Sixty Years With God
By C. Mervyn Maxwell
First published in Signs of the Times, January, 1971, shortly after Arthur Maxwell's death
"Destiny will preserve me until my job is done!"
This buoyant declaration of faith in God was Arthur Maxwell's confident assurance to concerned friends last August as he set out for Europe on a strenuous tour to promote the distribution of gospel literature.
Earlier in the year he had retired from his thirty-four year editorship of Signs of the Times and offered himself for service wherever his church might need him around the world.
He returned home in all his usual vigor, dictated hundreds of letters, and completed his 112th book in less than a month. Then sudden illness struck. Within a week - as the sun was setting at the beginning of the Sabbath - he fell asleep.
Arthur Stanley Maxwell was born on January 14, 1896, in London, England, and passed to his rest on November 13, 1970, in Mountain View, California, at the age of seventy-four years and ten months.
On May 3, 1917, he was married to Rachel Elizabeth Joyce, and during the course of their years together four sons and two daughters entered their home. Two years after their golden wedding anniversary Rachel preceded him in death on July 23, 1969.
Having commenced his life at the close of the Victorian era, young Arthur Maxwell was early impressed by a wall-size map of the British Empire and by the oak-framed portraits of Roman emperors which his mother had hung all about the house. Every time he used the stairs, he read her motto, "Learn to Think Imperially."
When he was thirteen, his mother initiated procedures to enroll him as a midshipman in the British Navy; but his father's death brought many changes into her plans. About this time his mother was attracted to the preaching of J. D. Gillatt and was converted...after hearing his sermon on the four empires of Daniel 2 that are to be followed by the fifth empire of Jesus Christ. Three years of vigorous resistance later, during which he once climbed out a second-story window to avoid the pastor's visit, Arthur submitted to his mother's persuasion and entered Stanborough College.... In due course the ship he had been scheduled to sail on was sunk by enemy action.
An intense study of the last-day signs in Matthew 24 at last arrested his attention, and from then on he dedicated his remarkable energies with ever-increasing devotion to the proclamation of the good news that soon all earthly empires will cease and the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
He sold his first religious books as a student canvasser at the age of sixteen. Caught by the incoming tide while walking between two islands, he attributed his escape to a direct act of providence and thereafter lived convinced that God held a special destiny for him in His hands.
This escape from the sea was only one of many experiences in his early years that laid the foundation for his later vibrant faith in God. As a rebellious teen-ager he had an incident with a flat tire miles from home on a stormy night; as an overwhelmed young editor, an unforgettable moment with God under the stars. As a child in elementary grades he found when he prayed for help to stop swearing that the help came, and to the end of his life the words recurred in the Bedtime Stories: "God loves to answer little children's prayers."
At nineteen he joined the editorial offices of the Stanborough Press, beginning as copyreader for an attractive proofreader whom two years later he married. Children's stories he wrote at this time were eagerly accepted by the editor of the British Present Truth, but adult articles were uniformly rejected. Convinced on one occasion that he had something particularly good, he mailed a manuscript to distant California and was delighted to see it published at once on the front page of Signs of the Times.
In 1920 Arthur Maxwell became the editor of Present Truth, a post he held for sixteen years - for seven of which he also doubled as manager and treasurer of the Stanborough Press, pastor of a nearby church, official Adventist spokesman for church-state affairs in Britain, and editor, in addition to Present Truth, of a health journal as well. In 1931 his concern for religious freedom reached a climax in his appearance, with others, at the League of Nations to oppose a reform calendar that would have imposed a great hardship on Sabbath keepers. The large delegation of rabbis present particularly appreciated his persuasive presentation. Some of them came up and embraced him.
In 1936 Arthur Maxwell emigrated with his family to California to edit the magazine which had so graciously published his first adult article nineteen years before. At that time the circulation of the Signs stood at 55,000. Under his energetic leadership it soon rose to 335,000. He continued as editor for thirty-four years, completing before his retirement the volume for 1970, the December issue of which contains his final editorial, "Task Accomplished."
Arthur Maxwell was known affectionately around the world as "Uncle Arthur." Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories were born in 1924 as the young father told them to little Maureen and Graham to put them to sleep at night. The Stanborough Press reluctantly consented to print a limited edition of 5,000. But the stories proved successful beyond even Uncle Arthur's wildest dreams. Total distribution now approaches 35 million copies, and the initial volume has been succeeded by many more. On November 6, one week before his death, he completed Volume 48.
In the 1950's came the writing of The Bible Story, which has found so ready a popularity among families of every denomination and distribution of over 10 million copies.
Like his first adult article, published by the Pacific Press in 1917, his first book was also published by the Pacific Press, in 1920. Although he became most widely known as a children's author, through the years he wrote many adult books, the best-known of which - and the one he considered his major single volume - is Your Bible and You. Altogether he wrote 112 volumes, which have seen a total circulation of over 50 million copies in twenty-seven languages.
He lived life to the full. He considered his career a partnership with God and often quoted as a favorite text, "Not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake." He believed that God had made his life "a pageant of triumph" and gladly gave Him the credit for it.
He gladly gave credit also to the publishing house employees who produced his books in such large numbers, and to the thousands of literature evangelists who placed them in so many millions of homes.
He died not only full of days but also full of praise. In the last years of his life he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Andrews University and found as he traveled vigorously on four continents that he was welcomed everywhere with open arms and kindled hearts. He moved freely not only with children but also with governors, prime ministers, and the highest clergy. Long ago he had learned to "think imperially," not for the advancement of an earthly nation but for the forward march of the kingdom of God.
He rests in hope - as he expected to when he wrote these lines for Your Bible and You:
When Jesus comes, "'we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.'...
"Here indeed is rich comfort for the sorrowing.... The righteous dead will be raised and the righteous living will be translated, and so together they will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
"Together! Parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones. All who have been separated by the cruel hand of death. Raised or translated, they will go together into the kingdom of God....
"Thus has God planned in tender love for the happiness of His people in the great hereafter."
(Note that some details of this article such as the number of volumes of Uncle Arthur books in circulation are outdated.)
Arthur S. Maxwell
Arthur and Rachel Maxwell
Arthur and Rachel Maxwell with Maureen and Graham, 1921.
Uncle Arthur with Mervyn and Lawrence, 1929.
Uncle Arthur with his sons, 1932.
Uncle Arthur with his children, 1934.
Rachel Maxwell, 1935
Uncle Arthur with family, 1950