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Wesley Roddie

John Richard Wesley Roddie was my wife Mary's paternal grandfather. The following preface was written by my father-in-law, Professor Ian Roddie (Wesley's son), in his memoirs.

Wesley Roddie was a popular minister in the Methodist Church in Ireland in the first half of the 20th century and enjoyed a widespread reputation as an excellent preacher.  His personality and style appealed to both young and old but he had a special rapport with the young.  They liked his human qualities and the way in which he could identify with them and their problems.  This was one factor that led the editors of an Irish Methodist weekly, the Irish Christian Advocate to invite him to contribute a regular 1500-word column that would deal with the problems being faced by the young and give advice on how to tackle them. 

When he started writing the column in 1925, Wesley Roddie was 38 and stationed in Carlisle Road Methodist Church in Londonderry.  He continued the series when he moved to Thomas Street Methodist Church in Portadown in 1927 until the end of the decade.  About 60 of these articles were published.  Though most of them are related to the personal concerns of youth, some deal with other church matters such as reverence in worship, the church’s role in times of social unrest, home and foreign missions, the obligations expected of church members and matters of church politics.  The content and style reflect to some extent the times in which they were written, but much of the advice remains pertinent and the articles provide an interesting historical perspective on life in those days.

The Irish Christian Advocate was a popular weekly paper produced primarily for the Methodist people in Ireland.  It started publication in Belfast in 1883 under the editorship of Rev. J Donald and ended in October 1971 when an IRA bomb destroyed the building where it was printed.


Mary has given me permission to post some of Wesley Roddie's letters on this site and I will be adding a new letter every month or so. He was clearly a remarkable man and I have learnt a lot myself whilst reading his published correspondence. The short preface in italics before every article was written by my father-in-law.


'Fighting Spirit'

The Fighting Spirit

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 5th November 2013 Blog)

This article was written in 1927.  It argues that a passionate fighting spirit has more to offer Christianity than timidity and weakness.

Dear Young Friends, 

When I was a boy I dearly loved a fight, and I possibly indulged in more encounters "after school" than any teacher of mine could have believed having regard to the mild-mannered individual I appeared to be when under his or her watchful eye. 

It is rather a dreadful confession to have to make, but I comfort myself with this thought now that I was hardly to be blamed.  Fighting is instinctive in human nature, and in youth, I suppose, the combative spirit is much in evidence until in later years it is brought under proper control or modified by bitter experience.  I usually got badly beaten in my schoolboy fisticuff contests but I did not seem to mind and before many days, if opportunity arose, I would be at it again. 

I discovered that there was a certain excitement and elation in the expression of the instinct, quite independent of the satisfaction to be gained in whacking the other fellow.  I desired, I imagine, "to drink the delight of battle" and I really believe I found pleasure in the struggle itself irrespective of its issue.  I am disposed to think that I am not alone in this matter. If some people do not wish to fight themselves, they are usually greatly interested to see one. 

A fight, like fire, quickly gathers a crowd. It is possibly "the lure of battle" as much as the play that draws the multitude to the football match on a Saturday afternoon.  In viewing the "struggle" they are able to give some expression at any rate to a native impulse.  The recent popularity of the crossword puzzle is even said to be due to this primitive impelling force.  The thing challenges us, we attack it, and some strange imperative keeps us at it until we conquer or are compelled to admit defeat.

I should emphasise I suppose, that there is nothing wrong in the possession of this spirit. Everything really depends on how, when and where it is exercised.  It is a phenomenon to be found in all normal individuals; it is the sheer joy of overcoming difficulty and it has been a characteristic of strong dynamic natures in all ages.

The Bible in many respects is a Book of contest.  Every prophet of ancient days, if he did not carry the sword of battle, possessed the sword of the spirit that often smote harder and went deeper than any instrument of steel.  Every apostle of Pentecost went out from the upper room equipped in a like manner.  St Paul, too, sees the Christian as an armed soldier and God Himself as "He that hath fought for us.” 

In later days the same vital force animated the mighty men of God.  Martin Luther and John Knox had within them the fighting spirit duly directed and fully controlled.  And was not John Wesley a man of like temper who never feared to face the mob, or pour volley after volley of the living word into the ranks of sin and licence in the eighteenth century?

There is a danger, I sometimes think, of young men and women losing sight of the militant aspect of Christianity in the world.  The tendency is to emphasise the practice of the gentler virtues and glorify them as being of the very essence of our religion.  It may be forgotten that the Christianity of Christ can never be fully robed and complete until it is vitalised and energised by the burning passionate heat of Christian fortitude and fire.  

After all, meekness, apart from passion and force, will never accomplish very much.  Mildness divorced from strength and daring is hardly worth a place in the catalogue of virtues.  The poverty of spirit that has not within it the motive power of a divine imperative will never accomplish anything or win the victor's crown in the great conflict. 

It is always well to remember that while Christianity is a proclamation of salvation from sin, it is also a very emphatic protest against sin.  From its very inception Christianity existed for a two-fold purpose; to save people and fight sin.  I like to read Christ’s words in his moods of infinite tenderness: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  But I also like to think of him in his moments of moral grandeur when he said, “Woe unto you Scribes, Pharisees and Hypocrites.” 

I need not remind you that there is much in the world to provoke your righteous indignation and to stir your soul to battle.  In many instances today, we show much too much tolerance to these things, to compromise, to go for peace at any price.  God forbid that this should be so in your case.  Remember you will be none the less a Christian by urging a most emphatic protest and fighting these things with full intent to destroy. 

I stood beside a strong-minded friend of mine on one occasion as he looked into the face of a base deceiver and betrayer of womanhood and said in holy anger, "Sir, I have for you an infinite contempt!"  Was he less a Christian for saying so?  I hardly think so.

I am also reminded of another occasion when in company, a careless individual commenced to tell an indecent story, and a man present immediately spoke up and there was vivid fire in his eye, "You may call that witty but I call it obscene."  The storyteller was silenced and I felt the interrupter was none the less a Christian for his heated rebuke.

Why not get a little more of the fighting spirit into your bones?  Do not suppress it when occasions demand its exercise.

Yours sincerely,



'Delores Umbridge'

Unpopular people

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 28th August 2013 Blog)

The letter describes some of the characteristics of people who tend to be unpopular and suggests ways of overcoming them.

Dear Young Friends,

They are to be found everywhere, unfortunately, and some of them richly deserve their unpopularity.  Possibly you have had to associate with some in business, or in the workshop or maybe you have to live with one.  I am sorry for you if proximity should happen to be your misfortune.  I thought of writing to you regarding such people not so much to warn you against them – they have to be endured and they are very difficult to change – but so that you may so order your life that you in turn may not also come to be thoroughly disliked. 

It is possible, I am told, to be diseased in body for a considerable time and to be unaware of the fact.  In like manner, the people who are most unpopular amongst their friends and associates are often the men and women who have the least knowledge not only of the fact of their unpopularity but also the cause.

Some people are unpopular because they are always complaining.  They are impossible to humour.  They are never satisfied, never surprised, never pleased, never amused and seldom moved.  They are blinded by the light, chilled by the breeze, tormented by the heat, annoyed by rain and bored by everything.  They are never so happy as when they are miserable, and they seem to take a wicked gratification in seeking to add to the sum of their “happiness” by making other people miserable too.  

They manage to make themselves objectionable in the home as well as in the Church.  They are a cross to their wives, and a heart-sink to their ministers.  They are adept discouragers.  They never venture a compliment, seldom say a kind word and never speak to cheer.  Everything is wrong and they are always right.

The wife of Thomas Carlyle once remarked, "The least attention from Carlyle glorifies me.”  Unhappily she seldom received it.  When she hinted mildly that it was natural for a woman to expect an occasional expression of endearment from her husband, Carlyle is reputed to have replied, “Do you expect to be praised for doing your duty?”  Men of this type may have a high sense of their own worth and importance but they are never popular, and least of all with the members of their own family who know them best.     

There are others who are unpopular because they can never forget an injury, real or supposed, and unfortunately their injuries have a way of multiplying.  They seem to think that the hand of every man is against them. They are distrustful and unforgiving and they admit quite frankly that they do not put trust in anyone.  They grow sour thinking about things that other people have long forgotten and their friends, the few they have, are tired listening to the story of their alleged wrongs.  I read recently of an old saint, who used to pray, “Lord, help me to remember what I ought not to forget and to forget what I ought not to remember."  It is a very wise and comprehensive prayer.  If some people would only make it theirs, they would no longer make the heart a home for that wicked little demon, "Miss Bitter Resentment."

I think the reason why the type of person now referred to is so disliked is that discontentedness, bitterness and bad feeling are very destructive things and when they are allowed to occupy the mind they burn up by their own heat all that makes life beautiful and attractive.  What a pity it is that such people do not try to cultivate the art of forgetting but I suppose it is true as Oliver Wendell Homes said: "Memory is a crazy witch; she treasures bits of rags and straw, and throws her jewels out of the window."

Meanness, that is but another name for the lowest sort of selfishness, is also a certain cause of unpopularity.  It is a fault that is as old as the human race and requires a good deal of grace to cure.  It is sometimes possible, however, to shame people out of it.   

