Chapter 27 Journeying (1924-1927)

The usual conference meetings were held in Los Angeles at Christmas and in Monrovia at New Year, 1924, at which brother McClure was present. He then had a long series of meetings in Jefferson Street Hall, Los Angeles, and next a series in Fresno. After this he began in Bethany Hall, Oakland, where he continued for seven weeks, ministering the word to saints and the gospel to the unsaved. In all three places he saw precious fruit gathered in. Our brother then went to San Diego for a needed rest but was anxious to get started in tent work for the summer.

Mr. Andrew Ruddock joined up with Mr. McClure and they pitched the tent in “Highland Park,” Los Angeles. A good interest was seen and they continued for weeks. Christians from the denominations were attracted and quite a number of souls were saved. This work was very encouraging and it was kept up after the tent was taken down. The following year there was another gospel effort and after much exercise on the part of the Lord’s people a commodious hall was built and a new assembly was planted with the hearty fellowship of the other assemblies in Los Angeles. It is known as York Blvd. assembly and there were soon over a hundred in fellowship. The planting of this assembly was the last special gospel effort of our brother McClure in Southern California. His ministry afterwards was mostly to believers, and his heart interest in the welfare of the assemblies in California continued until the end.

Once more at New Year, 1926, Mr. McClure attended the conference in Philadelphia and ministered the Word to large audiences. He spoke one afternoon on Moses inspecting the work of making the tabernacle, Exodus 3:43—“And Moses did look upon all the work and be hold, they had done it as the Lord had commanded even so had they done it; and Moses blessed them.” He used this solemn scene as a figure of the Judgment Seat of Christ, pointing out that our service will be brought into review in that coming reckoning day, and warning of the danger of one suffering loss, instead of the commendation, “Well done,” with the reward for faithfulness to our trust.

Mr. McClure and Mr. Bradford began a series of meetings in 125th Hall, New York, and then they went to Washington, D.C. where the assembly was greatly cheered by the ministry of the Word.

From Washington they traveled south and had a few meetings in Matoaca, Virginia. While there brethren W. J. McClure, Sam McEwen, H. G. McEwen, W. G. Smith and B. Bradford all felt exercised about going to Miami, Florida, and, as the Lord might guide them, labor in a number of places in that extremely southern State. The distance was about 1,000 miles and at that time some of the roads were very primitive. Mr. S. McEwen had a Model T Ford, and the five brethren decided to use this means of transportation. Such a trip was very pleasing to brother McClure, and they made brother H. G. McEwen treasurer for the journey, each contributing $20.00 to the expense of the trip. The treasurer felt he had an ample supply on hand and expected to have a surplus left when they would arrive. Everything was in readiness, and the brethren, with belongings packed around the car, started south. They had only proceeded a short distance when car trouble began which increased as they journeyed on, and most of the money already contributed was spent in repairs at garages. However, after difficulties of various kinds they arrived safely in the balmy climate of Florida.

The assembly in Miami was quite young and therefore Mr. McClure’s ministry was very helpful. He put up his chart on the “Seven Churches” and continued there for a month with increasing numbers and interest. Among many others who were greatly interested was the widow of the late Mr. William Jennings Bryan, who was present at some of the services. After the Miami meetings our brother went to Tampa for a week. The other brethren found open doors and continued in the south while Mr. McClure returned to Petersburg and attended the Easter conference at which he gave very valuable help.

Early in the fall of 1926, Mr. McClure began a series of meetings in the Gospel Hall, Lonsdale Ave., Pawtucket, Rhode Island, speaking nightly from his chart, “The Seven Days of Creation.” From the first, there was deep interest—the large hall was filled on week nights, and on the Lord’s Day its capacity was taxed. To the Christians the ministry of Mr. McClure was unique, for he brought from his treasure things new and old, with freshness and power, and his opening up of the Holy Scriptures, made many feel that therein were unsearchable riches they had never hither known.

The Christians in the assembly were much stirred by the visit, and the study of the Scriptures was greatly revived. Believers from other assemblies attended the services and shared in the blessing and many who were not associated with any assembly came regularly. While the meetings were mostly for ministry to Christians yet there was always a word for the unsaved and at the close of the meetings, a few precious souls had been won for Christ.

During these meetings, Mr. McClure visited my home only a few miles distant, and one day, he told me he was much exercised about another trip to the British Isles, at the same time enquiring if I had any thought in that direction. “Of course,” he said, “I always consider I am more free to take long journeys than brethren who have family responsibilities, but,” he added, “the Lord is able to make your way clear.” I told him I also had some exercise, as it was eleven years since I visited the land of my first and second birth, but as yet I had gone no further than to make it a matter of prayer.

