ROTHERHAM'S REMINISCENCES - APPENDIX
TRIBUTES OF APPRECIATION.
FROM A MEMBER OF LAURIE HALL CHURCH OF CHRIST, LONDON, S.E. (MR. H.E. KLEIN, ONE OF J.B.R.'S STUDENTS).
To others the scholar; to us the man. The members of this Church will always esteem it a high favour to have had among them the scholar and the disciple, the brother and the friend, Mr. J.B. Rotherham; and the sole objects of this tribute from those with whom he was for many years in close personal touch are, first, to express our glad experience that such personal knowledge was all clear gain over his legacies as an author, which others share with us; and, second, by recording our experience to raise his memory still higher in the esteem and affection of those who know his works but never met him.
He and we were both favoured nearly two years ago by a timely and most delightful meeting to celebrate his eightieth birthday. It is, indeed, to us a fragrant reminiscence that at four-score years, with the strength but without "the labour and sorrow" of the psalmist, while still (as he himself puts it of Moses) "his eye had not dimmed nor had his freshness fled," his brethren should have gathered round him to tell him of their love and joy in his fellowship. The suggestion, especially in view of his passing away so soon after, was an inspiration; but, as we expected of him, he was moved to come not by any desire to hear himself well spoken of, but by the warmth of a known and deep attachment. Any expected embarrassment soon melted beneath the tributes, gay and earnest, of several brethren; but the most characteristic touch of the evening was his reply. What would he say? Repudiate our praise in weak modesty, or assimilate it as his due. The very freshness of his response was characteristic. He proceeded, as it were, to analyse his life-undertaking, and assign to various circumstances of his life each component; and so with most artless detachment he steered between pride and self-depreciation, conveying his authorship as if it were another's freight from the early love of the Bible learned at home to the opportunities offered by Dr. Ginsburg's newly-revised Hebrew Bible and Drs.
Westcott and Hort's latest critical text of the New Testament. We have dwelt on that, for it was delightful and most timely that a life of such vigour and such fruitfulness should, before it had begun to wane, enjoy the openly-expressed appreciation of brethren.
In regularity and punctuality at the meetings of the Church he was a model to some of us younger members, and his white hair and beard emphasised his reverent though natural bearing whenever it was his turn to preside at the Lord's Table. His critical knowledge of the Bible was equally broad and keen, and while its very abundance often obscured the clearness of aim necessary in Gospel proclamation, it was always combined with such judgment and feeling in his Sunday morning addresses as to put him, in the writer's firm opinion, in the very front rank of teachers of to-day. Before a sympathetic audience of brethren he was an orator. The choice and variety of language, the remarkable range of tone and power in his voice, the eloquent - probably unconscious - accompaniment of hand and arm, the closely-reasoned yet smooth-flowing line of thought, the zeal which assumed opposition in his audience in order the more forcibly to meet it, the thorough grip of originals and the balance of parallel passages; last, but not least, the forceful yet unrestrained application which lit up the whole, and carried the address through the mind to the heart and conscience and will - that was our experience for all the years the writer has been a member.
For all that, he listened to others with attention equal to the best given to his own efforts, always on the look-out for a fresh idea. Those who were privileged to visit him while the translations were in progress were astonished as much by his open-mindedness as by his wise judgment. The combination of these two faculties in one of such advanced age will always remain an outstanding feature in the writer's impressions of him. He was a disciple to the end.
A needful word, especially to some who looked suspiciously upon certain of Mr. Rotherham's ideas and influence: in all his concerns, in Church life, in business, in the study, and in the family, we who know him best and have seen him in all proclaim him to have been transparently pure. He was absolutely guileless. His life and labours were spent in single-minded devotion to his studied conviction of Divine will. His
views upon border-line subjects were never either obtruded upon the Church nor withheld from thoughtful enquiry.
