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F. E. Raven (1837-1903)

His Background
His Family Life
His Employment
His Local Meeting

His Friends
His Foes
His Ministry
His Last Days
His Burial

The Battle Fought – a poem by H. D'Arcy Champney


F. E. Raven, 1837-1903

Mr. F. E. Raven appears to be the least known of those used in an outstanding way in the recovery of the truth –

This sketch is based largely on the unpublished documents I have entitled 'F. E. Raven – A Memorial', No. 11, and other documents in 'The Historical Reference Series'.

The documents referred to above include:

May the Blessed Spirit use this sketch to promote a fairer judgment of Mr. Raven, and to stimulate interest in the valuable legacy of his ministry with which many – through disinformation and prejudice – are unacquainted.



Frederick Edward Raven was born September 9, 1837 at Saffron Walden, Essex.

As a boy, he and Percy Lyon's father sang together in concerts.

In 1865 when he was 28, FER left the Church of England and broke bread at the Priory meeting in north London, where Mr. Wm. Menzies was also local.

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FER married Kate Wallis Glenny, daughter of Thomas and Harriet Glenny of Barking, and sister of Dr. G. W. Glenny, on April 15, 1873. He was in his 36th year.

FER gave the credit to his wife for the good conduct of his children. When urged to visit Australia for ministry – which would have meant being away for several months – he did not absolutely reject the suggestion, but said,

They had nine children; most died under 50 years of age:

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Mr. Raven had remarkable natural ability but he did not seek a high position in the world. In a letter written 15 months before his death he said,

In his younger days, he and Percy Lyon's father were employed in the same company.

On his retirement, Mr. Raven and his family moved to a big house at 10 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, S.E. 10, not far from the Greenwich Room.

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• Memories of a Sister: Mr. F. E. Raven
The memories are those of Mrs. C. A. Markham (1880-1986) of Cranford, NJ – the former Mary Lock was a daughter of Frank Lock (c.1850-1938)
and the mother of Marian Devenish.
Mrs. CAM also wrote No. 546 in the 1993 Hymn Supplement.
Further 'Memories' : Biography: J. Taylor: Memorabilia
and Biography: Brief Sketches: J. Revell: Memorabilia.


An illustration of humility: He said one day at the table, "The testimony was in a way bound up with Mr. Darby; and following him, with Mr. Stoney; but now of course we have no one like that".

An illustration of his sense of humour: A little elderly sister staying in the house at the same time was asked if she would like to walk to the meeting with him.

An illustration of his kindly sympathy: In speaking of a tired little girl serving all day at the meeting meals during exam time, he said "That child is going home in the cab with me; and I am not going to eat any supper until she goes to bed".

An illustration of his direct, to the point thinking: As a school girl I asked him, "What about evolution?" He answered, "God couldn't make anything that is not perfect".

In Plainfield in my school girl days (1898) the meetings were held in an old wooden hall where meals were also all prepared and served by the sisters.

Mr. Raven had a deep affection for the American brethren. He was in tears when he left them. At the close of his first visit he was to give a farewell address in New York.


He was short with piercing eyes and was unusually careful about his dress.

FER believed in being very careful as to withdrawing from any. A family came to live in Greenwich – Mr. and Mrs. X and four children.

FER was very generous in private giving. There was a case where a brother had got into debt, not his own fault but his wife's mismanagement. FER and another brother settled the matter in a very kind way.

One Lord's Day morning when FER was walking to the meeting he noticed a brother having an altercation outside the house of a neighbour.

When in the USA Mr. Raven noticed a young brother often at the meetings where he was serving who seemed very intelligent.

Once when FER was in Plainfield a man came in who became quite violent. FER said to him, "I do not know who you are but it is very impertinent of you to come into the meeting and speak so". The man quieted down.

In 1963, Mr. A. J. Gardiner, quoted Mr. Raven to support the non-eating doctrine of JTJr.

AJG says "… there is nothing new in the present insistence that eating with persons involves fellowship. As long ago as 1897, the late Mr. F. E. Raven, in a reading at Greenwich on John 13 (Ministry by F. E. Raven, 5: 264) said in relation to verse 18 that eating bread implied fellowship …"

Mr. Raven was clearly not advocating the same extreme teaching as JTJr did in 1960. He did not say that all eating with persons involves fellowship.

In February 1965 FER's youngest daughter, Mrs. Jessie Crosland, whose mind and memory were very fresh – she died in 1973 – assured Mr. Arthur G. Brown who visited her at Banstead that:

  1. While Secretary of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich up to the time he retired – this included 1897 – Mr. Raven lunched at times with the Admiral who was in naval charge of that establishment and who was not 'in fellowship'.

