by F. C. Marshall
Brother Wm. J. McClure was to me like a father naturally, as well as counsellor and instructor spiritually and for the greatest part of my Christian life I considered him to be beyond failure. His word and advice were by me taken without question. Even now with more mature judgment I cannot convince myself that there is any one else that could fill his place and if my life was to be lived over again, I would not hesitate in my choice concerning all I have met or known in deciding Wm. J. McClure as the cream and crown of all for me. I would not mar a true picture by magnifying his virtues and minimizing his faults, for faults he had, but fewer than most people.
I believe he lived too close to the Lord he loved and served to pre-meditatingly and deliberately injure any one. His judgment may not have been always the best, but in the main and on the whole, he was true as steel and sometimes as sharp. He was a dignified Irish gentleman possessing high standards. He failed by trying to impose these standards upon unwilling subjects, a position that can only be acquired by slow and painful processes. As an Evangelist he was clear and faithful, as a pastor tender, yet exacting as a teacher. Many times have I witnessed his audience melted to tears as he so affectionately and tenderly presented Christ Jesus our Lord. God gifted him with the power to visualize and impart truth reaching to profoundest depths in the sweetness of simplicity. One of the valuable assets of his life was the gift of giving. To me, he never seemed happier than when he was being used in finding an outlet of expression for this prominent characteristic. He gathered to give in temporal as well as in spiritual things. I wish we had a few more after his mould to perpetuate this waning practice especially among preachers.
Some six years ago at a Canadian Conference in Forest, Ontario, Wm. J. McClure gave an address that most young preachers could profit by hearing and taking to heart. It reflects the real reason for his life usefulness to the assemblies planted by his labors and watered by his ministry, when he was exercised about engaging in full time service as an Evangelist. He first consulted with older brethren then engaged in this field of service in whom he had confidence. The encouragement he received was this: “If the Lord has called you He will prove you and you will be satisfied with bed, board and washing.” Well, during a year of plowing, planting and reaping while bearing the yoke in the strength of his youth he received the promised satisfying portion of bed, board and washing, and in addition, he had also given to him gifts in coin, ten cent pieces, twenty-five cent pieces, the largest denomination being a fifty-cent piece, in all amounting to five dollars. His was surely a humble beginning but the Lord was in it which proved that godliness with contentment is great gain. Having his food and raiment he was therewith content. But we get a view of the true and lasting value of this service, for the Lord saw to it that souls were being saved which in after years proved to be some of the best material for the building of assemblies. He laid a good foundation and instructed others how to build thereon. He served the Lord Christ and that day will declare that such labors are not in vain in the Lord. For it is of the Lord we receive the reward of the inheritance. What a contrast this life is to the many present day beginnings. I heard Donald Ross once say that some young men could swallow a sermon written by some one else and throw it up again amazingly well in all its parts but unmasticated, undigested, and unassimilated by themselves. Sermons were not brought up so by Wm. J. McClure: he brought his down; he was not slothful but roasted well what he took in hunting.
I first met W. J. McClure when a child of ten some sixty odd years ago in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, at the McNab St. Gospel Hall Sunday School. My recollection lection of him, as he then impressed me, was that of a tall, strong, handsome, serious young man: intelligent and courageous, most promising in every way for worldly success. But, thank God, he was not to be used that way in His purposes, but as a chosen vessel in a much higher calling and more blessed service.
In the year of 1893 I listened to his first sermon in Portland, Oregon, in a small hall over Parrott’s Music Store on Union Avenue. Though unsaved at that time and unable to understand his subject which was on the “Churches of Asia,” his spiritual earnestness interested me.
From the year of 1897, shortly after I was saved, our home was his home while he was in Portland. Together with John D. Mc Fadyen, a gifted young preacher (who was drowned when his steamer, The Columbus, was rammed by a lumber schooner while on its way from Oakland to Portland in 1904), Brother McClure gave much of his time and service at Victoria and Vancouver, B.C., with frequent visits to the prairies, to Portland, San Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, Monrovia, Pomona and many other Southern California meetings. For a long time the West Coast got the lion’s share of his service. My family and myself had a special claim on him. He seemed to belong to us. All my children called him Uncle McClure and he was still Uncle to them even after they were married and had their families.
Brethren McClure, Monypenny, and Hunter held tent meetings here in 1895. A number of souls were saved, among them representatives of three families of the wealthiest of Portland at that time: the Bayes family, Buftons, Roberts, Wests, Singletons and others. Most of these are at home with the Lord but many of them made real history.
He was always helping, either paying the rent for the hall, or buying blinds; always as much or more interested in the hall and the Christians as any local brother.
