John Piper has delivered many biographical lectures over the years, providing interesting overviews for many prominent figures of church history.
Below you will find Piper’s work on men such as CH Spurgeon, Adoniram Judson, William Wilberforce, CS Lewis, George Whitefield, and many others.
Each person is listed below alphabetically by their first name. Introductory remarks for each are taken from the Desiring God website.
Watch, listen to, or read Piper’s biographies to learn more about these remarkable men and their ministries.
— Andrew Fuller —
Holy Faith, Worthy Gospel, World Vision
Andrew Fuller’s Broadsides Against Sandemanianism, Hyper-Calvinism, and Global Unbelief
“It is totally possible that Andrew Fuller’s impact on history, by the time Jesus returns, will be far greater and different than it is now. My assessment at this point, 192 years after his death, is that his primary impact on history has been the impetus that his life and thought gave to the modern missionary movement, specifically through the sending and supporting of William Carey to India in 1793. That historical moment — the sending of William Carey and his team — marked the opening of the modern missionary movement.”
— Adoniram Judson —
How Few There Are Who Die So Hard!
Suffering and Success in the Life of Adoniram Judson: The Cost of Bringing Christ to Burma
Judson was America’s first foreign missionary and an example of one who considered, and executed on, his own uniquely strategic role in the completing of the Commission.
Though warned not to go to Burma, he entered the country almost 200 years ago — in July of 1813 — and there invested the next 38 years of his life preaching Christ where he had not been named.
— Athanasius —
Contending for Our All
The Life and Ministry of Athanasius
Athanasius was born in AD 298 in Egypt and became the bishop of Alexandria on June 8, 328 at the age of 30. The people of Egypt viewed him as their bishop until he died on May 2, 373 at the age of 75. I say he was “viewed” by the people as their bishop during these years because Athanasius was driven out of his church and office five times by the powers of the Roman empire. Seventeen of his 45 years as bishop were spent in exile. But the people never acknowledged the validity of the other bishops sent to take his place. He was always bishop in exile as far as his flock was concerned.
— Augustine —
The Swan Is Not Silent
Sovereign Joy in the Life and Thought of St. Augustine
On August 26, 410, the unthinkable happened. After 900 years of impenetrable security, Rome was sacked by the Gothic army led by Alaric. St. Jerome, the translator of the Latin Vulgate, was in Palestine at the time, and wrote, “If Rome can perish, what can be safe?” Rome did not perish immediately. It would be another 66 years before the Germans deposed the last Emperor. But the shock waves of the invasion reached the city of Hippo about 450 miles southwest of Rome on the coast of North Africa where Augustine was the bishop. He was 55 years old and in the prime of his ministry. He would live another 20 years and die on August 28, 430, just as 80,000 invading Vandals were about to storm the city. In other words, Augustine lived in one of those tumultuous times between the shifting of whole civilizations.
— Charles Simeon —
Brothers, We Must Not Mind a Little Suffering
Meditations on the Life of Charles Simeon
“My dear brother, we must not mind a little suffering for Christ’s sake. When I am getting through a hedge, if my head and shoulders are safely through, I can bear the pricking of my legs. Let us rejoice in the remembrance that our holy Head has surmounted all His suffering and triumphed over death. Let us follow Him patiently; we shall soon be partakers of His victory” – Charles Simeon
— Charles Spurgeon —
Charles Spurgeon: Preaching Through Adversity
Drawing on the life and work of Charles Spurgeon, John Piper presents an inspiring vision of gospel ministry and offers practical counsel for how pastors keep going when the times are toughest.
See Also: “The Life and Ministry of Charles Spurgeon” which Piper presented at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. Video below.
— C.S. Lewis —
Lessons from an Inconsolable Soul
Learning from the Mind and Heart of C.S. Lewis
My approach in this talk is personal. I am going to talk about what has meant the most to me in C.S. Lewis — how he has helped me the most. And as I raise this question, as I have many times over the years, the backdrop of the question becomes increasingly urgent: Why has he been so significant for me, even though he is not Reformed in his doctrine, and could barely be called an evangelical by typical American uses of that word?
See Also: CS Lewis on the Reading of Old Books
— David Brainerd —
Oh, That I May Never Loiter On My Heavenly Journey!
