Bio of E.H. Broadbent from online library of brethren writers

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Here is a very readable, enjoyable short bio of this missionary and author. It isn’t copyrighted to online library of brethren writers, but is protected in this way:

“This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License

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Broadbent, E.H. Bio
Submitted by John Bjorlie on Mon, 09/13/2004 – 05:00

Edmund Hamer Broadbent (1861-1945) was the tidy-looking English gentleman with a bookish side who discovered ways of slipping into and out of countries that others just assumed were “closed doors.” He was not a big man, and his pleasant, easygoing manner would not have conjured in your mind the picture of the fearless missionary.

Evidently God called just such a mild-mannered ambassador to witness for the Prince of Peace in the uncertain days that led up to the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and to Nazism in Germany.

G. H. Lang indicates that brother Broadbent was converted in his youth, and began traveling with Frederick W. Baedeker when he was in his twenties. Early in his travels, he made a thorough study of German and French. His studies took on real earnestness after he arrived in Germany and realized that he did not know how to order a cup of coffee. Most of his preaching in Europe was in the German or French tongues. He was fluent in them, and in conversation could move effortlessly from one language to another. In his extensive travels he also learned some Russian. On one occasion in Germany, someone wondered if the speaker who was to preach at the gospel meeting would be “the Englishman.”

“No,” was the answer, “it is not the Englishman.” The fact was, the speaker was E. H. Broadbent.

Broadbent was an encourager. You cannot consider his ministry without noting those he helped. Whether serving the aging F. W. Baedeker in those extraordinary errands across Russia, helping W. H. Bennet in Germany, or teaching the Bible to Professor Ferenc Kiss, the renowned anatomy professor at Budapest University who spent months in prison for his gospel work in Rumania, Broadbent was a true help. Whether advising James Lees about open doors in Poland and Lithuania, or comforting the converts in Baku on the west shore of the Caspian Sea (where Patwakan Tarajanz and his wife and ten children became not only survivors, but also bold witnesses for Christ during the fierce Armenian massacre in 1916), to all these the polite man with blue eyes and a sunny smile became their servant for Jesus’ sake.

E. H. Broadbent frequently visited the assemblies in Poland along with Adolphus Eoll, Ransome Cooper, and George Goodman. This became one of his most encouraging fields of labor. In 1922, Broadbent wrote, “In Eastern Poland, about 800 new assemblies have been formed within the last two years, and the work goes on increasingly. In Western Poland also, there are districts where there is great blessing. Throughout the country the openings are innumerable. Some fifteen men are desirous of giving all or much of their time as evangelists.”

Meeting places were often packed. The first problem was to get everyone squeezed in and quieted down. Then the next problem was to keep from fainting. Perhaps their municipalities were rationing bath water in those days; whatever the cause, the proper Englishman had to quickly adjust to new and strange smells. One meeting in Poland was so crowded that the little flames in their kerosene lamps sputtered for lack of oxygen.

Ransome Cooper related how “E. H. Broadbent told me once, when we were travelling together, of one such conference which had lasted the full twelve hours. At 9 p.m., a number of workmen came to him and said, ‘We are not due in the factory before 7 o’clock tomorrow morning; will you give us a Bible Reading through the night on the book of Daniel?’ And he did.

“Only special grace can keep a man going on year after year along such lines, ministering God’s Word in one of three languages, submitting to the limitations of interpretation, always fresh and gracious in spirit, always receiving the inflow of spiritual power to guarantee a fresh outflow.”

One observant brother explained it this way: “Well, you see, he prays much, and talks much with his Father in heaven. Have you not noticed how often he snatches occasions to be alone with his Master, and then how fresh he is afterwards to talk with us, all crowded into a little cottage for hours!”

One of the preachers who went into eastern Europe with Broadbent told about being shown his lodging for the night. The house was small, but the bed was very large. He went to bed, and not long after, his host came in and climbed into the same bed. In another few minutes the hostess tiptoed in and climbed in next to her husband.

