Notes of a Fellowship Meeting at St. Judes, Glasgow
Taken down by a listener
AT this fellowship or “question” meeting, on Friday, 8th November 1929, the verse proposed was that about the Samaritans who had heard the testimony of the woman of Samaria, and said to her, “Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). Mr James Nicolson, Clydebank, the elder who proposed the verse, or “gave out the question”, evidently asked that the speakers would give marks of those people who know Jesus Christ as the Saviour, and who have faith in Him, as opposed to those who profess this but whose conduct shows that they are yet unbelievers. The presiding minister, the late Rev. Neil Cameron, after making some explanatory remarks about the verse, or “opening the question”, called on several of the professing men present to speak. What follows is the translated and edited version of notes of the extemporaneous comments of some of the speakers, who all spoke in Gaelic. The meeting was brought to a conclusion by the late Rev. Neil MacIntyre making some summing up remarks.
IN opening the question, Rev. Neil Cameron said, “The woman of Samaria, when she went to draw water that day, was a sinner in the city, but she was one on whom the love of God rested from all eternity. The world may kick against election, but not one of the elect shall go to eternal damnation. Instead of cavilling at the Scriptures, men should search them.
“This woman would not even give Christ a drink of water. And when He began to teach her, she was sharp enough with her tongue, until at last her sins were brought home to her when Christ said, Go, call thy husband, and come hither. I have no husband, she answered. Jesus said to her, Thou has well said, I have no husband; for thou hast had five husbands, and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly. Her sin was brought home to her but Christ did not leave her there; He continued teaching her.
“Then she said, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ; when He is come, He will tell us all things. Jesus said unto her, I that speak unto thee am he (verses 25-26). Although others might have told her that Jesus was the Messiah, what was that to her if Christ Himself had not told her? There is no Saviour in the world but Christ, but if this truth is not brought home to the conscience by the Lord Himself, nothing else will do so. When Christ said to her, I that speak unto thee am he, like many others since her day she forgot what she came for. She left her water pots at the well and went back to the city.
“She told the men of the city to come and see a man who told her all things that ever she did. If this Person has met you He will have told you all things that ever you did. You will have learned that everything that you ever did, or thought, is naked before His all-seeing eye. He told me all things that ever I did. Is not this the Christ? This made the men of the city go to see Him for themselves. They believed her in a historic way, but when they heard Christ for themselves, they could say, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world. If you have received Christ you will be saying that you have what no worldly person has.
“The men of Samaria, in hearing the Word of God that day, were made alive by it. It is the Word alone that can awaken a sinner, and make him realise his awful state in view of eternity. Previously, he could sleep like a stone, but now he feels that the wrath of God is upon him, and he is much afraid and has no rest. It was said of big John MacRae, who was renowned for his great physical strength, that he felt so weak when he was under conviction of sin that a small stone on the road would make him stumble and fall. I do not mention this to take away the hope of the Lords people everyone has not the same degree of conviction of sin. If God convinced you in such a manner that you fled to Christ for refuge and were enabled to embrace Him as He is offered in the Gospel, and you have no other Saviour but Christ, ask for no more law work.
“God is angry with the wicked every day, and the people of God felt this. They also felt their need of Christ, and that there was no salvation in any other, nor any other name under heaven, given among men whereby they must be saved, but His name. They saw in Him everything they needed for time and eternity. They cannot live without Him. It is true of them as it was of the Apostles of old, when they were asked, Will ye also go away, that they must answer, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.”
Captain K. K. MacLeod, Edinburgh. “Those who know Christ, know Him in three ways. They came so near Him, that they knew the words of His mouth, the breath of His mouth, and the kiss of His mouth and when they got this kiss, it put sin out by the door. He told me all things that ever I did: and, indeed, if anyone told you all things that ever you did, you would know who He was.