Reflections on the Life and Ministry of David Brainerd
David Brainerd was born on April 20, 1718 in Haddam, Connecticut. That year John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards turned 14. Benjamin Franklin turned 12 and George Whitefield 3. The Great Awakening was just over the horizon and Brainerd would live through both waves of it in the mid thirties and early forties, then die of tuberculosis in Jonathan Edwards’ house at the age of 29 on October 9, 1747.
— George Herbert —
Saying Beautifully As a Way of Seeing Beauty
The Life of George Herbert and His Poetic Effort The Pastor, His Words, and His God
What poetry emphasizes — poetry from George Herbert and poetry throughout the Bible — is that the effort to say it surprisingly and provocatively and beautifully uncovers truth and beauty that you may not find any other way. I say it carefully. I do not claim that the poetic effort is a necessary way of seeing a facet of Christ’s beauty. God may give it another way … But the poetic effort is found to be one way — a pervasively biblical way, a historically proven way of seeing and savoring more of Christ.
— George Mueller —
George Mueller’s Strategy for Showing God
Simplicity of Faith, Sacred Scripture, and Satisfaction in God
George Mueller was a native German (a Prussian). He was born in Kroppenstaedt on September 27, 1805 and lived almost the entire nineteenth century. He died March 10, 1898 at the age of 92. He saw the great awakening of 1859 which he said “led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands.” He did follow up work for D. L. Moody, preached for Charles Spurgeon, and inspired the missionary faith of Hudson Taylor.
— George Whitefield —
“I Will Not Be a Velvet-Mouthed Preacher!”
The Life and Ministry of George Whitefield: Living and Preaching As Though God Were Real (Because He Is)
George Whitefield was a phenomenon not just of his age, but in the entire 2000-year history of Christian preaching. There has been nothing like the combination of his preaching pace and geographic extent and auditory scope and attention-holding effect and converting power. Ryle is right: “No preacher has ever retained his hold on his hearers so entirely as he did for thirty-four years. His popularity never waned.”
— Hudson Taylor —
The Ministry of Hudson Taylor as Life in Christ
The focus of this message on Hudson Taylor how he experienced union with Christ. And of course, the warning flags go up immediately because it is well known that Hudson Taylor was significantly influenced by the Keswick Movement and its views of sanctification, which, in the worst exponents, are seriously flawed. My conclusion will be that Hudson Taylor is not one of those worst exponents, and that he was protected from Keswick’s worst flaws by his allegiance to the Bible, his belief in the sovereignty of God, and his experience of lifelong suffering and sorrow.
— JC Ryle —
“The Frank and Manly Mr. Ryle” — The Value of a Masculine Ministry
God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ
John Charles Ryle was born May 10, 1816, near Macclesfield, in the County of Cheshire, England. His parents were nominal members of the Church of England with no interest in vital religion and would never embrace Ryle’s evangelical faith—which he came to when he was 21 years old.
— J Gresham Machen —
J. Gresham Machen’s Response to Modernism
Who was J. Gresham Machen? Where did he come from? What shaped and drove him? More important than the mere fact of founding institutions is the question of the worldview that carried him through that achievement. And what was this thing called “Modernism” that engaged his amazingly energetic opposition? And what can we learn from his response today?
— John Bunyan —
To Live Upon God That Is Invisible
Suffering and Service in the Life of John Bunyan
In all my reading of Bunyan, what has gripped me most is his suffering and how he responded to it. What it made of him. And what it might make of us. All of us come to our tasks with a history and many predispositions. I come to John Bunyan with a growing sense that suffering is a normal and useful and essential and God-ordained element in Christian life and ministry.
— John Calvin —
The Divine Majesty of the Word
John Calvin: The Man and His Preaching
Nothing mattered more to Calvin than the centrality, supremacy, and majesty of the glory of God. His aim, he wrote, was to “set before [man], as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God“-a fitting banner over all of the great Reformer’s life and work. “The essential meaning of Calvin’s life and preaching,” writes John Piper, “is that he recovered and embodied a passion for the absolute reality and majesty of God.
— John Newton —
John Newton: The Tough Roots of His Habitual Tenderness
John Newton was born July 24, 1725 in London to a godly mother and an irreligious, sea-faring father. His mother died when he was six. Left mainly to himself, Newton became a debauched sailor — a miserable outcast on the coast of West Africa for two years; a slave-trading sea-captain until an epileptic seizure ended his career; a well-paid “surveyor of tides” in Liverpool; a loved pastor of two congregations in Olney and London for 43 years; a devoted husband to Mary for 40 years until she died in 1790; a personal friend to William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon, Henry Martyn, William Carey, John Wesley, George Whitefield; and, finally, the author of the most famous hymn in the English language, Amazing Grace. He died on December 21, 1807 at the age of 82.
