When I talk to pastors I respect, I’m amazed how often they mention the biographies written by Arnold Dallimore.
Arnold A. Dallimore (1911-1998) was a Baptist pastor for thirty-eight years. He served at the Baptist church in Cottam, Ontario, near Windsor, for twenty-three of those years. Cottam is a small rural community with only a few hundred people.
While studying at seminary in Toronto, Dallimore developed a lifelong interest in Whitefield. Although he had no formal training as a biographer, he began writing the two-volume biography of Whitefield, in part to supplement his income as a pastor. He wrote hundreds of pages, but threw them out because he found them unsatisfactory.
Dallimore traveled to Britain to conduct more research. He met Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, who provided encouragement and support. He needed it because the work was demanding, especially while pastoring a growing church.
In 1970, Banner of Truth released the first volume of the biography, a work that had taken him years to complete while serving as a pastor. In 1973, he realized that he couldn’t finish the second volume and continue to serve as a pastor. He resigned and worked full-time as a writer.
In April 1976, D. A. Carson wrote to Dallimore to ask if he would consider becoming a scholar in residence at Northwest Seminary in British Columbia. Dallimore declined. In his letter, Carson wrote, “I read the first volume with great pleasure and profit, and therefore look forward to the second with considerable anticipation.”
The second volume was released in 1980.
Years later, Carson reflected on Dallimore’s work. Although he only had a bachelor’s degree, Carson said, he had undertaken the work “a hobby, a summer challenge, a life goal. He traveled frequently to England, ransacked archives, found material that no one had ever used before and wrote his magnificent two-volume biography of Whitefield. Few books make me weep, but on occasion that biography did. For all its technical competence and heavy documentation, it made me pray, more than once, Oh, God, do it again!”
I don’t believe I ever met Dallimore. I have a scan of an update from FEB Central, a region of the Fellowship Baptists, dated July 1989. It reports, “Dr. Dallimore has completed his seventh book, a 300 page condensation of the 2 volume work on George Whitefield. The book will be released in October. Dr. Dallimore is presently working on the life of Susanna Wesley.”
In some ways, Dallimore is a product of a different age. His mother sat under the ministry of Charles Spurgeon when she was a child.
But Dallimore wrote and pastored not so many years ago. I was getting updates on his ministry when I was just starting out. He was pastor of a small church in an out-of-the-way town. He juggled family and ministry and a massive side project. He traveled and wrote at odd hours, spending decades on a project despite no formal training. He faced self-doubt, harsh editors, and deadlines.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Dallimore. An Ontario pastor gave the world a gift at great cost to himself, and we’re better for it. I pray that God raises up more like him.