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First Published 1912


Retyped 1997

by R.M. Payne

1 Kenilworth Avenue







IT is rather more than twenty-eight years since I confessed Jesus as the Son of God and became a member of the Church at Armadale. During that period I have known the author of this book as the evangelist of the churches in the Slamannan district. The first few years of our acquaintance recall very pleasant intercourse, and as the years passed by the ties of friendship grew stronger. I presume it is because of that long association with him that I have been asked to write a prefatory note to his work.
Our author's life and work have been so varied, abounding with interesting incidents, that it must be gratifying to many of his friends that he has been persuaded to make some selections and record them as he has done. When, as we walked together or sat by the fireside, he related some of his experiences, we have been delighted and helped in many ways. Because such incidents as were related in these talks were beneficial to us, we knew they would also be of use to others if written in a book. When Mr. Anderson had nearly completed his task I happened to be in a company of brethren outside the Slamannan district to which he was telling some things that had happened in his life, and one of the number said, "Why do you not put in writing some of these things?" It was a pleasing surprise to know that he had already done so. That is by no means a solitary instance shewing that such a book, as has been produced, would be much appreciated. Those who have known the author personally will expect that cold type cannot express the vivid, stirring incidents as impressively as the charming human voice, and a remarkably lucid tongue. Yet facts and truths are stated with that originality characteristic of the preacher. In few words he conveys his thoughts with precision and force.
Many of the lessons we learn are derived from the experiences of others, and a perusal of his book contains valuable lessons, especially for young Christians. The need for having a clear and firm hold of the fundamental truths of Christianity is apparent when error assails the citadel of truth; and nothing but unwavering confidence in the Oracles of the Living God can give the courage to defend the truth. In addition to a sound faith and knowledge of truth, an acquaintance with the various kinds of religious errors is absolutely necessary for those who would preach the gospel successfully. The example of Mr. Anderson meeting different religious people so frequently is calculated to fix that upon the reader's mind. It has been said, "To know the disease is half the cure;" and to know well the position of those who are in error, gives one a great advantage in successfully meeting an opponent. Much of this work has reference to public debates, and few men have been called upon to defend what the Scriptures teach as often as he has had to do. Indeed, some may think the references to these are numerous enough, but in relating incidents in a life such as his it could hardly be otherwise. If results justify the means, then these discussions have been salutary to the churches of Christ. Sometimes a religious body would propound its tenets with such zeal with some members of the churches would be wavering, but when the unscripturalness of their teaching was exposed without any ambiguity, the result was that the churches had rest from their opponents.
As a defender of the faith we have one side of his life. There are a few references to his conversations with persons as he happened to meet with them. This part of his life - and a very useful part too - has been sparingly given. When facing an opponent on the public platform he appears as a strong, courageous, unrelenting defender of truth, and some might think there was an absence of gentleness and kindness in his nature. Had more of his personal talks with individuals enquiring for the right way of the Lord been given, these traits of character would have become more apparent to the reader; but to have elaborated his conversations with such, would have required another book or made the present one too large. The reader will learn even from the few personal conversations with individuals that are recorded, that the author was both cautious and kind to the utmost with honest, anxious inquirers after truth.
The testimony given at the close of such an active public life is encouraging to those who stand with "sword and trowel" in hand, as in the days of Nehemiah. Aggressive and defensive work have to be done, and our author's example will stimulate to do both. There is a clear ring of confidence as to the sufficiency and certainty of the Scriptures that corresponds with Paul's words - "I am not ashamed of the gospel" - "I know whom I have believed." Love to the Lord Jesus and a deep, sincere reverence for His will as supreme are the great guiding principles of his life. These shine out in the experiences recorded, and if, in a measure, these elevating and purifying motives are strengthened in those who read this book, then the author's desire will be obtained - the good of believers in Jesus and the glory of God.
Whitburn, Oct. 1912.
AS a committee appointed by Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland co-operating for evangelistic purposes, with instructions to publish tracts, pamphlets or books likely to be useful in our work, we have been pleased to publish this volume, produced in the way and manner which the esteemed author explains in his preface. The suggestion to publish it came to us after it was written, so that the writing of it was not in any way influenced by us; or by any aim on Mr. Anderson's part at rendering it suitable for us to publish. We are aware that several things are discussed in it which are left open questions in our churches. As Mr. Anderson himself indicates about one of them, our objection is to making (as some do) any view on such matters, essential to church fellowship. But the prominence of discussions about some of these questions did not seem to preclude our publishing the book; even here there is so much well said of essential matters, and so much good sense exhibited in dealing with the questions themselves, that we deem the narrative in such parts also well calculated to serve a useful end. Then the general position we take in regard to the Gospel and its conditions, the influence and help of the Holy Spirit, Christian Union, the Bible, and other subjects, and his exposure of errors, are all alike stated with the author's incisive clearness. It is hoped, also, that the form of the book - the autobiography of an evangelist of striking personality, exceptional ability, and genuine piety, - its crisp, easy, conversational style, and occasional touches of quaint humour, will lead to its important Scriptural truth being read and considered with pleasure and profit.


(As in the original)
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FREQUENTLY of late I have been asked by friends to commit some things to writing. Those who have spoken to me have given in substance the same reason, this being to the effect that they had often been helped by me as to the meaning of a portion of Scripture, or how to support and defend a truth, or how to oppose an error which was being pressed upon them. As a rule they have added something like this: "You are getting old now, you will not be able to help us in this respect much longer, you should commit some things to writing - they might be useful to us when you are gone from us."
It is very hard for me to decide whether I should take no notice of this suggestion or whether I should try to some extent to comply with it. The book which my friends seem to desire would be largely an account of my experience - what I have required to say and do in connection with preaching the Gospel of Christ, helping its friends and opposing its foes. This would be a big and strange book. I could not write all, and I may not be able to make the best selections. Still, in deference to the wishes of my friends, I feel inclined to jot down some things and see what shape they take.
Should those who do not know me read what I write, they may consider it presumption in a man like me writing anything in book form. I have a good deal of sympathy with this opinion, and if blame there be in this respect my friends must at least share it. I have never posed as a scholar; I have ever spoken as a common man to common men. But if in that sphere my tongue has been in some degree useful, it is not impossible that my pen may be of some use to the same class.
I do not profess to have a profound knowledge of anything. My aim has always been to be plain and practical. Hence, I have a deep conviction that any ordinary man who adopts the principles which have governed my life may, even with very little help, equal or surpass anything which has been accomplished my me.
Some friends have urged that, if I write, the book should take the shape of the story of my life. I have much the same trouble with that suggestion; I have had a long and varied life. I could not write all the particulars of it if I would, and I have no wish to write a big book. Still, I may try to blend this suggestion with the foregoing, that is, give an outline of my life and try to work some useful information into it.
I WAS born in the village of Clarkston, near Airdrie, on November 23rd, 1837. My father served his apprenticeship for a papermaker in Clarkston Paper Mill, and my mother was employed in that same mill. Not long after my father's time was out, machinery made the trade not worth following, and as far back as I can remember he was employed about mines. When I first remember, he was a colliery engine-man in connection with Wilsontown Ironworks. These works stopped when I was quite a small boy, and we moved near to Coatbridge. But I need not trace our movements, enough to say that my life was the ordinary life of a boy in a mining village of seventy years ago. There was no compulsory education then. My father's education was a good bit above the average. He was generally calm and always fair. My mother was anxious that I should speak the truth and do the right thing; but she would sometimes punish one for doing a thing and then inquire into why that thing was done. If one had anything to say for oneself, father would hear it in the first place. He made it easy for a boy to speak the truth to him. From my early teens onwards, my father and I were more like brothers than father and son. I went to school for some time, but I never wrote a line nor figured a sum in a day-school. I was helped by evening-schools at two different places.
When I was seven or eight years of age, miners' wages rose to five shillings per day. That was considered a big wage then, and my father took advantage of it and went underground. The Miners' Union of those days put no limit upon the hours which you might work in a day, but they put a limit upon the wage - no man was allowed to earn more than five shillings in a day. But if a miner had a young boy, and took the boy to work with him, he was allowed, if he was able to earn it, so much more, according to the age of the boy. I was not quite ten years of age when my father took me to work with him. This allowed father, if he was able, to earn one-fourth more in the day; and he was generally able, for he was a good workman. I had to be there, but, at first, I was not pushed at all, nor put to do anything that was too heavy for me; still, the heavy work came soon enough. Circumstances brought me a good deal into contact with pit engines, as well as underground work, and I grew up with a fair knowledge of both; so that I was sometimes above ground and sometimes below.
As I passed into my teens I became fonder of reading, and sometimes gave attention to some useful branches of information, arithmetic receiving more consideration than any other thing. But I moved as fancy led me, and I made no systematic attempt to improve my education until I was verging upon manhood.
I was about twenty years of age when I began to think seriously about religion. I was then living in Cumberland in the neighbourhood of Cleator Moor. I was engine-driver at an iron-ore pit near the village of Cleator. I cannot give any one reason for my attention being more seriously called to religion that it had ever been before. I was, upon the whole, doing more thinking than I had ever done before. I was also trying to put my efforts at self-improvement into some shape. I suppose that it would hardly do to speak of my efforts in those days as studies. About that time The Student's Manual, by John Todd, fell into my hands. I was the better for that book; it helped me to put method into my work. When reading that manual one day, I came upon the place where the author speaks of what was one of my bad habits, "As only one of a nest of vipers." I remember putting down the book and reasoning with myself after this fashion: "I have been pleased with that book up till now, but I cannot admit this statement. I know that my language is not what it should be sometimes, but that this is only one of a nest of vipers, though the only one hissing at present - I do not believe that." Still, when I turned my eyes within to try and vindicate my character against the charge made by the author, I only found that there was more truth in the statement than I had up to that time believed. That remark by John Todd deepened my conviction of sin. The more I thought, the more my conviction of sin grew. It was only reasonable that it should. I had always believed in God and in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And yet I had never spent a single day in the service of God. God has a right to hold the first place in our minds; I had lived without even trying to serve Him. I spent six very unhappy months at that time.
I deeply felt my need of pardon, but was not by any means clear as to how pardon was to be obtained. I sometimes went to gospel meetings conducted by the Methodists. I paid the best of attention, for I was interested. They made it plain enough that God loved you, that Christ died for you, and that it was the will of God that you should be saved; but every preacher that I listened to at that time conveyed the impression that you must get to know that you are saved by the Holy Spirit speaking peace to your soul. I prayed earnestly and often, but I could never persuade myself that the Holy Spirit spoke directly to me. I did not, therefore, find peace in that way. Praying was a new thing for me; I was not until then in the habit of praying before I went to bed; as long as I wished to keep clear of religion, I kept clear of the form. Though I could not find peace in that way, I did not doubt the honesty of those who thus professed to know or believe that their sins were forgiven. It never occurred to me to ask if this was the way in which people came to a knowledge of pardon in New Testament times. Nor did it ever occur to me to take the New Testament and try to think out the subject for myself. It appeared strange in after years that this did not occur to me. I had, before that time, mastered some hard tasks with nothing but the printed page to help me, and yet it never came into my mind to take the New Testament and study this subject for myself. I have found that a great many have had the same experience with regard to this point that I had. Years after the time about which I am now writing, I made the acquaintance of an old farmer who had a very extensive knowledge of the Scriptures, but he confessed to having the same experience to begin with that I had. He explained that circumstances inclined us to shrink from the study of the Gospel rather than take to it. He expressed himself after this manner: "A man has to be a better scholar than an ordinary working man before he goes to college, and there he has to pass years of study before he is considered fit to preach the Gospel. We therefore infer that the Gospel must be a very hard thing to understand when all this is required before a man can preach it. Then we naturally conclude that it is beyond the reach of the ordinary man, and, as a consequence, we do not try to understand it." I then asked him how be came to know so much about the Bible. In reply he said: "I owe all that to a farmer. In my younger days I was a country blacksmith. In the spring and summer evenings when farmers or their servants came to have work done, the blacksmith's shop was sometimes quite a lively place, and all kinds of things were discussed there. One evening preaching was the topic of conversation. A farmer was working the bellows for me, and during the conversation he said to me: 'James, I do not see much need for all this preaching.' 'Why not?' I asked. 'Because,' said the farmer, 'it was all preached before.' That remark by that farmer sent my mind out on a new track. I thought of the four Gospels, how much of these were taken up with what Jesus said to the people. The Acts of the Apostles contained much that was spoken by the Apostles to the people. Most of the Epistles were written to churches, to be read there. I then reasoned with myself, that if these Scriptures were at the first delivered to ordinary people for the purpose of instructing them, then, unless I was more stupid than an ordinary person I ought to be able to understand the most of these Scriptures. From that time I set to work to study the Scriptures with the conviction that if I paid earnest attention I might make something of them. But it was that farmer's remark which caused me to begin; I owe it all to him."
My experience at first was so far like the blacksmith's, and perhaps his reason why is as likely as any. Be that as it may, the fact remains that I did not begin to study the Gospel for myself when I should have done it.
While in this state of mind, inclining to the light and not seeing my way clearly, I left Cumberland and went back to Scotland to the town of Carluke in Lanarkshire. My father had been in Cumberland, but had returned to Scotland some considerable time before that. When I went back I found my father living a religious life and connected with the Evangelical Union. The minister was an earnest preacher, and he invited those who were anxious about salvation to call upon him on the Monday evenings. His preaching, like the preaching of our Methodist friends, left the impression upon me that I must get to know that I am saved by some direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon my spirit. After hearing this preacher for some weeks, I called on him one Monday evening. He asked me if I was saved. I said, "No, that is just what I am anxious about." He asked if I had been praying. I answered "Yes." "What have you been praying for?" he asked. "I have heard you preaching a good deal about the Holy Spirit," I replied, "and I was praying that I might receive the Holy Spirit and that I might know that I was saved." "That was a mistake on your part," he said; "it is because you are saved that you receive the Holy Spirit - it is because you are a son that God gives you the Spirit of a son; you must be saved first." "Well," I said, "if my praying was a mistake I fear there was some mistake about your preaching. However, if I have been going wrong, I wish to be put right." "Do you believe the Scriptures?" he asked. "Yes," I replied. "Do you believe that Christ died for your sins? "I do," I answered. He then called my attention to John iii.16: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life." "Now," he said, "you say that you believe and this passage says that he that believes has everlasting life: if that be so, you must have everlasting life." I thought that was quite clear. I knew that I believed, and if whosoever believeth hath everlasting life, then I must have everlasting life. I was perfectly satisfied and left that house a very happy man.
I know that I had not seen all round that subject at that time, but for the time being I was perfectly satisfied. My active religious life started from that time. I attended all the meetings in connection with that Church, and was willing to help in any way I could. This took place in the year 1858, and just before the great religious Revival of 1859, generally spoken of as the Irish Revival because it took its rise in that country. I gained more religious experience of one kind and another in that year than I would have been likely to gain in a number of ordinary years. It meant religious meetings somewhere every night and generally very excited and excitable meetings. I shall not attempt a description, I do not feel equal to that. I attended as many of these meetings as I could and took some part in them. One man started a prayer-meeting in his house at seven o'clock on the Sunday morning. I do not think that I missed one of these meetings while they continued. The minister sometimes called upon me to engage in prayer at the close of the Gospel meeting on the Sunday evenings.
I TOOK the most favourable view I could of all that took place at these meetings, but when I had done my best I could not approve of all. Still most of us believed that the Revival was the result of a special operation of the Holy Spirit; and though my views on the subject have modified somewhat I am not prepared to say that there was no truth in that belief.
An earnest, honest young man went along with me to many of those meetings; and, of course, we often expressed to each other our opinion of the meetings as we came home. I was sometimes well pleased with the meeting and was quite sure that the Holy Spirit had been doing a good work there; when my friend on the other hand was just as sure that the meeting was a failure, and that for some reason the Spirit's presence was not there. At other times my friend was pleased when I was disappointed. This caused me some trouble. I asked myself, "How does this come? I know that I am converted, but I have not the smallest doubt that James Clark is converted also. How comes it, then, that the Holy Spirit says one thing to me and a different thing to James Clark about the same meeting?" As time went on I observed that a speaker who moved the emotions pleased James, even if there was a good deal of what I considered confusion and mistake in what he said. I was better pleased with the man who spoke to the intellect. James taught me a useful lesson. He taught me to put less value upon our states of mind or private convictions as tests of what was true, or false, or good and bad in religion. I saw more clearly from that time on, that the Holy Spirit had revealed the will of God in the Bible, and that that book would have to be the final test; and that there was a danger sometimes in thinking that our states of mind and emotions were caused by a direct operation of the Holy Spirit, when some other causes had to do with producing these results.
That friend helped me in another way. If he did not understand a portion of Scripture he made it a subject of prayer. And whatever came into his mind after he had earnestly asked God to reveal the meaning to him, that was to him, beyond all question, what the passage meant. This led him sometimes to put the most unlikely interpretations upon passages. The man who does not ask God's help will never be likely to know much of His will, but James helped me to become quite certain that it was not God's will that prayer should enable us to dispense with study.
I was married in September, 1859. Three months afterwards I could not find suitable work about Carluke. My father and my brother had returned to Cumberland and were getting along well enough, so I decided to also return to Cumberland, to the Cleator Moor district. Before my wife and I left Scotland, circumstances had caused us to have some doubts about infant baptism and some other matters in connection with the Church, so we determined, when we went to England, not to join any religious body until we had time to think over things which we were in doubt about. Though we did not connect ourselves to any religious body, we generally went to a Methodist meeting on the Sunday evenings. Their earnestness impressed us, but some of the things they did we could not fall in with. One local preacher in particular carried things to a pitch that, though we felt the excitement, our understanding rebelled against it. In the after meeting he would start three or four all at once, with the result that you could not hear distinctly what any of them was saying. Add to that a number of men all over the meeting shouting, "Amen," "Praise the Lord," etc., the preacher all the while going up and down among the seats shouting one thing and another, pushing his fingers up through his hair, and talking to anyone who seemed moved by the uproar. We felt the excitement, but we also felt that we could take no hand in it. As we were coming out from one of these meetings, my father asked one of the leading men if he ever read about a meeting like that in the New Testament. "Well, no," he said, "but good men have found out that this is the best way of converting people." We had to decide that we could not make our home there.
We had been in England about six months when Mrs. Anderson observed, in the Whitehaven papers, advertisements by a people who professed to be seeking to return to Christianity as it was instituted at the first. That was what we were wishing to get at, if they were up to what they professed. It meant a four-miles walk, but I was at their hall in good time next Sunday evening. I was the first of the audience and took a seat near the door. The preacher came along and said, "It is a big hall, sir, and it will not be filled and my voice is not too strong; will you, please, come nearer the front?" As we passed down the hall he asked where I came from. "From Cleator Moor just now," I said, "but from Scotland originally." He then informed me that one of their elders was a Scotchman, and if I cared he would introduce me to him at the close of the meeting. I thanked him and said that I would be pleased if he did so. I was pleased with the preacher and was introduced to the Scotch elder at the close of the meeting. It was a summer evening, and I accepted the invitation to drink a cup of tea with the Scotchman before I went home. We talked about a number of things, and I felt that at a few points I was not able to defend the religious body which I had been connected with. When he referred to infant baptism, I said that I did not feel inclined to uphold that; that I had been thinking less or more about it, and I had to confess that so far I had not been able to find proof for it. He said that, if I made up my mind to join them, I should find they were not like the Baptists in one respect, in that they would not ask me for my Christian experience before I was baptised. He said that he considered that practice was just as inconsistent as it would be for a minister to refuse to marry a couple until they could give him their married experience. "Then," I said, "you question that I am a saved person." "Yes," he replied, "I question is you can lay claim to a Scriptural knowledge of pardon." I said to him, "Do you think that I do not love the Lord Jesus Christ as sincerely as you do?" He said, "I do not doubt that, young man." I then asked, "Do you think that I am not as willing to follow Him as you are?" He said, "I do not doubt that either." "Then what do you mean?" I asked. He then asked, "Are you married?" "Yes." "Did you love your wife as well immediately before the marriage ceremony as you did immediately afterwards?" "Yes." "Did the marriage ceremony change your heart at all?" "No." "Did it change your state?" "Yes, it put me out of a single state into a married state." "And might not God have an ordinance that had to do with changing your state, while it had nothing to do with changing your heart?" "Well," I said, "it is possible, but what about the fact?" "Here is the fact, young man," he said, and then quoted Mark xvi.16: "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." "Now salvation is a state, young man; where does it come in, in that passage, after baptism or before it?" I would have given a good deal to have got over that passage and others which the old man put before me, but I saw no honest road through. The old man went a mile towards home with me. In parting he laid his hand on my shoulder and said: "Now if we are right, come and help us, and if we are wrong, in pity come back again and let us know where." Had he simply said that believers should be baptised, I was not in a position to strongly resent that; but when he questioned my right, according to the Scriptures, to say that I was pardoned, I did resent that strongly, still I could not say that he had treated any passage unfairly. He presented passages that seemed to clearly teach that we must repent or be lost. And if repentance had anything to do with it, then salvation was not by faith alone, and I had been teaching salvation by faith alone. Then he had presented passages which seemed to teach that baptism had a closer relation to pardon than I had thought. Up to this time I was satisfied that I could produce passages to prove that salvation was by faith alone. I could not see yet that the view which I had taken of these passages was wrong. On the other hand, I could neither set aside the passages which the old man had presented, nor could I harmonise the one set of passages with the other. Such was my state of mind as I found my way back home.
I was employed underground at that time. The manager was a local preacher who commanded a good deal of respect. On the day after I had the conversation with the Scotch elder, the manager was passing the place where I was working, and stopped for a short talk as he sometimes did. I told him that I had been to Whitehaven to hear a man preaching who held that believers should be baptised, and I asked him what he thought about that matter. "Well," he said, "if you think that it is right to be baptised, get it done, but if you do not see it to be right, it makes no matter." "But," I said, "if God has commanded it, Mr. F., it will surely be right whether I think it or not; and if God has not commanded it, it seems to me that it will be wrong to do it in His name; I do not see that my thinking or not thinking can make it right or wrong." "Well," he replied, "it does look like that, my lad; but look here, I have known people go and get baptised, and then turn out worse than ever." "That may be," I said, "but have you not known people join the Methodists, and then turn out worse than ever?" He said, "Yes, I have." "Did that prove to you that Methodism was wrong?" "No, it did not." "And why should the other thing prove to you that baptism is wrong?" "Oh, well," he said, "if you think it is right get it done, but I still think that if you do not see it, it makes no difference. Good morning." This conversation left me certain that if there was anything against believers' baptism, Mr. Fee did not know it, and I would have to fight my own battle so far as he was concerned.
Thinking the matter over, I decided that it was safe to get baptised. There was no doubt that believers were baptised, and I saw no certain proof that infants were baptised. I was not sure that the elder that I had the talk with was right in holding it as a condition of pardon, but there was no doubt that a believer was a proper subject of baptism; I would obey, and then whatever was in it was mine, and I would have time to think it out afterwards. I talked the matter over with my father; he was pretty much in the same mind as myself. So we went both together to Whitehaven next Sunday and were baptised.
That was about the end of June or beginning of July, 1860. Our eldest child - a daughter - was born just about that time. It was a good while before Mrs. Anderson was about again, and we had time to talk matters over while she was getting stronger. When she was able, she also was baptised. And we all enjoyed the fellowship of the Church of Christ in Whitehaven. It was a time of great blessing to all of us.
I OWE a great deal to three men in that Church. George Sinclair was the man that I heard preach the first evening that I went down. He and the Scotchman, Andrew Weild, were elders. William Brown was a deacon in the Church; he owned a dye-work in Whitehaven, and Geo. Sinclair and Andrew Weild were employed under him. Mr. Brown had spent a considerable sum of money in advertising the Church, and he was pleased that it had the effect of bringing us to it. They were three different types of men, but all strong in faith and piety. I could not say which of them played his part best, but they were all valuable helps to me, and they certainly managed together what none of them could have done singly. We generally took the baby with us on Sunday; I gave a hand in carrying her. My first attempts at that were clumsy enough. To begin with, the woman was certainly not the "weaker vessel." But I improved. I could, after a while, have carried her all the four miles as easily as I could have carried her four hundred yards at the first.
The elders encouraged young men in the forenoon meeting to rise and make a few remarks on a passage, without attempting anything like a regular address. I began before long to take advantage of this now and again, seldom speaking longer than five minutes at a time. This left me open to hints from the elders. You never missed the meaning of the Scotchman's hints; though fatherly, they were plainly given. Brother Sinclair would sometimes drop a hint so gently that you were on your way home before you began to see the force of it. Bro. Brown had a fair stock of books, we were there for dinner sometimes, and now and again he would suggest what I might read, and he always left his book-case open for me to take what I liked with me to read at home. I have said that Bro. Sinclair was, as a rule, gentle in his hints; on one point he was a bit persistent. I had helped myself a little in some ways, but I was absolutely ignorant of English grammar; I had given no attention to that. A matter of that kind could not escape Bro. Sinclair's observation, and he pressed me to buy an English grammar and begin the study of it. I was not inclined to listen to him. I said, "It is too late in the day for that, George, that is schoolboy's work and I am married." But he said, "No, no, if you should not get far, you must begin." I took his advice, and I have often thanked that quiet man for his persistent pleading on this point.
It was not long till there were a few other members in our neighbourhood. When there were six men of us we started a Bible Class; some of us were on night-shift one week, and day-shift the other, so we could only meet once in two weeks. That class was a real help to us. The other five men had all got a better education in their youth than I had got. That, perhaps, helped me to work harder to get alongside of the others. We took up the Gospel by Luke, but if anything which we considered important came in the way of any of us, we put aside the regular lesson and gave two weeks' attention to that particular subject. About that time I went to take charge of an engine and pumps at an iron-ore quarry. My duties and responsibilities there were light, giving me a good deal of time for self-improvement. I had a boiler to clean one Sunday, and went out early to have it over, so that I could get to the forenoon meeting. A Cumberland youth out for a walk heard me at work, and came and looked into the boiler and started to whistle. That grated upon my Scotch feelings; and I was about to reprove the lad, when the though came into my mind that I professed to be guided by the Bible, and what passage should I quote in reproving the youth? "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." Yes, but that was the seventh day, and this was the first day of the week. True, "but the Sabbath was changed from the seventh day to the first." But it is the shorter Catechism which says that, and I do not remember a passage in the Bible which says so. I thus reasoned with myself till the youth had stopped whistling and was gone. At the next Bible Class I told the story of the lad and his whistling, and asked them to consider that subject for the next two weeks, and deal with it in the Bible Class. They were very reluctant to do it; they all felt sure that they could easily prove that the Sabbath was changed and it would be two weeks wasted. But as I had made some little attempt to find proof and had failed they consented to take it up. It was six disappointed men who met two weeks after that. We were all able to find that the religion of the Jews had been done away, and the religion of Christ and His Apostles had taken its place. We could not find that Christians were commanded to observe the seventh day; we could find that they met on the first day of the week. But that we were under all the laws of the Jewish Sabbath, only changed from the seventh day to the first, we could not find, and we were all disappointed that we could not. However, the finding of the Bible Class helped me when I met some of the Seventh Day people years afterwards.
This was one of the most profitable times in my life; I studied hard, and studied with method. Even my hours for sleep were reduced to the lowest that health could permit. Each night I drew my plan for next day, stating what time I would give to each subject, and I did my best during the day to carry out my plans.
SOME time after I joined the Church in Whitehaven, Bro. Geo. Sinclair was urged to hold an open-air meeting in the village of Frizington in the Cleator Moor district. While conducting that meeting he met with some opposition from a schoolmaster connected with the Methodists. Mr. Sinclair appeared to better advantage in a debate than he did as a preacher, and the opposition only helped his meeting. He continued these meetings for a number of Sunday evenings in succession, and got a good hearing. Just then something came in his way which caused him to go from home. He came to me and said, "James, I have to go from home, and these are good meetings and they must be kept up; you must try what you can do to keep them going till I come back." "I have never delivered a regular Gospel address," I said, "and I fear that I am not equal to that task." "You know the great facts of the Gospel," he said. "Yes," I replied, "I am thankful to say that I do." "And you know what men have got to do to be saved?" "Yes," I said, "I know that too." "Then," he said, "you must go and tell the people, as best you can, till I come back." I consented and made up my mind to try what I could do next Sunday evening. I selected a New Testament conversion from the Acts of Apostles. I made myself as familiar with the story as I was able to do in the time I had to give to it. I could have repeated it from memory or paraphrased it in my own words. I then noted down what I considered the main points in the narrative. I numbered these points so that I might more easily remember how many there were of them. I determined, if possible, to put these points before the people in the order in which I had noted them. Last of all, I committed my notes to memory, and asked God to help me when the hour of action came. I did not speak without notes, but no one saw my notes. My notes were in my head and in my pocket - not in my hand. I got through with that meeting as well as I expected. The people paid good attention, and I did not feel greatly disappointed.
But the unexpected happened next. A young Methodist stepped into the circle beside me just as I finished speaking. He said that he wished to say something. He briefly stated the great change which had passed over him, that he now loved God and believed in Christ; that he now loved the things which he used to hate, and hated what he used to love. He then added with considerable emphasis: "I am all this without baptism." "Well," I replied, "you are a fit subject for baptism now, it is your next duty; we baptise a man because that change has passed over him, not to produce it." I have seldom seen a look of as great surprise as came upon that young man's face when I made my reply. He seemed to be in no way prepared for it. He stammered out, "You have a good foundation to begin upon, then." "Of course we have," I said; "what made you doubt that? You must have been thinking about what you were going to say yourself and not paying attention to me." I felt for the young man as he left the ring and went into the crowd, in which there was a murmur of disapprobation.
That was my first Gospel meeting. I mean the first at which I was the only, or even the principal speaker. It is somewhere about fifty years since then. But how many times during the fifty years I have had to check people for the same mistake which that young Methodist made, I do not know - scores of times at any rate; and not always young persons either, but often persons of considerable religious experience from whom we had a right to expect better things.
I continued these Sunday evening meetings for some weeks. An incident of some interest should be mentioned here, as it occurred after one of these meetings. Along with a number of friends who had come with me, I was returning from one of those meetings, trying to reason out some points of difference with one, John Black. John was of Scotch parents, but was brought up in Cumberland. This was the third time I had been in Cumberland, the first time I was only a boy, and each of the times I knew John Black and his younger brother William. I knew all the family, of course, but I knew John and William best, John being just about my age and William a little younger. They had both turned their attention to religion about the time I did. Both men were in earnest and they had both a fair education. They were interested in me and I was interested in them, and wherever we met the points on which we differed were talked over. Though fifty years lie between, some of my conversations with these men are as clearly before me as if they had taken place yesterday. Some time before this John was inclined to come our way, but William and another friend managed to put him past it. Shortly after that William and that friend joined us. But though they had managed to hinder John they could not bring him with them when they came. Well, I have said that I was returning from one of my first Gospel meetings talking with John Black; passing along we came to an old quarry where a quantity of water had accumulated. John stopped and said, "See, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptised?" I replied, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." John made the good confession, and we turned aside into the quarry. We put off our outer garments and went into the water in our flannels, and I baptised him. We put off our wet under-clothing and put on our outer shell. The women wrung our wet things and took them under their shawls (the shawl was much in evidence in those days), and we resumed our journey. William Black was at work on a pit engine that night. We had to pass within three or four hundred yards of where William was at work. And knowing that he would not be very busy, and thinking the news too good to keep till morning, John and I and another friend or two called in to see William. It did my heart good to see the hearty hand-shake of these two brothers as they knew that they were again to stand shoulder to shoulder in the same religious cause.
William Black was one of the finest young men I ever knew, but he died quite young. Many incidents connected with him crowd upon my memory; I must mention one or two of them before I drop him out of my story. The Blacks were Presbyterians, and they, like ourselves, went to Whitehaven to worship, there being then no place nearer. One Sunday William and I foregathered on our way home. As we walked together he informed me that he had asked a certain local preacher about baptism. That preacher had spoken to him in much the same way that the other local preacher had spoken to me. That is, he said, "If you think it is right get baptised, but if you do not think that it is right, it makes no matter about it." William seemed rather inclined to accept that. We were passing a farmyard while William was telling me what the preacher said. There was a heap of turnips lying in the farmyard.
"What are these in that heap?" I asked. "Turnips," he said. "Yes, if you think they are turnips, William, but if not, just you think that they are potatoes and they will be potatoes." "Nay, nay. Jim," he said, "they will be turnips whatever you think." "Yes, Will, and God commanded baptism or He did not, whatever you think; and if He commanded it, it is right, no matter what you think, and if he did not command it, it is wrong, and your thinking will not alter it." "You are right, Jim," he said, "it must be as you say." "Then, Will, think it out; did God command it? or did he not? settle that question for yourself." He was not long after that until he came; how far I helped him I do not know.
When William was baptised, his brother John was in the house that night when he went home. John said, "Now, Will, you have gone and got baptised, how much are you better than I am?" "I have this advantage at least, Jack" he replied, "I dare read all the New Testament now, you dare not."
