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The Journal of John Long
About the Early Days
Newspaper Articles
Read about the Early Days
1893 - 1965
1966 to Present
REPRESENTING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF 2X2 HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS ON THE INTERNET

Letterhead used by workers titled Christian Conventions

Perry, Oklahoma Conv, 1942

Early Workers
Letters by Alfred Magowan
Revised August 24, 2016


LETTERS BY ALFRED MAGOWAN

The quality of a man may be revealed by what he emphasizes and by what he lightly passes over.


Letter to Wilson McClung January 21, 1931 (Head Worker of New Zealand).  Written after Alfred and Sarah returned from a trip to Australia and New Zealand; he also wrote Tom Turner and John Hardie while he was in these countries, and none of them replied.
Letter to George Walker, February 21, 1954

Letter to Edward Cooney, November 7, 1953 thru November 16

Letter to Jack Carroll, December 1, 1954

Letter to Willie Hughes, July 1, 1957

Letter to John and George, February 19, 1958

(Source of Letters:  David Magowan, 2016; permission given to post letters on TTT).

Testimonial Letter by Sara K. Dawson, August  18, 1913
Testimonial Letter by Jessie Dawson,  August   8, 1913

Some Marks of the True People - The Elect.
  (posted in TTT Photo Gallery) This piece has no author's name, no date and is professionally printed. The typeface is a rather distinctive Victorian style lettering that was introduced in the early 1890s, first in America and shortly afterward in Britain, and likely continued in use for a maximum of 10-15 years before it would have been outdated. Thus, it was possibly printed between 1890 and 1905.

This piece was included in Alfred Magowan's massive archive of writings and provided to TTT by his son, David, who also provided a subsequent list (not printed) titled: Some Other Marks Of The Elect (At Their Best) Observed Some 18 Or 20 Years Later. A similar piece was found in George Walker's possessions after his death which has often been attributed to Geo. Walker's authorship. There are some minor differences and an additional four lines in the two copies.

The authorship is uncertain.


Alfred Magowan's Letter To Wilson McClung, Overseer of New Zealand
4  Kiwi Street
Sandringham, Auckland, New Zealand

21 Janury 1931

Dear Wilson:

We would have reported ourselves sooner but need a little time for reflexion (sic) after making some calls.  It is hard to believe some of the things we have seen and heard, and we wondered whether you knew about them.

You and I came from the same county in Ireland and were brought up Protestants in the strained relations of a divided people.  The city of Armagh has two cathedrals as witnesses to the division, and we have the peculiar distinction of not being on one side or the other. We breathed the atmosphere of Orange Protestantism as children and later on when we heard the gospel were willing to break with all tradition and become a people neither Catholic nor Protestant.

You and I heard the same words and made the same profession of faith in the same person, went forth to preach in the same way, saw the same works accomplished in those who believed our words, enjoyed the same fellowship, endured the same hardships, were victims of the same opposition, read the same Scriptures in the same light, and with the same historical background.  There was no variance in anything we believed, or in the purpose with which we went out into the world

I do not know how far back your memory and experience goes; but in 1907, I remember seeing you at Crocknacrieve when, as a people with a testimony, we were at our spiritual best.

My own experience goes back to 1902, and my most real recollection of fellowship was that gathering in Portadown 28 or 29 years ago. [Portadown Co. Armagh, Ireland Convention] There were no regulations and no asserting of authority.  The Lord had mercifully set us free in spirit to worship and serve him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a good conscience; and there was neither machinery nor any of those things that religious people think necessary and which are necessary in sects under human control. There was nothing in the vision we had of 'the way in Jesus' that would have led us towards another kind of sectarianism, nor did we ever anticipate a time when we would become a strong people in an evil world.

We had only one commission and that was to make disciples as we had been made; and we had only one authority, viz., if the Lord was with us we would so live and speak that He would use us in getting people saved.  And as they listened to us they would recognize the voice of Him because of the anointing.  That was the simple outline in the days of our beginning.

Afterwards, dominion began to appear, and God’s answer was the casting of it down in the person of William Irvine. That ought to have been the end of it, but it was not taken to heart by those who exulted under him.  And the same spirit that had set him above his brethren began to be seen in them, so that in a little while they had divided the earth among themselves as rulers over little kingdoms, exercising authority after the way and according to the spirit of Rome, and doing violence to the consciences of men in the name of the ‘Truth' or the 'Testimony'. When the anointing ceased, authority took its place, and then cruelty had to be resorted to in keeping people under control.  It has always been so, as in the case of Saul toward David; but it always works out in the triumph of the anointing, and martyrs have been made in that conflict.

I do not know how far you have gone in the way of religious dominion, but if you gave encouragement to some of the things which have been told us, I would tremble to be in your shoes. You know the history of Rome and how cruelty was her characteristic under the cardinals and the popes.  The persecutions and the martyrdoms of the early Christians was only a testimony to the insatiable desire for dominion, not only over the bodies of people, but also over their souls.

Now, if the things that we have heard here and elsewhere are required by those among us who are looked upon as leaders, then I say we have ceased to be disciples of Jesus and have joined the ranks of his enemies. People are forbidden to visit friends, and some have been excommunicated on that miserable ground.  Letters have been intercepted and sent to others or destroyed and the person to whom they were addressed never saw them.  Pressure has been brought to bear on struggling souls to compel them to deny the truth that was in them. Even bodily violence has been done, that through fear of pain they might be brought back to the ‘church’.  If Rome did that in these days the world would be horrified, and we would raise our voices in loud protest against the spirit of antichrist.  But for some strange reason, when the same spirit is revealed among ourselves we justify it because the welfare of what we call the 'Testimony' is at stake.

Now I want it to be known that we are against that spirit wherever it shows itself, and that we will devote all the power that God gives us to withstand it.  No godly end justifies cruel means, and persecution is always wrong no matter how 'holy' the cause may seem to be in which it is used as a weapon.  If the work of God seems to require dominion and cruelty so that a 'Testimony' may be preserved, then the sooner it is dissolved the better.

It would ill become you or me to turn away from the tradition of our fathers and give our lives to a cause that we once abhorred when we saw it under Roman robes.

I have written to most of our leaders, and they think it beneath them even to say they got my letters.  They have never seen me, yet they know all about me from prejudiced witnesses.  One is afraid that if he acted the decent human part it would be noised abroad and he would get into trouble when his brethren heard it.  They have entered into a conspiracy of secrecy and fear, and have set the approval of one another above the approval of God.  May the Lord give us all a fresh vision of Jesus and what it means at the end of the world to be his disciples.  Beating our fellow servants will be a miserable occupation when he returns suddenly, and no excuses will be taken or reasons given in the light of his kindling anger.

Suppose he came now and found his servants labouring to build up a little sect in the world and defending it by outraging the souls of those who were devoted only to him, what do you think he would say to them? And how would they explain that it was His testimony they were building and protecting?  I think they would be speechless.

Now don't deny or belittle these things because an 'outsider' calls then to your attention.  Both you and I have responsibility, and part of mine is to find and feed lost sheep and to protect them against cruel shepherds who drive them out of the fold and compel them to go astray.  Ezekiel 34 is good to read, not as we once did with the preachers of the world in our mind, but thinking about ourselves.

Now may the grace of God abound toward us, softening our hearts towards one another and toward all who need our compassion.
.
Yours truly,
.
Alfred Magowan 


NOTE: All capital letter words were capitalized in the original letter.
[Bracketed] and bolded text inserted by TTT Editor

Alfred Magowan's Letter to George Walker
February 21, 1954

My dear George, [Walker]

This is a part of the setting of my house in order. A friend of yours and former companion of mine wrote to me two years ago to let me know my end was near. So in that light or gloom I live from one day to the next letting my mind dwell on this one and that one, and writing as I am prompted.

It will soon be 35 years since I saw you or heard from you, and 52 since I first met you 4 miles from where I am now writing. A good memory has been a great comfort to me through the years, although as Jack Jackson once told us in Indiana 'we forget those things which we ought to remember, and remember those things which we ought to forget.'

I remember your last preaching that I was ever to hear. It was at that memorable convention in Illinois in the year 1919 and you spoke from the 1st chapter of 1st Samuel--a spiritualizing commentary on movings and events and persons there; and I thought you did it very well. I used to wonder at your adaptability, as for instance when Wm. Irvine once said, 'George give them the 31st of Proverbs'; and without the slightest hesitation you began the verse by verse interpretation of what Lemuel's mother taught him about the virtuous woman.

I suppose you have considered that this is the 40th year of W.I.'s dispensation of gracelessness; and might we not reflect that no 40 year period since the world began has given thoughtful men more to think about? And we might even say that no other 40 year period brought forth so few thoughtful men. Or if it brought them forth, it took away from them the quietness which is the needful atmosphere and environment of thought.

I read a letter a few days ago about a meeting in which J. Carroll was said to be wonderful; but not a hint was given of what he said that made him wonderful. If the first disciples of Jesus had said He was wonderful without reporting what He said and what He wrought, men would have been in a wondering fog ever since. When Jessie Dawson once wrote to her twin about a great meeting in which as she said 'God spoke', I told her to write and enquire what He said!

But next to thoughtlessness I would put insensitiveness of spirit as the chief characteristic of these 40 years. I used to wonder at and be disappointed in W.I. when he would not or could not preach. But he was the only preacher I ever knew who made his escape from preaching when he was inwardly aware that God was silent to him, or was not with him or stirring his heart and mind. At such times he preferred to work at machinery or water rams or mending fences or clocks: anything to escape from the repetition of empty words!

The last time I heard him (in 1913) he seemed to have become insensitive where formerly he was like the sensitive plant; and for preaching gave us speculations about other worlds where we might do the work of Saviours as Jesus did in this one. Jessie Dawson was so distressed about it that she came to me to be reassured that our sorrows and griefs here would be sufficient without carrying them forward to other planets or stars! And I did what I could to comfort her.

Have you wondered if there might be some significance in this that the dethroning and uncrowning (so to speak) of the man we had made king was timed to coincide with the beginning of the first World War? And the timing was not in the calculations of men, nor at their will, nor in their power. I have often wondered if those responsible for exalting our great man in preparation for his casting down, ever repented of giving him that lift which led to his degrading by them?

Nor have I ever heard anything or seen anything to indicate that they ever understood the harm they did him when they made him the spiritual progenitor of the Christians of this generation. I recall him saying in Philadelphia in 1907, when the doctrine of the Living Witness was being aired, and it was the glory of you and others that you were his spiritual children: I recall him agreeing with it, and then saying 'but where to I come in?'

But what genealogies have to do with the discipleship of Jesus was then, and still remains to me a mystery. You may have heard the story of Irvine Blakely giving his testimony at Crocknacrieve. Apparently he failed in a fundamental requirement, and was asked from the platform who he professed through; with a wave of his arm he replied 'aw yez can settle that among yerselves'!

We had a visit from E. Cooney before Christmas, and he was telling us that J. Kerr has repented of his 'living witness' doctrine which made us the most exclusive body of people making the Christian profession. He has repented, but the teaching, like the soul of John Brown will still go marching on.

I was asked about it a week ago, and I said it was a religious application of what is called Biogenesis, or 'without life there can be no life'. I once heard a fool of a man say he made children. He fathered them in a profound mystery, and instead of wondering and being humbled by it, he preferred to be lewd about it. But was he any more foolish than these vain communicators of 'eternal life'?

Anything that gives man religious power is BAD. (I put it in capitals for emphasis). 'Fathers in God' is the religious power and glory and dominion of Popery, of which there was a prophecy going before as a warning: 'Call no man your father on the earth; for One is your Father which is in heaven.' If that had been taken to heart early it would have prevented the worst religious power of the ages.

Spiritual power is as different from religious power as day is different form night; and we knew something about it 50 years ago. And there is such an antipathy between them that the one cannot rest until it has destroyed the other, or attempted it as at Calvary. The first evidence of its working among the first disciples was in Jerusalem when Peter was taken to task on his return from Caesarea and Cornelius: 'Thou wentest into men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them.' And it was only subdued by the rehearsing of vision and miracle.

I have often wondered if there have been any exceptions to the rule that sooner or later spiritual MOVEMENTS become ESTABLISHMENTS. Inclusiveness by the revelation and power of God would have embraced MANKIND at the first, and then Exclusiveness would post sentries to keep all out but its special proselytes who stand prepared to conform to its rules and regulations and views.

Lying in bed this morning, and turning things over in my mind, I wondered if you ever give us a thought. For my own part I even dream of you unto this day! Whatever kind of bond it was that bound us together when we were young, it is stubborn about being broken even in the fulness of our age:--at least on the excommunicated side! We needed each other at the first, and might still have needed each other unto the end if we had better understood the WARFARE in which we were engaged, or the work of purifying that needed to be done in our hearts. And I get some sort of satisfaction from reflecting that I never fell out with any of you.

I remember the Koenigers telling me that you had said to them about me 'What do you think of him having fellowship with a man who smokes?' meaning W.I. But I had never seen him smoke, and you had seen him smoke (so we were told) on trains without it affecting your fellowship with him. But smoking was only a frailty of the flesh or the will, and did not affect the spirit of the man. I saw him smoke in Palestine, and felt sorry for him as one of the great losers of our time. He had tried to retrieve something of what he had lost by some 'Pentecostal' experience in Los Angeles and vestiges of it remained with him to add a foreign element to what we had known and revered in him from our youth. But I would never have thought of falling out with him in any spirit of self-righteousness. The memories of many years would have needed to be erased for that.

We were told lately that you and others of the older leaders still regarded him as the spiritual Adam of our time--from whom all were descended. To which I might reply that a little kindness in his declining years would have been more becoming. I can hardly think of Seth or others of Adam's sons (including Cain) clinging to genealogy after making his old age lonely and unpleasant. Flesh and blood would have been more considerate of his feelings while he lived.

I remember pleading with E.C. many years ago for W.I. in the name of mercy. To which he replied that the three weighty matters were judgment, mercy and faith: 'and we are now giving him judgment'! Giving him judgment! Well the givers of judgment and withholders of mercy might be brought to some extremity where they would stand in need of mercy, and it might be denied them. And the teaching of Jesus lays heavy emphasis on MERCY as a vital element in heart righteousness. 'They shall have judgment without mercy who have shown no mercy' coming from His lips ought to strike fear to all our hearts.

When D. Lyness (Dave) and I met you at Flatrock in 1914, and enquired 'Where is he?' You replied: 'Played the fool'; bringing Saul to our minds, and making us wonder what form his folly took. But 40 years is a long time; and we have had it for reflection on many and great changes, not only among ourselves, but in the whole groaning creation.

