A few of you may have heard of John Baillie. His most popular book is called A Diary of Private Prayer. I have been using it since 1993, almost every morning. It’s a very rich devotional tool that, no matter how often I use it, still draws me closer to the Lord.
I have not read many things by Baillie, but a few years ago I stumbled upon a collection of various sermons he had given throughout the years. They made up a little book entitled, Christian Devotion. I enjoyed reading it, but the best part of the book, for me, was a short biographical chapter written by his cousin. She did a great job revealing the man behind the devotional that I have been using for years.
My favorite part of the chapter was the following description of his study – not just a few facts about what it looked like – but the life that took place in that study. I know coveting is a sin, so let me say in the most sanctified way that I can, that I wouldn’t resist the opportunity, should God provide it, to have a similar study (as well as a similar ministry that took place in it!). Here’s his cousin’s description of his study…
But for those who knew him in his own home in Edinburgh, the most vivid memories of John are set in his study there, that grave book-lined room, with windows shadowed in summer by the trees of the big garden. It was a quiet room, with the noises of our modern world kept outside - no telephone, no radio, no typewriter. And it was a room with three clear focal points. There was the big uncluttered desk by the window where John sat for many hours of the day writing, in his clear beautiful handwriting, sermons, lectures, and articles, and dealing punctiliously and courteously with the endless steam of letters which came, asking him to preach, to lecture, to advise…
And there was, as another focal point, the big leather chair, where he often sat far into the night reading – the innumerable reports and periodicals which came to him from many quarters, the most recent books of theology and philosophy, novels, poetry, biography, all seasoned (like the reading of many theologians) with a reasonable sprinkling of good “detectives.”
From chair or desk he would leap to his feet to welcome his visitors, with the outstretched hand and quick look of real pleasure which tempted them to forget how busy a man he was…. [after a long list of people came to chat with him, she writes...] Missionaries, and church leaders and theologians of many communions came to talk through their problems with him. And old friends and new came just to be warmed by his friendship.
To welcome these many visitors he would start from desk or chair. But there was a third focal point in that quiet room – the prayer desk by the window with its little pile of well-worn versions of the Scriptures and of devotional books. There, at the times when he was sure to be alone, John Baillie read and thought and worshipped. And through that daily, faithful discipline of will and mind and soul, it became true that the great theologian and Church statesman was first and foremost a man holy and humble of heart.
Amen and amen.
Truth and Grace,