Christian ministry in Australia has been evangelical and evangelistic from the beginning. The First Fleet of convicts from England was accompanied by an evangelical chaplain, Richard Johnson, who carried with him a poem written by one of the leading evangelicals of the day, John Newton. It included the words,
Go bear the Saviour’s name to lands unknown,
Tell to the southern world His wondrous grace:
An energy divine thy words shall own,
And draw their untaught hearts to seek His face.
A rich theology underlay those words. Newton knew the Saviour. He knew the power of his name. He knew that words proclaiming the Saviour, the gospel, were the means God used to draw men and women to himself. He knew God can melt the hardest heart, open blind eyes, teach unruly minds. Johnson had a message to proclaim in the new colony, and it was anchored in the gracious character of God and what he has done. As far as I am aware, he never claimed to be a theologian, but theology suffused his poetry.
The theological heart of evangelical mission was summarised in the nineteenth century by an amalgam of five reformation slogans: salvation by Christ alone (solus Christus), on the basis of grace alone (sola gratia), received by Faith alone (sola fide), anchored in the authority of Scripture alone (sola scriptura), all to the glory of God alone (soli Deo gloria). Jesus Christ, all that he is and all that he has done, lies at the heart of evangelical theology just as he lies at the heart of the Christian message. Only through him do we know the Father and the Spirit; only through him are we brought from death to life, shown the dark reality of sin and experience the brilliant light of life as a forgiven and reconciled child of God; only through him are we grafted into the community of God’s people; and only through him do we have confidence for the last day when all that God has planned from eternity finally reaches its fulfilment. Jesus teaches the meaning of grace, the necessity of faith, the absolute reliability and authority of Scripture, the significance of church, and the goal of all things in the glory of God.
The theology of the Reformation reminded believers that salvation is entirely from God, in and by Christ, powerfully applied by the Holy Spirit. The good shepherd calls his sheep, those given to him by his Father. The Spirit brings about the new birth, enabling that call to be heard and the sheep to respond. The triune God is involved at every moment, from beginning to end. Of course, the gospel is a summons as well as an announcement. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand”, Jesus proclaimed throughout Galilee, “repent and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:15). We must repent and believe. We are called upon to do so. But when we do, we discover that it was God’s work all along. Amazing grace!
Moore College was established by those who knew and believed these truths: Thomas Moore, who went knocking door by door to distribute Bibles for the Bible Society in Sydney town, and Frederic Barker, the Bishop of Sydney, who established the firm evangelical character of his diocese and founded the College with Moore’s legacy. Throughout its history there have been stalwart proclaimers of Christ’s gospel and the theology which supports and directs it at Moore College. One only has to think of Nathaniel Jones’ tent missions in the first decade of the twentieth century, or the College’s parish missions initiated by D. B. Knox. But there were many others, both among the staff and the students of the last 166 years. Chief among them, perhaps, was the indomitable John Chapman, “Chappo”.
Today the College remains a theological college, shaped and directed by a view of God and his purposes that is found on the pages of Scripture itself. It is an evangelical college, confidently holding firm to those gospel truths that drove Newton and Johnson and were summarised in the five solas. Precisely for these reasons we are an evangelistic college, focussed on the proclamation of the gospel in the churches, for the building up of Christ’s people, and out into the world, so that the lost might hear the words of life.
I hope you enjoy this issue of Moore Matters. It is focused on our gospel heart. Thank you for your prayers and support throughout this extraordinary year. As I write this, the lockdown in Sydney is easing and we are looking forward to a Summer with family and friends in the sunshine. I trust this Christmas will bring you much joy as you remember Jesus—who he is: the glorious son of God come among us; and what he has done: exactly what the angel promised Joseph, “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:21).