Chapter 33 The Funeral

Many were the expressions of deep sorrow and loss among the Lord’s people in many lands as the news reached them that Mr. McClure had been called home. Tributes from aged and experienced saints who valued him and his ministry were sent from the colonies, South Africa, and the British Isles, all speaking of the great and noble standards of life that our beloved brother possessed.

During the long years Mr. McClure had spent in the Lord’s service there were certain principles that governed his life. His standards were high and he sought to hold these in keeping with what is written in the Scriptures.

He went forth to preach wholly trusting in the Lord for guidance as to his path in service, and in full dependence on the Lord for his support. In his earlier years he was a true pioneer, and he was often tried as to financial need, but when more than enough came in to meet his own requirements, what was over went back to the Lord through His servants and their service, and as years went on his giving to the Lord increased. Servants of the Lord in the Gospel plowing their lonely furrow in new territory were made strong to labor by a letter and check from Mr. McClure. Preachers with families of small children were especially remembered by him in this way. Many a widow in her loneliness and sorrow, was made to sing for joy as she opened a letter from our brother with words of comfort and a substantial check to help her along. Aged brethren and sisters whom he had know in years gone by, valued for their liberality in the Gospel, were remembered by him from the Lord’s bounty. Indeed, giving was a grace he cultivated and he loved to pass on the Lord’s portion sent him. Known to God alone is what Mr. McClure thus distributed. Some years it amounted even to thousands of dollars. Our brother’s consideration for the children was well known. Wherever he stayed and children were in the home he would employ them to run errands for him, and then his hand was in his pocket to pay them well. The children loved to see Mr. McClure come along. Liberality and consideration were true of him at all times when he was traveling and requiring assistance from porters or working men.

Mr. McClure never married. He often told us it was not because he made any vows against it or that he did not at times long to have a home of his own, but “I just never seemed to have time” and he always kept busy with the Lord’s work. Our brother never owned property nor did he make any provision for his old age.

One day in 1936 I drove him into our yard and the children ran out to greet us. He stood and looked around, greeted each of the children by name and then turning to me he said, “Well, you have a home and I am just a wanderer.” He was a real pilgrim, a stranger on the earth, and followed his Master more than most, and when his funeral expenses were all paid there was nothing left.

The precious remains were removed to the “Grant D. Millar’s Mortuaries.” The day following was “Pearl Harbor” day, the whole Pacific Coast was in a state of excitement and war was in the air.

The funeral was arranged for Thursday, December 11. I left Detroit by train Sunday afternoon and Monday after leaving Chicago I met W. P. Douglas in the dining car. Although more than eighty years of age and in failing health, he had started that long journey of more than two thousand miles alone to be present at the funeral of his beloved brother and fellow-laborer in the Gospel.

We arrived in Oakland Wednesday morning and that day we viewed the remains of our brother. He lay in the casket as if asleep holding a Believers’ Hymn Book in his hand.

The war-scare hindered some from coming, especially from Southern California, but notwithstanding all assemblies were represented. The funeral was conducted in Bethany Hall where our beloved brother had so often preached the Gospel and ministered the Word of God to believers, and he looked upon Bethany Hall as his home assembly for many years.

Funeral Service

Hymn: “A Little While,” No. 14, Believers’ Hymn Book, vv. 1, 3, 4

Address by Mr. J. T. Dickson

Shall we read together 2 Samuel 3, verses 31, 32, 38, 39. “And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him. Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And the king, David himself, followed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept. And the king said unto his servants, Knowing not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? And I am this day weak, though anointed king.”

When the news reached me in Detroit last Lord’s Day morning by wire that our beloved brother Mr. McClure had passed into the presence of the Lord the afternoon before, I had mingled feelings, as I thoughtl that a great life was thus brought to a close; and then there came to mind these words spoken long ago, when one of Israel’s sons was buried by none other than his sorrowing king. David, like others that day, stood at the bier, weeping brokenhearted, because of his loss of the one that was gone, and then he uttered these words to his servants, “Know ye not that a prince and a great man is fallen this day in Israel?”