After leaving Pawtucket, Mr. McClure went to Philadelphia and began meetings in Bryn Mawr Gospel Hall, ministering the Word and illustrating his addresses by the use of a painting of the Tabernacle. There also his ministry had good results. By arrangement I met Mr. McClure in Philadelphia on my way home from Pittsburgh Conference. As I arrived early in the morning, he took me to a restaurant for breakfast and while there, he again mentioned the trip to the Old Country. He asked some questions regarding my exercise as to going to Ireland, and whether my wife would be willing that I should take such a long trip. After some further conversation, and seeing I had come to a decision in the matter, he said, “Well, the Lord has put me in a position to purchase the tickets,” and he handed me the amount that would cover my fare.

We began to make the necessary arrangements, as to tickets, passports, permits to return, etc., with the intention of starting at the end of December after the Boston Conference at which Mr. McClure was expected to be present. But, when everything was in readiness for us to leave, about two weeks before Christmas, our youngest girl took very ill, and her case proved to be scarlet fever. In about a week we had five all sick with that disease, and the house quarantined. I wrote Mr. McClure, telling of my position, and saying he had better go alone, but he replied immediately, saying, “No, I shall wait until you are ready to come!” He wrote very feelingly, and at the end of the letter he said, “Now that you are under quarantine, you will have more time to read the Word and pray.” That part seemed rather amusing, as with five patients and only two of us to do night and day duty it did not seem likely I would have much extra time. Writing next day to a sister in Boston, I said, “I had a letter from Mr. McClure this morning and he thinks I shall have lots of time to read and pray in quietness, seeing I am under quarantine, but I can hardly get time to pray the publican’s prayer.” Mr. McClure was visiting her when the letter arrived and she read it all over to him. He was greatly amused and said, “You can easily see I am not a family man.”

It was not until the early part of February, 1927, that the quarantine was lifted, for all the children recovered and none had any ill effects. Soon everything was in readiness again and we arranged to sail from Boston on the old S. S. Devonian, for Liverpool, England. On February 10th, Mr. McClure came along an we had a baptism in Pawtucket hall. He gave an address that night, his subject being “The children of Israel going through the Jordan,” shewing in type the truth of believers’ baptism; the twelve stones from the desert buried in the river, and the other twelve stones taken from the bed of the river and erected upon its bank, which would cause the children later to ask, “What mean ye by these stones?” He opened up the teaching from Romans 6 and Colossians 3, showing the true meaning of the ordinance, “The stones covered in the river, representing the old man buried, and the stones that were visible, the new Israel, the new life, as seen risen with Christ.” One or two souls were saved that night.

We sailed from Boston the following afternoon. The ship carried one class of passengers only. We gave out some Gospel tracts, whereupon the doctor of the ship called out, with a sneer, “We are going to have a bad trip seeing these things are being given out.” However, a few were more favorably inclined. The next day, we docked at Halifax, Canada, where we were to take on cattle. We were there about twenty-four hours and early next morning, about five hundred head of Western Canadian steers were brought aboard. The men in charge of the cattle and the veterinary surgeon gladly received Gospel papers and we had many interesting conversations with them. Although it was midwinter, we had a very uneventful voyage.

We arrived in Liverpool on Feb. 22 and went to a hotel, intending to cross to Ireland that night, but while taking a walk down one of the principal streets after lunch, we heard some one call our names. Looking around, there stood Mr. A. Allen, from one of the assemblies. He said, “I heard you brethren were coming, and last week I wrote Mr. J. K. McEwen to find out what ship you were on. Where are your belongings?” “In the hotel.” “Well, you are leaving there at once and coming to my home, and you have a meeting tonight in Wallacy, and tomorrow night in another hall.” In a short time, we were settled in his hospitable home, and Mr. McClure ministered the Word for two nights to interested audiences.

Thursday night we crossed to Belfast and in the morning, Mr. William McCracken met us at the dock and we both received a hearty welcome at his home.

After visiting around a few weeks, on March 17th, we went to a believers’ meeting in Ballyshiel, near Markethill, my home town. A work of grace had gone on there for some time, through Mr. McCracken and Mr. Poots, and this was the first believers’ meeting. The place was filled with Christians, mostly new converts, and Mr. McClure spoke to them that day from the Pearl of Great Price. He also referred to “the nameless place” of John 1. To the question “Where dwellest thou?” the Lord answered, “Come and see.” The name of the place was not given, and Mr. McClure brought before the audience, the place, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

Mr. Mateer, from Ballyshiel was at the meeting and he took us to his home, and in that town we had a week of meetings. Arrangements were then made to commence a series in Banbridge, where Mr. McClure was raised. The assembly had built a lovely hall and he was greatly pleased when he saw it. He decided to put up his picture of the Tabernacle; my part was to have a short Gospel word each night.