He never seemed to relish listening to gossip. Many times he has cut me short, not allowing me to finish information I thought worth telling. He did not fail to expose to you your own faults, but just let any one else say anything unjustly detrimental to your character in his hearing and they were due to receive a smarting rebuke.
He was a faithful and loyal friend. Many a check has he received that he never cashed, but indorsed and mailed on to some laboring brother that he believed was more in need of it than himself. This was his common practice. In later years I would venture to say to him, “You should save some of the money that is given to you.” He would look at me as he only could, and would say, “I have enjoyed living in dependence on the Lord all my life and would not change now.” A chief pleasure in life to him was to have the wherewithal to give to others.
He delighted to get something fresh from the Word, therefore his messages were outstanding at our conferences. Personally I have received from him the most real sound and helpful instruction and encouragement, and not alone from his ministry in the Word but linked with it his consistent practice.
God used him to instruct and encourage Christians to abide faithful. He never left the divine path of separation. If he wounded others, it could be said his words were the faithful wounds of a friend. Though he seemed severe at times, it oftentimes proved that his judgment was opportune and necessary. On the whole he was not given to extremes, and hence he suffered much from two extreme factions for not submitting to their line of things. He was so well fortified by the Word as to his path and position that his challenge in itself was a consistent and persistent life supported by the Word which was not inviting for contest. He always spoke plainly and I never heard it said by any that they could not hear or understand his language. His articulation was one hundred per cent. One can confidently say his life’s ambition and soul’s desire was to see souls saved and assemblies grow and prosper in spirit. His time and talent were dedicated to the Lord for this express purpose—a channel of blessing to others. If he failed it was only in trying to force others to rise to his practice or standards of life.
As an Irishman he was not lacking in humor or wit but it was held back for the good of others, though it frequently leaked out, as for instance when he said “You would not take a sledge hammer to kill a mosquito on a brother’s forehead.” This illustration he used to impress the need of gentleness in our service for others; as if it were a delicate operation in its administration, when good intentions might be ruined by lack of discretion or good judgment.
Brother Alexander Marshall wrote me from Scotland telling of the great expectation manifested for Mr. McClure’s ministry and the great response—large crowds everywhere he went in Scotland and Ireland. His punctuality in opening and closing a meeting on time was an outstanding practice of his life. Unless sickness prevented, he never missed a meeting, an example of the importance and seriousness with which he considered all meetings.
Some fifteen years ago he was holding a week’s meetings during winter. It had snowed heavily all night and all day making it impossible for street cars to operate on schedule. Mrs. Marshall and I did our best to persuade him that no one would be out, for we would be compelled to walk miles in deep snow, and most Christians living at a distance could not possibly make it; but nothing would deter him—a meeting had been announced and he must be there. So off we started and what a task we had trudging through the deep snow to get there and find only the janitor present. When laboring through the drifts to get home he said he was glad he went and was not disappointed at no one showing up, but he was satisfied he had done his duty and was content.
His ministry was to the heart. Christians always thought more of their Saviour after listening to his messages and more determined to love and serve Him better, more willing to let the world go by, to know no gain or loss, their only shame their sinful self, their glory all the cross. His ability never lifted him above the poorest and weakest saint. He often spoke in the tenderest terms of some dear old bed ridden isolated saint, telling how they had ministered to him by their happy enduring faith. From his store of accumulated knowledge he always managed to select what the mind and heart of the youngest Christian would grasp—his aim was sure, and never over the heads of his audience. He had the ability to impart the richest truths in the simplest manner and form, and yet able to challenge every interference to the spiritual well being of assemblies. Many who posed as teachers vanished after an, interview with Mr. McClure. He protected the assemblies and felt keenly any departure from the simplicity of assembly order as a lack of progress in spiritual growth. He greatly appreciated assembly fellowship gifts, not for the supply of needs alone, but because of the fact that assemblies were made richer, not poorer, by their giving. Developing in others what he knew was well pleasing to God by being an example in himself, he loved himself to give first, and then to see this gift developed in others.
His gentle, aristocratic appearance worked well in his favor. I got a ticket on my auto for overparking while we were shopping. We went together to the Police Station to pay the customary fine of one dollar. When the desk sergeant asked why I had over-parked, Mr. McClure immediately braced himself in his characteristic way and answered for me by saying “I am the cause, gentlemen, of his getting this ticket. I am a visitor in your City and for looking after me he is paying for this neglect.” That was quite enough. One look at him turned the whole situation. The ticket was torn up and we were dismissed with a pleasant smile.