It is not my purpose this afternoon to say much about Abner or about his noble life and the sad circumstances under which he was taken away. Suffice to say, he was a captain in the armies of Saul. He was a man that had a great interest in the kingdom and he spent his last days in diligent efforts to bring the people under the sway of David, God’s anointed king. And David, who had watched him, and knew his value, felt weakened by the loss of such a man, and he summed up the life of Abner as “a prince and a great man.” Now, a prince is one of noble birth, and as such, one who has been well trained and molded in his youth; a man that has high ideals and is outstanding among his fellows; a leader and one to be imitated. I am sure, dear friends, that as we think about our dear departed brother Mr. McClure, these words are very fitting—“A prince and a great man.” Mr. McClure’s greatness all sprang, we might say, from one very important event that transpired in his life, whereby he became a man of noble birth. I do not refer to his birth on Christmas day in 1857, when he was born after the flesh, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Simpson McClure, but I speak of another birthday that he had sixteen years later, when his young heart was opened as he listened to the wondrous story of Calvary. It was upon that day when he rested his all for eternity on the finished work of Christ, that he experienced the new birth. I would like at this moment, to speak to any who may be here unconverted, for the truth that made such a change in Mr. McClure (the outcome of which has been seen and felt in many lands), is worth special mention, and we know it would be in accordance with the wishes of our departed brother, that the Gospel that he loved to proclaim so well to men and women should be told out to those “in this audience who know not his Saviour. “Be it known unto you, therefore, that through this Man, Christ Jesus, is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.” By simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ you may have the forgiveness of all your sins this afternoon and leave this service rejoicing that your name is written in heaven.

As a new born babe in Christ, William J. McClure desired the sincere milk of the Word. He read it carefully and prayerfully and it wrought effectually in his life. Very soon after his conversion in the city of Belfast, Ireland, he was brought under the ministry of great men of God such as David Rea, James Smith, and James Campbell. There he listened to their stirring messages and through their ministry he was brought to see the truth of gathering in the precious name of the Lord Jesus Christ. He took his place with the assembly of that city, known as the Old Lodge Road Gospel Hall, which I think was the only assembly in the city at that time. The truth he learned and loved and practiced then was a stay to him all through.

Mr. McClure was a deep student of the Holy Scriptures, and that was wherein his great strength lay, for what he learned he made his own and obeyed. He was like one of that noble band in the days of Ezra who were put in trust with the precious vessels of the Temple to bring them from Babylon to Jerusalem where they were to be weighed in the balances of the sanctuary, for spiritually this would remind us of the exhortation, “Guard that which is committed to the trust”; and this Mr. McClure sought to do.

As a Gospel preacher he excelled above many. We have with us today Mr. W. P. Douglas, one of his fine fellow-laborers, and he will be able to tell you better than I of his beginnings as a herald of the Cross.

And as a teacher Mr. McClure had few equal There was nothing fanciful or sentimental in his ministry, but he sought to get down to the deep things of God’s blessed Word and to give the sense thereon. He was a real expositor. In dealing with a difficult subject he had the faculty of making it so simple and lucid that the people of God could take it in and profit thereby for years to come. Truly a prince and a great man is fallen today in Israel. Some would say he has not fallen but is promoted. That is true. But while it gives us real joy to know that he is promoted to the Lord’s presence, yet, as to his service and his help, we mourn his loss.

I can look back to my first acquaintance with our dear brother McClure. It was in 1904 at the Lurgan Conference and in his address that day he desired to help young Christians, and to illustrate his point he spoke of Timothy as a disciple of the Lord, and as one who labored with Paul in the Gospel. In this he demonstrated his gift as a shepherd, who had the natural care for the people of God. In 1916 I became more intimately acquainted with him and still more in the summer of 1917 when he came to Nova Scotia for the first time, and he and I together preached the Gospel in a tent in Sydney. On Saturday and Sunday nights he loved to proclaim the good news in the open air. His ministry was greatly blessed and souls were saved that year. Since then he has been like a father to me; he treated me as a son, and not me only, for he always took a deep interest in the work of all his brethren, and in a practical way helped those laboring in the regions beyond.