He sometimes seemed a little distant, but it was only the abstraction of a man moving in a rarer atmosphere, for when the prompting came from within or without, he had a smile and a hand and a word for young and old.
FROM THE LATE H.E. TICKLE, OF GLASGOW
The passing of Mr. J.B. Rotherham, at the ripe age of four-score and two years, is an event of more than ordinary interest to what may be called the second generation of those who have been identified with the effort to restore New Testament Christianity. While regeneration is the keystone of all religious experience, it is nevertheless blessedly true that the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children's children. When some who are now by some regarded as among the seniors were, as yet, not in their teens, Mr, Rotherham laboured as one of the few evangelists then in the field. In this capacity he became known to the then existing Churches as few of our evangelists of to-day do. Those were the days before Divisional and District co-operation was in vogue, and visits of evangelists were, like angels' visits, few and far between. This condition of things, linked, of course, with the recognised ability and earnestness of the two brethren, sufficiently accounts for the persistence in the minds of the older generation, and of their successors, of the tradition of the tour made throughout Scotland by our brother just deceased and Charles Abercrombie, also of blessed memory. These two went forth in apostolic fashion - and possibly our evangelistic efforts to-day would be more effective at the moment, and more imperishable in the memory, if labourers could be found suited to each other by their very dissimilarities, and sent forth, two and two, to spread the primitive Gospel in places where it is as yet unknown.
An acquaintance extending to over fifty years has, however, to the writer yielded only comparatively few opportunities of coming into personal touch with the esteemed subject of these lines, and memory may not serve as to dates and sequence of facts. But something like forty years ago our brother's services were withdrawn from the wider field of itinerant evangelisation,
and his great lingual talents were devoted to the task of publisher's editor for one of the most eminent publishing houses. Throughout all these years, however, he ceased not to teach and preach as opportunity served, and as an exponent of the sacred oracles he had few compeers. Even to within recent years Mr. Rotherham was able to pay occasional visits to scenes of his former labours, and such a visit paid to Glasgow a few years back will doubtless remain as a landmark in the memory of a generation who had known him only by name as the author of the Emphasised Bible. It is undoubtedly in regard to this version of the sacred Scriptures, the product of ripe scholarship in the original tongues, of an intense love for the text and true meaning of the revealed word, combined with a remarkable faculty of appreciation to appointed tasks and a scrupulous use of spare time, that J.B. Rotherham will be best and enduringly remembered. The Emphasised Bible has commanded recognition from a large circle on account of the scholarship exhibited in the rendering of the text, and because of the unique use of signs in marking degrees of emphasis, and of typesetting in presenting the analysis of any given passage to the eye of the reader. Essentially a student's book, it can, in the hands of an intelligent and practised reader, be made the vehicle of throwing much light upon the text, despite the unfamiliar idiom, while in the hands and from the lips of the author it frequently amounted to an illumination. The writer remembers meeting with a lady in South Africa, under most unexpected circumstances, who declared that Rotherham's Emphasised New Testament was her most cherished possession. Space forbids reference to further products of a fertile pen now at rest, all of which would not perhaps command general acceptance even with those with whom the author stood identified. But highest ability and fearlessness of expression marked all. Reference must be permitted to the almost unique relationship which subsisted between the deceased author and his son, Joseph George Rotherham. No father could wish for a son more sympathetically interested in all his work. No author could find publisher or agent more enthusiastically devoted to his interests.
FROM JOHN CROCKATT, OF LEEDS.
My knowledge of J.B. Rotherham, though covering a period of between forty and fifty years, was not so close as that of
others who will write in appreciation of his work and worth yet I gladly join with them in a tribute of love and indebtedness, naming one or two personal incidents that helped to call these forth.
In the early sixties, speaking from memory, he was labouring as an evangelist in my native city of Perth. His preaching roused great interest in that quaint, orthodox city, for great crowds gathered to listen on the South Inch, and the small hall in which the Church met was often crowded to overflowing. Unhappily, some division followed, and about half a dozen met in his house at Scone. When at home he showed keen interest in us little ones, also in the Church, in his addresses, which had their portion for us, and parts of which still remain with me.