John Black was the first person that I baptised. He was faithful to Christianity as found in the New Testament all his life. He died in Australia a few years ago.
IN November, 1862, we left Cumberland and went back to Scotland. We took up our residence in the village of Braidwood, about two miles from Carluke. We had then two children; the younger, a boy of six months old.
Two brothers and a brother-in-law of Mrs. Anderson had a contract of a section of a pit, and they took me in company with them. They were good workmen, and there was no trouble in making a comfortable living. From that time onwards I seldom did a single-handed day's work. I was connected with contracts, or was in charge of men.
My only brother and a brother of Mrs Anderson joined the Church at Whitehaven, but they had returned to Scotland before us. Isaac Carson, a young Cumberland man who was also a member of the Church at Whitehaven, came to Carluke. These three and Mrs. Anderson and I, started to Break Bread in our house in Braidwood on Lord's days in the year 1863. We made some progress, and after a time (I am not sure how long) we took a hall and met in Carluke on Lord's days. The Church was then spoken of as the Church in Carluke. Our year-book states that the Church in Carluke was formed in 1868. That is a mistake that I should have corrected. That Church was formed in 1863. When the little Church began, I realised the benefit of the help which I had received at Whitehaven. In addition to sometimes speaking in the forenoon and preaching the Gospel in the evening, the elders had sometimes asked me, under their guidance, to conduct meetings; all this helped me when we made the beginning at Braidwood.
An opportunity served, and we all did what we could to make known the truth as we understood it. A short time after we went to Braidwood a special meeting was advertised at a big house not far from Braidwood. They called it a conference, but it could not properly be said to be that. All Christians were invited, and it was understood that any "converted" person was at liberty to speak for ten minutes. The man who made the first speech spoke on Christian Union, and advised those who followed, as far as possible, to keep to the same subject. At Whitehaven my attention had been called to the subject of union and how it may be attained. I spoke for ten minutes at that meeting - pointing out that before men can be united there must be some common and authoritative ground on which to stand. If we tried to agree upon essentials, putting aside what was considered non-essentials, we would find that impossible, for what one considered non-essential, another would look upon as essential, and union would never be reached in that way. To be a Christian at all we have to recognise Christ as Lord of all. He said, "Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." To acknowledge Christ as Lord and then pick and choose in His instructions as to what is essential and what non-essential is the highest presumption. Whatever He has clearly taught must be binding. But we must be left free in regard to anything that he has not put past a doubt. He is Lord, and where He has not bound us we must be left free. We must leave men free to form opinions on doubtful matters, but they must not try to make their opinions binding upon others. These lines cautiously and earnestly followed must bring union. Union never can and never will come any other way.
I spoke for ten minutes at that so called conference in the manner which I have indicated. There was a Mrs. Scott at that meeting. She was deeply interested in religious matters, and lived just outside the village. What I said commended itself to her. She said to a friend that she was pleased with what I had said and wondered where I came from. Her friend informed her that I lived in the village. "Then," she replied, "I must try and see him." That led to a long and intimate acquaintance. It was not long till her husband and she were members with us. Wherever Mrs. Scott went to live, if she saw an opportunity she arranged for a gospel meeting in her house and sent for me to address it, and many a Gospel meeting she arranged for me. She died a few years ago, in her ninetieth year, but she has left children and grandchildren in our connection.
The Scott family was the means of introducing us to a man who was a help to us. A brother of Mr. Scott was employed during the harvest with a Mr. Tennant of Hillend farm, which was about three miles distant and across the valley of the Clyde from us. Mr. Scott's brother came to see him one Sunday forenoon, and Mr. and Mrs. Scott induced him to come to the meeting with them. On the Monday he was telling Mr. Tenant what a strange religion his brother had joined. He described the meeting as best he could, and Mr. Tenant helped him by putting questions. Mr. Tennant was then about eighty years of age, and the road was a heavy one - downhill the one half of the way and uphill the other; but Mr. Tennant was with us next Sunday and came regularly as long as he was able. He had been baptised a number of years before that. He had read our literature extensively, and had a better knowledge of the Scriptures than any man I had met. We made the acquaintance of some Christadelphians shortly after that, and he was some help to us with regard to them. We had left that district before he died, but he sent for me when he was dying. It was hardly like a death-bed somehow; though weak he spoke calmly and clearly. Still I made my stay shorter than I would have done lest I should exhaust him. During our conversation he said, "I have made a mistake here. I thought I would win people by living a good life beside them. Of course, it makes no matter what you believe if you do not live a good life, but, 'Faith comes by hearing,' and I have not spoken to people as often as I should. See that you do not die with my scruple, as you have opportunity, speak." We engaged in prayer together before we parted, and he said: "This is our last farewell upon earth, we have had our last conversation, I shall hear your voice no more on earth. I am dying, and what shall be the first thought that will flash upon my naked spirit when I die, I do not know. If God has revealed that in the Bible, it has escaped my observation. But I know this - all is well."
Few men approach death with all their wits about them as Bro. Tennant did. His life impressed me, his death impressed me much. I did not think that he was so near his end, but he died next day. Mr. Tennant is the farmer that I referred to earlier in my story. He was a blacksmith when young. He then became a veterinary surgeon, and later in life became a farmer. What induced him to study the Scriptures I have already related.
I HAVE referred to meeting some Christadelphians about this time. As I came in touch with them repeatedly in after years, it may be as well to say something of how we got to know them at first. Two cousins named William Christie and Peter Ramsay had joined our little Church at Braidwood. Being out for a walk one day, they got into conversation with a man who lived in the village of Cartland, near Lanark. They found the man to be interested in religion. He invited them to come to his house on a certain evening for conversation, and they consented to go. They asked me to go with them, and we all three went together at the time appointed. I was expected to take a leading part in the conversation. I did not deem it wise to raise points of difference at the very first, and thought that the best plan would be to begin at the beginning as nearly as possible, and if there were points on which we did not agree they would rise naturally as we proceeded. Before we began to talk we set a time at which we would stop, as we had two miles to go home and we had to go to work early. In beginning to talk to this stranger, I said, "Preaching the Gospel is our first duty to the world. Now, suppose you were speaking to a man who did not profess to serve God, what would you put before him as the Gospel?" I expected that we would all think pretty much alike on this subject. But our friend got his Bible and turned to Gen. xiii. 14, 15, and read, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward and westward; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever." "That," said our friend, "is the Gospel which I would preach to a sinner." I have got a few surprises in my lifetime, but I do not know that I ever got a much greater one than that.
Just at this point someone knocked at the door. Two men came in. We were informed that they had come by arrangement. The one was a Mr. Murray, a farmer, who lived near by. The other was a Mr. Wilson, who was giving a considerable portion of his time to the spread of Christadelphian doctrine. Both these men were well posted up in that line; much better, indeed, that the man we had gone to see.
I did not expect that these two men would support what the friend we had gone to see said about the Gospel. But in this I was mistaken - all three men held that the Gospel was the good news that Abraham and his seed would inherit the Land of Canaan. This was something new for us, and we found as they proceeded that they had a number of other new things for us. The whole thing being new to us, we did not attempt to argue the points with them. We spent the time putting questions and letting them explain. When our time was up, we were beginning to have some knowledge of what they were trying to enforce. They expressed a wish for more conversation, and we were willing for that. I said, "If you prefer it you can come to Braidwood. You can have my kitchen for the conversation, and I think that I can fill it with people to hear. But I make the following conditions. First, no one must speak more than five minutes at a time. And second, one on your side and one on ours must follow each other alternately." They were quite pleased to accept these terms, and we met in our kitchen one night in the week for the next six weeks; always beginning and stopping at a specified time, and the kitchen was always comfortably filled with people to hear.
As we returned from Cartland, the evening we went there for that conversation, we were all three impressed in the same way. We were all shocked at the idea of preaching the Land of Canaan for the salvation of sinners, instead of preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. We were sure when we got time to consider the matter that we would be able to hold our own against that.
Mr. Wilson was the most polished and ready speaker on the other side. He had all the advantages - and he required them all. We pressed him to name a place in the New Testament where the Gospel of the Land of Canaan was preached for the salvation of sinners. We harassed him in that corner and would not let him go. To try and escape from that fix he said the New Testament did not contain first principles - that the Gospel was stated in the Old Testament and the New Testament took it for granted that every person knew it. In order to prove the position he had taken up, he moved that our meeting the following week should take the form of a debate, and he was prepared to prove that the New Testament did not contain first principles. I accepted this challenge, and the next week I made my first attempt at taking part in a regular debate. I did not try how many arguments I could bring forward, but made as sure as I could that there was some force in the few arguments I did use. I did not cover much ground, but I was pretty sure of the ground that I did cover. The affirmative was naturally mine, I had to prove that the New Testament did contain first principles. It was mine to lead, his to follow - mine, to build up, his to pull down if he could. I took my principal stand upon Paul's speech to the men of Athens (Acts xvii. 23-31). I pointed out that these men did not even know the one Living and True God. How, then, could these men be said to know first principles? And Paul was not such a fool that he would teach them their second lesson first. But though Paul was of necessity teaching these people first principles, there was nothing in his speech about their Land of Canaan Gospel. But there was something in his speech about Jesus Christ, His resurrection from the dead, and exaltation to be Judge of all men. That is, our Gospel is here as a first principle in Paul's speech, but your Land of Canaan Gospel is not here. I supported this passage with a few others of like nature, and had the pleasure of seeing that I had built up what Mr. Wilson could not pull down. Of course, you always see after a debate where, at some points, you might have done better, but I had a feeling of certainty that night that I had taken ground that could be held. I was a youth then, I am an old man now, but I could now stand with confidence on the ground I took up then.
Before I pass from these meetings I wish to mention another one of them in particular. Bro. Ramsay asked me to leave the Christadelphians in his hands for an evening. I was willing to do that if he wished it. Peter was better at putting questions that making speeches. When the meeting was opened, he said, "What Gospel have you for me, gentlemen? Preach your Gospel to me." "The Gospel," they replied, "is the good news that Abraham and his seed will inherit the Land of Canaan." "But it makes no matter to me," he said, "what Abraham and his seed are going to inherit. I am not one of Abraham's seed by the flesh, and you say that I am not one of his seed by faith, it therefore makes no matter to me what Abraham and his seed are going to inherit; what good news have you for me?" Peter Ramsay so managed that question that they had considerable difficulty with it. He then made another move and said, "Abraham and his seed seem to be coming in for all the blessings; can you tell how I can get to be one of Abraham's seed?" Mr. Ramsay so managed this question that he compelled them to admit, that you become one of Abraham's seed by believing in and obeying the Lord Jesus Christ. "Well," said Peter, "that is what we have been preaching all the time and yet you are here opposing us." "But," they replied, "your hope is all wrong." Peter then turned to Peter i. 3, 4, and said, "I hope for an inheritance, incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for me." He then asked, "What is the matter with that hope?" They had not a very pleasant time of it, as Mr. Ramsay pressed his hope upon them and asked them to point out what was the matter with it.
We received no harm from these meetings, and came out of them feeling stronger than when we entered upon them. We had some help from old Mr. Tennant when he came over on the Sundays, but we had no books on the subject at that time. We might have been the better of "The History and Mystery of Christadelphianism," by David King, to have given us some idea of the people that we were dealing with. Or we might have been the better of the pamphlet by Mr. Jackson, of Derby, on the Christadelphian Land of Canaan Gospel but we did not have them; still, we got through without harm.
WHEN we lived in Braidwood, there were a number of churches in the district of the people known as Plymouth Brethren. William Christie and I visited some of the leading men in these churches to see if we could not come to an understanding and have fellowship with each other. We made little of it, still we considered it to be our duty to try, and were more contented with regard to them after we did try. On these visits we always made it known that we were willing to accept or do anything that was clearly revealed in the Bible, and we were willing to give up anything that was not clearly revealed, and we expected them to do the same. We could not get them to consent to these terms. One of the points which lay between us in practice was: all those meetings, at that time, admitted the unbaptised to the Lord's Supper. We could not prove that any of the New Testament churches did this, and we therefore objected. They would not give way on this point and we could not honestly give way, so this point itself was enough to bar us from each other's fellowship.
It may be as well to give the substance of one of those conversations. In this case we were sent for by one of the "Brethren" to talk over matters with a view to fellowship. We touched upon the open communion question, but found that he could not prove it nor was he willing to give it up. We called his attention to the second chapter of Acts, and said, "Now there is an example of how we proceed. We preach; the people hear, become anxious, repent and get baptised; and then continue steadfastly in the Apostle's doctrine and fellowship and in breaking of bread, and in prayers." "Now," we said, "there is a model of how we act as a Church. If you should come to Braidwood would you have any objections to meet with us, seeing that we can give you a plain example from Scripture for all that we do?" "No," he said, "I do not think that I would object to meet with you." "Well," we said, "will you take the New Testament and read us a plain description of your practice as a Church, so that when we come to Lesmahazow we may have no reason for objecting to sit in fellowship with you?" He said, "It is not very long since I became a member here, and in some things I am only groping my way yet." "But," we said, "you admit that you can see what we practise in the Scriptures. We dare not give up what we see, to come and grope along with you. Would it not be better for you to do as we do when you can see it, and as soon as you have groped out anything else we shall be as ready to accept it as you are, and we would act together still." But we could not move him, and we had each to go our own way. He was a very earnest man, and we always remained good friends though we could not act as he did.
We at times came less or more into conflict with the "Brethren." About the time concerning which I am writing just now, I had a rather unpleasant experience with them. I had gone on a Sunday afternoon to hold an open-air meeting in the mining village of Overtown. I generally give opportunity for question or remark when I finish an outside address; I did so then, but no one took advantage of it. I went to drink a cup of tea with a friend before I started on my five-mile walk home. We had a brother living in Overtown at that time who was blessed with more zeal than prudence. Before I was finished with my tea this brother came to inform me that a debate had been arranged for between a Mr. Steel and myself, the debate to take place on Wednesday evening. I said, "James, this is out of the question. How can I take part in a thing like that? I am not at your call, nor any other man's, to debate when and where you may think fit. Has Mr. Steel been consulted?" "No," he replied, "Mr. Steel knows nothing about it as yet." "Then what tempted you to act like this?" "I do not see that I could have done anything else," he said. He then told me how it happened. "After you went away," he said, "a good many people remained talking among themselves, and a man said, 'If Mr. Steel had been here, Mr. Anderson would have been called in question for some things he said, he would not have got away as he did.'" "I spoke then," said James, and I told him: "If you know where to find Mr. Steel, I know where to find Mr. Anderson, and I am sure that he will be willing to defend what he has said." "We were both alike sure, so we fixed a debate for Wednesday night, and quite a lot of people heard us do it." "This will never do, James," I replied; "the other man seems to be as rash as you are, to say the least of it, so you must come with me and see that man." We went to the man's house and saw him. I told him that I considered that they had both acted rashly; that they should have seen Mr. Steel and myself before they fixed anything; that he should go and see Mr. Steel, and if Mr. Steel thought that it would do any good for him and me to meet and talk over matters, then, they might arrange, but it would never do to rush into things like this. To my surprise our friend said, "I understand you; you have been caught more suddenly than you expected. You feel that you are not in a position to meet Mr. Steel, and you are pleading for time to prepare yourself. But Mr. Steel will have sympathy with you; he is a fine Christian man, and I have no doubt that he will grant you whatever time you ask. But as for Mr. Steel, he does not require that, he is always ready." I could not persuade that man that I was pleading for order; he would believe nothing but that I was feeling my weakness and was pleading for time. So I had just to ask him to let Mr. Steel know that I was not pleased with this way of doing things, but I would be at the place appointed, at the time fixed, but that I would not blame Mr. Steel though he was not there.
Our friend and Mr. Steel both belonged to the "Brethren." I had said that baptism preceded by faith and repentance was for the remission of sins. That was the point they found fault with.
I went to the appointed place on the Wednesday evening, and found it filled with people. Mr. Steel came, but a bit late. I tried to make some arrangements with him when he came. I said that we would require some one to preside over the meeting, but he said, "Oh no, the Holy Spirit will preside." I said that we might trust each other as to time and order, but there would have to be some arrangement, there would have to be a time fixed for stopping before we started, and there would have to be a fixed time for our speeches. We agreed to ten-minute speeches. He suggested that he should open with prayer and I should close. I agreed.
Mr. Steel had more than a common amount of sanctimonious affectation, even for one of the "Brethren." He assumed great knowledge, and talked down to you all the time. In his opening prayer he poured out his complaint about "flesh desiring to have a chairman." When a man insults you in a speech you may reply, but when a man insults you in a prayer it is not so easy knowing what to do. He sent his insult to heaven, and I left Heaven to deal with it; I took no notice of it. He spoke longer than his time every time he got up. I did not deem it wise to take notice of that; I thought it might spoil the effect of the meeting, and I had the impression that I could make it up another way; I could make a better use of my time than he could. I took care not to follow his bad example; I always sat down at my time. We were coming to closer grips before the finish, and I thought a few more meetings might do good; so I said to him at the close, "Mr. Steel, you preach and I preach. We have a larger audience here than would come to hear either of us preach; I suggest that we continue these meetings weekly till one of us convinces the other or the people stop coming." But Mr. Steel would have no more of it. When I came out, one of Mr. Steel's friends followed me down the street. He wished to know what I thought of the meeting. I said, "There is one thing that I have made up my mind upon, that is, your 'Spirit' will never be Chairman for me any more. If ever I have anything more to do with you people, I shall have some spirit in the chair that will make your man sit down when his time is up."
I HAVE now said enough about the formation of the Church at Carluke and the time which I spent at Braidwood to give some idea of that portion of my life. We left Braidwood and came to Crofthead district about the year 1868. I did not altogether cut my connection with the Church at Carluke. I had been in it from the time it was formed, and they thought that they would still be the better of my help. So I allowed my membership to remain there, and I went there every second Lord's Day. That meant a nine-miles walk each way. The half of it was through moorland, with only a footpath, and in the winter time, at certain places, it was a very rough footpath. I did this for some years, and I think the weather only prevented me once. My wife moved her membership to Crofthead Church, and, as a rule, I went there every second Sunday.
We lived at a moorland mining village a mile from Crofthead. The mines I was connected with were there. I commenced a Bible Class there for young folks, and a number of boys and girls in their teens came to it. I feel inclined to describe that class. I have conducted a good many like it since, and still count it one of the best forms for ordinary young people. We fixed upon a New Testament book, and went right through it. If the chapter was short we took it all, if long we divided it. I did not ask them to commit the lesson to memory, but I asked the next thing to it. I asked them to make themselves so familiar with it that they might answer any plain question put upon any verse in the lesson. I always committed the lesson to memory, and it was a useful exercise for me to frame a question or questions upon every verse without looking at my book. They, on the other hand, had to answer the questions with closed books. Any words that I thought they might not know the meaning of I asked them to explain. But I never asked for the meaning of a word from any particular person, as I knew that they had not all got dictionaries. I then gave a running explanation of the lesson; and, last of all, I tried to encourage them to ask me about anything concerning the lesson which they wished to know. Some young folks have thanked me for classes like these. But apart from the young folks, these classes have been a great blessing to myself.
When I am dealing with Bible Classes I had better say something about one I took part in at that same place, but some time afterwards. A Presbyterian and one of the "Brethren" came to the place and made themselves useful by arranging cottage meetings and getting sometimes one and sometimes another to address them. They sometimes got me to address their meetings. These two men let me know that they wished to start a Bible Class. They wished to go through the Acts of the Apostles, and they asked if I would help them? I said that I would be pleased to do so. The Bible class was commenced. After we had got some distance into the second chapter, trouble arose. At verse 38, where Peter commands the anxious, "Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost," our friend who belonged to the "Brethren" was inclined to tell us what he thought, but we quietly held him to what was said.
The "Brethren" generally try to get clear of this passage by saying that it was only for the Jews. But the next verse says, "For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call." It is impossible to confine that passage to the Jews. If you say that the promise in verse 38 is the gift of the Holy Spirit, that depends upon you repenting and being baptised. If you say that it is the remission of sins that is the promise, that also depends upon you repenting and being baptised. Any promise there is in the passage depends upon you obeying these two commands. And the promise upon these conditions is to all that God calls, and therefore not confined to the Jews. The "Brethren" preach salvation by faith alone. If it be by faith alone, repentance has nothing to do with it. But this verse commands all whom God calls to repent. And repentance is commanded before the promise of remission.
This is by no means the only passage in which repentance in order to pardon is commanded on these broad lines. In Luke xxiv. 47 we are informed, "That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." This shows that the repentance in connection with remission of sins which began at Jerusalem had to be extended to all nations. And if repentance and remission of sins have to be preached in all nations, then salvation by faith alone cannot be true in any nation. Salvation by faith is a Bible doctrine; salvation by faith alone is not.
Whatever repentance is for in Acts ii. 38, baptism is for the same thing, for they are joined together for the same object.
In the Bible Class we put these facts before our friend who was connected with the "Brethren". He could not get away from the facts, nor could be harmonise them with what he believed.
There was a meeting of the "Brethren" in Crofthead then but it has been out of existence for many years. And when our friend realised the difficulty he was in, in the Bible Class, he naturally went to the leading man in connection with the Brethren for help. That leading man thought that the best plan would be for him to come over and discuss the subject with me in the presence of the Bible Class. He sent me word to that effect and I raised no objections. I had spoken to the man a few times before, and I could not help but wonder what kind of a discussion it would be. John Mathieson was one of the Brethren, out and out. His education was below the average, so that in him some of their errors became a bit glaring. The debate took place. It was in some respects a ridiculous thing. He often used words in a sense which they never had. I suggested that he might look in the dictionary and satisfy himself that some words had not the meaning which he was applying to them. But he expressed his contempt for dictionaries and all human learning. The debate was to be confined to the Bible Class, but two men expressed a wish to be present and were permitted. When Mr. Mathieson was seriously talking about the Jews and the Gentiles and the other nations, one of these men smiled, and they were not allowed to come in any more. It was the flesh making light of the things of the Spirit, and that could not be tolerated. Passages which I was sure were against him he would quote to prove his case. He paid no attention to what I said. It was his duty to find out what the Spirit wished him to say next. All that could be done was to keep your case clearly before the Bible Class and let him ramble. If he said anything that looked like having a bearing on the subject I took notice of that and let the rest go. Though he paid no attention to me, I think he saw that he had not carried the class with him. So he asked for another night. We had ten-minute speeches, but he said that he wished to have half an hour to begin with the next night. He explained that he wished to have the half hour in order to state his proposition; he had never got his proposition properly stated. Mr. Mathieson had no idea what the word proposition meant. We gave him the half-hour, but there was no attempt in that half-hour's rambling to clearly state a proposition. I took ten minutes as against his half-hour, it was enough for my purpose. He was still not satisfied that night that he had convinced the Bible Class, so he asked for another night, but this time he asked for three-quarters of an hour to state his proposition, he had not yet got his proposition properly stated. So we met again. We gave him the three-quarters of an hour to begin with, and we took ten minutes. Mr. Mathieson was ill for two weeks after that, and some people blamed me for it. The Bible Class went on as before. But he who was meeting with the "Brethren" at that time was with us before we got through the Book of Acts. He is still in our fellowship.
John Mathieson's education was below that of many of the "Brethren," but most of them run less or more on his lines. They may not give absurd meanings to as many common words as he did: they may not express their contempt for dictionaries, or talk about the Jews and the Gentiles and the other nations, or gravely talk about discussing a proposition that would take three-quarters of an hour to state - claiming that the Holy Spirit was guiding them to all this nonsense. But though they do not begin at the point that Mr. Mathieson did, they all come to a point where they claim the direct guiding of the Holy Spirit, and beyond that point they act as he acted and treat one pretty much as he treated me. They all, to some extent, claim to be directly guided by the Holy Spirit; it is a question of degree, not of kind. They all agree that the Holy Spirit presides at their meetings for worship. That being so, every man who takes part in those meetings claims to be directly guided by the Holy Spirit for the time being; and few if any of them would admit that these are the only times at which they are so guided. In so far as they believe that they are guided by the Holy Spirit, they must believe that they are beyond the possibility of mistake, for the Holy Spirit makes no mistakes. If the Holy Spirit guides them, that is all he did to the Apostles. At these times they must consider themselves equal to the Apostles, so far as speaking the truth is concerned, and they sometimes say so. Mr. Mathieson's claims were high, but they were not above that.
Their elders profess to be appointed by the Holy Spirit. This again is a claim to have a message direct from heaven. Mr. Mathieson just made the same claim. Their evangelists too, profess to be appointed by the Holy Spirit, and very largely claim to have the Holy Spirit's guidance as to where they go and what they say. Mr. Mathieson did not go beyond that.
All these claims cannot be true. We have often two and sometimes three or more meetings of Brethren in the same town that will have no fellowship with each other. Who can believe that the Holy Spirit presides over two or three contradictory meetings in the same town? This is just as bad as Mr. Mathieson's contradictory nonsense. We have no wish to doubt the men's honesty, but that there is error is past all doubt. Nor can it be doubted that it is error of a kind that naturally leads men to be puffed up. Where men mistake their own emotions and reflections for operations of the Holy Spirit, each man will be sure of his own; and to whatever extent his neighbour differs from him, he will be compelled to that extent to doubt his neighbour. The workings of our minds are like our faces, there is a general sameness, but each one has got its particular differences. And if each man puts down his own emotions and reflections as the standard, he is bound to some extent to doubt every other man. This is the tendency with the "Brethren," and it is just because that they are not all strong-willed that there are not even more divisions among them than have taken place. I had conversation with one some time ago who had got to the logical terminus in that direction. He informed me that he used to meet with the "Brethren," but he found that they were all less or more guided by the flesh instead of the Spirit, so he moved out from them all. That same man had discovered that the Apostles had made some mistakes in their teaching. He was at that time standing alone, waiting and praying for further Divine instructions. Why a great many more of them have not got the same length as this man, it is hard to say.
Real inspiration as possessed by the Apostles and Prophets could and did exist in company with the deepest humility and a charity which made them show kindness wherever it was possible, and always kept them from underestimating or misrepresenting any one. The unreal or fancied inspiration of the "Brethren" can exist in company with the spirit of the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like other men. It does not seem to be any trouble to some of them to sanctimoniously under-rate and misrepresent others, and believe that the Holy Spirit is helping them to do it. But for its actual existence you could hardly believe such a delusion possible.
But I must get on with my story. I have said that we shifted to Crofthead in the year 1868. Though I did not then move my membership from Carluke, I was in close touch with the Church at Crofthead and enjoyed the fellowship of its members. I sometimes visited other churches in the neighbourhood, and had thus the pleasure of extending my acquaintance with our brethren in the district.
After 1872, Law demanded that underground managers must have a certificate. So some time after that I had to pass an examination in order to retain my situation. Taking my certificate did not put me to a great deal of trouble. It was for the most part a brushing-up of subjects which I had looked into before.
I WAS at Crofthead some considerable time before what is now known as "The Slamannan District Co-operation of Churches" was formed. That co-operation was formed for the purpose of arranging for an exchange of speakers among the Churches. When that Speaking Plan was put in operation, it still further widened my acquaintance with the Churches of the district.
At a conference in connection with this co-operation of Churches, in the spring of 1875, it was resolved to try and arrange for an evangelist in the district. It was also resolved that I should be asked to become evangelist for the district. For reasons which seemed to me important, I decided to be their evangelist for a year; but I had no intention of staying longer than that. But we do not always get our plans carried out. I never really cut that connection for thirty-six years, and even then I only gave it up because age and failing strength compelled me. I was at many other places during that time, where it was considered best that I should go, but I never severed my connection with the Slamannan District. To other districts or divisions I was said to be "lent."
I made my beginning as an evangelist at Crofthead in March, 1875. I had a pleasant beginning. Charles Abercrombie, evangelist, had come to Crofthead to give a month's labour there. So I had the pleasure of his company for the first month. We had many another spell together, and always enjoyed it.
One of our young men at Crofthead was a member of the Y.M.C.A. The United Presbyterian minister had an assistant, a Mr. McMillan, who took an active part in the Y.M.C.A. On the first or second Sunday that Mr. Abercrombie and I were together something had been said about baptism in the Y.M.C.A. meeting. Our young member and Mr. McMillan did not say the same thing on that subject, with the result that Mr. McMillan challenged the young man to debate the subject. The young man said that he did not consider himself fit for that. Mr. McMillan then gave a challenge to any Baptist in the district. We are generally called Baptists in Crofthead, the challenge was intended to cover us. The young man put it before the elders. They did not think that it should be allowed to pass. The elders put it before the evangelists. Being the younger man of the two, I thought that task should naturally fall to me. That was agreed to, and Mr. McMillan was informed that I was willing to meet him. We met as soon as the thing could be arranged. Again it was baptism as a condition of pardon which was the main contention.
I put Acts ii. 38 before him in much the same way in which I put it before the Bible Class and which led to the debate with Mr. Mathieson. I also quoted Acts xii. 16, "And now, why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptised, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." I pointed out that Paul had believed on the Lord Jesus Christ before this, he had also repented, still he was not saved, he was only in an anxious state. He was not commanded to believe or repent for these had already been attended to. But, before peace, came the command to be baptised. This was in keeping with what Jesus had enjoined: "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." I also called attention to Gal. iii. 27: "For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ," and said that this passage taught that baptism had to do with putting us into Christ, and that no one denied that in Christ we are safe, and out of Him we are not.
Mr. McMillan made scarcely any attempt to move me from the position I took up. He spent most of his time on passages which prove that faith is in order to salvation. We replied that we held faith to be in order to salvation as strongly as he did, but pressed him for a passage which said that salvation was by faith alone. We also put some stress upon the fact that we demanded all before baptism which they pled for in order to pardon. Therefore if they were safe we were safe, and if there was any risk it was on their side, for they were leaving out what was just as clearly commanded as faith was. The debate did us no harm, and our people did not seem to be ashamed of the part I played in it.
A Mr. Halliday from Overtown was at the debate. He was preparing himself for a missionary, and knew a little English and a little Greek, and was very pleased about it and pleased with himself generally. As we went out from the debate we found Mr. Halliday with a number of people round him. He was loudly proclaiming what he would have done with me if I had fallen into his hands, instead of Mr. McMillan's. I passed on, of course, and took no notice. After Mr. Halliday went home he wrote to our elders at Crofthead asking them to arrange for a debate between him and me. They let him know that they did not see their way to do that, but Mr. Anderson would be moving about in one place and another, and they had no doubt that if Mr. Halliday made an attack upon him he would try and defend himself.
Overtown was the next place that I went to after Crofthead. I intended to have some open-air meetings. My first meeting was some little distance from where Mr. Halliday dwelt, but I sent a boy to that place to intimate the meeting so that Mr. Halliday might know about it and come if he felt inclined. He came to the meeting; I gave opportunity for questions at the close of the meeting; but he did not put any. I moved away in company with a few friends. Looking back I saw Mr. Halliday and a few of his friends coming on behind. When we came to the cottage where I had to stay overnight we stopped to talk, and Mr. Halliday and his friends joined us and we entered into conversation. We had, in a very short time, as big an audience as the one I had addressed. I did not find Mr. Halliday a stronger man than Mr. McMillan. Any difference there was lay in the other direction. It was a rambling conversation. After a while, to my surprise, he asked, "Why have you gone to so many different places?" "Do you not know that?" I asked. "No, I do not." "Then I shall tell you," I replied. "You have run, and I have run after you, and that is why we have got to so many places; if you doubt that, mark the point we have in hands just now, and we shall see which of us is the first to move from it." It fared badly with Mr. Halliday when he was tied up to a point. In a short time, to escape from a fix, he denied a statement he had made. I appealed to the audience as to whether he had made the statement or not. "Never mind the audience," he said, "mind me." "I have very little interest in talking to you for your own sake," I replied. "Why?" he asked. "Because I think that you are hardly worth it, you know a little English and a little Greek and you are puffed up over it; there is more conceit than Christianity about you; there is very little of the soul of a preacher in you, and I have very little interest in talking to you for your own sake."
Just then a friend of Mr. Halliday's who was also preparing himself for a missionary, came forward, with a Bible under his arm - he seemed to have been at a religious meeting. He stepped into the circle and said, "This is a fine meeting; and you are arguing too! This is disgraceful; be quiet, please, and I shall preach." "I have been preaching," I replied. "And though I have been defending what I said, I do not consider that my conduct is disgraceful. If you do not apologise for that remark you will not preach quietly." Mr. Halliday then said, "You could not preach to please that man, he holds that baptism has to do with pardon." "Does he, indeed?" said Mr. Duncan. "I could meet him any time to prove that the Scriptures contain no such dogma." "Well," I said, "I shall try and make my time suit yours." "Oh," he replied, "fix your own time, make your own rules, and appoint your own chairman." So I fixed that we should meet in the open air next evening. I also fixed the length of time for the debate and the length of time for the speeches. I think I fixed for ten-minutes speeches and two hours in all.
So Mr. Geo. Duncan and I met next evening. There was a large meeting. I mentioned that Mr. Duncan had left me free to appoint any man I pleased for chairman, but as I did not wish any favour, I asked the people present to appoint a man that they considered would be fair to both sides.