I accompanied him to the old country in 1927, and there he had great meetings in Belfast. Over two thousand people, gathered night after night to listen to his expositions of the Word of God. In his ministry he exalted the Person of his blessed Lord and the great work of Calvary and in this sphere he excelled in unfolding the glories of the blessed Son of God.

In expounding the types and shadows, his ministry was especially rich, as he unfolded the person of the Lord Jesus, His high-priestly ministry, His essential glory and His coming glories and in all ever bringing before the Lord’s people their responsibility of being gathered alone to the peerless name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus he sought to build up and to strengthen the assemblies. I never knew of him to give any thought to anything else, than the building up and establishing of the assemblies of God’s people according to the Word of God. I am sure as we think of the many and varied gifts of our dear brother we can say that “a prince and a great man is fallen in Israel.”

It was my great privilege, when he became weaker, to take him around, and I had the honor of bringing him on his last train journey from Los Angeles to Oakland where he spent his last days.

In closing I would leave these words with you in regard to our brother McClure:

“Only one life,” shall the mourners say
As they look at last on the senseless clay
So soon to be laid beneath the sod,
“’Twas a noble life, well lived for God.”

Address by Mr. W. P. Douglas

We shall read a few verses in 2 Timothy 4, verses 6 and 7: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, and I have kept the faith.” As I was musing a little this morning regarding this present meeting, I thought of these words, and I believe it was the Spirit of God who reminded me of them. Here is that man called Paul. He was facing execution. In a little while he would be at home with the One he had loved and served so long and so well. And that day he could say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” These words especially impressed themselves upon my heart—“I have finished my course.” led me to think of my first meeting with our dear brother, Mr. William John McClure, and I can assure you that few men have ever had a place in my heart nearer or dearer than this dear brother. He left his work in the Deering Harvester Company after Thanksgiving day in 1884. A few weeks after that he traveled to Canada and there I met him for the first time in a village called Cannington in Ontario, and a few days later, I had another meeting with him in a village about four miles down from there. He suggested we should serve together in the Gospel and we were yoked together, I believe, by God’s will in His service. We preached together, we ate together, we walked together we slept together, for years. And a more faithful and diligent servant of the Lord Jesus Christ I have not known. My heart was won to him, and I believe it was reciprocated on his part to me. Many a long, long, walk we had when roads were not what they are today, often being covered deep with mud. I remember the years we spent under a tent, eating and sleeping under canvas, and where we were gladdened to see the grace of God manifested in the saving of sinners.

After that visit to Ontario he came to this part of the country and he labored here, as you all know, for many years, earnestly and diligently, and God was pleased to bless his labors in California. Assemblies were formed and God’s dear people were established by his ministry. Now dear brother McClure is at rest and at home with the One he loved and served.

“I have finished my course.” The writer of these words—Paul—was characterized by three particular things. The first was his devotion to the Person of God’s Son. The next was his labor in the Gospel and the last was his love and care for the people of God, and I am sure, in a measure at least we could see a facsimile of these in our dear brother Mr. McClure. He was devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ. He loved Him, His Name was dear to him, His Person was precious to him. Yes, but he also loved to preach the Gospel, and as the result of his labors there are some in this gathering who know him as their spiritual father through the Gospel he preached. Also, many in this audience can certify as to his love and diligent care for them and the people of God.

Dear brethren and dear sisters, it gives me joy to add to the testimony you have already heard regarding our departed brother, Mr. William John McClure; he was a faithful servant of Christ, a true yokefellow, and he was also a teacher of the blessed truths of God.

The Lord then bless to us this afternoon our coming together to this special service in connection with the passing away of our beloved brother. I want to leave one verse with you before I sit down: “The memory of the just is blessed” (Prov. 10:7). I am sure that this is verified in the case of our dear brother McClure. The memory of him is blessed to us who have known him and have loved him.

