“With Christ, which is far better”

J. S. Blackburn

FRANK BINFORD HOLE - 1874 - 1964

ADDRESS

at the funeral service in Chiltern Hall, Sutton

Thursday, 30th January 1964

JOB'S QUESTION AND JOB'S ANSWER

There is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again... but ... if a man die, shall he live again ?” (Job 14:7-14).

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another ” (Job 19:25-27).

We are here this morning to pay our tribute of affection and respect to the memory of a man of God, Frank Binford Hole. In what manner can we best do this? Though the sadness of farewell is never absent from the side of a grave, this is not a case in which the poignancy of personal grief predominates; but rather is this an occasion for thanksgiving and triumph that, by the grace of God, so long a life has been preserved to the very end in faithfulness and devotion, in patience and in hope. We give thanks also that his pain and suffering are over, and in the presence of the Saviour he is now comforted. I am constrained to believe that we shall best honour his memory by reminding each other of the deep foundations, the massive pillars of the Faith in which he lived and laboured and died.

No one who knew him will for a moment doubt that the conspicuous feature of his life was just this, that he lived and laboured in the Christian Faith, and was constrained to do so by personal experience of the love of Christ. He had every opportunity to seek the ordinary satisfactions of life in the garish world. In possessions and intellect he was fitted to achieve such satisfactions: but early in life, at the age of sixteen, he was met by the Stranger of Galilee, and from that moment he “endured as seeing Him who is invisible.”

After King's School (the buildings, off the Strand, are now King's College in the University of London ), and a short period in the family business, he entered the banking profession. While still, however, at an early age he gave up what is usually called secular employment, and became a full-time worker in the service of Christ. His gifts from God manifested themselves in three principal ways; firstly, as evangelist; secondly, as teacher; and lastly, as publisher. In younger years he was closely associated with Arthur Cutting in evangelistic work. Together they travelled the country conducting tent missions, often in rural areas; and many persons heard and received the Word of Life through them. Mr. Hole also preached the gospel in the West Indies and in South Africa , and, indeed, visited several other parts of the world in the course of his ministry. Most of us knew him best as a teacher, that is, as a minister instructing Christians in Bible truth. Both as a speaker and as a writer he possessed a wonderful gift of teaching through illustration. To illustrate the words, “all joy and peace in believing,” he described a party which attempted the ascent of Vesuvius. On their return they were asked whether they had enjoyed the experience. “Enjoyed it!” Mr. Hole represented the climbers as replying, “Enjoyed it! The wretched mountain rumbled and spat fire! We were so terrified that we couldn't enjoy anything!” They had no joy, because they had no peace.

It is not, perhaps, well known that F. B. Hole's books on the foundations of the faith came into the hands of Dr. Billy Graham, who not only specially commended them to his team, but also sent an emissary to Little Britain to greet the author in person. Lastly, as publisher, his work has contributed to the spread of Christian truth to every corner of the earth. In these labours, Miss E. M. Ayes was his devoted helper for forty-five years. He received a ceaseless stream of letters witnessing to the help received wherever English is spoken, through the publications emanating from his unpretentious premises in Little Britain. During these years his fellow-labourers were H. P. Barker, J. T. Mawson, A. J. Pollock and Hamilton Smith, and the passing of F. B. Hole, the last surviving member of this devoted band, is an occasion for gratitude to God for all that He enabled them to achieve. “The Day shall declare it.”

Mr. Hole was entirely careless of human estimation of his work. To him, the words of Churchill about General Gordon aptly apply. Describing the statue of Gordon, which at that time stood in Trafalgar Square , Churchill wrote: “Amid the noise of the traffic, as formerly in that of the battle, the famous General stands, and, inattentive to the clamour of men, inquires what is acceptable to God.” It would be entirely in the spirit of such a man, if he thought at all of the eminence of his labours, to break in with his non nobis Domine — “not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, and for Thy truth's sake” (Ps. 115:1). In Job's question and Job's answer is found the meaning of such a life.

THE CERTAINTY OF THE RESURRECTION

“For I know that… though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Two ways of life appear in the resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, in stark contrast with each other. “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (verse 32), and “Let us be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (verse 58). The former is ever popular. The life of F. B. Hole was emphatically not of the former kind, filled with the kind of merriment which goes with carousal, careless of the future. Though by no means without its own kind of merriment, equally emphatically it was of the latter kind. He was steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. What stands between? What makes the difference? It is the resurrection of the dead. “Let us eat and be merry” might be a reasonable philosophy of life, if death were the end, and if “the dead rise not.” Holy Scripture gives to every believer the certainty of the resurrection life. With regard to the general fact, hear the Saviour: “The hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth unto … resurrection” (John 5:28 -29). On the fact of the Christian's resurrection to life with God, Paul speaks by the Spirit: “Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept… For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at His coming” (1 Cor. 15:20 -23). Also, “for the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:… and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16 -18). And so here is a life which proclaims, not: Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die, but rather, with a rising crescendo of triumph: Since in Christ shall all be made alive, since we shall bear the image of the heavenly, since tomorrow we live , it is infinitely worthwhile to be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding.

THE PROMISE OF THE BEATIFIC VISION

Here, from the mists of the earliest ages, comes the beginning of one of the threads which run through Scripture, for Job witnesses in unmistakable terms to the hope of the righteous, to see God in resurrection. Trace it through the Bible; see how it grows and deepens, but never attains clearer, more exact expression than in these words of Job. “Though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” Hear David. “I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness” (Ps. 17:15 ). Hear Isaiah. “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isa. 33:17). Hear Paul. “Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12 ). And on the last page of Scripture, hear John. “His servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face” (Rev. 22:3-4). Here is a man's life which bears witness to the promise of the vision of perfect blessedness, to see God in resurrection. “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” in a day which shall know no evening shade. How often we have joined our voices with his, to sing of this hope:

We'll see Thee soon, Lord Jesus,

Amid the ransomed throng,

Its glory, joy, and beauty,

Its never-ending song.

O day of wondrous promise!

The Bridegroom and the bride

Are seen in glory ever:

And love is satisfied.

FAITH IN A LIVING REDEEMER

“I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.” F. B. Hole lived and laboured in the certainty of the resurrection life, and in the promise of the vision of perfect blessedness, because he believed in a Living Redeemer. During my last conversation with him he said, I have had at times to occupy myself with the subtleties of the Faith, but now that I am very old, I have come back to the simple things:

Let one in his innocence glory,

Another in works he has done:

Thy blood is my claim and my title,

Beside it, O Lord, I have none.”

“We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ.” He paid the price at Calvary , and by this became our Redeemer, that is the Redeemer of all those who have believed in Him.

To teach an illiterate shepherd boy to repeat “The Lord is my Shepherd,” they showed him how to touch the tops of the first three fingers of his left hand as he repeated the first words: but when he repeated the fourth word, “my,” he was to grasp the finger with his right hand. A little later, seeking the sheep in a snowstorm, he perished. His body was found with the fourth finger of the left hand firmly grasped by the right hand. He died in the faith, “the Lord is My Shepherd.”

“Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen”.