Regardless of our age, there are those in our past life whom we greatly admire. In many cases, they become the models that we follow and after which we pattern our lives. In today’s world, they might be sport’s heroes, TV personalities, family members, school friends, or "successful" people in the endeavors of life. How many of our models are godly men who loved the Bible and lived faithful lives for Christ?
In delivering the address printed below, Samuel Ridout was paying tribute to a godly man who greatly influenced his life and ministry for the Lord. His name was F. W. Grant. He was born in London, England, in 1834. He lived for a time in Toronto, Canada, and then came to the United Sates, living first in Brooklyn, and then in Plainfield, New Jersey. It was here that he greatly influenced Samuel Ridout. Brother Grant ministered in assemblies all over the United States until his death in 1902. Many of his books are in the libraries of Bible students throughout the land. He greatly influenced Brother Ridout, and he also went on to be a godly teacher and writer, standing firm for the truths of the Word of God.
Almost all of us are too young to remember F. W. Grant, but whom do we remember? Are they men and women of God who will influence us to live for God and give our lives to Him? "Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises" (Heb. 6:12).
REMEMBER YOUR GUIDES
Remember them which have the rule over you (your leaders or your guides), who have spoken unto you the word of God; whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation (the outcome of their well-spent lives). (Hebrews 13:7)
In the Epistle to the Hebrews we find a whole chapter devoted to human examples of faith . A great cloud of witnesses looks down upon us in the eleventh chapter, and in the closing chapter of the book, the writer speaks of their "guides," or "leaders." They were to remember those who had passed away, and imitate their faith; they were to obey those who remained, realizing that they were charged with weighty responsibilities, and were to salute them in all honor and affection.
Scripture not only warrants but commands the remembrance of those whom God has given as leaders of His people. To forget them means, too often, to forget the truth they brought, and paves the way for that "building the sepulchres of the prophets" by a godless posterity who are indifferent to every warning spoken by those prophets (Lk. 11:47). There is a sober, discriminating way of dwelling upon the ministry of faithful servants which encourages our own faith, quickens conscience, and stirs afresh to follow them as they followed Christ.
Most biographies are written from a human standpoint; the man is before us rather than his message. Such biographies are not helpful; but who has not been stimulated by the narratives of devotion, self-denial, unresting toil of faithful men at home or abroad? We realize on either hand that they were men "of like passions with ourselves" (Ja. 5:17), and that a Power wrought in and with them which is for us too.
The passage we have quoted at the beginning shows us how we can properly "remember our guides." First of all, what makes their remembrance profitable is that they spoke to us the word of God. It was not for special personal excellence of character, either natural or gracious; nor for great activities and results in the Lord’s work, considered in themselves. What gives value to the remembrance of the leader is the word of God with which he was identified, the message he brought.
We read of one of David’s mighty men, Eleazar the son of Dodo, that he stood alone against a great host of Philistines when "the men of Israel had gone away." He smote them "till his hand was weary and his hand clave unto the sword; and the Lord wrought a great victory" (2 Sam. 23:9,10). His very name, "God is help," turns from the man to God. What could he do single-handed against the host of the enemy? His arm grows weary, but the weary hand cleaves to the good sword, and we see no longer the feeble arm of man, but the power of God behind that weary arm, hewing out victory with that sword. The man has become identified with the sword, and God can use such an one.
So are all God’s mighty men; feeble, and with weary arms, they cling to that "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). Their very weariness and feebleness makes them cling like Jacob who, his thigh out of joint, can no more wrestle, but cling (Gen. 32:24-26). Such men God can use, for they are identified with their sword, with the word of God. To remember such is to remember the sword, the Word which they brought. There can be no higher honor to a servant of Christ than to merge him, as it were, in the truth he ministered; in thinking of him, to think of the sword he held in his feebleness. The world may honor its soldiers, its men of wealth, its benefactors, and build them monuments. They are its departed great men. Believers recall the memory of those who have left their greatness in our hands, the Word of God. To do this is simply to have mind refreshed and heart stirred by that which abides forever.
We are also to consider the issue, or outcome, of their walk. What has their life ended in? It has now ceased. A rich man’s life ends, so far as what he leaves behind is concerned, in wealth; a statesman’s, in power and influence. In what shall we say the life of Christ’s servant has ended? What has he left as the sum of that life? Is it not suggestive that the very next clause gives what is really the answer, while closely connected, as we shall see, with the following clause? "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Heb. 13:8). The issue of their life is the abiding Christ. They have passed off the scene, but Christ, the object of their ministry, abides. With Paul they could say, "To me, to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). Christ is the end, the goal of their life. To depart and be with Him is far better. Happy indeed are those who are called to lay down their burden and enter into His rest. They loved and served Him here; they enjoy unclouded peace and rest as they wait with Him there. The outcome, the end, of all their life’s work, toil, testimony, is Christ. They enjoy Him to the full now; they have, as it were, left Him as a priceless legacy to us here.
And their life was a life of faith – the refusal at once both of creature righteousness and creature strength. They had learned to "rejoice in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh" (Phil. 3:3). We are not called to do, in detail, their work. God calls and fits each of His servants for some special work, peculiarly suited to the special gift with which he is endowed. We are not to be imitators of one another, but ever to be imitators of the faith that casts the feeble upon the Mighty.
Lastly, we note the warning not to be "carried about with divers and strange doctrines" (Heb. 13:9). The servant of Christ ever stands for His truth against all opposition of error. His ministry, in so far as it was under the guidance and in the power of the Holy Spirit, brought home to heart and conscience the truth of God and the Person of the Lord.
Do we not need, as has already been said, to be specially on our guard in these days against the subtile inroads of error? The Person of the Son of God, His atoning work, His Church, the destiny of man - are all objects of the enemy’s attacks. Let us hold fast the truth, and Him who is the truth, and His Word of truth.
We have, then, four characteristics of a proper memorial of departed leaders - (1) The word of God ministered by them; (2) the outcome or issue of their life, Christ for them and for us ever the same; (3) the faith which occupied them with this blessed Person; and (4) the warning against error. If we ever have these features before us, there will be only profit in remembering those who have gone on before us.