Wednesday, September 09, 2009

THROUGH MANY DANGERS


The autobiography of Isaac Lewis (1823-1896), for over twenty years pastor at Staplehurst, in the county of Kent, England.

I was born in the parish of Burnham, in the county of Essex, August
13th, 1823. I was born of gracious parents. My mother died when I was
about eight years old, and I was then left to the care of my sister, who
was married and kept my father’s house.

My father tried hard to make me a scholar, but all to no purpose, for
I hated school and those who wished me to go. O how often have I
reflected upon the past respecting my dear father and myself! But so it
was, and it cannot be altered. He was a kind, loving father, and a good
and gracious man. He was not perfect! He had his faults and failings
here.

The first thing I shall speak of is the smallpox, which I had when
quite young. It was before my mother’s death. I had it very bad. I was
blind for some time, and my life hung in doubt; but not so with my God,
for He had appointed the means for my recovery, as well as the end of
the disease. This, with all God’s dealings with me, has been for my good
and God’s glory. How true the words of the poet:

“Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love sees fit.”


I recovered, and grew up like a wild ass’s colt, hardened to everything
that was good and greedily running into everything that was bad. So
addicted was I to all manner of evil and my conscience was so hardened
that I had no thoughts of God. I do not remember in all my
unregenerated state once calling upon God, even in the form of prayer.
I was twice preserved by the hand of God from a watery grave. O, “How
unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out!”
I will pass over many things that occurred in the days of my
boyhood, and come to the time of leaving my father’s house.
Three others and myself agreed to run away from home. The time
fixed was one Sunday evening. Each of us had to muster what money we
could. I went to my father with a lie and obtained a sum of money. At
the time appointed we started off. We travelled part of that night till we
came to a field of hay, where we rested for a time. Here I would remark
that I intended giving my comrades the slip, but it was otherwise ordered;
for when I thought of starting, I found to my surprise that my leg was
fastened to another boy’s leg. He awoke, and charged me with trying to
run away, which I denied with a lie; so I was bound to go with them
according to our agreement. We started for the nearest seaport, and
arrived early the next morning and, as soon as we could, entered on
board a man-of-war. When I was on board that ship, what a scene
opened to my view! Here was sin in all its various forms – one continual
peal of oaths and curses assailed my ear from day to day. This, with hard
fare and a strict martial law to serve under for three or four years, and no
kind word from a loving father, made me have bitter reflections upon
myself. But here I was, and here I must be.

I proceeded on my voyage; nothing particular occurred. I was
mercifully preserved and brought back to my native country; and then
began my wild career. As soon as I was paid off and had my liberty, I
gave full vent to the evil propensity of my youthful nature. O what
depths of sin I was left to go into and what rebellion against the Most
High! I was truly a willing slave to sin, Satan and my heart’s lust. The
predominant sins of my youth were lying, swearing and Sabbath
breaking. I became the leader of a party of young men who were
following in the same downward course; yet in the midst of all this
wickedness, I was marked by God. The arrow of conviction, in due time,
according to the purpose of the everlasting Three, which was purposed
in Christ Jesus before the world began, was to be sent into my soul.
The time came for my father to be taken away by death; and I was
glad for him to die. I speak it to my shame, because I had then no check,
but could serve sin without any control. I verily believe I was one of the
easiest fools Satan ever had; he would at times stir up my poor, fallen
nature to curse and swear in such a fearful manner as to shock not only the moral but the profane. I have often thought of the Lord using the
mouth of the dumb ass to rebuke the madness of the prophet; and He also
made use of the mouth of a poor, dead sinner to rebuke me, His poor,
mad Gadarene, which fell heavily upon my spirits, to think that one who
came from the lowest ranks of society should rebuke me. Even this had
no good effect upon me; it only tended to harden rather than soften.
I must relate one remarkable instance of God’s care over me when
in a state of drunkenness. I went a short distance from home to see some
relations, and on my way home I called at a public house to have
something to drink. I had some rum, and I drank to such an excess that
when I came out of the house I could scarcely stand, and at last fell on
the road some little distance from the town. I managed to get up and
stagger a little further, where was a ditch with a little water in it, and into
this I fell, unconscious of where I was or the state I was in.

Who could have kept me, and preserved me from death by drowning, but that God who holds the waters in the hollow of His hands, and the life of every living thing?

How shall I contemplate or speak of the love, mercy and grace of the everlasting Three who preserved me when dead to every mercy – to that God who preserved me, and sent a deliverer to rescue me?

A man with a donkey and cart came by, and seeing something white in the
hedge, for it was then dark, he came to me, and tried to lift me out of the
ditch, but failed in the attempt. But God, who is rich in mercy, for His
great love wherewith He loved me when I was dead in sins, sent two
more men to deliver me from my perilous condition. They helped the
man to lift me into the cart, and I was taken to my father’s house. This
was before his death. I was as insensible as a block of wood to life and
feeling. O how contrary it was with my dear father; for he, with all the
emotions of a father’s affection and a sense of the love of God in his
heart, adopted the language of David: “O my son, my son, my son Isaac!
O that God would stop thee in thy mad career and downward course to
hell!” Not all his prayers, tears or kind words could avail anything with
me.

Well do I know that there is a set time to favour Zion; and till that
time arrives, let a man be what he may, peasant or prince, he can know
nothing about the new birth or the work of regeneration; for the lip of
infallible truth has said, “Ye must be born again”; which is contrary to
the work of man. Man has nothing to do with communicating this life or
maintaining this life in the soul; this is the work of the Holy Ghost. It is He alone who can convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come.

I must now say a word or two respecting my father, who was taken
away when I was dead in sin and wickedness. He was not without a hope that, sooner or later, God would quicken my soul into life, which I have one or two reasons for asserting. One is, I have been informed that when supplicating the God of heaven in public, he hardly ever omitted these words, “As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress, so our eyes and hearts are up unto Thee, O Lord, that there might be a seed to serve
Thee, when time with me shall be no longer.” I believe this was the
prayer of faith in my father’s heart, although it was not answered till after
his death; and whilst writing this, I have a sweet assurance in my heart
that the prayers and the things prayed for were, and are, according to the
will of the everlasting Three.

