The Four Spiritual Laws

from our rector, Rev. Dr. R. William Dickson:

This past Sunday I referenced in my sermon at the 10:30 service a brilliant article by Dr. Ashley Null, an article entitled “The Falconry of Thomas Cranmer’s Comfortable Words.”  It is a masterpiece and I commend it to you enthusiastically.  In my sermon I quoted Dr. Null who stated,

“Here, as it were, is the Anglican equivalent of the Four Spiritual Laws embedded in its very first vernacular liturgy.”   

I spent some considerable time in my sermon talking about the inner gospel logic of Cranmer’s Four Comfortable Words and how the first was a fitting context for our consideration of Isaiah 55.  But it has occurred to me that perhaps I should provide a bit of background to the reference.  Here tis. 

In the year 1952, Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ wrote a simple gospel tract which became one of the most widely disseminated tracts of history.  It was called “The Four Spiritual Laws.”  It has been translated into roughly 200 languages and in the year 2013 over 1.5 billion copies of the tract had been distributed all over the world.  The genius of the little tract is in its clarity and simplicity.

Law One: God loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life.

God’s Love

“God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

God’s Plan

[Christ speaking] “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).


Law Two: Humanity is sinful and separated from God.

Therefore, if we are separated from God we won’t know God’s love or experience his plan for our lives.

Humanity is Sinful

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

People were created be in fellowship with God, as seen in the story of Creation, but instead we often stubbornly choose our own way instead of God’s way. This attitude of rebellion against God (or even of passive indifference) is called sin.

Humanity Is Separated

“The wages of sin is death” [in this context meaning a spiritual rift between us and God] (Romans 6:23).

People try to reach God in various ways, even through religion, but they inevitably fail because humanity is sinful and separated from God.


Law Three: Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for sin.

Through Him we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

He Died In Our Place

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

He Rose from the Dead

“Christ died for our sins… He was buried… He was raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures… He appeared to Peter, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred…” (1 Corinthians 15:3-6).

He Is the Only Way to God

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me'” (John 14:6).

God has bridged the gulf that separates us from Him by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross in our place to pay the penalty for our sins.


Law Four: We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

If we accept that Jesus Christ has saved us and that he is Lord, then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives.

We Must Receive Christ

“To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

We Receive Christ Through Faith

“By grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Faith is trusting in God, belief from the heart.

When We Receive Christ, Our Lives Change

We are “born again” – John 3:1-8.

The transformation is likened to Christ’s death and resurrection – Romans 6:6-11.

We become a “new creation” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.

We Receive Christ Through Personal Invitation

[Christ speaking] “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in” (Revelation 3:20).

Receiving Christ means trusting Jesus with your life by opening the door of your soul to him. Trusting Jesus means turning away from your own self-will (repentance) and instead allowing God to work in and through you. When we humbly admit that we need him he forgives us for seeking autonomy and begins to show us his way of love.

Intellectually agreeing that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died for our sins on a cross and rose again the King of Kings and Lord of Lords is not enough, belief is a choice made by courageous faith (not by emotion).

How To Receive Christ

Christ enters our lives when we ask him to. It’s that simple.

“If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

God knows your heart so go ahead ask him to be Lord of your life in your own words. If you get stuck for words, try this prayer:

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

If this expresses your heart’s desire then God is faithful and will come into your life as He promised.  If you have received Christ, what next?

If anything about this famous gospel presentation is surprising, intriguing, disturbing, or exhilarating, shoot me an email at . I’d love to know what you think.



Preparing for and Anticipating with Joy the Future

from our rector, Rev. Dr. R. William Dickson:

Things change.  Love it, hate it, embrace it, resist it – it doesn’t matter, whatever we happen to think about the fact, the fact nonetheless remains, things change.  Now, of course, not everything changes.  God doesn’t change.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever!  (Hebrews 13:8)  The gospel does not change.  And thankfully, aspects of our experience of historical, traditional Christian worship seem to be deeply anchored to timeless and unchanging realities.  And yet, we are doing ministry, living our lives of Christian witness in a world which almost seems to be new every morning.