This is only a sample, but one always felt, at least I felt that my prestige and little importance was elevated many degrees by his imposing personality.
Brother McClure’s work still lives in the heart and life of many. Just a few days ago a brother addressing the Assembly, remarked — “In those happy days when Brother McClure unfolded the Scriptures I could not understand, nor appreciate as I do now, that I was taking in the teaching that has preserved my own life and the assembly’s. Richer, simpler or more practical instruction has never been given. It is fresher in my mind today than when he delivered it then.”
On a return trip from the Calgary conference he called by phone about eleven in the evening advising us that he and two of the Lord’s servants were on their way and would be home in about an hour. He understood all would be welcome as it was one of his many homes where he still could get three beds, board and washing if necessary, and auto service included. They stayed for a few meetings and a young man was saved.
We can continue to admire and follow every grace-producing virtue of our esteemed and much missed brother. Mr. McClure surely had a work on earth to do and thank God he did it well. His personality, spiritual gift and ability he wisely used in view of eternity.
by W. J. Scott
I welcome the opportunity of giving an account of what I know of Mr. McClure’s travels in South Africa.
Mr. McClure visited South Africa on three different occasions, first in 1905 and then again in 1932, when I first met him, and later in 1935.
During his first visit, he had large revolutionary meetings in and around Capetown, going on to Johannesburg and later right up to Southern Rhodesia. At those meetings many of the Dutch folk were reached and some of those families are still in the assemblies. A great many of those who attended the meetings have passed on, but a few remain, amongst whom is a Dutch brother who is now the chief prosecutor of the Inland Revenue Court of South Africa. And he declares that, if required to do so, he would have paid Five Pounds per meeting to have been present. Describing the effect those meetings had he said, “Mr. McClure turned the Cape Colony upside down.”
I first met Mr. McClure on his South African visit during 1932, when he stayed in our home for more than six months. Before reaching Johannesburg he had been several months in the country and had had meetings in and around Capetown and at Wellington and Durban. After several months’ meetings in Johannesburg, and along the Gold-reef towns, at which meetings he found it very difficult to arouse any interest in the things of God, he and I left for up North by car, a trip that was to take us right up into the Belgian Congo, some two thousand seven hundred miles North of Capetown. We had meetings at Bulawayo and then went East as far as Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia where the meetings were well attended. During these meetings at Salisbury, the Minister of Finance, for Southern Rhodesia, the second in office to the Prime Minister, attended, I think all the meetings, and described Mr. McClure as the man who could speak for an hour without drawing his breath. Returning to Bulawayo we then went on North through Northern Rhodesia into the Belgian Congo.
Africa, North of Bulawayo, is very thinly populated and one can travel long distances without meeting any white person. It had always been Mr. McClure’s ambition to see wild Africa, to travel through its bush and jungle and see the different species of buck in their native air, and to visit the Victoria Falls and travel into Central Africa, and all this we were able to accomplish in thirteen weeks covering nine thousand odd miles. I remember him remarking how good the Lord had been to him, granting him in his old age, this life-long desire.
During this trip (Mr. McClure was then already an old man with a weak stomach) I had great difficulties in getting him suitable food. One remarkable experience was getting through a tract of sand, some two hundred and seventy miles long, with the car swaying from side to side, taking pretty well, its own course, I holding on to the wheel and Mr. McClure holding on to the side of the car. On several occasions his face looked yellow and his lips blue, I was afraid he might collapse. I had to stop occasionally and give him a stimulant. I think that that trip was easily the greatest experience of his life and in some respects of mine too. I have traveled, in distance, some fourteen times around the world, all in Africa, and have worn out ten American cars, and flown over a good part also, but that trip was equal to anything prior to it or since.
Mr. McClure was the one outstanding example of all that he preached. We are deeply grateful to the Lord that we were ever privileged to know and have in our home for so long such an honored servant of Christ. And we may yet talk it over again in happier circumstances on that great day. There is perhaps no family which will feel Mr. McClure’s home-call more keenly than we do. And we trust that what we learnt by example and in conversation and through his ministry will redown to God’s glory.
by John Monypenny
My earliest recollection of meeting with dear brother McClure was at Victoria Road Conference in December, 1890. That was one of my first Conferences, and it proved a very searching time for me. At times I was terribly discouraged. Before the Lord’s Day evening Gospel meeting brethren McClure and Telfer asked me to take part in it. I tried to refuse as I felt utterly unworthy, but they kindly urged me, and to my surprise I had some joy in giving a short message. Another recollection somewhat later, carries me back to Toronto. I was in the East End Assembly (afterwards Broadview). Brother McClure visited us for a Lord’s Day, and before the evening meeting he again kindly urged me to open with a word. I said to him “I am trembling in my shoes.” He answered “I am glad to hear it.” The trembling was again followed with some joy.