“When He came to tell this people that they were lost sinners, dead in trespasses and sins, he saw that their great concern was how they were to get on in this world: they had no word of concern about their poor souls. They may sometimes have had convictions of sin which were sending them to their knees, but they had no understanding of the Three Persons in the adorable Trinity. They knew not the Mediator. When they heard a sermon, they would be saying, It is this man or that man it refers to; not to me.
“But a day came upon them when they had to say, I am the man. No one could convince them that day but that there was a hell. They realised that it was to hell they were going, unless God in His mercy would forgive them. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, and a thing that will make those who receive it sing throughout eternity.
“This people now tried to build up for eternity, and to earn forgiveness by their own works, but the Spirit breathed on these works and blew them away. They could not stand before God. In Gods sight, by the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified (Gal. 2:16). Their cry now was, O that He would come and speak a word of forgiveness to me! They would sometimes get passages of Scripture coming to their minds, but they could not take them to themselves, because no power came with them.
“But then they received the Word with power, and were enabled to embrace Christ in the Gospel. They became now like the prodigal son when he went home and received the kiss of forgiveness and reconciliation from his father. If one were to ask the prodigal that day, Are you sure it was your father? he would say, O yes, he kissed me. I am sure it was he. When he was returning home, he would have been satisfied to be only a servant in his fathers house, and to get something to eat. But these thoughts went away; the kiss of forgiveness changed everything.
“So this people may say, as did the Church, His mouth is most sweet (Song. 5:16). Was it not sweet to you too, poor child of God? O yes! It was sweet to your conscience when He spoke peace to your soul. Some have more experience of that than others. Look at the difference between the experience of Lydia and that of the Philippian jailor: but their hearts were opened, and they could not get enough of Him. Lydia was saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and abide there. They not only want Him, but they want His people also. As Ruth said, Thy people shall be my people.
“But how are they now? Are they not mourning, O how I have sinned Him away! How I have quenched the Spirit away from myself! How guilty I am! O what an evil heart I have! What terrible thoughts come in there. Although we have the Gospel, how we quench the Spirit! O that the Spirit would come to me again! O that I saw Him working in my family! He is more precious than the whole world, and without Him everything is empty.”
John Campbell, Glasgow. “It is not enough for this people to hear from others that Christ is a Saviour. Nothing will satisfy them but knowing Him as their own personal Saviour, and being enabled to embrace Him as He is freely offered in the Gospel. None but Christ can meet their needs. To know Him is life eternal.
“It is the Holy Spirit who awakened them from the spiritual death in which they lay, and made them realise that they were lost for eternity. It became a personal matter with them now. Their desire was, O to have Christ as my own, for without Him I am undone. But a day came on them when they heard Him for themselves, and were made able to believe and to close in with Him as their own. In Him they have all that they need for time and for an endless eternity. He is the one that finished the work that the Father gave Him to do.
“The saviour which the world has is one who can go with them to all their worldly vanities, but that is not the Saviour of the Lords people. They feel their need of Christ Himself to create in them a clean heart and to renew a right spirit within them, and to wash them from their sins in His own blood in the fountain that was opened for sin and for uncleanness. This is the fountain where all the saints shall be washed from their sins, and their song throughout eternity will be: Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.
“This people mourn over how little this great Saviour is thought of in the world, and how He is despised by the world.”
John MacAulay, Applecross. “We heard a great deal tonight about conviction of sin, and that is a thing that cannot be fully expressed. It is Gods work and it is unspeakable. They were ruined in themselves, but they got a ray of hope in Christ, for it was there that the mercy of God was shining out.
O that men to the Lord would give
praise for his goodness then (Ps. 107:8, metrical).
When they were enabled to receive and embrace Christ as He is offered in the Gospel, they could truly say:
I love the Lord because my voice
and prayers He did hear (Ps. 116:1, metrical).
My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand (Song 5:10). Yea, He is altogether lovely (Song 5:16). Angels could not save them; they had to have Christ Himself He who bore the curse of the law for them. No wonder they would rejoice in Him!”
