OUR HELPER IN CHRIST
A Brief Tribute to the Memory of Kenneth W. H. Howard, 1921 – 92
It was in 1968 that I first became acquainted with Kenneth Howard. He had recently been appointed the first Pastor of the Evangelical Free Church in Rugby, close to Coventry, where I was then ministering at Rehoboth Strict Baptist Chapel. Evidently feeling the need for Christian and ministerial fellowship he wrote me a letter asking if we could meet, explaining that he knew of me through this magazine. That was the beginning of a long and precious friendship which was soon to prove of inestimable value to me personally, and to the work of Gospel Tidings Trust, for almost twenty years.
Early Days and Spiritual Beginnings
Kenneth was born on January 4th 1921, in the Hertfordshire town of Hitchin, and spent all his youth in that area or visiting relatives of his mother in Norfolk. In 1972 he was reviewing his early days when speaking to the church at Stamford in Lincolnshire and said of the Lord’s gracious work in his life:-
“He was pleased to put me into a plain, simple, godly, Christian home;
where the Lord’s day was honoured; the Word of God respected; and the things of God had their rightful place. Even though there was nothing profound, or deeply discerning about the religion of my home-background, it was a great privilege to have this beginning. I would ‘honour my father and my mother’ in respect of the part grace gave them to play in my own spiritual origins.
Then I must acknowledge that my childhood and youth was surrounded by the example and godly influence of the Lord’s people. I think of particular individuals who pass before my mind as I speak :-
– an aged nurse who helped me commit portions of Scripture to memory when I was but 9,10,11 years old;
– a retired draper who first taught me in Sunday School;
– a roving colporteur who occasionally visited our home;
– a retired bricklayer who regularly called to see my invalid father, and discoursed on the things of God at some depth; who (though he was not speaking to me) introduced me in my early teens to such matters as imputed righteousness and other doctrinal verities;
– the two successive pastors of the General Baptist Church with which I was associated: both gracious characters, though not illumined on some of the distinguishing doctrines of grace any more than I was at that time.”
Through the kindness of Kenneth’s widow, Margaret, I have been given the privilege of reading a journal which Kenneth maintained intermittently from 1946 to 1965. It is a veritable goldmine of information, extracts, articles, newspaper cuttings and much more. From this fascinating story I have gleaned this very limited outline of what was, in many ways, a life locked away from public gaze. Kenneth was a man intensely reserved and shy, and one can only be thankful that now he is with his Lord part of the tale can be told. From his review of early days the following quotations have been gleaned.
“Beyond any question of doubt I received my love for the Scriptures and my early elementary knowledge of them from the Sunday School at the Holiness Mission. It was teaching which I am now rather inclined to regard as obscurantist, but it was nevertheless used of God as my own introduction to the mysteries divine.
For a short time, under the influence of a school-friend, Lionel Parsells, I attended the morning Sunday School at St. Mark’s Church in Bearton Avenue, Hitchin … I was never much impressed by the forms and ceremonies, and although I was too young to criticise the lack of teaching etc., I was never happy in association with the Church of England. However, I have seen a little of it from the inside!”
Moving later to the Walsworth Road Baptist Sunday School he
eventually began to attend the services there under the ministry of a Rev. A. J. Craig of whom he wrote,
“I remember the tenor if not the words of the preaching of Rev. A. J. Craig – how often he finished his sermon in tears – tears which remained in his eyes as he shook hands at the door of the church after the service. But Walsworth Road was a ‘difficult church’ – as I knew even then, and Mr. Craig resigned the pastorate, a disappointed man, in 1933 when I was little more than twelve years of age …
Rev. Thomas George Black settled at Walsworth Road in the Autumn of 1934 and commenced an intensely scriptural and Bible-teaching ministry. Mr. Black, a Scotsman, was a faithful evangelist and a great expositor, and he made the Bible a new book to those who wished to know it at all – among whom must be numbered myself. To this faithful man I owe much in the way of an intelligent insight into Christian doctrine, and although my entrance into the life of Christ was by no means spectacular or sudden, it came during the early part of Mr. Black’s ministry when I was just fourteen years of age. On Sunday 12th May 1935, Mr. Black baptized fourteen candidates at the chapel at Walsworth Road, and I was the youngest of them. That experience abides with me to this day. I cannot claim that I fully understood the true significance of Believer’s Baptism at the time I submitted to it, but I know that I was sure of my Saviour. I was received into church membership by Mr. Black on Sunday 2nd June 1935: the motto given to me being, ‘The people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.’ (Daniel 11.32)” Reviewing this critical period of his life in 1972 he records:-
“The Apostle says, ‘But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:’ (1 Peter 3:15), and you may think it a simple thing for one who is accustomed to stand up and speak in the Lord’s Name to do what I have now to do. There are in fact many reasons why I find it difficult.