In the summer of 1892 brethren McClure, Telfer, and Hunter, arranged to operate two Gospel Tents— one in Campbellford (where brethren McClure and Hunter had labored in 1891) and the other in Trenton during 1891 and 1892. I had been very much exercised regarding the Lord’s work at times feeling I must give up the thought of going forth and then again the longing would fill me again. Thus the alternate experiences continued till June 1892 when it appeared to me wrong to refrain further. The three brethren knowing of my exercise, gave me to know (to my real thankfulness) that they would be glad to have me join them. About July 18th, 1892 I reached Campbellford. Brother Hunter met me at the station and we had a little over a week together, and then he joined brother Telfer at Trenton, and brother McClure came back to Campbellford and I had a similar time with him before going on to Trenton where I helped brother Telfer till about the end of August.
In October of that year brother McClure was best man at brother Telfer’s wedding in Clairsville. I was also present that evening. Shortly after that Brother McClure left for his first visit to the Pacific Coast, brother Hunter joining him there somewhat later. After a fruitful time of service together in Portland, Oregon, etc., brother Hunter returned to New Bedford perhaps near the end of 1893. During these years I kept a little diary. Here is an entry of March 2nd 1894—“To night after going to bed I tossed and was sleepless for over five hours. Remarkable to say California and brother McClure came vividly before me. Am very much exercised about it. Am not sure what it means.” California then seemed a long journey from Toronto, and for a little time I said nothing to any one about my exercise that night. I did not write to brother McClure till March 30th. On April 23rd I had a letter from him encouraging me to come, and enclosed with the letter a note from beloved Andrew Fraser who was then an invalid in Los Angeles, and with it a gift of fellowship from him — ten dollars. That note I preserve still as one of my treasures. A week later another letter came from brother McClure enclosing also practical fellowship, and urging me to come speedily and so on May 30th I left Toronto and after a few stops on the way on June 8th I reached Los Angeles. Brother McClure and brother Dan Mc Kay met me with a buggy, and took me to Mr. and Mrs. Foster’s where dear brother Fraser was also staying. Brother McClure and some fellow believers had secured a new tent, and on Friday, June 15th, we pitched it on Union Avenue near 23rd St. The campaign lasted over thirteen weeks, and considerable blessing was granted amongst unsaved and saved. We took the tent down on Sept 12th and on Sept. 14th pitched it at Pomona. The series there lasted over eleven weeks, the tent being up till early in December. I have a diary entry for Dec. 2nd—“This morning to our joy, and I trust to the joy of the Lord as well, eighteen of us broke bread in McComas Hall.” Pomona assembly has had many testings since then, but through the mercy and gracious care of our God the gathering to the Name of the Lord still goes on.
In Los Angeles and also in Pomona we found it necessary to live in the tent to insure its safety. We had two camp beds in a curtained off portion, and we took breakfast and the evening meal in the tent. We went to a restaurant at midday as the tent was very hot. It was arranged we should rise at 6 o’clock each morning. Sometimes when I ventured to lie a little longer brother McClure would look at me and say, “Gallant soldier! the last to leave the battlefield.”
On Dec. 17th brother McClure left for a visit to Oakland and San Francisco. About the second week in January I heard from Mrs. Foster in Los Angeles that Mr. Fraser appeared to be sinking. Loving constant care was about all that could be done for him and Mr. and Mrs. Foster were unable to do this as much as they wished. As soon as I could arrange it I left for Los Angeles, and was glad to share in nursing our beloved brother whose ministry of earnest prayer had largely contributed to the blessing granted in the two campaigns. Soon after I telegraphed to brother McClure and he came, and alternately we shared in watching by the dying one. He was taken home Jan. 31st and on Saturday Feb. 2nd fellow believers and ourselves laid his body away to await the cloudless morning to come.
After some weeks I accompanied brother McClure to San Francisco where we had a series of Gospel meetings, and following that, a short visit to the Oakland Assembly. Then we returned South and after helping in Los Angeles and Pomona and visiting Monte Vista, etc., we pitched the tent again in Pomona, on May 10th and had eleven week’s meetings with further definite blessing. On August 9th we pitched again in Los Angeles, this time at Washington St and Pacific Ave. and continued a little over seven weeks. We both felt physically the need of a change by that time and so we attended a Conference in San Francisco and following that a Conference at Portland, Oregon, at which Mr. Donald Ross was present. After remaining a little time in Portland brother McClure and I went North to Victoria B. C. and had a series of meetings there. During these brother McClure left for a visit to the East.
