FORTY YEARS AGO
It was in June, 1921 that my father held a meeting for the church at Ice Lake: Ontario. The first Sunday he was away Brother Isaac Leach was asked to preach. After the meeting that Lord's Day I was asked if I would like to preach the next Sunday. Would I like to preach! I can not remember the time when I did not intend to preach. I can remember gathering the neighbour children in when I was four years old and preaching to them. Now I had been asked to preach! I had my text chosen. The horses hardly could move home fast enough for me to get home and get my outline made. Soon I had the rough draft made. I went to the barn loft and there I preached that sermon. Every day at noon while the horses rested I went over that sermon again. How those rafters rang! I had heard of stage fright but I had no fear of anything like that. I had heard that you should spend one hour in preparation for every minute you spoke. It was done, and well done.
There never was to be a FIRST sermon like that one. Of course, there would be no stage fright. This was the opportunity for which I had longed. Sunday came. My notes were inside the family Bible. We made our way to the little Methodist church building in Kirkland that the church used at that time. There was Bible Study. There was the Lord's Supper. There was the reading of the Scriptures. My confidence was ebbing by the second. Finally Brother Clifford Whitfield, who is still a member of that congregation, said, Brother Carlos will preach for us today. I wondered how he could be so sure. I walked up into that old fashioned pulpit. I looked down on those familiar faces. They looked far away. I looked at those notes but I could not make out a word that was there. (Those notes were all in English too.) I opened my mouth to speak but no words came. I suppose I only stood there speechless for seconds but it seemed like hours. Finally the words came. There was no stopping. In about seven minutes I had said everything I knew. It was years before I had the courage to ever use that text again: Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou wast called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.
The second opportunity came to preach when I went West that fall. I arrived in Winnipeg on Saturday and the train did not go out to Carman until Monday. I found the church building on the corner of Sherbrook and Sargent. Though a boy not yet 18 years of age, I was very cordially received by those good brethren. I was asked by the brethren if I would speak for them that morning. I spoke for not more than ten minutes. After the meeting, a good sister came to me and said, You should have used all the time. We can listen to the local men any time. I did not tell her that it was not consideration for the local men that had cut that sermon short. I had said all I knew to say. I have been told since that a good recipe for a successful sermon is to have something to say, say it, and quit. That is exactly what I did in those first two sermons. I may not have always been as wise since.
After forty years I still remember what the other brother spoke on at the Sherbrook Street that morning. His sermon was about having our anchor within the veil. I made acquaintances that morning that have continued through the years. Some that I met then have passed the portals of time. I was invited home to have dinner with Brother Arthur Beamish and his wife. The friendship born that day has continued through the years. Sister Beamish has passed to her eternal reward but Brother Arthur continues stedfast in the faith. I am sure that Brother Arthur has no idea how many times they have shown hospitality to strangers. I know it would run into hundreds of times. There is One who knows. The One who said that if we give even a cup of cold water to a little child we shall in no wise lose our reward, has kept the record.
I arrived about noon on Monday at Carman, Manitoba. I had been told to inquire for one Charles Montgomery, who was a member of the church. I told him who I was and in a few minutes he had a job for me at Frank Morgan's place. There is another thing for which I remember Charles Montgomery. He is the first man I ever saw put a dollar bill on the collection plate. I know that a dollar was worth a great deal more then than now but brethren have gone a long way toward Scriptural giving since then. When some of you older people begin to talk about the good old days, when you tell us how much better the Christian of yesteryear was compared with the younger people of today, in this point, and I think in many others, we have a more Scriptural church than we had forty years ago.
Brother Frank Morgan has passed to his reward but some of his children still live in the Carman district. I count them among my best friends. It was while working for the Morgans that I first saw a stook loader. I did my first field threshing. For sixteen years after that I helped thresh Western grain either in Montana or Western Canada. There were one or two things that happened that fall that are still clear in my mind. I had been used to an active life. We had spent four days on the train. I ate too much. With a drink of Manitoba water to help out, and a good measure of homesickness thrown in, I was so sick in the field that afternoon that I tried to throw up everything that I had eaten from the time that I had left Algoma in Ontario.
There was another thing that happened that I well remember. I was stooking with a man nearly ten years older than I who had come out from Scotland. The afternoon was warm and he decided that he would have a nap. I did not think that was any of my business. Brother Morgan came out to see how things were going. He drove out with the horse and buggy. I saw him coming and I knew that Scotty was asleep but I did not think it was my business to waken him. He was rather disconcerted when Brother Morgan found him on the shady side of the stook. After Brother Morgan left he reproved me rather severely and threatened to whip me. I was of the opinion that Christians did not engage in fisticuffs. (I have not changed my mind.) I did not get beaten but one day when there was a group around he challenged me again to a fight. I told him that even if I were going to fight that it would not be with him. He asked me why, I said, My father told me before I left home never to hit a cripple or a fool. He was not crippled and he was very insulted. I thought I might have to see if I could out run him but it never came to that.