(1) The first is that I have a certain innate reticence about speaking about personal matters at all.
(2) Another is that I share the reluctance of many of the Lord’s people to expose the deepest feelings of the heart to any but the Lord. It is not that they haven’t an exercised heart, but that they find it difficult to disclose it. Thus, whereas Luther found it easy to speak of soul affairs, Calvin and Knox were always loathe to do so. It is a matter of temperament.
(3) Then I feel the utter impossibility of stating accurately all the work of God in one’s case. When David said, ‘Come, all ye that fear the Lord, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul’, I take it that he declared that of which he was aware at that time. There is always more truth about the workings of Everlasting Love in oneself, than one is conscious of-at least, until ‘we know as we are known’.
(4) Then, one has the fear of saying more than one knows to be true of oneself. One knows what one’s fellow-believers wish to hear. One knows that ‘a form of words though ne’er so sound will never save a soul’. One knows as well, that GOD knows that heart out of which the mouth speaks, and judges where one’s fellow-believers cannot.”
Later he says:-
“Again, I ought to say that God impressed on my mind from the very beginning the authority and centrality of Holy Scripture. I never doubted its weight or its authority – even before I understood anything experimentally. The Word, in the hand of the Spirit, was formative in me, before it was ‘a Word of truth with power’ upon my soul.
Now as to the culmination of the work of Grace in my soul, I can name no date or place; though I can trace a steady development of circumstances and events. All through my earlier teens I was engrossed with the life of the Church – sermons, bible-studies, prayer-meetings etc. I preferred these to sports and entertainments, much to the bewilderment of my school-friends. If the chapel was open I was there, and I believe I can say in retrospect, it was something more than love of the bricks and mortar, or the minister, or of anyone else connected therewith.
It was a seeking time. I recall at the age of 14-15 periods of intense unease of spirit. I recall times in private in my own room when I was prostrated before the Lord. I can better diagnose my case now than I could then, of course. I was a sinner and knew it. There was a law-work in progress, though I didn’t know the term at that time; but it went on, I suppose, for about a year. I wanted to be the Lord’s; but I had terrible convictions of my unfitness -1 had yet to learn that ‘all the fitness He requireth is to feel your need of Him.’
Then I remember there were times when my pastor, in speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ from the pulpit, was often moved and melted; his voice would break; sometimes there were tears in his eyes as he stood at the chapel door. I was too young and immature to enter into that then; but I believe he was moved by the love of the Lord; and on the other hand by the burden of the souls of the people, many of whom, though members of the Church, were very worldly. I was neither a member, nor was I particularly ‘worldly’ (in the usual sense of the term); but I believe here was something in my pastor’s tears that answered to something in my heart at that time. I believe it was the matter of experiential religion, although I never spoke to him about it; I was far too shy; and he soon after moved away, a disappointed man, but I believe ‘the day will declare’ what God did for me by him.
I never spoke to anyone about my turmoil of heart; but One who needed no telling was patient and kind, and met me little by little. In my 15th year I had many tokens of His favour, from the Word read, and the Word preached. One verse that stands much impressed on my mind was John 1.29 – and I distinctly recall something of the meaning of that phrase ‘THE LAMB OF GOD’ coming home to me – of the Lord in His sacrificial work for sinners; the Sin-Bearer; passive in His death; and yet active in His work for sinners.
Another passage was Gal. 2.20 – and I feel I was enabled to see myself in those words, ‘LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME’.
And so I was brought to confession and baptism in my 15th year, in what I sincerely feel before the Lord, was a response of humble love to Him who loved ME.
These, I realise, are large statements. The older one gets, the more one is afraid of over-statement. And yet as ‘I muse on the years that are past’, I can trace both failure and success; danger seen and unseen; I have gone through good report and ill; I have had a chequered pathway; but I have no reason to think that His love has been in any way chequered’ towards me. I have found a constancy of grace; a growing jealousy for the pre-eminence and glory of the Lord; and a deepening apprehension of the doctrines of grace; and, I trust, a little growth of love to HIM.
