In October this year it will be one hundred years since Brother Robert Roberts visited Adelaide and it is proposed to make this a feature of our annual Combined Weekend from 21-22 October, God willing. The chosen theme Endure as Seeing Him Who is Invisible emphasises the need to make Yahweh a reality in our lives and will draw on well loved writings of Brother Roberts including The Ways of Providence, The Visible Hand of God and The Blood of Christ. In this issue of “The Lampstand” we are including a special “Our Heritage” feature on the life and writings of Brother Roberts to serve as an adjunct to our preparation for the Combined Weekend and to remind us of the valuable work he has performed on our behalf and the benefits we can derive from his writings.

The Combined Weekend is surely one of our major inter-ecclesial activities and, this year, as we consider important themes from the writings of Brother Robert Roberts, it is suggested that we can greatly enhance the value of the Weekend by personal preparation. This can be done by setting ourselves the aim of reading one or more of the three books which are to form the basis of the addresses and be prepared to discuss the subject matter with others at the Weekend.

Those who are familiar with the three books will agree that they are all easy and enjoyable to read, but they also contain important principles and powerful exhortations. The following is a brief outline of the theme of each book which will hopefully serve as an incentive to read, or re-read them, as the case may be.

The Ways of Providence

 The full title of the book is actually The Ways of Providence as Authentically Illustrated in Bible History. Brother Collyer commented in his book Robert Roberts that, “In contemplating this [the early] period of his life one is tempted to think of one of the best books of his later days. In The Ways of Providence he called attention to the many instances in Scripture of Divine purpose being effected by apparently natural means. Repeatedly we are told that God acted in the affairs of men, but often we are shown that the required situation was brought about by a chain of circumstances which seemed to be completely mundane… much of the experience of Robert Roberts is suggestive of such a thought. There is the manner in which circumstances seemed to say to him, ‘Put away childish things even at an early age and prepare for work’. Then a little later, ‘Have some experience of journalism and writing for the press’. A little later still circumstance said, ‘Go south’, and again ‘Go south’ ” (p 15).

The distinction between what might be called “Providence” and “chance” is always a most thought provoking subject and Brother Roberts presents very helpful material on this topic in his book. He observes, “There is such a thing as chance, as distinct from what God does. God has control of all chance; but all chance is not controlled. It is controlled when His purpose requires it.” We can strongly endorse his concluding thought in the preface, “The author believes it to be a truly useful work that will be appreciated whenever and wherever the Bible comes to be estimated at its true worth, as the embodiment of the ideas and works of God among men.”

 The Visible Hand of God

 Brother Roberts’ own assessment is that this book is a companion to the previous work, The Ways of Providence. He wrote: “It is a necessary supplement to that work, showing that the basis of all our knowledge of the operations of God in Providential channels, lies in the evidence of His existence, and the revelation of His will furnished in ‘the miracles, wonders and signs’ wrought in the midst of Israel in ages which, though past, are only past in the sense of being the preliminary part of a programme of Divine wisdom and power which reaches forward to ages of glory and perfection” (p xiv).

During the century that has intervened since the work was written, Atheism and Humanism have further extended their sway over the minds of the masses and with the waning influence of religion, it is more than ever necessary to be aware of the frailty of the arguments of those who decry the miracles recorded in God’s Word and of the strength of the foundation upon which faith in that Word rests.

The Blood of Christ

 The booklet is sub-titled, “The Divine Scheme of Reconciliation or Atonement as Originally Promulgated by the Apostles in the First Century”. This aptly describes the scope of this excellent publication which many consider to be the standard work on this subject among Christadelphian writings. It is typical of many of the writings of Brother Roberts in that it combines the dual approach of Biblical exposition and an appeal to “common logic”. An example is found on the first page where he shows the absence of simple logic in the popular erroneous beliefs on the atonement. “Such views are contradicted by even the most superficial facts of the case, for if Christ died instead of us, then we ought not to die (which we do); and if he paid the penalty naturally due from us – death – he ought not to have risen (which he did)… Further, if Christ has paid our debts, our debts are not ‘forgiven’, for it would be out of place for a creditor to talk of having forgiven a debt which someone else has paid for the debtor.”

 Undoubtedly the essence of the exposition and the significant feature that separates truth from error on this vitally important subject is expressed succinctly in the following extract. “Thus the meaning of the death of Christ falls easily within the definition that has been supplied to us in the words of inspiration. That definition satisfies all the demands of the understanding, reconciling every apparently discordant element in the case. It occurs twice in the course of Paul’s letter to the Romans in two different forms that exhibit the whole case. In the first, he says it was to ‘declare His (God’s) righteousness for (and in order to) the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God’ (3:25); and in the second, he says it ‘condemned sin in the flesh’ (8:3). The crucifixion of Christ as a ‘declaration of the righteousness of God’ and a ‘condemnation of sin in the flesh’, exhibited to the world the righteous treatment of sin.”

 Our Goal For The Combined Weekend

 If we all set ourselves the goal of reading some or all of these writings in preparation for the Combined Weekend the effect will be apparent for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh”. The greatest way by which we can “endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” is to ensure that our minds and hearts are in tune with the Word of God and hence with each other on this basis. To this end, the activities of the Weekend, with the support of our late Brother Roberts’ writings and our own personal application will go a long way towards achieving the true unity of the Spirit and above all, bring pleasure and honour to our Heavenly Father.

The following section entitled “Our Heritage” contains articles which direct attention to significant aspects of the life, work and writings of Brother and Sister Roberts including:

  • Highlights from a visit to South Australia
  • Heirs Together of the Grace of Life
  • The value of the Bible Reader’s Companion
  • The wise advice of the Ecclesial Guide
  • Advice to Young Women, by Sister Roberts
  • An article, The Seventh Chapter of Romans.

The two articles, Advice to Young Women and The Seventh Chapter of Romans are as valuable today as when they were first written and we would strongly encourage a careful reading of both, as they contain clear practical exhortations based on sound Bible principles.