The debate with Mr. Duncan was in a large measure a repetition of the debate with Mr. McMillan. I gave much the same proof, and, like Mr. McMillan, Mr. Duncan kept clear of my ground and quoted passages about faith. I pressed the difference between faith and faith alone. By faith Noah built an Ark, but not by faith alone. By faith Abraham went to Canaan, but not by faith alone. By faith he offered up Isaac, but not by faith alone. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, but not by faith alone. I followed Mr. Duncan to all the passages he quoted, showing that I believed them and that they were no trouble to me. And in almost every speech I turned upon him, asking him to explain to the people how he could get over the passages which I had advanced in proof of my position; or how he could harmonise these passages with his faith-alone theory.
It was not hard work holding my ground against Mr. Duncan. I preached there many a time after that, but I was allowed to do so in peace. One man thanked me very heartily for what I had done. He said, "You seem to have taken the measure of these two men. They were getting far too conceited, but I think that they will allow the next stranger to pass." I had not been two months an evangelist, and this was my second public debate. That did not look as if I was going to have a quiet time of it. Some think that it is a sin to debate. There is something wrong with the man who loves it for its own sake. But if it be a sin to contend for the truth of God, the New Testament is not a good book.
When I became an evangelist, we had seven children alive and there had been two deaths. None of the seven were working, but the eldest girl was then a considerable help to her mother, and that was much needed, for Mrs. Anderson was not strong. Considering the family and the state of Mrs. Anderson's health, I could not have accepted evangelistic work where I could not have had a run home once a week. I was generally at home on Saturday evening. I could walk to most of the churches in the district on Sunday morning - a ten-mile walk was not a great thing for me then.
My getting home at the week-end was also a good thing for myself in another way. Bro. John Brown, now of Glasgow, was then at Crofthead (his native village). He was a help to me. I am perhaps safe in saying that we helped each other. We used, as a rule, to mark off a task for mutual study, and met to talk over it on the Saturday evening. It is questionable if I would have got to know the little I did about Greek but for John Brown's company and help. My knowledge in that line was not great, to be sure, but it was often useful. Apart from its usefulness to me in my own study, it was often useful in another way. I have met a good many men who have tried to hide themselves in Greek when our English translation would not cover them. I had often sufficient knowledge to deprive them of that shelter.
Up to this point in my life it has not been hard to make selections of some kind from it. Now that I am fairly entered upon my evangelistic life I have a much harder task in hand. I was often at two or more churches each week with a number of meetings each week. I shall still keep to extracts from my life, but I shall not trouble myself much to always keep them in chronological order. It may be best sometimes to say all at once what I am going to say about a Church in the district though years may lie between the first and last incidents mentioned.
Early in my evangelistic life I spent a good deal of time at Slamannan. Though not staying there the whole week, I was generally there every week. It was a good place for outside meetings in the summer time. Though there was no big town you could be at a different mining village every night for a week and all these within easy reach of Slamannan. About the time I began to go there, there was considerable religious interest round Slamannan, and the church grew rapidly. How much of that was due to my influence I cannot say. The Church was active, and I was seldom the only speaker at an outside meeting. I have never measured my usefulness by the numbers added to a Church while I was there. In almost every case where a person is turned from sin to the service of God there are quite a number of causes leading up to that result. And the one who is the means of getting the person to decide for Christ has often far less to do with that conversion than some others. If I do my best as in the sight of God for the spread and defence of the Gospel, I am sure of the Master's "Well done," if I should lead no one to decision. Of course it is more pleasant to reap than to sow, but it is faithful work that is sure of the final reward. I have helped the Church in Slamannan in many a sowing and many a reaping time since then, but I hardly feel inclined to linger over ordinary earnest Gospel work. How many hours I have spent, hand over head, in house-to-house visitation and private instruction in and about Slamannan since I became an evangelist, I cannot tell, and am not sure but my private instruction has been greater than my public effort. Wherever I went the brethren could make free with me, and in whatever way I could help them knew that I was willing to do it. If they had trouble about the meaning of a passage, they approached me quite freely to see if I could help them. If one was anxious and they thought I could help him, they introduced me to him. Or if any one was opposed, but willing for conversation, they in the same way took me to him.
Let me give an example or two. Many years ago in the village of Drumclair (the village where the Slamannan Church was formed, in the year 1859, through the instrumentality of Charles Abercrombie, who was schoolmaster there at that time), I was going to address an outside meeting, and was there so early that I might have some conversation with friends before the meeting. As I went forward one of our members came to me and said, "There is a man come to stay here, he calls himself a Latter-day Saint. I have had some talk with him, but I do not understand him, and do not know how to talk to him. I asked him and he is willing that you should call upon him. But I want to go with you to hear what is said." So he took me to the house and introduced me. The good man of the house said, "I suppose you do not believe in my religion?" "You are right," I said, "I do not." "What part of it do you doubt?" "I doubt the whole thing," I replied. "You cannot do that," he said, "for there is a great part of it in the Bible." "Yes," I replied, "but we had the Bible before Joseph Smith was born, and what we have in the Bible we do not require to thank Joseph Smith for. It is the Latter-day Saint religion that I doubt, and I doubt it altogether. I doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet, I doubt that he saw that Angel, I doubt that there were any gold plates, I doubt that Joseph got any revelation, or that he even worked a miracle, I doubt that you have any apostles or prophets, or that any of you ever worked a miracle. You lay hands on people's heads to give gifts, but I doubt if any person's head was ever the better of your hands. I doubt the whole thing. But I am always open to conviction, and if you or any of your friends will work the miracle or in any way give me positive proof of your high pretensions, I shall change my mind."
When we pressed him for positive proof of their pretensions he had not much to say, and after a short conversation we left. After we came out, the friend who took me there said, "I understand the thing better now; I did not know where to begin."
Take another example. The Christadelphians made some stir at Slamannan at one time. Our people there knew very little about them. One of our members and a Christadelphian got into conversation about the constitution of man. The Christadelphians deny that you have a soul as the word "soul" is generally understood. With them the body and its attributes make up the whole man. When you die the body is the only individual thing of you which remains in existence. It is not a question of the soul going to sleep when you die, it is a question of you not having a soul anywhere, asleep or awake. Our friend who was talking with the Christadelphian did not know how to meet his arguments. And the Christadelphian said to him, "Now you need not think that it is because you do not understand the subject that you cannot confute my arguments. None of your men could do any better than you have done. Mr. Anderson knows no more about this subject than you do." "I shall find out if that be true," our friend said, "If you will allow me, the next time that Mr. Anderson comes to Slamannan, I shall bring him down to your house." That was agreed to, and on my next visit I was not an hour in the village till I was in the house of the Christadelphian. He opened the conversation by asking, "Do you believe that a man is two men?" I replied, "I believe that man is a double being, and sometimes one part of him is called the man, and sometimes the other part of him is called the man, and sometimes both together are called the man." "The Scriptures do not prove that," he said. "We shall see," I replied. "Turn with me to Luke xvi. 19-31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus." "That is a parable," he said. "If it be a parable," I said, "I confess that I do not know what it is a parable about. If it is not a story telling what may happen to two men in Hades and out of it, I do not know what it means. But it makes no matter to what you and I are talking about just now, whether it is a parable or not. It is the use of the word 'man' in that story that I am going to call your attention to. Now words have their meaning, even in the story of a parable. Sower means sower, and seed means seed, in the story of the parable of the sower, just the same as anywhere else. Now look at the word 'man' in the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man fared sumptuously every day. Man here, you must admit, means the whole being. 'The rich man died, and was buried.' What does 'man' mean her where they are said to bury him? We bury nothing but the body, and 'man' here means body, and nothing but body. But the next verse says that 'In Hades he lifted up his eyes being in torments.' What does 'man' mean here? What was in torments? The dead body in the grave? No, indeed, that story will not suit. Here 'man' means the soul, and nothing but the soul." He tried to get away from this, but I held him to it, claiming that I had proved what I said, that the word "man" might mean the whole being, or the body only, or the soul only; and we must keep our eyes open to see which of these three meanings it has in any particular passage. I had some further conversation with my friend after we left the house of the Christadelphian, and he was soon able to hold his own on that subject.
I feel inclined to give another sample of my work in private conversation at Slamannan, and though I might write a large book about that kind of work in connection with this Church, this instance will have to do. An old miner, who was done for working, lived in the village of Drumclair. I spoke to him sometimes in passing, and I saw him often at outside meetings there, but I had not an intimate acquaintance with him. At that time when I went to Slamannan I lodged with a Mrs. Geo. Kerr who lived in Drumclair. When I arrived one day she informed me that old John Wotherspoon was very ill, she was afraid that he would not get better. And added, "I have also a fear that he is not thinking seriously about it." She also let me know that a certain religious man had called and tried to get John to talk about religion, but John just put him off. For example, she said that man asked him, "John, have you any hope for the future?" John said, "Well, not very much; you see when I used to cough I got something up, but now I cannot get anything up, and if that continues I have not much hope for the future." Sister Kerr said when she told me, "John can do a thing like that fine." I said that it was a pity that he was not taking it more to heart than that. When I heard of the reception that man had got, I did not think of calling. But when I went back next week Mrs. Kerr informed me that old John had sent for me, saying that he wished to see me. So I called as soon as I could. I found him very weak, but with all his wits about him. Though speaking low he spoke clearly. I had not said much to him, when he asked very pointedly, "Mr. Anderson, what is your honest opinion about a case like mine?" "Well, John," I said, "I have not a very hopeful opinion about a case like yours. You have put off this great question till the last, and now you are likely thinking about it because you must, and the chances are that if God restored you to a fair measure of health you would just live your old life again." He said, "It is, of course, possible that if I were raised up, I would live my old life again, but it is also possible that I am honest and in earnest about this matter, and I wish you to talk to me on the ground that I am honest and in earnest, and if you cannot do that, this conversation must stop." The old man seemed to be very much in earnest, and I liked the pointed way in which he spoke. It gave me a better chance of knowing just where he was, and I had a desire to know that in the first place. So I proceeded and said, "You know, John, that you have lived a very wicked life, you have lived in neglect of religion so far as I know." "I know," he said, "that I have not lived a good life, but you seem to be comparing me with others, and I do not think that I any worse than some in the village who get a better name than I do." "I hope that you are not trying to whitewash yourself, John." "I am not," he said, "but if I think you are making me worse than I am I have a right to speak. I wish to be made neither better nor worse than I am." "But you say that you do not consider yourself any worse than some who get a better name. Would you explain what you mean?" "Yes," he replied, "you have often preached outside at the end of this row, and I have often heard you, and I am sure that what you preach is in the Bible, that is why I have sent for you rather than any one else. After you stopped preaching and went away, we often talked among ourselves. Some people who profess to be religious and go to church, sometimes made light of or sneered at what you had said after you were gone. Now, Mr. Anderson, I never was wicked enough to do that at my worst. I never dared to make light of what the Bible taught. If God puts any stress upon His own word, and if these people get to heaven, I think that I have quite a good chance." I had now some idea where John was standing, and set about talking to him. I said, "There is not much in the Bible about cases like yours. You would think to read some religious books and tracts that the chief aim of the Gospel is to convert people upon their death-bed. That is not so. Christianity is designed to make the world better, turning men and women to serve God while they have health and strength to do so. Still there can be no question about God's great mercy. Had God not been a loving God, He would never have sent Christ to die for us. And if Christ had not loved us, He would not have died for us. Christ showed His love to sinners by taking a thief to Paradise with Him, who was nearer his end than you seem to be before he repented, John. You are not able to accept the Gospel in the ordinary appointed way, but God who made the laws has the power to make exceptions where He sees fit, but that is His place, not mine. It is mine to preach the rule, His to make the exception. But I have little doubt that He will do so in exceptional circumstances. It is hard for me to think that God will demand obedience where obedience is impossible. Where there is no ability I cannot think of God enforcing responsibility. But should God enable you, John, He will expect your obedience. This is my opinion, a very strong opinion, to be sure, but still just my opinion."
John never rallied. He lived for some weeks, but he did not get about again. As long as he could talk, the conversations I had with him were very interesting. Near the end, when he was past speaking, and I was not sure whether he was conscious, when I sat by his bedside and began to read the Scriptures, his thin, wasted hand would move up and pull down his nightcap and he lay with his head uncovered while I read and engaged in prayer. Should I safely reach the better land I shall not be surprised if I meet John Wotherspoon there.
WHAT a change has passed over Slamannan district since then! Drumclair is in ruins, so are other villages at which I used to preach. Pits do not last for ever; and the miners must move when the minerals are exhausted.
Alphabetically, Armadale is the first on our district list of churches. I have been visiting that church now and again for the last thirty-six years. My work in connection with it has been mostly ordinary Gospel work; there have not been many outstanding events. Still, there is one which I may mention. Over twenty years ago, a Mr. Chamberland came to Armadale to lecture for the Christadelphians. He got good audiences, and caused some commotion in the place. He always left himself open for question or debate at the close of his lectures. The Church in Armadale asked me to come and hear him, and, if I felt inclined, to oppose or in some way to show the other side of some of the things which he was advancing. I went and heard him. At the close of the hour, I said, "We have had equal time for the last hour, Mr. Chamberland, but you had an hour of a start. I am coming back next week to review your lecture; we shall then be equal. If you care to come and hear me, I shall also let you have an hour's debate at the close of my lecture." He came, and we had an hour's debate at the end of my lecture. He admitted that he had been fairly treated. He then challenged me to debate the whole thing, and I accepted. We had to arrange the propositions by writing. The trouble began then. I have had a lot of experience since that time trying to arrange propositions with Christadelphians in order to debate. There may be a few - very few - exceptions, but the rule is that it is next to impossible to drag a Christadelphian up to a fair, clear, single-pointed proposition. Though Mr. Chamberland seemed fair enough till we tried to arrange the propositions, I then found it hard to get along with him. We exchanged a number of letters. It may be as well for me to give some idea of our attempt to arrange the propositions.
We were both willing that the nature or constitution of man should be one of the subjects discussed. I suggested that under that head we discuss, "Is the soul of man an entity?" I would affirm, he would deny. He would not have it; that would lead us into science, he said. I assured him that I would not trouble him with science; I would confine myself to the Bible. I pointed out that that was our first real issue on that subject. I held that the soul of man was a thing, he held that the soul of man was not a thing at all, it was only an attribute of the body. Our first issue was not about the attributes of the soul, but about the existence of the soul; and existence against non-existence was a clear and pointed issue, and our first real struggle should be over that. But he would not have it. He wished the proposition to be, "Is man conscious between death and resurrection?" I had two objections to this. Suppose I allowed the word "conscious" to remain in the proposition, it would not have to be is "man" conscious, but is "any part of man" conscious between death and resurrection? But I objected to the word "conscious" being in the proposition. I believed that consciousness was an attribute of the soul, but as long as he denied the existence of the soul, he had no right to ask me to discuss the attributes of the soul with him. We had no right to discuss the attributes of God with an Atheist. He denied the existence of God, and as long as the existence of God was in dispute, it was absurd to discuss his attributes.
Mr. Chamberland replied that he could not allow the word man to be removed from the proposition, and part of man put in its place. He would not discuss anything so absurd as a part of man. I replied that the more absurd my position was, he would just have the easier work when we met. We are both agreed as to the state of the body between death and resurrection, and the body is, at least, part of man; and if we are agreed about part of man, there only remains a part to discuss about. So you must either agree to debate the actual difference or say that you do not wish a debate.
When Mr. Chamberland found that it would have to be as fair and pointed a debate as I could make it, he backed out of the whole thing. The people heard the challenge given and accepted, so I considered it but right that I should call another public meeting and explain why the debate had not come off. So I called a meeting and read the correspondence and explained why the debate had not taken place, and at the same time I gave a lecture on Christadelphianism.
The Christadelphians brought Mr. Thos. Nisbet, of Glasgow, to that meeting. At the close Mr. Nisbet offered to have a debate on the constitution of man. Like Mr. Chamberland, he would have consciousness into the proposition; and lest it should look as if I was not willing to debate, I gave way on that point. I question if I should have done it. In debates we should as far as possible begin at the beginning, and, if possible, just have one clear and pointed issue. Mr. Nisbet would have half-time Socratic method, that is, question and answer. I had never been at, or taken part in, a debate of that kind, still, I did not object. I agreed to affirm, "That the soul of man is conscious between death and resurrection." There were to be two nights' debate, but not in succession. There had to be a few days between the first and second night.
Though the manner of the debate was new, and the subject was not one I was in the habit of dealing with, I had the feeling at the close of the first night that though I had, perhaps, been cautious to a fault, I had advanced nothing that I could not hold, nor had he advanced anything that I could not meet.
On one of the days between the two nights' debate, I have a visit from two of our brethren from Slamannan. They had come all that distance to see me. They said that they wished to talk to me about the debate. One of them said, "I went to the debate with my mind made up to do justice to both sides. I knew little about the subject, but I was resolved to try and find whether the truth lay with you or the other man. And if Mr. Nisbet had fought the second hour as he did the first he would at least have commanded my respect. But he learned in the first hour that he was not equal to a fair struggle in a level field. And after that he aimed at any catch to try and get you into a corner, and if he had got you there he would have kept you there. You behaved in your usual fashion. If you got him into a tight place, as soon as you thought he felt your grip you let him go. He would not have done that with you. You again and again let him go before the audience clearly saw the strength of your position; you thought that they saw it, but they did not. For the sake of the truth you will have to play a stronger game with that man; you showed him mercy that he did not deserve." I respected the judgement of these two brethren, and they were both strongly of the same opinion. Mrs. Anderson spoke at this point, and said, "Be sure, men, that you are right before you give that advice. If he fairly gets it into his head that that Mr. Nisbet is the kind of man you think, then you may see a firmer man that you want to see; but I know that, as a rule, he will act as you say he did the first night." I thanked my friends for coming, and said I would consider what they had said, but that I considered it better to err on the one side than on the other. Still, I had to confess that on two points, at least, I had the conviction, even at the time, that Mr. Nisbet was trickish rather than strong and manly. I shall just notice these two points. Before the debate I had seen a tract by Mr. Nisbet; in that tract he referred to Gen. ii. 7 in the following manner: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (that is caused an inrush of air into his lungs); and man became a living soul." In a speech I called attention to Mr. Nisbet's theory of man. I wondered if Mr. Nisbet really thought that man was just an air-machine; or if he thought that when man was formed of the dust of the ground that, if there had been some one alongside with a pair of bellows, all it required was the use of the bellows to give consciousness, intelligence, and activity to the inanimate form. He did not seem to relish me making the naked facts of his theory stand forth in that fashion. During my time for questions, I asked, "What does 'breath of life' mean in Gen. ii. 7?" Mr. Nisbet replied by naming the gases of which the air is composed. I said, "Mr. Nisbet, a number of men here understand your little trick." I thought it trickery then, I do so still.
Just a few words on the other point. I had said nothing in my speeches about Paradise, neither had Mr. N. But in his time for questions he asked, "Where is Paradise - up or down?" I said, "You must allow me to explain, Mr. N. I cannot answer that with just 'up ' or 'down.'" But he would allow no explanation; I must answer with "up" or "down", and nothing more. I refused to answer in that way, and for a time we were at a standstill. When I went back for the second night, I found that some were thinking it was a point in his favour that he had brought me to a stand, so I determined not to let it go at that. On the second night I raised the question of Paradise and asked, "Where is Paradise, Mr. Nisbet - up or down?" It was now his turn to stand still, he would not answer with an "up" or "down". A titter went over the whole hall when he refused to answer the same question which he had pressed upon me. When he hesitated, I said, "Come, Mr. Nisbet, up or down?" After a pause he said, "Neither." "Do you remember that a few nights ago you pressed me to answer with an 'up' or 'down,' and you would permit nothing else? and now you say that it neither up nor down. You must then have been pressing me to tell one or other of what you believed to be two lies, and you did not care which of them I told, so long as you prevented me from telling the truth."
Mr. Nisbet is no doubt a clever man, but these are samples of trickery that no man should go down to. I believe I was the better for the visit of my two friends from Slamannan. There was closer gripping the second night than the first. And though I saw where I might have done better at a number of points, I had not a particle of doubt as to my side being the side of truth, and therefore the side of strength. I saw no reason why I should not be able to fight a second battle on that subject better than I had fought the first.
Mr. Nisbet made a blunder at Armadale, and repeated it at Slamannan, that I hardly expected him to make. In keeping with his theory of man being a windmill, he put the question to me, "Does man live first or breathe first?" I replied, "He lives first and breathes as a consequence." In his speech he represented Mr. Anderson as saying that people could live without breath. In my speech I corrected him, saying that I did not say that people could live without breathing, it was a question of which first; I was not inclined to discuss that matter further with Mr. Nisbet; I would leave the old women to settle whether Mr. Nisbet lived first or breathed first, and I was quite sure that they would decide in my favour.
I made Mr. Nisbet's acquaintance first at Armadale, but circumstances have brought us together a number of times since. We have five times been engaged in public debate, four times on the nature of man and once on the kingdom of God. Some time after the debate at Armadale the Christadelphians made themselves very active at Slamannan. A few good men left the Methodists there and joined the Christadelphians. They brought lecturers and had a number of public meetings. I was questioned by some of them at our gospel meetings for a time, but they soon got tired of that. As it was reported that they were willing or rather anxious for debate, our elders at Slamannan asked me to make it public that I was open to defend anything that we held as an article of faith or a condition of fellowship. I did that, and also added that I was willing to defend anything that I had ever preached in the Slamannan district. But they made no attack upon us. After a while, Mr. Nisbet came to lecture at Slamannan. Our elders asked me to go and hear him and use my own judgment as to debate or otherwise. I went and heard him. There was a good deal in the lecture about man coming from the dust and returning to the dust, but I saw nothing in the lecture that I thought would make a good proposition for debate. After the lecture he invited questions. I put the question - "Has man a soul and a body?" "What do you mean by soul?" he asked. "Put your own meaning upon it, Mr. Nesbit, but has man a soul and a body?" He talked round about a few times, but I pressed my question, "Has man a soul and a body?" At last he said, "Man has a body and life, and the life is often called the soul." "Does the soul leave the body before it returns to the dust?" I asked. He said "No." "Oh, Mr. Nisbet! you say that the soul means the life, and if the soul does not leave the body before it returns to the dust that would be burying a man alive, would it not?" A slight laugh went over the hall, and it caused Mr. Nisbet to come out strongly. He said, "I am prepared to prove that nothing separates from the body at death, that can exist or be conscious between death and resurrection." "Then you will know what I mean, Mr. Nisbet, when I tell you that I shall let you try your hand at that." "You will, of course, take the affirmative, Mr. Anderson." "I shall do nothing of the kind. You say that you can prove; I shall let you do it." "Catch me affirming a negative," he said. "There are two of us not to be caught just at present." "You affirmed at Armadale." "Yes, I did more than I had any right to do at Armadale, but this is a new battle, and you shall come right up to your line. We give a good deal of liberty of opinion in regard to the state between death and resurrection, you give none. Every one must believe what you have just said that you can prove before they are allowed into your fellowship. What you hold as a positive article of faith, you ought to be able to give proof for. I am only asking you to do your duty. So, please, undertake your proof or take back your swagger." At this point Mr. Andrew Murray of Slamannan rose and said, "Mr. Nisbet, you are a strange man. You stand there and declare that you can prove a certain thing; another man says he will let you try that, and as soon as he accepts you, you turn round and ask him to do the proving. You surely do not imagine that we are so stupid that we cannot see through a thing like that." Mr. Nisbet saw that he had no road out, but he only accepted, with not the best of grace, what he should have been quite willing to undertake, and what was nothing more than his duty. Some of his friends were not too well pleased because I had forced him to take a stand for what he professed to believe.
We appointed a committee on each side to arrange for the debate. But I had a severe attack of pneumonia before the debate could come off, and I was unfit for ordinary duty for about two years. It was therefore about two years after the challenge was given and accepted before the debate came off. It was a long time before I could be about at all, still I did not think that I was dangerously ill. After I was able to be about the Scotch Annual Meeting came on. It was in Edinburgh that year. I thought that I would venture to go to it. Dr. Thomson, one of our elders in Edinburgh, saw me just after I went in. The conference was not started, so he came to me and said, "Bro. Anderson! what are you doing here? What is the matter?" I said that I had been ill with inflammation in the lungs, but I did not think that there was very much the matter. He said, "You are quite mistaken, you are dangerously ill, you must take the advice of a specialist before you leave Edinburgh. And you must take no part in this conference today no matter what is being discussed; you are not fit, you must take care." Up to that time, though I knew I was ill, I did not think that there was any danger. Mr. Alexander Paton, of Edinburgh, heard the most of what Dr. Thomson said, and he informed the doctor that on Monday he was going to Melrose Hydropathic for a month. He said, "Bro. Anderson must put himself under my care for a month; there is a good doctor there, and we shall see what a month at Melrose will do." I went to Melrose for a month with Mr. Paton. The doctor there took as gloomy a view of matters as Dr. Thomson had done. It was his opinion that I should leave the country. I could not say that I felt much the better of the month at Melrose, but I improved a bit after I came home.
I inquired more particularly into my condition after that. Our doctor at Fauldhouse said that he was sure I was in consumption. Other two doctors said the same thing, but held out hope, saying that consumption was curable. I had not much faith in consumption being curable if it had got a real hold. I had all but made up my mind to go to Australia. I called upon Dr. Thomson in Edinburgh, to let him know and to say good-bye. He advised me not to go. He said he had a son a doctor in Australia, and he was often not well pleased at the doctors here sending people out to die there. He said, "There is, perhaps, nothing better than a sea voyage, if a man has as much money as to get the first-class comforts and a first-class ship, and, if the climate does not suit, to come first-class home again. But if a man has to take the risks of an ordinary voyage, and risks after he goes there, the chances are that the voyage will not make up for the want of home comforts." He also informed me that there was a good deal of fluid in my left side and if that could not be absorbed I would have to be pierced. He added that there were men here who could be trusted to do a thing like that, I did not know into whose hands I might fall there. He gave me instructions as to how best to keep clear of a chill, and advised me to risk the winter at home. I left the doctor with my mind changed as to going to Australia. He also said that he was not sure that I was in consumption. When a man was down in body as I was, he had all the symptoms of it, but it might only be the effects of the inflammation.
Just after this I was invited to go to Auchtermuchty for a double purpose - the change might do me good and I might be able to give some little help to the little church there. That move was a great benefit to me. I was lodged with "the Cant family" in Rossieden Cottage, a short distance out the Cupar Road from Auchtermuchty. The cottage is at the foot of a whinny hill and sheltered from the east wind. Mrs. Cant was a good nurse. She had lost two brothers with consumption, and though she never gave me a hint of that kind, she told others that I was going the same road, and she did not think that she could be deceived with that trouble. I did not know that till afterwards. If I had known it at the time, I would have admired her efforts more than I did. She fought what she considered a hopeless battle, with more cheerfulness and energy than most people could have fought a hopeful one. She had a lot of hens and consequently of fresh eggs, and cooked the latter in any way that I could be induced to take them. These with plenty of fresh milk, or any other thing that she thought would help to build me up and give strength, came my way. I was there for about six months. I had a run home once or twice in that time.
The chapel we met in there was a small place and easy to speak in. Except when visitors came, I generally addressed the Church in the forenoon on Sunday, and preached the gospel in the evening. But I held no public meetings during the week. We had very nice meetings on the Sunday evenings, and place generally well filled. I enjoyed addressing those meetings, and the Church was pleased with my visit.
Though I was gaining strength, I did not believe that I would get better. My left lung was still bleeding less or more every day. I could not hide that from Sister Cant, of course, and I got to know afterwards that it had the same effect on her that it had on me, that is, it convinced us both that I was in consumption. I knew that many people in consumption deceived themselves thinking that they were getting better when they were not, so I watched my strength closely to see if I was gaining or losing. Every morning that the weather would permit, after breakfast, I walked a mile along the Cupar road; I walked that mile to time. I started at the first milestone beyond Rossieden Cottage and walked towards Cupar to the next milestone. I was careful to keep my mouth closed and walked the mile as fast as I could with the air which could be inhaled and expelled by the nostrils.
Week by week I knew that I was gaining a little, I could do the mile in shorter time. My theory was that I was getting away from the inflammation faster than the consumption was overtaking me. When I got that I could walk the mile inside of seventeen minutes, I was sure I was as well then as I would be. I then made up my mind to go home. When I left Auchtermuchty they made me a present of a handsome Bible; they also sent a present to Mrs. Anderson. The Bible bears the date of January, 1888. I was sure then that I had only about a year to live, but I am writing this twenty-three years afterwards.
I wrote to Slamannan asking them to arrange for the debate with Mr. Nisbet. They were not willing that I should debate. But I pressed, saying that they must allow me to pay my debt. We met; the hall was packed in every corner even to the platform. It was of course warm. I sweated profusely and drank more water than I ever remember doing on a platform before or since. But my strength was equal to my task, and I felt that I had the upper hand all the way through. I am not advertising public debates as a cure for consumption, but the fact remains that about two weeks after the debate at Slamannan with Mr. Nisbet my lung stopped bleeding and has never bled since. Mrs. Cant was doing better than she thought, and I was not so near my end as I thought I was when I engaged in that debate. I am now inclined to think that Dr. Thomson was right; that I was not in consumption - that it was the effects of the inflammation.
As to the debate, there were hardly two opinions about it; that I had the stronger side was generally admitted. One of the Methodists who was forced to find a seat on the platform, was sitting near me, he was so pleased with me that he rose and shook hands every time I sat down.
I may relate one feature of that debate. Gen. ii. 7 was before us at Armadale. But the impression at Armadale was that I moved away too soon from that portion of Scripture, seeing that it is a passage which the Christadelphians often try to make a good deal of. I made up my mind that I would not err on that side at Slamannan. So as soon as my time for questions came I produced Mr. Nisbet's tract, and said, "Here is a tract written by you; in it you refer to Gen. ii. 7, where it is said that God breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life. You say that this means that God caused an inrush of air into his lungs. Do you still believe what you have written here?" "Yes." "That is, you believe that man is made up of a body and an inrush of air?" "Not only that," Mr. Nisbet replied. "Then what in addition to air was put into man at the beginning?" Mr. Nisbet is the cleverest man I ever met at making nice little speeches all round a point without touching it. He gave a beautiful example of that in reply to my question. But when he stopped the same question was waiting for him. "What besides air was put into man at the beginning?" He again made a nice little speech, and when he finished, I without remark put the same question - "What beside air was put into man at the beginning?" He again made a speech, and I again put my question, and thus we continued till my time for putting questions was up. We had some speeches between, but when my time for questions came again, without further remark I again put my question and let him go on with his speeches. This continued right through my second time for questions. When my third time for questions came, I said, "Mr. Nisbet, I held you at Gen. ii.7 at Armadale till I was sure that the audience saw that you were evading and shuffling, but only few of them saw it. I shall not make that mistake here. I shall not put a second question to you tonight till you answer that one; then, 'What beside air went into man at the beginning?'" He replied, "Spirit of God." There was an outburst of applause when that answer was dragged from him which made you sure that it was worth all the time spent on it. I then asked, "Is the Spirit of God capable of consciousness?" He answered, "Yes." The applause was still louder when this answer was given. I replied that the debate might now close; that his case was gone. But we moved on then to other points. The Slamannan debate fought Gen. ii. 7 to a finish, as far as Mr. Nisbet and I are concerned. We met in debate on the same subject at Motherwell, and Kilwinning after that, but Gen. ii. 7 never came up again. I feel inclined to make a few remarks on Gen. ii. 7 before I move on. That passage informs us that God made man of the dust of the ground. Man here means body, and nothing but body; that is all that was made of the dust of the ground. Then God breathed into man's nostrils the "breath of life" and man became a living soul. "Breath of life" is the only thing mentioned in addition to body that goes to constitute man. That is, body and breath of life make up the whole man. In this passage, then, "breath of life" stands for all that goes to constitute a man, with the exception of body. All that the rest of the Scriptures teach us about the inward man must be here covered by the phrase "breath of life." In Matt. x. 28 we have, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul." Here body and soul cover the whole man, just as man and breath of life cover the whole man in Gen. ii. 7. But man in Gen. ii. 7 just means what body means in Matt. x. 28. That being so, "Breath of life" must just mean in Gen. ii. 7 what "soul" means in Matt. x. 28, for each of these mean the whole of man except the body. "Man" in the one passage is equal to "body" in the other passage; and "breath of life" in the one passage is equal to "soul" in the other passage, for each passage covers the whole man. But Matt. x. 28 informs us that man cannot kill the soul; that being so, man cannot kill what is called "breath of life" in Gen. ii. 7, for both mean the same thing. There was something put into man at the beginning, then, that man cannot kill. As soon as you get a clear hold of that you can do more than hold your own with a Christadelphian on Gen. ii. 7, for the Christadelphian holds that there is nothing in man which man cannot kill.
