Our brother traces the men who were used by God to shape and mold his life.
Reality of Grace
There was always a special stillness as the believers met to break bread on a Lord’s day morning in Bleary Gospel Hall, 3 miles from Lurgan, N. Ireland. It was a stillness that subdued the normally boisterous boys sitting as observers in the rear of the hall. As brother followed brother in thanksgiving that merged into worship, it was clear that the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ was a reality to every saint. One brother, in particular, would regularly engage my attention as I watched tears roll silently down his face. Then as Uncle Bob (he was actually a cousin to my father) rose to his feet to pour out his heart to God in thanksgiving with trembling lip, even I, an unsaved teenager, felt that the next hymn would be:
“See from His head, His hands, His feet
Sorrow and love flow mingled down.
Did ere such love and sorrow meet
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?”
And it often was the very next hymn!
Sixty years have come and gone yet this memory lends substance to the last time this gracious brother spoke to me across a hospital ward within hours of his home-call. He whispered, yet every head turned to listen as he commanded, “Jim, live for God!” This dear brother conveyed the reality of divine Grace.
Reality of Eternity
When Mr. Harold Paisley and Mr. Joe Poots began gospel meetings in a little hut in Dollingstown, two miles from Lurgan, N. Ireland, an older cousin persuaded me to miss the cinema and ride those miles on a wet October night to hear the gospel. Reluctantly, I went. I had heard the gospel from infancy yet that first meeting in that little hut lit by oil lamps brought impressions of eternity that made heaven and hell real to my soul. Nightly we sang truth that echoed in the soul on the dark homeward ride.
“Eternity time soon will end.
Its fleeting moment pass away
h sinner say where wilt thou spend
Eternity’s unchanging day?
Shalt thou the hopeless horror see
Of Hell for all eternity?”
Impressions of passionate preaching, persistent prayer, and perilous procrastination would deepen in the heart until, months later, 5th August 1946, in a little bedroom in Lurgan, these issues of sin, salvation and eternity were settled when I grasped the personal aspect of the cross through the simple words– “CHRIST DIED FOR ME.” The gladness was real, the peace was real, the assurance was real enough to sing:
“The torment and the fire,
Mine eyes shall never see.
I was a guilty sinner
But Jesus died for me!”
I am so glad my life was touched for eternity!
Reality of Service
A saved young man, baptized and in assembly fellowship for some months and seeking divine guidance for his life, sat in the back of the balcony at the Easter Conference in the Grovenor Hall, Belfast. Mr.Hawthorne Bailey moved tremblingly to the rostrum and spoke for ten minutes – yet he held the large company of several thousand believers in stillness in the presence of God. He cited one verse of Scripture: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” (Matt 8:20), and he quoted the verse of a hymn
“His dying crimson as a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree
And I am dead to all the globe
And all the globe is dead to me.”
I was deeply touched with the reality of service that demanded a lifetime of commitment to Christ and the claim of His Cross. That pathway led to Malaya (as it then was) and the preaching of the Gospel over the past fifty years.
With Job (29:21) I would confess “For the hand of God hath touched me” but He used men to do it – with reality, in grace, for eternity and in the responsibility of service.