It was some time after my father’s death before the Lord implanted
divine life in my soul and put me amongst the living children of His
kingdom. I trust that I now stand classed with the good seed, because of
the good work of grace wrought in my soul by God the Holy Ghost, and
that I am amongst that seed who desire to serve the Lord in newness of
spirit and not in the oldness of the letter, but from a pure motive of love
to honour His great and holy name and to debase the creature. But of
this I shall speak more fully presently.

I must here give a brief account of my marriage. When I was about
twenty-two I became acquainted with a young woman who is now my
wife. I was determined to marry. I thought nothing about housekeeping;
and after I had paid for my wedding dinner, I had only one half-crown
left, no furniture, not even for one room; so we went into lodgings. One
day my wife said to me, “This won’t do; we must have a home of our
own.” So we hired a house; but we had only my wife’s box and my chest
to put into it.

In the course of time, however, with great economy we got a
comfortable home, and then my wife said she should like to go to church;
but I said I would not go. My wife went to church, but I stayed at home
and went to bed, and was angry with her for going. At last she prevailed
upon me to go with her. We went for a few Sundays; when I thought I
was becoming quite good, and that this was all the goodness God
required. My wife, not being satisfied with this, said, “I should like to
go to chapel.” I asked, “Which chapel?” She said, “I should like to go
to your father’s chapel.” It was called his because he rented it for a long
time.

I went for some time with no more feeling than a stone until, one
Lord’s day evening, the minister was speaking of sin, righteousness and
judgment to come, when the Holy Ghost accompanied the word with
power to my heart. The Lord says, “Is not My word as ... a hammer that
breaketh the rock in pieces?” My soul felt the shock and fell under its
force. The law entered with its condemning power. The law demanded satisfaction.
I had not one mite wherewith to pay. I was arraigned at the
bar of equity and truth in the court of conscience and God, my righteous
Judge, appeared arrayed in dreadful majesty against me. The Holy Spirit
brought indictments against me. The first was, “Cursed is every one that
continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do
them”; and, “He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all.”

The state of horror that then seized my soul I can never tell to the
full. Truly the cup of bitters was given to drink to the full. I was, as the
psalmist says, reeling to and fro like a drunken man. I was brought to my
wits’ end and knew not what to do. I cried, I begged for mercy, if there
could be mercy for such a wretch as I felt myself to be.

The time of mercy was not yet come. I had to feel the burden of my
sins and the anger of God against them in the law. I was shut up under
the law, till at last faith was given me; but not the faith of assurance, but
that which enabled me to have a hope in the mercy of God. Whilst under
the law and the sentence of death in my soul, I thought the devil would
come and take me away, body and soul.

One evening I well remember, when I was ill in body, the Holy
Ghost opened up to me a little of the holiness and spirituality of the law
and my state as a poor, condemned sinner. I was led to cry for mercy;
but instead of getting an answer, I was made to feel the awful evils of my
heart, and the powers of hell did indeed assault my soul in every part.
The devil suggested to me, “Thou art one of those whom God abhors”;
which was like pouring vitriol into a wound. I was upon my bed, under
the dreadful feeling of sinking into hell every moment. I groaned in
spirit; words failed me. The dear apostle knew what this groaning was
when he wrote to the church at Rome: “The whole creation groaneth and
travaileth in pain together until now ... for we are saved by hope: but
hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope
for? Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities; for we know not
what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit Itself maketh
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”

The little secret hope I had supported my soul: sure I am if I had
been deprived of this hope I should have fallen into black and awful
despair. Judas and Ahithophel never had this hope. I had no word
brought to my soul to comfort me under this heavy storm. I had nothing
but the surges of a guilty conscience in my feelings, a broken law open
to my view, and the sword of divine justice hanging over my head. All
that I had at this time was a desire; and the desire of the righteous shall
be granted. I feel sure that where there is a righteous desire, God will
hear, answer and satisfy that desire, as you will find He did for poor,
unworthy me. I did desire that the great Lord would ease me of my
burden a little; and the same hand that put it on took it off.

I fell into a doze for a short time; and when I awoke I thought and
said too, “What a mercy I am out of hell!” Some people will say there
is no hope under the law – that if there is, the damned in hell may have
hope. Those who speak in this way know nothing of hell, the state of the
damned, or the hope of the righteous. If they did, they would tell a
different tale, and the apostle must be a false witness. Let God be true,
and every man a liar who says contrariwise, for the lip of eternal truth,
speaking by the psalmist, has said: “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet
praise Him.” And again, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” When
a true desire is given, it is a tree of life. The desire of the righteous shall
be granted, but the hope of the hypocrite shall perish. There is a dead
hope as well as a living one; a dead desire as well as a living one. We
are told, “There is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout
again,” and, “through the scent of water it will bud.” Just such a poor
wretch was I. When cut down with the axe of God’s eternal truth, I
thought I must go to hell; but instead of this, I fell towards that river, the
streams whereof made glad the city of God. I found it to be so in the
Lord’s own time.

There is a time to favour Zion. I have proved it to be so, and in the
Lord’s own way. I have many times envied the beast of the field. At one
time, when labouring under the sentence of death in my soul, I saw a bird
flying in the air. O how I wished I was that bird! I said to myself, “You
have no soul, so there is no hereafter with you; but I have a soul to be
saved or to be damned.” This is the place where every mouth is stopped
and all the world becomes guilty before God.

I was an awful blasphemer, as I have stated, when in the world. In
the exercise of my mind and in the multitude of my thoughts, this was
once presented to my mind: “You do not swear now”; and something
whispered, “You may do so, if you like.” I so far fell in with the
suggestion of the enemy that I tried to think of an oath but, to my
astonishment, I could not. I know the place and where I was seated at the
time. It was on the main hatch of the little ship called the S.S., in the
River Crouch. Truly the Son of God came into this world to destroy the
works of the devil, and sure I am that this was the devil’s work and that
of my own deceitful heart. Nothing short of the eternal Son of God
could have deprived me of the remembrance of such unhallowed thoughts as they were.

