Hardy Stock Chapter 1

The Gilbert family was marked by deep Irish roots. Both sides of the family came from Ireland. T. B. Gilbert’s maternal grandmother was Sarah Gaw-ley of Belfast. One day while doing business with a local real estate man she heard the Gospel for the first time. He spoke to her about her soul and told her that she too was a sinner needing Christ.

As she walked home, she was indignant. “Everyone around here knows I am a good woman. I take my children to church every Sunday.” But then she thought, “Why did Christ have to die?” The thought was piercing: “Because we are sinners.” “Then I am a sinner and Christ died for me.” In tears she fell to her knees and received Christ as her Savior right there. Later Mr. Gawley also became a Christian.

The man who had witnessed to Mrs. Gawley met with an assembly of Christians that were following the simple pattern of the early church. Mrs. Gawley and her family began to meet faithfully with this group and were most enthusiastic about their faith. Soon they invited an evangelist, David Rae, to pitch his tent on their farm and have meetings. The Gospel was preached with power and blessing.

In the 1880’s the Gawley family immigrated to Chicago. The raw strangeness of the big city was overwhelming at first. They longed for the quiet beauty of Ireland. But they were welcomed with open arms by an assembly of believers meeting at May and Fulton Streets. Surrounded by the family of God they soon felt at home.

Mrs. Gawley was a remarkable woman of God. Her devotion to the Lord left a profound impression upon her children and grandchildren. She was vigorous in her witnessing and led many to the Lord. She was respected by all. Once at the beginning of a meeting the preacher, who was Donald Ross, said, “I see Mrs. Gawley is here tonight. I would especially appreciate her prayers for me as I speak.” She was known as a woman of God and of prayer.

Later G. M. Gilbert immigrated from Dublin to the States and settled in Chicago. He met the Gawley family and promptly fell in love with their daughter, Sarah. They married and were happy except for one thing—G. M. was not a believer.

The Gawleys had a family reunion for Christmas, 1883. It was a happy occasion marked by lots of talk and laughter. That is all were happy except for one man, Jim Gawley. He had recently become a Christian and sat quietly. G. M. noticed a tear running down his face and was concerned.

“Jim, what is ailing you?”

“Gilbert, it is killing me to see those near and dear to me going to hell and they don’t seem to care.”

The words pierced deep into Gilbert’s heart. He was lost and he knew it. For three weeks he could scarcely sleep. He started going to special meetings at the assembly being conducted by John Carney. Mr. Carney gave him the tract “Safety, Certainty and Enjoyment” by George Cutting. While reading this on a Sunday afternoon he was struck by the Passover ceremony. Blood must be put on the door posts to avert the judgment of God. The truth gripped him. Christ is our sacrifice and the claiming of His blood will pay for our sin. From a heavy heart he cried, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”

It was the beginning of a new life for Gilbert. It was true; he was a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). He quit his drinking with the boys and his smoking and swearing. He became concerned about his business practices. A few days later he told Jim Gawley, “I’ll have to give up my business. I can’t stay in it without lying.” Jim replied, “Go and tell the truth. Ask God to make the sales.”

From this day on he lived a life of faith. Gilbert had a musical instrument and sewing machine store on So. Halsted Street in Chicago. Now he was determined to put God first. He would let people know of his new faith. Gospel texts were put up on the walls of his store. He began to preach the Gospel on the street corners of the neighborhood. His customers were sure to hear his testimony when they entered his store. He loved to tell of what God’s grace had done in his life. With others he would visit homes with the Gospel. As he matured spiritually his devotion and character were recognized by the assembly and he took his place with the elders of the church. Many came to know Christ through his fearless witnessing.

Mrs. Gilbert had been saved earlier during a childhood illness. The doctor who cared for her was a believer in the assembly and witnessed to her. When G. M. accepted the Lord she was overjoyed and completely united with him in his desire to live for God. Christ’s words became true of their home: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

The Gilberts were blessed with six children. Their third child was named for his grandfather, Thomas Bruce Gilbert of Dublin. He was born November 25, 1892 in Chicago.

Bruce Gilbert was a normal, healthy boy. As he grew up he was surrounded by Christians. But his family was wise in not pushing him to make a profession of Christ. The family’s life centered in the activities of the assembly. The zeal of both father and mother made a lasting impact on their children. They were constantly talking about witnessing to people and of some turning to Christ. Christians were often entertained in their home. The lines were drawn and he knew he would have to choose. The world or Christ: Which would it be?

When he was eleven years old an elderly evangelist, William Buchanan, was having meetings at the assembly. Young people were being saved and this shook young Bruce. Increasingly he knew he was a sinner and that he was not right with God. One Sunday Mr. Buchanan approached him, perhaps noting his concern and asked him when he would like to be saved.

Bruce hesitated; the world was attractive. Perhaps he should put it off. But as he hesitated, verses learned in Sunday School seemed to flash before him.

“Boast not thyself of tomorrow for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1).

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

“Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts” (Hebrews 3:7, 8).

He was struck with the thought that this might be his last chance to be saved. Suddenly he said, “I want to be saved now.”

Mr. Buchanan had him read Isaiah 53:6—“The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

“Who is that HIM upon whom God laid our sins?”

“On Christ.”

“Do you believe God? If so, where are yours?”

“On Christ. He died for me. I do believe God.” The date was February 28, 1904.

From this time on he knew he was saved. Whenever doubts came he would read Isaiah 53:5, 6 and say, “I still believe God!” From the beginning of his spiritual life he learned to cling to God and His promises, not to his feelings and emotions. Like Abraham he became “fully persuaded that what He (God) had promised He was able also to perform” (Romans 4:21).

Through his teens Bruce continued to grow as a Christian. His home provided a stable environment. Both father and mother loved one another and loved the Lord. God’s interests were their interests. Their godly, devoted lives were a good womb to nourish his developing spiritual life. Besides there was the stimulating, vigorous life of the assembly with its strong stress on Gospel preaching and Bible study. Those were happy growing days, lived in the shadow of the Almighty.

In his teens, Bruce began witnessing for the Lord. He was drinking deep of his father’s fearless spirit. Some came to know Christ through him. He had the joy of leading to Christ his younger brother Godfrey and his sister Josephine, who eventually married Donald R. Parker. Later he led James G. Humphrey, who married his sister Florence, to the Lord. He was knowing the joy and excitement of having spiritual children.

His older brother James and a sister Lillian who married Robert Irvine rounded out the family. Later Godfrey gave Bruce much concern when he drifted away from the Lord, being stumbled by the careless life of an older Christian. However, a few years before Godfrey died he was restored to the Lord during an illness. At the end he had a radiant witness. Some of his last words were, “If only young people would realize how wonderful it is to walk in God’s will, they would willingly give their whole lives to the Lord.”