On these grounds, then, I feel it not presumptuous to speak of a sense of union with the Great Head of the Church, our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
Kenneth left school in 1935, began to work for the Post Office, and was increasingly involved in the life and work of the church. From very brief notes which he extracted from his own diaries it is evident that his mind was being gradually drawn towards the work of the ministry and he has put an asterisk by certain events which he later saw as the successive steps leading to his eventual life’s work.
Concerns about the Christian Ministry
“1935. Dec. 8th. The first of a number of experiences that led to my becoming a preacher – I read the lesson at the evening service at Walsworth Road.
1936. June 21st. I conducted evening service at W. Rd., and Rev. T. G. Black preached.
July 26th. Assisted Mr. G. W. Lyle in the conduct of the service at Preston Chapel – for the first time.
1937. May 23rd. I preached my first sermon at the afternoon service at Bunyan Chapel, Preston (in Hertfordshire), there being about nine persons present.
July 7th. Preached my second sermon at Preston – weeknight
Oct. 17th. Preached at Woodside, near Luton, and enjoyed fellowship of Harold Frankham. Geoffrey Cooling came to sing, and was erroneously taken to be my son!!!
Nov. 1st. First definite signs of the call of God to the ministry appeared today in a period of prayer and meditation.
1938. Jan. 10th. I visited my pastor. Rev. T. G. Black, and talked with him of my desire to enter the ministry.”
Here the asterisks cease but there are many more interesting comments which reveal the pattern which was developing under the Hand of God.
“1938. Feb. 20th. Rev S. Cornish of Shefford preached at Walsworth Road on Ps. 30.5. A message I greatly enjoyed and appreciated. This was my first personal contact with Mr. Cornish; the most gracious man I have ever met.
Mch. 28th. Commenced six weeks’ course in London … During this period I remained in town for various meetings in the evenings. This, of course, included Dr. Campbell Morgan’s Bible Lectures…
Aug. 4th. Rev. T. G. Black gave me about 70 volumes from his library. These volumes were the nucleus of my own library.
Aug. 14th. Began preaching for the Hitchin Methodists – with services today at Offley.
Nov. 7th. Nurse Hyde passed on today. She had more influence for good upon me than anyone else outside of my home up to this date.
1939. Feb. 25th. I decided to transfer my membership from Walsworth Rd., to Tilehouse St. Church.
May 7th. I was received into the fellowship of Tilehouse St. Baptist Church by the Pastor, Rev. G. Sherriff Johnson.
May 9th. Tilehouse St. Church and Deacons have agreed to the appointment of myself as Leader at Preston, and for Wm. P. Morton to help.
May 28th. Assumption of responsibilities at Preston. Prayer meeting to follow each Sunday Evening Service was started.
June 18th. I was warned that I was becoming too active in preaching etc. – that my health would not stand it!! I ignored such ideas
– and thank God, both health and faith have stood firm. Nevertheless, from this time onward I had a full programme – always three services a week, plus other activities.”
Service in the Royal Air Force
War with Germany was imminent and began with the declaration
of hostilities on September 3rd 1939. On Aug. 26th Kenneth noted, “I registered my conviction at this time definitely on the side of pacifism”.
By 1942 this conviction was evidently overturned and he was called up to serve in the Royal Air Force on February 5th.
There then followed a period of constant training, then travelling as he became a navigator flying Liberators, mostly along the eastern seaboard of the United States, but with periods in Nassau, the Bahamas, and on Ascension Island, during which time he was involved in the setting up of a training scheme for young Bahamian Christians for the purpose of the evangelisation of the island.
In Kenneth’s journal there is a meticulous account of all the many places he visited in his war service, all the significant men he met, all the pilots he flew with, and the sum total of miles travelled in the course of the war – 48,650 miles!!
Amongst his papers there is this personal view of Psalm 23.
The Airman’s Version
The Lord is my Pilot; I shall not drift.
He lighteth me through darkened skies;
He holdeth me above troubled waters.
He keepeth my log.
He setteth my compass by the star of His
righteousness for his own name’s sake.
Yea, though I fly midst the cloud and the
storm, I shall not be afraid; for Thou art
mine; Thy wisdom and Thy discerning eye
are my consolation.
Thou hast prepared a landing ground before
me, in spite of them that plan evil against me;
Thou anointest the very winds with oil, and they
are calm; my plane pursues Thy course.