I heard the other day a rather good story of an attempt made to do so.  A lady well known in a certain locality for her meanness advertised as follows: "Wanted: a useful companion.  She must be domestic, musical, an early riser, amiable, of good appearance, and have some experience of nursing.  A total abstainer preferred.  Comfortable home.  No salary”.   A few days after, the advertiser received a basket labelled, “This side up; with care; perishable.”  On opening it she found in it a tabby cat with a letter attached to a ribbon round the neck.  It ran thus: “Madam, In reply to your advertisement, I am happy to furnish you with a very useful companion that you will find exactly suited to your requirements.  She is a domestic, a good vocalist and an early riser.  She possesses an amiable disposition and is considered handsome.  She has great experience as a nurse having brought up a large family.  I need scarcely add that she is a total abstainer.  As a salary is no object to her she will serve you faithfully in return for a comfortable home.” 

A further type deserving of classification among the unpopular is the man who has animal written all over him.  He represents unfortunately a rather numerous class – people in whom there can be found no beauty, no poetry, no music, no real religion.  They are of the earth, earthly, seeking only as somebody put it, "a transient heaven, bounded by a restaurant on one side and a music hall on the other."  They seem to be devoid of spiritual aspirations.  They are "pleased with a rattle, tickled with a straw."  Should you happen to be in their company the conversation turns to money and property, business and bonds.  Mammon is their God, and it would seem almost that they had become soulless.  Very often they are low in design, mean in method, treacherous in conduct and sensual in life.  Their presence repulses you and contact seems to defile your soul.  If there is any type against which you should be warned it is this one; shun such people as you would a plague.

Yours sincerely,



'The Governor'


(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 3rd June 2013 Blog)

This article was written in 1925.  It deals with the perennial complaint that young people are not as polite as they used to be.  Though it has an old-fashioned ring, it gives some good pointers on the characteristics that are needed for the politeness required in everyday society.

Dear Young Friends,

Have you ever considered how much happier the world would be for everybody if the art of politeness were more generally cultivated?  Unfortunately, however, it is not.  Even children nowadays are reputed to be getting "cheeky" and not like young people of other days. They put on and off their good manners as they do their Sunday clothes.  Very often the tokens of respect that used to be paid to age, and worth, and paternal care are painfully absent.

It is said to be the spirit of the age, and young people I suppose are quick to catch it.  Possibly the children are not always to be blamed.  It seems that it is not now thought proper to enforce family government in the Scriptural manner and to teach children to revere their parents in the old-fashioned way.  The result is that many young people of the present day are disposed at times to consider themselves much wiser than their parents, and to discuss openly their fallibilities.  They even go so far as to refer to the head of the home as “the governor" or "the old man" and to address him as “old bean”.

It is a great pity, for he, who from his childhood has been permitted to show a want of respect and deference to his parents and the members of his own family will not in manhood be polite to the rest of mankind.  If the principles of polite and courteous behaviour are not planted in early life it is hardly to be expected that they will become part and parcel of character in later life.

The emphasis put, and no doubt rightly put, upon the importance and worth of youth in these days may possibly have something to do with it.  Young people are looked upon as the promise and hope of the Church and of society and of this they are being continually reminded.  They are treated as a rule with greatest kindness and they receive any amount of attention.  Consequently, they are in great danger of being much more ready to receive kindnesses than to bestow them.  A certain bumptiousness develops, and there is often an impertinence and sort of smirking manner that is endured by others only because the hope is indulged that experience will correct the evil.  It is hoped that other hands will deal the rough blows necessary to bring them to their proper senses. 

A tender mother may spare the child in the hope that he may do better as he grows older.  What she means is that she hopes others will bestow these corrections which he richly deserves but that she cannot bring herself to inflict.  I sincerely hope, my readers that you are not to be named amongst the type to which I have called attention or that the spirit indicated is in any sense yours.

I would not like to think that it is your practice to act as if politeness to your inferiors or superiors was inconsistent with true independence.  There is nothing unmanly and cringing in ordinary courtesy.  Surely it should never be necessary in order to save one's self-respect that you should withhold from others the consideration to which they are entitled.  On the contrary it is the highest mark of true manhood and womanhood to be thoughtful and considerate regarding the feelings of others.

"Manners are not idle, but the fruit
Of loyal nature and of noble mind."

There are a few things I would suggest to you as being essential to politeness.  I put first – good humour. By good humour I mean "the habit of being easily pleased."  I hinted to you in a previous letter that it is said regarding young people of the present day that they are becoming unusually blasé, bored stiff, continually wearing an air as if they were fatigued with everything and that nothing is sufficiently novel to be really interesting.

If you cultivate this attitude you will not find it easy to exercise the art of politeness.  I am, however, inclined to think that the attitude is more assumed than real.  It is unhappily supposed to be a mark of superiority on the part of some people not to unduly betray their feelings.  It is not, of course, suggested that you should pretend to be pleased when you are not, but surely when your friends labour to give you pleasure and go out of their way to provide what they think should interest you, the very least you should do is to show that you appreciate their thoughtfulness.

Be natural.  Think of what a delightful thing it is to be in the company of any friend you know who is possessed of the happy grace of good humour and who spontaneously and artlessly reveals it.  You should try to be an imitator.  You will soon find yourself to be an infinitely more popular person and the world a much happier place to live in.  The root of it all, I think, lies in sympathy or empathy.  If you are unsympathetic and lack empathy you can never be truly polite because by the very law of your nature you are careless of the feelings of others. 

Cheerfulness I would regard as another essential to politeness.  A gloomy, boorish person can never think of much except himself, and he is very often an abomination to his friends. He cannot forget so important a personage to attend to others.  He may have some cause for his bad feelings but you always feel that he has no right to inflict them on other people.  Have you ever gone to visit, and as you entered the house heard the voice of somebody you knew, and immediately wished for "the wings of a dove?"   Why?   Because you know that this person has so long brooded over himself and his ailments that he has not one cheerful word to communicate.  You come another day and you hear a different voice.  Your face lights up with pleasure.  You say, "Is Mr------- here?  Good!"  Why?  You know him to be a man of a happy, cheerful disposition, and you feel that to meet him will act upon you like a reviving tonic.  When you cultivate cheerfulness, then you cultivate at the same time the habit of politeness.

Of course, for the purpose of feeling cheerful, you must really feel so; and to feel cheerful you must be in good health.  No one can feel cheerful with the toothache, or if he is suffering from an acute attack of indigestion.  It is better then, to keep entirely to yourself and not see anybody until you are feeling in good form again.  A friend said to me the other day, “I always feel like a bear when I get up in the morning.  Even if my wife speaks to me I feel like growling at her.”  "What do you do then?" I enquired.  “Well” he replied, “I usually try to hurry down and drink a cup of tea; it makes me feel cheerful."  And then he added with a little twinkle in his eye, "Sometimes I take her one too.”  Wise man; experience had taught him to do the needful.

I need hardly add that the best way to become a young man or young woman of politeness is to begin with the heart, to try to continually act on the principle of making everyone as happy as is in your power, because you would have all others do so to you.  No one can act on this principle for any length of time without possessing all the essentials of politeness. You should therefore not merely try to see how much kindness you can express, but how much also you can feel.

Yours sincerely,



The Blue Bird

The Quest for Happiness

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 13th April 2013 Blog)

This article stresses that happiness is usually found in familiar things and places including work.

Dear Young Friends,

On Saturday last I met an old friend who greeted me by saying, "I hope it is not too late to wish you a happy New Year?”.  “I hope it is never too late to wish anyone happiness", I ventured to reply.  The question set me thinking.  I began to ask myself questions.  Why should it be thought too late and the year only nine days old?  Why should the wishing of happiness begin and end in a couple of weeks?  Why cannot we have an expansiveness of the heart characteristic of Christmas and the New Year at ordinary times?  Why limit it? 

I suppose you also, with a cheery smile and a warm handshake, conveyed your greetings to your friends in the festive season and they replied, "The same to you.”    Now you are in the second week of the New Year and you have almost forgotten all about it.  You are travelling the same old road; jogging along in the same old way and as far as you are concerned, happiness is as far away as ever.  Why?

Possibly you have not thought very much about it. You accepted and conveyed greetings as a matter of course.  You felt they were seasonable and there the matter ended.   You experienced a certain glow in your heart at the time.  It endured for a while.  Now it has gone – perished like the roses of yesterday.   You laughed and played and sang at the Christmas party and on the following Monday when you went back to work your face wore the gloom of Styx and the devils of discontent had taken possession of you. 

On New Year's Day you greeted the message boy with a cheery, "Happy New Year, my boy.”  A week later you growled at him because he pulled the doorbell too vigorously.  The truth of the matter is you never believed you were going to secure his happiness through greetings.  If you did you would have thought a little more about it and put yourself in the way of making it happen.  

Are you any happier today than you were on the corresponding day of last December?  I question if you are.  Of course you would admit at once that there is nothing in the entire world that you desire more, but yet happiness is not yours.  I wonder why?  Is it that you have not sought it, or if you have, maybe you searched for it in the wrong way?  I wish I could direct you.