Brother Morgan loved to talk. I do too. I do not know which one enjoyed the time the most. Time would fail me to tell some of the things that still linger in memory's garden.
I enrolled that fall in the first term of the Carman Bible School. Brother H. L. Richardson was the chief teacher. He was a good teacher. I have always deeply regretted that soon after this he left the Ancient Paths. His ability was such that the work in Western Canada might have been different if he had remained faithful to the true ways of the Lord. In after years I tried to reason with him about the course that he had pursued but it never availed anything.
It was this fall that I also met Brother H. A. Rogers for the first time. He converted more people to Christ in mission work than any man that has ever laboured in Canada in my time. I should perhaps change that a little. He baptized more people for time expended than any other worker in my time. If Brother Rogers could have been kept in the field in new places, and there had been two or three, or more, that could have then edified the new converts, the course of the church in the West would have been different. Lack of support kept Brother Rogers out of the field much of his active life. Among the young converts there were hobbies preached and many turned back again to the beggarly rudiments of the world. The work of Brother H. A. Rogers was a great incentive to me to get out into the harvest field and labour for the Master. When he passed to his reward a few years ago I was asked to preach his funeral sermon. There will be many that will rise up to call him blessed in the judgment morning.
Brother H. L. Richardson's father died during this first winter in school and I was asked to be one of the speakers on the Lord's day when he was away. This time I made a character study. I talked about the life of Moses. I was able to talk this time for more than twenty minutes and from then on I did not have any trouble, after study, to preach a sermon that was a reasonable length.
How the years have flown! It does not seem possible that it is almost forty years since I was a student in school that first year at Carman. Forty years! How little I have done that I would like to do. The records are being made. I hope to be active in the Lord's work for many more years but in the ordinary course of events I am surely travelling on the last half of the journey.
There is one more thing that happened this first year that I would like to pass on. I remember something H. L. Richardson said about his father the Sunday after he returned from the funeral at Meaford, Ontario. He said that he never knew his father to be asked to do anything for the church that he did not do. He said he had known his father to unhitch from the plough or the binder because some one suggested there was some church work that needed doing. What a wonderful thing for a son to be able to say about his father. I hope my boys will be able to say something as noble as that about me when I have passed from earthly scenes. This should not be so wonderful should it? After all, he was only seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness. Years later I laboured for the Meaford church. We carried on an active mission programme all the time I was there. We shall talk more about Meaford later in the book. I want to say this, that while I was at Meaford I never asked Brother Frank Ellis to assist in any way that he was not willing to do it. Frank was called to the unseen world while still a young man but his willingness to serve is still precious in my memory.
During this first year at Carman Bible School there were more boys than girls. As now so then there were boys that were more popular with the young ladies than others. I was not one of the popular ones. We had what we called a Bachelor's Club. It existed in name only. It had no officers and it had no meetings. It had boys without girl friends. The years have rectified all this. Those boys who still tread this side of Jordan's turbulent stream are all married.
There was another event that first winter that I always remember. I made my home with Brother and Sister Husband. My room mate was Brother Lynn Perry. (Brother Husband passed to his reward a few years ago. He was a good man and a devout Christian. He was killed in an accident on his own farm.)
Brother Lynn Perry has heard the call to come up higher. He died of cancer a few years ago. He died in the faith. He used his sick bed as a pulpit many times in telling the unsearchable riches that are only to be found in Christ. Sister Wilfred Orr (nee Pearl Perry) was another member of that household. She and Lynn both attended the school as well as I.
There were two children in that household. Lavina is now Sister Douglas Perkins. Brother Perkins and his faithful wife now live and labour for a church in Long Beach, California. Bert is a doctor in those parts, too. Both have followed in the pathway of their devoted parents and faithfully serve the Lord. George has been born since that time. He is on the old farm. He is a member of the Board of Western Christian College. He is a faithful member of the church at Wawota. Surely I was in good company but we had Fun and sometimes at each other's expense. I was bothered that winter with neuralgia. I was putting mentholatum on my face. There was a jar of Rawleigh's red ointment sitting on the dresser. I asked Lynn if he thought that would be any good. He knew what it would do so he replied that if I would rub it in real well it would help. I rubbed it in and well. When I quit rubbing it started burning. I never felt as if I was on fire so much before or since. Lynn enjoyed my discomfort immensely. It was helpful. In the morning the neuralgia was gone. I have never decided though whether the cure was worth it or not.
That Christmas of 1921 the church put on a Christmas concert. I was asked to take part. I not only refused to take part but I said that I would not attend. One other young man also refused to take part. This stand that I took did not add to my popularity. The other young man was finally persuaded to take part in the programme. I was left alone. I was wondering if I should not go. However, I had an answer. I had neuralgia so bad the night of the programme that I was not even tempted to go out in the cold.
By the end of March, 1922, the first session of the Carman Bible School was history. We had learned much. Friendships had been made that still stand. Several of those who attended have crossed the turbulent waters of Jordan, including our teacher.
Published in The Old Paths Archive
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