There are histories to all things; and as there were many things leading up to the final folly of King Saul, so was it also with our 'king' William. And you and I might give different accounts of it. You saw it 40 years ago as violated morality. I have seen it in all the years since as God's answer to unchristian Ambition. Those who put him on a throne would never have cast him down for pride or the exercise of religious power. God alone would do that; and his idolaters and ruiners could only be got to depose him on moral grounds: which ought to give them something to think about.

Reading this over, I seem to be taking it for granted that the crowners and uncrowners are still in the body, though I know that some of them are dead. You must be somewhere in the neighbourhood of 75 years old; and to think you were only about 40 when I last saw you! I wonder how it would have been with us if our cases had been reversed? If I had been in a position to pronounce you 'unregenerate' and send you as a scapegoat into the wilderness! I cannot picture you in my place. I cannot imagine myself talking about 'God's Testimony' as if it was something into which people could be brought, or from which they might be driven as 'unregenerate' if they did not suit its authorities. Nor can I imagine you spiritually surviving excommunication.

What kind of thoughts ought an old man to have in the prospect of the Judgment Seat of Christ? What kind of memories should he cherish? And which do his best to exclude? Do you remember Gus Halb as he heard you pronounce sentence of disqualification on him as a preacher? The sweat broke on him, and he was so dumbfounded that he went out without saying a word. I have often thought of him since, but except for these memories he went as completely out of my life as if he had never been in it. You must have had many such episodes these 40 years, and I wonder what effect they had on you at the time or in the recollection since?

Do you remember my once writing that I would rather be a well-disposed Goat than an ill-disposed Sheep? I would greatly dread being brought to the Last Assizes of the quick and the dead having done any manner of violence to the soul of any man. Beating fellow-servants and putting discouraging stumblingblocks in the way of one of His little ones are serious offences in the eyes of the Judge as we know from His own words.

I sat down to a poetic writing a year ago under the heading of GRACE AND OUR WORLD, but it was beyond my powers, and after a few pages I relapsed into a deep silence--overwhelmed by the extent and magnitude of the subject.

In thinking of a life to be, who can
Bear contemplation of the soul of man
Apart from Grace bought at such fearful cost,
That but for it all souls would have been lost?

Who thinks of Grace abounding in these days?
Who for it offers heart-moved thankful praise?
Who wonders what our world would come to be
If it should be restrained, or ended utterly?

What worketh Grace? As we the past survey
Have we not seen the wild beast kept at bay
By Law's authority? And even so
It still deep growls, its hate and rage to show.

And at this day thousands of men must be
Confined in jails and prisons so that we
May sleep in peace. And others have their breath
Shut off by hanging, that our ally Death
May help us to restrain that element
Which is on plunder and destruction bent.

If Grace's period should end, might we
Not in the gloom dark threatening shadows see?
Would earth itself not show responsiveness
In keeping with the Mankind's Great Distress?

The day that Jesus suffered, heaven and earth
Were deep disturbed. Dead saints from the tombs went forth,
The veil was rent that screened the holy place.
The sun in strange eclipse had hid his face.

The earth was shaken as by ague, so
Its horror at the Crime of crimes to show.
The only Powers that were not shaken then
Were those of organized religious men.

Caiphas to his place could return;
'It was expedient', and he need not mourn
The blood that for a nation's life was shed,
It was a great day's work; and so to bed.

And so to bed; but would his sleep be sound?
Might not some nightmare incubus confound?
His rest? Would Conscience Wakeful troubled vigil keep?
Or could it be that She herself would fitful sleep--
Drugged by the doings of the day--to never more
Awake to be his reverence's monitor?

Or it might be that gradually dulled
By being flouted or ignored, or lulled
To acquiescence, that she came to be
A silent partner in his infamy.

We may not know; but we might picture him
On the descent to the depth: his eyes grown dim,
To wonder if the Lady had returned,
And with tormenting memories had burned
Or seared the remnants of his soul, that he
Before he went might think of Calvary!

And then after a page or two about Conscience and the inward mystery of what a man is, came this:--

Rise up Imagination: fly away
To unblest worlds beyond the range of day,
The Chaos still upon his Lightless throng
Reigns in unchallenged majesty alone.

Tell what you see and hear, if in the gloom
Ought can be seen or heard of this world's room:
Given up to evil forces when God's grace
Has been withdrawn, and He averts His face.

Your wings are paralyzed? You cannot rise
To such a dread occasion; and your eyes,
So unaccustomed to such Night as this,
Could not endure the glare from the abyss.

You are excused. Now come forth Prophecy:
Tell what a grace-forsaken world would be;
And what would flush into the empty place
Abandoned to the will of Gracelessness:

Distress of nations with perplexity.
The roaring of a moon-disordered sea
Ascent of evil angels from the Pit
There Satan and his hierarchy sit.

In dark and hateful conclave, there to plan
The final ruin of abandoned man.
Goodwill declines. Betrayal whispers low,
The last of Friendship's outposts to o'erthrow.

Home broken up, divided. Rumour spreads
His ill reports; and evil counsel sheds
An evil light on what good feeling does;
And green-eyed envy shows his teeth and claws.

Concealed beneath a bland suavity
Waiting the night of opportunity,
When with revenge to keep him company
He could destroy the unsuspecting prey.

Deception masquerading as a seer,
Would vainly see deliverance draw near;
And with fear pressing in on every side
Would make himself a counsellor and guide

Out from the wilderness of Great Distress,
And into fields of peace and restfulness.
And love by influence of iniquity
Would wilt and wither and decline away.

And all dark passions on the midnight prowl
Would press so sore upon the weariest soul
That she would fail did not God undertake
And shorten tribulation for her sake.

Sitting by the fire last night and thinking things over I made a few notes: How did unfriendliness become a Christian virtue among the most enlightened people of our time? Great is the variety in heaven and earth; and yet among the 'enlightened' ones there was no doom for me. Leaders of the enlightened ones in bondage to each other so that when they would do good fear is present with them. Why should they think that God is glorified by imitating prophets and apostles, when he wants every man to be himself, and to live from within? The prophets of the Old Testament did not imitate the patriarchs that were before them nor the apostles of the New Testament imitate the prophets of the old.

Why cannot the enlightened ones accept TRUTH for its own sake instead of doubting and questioning it because the speaker or writer of it does not walk with them or fulfill their conditions of what his outward manner of life should be? And why do they judge men by standards they have set up: standards that the judged ones do not set up for themselves? We do not need to know anything about a man beyond the truth he proclaims. We accept the Psalms of David without question although knowing that we could not accept him if he lived in our time.

One difference between me and the enlightened ones: they are strengthened by numbers; and I value individual persons. One Moses was of more spiritual and eternal consequence than the whole camp in the wilderness. Even one Lot was more than all the inhabitants of the cities of the plain. The great controversy of the ages has been between Persons and Powers. The chief use of Power is to persecute Persons so that their spirits maybe perfected by the things which they suffer. The making of martyrs is the work of what is called The Church. Jesus was crucified on the verdict of the archbishop of Jerusalem. The great discovery made by religious man was the power of organization. Such were my fireside reflections last night.

I wonder if you have good health, or if like some of us younger ones you have been given intimations of death. The last we heard about J. Kerr he was laid up with a coronary thrombosis. What ought to be uppermost in our minds when we feel ourselves somewhere in the neighbourhood of the mystery of our Change as Job called it? 'Get right with God' evangelists used to roar and scream. But there is more in the Bible about getting right and keeping right with men. When I was somewhere near the region and shadow of death two years ago, there was nothing to do and little to think, except that when I felt a little easier I was given this scripture to ponder on: 'Not as though I had already attained, neither were already perfect, but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.' I said to a visitor that it looked as if I was going to die in bed after all!

I suppose you remember now we were exhorted 60 years ago to aim high--at the target of the 10th chapter of Revelation: that of the first resurrection. And there are Powers in the world now that would make it possible by their persecutions and tortures unto death. The final crop of martyrs might now be at the reaping in various countries of the world--if we could detach ourselves from the notion of our own exclusive rightness long enough to consider it.

At a grave not long ago I read something unusual on such occasions: 'Ye are the Light of the world.' 'Ye are the salt of the earth.' But light can go out, and salt can lose its savour; and then this: 'Take heed that the light which is in thee be not darkness; for if the light that is in thee be darkness how great is that darkness.' I was going to write SELAH after that, seeing that our light is not guaranteed in perpetuity; and we need to look to ourselves continually.

When an old man named James Palmer called on Wm. West, Wm. asked him if he had made his will, and offered to do it for him. Then James asked if he had made his, and he said he had or was going to; but he died intestate. When I sat down to write you this letter, I said it was a part of the setting of my house in order; but what about yours--seeing you are some years older than I?

A few years ago I typed out 6 pages of THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF JOHN ALFRED MAGOWAN; but there was so much TESTAMENT, that I never got to the Will; and anyway what had I to leave? One of our boys would like this typewriter; but my main legacy is in the form of books, some 25 of them written the last 16 years--about 3,000 of these pages. And what better legacy than a man's best thoughts? Strange that a man can live so inward-abundantly cut off so completely from the friends and companions of his youth! Which perhaps we might call one working of the law of compensation.

There are times when I take my heart to task so as to learn something abut the long and slow process of its purifying in preparation for the life to come. I was telling E. C. when he was here before Christmas that my prayers are short and simple, and the main petition of them is in three words: THY KINGDOM COME. World-weariness is not unknown to me; but it is kept in hand by life-responsibility for four growing boys; and for their sakes I would choose to stay as long as possible.

And then there is the comfort of the anticipation of the world's passing away--of which there are many and increasing and varied signs and indications. My case is simple and without any known complications; but it has the symptoms of all known diseases as well as all the infirmities of old age.

I walked with a 7 year old boy part of the way to school this morning; and thinking of you on the way back, I considered that few men of our time had been so well favoured as you--in opportunity--and responsibility. As one of W.I.'s chief heirs you had wells that you did not dig; houses that you did not build; vineyards and orchards that you did not plant; fields that you did not plow nor sow; and freedom of movement without let or hindrance beyond most men;--but with responsibility for the maintenance of them, and the eventual giving account of your stewardship of them: a prospect that might make an earnest and thoughtful man afraid.

I have my responsibilities also, but they are light and few compared with yours. And I have never been called upo to make choices involving soul-tragedy--as for instance that about Gus Halb. I have been an inviter-in, but have been mercifully spared the dreadful tasks of a putter-out. And if the Lord hates putting away, as we are told by the prophets, the final accounting to Him by the excluders, is one of the gloomiest prospects ever spread before men who called themselves His servants.

I wrote a long letter to E.C. lately and in acknowledging it he called it my autobiography. But I said no man ever had written or ever could write his autobiography. The inwardness of a man's life is so deep and wide and even high as to be beyond expression. And as for the outwardness of mine, I said that it would require 10,000 pages for little more than an outline of it. But a man must express what is given him for that purpose, or be like the man who hid his talent in the earth--miss the purpose of it and lose it into the bargain:--

Why do I write? Because I must express
The thoughts that through my mind their waters pour.
Lest in the ocean of forgetfulness
They unexpressed be lost forevermore.

I had a wondrous dream last night--in verse.
When I awoke I thought it would remain.
I lay and laboured to the lines rehearse,
But conscious effort proved to be in vain.

And I have come to that place where I do
Believe we are no more than messengers
Sent to make known the beautiful end true,
And of the old-time witnesses the heirs.

So I have mourned when something I had heard
Slipped from my mind forever undeclared.

And if you think that I ought not to write to you, I can only say that I must obey my prompting. Or if you think I am making it unduly long, just remember that it is a very long time since I last wrote to you; and time as a tide is fast ebbing from us both. I do not expect to see you again in this world--which ought to be a sobering reflection for us both. Nor would I like to think that the years of our early association were like the years that the locust had eaten. Nor would I venture into those religious-dangerous waters of reading myself into important places in the scriptures of either Testament, or I might be tempted to compare myself to Joseph* and see in you and others of the separators the spiritual relatives of his brethren! [*At his funeral, George Kelso said of Alfred Magowan as Jacob had said about Joseph "He was a fruitful bough whose branches ran over the wall" (Genesis 49:22)] But I can say this like him, that whatever your intentions by the separation were, they have been over-ruled for my good; and as Frank Hetzer used to say 'I pack no malice.'

My wife met a Scotswoman in Portadown who told her she had a reserved seat in heaven these 40 years. That assurance passes for faith, and God is supposed to be glorified by it; but I think it a blend of presumption and religious conceit. Nor do I think much better of any 'faith' that makes the professors of it sure of themselves and doubtful of others. The man and women of the scriptures who are commended to us were not self-commenders; nor did they flee for refuge into some 'Church', nor become the monopolists of a 'Way'.

But if I was in a strait I think I would hide under the shadow of the great rock of IMPUTED righteousness rather than trust in any of my own. ACCOUNTED worthy to obtain that world is a very different thing to thinking we have earned it. Selah!

And now having heeded the impulse to write to you, I feel more content. If I was to make a special petition in my prayers it would be that I might become more sensitive in spirit, or at least not to become more gross. And by being sensitive I do not mean TOUCHY. I think I have learned that nobody can do me any harm except myself.

It is not what befalls us on our passage through this world, but how it affects us. When a man to whom I said 'goodnight' lately did not reply, I thought he had not heard me, and said it again, and still he did not reply. It bothered me at the time, but I soon got over it. When Simon the Pharisee was inwardly finding fault with his Guest, it hurt Him; and then He turned it to that great account of showing the difference between the two kinds of debtors--for the encouragement of overwhelmed debtors ever since. On another occasion He was hurt and disappointed by the unresponsiveness of nine cleansed lepers, but gladdened by the thankfulness of the 10th.

A man here told me he put his hand behind him when a prominent Irish 'saint' offered to shake hands with him; and he told it not as a Christian defeat, but as a Christian victory. It takes little grace for that sort of thing; and it took the fullest measure of grace ever known among men when suffering the pains of crucifixion Jesus prayed: 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do'.

O what could I not say about the gracelessness of good people! And on both sides of our Division! E.C. used to make a virtue of going where he was not welcome, so as to suffer the 'persecution' of being put out.' And I went to the other extreme of not going near places or people where I was likely to be snubbed or humiliated. But why the people of 'the only way' should be excluders or humiliators passes all my understanding. Having obtained mercy it would not be a great thing to show mercy--or at least do justly.

And what should I say in conclusion, but that after a full life in many places, I have never found righteousness in bodies of people, but only in individual souls: 'as it was in the beginning' and will be until the Lord comes to make up his jewels and build His Church with the living stones gathered and prepared from the foundation of the world.

[Written by Alfred Magowan]


[After Edward Cooney spent a Saturday afternoon in November 1953 with Alfred Magowan at Drumlellum, Northern Ireland, he wrote a long reminiscence in which he explained the nature of Wm. Irvine's experiment.]