In 1874 I met for a short time with the Church at Rotherhithe, and spent the Lord's Days at his house. Perceiving that sceptical influences had poisoned my mind, his addresses on two Lord's Day mornings, together with his talk at home, largely removed my doubts, and I remain for ever his debtor for help at a very critical period of my life.
Years afterward he was obliged to take holiday - which he spent with me in Leeds because of over-strain and to rest his eyes. I read aloud to him at nights, among other books, "Dale on the Atonement," whilst he paced the room. "Stop! read that again," was a frequent interjection, and then followed some warm appreciation of the passage re-read or occasionally a discerning criticism. To me the task was one of unalloyed pleasure and full of instruction, revealing as it did his keen analytical powers, and impressing more deeply on my mind the course and force of the argument of that great book.
Once, when about to preach at our chapel, enquiry was made as to the subject he had chosen. When he named Acts 2 some disappointment was expressed, as many of us had heard it dealt with scores of times. At the close we were delighted, and had to confess that though the subject was old his treatment invested it with a fresh interest, opening out new vistas of truth, and leading along paths untrodden before.
His last visit to Leeds was in connection with the opening of the chapel in Gledhow Road. His address at night was somewhat of a disappointment to some, in that it was a
scholarly and argumentative exposition rather than a simple and appealing declaration of Gospel story to simple folks. Needless to say, to others it was a feast of fat things. Our converse together then revealed him as a man wholly absorbed in a great theme, "the living oracles." He had little, if any, interest in outside things that did not bear on this, and a surprise and kind of impatience with the lack of intimate and critical knowledge many of us displayed of the Scriptures. Doubtless he had good cause for this.
Few men living had a wider or more intimate acquaintance with God's Word. Every word, phrase, book, and theme had passed under the most careful scrutiny, in the course of translation, many times over.
More truly from his lips than from any I have known would have come the words, "O, how love I Thy law! It is my meditation all the day." He leaves the impress on my mind of a man with high powers of mind, consecrated with a rare energy and unswerving purpose to the study and wide diffusion of the revealed will of God, and gradually developed in the process into a strong, yet gentle, lovable, and simple character, ready to enter into the Master's presence.
FROM JAMES MARSDEN, OF WIGAN.
Mr. Rotherham's literary contributions during the fourteen years of his co-operation with the Churches in evangelistic work were many and varied; he contributed a number of articles on the personality and operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion and of His indwelling power in the believer. His papers showed an intense interest in the development of an enriched spiritual life in the Christian, and many papers were written on various themes to promote this happy result.
The work of translation, and of critical exegesis of the inspired Word, had a peculiar fascination for him, and as his literary works have shown, he was pre-eminent in this work. It is only rarely that a man so peculiarly gifted for that most important work is raised up. His Emphasised Bible, in addition to other works of a similar character, will perpetuate his memory and his fame for many years to come. The writer was officially connected with him only for the last few months of his evangelistic career, though unofficially and interestedly acquainted with his work for some years previously. He likes
to picture him as the last of a worthy group of contemporaries, variously gifted, but all greatly distinguished."
FROM "THE CHRISTIAN."
In all parts of the world there are Bible students who will experience a sense of personal bereavement on learning that Mr. Joseph Bryant Rotherham, the well-known translator of the Holy Scriptures, has passed to his rest, having reached an advanced age, being, in fact, in his eighty-second year. Mr. Rotherham laboured up to the last upon literary work designed to interpret and apply the Word of God. He was a man of culture and judgment, and was endowed with a great capacity for taking pains. His literary productions were numerous and of lasting value, and his fellowship with disciples of Christ of various denominations was real and cordially reciprocated.
JOSEPH BRYANT ROTHERHAM INDEX