Mr. Nisbet did not seem to be too well pleased with the debate, for he came back after it to lecture on the debate. Some of my friends asked if I was not going to follow his example. I said no, I had no such intention, and I was quite pleased that Mr. Nisbet saw a need for it. I have never done that, nor have I deemed it wise to refer to a debate from the public platform after it was past. Preaching the Gospel is our main work, and though defence of the truth may now and again demand our attention, let us leave that alone as soon as we can and proceed with our work. I have always acting on this plan, and I do not regret it. Lecturing on the debate, when you have already had equal time in it, has never appeared to me to be a manly thing.
BATHGATE is one of our oldest Churches in the district, but the men who had to do with its formation had all been removed before I knew anything about Bathgate. My connection with the Bathgate Church has, upon the whole, been of a pleasant nature, I have often had good Gospel meetings there. But concerning these I can attempt no details; some of the unusual things I may mention.
Shortly after I became an evangelist Mr. Page Hopps was going over a good part of Scotland lecturing on Unitarianism. He visited Bathgate and lectured on, "The Unitarian Confession of Faith." He had his lecture in print and sold it at the close of the meeting. I heard Mr. Hopps, and bought a copy of his lecture. It occurred to me that a review of that lecture might interest some people, so I advertised accordingly. I had a good hearing and my review helped our Gospel meetings.
That lecture had some fine examples of word-juggling. It declared that "faith" was an article in their creed. "We all," said Mr. Hopps, "have our thoughts on the subject of religion; and our thoughts, when they go deep enough, form our beliefs." This looks well enough until you look into it. Paul says that "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. x. 17). With Paul faith comes by hearing; with Mr. Hopps faith comes by thinking. With Paul faith rests upon what God has said, with Mr. Hopps, faith rests upon what man thinks. With Paul, revelation is the test of truth in religion; with Mr. Hopps, human opinion is the test of truth in religion. Mr. Hopps claimed that faith was an article in their creed. But he gave a meaning to the word faith that is out of harmony with its general use in connection with religion. This is not reasoning - it is trickery.
I shall have to be content with another example. Mr. Hopps informed us that the Unitarians believed in "Inspiration." But he proceeded to explain by saying that he believed in the inspiration of David, and Paul, and Milton, and Channing, etc. This is just another case of the same kind. When a Christian says that he believes in the inspiration of the Scriptures, and at the same time he believes that the writers of the Bible had no advantage over Milton or Channing, he is using the word inspiration in an uncommon manner, and thereby tending to deceive. But playing tricks with the word inspiration is not confined to the Unitarians. Some of our half-and-half Higher Critics use "inspiration" in a sense that is little or nothing above trickery, and only calculated to deceive. I am not blaming the out-and-out Higher Critic at this point. He goes squarely to work and tries to account for the Jew and his Book without God and without miracle. I have some respect for the out-and-out; you know where he is, and what he means. Of course, as far as a man is a Higher Critic at all, he is just so much nearer the goal of the out-and-out, but I prefer the genuine article to any of the "spurious imitations."
Some time after the above lecture, the United Presbyterian minister in Bathgate gave a course of lectures in defence of infant baptism and against the Baptists. The lectures were reported in the local press. I was asked to reply to them. We had a good hearing for our lectures in reply to the minister, and we were also reported in the local press. That did us no harm, but a considerable amount of good.
The old ministers used, once or so in a lifetime, to make an effort like this. The younger ministers are wiser; as a rule, they leave it alone. It is now pretty well known that there is no Bible authority for infant baptism. And the man who tries to bring something out of nothing has more before him that he is a match for, and he is the wiser man who does not try. Infant baptism lives more upon the force of custom than upon sincere scriptural conviction. The force of custom is very great, but after I have made all the allowance I can for that, it still seems strange to me how anyone can have any hand in the christening of a baby in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, when neither Father, Son nor Holy Spirit has authorised anyone to christen a baby in the Divine Name. You would think that anyone would hesitate to use God's Name where he had not been given authority to use it.
Besides the lectures and my replies to them, there was a good deal of correspondence in the Bathgate papers in regard to baptism. I had a hand in that correspondence.
I might mention one of my more private experiences in Bathgate. At the time of the lectures referred to, there was a Charles Robertson in Bathgate. Though Mr. Robertson was a business man, his remarks were not always of a polished nature. But no one who knew him could doubt that he had an interest in religion. He came to my lectures in reply to the minister, and after that time we were always on speaking terms. I was spending a week-end in Bathgate, and Mr. Robertson sent for me on the Sunday afternoon. I went. I was not much more than inside the house when he said, "Mr. Anderson, I wish to put a few questions to you." "All right, Mr. Robertson, but you had better not put off much time, for our evening meeting time will be here before long." "Well," he said, "I shall just begin at once. Do you not think that you preach far too much about baptism?" "Yes, Mr. Robertson, I think I do." "You think you do! then why do you not stop it?" "Because I cannot get it stopped." "You cannot get it stopped! How can that be? Explain yourself." "Oh yes, Mr. Robertson, I shall explain myself. You sometimes preach to people, and I am glad that you do. You tell sinners that God loves them, and Christ died for them, and you urge them to trust in Christ. I am pleased that you do all that, but you stop there. You tell them that they only have to believe, whereas Jesus has said, 'He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.' You leave the last part of this out, and so do most people who preach in Bathgate. Now if I do not tell the people the rest of it, who is going to do it? I have to preach baptism for myself and you, and twenty other people in Bathgate, and that is more preaching about baptism than I wish to do. But, Mr. Robertson, if you will promise me that you will say a little more about it, I shall promise you that I shall say a little less about it." He paid the best of attention while I spoke, and I expected an outburst when I stopped. But, no, he spoke quite calmly and said, "Mr. Anderson, I never saw your work from that point of view before. I shall say no more against your work in regard to that point."
Some considerable time after the above I was in Bathgate. I was sent for to the house of Mr. Robertson. When I got there Mr. Robertson said, "Mr. Anderson, my wife is dying. You were always one of her particular favourites and she desired to see you before she departed." Mrs. Robertson was a mild, gentle person compared with her husband. She was weak, but could converse a little. I wish to put upon record a small part of what she said. During our conversation she referred to the fact that she was dying. "But," she said, "I am not dying having any regret that I ever spoke too plainly to anyone about their eternal welfare; but I am dying with some regret because I think that I sometimes did not speak plainly enough."
Before I leave Bathgate I may refer shortly to another matter. It is recent compared with the other things which I have mentioned. I had a challenge to debate with a Perfectionist in Bathgate. Though we did not think that much good could come from it, my friends thought that I had better accept and let it come off. We did not put ourselves to much trouble or expense in advertising, still a fairly large audience came together to hear. My chairman had taken the measure of the men we had to deal with, and had proper rules for the debate drawn up and agreed to.
Our friend on the other side held that people were either altogether good or altogether bad. I held that he was wrong with both classes, that the worse of people had some good in them, and in the best of people there was room for improvement. I made a centre point of I John i. 8: "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." I called attention to the fact that by the use of the word "we" John included himself, and I pressed my friend to say if he considered himself better than John. The debate did us no harm. It did do harm to the other side. My opponent and his chairman both seemed to feel that they had made a bad job. They would talk after it was time to close the debate. I protested and left the platform. The audience rose and began to go out. My Chairman stood and remonstrated with them for a minute or two, but they would talk though the people were going out. My chairman then left the platform, saying, "That is a fine example of perfection! These men will not keep the rules which they agreed to." We had thus an imperfect finish to a debate on Perfection.
I do not know that we need trouble ourselves much about our Perfectionist friends. They are never likely to do very much harm. Our perfect saints are often absurd sinners. A man may manage to persuade himself that he is perfect, but he will generally have trouble in getting the man next door to believe it. Our of our evangelists was visiting; he got into conversation with a woman who said that she was perfect, she had lived entirely free from sin for three years. He knew that he could not do any good in that case, so he said, "My dear woman, I am glad to hear of it," and then made his way out. That, as a rule, may be the best thing you can do with perfect persons; let them alone, it is not at all likely that many other people will believe in his or her perfection.
WILSONTOWN is the nearest of our Churches to Crofthead (now called Fauldhouse). It is four miles south from Fauldhouse and moorland all the way. The great part of the first two and a half miles is a very rough road, hardly passable for a horse and cart, anything but good for a foot passenger in some places even in daylight, and, of course, very much worse in the dark. About a mile and a half from Wilsontown you strike one of the roads between Edinburgh and Ayr. That is a fairly good road, but in some parts there is not even a fence to let you know in a snowstorm which is road and which is moor. That mile and a half of the Ayr road is almost sacred to me. Wilsontown is one of the places which for many years I often gave a night in the week to. I seldom stayed all night there; it was something off the usual which prevented me from walking home from Wilsontown. A number of brethren always went with me along that mile and half of a road, we parted where I struck to the left into the rough road over the hill. If it were dark, I rarely met or saw any person from parting with the brethren until I got near Fauldhouse, but all the same I often enjoyed that walk. But the many conversations I had with these brethren between Wilsontown and the place of parting, fill a pleasant place in my memory. Our conversations were generally cheerful but seldom trifling; many things concerning the kingdom of God were discussed during these walks with brethren who are now scattered far and wide, and some have crossed the river.
There is a good deal of moving about among miners, and some of the members of the Slamannan Church were at the formation of the Church at Wilsontown. In thinking about churches you know it is generally some man or a few men who stand out prominently in your memory in connection with them. But when you are looking back over the history of Wilsontown a woman's name takes first place. For many years Jane Gillon's influence was greater than any man's who ever was in it. She was turned to the service of God under the preaching of Charles Abercrombie at Drumclair, Slamannan, during the Revival of 1859. She was in connection with the Church at Wilsontown from its formation till her death a few years ago. She was the wife of a miner, and never aimed at anything above that station either in dress or any other thing - there were no airs about Jane Gillon. She had one book - the Bible, she very seldom read anything else, and the bulk of her reading was confined to the New Testament. She lived and died in absolute ignorance of the theory of music, but that did not keep her from singing, she was fond of hymns. In her youth and prime, God blessed her with a sweet voice, she had a good ear and her soul went into her singing. Her knowledge could not be called great, but she could make a splendid use in conversation of what she did know - never forward, never backward, "ready, aye ready." Her love for Christ and His Gospel outshone every other thing in her life, and she helped in many ways. She was midwife for the small place, and the women, as a rule, had confidence in her. The doctor lived at some distance and could not always be got, and in cases of sickness or accident, it almost seemed as if Jane Gillon knew by instinct what was best to do. Hence she was often called upon. Many a sick and dying pillow did Jane smooth, and her earnest pointing to Christ in the homely language of the people often found its way to the heart. This gave her an influence in another way. Our meetings had often to be made known by house to house invitation. As long as Jane was able, she did the most of that herself. She could often bring a person to a meeting that nobody else could.
Then, the house of Jane Gillon could almost be looked upon as the home of the brethren. They all visited freely there. I never went to Wilsontown just in time to address a meeting and come away again. I would have considered the evening half lost if I had done that. I aimed to be at Jane Gillon's about the time that the miners were home and free for a conversation, and miners are generally home early. It was often known what afternoon I was expected, and when this was not the case, a message was sent to those who were likely to be free for a conversation. And very many pleasant and profitable hours have I thus spent round Jane's kitchen fire. As a rule there were no reserve seats in Jane's kitchen, but Jane had her own chair at the far side of the fire which no one else ever took. I generally sat in an armchair at the other side of the fire from Jane. No others had fixed places, but sat in a half-circle in front of the fire, which was never pinched for coal.
Jane Gillon's happy, cheerful good nature hardly ever failed her. It was only when some person or persons spoke lightly of or coolly opposed what she believed to be the Word of God, that anything like a flash came from Jane.
I have now said a good deal about ordinary work at Wilsontown. I might before leaving it mention one of the unusual meetings; I had also a good many of them there. I went to Wilsontown one Sunday, not by arrangement; I was free and thought I would go there, though they did not know that I was coming. It also happened that Mr. Alexander Weir of Carluke, who has a very good voice for open-air speaking, was also impressed to go to Wilsontown that morning. Neither of us knew that the other was coming, and our friends at Wilsontown did not expect either of us. We were both early, and got to Jane's about the same time. She was delighted and informed us the first thing that the Lord had sent us. She then began, and explained to us why she was so pleased to see us. The (Plymouth) Brethren had had an evangelist there for a week. He had spent a good part of his time in misrepresenting us and trying to lower us in the eyes of the people. She gave us an outline of his work in that respect, and said, "Now I believe that the Lord has sent you two this morning, so that this afternoon or evening you may make a reply to these people and point out their errors, and the manner in which they have misrepresented us, and thus put us in our right position before the people." We said that we would have an outside meeting, but we both refused to do just what she wished. The people might think that we had just come for the purpose of attacking these men and then it might do more harm than good; we might refer to what they were doing, but we refused to make it the kind of meeting which Jane wished. She was not pleased; she insisted that we were paying too much attention to what people might say; she still thought that the Lord had sent us for that purpose, and he would hold us responsible if we did not do it. She informed us that there had been some baptisms by the "Brethren," in a stream about a quarter of a mile up the moor, on the Sunday before, and there was to be another baptism that afternoon. "Well," I said, "the open-air baptism will be an attraction, and we shall not have our meeting until that is past." It was a fine day, and as it came near the time for the baptism, the people began to flock up the moor. Just then one of our sisters came to me and said: "I have been informed that there will be no baptism. The person who was expected to be baptised has refused to come forward." I then turned to Bro. Weir and said, "That is perhaps our opportunity, let us go up and see what we can make of it." So with as many friends as we could muster without waiting, we made our way up the moor to where the baptism was expected. We found a large number of people assembled there. I spoke to them, and said that as the people they were expecting had not yet come, we would be pleased if they would listen to some things we had to say. We assured them that if the people that they were expecting came, we would give place at once. Without any preliminaries I introduced Mr. Weir. He had a very attentive hearing from the large audience. During his Gospel address he referred to some of the points upon which we had been misrepresented.
I followed Mr. Weir and had also an attentive hearing. I went more in detail into the belief of the (Plymouth) Brethren, reminding my hearers that though they were known by that name, they did not acknowledge it themselves. I pointed out where we agreed and where we differed. We explained that we did not find fault with any one for referring to what we believed; but when they did so, they should do it fairly, and our friends on the other side had not done that. If they denied anything that we had said, we were willing to meet them and give proof. When I closed, there was still no appearance of the baptism taking place, and the people dispersed.
After the meeting Jane Gillon, Mr. Weir, and I were coming down the moor together when Jane said, "You men will surely not deny now that the Lord had a hand in that meeting. These people were behaving badly toward us. The Lord put it into the hearts of you two men to come today, and He caused the very people who were misrepresenting us to be the means of gathering that large meeting together to hear you. You have now put our position fairly before the people and I am content. Yes, men, the Lord had a hand in that meeting, and the matter can rest there now."
Wilsontown along its whole history has often been defective in not having men who were ready, active, public speakers; but it has never lacked men who were strong and intelligent in conversation. Jane Gillon's work was among the sick and the erring, but when the wolf came among the sheep some of the men were far ahead of Jane then; she knew that very well, and in these circumstances she naturally fell in behind these brethren, knowing that the truth was safe in their hands.
ABOUT the year 1886, some members of the Baptist Church in Coatbridge became dissatisfied and separated themselves from the Baptists, and came into fellowship with us. Since that time we have had a small Church there. I have now and again given a little help there, but considering the size of the town it would require more time and attention than we were able to give. Still that little church holds on faithfully.
For some time we tried open-air meetings on the Saturday evenings, speakers and members from different places coming to help. But we did not do as much good as we wished and hoped to do.
Though we have not done all we would have liked at Coatbridge, I have enjoyed my visits there. I have always had more pleasure in helping a small Church than a large one. In a large Church you have often the feeling that if they would stir themselves, they might do without you, but in the small Church you are generally sure that help is required.
A good many years ago I had a letter from one of the members of the Church at Coatbridge, asking if I would come and have conversation with two intelligent Latter-day Saints. They had expressed their willingness to have conversation with any one. I fixed upon the first evening suitable for me, and wrote that I would come. The friend who wrote for me was employed in a steelwork, and I inferred that the Latter-day Saints would be fellow-workmen. But when I got to the house where I had to meet them I found a large kitchen filled with people, and discovered that the two Latter-day Saints were missionaries from Utah. We were introduced to each other. They asked, "What shall we talk about?" They suggested that faith, repentance or baptism or some such subject be the topic of conversation, and where we differed we would discuss the matter from the Bible. I objected to proceeding in that way. I said, "You believe in baptism and we believe in baptism. I hold that I am a baptised person, but you deny it. You say that I am not baptised because you did not baptise me, no one has authority to baptise but you. I say that I am a married man, but you deny it. I am not married because the Latter-day Saints did not marry me, no one has the authority to marry but you. Thus I might go on, but these examples will do. You profess to come from Utah with Apostolic authority, you also profess to have the same powers which the first preachers of the Gospel possessed when 'They went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following' (Mark xvi.20).
"I believe the Bible, but, gentlemen, I doubt you. If you will prove that you are what you claim to be, I pledge myself before this room full of people to accept what you say without further question. I never was presumptuous enough to dispute with inspired men, and I hope that I never shall be. Prove your claims and the thing is finished, so far as I am concerned; begin there, that is the proper place to begin." But I could not induce them to begin there. When I could not bring them up to that, I asked them to decide between themselves which of the two was to be the speaker, and we would each speak ten minutes alternately for two hours. He could lead as he pleased and I would follow him. They agreed to that, and we spent two hours in that way. If there was anything miraculous about my opponent, I failed to feel the force of it.
A good part of his time was taken up with trying to prove that we still ought to have the powers and superhuman gifts of the early Christians. I pressed upon him the fact that he was wasting his time. For even if he could prove that those gifts ought to be possessed by Christians now, that would not prove that he or any of his brethren possessed them. There are two sections of the Latter-day Saints, each declares that they are the people who have the Apostles and Prophets and gifts, and that those who belong to the other section are frauds. Our Catholic-Apostolic friends say that they are the people who possess what the Latter-day Saints profess to have, and that both sections of the Latter-day Saints are frauds.
Now suppose we were sure that these gifts are now in existence, and were also sure that one of these three religious bodies possessed them, how are we to know which of the three? The only way to settle it is, let the party who can work the miracles do it. I pressed this position upon our friends from Utah, saying that if they had the power, giving us a manifestation of it would be better than any amount of talk. I, of course, followed him to all the passages he quoted, pointing out that none of them said that the gifts had to continue, and every time pressing home the fact that though the passage did say so, our friends were in no better a position, for that would not prove that they possessed these gifts.
Mormon officials can be very solemn when they are testifying to the miracles they have witnessed, or announcing their pretended authority. An honest man need hardly try to tell the truth as solemnly and earnestly as a fraud can tell lies; so far as solemn earnestness goes the fraud generally has it, the honest man cannot come up to him. My opponent at Coatbridge was no exception to that rule. In one of his speeches he solemnly said, "You must beware of men. My friend here does not pretend to have any authority; he just took it into his head to preach, and some people took it into their heads to support him, and he does not even profess to have authority, so you must beware of men." In replying I said, "My friend gave you a piece of wholesome advice when he told you to 'beware of men,' but it was awfully nice of him to remove all suspicion from me. He informed you that I did not pretend to have any authority. That is true. I preach from the Bible; I claim authority for the book I preach from, but none for myself. But the man who makes no pretensions can deceive no one. I make no pretensions, so you do not require to beware of me. But my friend is in a different position; he has come here with very great pretensions. He pretends to have been sent from Utah by Apostolic authority, and pretends to have received Divine authority to preach and to work miracles - he pretends all this, and you must beware of men. He pretends to come here with the same power and authority that Philip had when he went to Samaria. The people of Samaria wondered at the miracles worked by Philip. Are the people of Coatbridge wondering at the miracles which are being done by our friends here? No, indeed; when our friends leave Coatbridge, if the people wonder at all, they will wonder that our friends had the brazen-faced impudence to come here pretending so much and doing nothing. It is not a question of being mistaken; they know as well as they know that they are living, that they have not the powers which they profess to have, and you must beware of men." After I made this reply I heard no more about their pretended authority for the evening.
Perhaps I should call attention to another feature of that evening's debate before I leave it. When I was pressing my friend on the other side for proof for his pretensions he quoted, as the Latter-day Saints often do: "A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign, and there shall no sign be given unto it" (Matt. xvi. 4). In my reply I said, "My friend on the other side may have a good character when he is at home, but he has no character here, he is only a wandering stranger. Our friend must be possessed of more than an ordinary share of audacity to come strolling here without a character and impeach decent people with being wicked and adulterous. If he repeats that, I shall press him for proof and he will fail in giving it, as he has failed in the other things which he has attempted this evening.
"The passage which my friend quoted informs us how Jesus acted when the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Him for a sign from heaven, tempting Him. Jesus had before this time given abundant evidence in proof of His claims, but these men were neither honest nor open to conviction. Jesus therefore did not waste time upon them. But when John the Baptist sent to Jesus asking, 'Art thou He that should come? or do we look for another?' we have here an honest man open to conviction and seeking evidence to put his mind at rest. How did Jesus treat John the Baptist? His instructions were, 'Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.' That is how Jesus treated an honest man when he asked for evidence. Now I claim, like John the Baptist, to be an honest man, open to conviction and seeking to know the truth, and I ask my friend on the other side to treat me as Jesus treated John the Baptist, or else let him prove me to be the wicked and adulterous person he calls me. He is in duty bound to do one or other of these two things, but I am certain that he will do neither the one nor the other."
After my reply, we heard no more about the "wicked and adulterous generation." When our time was up I said to them, "I suppose you will be about Coatbridge for a few weeks, so if you are willing I shall meet you for one evening each week, until you go away. You can lead each time as you please, and I shall follow you."
They inclined to meet me again, and the matter ended there, so far as we were concerned.
When we were on our feet to go out one of the audience said to them, "Gentlemen, your position seems to be this. We have to believe in your claims without any evidence but your own word in the first place, then we have to join you, and after we are in among you we shall receive evidence regarding the truth of your pretensions. Most Scotchmen will be too cautions to act in that way."
When I have the Latter-day Saints in hand I may as well tell another story about them. Since the year 1889 we have had a Church in Hamilton. That Church met at Blantyre for some time and afterwards moved to Hamilton. A few years ago a representative of the Reorganized Section of the Latter-day Saints appeared in Hamilton. He was an acceptable open-air speaker and attracted some attention. He got into conversation with one or four members at Hamilton and informed that member that we as a religious body were afraid of the Reorganized Section of the Latter-day Saints - we knew our weakness and kept out of their way. That was news to our friend, he had not heard that before and was not sure about believing it. So he informed the Latter-day Saint that there was one of our evangelists at Motherwell just then, and Motherwell is just about two miles from Hamilton. He said that he had never known that evangelist refuse to have a conversation with any one, and, if the Latter-day Saint would permit him, he would go to Motherwell and try to arrange with the evangelist to come to Hamilton for a conversation. After what the Latter-day Saint had said, he could hardly refuse that offer, so it was fixed that I should meet him in a house in Hamilton, with a few friends on each side to hear the conversation.
At the appointed time we met in the house of our friend who had arranged the meeting. Before entering upon the conversation proper I said to the Latter-day Saint, "Mr. Rushton, though this is to be a conversation, not a debate, still I should like some order put into it. In a conversation each is apt to think that the other is taking more than his share of the time, and this sometimes leads to unpleasantness. To prevent this, I suggest that we agree to take an equal share of the time - say five or ten minutes each at a time." He was willing, so we arranged for five minutes each alternately for two hours. I led, and in substance said: "Mr. Rushton, here is a tract which you gave to my friend here and he gave it to me. I intend to make that tract the subject of my remarks. The tract is written by one of your leading men, and it is written against the religious body to which I belong. The main charges are - we have no apostles, no prophets, we do not perform any miracles, and we do not lay hands on people to bestow supernatural gifts. I plead guilty to these charges. We have no apostles, and I know of no one that I can blame. I know of no person who can make an apostle. A prophet is a person who speaks by inspiration from God. We have no such men, and again I can blame no one. I know of no person who can make a prophet. We work no miracles. I work no miracles because I cannot. I never blame myself for what I cannot do. I know of no person who can give the power to work miracles, I therefore blame no one. We could, of course, lay our hands on people's heads, but I fear those heads would be no better for our hands, we therefore refrain from the empty form.
He did not relish being hauled up to the proof of his pretensions. He tried to turn the conversation in other directions, but I kept bringing him back to this point. Like his friends at Coatbridge, he was anxious to make out that the Bible taught that these offices and gifts should still be in the Church. We reminded him that even if that were true it would not relieve him of his task. It would still be his duty to prove that he was the kind of man he professed to be, and had the gifts and powers which he laid claim to. At the same time, I examined every passage that he called attention to and showed that they did not teach that these offices and gifts should still be here. He seemed to depend as much on Eph. iv. 11-14, as any passage, and we spent some time on that portion. It reads: "And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come into the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of man, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive."
Mr. Rushton tried to use this passage in the following manner:- "We are here informed that apostles and prophets were given for the perfecting of the saints. As the saints are not yet perfect, we must still have apostles and prophets with us, as the object for which they were given has not yet been attained. Again, apostles and prophets were given until unity of the faith was reached; but unity of the faith has not yet been attained, therefore apostles and prophets must still be here, for God would not withdraw them till the object was attained for which they were sent."
In replying to him I presented the following points: "You Latter-day Saints teach that, on account of error in the Church, apostles and prophets were removed from it shortly after the days of the first Apostles. And from then until the time of Joseph Smith there were no apostles on the earth. That is, for considerably over a thousand years, according to you, there were no apostles. If that were so, any impostor during that thousand years might have reasoned exactly as you are doing, to prove that there really were apostles on the earth during that thousand years. This, from your point of view, renders your argument useless. I agree with you that God would not withdraw the Apostles until the object was gained for which they were sent. But you admit that He did withdraw them and in doing so, you must admit that the object for which they were given was by that time attained, as God would not have withdrawn them until they had fulfilled the end for which they were sent. This proves that your explanation of the passage is a blunder, and we must look for its true meaning in some other direction.
"That apostles and prophets were given for the perfecting of the saints, is admitted on both sides. But that does not mean that apostles and prophets were to continue till all the saints were perfect. There never was a time, in this our mortal state, when all the saints were perfect, nor will there ever be such a time. But the apostles and prophets provide the means by which 'The man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.' This beyond question is what is meant by the perfecting of the saints. Again, apostles and prophets were given 'till we all attain unto the unity of the faith' (R. V.). But that does not mean apostles and prophets had to continue until all who profess faith in Christ are in one mind on every subject. There never was such a time and, so far as I know, there never will be in this dispensation. The meaning of this clause need give no trouble to any intelligent reader of the New Testament. The faith was once for all delivered to the saints by the apostles and prophets. But it was not delivered all at once; still God caused apostles and prophets to be continued until it was all delivered. It was all delivered before God withdraw the apostles and prophets. We could not be said to have attained unto the unity of the faith until it was delivered. Up till that time it was fragmentary, now it is a complete whole - a unit, each part fitting into the other and making a perfect whole. We have thus come or attained unto the unity of the faith. You think that this passage teaches that when the unity of the faith is attained there will be no longer error or division to trouble the followers of Christ. The passages teaches no such thing. But it does teach that when we reach that point we need not henceforth be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. I am making a present use of the passage in resisting your claims. Claims that you can give no proof for, and that only tend to deceive."
The foregoing gives a sample of what passed, so far as dealing with passages is concerned.
He tried the "wicked and adulterous generation" trick, when I was pressing him for proof of his pretensions; but I stopped him in the same way that I stopped his friends at Coatbridge. Mr. Rushton is a fairly clever man, but that did not make up for his bad case. I did not hear of him repeating the boast that we as a religious body were afraid of the Reorganized Section of the Latter-day Saints. And I certainly saw nothing that evening to cause me to shun another encounter.
IN 1893, a few of our members who lived in Bellshill began to meet as a Church there. After some time, this Church moved from Bellshill to Uddingston. These places being in the district round which I laboured, I now and again helped them in Gospel work. But I had not many uncommon experiences in connection therewith. I may mention one thing. The Millenial Dawn people tried to make themselves felt in Uddingston, and I was asked to give a few lectures in reply to them. Our people engaged a hall, and I delivered four lectures, in which I touched upon the main points in Mr. Russell's plea. It is better named Russellism than Millenial Dawnism, for beyond all question Mr. Russell is the inventor and promoter of the whole thing. I left myself open for questions for an hour at the close of each lecture. They went in for questioning with some vigour the first evening, but they became milder as the lectures went on. When we got to the "Future of the wicked," though it is such a favourite subject with Mr. Russell, I passed very easily out of their hands. We have a Church at Overtown. They called upon me to review a lecture by a Dr. Edgar from Glasgow on "Where are the dead?" They took a hall for me in Wishaw for this purpose. I gave an hour for questions at the close of this lecture also. I had large audiences at all these lectures. These are the only times which I have required to pay public attention to Millenial Dawnism. I have often had to deal with it privately and have often come in contact with its literature.
Its literature is its main feature. Mr. Russell is more anxious about selling his literature than he is about preaching the Gospel, converting sinners, or establishing Churches. All this is quite consistent on Mr. Russell's part. His God does not wish to have sinners saved at present. He only wishes Mr. Russell and a few others just now, and he is willing that Satan should blindfold the rest. It is too much to expect, if we expect Mr. Russell to do better than his God. Why should he put off his time, trying to have sinners saved, when he believes that it is not God's will that they should be saved? In this respect Mr. Russell is as far from the first preachers of the Gospel as darkness is from light. It is very hard for me to look upon Mr. Russell's day-dreaming as a religion of any kind; you strike nearer the centre of it if you look upon it as an American bookselling speculation. The bulk of Mr. Russell's actions gather round that centre.
It is not my intention to give outlines of my lectures, I shall only touch upon a few of Mr. Russell's errors for the sake of those who do not understand his teaching.
An outstanding feature in his teaching is that mankind, with few exceptions, will have an opportunity of salvation after the resurrection. If it had pleased God to say this as plainly as Mr. Russell says it, then no one who believes the Scriptures would have any fault to find. But that is the trouble, you search the Scriptures in vain for a distinct statement of that kind. It does not seem to be any trouble to Mr. Russell to speak positively where the Scriptures do not speak, nor does it seem to be any trouble for a number of his followers just to accept his word without any clear Bible statement. If Mr. Russell believes the Bible to be the Word of God, he is one of the most stupid or most daring of men.
He knows that the Bible makes no clear statement that any sinner will have the Gospel preached to him or have a chance of salvation after this life. He has to depend upon reason and inference to make out his case in regard to this, his foundation principle. The man must have a large amount of daring presumption who asks another to risk eternity upon his deductions.
Mr. Russell affirms that no one can be saved till they hear the Gospel of Christ and accept it. The acceptance of this affirmation is essential to Mr. Russell's reasoning on the point in question. Accept it and he gets along so far with a fair show of reasoning; deny it and he stumbles at the beginning. As this is a foundation stone in his building, let us ask, "Is it true that no one can be saved unless he hears the Gospel of Christ and accepts it?" We call attention to the fact that there is no passage of Scripture which says so. When you call for a passage of Scripture which makes this pet affirmation of his, it is not forthcoming. This single fact should stop him from making it. That the Bible does not plainly say what Mr. Russell wishes it to say is a small matter in his eyes, he goes on confidently affirming it all the same. Here is the use which Mr. Russell makes of the affirmation referred to. "There are millions of heathens who have lived and died without hearing the Gospel, it is impossible that any of them can be saved until they hear and accept the Gospel. If they never get an offer of the Gospel they must all be lost. But it would be unjust to condemn the heathen without giving them an opportunity to hear and accept the Gospel. They did not get this opportunity while they lived, therefore they must, in justice, get it after the resurrection." Mr. Russell often reasons after this fashion, and many of his dupes believe that there can be no mistake about his reasoning. We have pointed out that this reasoning rests upon the affirmation that no one can be saved until he hears the Gospel of Christ; and we have called attention to the fact that the Scriptures do not contain this affirmation. But not only is there no Scripture for it, the second chapter of Romans proves that it is not true. Paul there informs us that "As many as have sinned without law, shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law, shall be judged by the law, ... in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my Gospel" (Romans ii. 12-14). Here you have three different standards by which men shall be judged in the same day. Those who have no written law, shall be judged by the law written in their hearts. The Jews, who had a written law, shall be judged by that law, in the same day that those who have heard the Gospel shall be judged by that Gospel. This puts it past doubt that God will judge all men according to the light which lay within their reach. We can all see the justice of this principle. But it puts an end to Mr. Russell's theory: for it proves that some will be saved under all three standards of judgment, and therefore some will be saved who did not during their life on earth hear the Gospel of Christ. "Therefore, if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who with the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law?" (Romans ii. 26, 27). This passage makes it certain that God will commend the heathen who has lived up to his light. But this is the very thing which Mr. Russell denies. The second chapter of Romans moves the foundation from beneath this part of Mr. Russell's theory.