O how true it is that the devil is as a chained lion!

So far thou shalt go, but no further.

At another time, when going to my work, sailing down the same
river, suddenly so great a trembling and fear came upon me, because I
thought the mast would fall on me and kill me, and that I should surely
go to hell, that my soul groaned out, “O Lord, deliver me from going to
hell”; when these words were brought with much power and sweetness:

“Let your faith be ever so small,
From thence to hell you ne’er shall fall.”


I was lying on my back at the time. I sprang on my feet and cried out, “I
shall never go to hell.” I know not where these words were; but one
thing I did know, they came with power and comfort, and caused a hope
to spring up in my soul. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness
for the upright in heart.”

But sad to say, I did not live long under the enjoyment of this hope.
I was soon again left in darkness and sometimes feared it was all a
delusion, and that I should never obtain the blessings I craved. I was
obliged to go to the Lord with these words: “Lord, save, or I perish!”
“Lord, have mercy upon a poor, blind, sinful worm!” I was sorely tried
about prayer, because I could not bow my knees in prayer, as the enemy
tempted me that it would be mocking God to kneel down to pray; but I
was obliged to cry for that mercy which I needed. The great God says,
“The needy shall not alway be forgotten.” Truly it is impossible for a
living soul to stop crying. You might as well try to stop a drowning man
from crying and struggling, while sensible of his dangerous position, as
to stop a living soul from crying when he feels the arrows of death in his
soul, and sees the avenger of blood close to him, and the wrath of God
in a broken law against sin in his conscience. A cry for mercy does not
spring from the law, but from the mercy of God in Christ.

Sometimes when the minister has been speaking he would say, “A
prayerless soul is a Christless soul.” O how this would wound me! O,
I have thought, if I could but bend my knees in prayer, then the Lord
would answer me; but to my disappointment I found that bending the
knees was not prayer. The Lord says He will pour upon the house of
David the spirit of prayer, and the grace of supplication. I have learnt by
painful experience, as well as from the Word of God, that true prayer in
the soul is the breath of God. Thus the Lord was pleased to show
Ezekiel (37. 9): “Then said He unto me, Prophesy unto the wind,
prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God;
Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that
they may live.” This is the sweet effusion of the Holy Spirit breathing into the dead sinner’s soul the breath of eternal life. This prophesy was
partly fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. “And suddenly there came a
sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the
house where they were sitting.” The attitude of the body has nothing to
do with true prayer. Bending the knees every night and morning will not
make a praying soul. I do believe many a painted hypocrite and many a
false professor, who do bend their knees in a form of prayer, will go to
hell. I have had to pray sometimes standing, sitting and walking. Yet I
do love to bend my knees at a throne of grace when the dear Lord gives
me sweet liberty in prayer.

I remember once I had been labouring hard to make my calling and
election sure. I felt sure that if the Almighty had called me by grace, He
had also elected me to life and salvation; but, I thought, “How am I to
know this?” “Why,” it was suggested to me, “Go and ask the minister;
he alone can tell you.” I started to go to the minister’s home to ask him
whether he thought I was a child of God. I thought I would stand or fall
by his judgment; but when on my way to his house, the Lord stopped me
with these words: “Trust not in man, nor make flesh thy arm, whose heart
departeth from the Lord.” I went no further, but turned back covered
with shame, and filled with guilt and confusion.

In this state of adversity I had to consider. “O,” thought I, “what
have I been doing? Why, I have been trying to put my trust in a poor,
fallen son of Adam, who will call me a child of God today, and
tomorrow, if I offend him, he will perhaps say I am a child of the devil.”
I had to prove this from the mouth of this same minister some time
afterwards. The Almighty made me to reprove him respecting his
conduct and the errors he held and published.

My daily concern was to know whether the Lord had called me by
grace. O with what anxiety did I sit and listen to the minister when he
traced out the experience of God’s people; I wished to know if I had any
part or lot with them. Sometimes I could say with Ruth, “This people
shall be my people, and their God my God.” I felt with Manoah and his
wife, if God had meant to destroy me, He would not have shown me
these things.

Some may say, “What had He shown you?” He had truly shown me
my lost state as a sinner, that I deserved nothing but hell, because I had
violated His law in every part and refused all good instruction. I had
defied God to His face. I knew that, by the deeds of the law no flesh
living could be saved. I felt myself to be a sinner of no ordinary
magnitude. The length, breadth, height and depth of the sins I went into
I can never tell.

In the days of His flesh Jesus said to those who were self-righteous
that He came to call sinners, not those who were righteous in their own
eyes. I was made to feel that the law made nothing perfect, but the
bringing in of a better hope did; whereby we draw nigh to God through
the rent veil of Christ’s flesh; so that we may have true fellowship with
the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Faith was given me to feel everything
was settled and made sure in the covenant of grace from all eternity, that
nothing could be taken from it, nor anything added to it. God showed me
the immutability of His will from these words: “I am the Lord, I change
not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” “Every good and
every perfect gift ... cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom
is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” “O!” I thought, “Is there
no change in Him? Cannot He have mercy upon me? Now I am willing
to be saved; if He does not save me, how can He be a merciful God?”
I knew not that He was a just as well as a merciful God in trinity and
unity. The undivided essence of the Godhead cannot save one soul at the
expense of an injured justice. The justice of God holds the sinner as a
debtor till Christ comes and puts in His claim. Jesus paid the law to its
utmost; justice asked no more; and justice then the sinner dismissed, and
then sheathed its flaming sword.

