Tribute: Oswald MacLeod (1)

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(August 20, 1902 – January 28, 2002)

“He was a good man” (Acts 11:24)

For this generation, the words “esteemed and beloved brother” will be inseparably associated with Mr. Oswald L. MacLeod. The dignity of his bearing, his behavior, and his handling of the Word of God made him great in our estimation.

Unadorned simplicity, occasional eloquence, and a clear focus on mans ruin and Gods remedy marked his gospel preaching. The weight of his preaching, a model to be perpetuated, was our link with revered men of the past.

It is a privilege to be among those whom the Lord saved through the preaching of this noble servant of Christ. The Lord used his wise and faithful preaching in the salvation of many. Most assembly believers in the eastern half of North American can scarcely remember seasons of conferences without his steadying presence and edifying ministry. His broad grasp of Scriptures, varied subjects, clear presentations of the truth he loved, and consistent strengthening of “the things that remain” built into hearts and assemblies a wealth that only the Judgment Seat of Christ can properly evaluate.

But above all, “he was a good man,” a man of sterling character. His sense of humor, varied interests, and sometimes predictable habits or sayings were reminders that he was just a man. The more closely we knew him, the more we admired and appreciated him. Young and old alike came to know that he was exactly what he appeared to be, unassuming, genuine, and godly. His gentleness, considerate kindness, warmth, and integrity made him welcome in hearts and homes across the continent. In fact, during his visit to Northern Ireland in 1991, his manner, age, and ministry produced such a warm display of Irish affection and respect that he spoke of it with appreciation for the rest of his life.

Good character touches relationships with both God and man. He always gave needed words of counsel with a gentleness and simplicity that made them irresistible. Characteristically, he was first to appear by the side of those in trial. Those who strayed experienced his care and easily approached him for help. One example illustrates his style. For years, his trips through Virginia included a visit to Bob Young, whose parents had welcomed him to Bryn Mawr when he arrived in the 1920s. Bob and his wife were not in assembly fellowship, but he also visited them every day in prayer, even through the time of Bobs retirement, sickness, and his wifes widowhood and death.

During his first wife Sarah Janes sickness, he cooked and tenderly cared for her, admirably managing home duties. Whether in the dark days following her homecall or in the joys of life, whether in busy labors, fruitful seasons, or nights of empty nets, whether on the conference platform or pruning fruit trees in his backyard, he was the same exemplary Christian gentleman.

His devotion to the Lord made him a careful student of Scripture. He usually began a gospel series by extolling the Saviors beauties, love, and sufferings on the cross. He loved to hear others exalt Christ in ministry and enjoyed doing so himself. Among his most memorable messages were those about heaven, the coming of the Lord, the glories of Christ, and “the things most surely believed among us.”

For the most part, he retained his remarkable memory to the last. Suffering several strokes and some limitation in his speech, he spent his last four years appreciating his wife, Gertrudes, loving care. Just after she called him to lunch on January 28, the Lord suddenly called him home. On January 31 in Hickory, I had the privilege of sharing the funeral service with three men from the assembly there: Fred Dancy, whose parents were Mr. MacLeods first contact in North Carolina and the beginning of the assembly he saw planted in Hickory; John Setzer who often worked with Mr. MacLeod in that area; and Mr. MacLeods grandson, Bob, an overseer in the assembly. Inclement weather in Michigan hindered his close friend Norman Crawford, who had a special place of esteem in Mr. MacLeods heart, from speaking at this service.

William Oliver, whose family enjoyed a long association with Mr. MacLeod, James N. Smith, another close companion and fellow-laborer, Mr. MacLeods grandson Brent, and I shared the second service two days later in Bryn Mawr, where he began 69 years of active full-time gospel service. Eugene Higgins spoke at the grave, referring to Mr. MacLeod as the Abraham Lincoln of preachers for his build, humility, wit, wisdom, respect, and accomplishments.

Through his homecall, many lost a dear friend. The work of God lost a tremendous asset. Remembering his example, we have the Scriptures encouragement, “Whose faith follow.” He is home where he longed to be. He is worthy of – and will have – a better tribute than ours. Until we are caught up together, we will miss you, beloved and esteemed brother, mentor, friend, and father.