Surely Thine own hand will keep me safe till my
journey is done,
And I shall land in the heaven of my God forever.
Kenneth W. H. Howard.
R.A.F. Transport Command.
In December 1945, whilst in Brazil, he received news of his mother’s serious illness. After distressing delays he was given permission to fly home and arrived on Sunday morning December 30th, only to find his parents’ home in darkness. Later he recorded his experiences,
“I went next door to Mr. & Mrs. Izzard, our neighbours for many
years. With kindness they welcomed me and provided some refreshment, for I had not eaten since 7.30 that morning. But before all else, I asked for news. I could see that they were a little baffled by such a request and Mrs. Izzard said, ‘Well, Ken, your mother could not have recovered, she would never have been any better.’ Thus it was that I learned of the translation of the dearest mother the world has ever known – gone – gone; gone where? – To be with Christ which is far better.’ – ‘And where is dad?’ I asked. ‘He is in hospital in Chalkdell!’ This was another blow.. .I was overcome with grief -I could not conceal it, and my friends were as sympathetic and helpful as they could be in the circumstances…
I am making no attempt to eulogise my beloved mother. She was everything to me. My sorrow was gladdened in the knowledge that she was ready to meet her Lord… I vowed then that my life, which she had given to me and which she had treasured and prided, should be a living eulogy and epitaph to her love and devotion. I added a further pillar to my own consecration, that also because of Mother and what she was to me, I would give my utmost and my all to the work of the Lord Jesus Christ – her Lord and mine.”
College Days and Courtship
The following month found Kenneth in London for an interview at Spurgeon’s College where he was warmly welcomed by the Principal, P. W. Evans. By March he was free from the Royal Air Force and was preaching again at Preston and the district around Hitchin.
On April 29th he wrote,
“The day for which I have so long waited! Off to Spurgeon’s! With
deep gratitude to God for all the way He has led and with high hopes forthe future I travelled up this day to begin my college course.”
This period at college was a deeply significant time in his life, not only because he could give himself wholly to the work he loved, the study of God’s Word, but also because of the growing attachment to the ministry of Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones at Westminster Chapel where he was so often found, both when he was free from college duties, and sometimes when he was not supposed to be! In his study to the end of his life there were a large number of black notebooks in which he had made copious notes of all the Bible Studies he attended. The whole series of the Doctor’s studies on Romans is carefully summarised and it was surely this teaching which had a far greater influence on his later ministry than that of his college training, helpful though much of that undoubtedly was. One extract in the journal refers to such a time,
“Sunday Jan. 5th (1947) found me at the feet of the man whom I, at any rate, regard as being the greatest evangelical preacher in our country today – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. A forceful discourse on the ‘false prophets’ (2 Peter 2.1) in the morning, and a stirring evangelistic sermon on Is. 35.7. in the evening was a real tonic to my soul.” There follows in his journal a fascinating kaleidoscopic view of college life, personal experiences, and evangelical events during the next three years. Early in this college course the students had a debate in which Kenneth was appointed to speak to the proposition. His speech was written out and gives a very clear idea of his attitudes at that time.
May 3rd 1947
Mr. Chairman and Gentlemen,
I have pleasure and conviction in supporting the motion that Baptists have no contribution to make to the Ecumenical Movement.
Let me first define my terms. By BAPTISTS I refer simply to those, whether inside or outside of the commonly recognised denominational boundaries, who adhere, by the intelligent persuasion of their own conviction, to the principles which characterized those who first received this name some three hundred years ago.
(1) The first of these principles is the supremacy of the Bible as the Word of God, and especially the final authority of the New Testament in all questions of the church’s faith and practice. It is this that constitutes historically the essence of the Baptist position.
(2) The second is that of the conception of the church as a body of called-out, regenerated and baptized believers.
(3) The third principle is that of the liberty of the individual to render, on the basis of the Biblical teaching, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, his own judgement in the great matters of faith.
It is to those who hold these principles, that I refer by the term BAPTISTS. (If we no longer hold these principles – then we are no longer Baptists in the real sense of this term.)
By the ECUMENICAL MOVEMENT, I understand that organisation which originated in the Edinburgh Conference of 1910, and which produced in 1937 the so-called World Council of Churches.
The burden of this movement, as recently stated with some authority by Dr. William Adams Brown, is to bring about a world-wide union -including the Roman Catholics, if possible, to form an ecclesiastical organisation, the objective of which shall be the making of such an impact upon the world as to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth.