The other day I read an article on Maeterlinck's "The Blue Bird" that interested me greatly.  In the story that has all the charm of a beautiful fairy fantasy, the children of a poor woodcutter set out to find 'The Blue Bird’ that alone can bring happiness.  They journey first by way of the Land of Memory but fail to find it there.  Later they come to a garden of dazzling beauty in which multitudes of Blue Birds are flying to and fro.  They imagine that they have gained the object of their quest, only to find that their hands are filled with drooping feathers and lifeless remains.

Travelling farther the children arrive in the Palace of Happiness and Homely Joys.  They laugh at the children that they should travel so far in search of what they have left at home.  One after the other they introduce themselves: the "Happiness of Being Well"; the "Happiness of Loving Parents"; the "Happiness of Maternal Love”; and a great many others.

But still the Blue Bird is not found.  In the end the children find themselves back in the cottage that is their home. It seems somehow much brighter and attractive than when they left it.  You can imagine the surprise when the boy sees in his own cage – the Blue Bird.  I quote the last few lines of the article: "He lifts down the cage and carries it into a neighbour's cottage and gives it to a sick child who has long desired it.   A miracle follows – the little girl is able to get up and runs into the woodcutter's cottage with the bird in her arms.  The children kiss and look at each other without speaking.  The boy has realised at last that here in his own home he has found the real Blue Bird."  

I need hardly point the moral or attempt to adorn the tale. You have been seeking happiness in various ways. And all the time what you have longed for is nigh you.  I am reminded of the truth enshrined in the beautiful lines of a poem by G. K. Chesterton, written in reference to a higher quest:

"So humble, humble are the skies
And low, and large, and fierce the star,
So very near the manger lies
That we may travel far.

It is true in the quest of happiness.  May you not miss the way.   The happiness of home that may be yours is at your hand; it is of a lasting kind, and has brought blessing and strength to multitudes. 

And then there is the happiness of work.  I sometimes think that the reason why so many search in vain for happiness both for themselves and for others is because they never think of looking for it in work.  They imagine it is to be found in intervals of work and not in work itself.  I can confidently say to you if you are seeking happiness this year: Get to work, use your talents and opportunities to their fullest, and a good time and good friends will follow as surely as day follows the night.  It matters not what the work is – whether it is behind the counter, at the office desk, kitchen, or over the washtub, because even washing can bring happiness if you put your heart into it.

Another suggestion I would offer to you in the quest of happiness is – do good. To do good is the very salt of life.  It is what keeps the love of life from decaying and corrupting.  The knowledge that you are doing good day by day and sowing in the world the seeds of happiness that shall blossom and bear fruit in after days, is happiness itself.  A happy man once said, “I have made it a rule never to be with any one ten minutes without trying to make him happier."   

I once heard the remark passed and I never forgot it: “One who makes a little child happier for half-an-hour is a fellow worker with God.”  A little boy once said to his mother: “I could not make sister happy no how but I made myself happy trying to make her happy.”  “I make Jim happy," said another little boy speaking of his invalid brother.  “He laughs, and that makes me happy and I laugh.”  Rather childish you may say, but isn't it true?   Someone has said: “To love and be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.”

Yours sincerely,




Roses in December

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 3rd March 2013 Blog)

This article encourages the readers to build up a store of happy memories that will sustain them in old age.

Dear Young Friends,

Memory, it has been said, is the condition and proof of self-identity. In other words, without memory we should not even know ourselves.  It is only because I, who am aware that I am writing to you at the present moment, remember that I wrote to you a week or two ago and can recollect a multitude of the other acts of my past life, that I know myself to be the person I am.  Memory is a very wonderful gift of God and a great mystery.  How can the mind hold matters in consciousness about which it seldom thinks?  What an accumulation of things the mind can contain? 

As I sit and write my memory can travel back along the years with eerie rapidity and I can live over again the events and experiences of my life so far. You, as you read, can pause a moment and do likewise. Where are these possessions stored, and how are they kept until required in silence and uncon­sciousness?  These are questions I cannot attempt to answer now.  I only want to call your attention to the wonder of memory and then to remind you of one of the purposes of it that that I think could not be better put than in the words.

"God gave His children memory
That in life's garden there might be
June roses in December."

Your December looks far distant at the moment.  It has hardly dawned upon you that the winter of your days is coming. You are in that delightful period – sixteen to twenty-six.  The consideration of what your thoughts and feelings may be as you approach the "allotted span” does not concern you very much.  And yet you must know that just as December 1926 arrived, and perhaps as you read these words is passing out, so will come the evening-tide of your life that shall herald its close.

I wonder have you yet begun to pack into the storehouse of memory things that you shall treasure then or, to change the figure, have you yet planted the trees in the midst of life that shall bud and blossom into beautiful flowers of recollection when your December comes?  I hope that you have and that you are always cultivating the character and disposition out of which these things come.

Perhaps your time could be well occupied for a moment or two in thinking of how it may be done.  Begin by putting into your early days plenty of honest hard work.  I suppose most people are about as lazy as they dare to be at times.  I have heard it said, "Better do nothing than do mischief", but I doubt very much the maxim.  We should grudge laziness even that pinch of praise.  The rankest weeds usually grow in the foul corners of idle men's imaginations where the devil I suppose can hide away like the old serpent he is.  The young man who wastes his time and strength in sloth is certainly preparing for himself a very miserable December.  Work is a law of life and I think it makes for the development of character as much as anything else.  Edison, when asked his definition of genius, answered: "Two per cent is genius, and ninety-eight per cent is hard work."  When asked on another occasion: "Mr. Edison, don't you believe that genius is inspiration?" he replied: "No!  Genius is perspiration." 

I think that it can hardly be doubted that work is divinely intended when God chose to incarnate Himself in the Carpenter of Nazareth.  I like the old lines:

This is the Gospel of Labour,
Ring it you bells of the kirk,
The Lord of Love came down from above,
To live with the men who work.

This is the rose He planted,
Here in the thorn-curst soil,
Heaven is blest, with perfect rest,
But the blessing of earth is toil.

You will read this letter while still under the spell of Christmas.  It is good isn't it that our hearts are disposed to soften into kindness during this glad season?   Well, just let your heart run away with you this time.  Put into the days all the kindly words, and all the helpful deeds that you possibly can.  And if you should not feel happy, help someone else to be happy, and you will soon be happy too.  Let yourself go in gladness.  Pull your crackers and wear your caps, and don't mind looking like a fool just for once and – with apologies to the editors if they print it – get under the mistletoe with the one you love best and if all else fails perhaps that may brighten you up!   At any rate, one joyful Christmas will be a very happy memory for you in years to come. 

Don't whatever you do, be a young old Scrooge. If you begin life by studying only yourself and living only for number 1, or if you try to treat the world like an orange and squeeze out of it all you can get for your own enjoyment, I can promise you that when your December comes you will have nothing left but yourself.   And you will be such a poor and uninteresting self that nobody will want you; you could hardly be disposed of, even in a Jumble Sale. 

I need not tell you that opportunities are always arising, giving us the chance and privilege of doing a good turn to someone else.   Multiply then your kindnesses.  Do all the good you can in every way you can and when your life's eventide comes, memory will recall, and you will enjoy December roses.

Yours sincerely,




Making Friends

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 10th February 2013 Blog)

JRWR was good at both making and keeping friends.  During his ministry in a number of circuits he built up a wide circle of friends.  A measure of the depth of these friendships can be seen in numerous letters of sympathy written to his wife after his death.

Dear Young Friends,

I feel sure that you have already discovered for yourselves that there is nothing so sweet in life as a true friend, and nothing in the entire world to be compared with friendship.  The poet has sung and may have uttered the sentiment with approval, "Friendship's the wine of life." It is a word the very sight of which in print almost makes the heart glad.  It is like the glow of the morning that would cheer us and inspire us for the day; it is like the shadow of the evening that lengthens and strengthens with the setting of the sun.  It is the golden thread that would tie the hearts of the entire world.

It would be an unnatural thing for you not to desire friends or to seek friendship. Nature plants us in the middle of a family, and we are born into families in order that we may have human society around us, friends as well as parents.  When friendship is extended and mutually enjoyed, life is filled with buoyancy and hope; without friendship and the society of friends we should hardly desire to live.  And so I am writing to you about friendship this week, for I feel that while it may be good to be strong, good to be clever, good to attain to honour, it is best of all to have true friends.

I suppose it is hardly necessary that I should make for you a distinction between acquaintances and friends.   Acquaintances are many; very often friends are few.  The one gives us "a nod”; the other gives “the heart”.  The acquaintance is with you in fair weather; the friend stands by you in foul. You may know the lines:

''Every man will be thy friend,
Whilst thou hast wherewithal to spend."

But when the tide of your good fortune has gone out, unfortunately they leave you "stranded".  Thus it is said that it is only when we are down and in real need that we discover who our friends really and truly are. They come in when the world goes out, and they give that which is better than money – sympathy, encouragement and support.  Incidentally they make you feel that no matter what may be your trouble or disgrace, they have not lost their good opinion of you.  They know the worst about you, and yet instinctively you feel that they believed the best.  Furthermore you are soon made to realise that their friendship is altogether unselfish; it is neither based on the external circumstances of your lot, nor on the hope of gain. It is the genuine article and you thank God for it.