NOTE: All capital letter words were capitalized in the original letter.
[Bracketed] and bolded text inserted by TTT Editor

Alfred Magowan's Letter to Edward Cooney
November 7, 1953 [Saturday thru Monday, November 16]

My dear Edward:

I have lain awake these last two mornings from dawn turning things over in my mind as the outcome of your duty call on Saturday. Memory has been unusually active, serving up recollections of the 50 years of our spiritual acquaintance (52 years it will be in January since two peculiar strangers invaded our coasts to preach the Gospel to us, and thereby give us a new outlook in life.)

Half a century is a long time; and if we were only half alive, much could be pressed into the passing years for making or the marring of us; and we were graciously given opportunities beyond most men and most ages for the doing of a great work in our hearts. So with that introduction I will go on to say what I have been thinking since you left.

It has often been observed that you and I are very different in many ways, which is no reflection on either of us. God is not the God of uniformity, as you yourself could say, but the Creator and Recreator of infinite variety in heaven and earth. It is now past the 34 year mark since a painful parting brought to an end a 12 year period of peculiar blessedness in acquaintance and in fellowship of pilgrimage and conflict and labour. (Note 1919 minus 12 yrs = 1907 - A.M. was in the work for 12 years)

It was found that I did not belong in that company, therefore arrangements were made for me to leave it. They were not of my making; and though the separation cut deeply into me at the time and for a good while after, I got over it, and even inwardly profited by it, so that I can think on the separators now without either resentment or bitterness. Quite otherwise. I would be glad to see any of them to resume the conversation and communion where it was broken off, if that was possible without compromising conscience and conviction.

Reading over what I have written it seems quite too stiff and formal, so I will try to relax as they say in health circles, and be myself! I made some notes in bed this morning which ranged afar in time and space and experience: and all as the good fruits of your duty call, if that knowledge will be any comfort to you!

First of all I remembered Balteagh as a sort of beginning of days; and it is no trouble to me to see the whole thing as it was when you and Joe Kerr preached Abundant Life to us. And you not only preached it, but sang about it as well. I remember as if it was yesterday your devotion to the spiritual song which began: 'God in heaven hath a treasure'. And many a sermon was preached by you from the last verse:

'O to be but emptier, lowlier; mean, unnoticed and unknown;
and to God a vessel holier, filled with Christ, and Christ alone.
Naught of earth to cloud the glory; naught of self the light to dim;
telling forth His wondrous story: Emptied to be filled with Him.'

And you could hardly have found a better text. (I quoted the whole verse because it rings as true to me now as it did the first time I heard it.) It is a long way from Balteagh to Drumlellum the road I have come, though only about six miles as the crow flies.

In 1938 I went over the ground from Egypt to Palestine in a night: a journey that once took 40 years. Which would have something to say about distance not being measureable by either time or miles, but by experience. Balteagh to me stands for youth with its prodding conscience; and its revelation of purpose and design for my life. Or as you might say it stands for the place of seeing visions, while Drumlellum stands for the place of dreaming dreams: or the difference between youth and age.

As has been the way with me since you were here, I lay awake this morning (the 10th) [Tuesday] turning many things over in my mind, and then got up before my usual time to set them down. This inward pressure 'like a fire in the bones' as one of the prophets expressed it is not in our power or at our will, but is like the wind which 'bloweth where it listeth'; and if we do not express what it moves us to, the thing may be gone from us forever.

Among many thoughts was that about the Living Witness which you mentioned while here. I hardly think we would be altogether right in loading the responsibility of it on your Balteagh companion [Joe Kerr]. We need to go further back to a book entitled 'Natural Law in the Spiritual World' and its doctrine of Biogenesis, or 'without life there can be no life.' Joe may have carried it forward a little in applying it to our spiritual relationships, but the final burden of responsibility is on the shoulders of Drummond.

Many things are clear because of a longer perspective as between Balteagh and Drumlellum. I can still see by the two mysteries of Imagination and Memory a wooden hall in Dynie Gilpin's field, a man with a Bible in his hand (a man you sent to confirm young disciples). I can still see him as with dilated and quivering nostrils he held the Book aloft and shouted in a high pitched voice: 'Printer's Ink!' And as we sat transfixed by the intensity of his speech, 'Clever Devil!' at us. So it was not surprising that the preaching left us more confused and despairing than we were before.

Now I can understand in the light of our queer Pilgrim's Progress since, that he was proclaiming the superiority of spoken over written words: an attitude that you also know something about! I was told some years ago about a man rising in a meeting to say he was glad to notice that Jesus never wrote anything! A strange revelation to glad about! When I heard it, I had an inward picture of Him stooping to write on the ground, while the procession of accusers slipped out one by one. I mentioned it to George Kelso in a letter and he wrote back to remind me about the New Covenant with its God-written laws on our hearts.

Could anything be stranger than a man with a Bible in his hand belittling written truth? There is a power in spoken words that is not in written ones we know. Hitler's Hein Kempf may have been more enlightening to the German people; but his voice was more inflaming; and without the voice there would hardly have been a Second World War: a reflection which rightly ought to make the nations tremble.

But written words are more durable. Isaiah is as fresh today as it was 3000 years ago. And it ought to humble the Living Witness glorifiers of spoken words that they would never have heard of Jesus apart from scribes! And he gave them something to keep up their hearts, when he said that 'every scribe instructed unto the kingdom of heaven, is like unto a man a householder which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.' A man without memory would be like mankind without writings; and while every day would be blest with freshness, it would be cursed for want of recollection. Selah!

I paused here to read this: "Wherefore, behold I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and of them ye shall kill and crucify; and of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city'.

Persecution is an attitude of a spirit in some man toward other men who are of a different spirit. It has always been in the world, but has had its special times and seasons and opportunities and powers. At other times it is quiescent like a smouldering volcano; and for want of temporal power and authority, it is limited in its cruelties to whisperings and aspersions and slurs and the barring of doors against its victims; and no thanks to it for its comparative mildness!

In the company we kept when we were much younger there were ignorances and prejudices hard to understand in the light of spiritual and religious history as recorded in the scriptures. I have said that the quality of a man may be revealed by what he emphasizes and by what he lightly passes over. 'Give a man the Bible, and he will show by how he reads it what manner of man he is'. That was said by the greatest spiritual leader and teacher of our time: a man that you and I owed more to than to any other. But thinking it over what else was he saying, but what had already been written about the power of the Word of God in the 4th chapter of Hebrews?

Anybody now can read the prophets without the risk of getting into trouble for it. That is the advantage of having dead prophets. They don't have to be received into our houses when their credit is low, or their company dangerous. We don't have to feed or clothe them, or in any other way minister to them. They are safely beyond the ranges of our cruelties or coldnesses; and we can use their words as we think fit in the comfortable surroundings of our meeting places. And our audiences can be trusted to agree with our commentaries and interpretations of them, and even to praise us as wonderful preachers, quite unaware that we are not preaching at all.

You may or may not recall that in such a meeting place three years ago, I rose in my place and read the 1st and 2nd chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and sat down without making any comment on it. Several hours had just been spent in testimonies and comments. Rivers of Words had been flowing unto what was supposed to be the edification of people whose minds had been wearied almost to the point of stupor by the endlessness of it all. So it seemed fitting and needful that the greatest tribute ever paid to the Son of God should be read in their hearing unto the renewing and cleansing of their minds.

Some years ago a woman wrote to us about God's feeling for His flesh and blood creatures: 'He made us flesh…and He is hurt when we are hurt.' I was so moved by it that I wrote about His sympathy and ended up with these lines:

Christ's prophet-heralds who were sent before
Drew on Similitude and Metaphor
Exhausting all supply in heaven and earth
Transcendent Goodness in Him to set forth:

The sun in glory rising o'er the rim
Of earth or sea, a symbol was of Him,
Coming in power and glory for the Day
When Evil Shadows would be chased away.

A sheep in silence to the shearing led;
A lamb whose blood for others' guilt was shed;
A great rock shadow in a weary land;
A winnower whose fan was in His hand;

A strong and valiant white horse conqueror;
The Root of David, and the Morning Star.
To Judment come as devastating hail.
A covert from the wild tempestuous gale.

A journeyer upon a pilgrim path,
A tramper of the winepress of God's Wrath,
A High Priest offering sacrifice of blood.
An Advocate who pleads our case with God.

A Scapegoat to a land not habited
Gone forth alone with sins upon His head.
A tender plant that from a dry root grows,
A fragrant rose that wild in Sharon blows.
A tried foundation stone in Zion laid,
Rejected and head of the corner made.

The sun upon us pours his summer rays
And we rejoice in all the pleasant ways.
Must we make loud lament if by and bye
Dark clouds would seem to blot him from the sky?

And if dread lightenings flash and thunders roar,
A little while and then the storm is o'er.
Must we not take the bitter with the sweet?
Must cold not supersede the summer heat?

Is this world now a School or Paradise?
Consider this complainers and be wise!
And man would put the Gracious God to shame
Then for their crimes they put on Him the blame!
O Thoughtlessness! O Faithlessness! O Pride!
And God in Christ for men was crucified.

We who are preachers ought to consider that life is too short for any sort of preaching but that turns all glory light upon Him. Ranging over a thousand pages of scripture to the glory of patriarchs or prophets or psalmist, or unto the reflected glory of the ranging preacher, is not the preaching unto which we were called. Why glorify moon or stars, planets or comets or meteors, when the sun has risen? However bright they may be in the night, they are only seen because He is not in the sky to outshine them by direct glory millions of times greater than theirs.

And it was in that light I read about God speaking in times past by the prophets, and then in the fullness of times by His Son. There was one disciple who heard the beating of his heart; and he was so overwhelmed by the revelation of God's fullness in Him that he finished his gospel in these words: 'And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books what should be written. Amen.'

This is now the 11th (Armistice day) [Wednesday]. Thoughts surging and backwashing in my mind last night prevented sleep, so I lay listening to the mystery of time being ticked into eternity by our clock, while memory yoked with imagination transported me to the ends of the earth. Strange all that can be going on in the mind simultaneously.

I was in Los Angeles and Jerusalem almost at the same instant, with you and with Wm. Irvine; and in a profound mystery living over again past movings and events. He was dismissed in 1914. I in 1919. And you in 1928. His dismissal was due to what his idolators, turned dismissers, looked upon as a serious lapse. Mine was on the ground of incompatibility of spirit. I have never been born again! And yours for what one of them called a 'little subtle form of pride' which showed itself in an inordinate love for the spotlight and audience admiration.

There were three occasions in Los Angeles when you slumped in your chair and suddenly grew old looking. The first was at Placentia when Mrs. Dunbar fastened her gaze on you, and solemnly pronounced you to be dead! The second was at Skinners in the Arroyo Seco when after you had been speaking for some time, a woman with a German accent, not being able to stand it any longer, cried out that you were preaching yourself. When you had somewhat recovered from the shock of such an unexpected interruption, you went into an extended explanation of the difference between the two Cooneys: the old one with the commercial brain then deceased, and the new one who went forth to preach without a ha'penny in his pocket. The explanation served to increase the wonder that there could be so queer a pair of twins, or such contradictions under one skin! The last time was also in the house in the Arroyo when you got a letter from George Walker intended to forestall any invasion of his spiritual dominions eastward of Jack Carroll's. That was 'the most unkindest cut of all', and you looked as if the sky had fallen on you and flattened you out!

I smiled to myself when I looked over what I wrote yesterday: 'we who are preachers' when I am not a preacher at all! I doubt if there was ever any other ignorance or prejudice to compare with that of the guardians of the One True Way. Let a man serve his time to carpentering, or blacksmithing or any other of the common trades. Let him work at it diligently and with good craftsmanship for the space of forty years. Then let him break some rule or regulation of his trade union, and waken up next morning to discover that his long apprenticeship and longer journeymanship count for less than nothing; and he has not only lost his trade, but will find it hard to get any kind of work as an unskilled laborer. That is not likely to be done by the children of this world; and if it was done it would be laughed at as ridiculous nonsense.

I was present at the disqualification of Gus Halb as a preacher 'in the one true way'. His whole heart was in the work in Arkansas: and while we worked together preparing for the Southern Illinois convention, his conversation was in heaven 'so to speak', the heaven of anticipation of 'working missions' on the return to Arkansas.

I watched the 'Judge Advocate' and listened as he pronounced the sentence of death (for that is what it was to Gus in a more dreadful sense than if it had been that he would be shot at dawn). I saw the sweat break on him as the full meaning of the thing came home to him. He never spoke a word; and when he felt himself dismissed, he turned and walked out of the room like a man in a dream. That was in the year 1914. I have never seen or heard of him since; but that tragedy from that day to this is linked in mind with that of a mare bleeding to death in a paddock in Indiana:--

I saw a mare once bleed to death. The sight
Drove sleep far from my eyelids all that night:
The way she turned her head; the pained surprise;
The mingled blood and sweat; the pleading eyes;
And very pitiful it was to see
Her foal as she endured her agony.

Is God like us? Then broken hearted He
Must suffer deep by human misery.
No moment passes but His creatures sup
Unutterable woes;--and drink the cup
Of anguishes that pain fills to the brim:
And these must have a deep response in Him.

July 1914 saw the beginning of the first World War. It also saw the end of Wm. Irvine's leadership and rule. He saw some connection between what happened to him and what happened to it, and came to the dreadful, and terrible conclusion that Saving Grace ended then 'as by a sword cut' was his way of putting it. Do you remember the year before in Kentucky and Indiana: which was the last time we [A. Magowan and E. Cooney] saw him until he met us [A. Magowan and Robert Irwin] at the railway station in Jerusalem in 1938. It was on the train to Indianapolis from Danville that I was delegated to cheer you up; and when he from a seat on the other side of the aisle heard you laugh, he gave me a look of approval! And you laughed, when speaking about the revision of the hymnbook under the direction of Andy Robb and John Mayers. I quoted from one of your spiritual songs and mentioned that it was hard to keep our faces straight when trying to sing it!

What I specially remember about the conventions that year was the oddness of his preaching. You may recall that he spoke about stars and planets as other worlds, and held before us the strange possibility of going to them and doing for them the work of saviours as Jesus had done for this one! The prospect was so bleak that one of the sister workers came to me to complain that the sufferings of one world ought to be enough for us without anticipating crucifixion in another! And I agreed with her of course.

Is there anything more dangerous for a man than to be ambitious, especially when he professes to be a disciple of Jesus? Climbing in that holy Name may be the way to the pinnacle of some religious temple; but as sure as he climbed he will be cast down. You may not remember what I said at Mullaghmeen in the year 1929 about the rise and fall of our great man; that it was not his sin but his pride that was his undoing. And perhaps it was some sort of poetic justice that it was the men who crowned and throned him in their unchristian idolatry who stripped and cast him down, and drove him forth into the wilderness as one of the strangest scapegoats of the ages. Their respect for him as a voice of God to them in their youth went on by easy and imperceptible stages from respect to love; from love to unbounded admiration; and from admiration to idolatry.