I had hard thoughts of God. I arraigned the Almighty at the bar of
human reason. I condemned Him for not allowing me to be my own
judge, and for making a law that I could not fulfil. I thought God was a
hard Master to serve. Rebellion and self-pity took possession of my soul,
and I began to pity the reprobate and the ungodly. In my heart I said,
“How hard for a poor man who has to work hard all his life, has no
comforts here, is moral, and does no harm to his fellow-creatures, that he
is to be judged and condemned as a law breaker, an enemy to God, and
to be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God.” Yes, it is even
so; for the Lord has spoken it. I do know that this poor man, let him be
whom he may, is as great an enemy to the sovereignty of God as the devil
himself. The carnal heart is enmity to God; it is not subject to the law of
God. If God leaves man to his own choice, he chooses the wrong way.
The Lord says, “They have chosen death rather than life!” They will not
come unto Me that they might have life: “We will not have this Man to
reign over us.”

This is the language of the carnal heart, which I know to be true. As
I have stated, in my unregenerated state I was an awful blasphemer. At
one time, when an ungodly person rebuked me, such was the enmity of
my heart that I said I should go to hell in spite of God. I speak it to my
shame and feel humbled whilst doing so, although twenty-four years have passed since then. “O the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways
past finding out!” Blessed be God, He made me willing to be saved in
His way, and put a cry into my soul for a crumb of mercy. O what a
monster of sin and iniquity I felt myself when the Holy Spirit shone into
my heart with life-giving power! Truly I then wondered that I was out
of hell. As the psalmist says, “Thou hast shewed Thy people hard things:
Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.”

I loved the truth, although I was often condemned by it. Being a
fisherman, I have often crept into the hinder part of the little ship and
there poured out my soul in humble prayer to Almighty God to have
mercy upon me, to deliver me from hell and the bondage of the law; that
Christ might be revealed to me the hope of glory; so that I might be a free
man in Zion. My soul longed and panted to cry, “Abba, Father!” “If the
Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

Another freedom I longed for was to be enabled to open my mouth
in public prayer; but this I could never do till the Lord set my soul at
liberty and enabled me to be a partaker of the ordinances of His house.
One Lord’s day, I well remember, after the morning service there was
such a feeling came over me that I was only a wayside hearer, that, being
alone in my house, I shut the door. The Bible was on the table; when I
fell on my knees, and earnestly begged of the Lord, if it could be
consistent with His holy will, that I might open the Bible upon something
to suit my feelings. I poured out my soul before the Lord, rose from my
knees, and opened the Bible upon Psalm 130: “Out of the depths have I
cried unto Thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice: let Thine ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications. If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark
iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee,
that Thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and
in His word do I hope.” These words fitted so sweetly into my soul that
I felt if this was the feeling of David’s soul, who was a man after God’s
own heart, they were also my feelings; and I did hope that David’s Lord
was my Lord.

I felt such a love to David’s Lord that I began to think my
deliverance was near. I felt liberty in my soul, so that I could talk with
God as a man would with a familiar friend. I could call Him Lord and
tell Him I hoped He had done something for my soul more than He had
done for the world at large. I can truly say the words of this psalm were
like apples of gold in pictures of silver; my soul did eat of this fruit and
I found it sweet to my taste.

The Holy Ghost led me to examine the work over again; when I
found I could not call Him my Lord and my God. The little word my I could not say; my faith began to give way, hope lost her anchor-hold,
doubts and fears prevailed. Then I found David’s words suitable, “My
soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I
say, more than they that watch for the morning.” When I have been at
sea I know well what it is to watch for the morning light, especially when
looking for some headland or harbour of refuge. I have often strained
every nerve to catch a glimpse of land; what an earnest looking there has
been with me, and when seen, hope has sprung up that we should reach
it. The wise man says, “Blessed is the man,” not may be, but is blessed,
who, with a waiting, watching, loving spirit, watcheth daily at My gates,
waiting at the posts of My doors; for “whoso findeth Me findeth life, and
shall obtain favour of the Lord.”

Habakkuk says, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the
tower, and will watch to see what He will say unto me, and what I shall
answer when I am reproved.” I had to go many days in the strength of
this meat.

I do not remember having another token of divine favour till the
Lord delivered my soul from the law, curse and condemnation, and
brought me into the liberty of the gospel, which was not long after.

When I returned home, my soul was full of peace and joy in
believing. As I lay down on my bed, my soul went forth in the dances of
them that make merry. Truly the Father had killed the fatted calf, invited
His poor, prodigal son, and commanded the best robe to be put on him.
O my soul, bow into the dust of nothingness at the amazing goodness,
mercy and love of thy adorable Lord and dear Redeemer. I was like
David when he said, “My cup runneth over.”

I was in this frame of mind for some time, when I begged of the
Lord to take away the joy of my heart for a little, that I might get a little
sleep to strengthen my poor body for labour on the morrow; but I also
begged of Him that He would renew His visits in the morning and give
me another token of His love. He assured me that He would do so. I
soon fell asleep, and when I awoke I found my Lord present with me; the
dew had lain all night upon the branch, as my precious Lord Jesus says
in John 15, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit
of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in
Me.” For about twenty-eight days I had a sensible abiding in Him, and
He in me, and I was enabled to bring forth much fruit. The fruit of the
Spirit is joy and peace, flowing from the love of God shed abroad in the
heart by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. O what a rich gift! And it was so fully and freely given, and so fully enjoyed, and it took away
the keen appetite of nature.

On one occasion, when returning from my labour, I saw the food on
my table, and I said, “Dearest Lord, I have meat to eat that the world
knows nothing of.” The Lord answered me, in the joy of my heart, with
these words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” My soul was enabled by precious
faith to feed upon the flesh of the Son of God and to drink His blood. It
was precious feeding indeed. His Word was found, and I did eat it, to
the joy and rejoicing of my heart. “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of
the Father,) full of grace and truth.”

O what a mercy that the Lord has put me amongst His people, and
enabled me to say us and we! If He had not put me there, I should never
have been there. O how full and free is salvation by grace to the lost,
undone and ruined! It is when they have nothing to pay that the Lord
frankly forgives them.

