Testimony Section

"ACTIVE SERVICE BOOKLETS" FROM THE GREAT WAR

Active Service Booklets

In all the publicity surrounding the 100th anniversary of the commencement of the 1st World War little seems to have been written about the Active Service booklets that were given to the soldiers and sailors.
The Scripture Gift Mission, together with the Naval and Military Bible Society, produced millions of copies of the Gospel of John and also of the complete New Testament for distribution.  The books were small in size so that they would fit into the top pocket of a uniform. Throughout the war there were various editions and there are some variations in what was included in the front and back pages, but all of the books issued to soldiers carried a facsimile hand-written message from Lord Roberts, a retired Commander in Chief of the British army; it read:
Lord Roberts Message


25th Aug 1914
I ask you to put your trust in God. He will watch
over you and strengthen you. You will find in this little Book guidance when you are in health, comfort when you are in sickness, and strength when you are in adversity.
Roberts FM


The books issued to sailors contained a message from Admiral Jellicoe, Commander of the British Grand Fleet.




In many of the Testaments Lord Roberts' message was followed by the page shown below:


THE WAY TO LIFE

I am a sinner
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own
way: - Isaiah 53:6

Beyond self-help
By grace ye are saved through faith: and this not of yourselves: it is the gift of
God: not of works, lest any man should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9

But Jesus can save me
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

He is the bearer of my sin
The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all - Isaiah 53:6

Because God loved me
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life John 3:16

Jesus is my Saviour
But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of
God, even to them that believe on His name.  John 1:12
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. Acts 16:31

I acknowledge Him as my Lord
If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart
that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart
man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth is confession made
unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10

And trust Him to keep me
But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil
  2 Thessalonians 3:3


In some of the booklets these passages were printed in bold in the body of the text along with number of other passages such as:

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not on the Son shall not see life: but the wrath of God abideth on him John 3:36,

and

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through His name. John 20:31.

Hymns were printed at the back of many of the Gospel books, the most common being:

  • Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
  • Sun of my soul, my Saviour dear
  • O God our help in ages past,
  • All hail the power of Jesus' name
  • Jesus, lover of my soul·   
  • Abide with me
  • When I survey the wondrous cross
  • Just as I am without one plea
  • Jesus the very thought of Thee
  • Eternal Father, strong to save
  • Fight the good fight
  • Onward Christian soldiers

Finally, printed on the inside of the back cover was the "Decision Card" .  Again this varied between the various editions

Decision Card
Being convinced that I am a sinner, and believing that Christ died for me, I now accept Him as my personal Saviour, and with His help I intend to confess Him before men

But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His name. John 1:12
.
Name _________________________________
Address________________________________

If you desire any further spiritual guidance please apply to the
Secretary, Scripture Gift Mission, 15 Strand, London WC

Large numbers of soldiers signed these cards and many also followed this up by writing to the Scripture Gift Mission (SGM), or to the people who had given out the books.  One wrote to the SGM: I have signed the Decision Form at the end of the Gospel of John that was given to me at the station. I have accepted Christ as my Saviour.  I wish you would pray for me in the hour of trial.

The books were given out by churches, the London City Mission, nursing organisations and very many individuals.  The Mayor of one town in Cheshire personally gave a copy to every recruit from his town as he swore them in.  One man who visited an army camp in Hampshire where men were training prior to going to France said that 20 men signed the card in one day bringing the number known to him who had signed at the camp to 163.  Another distributor recorded that 70 men signed in one day.

Heyman Wreford (known to some readers of this magazine as the author of Christ is the Saviour of Sinners  included in the poetry section of this issue) gave away a number of the Active Service Testaments. Two of the Testaments given out by him both with signed Decisions are held in the Imperial War Museum's collection in London. Dr Wreford affixed a personal message on the inside front cover of each book. This message and the decision of William J Barnon are reproduced below:

    The Firs
    Denmark Road
    Exeter
    England
Dear Friend,
If you want to go to heaven this book will show you the way. If you want your sins forgiven, it will tell you of the precious blood of Jesus that cleanseth from all sin.

If I can help you to Christ, or help you on you way to heaven, do write to me.

SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

Read:- John iii.16  John iii.36   Acts ii.21  Eph.ii.8&9  Acts xvi.31

HEYMAN WREFORD
Decision Card

Being convinced that I am a sinner, and believing that Christ died for me, I now accept Him as my personal Saviour, and with His help I intend to confess Him before men

But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them who believe on His name. John 1:12.