What is it in ordinary people, especially in troubled times, that moves them to want some god or king to go before them, or to be a Leader or Deliverer of them? There was Gandhi in India; Mussolini in Italy; Hitler in Germany; Stalin in Russia; all little men who were elevated to positions of absolute authority and power by vain worshippers; and then cast down or destroyed when the purpose for which they had been raised was accomplished.

I have been in Aimee Semple McPherson's temple in Los Angeles; Brigham Young's tabernacle in Salt Lake City; Dr. Dowie's tabernacle in Zion City, Illinois; all built to the glory of some petty nobody who in the name of God and Christ ungodly aspired to be some temporary somebody on the road to dust and ashes. And I might come much nearer home than that!

If there ever should be a true temple on the earth again, would it not be wise and fitting that over its portal in letters of fire should be written the words of Jesus to His first disciples: AND ALL YE ARE BRETHREN. This ridiculous pushing and shoving for position, and its consequent arrangement into hierarchies, whatever else it may be, is the expression of one of the worst weaknesses in the hearts of men. But apart from it there could be no effective persecution of God fearing man; no perfecting of their spirits in fitting them for the reign of Christ, and for the communion of the righteous and holy men which have been since the world began.

On one of your calls here you were lamenting that we were not suffering persecution. We were not suffering spectacular persecution like the early Christians in Rome and elsewhere; but there are subtle ways of making people suffer, without doing them any bodily harm; and we know something about THAT! The wounds received in the houses of friends leave neither welts nor bruises nor scars that by and bye we can exhibit for the admiration of new recruits to our ranks. And who will say that wounded hearts are easier to bear than torn flesh or broken bones? Jesus received many such wounds before a hand was raised to scourge Him or to drive nails in His hands and feet.

And being more deeply soul-sensitive than any other man before or since, His spirit suffered agonies beyond anything we could comprehend. Gethsemane stands for heart-anguishes that could only be hinted at by the drops of blood-sweat that fell from Him as He prayed. I have read somewhere that every martyrdom was a mean spectacle; and Calvary would have been no exception. The halo round the head that imagination paints afterward was not there at the time; anything but that! I might paint faint word pictures of blood-clotted hair; haggard faces, dirty with grime made by dust caught in sweat and tears; bloodshot eyes; stumbling walk; fear-drawn lines that marred the countenance almost beyond recognition: these and others; but the picture would be weak and poor and quite inadequate as an expression of the reality as it was viewed at the time by both friends and enemies. No outer hallmark of inner saintliness; no show of heroism to encourage the one and shame the other; and no encouragement to faith and hope in a glorious resurrection. That was martyrdom as it WAS, and not as stained glass windows represented it to be ages after the hue and cry had died away.

We have not known persecution in its time-glorified forms; and what we have suffered would hardly be worth mentioning in the light of the greater sufferings of others; but for myself I must confess that there were times when I could have borne very little more. What with slurs and insults, hints and insinuations, misunderstandings and prejudices, dark looks and averted faces where formerly there had been smiles and friendly greetings; and what I considered my good hatefully evil spoken of.

I laboured to bring forth a hymn book at your request; and copies of it specially bound were burned. Letters passed from one end of the earth to the other in condemning it, or condemning me for it. A man wrote to me some weeks ago that another man told him it should be destroyed.

My letters have been misread and things found in them that were never in my mind. A former companion in America wrote to me last year that I was under a delusion and had forsaken God, and that a letter I had written to the people who showed us much hospitality was full of resentment and bitterness. And having heard that I had been sick, he gave me the consolation of telling me my end was near! Not persecuted perhaps, but 'made to feel' as an old friend of yours used to say.

(We might doubt if Paul was as much hurt by his Roman imprisonment and trial as by his Corinthian friends' criticism. He was no apostle they said, being an unmarried man! He was no apostle because he wrought with his hands at a trade! And he was driven by them in his own apostolic defence to write things about himself that were so little in keeping with the usual humbleness of his heart, that after writing them he had to add that he wrote as a fool. Turning the spotlight on himself to bask for a little while in that poor sort of glory was not his style; and he turned it off as quickly as possible by saying that if he must glory he would glory in his infirmities; a glorying not common to religious men.)

Men can do us no spiritual harm--unless we let them. Defending ourselves is not necessary if we believe in the Judgment Seat of Christ. And if we would get the full good of the unkindly things said about us, and the unchristian things that are done to us, we only need to take our Lord's advice at the end of His beatitudes: to rejoice and leap for joy. And I might say for myself that on reflection I have been enabled to transmute much base metal of reproach and blame into the gold of inward satisfaction and delight: for certainly it is a great honour and distinction to be singled out for abuse by the kind of religious people who cannot rest unless they are doing what they can to hurt better men put at their disposal for the revelation of their hearts. (I was going to add 'Selah', for such things are worth a pause for special consideration.)

This is now the 12th day of the month [Thursday] and rainy without but pleasant and comfortable within: which might have something to say to us in spiritual language. If you think this letter is getting too long, rest from the reading of. I have been thinking that it might be good for you and me to practice a little at the communion of saints in the prospect of an eternity of it. Who has not daydreamed about conversation with patriarchs and prophets and apostles and the wise and the good of the ages before us? As a boy I remember hearing singing in a meeting, to the words 'We will walk the golden strand and take Jonah by the hand'; an anticipation of fellowship that I find myself in agreement with--if good conversation could be expected to follow the handclasp, which on Jonah's part I suppose it would.

GOOD CONVERSATION. I wrote it in capitals because it is of the very substance of life and enjoyment here (especially to elder or mature men) and doubtless will continue to be hereafter. For the past few years I have thought much about the commandment or exhortation: 'make to yourselves friends'. And looking back over the half century of our profession was that act what we laboured to do? And to know what friendship is, we have only to consider what Jesus said to His apostles at a stage in their progress; 'I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.' And if we had no other writings but the gospel of John, there is enough in it as a foretaste of friendship and heavenly conversation to let us know that the fullness is inexhaustible, and will satisfy the deepest and highest longings and aspirings of our hearts 'eis tous aionas ton aionon,'* (as Detroit preacher Newell used so often to quote.)
*forever and ever

I doubt if there could be good conversation of the kind I have in mind between men on different levels. Masters with servants would hardly be eligible; therefore Jesus removed the barrier by putting all on the level of friends. Hierarchies by the very nature of their gradations and titles exclude themselves from the fellowship of equals and friends. Our division of disciples into saints and servants worked out very badly from its beginnings.

Do you remember how Wm. Irvine went from convention to convention thundering against 'saints' who took advantage of workers put at their mercy in the matter of homes? There was one notorious case in the coal fields of Western Indiana--which drew his lightnings and thunderings in unusual vehemence. 'Saints' there saved up their washings for the coming of sister workers needing rest; and washings in mining regions are heavy burdens to bear, even when they are not 'saved up' for special laundresses! This was a service Wm. did for them that propriety and modesty would hardly have let them do for themselves.

But when he was removed they had to devise other means of ensuring that they would get their serving due, so they went in for preaching about their homelessness, which they did so well that it was made by them to appear that every man of God from the foundation of the world was a homeless preacher: which was hard on the Old Testament prophets like Elisha who was at home on or near mount Carmel, or Samuel who was at home in his house at Ramah. And as clergymen have to make special appeals for money support at home and abroad, these 'homeless' preachers had to resort to proclaiming their own special 'virtues' as sacrifices, renouncers and sufferers, until it was made to seem that God was deeply in their debt, and doing nothing to get out of it!

Whereas the truth of the matter was that they were promised a hundred for one: houses and lands and fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters--with suitable accompaniments! So if they must so far forget their high callings and privileges as witnesses to Jesus to sink to the mean level of proclaiming themselves, they could scarcely complain if the hundred fold was denied them. There are millions of homeless men tramping the roads of the world with no thought to the 'virtue' of it: and content to take the hardships in their stride as the price they must pay for shirking life's responsibilities.

And then in 'fellowship' with the 'servants' are the 'saints' who are under no limitations or restraints in any direction except that they must live clean and honourable lives for the sake of their 'testimony' in their community. And they are quite content with the poverty of their teachers, so long as they are allowed the unlimited range of the world of houses and lands and motor cars and money-making and banking and insurance and all that follows in their train. But they must show some evidence that they 'walk in the true way' by going to meetings and giving their testimony' and listening by the hour to what passes for preaching.

I was invited to a Faith Mission conference near here some years ago and went. After an hour of listening to an old man driveling in the name of preaching, I noticed that the man beside me was looking at his watch. I asked him what time it was, and when he showed me the face of his watch, he whispered that the old man (who was still going strong) could go on for another hour. I said there was nothing to hinder him from going on all night. Endless and pointless reminiscence drawn from forty or fifty years of going here and there on 'Pilgrim' missions: and that could pass itself off as preaching with people who had probably never heard preaching in their lives!

I am in full agreement with Old Testament prophets about the need for silence at times. God was not so hard up for men's voices as to want to listen to them all the time. Ezekiel was made dumb for a season, and required to use sign language with a people who could no longer be moved to action by words. O the silences of God are wonderful in heaven and on earth! When one of your converts wrote to me complaining that some were not letting their light shine, (roaring at street corners in this case) I wrote back to ask him if he ever heard the roar of the sun coming up in the morning! Eternally silent from his first ascent over Eden; but wonderfully effective as a light and heat bearer and life sustainer. Then I reminded him that when Jesus spoke of Light, it was something to be seen in men that would move others to glorify God.

Sometimes some form of providential compulsion is needed to give preachers opportunity to hold their tongues. Paul would likely have spent the rest of his life going from city to city and country to country on evangelizing missions if he had not been stopped and sent to prison for a dispensation of reflective quietness; and for the writing of some letters for the good of coming generations. Voice words die in the utterance; but ink words live forever unto the perennial good of the souls of men.

When I returned to Ireland in the year 1929, and found readymade congregations prepared to listen to me, I was suitably impressed with that provision; and in my strange (and now incomprehensible) simplicity, I thought they could be taught. But the 'true way' had got into the very bone and marrow of them, and they shed everything I said as a sea bird sheds water. And not only so, but they stood ready on the slightest pretext to shed me also! And you apparently could not or would not prevent it, so in due time I was driven into the no-mansland of being neither servant nor saint--nor even--sinner! They appeared to be encouraged to become judges, and to want to hedge me about with small-minded limitations, which had nothing to do with the heart or with the knowledge or service of God as I had come to understand it in more than half a lifetime of body and soul discipline: beyond anything that they could have known in a thousand years of the lives they were living.

They would 'make me feel' and compel me to conform or--starve! Well I neither conformed nor starved, nor hid my talent in the earth to accommodate their ignorance. If I stood prepared 34 years ago to so stand for integrity of conscience that I risked losing every friend I had (and did lose most of them) it was not likely that I would be intimidated by prospective starvation in the power of inferior people to come to terms with their version of 'God's true way.'

When I drove you across the American continent, and made you acquainted with people in five States, so that from then onward you could feel welcome among them as a man like myself, there was no examination of you or doubt about you or any sort of sectarian limitation of you. They were too pleased to have you in their houses as an honoured guest and an encourager of their hearts to make rules and regulations for you, or judge you by standards they had raised, and which you had never raised. You were even free to sit in judgment on me, and to make it appear that bodily presence and the sound of the voice in the service of God were the hallmarks of that service, while writing was like the Pharisees 'saying and not doing'. (This is not what Jesus meant, for He went on to explain that they and the lawyers laid religious duty burdens on people that they would not even touch with one of their fingers; and as I have said somewhere, I would like to see the colour of a man's eyes who could say that I ever laid any sort of burden on anybody.)

I would not like to think that any of the American friends did anything to hurt your feelings. None of them I hope said they were showing you kindness because of what you used to be--USED TO BE! But Irish 'true way' friends can do that sort of thing without the slightest awareness that it might be hurtful. But once I have heard it I remember what Jesus said about the house being worthy, and remain away.

Friday the 13th, I woke before dawn this morning and watched the gradual increase of light from the first faint hint that the night was passing; and was glad to think that I could still be moved to wonder and awe in the presence of mystery. I got up and looked out on some cattle grazing in the field across the road and thought on how they fulfilled their lives without worry or care or any awareness of themselves, unlike mankind who might be said to be bundles of troubled consciousness of both life and death on the way to nowhere--unless they should be accounted worthy of the inheritance of the saints in light. Do you remember in 1902 exhorting us to 'agonize' to enter in at the strait gate, and picturing the elbow-using violence of the men who pressed into the kingdom of God? You would hardly say in 1933 that the drifters would inherit it; and yet that is how it now appears.

We took the exhortation so seriously that we did everything short of sweating blood that we might reach the goal set before us: that of rising and reigning with Christ at the first resurrection. That was before the days when meeting-going would suffice to fulfil all righteousness, and vocal 'light' would give radiance to the haloes that self-centered disciples would be encouraged to put round their own religious heads! Napoleon slighting the Pope and putting the crown of empire on his own head was meek and humble compared with that! And Versailles was nowhere compared with Whitehead (and elsewhere) in the important work of self-glorification.

Out for a walk and back again, it came home to me that this letter is from one elderly man to another. You have often reminded me of my father in one way: he needed my absence for 22 years to bring home to him the simple truth that I WAS GROWN UP! Strange that fathers, (and even fathers in the gospel!) would try to prevent the maturity of their sons. You keep your time distance of 17 years ahead of me; but I have the distinction of beginning my ministry 10 years ahead of you: you began at 34 or 35, and I was on my first mission before my 24th birthday with John Burns in Kentucky--a pair of unprovided for youthful strangers in a strange land. John was only 19 at the time--and the chief speaker!

When Wm. Irvine said in Jerusalem in 1938 that 'it was a great experiment', I replied that it was a great EXPERIENCE, which it would have been an eternal pity to miss; and the story of it will never be told in this world. The 'experiment' he had in mind was that of taking the work of God out of sectarian and professional hands, and labouring to transmute the lead of relationship of formality into the pure gold of a spiritual family: and it nearly succeeded; and might have succeeded but for the entrance of the abomination of the spirit of Hierarchy and religious gradation.

Then the door was left wide open for the entrance of Ambition with all its retinue of Envy, Rebellion, Suspicion, Treachery, and the whole host of their evil companions and associates--including that old hateful spirit and martyr-maker: EXCOMMUNICATION! And he can always be depended upon to over-reach himself, and say if he had to do it over again, he would do it differently!

But the EXPERIENCE of the individual souls who from their heart-constrained youth gave themselves fully and freely: THAT no man can take from them; and while memory serves them they can bring forth from their treasures glorified riches from the places they had visited, the people they had known, the adventures that befell them as strangers and pilgrims on earth, and the treatment they received.