At this time my soul was confirmed in the great truths of the Bible
and in the doctrine of the everlasting gospel of the Son of God. The
doctrine of eternal election was a sweet theme to my soul. Here I saw the
covenant of grace which was entered into before all worlds by the Eternal
Three – Father, Son and Holy Ghost. The Father in the choice and gift,
as the Son declared in the days of His flesh: “Thine they were, and Thou
gavest them Me”; the Son in receiving and redeeming; the Holy Ghost in
witnessing and sealing. There are Three that bear witness in heaven – the
Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost; and these Three are One. We read
in Ephesians 1. 13, 14: “In whom also, after that ye believed, ye were
sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our
inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession: unto the
praise of His glory.”

I saw that this covenant, with all its provisions, was made secure by
the unalterable decrees of the Eternal Jehovah – God in the Trinity of His
Persons saw the whole of the election of grace as secure in this covenant
as He will at the end of all things, when the last vessel of mercy will be
safely housed in eternal glory. The Apostle Paul says, Before either of
the children had “done good or evil, that the purpose of God, according
to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” Then
again Christ says in John 17, “Now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with
Thine own self with the glory which I had with Thee before the world
was. I have manifested Thy name unto the men which Thou gavest Me
out of the world: Thine they were, and Thou gavest them Me; and they
have kept Thy word.” O sweet words, when brought home with the
Spirit’s power to the heart; for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the
Word of God.

I feel that to exhort a poor sinner to exercise faith upon the promises
of God is to exhort him to the sin of presumption. O how little
understood is the clean work of faith, which is the work of God the Holy
Ghost in the hearts of the elect by grace, who have to go against wind
and tide! Blessed be God, He has made me to know that He is not only
the Giver of faith, but the Author and Finisher of faith. Sense and reason
dispute every inch of the way; but faith leads the soul of a child of God
from Moses to Christ, from the condemnation of the law to the liberty of
the gospel, from Mount Sinai to Calvary. And at this precious spot the
soul views Jesus standing in his place. He went to the very end of the
law for righteousness, when He cried with a loud voice, “It is finished!”
and gave up the ghost. Jesus made an end of sin, brought in an
everlasting righteousness, which should be to all and upon all them that
believe. This is where He magnified the law and made it honourable. He
magnified the law in His life and on the cross in His sufferings, and He
honoured the law in His death. He died for the sins of His people and
rose again for their justification. If death could have held Jesus in the
tomb, no soul could ever have reached heaven. The devil and his agents,
with their limited power, tried hard to keep Him there. “Go, set a watch,
and make the tomb secure.” They might as well have tried to stop the
sun in its daily course as to have tried to keep Christ in the tomb, for He
had destroyed death, and him who had the power of death.

By the power of God the Holy Ghost, my soul was raised from a
death in sin to a life of faith in Christ. But O what a contrast now!
Sometimes I seem to have no faith, in feeling or judgment; all is dark
within and without. I am something like poor John when shut up in
prison, and sending to ask Jesus whether He was the Christ or not. What
poor things we are when left to ourselves, and O what a contrary way to
sense and reason God takes. At least He did so with me, to make me
established and rooted in the grand truths of the gospel.
A man who attended the same chapel as myself asked me what I
thought of God, as he could not understand what He was. I replied, “My
friend, I believe God is incomprehensible in the divine essence, and no
man by searching can find Him out. It is only by faith I am enabled to
believe, to the salvation of my soul, in three divine Persons – Father, Son
and Holy Spirit; and yet not three Gods, but one God. This was and ever
shall be too much for sense and reason to grasp. Faith believes it, and
love finds a centre place in God; for God is love.” The psalmist says,
“Hope thou in God: for I shalt yet praise Him.”

This man went to his minister and told him what I believed, and the
next time the minister was in the pulpit he spoke against the doctrine of
the holy Trinity. This was like some in days of old. The weapons of his
warfare were carnal, not spiritual. Truly my soul was grieved to hear such things from a man of whom I had thought better things. I wished
to speak to him; I thought him a man of wisdom, and myself a fool. O
how my poor soul did cry unto the Lord that He would strengthen me and
give me wisdom! How suitable to me were the words of dear old Jacob
when blessing his son Joseph (Gen. 49. 24): “But his bow abode in
strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the
mighty God of Jacob.” The great Lord strengthened me again from these
words: “I will make thee as a brazen wall against this people,” which He
applied with power.

I went to hear this minister one Lord’s day morning, and what he
said wounded me deeply. I felt a holy zeal for God’s glory, so that when
the service was over I called him aside, and asked him to explain some
things he had advanced. He was angry, and talked so loud that many
people came round us; and in the presence of these friends, I asked him
his real belief of the Trinity. He said he believed there was only one
Person in the Godhead – that Father, Son and Holy Ghost were only
name and titles; for, he said, God could assume any name or office He
chose by which to reveal Himself to the children of men. He quoted a
few passages of Scripture to strengthen his doctrine; but it is not
necessary nor desirable for me to enter upon the matter here. He asked
me if I thought I should see three Gods. I replied, “No; but I do believe
I shall see three glorious Persons in the undivided essence of the eternal
Godhead”; and I quoted Acts 7. 55: “But he, being full of the Holy
Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and
Jesus standing on the right hand of God.”

The minister said I was a troubler in Israel. I told him I wished to
be so when such errors as his were preached. The people held with the
minister; not a friend stood by me. My poor wife said, “You cause our
name to stink with the people.” O, this was the heaviest blow I had; it
wounded me indeed! If it had been an enemy, I could have borne it; but
it was from a bosom friend. But the Lord mercifully caused it to work
for my good, and God’s glory. I was compelled to withdraw from the
scene of action into a secret spot, and there to plead with my God that if
I were deceived, He would undeceive me, and that if right He would ever
keep me right; when the great Jehovah, my God in Trinity, heard the
groans of His poor worm, and delivered me by His Word and Spirit, as
He did in days of old: “He sent His word, and healed them.” And so He
did my poor soul. These words were given me: “Though thy beginning
was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” I believe the Lord
has, in part, fulfilled this portion of His Word in my soul’s experience,
as my narrative will show. From these words my soul was made strong
in Christ Jesus, and I felt determined to give battle in the name and strength of the Lord of Hosts, to any of the perverters of my most holy
faith.

