Secret Service Theologian




We will never doubt Thee,
Though Thou veil Thy light;
Life is dark without Thee,
Death with Thee is bright.
Light of light, shine o’er us
On our pilgrim way;
Go Thou still before us
To the endless day.

With mercy and with judgment
My web of time He wove,
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustred by his love.
I’ll bless the Hand that guided,
I’ll bless the Heart that planned,
When throned where glory dwelleth
In Immanuel’s Land.
A. R. Cousins.

And so through all the length of days
Thy goodness faileth never:
Good Shepherd, may I sing Thy praise
Within Thy house for ever.

THE closing years of my father’s life were shadowed by the first world war. The horrors of it distressed him the more because of his inability to take his share in service, whilst my brother Graham's loss was a very heavy grief. The feeling of loneliness too became more poignant, shut off as he was by his deafness from so many interests which had filled his days. Back in 1893 he had written to Mr. and Mrs. F. C. Bland, the Irish friends of his youth: "The world is getting lonely, and I can't spare you yet. I am beginning to live in the past and in the future; the past of happy friendships and fellowships fast dropping off; the future of my children's prospects and hopes."
A quarter of a century, however, full of manifold labours, still lay ahead when he penned those words. And many new friendships with men and women of a younger generation enriched his life. Above all, the peace that passeth understanding was a great reality to him. Air raids held no terrors, for he would repeat the 91st Psalm to himself and go quietly to sleep. But even in the midst of the greater anxieties and sorrows of those days he lived in the consciousness of the safe keeping of which he had sung his own hymn " Safe." He had an anchor of the soul both sure and steadfast.
A few diary entries in 1917 afford glimpses of his life at that time: "I had a hideous nightmare dream, and had to get up and read Redemption Truths. . . . Agnes woke me at 1 a.m. to say a raid was on. She, Fanny, Agneta and the servants were downstairs for 3 hours. I refused to stir; soothed myself with my favourite Psalms and went to sleep again. . . . To Kensington Gardens. Found the children [grand-daughters] and played 'cricket' with them. . . . News of capture of Jerusalem.! Hallelujah!" Some words written then are of special interest in view of the problems which seem beyond the wit of man to solve to-day, after the second world war. Lady Kinnaird wrote to him in 1918 : "Do you think God is standing aside in this war, leaving the government to the prince of this world? Someone said the other day, 'I believe this with Sir Robert Anderson.' " The reply was : "I have never said what the someone you quote attributed to me. In The Silence of God and other works I have emphasised that Satan is the god of this world, and that in the sphere of religion his influence is seen everywhere. But to say that the government of the world is his is utterly false." He went on to refer to his comments in Misunderstood Texts on the words "the Lord God omnipotent reigneth" (Rev. xix. 6).
"Anyone who views the world with unclouded mental vision, might well doubt the truth of Scripture if it really taught that the Lord God omnipotent is reigning. The infidel may well demand 'Where is thy God?' And the taunt is not to be met by pious platitudes. But the teaching of Scripture is explicit. . . . It is not that the providential nor yet the moral government of the world is in abeyance, but that in this age there is no punitive action against human sin. A silent heaven is the mystery of God. But there is an appointed limit to the era of that mystery."
He then went on to speak of the time in the future when the great anthem will resound, "Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent has begun to reign" (Rev. xix. 6, and xi. 17). " It ill becomes the Christian therefore to give way to despondency or doubt because that consummation is delayed. For a silent heaven is eloquent in its testimony to Divine long-suffering; and above the darkening clouds is the glorious sunshine of the reign of grace.'
Some letters at that time prove what the Faith and the Hope were to him. This to Dr. Moule:
"Never do I write a book without feeling a great desire to send you a copy. But I always hesitate to do so lest I should seem to presume on your indulgence and kindness. And yet I owe so much to your sympathy and encouragement that once again I'll take the risk. . . . Next week I pass the 76th milestone on my Homeward way, and a glance at Who's Who reminds me that I am only a few months ahead of you. Well, neither of us can say, Few and evil have been the days of the years of my pilgrimage; for goodness and mercy have been our portion.
"And yet I feel very lonely at times in view of the loss of nearly all my friends of half a century ago. Moreover increasing deafness deprives me of help from pulpit or platform. But deafness and the lapse of years only make the BOOK more precious. Without the Faith and the Hope old age would indeed be an awful trial
To Pastor D. J. Findlay of Glasgow he said
"Our orbits don't cross and we never meet these times; yet you are often in my thoughts, and every remembrance of your good work is grateful to me. . . . It was in view of such a time as this that the Lord bade the disciples look up. As for me, were it not for the Hope I should have no desire to prolong my pilgrimage."
And to Mr. A. C. Gaebelein of New York, Editor of Our Hope, he wrote : "The truth of the Lord's Coming I learned in early life from Horatius Bonar; and in the dark days through which we are passing I prize and cherish ' the Blessed Hope' increasingly."
H In a letter to the Rev. J. J. B. Coles are these words:
"Life is becoming very lonely. There are great and ever widening gaps in the ranks of those who are pals both socially and spiritually. But the BOOK is increasingly a companion. What a gold-mine it is! I tremble when I think at times what life would be in old age without the Faith and the Hope. I always held drinking in contempt, but I can understand a man's taking to it if his only horizon were the grave."
Early in the war, when important decisions had to be made by us who were in South Africa, we received this message: "I need not tell you how unceasingly I think of you all. Night and morning I name each one of you in my prayers that God will give you clear guidance and grace to follow it." The last letter (a much prized one) which I had from him was in 1917, when I was in Central Africa and had been acting as unofficial Padre as well as Medical Officer to a South African regiment:
