difficult, and Things to Come came to an end in November 1915.

About this time, his grandson - Colin Moneypenny Bowker - was born (1912 to be precise). I had the privilege of meeting Colin a few times, and even though by this time Colin's health was declining, he was a lovely Christian gentleman. HC had died on 29 April 1920, aged 81, when Colin was just 8 years old, so Colin remembered very little about him. HC's obituary was printed in TBS's The Quarterly Record of October 1920.

In conversation with Colin at Hilary's parental home in Christmas of 2004 we got talking about HC Bowker, and on 2 January 2005 I sent Colin a copy of Carey's biography, with all of the references to HC marked in ink, with post-it notes for good measure.

Sadly Colin was hospitalised soon after this, and passed away (to be with Christ!).


On my birthday, 17 January, I received a letter from Colin's granddaughter Clare Bland. Just before he died, Colin had spoken with Clare about our visit to High Wycombe, and he told her that he was enjoying reading the Bullinger biography I had sent over; he also had his Bullinger concordance close by! Clare wrote "...I hope it will give you pleasure to know that he was so gratified, both by the renewal of his acquaintance with you, and by your gift of the book..."

As time passes by, and the times we live in change our contexts, our theology changes too. Mine certainly has changed, and no doubt will continue to. Nevertheless I have immense regard and respect for my forefathers and for the work they did, demonstrating their commitment to the Gospel right up to the point where they were called home.


(Footnote: HC Bowker's father was HF Bowker, who was associated with the founding of the Keswick Convention. He will be the subject of a forthcoming post)