Date 30/11/17  Liege Bty
Name Gr. W. Barnon
Address 11, Thomas St. Grangetown Cardiff

If you desire any further spiritual guidance please apply to the
Secretary, Scripture Gift Mission, 15 Strand, London WC

The Decision date is interesting; it coincides with the ending of the battle of Passchendaele.

As part of the commemoration of the Great War, the Scripture Gift Mission now known as Lifewords has produced a facsimile edition of the Gospel of John as issued to the troops. God used the horrors of the Great War, and there were horrors aplenty, to make many aware of their need of Christ and to trust in Him. Let us pray that the issue of the commemorative edition will not just be regarded as another souvenir but will result in many seeing that they are sinners and accepting Christ as a personal Saviour and confessing Him before others.  Ed.

Extracted from LW124


IN THE STEPS OF GEORGE WISHART

George Wishart, preacher and martyr, was born at Pitarrow, Forfarshire, Scotland in 1513. He grew up in disturbing times when there was a power struggle going on after King James IV was killed at the battle of Flodden. Two men came to rule Scotland the Earl of Arran, who became Governor, and David Beaton, Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews. Arran's religion varied according to whatever he thought would increase his influence, while Beaton was unwavering in upholding the power of the Church of Rome.

It is not certain when Wishart began to trust in Christ. It may have been when he was in Germany as part of his education, but some ascribe it to his reading of the Greek New Testament. Either way, in 1538 he distributed Greek New Testaments to his students at Montrose Academy, turning Greek lessons into an opportunity for the gospel. When as a result he was summoned by the local Bishop, Wishart fled to Cambridge where he was invited by Hugh Latimer to preach in Bristol.

On 15th May 1539 Wishart preached his first sermon at St Nicholas, Bristol. He boldly challenged Roman doctrines and preached salvation through Christ alone. He was soon accused of heresy. In July he appeared before a Church Commission and was condemned and made to confess his error. After this humiliation Wishart fled to the Continent.

From 1539 to 1542 in Zurich and Geneva he learned a great deal from Heinrich Bullinger (successor in Zurich to Zwingli, who had been killed in battle in 1531) and from John Calvin in Geneva. Bullinger's ministry was characterised by careful study of the Scriptures and a deep sense of the love of God. Wishart also saw at first hand the disastrous effects of Zwingli's resort to force; it was a lesson that lasted the rest of his life. In Geneva Wishart translated into English the 1536 Swiss Confession of Faith and had this printed when he returned briefly to Cambridge in 1542.

There is a description of Wishart about this time by Emery Tylney. Wishart was A man of tall stature, black haired, long bearded, comely of personage, courteous, lowly, glad to teach, desirous to learn, well travelled. He was a man modest, temperate, fearing God, hating covetousness.

At the end of July 1543 Wishart was back at Pitarrow and spent the next eighteen months studying the scriptures and thinking of what he had learned on the Continent. By late spring 1545 Wishart took a house near the church in Montrose and commenced expounding the scriptures to large numbers.

Invited to preach in Dundee, he systematically went through the epistle to the Romans drawing on what he had learned from Bullinger. On one occasion a Magistrate commanded him to stop preaching heresy. Wishart responded telling those present that he had preached among them the word of salvation but that now he must leave.

Invited to preach in Ayr he was barred from the church. Some of Wishart's followers wanted to force their way in but he dissuaded them and preached at the market cross instead. This experience made Wishart realise that he found greater liberty outside than in a church. Moving on to Galston and Mauchline again the churches were barred to him and he preached in a meadow, saying, Christ Jesus is as potent in the fields as in the Kirk. He Himself oftener preached on the mountain, in the desert and at the seaside than in the temple. God sends by me the word of peace and the blood of no man must be shed this day for the preaching of it. Laurence Rankin, Laird of Sheill, a thoroughly godless man, was converted at Mauchline. The change in his life and his public confession of faith influenced many.

Bubonic plague broke out in Dundee in August 1545 and Wishart was asked to return. Because of the plague he preached outside standing on the Cow gate. Here one day a priest tried to stab him. Wishart seized him, pinning his arms to his side. Some in the crowd wanted to kill the priest but Wishart begged for the attacker to be allowed to escape. "He who touches him will trouble me" he said.

