SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
Secret Service Theologian
COUNSELLOR AND HELPER OF MANY
How hast thou helped? . . . How hast thou counselled? Job xxvi: 2, 3
"STRENGTH and sensitiveness are the twin qualities of a
really great soul," wrote Dr. Stuart Holden. The measure in which my father
possessed these, together with the gift of ready genuine sympathy, must account
to some extent on the human side for the way in which so many folk appealed to
him confidently for counsel and help. A letter from an old friend of mine,
grandson of one of the leaders in Irish Revival days, gives an insight into
this. Writing about the first edition of this memoir, he said:
"I owe so much to Sir Robert, for it was he who opened my Bible to me, and taught me of the hidden harmonies therein; hidden to so many but wonderful and absolutely engrossing when explored with the key in ones hands. And to how many your father gave that key! He was always so kind and sympathetic to me when I asked what must have seemed such silly questions. He always answered as if I was his mental equal and, unlike most people of whom one asks questions, when he answered one immediately under stood. . . . I rarely pick up my Bible without thinking of him."
"I am rather scared of pundits," wrote another friend to him; "but you are so kind in that way. You know a lot, but you do not have the fact written all over you; and you have always been so kind to me that you are bound to have your good nature abused." And speaking of the original memoir Mrs. Hugh Falconer wrote: "Dear Sir Robert! You have succeeded in making him live again in the pages. . .. . His sternness and love, his knowledge and capacity for making allowances, and all his humanness." "It is so difficult," said a medical student, "to meet people who are both fitted and fearless enough to attempt to answer questions that press upon one at every turn. This is the only excuse I have for troubling you." And this was from an American lady: ". . . The time has come when the need for advice from a friend with a big brain and a big heart is most urgent. May I turn to you?" A long correspondence sometimes began as a result of letters in the Press or articles and addresses. In 1892 The Times published a series of letters on "The Bible and Modern Criticism" from Professor T. H. Huxley and my father, the (8th) Duke of Argyll and others also taking part. Afterwards a lady wrote to Sir Robert:
"Will you allow me to thank you for the personal note struck in your letter to The Times last week? . . . My faith is not as unfaltering as I could wish I feel the power of destructive criticism. I have taken a great interest in the letters, but none have appealed to me like yours or satisfied my intelligence as well." And again : - " I feel that every line you write to me is prompted by kindness and Christian consideration for a total stranger who appeals to you for counsel and guidance because you know. It may seem strange that I should prefer to write to you instead of speaking openly to a friend, or making my confession to some doux pasteur de troupeau des ames, but your writings impress me as other peoples do not."
Many letters speak of help received from the books. One of special interest came from Capt. E. J. Carré, widely known in connection with the Merchant Service Officers Christian Association, who tells the story of his conversion in the booklet Out of the Power of Darkness. He wrote:
"I wish you to know how much the thoughts expressed in your book The Silence of God helped me in the time of crisis in my life when the darkness was densest before the dawn. I think the booklet fully expresses just how you helped me, and I wish to thank you greatly."
From another sailor, a Norwegian, came this message:
"High up in a little watch-room in a lighthouse on the coast of Norway I am sitting during my lonely watch hours reading and thinking over a book The Gospel and its Ministry. A perfect. stranger as I am to you, I take the liberty to write this letter in view of that Christian fellowship and brotherhood that exist between all true believers. This is the true freemasonry, the only brotherhood worth calling so."
And this writer testified
"After years of Church training I was cast as a lad of 18 into the land of Australia, there amid the stern realities of life to find that all I had learned and believed was nothing more than a myth. . .
I cannot tell all that The Silence of God and others of your books have done for me and what a new God and Saviour they have revealed to me."
A Vancouver correspondent said : "Dr. Torrey sent me a goodly number of your books. I could not tell you how many have blessed God for them. I owe more than I can ever tell to them and to the kindly loving counsel received in letters from you." A California lawyer, an avowed unbeliever, through the reading of The Silence of God and other books publicly announced his belief in the Scriptures and the Deity of Christ. " Sir Robert holds a brief for Christ" was his witness.
A lonely up-country trader in South Africa wrote: Sir Robert Andersons books have put me right. I have thanked God for him many times." The Rev. H. Hofmeyr, a missionary of the Dutch Reformed Church, said: "May God nerve you to other efforts for the strengthening of the faith of many more in His word and in the person of His Son." And the beloved Rev. W. M. Douglas wrote also from South Africa: "I am only one of thousands to whom he has been the messenger of grace and peace because he had himself faced and conquered the doubts and fears that beset so many of us through the modern criticism of the Word of God." Yet another honoured Christian worker said : "His was the strong understanding faith that helped me when things seemed tottering."
But it was not only in spiritual things that his help was sought and given. "You have such a kind way of doing kind things," said one friend; which may partly account for the variety of the requests that poured in. A minister asks for assistance in getting his son into the Royal Air Force. Another letter asks help in getting an ex-convict relieved of the duty of reporting to the police. A Christian worker wants an introduction to some police official in Rome. A friend desires to secure the services of an cx- policeman for a post. A peeress seeks advice about seeing a procession. An artist wants a permit to sketch in a military area during the war.