To be consistent, Mr. Russell should deny the possibility of any Jew being saved before the time that the Gospel of Christ was preached. If no one can be saved till he hears and accepts the Gospel, no Jew heard or received the Gospel till after Christ came, therefore all the Jews who lived and died before Christ came, lived and died in a lost condition. But though Mr. Russell, to be consistent, should push the Jew to the front just as much as he does the heathen, he is more cautious about the Jew. If he were to tell the people that Noah, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Jeremiah and Daniel would all rise from the dead as lost sinners, and Mr. Russell and his friends would require to preach the Gospel to them before they could be saved, that story would not tell so well. He can run his theory better by keeping the heathen to the front. I do not see how Mr. Russell could get along without the heathen. If you took the heathen and hell and the devil out of Mr. Russell's writings, you would make a great gap.
When we appear before the judgment seat of Christ it is to "receive the things done in the body" (2 Cor. v. 10). That any one will have the gospel preached to them after this life is a delusion. When Christ comes again, He comes to reward the righteous and to punish the wicked; that is abundantly certain. But there is not a single hint that He is coming with a message of mercy to any one who has lived and died in sin. When Christ comes again, He is coming "In flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power: when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe" (2 Thes. i. 8-10). If this takes place when He comes, what room is there left for mercy to any sinner after that?
Let us look at another quotation of the same kind:: "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up" (2 Peter iii. 10). If Christ comes as a thief in the night and does what is here stated, who shall be saved after that? When Christ comes again the state of every man, good and bad, is fixed for ever. It is impossible to harmonise the speculations of Mr. Russell with these and many other passages of a like nature.
We might look at this subject from another standpoint. Four times in the sixth chapter of John we are informed that the saints will be raised up "at the last day" (John vi. 39, 40, 44, 54). According to Mr. Russell, the saints are to be raised from the dead at the beginning of the thousand years mentioned in Revelation xx. Then there has to be a dispensation of wickedness after the thousand years, then comes the end. That is, Mr. Russell teaches that the saints will be raised from the dead two dispensations before the "last day". But when Jesus says that He will not raise the saints until the "last day", most people will conclude that Mr. Russell is mistaken. If Mr. Russell be not raised up till the last day, he will not have time to carry out the programme that he has sketched for himself and his home-made "Little Flock." In I Cor. xv. 52, it is said that the saints will be raised at the sounding of the "last trump." But if the saints are raised at the time Mr. Russell states, that will mean that the "last trump" is to be sounded two dispensations before the end. Ordinary mortals will be apt to think that this is too early to sound the "last trump." If the saints are not raised till the "last trump" sounds the chance of salvation after the resurrection preached by Mr. Russell is a dangerous delusion.
That we are in a state of probation in this life and that our condition in the world to come will depend upon the use we make of our time here, is beyond all dispute taught in the Bible. But nowhere does the Bible clearly and intentionally teach that there will be a time of probation after the resurrection. If in this life only we have the opportunity of putting ourselves right with God and therefore right for eternity, how terrible is the responsibility of the man who makes light of or teaches men to trifle with this their only chance of making sure of eternal bliss! I have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Russell is the most guilty man in creation in this respect. The whole trend of his teaching lies in the direction of misrepresenting and undervaluing man's present responsibility to God. He is all the time pressing upon men that they all, with few exceptions, will have at least a hundred years of an opportunity of being saved after the resurrection. They will have better natures then than they have now, more knowledge and better preachers, and the chances are that very few will then reject God's offer of mercy. That is a Gospel that a great many people would like to believe, and when people wish to believe a thing they can often be satisfied with very questionable evidence. Mr. Russell is constantly leaving the impression that men are not disinclined to do what is right, but Satan is blinding them and God is willing in the meantime that it should be so; he will therefore not hold them responsible for the mistakes of this life, but will give them another chance.
The very reverse of this is true. The Prophets, Christ and His Apostles charged men's guilt and responsibility home upon them as Mr. Russell never does. The Bible from beginning to end rises in rebellion against Mr. Russell's preaching. Every sane man is conscious of his responsibility. Notwithstanding this very few men have made up their mind to live in harmony with that responsibility. This consciousness of responsibility is not confined to any one class of men - heathen, Jew and Christian are all alike conscious of it. Personally I have no fear for the man who, taking advantage of all the light that has come within his reach, does his best to live in harmony with his responsibility. Let that man be heathen, Jew or Christian, God is not unjust, He will take every man's circumstance and ability into consideration. But the man who shirks responsibility and lives as he pleases, the Bible holds out no hope of mercy to that man. I do not mean that only the perfect man can be saved. John says: "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (I John ii. 1, 2). The propitiation of Christ looks back to Adam and forward to the last man. But it is only those who earnestly seek to serve God who will receive the advantage of it. But all those who have done their best to live up to the light within their reach, their defects will be covered by the death of Christ. This view is in harmony with all the teaching of the Scriptures. But the idea that the saints of the Old Testament will require to rise from the dead to have the Gospel preached to them by Mr. Russell and his followers before they can be saved, is not only absurd, it is a presumptuous shocking absurdity.
Mr. Russell's Christ is a very long way from being the Christ of the New Testament. Mr. Russell says that Christ was the first and highest of all creatures. He existed before He took human nature upon Him. In nature he was higher than an angel but lower than Deity. When He became a man He was nothing but a man, there was no mixing of natures. After His resurrection he became Deity and nothing but Deity, nothing of the human remained in Him. If you ask what proof there is for all this, we have to inform you that Mr. Russell says so; and whatever Mr. Russell says is just "as sure as anything." Ordinary men find that they are unable to conceive of even the highest of creatures becoming "Deity" or "part of Deity." But Mr. Russell can quite easily do what is impossible for ordinary men. To the ordinary thinking mind, there is a gulf between Creator and creature which cannot be crossed, even in imagination.
To Mr. Russell, when Christ was here He was only a man. Mr. Russell has the same idea of the constitution of man that the Christadelphians have; that is, man is not a twofold being, the body and its attributes make up the whole man. So when Christ died, the dead body that was laid in the tomb was the only individual thing of Him which remained in existence. Mr. Russell says that the body of Christ never was raised from the dead. It was hid away somewhere, Mr. Russell does not know where, but he does know that the body of Christ never rose from the dead. In Uddingston, while delivering the lectures referred to, in one of them I said that the Millenial Dawn people virtually denied the resurrection of Christ. In a moment one of them was on his feet calling my statement in question. I said, "You question the truth of my statement, friend? "Yes," he replied. "Well, will you just keep your feet, please, and answer a few questions to me?" He consented, and I proceeded, "You believe that when a man dies, the body is the only individual thing of him which remains in existence?" "Yes." "When Christ died His dead body was all that remained of Him?" "Yes." "Mr. Russell teaches and you believe that Christ's body never rose?" "Yes." "If that dead body was all that remained of Him, and that did not rise, what rose?" I got no direct answer, but he stammered out, "There is nothing impossible with God." "Oh yes!" I said. "It is impossible even for God to resurrect nothing." He then took his seat and I pressed upon the audience the fact that when Mr. Russell spoke about the resurrection of Christ he meant the resurrection of nothing. I at that same time pointed out that the Christ that Mr. Russell believed in was a deliberate fraud. His Christ, after the pretended Resurrection, showed his hands and side, making people believe that his body was the body which was nailed to the cross, though that body never was on the cross (John xx. 24-29). I then addressed the friend who called my statement in question and said, "Friend, what kind of conduct do you call that?" He did not answer, but some one at the far end of the hall shouted "Fraud." "Yes," I said, "that is the correct word, 'fraud'; Mr. Russell's Christ is a fraud."
Mr. Russell's belief about Christ makes havoc of the Atonement. He believes that Christ was only a man when here, and he tries so far to bring his theory into line with that. We have all to admit that the stream cannot rise above the fountain. In like manner Christ could not by His Atonement raise men higher than He was Himself. So Mr. Russell teaches that the Atonement of Christ cannot raise men higher than Adam was before he fell. Any height you rise above that you must rise by your own merit. Mr. Russell and his "little flock" expect to rise up to Deity by their own merit. That is a long way to rise, but of course Mr. Russell is a very great man. Those who believe in the Christ of the New Testament expect that then will be in glory with Christ through the merits of Christ (Col. iii. 1-4). But Mr. Russell says no, that if you get to glory you must get there by your own merits. The Scriptural conception of the merits of our Lord and Saviour is thus degraded by Mr. Russell.
And not only so, but if Mr. Russell is right, and Christ was no more than a man when he was here, then it is impossible that the Atonement of Christ can even do as much as Mr. Russell says. When we read in Heb. x. 4, that "It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins," we instinctively grasp the truth of it. To redeem is to buy back. The word has value in it. A bull cannot redeem a man, and price is not in it - the value is not there. If we give man for man, we have value; but bull for man will not do, the price is not in it. But it requires man for man to give value, one man could not redeem two men, he is only value for one. But Mr. Russell teaches that Jesus died for all men, and by His death all men can be raised to the state which Adam was in before he fell. This is impossible. Jesus was without sin, that being so He might if He was just a man redeem one sinner, but that was all, as one man, He was value for; He could not redeem two sinners. You can no more think of one man redeeming the whole world than you can think of paying a debt of a million pounds with a shilling. Mr. Russell's theory of the Atonement is absurd.
That Christ was Divine before He took our nature upon Him is distinctly stated in the New Testament (John i. 1; Heb. i. 8). And it is clearly implied in hundreds of places where it is not distinctly stated. In John i. 3, we are informed that Christ made "all things." In Gen. i. 1, we are told that "God created" the heavens and the earth. These two passages alone prove the Deity of Christ, and the number of such passages could be greatly increased. The evidence for both the Deity and humanity of Jesus is so abundant in the New Testament that the man who denies either of them has a wonderful amount of wriggling and twisting to do before he can find a way through. As to how the two natures were united I form no theory. I do not know how my own soul and body are united, but that does not lead me to deny the fact. The Deity of Christ lies at the very foundation of the Christian religion; Mr. Russell's error in denying it is enough to shatter his whole system.
I do not profess to know all about the Atonement, any more than I know all about the union of the two natures. But though I do not know all about the Atonement, that does not hinder me from believing that "He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the whole world" (I John ii. 2). Nor does it keep me from being sure that in Him "We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins" (Eph. i. 7). The union of an Infinite Being with the humanity of Jesus makes an infinite difference, and makes room for infinite possibilities. I therefore do not feel that my reason is outraged when Jesus is spoken of as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; but when Mr. Russell says that Jesus was nothing but a man when He was here, and though nothing but a man he was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world, reason rises in rebellion and declares that it is not true.
There is an imaginary "Little Flock" which plays an important part in Mr. Russell's fanciful system. There is a "little flock" mentioned in the Scriptures, but that has very little in common with the "little flock" invented by Mr. Russell. According to Mr. Russell his "little flock" is all that God wishes to save in this dispensation. It is according to God's plan that the devil should blind all the rest. This "little flock" is raised by the death of Christ to the state in which Adam was before he fell. That is all that Mr. Russell's Christ can do for them, of course;. But they do not stay in that comparatively low condition. They, by their own merit during their life on earth rise up to Deity. From man up to God by their own merit during their short life on earth is very wonderful climbing; but then you must remember that this is Mr. Russell's little flock, and Mr. Russell is a very wonderful man.
Christ is not a complete Christ at present, He is only a head without a body. At the beginning of the millenium the "little flock" is to become the body of Christ and remain part of Him. None of the rest of humanity will ever have a chance of rising to the height of Mr. Russell and his "little flock", they will top creation to all eternity. The blasphemy, presumption and absurdity of all this shock one beyond all expression.
Mr. Russell is far more concerned about looking after the comfort of sinners than he is in trying to convert sinners. It is an awful thought to Mr. Russell that the dear people who reject God and Christ and wilfully live and die in sin, should suffer pain here or hereafter on account thereof. A fellow feeling makes him wondrous kind, and he enters his strong protest against these dear people being caused to suffer, he cannot allow more to happen to them than that they be quietly put to sleep. And there can be little doubt that when the millenium comes, Mr. Russell then being "part of deity," he will make his power felt as well as his protest, and he will see to it that no such thing as suffering will be allowed. This is Mr. Russell's most popular subject, and it gets a large share of his attention. It takes better with the careless and thoughtless than anything else that he preaches. There was a time when preachers gave more attention to the punishment of the wicked than the New Testament gives to it. That extreme produced the opposite, and now preachers say far less about the punishment of the wicked than the New Testament does. That suits Mr. Russell's purpose and he takes full advantage of it. But though there was a time when preachers said too much on this subject, there never was a time when preachers believed all that Mr. Russell is constantly charging them with. There can be no real excuse for the caricature and misrepresentation in which Mr. Russell indulges on this subject. But there is a class that it pleases, and he seems willing to condescend to it. The present extreme will not last. When people say either less or more than the New Testament says on any subject, there comes a time when they regret it.
That Jesus said a good deal on this subject is beyond question. If any one will carefully read the four Gospels and take note of all that Jesus says about the wicked, if he believes what Jesus says he will never again doubt that "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." The New Testament is a dreadful book to read on that subject. I can best account for Mr. Russell's preaching by doubting that he believes it.
Mr. Russell is pretty much in line with the Christadelphians in regard to the punishment of the wicked; that is, he believes that extinction of being is the punishment of the wicked. He also tries to prove his case in much the same manner that they do. The word death generally plays a part in the proof; "The wages of sin is death," they say (Rom. vi. 23). We say that "We admit that." They affirm that "death is extinction of being." We say, "prove that." You hardly meet a man belonging to that school of thought who does not try to take it for granted that death means extinction of being. To assume the point in debate is a very handy way of reasoning, but it is not a safe one. Whenever you call for proof on this point you soon find that the other side has a very weak case. They have nothing that can be called proof; it is only confident assumption. Jesus said, "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul" (Matt. x. 28). Jesus here teaches that man can kill the body. I know of no one who denies that when the body is killed death has taken place. But Jesus here teaches that the soul is not killed when the body is killed. If the soul is not killed it exists, for it could not live without existing. We have thus the authority of Jesus for saying that death does not put the soul out of existence. And if the soul remains in existence, extinction of being has not taken place, though death has taken place.
Saul consented to Stephen's death (Acts viii. 1). But Saul was a Pharisee (Acts xxiii. 6-8). The Pharisees believed that the soul exists after death. Saul believed that Stephen died, but Saul, as a Pharisee, did not believe that Stephen had gone out of existence. That is Paul did not believe what Mr. Russell does. The man who undertakes to prove that the word death as used in the Bible always implies extinction of being has an impossible task before him. If you put a man out of existence, he is dead; but a man may be dead and not out of existence. Our friends on the other side will never be able to prove the extinction of the wicked by the word death.
But when the Scriptures say that "The wages of sin is death," it must be the second death which is in view, for both saints and sinners die the first death. If the first death does not put people out of existence, Mr. Russell cannot be sure, just from the use of the word, that the second death will. Let us read something about the second death. "And death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death, even the lake of fire" (Rev. xx. 14, R. V.). We here learn that it is the second death to be in the lake of fire. Not that the lake of fire will produce or bring about the second death, but it is the second death to be in it. Mr. Russell may think that it is certain that the lake of fire will put sinners out of existence, but let us turn to Rev. xx. 10: "And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where are also the beast and the false prophet; and they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." We are here informed that there will be sinners in the lake of fire tormented day and night for ever and ever. That proves that the lake of fire will not, for certain, put sinners out of existence. You have instead of that the very thing which Mr. Russell makes such wonderful fun of, that is, the everlasting punishment of sinners. No man can read that verse without everlasting punishment being present to his mind. Of course, Mr. Russell does not come to this verse when he is making fun of everlasting punishment. It takes better with the people to make fun of John Calvin than it does to make fun of the Bible, and Mr. Russell knows that and acts accordingly. But the man who makes light of Bible ideas will one day have to stand before a greater than John Calvin; the fun will be taken out of him then. We learn then from Rev. xx. 10, that the devil is to be tormented in the lake of fire for ever and ever. And Rev. xx. 14 informs us that it is the second death to be cast into the lake of fire beside the devil. This agrees with Matt. xxv. 41 where we are told that Jesus will say to the wicked, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." This does not differ from the second death described in Rev. xx.; but it all looks in the opposite direction from the second death being the entrance on a state of non-existence. The wages of sin is death, but the bottom idea in death is separation rather than extinction of being.
Our English word "hell" is now almost exclusively used to mean a place of punishment for the wicked. This was not always so; in Old English it had a broader meaning than this. It could then mean any concealed place. And it was often used for the abode of departed spirits, whether those spirits were good or bad. Old creeds represent Jesus, after His death, as descending into "hell." But those creeds never intended to convey the idea that Jesus descended into a place of punishment for the wicked. Perhaps I cannot do better than make a quotation from the preface of the Revised Version of the Old Testament. "The Hebrew Sheol, which signifies the abode of departed spirits, and corresponds to the Greek Hades, or the under world, is variously rendered in the Authorised Version by 'grave,' 'pit,' and 'hell.' Of these renderings, 'hell,' if it could be taken in its original sense as used in the creeds, would be a fairly adequate equivalent for the Hebrew word; but it is so commonly understood of the place of torment that to employ it frequently would lead to inevitable misunderstanding. The Revisers therefore in the historical narratives have left the rendering 'the grave' or 'the pit' in the test, with a marginal note, 'Hebrew, Sheol,' to indicate that it does not signify 'the place of burial'; while in the poetical writings they have put most commonly they have put most commonly 'Sheol' in the text and 'the grave' in the margin." The foregoing brings out the fact that even where our translators have rendered Sheol or Hades by "grave," that even there "grave" does not mean "the place of burial." "Grave," as we commonly use it, does not exhaust the meaning of Hades. Hades is the name for the unseen world which we enter at death. Death and the grave are closely associated, and death is the gateway to Hades. But Hades has no plural, as "grave" has; it is a name for the invisible world to which all spirits go at death. But Mr. Russell does not believe that you have a spirit that can separate from the body, and go anywhere at death, so he must get quit of both Sheol and Hades as our translators define them. He thinks that he sees a loophole by which he can escape. Our translators sometimes render Sheol and Hades by "grave." So Mr. Russell tries to hold them to "grave," and says that Sheol and Hades mean "grave" and nothing but "grave". That is, our translators say that these words do not mean "the place of burial," and Mr. Russell says that they never meant anything else.
You wonder that a man who has any claim to scholarship can venture to say that Sheol only means "grave." Turn to Job xi. 8, "It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than Sheol; what canst thou know?" Put "grave" in here instead of Sheol, and you make nonsense. "Deeper than a grave; what canst thou know?" As if a grave was the deepest thing known. To like purpose is Amos ix. 1-3, "Though they dig into hell (Sheol), thence shall Mine hand take them; and though they climb up to heaven, thence will I bring them down." Here as in Job the depth of Sheol is contrasted with the height of heaven. In this same context the top of Carmel is contrasted with the bottom of the sea, but nothing but the height of heaven will do for a contrast to the depth of Sheol. Our friends sometimes tell us that we do not read about souls or spirits going to Sheol; but who ever read of any one digging down that depth to bury a corpse there? To translate by "grave" here is out of the question. "Hell (Sheol) and destruction are before the Lord; how much more then the hearts of the children of men?" (Pro. xv. 11). Here you have the thought that it is more difficult to look into Sheol, than it is to look into the hearts of men. As our translators define Sheol, you can believe that. But take Mr. Russell's explanation and you have the thought that it is easier to look into and read the hearts of men that it is to look into a grave, which is absurd. Mr. Russell's meaning of this word will not make sense in quite a number of places. I question if these words ever just mean "the place of burial"; and even if it could be proved that Sheol and Hades do sometimes mean "the place of burial," it is certain that they do not always mean that, and Mr. Russell has got the passages to deal with that will not admit of "grave," no matter how often "grave" may pass as a rendering.
Though the Scriptures teach that all go to Sheol or Hades at death, they do not teach that the wicked and the righteous will be mixed together there as they are here. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke xvi. 19-31), both the rich man and Lazarus are in Hades, but there is a gulf between them and they are in different circumstances. The Lord does not require to wait till the day of judgment to know the saint from the sinner, though neither will enter upon their full reward till then. In this story the word Hades occurs, but it could not be translated "grave". To say that the corpse of the rich man lifted up its eyes in the grave being in torments, is not only nonsense, it is ugly nonsense. But again, take the definition of the translators and you have sense. There is another passage which suggests that the wicked will be in a place by themselves in Sheol, Ps. ix. 17, "The wicked shall be turned into hell (Sheol), and all the nations that forget God." This cannot just mean the grave, for good and bad go there, so it does not suit Mr. Russell. There is a threat in the verse; it means that the wicked have something to face in Sheol that the righteous have not. Take the light which the xvi. chapter of Luke throws upon it, and you understand it. The wicked go to where the rich man is described as being, and the righteous go to the place to which the angels carried Lazarus. We have thus Luke xvi. helping us to understand Ps. ix. 17.
In the New Testament, the Revisers have not translated Hades; they have passed on the Greek word to us. But that has not relieved Mr. Russell from seeing the word "hell" in the Revised Version of the New Testament. The Greek word Gehenna is used as a name for the place of punishment for the wicked, our Revisers have, therefore, translated by the word "hell." Take one occurrence of it. "And I say to you, my friends, be not afraid of them which kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear. Fear him which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell (Gehenna). Yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Luke xii. 4,5). Mr. Russell has trouble in trying to get clear of a passage like this. Punishment after death gleams out from it. Mr. Russell would like to persuade people that Jesus only meant, that if you do not behave well, after you are dead your body may be cast into the Valley of Hinnom. What difference does it make what is done with the body after death? Think of any one daring to put a childish threat like that into the mouth of Jesus!
In seeking to prove that extinction of being is the final punishment of the wicked, the word "destruction" is often made to play an important part. They quote such passages ;as Matt. x. 28: "Fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell (Gehenna)." They call attention to the fact that the punishment is destruction, and then add that destruction means extinction of being. We admit that the punishment is said to be destruction, and we admit that if you put a person out of existence, that person is destroyed; but we deny that "destroy" always means to put out of existence. A person or thing may be destroyed without being put out of existence. Let us look into this matter a little. The Greek word which is translated "destroy" in Matt. x. 28, is translated "lost" in the sixth verse of the same chapter. "The lost sheep of the house of Israel." They were away from God, hence "lost," "destroyed," but they were not out of existence. In Matt. xii. 14 we have, "Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him." Here we have the same Greek word and it is again rendered "destroy." But observe that it is the Pharisees who took counsel to destroy Him. The Pharisees believed that the soul exists after death, and they did not believe that they could put any person out of existence. The Pharisees took counsel to destroy him, but the Pharisees never did take counsel to put him out of existence. This proves that the word "destroy," in the New Testament, does not always mean to put out of existence. That being so, it cannot, as a word, prove their case. More proof of this kind could be advanced, but this is enough.
Mr. Russell and those who agree with him in regard to the punishment of the wicked use the word "perish" in the same manner and for the same purpose that they use the word "destroy." They say that the Scriptures teach that the wicked will "perish." We admit that. They say that "perish" always means to "put out of existence." We deny that. We admit that any person or thing put out of existence has perished. But we say that "perish" does not always mean "to put out of existence." Suppose we admit that "perish" may mean to put out of existence, that is no use to them for what may be, may not be. Unless they can prove that "perish" always means to "put out of existence," it does not prove their case. It is not what may be but what must be that is of any real use as proof. "Perish" occurs in Acts v. 37, but it does not there mean to "put out of existence." It is used by Gamaliel with regard to Judas of Galilee. Gamaliel says that Judas "perished." Gamaliel was a scholar and knew the meaning of the words he was using. But he was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees believed that the soul exists and is conscious after death. Gamaliel believed that Judas "perished," but Gamaliel did not believe that Judas of Galilee had gone out of existence. Again more might be said, but this is enough to spoil the case for the other side in so far as the word "perish" is concerned.
We have followed the arguments for extinction of being with regard to the wicked, and have found that there is nothing solid or certain with regard to any or all of them. We again call attention to the responsibility of those who misrepresent, minimise, tamper or trifle with what God has said in regard to the punishment of the wicked. There can be no doubt that such words as "perish" and "destroy" mean "utter ruin," but the nature of the ruin must be learnt from the context, or from what is said elsewhere, the words themselves do not settle that. And not only do these words fail to prove extinction of being, but you search the Scriptures in vain for a passage which distinctly says that the wicked will cease to be. It is not easy to explain why men dare so persistently affirm what the Bible does not say. On the other hand, we have already pointed out that Rev. xx. 10 distinctly teaches endless conscious suffering. This is in harmony with Matt. xxv. 46, "And these shall go away into eternal punishment; but the righteous into eternal life" (R. V.). The duration of the punishment of the wicked is expressed by the same word as the duration of the reward of the righteous. And you cannot punish that which does not exist. It is as certain that God is just as it is that He is merciful. Those who reject God's mercy will be forced to accept His justice, and what punishment a rejection of God and His offers of mercy deserve, we are in no position to judge, and we can only know what God has been pleased to tell us. It is God and not Mr. Russell who will fix the punishment of the wicked. And Mr. Russell's inexcusable misrepresentations of the Bible and religious people on this subject, will not save those who have allowed themselves to be deceived by him in that day when Christ will say to the wicked, "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matt. xxv.41).
I have perhaps paid more attention to Mr. Russell than he and his absurd system deserve. To touch upon all his errors would be almost an endless task, and there is no need for it. His teaching is not well known, and his literature is pushed in a number of places, and my object is to point out a sufficient number of errors to prevent those who believe in Christ and in the Scriptures from having anything to do with Russellism. And I consider that the errors which I have called attention to are quite sufficient for that.
SINCE the year 1900 we have had a Church in Motherwell. A few members from other places had gone to live there. It was considered a good centre in which to have a Church. The Scotch Evangelistic Committee consulted with the Slamannan District Committee. It was agreed that the Scotch Committee should bear the expense of halls, advertising, etc., and that the Slamannan Committee should send their evangelist to Motherwell for a time to see what could be done. The few members in the neighbourhood were gathered together, and some who had formerly been members with us but had dropped out were induced to again meet with us, and a beginning was made. We are not believers in the "One Man System," and to keep down as far as possible even the appearance of that, it was arranged that, when convenient, a brother from Hamilton should come and preside at the meeting for Breaking of Bread on Lord's day. Thus began a Church which has gone steadily on. It has done a good deal of uphill work. A considerable quantity of our literature has been distributed in and around Motherwell. A good deal of open-air work has been done by the members and by others whom they have called in to help. It is not a large Church, but they have a number of men who intelligently take part in conducting and addressing meetings. They have been diligent sowers, and I cannot help thinking that there is a reaping time before them. If they have not had the success which they deserve, they are at least better men on account of their hard work than they would have been if they had not tried.
Until age and failing strength recently compelled me to give up regular evangelistic work, I now and again helped Motherwell with their Gospel work, inside and outside; and I always found them willing workers. Like some other Churches, they have suffered a good deal from emigration. But this has to some extent a bright side. The Slamannan District has good men, here and there over a large part of the world, and some of them are doing good work where they are now placed. I have had opposition in connection with my Gospel work at times in Motherwell, just as I have now and again had at other places. I have had a little of this from more than one class of religious people. I might notice the most pretentious of these. It came from our old friends the Christadelphians. I had been speaking on the street, but in no way referring to them nor to what they believe; one of them began to put questions and led round to one of their pet subjects - the constitution of man. He must have intended to have a debate, if he could manage it; for we had but a few questions and answers when he challenged me to debate the subject, saying that he would bring a clever and scholarly man to meet me. We thought that he had said too much in public to be allowed to go, so we accepted. We then asked him whom he was going to bring, and he said "Thomas Nisbet, of Glasgow." We then informed him that we were old friends. I do not think that the Christadelphians of Motherwell knew when they gave the challenge that Mr. Nisbet and I had met before. They seemed to have every confidence in him. There is no doubt that he was their cleverest man. I offered to affirm, "That there is something in man that survives death."
Each side appointed a committee to make arrangements. Though I had made it clear what I was willing to affirm, there was the usual haggling in committee before they would consent to our proposition. The Christadelphian Committee urged that the immortality of the soul, or consciousness after death, should have a place in the proposition. One of our committee said, "We are not going to discuss whether a crow is black or white with men who deny the crow; let us decide about the crow first, gentlemen." Thus my committee held them to what I had offered to affirm. They pressed upon them the reasonableness of this, pointing out that it was not simply about the attributes of the soul that we differed; in the ordinary meaning of the word "soul" they denied that man had a soul, and our first real difference on this subject lies there and it ought to have our first attention. Sometimes when they cannot turn you aside from your purpose, they try to limit your field of inquiry by asking, "What is it in man that survives death? You ought to name the thing and put the name in the proposition." It is unfair in them to ask this, and it would be unwise in you to grant it. Suppose you pledged yourself to prove that the soul survives death. You could do it, of course, but in that case they could confine you to passages where the word "soul" is used. There are many passages which prove that man is a twofold being and that there is something in him that survives death where the word "soul" is not used; and if you allowed the word "soul" to go into the proposition, it would shut you out from that field of evidence. A manly opponent would not seek to do this, and it is foolish on your part to allow yourself to be tricked into a position where you are prevented from bringing all the evidence you wish to bear upon the point at issue.
My committee at Motherwell were upon the alert and would not allow me to be put into such a position. They wished to have a fair, single, and pointed issue, and they took care to leave me free to bring all the evidence that I wished to bear upon it.
The length of speeches and the proportion of time for speeches and for question and answer were largely left to Mr. Nisbet; we accepted his suggestions.
The committees made all the arrangements, and we met in the Y.M.C.A. hall; there was a large audience. As it was the same subject which Mr. Nisbet and I discussed at Armadale and Slamannan, I need not give many particulars. I may mention that Gen. ii. 7 did not come up at Motherwell at all; we had fought that to a finish at Slamannan. Matt. x. 21: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." This passage came up in all our debates on this subject. In question and answer we got to closer grips on this verse at Motherwell than we did anywhere else. I was putting the questions, and I asked Mr. Nisbet, "Does this passage prove that man has a soul and a body?" "Not soul, as you understand it" he replied. "Never you mind how I understand it; does it prove that man has a soul and a body?" I drew a reluctant "Yes" to this question. "Does this passage prove that the soul is not killed when the body is killed?" "Not soul, I say, as you understand it." "Never mind what I understand; does this verse prove that the soul is not killed when the body is killed?" Again I got a very reluctant "Yes." "As you understand the word 'soul' you believe that the soul goes out of existence when the body is killed?" "That is about it," he said. "Come! come! Mr. Nisbet, you and I know each other fairly well now. Do you believe that the soul goes out of existence when the body is killed?" Again I got a "Yes." "You admit that this passage teaches that the soul is not killed when the body is killed; and you say that the soul goes out of existence when the body is killed; if the soul goes out of existence when the body is killed, how comes it that the soul is not killed when the body is killed?" His gun hung fire for a second or two, and then he replied, "That's the rub." There was a round of laughter and applause all over that hall, which showed that the audience had been closely following the point and that the corner which he was driven into told heavily against him. It is perfectly impossible to harmonise this verse with the Christadelphian theory of the constitution of man.
What Mr. Nisbet, and the Christadelphians generally, mean by "The Spirit of God" was more clearly developed at Motherwell than it had been at Armadale or Slamannan. In question and answer something like the following took place.
"Mr. Nisbet, when you say 'Spirit of God,' you mean by that a force which has neither individuality nor intelligence?" "Yes."
"You believe that man is made up of a body and this force, which you are pleased to call 'Spirit of God'? "Yes."
"In like manner you believe that the spirit of man is a force which has neither individuality nor intelligence?" "Yes."
"When Stephen was stoned he called out, 'Lord Jesus receive my spirit.' Was the spirit of Stephen the spirit of an individual?" "Yes."
"And is the spirit of an individual not an individual spirit?" "No."
It was very evident that the audience resented this answer.
"You admit, Mr. Nisbet, that man has intelligence?" "Yes."
"Man, you say, has a body, but that body by itself has no intelligence?" "It has no intelligence by itself." "But you believe that 'Spirit of God' operates upon that body and thus human intelligence is produced?" "Yes."
"But 'Spirit of God,' you say, has no intelligence in itself any more than the body has?" "That is so."
"Thus two things neither of them possessing intelligence operate on each other and produce intelligence?" "Yes." "You believe then that intelligence came out of where it was never in?" "Yes."
In my next speech after this turn of questioning, I offered to meet Mr. Nisbet on the foregoing point alone. That is, I offered that if Mr. Nisbet would meet me and affirm that intelligence came out of where there never was any intelligence, I would deny, and we would spend an evening on that single point. He did not accept. Neither Scripture nor common sense can be made to support their theory of the constitution of man.
I may record another incident in connection with this debate. In one of my speeches I was dealing with Luke xxiv. 36-40, where Jesus after His resurrection came and stood in the midst of the disciples. They were afraid; they thought they saw a spirit. They had no doubt as to who was there, but they knew that Jesus was dead, so they did not believe that He was in the body; they thought that it was the spirit of Jesus. I called attention to the fact that these disciples had been three years under the teaching of Jesus, and, at the end of that time, they believed that man had a spirit that could exist apart from the body and was capable of being seen. I said that if Mr. Nisbet had a person under his teaching for three years, and at the end of that time that person believed that a man had such a spirit as the disciples believed in, he would consider himself disgraced as a teacher. At that point Mr. Nisbet spoke; he said,
"It is not pneuma, the ordinary Greek word for 'spirit,' that is there; it is phantasma, meaning 'phantom,' that is used there." I replied, "You are mistaken, Mr. Nisbet, it is pneuma that is used there." "If I am wrong," he said, "I shall write to the local papers." "All right," I replied, "you will write and say you were mistaken, or you will not write at all." I was about to proceed with my speech, when a man in the audience said, "I have my Greek Testament here, Mr. Anderson, and you are right." "Thank you," I said, "but I was sure that I was right."