The Anglican Church in North America elected its second archbishop this past Sunday.  As William will mention, he is the Rt. Rev. Dr. Foley Beach.  I know Bishop Beach from several different contexts, and I can’t imagine a better choice.  He is very gifted and in very many areas.  But something very suggestive about this election and its significance is the fact that Foley Beach is a young man!  ACNA does not dread the future but rather is embracing it and with gusto!

Similarly, we are doing some things at St. Andrew’s which are not backward looking but anticipating of new and exciting possibilities of the future.  We had for some time rather been limping with our phone system and our internet capability; but you can see all over the church this week blue fiber optic cable which is being installed everywhere.  What you can’t see (you’ll have to trust me in this) is the blazing capabilities which will go with these apparently modest looking blue lines.  Hang on to your hat.

For years we have made good but modest use of the dominant church database system called ACS Technologies.  But this same company has taken its leading technology in church database capabilities and super-charged it and attached it to the exciting new capabilities of the cloud.  You can read about some of these changes here, if interested. and

Last week your church staff spent multiple hours being trained in the use of these new capabilities.  Let me tell you, they are awesome!  We are now up and running with them and will use them and master them through the summer in preparation for a church-wide launch on Rally Day.  How will these things impact you?  In every conceivable way!  Our connectivity as a church family, our real time access to one another and information of need will be enhanced beyond anything you might have imagined.

We are also currently re-tooling our social media capabilities and embracing their potency.  We are doing this for one reason alone – we live in a changing world in which most people within that world now are connecting with others through means of this nature.  Fewer and fewer people write checks anymore.  They prefer direct deposit.  Fewer and fewer people will make a phone call when the same communication is more easily handled through a text message.  If we intend to meet people where they are with the timeless truth of the gospel, we will simply have to learn to speak their language.  The day is soon approaching when ten times as many people would read an article like this in digitized form on their iPad rather than in paper form delivered by the US postal service.  Things are changing.  And we intend to be ready to speak into that new world with strategic potency.  Stay tuned.

Poor Taste and Piety

by the Rev’d William Shand
(Rector, St. Francis Church, Potomac)
commended by Dean McKeachie

Just when one thinks we’ve reached the limit, along comes something to disabuse us of that ambivalent conclusion. Consider as a case in point an ad for a formerly dignified and gracious Episcopal church in a city known for its dignity and graciousness. Placed in an “alternate weekly” paper targeted at the younger generations, the ad offered this invitation: “The Virgin Mary – Followed by Bloody Marys.” On one side of the ad was depicted a statue of our Lord’s Mother such as one might find in a church, while opposite it was a picture of a cool, refreshing glass of the potable known by the name of (bloody) Mary I, during whose unfortunate reign the Anglican reformers were martyred. (There is no connection between the queen and the drink, but in this case names were not changed to protect the guilty.)

For the record, I stand second to no one in my fondness for – nay, need for – the refreshing libation in question. Since my days in seminary Bloody Marys have been part of my Sunday routine, especially when the Redskins are about to play. So this is not a veiled cavil in the name of temperance. Likewise, cleverness in advertising is nothing to bewail, especially since we are unable to escape ads in every medium. (A few have suggested we sell ads in this newsletter, and perhaps we will do that when we are ready to announce bingo night in St Francis Hall.)

In 1978, the Episcopal Ad Project was started by a priest in Minnesota. Some will remember their most “catchy” line: “He died to take away your sins, not your mind.” That effort outgrew the denomination and continues today as the Church Ad Project. Some of the best minds in the world of advertising produce attention catching ads. In and of themselves these are harmless, and some are even useful.

One secular critic of the ad in question noted that while one could learn the names of some nearby places to find Bloody Marys, this ad said nothing about what one would find in the sponsoring church itself. If that point holds, then this question follows: Why bother to go to church at all? Just by-pass church attendance and go straightway to brunch. This church has been too clever by half, at least.