Crowds came night after night and Mr. McClure’s ministry from the Tabernacle and its vessels was both refreshing and edifying to them. He visited many of the old residents, some of whom had known him from boyhood days, and many were their words of appreciation because he had remembered them and called to see them. They told him incidents in his own life and also his father’s, until I almost thought I knew his father, Simpson McClure. Mr. McClure felt very much at home, and was led to relate many interesting events that happened when he was a boy. One aged brother attended every night, and he was greatly attached to Brother McClure, and delighted at the degree in which he had grown in the things of God. This brother was the companion of long ago who had taken that long, venturesome walk to Belfast with him, when they were boys together.

During our stay, we were entertained by a brother and his wife. As well as being engaged in farming this brother had a business in the town, and his wife was therefore a very busy woman. It was yet early spring and fires were needed in the different rooms. Mr. McClure said to our hostess, “I shall look after the lighting of the fire in our room every day.” Accordingly, next morning I came down and saw Mr. McClure down on his knees trying to light a fire in the grate, and he seemed to be laboring under difficulties. It took him quite a while to complete the task. I felt a strong desire to take some part in the procedure, but not being an expert, I felt I had better keep out of it. Next morning, it seemed no easier, and I could see he had quite a job on his hand, and it was anything but pleasant for him, as the days passed.

In about two weeks, a few brethren visited us one day, and in the course of conversation, one of them said, “How are you brethren getting along?” Very eagerly and quickly Mr. McClure replied, “Splendidly.” I wondered why he was so pronounced about it, but learned immediately when he said, “Since we came here, I have been very much reminded of an American farmer who bought two mules for team work. After a time a friend met him and asked, ‘How are your mules doing?’ ‘The very best,’ said the farmer. ‘They are the best mules I ever owned. One mule is willing to do all the work, and the other is just as willing to let him.’” Mr. McClure was very human and his apt illustrations, either on the platform or off it, had a very telling effect. It was very easy for me, in this case, to see the point.

We had a little automobile to get around in, and he was very particular about keeping it well filled with gas. The gas stations were few and far between at that time over there and one day he said, “We had better keep two gallons of petrol (gas) in a tin in the car.” I thought there was no need of that, as five gallons lasted a long time, but he put the two-gallon tin inside the open car. Some weeks after, we were on our way to Belfast with rain coming down. When almost at the city, the car stopped. “Now,” he says, “no gas! I told you what would happen! What would you do now, if we had no extra gas in the car?” He got out, and taking his little measuring stick that he carried in the car, he measured the gas, and while it was very low, yet there was still some left, but he was sure that was the whole trouble. He impresses upon me again the fix we would be in now if we had had no gas with us. He got the funnel, opened the tin and poured the contents into the tank. All being ready, I cranked it and it went off at the first pull. “Now that is what I told you!” And once more I was reminded of the good fortune that we had gas with us, but as soon as we got in and attempted to move on, the car went dead. I got out and cranked for a good while with no response. At last we got a garage man. He tried it but it remained dead. Lifting the hood, he took out the carburetor, cleaned it out, replaced it and tried again to start the motor but not a move. He looked as the carburetor filled up. “Why,” said the mechanic, “this is pure water.” Then we learned that our two gallons of gas had been stolen, and two gallons of water left instead, and hence our trouble that day.

The Belfast Conference began at Easter, and we closed our meetings in time to attend. Mr. McClure shared largely in the ministry of the Word. What an inspiring sight it was to gaze upon three thousand Christians from all walks of life, sitting under the wholesome ministry of the Word of God; and at the close it was like a foretaste of heaven to see that multitude arise and sing:

All hail the power of Jesus’ Name,
Let angels prostrate fall,
Bring forth the royal diadem,
And crown Him Lord of all.

After the conference, our next visit was to Ballymena. Here was a large assembly, one of the oldest in Northern Ireland, with its commodious hall built by Mr. J. G. McVicker, a godly and able minister of the Word in the last century. Near that town he had preached for years as a Presbyterian minister but when he saw the truth of believer’s baptism and gathering in His Name, he separated himself and became well known as a teacher and preacher.

In Ballymena Mr. McClure put up his chart on “The Lord’s Coming.” Large crowds gathered to hear him for about five weeks. During the summer many visits were made to other assemblies and we had invitations both for conferences and special meetings in Scotland and England.