While at Dundee he received news that a church Synod was planned for January 1546 and a suggestion that Wishart should attend accompanied by a group of Protestant supporters. Wishart welcomed this proposal and as soon as the plague ended in Dundee he went back home to Pitarrow.

Late in November Wishart set out for Edinburgh for the Synod, taking a roundabout route in order to avoid attack. Near Edinburgh he was expecting to meet influential protestant supporters but to his dismay they had not arrived. On 11th December he preached fearlessly at Leith and the following week at Inveresk. Here two Friars from the chapel of Loretto at Musselburgh stood outside. Wishart invited them to come in to hear the word of truth, which according to whether you receive it, will prove to be a way of life or death. The Friars ignored the appeal and continued to linger at the door and attempt to distract from the sermon.

During this time Wishart was staying with Hugh Douglas at Longniddry Castle, now demolished. Here he met John Knox who was tutor to Douglas' sons. Wishart also preached at Longniddry and at nearby Tranent. Meanwhile on 13th January, Cardinal Beaton opened the church Synod in Edinburgh but immediately adjourned it until April, by which time he promised that he would have silenced that heretic Wishart who was troubling the church. On 14th January Wishart preached at Haddington but attendance was small since the local landowner, the Earl of Bothwell, had forbidden any of his tenants to attend. Preaching the next day at Haddington the hearers were very few. Shortly before the sermon Wishart received a letter from the protestant Earls of Cassilis and Glencairn stating that they would not be coming to Edinburgh or attending the Synod. This was a great blow. For half an hour Wishart paced to and fro in the church, his thoughts in turmoil. Knox, knowing how Wishart liked to spend the time before the sermon quietly praying and studying the Scriptures, came and took the letter away from him and begged him not to allow it to distract him from the sermon. Eventually he went into the pulpit and commenced his sermon with the words: "Lord, how long shall it be that Thy healing word shall be despised and men shall not regard their own salvation". Sadly much of the sermon reflected the fatigue of his spirit. Afterwards he said a feeling farewell to those present, including Knox who wanted to continue with him but Wishart dissuaded him with the weary words, "one is sufficient for a sacrifice".

Leaving Haddington he set out in the fading light of the short winter day with Sir John Cockburn to walk the six miles to Ormiston House (now ruined). After supper Wishart discoursed on the death of the Lord's servants and they concluded by singing a metrical version of Psalm 51, commencing "Have mercy on me now good Lord, after Thy great mercie". About midnight the house was surrounded by troops commanded by the Earl of Bothwell and Wishart meekly agreed to go with him as a prisoner. He was subsequently imprisoned in Hailes castle and confined to a dungeon. This was a pit with a vent so angled that it would let in air but no light.

Today in the grounds of the castle there is a memorial seat to Thomas Dewar Bell. Part of the inscription reads:

"If there's another world, he lives in bliss
If there is none, he made the best of this"

Such empty hopelessness is a vivid contrast to the steadfast faith of Wishart.

Bothwell had given undertakings that he would not hand Wishart over to Cardinal Beaton, but did just that, taking him to Edinburgh Castle. Beaton however wanted the prisoner under his personal control so he was soon taken to the Cardinal's castle at St Andrews. Here he was held for a month in the Bottle Dungeon, a foul and dreadful pit far worse than that at Hailes castle. Governor Arran refused to give authority for a trial and required that proceedings be stopped until he could be present. Beaton arrogantly ignored him and the tribunal for heresy was convened on 28th February 1546 in St Andrew's Cathedral.
Even today, in the ruins of the Cathedral, it is possible to get a sense of the worldly splendour with which the trial was conducted. There in the presence of Cardinal Beaton and the Archbishops and Bishops of Scotland stood the lonely figure of Wishart. It was a far cry from the vision Wishart had when he left Pitarrow the previous November. Yet for all his loneliness, he had the greatest support possible, for Christ promised His own that when they are called before kings and authorities, they are not the speakers but the Holy Spirit.

John Lauder opened for the prosecution, addressing the prisoner with the words "renegade, traitor and thief". He then read the seventeen charges, demanding an immediate answer to each. A couple of these charges show the character of the interrogation:

Lauder: "Thou hast denied the Sacrament of Confession, affirming that men ought to confess sin to God, and not to a priest."

