The Home Call

The Home Call

J. Boyd Nicholson

He was unknown to most. Only those who fellowshipped with him in his home assembly knew him, and then, not as his family did.

He emigrated to Canada from Holland about fifteen years ago, bringing his wife and unmarried children.

The first time I met him was in his farm home. He had sent a note to the correspondent of our assembly, saying, “I come — you come see me.” His address followed.

We found him. He could speak no English; we could speak no Dutch. With the help of a German-speaking neighbour of his, we were able to get the details of his arrival and to express our welcome.

But he was hungry for fellowship in the things that mattered most. So we resorted to the common language of all believers, the language of song.

He had brought from the old country a fine pedal organ. Sitting down at it, he played, as we, with his family gathered round and launched into songs of praise.

They sang “Daar is kracht, kracht, wonderbare kracht, in het bloed, van het Lam”; we sang in English. There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” We rejoiced together in our common heritage.

It was hard for him, now in middle life, to master the intricacies of the English language. He would sit in the Bible class, with an English Bible on one knee and his old Dutch volume on the other, glancing from one to the other.

It was hard for him too, to adjust to the ways of the New World. At home, his house had resounded with the songs of the saints. Living next door to the assembly meeting place, he had an open door to all the Christians, before and after meetings. Now it was so different. Our formal ways and rules of “etiquette” seemed to hinder the “free” fellowship he was so used to. He longed for more of the company of the Lord’s people.

He was an earnest student of the Scriptures and often in those early days, would sit in the meeting literally “bubbling” up with some precious truth he longed to impart, but, tongue-tied with his new and difficult language, he remained silent.

Then he almost gave up. I met him up-town one day and enquired for his health, having missed him at the meetings. He looked at me sadly, and putting his head to one side and shrugging a shoulder, he said in his Dutch-accented English “Ve haf hung our harps on de Villow tree.”

No doubt he felt then, like God’s people long ago who spoke those words and added, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (Ps137).

His English gradually improved and he began to minister a little now and then.

One thing noticeable about his little messages were their freshness. There were no stereo-typed phrases, no trite cliches. He didn’t know them. Fresh thoughts came from him that so often turned our eyes to the Lord he loved.

Then some years ago, the blow fell. He learned that a dread disease had touched him and was advanced beyond all hope of recovery.

As a school custodian he witnessed faithfully for his Lord until he could no longer work. In February of this year, life became an intolerable burden as suffering increased.

In all these weary months of severe pain, it was a benediction to visit with him. He was little interested in “the News.” His great occupation was Christ and His Word.

He made every preparation for his departure. His desire was to provide every comfort for his loved ones after he would be gone. It was his wish to remain at home until his decease, but his great pain and distress necessitated hospital care.

It was the great privilege of the writer to spend many hours with him during the last week of his life on earth. I shall not easily forget those days of the death-watch.

His pains were intolerable. His agonies in the final conflict seemed beyond endurance. The drugs, though administered kindly and faithfully could not at the last assuage the pain. His time drew near.

The last words of those we love are always of great import. For they are the expressions of absolute reality. They are spoken from that vantage when all of life down here can be surveyed.

Needless to say, we bent the ear to hear the final utterances of this beloved Saint.

“The first thing” — “the first thing,” — he whispered between onslaughts of pain. “What is the First Thing?” I asked, “Worship God —That is first,” was his reply.

We thought he was beyond reach, as we talked of his life and love for Christ. He stirred — “No-No- you must not admire me—only Christ—admire Christ.”

The flame of his life was flickering low. He became restless, I asked him if there was anything he wanted, “Ya, I want to praise the Lord, but I have no strength left.” “Then” I replied, “we’ll praise the Lord together.” I put my hand into the oxygen tent. He held it tightly and breathed a broad though faint “Amen.”

We were all around him now. The months of pain and this final agony had added thirty years to his appearance. Opening his eyes he saw us standing. A weak smile fluttered on his lips and lifting his hands wearily, as though in blessing, he whispered “I love you all, I love you all.”

These and other words that came from this much-battled soul, revealed that, within that mortal cage, emaciated and in the throes of the final great weariness, there was a life the undertaker would not bury and a light the gloom of the grave could not extinguish.

At last the heaving breast faltered, the brave heart stumbled and…

“The combat was over, the conflict was ended.
A chariot of fire from the clouds had descended;
It’s drivers were angels on horses of whiteness;
It’s burning wheels turned on axles of brightness.
A search unfolded the door bright and shining
All dazling like gold of the seventh refining,
And the soul that came up out of great tribulation
Had mounted the chariot and steeds of salvation.”

—from “The Translation of the Covenanters”

His life, his hopes, his dreams were now consummated in his first long look into the countenance of the Lord he loved and worshipped and sought to serve, for half a century.

His loved ones stood around the vacant tent of his pilgrimage a while longer to carry out a last request. He had asked, that when at last the home-call came, that they should praise the Lord around his death-bed.

Those who loved him and whom he loved, read the Scriptures at the funeral. His brethren carried his body to it’s narrow bed to await the trumpet that will sweep the grave of the precious dust of the saints and call them to eternal reveille, and we shall be changed — raptured — re-united.

What is his name; Who was he? you ask. It would be inappropriate to the memory of our brother, who disdained attention and who considered words of praise as something to be avoided, if his name should appear in this way.

May his example inspire the living to make the principle of his life and the longing in his death their own. “Not I, but Christ.” Amen.