I have been trying to find a stopping place, but so many thoughts flow into my mind that I would be sorry to leave them unexpressed. You and I have had fifty years to get acquainted, so that we could speak heart to heart; but here we are somewhat in the region of the shadow of death, and little more to each other than ships that pass in the night. Fellowship was a very common word among us, but the inner substance was wonderfully uncommon.

I was sorry that when you called on Saturday we could do no better than speak of the surfaces of life. It might have been compared to a Temple visit of pilgrims from afar, who get no nearer the holy place than the Court of the Gentiles!

This is now Saturday again [November 14th]; and it was ushered in by a dream so disturbing that I had to sit up in bed to rid myself of it. I was in a gathering of anxious parents come together about the enlightenment of their sons on the threshold of young manhood. The anxiety was deepened beyond what is common to parents by disturbing accounts in the newspapers about immoralities and perversions and suicides of promising youths in their teens. There seemed to delays and difficulties in the way, as if dark Powers were interfering to prevent anything said or done against their special interests--vested interests in young souls. Then I heard a man speaking in such plain language as I had never heard before, to make me wonder whether it would do more harm than good. Then I awoke; and not being able to sleep again, spent the time til daybreak turning things over and over in my mind with my own youth recalled, and the prospect before our own four boys in an evil time.

I recalled Joe Kerr coming to our house to announce the meetings in Balteagh school, and all that followed of the strange inner conflict before being brought at length to a time--and eternity--comprehending 'YES'! But I had been disturbed for years by the fear of dying in my sins; and that fear was not diminished by hell-fire preaching in our barn, and the too-vivid picturing of the Last Judgment before The Great White Throne. It was so dreadful that after a special night of facing up to the imminent prospect of a roaring departing heaven, dissolving elements, and flaming earth, my mother had to come to my rescue in the night; and it must have taken her an hour to console me and to persuade me that the end had not come. She died before I was eleven [1894], so you will know that religious terror brooded over me early in life because a cruel evangelism was allowed to inflict itself on me before I was able to protect myself from it.

The name BALTEAGH stands to me for deliverance from guilt, and nagging fear, and the deep inner gloom that was the accompaniment of unforgiven sin. It stands to me as a beginning of days with its prospect and promise of Abundant Life; a blotted-out past; a cleansed heart and a comforting instead of an unbraiding conscience.

I mention all this to you now, because somewhere along the road from there the simple evangelism by which the Spirit of God dealt with the hearts of young men suffered some sort of lapse or change or degradation by which what was VITAL was supplanted by what was only RELIGIOUS: and then the door was opened to all sorts of disturbing spirits, to turn a Vision into a Nightmare of strife and unbrotherliness--and spiritual deadness and flatness in the name of THE ONLY TRUE WAY.

Contending about Denominations took the place of striving against sin; and men who in their youth were frightened of the encroachments of SELF, came by easy stages to be self-commanding 'faithful of the land'--to be sung about by fools who had never known the early enlightenment, or the power of John Kelly's Clever Devil! Mean idolaters drove out or froze out God's worshippers, not considering that thereby their houses might be left unto them desolate.

And now in the year of Gracelessness 1953 spiritual sensibilities are as rare as roses in the dead of winter; and if there was a hurricane tearing out the mulberry trees by their roots in a dispensation of the wrath of God, they would be as unaware of it as the Jewish Archbishop of Jerusalem was that the malefactor on the middle cross was the Saviour of the world. And not even the setting up of the Abomination of Desolation before the final destruction of the Temple would have persuaded him that God had forsaken His people.

Early this year I began to write something that had been pressing for expression. The headline for it was 'Grace and our world'. This is taken from it:--

If Grace's period should end, might we
Not in the gloom dark threatening shadows see?
Would earth itself not show responsiveness
In keeping with the Mankind's Great distress?

The day that Jesus suffered, heaven and earth
Were deep disturbed. Dead saints from the tombs went forth,
The veil was rent that screened the holy place.
The sun in strange eclipse had hid his face.

The earth was shaken as by ague, so
Its horror at the Crime of crimes to show.
The only Powers that were not shaken then
Wer those of organized religious men.

Caiphas to his place could return:
'It was expedient', and he need not mourn
The blood that for a nation's life was shed,
It was a great day's work; and so to bed.

And so to bed; but would his sleep be sound?
Might not some nightmare incubus confound?
His rest? Would Conscience Wakeful troubled vigil keep?
Or could it be that She herself would fitful sleep--
Drugged by the doings of the day--to never more
Awake to be his reverence's monitor?

Or it might be that gradually dulled
By being flouted or ignored, or lulled
To acquiescence, that she came to be
A silent partner in his infamy.

We may not know; but we might picture him
On the descent to the depth: his eyes grown dim,
To wonder if the Lady had returned,
And with tormenting memories had burned
Or seared the remnants of his soul, that he
Before he went might think of Calvary!

I consider that the dulling or deadening of spiritual feelings is among the worst calamities that can befall a once sensitive man. You may remember that when William Irvine was himself in those blessed early days, he was so sensitive that there were times when he felt that he could not preach because it seemed that God was silent to him. Afterward that inward awareness was supplanted by something like a seared conscience; and then in the name of preaching he did not hesitate to speculate about other worlds where we might play the saviour part!

The prophets were God's barometers; and they needed to be as sensitive as Aeolian harps in their soul--responses to Him and to the world around them. But Jesus was like the mimosa plant which closes its leaves at the slightest touch of the hand. He did not need any word or look from Simon the Pharisee, or from Judas Iscariot to let Him know how far their hearts were from Him. He was troubled in spirit when there was no outward thing to account for it; but what He felt inwardly did not change His kindly attitude. Critic or traitor: neither could be allowed to have any such power over Him as that.

And in that light might we not say that it is not what men think of us or say about us or do to us that matters, but how we take it? And at our age, and with all we have learned on the road of our serving-pilgrimage, do we not know that blame is safer than admiration and flattery--or even than deserved praise? If a man had so pure and innocent a heart as Nathanael, it might be soul-safe for him to hear; 'behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile'; but one glimpse of the heart vouchsafed a man in the light of the glory of the holiness of God; and he would be more likely to say with Peter: 'depart from me, for I am a sinful man O Lord', or with Isaiah: 'I am a man of unclean lips'; or with Paul: 'O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"

When I asked Wm. Jamison* [*could not be Willie J from Scotland who died in California on October 17, 1974] on his deathbed how he then saw the prospect of death, he said he was afraid to meet a holy and a just God. I mentioned it at his grave, and commended it to the mourners as more becoming to a dying man than popular but vain and deceptive assurances of acceptance with God. I may not be sure of my acceptance with Him, but I am comforted by my rejection on the part of good religious men and women; and have even allowed myself to reflect on the Hoosier saying that the most clubs are under the best apple trees!

This is Sunday night [November 15th]; and while I have been musing you will be speaking to a houseful of people; and you will speak for a much longer time than it would take to read what I have written in this letter. Meeting-going is a popular Belfast pastime on Sunday evenings; and we here in the country have to do the best we can with our thoughts.

David came to me after school on Friday with the Bible open at the 32nd Psalm for me to hear how much of it he could repeat from memory. It was written by another David; and as I read it over today I wondered: 'Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile'. I have just finished reading it over again to Isobel after the boys have gone up to bed; and there is nothing in it about activity on the man's part. The part he plays is altogether passive, with the emphasis on what God has done and is doing for him. The Old and New Hymn Book (or spiritual song book, for there are fewer hymns in it than in any other book I have seen) is full of what people are doing, and very little about God's part in it all; and this is true of the songs written by those who walk 'in the one true way' more than about those they inherited from monks and others.

It was to us an anxious time when Philip was in the hands of doctors. There was more praying than singings, but his mother found something in herself that responded to the song beginning: 'My heart is resting O my God' which also speaks of a passive attitude in the hands of God, when there was nothing we could do but cry unto Him out of the depths as in the 130 Psalm: 'Out of the depths have I cried unto thee O Lord. Lord hear my voice; Let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications; If thou Lord shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared.'

Have you noticed how little seems to be known about being sin-burdened in these troubled times? Repentance might nearly be deleted from new dictionaries, so little is it used. Bunyan in his time could think of little else but his sin and how he was to be relieved of the burden of it. And if we think he was morbid about it we can return to the Psalms and the prophets. There are nearly 2 pages in Cruden's concordance about sin and the part it played in the history of the souls of man. However it may be explained there were times when forgiveness for sins was the chief preoccupation of sensitive and God-fearing men; and there were other times when it was of little concern. We could hardly imagine the men of Sodom in the days of Lot being deeply disturbed because of their sins. Their souls might rot, but there would be no moving of their hearts unto repentance; which ought to remind us what Paul wrote to Timothy about repentance being a gift from God. And on that note I will get ready for bed. Goodnight.

Monday [November 16th], and I woke this morning to the heart-responsive music of these words of yours when you were young:--

'For thou art coming back Lord,
The time is drawing nigh;
The whole creation groaneth
and wearily doth sigh;
And we ourselves do long Lord
To see thee king of earth,
Our weeping turned to singing,
Our sorrow into mirth.'

And that is the only hope for driven and trouble mankind.

The first message sent by transatlantic cable was a question: 'WHAT HATH GOD WROUGHT?' W.I. used often to quote: 'for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure', which now ought to stir up our minds to ask what these more than 50 years professed discipleship of Jesus have brought forth as the good and eternal fruit of His working in our hearts?

We used to hear much about people 'going on '; and in the progress of the years it came to mean very little more than people holding on to a profession of faith which only required their attendance at meetings. When an old friend of yours wrote to me lately about it, he appeared satisfied to have made the peculiar journey from Belfast to Whitehead, or from an Irish to a Scottish teacher! In my reply I mentioned that progress was of the heart:--wider sympathies; deeper compassions; higher aspirations; more inclusive fellowships; and all else that God revealed to perfection in His son. I also advised him to take the prophet Isaiah's advice: 'Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?"

This running about after prophets and fuehrers and leaders and teachers is a will-o-wisp pursuit; for even when he is found, he is likely to have one foot in the grave. The great pursuit is set forth in these words: 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness'; assured by promise that all needful things will be provided.

If I ever am pushed into a corner where a deliverer is my only hope, I will not betaken in by men sounding trumpets before them--the queer false prophetic hosts of the ridiculous 'M I Ams. My help will not come from dying men, but from Him who is alive forevermore, and has the keys of hell and of death. The lo heres! And the lo theres! Have no attraction for me whatsoever. Wm. Irvine made his claims and went his way; and so will all the lesser claimants to special favour with God, and special distinction among man. And as for the self-appointed judges of the quick and the dead, they like the rest of us will have to appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ; and that dread prospect ought to quiet and humble them, as well as make them tremble.

[By Alfred Magowan]


NOTE: All capital letter words were capitalized in the original letter.
[Bracketed] and bolded text inserted by TTT Editor

Alfred Magowan's Letter to Jack Carroll
December 1st 1954

My dear Jack:

I do not much like these forms of address, especially when the bond represented by them is strained or broken. The word DEAR seems to have got into strange company in all sorts of communications, like many other good words in our tongue.

The occasion for this communication is a page from a letter I wrote to you on the 4th of February last. I am sending it to you, as it is the one containing my signature and address. I had a letter a few days ago from one of your Californian parishioners--or should I say archdiocesans? In which he tells of your helpfulness in a meeting. He did not say what the help was, nor think of sharing it with us, which he might have done without loss to himself.

Last spring a woman here gave me 6 typed pages of San Diego convention notes, in which you put great emphasis on what you called the two fundamentals of the faith of Jesus: 'the preacher without a home, and the church in the home' which rather surprised me. Would it not be better and truer to say of preachers 'the men of a hundred homes'--seeing that was the promise their Master made to them when He sent them as he did? Perhaps you meant by having no home, that the preacher had the odd distinction of paying no rent or taxes. In that sense only could he be said to be homeless.

I first met you at Cambuslang in Scotland in the June of 1907 on my first return from America. That is more than 47 years ago; and I doubt if you have slept with nothing but the sky over you more than 100 nights in all that time; unlike the millions of really homeless men who seldom know the comfort of a decent roof over their heads.

And as for churches in homes, that was not a fundamental (or even an incidental) when I heard you preach in the open air on Erbles Street, Motherwell, 47 years ago. I suppose the ideal would be to be born at home; married at home; and die at home; but the home is not what it used to be in these respects; and 'Progress' makes it little more than a lodging place now.

The early Christians met in homes, and wherever they could: as we in our early days met in Bright's Rooms, Portadown, or in wooden halls set up in friends' fields, or in Orange and other halls, and in tents unto this day--as you may do at San Diego or Bakersfield. Family gatherings are held in homes--if there is room; or otherwise they may hire a hall or meet in a hotel, or picnic in a garden or a field--necessity or expedience or conventions being the determiners.

I suppose every man has some sort of hobbyhorse or obsession, or something he specially emphasizes, according to some weakness or peculiarity of his particular SELF or personality. For myself I would never have thought of asking a special pilgrimage to Rome to get material for 'the church in the home'; as you would not have gone there to search for the bones of Peter. That was one difference between you and the Pope. Nor would I have trusted the testimony of a Franciscan friar that a particular house relic was the home of Pudens mentioned by Paul in a letter to Timothy.

I went to Jerusalem in the year 1938, and was asked to take my shoes off on entering the room where Jesus was said to have washed the apostles' feet. I took them off, but was not convinced--even though I was shown the exact spot where He had placed the basin! It may or may not have been the house it was said to be; but places to me are not important.

There is a star in the floor of the Church of the holy sepulcher in Jerusalem, said to be the very spot where the cross was set up. There is a grotto in the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem showing the place of the manger, and where the different persons stood or sat--even where a donkey stood; but I seemed to be immune to religious sentiment and emotion--to say nothing about being disgusted with baksheesh.

The first Christians met behind locked doors in Jerusalem and elsewhere; not because churches were exclusive societies (as they later became--especially in our day and among the people of 'the one true way') but because of their fear of the persecuting and exterminating Jews. In Rome they met in the home of Pudens; but they also met in the catacombs--as the time, the place, and the necessity required. So while you lay stress on the home as a meeting place, I would like to emphasize the need for meeting together; the purpose of the meetings; and the comfort and strength gained by it.

When you and others went about behind beards, I went about in the most barefaced manner; and neither of us thought of imposing our sort of adornment (or want of it) on the other.

Places to me are not as important as persons; and Wm. Irvine in decline and obscurity in Jerusalem meant more to us than any spiritual landmarks he showed us. And he was not to me what you held him to be--the progenitor of a latter day spiritual family, outside whose genealogy there would be little hope of salvation. The rich man of the 16th of Luke had a clear descent from Abraham; and Abraham called him son, but that did not bridge the great gulf between them.