This account of the appearance of Jesus to His disciples is enough in itself to destroy the Christadelphian theory of the constitution of man. Jesus did not rebuke them for believing that man had an individual spirit that could exist and possess intelligence apart from the body. No Christadelphian Body, so far as I know, would accept any one to fellowship who held that belief. They could be disciples of Christ and hold that belief; but they could not be Christadelphians and hold it. If to believe this is the great evil and error which the Christadelphians try to make out, it is an impeachment of Jesus as a Teacher that He had not His disciples better taught; and when you impeach the Master, whatever else you may be, on that subject at least, you are not a Christian. Mr. Nisbet saw that clearly, hence his attempt to turn aside the point of that argument.
There were scarcely two opinions as to our having the stronger position in the debate at Motherwell. It did us good, but no harm.
Mr. Nisbet and I met five times in public debate; I have mentioned three of them; perhaps it will be as well to finish what we have got to say about our contact with each other. Our next meeting was in Kilwinning. The Christadelphians were causing considerable commotion in that town. We have a member in that town called William Neice. He asked me to come and deliver a lecture there. I did so. After our meeting we got into conversation with one of the Christadelphians. He informed me that they were willing to debate anything upon which we differed. I informed him that I was equally willing for that. "What about propositions?" he asked. I shall leave a few propositions with Mr. Neice. He can form a committee to act for me, and you can form a committee to act for the other side." That was agreed to. I left a few propositions with Mr. Neice. I expected that he would quietly put the propositions before the other committee, but he considered it best to let it be publicly known that we were willing to meet them. So he got the propositions printed in the local papers, and invited any Christadelphian in Scotland or England to debate these propositions. That led to considerable newspaper correspondence. My friend Mr. Nisbet appeared among those who wrote to the papers, and the Christadelphians seemed willing that he should represent them. "The constitution of man" was to be taken up first, and debated in Kilwinning. "The kingdom of God" was to be arranged for afterwards, and debated in the town of Irvine.
In Kilwinning we were meeting for the fourth time on the same subject, and Mr. Nisbet might have known by that time that I would watch their trickery; all the same there was the usual haggling and wriggling before Mr. Nisbet could be drawn right up to the point at issue. He knew all the time, of course, that I was holding out to him a fair, clear, single-pointed issue. He knew that that point was so important that, if he could win there, my position was ruined; and, if he lost, it equally meant ruin for him on that subject. That is the kind of thing a man should desire if he is sure of the truth of his position. Mr. Nisbet's reluctance to come squarely up only made me the more certain that he knew the weakness of his cause. However, he had gone too far to go back and ultimately had to face the issue. Mr. Neice said that "the drawing of Mr. Nisbet up to his line was an education in itself in regard to Christadelphianism."
There was nothing in the debate itself which calls for special remark. We went over nearly the same ground we had covered at Motherwell: and as at Motherwell, I felt my side the stronger all the time. Mr. Nisbet tried hard to raise side issues at Kilwinning. For example, he put a question which had no bearing upon the subject. I refused to answer. He said, "I shall compel you to answer." "Oh! will you? I do not know how you will manage that, but I am waiting to see how you are going to manage it." He said, "If you do not answer, I shall sit down and stop the debate." He sat down. My chairman, James Wardrop, is one of the quietest but firmest of men. He then rose and said, "We shall be very sorry if you stop the debate, Mr. Nisbet, but that question has nothing to do with the subject, and, even if the debate should stop, you must stop pressing that question." Mr. Wardrop's decision was supported by an outburst of applause that made Mr. Nisbet see that his little game was up, and he had just to go on again.
I was thanked by a good many people outside of our religious connection for the part I played in the debate at Kilwinning.
I do not regret having met Mr. Nisbet four times on the same subject. So far as I know, he is the strongest man they have in Scotland. The strength of my position and the weakness of his became more evident every time we met. It leaves me as certain of the error of their position as I am of my own existence.
Some time after the debate in Kilwinning we met in Irvine. There was the usual wriggling over the proposition, of course, before we could agree about it. My experience of Christadelphians is that they love a catch as they love their life, and do their best to get it. No man should love debate for its own sake. He should only consent to it when he believes the cause of truth may be helped by it. No man has a right to take part in debate who is not careful about the propositions to be debated. You have no right to give away a battle before you begin by taking up a position which gives the enemy an advantage over you.
The debate took place in the Town Hall, Irvine, on 19th and 20th October, 1904. Mr. James Wardrop was again chairman for me, and Mr. Andrew Thomas, of Glasgow, was chairman for Mr. Nisbet. The proposition was, "That a kingdom of God which was at hand in the days of John the Baptist is now in existence, and is ruled from the throne of God, having laws and subjects on the earth." The debate is in print. We offered to share the responsibility of reporting and printing with our friends on the other side, but they did not accept. We were therefore responsible for reporting and printing.
In order to show the position I took up in that debate I think I cannot do better than quote my first speech:-
"Mr. Chairman, Mr. Nisbet, Ladies and Gentlemen:- You have heard the proposition, that 'the kingdom of God which was at hand in the days of John the Baptist, is now in existence, and is ruled from the throne of God, having laws and subjects on the earth.' If you keep before you exactly and as clearly as you can where we agree and where we differ, it will help a great deal. Mr. Nisbet and I both agree that the Jews were a kingdom of God - that is, that there is a kingdom of God behind us, a kingdom that once existed, but does not now exist. There we are both agreed. Again, we both believe that there is a kingdom in the future, a kingdom of glory that is not here yet. Again, we are both agreed, and, as far as I know, both sides will admit that God exercises an overruling power among the nations of the earth. These are points we are agreed upon, and hence do not discuss. The point is, has Christ a kingdom now? This is the point of difference: is there a kingdom of God, having specific laws that people may obey, to which they may become obedient subjects, and which is governed from the throne of God? Is there such a kingdom? I say, 'yes.' Mr. Nisbet says, 'no.' This is the point of difference, and, of course, it is for me to lead proof of what I affirm, and it is Mr. Nisbet's business to examine that proof. We shall begin by looking at Col. i. 13, where Paul says, speaking of God, 'Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son.' That affirms all that I require to affirm. It distinctly states that there is a kingdom of God's dear Son now, and that Paul and the Colossians were translated into it then. It had an existence in the days in which Paul wrote that epistle to the Colossians. The verse says distinctly what I believe, and distinctly contradicts what Mr. Nisbet says. Turn with me now to Hebrews xii., and there you will read at the second verse, 'Looking unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.' I quote that passage because there is a throne named there, and a throne indicates a kingdom, and Jesus is there set down at the right hand of the throne of God. That He is not there simply occupying a seat of honour without the power is evident. If you turn to Matt. xxviii. 18, you have Jesus saying, 'All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth. Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.'
"My chief point here is, that Christ has all power in heaven and on earth. That is, He is seated on the throne of God; with all the power of the throne of God delivered to him. In I Peter iii. 22, speaking of Jesus, Peter says, 'Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him.' How a kingdom can be denied in the face of these passages is, I confess, a perfect mystery to me. If there was a kingdom into which the Colossians were translated and that kingdom was that of God's dear Son, and if you have that Son on the throne of God, with the power of the throne handed to Him, and angels and authorities and powers subject to Him - it strikes me as absurd to deny a present kingdom. Look at Acts v. 31; the Apostles there make this statement, 'Him hath God exalted with His right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.' In the first place there is the word 'Prince.' He is exalted a Prince, and as a Prince He grants repentance. I know that our friends on the other side say, 'He is a Prince, that means the son of a king, but he is not the King.' I admit that prince sometimes means the son of a king, but it also sometimes means king, and it will have to be settled whether it is son of a king or sovereign here. In Chambers' Twentieth Century Dictionary the first meaning of the word 'prince' is, 'One of the highest rank, a sovereign.' And other good dictionaries give the same meaning. Whether 'prince' means 'sovereign' or 'son of a sovereign' will be settled by the context. It is quite clear that the context settles it here. Christ can save and forgive. Is that the work of a king, or of a king's son? If you have Christ as a Prince to save and pardon, He is by name and power the Sovereign Jesus. I am perfectly satisfied that these passages convey kingdom to any unprejudiced mind, and you cannot help thinking of a present kingdom when you read statements such as these. All this is in keeping with what you read in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You have the theme of 'the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' John the Baptist proclaimed that; Jesus preached the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The Twelve made their voices heard over the land of Palestine proclaiming the kingdom at hand. The Seventy were sent out preaching the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and that is eighteen hundred years since, and no kingdom has yet been set up! It is worse than absurd: it is misleading. It cannot be denied that something was at hand, something lived and died immediately after that. The Jewish temple was then standing, sacrifice being offered there. The Jews were exhorted that they should obey what God had commanded in that temple. But shortly after that Judaism came to a finish and Christianity sprang into being. Something had come and gone. That something which was at hand had all the essentials of a kingdom, even if you deny the name of it. If there is a kingdom into which the Colossians passed, if there are laws that men can and do obey, surely you have all the essentials of a kingdom. I may be asked whether there is territory? I say, 'The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof,' and I am not badly off for territory. And that included you have all the essentials of a kingdom, even if you deny the name. But the name is there as well as the essentials, and you cannot get clear of that fact in dealing with the kingdom. From the first Pentecost after Christ's resurrection, the kingdom at hand was no longer the main theme of the twelve. They preached that Jesus was exalted at the right hand of God, that he was Lord of all and had all power, and that man should believe in and submit to His kingly power and glory: and the kingdom at hand was no longer the theme of the Apostles.
Take what happened immediately after, and you have in name, in theme, and in everything else, a kingdom now here. Keep this point well before you. Remember that the present kingdom is the thing disputed; that I have proven that there is a kingdom; that subjects are enjoined to observe all things which he commanded; and remember that he is seated upon a higher throne than ever mortal sat upon. Suppose we turn to Rev. i. 5, 'And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.' Here Jesus is called the Prince of the kings of the earth, and that does not differ from the King of kings."
The foregoing speech gives a fair idea of the position I took up. I gave more proof during the debate, but I do not know that more is required. Four or five clear passages from God's Word will prove a point just as well as fifty, and we often err in giving too many. A long string of passages often serves to confuse the mind rather than increase conviction. When possible let arguments be few, but clear and strong. Let weak or hazy arguments be kept out of the way; they only give an opponent something to play with. Those who wish to know more of this debate can see the printed report. In my opinion, it would have helped to clear up matters a bit if Mr. Nisbet and I had met another time or two on the kingdom. I heard one man express an opinion, which I think would be pretty general; he said, "We could always follow Mr. Anderson; we were often not sure what Mr. Nisbet meant."
The subject is an important one, and the point which Mr. Nisbet and I had before us is the first in natural order. Has Christ a kingdom now or has He not? should be settled first thing. And settling this settles more than appears at first sight.
I have said that this subject is important; let me give at least one reason for saying so. Nearly all those who deny a present kingdom undervalue this dispensation, and thereby undervalue the influence of the Gospel of Christ. They often tell us that this dispensation forms no part of God's real plan. That when Christ came His intention was to set up an earthly kingdom; but the Jews were hostile. He therefore could not get the intended kingdom set up. So this dispensation is just a kind of make-shift that he was driven to when he was unable to get His kingdom set up. In keeping with this we are told that there is nothing about this dispensation in the prophecies of the Old Testament, for the good reason that God never intended this dispensation to exist. All the prophecies, they say, speak about a kingdom; there is no kingdom now, therefore none of the prophecies can be applied to this time. How any person can read the New Testament through once, and after reading it say that no prophecy of the Old Testament applies to this time is more than I can tell. If there are "seven wonders" without this one, this may be put down for an eighth wonder. We had better be careful about adopting a theory, for it is evident that there are many people who, when they do adopt a theory, move heaven and earth to make everything bend to it. Let me in this connection just quote one passage out of scores that may be quoted. Acts iii. 24, "Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel, and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days." That passage alone is enough to upset the theory referred to.
This theory has a very bad effect. When a man gets it into his head that God never intended this dispensation to exist, it is very easy to get him to believe that you need not expect much good to come out of it. And that is the general effect it has upon those who believe it. They never expect the Gospel of Christ to do much good, they only expect the world to grow worse and worse till the Lord comes. They are anxious to have it made bad enough so that they may expect the Lord soon. If you venture to express an opinion that the Gospel of the Grace of God will have a thousand years of a victory among all the nations of the earth before the end comes, you only shock them. They believe in no such thing. If you hint that some of the good things foretold about the Jews in the Old Testament may refer to the Jews after they have accepted the Gospel which they are now rejecting, they will not have it. They do not believe that the Jews ever will receive the Gospel in the same way that we Gentiles have received it, though, in my opinion, that is taught in the 11th chapter of Romans. The Jews, according to them have never to know the individual bliss of yielding to a loving Saviour as we Gentiles have done. They have to be driven in in a crowd like a flock of sheep before a dog when the Lord comes the second time. Should these people chance to be right, I am glad that I am not a Jew. But I see no chance of them being right. The middle wall of partition between Jew and Gentile has been broken down, and it never will be built up again. Jews and Gentiles are now fellow-heirs of the same blessings, and the Jews must henceforth be saved in the same manner as the Gentiles, or not at all. The Jews no longer exist as a nation. God has set aside the Law and made the Gospel binding in its place. We have a higher and better religion than the Jew ever had, and we shall never again be moved back to that system of shadow and symbol, now that the substance has come. The Gospel is God's last and best religion for man. Those who deny a present kingdom deny all this. It is no trivial error that leads a person thus to belittle the Gospel of the Grace of God that Christ left the glories of heaven and came to earth to establish.
DURING all my evangelistic life I have been considered the evangelist of the Slamannan District. I never gave up my connection with that district as long as I was fit for evangelistic work. Still, I have done a lot of work outside of that district. But this was reckoned special work, and I always left on the understanding that I returned to our own district when the special work was over. The city of Belfast got more of this kind of work than any one place. I have twice laboured in Belfast. Each time I went away expecting to labour there for six months, but each time I stayed there for twelve months. About twenty years ago our General Evangelistic Committee thought of giving some help to Ireland. I was glad to hear of it, for I had some warm-hearted Irish friends in Scotland.
In conversation with one of the G. E. C. I expressed my pleasure with the news that they were going to try and send some help to Ireland. I also informed him that if they had not a suitable man to send there, and thought that I would suit their purpose, if they could send some one to take my place at Slamannan for a time, I would go to Ireland. My hint was acted upon, and I was left free to go to the Green Isle. Their plan was to send two men together; they were to select a young man, if they could get one, to go with me. They arranged with Mr. John Straiton, a native of Slamannan, to go with me to Belfast. We got ready as soon as we could, and took boat for that city. We did not know any of the brethren there, but Mr. Joseph Paterson was to meet us at the boat when we landed. We had a pen-and-ink portrait of him, written by Mr. Geo. Collin. We spotted our man before the boat stopped. Mr. Straiton and I were both sure that if Mr. Paterson was there, that that was Mr. Paterson. We were right, and in less than five minutes we were at home in Ireland.
There were, I think, about twenty-two members in Belfast then, and we were soon upon the best of terms with them. Mr. Straiton was as good a helpmate as I could have got for Belfast. We knew each other well to begin with, and that was an advantage. Whilst pleased with the Belfast brethren generally, I remember that one small matter troubled me for a week or two. In small Churches, where all know each other, they are apt to get into the habit of waiting for one another; and suppose you are a few minutes late, well! it does not make much matter. But when you are advertising and doing your best to get strangers to come to the evening meeting, and a stranger comes a few minutes early, and he finds very few there, and the few who are there are straggled all over the place instead of all sitting together and all well forward near the speaker - I say, when this happens, it makes both you and the stranger feel like wishing that you were somewhere else. What a difference it makes to both speakers and hearers when the members come early and go well forward and sit compactly together; then a stranger coming in is more apt to go freely forward and take his seat beside the others, and feel more at ease than he otherwise would do. And though an audience is not large, if they sit compactly together, what a difference it makes to the speaker! Some of our Belfast friends did not think about this at the first, and it annoyed me a bit. But I could not expect them to alter, if I did not let them know how I felt about it; so I gave a few broad Scotch hints about the matter, and it soon came all right. But it is painful when a Scotchman has to give a broad hint. A broad hint from a Scotchman is often a good bit too broad. We are very clumsy, as a rule, at giving a delicate hint as to what we want. It was an Irishman who said, "God bless your cows, mistress, would you give us a drink?" A Scotchman could not have got round it like that. However, my Belfast friends did not take it badly, and we got on well together.
We all worked hard, but we made no immediate progress. It was about three months before there was much sign of increase. After that things moved on a little. There never was any great rush; we did not manage all we wished by a long way. Still, when I left at the end of a year's labour, the membership was three times as great as when we began. I dare not attempt anything like an outline of that year's work. Most of it may be described as ordinary gospel work. Many different shades of religious belief are aired on the Custom House steps on a Sunday afternoon, and when weather permitted we generally had a meeting there. As a rule, I got a good audience at the "steps." An unusual experience grew out of that. The Christadelphians began to hand round tracts at our meetings. I did not like that, and lest we should be mistaken for Christadelphians, I decided to deliver an address in our hall on a Sunday evening that would make it clear that we had no sympathy with the literature that was sometimes given away at our outside meetings. Mr. Straiton managed the advertising. As that discourse was to be a little unusual, he suggested spending double the usual amount on advertising it, and he would try and make it more noticeable. I consented, and he got the space which he bargained for; but they moved his advertisement out of the usual columns for advertising religious meetings, with the result that very few saw our advertisement that week, and some wondered if for some reason we were to have no meeting that Lord's day evening. Mr. Straiton did not care to be done in that fashion. To pay more money than usual and get less than usual value for it did not go down well with him; so he was at the newspaper office early on Monday forenoon to call their attention to what they had done. He said, "You ought in some way to make up for your mistake. I observe that you print a sermon by one and another in your columns now and again. You should print the substance of Mr. Anderson's sermon when you helped to deprive him of an audience last night." They promised to do so, if he could have it in their hands that afternoon or evening. I seldom write what I am going to say, and that sermon was not written. But we set to work, Mr. Straiton giving a hand, and it was at the newspaper office inside the time specified, and appeared next day. If we were disappointed on Saturday, we were more than pleased on Tuesday. The object I had in view was attained beyond my expectations. But when the sermon appeared in the papers it stirred our Christadelphian friends. I had preached from Matt. x. 28, and though I did not deem it wise to spend all my time on points of difference, I ran counter to them on the nature of man and the future of the wicked. About a week after my sermon appeared in the papers, I had a letter from our friends informing me that on a certain evening one of their members would read a paper criticising my sermon. It would take about half an hour to read the paper, and if I cared to attend I would be allowed half an hour to reply. The person who was going to read the paper was named in my letter. I spoke to a man who knew the Christadelphians fairly well, and asked him what age the person was who was going to read the paper? "About the age of Mr. Straiton," he said. I then consulted with Bro. Straiton, and suggested that he should reply to the paper, as the writer and he were nearer the same age. He was willing, and I wrote asking them to allow Mr. Straiton to fill my place on account of the age of the writer. I got an answer advising me to despise no man's youth, but accepting Mr. Straiton in my place. When we got to their hall on the night appointed, we found that a mistake had been made. Our friends had two men of the same name, and the man who was to read the paper was much nearer my age than Mr. Straiton's. As soon as I knew, I went to their leading men and explained how the mistake had taken place, but asking them to accept Mr. Straiton when the arrangement had been made. The person who read the paper seemed to be a very fine man. Bro. Straiton's reply gave general satisfaction. Even the other side had to admit that at some points it was very good.
We got to know afterwards that they had planned their work to the best advantage. The man who read the paper was the best man they had for that kind of thing, but he was not their best debater. We were informed that the meeting would go on for an hour after Mr. Straiton's reply to the paper, but the writer of the paper would take no further part in the meeting. Another man, however, would make a twenty minutes' reply to Mr. Straiton, then twenty minutes would be granted to some one on Mr. Straiton's side of the question. After that the man who spoke for the twenty minutes would take other ten minutes, and the closing ten minutes would be given to some one on Mr. Straiton's side. We found that the man who did the speaking on their side after the paper was their best debater. I replied to his twenty and ten minutes' speeches. At the close of his last speech, he gave a challenge to any man in Belfast to debate the subject they had in hand. At the close of my last ten minutes I said that I was still willing to leave the defence of my sermon in the hands of John Straiton against any man in Belfast, and I was willing to defend it against any person that they cared to bring. So a night's debate was arranged for on the spot between Bro. Straiton and the person who gave the challenge.
I was not feeling well, and had made arrangements to go to Scotland for a week before all this took place. That would take me away from the city before the debate came off. I thought it best not to alter my plan lest they should say that I had stayed to help Mr. Straiton. So I went off, and the debate was over before I came back. Our people were well pleased with the manner in which Bro. Straiton acquitted himself in that debate. At the close of the debate there was again a challenge given to continue the debate for one or more nights, the propositions to be arranged by letter. When I returned I found a correspondence going on that was not likely to result in anything satisfactory. They had learned that in a fair field they were likely to get the worst of it, and they were in for their old game of catch; neither Mr. Straiton nor I was willing to let them play that game. So we advertised a public meeting at which Bro. Straiton read the correspondence. He then read two propositions covering the main points in my address, and offered to meet any one in debate on these propositions. It was a large meeting, and that cleared the air. The people saw where we were standing, and that we were open and willing for a fair defence of our position. That meeting did a lot of good.
After the correspondence and the propositions were before the meeting I said, "There is still forty minutes to spare. I am now going to make a fifteen minutes' attack on Christadelphianism. Any of its friends can have fifteen minutes for a reply. We can then have five minutes, each and close." The gentleman who debated with Bro. Straiton filled in the two replies to me. During his last five minutes, when I had no opportunity for a reply, he said, "At death the soul of man is absorbed into an ocean of energy and loses all individuality as a drop of water does when it falls into the sea." The Christadelphians often say something like this. I thought I would like to press him on that point. So I wrote to him next morning, quoting his words, adding, "If you think you can prove this in public debate, I shall provide you with an opportunity of doing so. Please let me know if you are willing to try it?" He wrote his answer that night, and I got it next morning. I think I can give it in almost his own words; it was to this effect - "Mr. Anderson, Dear Sir, - After your treatment of me last night, I refuse to have anything more to do with you in regard to religious matters." I considered that a very satisfactory answer. It let me know that the battle was ended, so far as he and I were concerned. I was also next to certain that he would not meet Mr. Straiton again on a fair and pointed proposition. I was right, he did not take up Bro. Straiton's propositions. We did nothing to keep up the friction. Our object was to remove an obstruction; that being done, we went on with our usual work again.
I may mention another experience of a like nature which came our way in the city. It was more indirect, and again Mr. Straiton had more to do with it than I had. A small Church - some eight or nine members - almost identical with us existed in the city before we went, but we did not know of its existence. Bro. Straiton was passing the Custom-House steps one Sunday afternoon when he heard two men debating. One was a shipyard labourer belonging to the little Church just mentioned, and the other was a young doctor belonging to the "Brethren". The subject in dispute was the design of Baptism. The labourer was holding that Baptism preceded by faith and repentance is for the remission of sins. The doctor was teaching that justification was by faith alone. Mr. Straiton was surprised to find that the labourer was at one with us on the point that he was contending for. This caused him to inquire about both men. Bro. Straiton informed me as to what had come under his notice. I said, "Well, John, we shall have to know more about that little meeting. And though you say that the labourer held his ground well, still it is hardly an equal match. You cannot interfere between the two men, of course, unless you get a natural opening, but if you do get a natural opening you must take hold of that young doctor. The men will then be more equally matched." Shortly after this Bro. Straiton was informed that at their meeting at the Custom-House steps the previous Sunday the young doctor had given a public challenge offering to meet any one and debate the point of difference between him and the labourer. Bro. Straiton inquired as to their time of meeting, and went to their meeting at the steps on Sunday, and publicly accepted their challenge. They were not willing to go on with a public debate after Bro. Straiton did accept. All they were willing for then was a debate in a parlour with a dozen friends on each side as hearers. We accepted that rather than nothing. We half gained our object in publicly accepting their challenge. We knew that that would so far put a check on. We met at the time and house agreed upon. The young doctor seemed inclined to talk to me before the debate started. He said, "I suppose that this is taking place according to your wish, Mr. Anderson." "That is so," I said. "I would rather have met you than Mr. Straiton." "If you had been an older man, you would have met me. But you and Mr. Straiton are more like each other." "What was your object?" he asked. "Well," I said, "you knew that we and the labourer that you were disputing with, believed the same thing in regard to the point in dispute. When you were opposing him you were throwing stones at us round the corner, and my object was to stop you, if I could. I may say that we are not inclined to interfere with others any more than we can help, but we believe what we preach and believe it is our duty to defend it; so it is part of my purpose to let you know that if you swagger while Mr. Straiton and I are in Belfast you will fight; if you don't wish to fight don't challenge, and we shall not be likely to disturb you."
There could hardly be two opinions as to Bro. Straiton having the best of the debate all the way through. This brought us to the end of public opposition, so far as our friends were concerned; and we went on with our usual work again. We thought that duty pointed in the direction of knowing more of the little gathering which had been the cause of the experience we have just recorded. Bro. Straiton took an active part in the matter, but we both got into touch with them, with the result that, after a good deal of come and go, they cast in their lot with us. One of them has been an elder in our connection in Belfast from shortly after that till now.
I have said enough to give some idea of my work in Belfast during my first visit. I left at the end of the year, Mr Mortimer came to fill my place, and Mr. Straiton remained with Mr. Mortimer. I made many friends in Belfast, and I left with the conviction that I might have spent a pleasant and useful life in Belfast. I left with the best wishes of those among whom I had laboured. I found the people upon the whole, cheerful and warm hearted. If a man is a sincere lover of peace, and does the best he can for peace, and is all the time ready for war, he can get along very well with the people of Ireland.
When I have Belfast in hand, I may make a few remarks about my second visit. It took place a number of years after my first visit. There had been a lack of harmony within the Church, and that always does harm. The meetings had suffered as a consequence and were small to begin with. The brethren suggested that I might try some lectures on controversial subjects on the Sunday afternoons, with a view to helping our Gospel meetings in the evening. I took their advice, and advertised a lecture on the "Kingdom of God," leaving myself open to questions at the close of the lecture. The Christadelphians think that they know all about this subject, and a section of them came out in some force to hear the lecture. Not the same men, however, that we had been in touch with during our first visit. These men went on briskly putting questions for an hour after the lecture. They grumbled when the time was up because they had not got all their questions put. I let them know that I was willing to continue the subject on the following Sunday afternoon. And I would then only take ten minutes to open up the subject, and would give all the rest of the time for questions. This meeting was a fairly large and interesting meeting, and the next meeting was larger and showed more interest. The Gospel meetings began to grow from that time, and continued to improve. On the second Sunday afternoon also our friends kept at it with their questions all the time. But at the close they did not feel that they had gained anything; the feeling was in the other direction. They expressed their dissatisfaction. They admitted that they could not say that I had been unfair in any way, but they thought that if I would accept a challenge for a regular debate for an evening they could present their case to more advantage. I said that if they would take a week-night for the debate, they could have it, but I would not consent to it on the Sunday. That was agreed to. They said that they were anxious that I would consent to questions and answers during the debate. I said that I was willing that each man used his time as he pleased, he could ask questions all the time or speak all the time, or speak part of the time and ask questions part of the time, just as he pleased. They seemed to be surprised that I was just as willing for questions as all that. In making the arrangements, however, they limited the time for questions, and I accepted what they suggested. It took some time to arrange for the debate, but it came off in due course. My friend on the other side was pledged to prove that at Christ's second coming all the dead saints would be raised from the dead and all the living saints changed; and that Christ and these glorified saints, with the angels, would reign over men and women in the flesh for a thousand years, births, deaths and marriages going on then as now. I was pledged to deny this. It was a large gathering and very orderly. We had each a half-hour to open with, and short speeches or rounds of questioning after that. I felt myself in fairly good trim for that evening's work. Some of my friends were of opinion that my first half-hour was one of the best speeches which I have delivered in Belfast. I am putting it tamely when I say that my friends were pleased with that debate. As I am only giving brief outlines of work, I cannot attempt to give the substance of the debate. But I may record one incident.
Mr. Robert Fleming was my chairman. During the debate he said to me, "Bro. Anderson, I can understand people holding these notions as matters of opinion, but to make our eternal salvation depend upon believing them - it is awful,. Press him hard on that point the next time you put questions." I considered it might be wise to do as my chairman wished. So when I next put questions I said, "You think that I should be punished with everlasting destruction because I differ from you on this subject?" "Yes," he replied. "Now before you hurl a person into everlasting destruction you should be very sure that you are right. You ought at least to have one passage which puts it beyond all question. Can you quote one such passage?" He gave Rev. xx. 1-10, as proving his case. I asked, "Are you sure that this proves your case?" "Yes." "You believe that there will be compulsory religion during that thousand years? that is, Christ and the saints will compel people to do right, or remove them?" "Yes," he replied. "Well you get on all right with your compulsory religion as long as the devil is chained, but when he is let loose you have no show, you get beat. Do you believe that?" The Christadelphians do not believe in a personal devil, so instead of answering me, he asked, "What do you mean by the devil?" "Oh," I replied, "I shall let you make your own devil, and then you should be pleased with him. But do you believe in any power from anywhere that is able to defeat the Lord Jesus Christ and all the saints and angels, when they are ruling by force? Do you know of such a power at all?" He replied, "I do not." "Then," I said, "whatever may be the true meaning of this passage, yours is absurd. Do you still believe that I should be punished with everlasting destruction for not believing as you do on this subject, when you can only support it in that absurd fashion?" But again his reply was "Yes." I then called his attention to 2 Thes, i. 6-10, and said, "These verses teach that when Christ comes with His mighty angels he will punish with everlasting destruction whose who know not God and obey not the Gospel. That will move them all out of a flesh-and-blood state. At the same time He is going to glorify all those who believe. That will in like manner move the saints out of this mortal state. Now if these two things happen when the Lord comes, where are you going to get people in their natural state to inhabit the earth after that? Where are your births, deaths, and marriages to come from for a thousand years after that?" He did not relish that question, but after hesitating he went on. "It is those," he said, "who know not God who are to be destroyed. But that expression implies some degree of responsibility. There may be left those who are not responsible, such as infants, idiots and conscientious heathens." "But," I said, "in your first speech you told us what a glorious kingdom Christ was going to have when he came the second time. Has your glorious kingdom shrivelled up to this? Have we to picture to ourselves the glorified Christ with all the saints that ever were or ever will be also glorified, and in addition to all the angels of heaven coming to this little world of ours to take charge of a few infants and idiots and irresponsible heathens? Is that your conception of a glorious kingdom?" I got no answer, and perhaps I should have let it stand at that, but I put another question "Are you sure," I asked, "that the angels would make good wet-nurses for these infants, even if you had them here?" Neither did I get any answer to this. And believing that I had done enough in the direction indicated by my chairman, I let it rest there. We had a member whose leanings were to the side of my opponent on this subject. In the conversation afterwards he said, "You were perfectly fair, I have no fault to find now, but the other side was bound to feel your strength and their weakness at that point in particular, though it was evident all the way through."
The Sunday afternoon lectures went on and were well attended, but I do not think that I saw my opponent or his chairman after the debate. There was no lack of interest and no lack of questions at the close of the lectures, but the Christadelphians could not be said to be to the front in any particular way after the debate. Our evening Gospel meetings also kept up well, the one helped the other.
When the weather got better we decided to try the Custom House steps instead of the afternoon lectures. At the close of my last lecture, I asked the audience, "Would you advise me to leave myself open to questions at the close of my address at the 'steps' just as I have done in this hall?"
A Presbyterian who had attended nearly all the afternoon lectures and had often put questions, and always in an intelligent and good-natured way, rose and said, "No, Mr. Anderson, you must not leave yourself open at the 'steps' as you have done in this hall. That may do on Glasgow Green, but it is not safe on our Custom House steps. Scotchmen can discuss religion in the open air, and though they differ it ends in talk; but we have not got that length yet. When Irishmen discuss religion in the open, it is apt to end in something else than words. You have had the best of order in this hall, but you must not try it outside." He added, "Would you allow me before I sit down to thank you for your lectures. I have enjoyed them. You have clearly stated positions where differences of opinion are held. You have frankly taken your own stand and allowed any who pleased to oppose you. I question if any of the clergy in the city would care to do that. I thank you for the manner in which you have done your work. I have put questions freely, I have passed through your hands a number of times, often to my disadvantage, I have to admit, but even then your replies were of such a gentlemanly character that it was a pleasure to pass through your hands." I thanked him. I had the conviction at the time, and have it yet, that we have something to learn from our Irish friends. A Scotchman could hardly pay a compliment in the style that our Irish friend did it.