If I were asked then to define friendship, I would say it is love superlative; love triumphant; love breaking down all barriers of creed or class or condition.  It is to give in large-hearted devotion; it is to serve hoping for nothing to gain, or expecting nothing by way of recompense or reward.  To truly love is to be truly a friend.  And when you begin to think about it, that is the one thing for which hearts are hungering.  The world perishes with hate; it is sick and poisoned with it and it dies for lack of love.  It is for want of it that very often the pages of human history are found to be saturated with blood and stained with tears.

Someone has said that "Society can only evolve from a feud into a friendship by the slow growth of love and the welding of a man first to his kin, and then to his kind."   Friendship, therefore, must be more than a mere sentiment that may at any time dissolve in a blur of misty emotion and be forgotten.  It must be a living, creative thing that has its roots in the firm belief that the universe is friendly, and that men must learn to be friends if they would live as befits the world in which they live as well as their own origin and destiny.  How very true it is: 

“Here lies the tragedy of our race:
Not that men are poor; all men know something of poverty,
Not that men are wicked; who can claim to be good'?
Not that men are ignorant; who can boast that he is wise?
But that men are strangers!”

I wish I had the power to enlarge further on this subject but unfortunately I have neither the art of a poet nor the gifts of a seer.  Only a poet could picture for you a world in which friendship rules; only a skilled artist with the vision of a prophet could paint its joyous colours.  I can only hope to move along a much lower level and try now to answer a question that possibly you are already asking and that perhaps is of more immediate concern to you: How are we to make friends?  

Well it is difficult, of course, to prescribe for each individual case but speaking generally I think that, in the first instance, it requires the cultivation of something in yourself and adopting a new attitude towards the people with whom you may come in contact from day to day.  You must try to love your fellow men, even though some of them at first sight may not appear to be very loveable.  Friendship is always a mutual relation.  It is only formed when love goes out to meet love, and there must be at least two parties.

Again, I think it is the cultivation of the habit of giving yourself away. The great trouble with nine out of every ten who complain that they cannot make friends is that they are disposed to live like hermit crabs concealed within the shell of what they like to call self-respect or a natural reserve.  Ah, but you say, I am really very self-conscious at times, and besides I could never possibly lower myself so much as to let people know I am interested in them before they indicate in some way that they are interested in me.  You must, if you are to make friends and enjoy friendships.  And furthermore, you must be ready to give more than your interest; you must give yourself.  You must master that self-centred conceit that makes it seem a kind of outrage to give yourself away to anyone, particularly if that person should happen to be beneath you.

There is one other suggestion I would make, and that is – make friends with the people who are about you.  They may not in your opinion be "just the nicest people".  You may think they are quite commonplace and yet, if their lives are above reproach, and if they have anything in them of the milk of human kindness, they may have infinitely more to give you in return for your friendship than you suspect, and possibly much more than you deserve.  It is the greatest folly to be always searching round for ideal friends and meanwhile breaking your heart with loneliness, waiting for them to appear above your horizon.  What would you really do with ideal friends if you had them?  Very likely you would be greatly disappointed in them and they might be equally disappointed in you.  Begin with the people all around you and I feel sure you will soon make some surprising discoveries of the wealth of human affection lying concealed in just ordinary folk.

Yours sincerely,




Youth and the changing world

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st January 2013 Blog)

This article was written in 1930 when JRWR was 43.  It makes a plea for tolerance for the youthful point of view.

Dear Young Friends,

In conversation recently with an elderly friend of mine - who will forgive me, I hope, if he finds his opinions in print - he informed me that he was greatly exercised in his mind with regard to the young life of the present day.  His greatest puzzle was to discern exactly what was happening in the mind of youth. "Something very radical is happening," he said, "I feel it in my bones! Everything is being questioned by these younger minds. They are realists, a lot of them, some even are sceptics. They seem to be searching for a type of life that is not ours. They have declared war on 'Mother Grundy,' and all that she without question demanded.  Taboos are laughed at or ignored. There is nothing the youth of today will not dare to know; they have the cheek to challenge even the Christianity as interpreted by our fathers and handed down to us as a precious heritage!"         

For the views of my elders I have profound respect and I have always been taught to defer to the accumulated wisdom of mature age.  I believe it to be wise and sensible to do so, for when all is said and done, there is nothing to outmatch experience.  Theory, as held by youth, may be good enough, but it is not sufficient in itself.   Long years can alone afford the detached view, the well-balanced judgement.  Yet it has to be said that old age may be sometimes very conservative, hostile to all change and blindly loyal to its traditions.

In writing to you, I am not forgetful that I am addressing young men and women and if you were to ask me for my own feel­ing on the matter, I would reply that youth is neither better nor worse than at any other time.   It is different - that is all, and differ­ent because youth is living in an altogether different world to which it has not yet learned fully to adjust itself.   As a matter of fact we are all living in a larger world. That wireless set in the corner of your sitting room is one of the greatest scientific discoveries in the recent history of mankind.  Other discoveries in physical science have changed the material conditions of life, but this latest wonder is illuminating the minds of multitudes, breaking down isolation, and giving an almost miraculous unity to all human thought.  Truth is broadcast.  The relation of Religion to Science as well as many other matters of moment is freely discussed by the most eminent men of to­day. The standard of general knowledge is thus being raised, and many new doors are being opened in the secret chambers of the mind.

The cinematograph picture and now the "talkies" are also contributing to the change that is proceeding.  There is no doubt that the intellectual banality as well as the moral turpitude of much of the screen drama cannot be too strongly condemned, but at the same time, the awakening and revealing effect of the films on the minds of the youth of today must be realised.  Youth with its enquiring, inquisitive mind will go to see the pictures.  They see the panorama of the world’s life, good and bad, unrolled before them and with an astonishing and not too wholesome realism. What it is all going to lead to no one can say, but one thing is certain, it is not leaving nor is it going to leave youth uninfluenced.  It ought to be said, in passing, that it is high time Christian people did something about it even if it were only to frighten the film producers into some kind of decency.  In a recent article in the public press a well-known professional screen critic said, "The talkies have reached depths of vulgarity unknown to the old silent films," and "few indeed are the films that could be called clean by any standards known to the first screen generation." 

In the midst of it all, old loyalties and old moralities are being questioned and Christianity itself, as the final rule of life and conduct, is being challenged. Writers, who openly state that religious dogma of all creeds can no longer be accepted, are freely read. Writers such as Aldous Huxley are attempting new interpretations of life, exaggerating its weakness and its moral disorder. Men like Mr Bertrand Russell are trying to formulate a new school of ethics proposing to substitute moral freedom for ancient discipline. They represent, it is said, the spirit of the age. They may not have a large following, but still their ideas have a way of filtering down into the minds of the masses.  One finds the theories and practices they advocate, as well as the problems of life and religion they propose to solve, being discussed in offices, trains, and drawing rooms.  Many who, because they have no certain faith and are becoming sceptical of all authority, would almost welcome that type of liberty that is only another name for licence.

And yet we say that we do not fear for the youth of today, although we may be at times concerned.  The younger generation is not less religious than its predecessors. At heart the modern young man has not greatly changed - it is the world around him that has changed, leaving him at times unsettled and perplexed.  Underneath his apparent indifference his soul is hungry. He demands reality.  He wants help in the grim business of living and he also seeks adventure.  Religion seems to him to be dull and halting, a sort of "safety first" mode of living. Therefore he turns to life, to sport, to anything for that outlet which he feels the Christian Church denies him.

Yours sincerely,



A gentleman

What is a gentleman?

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st December 2012 Blog)

This article was written in 1927.  JRWR’s views on gentlemanliness sound somewhat dated today but, in their essentials, are as valid now as they always were.

Dear Young Friends,

I intend some day to write regularly to the young women readers of this column.  I regret that up to the present I have not been able to decide to do so.  Anything I have had to say to them has been said indirectly and that, to say the least about it, is not very courageous.  This week, I fear, I shall have to procrastinate yet again.  My mind is not made up – a somewhat feminine failing I must admit.   It is not that I am lacking sufficient interest.  I am inclined to think that I err on the side of caution.   However, I promise that if my opportunity is extended I will make the venture.  Meanwhile, I presume to hope that I may arouse your curiosity that I may have something useful to say when I do write.

My remarks last week sent my mind running along the line of the subject of this letter.  It is altogether for young men.  I trust, however, that it may be of some general interest.  If I were asked the question, “What is a gentleman?” I think I would begin in the simplest way by pointing out what he is not.  

He is not that vacant looking, lamb-like youth who is punctilious to a fault in the choice of his ties and socks, who is most particular regarding the angle at which he wears his hat, and who makes a continual study of the "streamlines" of his hair and is sometimes described as "pretty-looking and pretty-behaved, apparently constructed without backbone."  "By which," added the writer, "I do not allude to his corporal spine that is right enough, but to his character."

This type of young man, I feel sure, you pitifully despise.  At all strenuous, healthy games he professes to be an expert, but when you get to know a little more about him, you generally find that it is – as a spectator.  Very likely he is too dignified or weak-kneed to indulge in manly sports.  Usually too, he is destitute of any noble impulse or lofty ideal.  The things that matter most in life are trifles to him – he soars above them with an inane unconcern.  In religion he may possibly be mildly interested although I have heard it cynically suggested that his only reason for being so is that he lacks the pluck to be anything else.