There is no attempt to eliminate doctrinal differences, yet the movement claims to be founded on a ‘sound theological basis’ (which judge for yourselves!).
The first of the two points I make, on the basis of these definitions, is this. Baptists have a contribution to make to the Church Universal – to the whole body of Christ, whose principle of union is spiritual fellowship and not mere organic identification. But that contribution will be minimised and compromised, if it is diverted through the channels of ecumenism where flow also the views and vices of those who are directly opposed to the Baptist position.
As Baptists we glory in the things we have in common with others. But our specific contribution to the Church Universal is that of our distinctives, which no one else has – the principles which I have already enumerated. These things, I hold, can only remain a clear and consistent
witness as they stand apart from, but alongside the witness of others, to prove their own worth. They cannot do this if they are allowed to become a mere constituent of the ‘mixed grill’ that ecumenism seeks to fry!
I hold, Mr. Chairman, that our most dire need is for a revived denominational consciousness – not of its organisations – of that we have enough and to spare; but of these vital and basic principles by which alone we have any right to call ourselves Baptists.
I submit that, while maintaining charity toward every brother in Christ, our desperate need is to revive and uphold the already dwindling distinctiveness of our witness. For too long that witness has been compromised by the prevalence of open membership churches. If a man will be a Baptist, then let him come via the baptistery, and not by the back door. He can enter any other dissenting body in that way. He could not have entered the New Testament Church in that way. He could not have entered the early Baptist churches here in that way.
As I see it, it is because we have already compromised our position in this, as in other things, that many who accept the label of our denomination see no objection to participation in the Ecumenical Movement with its inevitable policy of compromise for the sake of organic unity.
If these principles mean anything to us – the authority of the Word;
our view of the church: our principles of liberty – then we must be vehement about them. If we move into ecumenism, we bow to episcopacy, apostolic succession, infant sprinkling, and all the rest of it.
The contribution of the Baptists to the World Church can only be made outside such an organisation as this.
My second point, Mr. Chairman, is just this. If we as Baptists, were as keenly engaged in the evangelising of the unsaved, and the edification of the saved, as we would be if we adhered firmly to these principles which I have enumerated: if so, I ask, would we have even the time to bother ourselves with a movement which merely multiplies organisation; which seeks organic unity with a complete disregard for doctrinal differences? The extent to which our evangelistic fervour has drooped is the extent to which we have compromised or forgotten these basic principles. If we must insist on organic union as necessary to our fellowship, the inference is that the spiritual union into which the Holy Spirit binds all who believe in Christ, is inadequate and unsatisfying. Nevertheless, it is all that the New Testament offers!
The tragedy of the church is not its many divisions. The tragedy of the church is that all of its denominations are spiritually half-dead. And what good can the Ecumenical Movement hope to achieve by adding them all together – save to produce a bigger corpse?
The record of the Ecumenical Movement to date shows that it is concerned entirely with church order and ecclesiasticism; with humanism and social reform. Even Barth says of the Movement, ‘Its tendency has been to produce a religion of recent brand-new formation .. under the guise of moral, aesthetic, sanitary and social schemes for betterment.
Mr. Chairman, as Baptists – nay, simply as Christians, as we understand that term – we are committed preeminently to evangelism. Of this, the first product of our basic principles, this movement has as yet given no evidence, and for it, its programme offers no place.
The whole emphasis of this movement is upon external organisation and social application. As Baptists we are primarily concerned for the salvation of souls. I therefore conclude that we have neither the right nor the time in which to dissipate our energies on the Ecumenical Movement and its Gospel of the Broken Cisterns.”
His own comments on this event seem very significant in the light of later developments.
“Regent’s Park College visited us at Spurgeon’s… holding a debate in the evening. I was virtually the only speaker in favour of the motion, though some contributions from the floor included some elements of support for my view. The thing that amazed me most of all was that certain Regent’s men took exception to my appeal for a deeper denominational consciousness, saying that they found this appeal ‘shocking’. I wonder why such brethren are intending entry to the Baptist ministry! Unfortunately, many of our keen Spurgeonites were away on weekend preaching engagements and their votes were sadly missed. The whole of the Regent’s contingent voted against the motion and a few Spurgeon’s men supported the motion and me!!! I noted that E. A. Payne had nothing but a scowling countenance while I was speaking!!”*
By June 1948 Kenneth’s father was very ill and on the 18th he
went to be with his Lord after a lifetime of ill-health. Kenneth writes of his last hours:-
“I delight to remember that, as I spoke of the things of God and of the better world to which he was going, Dad made his last discernible response as I quoted Wesley’s hymn, ‘Jesus, Lover of my soul, Let me to thy bosom fly.’ The movement seemed as though to say, ‘Yes, that is just where I am resting,’ and it was the Name of JESUS that evoked the response. As to his readiness to meet the Lord, I have no doubt whatever.”