We had good meetings at the "steps," and our inside meetings also kept up very well. In this manner I got to the end of another year in Belfast. I have been back a time or two to see the friends there. But something unusual will have to take place if I visit them again. There is something naturally sad in thinking that you have paid your last visit to friends at a distance. Maybe that is wrong; it would perhaps be better to pay more attention to the brighter side, and thank our Father in Heaven that He was pleased to allow us to visit them as often as we did.
IN taking notice of places where I have laboured outside of our own district, I cannot pass over Fifeshire. I feel about as much at home in Fife as I do in our own district. The trouble is, I can only give a passing notice, and there are so many people that I know well there, and so many places and incidents present themselves to the mind, that if I begin I hardly see a stopping-place. What you mention must be a mere nothing compared with what you do not mention. Had there only been Dunfermline or Kirkaldy, one might have said a good deal about either of them, but when I put them both in, I realise that I have more than I can deal with. And when I add all the rest of the "Kingdom" to these two, I feel like saying, "My compliments to you all, friends," and pass on. In contending for the faith which was once for all delivered unto saints, I had one public experience in Fife, somewhat different from anything I have had elsewhere. I may say something about that in passing. A few years ago the Seventh-day Adventists were trying to make themselves felt in Kirkaldy. They sent two men and a large-sized tent to that town. Through the local press they offered _200 reward for a passage of Scripture which said that the Sabbath was changed from the seventh to the first day of the week. They also talked about being willing to debate the differences between themselves and other religious bodies. Our friends at Kirkaldy wrote asking if I was free to come and pay some attention to these people. I expressed my willingness and set out for Fife. When informing our friends at Kirkaldy that we were willing to come, we asked them to offer through the local papers, _200 reward for a passage of Scripture which proved that Christians were ever commanded to observe the seventh-day Sabbath. That was a sufficient reply to their _200 reward. I at the same time asked them to arrange for a public debate. When they tried to arrange for a debate they found that our Seventh-day friends were not willing to go on with it; but the chief man of the two in the tent offered to let me have the use of the tent for a night, that I might give my objections to Seventh-day Adventism. That offer was accepted. When it was announced in the tent that a gentleman was coming on a given night to lecture against Seventh-day Adventism, the second man in connection with the tent rose and asked for the name of the man who was coming. When he was told, he objected to me getting the use of the tent. He said, "I know that man, and he is not a Christian." However, the first man had given his consent and the second man could not hinder us. On the night of my lecture the tent was crowded to its utmost capacity. They asked the liberty to make their usual collection to help to defray expenses; we raised no objection to that. Our Brother Thomas Harrow of Dysart took the chair. He thanked them for the use of the tent, and introduced me. Before beginning with my lecture, I said, "I have been informed that a gentleman in connection with this tent has publicly objected to my getting the use of the tent, on the ground that I am not a Christian. That gentleman is present. I invite him to come forward and publicly give proof for that statement, or publicly withdraw it." But he would do neither. He said, "I shall see you at the close of the meeting." "No, no," I said; "you made the charge in public, give the proof publicly, or publicly take it back." But he would do neither. He lost more by refusing to make his charge good than he had gained by making it. When he refused to come forward, I proceeded with my lecture. I had a most attentive hearing, and a good many people knew more about the other side of Seventh-day Adventism after that evening. I went home after that lecture. Our friends in the tent gave three lectures in reply to my one. The press gave brief reports. A friend took notes and sent them to me, and I returned and gave another lecture in review of the three delivered in the tent. I did not get the tent for my second lecture. But I had a good audience; if not the best, at least one of the best I ever addressed in Sinclairtown chapel; and I have addressed a great many good audiences there. I am not in the habit of making long speeches, it is one of the sins that I have tried to keep clear of, knowing how many good preachers it has cursed, but that night I talked for over two hours. But the interest never flagged all the time. There were so many questionable statements, or statements worse than questionable, in the three lectures I was reviewing that though I had a fresh subject every three or five minutes, and moving along as fast as I could, it took me over two hours to get to the end of my task. But the people were so keenly alive to every point that it was a pleasure to address them.
I suppose I must let this do for my notice of Fifeshire. How often I have visited Fife, or how much labour I have given to it, one time and another, it is simply impossible for me to tell.
When I have the Seventh-Day people in hand I may mention how the second man in connection with the tent got to know me. Some time before I had the brush with the Seventh-Day people in Kirkaldy, I was preaching in Motherwell. A friend who lived in a mining village near Holytown Station called upon me. He told me that he and some other miners had been talking to a man who said that he belonged to the Seventh-Day Adventists. He was employed in selling their books. My friend said, "We were not equal to him in conversation. He seemed to know his ground well, and we knew very little about it." My friend gave me a sample of what passed. He said, "The Seventh-Day man took us to the Ten Commandments. He read the first and then asked, "Do you all admit that this commandment is binding upon you?" We all said "Yes." He took us to the second and third in like manner. He said, "We shall pass over the fourth just now." He took us to all the others, and we all admitted that they were binding upon us. He then took us back to the Fourth Commandment and asked, "How comes it that this Commandment is not binding upon you? You admit that the other nine are binding upon you, and they were all given at the same time and by the same authority?" Some of us said that the Sabbath was changed from the seventh day to the first. He pressed us for our proof, and none of us could give it." My friend continued, "My object is coming is to see if you are willing to have a conversation with this man, if I can arrange for it." I gave my consent, and when the time and place were fixed, I was sent for. We met in a miner's cottage with, I would say, over a dozen miners present. The conversation was not long commenced when he introduced the Ten Commandments in the manner that my friend had told me of. He read the First Commandment, and then asked, "Do you consider that this commandment is binding upon you?" I answered "No." He looked surprised and asked, "Did you say no?" "Yes," I replied, "I said no." "But," he asked, "how could you say no." "I said no," I replied, "because I could not in truth say anything else. That commandment was delivered to a people who were brought up 'out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' I never was in Egypt, nor any of my ancestors, so far as I know. That the Ten Commandments were delivered to the Jews is certain; there is no proof that they ever were delivered to all the world." "Then," he said, "you will consider yourself at liberty to kill, or steal, or bear false witness." "That does not follow as a consequence," I replied. "I am not a Jew, and I am not and never was under the law of Moses, but that does not prove that I am under no law. I am under law to Christ. There is any amount of proof that Christians are not under the Law, but the commands of Christ and His Apostles are binding upon Christians. Nine of the Ten Commandments have been made binding upon Christians. But Christians never were commanded to keep the Seventh-Day sabbath. And Christian Churches from the first met for worship on the first day of the week. In the New Testament, Christians are never commanded to keep the seventh day, nor are they ever blamed for not keeping it." Our Seventh-Day friend tried hard to break down this position, but it was no use, I could hold it easily. And our mining friends were pleased that I had come to their aid. They were anxious that we should have another evening's conversation, and we both consented to meet again next week. It fared worse with our Seventh-Day friend in the second conversation that it had done in the first. Towards the close of the second conversation our friend became a bit nasty, and told me that he would "waste no more time on me." Our mining friends who heard the conversations did not wonder at that; they knew that he had got as much of my conversation as he wished to have. We parted in this fashion, and the next time that I heard of him he was declaring in the tent at Kirkaldy that he knew me and I was not a Christian. I have already recorded that he refused to come forward and prove this charge as publicly as he had made it. As I was about to go out of the tent that night that I spoke in it, he called me aside. "No," I said, "I refuse to speak to you by yourself; anything that passed between us must be in the hearing of a witness or two." Two or three came forward, and he asked, "Do you remember having conversation with me at Holytown?" "Yes," I replied. "Well," he said, "the second night you sneered. I distinctly saw you." I replied, "I am not conscious of it if I did. Is it upon this and this alone that you found your charge that I am not a Christian?" "Yes," was his reply. I said, "If a person behaves in a contemptible way, I have never been able to convince myself that I have sinned, even if I, in some degree, show the contempt which I cannot help but feel." I do not know that I sneered at Holytown, but I felt rather like sneering that night when I left the tent. When people cannot meet your argument they are apt to fault your manner. As a rule, we should be pleased when they are driven to that. If he had been able to defend his cause at Holytown, he would have been less likely to impeach my character at Kirkcaldy.
I need not say more about the Seventh-Day Adventists. Books dealing with their errors can easily be got. Perhaps D. M. Cartwright's book is the best. His long connection with them gave him an extensive knowledge of them. Our brethren in Australia have a number of very good tracts on this subject. These tracts alone are enough to show the main errors of Seventh-Day Adventism.
I CANNOT give even a brief outline of my religious experience and leave the North of Scotland out. One time and another, extending over a considerable number of years, I have visited different places in the North of Scotland. A photo on the wall, taken by Bro. Watt, reminds me that I visited Dundee a good many years ago. It also calls to mind many a pleasant chat I had with the man who took the photo. I knew Salem Chapel better than I knew Constitution Road; though I preached in both places, my visits to Salem Chapel were more frequent. I enjoyed my visits there, though there was often some cause for pain. I generally found there men of intelligence and piety. With wise and harmonious pulling together Salem Chapel would have been the meeting place of one of our strongest Churches in Scotland. But want of harmony went a long way towards spoiling the results of pious energy. And Churches are like individuals, or for that matter like nations, if they get into a groove it is not easy to get out. If we could all be roused to a proper sense of our responsibility in this matter what a difference it would make to some Churches! But with all its imperfections, memory recalls many happy seasons of spiritual and social intercourse which I had with brethren in connection with Salem Chapel. Shall I just name one of them? I shall name one who would not have been likely to have got into a sulky mood, no matter whether you took much notice of him or not. I spent many pleasant hours with the late James Chisholm. If any subject or incident had a humorous side Mr. Chisholm was sure to see that the first thing. His joke had to come first no matter how serious the next thing might be. But beneath all that, there was a piety, honesty, and earnestness which rose above all question. His faith in Christ and his deep decision for the faith once for all delivered to the saints, were as steady as the needle to the pole.
Just a sample out of many which occur to my mind. We were out for a walk one day. A gentleman met Mr. Chisholm and stopped to speak to him. After the gentleman had moved off, I asked, "Who is that, Bro. Chisholm?" "He was once a brother of mine," he replied. "And what is he now?" "He belongs to what we sometimes call 'The Kingdom-Come Folks.'" "That does not help me much, Bro. Chisholm. Please, name something that he now believes?" "Well," he replied, "at the second coming of Christ, we have all to be gathered together at one place. I do not know where, but somewhere; and 'Davie' there and his Brethren are to have rods of iron and they are going to make fell work among us." I had then some idea where to locate Mr. Chisholm's friend. But I could never forget Bro. Chisholm's description of his friend's hope in connection with the Lord's second coming.
I have also visited Aberdeen a good many times, with a considerable number of years between my first and last visits. I have always found an intelligent, earnest, hard-working Church there, but often facing untoward circumstances over which they had no control. I often found them doing their duty under adverse circumstances in a manner which called forth my admiration. When a little Church against heavy odds, steadily does its duty, it appeals to me in a way that a large Church never does. For many years that Church was put to a good deal of disadvantage for the want of suitable halls to meet in. This pressed them to build a chapel, which was a heavy burden considering their numbers. Though I could not always do them all the good that I could have wished, it never failed to give me the greatest pleasure to help a Church which walked up to its difficulties and did its best with them. I had generally this pleasure when I visited Aberdeen.
My work at Aberdeen was, for the greater part, of an ordinary Gospel nature, preaching inside and outside as circumstances demanded. I need not therefore take up time in describing it. I may mention one exception to that general rule. Controversy in an Aberdeen evening newspaper, on the subject of non-churchgoing, in which the Rev. Alexander Webster, Unitarian Minister, and one of our members were among those who took part, led to Mr. Webster being asked if he was willing to have a public debate on the destiny of the wicked? His consent being obtained, I was asked by our Church in Aberdeen to represent them in that debate. Mr. Webster's committee were fair, intelligent men, and there was little trouble in making the arrangements. The debate was held in the Trades Hall, Aberdeen, on Monday, 9th, and Tuesday, 10th December, 1901. There was good order and large attentive audiences. On the first night I took the affirmative on the question, "Does Jesus teach that the wicked will suffer endless punishment?" On the second night Mr. Webster took the affirmative on the question, "Does Jesus teach that all mankind will finally be lifted up to holiness and happiness?" As that debate was printed, there are grounds for those who wish to do so forming their own opinions as to the merits of either side. But I may perhaps be permitted to say that a goodly number of persons outside of our connection thanked me for the part I played in that debate.
Mr. Webster and I agreed to be mutually responsible for engaging a reporter and printing the debate. We did not manage, however, to carry out this part of the agreement. Mr. Webster wished all expression of applause by the audience to be removed from the report, as it lowered the dignity of the debate. I consented to that. He expressed a desire that each of us should have a few pages in connection with each copy of the debate on which to advertise our literature. I refused to have anything to do with advertising literature which I could not endorse. He wished the debate to be abridged, so that it might be sold more cheaply. I insisted that the debate be printed as nearly as possible as it took place, or not at all. After weeks of time were thus lost in trying to come to an agreement, Mr. Webster backed out of all responsibility in connection with the printing of the debate. Mr. Webster was by that time lecturing on the debate on the Sunday evening. My friends then advised me not to go on with the printing. They said that the weeks lost were valuable from a monetary point of view. That interest in the debate was beginning to die down, and I would be almost sure to lose by it if I printed. However, I resolved that when I had gone so far I would see the thing through, and I asked my friends in Aberdeen to go on with the printing on my responsibility. I had no further trouble with that debate. My friends in Aberdeen were very capable of looking after the printing, and I left everything to them and they did the work willingly. Nor did I lose anything. It cleared the expense of printing and a little over.
In that debate I found nothing that tended to cause me to alter the position which I had taken up, but I found much to confirm me in the truth of what I was contending for. I kept well before the audience that I was running no risk even if I was mistaken in regard to what I was contending for. That is, serving God and thus living a holy life here resulted in greater happiness even here than if you lived a wicked life, and at the same time it made sure of you living on the right side for eternity, no matter which of us had the truth on our side in the debate. On the other hand, if you believed what Mr. Webster taught that, no matter how you lived or died, you would finally be lifted up to holiness and happiness, if in view of this you ventured upon living a godless life, you might learn when it was too late that you had made an eternal mistake. You had lost everything in eternity and had gained nothing in time. How Mr. Webster dared to take this terrible responsibility upon himself with no better arguments to support his cause than those be presented, is more than I can tell.
I have often been further north than Aberdeen, and one time and another, I have spent a good deal of time among the fishermen of Banffshire. At first this was largely a new experience. A change of place had been quite a common thing for me for years, but this was more than a change of place, it was to a considerable extent a change of people. The dress and calling and habits of the people were in many respects different from what I have been used to. Nevertheless, I was at home among them from the very start. In some things they were akin to the miners among whom I had lived the greater part of my time. They did not often try to be genteel, or to give themselves airs. As a rule they were religious, or they did not pretend to be. Those who were religious had generally the courage of their convictions. Next to the man who is earnestly contending for what you believe to be right, you prefer the man whom if he does not believe as you do, frankly and openly expresses his dissent. I have found a fair share of this kind of thing among both fishermen and miners. If a man be either for or against you, you know where you are, and have some idea what to do.
The manner in which the fishing was conducted, in so far as work and wages, or rather capital and labour, were concerned, interested me. In the ordinary sense of the word "wages," the Banffshire fisherman cannot, as a rule, be said to work for wages. A man who has not a boat of his own, or a share in a boat, generally engages himself to work in connection with a certain boat for the season. A certain proportion of the value of fish sold goes to the boat and the nets; and what remains is shared equally among the crew, the skipper getting no more than an ordinary fisherman. This induces every man to do his best, and I never heard of a strike among them. The man who buys a boat cannot always lay down its full value in cash, but he can borrow at fair interest what he is short. Thus capital gets no more than what is due to it, and the rest goes to the boat and nets and labour. If other industries could be managed in this way it would be better for all concerned. In some industries it may be difficult to manage, but a great deal more could be done in this way than is being done. These fishermen did not so much fight their way into this position as they grew into it. Very few of them realise the value of this position, and I fear they will not always have the good sense to guard it. Now that steam-power is common and boats more costly, their danger is greater.
At my first visit to Buckie I had not even a rough outline of the method of herring fishing. I asked a big, good-natured brother, who had put himself to a good deal of trouble in calm and storm to take me round to one place and another, if he would be kind enough to explain to me the method of putting the nets out and taking them in, the position of the nets when in the water, etc. I could hardly get him to begin, considering his willingness up to that point, to do anything I wished. I could not understand his reluctance. However, he did begin; I paid the best attention possible to what he said, and from that time to this, I have had some understanding of the process of herring fishing. He satisfied himself that I had got hold of the outline he had given, and then he told me why he was loath to begin to try and instruct me as to the method of fishing for herrings. He named a preacher whom I knew very well, and said, "I was in conversation with him at one time. He seemed to wish to know something about herring fishing. I explained the matter to him as I have done to you. I thought that he was paying attention, but when I had finished, he said, 'Tell me this, Bro. Slater, do you throw these nets into the sea all in a lump?' I made up my mind then that I would not, if I could help it, try again to describe herring fishing to a preacher."
You are always sure of good meetings at Buckie when the fishermen are at home. Their manly earnestness makes it very refreshing to work among them. So far as my experience goes the Higher Critic has not managed to poison many of them. I have preached in nearly all the fishing villages between Buckie and Banff, but in the brief outline I am giving, I dare not venture upon particulars. We have no Church in Cullen, but a number of our Portknockie members live there. At one time I spoke for a number of Sunday evenings in succession in the Town Hall of Cullen, and had very good meetings.
During one of my visits to Portknockie a young fisherman was drowned at sea. His body was recovered and brought home. The funeral took place on a Sunday afternoon. A large number of fishermen from Portknockie and neighbouring villages attended the funeral. The cemetery was about a mile distant, and the coffin was carried by the men. When we were ready to set out for the cemetery, about a hundred young women, two abreast, took up their position in front of the coffin. This was done without the slightest bustle or confusion. Each one had arranged with a partner, and each pair was about pace behind the pair in front of them. They were all dressed alike, and all well dressed. Each had a black dress of good material and a black shoulder-shawl. They were all bare-headed, no hat, no jacket, no umbrella. There was a hard dry snow driven by a bitterly cold wind, but each girl walked with head erect regardless of the blast. I knew the parents of the young man who was drowned, and I was deeply impressed by that funeral.
You may visit any of the towns I have mentioned, and have very little idea of the extent of the herring fishing industry. My first visit to Fraserburgh during a fishing season enlarged my conceptions in that respect in a wonderful degree. I knew before that, of course, that there was a lot of herring fishing, but I did not till then think that one small town like Fraserburgh would have more tons of herrings landed in it in one day than there are tons of coal produced in a day from one of our largest collieries, but it is so. I did not till then think that there were as many herrings used in all the world as there are herrings caught at Fraserburgh. When I used to visit Fraserburgh, about 700 boats were there for the fishing season. Only a small proportion of these belonged to the town. There were boats from a great many different places. And many of the fishermen from other places brought their wives and families there for the season.
We always got large open-air meetings on the Sunday evenings. These were a kind of Pentecostal meetings. We had people there from a great many different places. These meetings were so generally good that you do not feel inclined to particularise in regard to them. Still in my experience one of those meetings did rise a bit above the others. False reports were being handed round concerning our belief in regard to the work of the Holy Spirit. That caused me to announce that I would deal with that subject on the following Sunday evening. That brought a larger crowd than usual. I stood on a pile of wood at the end of a house near the quay. There was plenty of space right and left and in front. The people stood closely packed together from where I stood, as far out as they could hear me, and my voice was fairly good then. For an ordinary Gospel meeting that was, I think, the largest meeting I ever addressed. I could not have had a more patient or attentive hearing. I had a few questions put at the close - that was not uncommon - but there was no attempt in any of the questions to shake any of the points which I had made in my address.
That discourse was destined to pass before more minds than any other one I have delivered. Over a thousand people heard it to begin with. About that time the editor of the "Bible Advocate" asked some of our preachers to send him a photo and a sermon for publication. Some of my friends had asked me to print that sermon, so I decided to send the substance of it to the editor, and those who wished to see it in print could see it there. Friends in Australia copied it from the "Bible Advocate" and gave it a place in their magazine there, so that it was read on the other side of our little world. I have also been informed, but I am speaking from hearsay, that a number of articles from that magazine were printed in book form, under the title of "Pure Gold," and my sermon was honoured by giving it a place there. In addition to that I have three times printed it in pamphlet form. I do not know of another address of mine that has had as wide a circulation. I think I am safe in saying that I have received more thanks and expressions of approval for that sermon that any other one that I have delivered. I had very little expectation of all this when I delivered it.
Beginning at Stornoway in the early summer of 1901, I spent nearly a whole year among the fishermen. Fred Cowin and I went to Stornoway at the beginning of the fishing season that year, and were there for two months. We had good open-air meetings every Sunday evening, and, as at Fraserburgh, we had men from a great many different places. There was not much opportunity for meetings during the week, but we had a good deal of conversation with individuals. We had good weather nearly all the time we were there, and we had daylight nearly all the time. Darkness could hardly be said to have set in till daylight began to dawn. There was a considerable difference between there and Glasgow in that respect. The last Sunday we were there was the only one on which the rain looked like stopping our Sunday evening outside meeting. Though it rained all the time, over two hundred people came to the meeting. I took shelter in a porch while Bro. Cowin was speaking. When he finished I stepped out. We generally sang a few verses of a Scottish paraphrase between the speakers. Bro. Wm. Reid of Buckie was conducting the meeting. When I got to his side he asked, "Shall we sing?" "No," I said, "I think you had better not. People will not stand and sing in rain like that, they will go away." "Oh no," he said, "they will not go away." "Then please yourself, Bro. Reid." So we sang in the rain, and the audience remained until after I had spoken. It is a rare thing to see a man in a fisherman's garb with an umbrella up. There were no umbrellas, and they all stood as patiently as if the sun had been shining.
When we left Stornoway Bro. Cowin and I went to Fraserburgh, and were there during the fishing season. We had large meetings every Sunday evening. When the season was over at Fraserburgh, I went south to the English fishing. Bro. Cowin did not go south with me, but the General Evangelistic Committee sent help from somewhere every Sunday. I had help from Liverpool, Leeds and London. The first two weeks I was at Scarborough. There were only a few fishing boats there. Fishing boats are hardly wanted in that grand place. However, I had a pleasant time with the little Church there, and was very well cared for. We had fairly good open-air meetings in which I took part. A Scotch fisherman was baptised in the sea after one of those meetings.
After two weeks at Scarborough, I went on to Yarmouth. Like the other places, the fishing season there lasts about two months. I was there most of the time; one Sunday or two I was at Lowestoft. Again we had good outside meetings on the Sunday evenings. Though we have no Church in Stornoway, Fraserburgh, or Yarmouth, we had always a good meeting for Breaking of Bread on Lord's Day.
As soon as our brethren get to these places some of them consult together and take a hall and fix the time for meeting and make it known among themselves. There are always brethren from a number of different Churches, but they are brethren, and they know each other and come together on that day. I was pleased to see the prompt action of the brethren in looking out halls for this purpose. They do not look upon being from home as being any excuse for them not meeting on the first day of the week.
At Stornoway and Fraserburgh there was no fishing on Sunday. When we got to Yarmouth that was changed. The Scotch fishermen own or control their own boats, and they all strictly adhere to resting on the Sunday. The English fishermen are not their own masters, and must go to sea when they get orders. When I was at any of the Scotch fishing stations, I took it as a matter of course that there would be no fishing on Sunday. At Yarmouth we held our outside meeting on the quay on the Sunday afternoon. In going to the place of meeting it was quite a common thing to pass English boats, at which they were busy discharging fish. It occurred to me then that it would not be surprising though some of the Scotch boats gave way and fell into line with the English boats; but not one of them did so, so far as I know. One week I thought that the temptation for the Scotch to depart from their ordinary rule was a bit strong. That week all the boats went out on Monday as usual, and came in with a considerable quantity of fish on Tuesday. But on Tuesday the wind rose to something like a gale, and no boats could get out. The wind did not fall till Saturday, so there was no more fish landed that week. The wind fell on Saturday. But to go out on Saturday meant that you would be discharging fish on Sunday. All the English boats put out to sea on Saturday when the wind fell, but not a single Scotch boat left its berth. On Sunday as we went to our open-air meeting, tons of fish were being discharged from the English boats, but I did not hear any remark in regard to it from a Scotch fisherman, nor did they seem the least inclined to depart from strictly observing the day of rest. I have already spoken of how the Scotch fishermen are paid, and I have no doubt that that does more than make up for any loss they have in strictly observing the day of rest.
After the fishing was over at Yarmouth, when I had been a few days at home, I again went north among the fishermen, and, beginning at Buckie, I preached in the fishing towns of that district. Putting all this together I was at that time for the greater part of a year among the fisher-people. Though I had been in a number of different places, I was to a considerable extent preaching to the same persons all the time.
I was impressed then, and I am of the same opinion still, that a suitable evangelist or two should all the time be doing the work which I was doing that year, and hope that what I have just said does not convey the idea to any one that when there is no evangelist at these places I have mentioned, our brethren do no preaching there. That would be a long way from being true. There are some good preachers among our fishing brethren, they are faithful, fearless men, who do not shrink from declaring all the counsel of God, so far as they know it, and do so when they have an opportunity; all the same, a suitable evangelist is a great help to them. I have now, perhaps, devoted enough space to my work among the fisher-people.
I can hardly take leave of the north without naming some of the small inland Churches which I had the pleasure of visiting. I have been a number of times with the little Church at Cairnie, and I have always had very great pleasure in being there. The Church meets in the large kitchen at Bro. Wilson's farm. There is no village near; farm houses and crofters' homes contain the sparse population of the district. And yet I have often, on cold winter nights, with the ground covered to a considerable depth with snow, spoken to packed meetings in that large kitchen. You wondered where the people came from, and you had great pleasure in speaking to them. All these people came by invitation, which meant a lot of labour to the little Church there - to the Wilson family in particular. I have already stated that my pleasure in helping a little Church is, and has always been, greater than in helping a large Church.
I have been a few times to the little Church at Craigston. The last time I was there the Church was meeting in a little hall at the mill of Craigston. Like Cairnie, there is not even a village where the Church meets, and, again like Cairnie, I have sometimes been surprised at the meetings I got there. It is not far from Banff to Craigston, but one of my journeys from the one place to the other has impressed itself upon my memory. You have to go up a hillside from Banff Bridge to Banff Bridge Station. But that day the wind was strong enough to propel you up the incline. It was a keen frost and a good deal of snow on the ground. A young man who assists his father at the mill, a son of Mr. Morrison of the mill of Craigston, met me with a sledge at the nearest railway station. A vehicle on wheels would not have been of much use on the road we had to travel. He provided me with a cap which had laps to tie down over my ears. I placed my hat down in the body of the sledge, where I considered it would be quite safe, and we set off for Craigston. I have seldom been out in such a wind. It sometimes looked as if it would lift both horse and sledge. It swirled my hat out of the bottom of the sledge, and sent it whirling up a field over the deep snow. It was caught in a hedge near a farm, a field length away. I should never have thought of going after that hat; it was too much to pay for a hat. Young Mr. Morrison would not go on without it, however, and set out after it and brought it back. It was no child's play, I assure you. With a man and a horse that knew their business, we got to the mill of Craigston without further mishap. Round the cheerful fire, amidst the intelligent conversation of Brother and Sister Morrison and family, we soon forgot the storm which was raging without. This was on a Saturday; on Lord's Day morning, a greater portion of the members than I expected, assembled for worship and Breaking of Bread. The wind had gone down by that time, and the young man who had brought me from the station the day before volunteered to go round the neighbourhood and invite the people to a meeting in the evening, it I would address them. I gladly consented. I was surprised that any one should attempt the task of going round the neighbourhood, and I did not expect that many would venture out through the snow. But the hall was well filled in the evening, nearly as many women as men, and it was abundantly evident that many of them had come through snow about knee-deep. You could not help having a deep interest in addressing a meeting which had been got up under such circumstances. Like my visits to Cairnie, I always enjoyed my visits to Craigston.
I have given more space to the north than I intended, but I must briefly notice other two places before I leave it. I have been a few times to Aberchirder, a clean, compact little burgh, lying about eight miles from Banff and nearly as many miles from a railway station. When there I was generally the guest of our late Brother and Sister Auchinachie, and that was always a treat. They were both very intelligent, and deeply interested in religious matters. Bro. Auchinachie was somewhat slow to speak, though he could not be said to speak slowly. He thought quickly and clearly and acted promptly. He had a well-stored mind and a large and carefully selected library; his conversation was always profitable. He was a wise, fatherly guide to the little Church there. Once or twice I was driven by Bro. Munro of Banff from there to Aberchirder on the Sunday morning and back again in the evening. To drive is often a pleasure when the weather is passable, and the horse is equal to its work; but when you sit and pity the poor horse all the time, it is rather a painful sensation. Bro. Munro's mare tended to make driving a pleasure. She required no urging, seemed all the time to be going quite easily, so easily that it did not strike you that you were going quickly; all the same, she quietly passed every other thing of the same kind going in the same direction. I was driven a number of times by Bro. Munro, and each time I had the same impression. Bro. Munro was at that time Provost of Banff, and Bro. Auchinachie was Provost of Aberchirder. I feel inclined to mention this, as it is seldom that a strolling preacher like myself is driven by one Provost to be the guest of another.
I have also visited the town of Elgin a few times. That is a harder field for us to work than any of the others I have mentioned in the north. Where the bulk of the people are made up of the better sort of the working class, the Gospel of Christ is more likely to take effect. Above or below that line you have harder work, and a considerable portion of the town of Elgin is above or below that line. When I first went there I had a very willing helper in Bro. James Tulloch, now in South Africa. He never failed you; to the extent of his ability you could count upon him. I was nearing the end of my first visit before I made the acquaintance of Bro. Hay, who has had the heaviest part of the burden to bear there for a number of years. All honour to the men who hold the fort under such circumstances. We hope that the sowing there may yet produce a harvest. I have been a number of times there, but I have never been able to give the help I could have wished. I am very deeply convinced that God will richly bless the men who fight those uphill battles.
TAKING the district in which I have usually laboured as a centre, I have been far more north than south; but in giving even an outline of my experience among our Churches, I must pay some little attention to the south.
For many years I was present at the anniversary services and annual social meeting at Spittal. For many of the members there I have the highest regard; it was a pleasure to know them. Their devotion to the cause of Christ impressed me deeply; though the bulk of those I knew at first have gone over the River, I expect to meet them later on. I dare not begin to mention names lest I might not know the proper place to stop; still I think no one will blame me even at Spittal, if I name one and stop there. I have met many earnest speakers, but James Rutherford of Spittal threw his heart and soul into his singing in a fashion that I have never seen excelled. He sang nicely, but it never occurred to you that he was trying to do so. In him you had an example of the melody of the heart rushing out in a natural song of praise to God. I never knew a preacher who threw his heart and energy into his speaking to more purpose than James Rutherford did into his singing. He has gone, but his singing is with me still. I once asked him, "Do you ever sing a secular song at all, Bro. Rutherford?" "Well, no, Bro. Anderson. I do not say that there is any harm in it, you know, but since the Lord put a 'new song' into my mouth, I have never sung any other."
One year I spent a good part of the bathing season at Spittal. On a Sunday evening, I gave an address on Repentance. After dealing with what it was and how produced, I called attention to the fact that God had made it a condition of pardon, and you must repent or perish. I supported this point with a number of passages, and said, "Some persons are in the habit of telling sinners that they have only to believe and they will be saved. But the passages just quoted prove that God has as certainly connected repentance with remission of sins as He has connected faith with the remission of sins. That being so, if I am addressing any who have been in the habit of telling sinners to 'only believe and they will be saved,' I hope that they will do so no more."
These closing remarks gave offence to a gentleman in the audience, who with his family were at Spittal for the bathing season. He remained in the chapel after the close of the meeting and talked to the elders. He thought I should be called in question for what I had said. He offered to meet me in public debate, and show that I was mistaken. The elders had conversation with me. They thought that it would be advisable that I should accept his challenge. But they added, "We think that you must keep a firm hold of that man; we have spoken to him before, and we think that he is too sure of himself." I was surprised at this advice, for the elders were very quiet men. But I could not but respect their judgment, for they were cautious, intelligent men, and their quiet nature made me sure that they considered the advice needful or they would not have given it. So my friend on the other side had to thank those elders for having to meet a much firmer man than he otherwise would have done. Our chapel was granted for the debate. We had ten-minute speeches, and I think that two hours was the entire time given to it. My friend had nothing that was really new or hard to meet. The only thing which seemed a little unusual was that once when he rose he devoted nearly the whole of his ten minutes to reading the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. This, of course, was to show what was done by faith. In following him, I also gave the most of my time to the same chapter, and the greater part of that time, like him, I also gave to reading the chapter. But in reading I kept on inserting the word alone so as to make it fit his theory. For example, I read "By faith alone Noah ... prepared an Ark." "By faith alone Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed, and he went out, not knowing whither he went." "By faith alone he sojourned in the land of promise." "By faith alone Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac." "By faith alone Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come." "By faith alone Jacob, when he was dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph." "By faith alone Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones." "By faith alone they passed through the Red Sea as on dry land. "By faith alone the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days." These are samples of my reading of the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. I need not add that my friend on the other side did anything but enjoy it. I called special attention to the fact that my friend was only losing his time when he was quoting passages to prove that salvation is by faith. We believed that as firmly as he did. It was the alone that was in dispute; and there was nothing in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews about blessings coming by faith alone. It was very evident throughout the evening that our friend had a harder task in hand than he had anticipated. He left the meeting-place not too well pleased with himself.