It is said to be a Christian virtue to love everybody, but I am afraid I have to confess that I have always found it difficult to have a loving regard for a fop.  It is an old saying and a true one, "Adecorated donkey is a donkey still."  I am not suggesting of course that carelessness in dress is a desirable habit to cultivate, but I do feel that the "Easter Monday masher," or the "drawing-room dandy," although he may be ravishingly beautiful in his own estimation, could never be mistaken for a gentleman.  

If I had a choice I would almost prefer the careless, apparently reckless, impetuous type who is often possessed of a never failing vivacity and a heart that overflows with love.  How often is it found that beneath the plainest exterior there beats the best of hearts?  Such a person may be rather untidy looking at times, he may wear the homeliest of tweeds, he may be diffident and shy, but ob­serve how honest is his face, feel the firm grip of his hand and see how ready he is at all times to go out of his way to oblige.  You may almost lose patience with him at times he is so unconcerned regarding his personal appearance, but you cannot help liking him – he is so refreshingly frank and so trans­parently sincere.  You somehow feel instinctively that he has in him the making of a perfect gentleman.

I think I could never feel very happy as a caricaturist and I hope in attempting to delineate the type who has nothing of the gentleman about him I have not exaggerated too much.  I pass on at any rate with relief to suggest some other qualities of true gentlemanliness. 

Courtesy I would put first.  The true gentleman is always distinguished by an unfailing courtesy and delightful tact.  I have always had difficulty in understanding the mind of the man who boasts that he never minces his words and that he does not care who he hurts.  People sometimes make all sorts of excuses for him and speak as if he were a splendid fellow besides whom mild mannered persons are little better than hypocrites.  They say he is plain spoken but the truth of the matter is he is often rude.  Why he should be praised or even tolerated and how he manages to get away with it at times is a mystery to me.  Courtesy is the entire absence of bluff and bounce and bluntness and self-assertion.   No man should ever be called a gentleman who prides himself in these things and who in their exercise is careless of the feelings of others.  I like the words of Tennyson, “the greater the man, the greater the courtesy.”

Another unmistakable indication of gentlemanliness is humility.  I suppose I need hardly point out that humility does not involve meanness or servility.  It does not mean that you are lacking in spirit.  It contains nothing in the expression of it that should degrade you or expose you to contempt.  Nor does it mean that you should pretend to think very lowly of your own powers or emulate the spirit of Uriah Heap.  You can be perfectly humble, and yet at the same time have a very clear con­ception that you can do certain things better than other people, although it may not be always wise to say so.  Humility does not consist, in undue deprecation of self, but in a sane and accurate knowledge of your gifts and cap­abilities.

I remember a very good friend of mine saying to me in the first year of my probation – perhaps I needed it, "If Christian­ity has not taught a man humility, he has missed the first lesson."   If you are to be known as a Christian gentleman, possibly the highest honour that any young man could covet, you also must cultivate the grace of true humility.

There is one other indispensable characteristic of the gentleman I would like to mention briefly.   It is brotherliness.  Not only is this one of the chief indications of true gentlemanliness, it is the very essence and heart of real Christianity.  The word brother, and its compounds such as brotherhood and brotherly love, is almost a coinage of Christianity.  It seems almost like uttering a platitude to say that it is a fuller expression of brotherliness that the world is hungering after today.  It is needed in the Church as much as anywhere else.  A chilling manner and an air of supercilious self-conceit should always be foreign to the church porch, and pew, and pulpit.  Most people fear to face the prim and pompous frigidity of an iceberg.  What is wanted is the gentlemanliness that welcomes with a hearty hand grasp and the friendly help of brotherly love. Such a spirit can only be caught at the Cross.  It is worth seeking.

Yours sincerely,



Nothing to do with failure!

How to be a failure

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st November 2012 Blog)

This article was written in 1926.  It suggests that the main cause of failure is laziness and slothfulness.  It reflects JRWR’s strong work ethic that shaped his approach to all he did.  He always made a point of saying, “If you are going do it at all, do it well.”

Dear Young Friends,

I do not think that I shall ever be able to get much help through the reading of books on "Easy ways to Success," any more than I shall be able to prolong my life through reading a treatise by some centenarian on "How to live to be a Hundred."  I am sorry to say that I have not found the good counsel in either case very helpful.  Instances of early death because of carelessness, and cases of failure through wanton neglect have impressed me far more.  I imagine it must be rather difficult, at any rate, to write about success. There are not so many really qualified to do it, as comparatively few attain to it.

Failure is a much easier subject; it is the common lot of a large number. The world is full of failures.  They are born, they go to school unwillingly, they eat and sleep regularly, they live aimlessly, they die certainly and society is not much the poorer when they finally go.  Should we despise these unfortunates or be bitter in our condemna­tion?   I hardly think so.  Failure is the easiest thing to achieve in the world.

I have heard it said that one of the surest ways to failure is to be born with what is called "a silver spoon in the mouth".  The spoon, it is also said, has a rather provoking way of stick­ing in the throat and sometimes choking the man in later life.  To inherit wealth is not always an unmixed blessing.   Except in some cases the young man, who comes on to the stage of life to the music of jingling gold as somebody puts it, usually plays a poor and insignificant role in life.

Very often the best thing that could happen to a young man is to be thrown largely on his own resources.  The boy who grows up to manhood with the knowledge that there is plenty of money behind him may not take kindly to hard work or to the training necessary to become proficient in business or in a profession.  Of course there are splendid exceptions, but generally speaking, the men who have won the biggest success in commerce and in professional life have been men whose earlier years were marked by struggle.  Poverty can often be a blessing in disguise.  It stirs a young man to battle, it is a sure preventative of self-indulgence and it certainly does not encourage laziness.

But I must be a little more explicit.  A convenient method, if you wish to be a failure, is to cultivate idle habits.   I suppose most of us are as lazy as we dare to be.  Laziness is every man's deadliest enemy, and once it gets a hold, partial paralysis of the energies and faculties is the inevitable result.  Perhaps one of the ugliest sights in the world is a thorough-bred loafer who has so cultivated idleness that he has become like the slothful man in the Book of Proverbs who "burieth his hand in the dish, and will not so much as bring it to his mouth again", or like the dog in the old story that was so lazy that he used to lean his head against the wall to bark. 

If you are then content merely to exist, idleness is the very thing in which you should indulge.  Be a “come-day, go-day, God-send-Sunday, man”.  See to it that the world is well aired before you turn out in the morning and never think of working between meals – it injures the digestion.  You could also take as an incentive the words of the hymn in their most literal interpretation: ''Oh to be nothing, nothing."  This is an ambition that does not provoke much effort.  Nothingness is easily achieved.  In a word – be a "slacker" and, generally, you will always be miserably small in terms of achievement and contemptibly insignificant. 

A further fruitful method is – “kill time”.  I suppose the ill use of time is the besetting sin of a great many.  Hundreds of young men who would turn with shame from actual sinful dissipation fritter away their hours in aimless amusement.  Their virtues are of a negative order.  They abstain from evil but they never do very much good.  Perhaps the worst and most costly extravagance of which any young man or woman could be guilty is to throw away his or her evenings.  Every hour you "kill" is lost forever.  You imagine you can make up for the hours you so spend, but you never do.  Time wasting in youth is one of the mistakes in life that is beyond correction. 

If failure then is your aim in life – take up some "pastime".  Never dream of devoting your evenings to some useful study or helpful recreation.  You have left school – why should you continue any longer to study?  Read only the magazines that con­tain the lightest diet in literature, such as, "The Adventures of Pippins" or "Kitty's Courtship".  In business or in the office, do not put yourself about in any way, and of course never think of trying to fit yourself for a higher position – it is hardly fair to the man above you.  Just "put in your time" every day and failure you will not have far to seek.

I think a further helpful suggestion would be “cultivate carelessness and unpunctuality”.  Lack of punctuality is such a common complaint that I need hardly take time to discuss it.  Carelessness, the "any old thing will do" way of look­ing at things is also so well known that it re­quires no elucidation.  Failure, I am again presuming, is what you have set before you. How may you secure it?  Well, if you are at school or College – do not waste your evening in study but go to the pictures; you can look over your work in the morning.  If you have to be at business at 9am and it usually takes half-an-hour to get there – get up at half past eight.  If you are Secretary of a club or society – do not trouble about making out any agenda.  Should anybody enquire for one, reply – "our meetings are quite homely you know, we never make out a programme."  In Committee – just carry on in an informal sort of way, never discuss anything relevant to the subject before you, and of course let it be known that the members are at liberty to whisper to one another as much as they like.  

If you are a Sunday school teacher – do not look up the lesson notes until after dinner on Sunday – five or ten minutes preparation is quite sufficient.  If you are a preacher – just trust to the inspira­tion of the moment.  Do not on any account select your hymns beforehand – it warms you up to have to hunt for them when the Organist is playing the opening voluntary.  Attend to these suggestions and you will be a splendid failure in everything you attempt.

