How I Became a Member of the True Church.
by W. Hoste
A few words of personal testimony as to how the writer humbly believes he became a member of the True Church, may be helpful to some.
I started life in Sandgate, Kent, with the biggest asset a boy can have in this world, Christian parents. They not only longed for us to be brought to Christ, but for this they laboured year in and year out, filling our minds with the Holy Scriptures, "which were able to make us wise unto salvation through faith which is in Jesus Christ,'' and taking us week by week under the sound of a Gospel ministry. Like Abraham, my parents commanded their children after God. "Yellow-backs'' and "playing cards" were unknown in our home, and we never crossed the threshold of a theatre, nor attended a race-meeting. So much the better, as we had not these evils to pluck off later. According to "Mr. Worldly Wiseman," our childhood ought to have been very dull and irksome. On the contrary, it was very happy and full of interests suited to our age.
May I be allowed to refer briefly to three days which stand out as important crises in my life? The first was when I was about nine years of age. We lived in Jersey then, where my father was quartered. A godly clergyman from England was staying with us, and he took us children for a Bible-reading. His subject was one which some wise people assert, ought never to be mentioned to children—the last judgment. I never forgot that solemn hour. God spoke to me in no uncertain tones, and His fear entered into my soul. I remember one night about this time, resolving not to go to sleep till I was saved. Some would teach that I was ''born again'' already to have such desires, but how could I be born again without receiving Christ? It is only to "as many as receive Him, that He gives the right to become children of God" (John 1. 12, R.V.), and I certainly had not received Him then. The Spirit does not begin His work by communicating life, but by convincing of sin. I was under this conviction. I read my Bible and said my prayers. I did the best I could, but I could not attain to righteousness, because I sought it not by faith in Christ, but by the works of the law. No doubt, however, the experience of those years was salutary and necessary. I had to learn that all my earnest efforts after goodness could not give me the certainty I needed, that I should be able to "stand in the judgment." I was always hoping, but in vain. One day I thought I was getting better, the next I was back in the old place. My dear mother longed not only that we should belong to Christ, but become preachers of the Gospel. I fell in with this idea, and determined to become a clergyman, but as I dreaded preaching to my own countrymen, I made up my mind to be a missionary, preaching under a palm tree to blacks would be less formidable I thought. My mother, who had a true missionary spirit, and had brought us up on the lives of Adoniram Judson, Robert Moffat, and suchlike books, was overjoyed, but this desire on my part was a mere flash in the pan and soon vanished. However, the Lord continued His work, and when I was about sixteen, an event occurred which was the turning point in my life. I was standing by myself in our schoolroom at home, when a verse of the Bible came vividly to mind: "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord'' (Rom. 5. 23). The words were familiar, but they spoke to me for the first time. ''Could it be possible that Heaven was a gift?'' I asked myself. "If that be so, I will accept it here and now." I looked up to God and told Him that I would take eternal life as a gift. No sooner had I taken this step in naked faith, than the conviction came over me that I had found what I had so long been seeking. I saw the Lord Jesus Christ as my Saviour; I believed He had died for me. Truly good news, worthy of God. ''Eternal life, a free gift through Jesus Christ our Lord.'' This could never have entered into the heart of man to conceive. God planned it. God performed it. I heard, I believed, I became a child of God, and though I did not know it at the time, a member of the Church of Christ.
About eight years passed away, and another event happened which was also in its way a turning point in my life. I was a student at Cambridge, preparing for ordination in the Church of England, an event which was to take place in a few months.
I was staying in London at the house of a well-known Christian worker, Miss W., aunt of a Cambridge friend of mine. When the Sunday came round, I questioned her about the ''Churches'' in the neighbourhood. Finding her, to my surprise, unable to inform me, I offered to accompany her to her "Church." ''Perhaps you will hardly call it a "Church," was her-reply, "but if you like to come, pray do.'' A few minutes from her house, we turned in at what looked like an ordinary doorway, and found ourselves in a fair-sized hall, full of people sitting round a table on which were placed a loaf and wine. Evidently they were about to celebrate ''Holy Communion." The place had no religious look; there was no clergyman as I had been accustomed to, nor apparently any leader. Nevertheless, all went on in an orderly fashion, now one taking part and then another, in praise, reading of the Scriptures, hymn-singing, and worship, interspersed with times of silence, which impressed me most of all, ending up with the passing of the bread and wine from hand to hand in memory of Christ. It was indeed a strange kind of "Church," such as I had never seen or heard of before, a ''Church" not of dead bricks and mortar, but of "living stones" quarried by the Holy Spirit from the pit of the world, and built upon the "Living Stone,'' Christ Jesus, to form a temple of God in the Spirit. I can thank God to-day for that strange visit and for its effect on my afterlife.
"The True Church: What is it and Who Compose it?"