Mr W.E. Vine's name is well known today mainly because of
the books he wrote between sixty and ninety years ago. Some of them now are out
of print. but others are regularly reprinted to meet the continuing demand for
them. Foremost among these is probably his Expository Dictionary of New
Testament Words an invaluable help to all who would seriously study the
Scriptures. From his scholarship and expertise in ancient languages has come a
legacy of spiritual blessing for succeeding generations of believers.
He was born in Blandford, Dorset. His father had a boarding school there which two years later transferred to Exeter. It was in that town that W.E. Vine was saved through the teaching and influence of his parents. At the age of fourteen he was baptised and received into the fellowship of the assembly which met in Fore Street, Exeter.
His first job as a young man was teaching in his fathers school, but from there he moved to Aberystwyth to study at the University College of Wales, preparing for a degree from London University. He obtained the degree of B.A. with honours in classics, then M.A. in 1906. This laid the foundation for the substantial benefits he would pass others.
He married Miss Pheobe Baxendale in Manchester in 1899. She became a true help meet to him, an ideal companion, and later a faithful nurse when pain and weakness dogged his life. The early years of their married life were spent in Exeter where he was assistant headmaster of the school which had been part of his upbringing.
Mr and Mrs Vine had a family of five children. Although a busy man, with both profesional and spiritual comittments occupyin most of his day, he always found time to spend with his growing family. He regularly shared their games, and played the piano and sang with them of an evening. He helped them to enjoy the adventures of outdoor pursuits, including walking in the country where he enjoyed pointing out the wonders of Gods creation, and rowing, sailing, and swimming at the seaside. Once he rescued three boys from drowning in a choppy sea. He was himself very fit and active until heart trouble made itself felt around the age of fifty-five. His love for children and young people extended far beyond his own family to those whom he influenced through Sunday School and Bible Class. He knew how to be full of fun in a natural way, and how to turn the conversation to serious spiritual matters.
At this time he also became well known as a preacher of the gospel and a teacher of the Scriptures in and around Exeter. At the end of 1909 he received an invitation to join in the work of Echoes of Service at their office at Widcombe Crescent, Bath. After much prayer and seeing the Lords overruling in his circumstances, he agreed to accept this work, and first of all commuted (perhaps this word wasnt very common then!) between Exeter and Bath. In 1911 the family moved and took up residence at 9 Widcombe Crescent. This was to be the centre of his labours for the rest of his life, and, apart from his written ministry, became the sphere where his godly influence was most felt, and which extended around the world.
His work with Echoes of Service was marked by thoroughness and diligence. He grasped the central purpose of missionary work and practised and taught it. He called it the "Spirit of Gods one and only code" and assiduously resisted any departure from the New Testament pattern of service. He wrote: "In the mind of God the grand ultimate object of missionary activity is the planting of churches.. The Head of the church who gave His instructions to His Apostles.. .on record for us in the Scriptures, gave therein a body of truth and principles adapted to every age, generation and condition. The pattern is complete, and exhibits the divine wisdom in every part. Human tampering has only marred it in its working... It is incumbent upon all who profess the Christian faith to respect the plainly revealed intentions of the Head of the church, instead of burdening it with doctrines and regulations of human fabrication".
He has left on record his clear perception of the "Qualifications for Service at Home and Abroad". The key thing is to be "approved unto God" - not permission from any committee, but tested and proved by God. He highlights the importance of the local church as the divinely appointed training ground for service, and the value of collaboration with a senior worker; and, in addition, "tactful civility, politeness and Christian courtesy.. .and godliness and moral fibre". Such wisdom was applied wherever he could in the promoting of missionary endeavour.
The demands of the work grew. In 1946 he was involved in correspondence with about 1,000 missionaries in all parts of the world every few weeks. Orderly planning and concentrated attention enabled him to accomplish so much, but inevitably work extended into his home life and into his holidays - a secretary often accompanied him! In addition he kept up his writing for magazines and periodicals, and for his more substantial works, as well as his preaching, teaching and pastoral work in the local assembly.
As a respected and influential elder he made a great impression in the local assembly meeting in Manvers Hall, Bath, which then had over 250 believers in fellowship. For nearly forty years he showed himself to be a true shepherd. He was nearly always first to arrive on Lords Day mornings to be able to greet all the believers with a sunny smile and appropriate words of grace. He had a formidable memory for people and the relevant details of their concerns and circumstances. His reverent approach to God in worship, his edifying ministry of teaching and exhortation made their mark. He loved to include a word to the children in his preaching after the Breaking of Bread. His tenderness towards babies was well known. If a baby cried in a meeting he would tell the mother not to take it out. He said its little cry was music, and it didnt trouble the Lord!
He was a diligent visitor of the sick and needy, doing this when he himself was often quite ill. He brought informed prayer requests to his assembly prayer meeting as a result. his own attitude to public prayer is worth repeating - he deplored what he termed protracted, expository, and repetitive prayers, colloquial forms of praying, and especially prayers of innuendo. He blamed the "dullness" of prayer meetings on all these types of prayer, and said that we should have meetings for prayer rather than prayer meetings! It is on record that his own private prayers occupied from 6 am to 7 am each day.
He taught and encouraged others to develop spiritual gifts. He gave very pertinent advice to would-be preachers, encouraging good habits first for the public reading of the Scriptures, and for the delivery of the message from God. He had 23 hints in all, ranging from "Do not imitate others" to "Dont put your hands in your pockets". He also especially enjoyed conducting Greek classes which enabled many of very different educational backgrounds to understand the Greek New Testament.
The home of Mr and Mrs Vine was very much open to visitors. During war years many servicemen and women found love and care when they needed it, and many a problem was shared and prayed over in that home.
Mr Vines health began to deteriorate in 1927, when heart disease was diagnosed. He nevertheless worked on at his appointed tasks with courage for another 22 years, although he had several episodes of unconsciousness and continual weakness. His Expository Dictionary, first published in four parts, was completed in 1940. To the last day of his life he was active in the service of others, spending it in prayer, dictating letters, going into the town to do some business, and resting a while because of the weakness he felt. Then he finished his day by reading in bed from his Hebrew Bible, and the Lord called him home.
It is not possible to comment adequately here on his many writings, ranging from short articles to major scholarly works. Those better qualified to assess their academic worth have noted how Mr Vines mastery of the ancient languages was accurate, up to date, and yet unobtrusive. His writing style was precise yet straightforward, forceful yet simple, always giving attention to the exact meaning of words in English as well as Greek - a necessity for true understanding and effective communication. From his ripe learning and years of hard work has come material which has helped many of the Lords people to enjoy the riches of Holy Scripture. To know something of the man behind these works makes them all the more valued.
Home | Links | Writings | Biography