It is surely guilty of poor taste, and perhaps of blasphemy itself. The lack of respect to our Lord’s Mother is offensive. It was not worthy of that church, and no matter how significant the decline in the church’s fortunes which prompted this approach, this ad is not the solution. To the contrary, it is a symptom of one disease afflicting the Episcopal Church in general: In too many respects we try to play the world’s games in the world’s venue, making it harder to distinguish between what we have to offer and what the world can provide. Bloody Marys can be made at home without the trouble even of going out to brunch, so what did the church have to offer? One is left to wonder if it was anything more than a mess of pottage.

The Episcopal Church Today: No More Biblically Christian than Modern Mathematics is True!

by The Very Rev’d William McKeachie, retired Dean of South Carolina

Recently I attended a colloquium of historians at which all the (very elated!) talk was about what they called “the emotional turn” in the study of history, a development held to enable a more subjectively authentic understanding of history itself. It reminded me of the elation of many mathematicians in the late 16th century about Franciscus Vieta’s mathematically self-constructive “turn” towards symbolic algebra (by which “no problem cannot be solved!”), as well as many philosophers in the 19th century about Immanuel Kant’s “transcendental turn” in epistemology.

I was immediately suspicious!

There are some among my acquaintances who know that — if not always why! — I hold the view that the history of the world, ideologically, can best be understood as having taken what I consider an apocalyptic “turn” when the notion that Zero should be regarded as a number got the upper hand in constructive mathematics. Indeed, what Salomon Maimon said towards the end of the 18th century in the wake of Vieta and Kant sums up the implications of such “turns” for theology as well, especially once Zero is decreed to be a number: “In this, Man has become like God.” This, on its own terms, is anathema, if not the very abomination of desolation.

With respect to a more recent “turn” that is also closer to home,  there are those — parishioners, even friends and family! — who wonder why the clergy of our Diocese and Parish, and I in particular, presume to make highly charged moral, ethical and ideological pronouncements, unapologetically and unambiguously, not about mathematics but about contemporary religion and culture, calling into question, in specific and often personal terms, the Episcopal Church, its leaders, and many of its supporters. Here’s why: such forthrightness is neither more nor less imperative than is clarity of conviction about whether God or Man is the maker and measure of all things. It’s a salvation issue.

By now it has been more than two decades since six priests of the Episcopal Church (myself included) published The Baltimore Declaration seeking to engage in “dialogue” (sic) with those in the cat-bird seats of our national denomination about the spiritual jeopardy inherent in what William Murchison later catalogued as the Episcopal Church’s Mortal Follies; by now, considering our Declaration’s consignment to the footnotes of ecclesiastical history, it seems incontrovertible that the understanding of Christian faith, truth, identity and mission held by the Episcopal Church’s leadership simply cannot in any honest way be reconciled with what we Baltimore Declarationists affirmed as the “givens” of Biblical Revelation, of Created Nature, of Rational Wisdom, and of Orthodox Tradition. Theologically, Zero cannot be a number! But over the course of time — however covertly at the time — the movers and shakers of the Episcopal Church have not only allowed the very notion of such “givens” to vaporize but have in practice replaced them by a whole new set of assumptions and axioms, based on the theological equivalent of Zero counted as a number! This post-modern “turn” in theology has arisen not out of a renewed embrace of divine Truth and Law but, all too elatedly, of human experience and, putatively, entitlement.

Those who promote the current trajectory of the Episcopal Church are wont to claim for themselves the  status of modern-day “prophets” on behalf of the view that “the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice” — as well as towards enlightenment, egalitarianism and spiritual self-help. It is as if Émile Coué’s maxim about things getting better and better every day in every way (for those who say so!) could be applied to history on its own terms. Is this anything other than a recycling of the so-called Whig view of history, or for that matter the Pelagian view of Man? But have not such views been made more untenable than ever by the egregiously evil instances of Man’s inhumanity to Man perpetrated throughout the twentieth century? The actual biblical prophets of ancient Israel, of course, held exactly the opposite of a Whig view of history, although that hardly made them Tories!

