We are well aware of Brother Roberts’ consistent application in our master’s service but it is not always so well known how this couple laboured together in their often agonising service. Sister Roberts was as devoted and energetic in her service to our absent Lord as her husband and they both valued the opportunities to labour together.

It is most interesting that the last reference by Brother Roberts concerning Sister Roberts’ activity in the Truth should be that, “Notwithstanding the discomforts of seasickness, Sister Roberts did good service for the Truth in her conversations with the lady passengers”. She later followed up contact with certain of the passengers who had expressed interest in the Truth and provided them with a copy of Christendom Astray.

It is not merely human emotion that was expressed by Brother Roberts who recalls their feelings during their last day spent together at Manly, N.S.W. prior to his journey to the United States. “We could not help some degree of sadness at the prospect of separating so soon for so long a time.” His plans had been to depart for the United States and ultimately Great Britain from New Zealand, but these plans were to be interrupted by his own death in the United States. They had just completed an exhausting lecturing tour of some eight months from Melbourne to Sydney to Brisbane, home to Melbourne and then to Hobart and New Zealand and then finally back to Melbourne via Sydney.

When Robert Roberts was in his early teens we recall his fervent desire to understand the truth of the Bible. He earnestly desired to separate the brilliance of truth from the theological darkness which clouded men’s minds. At fifteen years of age, a year after he was baptised, he wrote: “Salvation depends on the assimilation of the mind to the Divine ideas, principles and affections, exhibited in the Scriptures… The infallible advice then to every man and woman anxious about their salvation is READ THE SCRIPTURES DAILY. It is only in proportion as this is done, that success may be looked for”. He prepared the Bible Reader’s Companion and loved the company of those who held similar interest in the Word of God and the witness of fulfilling Bible prophecy. He was frustrated by those among his peers who were frivolous and appeared uninterested in the life-giving Scriptures.

In Sister Jane Norrie, who was eight years his senior, he found a sister who was of a like mind. She later wrote, “The consecration of self to Christ and his Truth, needs daily renewing amid the daily occupations in which we engage, and only in this daily renewal of service and sacrifice may the true sister hope to attain that spirit of ready obedience in all things to the will of Christ… Nothing will so much assist in the determination to consecrate oneself to Christ than the daily reading of the Scriptures. Other reading, wisely selected, may have a useful place, but the reading of the Scriptures should be regarded and practised as an imperative duty. Let us at all hazards read some every day; this will, to some extent, be keeping company with Christ himself, for he is the great theme of the sacred book.”

 Their relationship remains an example of marrying well in the Truth. When Brother Roberts met his wife to be, it is not surprising that he records, “I was drawn to her with a power that soon ended in the closest intimacy… her tastes were all in the line of intellectual and Scriptural things”. Brother Roberts’ maturity by now was clearly beyond his years and they decided that they would marry. Their common love of the Word of God brought them together and extracts from their letters recorded in My Days and My Ways illustrate their common love for, and familiarity with, the Scriptures.

After they were engaged Brother Roberts maintained his personal application to Bible study and was convinced that those who know the Truth should be vigorous in proclaiming the Gospel. When he was 19 he wrote to Brother Thomas in the United States to ask what he considered was the duty of believers concerning Gospel proclamation. He felt that those who have an understanding of the Truth should “sound forth the Word of the Lord”. Of course, Brother Thomas endorsed his enthusiasm and referred to his own experience: “We have been studying the Holy Scriptures for the past twenty five years, during all of which time we have been running to and fro making known to the people what we found therein”. Even when life’s distractions might easily have changed his priorities, he remained dedicated in service.

Subsequently Brother Roberts married Sister Jane Norrie and so began a marriage which proved well able to weather the storms of life. He wrote, “We proposed much ideal occupation for ourselves, as all newly married couples do. While the main and substantial ideal has been realised – the service of God and conjugal felicity – the ornamental parts were quickly taken out of our hands…. The quiet evenings never came”. In the first seven years of their marriage, Brother and Sister Roberts had endured terrible distress and ill health. Their first two children both died before their first birthday, but still they continued to steadfastly proclaim the gospel together. In 1866 Sister Roberts personally distributed 1600 invitations for a special lecture in the Birmingham Town Hall at which over 1500 people attended and subsequently 23 were baptised. This couple were like-minded and grew together in vigorous service to their Lord, supporting one another in the various activities of the Truth.

In the next seven years of their marriage they were to endure more grief. Concerning the death of Brother Thomas, whom they had come to love so much, Brother Roberts comments, “It was like the sudden removal of the experienced navigator just when the most dangerous part of the voyage was beginning”. Two more of their children died within a month of each other. There was division in the brotherhood which grieved them and Brother Roberts had to endure more severe ill health. Despite all these tribulations this couple found solace in the shared love of their God and of His revealed purpose, knowing that “a threefold cord is not quickly broken”.

 Their attitude to their trials is found in Sister Roberts’ writings: “We have no assurance that we shall escape trouble. Indeed, we may make up our minds that we shall be tried, for in the trial of our faith and patience are we to be perfected; but then, as dutiful and confiding children, how different is our position when trials do come, than if we were of those who are without God and without hope in the world”.

 Brother Roberts recognised his wife as a gift from God because of their “affinity for the stupendous facts connected with God” and the true fellowship which they enjoyed. He never failed to appreciate and acknowledge the sacrifice of his wife and family. They considered he was the Truth’s labourer and so long as the Truth was being advanced they were happy. He knew their sacrifice was for the Lord who will reward those who diligently seek him.

Sister Roberts later wrote concerning the blessedness of their unity: “To those who know by happy experience the blessedness of union and fellowship in the Truth, nothing need be said. Their joint labours will show the sweet advantage of being of one accord and of one mind, fellow helpers into the Kingdom of God, and heirs together of the grace of life; growing up into Christ who is the head. To such, the Truth is a never failing source of interest. It furnishes them with occupation for all their spare time, and more, and so great is the variety of ways in which it will claim their attention, help and sympathy they will find enough to fill their hands, and will certainly have no time for the genteel frivolities with which it is customary in society to fill up the time”.

 In the example of this couple there is considerable exhortation to apply ourselves diligently to the Truth, that when our Lord appears we may join with those who continued the work begun and labour without toil toward the climax of His purpose with the earth. They did much to “make ready a people for the Lord”.

“The apostolic ‘knitting together in love’ is on the goodly foundation of understanding. It is a love springing from identical convictions – a common love resulting from a common enlightenment; a mutual affection spontaneously generated by unity of knowledge and judgment, and this is not in the scanty form of ‘opinion’ or the cold uncertainty of ‘views’ but in the richness of a positive and pronounced ‘assurance of understanding’; enthusiastic convictions, if you will, without which there can be no true discipleship of Christ. This is a state of mind that stops not short at ‘good words and fair speeches’ but shows its faith in works, without which a man is a ‘sounding brass and tinkling cymbal’.”