"My very DEAR SON ARTHUR,- YOUR last letter set my heart singing, telling of your work for the Lord in connection with your work for your country. It is a great privilege and a very great joy to be used of Him in the Gospel. And one bright feature of this hateful war is the Gospel testimony and its results on every battle front. "I have had great longings myself to have a share in the work, 'but my deafness is a fatal bar to it. But you my dear son have both the opportunities and the health to avail yourself of them. And my day-by-day prayer for you is that God will use you more and more and bless you increasingly."
I may add that I heard the news of his death a year later when on my way from Pretoria to Cape Town. I had just got free from Army service and was hoping to get a passage home soon.
Here are a few extracts from the diary for 1918
To Blackheath and paid Dr. Kidd a visit. [Dr. Joseph Kidd, who, as Disraeli's physician, was called to attend him in Berlin at the "Peace with Honour" Conference.] Great pleasure to see the old man again. . . . Visited B. H. and sat for an hour and a half. In answer to prayer I had a most important talk on spiritual subjects. • . . Goodness and mercy; for which I thank my God and Father.
Felt very isolated and lonely all day . . . John Lewis House Bible Class; about 30 young women. To Mansion House for the Lord Mayor's Evangelical Alliance prayer meeting. . • . Began a paper for The Witness on " Christianity is Christ" . . . Evangelical Alliance meeting at Queen's Hall." (Note.—The last two within a fortnight of his death.)
On the 13th October 1918 he preached in Trinity Presbyterian Church, Notting Hill. The Rev. Joseph Rorke in thanking him mentioned the death of two of the congregation, adding: "The veil which divides us from the eternal world seems at times almost transparent." My father's reply was : "It is a constant grief to me that I can take so little part in the service and ministries of the congregation; but this makes me all the more eager to give proof of my sympathy with you in the work of the Lord. Yes, death is busy in these days, not only on the battle-field, but here at home."
Early next month he had a mild attack of influenza, but was not confined to bed. On 15th November he was feeling much better and was out twice. In the evening he sat writing and reading his Bible until half-past ten, when he went up to bed.
A few moments later the limitations of the earthly life were no more, and he had been called to the freer and more perfect service of the Land towards which his steps had so long been set.
Of the way the Call had come his sister, Lady Boyd, wrote:
"I was so glad to hear all you told me. It reminded me of Robert's never-failing remark in every letter that goodness and mercy were following him. I don't think he would have chosen anything different."
And this was from Mrs. H. W. Webb-Peploe:
"A friend gave me a beautiful comment after she had called at your house. She said the atmosphere was full of triumph, not like a house where death had entered. And of course Translation is a much more suitable word than death."
The services in Trinity Church and at Kensal Green were conducted by the Rev. Joseph Rorke, the others taking part being the Revs. R. Wright Hay, Dr. A. C. Dixon and Harrington C. Lees, afterwards Archbishop of Melbourne. Many letters of sympathy have been quoted already; only one other will be mentioned here, that from the Bishop of Durham, who wrote from Auckland Castle:
The announcement of Sir Robert's call Home has deeply moved me. For long years he had treated me with wonderful brotherliness as a friend in God and a fellow-believer in the truth of the Written Word. His letters and our too rare talks have left on my heart an impression all their own. He was so strong, so keen in insight and logical power, and yet so inexpressibly kind, so manifestly THE MASTER'S scholar in that way. .
"I am with deep and most respectful sympathy,
"Yours in Christ and His hope,
After my mother's own Home Call seven years later Dr. Hugh Falconer wrote to my sister
"We were astonished at the quality and insight of the little leading article in the Women's Protestant Union paper, the last I think which your dear mother wrote or dictated. It brought her back so vividly that I felt as if she were present. And the very spirit and presence of Sir Robert were with me too; and the kind of intimate Christian conversation we used to have seemed to talk itself over again. He often used to ask me what did I understand by our Lord's title 'the Firstborn of God' and yet 'among many brethren,' - all therefore in a measure like Him in relation both to our Father and to one another. But we could only hold up our hands and say, '0, the depth of the riches!
Canon T. D. Bernard, Bampton Lecturer at Oxford in 1864, once wrote to my father: "I am thankful, and so will you be, that we leave some words behind us not against the truth but for the truth, which may if God permit serve their purpose in one life or another after we are gone."
This memoir has been compiled partly from a desire that my father's many readers may know more of him; but also in the hope that others may be led to consider "the words for the truth" which he has left behind, and may perhaps be helped and encouraged by the witness of his and my mother's lives. Here are the closing words of his last book, Unfulfilled Prophecy:
"If even a very few Christians in every place would begin to 'speak often one to another' about the Coming of the Lord, they would soon come together to pray for His Return. And from such small beginnings it may be that,for the first time in the history of Christendom, companies of His people shall be found meeting together to claim the fulfilment of His promise, 'Surely I am coming quickly,' and to pray the prayer which He Himself has given us, 'Even so come, Lord Jesus.'

SAFE in Jehovah's keeping,
Led by His glorious arm,
God is Himself my refuge,
A present help from harm.
Fears may at times distress me,
Griefs may my soul annoy;
God is my strength and portion,
God my exceeding joy.

Safe in Jehovah's keeping,
Safe in temptation's hour,
Safe in the midst of perils,
Kept by Almighty power.
Safe when the tempest rages,
Safe though the night be long;
E'en when my sky is darkest
God is my strength and song.

Sure is Jehovah's promise,
Nought can my hope assail;
Here is my soul's sure anchor,
Entered within the veil.
Blest in His love eternal,
What can I want beside
Safe through the blood that cleanseth,
Safe in the Christ that died.
R. A.


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