James Campbell, Inverness. “At the time when this people discovered that they had an immortal soul, they were as ignorant as the woman here to whom Christ was speaking. They were exceedingly dark concerning the things that belonged to their peace, but they were brought to realise that although they got the whole world for themselves, it would not help them.
“And they saw in the Scriptures how He dealt with others who were ignorant and blind like themselves; how He opened their eyes and enlightened their minds in the knowledge of Christ Jesus and this put a desire in their hearts to have Him for themselves, for they felt that if they got Him, they would be right for eternity. They saw that others got a saving interest in Christ, and it was their greatest desire to have this too.
“Now they see in Christ all they need. None other in the world will make up what they lost in the Fall but Christ Himself. They learn step by step more of Him and His ability to bring peace to their souls.”
Malcolm MacLeod, Raasay. “It is a solemn thing for me to give marks of those who have this precious faith. When the Holy Spirit convinced them of their sins, it was to the law they immediately went to see if they could work out a righteousness of their own; but they were made to learn that by the works of the law, shall no flesh shall be justified (Gal. 2:16). When the Holy Spirit revealed Christ to them in the gospel, He became precious to them. He is all they desire, and they can say with the Psalmist:
Whom have I in the heavens high,
but thee O Lord alone?
And in the earth whom I desire
besides thee there is none (Ps. 73:25, metrical).
“Before that time, nothing troubled them with regard to their souls, but now many things are a trouble to them. They learn what Christ says: Without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5), and they know that unless He would undertake for them they would be lost for eternity.
“Also, they left all things and followed Christ; not that they could do it of themselves, but this was their desire, and they were enabled to do so. They turned their backs on their former companions in sin, but the majority of those who profess to know Christ in our day, still have their old companions, and can still enjoy their company. This people turned their backs on their sins. Those of them who, for example, were addicted to drink, gave it up. This people are no more to be found among their former vain companions in sin; no more at gatherings for vain songs. They are finished with these things.
“This people finds no fault with the Word of God, but others will be cavilling at it. What the Lords people have is this, The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good, . . . but I am carnal (Rom. 7:12, 14).
“They have this mark also: they want to call others to Christ because they have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Unless this poor woman had tasted that the Lord is gracious in having her sins forgiven, her feet would not have taken her into the city. He did forgive her, and hence she called on all to come to Him.”
Alexander MacDiarmid, Vatten. “It is clear that saving faith does not come by hearing mere men, but God Himself brings each one personally, whom He purposes to save, to hear His Word savingly. And once they receive this faith, none can ever take it from them again.
“They may have many fears: Do they really belong to Christ? Did the right work begin in them? And these fears will be so great at times that they will be coming to the conclusion that they have no faith at all but yet it is there.
“There is not one of them but believes the truth of the Scriptures, and that not because of outside witnesses; they have the witness in themselves. They believe that men are sinners, and that they themselves are sinners they have no doubt about that. They will not deny that there is such a place as hell, for they saw clearly that they were going there, unless God would deliver them. Some profess to know these things but live as if there were no such things at all. This people believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ of God, the Saviour. Christ said to Peter, Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father (Matt. 16:17) so it is with them.”
Alexander MacKay, Staffin. “There was a day when this people would argue, What sin is in this and that thing? They would not deny but that there was sin in theft, murder and adultery, but they would go on in their vanities of singing and dancing, and would argue, Whats wrong in these?
“But a day came when they changed their minds about these things. They did know, to some extent, the answers in the Shorter Catechism: that the Fall brought man into an estate of sin and misery, and that God did enter into a Covenant of Grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer, but they had no spiritual knowledge of these things, and took no delight in them.
“Another day came in which they took delight in these things. They began to realise that there was a law, Gods law, and that they were breaking this law, and that the wages of sin is death. They had no doubt but that they were now under the sentence of death. They justified God in this and they realised that justice demanded that they should be punished. They began to understand also a little of God revealing Himself in Christ, the work that Christ finished, and His suitability to be their Mediator. They desired above all things to be in Christ. He came to his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.