  2. He never discontinued partaking of meals in the company of his sister who was in the Church of England.

  3. He never discontinued partaking of meals with one of his daughters after she withdrew from fellowship with the brethren and joined the Church of England, although her withdrawal was a matter of great grief to him.

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Greenwich was within walking distance of Lewisham and Deptford.

His local brethren – except for one brother who was somewhat mental – accepted him, and also the brethren in the area. His acceptance by the brethren in a general way was more gradual.

He took a definite lead in the Greenwich meeting supported by Mr. George Broomhead who was helpful, also Mr. George Chesterfield, father of Mr. William Chesterfield.

When present the hymns were always started by FER who had a very good voice, and kept accurately to time; he was not loud but there was much fervour.

As FER became more and more in demand as a teacher, a number of brethren used to come to Greenwich on Thursday night for the reading

Mr. Raven felt that there were far better gospel preachers than he, and it did not matter to him how small the company was to hear him. The same with his addresses or lectures as they called them. He did not have open air preaching himself though he respected many who took up this work.

FER felt that brethren should not be conspicuous.

FER greatly appreciated evangelists when they were sound and not histrionic. He once said that if a brother felt led of the Lord to give a word in the open air he would gladly hold his hat while he served. He used to get Mr. Champney and others like him for weekends.

One Thursday evening when a lot of brethren had made their way to Greenwich for the reading to get the benefit of FER's ministry, they found the seats arranged for a preaching

One of the hymns frequently given out by FER at the Monday prayer meeting was

There were some aged and weak brothers in the Greenwich meeting and FER showed them much consideration and occasionally sang heartily a gospel hymn at the morning meeting.

On returning from ministering he would sit on the table in the meeting room swinging his legs – after the prayer meeting was over – telling the brethren his impression of the meetings and of the brethren in other localities.

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In this biographical sketch, the term "friends" refers to
spiritual friendships not to natural or partisan relationships.

Among his most intimate friends were J. B. Stoney, E. L. Bevir, T. H. Reynolds, J. S. Allen.

Mr. Raven's high regard for Mr. J. B. Stoney (1814-97) was expressed in a letter following his death:

J. B.Stoney, 1814-97

"And so the end has come at last and we are left without the living voice of JBS. My feeling is as one without a father. In emergencies and difficulties he has never been weak. I have always felt that he understood the discipline of God, and no one has affected and influenced me in my course here, apart, in a sense, from the light gained through him. How thankful one is that his mind and brightness remained till the end, and thus he was a pillar of the truth", Letters, page 135, May 1, 1897.

E. L. Bevir, 1847-1922

Mr. Edward Lawrence Bevir (1847-1922) lived in France for many years, labouring there and in Italy.

His valuable and challenging articles appeared regularly in Mr. Stoney's periodical 'A Voice to the Faithful'.

T. H. Reynolds, 1830-1930

Mr. Thomas H. Reynolds (1830-1930) of Burford, Oxfordshire, edited the 1903 revision of the Hymn Book.

Mr. John S. Allen of Birkenhead accompanied FER on his 1898 and 1902 visits to America.

Mr. Raven had continuing correspondence with Mr. Joseph Edmondson of Dublin and Dr. G. A. van Someren of Sydney, Australia.

• C. H. Mackintosh

C. H. Mackintosh, 1820-96

The name of Mr. C. H. Mackintosh (1820-96) is known and respected, and his ministry valued, by brethren generally.

H. D'Arcy Champney, 1854-1942

In History: The Champney Letter – which details the whole controversy – Mr. H. D'Arcy Champney quotes from two of CHM's letters, one being to Mr. J. A. Trench.

Two more letters of Mr. Mackintosh have been appended to History: Events in Ealing.

Geo. Cutting, 1843-1934

On November 29, 1890, CHM wrote from Dublin to Mr. George Cutting, author of the well known tract 'Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment':

I feared that you would have to encounter a good deal of trial in consequence of the sad and humiliating condition of things amongst us. I have never known anything like it during the fifty years I have been on the ground.

He continued: As to the charge brought against Mr. Raven of heresy, blasphemy and attacking the Person of the Son of God, they are simply monstrous, there is no foundation for them.

Then on April 3, 1896, not long before the Lord took him, CHM wrote from Cheltenham:

Though hardly equal to the effort of stooping over the desk, I feel I must send you a loving line to acknowledge the receipt of your kind letter of the 21st ult.

