I wonder if any genre has so much to offer the believer as biography. There is wonderful fellowship to be had among those whose lives ended even before ours began.

Muster of the dead

Hundreds of lives have been recorded. People whose faith and joy in God changed our nation and our world. Key figures in Australian history include F. W. Boreham, Lionel B. Fletcher, John G. Ridley (though I’ve yet to find a full biography published for him), T. C. Hammond, Archbishop Mowll, A. W. Pink, John G. Paton, Robert Harkness, Paul White, Leon Morris, etc.

Those with significant, but less direct, connection to Australia include Charles Alexander, J. Wilbur Chapman, R. A. Torrey, Billy Graham, Hudson Taylor, Thomas Spurgeon, Gipsy Smith, Henry Varlay, George Muller, J. Sidlow Baxter, etc.

Other key figures worthy of your attention include Charles Spurgeon, D. L. Moody, Jim Elliot, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, Charles Wesley, John Wesley, Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, Adoniram Judson, William Tyndale, John Wycliffe, John Newton, William Carey, William Wilberforce, John Calvin, Martin Luther, Augustine of Hippo, etc.

No doubt many others could be added to this list… please feel free to do so in comments. But first, allow me to whet your appetite with a brief biographical tidbit from the life—or should I say death—of Jonathan Edwards.

Oh, that we may kiss the rod

The Rev. Aaron Burr served as the second president of Princeton University. When he died in 1757, his father-in-law, Jonathan Edwards was chosen to replace him as the third president of Princeton University. Edwards left his family to follow later and went to Princeton alone. He served in his new role for just five weeks before smallpox tragically ended his career.

Edwards’ wife, Sarah, was notified of his death by a letter sent from his doctor. On receiving the letter, Sarah wrote to her recently widowed, and now fatherless, daughter (Mrs. Burr) at Princeton.

My very dear Child, What shall I say? A holy and good God has covered us with a dark cloud! Oh, that we may kiss the rod, and lay our hands on our mouths! The Lord has done it. He has made me adore His goodness that we had him so long. But my God lives; and He has my heart. Oh, what a legacy my husband and your father left us! We are all given to God; and there I am, and love to be. Your ever affectionate mother,

Sarah Edwards

Wow. What a faith. What a God!

Grace to you.

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About Jason Harris

Dr Jason Harris is a writer, pastor, and academic. He has authored multiple books, articles, and papers including his book Theological Meditations on the Gospel. Jason has a PhD from James Cook University as well as degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research. Jason has lived in Cairns, Australia since 2007 and serves as pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@jasonharris.com.au.


  1. Elizabeth 13 September, 2012 at 11:04 am - Reply

    So true Jason.

    I picked up an Amy Carmichael biography not long ago from a second-hand bookstore in the city. It was horrifying to read about all her experiences in India trying to save those temple children.

    But encouraging to read about someone willing to give up their life in the service of others, especially mistreated orphans, for His name.

  2. Jason Harris 13 September, 2012 at 11:27 am - Reply

    Carmichael is one biography I have never read. It really should be high on my list because she was one of the dominating inspirations to Jim Elliot who’s life has affected mine profoundly. Thanks for adding her name to my list!

  3. Jeremy Crooks 13 September, 2012 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    Thanks Jason.

    Most of these dead people seem to have lived quite a long time ago. Do you have any recommendations for people who have been dead for less than 20 years? I would love to read about some people who were alive at the same time I have been too.

  4. Jason Harris 13 September, 2012 at 2:37 pm - Reply

    Leon Morris died in recent decades. I’m not sure about Paul White. And of course Billy Graham is still alive. The other recent one is Jim Elliot who would likely still be alive today had he not died in the manner he did (his wife is still alive).

    Otherwise, I suppose we tend to wait a while so they become less controversial… (that’s a whole ‘nother post!).

    I know John MacArthur (still living) has a biography written about him (by Iain Murray I think??). Bob Jones, Jr. (death c. 1990) has a biography in print. John Vaughn (still living) has one in print. Phil Pinero (still living) has one in print I believe. Don Carson wrote a biography of his father that’s reviewed on this site somewhere. C. S. Lewis has an autobiography in print (death 1963). Um… I’m not sure, but I suspect there are biographies in print for D. Martin Lloyd Jones, J. I. Packer (still living), John Stott (death c. 2011), etc.

    Unfortunately, I’m still busy reading the old classics to explore the more recent guys as much as I’d like.

  5. John Northage 26 April, 2014 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    Hi Jason, Thoroughly agree about the great value of Christian biography. We also need to search out our home grown (Australian) labours of love in this field. One such book that gives a faithful (warts and all) account of one of our very recent missionaries is “Not in the Common Mould” The Life of Dr David Lithgow, written by Lynette Oates (dec’d 2013) one of whose children, Howard (also a Wycliffe translator), attends TGS here in Cairns. A truly inspiring read !!
    Could I also put in a plug for the series “The Swans are Not Silent” by John Piper. Each of the series summarises the biographies three very significant Christian leaders but focuses on the distinctives of their ministries. I have just read the volume called “Contending for Our All” that deals with the amazing lives of Athanasius, John Owen and J.Gresham Machen. A truly “must read” book !!

    The other volumes in this series are: “The Legacy of Sovereign Joy”, “Tested by Fire”, and “The Roots of Endurance”, all printed by IVP. John.

  6. Jason Harris 26 April, 2014 at 5:56 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your input John. Will have to look into those at some point.

    God bless.

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