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September 2005
"The Editor's View" by Larry D. Smith, editor
IF YOU SEEK THEIR MONUMENT

These remarks, presented here in condensed form, were given by your editor on June 15 at campus services dedicating new portraits of early GBS pioneers (see p10 for further information).

St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, was the magnificent accomplishment of Sir Christopher Wren, who gave 35 years to its construction. When for the last time, the great architect laid down his pencils and his compass, he was buried amid the dazzling beauty which he himself had created. In the crypt of St. Paul’s you can read this tribute upon his tomb: “If you seek his monument, look about you.”

We say the same of those GBS pioneers whose portraits we now dedicate to the glory of God. Decades have passed since they left the “Mount of Blessings”—as they loved to call this bit of land on the slopes of Mt. Auburn. But the legacy of their love and labor remains an imperishable monument, not only here but also in a thousand other places where boys and girls from God’s Bible School have taken the love of God in Jesus Christ.

This campus itself remains a tribute to them. GBS still centers on the original two acres and two buildings which they helped Martin Wells Knapp buy 105 years ago this summer for 20 thousand dollars. Much still remains here as they envisioned it. To the north is President Standley’s “Great House of Prayer”—still our chapel and men’s dormitory, erected during the early months of 1930 at the heart of the Great Depression.

To the east stands the Revivalist Memorial Building, housing the women’s dormitory, for generations the Revivalist Press, and now our K-12 Aldersgate Academy. Built in the early 1920’s of 300,000 bricks—costing 13 cents each—around a concrete skeleton and reinforced with steel rods, it was an engineering “marvel,” according to famous Methodist evangelist Joseph H. Smith, who added: “When Jesus comes, He will be pleased to see that what we did and built in His name, we did the very best we could.”

This brick Italianate mansion—the Administration Building—was hallowed ground to them, as it is to us, for it has been the heart of GBS from its beginning. Behind you is the office of our early presidents, and above you are the rooms where they and their families lived. To your left is the historic double parlor, GBS’s first chapel and classroom, where the founders prepared a youthful army to conquer the world for Jesus. We remember that these floors have echoed with their footprints, and these walls have echoed with their prayers. “If you seek their monument, look about you.”

Vastly more significant, however, is the spiritual heritage which they have left us. Bricks and mortar shall crumble into dust, but human lives reclaimed for Jesus and shaped into His likeness shall endure forever. This is why they began that great succession of Christian workers who have gone to all the ugly, sin-darkened and sin-drenched corners of this world. Think of the tens of thousands who as a result of the witness of these pioneers have been saved by the blood of Jesus’ cross. Think of those thousands who are yet to come—all one “endless line of splendor” begun so humbly on this Hilltop but moving on and on into God’s Nearer Presence, where they shall praise Him forever for the “Mount of Blessings.”

In its foundational commitments, this school remains very much the same GBS that the Knapps, the Standleys, and Mrs. Storey established here. Every graduate is given the same commission we have always given: bring Jesus to your world, and bring your world to Jesus. Every class reflects our original purpose to prepare devoted servants to labor in His Church. Every ministry extends the efforts begun in the old George Street Mission, Hope Cottage, and the simple little chapels set up in Shanty Town. That is why we say again, “If you seek their monument, look about you.”

Now consider briefly each of those whose portraits shall remain upon these walls where once they worked and prayed. God has not forgotten their faith and service, nor do we.

Appropriately enough, Meredith G. Standley’s picture will greet all visitors entering the reception room. Born in 1877, he was here at the school’s beginning, as he tells us, living in the attic room upstairs “that looked like an old boat with two portholes.” In 1911 he “commenced 39 years of strong, aggressive presidential leadership,” as Glenn Black, former editor of God’s Revivalist, once observed. “M.G. Standley was not only a man of vision,” as Black added, “[but] he also knew how to implement his ideas.” This is why the Standley years are remembered for their vigorous activity, exciting creativity, and institutional growth, for GBS became not only a flourishing educational institution, but also a significant focal point for the entire Holiness Movement.

