The Late William Edwy Vine, M.A. by W. R. Lewis.
Year by year the cause of Christ is, apparently, sorely weakened when its leaders are taken away while the conflict seems to thicken. But it is not really so. The power and resources of our great Leader are undiminished and are neither more nor less than they ever were; He is "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." His word to Joshua still holds good to all who serve Him: "As I was with Moses so I will be with thee, I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."
This is an encouragement for us who remain, as we think of the great loss we as Editors of this magazine [Echoes of Service] have sustained through the Home-call of our beloved colleague, William Edwy Vine. When we think of his exceptional acquaintance with the Scriptures, his delight in prayer, his scholarship, his power of leadership, his experience and his manifold abilities, the thought of our loss would be overwhelming did we not cast ourselves afresh upon the Lord. The work itself under His Leadership goes on, while His servants fulfil their task and then retire. Like David, after they have served the counsel of God in their own generation, then, at the bidding of their Lord, who is with His servants in every generation, they fall asleep.
Mr. Vine was born in 1873 at Blandford, Dorset, where his father kept a boarding-school. This was later transferred to Exeter. Through the teaching and example of his godly parents, he was brought to the Lord when quite young, and at the age of fourteen, was baptized and received into fellowship at the meeting in Fore Street, Exeter. At the age of seventeen, he began to assist his father in the school and, later, took his London degree. On his father's death, he became headmaster, with the help of his brother [Theodore Ernest Vine], who still carries on the school. Any spare time was occupied by Mr. Vine in the ministry of the Word in Exeter and its neighbourhood, and gradually he became known in a wider area as an accredited servant of Christ.
It was in 1909 that, owing to their increasing age, Messrs. W. H. Bennet and R. E. Sparks, the then Editors and Treasurers of Echoes of Service, invited him to join them in this work and, every difficulty being cleared away, he accepted it. Thus began his forty years' association with those brethren and their successors in the conduct of the work associated with this missionary periodical.
We need hardly remind our readers that during that period of forty years, the work has greatly developed so that, whereas in 1909 the number of workers with whom the Editors corresponded was 600, they now number upwards of 1,120; the gifts distributed through this channel in 1909 amounted to £24,147, whereas during 1948 they amounted to £108,825. Notwithstanding criticism in certain quarters, Mr. Vine never had the slightest doubt that this channel of communication was one ordered of the Lord and that the work of the Editors was conducted on lines that would meet His approval.
In addition to the work of an Editor and Treasurer of this magazine, with its heavy correspondence, Mr. Vine was greatly in demand as a speaker at various Conferences and as a minister of the Word generally, and by his verse-by-verse commentaries on the Epistles and his various other expository works, he became well known in evangelical circles throughout most English speaking countries. Some of his articles have been translated into foreign languages.
The number of competent scholars who are loyal to the Scriptures is all too few, and we can ill spare our beloved brother whose judgment was widely sought upon difficult passages of Scripture. He was never content to give merely his opinion, but always took care to lead the inquirer to the fountain head of Truth. His magnum opus is his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words—a veritable treasure-house of learning coupled with spiritual discernment. He received many encomiums [accolades] of this work, and we may be sure that in the Day of Christ, the labour involved will be seen to be not in vain in the Lord.
It fell to him also to write the circular letters that the Editors are accustomed to send out to missionaries with their remittances, and these were highly appreciated; those on Isaiah, at the request of many, were recently published for a wider circle of readers.
The assembly of believers meeting at Manvers Hall, Bath, will particularly miss the presence amongst them of their senior overseer. He used to remember each member individually in prayer, and always took a most helpful part in worship, prayers, and in the ministry of the Word. Very frequently he had a word of exhortation to give us after the breaking of the bread. Giving himself as he did to prayerful meditation on the Scriptures, he seemed always to be ready to impart to us that which he had himself learnt of the ways and purposes of God.