Broadbent encountered so many surprises, and in them the only change on his face would be that smile peaking out shyly from behind his mustache. He ate their food, slept on their rough beds, discussed their farming methods, and played with their children. And when the sun went down and the lamps were lit, “the Book” was opened and in a clear, kindly way, the Scriptures became understandable and living to his hearers. Many quickly saw the contrast with the village priest who “always made everything obscure and difficult, and seemed to be irritated and vexed when anyone came to him with questions.” One brother, as he listened to brother Broadbent, whispered to his neighbor, “How all this makes one long and pray to be a better Christian!”

In the Balkans, a young brother was in a “stormy, muddled, hotheaded meeting” to deal with a local problem. On and on this miserable meeting went until the young brother rose, weeping, and said, “Oh, my brothers, do we not need Mr. Broadbent with us! How different everything would have been! Can you not realize, can you not picture how he would have handled things tonight!”

E. H. Broadbent had an ability to travel and not unravel. He trained himself to sleep in odd places and positions. In jarring coach rides, he would relax every muscle until all his limbs would hang limp.

It would be difficult to retrace Broadbent’s journeys. Most of his personal correspondence was unfortunately destroyed before he died. We do have some general idea of the extent of his ministry. Besides Belgium, Poland, Germany, Austria, the Baltics, Russia, and Turkey, he also preached in Egypt, and North and South America. One of his most farflung journeys was to Turkestan. Broadbent went in 1900 and in 1907, visiting the major cities of Uzbekistan, preaching the gospel. On his first visit, he related how he stood in crowded bazaars, being jostled by the turbaned salesmen as they carted their merchandise about. Beside the rows of camels, mules, and horses, he could identify Jews, Hindus, Afghans, and Muslims all mingling together. Every other religion was represented, but he could not see any witness for Christ, or any evidence that any had ever existed there.

Is it legitimate for a family man to travel? Obviously, most believers are not called to a traveling ministry. One can wonder what might become of the local churches if the believers were all gadding about hither and yon, from week to week. So, though most of us are not called too far beyond the county line in our spiritual ministries, still there are others who can say, as our Lord once did, “I must preach in other cities also.”

Dora Broadbent accompanied her husband on many of his journeys. But most of her ministry involved raising their eight children and being hostess in their home at Gislingham, England, where it was not uncommon for the Broadbents to serve eighteen around their supper table. Their home at times served as a wayside stop for beleaguered brethren (such as the Russian Mennonites) who fled the persecutions and travelled to a friendlier North America. Whether Edmund Broadbent should have conducted his travels differently I cannot tell. We are told that he and Dora were in full fellowship in his work, and that Dora’s children rose up to “call her blessed.” (Proverbs 31:28)

Brother Broadbent was especially burdened about setting local congregations on the firm footing of New Testament doctrine and practice that would prepare the saints for persecution. It was a critical matter to know biblically how to respond to the governing authorities. In Bavaria, the attitude was so oppressive that laws were instituted prohibiting unauthorized Christian meetings, especially those meeting for prayer.

Broadbent had been in such illegal meetings; in 1913 he wrote that the framers of those laws perceived that there was a power in prayer whose influence they wished to avoid. In Germany, assemblies were asked to form a confederation that complied with state requirements. But worse than the imposition of a denominational structure were the horrors of genocide. Many of Broadbent’s hearers died under state persecutions in Russia and in the Nazi death camps. Passages such as Romans 8:35-39 took on an urgency in Broadbent’s ministry.

As Broadbent neared the end of his ministry, he was constantly grieved to see that the truths he had labored to teach to the scattered saints in Europe were being systematically denied back in the United Kingdom. Broadbent was convinced that the New Testament pattern for missionary work and church order was being undermined by unscriptural missionary and funding organizations. His concerns are fully expressed in his book, The Pilgrim Church, which is a classic treatment of the history of Christian gatherings which have remained true to New Testament doctrines since Pentecost.

At the time of Broadbent’s death, G. H. Lang penned a sixty-page review of his life, in which he says, “The simple fact is that in central, eastern, and south-eastern Europe there are (or, at least, there were before the late devastating war) hundreds upon hundreds of such Christian churches as he regarded as of a New Testament type which came into existence through his journeys. Not that he founded them all, of course; but it was he who visited regions where there were no such churches and taught children of God the principles of the Word, which by following, they were enabled by the power of the Spirit of God to multiply, and to survive the opposition of the world and of apostate religious systems.”

