In 1958 I began my studies in Cardiff University, and there I met a girl from Neath called Pam. She was engaged to Andrew Davies, the son of IB Davies, the minister at the famous Presbyterian Mission Hall where Frank Joshua (the brother of Seth Joshua) had been pastor since the 1880s. He died in 1920, sixteen years after that fine building was opened. IB Davies had worked in the mines when he left school at 14 and in the Great Depression of the 1920s had gone with his wife to live in Yeovil to join some who worshipped with the Plymouth Brethren. They explained the gospel to them and there Mr and Mrs Davies became believers. Soon they returned to Sandfields in Port Talbot and were under the ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones for many years. IB entered Trefecca College, and his first church was Hermon, Maesycoed (outside Pontypridd). While he was there his powerful preaching bought Mrs Bessie Jones, kicking and struggling, into the Kingdom of God. What an influence she had on ministerial students and on the campers in the Bala camps. From Hermon when the war ended IB was called to Saltmead Hall in Cardiff where he preached for five years, before moving on to Neath in 1950 where he remained for 12 years. The Mission Hall at Neath contained one of the largest congregations in the British Isles with over a thousand in attendance every Sunday night. Many were converted, and Pam took the train at the week-end from Cardiff to Neath to attend the Mission’s large prayer meetings every Saturday night to tell me all about them on Monday as we waited for our lecturers in Biblical Studies to arrive and start their teaching.
One day she offered me a magazine I had not seen before. It was called the ‘Banner of Truth’. IB Davies had swiftly become a subscriber and passed on his copy to Andrew, then to Pam and so onto me. It was number 16 with Iain Murray’s account of Brownlow North, JG Vos’ ‘Call to Reformation’ and book reviews of Hendriksen on John’s gospel, and on Thomas Watson’s ‘All for Good’ (as it is now called), with another on the Philadelphia Confession of Faith. I loved it and subscribed to it and I have every issue bound. One of our elders has edited and catalogued every article.
A restoring of the truth
When did this magazine appear? It was in the summer of 1955 in Oxford, that the minister of St John’s Church, Sidney Norton, was convinced that the words of Psalm 60 spoke directly to the conditions of the churches in Great Britain. He and his ministerial assistant, Iain Murray, were stirred to prayer, convinced that their generation needed not just a reviving, but a restoring of the truth. Their homes were close to the places where Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer gave their lives for the truths of the gospel in the Reformation, where Owen and Goodwin had preached, and where George Whitefield was prepared for the eighteenth century revival. Although stirred by these facts, they realised that in the mid 1950’s the memory of these men of God was largely forgotten or locked away in little-known and unobtainable books. Furthermore the great truths of God and the great works of God in times past were largely forgotten.
In an attempt to start to address this situation, the first edition of this magazine was published in September 1955. Given the aims of the magazine and in light of Psalm 60, Mr Norton chose the name ‘The Banner of Truth’. A gift was given to cover the printing costs of that first magazine, but nothing further was promised to its readers; there was no certainty of a second issue. Little could Sidney Norton and Iain Murray have imagined that over sixty years later, the Banner of Truth magazine would still be in existence, with a new issue being produced each month. Indispensable reading for every Christian leader. I am so grateful that Pam Davies passed that magazine onto me 56 years ago, and that the truths I was introduced to at that time I yet believe.
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