. . as I knew him . .
Shrewd in business matters; sane in judgment, of men and affairs; severe to a degree where vital truth was threatened; susceptible as a child to kindness — this was F. E. Race as I knew him.
Through the London Publishing Depot, which he directed for so many years, his name became known to the ends of the earth; and a personal influence practically co-extensive was exercised by his untiring interest in scattered assemblies of saints at home and abroad. He himself, however, remained as one unknown yet well known; little appreciated even by some who should have known him best.
F. E. Race was a good friend; and when once the North Country reserve was penetrated, was felt to be one whom it was a privilege to know. He was a most genial, brotherly, entertaining man, free of the least suspicion of sanctimoniousness. A man of wide reading and culture, he freely acknowledged his debt in this and other respects to the friendship of the late Mr. Kelly.
Always a genuine book-lover, Mr. Race as a young man, upon coming to reside in London, regularly spent his Saturday afternoon leisure in methodically exploring the old book-stalls of the City. He told the writer that it was his custom to spend the whole of one afternoon in visiting a single district for this purpose, and as far as circumstances permitted, to systematically go through the book-seller's stock, and often with gratifying results to himself.
As a brother in Christ Mr. Race was one who never swerved aside from the straight path of separation from ecclesiastical evil, remaining to the end of his life a man whom one knew where to find.
To a settled purpose of heart to cleave to God and the word of His grace, was joined a broad-mindedness for which he often received scanty credit. Yet, as I knew him, what constituted so marked a feature of his character was this happy combination of established conviction in Divine things with a wide liberal-minded outlook on affairs generally. Some were puzzled by this; others were repelled; but all were convinced of his genuine belief in the soundness of the ecclesiastical position occupied by himself. This is essential to real leadership. He had definite convictions as to his position, and could give clear reasons why neither the Papacy, Anglicanism, Nonconformity nor any of the varied and competing sects in Christendom had any claim to his allegiance.
He confessed that, through mercy, he had been brought out to Christ's Name, and was therefore determined to walk in the old path of separation from ecclesiastical evil, the fair as well as the more distinctly foul. There was always a "within" and a "without" to F. E. Race. Many a time the writer has heard him say, "Lord, keep us from the evil that looks fair." His characteristic phrase, "One should be as sure of one's ecclesiastical position as of one's soul's salvation," was exemplified in his own conduct. Amidst the constant ebb and flow of human views and practices in relation to Divine things F. E. Race stood firm, and thereby became a tower of strength in these matters to many of slighter, spiritual, mental and moral build. He told the writer that in his youth he had long and earnestly besought the Lord that he might be used to the strengthening and building up of the flock of God, and few who knew him will doubt that this desire was granted. There were conversions under his preaching, but he readily admitted that the special evangelistic gift had not been entrusted to him. His interest in every branch of the Lord's work was very marked. On one occasion he remarked to the writer, "Our object as Christ's servants, is not only to get the young, say, to attend Sunday School and the meetings, but that they should be converted and brought into peace; so that in the possession of this, they should know and enjoy the privilege of being gathered to that Name which is God's sole centre on earth, the Name of the Lord Jesus."
To literary talent Mr. Race made no pretension, remarking once, however, with evident feeling, "I wish that like some of my brethren, I could handle the pen of a ready writer," and hence when editing the "Bible Treasury," from Mr. W. Kelly's death until a few months before his own, he seldom essayed a contribution to its pages. Once or twice only, and then under pressure, brief critical articles appeared from his own pen. The task of editing this periodical was, as is generally known, only undertaken by Mr. Race at Mr. Kelly's expressed desire and proved a very heavy burden, particularly during the difficult war period.
Mr. Race, however, was in his right element at Bible Readings, Brothers' Meetings and on occasions calling for sound judgment, clear definition, and accuracy of ecclesiastical statement. At such times he was felt to be a man of real spiritual weight, with a mind of no mean order. His readiness to go and help a neighbouring gathering, his acceptance among some who wholly differed from him on Church matters; his dry caustic humour, that was often far more effective than a bald statement of fact; these were characteristics of F. E. Race that enable us to form a fair estimate of his real character. That he was perfect no one who knew him would imagine; but that he had a strongly marked, clear defined sense of what was due to Christ's Name none who knew him could deny. The sun has its spots, but the sunshine is not therefore belittled or refused. He was a great admirer of the older brethren of earlier days, and — as I knew him — a great encourager of the younger brethren of to-day. His deep regret, often expressed, at having spoken without sufficient grace, even when wholly in the right, was a side of his character little suspected but certainly present.
May the same unflinching courage, devoted zeal, tenacity of purpose, soberness of mind, together with a great graciousness of spirit mark both reader and writer; as in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation they are called to shine as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life.
When his father passed away, Mr. F. E. Race quietly remarked, "With Christ — far better"; and so we say of him. W. G. T.