“No Greater Love than This”
The words which you have just read, though originally the words of ]esus
Christ, became the key text for a memorial service in Newtownhreda on
the outskirts of Belfast on Sunday 1st ]uly 1917. Let me tell you the very moving and interesting story which lay behind that occasion.
Being remembered with great affection and admiration was the valour
of a young Ulsterman, Private Williain McFadzean, who exactly one
year earlier had heroically given his life for others on the first day of the battle of the Somme. That single day, ]uly lst 1916, has become distinguished as one of the worst in modern military history, registering
over 19,000 fatalities and 57,000 casualties with William McFadzean one of the first to die just before 7 o’clock that morning.
Billy, as he was known to his friends, was born on October 9th 1895 in the town of Lurgan where a plaque to his memory can still be seen on the external wall of the Old Town Hall in Union Street. In early
life the famlly moved to the Cregagh area of Belfast and young Billy became an employee of Spence Bryson in Great Victoria Street, Belfast‘ On September 22nd 1914 he joined the
14th Btn. Royal Irish Rifles and a year later, With the famous 36th Ulster
Division, he sailed for France in October 1915.
Billy was a grenadier, one of a group specially trained in the handling
of grenades, and it was in the discharge of this very duty that he gave
his life for his comrades. In a narrow concentration trench in Thiepval
Wood, Billy and his comrades were making final
preparations for the day's assault. As German shells
were falling around them and as the bright morning
sun shone above them, suddenly a box of grenades
accidentally toppled, spilling grenades over the
floor of the trench and dislodging two of the pins.
Knowing that within seconds an explosion would
follow, Billy McFadzean pushed himself forward
and threw himself over the grenades. when the
live bombs exploded Billy was killed instantly and
his colleagues in the crowded trench were totally saved almost without
injury. He died to save them. He gave his life to preserve theirs.
Private Williain McFadzean became the first of fifty one winners of the
Victoria Cross at the battle of the Somme. At the presentation ceremony
in London on February 28th 1917, the King said to Billy’s father, who
had gone to receive his eldest son’s medal, “Nothing finer has been done
in this war than the act performed by your son in giving his life so
heroically to save the lives of his comrades”. Again the words were true
“Greater love but hath no man than this, that a man lay
down his life for his friends" (]ohn 15v13).
These famous words had first been spoken on the eve of an even greater
battle than the Somme. The night before He went to the cross the Lord
]esus spoke these words. On the next day He knew that He would give
His life as a sacrfice, not for friends, but for sinners, for us. We were
in great danger. Not this time from a box of man~made grenades, but
the deserved and eternal judgment of God because We had broken His
law and sinned against Him. To save us the Lord ]esus voluntarily gave
Himself, and there is ‘no greater love in all the world than this’. In His
sacrificial death He took the judgment We deserved that We might
escape. Not by works of merit, nor by payment of money. nor by
prayers of religion but through faith in Him alone we can receive life,
salvation and the forgiveness of our sins. The Bible affirms “through
His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins”
We cannot forget the generous love and noble sacrifice of men like
William McFadzeal1 but let us not forget the even greater love and
sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ for us. Have you remembered Him?
Have you appreciated how much you owe to His death for you? Have
you ever repented of your sins and trusted Him as your Saviour. There
is no time to lose. Trust in Him and you will be able to say, '
‘I seek no other argument
I want no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died
And rose again for me”
CatN0 DG-001C ©DG 2006