— John Owen —
The Chief Design of My Life: Mortification and Universal Holiness
Reflections on the Life and Thought of John Owen
The primary lesson I take away from this study of Owen’s life and thought is that in all our enterprises and projects the primary goal for his glory should be holiness to the Lord. The indispensable means of that holiness is the cultivation of personal, deep, authentic communion with God — the full meaning of which I leave for him to teach you as you read his works.
— John G. Paton —
You Will Be Eaten by Cannibals! Lessons from the Life of John G. Paton
Courage in the Cause of Missions
“Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.” – John Paton
— Jonathan Edwards —
The Pastor as Theologian
Life and Ministry of Jonathan Edwards
Even within the church, many people know little more about Edwards than what is printed in American history textbooks-most often, excerpts from his best-known sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” They unjustly envision Edwards preaching only fire and brimstone to frightened listeners. But he knew and preached God’s heaven as much as Satan’s hell. He was a humble and joyful servant, striving to glorify God in his personal life and public ministry.
Watch Also Below: A God-Entranced Vision of All Things: Why We Need Jonathan Edwards 300 Years Later
— Martin Luther —
Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor
One of the great rediscoveries of the Reformation — especially of Martin Luther — was that the word of God comes to us in a form of a Book. In other words, Luther grasped this powerful fact: God preserves the experience of salvation and holiness from generation to generation by means of a Book of revelation, not a bishop in Rome, and not the ecstasies of Thomas Muenzer and the Zwickau prophets. The word of God comes to us in a Book. That rediscovery shaped Luther and the Reformation.
— Martin Lloyd-Jones —
A Passion for Christ-Exalting Power
Martyn Lloyd-Jones on the Need for Revival and Baptism with the Holy Spirit
In July, 1959 Martyn Lloyd-Jones and his wife Bethan were on vacation in Wales. They attended a little chapel for a Sunday morning prayer meeting and Lloyd-Jones asked them, “Would you like me to give a word this morning?” The people hesitated because it was his vacation and they didn’t want to presume on his energy. But his wife said, “Let him. Preaching is his life.” It was a true statement. In the preface to his powerful book, Preaching and Preachers, he said, “Preaching has been my life’s work … to me the work of preaching is the highest and the greatest and the most glorious calling to which anyone can ever be called”
— Robert Murray McCheyne —
He Kissed the Rose and Felt the Thorn: Living and Dying in the Morning of Life
Meditations on the Life of Robert Murray McCheyne
McCheyne died before he was 30. My argument is that his effectiveness was not frustrated by this fact but empowered by it. Because of his tuberculosis, he lived with the strong sense that he would die early. This was a huge factor in his powerful usefulness.
So the double key to his life is the preciousness of Jesus, the Rose, intensified by the pain of the thorn, the sickness and the shortness of his life.
— William Cowper —
Insanity and Spiritual Songs in the Soul of a Saint
Reflections on the Life of William Cowper
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
– William Cowper, “God moves in a mysterious way”
— William Tyndale —
Always Singing One Note—A Vernacular Bible
Why William Tyndale Lived and Died
Stephen Vaughn was an English merchant commissioned by Thomas Cromwell, the king’s adviser, to find William Tyndale and inform him that King Henry VIII desired him to come back to England out of hiding on the continent. In a letter to Cromwell from Vaughan dated June 19, 1531, Vaughan wrote about Tyndale (1494-1536) these simple words: “I find him always singing one note.” That one note was this: Will the King of England give his official endorsement to a vernacular Bible for all his English subjects? If not, Tyndale will not come. If so, Tyndale will give himself up to the king and never write another book.
— William Wilberforce —
Peculiar Doctrines, Public Morals, and the Political Welfare
Reflections on the Life and Labor of William Wilberforce
What made Wilberforce tick was a profound Biblical allegiance to what he called the “peculiar doctrines” of Christianity. These, he said, give rise, in turn, to true affections – what we might call “passion” or “emotions” – for spiritual things, which, in turn, break the power of pride and greed and fear, and then lead to transformed morals which, in turn, lead to the political welfare of the nation. He said, “If . . . a principle of true Religion [i.e., true Christianity] should . . . gain ground, there is no estimating the effects on public morals, and the consequent influence on our political welfare.”
See Also: “Wilberforce and the Golden Rule” below