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Whose faith follow: Thomas Wallace (1893-1967)

J G Hutchinson, Belfast

Thomas Wallace was born in Co Antrim, an area where a good deal of the spirit of the "59 Revival" was still felt. His parents were farmers. While he was still very young his mother died and he was brought up by two aunts, who, being themselves Presbyterians of the devout and God fearing kind so rapidly disappearing in these dark and careless days, sought to raise their nephew in the same manner. His brother was brought up like this and became a minister in the Presbyterian Church.

Mr Wallace was sent to Sunday School and attended all the church services in Randalstown, walking four miles to and fro. There he learned the Scriptures, hymns, and sacred songs. He loved these, and as long as life lasted he frequently quoted them, one of his favourites being:

Vain are the hopes the sons of men
Upon their works have built;
Their hearts by nature are unclean,
Their actions full of guilt.

Silent let Jew and Gentile stand,
Without one vaunting word;
And, humbled low, confess their guilt
Before heaven’s righteous Lord.

From earliest days he had an interest in eternal matters, desiring to be right for eternity. As a youth he was encouraged to attend gospel meetings in Wellington Street, Ballymena, where two greatly used evangelists, Mr W McCracken and Mr J Marshall, were preaching nightly, and he learned that, despite a good upbringing and religious training, he was a sinner and needed salvation. He had much soul trouble, being without peace until, through Romans 5.6, he appreciated the work of Christ and resting there he was saved. Through his Christian life he highly valued this great truth, and the last time he preached the gospel, sharing a meeting with his son John, he quoted several times:

The cross of Christ is all my boast,
His blood my only plea;
My pathway to the realms of bliss
Is, "Jesus died for me".

Soon after conversion he was received into fellowship in Ahoghill assembly and later moved to Ballybollan where he was for some years before coming to reside in Ballymena. His interest in the things of God was deep and real, and early he began to testify in the gospel in a small and humble way. These men who became useful in the work of God almost all started off in a humble way, giving out tracts, taking part in cottage meetings and open air work. What a difference from the "professionalism" of this day.

He joined Mr R Storey in meetings in Cromkill school on Sunday evenings; later Mr J Stewart came, and in special meetings saw God working. When Mr Stewart and Mr John Hutchison were having meetings in Ballybeg, Mr Wallace and Mr J Storey gave help in overflow meetings. Later with Mr D Craig he had meetings in Ballywatermoy area. At Straid, a mile from where he carried on his business as a blacksmith, and in the school where he received his early education, he commenced a Sunday school where God blessed the local boys and girls. Each New Year he was responsible for a short series of gospel meetings in the various homes in the Clonkeen area.

It was becoming clear to him and to his brethren that God was calling him to relinquish his business and give his whole time to the work of the Lord. In 1929 he closed up his workshop and was heartily commended by the Ballybolan assembly. For a period he laboured with Mr L McIlwaine who went to Nova Scotia in 1930. For many years he was with Mr T H Lyttle, then for 7 years prior to Mr Stewart’s death, he companioned with him, covering many parts of Ulster and seeing God at work. Later with Mr McKelvey and Mr R Beattie he conducted many gospel efforts and saw much fruit.

In many ways he was a plain man; not in any department of life did he display ostentation or seek great things. Like himself, his preaching was plain and simple, but carried with it weight and power that caused many a hearer to tremble. While he spoke much about coming wrath and the doom of the impenitent, there was nothing harsh about him; he was of a kind and sympathetic nature. Rarely did he go outside his native province in preaching, but he was kept fully occupied there and continued with much success and blessing until it pleased God to lay him aside a year or more before his homecall.

Illness beset him resulting in him suffering the amputation of one leg. At the age of 73, this was a serious operation, but God brought him through and after having a limb fitted he was able to be at meetings and to take some part. A week before his death, he ministered in his home assembly and, in stressing the importance of the Word of God, said, "Brethren you will have this when you have not me". The following Lord’s Day, after having taken part in the meeting in Letterkenny, where some kind friends had taken him and his wife for a short holiday, he suddenly took ill. Despite medical care, in a very short time "earth’s struggles ceased" and he was at home with the Lord. The doctor and hotel management were deeply impressed with his Christian testimony and fortitude in the hour of death.

The funeral services, which he had personally arranged during a previous illness, were from the Wellington Street Gospel Hall, where Mr McKelvey spoke feelingly of his beloved colleague, Mr D Craig and Mr Beattie sharing with hymn and prayer. At the grave Mr Beattie gave a suitable message, and Mr E Fairfield closed in prayer.


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