And there were of course many appeals for help in graver matters. A young man desires a long talk about the question of ordination. Advice is asked as to the best book to put into the hands of a young man who has promised to read any one book given to him. A heart-broken parent (a complete stranger) seeks light on the silence of God. A young man wants to start a fresh and better life. A beautiful silver box now in my possession bears the simple inscription : "Robert Anderson; from a grateful father." Back of this lies a tragedy of the C.I.D. days.
Letters came from Australia, Tasmania, New Zealand, New Brunswick; Austria, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland; Belgium, Holland, Congo-Beige; Canada, British Columbia; the United States (many parts) ; the Argentine, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica; Portugal, Tangier, Malta; India, China, Burma, Turkey-in- Asia; from South Africa (the Cape, the Transvaal and Natal); and from many another place. The way Sir Roberts writing and speaking appealed to the more educated classes as well as to others is illustrated by these extracts from letters. The Rev. Dr. Sinker of Cambridge wrote with reference to one of the books : "I gave a copy to a most dear friend, a highly cultured woman and a humble believer. It has been such a joy to her, and we have often had talks about it." Another referred to The Silence of God: "Many, many thanks for the book. We have had another long letter about it from Lady -.
I am unspeakably thankful to have just such a book to put into such.hands, for she reads much and is clever." A delightful expression of thanks came from Miss Emma Bland, herself a gifted writer
"I have been helped and blessed by your book, and I thank God for putting it into your heart to write it. I feel like a person who has had a beautiful but badly tangled skein of silk, of which I have been cutting a needleful day by day for personal use. But this makes me feel as if the right thread has been put into my hand by which I can unwind the skein and have it all in one piece. My dear old Bible! Im so glad I never gave it up by reason of its tangles. It has always been the living Word of God to me, but it is more wonderful than ever since I have finished your book."
The hymn, "Safe in Jehovahs Keeping," printed on page 169, was a means of encouragement to many. One said : "The great rock of real help and comfort was that glorious hymn. I couldnt tell you the number of times I have turned to it when days were very dark and difficulties overwhelming." And the famous missionary, Dan Crawford, author of Thinking Black, wrote: "I have translated Dr. Andersons glorious version of "Safe" ; there is scarcely its kin the broad and brown earth over." There is also a Danish translation.
One quality in my fathers writing and speaking which made a special appeal was the strength and certainty of his own beliefs. "Amidst all the weakness and mystifying," said Sir Hugh Gilzean Reid, "it gives one hope to read your strong words." And Bishop Taylor Smith wrote: "Sir Robert always inspired and helped me." The Rev. J. Chalmers Lyon testified: "His ceaseless and fearless advocacy of the great essentials of the faith, and his utter devotion to his Lord, made an abiding impression on all who knew him; and J owe him much."
The late W. ("Cairo ") Bradley wrote to my sister: "Your father was a wonderful champion for the truth, and can ill be spared in these days when error seems rampant, and those who should hold forth the truth only seem to be watering it down." And from the Rev. E. L. Langston came these words: "Sir Robert has been an inspiration to us all in his strong adherance to the Word of God and his zeal for the truth." "A Prince has fallen," said Dr. A. J. H. Townsend; "he was a born leader; and with such intellectual gifts and deep learning in the Scriptures he combined the lowliest humility in spiritual things."
A member of the Trinity (Notting Hill) congregation wrote when on active service: "It seems as though a personal friend had gone, for Sir Robert was one of the few men in whom I had absolute confidence . . . one who helped me to have an intelligent understanding of the faith I now hold." And an elder of the same church said: "1 learned to love and honour Sir Robert for his wonderful Christian life and example, and as a man who never feared the opinion of the world." A missionary in China wrote:
"How thankful I am that Redemption Truths ever came into my hands. It has helped me more than any book I have read for many a day." And another in Asia Minor, saying he had bought six of the books within a year, added that a missionary needs absolute confidence in the Word of God. " The Lord from Heaven opened a larger view of Gods Word than I had ever before received," wrote a journalist in California. And an English lawyer in Switzerland said: "Long ago when I was seeking God I found great help from The Gospel and its Ministry." Yet another testimony was: "The Silence of God held me strongly by the hand when I staggered for a wee bit near the Slough of Despond." "So many commentaries," said another letter, "shirk all the difficult texts and give voluminous notes on easy passages; whilst you, like good old Bishop Ryle, fairly face them."
The following incident was told me by my aunt, Miss Lee Anderson. Mrs. White Jansen was staying at a Mission House in China when she saw a young Chinese doctor talking to a poor man about the Lord Jesus. She joined them, and the doctor said to her: - " All I know I owe to Sir Robert Anderson. When a student in London I was at his home, and I can never tell what I owe to him; I have all his books."
The closing chapter will tell how this ministry continued until the end of the earthly pilgrimage.
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