(English Missionary to China, India and Africa)
After his conversion in 1877, Edward Studd had only one driving passion – to see his sons saved. When Charles and his elder brothers, Kynaston and George returned from Eton College during their holidays, their father “marched them off to hear Moody”. Though the boys found the Gospel message interesting, they left the hall with no deep conviction in their souls. Undaunted, their zealous father continued in his efforts to win them to Christ.
Some years later, Charles spoke about the amazing transformation in his father: “We couldn’t understand what had come over him. He kept telling us that he had been ‘born again’ and at night would come in to my room to talk about my soul. He would ask if I was saved. I got wise and would pretend to be asleep as soon as I heard him coming. Everyone in the house had a dog’s life till they got converted. His insistence made us avoid him so that we would quickly move round the other side of the house if we saw him coming.”
A year later, when Charles and his brothers were home again for the holidays, their father continued with his gospel meeting campaign at Tedworth House. He had invited two young men to stay for the weekend and to preach on Sabbath evening. One of them was Mr Wetherby of whom the boys thought poorly because he was not good at horse-riding nor playing cricket – the two things the Studd brothers were passionate about.
Ironically, though Mr Wetherby failed to impress the talented brothers, he was the one God used to lead them individually to Christ – all on the same afternoon! In a testimony years later, Charles shared that he was on his way to play cricket when Mr Wetherby “caught me unawares and asked, ‘Are you a Christian?’” Charles could not give a convincing answer, and the preacher, quoting John 3: 16, questioned his inconsistent profession. Seeing that he was “cornered”, Charles got down on his knees and thanked God for His gift of eternal life. Immediately, joy and peace flooded his soul – “I knew then what it was to be born again, and the Bible, which had been so dry to me before, became everything.”
A few days after returning to Eton, Charles wrote to his father with the good news of his conversion. Unknown to him, his two brothers had also written similar letters confessing their faith in Christ. All their secrets were revealed when Edward replied with a joint letter to his sons. They now realised that the young preacher of whom they had a poor opinion, was much sharper than they had thought!
In Eton, Kynaston initiated and led a Bible study. Growing well in faith, he was a godly example to his two younger brothers. Charles’ love for Christ, however, began to grow cold as he spent his best hours on the cricket field. Entering Cambridge University after leaving Eton, he was actively involved in his favourite sport over the next four years. His success on the cricket field made him a national hero. Highly acclaimed by the media for his brilliant performances, he revelled in their praises. His cricketing career took him to Australia where he played for the English team.
For six years after his conversion, Charles “continued in a ‘respectable’ backslidden state” as he lived for cricket instead of Christ. But something happened to turn him back to the Lord. Just before his graduation, news came that his brother George was critically ill with pneumonia. Being only one year older, George was closest to Charles in age and affection. As he sat by his ailing brother’s bed night after night, Charles reflected on his life and his sporting fame: “What are riches worth when life hangs in the balance? What’s it all worth? Nothing in this world has any worth, any value, when death stares in the face. Life, real life is of supreme importance. All else is vanity.”
Although George eventually recovered, Charles was deeply sobered by the experience. He decided to attend a Moody meeting where the hymns and the message stirred his heart. “The songs brought a tear to his eyes, and the address came to him as if he heard it alone. His heart was softened and vulnerable. The worldliness that had insulated it for so long had gone – he heard the Word of God.” Consecrating himself anew to the Lord, Charles drew up “a new contract” – “Lord, everything; all I am and have is yours. My life is only to be lived for you.”
Now gripped with a passion to win souls to Christ, Charles threw himself into evangelistic work among the undergraduates. With his brother Kynaston, he was given the privilege of speaking at subsidiary meetings of the Moody gospel campaign. One soul who was won to Christ through these meetings was a young student doctor who was later to become Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a medical missionary to Newfoundland and Labrador.
The next cricket season ended in a different kind of success for Charles. In the few matches he played, Charles invited his team members to hear D L Moody. Several of them trusted in the Lord and became his faithful prayer partners when he laboured in Africa many years later. (to be continued)
(All quotations are from the book, C T Studd and Priscilla by Eileen Vincent).