Much of the material contained in this article is taken from:

Edmund Hamer Broadbent–Saint and Pioneer by G. H. Lang

That the World May Know, Volumes 8 and 9, edited by Fredk. Tatford, Echoes of Service

Dr. Baedeker and his Apostolic Work in Russia, by R. Sloan Latimer

Recollections of Reginald Radcliffe by his wife

James Lees–Shepherd of Lonely Sheep in Europe by Ransome W. Cooper

The Stundists, Bible Truth Publishers

The Pilgrim Church by E. H. Broadbent, Marshal Pickering

Jeremiah by E. H. Broadbent

The Pilgrim Church, Broadbent’s understanding of Augustine

 

As I continue to read E. H. Broadbent’s The Pilgrim Church, I’m finding more that is helpful. 

Recently I took part in an online discussion about John Calvin and Martin Luther, in which they were criticized for continuing the practice of infant baptism after leaving the Catholic Church; and because of their practice of infant baptism, the genuineness of their faith was called into question. The blame for this ultimately landed at Augustine’s feet – these Reformers had refused to set aside his views. This saddened and frustrated me because I know that believers differ about infant vs. believer’s baptism, and that not all who practice infant baptism consider it regeneration.

So, these men were merely men – they sometimes erred. Their views on nonessentials shouldn’t be a test of the genuineness of their faith and eternal destiny. 

1 Corinthians 4:5

Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.

I just finished reading Broadbent’s analysis of Augustine. He points out issues that are more troubling than infant baptism. One of these is that Augustine held the view that coercion was justified when heretics refused correction. So yes, we respect these men whom the Lord gave to the Church as teachers, but we cannot refuse to critique their views. That is wrong – just as being hypercritical is wrong.

2 Timothy 2:24-25

24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;

The following excerpt is taken from the chapter entitled “Christianity in Christendom”, from the hardback edition of the book, published by GOSPEL FOLIO PRESS, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1999. (Emphasis added.)

“Augustine was baptized by Ambrose in Milan (AD 387) and became later Bishop of Hippo (later named Bona) in North Africa (AD 395). His busy life was one of constant controversy. He lived at the time when the Western Roman Empire was breaking up; indeed a barbarian army was besieging his city of Hippo when he passed away. It was the fall of the Western Empire that led him to write his famous book, The City of God. Its full title explains its aim: ‘Though the greatest city of the world has fallen, the City of God abideth for ever.’

His view, however, of what the City of God is led him into teachings that have given rise to unspeakable misery, the very greatness of his name accentuating the harmful effects of the error he taught. He, beyond others, formulated the doctrine of salvation by the Church only, by means of her sacraments. To take salvation out of the hands of the Saviour and put it into the hands of men, to interpose a system of man’s devising between the Saviour and the sinner, is the very opposite of the Gospel revelation. Christ says: ‘Come unto Me’ and no priest or church has authority to intervene.

Augustine, in his zeal for the unity of the Church and his genuine abhorrence of all divergence in doctrine and difference in form, lost sight of the spiritual, living, and indestructible unity of the Church and Body of Christ, uniting all who are sharers by the new birth in the life of God. Consequently he did not see the practical possibility of the existence of churches of God in various places and in all times, each retaining its immediate relation with the Lord and with the Spirit, yet having fellowship with the others, and that in spite of human weaknesses, of varying degrees of knowledge, of divergent apprehensions of Scripture and differences of practice.