Not only does the biblical Christian not suppose it is possible to be on what the Presiding Bishop (among others) likes to call “the right side of history” but, on the contrary, the biblical scriptures themselves witness to the “alternative” claims of a history contrary to history, an “alternative” history in the perspective of an “alternative” universe, sub specie aeternitatis. Saint Augustine said it best in The City of God: “In its pilgrim course [that is, historically] the heavenly City possesses the Peace of God by faith” (Book 19, chapter xvii).

Agnostic that he was, the late Oxford historian A.J.P. Taylor used to deride what he called the anti-Whig, or Tory, view of history as: scepticism about human nature; distrust of improvement; adamant adherence to traditional institutions; and nostalgic preference for the past over the future. Such, of course, is hardly an any more biblical view than is Whiggery! Yet the biblical Christian does know that history as such has in itself no “right” and “wrong” sides, that its “arc” does not bend of its own accord in any direction but that of hell, that human beings have no capacity to heal or save history from itself (rather, the contrary), and that only when history’s dramatis personae are “in Christ” and conduct its affairs “by faith” does its pilgrim course reflect Divine Providence and, proleptically, the Peace of God.

Zero ain’t no number in the trigonometry of the relationship between what C.S. Lewis called “Time and Beyond Time” — the intersection of eternity with history.

Why must the current leadership of the Episcopal Church be reproved for heresy and apostasy? Can’t we all just get along, agree to differ, maybe even reconcile? Why must it be forthrightly attested that the attempts (however well-intentioned on the part of the Archbishop of Canterbury and others) at “reconciliation” between those with conflicting views about such issues as sexuality, gender, and authority — attempts undertaken on the basis of therapeutic techniques just as subjective and fallacious as constructive mathematics! — are diabolically rather than divinely inspired? Why can’t Zero be a number?

The biblical, historical, and mathematical answers to such questions are all of a piece. “Reconciliation” on human terms was a trick tried by Pontius Pilate long before either Vieta or Kant, Neville Chamberlain or Justin Welby, tried playing similar tricks. The outcome in any and every case of such legerdemain, whether mathematical, political or theological, is bound to be the same: hellish, not heavenly.

In the history of epistemology, Kant’s trick is called the transcendental turn. In theological and ecclesiastical history, the current fashion might be called the experiential turn. Both are reminiscent of that primordial first turn away from God in the Garden.

Yet the good news is this: Jesus, Logos Himself, the very One whose unique and universal ability to “turn” alienation into atonement is denied by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, accomplished that very thing, that once-for-all “turn” two millennia ago, transforming the Place of a Skull and the tombs of many skulls into the womb of the New Israel, the burnt Garden and splintered Tree into a new Heaven and a new Earth, the bruised and buried Body into the eternal Second Adam, and, by God’s own sovereign will alone, the black hole of our human holocaust into the infinity of God’s own plenitude. Within less than half a dozen generations, the “Church Father” Irenaeus put it this way about that double “turn” of Cradle and Cross:   “God became as we are that we might become as God is.”

Jesus doesn’t need you or me or Katharine Jefferts Schori to heal the world on the basis of the ancient pagan notion (disingenuously adopted by the Presiding Bishop) that it is the Body of God! Jesus Himself, the true Body of God, has — for all Man’s inhumanity to Man — already transformed the outcome of the world’s history at Golgotha and indeed from before the foundation of the world itself. Such is the calculus of the Logos of eternity — in which there is no “place” for Zero as any kind of number!

Collect for Trinity Sunday

Almighty and everlasting God, who hast given unto us thy servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of thy Divine Majesty to worship the Unity: We beseech thee that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see thee in thy one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit livest and reignest, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Beauty of Holiness: The Name that is Dear

Texts: Isaiah 49:1-7, Corinthians 1: 1-9

“The holy one of Israel has chosen you” [Is. 49:7] says the Lord to the reluctant Prophet. “The grace of God was given you in Christ Jesus” [I Cor. 1:4] says the Apostle to the recalcitrant Corinthians.

