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Book Review

Out of the shadows by Faith Cook; published 2011 by EP Books and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 155 pages; price £6.99. (9780852347492)

The subtitle on the cover of Out of the shadows informs the reader that its subject matter will be: "Nine short inspiring biographies".

Faith Cook, the daughter of missionaries, was born in China. She is the author of many other biographical titles including: Lady Jane Grey, nine-day queen of England.

In Out of the shadows you will meet: Richard Rodda - one of Wesley’s veterans; Fanny Burnett - Charles Dickens’ sister; and Michael Bruce - a poet robbed.

In 1646 during the English Civil War, soldiers’ tents stretched all along the banks of the Cherwell River across the Oxfordshire meadows. When William Dell, "John Bunyan’s irrepressible friend", appeared to preach "the eager men crowded ever closer, some scrambling up nearby trees in the orchard…An expectant silence descended as Dell announced his text".

One theme dominated all of William Dell’s preaching – the vital necessity of the power of the Holy Spirit to accompany the preached message. He said, "One may speak the word of man, by the power of man, but he cannot speak the word of God, but by the power of God". It is thought that this fervent preacher depicts one of John Bunyan’s characters in The Pilgrim’s Progress, the identity of whom is revealed to the reader in Out of the shadows.

Patricia St John is included in this book. Known for her remarkable gift of writing, she also spent five years as a nurse in a barely accessible mountain town above Tangier, experiencing "perplexity, unusual providences and divine protection in danger". Faith Cook became a close friend of the St John family and provides revealing insights from a personal perspective. She poignantly observes, "My own sense of loss of such a friend has been long-lasting, but most of all I miss her prayers".

There are 34 relevant illustrations which further enhance the reading experience of Out of the shadows.

A Cameron

F. F. Bruce - A Life - The Definitive Biography of a New Testament Scholar by Tim Grass; published 2011 by Paternoster and available from John Ritchie Ltd; 283 pages; price was £14.99 now £12.99. (9781842277379)

F. F. Bruce (1910-1990) was one of the most influential British Biblical scholars of the twentieth century. A prolific writer, he wrote fifty books, numerous articles and over 2,000 book reviews. He was the main evangelical writer to deal with the Dead Sea Scrolls, first discovered at Qumran in 1947.

Frederick Fyvie Bruce was born in Elgin. As a boy he did not play outside as most other children would have done, but stayed indoors exploring the bookshelves and, according to his sister, "compiling chronologies of the kings of Israel and Judah (no easy task)".

During these early formative years Fred learned much from his father’s bookshelves, finding the works of Sir Robert Anderson to be "highly instructive".

His parents were in the Elgin assembly. Peter Bruce first took his son Fred to the three-day New Year conference held in Aberdeen in 1923. In later life he ruefully observed that one important thing he had learned there was "not to inflict Greek on Greekless audiences!".

His first venture into print came in 1928 when he saw an article in the Banffshire Journal defending infant baptism, signed "Historicus". Fred wrote a rejoinder arguing strongly for believer’s baptism and signing it "Apostolicus".

F. F. Bruce is described as "A reserved and self-effacing man, (who) rarely talked about himself or put himself forward".

There is an extensive Bibliography and an Index included, plus eight pages of relevant photographs.

As with most books, it is likely that the reader may not agree with everything that is written, but we can certainly learn much from one whose faith was central to his life.

A Cameron

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