President Standley supervised the erection of two major buildings and extended the campus to a full six acres. In March 1930, he caused GBS to become a pioneer in Christian radio, broadcasting its “Sunrise Worship Hour” over WKRC, Cincinnati. GBS camp meetings flourished, attracting thousands to the Hilltop; and circulation of God’s Revivalist grew to an all-time high of 54,000—at a time when the Revivalist was published weekly! In 1936 the “Bible school” became a college, legally authorized to grant both the ThB and the BA degrees.

So the Hilltop became a beehive of academic and evangelistic activity, climaxing in the GI’s of the Cross Crusade, which began in a massive city-wide revival at Cincinnati’s Music Hall in November 1946 and continued through three years of highly-successful jeep-and-trailer evangelism. M.G. Standley was at the heart of all this, for as President Samuel Deets once noted, Standley was “the man whom God used to build this Bible School into a world-renowned organization with spiritual influence far out of proportion to its size.”

In the central hallway of this building will hang the portraits of those three courageous women who directed GBS from the time of Knapp’s death in December 1901 until Meredith Standley became president a decade later. In spite of conflict and crisis, they remained true to the vision of the founder, who, as he was dying, asked them to carry on his work. During their administration, a five-story building—later known as the “Ten-Weeks Building”—was erected for the kitchen, dining room, and women’s dormitory; Hope Cottage began its ministry to unwed mothers and their children; Oswald Chambers lectured in the room across the hall; and Nettie Peabody began her career of over 60 years on this campus.

Note first the portrait of Bessie Queen Standley, converted at Knapp’s “Revivalist Chapel” in downtown Cincinnati and soon thereafter his associate in the office of God’s Revivalist. In 1902 she was married to Meredith Standley in a ceremony officiated by the Quaker evangelist Seth C. Rees and followed by ice cream and cake for the poor children from George Street Mission. Bessie was always Meredith’s partner in ministry, serving as his advisor, catalyst, and hostess; and for years she was also editor of God’s Revivalist. To her gracious and well-supplied table were invited farmers attending camp meeting, as well as politicians supporting GBS’s work and witness. In death, as in life, she is beside her husband, buried in Miami, Florida.

Next is the picture of Mary Storey, courageous evangelist and Cincinnati businesswoman. Converted as a child in Ireland, she became a faithful Methodist who sought and experienced that deep work of the Holy Spirit called “entire sanctification.” She became an effective preacher, threw herself into house-to-house visitation, and rented a house which she opened for religious services. She regarded Knapp’s coming to Cincinnati as an answer to her prayers and vigorously supported his evangelistic efforts. According to her obituary, she became “one of those who prayed the prayer of faith” which led to the establishment of God’s Bible School. Her solid Methodist churchmanship was an anchor of stability and balance until her death in 1906.

Finally, we remember Minnie Ferle Knapp, whose portrait is to the east. Married to GBS’s founder on September 24, 1892, she moved with him to Cincinnati on their wedding trip. A quiet and retiring woman, solid in faith and unswerving in conviction, she shared his dreams, labors, and sufferings, and following his death, remained on this campus for 29 years, a bastion of strength, courage, and serenity. Her “hidden ministries by correspondence” to scattered missionaries seemed “saturated with the grace of God,” according to OMS founder Lettie Cowman; and sometimes at great peril Mrs. Knapp would travel to foreign lands to rally support for missionary outreach.

For she believed—as did all these we honor this morning—that at whatever cost, the world must be brought to Christ. At her funeral, February 4, 1930, President Standley placed a container beside her open coffin to receive an offering for world evangelism. Later at Spring Grove Cemetery, just before their last goodbye, her friends recalled the “lost heathen” and their duty to them, then began an old hymn that once was almost the theme song on this campus: “We’ll girdle the globe with salvation,/ With holiness unto the Lord,/ And light shall illumine each nation,/ The light from the lamp of His word.”

It is this commitment to Jesus and to His call that shall give us cause to say in heaven, as we say this morning, “If you seek their monument, look about you.”


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