I feel it is a very great mercy that the Lord has given me faith to
understand His truth and love to embrace it. The root must be first, then
the branches, then the fruit. David had his life in this root naturally and
spiritually. Jesus sprang from the loins of David according to the flesh.
I must now say a few words about this minister, and then I desire to
leave him in the hands of Him who judgeth righteously. On one occasion
I had to contend against his immoral conduct, which made him so angry
that he called me many hateful names. He said I was dead, and my
conscience seared as with a hot iron. I felt and told him I trusted my
conscience was made tender by the fear of the Lord. I told him the Lord
would reprove him; which He did a short time after, for he had a fall,
which shook the foundation of many who met with us, and caused grief
to the living family.

When the Spirit of the living God touches mere professors with His
rod, they are like the barren fig tree which Christ cursed; they wither and
die. I have often thought how many men are called to support the cause
of truth with their means who are not “elect according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit,
unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” Not chosen
to be partakers of divine life, they would wither and die. Not so with His
dear sheep, for the life He gives is eternal; so that they can never die.

I must now speak of my joining the church. After the dear Lord had
set my soul at liberty, I felt a loving desire to walk in the commands of
my precious Christ in the ordinances of His house, and I asked the Lord
to make it plain, when He sealed these words upon my heart: “Go thy
way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart”; “For
as often as ye do this, ye shew forth your Lord’s death till He come.” I
then felt able to speak to the aged minister. I was proposed to the church,
and at the time appointed went before them, gave in my experience, and
was unanimously received by the minister and people, who all gave me
the right hand of fellowship. This minister held with open communion.
I was convinced of sin under him, and loved him for the truth’s sake. I
asked him to baptize me, but he said he was too old; so that it was some
time before I was baptized. I am a Strict Baptist, and hope the Lord will
keep me faithful respecting church government till I die; for I have never
received it of man.

I now desire to speak of the manifold mercies of my covenant God
in providence and grace. I must mention that my wife was taken very ill;
and as nothing did her good, I thought her native air might be beneficial
to her. It was decided for her to go alone, and that I should follow,
which I did in due time; and through the good hand of my God upon me,
I arrived in safety, the distance being 140 miles.

We remained some time, staying with relations, whose ways were
not in accordance with my convictions of what is right. On our way
home my wife said, “I fear we shall find something wrong.” These
words were the means of rousing me from my stupor. I was brought to
examine myself, when I found things were far from being right between
God and my soul. I had been sowing to the flesh, and the fruit that the
flesh brought forth was corruption. There had been no heart-breathings,
no soul communion, no free access at a throne of grace in prayer. When
the Lord the Spirit shone into my poor, benighted soul the only prayer I
could find was, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” The fruit of the flesh
was made an offence to me, and then I said, “No more visiting ungodly
relations”; and I do hope the dear Lord will ever keep me from it.
As we were getting near home, we were met by a friend who asked
whether we had heard that my old boat was sunk, and it was not likely
she could ever be repaired. This was like a thunderbolt bursting upon
me; for here was all my support. I could not see how I was to get my
living. At the top of all this, I had spent my money foolishly. I had but a few shillings left, and soon a quarter’s rent would be due – no
employment, no money. The enemy said to me, “There is no help in God
for you.” I sank in deep waters, and was afraid the water-floods would
overflow me. The boat was indeed lost, and my faith seemed to be lost
too.

The next morning I was sitting on a log of wood by the river side,
when such a weakness and trembling came over me that I nearly fainted.
The trouble I was in, and my sins, were more than I knew how to bear;
but God, who is rich in mercy, for that great love wherewith He loved us
even when dead in sins, quickened my soul afresh, and put a cry in my
heart. And this was the cry: “Lord, undertake for me; for I am
oppressed!” The dear Lord did undertake for me, both temporally and
spiritually. My brother said something must be done. I said, “Do what
you like.” He said, “Let us go to the shipwright and see if anything can
be done.” We went, and he told us the boat could be got up and repaired
for £50 or £60 and that if we could get a friend to pay half the money
down, the other might be left, as we could work it out.

I felt that the gold and silver and the hearts of all men were in the
Lord’s hands, and that He could dispose the heart of our employer to do
all we needed; and, all glory to His sacred name, He did so. The work
was completed. My brother had to help the shipwright. I earned
fourteen shillings a week, half of which I agreed to give my brother,
although I had only seven shillings a week to live upon. I think I never
worked more cheerfully, for I felt assured my God was managing for me.
The boat was finished and was better than she had ever been. I truly
found this was amongst the all things that worked for my good and God’s
glory. In the course of time, by industry and economy, I was enabled to
pay all my debts. My brother was partner with me in the boat.

The next thing I must speak of is my deliverance from a watery
grave by the mighty power of God. In the month of January 1866, on a
Saturday morning while we were out fishing, there had been a heavy fall
of snow in the night and it was freezing, with a strong east wind and a
heavy sea running. As my brother was putting the vessel on the other
tack, I said, “I must pull off this heavy jacket”; which I did, and then I
went forward to handle the sails; and while in the act of forcing the fore
sail to leeward, the strop of the foresheet broke, struck me, and threw me
violently overboard, head first. The vessel overwhelmed me; I was under
the vessel; and then came the enemy with these words, “What is your
hope based upon for eternity? You will never again see the light of day.”
A strange sensation came over me, which I can never describe. The
only thing I can compare it to is a man being taken from a hot bath and
placed in a case of cold iron, made to fit close to his skin; no one can
imagine what my feelings were. The thoughts of eternity were heavy upon me, and the devil pressed me sore with, “Where is your hope? It is all over with you now,” when these words burst forth from my heart:
“The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” and this was more
than a match for the devil. These blessed words were applied by the
Holy Ghost, and by precious faith I was enabled to lift up this bloodstained
banner in the face of my enemy. The power of the eternal Spirit
sweetly blew it out, so that I saw no more of my enemy, and heard no
more of his roaring at this time. My God gave me to see Satan was still
a liar, as he had been from the beginning. I am a living witness that the
devil fled from me.

