“And in my governing [of] this land, I have ever set the last Judgement day before mine eyes, and so to rule, as I shall be judged and answer before a higher Judge…” (Elizabeth I)
As I read the brief note on J.C. Penny in last month’s Thy Kingdom Come, I couldn’t help but be inspired by this great man who founded a huge retail empire, yet, demonstrated over and over again, the necessity of his Christian responsibilities. Yet, I got to thinking that we really don’t have to govern a land, or be a chief executive of a corporation, or reach the pinnacle of a profession, or regularly have our names in the media, as long as whatever we become, we heed the words of England’s greatest monarch, Elizabeth I. For, they can just as easily be interpreted, “And as I make my journey through this life, I will keep the last Judgment Day prominently in mind and know that I will be judged before the Throne of the Lord Jesus Christ and must do my best to live accordingly.” Still, I know, and you know, that living our lives in accordance with God’s way is not an easy task in these days where we are fed our daily portion of advertising, media slants, new realities and pleasures. It is so alluring to get caught up in the new Babylon and so simple to shut our eyes to how God would have us live. Nevertheless, as demanding as it is for those of us whose walk through life is rather unassuming, think of the challenge of those poor souls who achieve great power and wealth. In Matthew 19: 24 Jesus said, “.it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, then for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God,” When we look at the rich and powerful today, locked so tightly within Mystery Babylon, we can look with awe to rare individuals like the late J.C. Penny.
Probably ever reader knows of some men and women, who, having achieved great wealth and status, share some of that wealth for some benevolent purpose. Admirable as it is, in likely 99 out of a hundred instances, the media has been called to witness the charitable gift and the benevolence of the giver. Then too, all of us have witnessed politicians, who profess to have Jesus Christ in their hearts, talk of Christian values, yet compromise with evil to maintain their place in the sun. Or, we witness great names in theology preaching Christ but adopting false doctrine and ecumenism to retain the glory of their ministries. If you’re like me, you feel a tinge of sadness every time you read the account of King Solomon, who was so wealthy and so wise, yet didn’t keep his eyes upon the last Judgment Day and so, corrupted both himself and his kingdom. It’s true that we who lead unassuming lives are also guilty of the very same weaknesses and we shall be called to account. Yet, the rich, the powerful and the famous of True Israel occupy positions as our “shepherds” and sadly, most of those who truly have Jesus as their Saviour can look to no better than being the least in the Kingdom because they let Babylon rule. You could say, “They have opted for their reward here on earth.”
Don’t get me wrong! There are countless men and women who live without fanfare, yet whose positions in the coming Kingdom are assured and likely, very lofty. They live their lives as close as they can to God’s way, they work for the furtherance of His Word, through example they inspire others and through tithes they make it possible for charities and ministries to carry on. And it would not be fair to suggest that all the rich and famous do things only for self-gratification, for the truth is, there are rare exceptions. For the balance of this article I would like to tell you about one.
Recently, I read an 1867 remark that in part said, “Great men are they who see that spiritual [power] is stronger than any material force.” Taking this phrase to its logical conclusion, one would have to say there were few “great” men and women in history, only “powerful” ones. For someone to be classified as “great,” he or she would have to be indeed an uncommon person. I would like to tell you about one, not to give him any great status but to give you an example of a willing servant of God. In all likelihood, you will not have heard of him. Yet, he was uncommon, he was powerful, he was wealthy, and he lived as if he keep his eye on the last Judgment Day. His name was Alexander Gibson, people referred to him simply as “the Boss,” he was a product of the nineteenth century. The following biographical excerpt was written of him.