“They now desire to be freed from the world and its ways. Whereas previously they would walk seven to fourteen miles to a concert, now they would walk twenty miles to hear about Christ.”
Duncan MacAskill, Glendale. “This people felt the sentence of death in themselves, and realised that it was with God they had to deal. They did all they could in trying to work out a righteousness of their own and spent all that they had, as did the woman who had the issue of blood, and were nothing better.
“But when they were enabled to embrace Christ, they would commit a thousand souls to Him if they had them they saw so much in Him. We beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14). They got a wonderful revelation of Him. He became precious to them. He became their all. The wrath of God and the curse of the law due to them as sinners fell upon Him, and it is on account of this that they love Him. They also love His Word, His means of grace and His people.
“They mourn on account of the large numbers of people on the broad way to destruction, and because of graceless ministers leading the poor people astray the blind leading the blind until they will at last fall into the pit. The devil never got more support than he gets from graceless ministers.”
Alexander MacKenzie, Dingwall. “There is comfort in this chapter for the people who have tasted that the Lord is gracious. It shows here that the Lord can be gracious to a sinner no matter how evil or numerous may be the sins which that person is guilty of. Those who have tasted that the Lord is gracious were convinced of their sins. I have to confess that Sabbath breaking, which I was guilty of in my youth, frightens me more today than anything else.
“Another day came on this people (and I should question myself if that day came on myself) when they received peace through the blood, and they could never put into words or tell any creature what that meant peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ. Some of them praise the Lord that it was in the Free Presbyterian Church they were born and not where there is no gospel. I would praise Him today that it is in this meeting in St. Judes I am, when I think about the awful sin that goes on all around us. Glasgow was a different Glasgow when I knew it sixty years ago, but O! how is it today? Then, Sabbath was a peaceful day; nothing to be seen but an odd horse and trap bringing some farmer in from the country to the Church.
“The Lords people have many troubles in the world, but no matter what these are, they will not part with Christ. At one time I thought that when I would enter the church the preacher would say to me, Go out! I cannot preach when such a sinful creature as you is here. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound. They will also be tried in this world, but, as the Apostle Paul said, I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:38-39).
Kenneth Matheson, Dingwall. “It was Christ who made the change in this woman. Christ had to go through Samaria; and Christ must needs come to all who are to be saved, to make them His saved people.
“They all had a terrible disease that was bringing them to hell, and this Great Physician made them realise that. They learned that God was true and every man a liar, and they thought that He was going to cast them off for ever to hell as they deserved. But it was from His very mouth, from which they expected the word of condemnation, that they got the kiss of reconciliation. How sweet was that kiss of reconciliation to them! It was all of free grace. They were taken into the kingdom of grace and shall never be put out of it.
“Before this, they tried many ways of their own to save themselves, but Christ took them out of these false ways, as He did this woman. As she was on her way into the city she was now getting drinks out of the Wells of Salvation; and so do the Lords people. They have this mark, they want the Word of God to rule in themselves, in their families, and in the Church to which they belong.
Captain MacIntyre. “It is a marvellous way in which God meets with sinners and deals with them in mercy in this world. That was the case with the woman of Samaria; and it was the case with the man who was possessed with devils in the country of the Gadarenes; and it is the case with each individual.
“The Samaritans listened to what this woman had to say, but in our day, men will not move from their beds to hear the Word of God, as if they had no souls at all. When they heard of Him, and of His character, they went to hear Him for themselves, and what they had to say was this: Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world.
“We have the Word of God still, and we are all sinners, whether we believe it or not, and we will find out this either in mercy or in judgement. Christ, the Saviour of the world, is set before us in the Gospel, but by nature we will not believe. It is the Holy Spirit alone that can teach us; no other teaching will do.