The dear apostle admonishes the church of God to be sober, to be
vigilant: for, he says, “Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion,
walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” What a mercy for the
living church of God that although Satan is our enemy, he is God’s
servant, as manifested in the case of Job, and again in Peter! O how we
see the devil crouch down under the sovereignty of the Son of God!
Christ said to Peter, “Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you
as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” There is no
wonder that hypocrites in Zion desire the same as their father, the devil,
who, I believe, did not desire to have Peter’s life: it was only to sift him
as wheat. He knew what pure grains of gospel gold were in Peter’s heart,
and all his sifting would never get them out. I believe that Satan was
present at the confession of Peter’s faith when he said to Christ, “Thou
art the Christ, the Son of the living God,” and when Jesus said, “Blessed
art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto
thee, but My Father which is in heaven.” What a blessed foundation the
church has, and what a wise Master Builder is here declared – God to be
her builder! Blessed be His holy name! It was He who was with the
church in the wilderness, with our fathers who received the lively oracles
to give unto us. “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her
seven pillars.” What a mercy, “it is not of works,” that proceed from the
creature, “lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them.” This is the new and living way that must
bring all glory to the everlasting Three-in-One; which is better than all
the noise of free-will. Go where you will, you can hear the sound of the
hammer of free-will smiting upon the creature’s good works.

You must pardon me for digressing. I am not the manufacturer of
my thoughts; as they come in, so they must come out.
As soon as those words were applied with power to my mind my
soul was delivered from the enemy, and my body from a watery grave.
I began to rise to the surface of the water, when I saw something look
black, which I knew was the little boat; it was some distance from the larger one. “Well,” I thought, “if I do not grasp that boat before she goes
by, I shall never struggle again in this world.” But that God who holds
the wind in His fist and the waters in the hollow of His hand, held and
guided His poor, unworthy worm. I shall use my brother’s own words.
He told me I rose out of the water like a man who had his foot upon
something solid, and who gave a spring to reach his object. I know that
my feet were upon the Rock of eternal Ages, and that He had eternally
established my goings. One of my goings had been down into the watery
deep, that His power in bringing me up again might be known; and I am
sure all my springs were and are in Him, temporally and spiritually. I did
but just grasp the boat at the hinder part, and there I hung till my
shipmate came to help me in.

I do not know how long I was under the vessel. When I got on
deck, I had to pant very hard for breath. I had no dry clothes to put on
till someone in a vessel close by lent me some. I went down into their
cabin, in which there was a fire. I had no earthly company; but truly I
was enabled to pour out my soul before the Lord in praise and
thanksgiving for His marvellous interposition in delivering my body from
a watery grave, and my soul from the power of the devil. To the surprise
of everyone, I did not take cold.

When I reached home, I had such holy boldness at a throne of grace,
and such blessed union of soul with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ,
that I felt if my dear Lord had covered my poor body in the watery grave
and taken my soul to Himself, I should then have been praising Him with
all the blood-washed and blood-bought family of heaven. Truly my soul
did sit with Christ in heavenly places. It was a time of love to me. My
conversation was in heaven, the earth was beneath my feet, the devil was
not allowed to molest me, and the corruptions of the flesh were not
permitted to show their hateful head nor disturb my peace. Jesus says,
“My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.”
The world, or men of the world give false peace in reference to eternal
things. The world, or would-be ministers of Christ, can go to a poor,
dying sinner in the agonies of death, preach a false Christ, send them out
of the world with a lie in their right hand, and so fancy they can procure
the peace of God for them; but their agreement with death and hell shall
not stand. The poor, deluded souls think hell shall not overtake them.
The man of God compares this kind of religion to a dream: “As a dream
when one awaketh; so, O Lord, when Thou awakest, Thou shalt despise
their image.” O how true it is that the deceived and the deceiver are in
the Lord’s hands. He says when they cry peace and safety, then sudden
destruction shall come upon them. Not so with the Lord’s living family;
the Apostle Paul, when writing to the Ephesians (2. 14, 15), shows how
the church of God comes into possession of true peace: “For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall
of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even
the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in
Himself of twain one man, so making peace.”

My soul was favoured with this peace at that time. This is peace
that passeth all understanding; that is, natural understanding: “The
natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are
foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are
spiritually discerned.”

Now I have to speak a little about leaving my birthplace. My
brother and I were partners in the little fishing vessel. I continued with
him till we had paid off the debt which we had contracted in having our
vessel repaired. After this I asked for my share of the profits, which
would amount to about six shillings per week. My brother refused, and
said unless I could force him by law I should never have more than I had
received. I felt that if he could act the rogue towards me in this way, and
rob me of that which belonged to me, I would let him have it; but it was
very trying to flesh and blood. My fleshly feelings were terribly ruffled
at times, but grace reigned; which, I trust, it ever will do in me, over all
the powers of sin, to the praise of a triune Jehovah. “There is a time and
purpose for everything under the sun.” And so I found it. I had fifteen
shillings a week wages.

I had a brother-in-law, a sailor, who came and asked me to go with
him to the north of England, as he said “good money” was to be earned
there in ship sailing. I told him I must have time to consider. I was
enabled to make it a matter of prayer to the Lord; I told Him if it would
be for His glory and the good of His people I would go. I was very much
tried about it. If I went I must leave my father’s house and kindred, the
people of God to whom I felt a union, and the little chapel where God
Almighty quickened my dead soul into life, and opened my poor, blind
eyes. I can truthfully say that, although nearly thirty years ago, the place
is sacred to me to this day. I can say, “Bethel,” with good old Jacob,
who so named the holy spot; for there he found his God. I had three
brothers on my mother’s side, and I felt I could not leave them, as I
believed they were grace-taught men. I thought I must decline going.
But no; I must go; and I have been led to see the wisdom of God in it all.
The bounds of our habitation are fixed, which I have proved to this day.
I begged of the Lord for guidance. All I could get was, Abraham “went
out, not knowing whither he went.” The place was appointed of God for
him; and so it was with me. The trials and enemies he had to meet he
was a stranger to, and so it was with me.