“The big man twisted and turned his huge frame to gain a little more comfort. The rain had been falling with such intensity all day that the potholes in the narrow and difficult to maneuver dirt road into the logging camp filled with water and left no way to avoid the jolts as the buggy’s wheels seemed to hit each one with regularity. He wondered how many times he had made this trip over his sixty odd years, in all types of weather. He didn’t have to any more; he knew that, for he had achieved such great wealth and power, he could have easily assigned others to make the trip. Yet, this was his thinking time, his quiet moments with Jesus, and on days like this, he could almost shut his eyes to think, as the horse pulling the buggy made his way along familiar terrain, its hoofs splashing water in all directions, which only seemed to enhance the sound of the rain falling on the buggy’s leather roof. He was only a couple of miles from his destination when he was jolted from his thoughts. There in front of him was a man, a woman and two small children standing beside their wagon, one of its wheels lying on its side and the axel deep in the mud. The Boss could have gone on and sent men from the camp back to help but this was not the big man’s way. Instead, the millionaire industrialist climbed off his buggy and studied the problem. The man in trouble had seen the industrialist on occasion and knew of his importance. Perhaps this is why he was so surprised when the Boss removed his coat from his 6′ 225 pound frame and threw it across the side of the wagon. As the man reported it later, he was even more surprised when the Boss barked out instructions, then crawled under the wagon on his hands and knees through the mud and water, and with his back anchored against the underwagon, used his powerful legs to lift the wagon enough to allow the man to put the wheel back on the axel. When the man had related his story in the Marysville general store, the typical response was, “Well, that’s the Boss.” (End of excerpt)
His story can’t be told in a few pages, but Alexander “Boss” Gibson was truly a remarkable individual. Indeed, he is Canada’s forgotten giant. In the 1800’s, in the then important British colony of New Brunswick, the Boss was the architect of a huge empire consisting of sawmills, grist mills, shingle mills, a modern cotton mill that initially was the largest of its day in Canada, a builder of railways, stores, bridges, towns and many other ventures. He had rubbed shoulders with prime ministers, senators, industrialists and other important personages. This was a man who could easily have fallen prey to the material forces of life, but although he lived in splendor, he never let the material forces rule. He considered himself God’s man and this was attested to by those who would come upon him while walking and listening to his soft humming of a favourite hymn. He was well aware that the blessings bestowed upon him had to be shared and few in history have ever shared more of their blessings. The Boss built churches, schools, houses for workers and others, community projects, created thousands of jobs, paid top wages and created such an atmosphere of harmony in his empire and communities that it is still talked about today. He had time for everyone and would go out of his way to help the downtrodden. Tennessee Ernie Ford once sang a song about the company store. Well, the Boss owned the company store and carried accounts for townspeople. He was constantly wiping out accounts for those deserving people experiencing hardship and on occasion when he made a good deal, he was known to have wiped out all the accounts owing to him by the townspeople. Yet, as I read an old newspaper account, I quickly drew a conclusion that the greatest mark of this man was his declining the offer of a knighthood, because he simply wanted to be known as Alexander Gibson. A tough businessman, yes! Somewhat autocratic, yes! Imperfect in many ways, yes! But, he was God’s man nevertheless, in good times and in bad. Even when other major cotton mills ganged up on him because he refused to enter into price fixing and his fortune was largely depleted, Boss Gibson never abandoned his Christian habit of being there for others. Great men like Alexander Boss Gibson and J.C. Penny understood the importance of giving back. They understood 1 Corinthians 13: 8, “Charity [or love] never fails.” It brought each of them an opportunity to make a difference in their respective worlds and to remain close to the one sure thing that counts, the Lord God Almighty. As recorded in Matthew 6: 21, the Lord Jesus Christ said, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Our treasure shouldn’t be counted in dollars and cents, or our material possessions, whatever they amount to, but in what we give back to life in furtherance of the role God would have us play. Most of us can only hope that as our eyes close for the last time before Christ returns, the Apostle Paul’s words echo true for us, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
Oh yeah, when Boss Gibson got out from under that wagon, he couldn’t find his swallow tail coat. It had slipped from the side of the wagon, fallen in one of the potholes of water and was trampled over. As the story was reported, the following summer, a logger was walking to town and noticed a piece of material jutting from the soil. He pulled at it and there was the lost coat. The story of how it was lost was well known amongst the locals, so he took it to the Boss’ home when he arrived in town. Alexander Gibson took the muddied coat, reached into the inside pocket and retrieved his wallet containing over $1,000.00 in cash, a huge sum for those days. Apparently, Boss Gibson then looked at the logger and said, “It’s my coat and money, but you found it, so it’s only fair that we split it.” An uncommon man, most definitely, but one who fought the good fight.