G. F. Cox
A Character Sketch
W. G. Turner
London: C. A. Hammond, 3 and 4, London House Yard, Paternoster Row, E.C.4
"The memory of the just is blessed"
A Great encourager of young men; a sturdy defender of the faith; one to whom many resorted in difficulties of doctrine and discipline because of the candour with which he faced their problems; one greatly loved and valued by those who knew him; one through whose ministry many found escape from intellectual doubts, and relief from the besetting difficulties of the believers' pathway in days of ecclesiastical confusion and perplexity; one who was a helper of many in ways unsuspected by others; one who abhorred personal display; a humble-minded man, wise enough to admit that there were many things which he did not know, and big enough to apologise to any whom he had misjudged, or otherwise offended. Such was the G. F. Cox whom many were privileged to know. To the writer he was for years a consistent friend and helper in the fullest sense. His clarity of thought, fixity of purpose, straightforward advice and understanding sympathy made his a steadying influence for which ever to thank GOD.
In controversy or discussion he left one in no manner of doubt as to his own convictions; every blow was straight from the shoulder; every stroke told. And how he knew and loved his Bible! It was always the man of his counsel. His abilities were of an order that would have commanded a wider platform for his gifts had he not deliberately chosen a lowly path of Christian discipleship calling for self-suppression to an unusual degree. He did not "make the most of himself" as some advise, believing that to "deny himself," that is literally to say "no to his self" is a great part of that discipleship to which loyalty to the LORD JESUS CHRIST committed him.
Among his brethren G. F. C. was loved and honoured in proportion as they recognised the value of his unobtrusive ministry. He was not a good public speaker; and one well-known leader, who appreciated the excellent matter while deploring the poor delivery, once suggested a course of lessons in elocution. That MR. COX did not fall in with the well-intentioned advice, may or may not have been a mistake. But he had a horror of pretentiousness in every form. There was something akin to the spirit of Elijah in him and his ministry. The altar was always composed of twelve stones, for all GOD'S people were remembered; and the sacrifice well drenched with water, so that no strange fire of human kindling should be mistaken for the reality which comes from GOD alone, whether in worship or service.
For personal adornment, even of the allowed conventional type affected by some believers, he had no use whatsoever; nor for the courtesy titles so unthinkingly given and prized even by some saints. Almost the first letter the writer sent him, now many years ago, was, out of respect, addressed with the courtesy title of Esq. In a most kind reply he at the close of his letter begged me never so to address him again, as it grieved him, being but a worldly title and one to which even otherwise he had no claim at all.
Yet he was no misanthrope, but very human; a man far removed from that sanctimoniousness which apes special spirituality while at the same time deceiving no discerning person. Some thought his wit and humour too patent; and he, on several occasions, remarked to the writer that persons without an ounce of either had spoken seriously to him about, what they considered, this failing of his. But one in an eminently favourable position to observe and appraise the real character of MR. G. F. COX, said to the writer : "He was a wonderful man, a wonderful man. I mean not the gift he possessed, but himself as a Christian believer in his daily walk. For over a quarter-of-a-century in close, almost daily contact with him I have been impressed by this more than anything else."
MR. COX was an omnivorous reader; a student from his youth. At the age of nine years it was no uncommon thing to find him lying on his bed of an evening reading Lord Macaulay's, then recently issued, works with attention and enjoyment. Indeed in the family circle he was referred to, by some at least, as "little Macaulay."
The child, was indeed, in this instance, "the father of the man" as the saying is. His general knowledge was surprising; although he carefully avoided giving an impression of being a learned man. Yet there were few subjects with which he was unacquainted, and upon which he had not inquired. His unassuming manner and questions at Bible Readings and Brothers' Meetings sometimes led self-complacent, unthinking, assuming talkers into awkward situations. His acquaintance with modern theories, and heresies ancient and modern, was amazing. His mind was of the type that unerringly senses the weak spot in a theory however plausibly asserted; while his clear grasp of the vital principle involved or assailed, made his service along these lines invaluable. He was a man who did his own thinking, but while this was so, as indeed it must be in the case of every man realizing personal responsibility to GOD, yet he was grateful for, and acknowledged freely his indebtedness to the written ministry of others. Of these J. N. DARBY, and W. KELLY, for long held the chief place; but in later years he found much help and confirmation of his own thoughts in the works of F. W. GRANT also. But it may safely be asserted that he read almost everything that his brethren had published.
To talk over books with him was a privilege highly prized, but alas! all too rarely enjoyed. His frankness and humility on such occasions remain a treasured memory and a constant surprise. Conversations when he said "I really do not know; am not at all clear; should like to know what you really think; has it ever presented a difficulty to you in this way"; — in the retrospect leave the writer mentally gasping at the humility and brotherliness of our late beloved brother on these occasions, which a grateful memory recalls, and will ever treasure. Never can one forget the surprise when, on a very wet week-evening, during a series of Gospel meetings being held some five miles distant from where he lived MR. COX came over on purpose to show his fellowship in the gospel.