“In this land we have quenched the Holy Spirit. In the greater part of Scotland there are ministers who have no spiritual knowledge just a natural knowledge. We are told that the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14). I knew a man and he was at sea for years as an engineer. He thought he would be more suitable as a farmer than an engineer, so he got a farm. But he was ignorant of the things a farmer should know, and he did not even know his own sheep when he would see them. That is the case with graceless ministers: they do not know the flock. As I said once to a man, I was 40 years at sea, and now I suppose you would not take me as a shepherd? No! and pity the sheep if he were to take me. Well, that is the way with graceless ministers: they are in the wrong place.”
James MacKay, Edinburgh. “This woman was a poor ignorant creature, but what a great change came over her. She became a useful woman, and it is a pity that we do not have many of her kind.
“Those who are taught by the Holy Spirit have no hope in anything they themselves can do, and put their Amen to this: that they have destroyed themselves. They now feel themselves to be very unlike what they profess to be. God says of them that they are His witnesses: Ye are my witnesses (Is. 43:10). But although they will be finding themselves so unlike what they profess to be, they like to see others witnessing on the side of Christ. They seek to thank the Lord that there are a few witnesses left in the world yet and a few here tonight to whom they feel attached, and who seek to praise the Lord for the witness of 1893. And although they feel themselves so unlike what they should be, and so weak, their desire and constant cry is, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee (Ruth 1:16).”
Alexander Murray, Dornoch. “We believe it is a mark on those whom the Lord has called by the power of His Word, that they are no longer bound by the ties which held them in days gone by. And they are therefore seeking, by the power of this Word that has been spoken to them, that they would be brought nearer to the Lord Jesus Christ, and that they would be faithful witnesses to the great work He has done for them. It was a great price He paid for them, for they were bought with His own precious blood. And the shelter of the blood is the only place which they find to be suitable for themselves as sinners, when they are brought face to face with the law of God, which manifests the high and holy righteousness that is His, and the righteousness He requires in them.
“They have this hope: that He will carry through to the completion the good work He has begun in them. But there are times when they find difficulty in seeing this. In the day of their espousal, they felt a warmth and love in their soul to Christ, but oh what barrenness they feel there now!
“Nevertheless, the Word of God is precious to them, and they know what it is to have the Word as a fire kindled in their soul. As it is the nature of fire to burn up the dross and purify the gold, so it is with this fire: it will burn up all the dross of sinful nature and carnality. It will be purifying their nature to make them more like their Lord Jesus Christ, until at last their song will be, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood (Rev. 1:5).”
The closing remarks were made by the Rev. Neil MacIntyre, Edinburgh. “We heard at the beginning how this woman left her vessels at the well and went to tell others of this wonderful Person who told her all things that ever she did. When she went back to the city, surely the people there were seeing some difference in her. I do not think that they would have paid much attention to her ordinarily on account of her sinful life but it seems that the way in which she spoke, and her manner, showed there was a difference in her. The person who hears Gods Word in a saving way undergoes a change, and that change is to be seen. The godliness that does not change a man on the outside is not that to which people will pay much attention. In our young days the professing people had a powerful influence upon the people among whom they lived.
“The woman, when she returned to the city, said, He told me all things that ever I did. Josephs brethren, when they returned, said, The man spoke roughly to us, and who would have thought that this was the man that was to help them. And that is how the Spirit deals with the poor sinner. It will be difficult for them to realise in that day, that it is a good work that is begun in them, as it was for Josephs brethren to realise that it was none other than Joseph. But when he said to them, I am Joseph, they knew it was he; and that is how it is with the Lords people when Christ reveals Himself to them in His Word. But many a day since then they fear it was not He who spoke to them in His Word, sealing forgiveness on their consciences.
“The question was put to Archibald Cook on one occasion, Which do you fear most, that which has gone past in your life, or that which is to come? He replied that it was what was past in his life. He was asked, Why is that so? Well, I mean this, he said, if what took place in the past was right, I fear not what will come after. If the beginning was right, all will be right. The believer is sure that if the beginning was right, the end will be right. If we do not hear the voice which the woman of Samaria heard, sealing peace on our conscience, we shall hear it at last saying, Depart from me ye cursed.”