David Campbell, Ed.
Reviewed by: James W. Campbell
Date posted: 12/11/2016
The Suburbs of Heaven: The Diary of Murdoch Campbell, edited by David Campbell. Covenanters Press, 2014. Paperback, 178 pages, list price $20.00. Reviewed by OP teacher James W. Campbell.
Churches and theological seminaries are good at teaching many things, such as Greek and Hebrew, theology, church history, and polity. All these things can be learned by attending classes, studying books, and listening to lectures. However, there are some topics that do not lend themselves to such educational endeavors. How does one learn to pray? One can and ought to read about prayer, but praying itself is a practical discipline; it is a matter of doing. And what of meditation? What of a close walk with God? In such areas, exemplars are more helpful than theoreticians.
Murdoch Campbell (1900–1974), a minister of the Free Church of Scotland, was just such an exemplar. He prayed and meditated upon the Word. He sought to know God in Christ in a deeper way. Some of his experiences have been recorded in previously published books: From Grace to Glory and Memories of a Wayfaring Man. Now his diary has been published, edited by his son, David Campbell.
What can one learn from such a book about the daily practice of drawing close to God? There are at least three lessons for us here: (1) Communion with God is of the Lord, not of us. (2) Such communion is something we receive, not something we do. (3) It is always to be judged by the written Word.
David Campbell uses words like “mystic” to describe his father. This can be wrongly interpreted, as many in our day struggle with subjectivity and New Age thinking. But Murdoch Campbell shows us that there is an element in the Christian life, consistent with the whole counsel of God, that rightly seeks a deeper experience of God’s presence, as the Holy Spirit draws us to Christ, blessing the Word of God to our hearts.
David Campbell writes: “For my father, it seems that there could be no greater pleasure than daily converse with God.” An example of such pleasure can be seen in the diary entry for December 10, 1958: “On Friday afternoon, when I was in my room alone, the Lord broke through my darkness and deadness and gave me a brief Bethel season of His presence which, when accompanied by His love and Word, can transform the most distressing situation into a delightsome suburb of Heaven.”
Murdoch Campbell challenges us to believe, to practice godliness, and to wait upon the Lord. At the same time, his writings give us a record of how one man found Christ’s promise to be true: “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20 KJV).