Address by Mr. William M. Rae

I want to read in the book of Revelation, chapter 21, verses 1-5. The reason for my reading those few verses this afternoon is because of my last visit with Mr. McClure in the home of our dear brother McIntyre a few weeks ago. We read these few verses to him and as we spoke about these wonderful words, while he was sitting in his chair, so frail and full of days, his eyes moistened as he said, “Give us more!” So we dwelt a little further on these glorious truths, then had a little prayer together, he joining in, adding his hearty Amen. They are precious words and they were maybe more precious to him than to some of us today, for he knew he was reaching the border land. He knew these words would soon be a happy and glorious and eternal experience to him. His expression was “How wonderful, how wonderful!” He knew it would be wonderful, beloved friends, when the hand of the eternal God that holds the universe, Who by the word of His power flung millions of planets into space, that blessed hand should wipe the last tear from every eye of those who know Him. Tears are being shed today. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now, and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” And with these thoughts in mind, his soul seemed to be gladdened and so was my soul cheered by the realization these words would be true of every one of us very, very soon. These words are not meant for dying saints only. They are for living men and living women.

A voice is silenced, which we will never hear on earth again. This occasion is a stop signal on the highway of life. Activities were laid aside by many of you today. Office activities were dropped, various and domestic cares laid aside.

What makes this moment a hallowed one? We have been brought together in the realization of the very presence of God. His precious word brings us face to face with eternity and there is nothing more greatly to be prized, for this world is empty. It is a hollow sham, a scene of blighted hopes. But we have been drawn aside for a time from the bustle of life to lend an ear to the voice of God, that we too may number our days.

I am not here to eulogize our brother. When here on earth he abhorred flattery. If he had a voice to express himself today he would say, “No, do not do it.” But I must say one or two things about him, even though he deplored eulogy. He was a man of high honor and integrity. This I know to be true for in the last thirty-five years we have been a great deal together and have often been fellow-laborers. Like our brother who has already spoken to you, we traveled together, and we prayed together and we slept together and preached together. He would rebuke you to your face but never speak ill of you behind your back. He is now with the Lord, and I can say with those who knew him longest, that every memory is truly valuable. He was a prince of a man. Those who have, during the years gone by, listened to his ministry, know the value of our dear departed brother’s teaching. Because of his unique ability, his gift of expounding the Word, his messages were written indelibly in the mind, and though years have passed, are still fresh in memory. And our dear brother is now enjoying in reality what he many times spoke of, and what he refreshed the hearts of God’s people with—those wonderful truths of the enjoyment of the believer when at last in the presence of the Lord. “In thy presence is fulness of joy: at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.”

The Lord bless His beloved people who today remember thus our departed brother. He is gone on to all that is eternal. May it lead us to a deeper sense of real need of living for God and, shall we say, seek to mold our lives as he did, in seeking to reflect and fulfill the life of Christ on earth. He is now with the One He so loved to serve.

Service at Mountain View Cemetery
Conducted by Mr. D. R. Charles

Let us sing one verse of the hymn, “I’m but a stranger here, heaven is my home.”

Beloved friends, I would like to read to you from 1 Corinthians 15, verses 51, 52, 53. This passage refers to the portion of those who have died in Christ: “This corruptible will put on incorruption.” And they are reasurring, comforting words to us at this time as we lay aside the body of our beloved brother. We know full well, from God’s divine revelation, that this is not the end. The body shall be raised, not as before corruptible, but raised triumphantly by the power of our risen Lord, raised in incorruption.

The precious remains were laid away in Mountain View Cemetery to await that resurrection morning when the redeemed of all ages shall hear the trumpet sound; the dead raised and the living changed, and together caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Nevertheless an indescribable feeling of loss came over us as we left the cemetery that afternoon. In two weeks more we were again on the same spot and laid away the body of beloved Mr. John McIntyre just a few yards from where Mr. McClure, his old friend, lay.