Jehovah Withholds Nothing Good from His Servants
As told by Wallace Baxter
ON THE next to the last day of 1896 a son was born to Thomas and Mary Baxter. A few days later, in the Primitive Methodist Church in Greenock, Scotland, I was “christened” and named Wallace after one of Scotland’s fighters for freedom.
My father was a deeply religious man of broad and liberal outlook. Family worship was conducted every morning. Frequently I was reminded that God supplies all our needs, and my mother would repeat the assuring words of one of my favorite psalms: “No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11, AV) Another truth that greatly impressed me was that stated by Jesus when he said: “Even when a person has an abundance his life does not result from the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15) How true! If I had the necessities of life in reasonable measure and all my faculties, what more could I use, and of what value would things be to me if I could not use them?
Paternal love overshadowed my young days, directing and guiding me, yet allowing me considerable freedom of choice and action. I had access to a fine library covering a wide range of religious and educational literature. It seemed to me that education based upon truth, yes, upon God’s Word, was the basic need for everyone if the race was to survive. I sensed that people were changing. Hypocrisy, frivolity, immorality and selfishness were on the increase. Surely, I meditated, we are in the last days foretold in the Bible. I attended one church after another, hoping to hear the outspoken message so urgently needed. Disappointed, I now spent each Sunday rambling over the moors and reading the Bible. With World War I raging in Flanders and spiritual apathy creeping over the people, I became convinced that the prophet Zephaniah’s stern pronouncements were uttered against this day: “The great day of Jehovah is near . . . a day of fury . . . a day of clouds and of thick gloom.”—Zeph. 1:14, 15.
I had heard my uncle, who was a Bible Student, discuss the “Divine Plan” with my father, but I gave his views no credence. Soon I was called to the army and served in France as a telephonist with a battery of howitzer guns. One or two of my soldier chums ventured to voice the opinion that all war is wrong, even if fought by “Christian” nations. The heartrending sights I saw on the battlefield after an engagement convinced me that they were right. I had lived a very sheltered life and now, happily, I was with a group of men who respected me and my views. Mostly, however, I kept to myself and found suitable companionship with the Bible my mother had given to me.
One night as I lay in my own little dugout an army chaplain moved away the piece of corrugated iron that served as a door and crept inside, smoking a cigarette. He wanted to rest for the night. Out of respect for his holy office, I gladly vacated the dugout, hoping to share breakfast and receive some spiritual word from him. I was terribly disappointed. By early morning he had gone, leaving the “door” open, things in disorder and the floor strewn with cigarette butts. I was disgusted and angry as I swept the place clean. I wondered how he could be so disrespectful as to use my Bible as an ashtray.
A few days later I received a letter from my brother drawing attention to King Solomon’s prayer, as recorded at 2 Chronicles, chapter 6. I always had believed that the sincere seeker after God would find him. As I pondered these things, I knelt down in my dugout and solemnly vowed to God that I would serve him with my whole life, if I were spared to return home.
In common with thousands of men at the war, I had narrowly escaped death several times, but the preservation of my life had a special and deep significance for me not shared by most of the others. November 11, 1918, brought the cease-fire on the Western Front and by early spring I was becoming rehabilitated. I purposefully visited my uncle, the Bible Student, now living in Edinburgh. Until well after midnight he answered my questions and rehearsed God’s way of salvation. By next evening I had read with clear understanding about one-third of Pastor Russell’s book, The Divine Plan of the Ages. This was the truth! I recognized that Jesus’ words were true: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) It was all very wonderful! Upon my uncle’s encouragement I contacted the little group of Bible Students in Greenock. I shall always remember with pleasure my first meeting.
Now I set out to read through the Studies in the Scriptures and the Watchtower magazine, and became completely absorbed in Kingdom interests. A spiritual brother who labored in a local shipbuilding yard became a most valued friend, and many a long evening we spent delving into the priceless treasures of the Word ‘which is able to make one wise for salvation through the faith in connection with Christ Jesus.’ (2 Tim. 3:15) In faith I dedicated myself, all of me, to Jehovah. Now I found delight in doing his will. The opportunity to present myself for water baptism came one Sunday morning in September, 1921, during a convention in Glasgow.
This vow to serve God remained undimmed in my heart. For years I kept watching for Jehovah’s leading. At conventions I was exhilarated by many glowing talks on the prophecies of Isaiah, chapter 6; and “hearing” Jehovah calling, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” I responded, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) Not only was the call clear and irresistible, but having dedicated myself to Jehovah, I delighted to obey. Full-time service in the field as a pioneer was the answer. No Scriptural obligations prevented me from doing that. In proof of this I enjoyed a short vacation in Ayrshire, preaching with two full-time “colporteurs.”
BRINGING ENLIGHTENMENT TO THE WESTERN ISLES
A local brother employed as a post-office clerk joined me in witnessing throughout the Outer Hebrides, a chain of barren, treeless, windswept islands that stretches for 130 miles off the northwest coast of Scotland. The Watch Tower Society assigned us there, and we were thrilled at the prospect of bringing enlightenment to the poverty-stricken fisherfolk and tweed weavers.
My experiences during this first seven months of pioneering enriched me with treasure beyond the power of money to buy. In a practical way I learned that “no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Ps. 84:11, AV) What “good thing” would I receive next from Jehovah? More pioneering!