I have often said that men are known by their emphasis. In the 23rd of Matthew, scribes and Pharisees emphasis was not on Judgment, mercy and faith, but on the rights and wrongs of swearing: and that in itself would have been enough to reveal them--and judge them.

I have heard some echoes and reverberations of Australia; religious thunders which for some time have been rolling and crashing over your brother's grave there--to put it in that poetical way. And we had a young nemesis here some weeks ago who is 'camping on the trail' of our claims and genealogies; so it looks as if Judgment had begun for our particular 'God's House'. There have been also some Californian earthquakings recorded on our spiritual seismographs, which would seem to confirm that Judgment is not confined to Victoria and South Australia. And then there is an 88 year old nemesis in Pacific regions doing what he can to hasten it--with perhaps memories of a chill in the religious air of Seattle many years ago?

And then again there is the report of an eyewitness of these words: 'I may have to cut off the west' which would appear to indicate that even archbishops have their fellowship difficulties; and as if Concisions 'cuttings off' might be brought into judgment by counter concisions when the fulness of the times is come. All of which gives plenty of food for reflection to us all.

Now you may be surprised to hear that I feel for you in such troubled days as these--as I symphathize with all leaders and rulers who are trying to sweep back the floods of lawlessness encroaching on their domains. On two sides of us here there have been raids made on military establishments the last few weeks--in Armagh and Omagh. And a large group of men were arrested within 4 miles of us--caught drilling as soldiers of an Irish Republic army apparently. And we might doubt if there is a country in the world free of internal threat against law and order--to say nothing of threats from without.

But the Communist and 'Christian Conventions' have an advantage over more democratic forms of rule by 'liquidation' and excommunication; and even they are having increasing difficulties in maintaining their authority. Excommunication was the whip that kept Europe in order for hundreds of years; and then came Protestantism to defy it, and compel it to be more moderate in its applications of terror. So these movements in Australia and elsewhere might have the effect of moderating 'Christian Conventions' imitations of Rome.

When I wrote to George and you last February, it was as I said then, a part of the setting of my house in order, and in the hope that the 35 years of estrangement might have wrought effectually in you both--to make you less religious and more human. Men of 75 ought not to be quite the same as they were at 40; and power in the prospect of the grave ought to have lost some of its glamour for them. And not the grave only, but the shadow of the Judgment Seat of Christ falling upon them ought to do something to make them afraid. Still I was not surprised that neither of you replied, although I think if I had been in your place I would--even if it had been like whistling past a graveyard!

I recall reading this when I was young: 'when God made the prophet, he did not unmake the man'. And a man ought not to be less a man but more, when in the name of the Son of God, he devotes himself to the service of his fellow men.

Writing to somebody lately, I was lamenting that our preachers were not as intelligent as they might have been, or that they had not a wider range of vision. I also wished they had been more sensitive in spirit to the great changes taking place in the world. Whatever else may be said of Wm. Irvine, he appeared to be the most heart-sensitive man among us.

Writing to me from Jerusalem he said that after what happened to him in 1914, he went to New York thinking to preach there, but he could not preach, or God was not with him; so he got an old car and drove on to California. And apparently he took heart again when you and others had that re-union with him in Santa Barbara. Then disheartenment overwhelmed him again, when it was reported to me, George wrote from Australia or New Zealand that he would have nothing more to do with him. Or that is how it was told to me. But, as I say, he was the most sensitive preacher among us when he was at himself.

There is no need among troubled and perplexed mankind for new spiritual movements that are foredoomed to founder as religious establishments. The groaning creation has deep and manifold and pressing needs, but not for new churches or new forms of worship, or new orders of preachers, or new ecclesiastical powers and authorities. Its spiritual needs are old ones and which were from the beginning of the world; the need for the forgiveness of sins; for the cleansing of the heart and the mind; for the power to live uprightly and neighbourly, and godly; and for the continual answer of a good conscience toward God and all men.

We were not religious men in our spiritual beginnings; nor ought we to be near the end of our earthly journeying. Our calling was not to be a new order of separatists, or what used to be called in America 'come outers'. There were quite too many already using the text 'come out from among them and be ye separate' in the religious conceits of their shrunken hearts; and we did not need to add to their narrow minded and small hearted number. 'Ye are the salt of the earth', and what good would separated salt be? 'Ye are the light of the world'. And what good is light under some sectarian bed or bushel? Salt, Light and Leaven: this is the trinity of good influence in the world. And if we wished to know the meaning of separateness as the disciples of Jesus, we had the grand example in Him: 'holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens'. Separate from sinners, but walking among them and eating with them, and forgiving their sins, and making them heirs of the kingdom of God--Mary Magdalene being the great outstanding example. The separateness of temple men was of an altogether different order; and not in a thousand years would they have won her love and her devotion.

But it is very late in the day to be going over such fundamental things as these. Somebody said lately that Christianity was not intended to be a religion but a way of life. Religions have their temples and their priests and their ceremonies and their creeds and their ecclesiastical orders and ordinations. And then are driven to the exercise of authority--even unto excommunication and death for the keeping of their place and their power--Calvary being the extreme example:--

The day that Jesus suffered, heaven and earth
Were deep disturbed. Dead saints from the tombs went forth,
The veil was rent that screened the holy place.
The sun in strange eclipse had hid his face.

The earth was shaken as by ague, so
Its horror at the Crime of crimes to show.
The only Powers that were not shaken then
Were those of organized religious men.

But if they were not shaken then, they were more than shaken 37 years later when the abomination of desolation stood in the holy place and the Great Dispersion began, which has not ended unto this day.

But if we said that Christianity is a religion, we might qualify it by saying it is a heroic religion, or a religion for troubled times when heroism would be needed to enable its servants and its worshippers to stand: not only against all the wiles of the devil, but against Principalities and Powers which would bind their minds and their consciences. And Principalities and Powers are not always what we think they are. They sometimes take unexpected forms, and appear in unexpected places, and exercise their harsh control in the guise of love and fellowship, and what George Walker used to call 'God's Testimony'; or what he now might call 'Christian Conventions'. When a man can say 'I may have to cut off the west' he may be a lamb, but he is speaking with a dragon's voice.

But no CONCISION ever has the final word. I was cut off 35 years ago, and here I am still with no faculty impaired; no faith lost; and with more freedom of mind and heart than any of the cutters off. I can write to them, but they must pause and consider before writing to me. I might listen to them, but they dare hardly listen to me. Like Nehemiah I can consult with myself, and act from within; but they must consult with others of a religious hierarchy, and then not act at all. I can be friendly disposed toward all men but they must be continually cutting off branches to keep them from growing over the wall--the wall that they themselves have built up--and put bits of broken bottles on the top of it--to keep trespassers out!

I doubt if there is a religion in Christendom or Pagandom that mounts guard at its places of assembly to invite in or to shut out--except that of 'Christian Conventions'.

However writing along such lines as these is not my style. I would rather write as from the heart of one stranger and pilgrim on the earth to another. I would rather have the heart movings and revealings of the Psalms, than the thunders and lightnings and earthquakes of the Revelation. I would prefer David the broken hearted father at the bedside of his dying son, to David the mighty man of valor, exterminating the men, women and children of the Geshurites, and the Gezrites--when enjoying the provision and protection of Achish king of Gath.

My wife and I prayed last year. I make that a sentence in itself. Ordinarily we go through the forms of prayer like other people; but about this time a year ago our 3rd boy Philip was carried out to a waiting ambulance and taken to hospital on suspicision of osteo-or poliomyelitis. For weeks the doctors guessed and treated, as we went down into the depths mentioned in the 130th Psalm; and came up again with the assurance that our prayers had been answered. The boy is well again, and it might almost be said of him that he is 'as fleet of foot as a young roe of the mountains'.

And it was this experience that brought us into heart-understanding fellowship with David and Bathsheba--only their son died and ours lived. Which brings us to say that such fellowship is a plant of rare growth. I used to write to one of our elder preachers now in Africa. After that occasion in Illinois 35 years ago, he wrote to a man here to say he never knew me--never having met me. But is it always necessary to see a man in the body to know him in the spirit?

We have only met men of our own generation; but do we not know the men of the generations before us--by what they wrote, or what is written about them? We would be poorly endowed indeed if we only knew men in the body; but God had mercy on us in making us spiritually acquainted with prophets and apostles of the ages before us; and we renew acquaintance with them every time we take up the Bible and read about them And while not allowed to be very sure of ourselves, we are encouraged to look forward in hope to a blessed eternity with them--because our spirit has responded to theirs.

I once heard a preacher say that fellowship meant 'fellows in the same ship'. That was before 1919--and Illinois! Then it might have meant 'fellows on the same raft'! But by and bye I concluded that that stormy passage across the sea of Galilee came nearer to it: 'fellow in the same ship with Him'.

Age and experience do many things for us; and we change our minds about many things--or else we make no progress. To me there is no virtue either in being married or unmarried, even when Rome and 'Christian Conventions' build whole religious house on the singleness of its servants. Not a priest from the Pope down dare marry--under awful penalties here and hereafter--vows being what they are.

To me there is no virtue Christian or otherwise in what you call the homelessness of preachers. Judas the apostle would have satisfied you in that respect, and Philip the evangelist would not. Yet the homeless one left the most execrated name in history--as the betrayer of the Son of God. Philip who lived at home laid foundations that apostles were pleased to build upon.

Obedience is the virtue, not its incidental consequence. Homelessness is one of the byproducts or bad fruits of heartlessness: 'He came unto His own, and His own received Him not' being the great outstanding example of it.

I never heard of a soldier making a patriotic virtue out of leaving home and kindred and father's house to go forth as one of the defenders of his country; or of having to bivouac as one of the conditions of war. Yet men who were called to the highest service known to men or angels, were neither afraid nor ashamed to go about 'bellyaching' about their renunciations and 'sacrifices', and telling how much better off they would have been if they had stayed at home and served themselves.

To me there is no virtue in meeting places--whether in homes or tents or barns or under trees. What virtue is in sitting at tables three times a day to enjoy good cooking? Imagine anybody making a virtue of putting himself about to attend a banquet. And if the communion of saints is not a spiritual banquet, what do we think it is?

To me there is no virtue in any outward observance of anything: all virtue being of the heart. A Californian girl's letter, written to me the year before her death, had this question: 'what is the greatest thing in the world?' In reply I said that the great thing in the world was A GOD-CONTROLLED HEART, and went on to explain what such a heart was, and what flowed from it. That was more than 20 years ago; and I have found no better answer since.

And to me there is no such thing as a 'one true way'. Which on this island is now like a house divided against itself into two true ways--or what the walkers therein call Reidites and Cooneyites. To me the one cancels the other out. I AM THE WAY ought to settle all controversies about it--not a religious order of any sort, but a PERSON in whom dwelt all fullness of life, all purity of heart, all depths of compassion, all wideness of sympathy, and all power in heaven and on earth to meet the needs of every soul of man and woman who come to Him for help and guidance.

And in conclusion, I recommend as a spiritual exercise or discipline--or delight, the frequent reading of the first two chapters of Hebrews, and as a corrective to all self-glorifying. In your San Diego notes, you gave Jesus the distinction of what you called 'the pattern servant'. He was that, and much more than that. Read His I AMS to find how much.

And how better could I end this letter than by quoting: 'Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.'

[Written by Alfred Magowan]
Drumlellum,
Portadown,
N. Ireland

In a letter to John Hardie dated Dec. 10, 1954, Alfred wrote:  "When J. Carroll says that the two 'fundamentals of the faith of Jesus are the preacher without a home, and the church in the home,' it is like saying that the two main parts of a motor car are the horn and the signalling arm!


NOTE: All capital letter words were capitalized in the original letter.
[Bracketed] and bolded text inserted by TTT Editor

Alfred Magowan's Letter to William (Willie) Hughes, Overseer of New Zealand
July 1st, 1957

Dear Wm. (Hughes):

I took another writing out of this CORONA to put this in after reading your letter written on your shortest day and our longest. I once wrote a poem to the tune of 'the spirit of a man is his measure'. 'Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of' was spoken as a corrective to the sons of thunder when they wanted to use Elijah as a precedent for the destroying of men's lives as they passed through Samaria.

We had two reports on Jack's [Carroll] death: one from within the 'Testimony', and the other from without. The 'without' one might have read into his tears what was not there; but the other being on the sympathetic side, hardly intended to be uncharitable. And of course it could be possible that enough prejudice still lodged in the hidden places of my heart to move me to the side of judgment, when mercy would be more becoming: seeing that I am still in the body.

And now to your wonder why I should be out of step with former friends. Writing to Jack in the year 1954, I said I had never fallen out with any of them: not even with W.I. or E.C. when tides were running strongly against them. I did not separate myself, as I would have been a little afraid that by so doing , I might be found of that company mentioned in the 19th verse of Jude: 'These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the spirit.' I felt better about it when others did the separating. And now looking back over the nearly 38 years since, it seems to me that good was brought out of evil or injury as lilies grow out of mire; and I have nothing to complain about.

Having been laid up for a few weeks in the year 1951; and then on being given what appeared to be a new lease on life, (of indefinite duration) I thought it would be good to set my spiritual relationship house in order by writing to the separators. And so it happened that my first letter was to Jack C. [Carroll]; and then to George W. [Walker]; and it was only a few months ago that a door was opened to write to James J. [Jardine]: these were the three who had to do with my 'going into the wilderness' from the Illinois convention of 1919.

And as I recall, this was the way the matter was put by one of the three: 'If you do not believe in us, why do you come to the convention?' It was not a matter with me of not believing in men, but of not agreeing with some of the things they did. Then it came as something of a shock when Jack brought a specific charge against me: that I had written a letter to one of the workers (who happened to be a boyhood companion, and a brother to my stepmother). [probably Tom Lyness] I admitted the writing, but could not see the offence. In the letter I said something to the effect that it would be nice if he and I could return home to Ireland the same year; go over old ground; and perhaps have a mission or two together. But whatever crime Jack saw in it, he said that it barred the way to any understanding and fellowship between them and me; and so there was nothing to do but come away; and I have not seen one of them since.

I do not like to be cramped or crowded or confined. I am afraid of high places, tight places, and crowded places; and this is so spiritually as well as the other way. I have always found it hard to put up with little men in large places, or SELF men in Christian places, or ruling men in serving places. I value men for their own sakes, and not for what they belong to, or for the company that they keep. I find it hard to bear with envious men, or jealous men, or ambitious men, or callous men, especially when they profess to be the disciples of Jesus. And I do not think it is God's purpose or intention that a man should hide whatever talent has been committed to him for use, to please lesser endowed men than himself, or to keep them from preaching at him.