The brethren in Belfast decided to rent the auditorium of the Y.M.C.A., in the center of the city, for a month’s meetings in the fall. It so happened that we had promised to attend some conferences in Scotland at that time. However, instead, Mr. Hawthorne Bailey came with me to Scotland, while Mr. McClure remained for the special series in Belfast. Preparations were made for the campaign; thousands of handbills were printed; large notices appeared in the newspaper, when, just about a week or less before the meetings were to begin, he became quite ill and suffered from a lapse of memory. This caused great anxiety and much prayer went up to God on his behalf. By God’s good hand upon him he recovered, and on Saturday, brethren literally covered the city with handbills. The first news to reach us in Scotland was that the auditorium of the Y.M.C.A. which held about 2,100 people, “was well filled and Mr. McClure seemed himself. Indeed he looked like a prince on the platform and spoke like a prince as he delivered his first address on the Tabernacle.” He was then in his seventieth year, and still very alert and keen.

Mr. R. Hawthorne opened the meeting each night and the interest deepened and increased to the end. A great number took a train journey every night and from far and near the crowds were going to the Y.M.C.A. Many arrived early waiting a whole hour or more to secure a seat and would then gladly give it up to some old lady who would otherwise have had to stand.

At that time, there was a great stir among the denominations in Ireland because of what was called “The Davy Heresy.” Mr. Davy, a moderator of the Presbyterian Church, had embraced and was teaching what is described as “Modernism,” denying many of the vital truths of the Bible dearly held by all evangelical Christians.

The subjects discussed in Mr. McClure’s addresses on the Tabernacle—such as the Inspiration of the Scriptures, the Deity and Humanity of the Lord Jesus, His Vicarious Sacrifice, His Bodily Resurrection, The High Priestly Ministry—were delivered in the power of the Holy Spirit. His discourses not only brought much enlightenment to the Christians in the religious systems, but they were moreover very opportune for they dealt a terrible blow to the false and wicked modernistic teachings that had been gaining supporters. A business man of high standing in the city, who was a Christian, ran up to Mr. McClure one night after he left the platform and shook his hand warmly, saying, “Mr. McClure, if ever God sent a man to Belfast, He has sent you.” Eternity alone will reveal the full value to saints and sinners in that series of meetings.

Mr. McClure had an invitation to attend the conference in Cardiff, Wales. He went and ministered the Word with much appreciation, after which he left for Londonderry where the Y.M.C.A. hall was taken to accommodate the crowds that came to hear his expositions of the Word.

Meanwhile Mr. Bailey and I began Gospel meetings in Ebenezer Hall, Belfast, early in October, and found after the stir created by Mr. McClure’s meetings, that there was still good interest. My beloved father had never missed a night when Mr. McClure was in the Y.M.C.A., and had been greatly helped in soul. He also attended our meetings every night for three weeks. On Thursday night, the 21st, Mr. Bailey made a most solemn appeal to the unsaved, saying, “It’s very possible some sitting here tonight will be in their ‘winding sheet’ while the meeting is going on tomorrow night.” My father went home, complained of not feeling well, and fell dead on the floor. The words of the preacher came true.

I sent Mr. McClure a telegram to Londonderry, telling him of the funeral and that the interment would take place in the old graveyard at Markethill. Mr. T. Campbell and Mr. McCracken spoke at the house in Belfast, and we left by motor hearse, for the burial place a distance of thirty-five miles. When about halfway, another car swung around a corner and came into line, and in it I could see Mr. McClure who had taken all that long journey from Londonderry. He preached the Word in the old Meeting House, and we placed the body in the newly-opened grave in the spot where we had buried our mother, thirty-nine years before, almost to a week. Mr. McClure went back to Londonderry that same day.

Before Christmas, Mr. McClure arrived in Belfast again. He was invited to take part in an afternoon meeting on Christmas Day, which marked his seventieth milestone, but he became ill and it was with difficulty that he was able even to attend the meeting. In a few days he recovered and we left for Scotland again. On New Year’s Day, 1928, we were at the large conference in Kilmarnock where he ministered the Word, and next day attended the conference in City Hall, Glasgow. Three thousand Christians were present on that occasion and listened to Mr. McClure’s memorable message on the subject of “Stewardship.”

Next day in the home of a Christian where we were entertained, Mr. McClure became dealthly ill, but he recovered and in a few days we left for Edinburgh. After some meetings in different assemblies I left him to return to Belfast, to make preparations to sail for the United States. Mr. McClure decided however to remain for a little longer and he made a number of appreciated visits to assemblies in England, Scotland and Ireland, and was in Belfast again for the Easter Conference. Early in May, after I had left for home, he decided to return to the United States. He wrote me, saying he had arranged to sail on a certain date and that two preachers, Mr. William McCracken and Mr. George Gould, Jr., were to accompany him.