There is one other way in which you may become a failure to which I would like to refer – do not trouble about Religion.  It is useful enough, of course, for elderly people who may be getting near the end of life's journey, but you have life to live and you have made up your mind to have what is called a "good time".  At any rate you are as good as anybody else in your own estimation.  Leave it to other young men and women to endeavour to express in their lives the truths of Christianity, to seek to reorganise society on better lines and to make the world a happier place in which to live.  If you are a Christian in any sense, be content to be a poor one.  Believe that a victorious life is al­together impossible and the world will certainly come to regard you as a successful failure, and consign you to oblivion.


Yours sincerely,




On Gossiping

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st October 2012 Blog)

This article deals with the harm that can sometimes be done by gossip and what can be done to limit that harm.

Dear Young Friends,

A gossip, according to my dictionary, is "one who runs about telling and hearing news, a newsmonger, a tattler."   In parenthesis, in the same Oxford Dictionary, is printed what I would hardly dare to put to paper: "especially women"!   Why women should be supposed to be much worse than men in this business, I do not know.  I have in my possession a book of old proverbs and sayings, classified and arranged. I turned it up to find a text, but, somewhat alarmed, I put it down again. Here is what I found: "A woman only conceals what she does not know"; "Women's tongues are like lambs' tails, always wagging"; "Foxes are all tail and women all tongue"; "From big guns and women's tongues, deliver us."

I should say at once that I do not believe these aspersions to be true. Possibly some man who deservedly suffered much because of a sharp tongue in his own home coined each saying.  This must have been his revenge, for it cannot be doubted that the stronger and allegedly wiser sex have often been guilty of the gossiping habit. The bad repute, therefore, in which women find themselves in this respect may just be the result of the mischief of some old woman-hater, who put into practice what the man said about his dog: "I'll not beat thee, or abuse thee, but I'll give thee an ill-name.”

Of course, a great deal of the gossip engaged in is harmless. We must have something to talk about.  Existence would be very dull were it otherwise. For some reason or other we are all so constituted that we find people far more interesting than things as a theme for discussion. We all talk.  We all discuss our friends and acquaintances.  We all say things about them that we piously hope that they may never hear and we should feel very sorry for ourselves if they did.   Our consolation is should we at any time regard the practice as a fault, that the very people we take such an interest in discussing critically, converse about us in like manner.  I hold then that there is very little harm in gossip of this kind, for the simple reason that it is not in any sense malicious.   It is common in every company of people and if it were ruled out, a great deal of the spice would disappear out of ordinary conversation.

The gossip that is evil is that which utterly disregards the plain direction of the commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour."   That does not merely suggest the un-wisdom of accusing others falsely.  It is a statement as clear as words can make them.  "Thou shalt not."  And yet I suppose that hardly a day passes in which this precept is not disregarded by multitudes of people. Why this should be so is very difficult to say. It is as wicked as it is cowardly, and yet by idle conversation, by careless repetition of tittle-tattle, by suggestion, insinuation and by innuendo, many who profess allegiance to Jesus Christ are constantly robbing people of reputation without apology or regret.

I would not like to suggest that any of you, my young readers, desire to make a habit of gossip deliberately.  I should be very sorry to think that you would and yet it is quite possible for any one of us to indulge in the evil thoughtlessly.  It is very easy to fall into the practice in careless, unguarded conversation.  Yet all know with what ease any speaker can secure undivided attention by opening up with the remark, "Ican tell you something that will surprise you about so and so” or,  "Did you hear the latest about Mrs -----.” 

The temptation is always strong, as you can understand on the part of the narrator to exag­gerate grossly what may have been, in the first instance, all absolutely baseless rumour. And, unfortunately, the falsity of the story is seldom of little avail to the victim. He is absent; he can neither explain nor repudiate. Very often the report is accepted without proof, for although it may seem a hard thing to say, there are always some who are ready to believe the worst about any man.  Such an attitude of mind deserves the strongest, condemnation. A tattler is really a thief, a robber of the meanest type - for it need hardly be said that a man's character is of infinitely greater value than his money.

"He who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands;                                     
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed."

Another way in which we may find ourselves at fault in this matter is by repeating what we may have heard regarding another, in such a tone of voice, and with such emphasis as to entirely misrepresent the sig­nificance of the original story.  What we say may be quite true in fact, but it may be altogether false in spirit. It is also very easy to relate something done by another, and yet, by omitting certain extenuating circumstances, entirely distort the person’s conduct at the time.

You see then that in general conversation about others, it is needful to enquire, not merely is the story true in fact, but also is it true to the particular situation in which the man who so acted found himself at the time. We cannot, and we should not always judge a man by his outward conduct.  Some who may have observed Abraham long ago on Mount Moriah raise his knife to slay his son, may have spoken of him afterwards as an inhuman monster who, but for the happy intervention of the ram caught in the thicket by its horns, might have actually been the murderer of his son.  But those who knew the whole story would freely endorse the blessing of Heaven that was the father's.

One other thing I may mention is that very often listening to gossip does as much harm as retelling it.  If there were no listeners there would be few thriving gossips to be found in any community.  These gossipmongers have to startle you with some new sensation, imaginary or otherwise. Try not to listen and if that does not succeed look bored!   They may cease, but if not, let not complete silence on your part signify agreement.  And when you do speak, you must not merely pass the story off by remarking, "Oh! Is that so? Well, I am surprised!"  Challenge the statement.  That is your first duty to the other fellow, whether you have any great faith in him or not.  If it should be that the evidence given is beyond dispute, then let the matter lie; do not send the story on, even though it should have sufficiently sturdy legs to carry it. 

If there were space I could go on to tell you of the heart-breaking pain caused by gossiping tongues.  The harm done is often incalculable.  The gift of speech is for every one of us a very solemn responsibility.  When we are in company and the conversation is lively, let us be "sports" as well as Christians, and not blister our tongues by tale bearing.  Play the game with the other fellow every time, even when he is absent.  As comrades, let us be like Tennyson’s ideal knight “who spoke no slander, no nor listened to it.”



A Master of The art of conversation!

The Art of Conversation

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st September 2012 Blog)

JRWR enjoyed striking up conversations and friendships with people he met in churches, trains, shops etc.  He loved talking to people and learning from them.  His friendliness and conversational ability allowed him to converse in depth and so gain a good understanding of human strengths and frailties. This contributed to the human compassion and practical wisdom for which he became so well known.  

Dear Young Friends,
"I never knew the time passing," said a friend to me the other day, speaking of a journey by train to Londonderry.  "I usually find travelling rather tedious, but yesterday the hours fled. I got into conversation with Mr. -----.  He is a most interesting man to talk to, and we had a delightful time.  I would not mind travelling every day in company with a man of his type." 

I suppose you have had at different times an experience almost similar.  You have been in the company of some friend who by nature and education not only charmed you but also instructed you by his freedom in conversation.  You almost envied the man his power and yet I wonder have you ever tried to develop the gift, or use it wisely.  After all, there are few things more frequently neglected than the cultivation of the gifts of conversation, and yet there are few things that are more helpful in giving pleasure and profit.  Perhaps it would be worthwhile to write to you on the matter?

I would suggest to you that you make the subject a matter of study in order that you may not merely free yourself from faults but make the art of conversation an accomplishment – a part of your education.  There is possibly nothing in the entire world so utterly boring as to be in the company for any length of time of anyone who cannot converse.  Time after time you try to break ground and open up some subject of interest but your repeated attempts are usually met by monosyllabic replies, and you give up in despair.  The very thought of meeting that person again almost gives you pain.

Conversation is a kind of magic key that opens many doors of surprising interest, and there is scarcely any way in which you can gain a stronger hold on the circle in which you move or in which you may do more good.  You not only provide pleasure and give instruction, but you in turn receive both.  In every community there is a vast quantity of thought and information afloat which never has been, and never will be, committed to paper, and if you can only draw on this great fountain continually, you are tapping an excellent source of general knowledge.

At the same time you must be prepared to give.  If you would learn from others and enjoy their conversation, it is certainly your duty to so cultivate your powers and talents that others may derive the same benefits from you.  Need you be reminded that you should not waste your own time and the time of others in talking about trifles?  It may be your misfortune, from time to time, to have to endure "small-talk”.  You are greatly to be pitied, and yet it is hard to avoid it.  There are some people who move in a sphere so contracted, and the range of their thoughts is so limited, that almost before you enter their company you can anticipate the kind of gossip in which they indulge.  How exceedingly tiresome it is.  The same old round of talk about nothing in particular, the same ridiculing of friends and neighbours, and the same old stories repeated with additions. 

And yet in every company, however petty and trifling, you will surely find at least one who is able and willing to communicate something of profit.  Seek such a person out; ply him with questions, and be in earnest to obtain all the information you can get. In this way everyone can learn if he chooses.  If there are not two in every company who are engaged in profitable conversation it is your own fault and you have no right to complain that the evening was dull and uninteresting. 

Be careful at all times to so guard your conversation that it allows no room for evil speaking.  Unfortunately there is a tendency amongst most people to slander one another, or at least to throw out hints that detract from the good opinion that they suppose is entertained regarding their fellows.  I heard of a man who settled in a certain midland town and was introduced with much interest to its fashionable circle.  It was soon observed that when in company he had one incorrigible fault; he always stayed so as to be the last person to leave.  At last one evening he was asked why he al­ways stayed so long.  He replied with great good nature, "I have often observed that as soon as a man has gone, those who remain usually begin to talk about him; consequently, I always think it wise to stay until no one is left to slander me."  Discussion and criticism of the one who goes is a common fault and an abominable one.