When brother McClure arrived back from the East he and I returned to Los Angeles and Pomona. In June we pitched the tent at Temple and Pearl Streets and had about eight weeks there and then moved it to Grand Ave for four and a half weeks further.
In the latter part of October we went to Oakland and had a share in the Conference there. At that Conference H. A. Ironside, quite young, was present, and shared with three of us in the Gospel meeting in Y.M.C.A. Hall on the Lord’s Day evening.
I said goodbye to brother McClure shortly after that Conference and left for the East.
As the years went by brother McClure and I were together fairly frequently for short seasons of fellowship in service in Ireland, England, Nova Scotia, Montreal, Ontario, the Eastern States, Michigan, Texas, etc. My marriage took place in 1900 in Banbridge, his native town, and he was there that day.
In May 1937 we were together at Calgary Conference. I was invited with him by the Oakland brethren to attend their Jubilee Conference as we had both known the assembly for many years. It was held in June 1937 and this proved to be our last time together personally. We continued in fellowship by correspondence, and in one of his last letters to me he spoke affectionately of our early days of labour together in California.
He has gone before. We shall meet again. And in the coming Eternity we shall both be glad exceedingly to experience the wonderful truth of Revelation 22:3, 4 —“His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face; and His Name shall be in their foreheads.”
by Donald M. Hunter
When Mr. McClure came to Peking in the spring of 1936, he came in the fulness of the blessing of Christ. How far-reaching can be a single message spoken for God in the power of the Holy Spirit! Mr. McClure was in Peking for only one Sunday. Early that Sunday morning about fourteen believers met to remember the Lord and to announce His death. Most of the Chinese present understood English, so when Mr. McClure ministered, an interpreter was unnecessary. That morning Mr. McClure read Luke 22:7-20. His subject was “The Upper Room” and from his text he clearly taught the privilege and the responsibility of being steadfast in the participation of the Lord’s Supper. Although the meeting was exceptionally enjoyable, I soon forgot the details of it, but there was one Chinese brother present who did not forget Mr. McClure’s Christ-exalting message. Just a few months before I left China in 1940, this dear brother, Dr. Hsu Wen Chen, presented me with a new Chinese hymn book which he had just compiled. In it he had included a few hymns of his own composing and he pointed out two special hymns to me. The first was one he had written to be used at a Baptismal service, the second to be used when saints meet together at the Lord’s Supper. As I read the second one, the thoughts seemed strangely familiar. I looked at Dr. Hsu, and saw a merry twinkle in his eyes. Upon reading it again, it all came back to me. It was Mr. McClure’s message. Dr. Hsu had remembered all Mr. McClure had said three or four years before when together we were gathered around our Lord Jesus Christ, and when he prepared his hymn book, he set down Mr. McClure’s message in the form of a Chinese hymn. Thus that meditation given in the Spirit years ago, is now being sung by Chinese believers as they come together simply and Scripturally to break bread in fond remembrance of their Lord.
But to return to the Sunday when Mr. McClure was in Peking, after the Lord’s Supper we went to a large Chinese Gospel meeting. The little hall was packed with about three hundred Chinese, and though the day was cold and the wind keen, another hundred sat outside in the courtyard. It must be said, however, that it was not Mr. McClure’s presence which attracted this great crowd, for every Sunday that building and courtyard are jammed—because the Word of God is being preached in power by Mr. Wang Ming Tao. But Mr. McClure had great liberty that Sunday morning, and his interpreter, Mr. Wang Ming Tao, had equal liberty. It was perfect team-work guided by the Spirit. Mr. McClure preached the Gospel, using the record of John the Baptist as his subject. After the meeting was over, Mr. McClure, Mr. Wang and I were standing together when a Chinese woman of about thirty-five came to us with a look of peace and joy in her countenance. She said in Chinese, “I have been coming to church for ten years, but this morning as you were preaching I came to Christ!”
Besides these two memorable meetings, Mr. McClure spoke at three others while in Peking. Another Chinese lady professed to be saved, and the believers were encouraged by his messages. Discerning Chinese Christians were struck with the rare depth of Mr. McClure’s spirituality. The great missionaries of all the centuries have been great saints. In the Orient, the Christians soon know whether a missionary is a man of God. If he is not, his eloquence, his untiring labors, his clever sermons, his writings are all a vain show of the flesh. On the other hand, even though he may be a quiet unassuming worker and poor speaker, if Christ is seen in a missionary he exerts a tremendous influence. Such a man was William J. McClure, and in Peking he left an indelible impression.