He continued: As to your question about Mr. Raven, I can only say I do not believe he holds any fundamental error.

Finally: In conclusion, I may just say that, in looking back at all our sorrowful and humiliating splits and divisions for the last fifty years, I believe them to have been, for the most part, the sad fruit of unbroken material, somewhere.

But I must close. Love to the brethren. The Lord bless you all.

Affectionately yours in Christ, C.H.M..

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"Many foes surround our footsteps;
None shall mar our joy in Thee!"
No. 335 in the 1973 Hymn Book, by E. H. Chater

Mr. Raven had "many foes" indeed, but their names, well known by many in any case, cannot all be mentioned here.

W. J. Lowe, 1839-1927

• F. W. Grant (1834-1902)

F. W. Grant, 1834-1902

Several incidents recorded in History: FER in America, 1898 regarding the opposition of Mr. F. W. Grant – whose ministry had led to a division in 1883-84 – follow:

Subsequently, while at Minneapolis, FER received a letter in F. W. Grant's handwriting.

Then, while in Baltimore, Samuel Ridout happened to meet FER, in the company with others, and spoke to him.

Later, in Plainfield, FWG and quite a number of his adherents were present at several of the readings, as well as from the open meetings.

• W. Kelly (1820-1906)

W. Kelly, 1820-1906

A more sustained, vigorous and bitter opposition came from Mr. William Kelly.

Mr. Kelly – with others – had seceded from fellowship in 1881 over an ecclesiastical matter.

• A. H. Rule (1843-1906)

Mr. Alexander H. Rule, of Des Moines, Iowa – who laboured among brethren in USA and Canada for many years – went further than any of FER's other foes. On June 10, 1902 he wrote:

This extreme position of attributing Mr. Raven's ministry to "a tremendous power of Satan" still marks some of those with whom Mr. Rule was connected.

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Contents of Ministry by F. E. Raven – New Series are below.
See 'Other ministry by F. E. Raven' in Introduction above.

In the 'New Series' there are 20 volumes of 'Ministry by F. E. Raven' and one volume of 'Letters of F. E. Raven' and an Index covering both, published by Kingston Bible Trust.

In addition I have compiled a catalogue of his ministry and letters which

The following is from a photocopy of a letter in FER's own handwriting which is not in his published letters. It expresses his responsibility as a servant for his ministry.

Among other matters, FER's valuable ministry opened up the truth as to eternal life and the Person of Christ – which made him the object of attack to this day.

The public clarification of our Lord's Sonship did not take place till 1929, but both Mr. C. A. Coates and Mr. James Taylor have indicated that it was before them during Mr. Raven's last years.

On July 28, 1931, CAC wrote:

And on July 15, 1929, J.T. wrote:

An interesting result of Mr. Raven's ministry is mentioned in a January 14, 1935, letter of Mr. A. E. Lambert who wrote:

A review of Mr. Raven's ministry is beyond the scope of this biographical sketch – but the following will give the reader some idea of its breadth.

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He returned in November 1902 from his second visit to America looking ill. The malady which caused his death had evidently started but it was some time before it was diagnosed.

In spite of much bodily weakness he continued to minister, and he often did revising in bed.

By April 1903, his personal doctor and a London physician had diagnosed his problem as a thickening at the top of the right lung, with some corresponding thickening of some of the chest glands.

F. E. Raven

On one occasion when he was feeling very weak he showed Mr. Chesterfield something sent to him anonymously that morning implying that he was like Uzza in 2 Samuel 6: 6-7, and that was the cause of his illness.

Beloved FER had made no provision for his family and the two younger daughters were still attending the Blackheath High School; he had faith as to this.

Mr. Raven departed to be with Christ on Lord's Day, August 16, 1903, in his sixty-sixth year.


His burial took place on the 21st August, 1903, at Nunhead Cemetery, London, S.E. 14., at 3:30. It was a fine afternoon, and nearly 1,800 were present.

The first word at his burial was given by Mr. Thomas H. Reynolds (1830-1930), of Burford, Oxfordshire, a close associate and valued friend of Mr. Raven for many years.

The second word was given by Dr. Walter T. P. Wolston of Edinburgh.

T. H. Reynolds

Mr. Reynolds prayed from the steps of the cemetery chapel, and then read Acts 13: 36-37:

"David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption: But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption".

He said that in the cases of Moses, of Aaron, and of David, they all passed away, but there was in the case of Moses tenderness which was very touching in the words: "The Lord buried him".

"David had to die, but up to the last he was occupied with God's interests on the earth. We can say that this was the case with our beloved brother".