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” What a timely Epiphanytide hymn by J.S.B. Monsell — sung to that supernal tune Was Lebet. Many thanks to our choirmaster and choir who brought it back from their overseas trip this past summer! In both words and music it expresses the ethos of that timeless phrase of the Psalmist [Ps. 29:2, Ps. 96:9] which has become such a watchword here at Saint Andrew’s: “Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” And surely the Lord will accept it for the sake of (as our hymn puts it) “the Name that is dear.”

In effect, this is the very meaning and message of the Covenant between God and Man — Israel’s Covenant with Yahweh; indeed, through Israel, the Creator-God’s Covenant with the whole world which he made.

The truth of the matter is that any offering of ours to Him can be nothing more or other than reverence, deference, dependence: sheer worship. In turn, what might be called God’s own offering, as He looks upon us, is to receive our worship by over-looking our sin and transforming our sorrow. When our own best intentions and efforts fall short, as they must, all we can say of them and of ourselves is: they are nothing worth; we are but unprofitable servants. Yet He accepts us just as we are, spiritually naked, empty; and He both clothes and fills us with Himself.

In the words of the Prophet, we too say: “I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God” [Is. 49:4].

Amazingly, God says: “I have chosen you.”

Louise Cowan, that native Fort Worthian who for lo! these many years has been the doyenne of the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture, recently alluded to this mystery of God and Man in biblical perspective by reference to “the poetry of prophecy” — a phrase apt enough for the Prophet and the Psalmist alike. But for the Apostle Paul, the prophetic meaning — the poetic message — is more specific, more personal. It uniquely has to do with what our hymn writer called “the Name that is dear” — the Name of Jesus, Messiah, Savior, Emmanuel, God-with-us, Himself the Holy One Incarnate and made Manifest.

The life and death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Jew, in human flesh and blood, fulfilled — in all its scandalous particularly — God’s claim upon us, upon you and me and upon the whole world, Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free, black and white, heterosexual and homosexual: the claim of the Holy One upon us un-holy ones, sinners all yet called to be His saints.

The Prophet Isaiah foretold it, the God-Man provided for it, the Apostle Paul spelled it out: they are saints “who in every place call on the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours” [I Cor. 1:2]. Jesus’ Name is uniquely “dear” because it is the only one that can “sanctify” and “sustain us guiltless” — despite what actually is our guilt, we are guiltless in Him!

Recently, at a Convocation of The University of the South in Sewanee — at which she received a long-overdue honorary doctorate from that institution — Louise Cowan, speaking of prophecy as poetry, and quoting her own late teachers Donald Davidson and Allen Tate, called it both Mankind’s “truest memory” and Mankind’s “imagined [or we might say: prophetically envisioned] future” — transcending and subsuming alike the rapacity of Man without God and the ravages of time unredeemed.

She quoted, too, William Faulkner, who like St. Paul knew that even as we go, even in the process of being healed of our own un-holiness, we can only proceed in this life while still bearing what Faulkner called the “encumbrance” of our self-made troubles, our self-inflicted wounds, our sin. (Was the Book of Romans not perhaps an implicit sub-text in everything that Faulkner wrote?) We can never, of ourselves, wipe the slate clean.

In all of this, Hebrew prophecy and Christian poetry surely concur. On the other hand, this is precisely what the self-proclaiming false prophets always get wrong — whether in apostate Israel millennia ago or the apostate leadership of the Episcopal Church today! That is why even the holy city of Jerusalem and its Temple had to be brought low, so that the alpha and omega of all things could expose the vanity and futility of human (not least, religious) presumption, pride and possessiveness. “That He may raise, the Lord throws down,” said that priest-poet John Donne.

But consider (as condensed into an eight-sentence précis of Isaiah!) what God Himself says: “I am your holy one.” “I created you.” “I have redeemed you.” “I alone uphold you.” ” I say to you: fear not.” “You are mine.” “I have chosen you.” “I have made you a covenant to all the world.”