Wishart: "I teach, my Lord, that priestly confession has no warrant, but that confession to God is blessed. In the 51st Psalm David makes confession to God saying, 'Against thee, thee only, have I sinned' (Psalm 51:4). When James writes, 'Confess your offences to one another' (James 5:16), he counsels us against being high minded, and so to acknowledge our sinfulness before all."

Lauder: "Thou hast taught that God dwells not in churches made with men's hands and that it is vain to consecrate costly edifices to His praise"

Wishart: "God is present everywhere. 'Behold', said Solomon, 'the heavens and the heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house which I have built' (2 Chronicles 6:18). ...Yet God is pleased to honour places specially dedicated to His worship: 'For where two or three' said the Saviour, 'are gathered together unto my name, there am I in the midst of them' (Matthew 18:20). God is certainly present where He is truly worshipped."

The Tribunal was set on condemning him and continually interrupted his defence with cries of "heresy" and "blasphemy". The sentence was duly announced and the next day Wishart was burned outside the castle walls watched by the Cardinal and his supporters. A mark in the road identifies the spot, but his real memorial was in the hearts of those that through his devoted preaching had come to know Jesus Christ as their own Saviour and Lord.

2013 is the 500th anniversary of the birth of this martyr
(The exact date of his birth is not known)

Extracted from LW116

ACCIDENTLY LOST AT SEA, ETERNALLY SAFE IN HEAVEN

On the fateful day at 2 am, Jim with his brother Bill, the skipper, discussed  the course they would take before Bill retired for a few hours well-earned rest.  The watch rota should have been changed then but Jim opted to take the wheel.  The weather was favourable and there was seemingly no cause for concern. However,  at approximately 8:30 am one of the crewmen awoke and raised the alarm  that Jim was missing. After a fruitless search of the vessel the Mayday was sent.  

Many people have asked how and why such a tragedy should happen. Jim  was a comparatively young man, 48 years old, and suddenly his life was cut off  without warning, but it would be conjecture on our part to try to answer these  questions; only God knows. We therefore have to bow and accept His sovereignty  in such circumstances.  

The newspapers were given the announcement, "Accidently lost at sea",  yet Jim was eternally safe in heaven.  

As a boy of nine, he had wakened from sleep one night to the sound of voices,  for his sister, Ann, had told her Dad that she wanted to be saved. Jim listened  while his Dad told Ann how she was a sinner and that her sin would keep her out of  God's heaven, but the good news was that God had sent His Son, the Lord Jesus, to  die on the cross of Calvary to bear the punishment for her sin. Jim realised that he  too was a sinner and that Jesus had died for him. There and then he accepted the  Lord Jesus as his own personal Saviour. From that day on Jim lived with the  blessed assurance that one day heaven would be his home.  

That day finally dawned for Jim on the 14th January - he was lost at sea but eternally safe in heaven. Absent from the body, at home with the Lord.  

Have you this assurance? We all must needs die. When your time comes to  leave this world, will you be safe in heaven or be lost for all eternity? Make sure  you trust the Saviour Jim knew, and know with him the assurance that all will be  well with your soul.

I've anchored my soul in the Haven of Rest,
I'll sail the wide seas no more;
The tempest may sweep over the wild, stormy deep;
In Jesus I'm safe evermore.



Extracted from the "Fisherman's Gospel Manual"
Edited by Graham Mair

LOVE THAT CHANGED ME

Denis was brought up in a christian home and in his young years asked the Lord Jesus to be his Saviour. He left school and became a joiner and then after a few years left the trade and went away to sea. During his late teenage years Denis's love for his Saviour grew cold and the attraction of the world and all its passing pleasures took a hold of him and when home from the sea late nights out in the town in Peterhead were now the thing.

About three years ago Denis realised that his life was heading nowhere and finished with his past way of life and was restored to the joy of his christianity by Jesus' love.

I was at Denis and his wife Joy's wedding and for his speech he had made up a poem and when he read it out, though the rhythm may be irregular, many of us were affected:

The love that changed me, it was from Jesus,
From sin and bondage, His love it frees us,
For on the cross our Lord hung there in pain
For you and me, He took our sin and shame.

He died not for the perfect, but for sinners,
On Calvary's cross His life a ransom gave,
On the third day triumphant He arose
He conquered death and the power of His foes.

For Jesus, He can save the hardest heart
And when He comes into your life, He'll ne'er depart.
His blood it cleanses us from every sin;
You too can trust Jesus and have that peace within.


Extracted from the "Fisherman's Gospel Manual"
Edited by Graham Mair