Never then, when in company, allow yourself to succumb to the temptation to ridicule or speak evil of the absent.  It is a shameful thing.  You at once lower yourself in your own estimation as well as in the good opinion of your friends.  You may for the time join in the general laugh at the imperfections and weaknesses of someone else yet afterwards if you have in you anything of the spirit of true manliness or womanliness, you will feel that you have acted like a cad, and that you have not done as you would that others should do to you.

It is not a good thing at any time in conversation to make any display of knowledge or superior learning.  No company like to confess that they are ignorant, and if you make a parade of your learning you are really giving a silent in­vitation to all present to acknowledge your super­iority.  I remember feeling very sorry for a young man on one occasion, who in company seemed to think that he was having a great time, but was in reality only succeeding in making a donkey of himself.  He quoted Latin and tried to talk in Greek, and took great delight in tracing every occasional word spoken to its original root.  That sort of thing is almost in­sufferable.  It is certainly no evidence of learn­ing since a single hour spent over a dictionary would produce learning enough to torment a circle for a whole evening.  If you are really a scholar you will make very little noise about it.

My space is almost gone, but I want to add – be careful at all times to maintain purity of thought.  All approaches to what is indelicate at once discountenance.  None but the depraved really enjoy the suggestive joke or the story with a double meaning.  Never allow anything then to drop from your lips that you would not be willing to have your mother or your sister hear you say.  Never use conversation to your own hurt, or to the injury of others.  Remember that every word you utter wings its way to the throne of God, and may affect the condition of your soul forever.  Once uttered, it can never be recalled and the impression, which it makes, may extend to the end of your days.

Yours sincerely,



Holiday time!

About holidays

(To see a comment regarding this article go to the 1st August 2012 Blog)

This article sets out what JRWR constitutes a good holiday and warns against the hazards that may be encountered while on holiday.

Dear Young Friends,

I suppose you are already thinking about your summer holidays, if you have not actually made your plans.  It is certainly a delightful anticipation if you have had to work hard for eleven months of the year or longer.  What an exhilarating novelty it is to feel that for a week, or ten days, or a fortnight you will enjoy a change from your ordinary occupation and that the hours will be largely your own to spend precisely as you please. 

Possibly you are going to some new place this year, and you are wondering what it will be like, with what fresh sights and sounds and scenery you will become familiar during your stay, and what new friends it may be your privilege to meet.  Some of you have been "saving up" very likely to secure these delights, and I need not suggest to you that if the money has cost you something to possess you will have all the more pleasure in spending it wisely.   Money, like leisure, is only truly appreciated when it has been duly earned.  I believe no one enjoys a holiday more thoroughly than the hard-working young businessman or woman, and for that reason, fifty weeks of honest toil and earning form the best possible preparation

I sometime wonder, however, if holidays in the form usually taken by some people should not be prohibited.   I imagine it would be a decided benefit for all parties concerned.  When I think of the first of July scramble to get away, and the wild rush of the August bank holiday exodus, I seriously ask myself could there not be some better arrangement?  It is a curious thing that so many want to leave at the same time, and to crowd along the same common road, caught by the same holiday fever. And then, why, after months of strenuous toil and activity, of which the weeks preceding are usually the most feverish, not to mention the rush of packing and getting away, do people desire to plunge at once into more nerve-fraying excitements? 

The idea many people have of a "change" now-a-days is the hastiest possible transit to the nearest, noisiest seaside resort followed by aimless days in crowded boarding houses, ogling parades on the promenades, orgies of ice-cream, repeated visits to the "pictures" and various shows, and hours spent in breathing in the vitiated atmosphere of some dancing saloon in the evening.  This is not a holiday, and is it any wonder if you so indulge, that you feel disgusted and jaded and tired when you return and feel in addition that you would like to go to bed for a week?

There is no sensible reason why you should strain yourself to the last limit before your holiday, and then when you get away, plunge immediately into a mad whirl of fashionable folly, arid imagine you are having a “rest”.   If this should happen to be your ideal for a holiday, I shall not be surprised if, when it is all over, you cheerfully call yourself a fool for the remainder of the year.

The real test to whether or not a holiday has been successful is this: ‘Have I had sufficient to make the prospect of a return to work pleasant and agreeable, and do I come back to business, or whatever it may be, with a new appetite for the duties that previously had almost become burdensome?’  Any other holiday, no matter where you may go or what you may spend, is not worthy of the name if you return dissatisfied, enervated, without a desire for work that is a law of life, and possessed by that generally-fed-up feeling.  If this is how you feel, you may be certain that your holiday has been a successful failure.

If you come back, however, with the feeling that it good to plunge again into the mid-stream of life and business, that is evidence that you have been mentally, morally and physically strengthened and helped by the change of scenery and occupation. If you are wise, therefore, never allow your holiday to be a time of aimless idleness and silly frivolity. Plan to do something, and to fill up your time generously, to read the books you have been longing for an opportunity to devour, to see those interesting places about which you have only read, to take that physical exercise you require to stimulate the sluggish organs of your body into healthy activity.  Plan to enjoy congenial companionship, and above all to open your heart to the subtle ministries of land and sea and sky, and so to regain possession of yourself again.  Then you will return to the common duties of life renewed in health, restored in spirit, and thrilled with the sheer joy of living.

You need hardly be reminded that holidays have their dangers. Restraints are often removed; few may know you, and you may sometimes be in the exceedingly perilous position of being able to do what you like.  Holiday times bring unfamiliar temptations as well as real pleasures, and you require being constantly on your guard. It is quite a common thing for some people to do things and to indulge in certain kinds of amusement abroad that they would soundly condemn when at home. 

If you are a young person with strong convictions you may find your position difficult at times.  You may be thrown into the company of people, silly and shallow, who have not your ideas about things, and who may be scornful and incredulous regarding many of the Christian sanctions to which you are accustomed, and for which you have respect.  They may try to laugh you out of what they would describe as "old-fashioned notions", but you must remember amongst other things that the sanctions of the Lord's Day are just as binding at the sea-side as at home, and that you should not neglect to divide the day between rest and worship.  There will be times of testing as well as opportunities of showing the kind of stuff that is in you.  

I am not suggesting, of course, that you should parade your religion in any ostentatious way, or that you should make yourself objectionable, but at the same time you should make up your mind on all occasions and, no matter what company you may happen to be in, to be loyal to what you believe to be right and to Jesus Christ.  It may mean a quiet but firm refusal to indulge in things of which your conscience does not approve, or it may mean going off by yourself to church when your friends in the house or hotel where you are staying go off on some Sunday excursion. You may be laughed at, called a "silly ass" or a "goose,"or it may be suggested to you that you should take a holiday from religion as well as everything else. 

But never mind; stand firmly by your principles, without sign of hesitation or show of bad temper or ill feeling. You will retain thereby your own self-respect, and you will undoubtedly gain even the sneaking respect of those who would have you disregard the smile of your own conscience, and the blessing of God.

Yours sincerely



Bad Temper

A Bad Day

This article describes the symptoms of the bad day syndrome and makes suggestions on how to deal with them.

Dear Young Friends,

Have you ever had one?  Like every other day it begins in the morning. You have slept badly, and you get up late. Not one thing you want seems to be where you argue with yourself that you put it. Your razor is discovered to be blunt and you gash your chin.  Breakfast is cold before you reach it and then you have only time to swallow it whole. You know that inside two hours you will have wicked indigestion, but what can you do? Eventually you get out of the house to see your tram or bus passing the end of the avenue. You have missed it. Twenty minutes after the time, you arrive at the office or place of business. Your fellows look at you as much as to say "late again," or they make some joke, which to you seems puerile, but it is at your expense. You scowl at them, and, with a surprised growl you try to get to work.

Everything goes wrong. Your fountain pen leaks and you pitch it away; or your chil­blains ache unmercifully and you drop things; or customers aggravate you and you snap at them; or you bark your shin on a box and you look daggers at everybody as if each was to blame.  Your friends unanimously decide that they had better not speak to you again, not at any rate until after lunch!

What has happened to you? For one thing you are completely "out of sorts", your nerves have got on edge, you are out of humour with the universe, and your philosophy of life bas broken down. Your trouble, however, is as much physical as mental. Consequently, you have lost control of the reins of life's forces.   A good tonic, or a day in bed would do you good but you have not the inclination for the one, or the opportunity for the other.

What are you to do? In such circumstances strong-willed self-discipline is about your only remedy. You must make the attempt to manage yourself.  Remember that there are two of you - yourself, and your sub-self.   It might be well then to talk to your­self at such times, as a horseman sometimes talks to his horse – “Steady! Steady!”   At the same time you must not attempt to whip your­self.   That will only tend to aggravate the trouble.  Quiet yourself, gently.  You must be master, and you will soon discover that one great secret is the cultivation of the art of self-control.