Upon remonstrating with him for venturing such a distance, on so bad a night, he quietly said: "I love the gospel and to hear you preach it," and much more that cannot be set down in cold print. On another occasion at the same village a quite unusual incident occurred in which MR. COX played the central part.
During the course of one's address, some words of J.N.D. new to the writer which had been told him by MR. COX earlier in the day came with great force to the preacher's mind. Then, as sometimes happens, the exact wording momentarily escaped, and upon mentioning this, MR. COX who was sitting in the front row, stood up, turned round to face the congregation, recited the sentence and then resumed his seat. It was simply done and made a deep impression. The words were: "He became the servant of all, from the Father upon the throne to the poorest outcast sinner on earth." Many a time the sight of him sitting in the congregation listening attentively has humbled the writer; and no other (with one possible exception) has so helped and encouraged one to persevere in the work of the LORD amidst so many difficulties and discouragements. "A faithful man; a succourer of many," of none more than of him who now pays this grateful tribute to his memory, was GEORGE F. COX. Many young brothers were greatly encouraged by the week-ends spent with MR. COX at Luton at his special invitation. He did not spare their mistakes, but ever showed them the more perfect way; and rejoiced when hearing of their success. His interest too, was shown by the part he took in the half-yearly Preachers' Conferences at Peckham. That a man of his years, should come so far to attend them, was both a cheer and a rebuke. He was not too big to learn and to help, just because he was the man he was.
Some impatient and unsympathetic reader may ask: "Had he no faults?" Another possible question is: Has the sun no spots? Doubtless both writer and reader would be always more profitably employed, when the question of "faults" is raised in penitently and contritely considering their own.
Many who read these lines will find a deep sense of gratitude arising in their hearts to GOD as the memory of help received and fellowship enjoyed passes in review in connection with our departed brother and friend. He was not perfect, only ONE ever was. But we do well to "remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation."
Upon his death-bed when racked with intense pain, and suffering moments of deep depression, he yet conversed upon many subjects of mutual interest and grave importance. The state of things in the church pressed heavily upon him; the tremendous realities of GOD; of eternity; of prayer; of one's own soul were mentioned with deep solemnity. With great feeling he remarked upon the last of these: "I may have but five or ten days at the most to live. But if I had ten years more, I could not be made more meet, more fit for GOD'S holy presence, could I?"
After a quiet pause he continued: "It is the blood of the LORD JESUS that makes us meet, and that alone; is it not?" Again, still musing on this deep theme, he said : "But His precious blood does make us fit, and fully meets our case, does it not?"
It was not doubt that made him end his sentences thus, but to have the comfort of a fellow believer's voice assenting to what meant so much now to a dying believer.
"I should like to go to sleep" he whispered during a spasm of pain, "and wake up in the presence of the LORD JESUS."
The touchingly reverent tone in which he uttered the SACRED NAME and title of our BLESSED SAVIOUR moved one's deepest soul. His LORD was very great in his sight.
To have known him full of high spirits and caustic wit; to have known him full of thoughtful, studied, careful consideration of perplexing problems, ecclesiastical, intellectual and practical; to have known him in his reverent prayerful, or worshipful approach to GOD, is to have known GEORGE COX, as in some measure many were privileged to know him. Now he is at rest with the LORD he served so faithfully, and with that vast host of the redeemed who wait with HIM the moment for which we also wait. "For the LORD Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout: with the voice of the archangel and the trump of GOD; and the dead in CHRIST shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the LORD, shall be caught up together to meet the LORD in the air; and so shall we ever be with the LORD."
As for awhile we are parted from our beloved brother we gratefully remember him as "A MAN OF GOD" which has been aptly defined as "a man who stands for God in an evil day."
When on kissing his hand at parting he said, "Goodbye, goodbye, I shall think of you till my last conscious moment," with a full heart one gratefully remembered that "those who love Christ never say Goodbye for the last time."
Only "goodnight" beloved—not farewell!
A little while, and all His saints shall dwell
In hallowed union, indivisible—Good-night.
So we leave him till the morning, resting from his labours. And as we pursue our pilgrim way we thank GOD for "our whole remembrance" of a brother beloved; and pray for grace that we like him may "fight in the good fight, keep the faith; and finish the course with joy."
By the same Author
The Christian Life
Occasional Addresses and Papers Cr. 8vo 96-pp. Cloth bound
Some Straightsmouth Stories
Striking Incidents of Gospel Work
Cap. 8vo 96-pp. Paper
John Nelson Darby
Cr. 8vo 80-pp. Cloth bound Gilt
Some Thoughts on the Book of Jonah
Spiritual Dry Rot
F. E. Race, a Character Sketch
Discipleship. As Typified in the Story of Elijah and Elisha