Book Review – The Cambridge Seven

John Pollock’s short book “The Cambridge Seven” recounts the origin of the seven students from Cambridge University in the late 19th Century who, convicted by the Holy Spirit, were compelled to serve as missionaries with the China Inland Mission (now OMF International).

Setting sail for China at the age of 23-24 you might think that they were following a group mentality or that their decision was made hastily (as some of their parents thought!) But their individual experiences tell a story of men who were gripped by the Lordship of Jesus and demonstrated their complete confidence in their Lord to provide and to guide them into the unknown.

Through recounting the story of their appointment as missionaries, John Pollock’s book highlights…

…their wholehearted devotion to the call of Christ, their intolerance of shoddy spirituality in themselves or others, and their grasp of the urgency of the gospel to unevangelised millions overseas. And, particularly relevant, not one of the Seven was a genius. Theirs is a story of ordinary men, and thus may be repeated, not only in countries of the West but in lands which were the mission fields of a century ago but now send missionaries themselves.
The gospel of Christ is unchanged and His call is unchanged. The Cambridge Seven illustrate how that call may be heard. It is a call to “lift up your eyes and look on the fields, for they are white already to harvest” [John 4:35]. It is a call for dedication. Above all it is a call to the consecration of the whole man, as the prelude to fruitful service. (Pollock, 110-111)

There are two things that I found particularly convicting and inspiring from the story of these men. Firstly, the ease and regularity with which these young men devoted themselves to prayer. It was such a regular feature of their interaction with one another that they would pray for their friends, for each other, and their place in God’s mission to the nations. And by God’s grace, some of these friends too became members of the “Cambridge Seven” and served as missionaries.

Secondly, their future ministry in China as missionaries was the natural outworking of their evangelism at home among their own friends. Mission wasn’t a replacement for local evangelism but the logical product of it. In fact as they traveled throughout Britain sharing at university and YMCA groups before their departure, the explicit demand for those present to repent and turn to Christ was as much a part of their message as their longing to see many in China come to Christ. Local evangelism and global mission were two sides of the one coin.

One Comment

  1. Michael Ti Hsieh says:

    Hi Brownie,

    I am around 1/3 the way through this book. Your review pretty much sums up my thoughts as well. This is a must-read for ALL christians who are going through uni.

    Indeed – there is nothing new under the sun. Men have always been evil and disbelieving. The oxford and cambridge university students of the day were just as disdainful of spiritual things as the students of UQ today. But many still believed, because God works mightily. This serves as a MASSIVE encouragement to us at UQ, who find walk-up and other forms of evangelism very hard going. The ground may be hard to till, but there is surely a harvest.


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