The voyage from South Africa to New Zealand occupied considerable time, but Mr. McClure being a lover of the sea the trip was a pleasure to him, and it moreover gave him opportunity to rest and prepare for the work lying before him in another new sphere of labor.
He arrived in Wellington in time to attend the Easter conference meetings, at which his presence and ministry found great acceptance and appreciation among the believers. It was then that he made the acquaintance of Mr. Franklin Ferguson, editor of the “New Zealand Treasury,” and a hearty bond of fellowship was formed between them.
Because of this close relationship we are able to present in this volume a tribute to the memory of Mr. McClure by Mr. Ferguson, with an account of his labors in the Colonies.
Mr. McClure was also glad to meet again beloved Mr. John Blair whom he had known years before and who had served the Lord in these Colonies for a number of years. During that visit Mr. McClure and Mr. Blair preached together occasionally and both were present on the happy occasion of Mr. Ferguson’s wedding in Dunedin January 3, 1907, and ministered words of profit for the occasion.
Many doors were open for Mr. McClure in New Zealand and one of the places where he saw the hand of God in a marked way was Auckland the capital of the province bearing that name, embracing the North Island. There were two assemblies in that city and both shared richly in the blessing at that time. His expositions began with lectures on the Tabernacle, illustrated by a large chart. Great interest was manifest and the audiences increased. Afterwards he took up “the Church,” as the “Body of Christ,” the “Spouse of Christ” and destined to be the sharer of the “Glory of Christ.” The interest continued to grow and the power of God was with His servant as he brought out of his treasure things new and old.
Because of the manifest hunger for the Word our brother decided to put up his chart on “The Seven Churches of Asia” in which he traced the history of the church on earth. Christians from the various denominations were greatly stirred and came with open hearts to take in the wonderful truths that were being presented by the Spirit of God through His servant.
From the epistles to the seven churches (Revelation chapters 1, 2, and 3), he pointed out, first of all, that these were seven actual assemblies existing in Asia at that time, but that through the different conditions as set forth in these chapters as existing among them then, God brings before us a prophetic picture of the entire Christian dispensation, from the Apostle’s days (and especially at the close of those days) until the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
At those meetings notes of each address were taken by the Christians, and later these were compiled and printed in book form, under the title, “The Seven Churches in Asia, by W. J. McClure.” This book had had a large circulation and was read with appreciation and profit by the Lord’s people in many lands, but as it is now not easily obtainable we think it wise to give copious extracts for the benefit of those who do not possess the volume.
Having a remarkable grasp of ancient history, Mr. McClure used it to good advantage as he traced the path of the Church down through the last nineteen centuries setting it forth in the following order:
1. Ephesus a picture of the Church at the close of the Apostles’ days.
2. Smyrna, foreshadowing the martyr days of the Church, ending at the close of the Emperor Diocletian’s reign in A.D. 313.
3. Pergamos, portraying conditions from the reign of Constantine, 313 to 590.
4. Thyatira the prophetic description of Romanism, from 590 until this present hour.
5. Sardis, predicting Protestantism, from the Reformation in the 16th century to the present time.
6. Philadelphia, foretelling conditions prevailing in the early part of the 19th century.
7. Laodicea, the last stage describing the present lukewarm condition which now exists all over Christendom.
Our brother had given these same messages elsewhere to large and interested audiences just as he proclaimed them to the people in far-off Auckland during that memorable season, but, while each of the seven stages were enlarged upon yet the epistles to Sardis and Philadelphia seemed to grip the preacher himself with a mighty force, which carried him along as he portrayed the awful bondage in which saints of God were held by the Church of Rome during the middle or dark ages.
The dawn of the Reformation, like the sunrise, brought liberty and untold blessing to multitudes in all walks of life. But the instrument principally used so mightily to shake the Church of Rome—as Mr. McClure expressed it, “from its center to its circumference”—was Martin Luther, a miner’s son, who, in the days of his youth, sang and begged on the streets of Eisenach to acquire an education, before taking the “holy orders” and becoming a monk.
The speaker pointed out that in Judges 10 Tola was raised up to be a saviour in Israel. The name Tola means a worm. Mr. McClure loved to trace that miner’s son through the different stages of his life, and dwelt especially upon two points of deep interest: 1. The unknown monk in the monastery; 2. That same monk at the Diet of Worms; until one would think Brother McClure must have stood by and witnessed Luther’s noble confession on that awful day. “Think,” he said, “of Luther standing before that assembly— Charles V, the ruler of half the world, kings, electors, counts, noblemen, bishops and archbishops—what an assembly, but, thank God, there he stood, God’s witness to His blessed truth. But I tell you, if you had access to the prayer that was wrung from his poor, anxious heart the night before that wonderful meeting, you will see how he is made to realize he is like Tola, a worm. That man, even though possessed of an indomitable spirit, that intrepid warrior, is made to feel the utter helplessness of man. He is in the power of the enemy, if God does not protect him. But, calmed by that wonderful night of wrestling with God, he stands in the presence of earthly greatness, a worm! But God stood with him, and, thank God, from that flowed the blessings which we believe God has vouchsafed to us.” Yes,—just as many centuries before that solemn scene, a remnant of Jews, held in captivity for 70 years in Babylon, went up to Jerusalem with hearts stirred by God to restore and rebuild the Temple and its worship, “and they set the altar upon its bases … and they offered burnt offerings thereon unto the Lord” (Ezra 3:3), the fire, unlighted for seventy years, once more burned upon His altar, and that was their first act in that great movement in restoring the worship of the Lord in the place He had long before chosen to place His Name—so it was with Luther and others whose hearts God stirred while still in spiritual Babylon, and their simple plain message of the Gospel proclaimed in the power of the Holy Spirit, “justification by faith.” This was the beginning of the great work of the Reformation. What a contrast to the man invented theories that had kept the people in darkness so long! Now all over Europe the Gospel, with a clear ring, was being preached, and the light shone as multitudes were saved and rejoiced in God’s Salvation; many in turn, because of their unflinching faith in Christ, became martyrs for the truth, for in being burned to death, they laid down their lives for Christ’s sake.
But the work that took such hold in those days, and had such a mighty influence, Mr. McClure pointed out, lacked much, as the churches of the Reformation made the fatal mistake of setting up an order of clergy and laity, and Protestantism was soon known by its many names and sects, called after doctrines or bearing the name of leaders. Thus the authority of the Scriptures was set aside upon these points. In his address on the Church at Sardis, Mr. McClure having pointed out the awful guilt of the Church of Rome in withholding the Scriptures, showed how God graciously gave the Bible back as a precious heritage, and hence the call in that epistle, “Remember how thou hast heard and hold fast.” He also dwelt upon the guilt of Protestantism, saying, “This precious book, purchased with the blood of countless martyrs, this Bible, is a neglected book, and as the years pass there is less and less use for it.” But in closing his address that evening he struck a note that, after thirty-six years, is much more evident: namely that there is one deadly error in Protestantism, and it is growing rapidly—the denial of the Deity of the Son of God. He concluded by telling of a noted professor who differed with the Lord Jesus Christ as to what value we are to put on the law and the prophets. The question was put as to whether the professor would know better than the Lord about this. “Yes,” was the answer, “he has access to information that Jesus had not,” thus giving the Lord no better place than one of limited knowledge. Thus the inspiration of the Word of God is denied.