Paul in prison, or John on the isle that was called Patmos, or Daniel by the river Ulai, or Ezekiel by the river Chebar, were not where they chose to be, but where circumstances compelled them to be; and it is to their everlasting spiritual credit and renown that they made the most of their situation, and rose to the great occasion of vision, or dream, or declaration; and wrote down how it had been with them, for the enlightenment or the comfort of those that should come after them. If Paul had kept his liberty, and continued what we would have called working missions, what are called his 'prison epistles' would never have been written, and the generation of Christians since would have been the poorer for the want of them.

It will be 50 years on the 21st of October that John Burns and I went to the heart of Kentucky as strangers in a strange land; and with 5 dollars in our pocket--survived! Had we planned the next half century of our lives, we would not have planned them as they were planned for us; and much might have been missed of needful discipline unto the kingdom of God by the 'taking of our own way', or allowing our way to be mapped out for us by men who saw no farther than ourselves. And the scriptures are not without examples of how some men's goings and doings were over-ruled and differently directed for their good, and the good of many others.

When I was gazing at the ceiling of my bedroom a few years ago, it was an opportunity to reflect on my ways; and the scripture that seemed to fit was what Paul wrote to the Philippians about not having apprehended that for which he had been apprehended. Nor did there then seem to be any prospect of pressing on toward the mark he mentioned. But I was given at least five more years; and I can only hope that they have been used to speed me a bit further on the road to the goal of 'the high calling of God in Christ Jesus'.

And about HOW a man should die, we are not allowed to have a voice in it. Alex Waddell spent a night in this room where I am writing: three years ago this summer--if I remember rightly. He intended returning last year with his American wife, but he died of the same ailment as J.C. [Jack Carroll] some months before him. I do not think it is any particular reproach to a Christian that, on looking back over his life, he should see much to mourn, and less to glory in. Paul, when provoked to glorifying by his Corinthian critics, apologized for it, and said that he would prefer to glory in his infirmities: it was much safer ground!

I wrote three letters to Jack (one was not posted) and one to George; but they apparently could not bring themselves to reply, even when I had explained that it was part of my setting my house in order; and I thought they ought to have considered replying in the same light. In the teaching we were supposed to follow, we were exhorted to go beyond what was required of us: what is called 'the second mile'; but refusing to go half a mile could hardly be looked upon as very Christian. I suppose there was no need for Jesus to pray for His enemies on the cross; but He did it, and thereby gained the greatest inward victory ever recorded on earth.

When I have considered some of the smallnesses of religious men, and by which they glory in some form of exclusiveness, I am encouraged to keep on what might be called the liberal side by recalling that Satan was not excluded from that gathering of the sons of God reported in the beginning of the book of Job, although, as it turned out afterward, he was there for no good purpose: unless we could call his trial of Job a good purpose.

E.C. used to make it something like a religious duty (if not a Christian virtue) to go to gatherings where he knew he would not be welcome. I have made it a point not to go to such places; and so I have not been to a convention in 37 years. Nor was I ever given an invitation. I met Wilson Reid a few years ago at a Tyrone burial, and invited him to have tea with me at the home of a mutual friend; but he was in a hurry back to Antrim, so I have never seen him since.

'The spirit of a man is his measure'; and what a responsibility a man takes on himself when he professes to take the spirit of Jesus and His teaching as his headline and guide! It was not religious teaching, but the teaching of righteousness; and there was nothing of partiality or narrowness in His spirit. And he was only hard on religious, and hard-hearted, and narrow-minded men who thought themselves capable of sitting in Moses' seat, and dispensing harsh judgment on those who through some frailty of the flesh had fallen foul of the law: the woman taken in adultery for instance.

And that brings me to the saying of something about W.I. I knew nothing about his flesh affairs; and have never heard anything bur rumours of the vaguest sort about them. But now that I am come to some degree of spiritual understanding--and perhaps maturity, I think I can see things in a better perspective or relationship to each other than say in the year 1914--the year of his scapegoat going into the wilderness.

And this is what I see: He became exalted, and needed to be humbled. His 'sons in the gospel' contributed to his spiritual delinquency by giving him a place that not even a Pope might claim: making him the spiritual progenitor of all Christians in our time. They helped to seat him on that most unusual throne; and would have kept him on it all the days of his life if 'sin' had not intervened to cast him from it.

So to his exalters, FLESH was more dreadful than SELF--although they knew that Satan had no flesh to degrade him, but only unlimited pride and ambition which could hardly have been satisfied with anything less than the throne of God. The SELF of the king of Babylon (Lucifer--as he was called in the prophecy of Isaiah); and of the prince of Tyrus as Ezekiel described him in the 27th and 28th chapters: that dreadful thing called SELF was what brought down wrath on them: casting them down and destroying them. And the lesson has never been learned by religious men unto this day. Morality is as far as they can see; and even the ranges of what they consider morality are the narrow confines of one particular lust of the flesh, or rather of victory over it.

So W.I. might climb and become an overlord of the souls of men, and be made into an idol by his 'sons in the gospel''; and of course they would see no 'fall' in it; but let him stray into some bypath meadow of carnal desire, and their lightnings would flash and their thunders roar, and their hail bounce off his unprotected head; and he would eventually flee into the wilderness of Judea; live in exile there for 26 years; and die with not a former friend within thousands of miles of him.

And yet, in inconsistency, those who became preachers by his example, and influence, and encouragement, can preach David in season and out of season: not considering that in the matter of morality, or what we might call 'latitude of desire' our man was what the Americans would call a 'piker' beside him! Selah!

In our going forth half a century ago, it quite apparently was intended that our very presence in a community was a test to the people of it--especially to those who called themselves Christians. We shied away from enquiring who in it was worthy; but because we made no request or demand on anybody and were no manner of burden to them, we fulfilled the requirement of our commission, and left every community in which we preached without excuse.

But at the end of the half century what test is to be applied to those who through our ministry professed the same faith as ourselves? Is nobody to be sent to us to 'test our profession' as we used to sing in one of our spiritual songs? Are no servants to be sent to our husbandmen to find out their attitude about the fruits of the vineyard? Or do we suppose that is not necessary? Or that we are to be made exceptions to the law of sending?

When Jesus spoke of sendings in that most dreadful chapter in the New Testament--the 23rd of Matthew; (and it was almost on the eve of His death) this is what He said:--'Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes; and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city; that upon you may some all the righteous blood shed upon the earth: from the blood of righteous Abel, unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar. Verily I say unto you, all these things shall come upon this generation.'

I hesitate here; but think I have been made a test for many both inside and outside the Testimony over a long period of years. Violent hands have not been laid upon me, because the law would not allow it; but I think everything else has been done to me that needed to be done for the testing of the quality of my spirit: and of course for the revealing of contrary spirits in those who made the same discipleship profession as myself. I have not claimed to be a prophet, or even a wise man; but as a scribe I am on fairly safe ground: having written, so far as I know anything to the contrary, more than any other man of my time: that is to say given more to think about.

'Enlightened' people have even drawn attention to what they considered a significant 'fact': that Jesus never wrote anything! Yet that writing on the ground has been most significant of His spirit ever since; although WHAT He wrote was never known. And then that New Covenant writing of His laws on our hears should hardly be considered insignificant by any of His disciples!

So it would seem that when religious persons search the scriptures for stones to throw at me as a scribe, the stones turn out to be boomerangs, which injure themselves instead. Do you remember 55 years ago, when John Kelly used to hold the Bible aloft, or crash his open right hand down on it, and in as near a roar as a light voice would permit, shout: "Printers' ink"? This was to emphasize the doctrine of 'the living witness', or that spoken words had power which written ones did not have. And yet, if he had considered it, he would have had nothing to SAY if men before him had not WRITTEN: the Book in his hand being a witness against him!

I mention this to illustrate an attitude toward me on the part of people who glorified in their enlightenment and thought they were doing God a good turn in driving me to the poorhouse--so to speak! And here I am 'scribing' away and thereby making some contribution to the keeping of my house in order.

And in consideration I might way that I am the kind of person who not only needs, but enjoys fellowship; and when for any reason it is denied, I do not give myself to lamentation, or to reproach of the shutters of doors; but find the encouragement I need in other directions: notably within myself, from whence I draw from the bank of memory; and apparently without risk of an overdraft!

[Written by Alfred Magowan]
Drumlellum,
Portadown,
N. Ireland


February 19, 1958

My dear John and George:

NOTE: The surnames of “John and George” are not known. When this letter was written, Jack Carroll had already passed away and Alfred knew it. It is possible they were two workers who preached while Alfred was in New Zealand in 1930. A copy of the “air mail form letter” is not available, which might have provided a clue.

In case I did not make myself clear in the air mail form letter of two days ago about preaching, this follow-up may help. We are told that ‘holy men of old spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’; and as they were also moved to the using of goose quills, we know what they said, and how they said it. They said that ‘the word of the Lord came to them’. This is how the priest-prophet Ezekiel put it: ‘The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him.’ Isaiah begins with: ‘The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.’

In the New Testament we have what is called ‘The sermon on the mount’; Peter’s preaching at Pentecost; Stephen’s ‘apology’ the day he was stoned; Peter’s preaching to Cornelius; his defence before the council of elders at Jerusalem; Paul’s preaching at Antioch and Athens, and his defence before various rulers. And the theme of all was a PERSON: ‘Phillip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.’ Paul preached Jesus and the resurrection to the Athenians. And the Acts of the Apostles ends with that picture of him as a prisoner at Rome: ‘And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him. Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.’

50 years ago we set out to preach Jesus under vastly different conditions from those of apostolic times. Then the world into which they were sent was first the Jewish and then the Pagan or Gentile world; and the name of Jesus was unknown until they proclaimed it.

We went out into a world that called itself Christian or Christendom; and in which the name of Christ was set above all other names whatsoever. The greatest temples were built in His name and to His glory. Monasteries were founded for the discipline of the souls of men in the austerities of His teaching: no possessions; no wills of their own; no contacts with the world around them; and neither flesh nor self yielded to in any of their claims for indulgence. Schools, colleges, universities for the teaching of Christian doctrine and theology, and the making of Christian ministers. Churches everywhere for Christian worship and fellowship. Missionaries sent out by Christian societies into all the world for the evangelizing of the heathen:---

Such was the world into which we were sent as the 19th century gave place to the infant 20th. And we were not sent to the heathen; and that was the great difference between us and all the apostles: at least so far as our environment was concerned; and in that our work more resembled that of the prophets than the apostles. We were sent to rebuke Christendom for its iniquities, its inhumanities, its idolatries, its prides, its greeds, its profaning of holy things, its worldlinesses in an unworldly name, its religious tyrannies in that NAME; and to roar against its Powers and its Glories as being altogether UNCHRISTIAN.

We were required to make ourselves poor; to take no sectarian name; to build up no institution in the name of our Master for the purpose of gaining religious or ecclesiastical power; to take no titles of honor, not to wear distinctive clothing; nor to compromise our commission or calling by conforming to any of the unChristianities of Christendom.

It was what we might call ‘a big order’; and we could only undertake it in a spirit of insufficiency in ourselves, or in what the apostle Paul called ‘fear and trembling’. We had no advantages of any kind; no backing by powers of any description; no traditions in which to rest; not a religious or educational molehill eminence from which we could thunder or shine; not a spot on the earth’s surface to which we might look as our headquarters; and no authority to beg as we went; and if we got into tight places, we could reinforce our weak faith by working at all sorts of honest trades with our hands. And if called upon to endure hardness, or to go hungry, or to sleep out; we had the right to do it cheerfully as part of our serving discipline, and no right to make ‘a poor mouth’ about it.

That was 50 years ago; and the world has been steadily moving on toward what is called ‘the consummation of the age’ since then. And while we had no history 50 years ago, we are half a century of it now; and the world has a right and a duty to weigh us in the same scales we used for others.

We do not yet take educational or ecclesiastical titles such as ‘Reverend’, or ‘Doctor’, or ‘Father’; or even such a mild and modern one as ‘Pastor’ or ‘Principal’ or ‘Elder’ (after the manner of the Mormons). We do not yet build religious buildings; cathedrals, churches, chapels, tabernacles, or any other to indicate our establishment on the earth. We are still moveable in keeping with the idea of pilgrimage, and the law of change in our mortal bodies, which is now called ‘metabolism’.

There is little danger of our conforming to the world in these outward things; but if we think we will be judged for the outwardnesses of our lives, we need to read again what our Lord said to Peter and other apostles about how He might find them at His coming as recorded in the last verses of the 24th chapter of Matthew. Could we imagine apostles being warned lest they should have their part with the hypocrites? Of course, and like others, we are quite liberal in meting out judgment to Judas Iscariot; but his manner of going wrong was quite exceptional, and so he is readily numbered among those whose ‘sins precede them to judgment’. No servant is guaranteed not to go wrong; and there is no dearth of examples in both Testaments of ‘falls from grace’ and other delinquencies and apostasies. Then we must allow for delusions, having seen something of them since the beginning of the time of trial in the year 1914. And in this also none of us are guaranteed not to be taken in: our hearts being what we are supposed to know them to be; and the devil being what we know him to be.

It is a very great mistake for men to preach themselves, seeing that they are still in the body; or to commend themselves as faithful servants; or even to call themselves preachers if the word of the Lord is not burning like a fire in them. ‘The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up’; that is the headline of enthusiasm for all preachers; and His word in their mouth will be as a flaming fire.

Nominalness may pass in other occupations and callings; but in this there must be enthusiasm or the fire of God. And we must never be satisfied with ourselves. And if we are wise we will not let our yesterdays set the standard or the pace for our todays and tomorrows. Nor will we allow ourselves to sit in judgment on others because they are not like us, or because they work differently from us, or ‘do not walk with us’. Rome will not allow Canterbury to preach in her pulpits; and Canterbury must give no recognition to Geneva; and Geneva must go on frowning on Epworth; and Epworth will have her doubts about Boston and Salt Lake City; and ‘True Way’ preachers must not allow that anybody but themselves can preach the gospel: and so on, world without end!

And all this talk about ‘fulfilling conditions’ by men who cannot preach is so much dust in their eyes to blind them to their inabilities. ‘IF GOD CAN SPEAK BY YOUR MOUTH’ said our greatest preacher and teacher 50 years ago, ‘that is the evidence that you are a preacher, and you need no other credentials’ was simple and clear and sufficient, and will continue to be so to world’s end. Poverty of thought is no recommendation to anything; and filling the mouth with religious expressions that have all the living juice drained out of them is like feeding babes on sawdust.