There is one thing you must certainly not do, and that is blame your own particular circumstances, or kind of occupation.  We have all a way of thinking that of all kinds of employment or business, ours is the most undesirable and uninteresting.  Maybe, you sometimes say on your own, that you would not make a gift of it to your worst enemy.  This way of looking at things is of course a delusion which, I suppose, is not peculiar to any class, calling, or profession.

There is only one sphere of life that according to the opinion of some is without friction, con­cern and anxiety, and that is the preacher's.  His work is simplicity itself.  If he knows how to "draw an inference", "draw a crowd," and "draw his salary" all the problems of existence are solved for him. Who would not be a preacher?  And yet there are many ministers who look pale and worried and "troubled about many things."  The truth of the matter is that there is no position in life in which a man could be placed that has not its attendant difficulties, perplexities and annoyances but to it a man can always summon his higher self, put it in control, and proceed serenely on.

If you are to avoid bad days and never lose control, begin by attending as I heard a wise man say to the physical basis of your being.  Even Christian Scientists must eat and sleep.  Have you ever wondered why a collector or commercial traveller prefers, if possible, to visit a subscriber or potential customer after dinner?  The reason, I am told, is that you can always get more out of a man after he has had a good meal than before.  He is physically comforted and there is consequent good humour. 

It is a good rule then, never to ask a hungry man for a sub­scription!  Body and mind are very closely related, and if you are wise you will try to keep your physical frame in good tune.  At any rate, you owe it to efficiency to keep yourself fit.  Do not kill yourself with overwork.  Work your hardest of course, and give of your best in good service, but remember that every ship has its load line and you have yours.  Your friends expect you to be a hard worker but they have a way of getting annoyed with you if they see you overdoing it and, if you happen to die, they will complain that it is a pity you had not a little more sense.  They may shed a sympathetic tear, but all they will have to say in explanation of your early exit is, "Poor fellow, he killed himself."  And what an unkindly epitaph that is after all the over-time you tried to put into your day's work? 

Ease off then from time to time and give your body and brain a chance.  Recognise that one day's rest in seven is a Divine regulation and that, if you do not see fit to take it, the result will possibly be that before very long your life will be an enforced and continuous rest.  To any man accustomed to active habits, this is the very acme of punishment. 

Having seen to the physical basis, you are ready for the next step: the cultivation of a happy disposition.  Wasn't it Dr. Samuel Johnson who said that the habit of looking on the bright side of things was better than “a thousand a year?”  And it can be made a habit.  I heard of a bright spirit in a certain congregation who, when the preacher announced the hymn, "Count your many blessings," ejaculated, "Glory.  It can't be done  – there are too many to count".  You may not have the happy outlook this man enjoyed, but can at least make the attempt to enumerate the mercies that are new every morning.

Perhaps no one suffered a greater handicap than Helen Keller. She was blind and deaf and dumb and yet she could say: "I try to increase the power God has given to me to see the best in everything and in everybody, and make the best a part of my life.  To what is good I open the doors of my being, and jealously shut out what is bad.”  She made the best of things.  Why not try in your particular circumstances to do the same?  If you do not feel like attempting to do that, why not read "Pollyanna".  Then possibly you also will be able to find much in life about which to be glad and for which to thank God.

May I pass on to you a few verses I came across in a little anthology the other day by an anonymous writer?  The lines may help should you happen upon "a bad day."
If you strike a thorn or rose – Keep a goin'! 
If it hails or if it snows – Keep a goin'!
'Tain't no use to sit and whine when the fish ain't on your line,
Bait the hook and keep on tryin’ – Keep a goin'!

If the weather kills your crop – Keep a goin'!
When you tumble from the top – Keep a goin' !
S'pose you're out of every dime, getting broke ain’t any crime,
Tell the world you're feelin' prime – Keep a goin'!

When it looks like all is up – Keep a goin'!
Drain the sweetness from the cup – Keep a goin'!
See the wild birds on the wing, hear the bells that sweetly ring.
When you feel like sighing, sing – Keep a goin’!

Yours sincerely



Bad Temper

Bad Temper

This article was written in 1927.  JRWR makes the point that a choleric temper can be a useful quality if put to proper use but needs to be kept under strict control and harnessed to appropriate ends.

Dear Young Friends,

Are you ever cross, ill tempered, feeling as if you could cheerfully smash things, bang doors, hit somebody, kick the nearest convenient thing, and get considerable relief in so doing?   I do not know whether you have been feeling so recently, but I am almost certain you have at some time experienced the state of mind just described. If not, you are an extraordinary person, and what I propose to write is hardly for you.  I am disposed to think, however, that what is common to so many is not foreign to some who may happen to read this column.  A letter on this much-exercised human frailty will not be out of place even though it does not throw much light on the mental state that is still rather baffling in its actions.

I am not sure if I can properly define temper. It is difficult to analyse with precision an experience or a disposition. Temper according to my dictionary is to mix in due proportion as in an alloy. Bad temper, I would therefore presume, is the result of a bad mixture or uneven balance of different or contrary qualities in the constitution.

According to an ancient doctrine that, like many another, has been severely criticised, a person's temper or temperament is determined by the proportion in which the elements of which his constitution is composed are mixed.  The elements were said to be four in number. We have therefore the four temperaments that are named the sanguine, the phlegmatic, the melancholic, and the choleric. The elements that predominate in me or in you determines the temper - so runs the theory. A pity is it not, that in many of us the elements, whatever they may be, have been so badly mingled? Unfortunately, most of us are a rather curious jumble of conflicting and contradictory qualities.  I sometimes think that if we could at times stand outside ourselves and observe our complexity we would be strangely amused.

I began by suggesting that bad temper should be our subject. Let us call it - a preponderance of the choleric!  In some respects of course the choleric temperament is one to be desired. It indicates that a man has force, and energy, and passion - the type of man who is quick to decide upon action, and is swift to execute, who is never daunted by difficulties, and who if life sets an object before him will sacrifice everything for its attainment. This is the spirit of the pioneer, the reformer, and the missionary.  I suppose this is why it is said that if a man has not a bit of a temper he is of very little use.  I heard of a man who, when apologising for having lost his temper, received the questionable comfort from one of his friends who knew him very well that he could not lose anything so big!  

As a matter of fact it would be a very serious thing if a man "lost his temper."  Temper was not made to be lost but trained. In many ways I would prefer the choleric to the phlegmatic temperament, and I think so would you.  It is the abuse, the lack of true direction, and the want of proper control of the fiery side of our nature that is the cause of all the trouble.

Is it not then rather a pity that you should at any time allow the temper to get out of control? By so doing you become your own worst enemy and your company at times is far from being desirable. You may possess all the admirable qualities I have just named, but most people prefer to know you from a convenient distance.  There is very little real companionship with you for conversation must be ever guarded lest at any moment the time should be touched which would set you off with much sound and fury. You may say "Good-night" to the members of your family with a smile and a pleasant expression, but unfortunately the morning brings again a preponderance of the choleric, and you fly into an ungovernable rage, all because your tea isn’t hot or your porridge is too cold. 

Nor is this characteristic peculiarly masculine.  How often even the gentle disposition of a young woman can be turned into a fire of wrath on very slight provocation and her natural charm entirely lost in her pyrotechnical explosions.  I am not suggesting, of course that you should be all sugar and honey, but I do suggest that you should not be all vinegar and vitriol.  Let the mixture be in due proportion. There is a middle way in all things - only stupid people go to extremes. You know the words, "See thou a man that is hasty in his words?  There is more hope of a fool than of him."

One of the sad things about the evil of bad temper, and I think you will agree, is that it is an evil in that it interrupts and often destroys the formation of healthy mental habits.  Clear thinking and sound judgement depend on a close harmony between our powers of perception, our analysis of what we perceive and our impulses to act after we have seen and thought.   Bad temper throws all out of gear. Every day you live you have problems confronting you that must be solved immediately.  How can you trust yourself at such times, and how can others trust you if you are prone to be led away from the paths of reason and common sense on the slightest provocation?  Is it not an essential attribute of high character that it may be safely relied upon at all times, in the smallest details as well as in the most important of problems?  I think it is. Why not then try to keep a level head on all occasions?
And. now having said so much, I would like to add one or two things for your comfort; there's not one of us who cannot take up the cry of the poet, "Strange fits of passion have I known".   One is: should you lose your temper, or in other words, lose grip of yourself and fly headlong into a rage, see to it that it is about something worthwhile.   In a book I was reading the other day I marked this paragraph, "Wrath is not sin; it is a glorious attribute of God, not indeed to be used for the gratification of spite against those who have crossed us in purposes or wounded our pride, for all such temper is sin.  The anger that is virtue is that which is kindled against the false, the foul and the cruel."   Even then, however anger and temper must be under the government of conscience and reason, for an old Puritan said, "When it is our duty to give nasty medicine we ought to be careful not to give it scalding hot."

The other is: that if bad temper happens to be your weakness, it can be disciplined and controlled.  Is it not to be expected that you should always maintain a smiling face and a sunny disposition in daily life as it is now ordered?  But you ought to be a master of yourself.  "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he that ruleth his spirit is better than he that taketh a city."  If it can be done in the power of Jesus Christ, and touched by His gentleness, you may be "blest with a temper whose unclouded ray can make tomorrow as pleasant as today."

Yours sincerely


  © Copyright James Jackson 2012