Maybe this is what that visionary pre-Victorian poet-prophet William Blake meant by “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” in which Isaiah and Ezekiel dine with Blake, in a kind of foretaste of the Messianic banquet, and he asks them how they can “so roundly [claim] that God Himself spoke to them.” Isaiah answers: “I was persuaded and remain confirm’d that the voice of honest indignation is the voice of God. I cared not for the consequences, but wrote.” Indeed, such honest, or holy, indignation is preveniently part and parcel of salvation and transformation!

Towards what is such indignation rightly directed? Sin, therefore self.  As G.K. Chesterton (who understood his better than Blake) wrote, when asked by The Times what was wrong with the world: “Dear sir, I am.”

Into the morass, or (rather) abyss, of human presumption, Grace comes!

In this year of our Lord 2014, Saint Andrew’s is a voice of honest indignation in the wake of a society, a world, a church forgetful and neglectful of the Rock from which we were hewn. Like Louise Cowan reminding Sewanee of its “truest” roots and “imagined” destiny, Saint Andrew’s knows that true religion and virtue — reflective of prophecy that is poetry, and holiness that is beauty itself — can never be something either merely private or merely political, but is, rather, personal, embodied and manifested in the One whose Name is “dear” like none other — even Jesus Christ Himself.

“O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”

Teaching Without a Seatbelt!

Adapted by Dean William McKeachie from an article by Clive Aslet

God moves in a mysterious — and often counter-intuitive — way. That’s true throughout the biblical narrative — think of Abraham and Isaac; think of Saul of Tarsus! — and it can be equally true today. Certainly it was true of my own conversion to Christ as a callow teenager. The equivalent of John the Baptist in my life, preparing me to receive the Gospel, was a brilliant, passionate, frequently ferocious pedagogue at my school in England. Whether he himself was a believer, I never knew. What I do know is that, through the ‘wrath’ of his teaching technique to arouse his pupils out of our complacency, he prepared in the desert of my immaturity a mind and heart ready to receive the grace of the living, loving, liberating Lord. (Heavens! How he would have lambasted me for such lazy alliteration!) Frank Miles died this year, in his tenth decade; here is a colorfully accurate memoir of him by another of his protégés.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         William McKeachie

A fortnight ago I heard that the English master who taught me at school, the great Frank Miles, had died, aged 92.

Although he was a teaching giant, and recognised as such by former pupils and colleagues, there is barely a mention of him on the internet. That is exactly as he would have wanted it: modern communication methods were not for him. He only just tolerated the telephone; a telephone which rang at an inopportune moment, could easily be thrown out of the window. And that was in the Sixties, when landlines were cherished. He would have despised the internet and the cult of self-publicity that it has spawned. He was, in many ways, a very private man. But when he was teaching, Frank made his uncompromising views extremely plain. The classroom was his theatre. His performances were, in the true sense of the word, awesome — he held us spellbound.

By the time I arrived, he had already been teaching for around 20 years, all of them at King’s College School, Wimbledon. He barely had to do anything to keep order. His arrival, always after we had gathered for class — his auburn hair neatly brushed, blue blazer spotless, brogues gleaming — caused us all to fall silent, instantly. It was always the same entrance.

Frank’s put-downs were annihilating. No boy whose formative years were exposed to the onslaught of that slightly world-weary light tenor voice could ever forget it. At Frank’s funeral this week, several of us confessed that we could hear it still, on a daily basis. His values were austere and Olympian. I still feel guilty when I read novels by Anthony Trollope, whom Frank witheringly condemned as a hack writer.

He was highly opinionated and brooked little dissent from those who disagreed with him. By today’s standards he was deeply politically incorrect and had precious little time for rules and regulations.

In fact, in the modern bureaucratic world he would be the teaching establishment’s worst nightmare.

Yet he was a truly inspirational teacher who held his class in rapt attention. Because, above all, he had a complete passion not only for his subject but also for education. What was most important to him was his pupils’ intellectual grasp of English, and he was not afraid to tell his charges when they were failing to reach his high standards.

He would have been utterly dismayed by so much of today’s teaching orthodoxy of low expectations and equality of achievement, a culture in which no pupil can be seen to fail.