And is there anything worse in this world than religious prejudice? ‘Ye men and brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.’ And Antioch in Pisidia will remain to the end of the world as an oasis in the religious desert of the ages, because rulers of the synagogue there invited two uncredentialled strangers to address their congregation there. It was such a gesture as could scarcely be matched in Christendom from Rome to Portadown! Had a man anything to say? Then let him say it with whatever truth and clearness and force there is in him; and it might be like what is said about entertaining angels unawares. And he may be the very voice of God to us, even though there is not an accent nor an inflection, nor an expression to indicate that he belongs to us. And why should we expect him to be a belonger to anything? Jesus called Himself THE SON OF MAN in a wideness of human range that included every branch of mankind family. He was inclusive, the priests and ruler of Jerusalem were exclusive, as their Jewish and Christian successors are unto this day.

When we set out to be His disciples 50 years ago, we had no religious or denominational or small-minded ‘axe to grind.’ Our understanding was that we were to be like LIGHT and SALT and LEAVEN: to illume, to savour, and to influence. We were to be free as the air, refreshing as the rain on thirsty ground, and as warming as spring sunshine. And no organized body of people could claim us, or limit us; or as God asked Job: ‘Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow; or will he harrow the valleys after thee?’

The preacher is the freest man on earth, as the patriarchs and prophets and apostles were before him. He is every man’s servant, but nobody’s slave. He may own nothing, but the world is his to use or to despise or to refuse, according as the need may be, or according as he pleases. And his freedom is not the freedom of the carcass, but of the mind, the heart, the conscience, the will, and the soul. He goes or he stays according to his leading. He speaks or is silent according to the need, and according to the sensitiveness of his spirit. And he is never self-important, as that would cut him off from hearing the voice of God, and make him what Paul called a ‘castaway’.

He does not manufacture ‘sermons’ out of texts, or take Bible characters apart in the name of preaching. That is to say he is not a religious or a sectarian physiologist or anatomist or surgeon. He might show his knowledge and his skill in such dissections as Naaman the Syrian, Gehazi the prophetic apprentice, the Ethiopian chamberlain, Cornelius, Zacchaeus, Bartimaeus, or any one of a hundred others.

He might bring in as witnesses to the truth and power of the gospels any or all the men and women commended to us in the New Testament; but they would be dismissed as soon as their testimony should be finished. And if he ever found himself in danger of glorifying servants at the expense of his Lord, he would quickly retire to the reading and pondering of the Epistle to the Hebrews, so as to get his preaching bearings again; or to 2nd Corinthians 4:5-6 where he would read this: ‘For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord’ and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake. For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’.

God to the fathers spoke of old
By prophets He anointed;
But in these days bids us behold
The Son He has appointed
Heir of created things
Above all earthly kings:
In majesty arrayed;
By Whom the worlds were made:
The Brightness of God’s Glory.

Made higher than the angels far;
A Name to Him was given,
With Lustre more than any star:
The Brightest Light in Heaven.
Purging our sins alone;
Now seated on His Throne
With God the Lord Most High,
In Might and Majesty:
The Image of His Person.

No preacher ever exhausted or could exhaust THAT SUBJECT. And inexhaustibleness is well illustrated in the last verse of the gospel of John: ‘And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.’

And now about two things: the privilege and responsibility of preaching HIM. In the 23rd chapter of Jeremiah we read about the anger of God against prophets, of whom it is said: ‘I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.’ There is no greater privilege in this world than that of being sent to proclaim the word of the Lord; and there is no greater responsibility than that of being His messengers. Selah!

And what is the New Testament but the glorification of Jesus by the words of those who loved Him! Inwardly and deeply constrained to speak of Him; to write about Him; and all in the sure and certain prospect of suffering for Him. Where He had said ‘I AM’, they had said and written ‘HE IS’. ‘I AM the Resurrection and the Life’ he had said at the raising of Lazarus; and in that assurance they had died content.

When I have heard preachers preaching Abraham, or Moses, or David, or Isaiah, of Paul, I have wondered at them; and when they preached themselves, I wondered at the quality of their enlightenment. I knew a young man in England who went down to the seashore where people were disporting themselves on the sand, and preached Christ unto them—in himself! He would thump his chest and shout ‘Christ is come in my flesh’! And people very patiently and sensibly took him to be what he was: a self-conceited crack-pot.

And then there are the preachers who weaken the scriptures by explaining them, or make them void by small-minded interpretations as they labour to make them fit into their religious moulds. And no ‘character’ in the Bible is safe from their verbal depredations. And as Roman Titus was said to humble the Jews by driving swine through the Temple at Jerusalem, these ‘preachers’ wallow through the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, and defile or degrade or pervert the meaning of everything they touch. What is clear as crystal in itself, they muddy and confound by their explanations. I knew one of them who preached so wonderfully about the raising of Lazarus, that a man who could hardly believe his ears, came up to him at the close of the meeting and said: ‘was this man Lazarus not dead and in his grave?’ ‘Not at all’ said the preacher, ‘he was dead in trespasses and sins’!

If I had anything to do with it, I would take all holy writings away from such men until they had made their escape from religious pride and sectarian vainglory, and had been sufficiently humbled to appreciate the grace of God in letting them live long enough to discover what fools they were!

Then I would sentence them to the reading of the first and second chapters of the Epistle to the Hebrews until such time as they began to apprehend that God had actually sent His Son into our world, to be to it what the sun is to the earth.

Then I would let them have one gospel, Matthew perhaps to begin with, so they might take one or two faltering steps on to holy ground, and gradually, as it began to dawn on them that the life of Jesus was the Light of men, and eternal in its nature, they might be trusted with one of the short and simple epistles.

But they would need to be much older and wiser, and of course greatly reduced in their own esteem of themselves, before venturing on doubtful doctrinal ground, or that might be trespassed on for the making of sectarian proselytes. And if they needed a special warning, they could take one look at what has been built up in the world on the strength of five words: the words ‘I will build my church’; and run for their lives from the temptation to build any sort of religious house. Selah!

Can the Lord not be trusted for the building of His Church? If He is wise enough to gather and select the spiritual material for it, will He fail as architect and Master Builder? ‘We will build His Church’ said ecclesiastical conceit; and the history of Christendom is largely an account of the mess they made of it.

‘Except you hear me preach’ men say,
‘There is no hope for you;
For I am sent in the true way
To tell you what to do.’

Except men preach in lowliness
And keep themselves from view,
They but obscure Christ’s holiness,
And hinder what is true.

When a man needs to tell people that he is a preacher, then let him be sure that he is not. And when he says that people cannot be saved without him, he should ask himself when and where and how he came by the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

We buried a man last Sunday; and at his grave I said he was the greatest carpenter I had known. But he never needed to say it about himself, as the skill of his hands bore witness for him. So if a man is a preacher, his preaching will speak for him, as the fire of God is in him, and truth flows forth from his lips. And if he so far forgets himself as to hint that he is indispensable, and uses terror in any of its many forms to get people ‘saved’; then let him be sure he is more of priest and pope than of preacher or prophet; and his words will be like the sowing of sand or sawdust.

There are two requirements of men who think themselves called to become preachers: they ought to be sensitive in spirit, and to be blest with a large open-mindedness. I have often lamented that ‘our’ preachers were not intelligent enough for so high a calling, nor humbled enough by their deficiencies and inabilities to say with Isaiah ‘I am a man of unclean lips’, or with Paul: ‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’

In the dark days of war, I wrote a 5 page poem about ‘THE PREACHER’. Here are some passages from it:

He is not always the loud thunderer;
Betimes his voice is like a zephyr air.
If he in season blow a hurricane;
He comes again like gentle summer rain.
His sympathies have wideness of the sea;
And from the storehouse of his memory
He brings forth treasures of the new and old,
More precious than famed wedge of Ophir gold.

He feeds men’s minds; applies a healing balm
To broken hearts He speaks the storm to calm
Of wild distresses on the seas of life;
And hushed become the winds of inward strife.
He looks upon all anguishes; and men
Who had lost faith, begin to hope again.
Against iniquity he wages war,
Assured that Right will come forth conqueror.

O prophet of the Lord with lips unclean
When thou His radiant holiness had seen:
Aware of weakness, and in constant need
Of him to move thee, and of Him to lead.
What thinkest thou of self-sure messengers,
Who think themselves to be thy lawful heirs;
But in their going, walk with cautious tread,
Lest they should shock the quick, or wake the dead?

From whence may we draw apt similitudes
Descriptive of the man of many moods?
He’s like a star whose course is scarce begun
Until he fades before the Rising Sun.
A comet ranging spiritual space.
A cloud that breaks in needful showers of grace.
A Euroclydon tempest, or a gale,
Before whose fury, hateful passions quail.
A mighty river in prophetic flow.
A garden where the richest virtues grow.
A gentle wind that scarcely stirs the trees.
A hurricane that raises mountain seas.
A sower who with holy seed goes forth.
A reaper of the right fruits of the earth.
A kindly shepherd who a sheep flock feeds,
And lame or blind or ailing gently leads.
These and much else are his similitudes;
But never does he utter platitudes!

He is no sycophantic priest of Baal,
Who courts the favour of some Jezebel.
No flatterer, addict to shameless guiles,
Who inwardly darkly frowns—and outward smiles.
He does not cultivate luxurious taste;
Could live on what the parasites would waste.
No prophet is revered in his own land.
His nearest kinsman do not understand.
He needs must leave some town of Galilee,
So that He may be loved in Bethany.

His manners are in keeping with his heart.
With hurtful men he has no lot or part.
He knows men’s feelings, and he would not break
The bruised reed, or base advantage take.

Ironical with knaves; but with the fool
He uses tack,--but never ridicule.
He gives no place to dark religious hate;
Was never known to excommunicate.

Beyond all Institutions is MAN’S SOUL.
THE SPIRIT PERFECTED creation’s goal,
To which all Life’s experiences tend;
And all things work together to that END.

And of course there can be no pride of importance in any man who ever got a glimpse of his own heart; and the best he can say is: ‘by the grace of God I am what I am.’

A.M.


Some Marks of the True People - The Elect.  (posted in TTT Photo Gallery) This piece has no author's name, no date and is professionally printed. The typeface is a rather distinctive Victorian style lettering that was introduced in the early 1890s, first in America and shortly afterward in Britain, and likely continued in use for a maximum of 10-15 years before it would have been outdated. Thus, it was possibly printed between 1890 and 1905.

This piece was included in Alfred Magowan's massive archive of writings and provided to TTT by his son, David, who also provided a subsequent list (not printed) titled: Some Other Marks Of The Elect (At Their Best) Observed Some 18 Or 20 Years Later. A similar piece was found in George Walker's possessions after his death which has often been attributed to Geo. Walker's authorship. There are some minor differences and an additional four lines in the two copies.

The authorship is uncertain.


Testimonial Letter by Sara K. Dawson dated August 18, 1913

c/o Mrs. Britton
1307 Shawnee St.
Mt. Vernon, Illinois U.S.A.
18th August 1913

Before going to preach I lived with an Aunt of mine (Miss E. Hughes) at 79 Grove Park, Rathmines, Dublin. I was brought up a Presbyterian. Attended the United Free Church of Scotland, Lower Abbey Street.

Some years before I went forth to preach I attended some meetings which caused me to see I needed to be born again and that the way laid down in the Scripture was for today. Preachers going forth two by two leaving home and all for His sake and those in their homes living the life too, according to the pattern seen in Jesus.

I lived at home for over three years before I left to go to preach I met quite a number of the preachers out in this way. During that time in Dublin and altho’ my Aunt could not see as I did, yet she was glad when they called at her home and found them all they professed to be.

Then I decided to go forth to preach, joining another young lady as we always go two by two. I worked awhile in Ireland and England.

About this time last year I crossed to America with a number of ladies on the vessel called “The Dominion,” Liverpool. My Aunt saw us off at the train at Kingsbridge leaving for Queenstown. She wished me every success and said I would be welcome to come back any time which I am always at liberty to do whenever I choose.

We landed in Philadelphia. A friend of mine met us there when we came off the boat. (Mrs. Jackson Stewark, 5733 Fernard St F.K.D Phil) entertained us for a few days before leaving for Baltimore where there were a series of meetings for the deepening of spiritual life (at Mr. Hawkins, Brooklyn, Maryland). From there we visited Mr. & Mrs. Nutter Logan, Ohio. We received with much kindness.

Coming to Illinois in October to Mr. & Mrs. Harrison Clay City, Illinois, where we held some meetings. After the meetings were over I joined Miss Bessie Adams to go to hold Gospel Meetings in different places. We started in Southern part of Illinois. Have been working in these parts ever since. Held meetings in a church in “Sacramento” which the people enjoyed and said our teaching and manner of living were all in accordance with the Scriptures. We received hospitality in the different homes.

The life since I came out to preach has benefited me spiritually and physically as it is a more healthful occupation everything in connection with the life tends to improve one’s mind and body and is up to the highest standard of morality.

Since I landed in America, I have corresponded regularly with my Aunt and other relatives in Dublin and hear quite often from them.

Above address is my central address. I have visited Mr. & Mrs. Britton and am always welcome, also at Mr. & Mrs. Hays, Fl. Gaza Illinois and others whom I could mention.

Yours sincerely

Sara K. Dawson


Testimonial Letter by Jessie Dawson dated August 8, 1913

C/o Mr. & Mrs. W. J. Koeniger
Pendleton, R42
Indiana U.S.A.
8th August 1913

Dear Brother,

Since I came to this country I have been preaching one year in Illinois. This year in Indiana. Previous to this I preached in Scotland and have never regretted the choice I made over 6 years ago in gospel meetings held in Dublin by preachers who were seeking to live true for God and putting His interest first.

No person compels me to live and preach this Way. It is my own free choice as I seek to live for God and the extension of His Kingdom.

Two lady preachers always go together. My companion’s name is Kate Armstrong. We have been almost one year together in Indiana having gospel meetings in different places where we can get a suitable home and building to stay in while there. We have made several friends as we go from place to place.

The above address is our central one, people who live pure clean lives. Also Mr. & Mrs. Britton, 1307 Shawnee St., Mount Vernon, Illinois; Mr. & Mrs. J. Knosc, 745 Cleveland Av., Philadelphia, PA; Mrs. Abernethy, 1649 Ayre St., Philadelphia, PA. Latter where I stayed when I landed in Philadelphia two years ago next October.

My Aunt, Miss E. Hughes, 79 Grove Park, Rathmines, Dublin writes to me regular and will welcome me back anytime I wish to go. I lived with her and did housework before going out to preach on the 7 July, 1907.

I have good health and enjoy the work and am very happy and contended.

Yours in Christ Service

Jessie Dawson


Read additional material about and by Alfred Magowan:

About Alfred Magowan

Outline of the History of a Peculiar People from 1900-1931

Testimony of a Witness for the Defence, January 13, 1956

Cross-Examination of a Witness and Address to the Jury, 1956

TTT Photo Gallery photographs of Magowans

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William Irvine
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