Belfast Telegraph

Bishop got to heart of message for a dying man

Thought for the weekend

Rev Gareth Burke, Stranmillis Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Belfast

In a railway carriage in a French forest, the Armistice which brought to an end the First World War was signed on November 11, 1918.

This year marks the one hundredth anniversary of that event.

Many exhibitions, lectures and events have been arranged to mark this anniversary.

It's good to reflect upon what happened during the grim years of 1914-1918 and, hopefully, our consideration of these years will create within us a respect for those who served and died, as well as a deep sense of regret at the massive loss of life that occurred.

Just the other day I was hearing about someone who served in the First World War, though his service took a rather different form to the norm.

Anglican Bishop John Taylor Smith served as Chaplain General during the war and made a significant contribution to the spiritual well-being of those who served in the Armed Forces.

A noted evangelical, Bishop Smith had served as Bishop of Sierra Leone prior to his appointment as the senior Army Chaplain.

He was very anxious that those who volunteered to serve as chaplains shared his Gospel centred convictions.

During the interview of one would-be chaplain, he asked the candidate the following question: "If, on the field of battle, you came across a man who was dying and probably only had a matter of minutes to live - what would you say to him?" The interviewee replied: "I would take out the prayer book and read some appropriate prayers."

For Taylor Smith, this answer was simply inadequate.

He expected the response to be along these lines - "I would tell the dying man that there is a Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I would encourage the man to turn from his sin right there and then and to look in faith to Jesus Christ while there was yet time."

For the Chaplain General, faith in Jesus was everything.

Anything less than this would simply not do.

His convictions might be a hundred years old, but he's right.

Jesus Christ is our only hope, in life and in death.

Belfast Telegraph

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