In the overruling mercy of God, it fell to our dear colleague to write the leader for this issue, and the article from his pen that follows could not be more appropriate as his final message to us all. [“Ideal Living”] It was written and corrected by himself the day he fell asleep, the 2nd of November, 1949.
It is a great consolation to us to know that, in the added responsibility that now lies upon the surviving Editors, we can count upon the prayers of the readers of this magazine, and we are well assured that they will remember, too, the widow of our beloved brother and his son and four daughters who now mourn his loss. His daughter, Dr. Christine Fountain, is now in New Zealand on furlough, with her husband and children, after her illness in India. W. R. LEWIS
When the Apostle Paul said, in Philippians 1. 21, "To me to live is Christ," he did not mean that Christ was the source of his life, or that the power to live was derived from Christ, though each of these was true; his statement signifies that living itself, the whole state and condition of his life, was such that Christ summed up all his experiences, his thoughts and his doings. This is more than the fact of the indwelling of Christ; it is the effect of His indwelling. Paul's statement in Galatians 2. 20, "Christ liveth in me," approximates to it, but does not comprehend all that it means. There the Apostle was contrasting his new life with that which he lived under the Law and was declaring the fact of the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ. Now he says, "to me, living is Christ'' (the verb is really equivalent to a noun, 'life itself'). That is to say, Christ was the Personal expression of all that his life meant to him. This ideal shines out the more gloriously because of the dark background of his circumstances. His trials and natural disappointments were many. There was he, a prisoner, restricted from his wonted missionary activities, and the subject of the animosity and bitterness of rival preachers, who aimed at increasing affliction for him in his bonds. It was doubtless a set purpose on their part to annoy him by gaining success in their evangelistic efforts as a set-off against his restricted condition. His engrossment in the Person of Christ, his preoccupation with His glory, filled him with triumphant joy, in the realization that his very adversities were making for the accomplishment of his one great ambition, that Christ might be "magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." That is, that through his instrumentality, Christ might be made great in the estimation, whether of those who had never heard of him or of those who had but a poor conception of His glories, so that through him, the effects of the knowledge of Christ, His salvation, His power, His work, might be made good in the lives of others. The glory of Christ was the ruling passion with Paul. It shed a lustre upon all his hardships and enhanced his trials and difficulties.
The body is the necessary instrument of the soul and the spirit; their activities find their expression in and through it; it thus governs and directs our influence over others. Therefore, if to us, living is Christ, He is 'magnified in our body.' To have the Lord Jesus as the ambition of our heart and mind, puts each detail of our life in its Divinely-appointed place. If our dominating ambition is to gain Christ and be found in Him, it will adjust all our affairs to the one object.
The extent to which the Apostle enjoyed the realization of this ideal of living did not make him independent of the prayers of fellow-believers. It was a real comfort to him that all that he was experiencing would turn to his salvation through their supplication (verse 19, R.V.: the word deesis denotes "supplication"; it stresses the sense of need). But this supplication would only be effectual through "the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,'' that is, by the operation of the Holy Spirit in ministering Christ.
All this was a definite factor in this ideal; the very statement "to me to live is Christ,'' begins with the explanatory word, "For," which thereby connects the statement with what precedes it. And what precedes it is, as he says, "according to (that is, in accordance with the assurance of the supplication of the saints and the supply of the Spirit of Christ), my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death." These were the very reasons why to him, living was Christ.
For a believer who desires so to live, this absorbing preoccupation with Christ will be inevitably characterized by that meekness and lowliness of heart that characterized Him. It is the very negation of a feeling of self-satisfaction or spiritual superiority. The spirit that breathes through this Epistle, and indeed through the Apostle's life from his conversion onwards, gives evidence of the reality of his testimony so succinctly given in his statement, "to me to live is Christ."
To live this life is not beyond the reach of any believer whose ambition is that Christ may be magnified in his (or her) body. Such is the mind of God for us all in our daily walk and occupation. While we cannot but confess how much we fail to realize the ideal, yet may we seek to attain to it in increased devotion to our Lord. W. E. VINE
“Echoes of Service” Dec. 1949