His outward view of the Church as an earthly organization naturally led him to seek outward, material means for preserving, and even compelling, visible unity. In controversy with the Donatists, he wrote:

‘It is indeed better…that men should be led to worship God by teaching, than that they should be driven to it by fear of punishment or pain; but it does not follow that because the former course produces the better men, therefore those who do not yield to it should be neglected. For many have found advantage (as we have proved and are daily proving by actual experiment) in being first compelled by fear or pain, so that they might afterwards be influenced by teaching, or might follow out in act what they had already learned in word…While those are better who are guided aright by love, those are certainly more numerous who are corrected by fear. For who can possibly love us more than Christ, who laid down His life for the sheep? And yet, after calling Peter and the other Apostles by His words alone, when He came to summon Paul…He not only constrained him with His voice, but even dashed him to the earth with His power; and that He might forcibly bring one who was raging amid the darkness of infidelity, to desire the light of the heart, He first struck him with physical blindness of the eyes. Why therefore should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return?…The Lord Himself said, “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in”…Wherefore is the power which the Church has received by divine appointment in its due season, through the religious character and faith of kings, be the instrument by which those who are found in the highways and hedges – that is, in heresies and schisms – are compelled to come in, then let them not find fault with being compelled.’

Such teaching, from such an authority, incited and justified those methods of persecution by which papal Rome equalled the cruelties of pagan Rome. So a man of strong affections and quick and tender sympathies, departing from the principles of Scripture, though with good intentions, became implicated in a vast and ruthless system of persecution.

As I read through The Pilgrim Church, I hope to post more excerpts from it.

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The Pilgrim Church, an invitation to read with me

Since I want to give you something of value, I decided to share things from a book I’m reading, The Pilgrim Church. Edmund Hamer Broadbent, a Plymouth Brethren travelling missionary, is the author. A native of Lancashire, England, he toured many European countries encountering and recording the stories of Christian groups whose desire was to assemble, worship, and be governed according to the standards of the Bible – that is, New Testament worship and governance alone.

Here is a picture of E.H. Broadbent – I’m sure it doesn’t do him justice, although he looks far happier and friendlier than many of the people in older photos I’ve seen.

Here are two excerpts from the hardback edition published under copyright by GOSPEL FOLIO PRESS, Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1999. The first is from the Foreword written by Dave Hunt:

“Edmund Hamer Broadbent (1861-1945) lived at a time when documents and books – many of them now lost or very rare – which told the true story of the Christian church could still be found. His scholarship is attested to by the scores of books in several languages available in his day, from which he drew much of the vital information he has passed on to us. The Pilgrim Church of which he writes so eloquently and accurately was persecuted to the death for a thousand years before the Reformation. The story has been almost lost to the present generation and desperately needs to be retold.”

The second is from the first chapter entitled “Beginnings”. As a Christian and a student of writing, I’m impressed beyond measure, even though I can’t agree with all that Broadbent says about the complete autonomy of individual churches. 

 “The New Testament is the worthy completion of the Old. It is the only proper end to which the Law and the Prophets could have led. It does not do away with them, but enriches in fulfilling and replacing them. It has in itself the character of completeness, presenting, not the rudimentary beginning of a new era which requires constant modification and addition to meet the needs of changing times, but a revelation suited to all men in all times. Jesus Christ cannot be made known to us better than He is in the four Gospels, nor can the consequences or doctrines which flow from the facts of His death and resurrection be more truly taught than they are in the Epistles.

“The Old Testament records the formation and history of Israel, the people through whom God revealed Himself in the world until Christ should come. The New Testament reveals the Church of Christ, consisting of all who are born again through faith in the Son of God and so made partakers of the divine and eternal life (Jn. 3:16).

“As this body, the whole Church of Christ, cannot be seen and cannot act in any one place, since many of its members are already with Christ and others scattered throughout the world, it is appointed to be actually known and to bear its testimony in the form of churches of God in various places and at different times. Each of these consists of those disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ who, in the place where they live, gather together in His Name. To such the presence of the Lord in their midst is promised and the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is given in different ways through all the members (Mt. 18:20; 1 Cor. 12:7).

“Each of these churches stands in direct relationship to the Lord, draws its authority from Him, and is responsible to Him (Rev. 2-3). There is no suggestion that one church should control another or that any organized union of churches should exist, but an intimate personal fellowship unites them (Acts 15:36).”

I hope you enjoyed reading this and saw God’s grace at work in the intellect of this dear brother in the Lord who is now with Him. I hope to continue to post excerpts from his book.

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