by Paul Brown
'David was ever amazed that God should choose to deal with him in grace and bring him to a knowledge of sins forgiven and into a relationship with his Son. He marvelled at God's love to him. The apostle Paul says that the love of Christ constrained him. This was David's experience. His soul's desire in life was to serve Christ and be obedient to him.' In this way Mark Stocker, the present pastor of Spring Road Evangelical Church, began to speak of 'David's Christian Witness' at the Service of Praise and Thanksgiving. It was the right place to begin. David had experienced the love of Christ in a particularly deep and vivid way and it coloured the whole of his life and ministry.
He became a Christian during his National Service. He took a history degree at Oxford, and married Frances Smith while he was there. Feeling called to the ministry he spent a year in private study before beginning his pastorate at Spring Road Evangelical Church in 1955. The church building had been rebuilt after the war with 'bomb money' and the membership was small. He ministered for 37 years before retiring through ill health, though continuing to attend the church as much as he could.
On the Lord's Day, July 4th, 2004, the preacher was Rev Harry Waite. At about 4 pm David spoke briefly to him, went upstairs and passed quickly and peacefully into the presence of his Saviour and Lord. He was 74 years old. The church was filled to capacity for the Service of Praise on July 16th. Fittingly it was conducted by Harry Waite, in a dignified, gracious manner. In his address Mark also pointed out how it was David's experience of Christ that gave authority and power to his preaching. Again it was that experience which caused him to long for the return of Christ. Having tasted the love of Christ he longed to be with him in heaven.
David's eldest son, Andrew, until recently the principal of Toronto Baptist Seminary, spoke of David's godly example to family and friends. He spoke of his sense of fun, his generosity and the sense of security that he gave to Andrew. He spoke of David's love for Frances and the impact that made upon him. David depended on God at all times; he prayed about everything, he was sensitive to God's guiding and knew God as One who is kind, gentle and loving. He was an innovator; the message must not be changed at all, but we must use every legitimate method that we can. Mark had already spoken of David's faithfulness as a pastor, and Andrew spoke of his fearlessness. Even at great cost to himself, he operated totally by principle. I would add that the wear and tear of pastoral ministry took a considerable toll on his nervous energy. The portraits painted by Mark and Andrew were ones I recognised immediately.
There was a great naturalness and humanity about David's Christianity. He loved sport - and was very competitive - but everything fitted seamlessly in with his faith. He spoke easily to young people after a game of shinty, witnessing to the Lord, or to his opponent, after a game of squash. His family life was exemplary. He was associated early on with the revival of the doctrines of grace after the war. He was secretary of the Puritan Conference for some years. Under his ministry, Spring Road was moulded and fashioned by those truths. His first concern was the church, its spiritual growth, health and fellowship. Other aspects of his ministry - his books, tracts, conference ministry and lectures - were ancillary to that. His books on Isaac Watts and the Mayflower Pilgrims were an extension of his ministry, taking advantage of local opportunities to introduce the people of Southampton to their Christian heritage.
He leaves behind his wife, Frances, a true partner in the Lord and tower of strength to him, four children and nine grandchildren. Those who wish to know more and understand David better can look at www.loveintruth.com/dgf.
The website lists the books that he published, including notable works on Isaac Watts, John Wycliffe and Lord Radstock. He also wrote seminal articles for Evangelical Times, The Banner of Truth and Reformation Today.
David was deeply interested in nonconformist church history. His interest was not that of an antiquarian, but of one profoundly concerned that the glorious gospel of Christ be applied at the local church level.
He was convinced that the early nonconformists in England had, in doing this, left an example to us today, as well as prepared the ground for the eighteenth century Great Awakening.
He had a shed at the end of the garden of his first house where he studied and prayed. My abiding memory of him is joining with him there while he led both of us into the presence of God in prayer. It was an experience I still cherish after more than 40 years.
Paul E. Brown (assistant pastor, Spring Road Evangelical Church, 1961-66. With thanks to Mark Stocker, Andrew and Stephen Fountain for permission to draw on their material.)