Upon receiving our report on coverage of the Western Isles and also Skye, the Society encouraged us to continue our good work in the Orkney and Shetland Islands. I thoroughly enjoyed working in those remote islands, and certainly Jehovah did not withhold anything good. Even the opposition encountered served to teach us how to use the “sword of the spirit” with greater skill. (Eph. 6:17) From day to day amid a profusion of charming wild flowers we trudged over all the inhabited islands that we could reach, often being on the road until late at night, for twilight and dawn were as one.
It was in this territory that I received a copy of the first Yearbook published by the Watch Tower Society. A gift of love! I found its daily texts and comments refreshing and upbuilding. These were especially appreciated because, where we were, there were no congregation meetings. Jehovah withheld nothing good from me and through his organization he fired me with zeal for His cause. The reports from distant lands around the earth thrilled me. I read and reread the report from Estonia, because I treasured the invitation that I had received from the Society to go there! Estonia needed pioneers! I was advised to begin learning German; it would be useful in the Baltic States. Instructions to proceed to Estonia reached me in the fall of 1928, after I had been working for several months in Ireland. It was time to depart for eastern Europe!
After a long journey I arrived at the university city of Tartu, Estonia. An English brother introduced me to the German landlady of the pension. Soon I began to feel at ease in the new surroundings. While learning to speak Estonian and German, I asked householders to read a Testimony Card in Estonian, German, or Russian, before offering them literature. Later I served in Pernau and in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, where the branch office was located.
In April, 1930, I was appointed branch servant and for ten years I had the joy of cooperating with the brothers in preaching and teaching Kingdom truths. The Kingdom news was broadcast by radio throughout Estonia, over the sea to Finland and Sweden, and into Russia. The Russians and the clergy of Estonia did not like it. Dark days came when our two-year-old Society was liquidated, and the Society’s office was sealed by the police. All literature at hand was confiscated. Undaunted, we pushed forward in the work, and, with Jehovah’s blessing, that year proved to be one of the most fruitful.
In 1938 the book Riches and the booklet Choosing were given wide circulation before the remaining stocks of literature were confiscated. Then, only two kinds of booklets in Estonian were left for distribution. However, our translator and the Society’s printery at Berne, Switzerland, had been busy, and we received the book Enemies just before the war prevented further importation. Russian political and military forces were now occupying the country. This brought swift and far-reaching changes. When I first met the Estonians they were bright and cheerful, but now the Russian invasion had changed even their countenance. A depressing atmosphere of fear prevailed.
UNDER THEOCRATIC DIRECTION
The British consul in Tallinn urged all persons holding British passports to leave the Baltic States. I had no intention of leaving my post and told him so. However, on October 18, 1940, about ten days before the British evacuees departed from Riga, Latvia, I received instructions from the president of the Society to quit Estonia for a land where English is spoken. At once I informed the consul of my change of plans and became one of approximately two hundred refugees that set out for a destination then unknown.
I have experienced many a parting, but none so touching as when I took leave of my Estonian brothers. Often I had wondered how and when the good news of God’s kingdom would get into Russia. It never occurred to me that what we were doing in the Baltic States was laying a solid foundation for future expansion in a vast land where the need was and is so great. I am persuaded that many of those dear brothers and sisters have been effectively preaching and teaching the good news of Jehovah’s kingdom within Russia and probably in Siberia.
I traveled from Riga across Russia to the seaport of Vladivostok. Throughout the dreary, yet interesting eleven-day railway journey, I observed burned-out churches and queues of peasants waiting for bread. At Chita, in the railroad waiting room, I saw what could have been the living model for Hubert von Herkomer’s picture “Refugees,” as it is illustrated in the book Creation. However, to the visual scene must be added the stench that reeked from the mass of unwashed humanity that crowded the ill-ventilated room. At last we boarded the steamship Hai Tan at Vladivostok and learned that we would be taken to Australia. A sense of relief filled us as Vladivostok sank beneath the horizon with the setting sun. At Hong Kong I saw the East with its appalling conditions for the first time, and in my heart I sincerely prayed, “Let your kingdom come!” (Matt. 6:10) Early in December, 1940, I reached the Society’s headquarters in Australia. The brothers were most kind and made me feel at home.
Shortly after my arrival at Strathfield, Jehovah permitted his enemies to ban his witnesses, allowing them to seize and occupy their property. Of course, the witness work continued, more or less underground. I had a share in mimeographing The Watchtower and in distributing it to the brothers. Not an issue failed to appear, thus proving that Jehovah holds back nothing good from his servants. During the ban I served at the Society’s depot at Brisbane. After the ban was lifted I filled a similar post in Melbourne. In 1948 I was recalled to the Bethel home in Strathfield, and I have served there till now.
Ever since Jehovah took me into his service I never have lacked any good thing, spiritual or temporal! After all my travels, varied experiences and opportunities for advancement in this world (and there have been many), the height of my ambition is to be found in Jehovah’s service full time. “For Jehovah God is a sun and a shield; favor and glory are what he gives. Jehovah himself will not hold back anything good from those walking in faultlessness. O Jehovah of armies, happy is the man that is trusting in you.”—Ps. 84:11, 12.