Another very significant factor during this college period was that Kenneth met a Scots lass who won his heart completely! She was Margaret Elizabeth Dale whom he met on visits to Edinburgh, there they both attended Charlotte Chapel. Margaret later began to study for a year in London at the Mount Hermon Bible College with the now serious concern to be prepared for being a Pastor’s wife! On January 10th 1949 they became engaged and were married
on the 23rd July of that year. This short paragraph encompasses so much in Kenneth’s journal which makes fascinating reading, but a fuller account must wait until all the story can be told, at a later date perhaps! The following note, pinned into his journal, evidently found an echo in his own heart at this time;
1. Don’t ever both get angry at the same time.
2. Never talk at one another either alone or in company.
3. Never speak loudly to one another – unless the house is on fire.
4. Never find fault unless it is perfectly certain that a fault has been committed, and always speak lovingly.
5. Never taunt with a mistake.
6. Never make a remark at the expense of each other – it is meanness.
9. Never let the sun go down on any anger or grievance.
10. Never let any fault you have committed go by until you have frankly confessed it and begged forgiveness.
11. Never forget the happy hours of early love.
12. Never sigh over what might have been, but make the best of what is. (Author Unknown)
The First Pastorate
During the later months of 1948 Kenneth’s concern about his future in the ministry were becoming more urgent as he saw the end of his college training approaching. A visit was arranged, through his college Principal, to the Sutcliff Baptist Church at Olney, Buckinghamshire. The church, associated so closely with both John Sutcliff and William Carey, and established in 1666, was one which had initial appeal to his spirit and outlook, and he found his first visit to be one which drew him very much in that direction.
He was invited by a unanimous vote of the church to take the Pastorate and on December 27th 1948, he formally accepted the invitation. He did not leave the deacons under any illusions as to his position and intentions in the ministry. He says,
“I made it perfectly clear to the deacons that I would give nothing butan evangelical, expository, and doctrinal ministry; that I was a convinced Baptist and Nonconformist, and that I disfavoured any but spiritual
methods in the Lord’s work…”
The following is the statement Kenneth made at the time of his ordination to the ministry and induction to the pastorate at Olney.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
Much against my natural predisposition, I have tonight to speak about
myself. My deepest prayer is that I may do so in such a way that all glory shall be to God alone.
I must speak about myself because the Gospel that I have proclaimed, and shall proclaim among you, is not something that is in any sense detached from my personal spiritual life. Because of what the Evangel of the Grace of God in Christ is, of itself, but also because of what it is To Me, alone, do I dare to stand before you.
It behoves me to tell you, brethren, that I am a converted man. And I do so, not in any egotistical fashion, but with the due assurance that the scripture warrants, and that the experience itself provides. I mean that I have been converted in the evangelical sense of that term. Within my heart I have the witness of the Holy Spirit that God, in His sovereign, electing grace, has laid His hand on my life in redeeming mercy. I am compelled to believe thus, for I know of no other sufficient reason why I should be saved at all. I believe that it was in the pursuit of His own holy, loving, and purposive will, that God made me realise my own vileness as a sinner in the sight of His holy law. I believe that it was of His sheer mercy that my mind and heart were turned toward Christ and His redeeming work. And I believe that it was of His grace alone that I was enabled to place my faith in the Saviour who bore away my sin, and brought me back to God.
I cannot tell you precisely when this happened. Nor do I suggest that I then understood it in the way that I speak of it tonight. Certainly I was converted before I was fourteen years of age. And I was converted through the human instrumentality of a godly mother and father – both of whom now stand ‘within the veil’. To their simple Christian faith, and to their outliving of the in-living Saviour, in my childhood days, I owe, in God’s gracious purpose, my introduction to the Christian life. My testimony of praise to Him tonight, therefore, carries with it my tribute to my own mother and father, by whom God’s gracious will was achieved in my conversion.