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Whose faith follow: Mr J Noble (1915-1989)

Malcolm Radcliffe

Jack Noble was born in Maxwelltown, Dumfries in Scotland on 21st December, 1915. He grew up in Portadown, Northern Ireland, the place to which his mother moved after the death of his father in the battlefields of France during World War I.

As a young man Jack commenced work in Corbett’s drapery store in Portadown. His great interest was amateur dramatics, which involved elocution and acting. When Jack was 17 years old, Mr D L Craig came to the Gospel Hall in Portadown for a series of gospel meetings. Jack and two of his friends, who were his regular companions, attended these meetings. During the course of the meetings both his friends trusted the Saviour. Jack was deeply troubled about his soul, but the series ended without him getting saved.

The following Monday morning, after the meetings had ended, Jack arrived at his place of work to find a letter waiting for him. He recognised the writing as belonging to one of his friends who had been saved. He did not open the letter immediately but waited. Later that morning he went upstairs to the tea-room which was situated above the drapery shop. He opened the letter to find the following words: "For God so loved Jack Noble that He gave His only begotten Son for Jack Noble, that if Jack Noble believed in Him (God says) he will not perish but have everlasting life" (Jn 3.16). Underneath the verse these words were written: "Jack are you going to make God a liar?" Jack read the verse very carefully for a second time and in the tea-room that Monday morning he bowed his heart and believed God. This was the turning point of his life.

Mr Craig had commenced further gospel meetings that very Monday evening in a place outside Portadown. The brethren from the Portadown assembly had hired a bus and were going out to support these meetings and Jack accompanied them. Someone had told Mr Craig that Jack had been saved and so at the opening of the meeting, without any warning. Mr Craig announced that there was a young man in the meeting who had just got saved that very day and that he (Jack) would tell them how it happened. Years later Jack told me that, although he did tell the audience how he had trusted Christ, he never really forgave Mr Craig for springing this on him so suddenly!

For some time leading up to, and during the time of, the gospel meetings in which he got saved, Jack had been rehearsing for a play in which he had the leading role. The play was scheduled to take place a few nights after his conversion. He was in a dilemma. He did not want to act, but the time was too short for someone else to learn the part to replace him in the play. He went to see the brethren in the Portadown assembly, and they, after waiting upon God, advised him to fulfil his obligation.

Jack went and played his part that night and when the final curtain came down he went out through one of the rear exits of the building and leaning against the wall he wept his heart out. The glitter and thrill had gone out of acting - he had tasted something better. "The joys of earth can never fill the heart that’s tasted of His love." From then on he was engaged in assembly life, having a great love for the gospel which he never lost.

He later went to work in another drapery store in the town of Larne, and very soon became the manager of that store. During his time in Larne he was actively engaged in children’s work, open-air preaching, and gospel campaigns in tents. During one of the gospel series in Broughshane, several members of the Strahan family were saved. He often said that one should continue in their daily secular employment until the demands of the Lord’s work were so great that you could not do both. Jack Noble was a living example of this belief. His burden for lost souls deepened until, in December, 1946, the brethren in the assembly at Larne commended him to the work of the Lord full-time. In January, 1947 he went out to serve the Lord in St Kitts in the West Indies. On 8th January, 1948 he married Sadie McCullough who became his faithful helpmeet in the service of the Master.

They laboured together in St. Kitts in association with the late Charles Brown, Tom Morrell, and Mollie Creeth and saw the Lord’s hand in blessing. After six years of faithful service in St Kitts, Jack and Sadie moved to Antigua in 1954. There they joined the late Les Crossley in gospel work and in the planting of assemblies. When they were on furlough Jack had many fruitful series of meetings in the gospel in the North of Ireland, Ayrshire, Lancashire, and Staffordshire where he is still remembered with deep affection.

During their time of service in Antigua, Jack developed a chronic eye disease caused by the strong ultraviolet rays of the tropical sun, and thus he and Sadie had to return to Northern Ireland in 1972 accompanied by their family of two sons, Eric and Drew, and their daughter Grace.

It was just after this that I had my first opportunity of preaching the gospel with him. We shared a series of gospel meetings, which were held in a portable hall outside the town of Newry, close to where I was living at that time. We saw some fruit of our labour in the salvation of souls. This was the start of our friendship that was to last until God took our dear brother home.

In January, 1976 Jack and Sadie emigrated to Canada, first settling in Toronto and then some months later moving to Guelph. Prior to this in September, 1974 I joined our brother for a very fruitful time in the gospel in Bracondale assembly in Toronto. Over the next few years we had gospel meetings in the Canadian towns of Windsor, Sault Ste Marie, and Bolton. In many ways Jack was a spiritual father to me, teaching me a lot in the ways and the work of God. He was one of the most encouraging and selfless men I had ever met. If ever you admired or made an appreciative comment on a Bible, pen, or book he possessed, the next time Jack came to visit you he presented the item to you as a gift. His kindness and thoughtfulness helped many a person and he was an inspiration to those whose lives he touched. His uppermost consideration, however, was the winning of souls for the Lord and the building up of God’s people.

In November, 1989 once again we shared another series of gospel meetings this time in the Shetland Islands, a place Jack had visited on a number of occasions previously. We returned home to mainland Scotland on 4th December and I took Jack to Stranraer for him to get the ferry back to Northern Ireland. When I bade him farewell little did I know that it would be the last time we would be together down here. Following his return home Jack took a number of meetings that week. On 8th December in Limavady he spoke from John 20, emphasising the words of the Lord, "So send I you" (v.21), and quoted the words, "Bye and bye when I look on His face, I’ll will wish I had given Him more". Within 24 hours his account on earth was closed and he was with his Lord. When I heard of his sudden homecall I felt, and still do feel, like Elisha did when Elijah was taken from him. I had lost a spiritual father, a true friend, and a brother beloved.

Following his death, his wife Sadie, whose hospitality and kindness my wife and I have enjoyed many times over the years, gave me Jack’s model and chart of the Tabernacle. Our brother had encouraged me in the study of this great subject and I am glad to use the model and chart in the exaltation of the One whom our brother Jack Noble trusted as a young man of seventeen years old and served so faithfully for 57 years.

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