Many years ago, I was reading “Men of Purpose” – a book of biographies compiled by Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle, London. In it, he told the story of Frederick Nicholas Charrington whose father was the owner of Charrington Brewery, one of London’s biggest brewing companies. As an heir to one of the great brewing families of the East End, young Fred was groomed to take over the company. After a one-year apprenticeship, he joined the thriving family business.
Not long after that, however, when Fred was about twenty years of age, he accepted the suggestion of a Christian friend, William Rainsford, to read John Chapter 3. Reading the promised chapter that same night, he was deeply convicted by the last verse: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn 3: 36). That night, the young brewery heir yielded his life to the Lord Jesus Christ.
After his conversion, Fred went about doing good. He helped a friend run an evening school for illiterate working boys. One thought, however, continued to trouble the young convert – he was a brewer!
About a year later, while passing by a pub, Fred saw a poorly-dressed woman with her two hungry children at the door begging her husband for money to buy food. The angry husband stumbled out, and without any warning, knocked down his wife and children. Looking up, Charrington saw a sign at the door. He recalled: “Emblazoned in gilt letters was my own name, ‘CHARRINGTON’. I said in my mind to the drunken husband, “You have knocked your own wife down and with the same blow you have knocked me out of the brewery business.”
“When I saw that sign,” he later wrote, “I was stricken just as surely as Paul was on the Damascus Road. Here was the source of my family wealth, and it was producing untold human misery before my own eyes. Then and there I pledged to God that not another penny of that money should come to me” (Wikipedia).
When Fred’s father learnt about his son’s decision to leave the family business, he was utterly shocked. He tried to reason with his son, but Fred stood firm. Angry and disappointed, his father cut him out of the family will.
Fred testified: “I was born to an inheritance valued considerably over a million pounds. I should have had at least a thousand pounds coming to me every week. But it was a corrupt and defiled inheritance. It was built upon the tears and blood of the people, of sin and misery, ruined homes, blasted lives, and starving children” (www.setfreebangor.co.uk/finding-god/frederick-n-charrington-abandons-fortune).
Fred abandoned a thriving family business and dedicated his life to helping the poor in the East End. He started a school, and led a campaign against social evils like alcohol, poverty and prostitution. He also set up “The Great Assembly Hall” in Mile End, which could accommodate some five thousand. This was a place where the poor and destitute could receive a decent meal before joining the evening service.
“In 1903 Charrington purchased Osea Island off the coast of Maldon in Essex and established a treatment centre for people with alcohol and opiate addictions. In return for free treatment, clients would remain on the island and work the land” (Wikipedia).
On his death bed, Fred’s father specially requested his son’s presence. “You are right, Fred; you have chosen the better part which will never be taken away.” Then father and son prayed together. The senior Charrington was thus saved.
Fred Charrington renounced a fortune in order to follow Christ. He devoted his time, money and energies to serve the Lord. In the words of his dying father, Charrington had “chosen the better part which will never be taken away.” What about us? Have we chosen the better part? Is there something in our lives that we are clinging to? It may not be a fortune or business. But it may be something that we know is not right before the Lord, and which troubles our conscience. Let us check our lives and get right with the Lord.
Our Saviour asked a pertinent question: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, but whosoever shall lose his life for My sake and the Gospel’s, the same shall save it, for what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mk 8: 35-37).