He called at my lodgings next day. We made him welcome, and when he was seated, he said, "I do not think that it was very nice for one Scotchman to handle another the way you did me last night. Of course, I could have done the same to you, but I did not feel inclined to do it." I said, "You are mistaken, my friend, it was not in your power to handle me as I handled you; you had not the ground to stand upon, the facts were against you." "Anyhow," he said, "I have to admit that I could not make as good a use of my time as you could. The people, I think, understood you better than they understood me. I have to leave Spittal in a day or two, but before I go I would like to take a hall and give a lecture so as to get my mind fairly and fully before the people. But I would like you to be present, lest the people might think that I was doing it behind your back. I have not looked for a hall yet, but I shall try and get one." "Well," I replied, "I see no harm in your doing as you suggest. It is a free country and freedom of speech is allowed to all. I shall attend your lecture, if I can, and if you will permit me, I shall go to our elders and try if I can get our chapel for your lecture; and if you will let me, I shall come and be chairman for you, and then the people will be sure to know that I am there." He thanked me for taking so liberal a view of matters, but he hardly expected that I would manage to get the chapel for him. However, I agreed to try, and would let him know that evening. I got the chapel for his lecture, and, an evening or two after, I took the chair at his lecture and introduced him to a good audience. He could not begin his lecture without making some remarks on the circumstances in which he was placed. He said, "I consider this the most gentlemanly treatment ever I received in my life. I came into this place as a hearer on Sunday evening, I found fault with their preacher and challenged him to debate. We met in debate. I did not think that I managed to put my position fairly and clearly before you, and I wished a lecture all to myself to put my mind more fully before you. They offer me their meeting-place, my opponent takes the chair, and I am here with full liberty to say what I please, and they do not even ask to be allowed to reply. I may differ from what these people believe, but I must say that this is very fair treatment." He delivered his lecture and I closed the meeting without a word of criticism. But our friend could not leave the platform without again thanking us for the manner in which we had treated him.
I fear I cannot give any more space to my visits to Spittal, though many things occur to me that I would like to mention. But when I have the subject of repentance in hand I had better say a little more in regard to that, apart from my visits to Spittal.
That repentance is a prominent theme in the New Testament is beyond question. Very few people entirely miss its meaning, but very many fail to fully and clearly grasp it. It is associated with sorrow, but sorrow does not exhaust it. You may have sorrow and you may not have repentance. "Godly sorrow worketh repentance;" here sorrow is a cause and repentance an effect. "Bring forth, therefore, fruits meet for repentance." Here you have repentance as a cause and reformation of life as an effect. Repentance then comes after sorrow for sin and goes before reformation of life. Repentance, therefore, can be nothing less and nothing else than a resolution to be done with all that is wrong and to devote yourself to all that - it is a making up your mind to be done with sin and to serve God. To be a child of God without this is inconceivable. Hence the uniform teaching of the Bible is that you must repent or perish. But when you thus give repentance its scriptural place, you get into conflict with those who teach that salvation is by faith alone. If repentance is needful, then salvation is not by faith alone. I was at one time staying in a room containing a bookcase with a good many books in it. I took a commentary out of it, and turned to Luke xiii. 3, "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." The author said, "You would think that this and some other passages teach that repentance is needful for salvation, but that would never do, for it would contradict the great Protestant principle of justification by faith alone." When a passage of Scripture and the great Protestant principle came into conflict, that author did not hesitate as to which would have to give way. The passage must die or confess that it did not really mean that. That author is only a sample from a very large stock.
Our Methodist friends try to modify the difficulty by placing repentance before faith. If they place repentance before faith, they may then, according to their theory, preach that you are saved "the moment you believe." But so long as they hold that you must repent or perish, they are not free to preach salvation by faith alone. If God has made repentance a condition of pardon, then, no matter whether repentance goes before or after faith, salvation is not by faith alone.
But is it true that repentance must go before faith? "Faith comes by hearing." Where there is no testimony there can be no reasonable faith. But I cannot think of anything which must go before faith except testimony or evidence. To say that we cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God until we repent is to contradict what we know to be true. Some of us were as sure about the main facts of the Gospel before we repented as we are today. On the other hand, I cannot think of anything which I repented of until I had believed something about it.
All this is so self-evident that some of those who teach that repentance goes before faith, admit that "there is a kind of faith which goes before repentance." These same people sometimes tell you that "saving faith is not the effect of evidence." The faith which comes apart from evidence has more delusion connected with it than you could rehearse in a long summer day. The faith which God approves of comes by hearing, and "hearing by the Word of God." The faith which some people call saving faith does not come by believing anything about Christ at all, but by believing something about themselves. Let me illustrate. I once delivered a discourse on repentance in the open air at a mining village. A Methodist entered into conversation with me at the close of the meeting. He said, "I rather think that you are right, Mr. Anderson. Most Scotchmen believe, and they will be condemned because they do not repent." "That is my conviction," I said; "but if they believe and are not saved, why do you teach that they have only to believe in order to be saved?" He saw that what he had admitted did not fit in with what he was in the habit of teaching, and then he began to draw back. He replied, "They do not really believe - they do not believe that they are saved." "No," I said, "they do not believe that they are saved, and it is best so. Why should they believe that they are saved when they are not?" "But," he said, "that is what you ought to teach them, you should teach them to believe that they are saved." "That is what you do teach them," I replied, "but I question if it is what you ought to teach them. To convince you that I understand your position, I shall make a brief statement of it. You preach to men that they are lost; that they are on their way to everlasting destruction; that should they die as they are living, they would find themselves on the wrong side for ever. When men believe this, and become anxious about salvation, then you begin to tell them that Jesus came to seek and to save the lost; and that He finished the work which He came to do. And then you begin to reason with them after this fashion: 'Now, if Jesus came to seek and to save the lost, and He finished the work which He came to do, then He must have sought and saved you. So you must be saved. Can you not see that?' In like manner you sometimes quote from Isa. liii. 6, 'The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.' And then you reason, 'Now, if the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all, there can be no iniquity left on you - you must be free.' This is how you often deal with anxious souls in trying to get them to find peace." When I had given this brief statement, I asked him if I had stated his case fairly. He answered that I had. "Then," I said, "you admit that in dealing with the anxious your main object is to get them to believe that they are saved. Now, while you are thus urging them to believe that they are saved, do you yourself believe that they are saved, at the moment at which you are urging them to believe that they are saved?" He answered, "No, I do not believe that they are saved at that moment; I believe that they are only in an anxious state." "And though you believe that they are only in an anxious state, you are urging them to believe that they are saved. That is, you are urging them to believe what you do not believe yourself. Let me put it another way. You are urging a person to believe that he is saved when he is not saved in order to get saved. You are thus teaching that a person comes to a knowledge of the truth by believing what is not true." I pressed my friend on this point, but he had no clear way out. Before leaving this subject, I again pressed the point, that those who find peace in this way, find peace not by believing anything about Christ but by believing that they are saved. If you can persuade a man that he is saved, he will, of course, find peace. But there is such a thing as false peace, and every one should be careful that in regard to remission of sins he finds peace on reasonable and scriptural grounds.
When preachers are telling us of the love of God or what Christ by His life and death has gone for us, they are generally sound and easily followed. But when they begin to tell the sinner what he has to do to be saved there is no end of error and confusion in the world.
Year by year at the Anniversary Services at Spittal I used to met friends from Newcastle-on-Tyne. This led to me being invited to Newcastle. The Annual Conference of the North-Eastern Division is held at Newcastle on Good Friday. For quite a number of years I was at Newcastle on Good Friday, took part in the social meeting in the evening, preached in Newcastle on Easter Sunday, returning to Scotland early in the week. In this way I made the acquaintance of many highly esteemed brethren in the North-Eastern Division. Though unable now to keep up the acquaintance, it adds to the pleasure of life to keep them in memory. A considerable number of them have gone where I must soon follow, but I have not so much the impression that I once knew them, as I have the sweet impression that I know them still. We were co-workers in a work that had eternity rather than time in view, and we formed an acquaintance that will never grow old. Though it is very pleasant for me to think about my visits to Newcastle, nothing occurs to me that calls for special mention, still I feel that I cannot give even an outline of my life and leave my visits to Newcastle altogether out of it. I could fill the space that remains to me in writing things which were very pleasant to me in connection with my visits to Newcastle and Gateshead, for I have had very pleasant visits to both places.
I HAVE not made frequent visits to any of our Churches south of Newcastle-on-Tyne. Our Annual Meeting was held in Edinburgh in 1902. At that meeting I was appointed to read the Conference paper at the following Annual Meeting to be held in Birmingham in August, 1903. Subject of the paper - "The Scriptural Basis of Christian Unity." It was suggested, as I was a comparative stranger to our Churches in the Midlands, that I be asked to spend some time in the Midlands before the Annual Meeting of 1903. As all concerned seemed to be agreeable to this, it was arranged that Bro. T. K. Thomson go north and fill my place and that I go south some time before the Annual Meeting. I do not think that there was any reason to regret this arrangement. Bro. T. K. Thomson's visit to our district was very much enjoyed by our churches, and I enjoyed my visit to the Midlands. It increased my knowledge of our Churches and our brethren considerably, and my profit and pleasure were increased in proportion.
I began my labour in the Midlands in Nottingham. I think I spent about a month there. In connection with the three churches in Nottingham, I visited the Church in the neighbouring town of Bulwell. I had good meetings in all the places. I had also a considerable amount of conversation with a good many of the brethren. By request some special subjects were dealt with. I left Nottingham with the impression that a profitable and pleasant month had been spent there.
From Nottingham I went to Leicester. With a number of the leading men in our Churches in Leicester I was to some extent acquainted, having met them at annual meetings in one place and another. This made me feel at home there from the very first. The time was too short for me to get to know the Churches in Leicester well, but I left myself in their hands and they spread my work over the churches as best they could. My visit to Leicester was an interesting, refreshing, and pleasant time. They planned enough work to keep me from looking upon it as an idle time; but in addition to that their planning for my comfort and entertainment left nothing to be desired. Their kindness and hospitality were model lessons in regard to these virtues. Some people look best at a distance, our Leicester friends took a higher place in my mind after opportunities for close inspection. Though I was not idle when there, yet I left with the impression that I have perhaps received more than I had given in Leicester. Still they seemed to enjoy my company, and I certainly enjoyed theirs.
From Leicester I went to Birmingham. At Birmingham I had a repetition of the pleasant experiences which had fallen to my lot in Nottingham and Leicester. Besides visiting the Churches in Birmingham, I spent an enjoyable Lord's Day with the Church in Burslem. I am thankful to all those who had a hand in arranging for my three months' sojourn in the Midlands. It extended my knowledge of the heart and backbone of the British Brotherhood in a considerable degree, and I went back to Scotland thankful that my increased knowledge gave me increased confidence in the faithfulness and piety of the Brotherhood with which I was connected.
I enjoyed the Annual Meeting in Birmingham. My conference paper was well received; as was also an address which I delivered at one of the public meetings in connection with the conference. At each Annual Meeting, we elect the chairman for the next year's meeting. At the Birmingham meeting I was elected chairman for the next Annual Conference, Wigan being the placed fixed upon for the conference. I have no doubt that the honour thus conferred upon me was to a considerable extent due to my visit to the Midlands. This, of course, put me in, not only for the duties of the chair, but also for the chairman's address at Wigan, in 1904. Discharging the duties of the chair caused me some anxious thought. But I had wise and willing helpers and every one seemed kind, and I got through about as well as could have been expected. Thus my visit to the Midlands and the Wigan meeting of 1904 did not only enable me to know the Brotherhood better, it also allowed the Brotherhood to know more about me, and as far as I could judge the pleasure was mutual. In regard to the extent of the field which I have covered during my evangelistic life, this brings me to the end of my outline. It is only an outline; I have made no attempt at naming all the places where I have preached the Gospel. I have only touched the points and places which seemed to me of most importance. I am not at all satisfied that I have always made the best selections as to either places or incidents, but I think that I have given enough of each to give some idea of my life. I now feel inclined to fill up the space which I have left with remarks of a more general character.
IT is within a few days of 52 years, as I am writing this page, since I became a member of the Church of Christ at Whitehaven. At the close of over fifty years' experience, a few general remarks may not be out of place. I have not only had a long experience, it has been varied. If there is any weak spot in the position that we as Churches have taken up, I have had as good opportunities as any man I know for finding that out. I have had conversation with a great variety of persons. I have never refused to have conversation on religious subjects with any one. I have not sought opposition, but I have never shunned it. I have taken part in over twenty public debates, and in smaller onsets almost unnumerable. The result of all this is that I am certain of the truth and therefore of the strength of our position. I put stress upon this for the simple reason that if a thing is not true, it does not matter what else it is. At bottom, no honest man desires to have anything to do with what is not true. Of the truth of our position I have not a particle of doubt. I have never fought a battle for it that I was not prepared to fight again, feeling sure that I could do it better the next time. I have often felt the imperfection of my defence of our position, but I have never felt that the position itself was weak. I have always felt the truth, strength, and reasonableness of our position, as compared with anything in the religious world which I have had the opportunity of comparing it with. I can hardly tell how much comfort this gives at the close of life's active day.
As a religious body we accept the motto, "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; and where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." I have acted on this rule for over fifty years. It has given satisfaction all the time. Unity and peace must come in this way, or they will never come at all. There must be a test of truth in religion somewhere, or there can be no certainty, no unity, no peace. We have no complete test of truth within ourselves. Our intuitive and axiomatic knowledge do not take us far. They cover but a small field. Where we have nothing but the light within, we are very soon all at sixes and sevens. When we look from within to without for a test in religion, it is not hard to come to the conclusion that the Bible is that test or we have not got one. And if the Scriptures are the test, then the reasonable thing is, "To speak where the Scriptures speak, and be silent where the Scriptures are silent." Over fifty years of active religious life have only tended to confirm me that this is the only safe guide.
The Bible has had enemies all the time, but it is God's book, and it has been overcoming its enemies all the time. No weapon forged against that book can prosper. God is behind the book, and in spite of all that has been said against it, its influence is on the increase. More copies are printed and read today than ever before. My lifetime has seen the heat of the worst battle that has ever been fought against the Bible, but at its worst it did not hinder the influence and circulation of the Bible. So long as the truth of the Bible was only called in question by its avowed enemies, there was at least a certain degree of consistency about it. But now the truth of the Bible is assailed by professed friends of the Bible, some of them professing to preach the Gospel of Christ. The inconsistency of this is enough to shock any honest Christian. At first the Old Testament got the most of their attention. But it was evident from the first, to any thoughtful person that when confidence in the Old Testament was shaken the New Testament would have to go with it. We were sometimes told that this was a discussion that scholars alone could take part in; that the ordinary man would have to stand aside and let the scholars settle it. It was as clear to me when I was a young man as it is today, that this is not altogether true. Christ lived and died in a clearly historical period. There is no doubt about when or where or how He lived or died. His historical existence, His character and claims, can be examined by any man of ordinary attainments. Jesus said, "My teaching is not Mine, but His that sent Me. If any man willeth to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God, or whether I speak from myself." This test is open to any ordinary, honest man. It does not require a man to be a scholar in any high sense of that word, before he can be certain that Jesus is "The Christ, the Son of the living God." And when a man is certain that Jesus is "The Christ, the Son of the living God," he can be certain of a great many other things. If Jesus was what He claimed to be, then he knew more about the Old Testament than all the critics that have ever lived before or since His day. The attitude of Jesus towards the Old Testament is altogether beyond dispute. He treated it as the word of God all the time. Before and after His resurrection he continued to do this. The Apostles guided by the Holy Spirit did the same thing. When a man believes in the Deity of Christ, that settles the question of the truth of the Old Testament so far as that man is concerned. No man can believe in the claims of Christ and at the same time doubt the truth of a book which Christ endorsed. If the Old Testament cannot be trusted, Christ cannot be trusted, for He endorsed it as the word of God. Though I am not what men would call a scholar, I have never doubted that the Old Testament can be trusted. I knew that as certainly as Christ was "The Son of God," the Old Testament was true and the "Critics" were mistaken; and that God would, sooner or later, make that manifest. That is now being done. The heat of the battle is over. The thing is now being driven back, and its friends and well-wishers do not talk as confidently about the "assured results" of these, so-called, scholars as they used to do. I am as confident still as a man can be about anything, that the only safe guide in religion is to "speak where the Scriptures speak, and be silent where the Scriptures are silent." For a man to profess to believe in the Deity of Christ and then tamper with what He endorsed, shows a blasphemous presumption that Satan himself could not excel. Among these "scholars" you have smaller exhibitions of audacity in abundance. They do not hesitate to tell us that the Jews do not know their own history; and they proceed to reconstruct the Jews' history for them. The Jews believe that their forefathers made a Tabernacle in the Wilderness. That Tabernacle was connected with a considerable portion of Jewish history. The Jews believe this story about the Tabernacle. But our friends the "Critics" inform us that the story of the Tabernacle cannot be trusted, that it is not much better than finely detailed fiction. The Jews know about one Isaiah, but, so far as their information goes, they never knew of anything but one Isaiah. But our friends the "Critics" come along and inform the Jews that they had more than one Isaiah. How the Jews lost trace of the other Isaiahs the Jews themselves do not know, nor can the "Critics" explain to us how the Jews managed to do a thing like this. Still we must believe that there were more Isaiahs than one, because the "Critics" say so. That the Jews were sometimes wicked and foolish, the Jews themselves will admit. But before we can believe what the "Critics" tell us about the Jews we shall have to believe that the Jews were practically a nation of idiots, and they never were that.
Our Higher Critics are often on good terms with those who hold to the doctrine of evolution. The one theory has no real connection with the other, so that cannot be the reason of the general friendship. Both theories tend to shake confidence in the Bible, and perhaps their mutual friendship springs from this common result. If evolution be true, the story of creation as told in the Bible is not true. Jesus and Paul endorse the story of creation. The evolutionist is therefore against Jesus and Paul. You may choose between, but you cannot hold with both. There have been many attempts to escape this conclusion, but it is only raising dust. My lifetime has also seen the evolution craze come to its height. It is now on the wane. There could be no better illustration of the possibility of educated people being carried away by a speculation which had no solid foundation to rest upon. What a number of people who thought themselves something above the common were quite sure about evolution! Many of them are more modest now. The weight of opposition against it is steadily on the increase. How could it be otherwise? It had no foundation in fact. It was only a theory at its best. That of itself might have kept some people from being as sure of it as they were. Had it been a theory in harmony with our experience there would have been more excuse for it; but it is a theory in direct opposition to the constant experience of mankind. That there are lower and higher forms of life is a fact. But we have no evidence that the higher came from the lower. Not only is there no positive evidence for it, but we accept it as an axiom that the greater cannot come from the less. Evolution is in conflict with that axiom all the time. But we are as confident about the truth of that axiom as we ever were, evolution to the contrary notwithstanding. We are just as satisfied that the greater cannot come from the less, as we are that "Out of nothing, nothing comes." These two axioms are closely related to each other, and no rational being can doubt either of them. But until we can doubt them, manly honesty should compel us to doubt evolution. The friends of evolution sometimes throw in a few extra thousands or millions of years so as to give plenty of time for the greater to come from the less. This is not reasoning, it is only raising confusion. Time has practically nothing to do with it. A shilling cannot come from a sixpence suppose you give it the whole of the coming eternity to do it in. What is not in a thing cannot come out, no matter what time you give.
Just as my faith in Christ prevented me from accepting the teaching of the Higher Critics, it also prevented me from accepting the doctrine of evolution. Christ accepted the Bible account of man's creation. I was satisfied that the Son of God could not be deceived, and that He was too good to mislead us. I was, therefore, certain that the doctrine of evolution was a mistake. That did not prevent me from paying some attention to what the other side had got to say. But it would have prevented me from accepting the theory of evolution until the last stone bearing upon its evidence had been turned. Had the evolutionist been able to demonstrate the truth of his theory I would, of course, have been compelled to accept it. But on the day that I accepted the theory of evolution, I would have ceased to accept the claim of Deity which the Scriptures make for Christ. And when I give up faith in the Deity of Christ, my faith in Christianity as a whole will be shattered. So far as I am concerned I can see no escape from this conclusion. Right along I have clung to my faith in Christ, and today I am exceedingly pleased that I have done so.
The Higher Critic and the evolutionist sometimes say that the scholars are with them, and what the scholars believe today the common people will believe after a while. That prediction has very little likelihood of being fulfilled. The scholars rejected Christ, but the common people heard him gladly. That is largely true today. Great numbers of the common people are giving themselves over to folly and pleasure, but only a small minority even of these have gone over to infidelity; and as a general rule it is only those who have gone over to infidelity who are delighted with the Higher Critic or the evolutionist. Pleasure is working ruin among the common people, but the common people are not much inclined to go over to infidelity. This, at least, has been my experience at any place I have been.
I have sometimes been told that I make too much of the silence of Scripture. The silence of the Bible has always been as sacred to me as its positive enactments. Where God has not spoken to me on religious matters, I shall permit no man to speak. Where God has not spoken I am free. It is a God-given freedom; and I fight for that freedom on the one hand as keenly as I would defend God's clearly revealed will on the other hand. In connection with the Christian religion God has been pleased to give us the greatest possible amount of freedom compatible with faithful service. Let us see to it that we guard that freedom. As a rule, wherever man has tampered with the religion of Christ he has curtailed that freedom.
I have been a total abstainer for fifty-four years. I am very pleased that the Bible leaves me free to be an abstainer. That the drink traffic is a great evil in our country is beyond dispute. That the influence of the Christian should be against it cannot be questioned. But when it is moved, as it sometimes is, that we make total abstinence a condition of fellowship, we cry, "Hands off, there." It has not pleased God to make that a condition, and we cannot allow you to do it. The man that is too good is often responsible for a good deal of harm. God in His goodness has taken our different natures and circumstance into consideration and has kindly granted us time to grow, but it is sometimes hard for us to show that consideration for one another. It is not only in religion that we are apt to show want of caution and toleration. The same thing appears in our politics every now and again. No man can possess the Spirit of Christ in any degree without wishing to good to his country. But how to set about doing good as citizens is in a great measure left to ourselves. One cannot see why all Christians are not Socialists. Another is certain that he can serve God and his country better by being Liberal, while a third is certain that to be a Conservative is better than either of the foregoing. Here again we are free, and the Church as a Church has no right to bring pressure to bear upon its members. It is well that it should be so; our different natures and circumstances often make it hard for us all to see alike in these matters. God knew this and gave us freedom, but it is had for some men to be God-like just here. They will speak where then Scriptures are silent. And from this it is quite an easy step to contradict the Apostles where they have spoken. We have a few men who know better than the Apostles about a number of things, but these men as a rule know a little too much for their own safety. Pride goes before a fall.
We have grasped more clearly that any other religious party that I have come in contact with, the great importance of Peter's confession, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." It is a matter of great satisfaction to me that my attention was called to this early in my religious life. To miss the importance of this central proposition is in a considerable degree to miss the meaning of the New Testament. It is in a very marked degree a foundation proposition. The four Gospels are devoted to the proof of it. The main object in Gospel discourses is to convince the hearers that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. The whole Christian religion gathers round that as a centre and rests upon it as a foundation. With that foundation firmly laid every other thing is likely to fall into its place. The man who is shaky there, his Christianity is not worth regarding; it may fall to pieces any time.
Our Lord informed the disciples that he would build His Church upon the great confession which we have just referred to. I cannot close this outline without a few remarks upon the Church of God. That the New Testament speaks about such a Church is beyond all dispute. The assurance of Christ that "the gates of Hades" would not prevail against His Church makes us certain that God cares for His Church, and that it will remain here as long as man in his mortal state requires the blessings which the Church of God brings to him. It is the one God-given society on earth. Christ is Head over all things to the Church: it is His body. The close relationship between husband and wife is taken to illustrate the connection between Christ and His church. In view of the foregoing facts, one would suppose that no professing Christian would or could talk lightly about the Church. But the fact remains that it is not hard to find professed followers of Jesus who consider that it does not matter much what Church they belong to, or whether they belong to any. You can easily find people who will tell you that if they belong to Christ it makes little or no matter whether they belong to any Church or not. I have no doubt that sectarianism has helped to bring about this state of mind. Still, after you have made all the allowance you can for the circumstances in which people are placed, it is passing strange that, when God has appointed a Church, His professed should consider that they are just as well out of it as in it; or that something else will just do as well as what God has appointed. Ignorance of what the New Testament says about the Church, has no doubt a good deal to do with this state of things. There are very few, even among religious people who have carefully considered the New Testament teaching about the Church. The single fact that Christ spoke about the Church as "My Church," should prevent any believer in Christ from thinking that it is a matter of no moment whether a person is a member of the Church or not. When you settle the question of the importance of the church, you are then more likely to inquire into the question: What was the Church of the New Testament like? When we look at the variety of the professing Christian Churches we are apt to be led to the conclusion that it must be very hard to find out what the Church of the New Testament was like. This, however, is not the case. About quite a number of important points there can be no real dispute. It is certain that there was one church, just one, in New Testament times. When the Corinthians showed signs of division, they were rebuked for it. And Jesus prayed that we all might be one. That being so, there cannot be two Churches on the earth today possessed of Divine authority. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that there is one such Church. Nor can there be any doubt that it is the duty of every true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ to find out where that Church is and be a member of it. If Christ is "Head over all things to the Church," we should see to it that nothing but what has His sanction has a place in it.
That there were Apostles and Prophets and supernatural gifts in the Church at the first is denied by no one who believes the New Testament. There are some who claim that these are with us still, but the claims are so badly supported that no one need be deceived by them.
Leaving the supernatural and temporary, let us look at some of the permanent things in connection with the Church. And, in the first place, we might inquire what were the ordinary members of the Church like in New Testament times? There could be no Church without members; what were the qualifications of those members? That the members of the churches in different places were spoken of as disciples of Christ, saints, saved persons, etc., there is and there can be no dispute. The Church of Christ was not in existence till after Christ's death. The Church at Jerusalem was the first Church we have on record. That began on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. The second chapter of Acts informs us as to what kind of members were added to it. Those who heard the Gospel, were convicted of sin, repented and were baptised, were added to the Church.
There is abundance of proof that members of the same kind were added to other Churches. Again, this is not in dispute. I have never heard any intelligent person deny that the first Churches had members of this kind.
On the other hand, so far as I know, there is no certain evidence that any other kind of members were admitted into the New Testament Churches. After long and careful reading, I am unable to prove that any one sat in fellowship in the New Testament Churches who had not believed in Christ, repented and been baptised. We have no right to practise anything that is doubtful in the Church of God. We are not free to do in the Church what may be right, we are only free to do there what must be right. "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin." We are in duty bound to keep clear of not only what is forbidden, but as far as possible we must keep clear of what is doubtful.
No society can exist without leaders of some kind, and the Church of Christ is no exception to that rule. The word "elder" may simply mean "an old man," but it is also used as a name for an office-bearer in the Church. This is also a matter about which there is no dispute. Nor does any one call in question the fact that these same office-bearers are sometimes called "bishops" or "overseers." "Bishop" in the New Testament is, of course not used in its popular sense. "Bishop" then did not mean a great man who bore rule over a number of Churches. There were then a number of bishops in one Church. That it was the duty of the elders to see to the spiritual welfare of the Churches can be doubted by no one who carefully reads the New Testament. There was no office-bearer above an elder in the first Churches. Each Church then had power to conduct its own affairs, nor had any other Church or combination of Churches the right to interfere with it. When the Apostles and Prophets were removed, there was no office-bearer above an elder. God has given spiritual oversight to the elders, and the man or body of men who interfere with that interfere with a Divine arrangement.
The word "deacon" means "servant." Used in this general sense, every Christian is a deacon. But I Tim. iii 8-13 proves that it was also used in an official capacity. A careful reading of these verses shows that the office was an important one. The elders and deacons between them had complete oversight of the Church, the spiritual oversight more particularly falling upon the elders, and the more secular concerns of the Church falling upon the deacons. Thus between the two all things pertaining to the church were looked after.
The Church has always had many useful members whose qualifications fell short of those of elders or deacons, but who under the directions of elders and deacons have been able to do good work. It is the clearly expressed will of God that all the gifts of the Church should, as far as possible, be used by the Church for the upbuilding of the Church and for the spread of the Gospel. The following passages bear upon this point:- "As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any men speak, let him speak as the oracles of God: if any minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth, that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen" (I Peter iv. 10, 11). "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: so we being many are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another. Having then gifts, differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith: or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching: or he that exhorteth, on exhortation; he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness" (Rom. xii 4-8).
Enough has now been said to show that God has provided for the oversight of the church, and it is His will that every member of the Church should be living and active, according to ability and opportunity. The will of God and our ability, to be constantly kept in view, and all things to be done decently and in order. God has not only informed us how the Church should be organised, but the New Testament organisation of the Church has proved itself suitable to any country where converts to Christ can be gathered together. This being so, I have often been surprised to find professed followers of the Lord declaring that Church organisation is not taught in the New Testament. This is a long way from the truth; the points which I have brought forward cannot be successfully contested.
"Evangelist" means "preacher of the Gospel." We read of Philip the Evangelist. Timothy was exhorted to do the work of an evangelist. Timothy, Titus, Silas and others were evangelists. An evangelist is not a permanent essential of a complete Church in any particular place. His field is wider than any particular Church and includes the world. He may be at work in connection with one Church today and duty may call him somewhere else tomorrow, perhaps to labour where there is no Church. It is always an evangelist's duty to teach a Church to aim at being self-supporting in every way. It is the duty of an evangelist to help in planting Churches where there are none, and he may often be called upon to help Churches, but he should never be looked upon as an essential part of any one Church.
"Minister" means "servant." In this sense every Christian is or should be a minister. But "minister" in our day is often used in connection with religion in a sense in which it is not used in the New Testament. It is common to speak of a man as "The Minister" of a certain Church. That means that the man is the Pastor of that Church. It does not mean that he is one of the elders or pastors of the Church; it means more than that. There is no other man in the Church upon a par with the "Minister." He belongs to a class above the elders. There is no trace of this class in the New Testament. There was no such man as "The Minister" in the New Testament Churches. The minister is a human invention, and we have no faith in man being able to improve upon God's arrangements.
The Churches of Christ in Great Britain and Ireland, co-operating for evangelistic purposes, have, so far, kept clear of this error: none of our churches have adopted "The Minister." We profess to go back to New Testament Christianity, and on this point we are consistent. In America and Australia there are a great many Churches professing, as we do, to go back to the religion of Christ and the Apostles as found in the New Testament, but a number of these Churches have adopted "The Minister." In this they are, of course, inconsistent. Against the preaching of these brethren we have seldom anything to say. I have often been obliged to brethren in America, to a less extent I can say the same about our friends in Australia; but at a few points we have to draw the line at their practice. We regret this, for in so far as we depart from the God-given model we shall have to do our work over again. My brief statements about the Church must end here.
My outline has now reached the limit of the space I have been aiming at, and I must draw to a close. I am ending as I began, with doubts as to the wisdom of my attempting to write a book of even this size. I suppose that others will settle that question for me. If what I have written helps or confirms any one in regard to the cause to which I have devoted the greater part of my life, I shall not regret that I have written. Were my life to begin again, that same cause would have what help I could give to it. I do not only believe that that cause is the cause of God and of truth, but I feel it impossible to doubt. When a man has been preaching the Gospel of Christ as long as I have been; taking what chances of opposition come your way and meeting them as best you can, so many lines of evidence converge in proving that "Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God," that you cannot help believing - doubt becomes impossible. That God is all good and all powerful no one doubts. Therefore those who oppose God and His truth must do it to their ultimate disadvantage; and those who stand for God and His truth must find themselves upon the right side in the end. I have often been anything but pleased with my efforts, but I am as certain as any mortal can be about anything that I have been fighting upon the side that must win.
It is over a year since I commenced this outline. Changes have come since then. Shortly after I started Mrs. Murrie, the eldest of my family, died in America. On the last day of 1911 I lost my partner in life. We had been married for over 52 years. I thank God that they were spared to me so long, and may he help me to be ready to follow.
I have a great many friends in this "vale of tears" that I shall not be able to visit again during the days which remain to me here. To all such who may read this book I take this opportunity of saying goodbye, but I do so in hope of meeting where we do not grow old.


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