"In view of His sufferings and death, the Lord Jesus went to stay at Bethany during the last week, and spent His days at the Temple, knowing what was before Him. Yet day by day He went on in patient testimony to God's people to the last day".

Pointing to the hearse he said: "The body that lies there is precious to us, but how much more precious to Him whose servant he was.

Hymn 208 – "In hope we lift our wishful, longing eyes" was sung and
Mr. Dennis L. Higgins (1847-1943), of Highgate, prayed. The coffin was carried on the shoulders of six brothers and lowered into the grave.

W. T. P. Wolston

At the grave Dr. W. T. P. Wolston read the following Scriptures:

"And Israel said unto Joseph, Behold, I die; but God shall be with you, and bring you again unto the land of your fathers", Genesis 48: 21.*

"By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff", Hebrews 11: 21.

"He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me", Hebrews 13: 5-6.

He then said: "Our gathering today tells a simple tale. A dear servant of the Lord has been taken away; all his earthly ministry is over; and affection for this servant of Christ has gathered so many to lay his remains in the tomb.

"He was undoubtedly a 'chosen vessel', a remarkable vessel, whose ministry we enjoyed and profited by, and whose departure many will deeply mourn beside ourselves.

"The Scriptures which I have read illustrate very sweetly this thought, and they came to my mind today in connection with the burial of this, our beloved brother.

"But not only to Jacob were these words uttered (Genesis 28: 15).

"But a third time we get these cheering words in Old Testament Scripture.

"Now we are neither patriarchs, leaders, nor kings; but that which was their solace, support and strength we have.

" 'God shall be with you' are indeed wonderful words to dwell in our hearts, and the Spirit's beauteous quotation, 'I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee', may well be a solace to every heart here today.

"This being so, what should be the spirit and attitude of our souls? The Apostle furnishes the answer.

"Brethren, we may have the fullest confidence in God. Let who will die, if God be with us, we are well off. Our path is a very blessed one – if, remaining here, God will be with us; and if we pass away that is 'far better' ".

Dr. Wolston prayed, and the first and last verses of hymn No. 30 "Rest of the saints in glory, The labourer's bright reward" in the Appendix were sung.*

Mrs. Raven was not present. Generally it was brothers who went to burials at that time.

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Lines suggested by the home going of the late F. E. Raven

How sweet to think of him as with Thee, Lord,
Who here so faithfully did preach Thy word,
Contending bravely for eternal life,
Maintained by Thee throughout the deadly strife.

But now he rests! The conflict all is o'er!
Safe home with Thee, he'll meet with foes no more!
His sufferings over, for there all is joy
In that bright Home where love's without alloy.

If in the battle failed some trusted friend,*
Thou, Lord, didst with him stand until the end;
On Thee he counted, nor did count in vain,
For all the way Thou didst his faith sustain.

How strange his foes, for they professed Thy Name,
Yet fought against Thy truth, to their own shame!
So gentle he, yet fearless stood his ground,
Nor cared if all the world upon him frowned.

The smile of Thine approval led him on
In his bless'd service till his work was done;
How sweet the word Thou gav'st him at the close
To cheer Thy people and to silence foes.

O Lord, a thousand times Thy Name we praise
For such a gift in dark and evil days;
Raised up to help Thine own in time of need,
And far and wide the flock of God to feed.

Thou gavest him before our minds to spread
That living system of which Thou art Head,
That universe of bliss, which Thou wilt fill
With that sweet love of Thine we know so well.

Profound our grief as we stood round that grave
And his remains to Thy safe keeping gave!
Such tears had seldom there been seen before,
For 'tis the Church's loss that we deplore.

To us bereaved Thou dost in love draw near,
To reassure us of Thy tender care.
For Thou remainest, and art still the Same,
Nor ever wilt, nor canst deny Thy Name.

And though Thy servant is no longer here,
His ministry remains Thy saints to cheer;
And in Thyself is all resource, O Lord,
Who grace on grace will still to us afford.

'The system of eternal things is near,
And if I pass through death, the Lord is there,
As Stephen found it, He's the other side',#
– Supported thus by Thee, Thy servant died.

Now, Lord, we pray that all Thy saints may stand
In love together, as one holy band;
And though our strength be little, keep Thy word,
True to Thy Name till we are with Thee, Lord!

1903 – H. D'Arcy Champney (1854-1942)

H. D'A. Champney

The above poem is from Poetry: The Alpha and the Omega. There are also 10 hymns by HD'AC in the 1973 Hymn Book.

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