Aside from his brilliance as a teacher, all of us who remember him, dwell on the same things. The handkerchief produced for dramatic effect, before a flamboyant swipe of his nose. His spontaneous generosity: ‘Take mine,’ he once said to a boy who was without a writing implement, giving him a silver propelling pencil, adding, ‘You can keep that.’ He gave me the complete works of Chaucer.

It wasn’t unknown for him to lend his car, a Rover, which was considered quite a racy vehicle at the time, to pupils who held driving licences. That might appear reckless in the extreme, but to us it seemed to epitomise his cavalier contempt for ordinary rules. Frank was so furious at having to wear a seatbelt when the law requiring drivers to do so came in that he abandoned his car for a time.

All of Frank’s career was spent at KCS, as we called the school, and he lived next door to it in a handsome villa called Gothic Lodge. The flat below his was occupied by Sir Michael Havers, the Attorney General, and we were all thrilled when a Gothic police box was erected outside the front door for security in those days when the IRA was a serious threat.

In 1981, the IRA succeeded in evading the policeman by going round the back. That evening, Frank went to bed early after, inevitably, a tiring marking session, and half an hour later a bomb went off. If he had still been sitting next to the window, marking, it would have taken his head off.

The next morning, his set were amazed to find that Frank was behind his desk as they filed into the classroom. From under the desk he produced a jeroboam of champagne, to toast his survival.

Typically, he wanted to enjoy this offering of thanks with his pupils, not his colleagues or friends.

Once in a while, a gang of us would be invited to dinner. The meal and the wine would be sumptuous and some boys overindulged, with the usual consequences. I don’t think anyone was actually ill beside the antique mahogany furniture, but Frank would not have shown the least surprise. He was a stoic, on whom the foibles of the world could have no effect. Of course, he was not without foibles himself.

Extraordinary words became embedded in our young lexicon. I shall never forget Frank chalking onto the blackboard a construction that began with ‘eschatological’ (it means, pertaining to the end of the world), which was not to be confused with ‘scatological’ (a preoccupation with filth), which meant the same as ‘coprological’ and ‘cloacal’, from cloaca… ‘the Latin for sewer, d’you see?’ he would say.

Other recruits to our vocabulary were contumacious (wilfully disobedient), banausic (utilitarian), excoriate (verbally flay), otiose (indolent or useless), nimiety (superfluity), execrable (wretched), meretricious (whorish), and many more.

There were more than half a dozen professors of English and several other university academics at his funeral. Their careers are, in part, a testament to their teacher. In the pub afterwards, we discussed — just as we might have done at school — the never-ending question: who was Frank?

He once told me how lucky I was to come from a loving family. He had not got on with his father. Other than that, his childhood — let alone his emotional life — was, to us, a complete blank.  He lived for his pupils. If other relationships had once existed, nobody knew about them.

He had been a captain during the Second World War, and once remarked on a pillbox he had built on Leith Hill in Surrey; and he had served in India and Persia. The war had broken out as he left school, and he went straight into the Army. After 1945 he experienced an intellectual awakening at Cambridge, where he studied under the austere and godlike literary critic F.R. Leavis.

These were the years of postwar reconstruction; a time for serious men who could rebuild the world as a better place. Leavis made the study of English literature serious; his method was detailed analysis of the texts. Armed with Leavis’s formidable prejudices, Frank appeared at King’s College, Wimbledon — and never left.

I may have given the impression that the school was privileged. So it was. It was unashamedly academic.

But Frank would have taught anyone who showed a spark of aptitude for his subject — as well as our top set, he taught the bottom set on principle, determined to raise standards. He was particularly pleased when a boy who had previously been written off could be raised to achieve spectacular results.

Although he despised snobbery and money, he could fairly be called an elitist — but only in the sense that he expected the best from every boy he taught, whatever their background or potential.

I was lucky to come under the eye of a classroom colossus. Sadly, Frank did not find relationships outside the classroom easy. He became a recluse in his last decade and died in a bare council flat.

And the tragedy is that I never told him how much he influenced my life — and that of so many others.

Clive Aslet is Editor at Large of Country Life.

This memoir is excerpted from the Mail Online.