I agreed to go. The evening before I left my home, my brothers
came to say “Farewell.” I never wish to have such a parting again. I was
leaving all that was near and dear to me – my wife and friends in Christ;
and then to go into the wide world of sin and misery, I seemed to shrink
at the thought of it; yet I felt a power within propelling me forward. I
have been enabled since then to see it was according to the secret
purposes of an all-wise God that I should go. It was here I had to do business on the mighty waters, and learn many things I could not do at
home in my quiet cot.

But to return to my narrative. We started at the time appointed for
London, where we arrived about twelve o’clock on Saturday. We went
to the Herring Wharf, and booked our places as deck passengers for
Middlesborough-on-Tees. We left some time in the night. The wind
blew, the rain was heavy; the sailors let us go down into the hold; our
bed was a heap of coals. I differed a little from poor Jacob. He had
stones, and I had coals for my pillow: I was on water, he was on land.
After a short passage, we arrived safely at Middlesborough, and
were kindly received by a niece who was living there. We soon set out
to look for a ship, to find employment. I knew little more of my duty as
a sailor than a man from the ploughtail. O how I did beg of the dear
Lord to give me wisdom and understanding! My brother-in-law got a
ship for himself and me, which was bound for Hamburg, in Germany.
We set sail and proceeded on our passage across the North Sea with a
fair wind. Nothing particular occurred during this voyage, except that
one night the mate of the ship sent me up aloft to do some work on the
fore yard. When I got there I did not know how to do it. The mate kept
shouting for me to do it; the devil was roaring in my soul, and conscience
reproaching me for having left my quiet home. When lying on the yard,
these thoughts were hurled into my mind: “Let go your hand-hold; you
will then fall into the sea, and this will be an easy way for you to get rid
of all your troubles.”

Whether I did let go or not, I cannot say. The ship was rolling along
before a smart breeze of wind at the time. One thing I do know, that I
was preserved through sovereign grace, love and mercy, by the eternal
Three-in-One, flowing freely to me through the Person of the Lord Jesus
Christ. We made the ship-light in the mouth of the River Elbe. We
shortened sail, reefed the topsails, and laid the ship to on the larboard
tack. The snow fell so fast that we could not see twenty yards ahead of
the ship.

All at once one of the men cried out, “There is a ship just under our
lee bow.” Before we could do anything with the ship, we were under the
ship’s bows, and the first chop she made on our ship she broke our
larboard bow anchor quite in two, and the next quite smashed our cat,
wales and bulwarks. If the ship had made one more chop at us we must
all have sunk like a stone; for our own ship was heavily laden, and the
other ship was light. Truly I had to learn here that all my times are in the
hands of God, and all events at His command; for He preserved both
crew and ship. The other ship rose the third time with such fury that it
appeared as if she must cut us down in a moment; but instead of this she
fell in the trough of the sea, without doing the least further injury to us.
We dropped astern of the light ship, when the captain gave orders for the port anchor to be let go. I remonstrated with the captain upon the
uselessness of letting go that anchor, because I told him it had no flukes
to it. The other men said it had; so the anchor was let go. Presence of
mind was given me to drop the lead on the bottom, as I knew that would
prove whether the anchor was right or not. It soon told its own tale; the
ship was going astern very fast. I called the attention of the captain to it,
who soon ordered the other anchor to be let go; but only just in time to
bring the ship up clear of another ship’s bows.

We then cast lots to know who should have the first watch; which
fell upon me. My feelings were sharper than the weather, which was so
severe that it froze the legs of my trousers. I felt to be a second Jonah,
a poor, cast-out wretch, according to feeling and position; but still there
was the cry, and the look once again to His holy temple. I cried for
deliverance. In the morning the wind blew very hard from the W.N.W.
After much trouble we got up our anchor, and the broken one, and then
set sail up the river many miles. At sunset we came to anchor in safety.
The wind soon changed round to the opposite point, and blew as hard
that way; but through the good hand of my God upon us, we were in
safety.

We delivered our cargo, and returned to England, when I left this
ship and soon got another, where I was made mate. In this situation I had
another narrow escape from drowning. This occurred in the north of
England, in the old harbour at West Hartlepool. When transporting the
ship from one part of the harbour to another, I was standing on the ship’s
rail, bearing her off from the stone wharf, when my feet slipped up and
I fell between the ship and the stone wharf. My head came with such
force against the stones that I was insensible, and do not remember
anything that happened afterwards. O how wonderfully arranged are all
our mercies! The captain of another vessel saw me fall, instantly sprang
on to our ship’s deck, caught up a spar that was lying on our deck, and
put it down just where I was. As soon as the spar touched me, I came to
my senses, and grasped it in a moment. The captain felt I had hold of it,
and soon drew my head above the water. The boat came and took me in;
and who can deny but that this was directed by the unerring wisdom of
an infinite God, who overruleth all things, and who manages our meanest
affairs.

But O what a contrast between this deliverance and the former one!
At this time I suffered greatly from the ill-effects of gas water, which I
swallowed when in the water. I was insensible for a day and night. The
captain went to the doctor for some fever mixture, which, by the blessing
of God, had the desired effect. I gradually recovered. But O how lifeless
and cold I felt! There was no heartfelt feeling of gratitude to Almighty
God for His marvellous interposition for me. As the dear Lord would
have it, I was perfectly restored to health again.

I must now speak a little of my travels in the north of England. I
searched for a place of truth, but could find none until, through bad
weather, we were obliged to put into a port where we did not intend to
go. Truly this was of the Lord. This port was Sunderland, in the county
of Durham. It was on a Sunday evening. The thought came to me,
“Why, this is the place where Samuel Turner* preached; and I believe he
was a man of God.” The next day I went in search of the chapel and,
being in the way, the dear Lord met with me, and directed my steps
aright; so that I found the chapel.

On the Wednesday I met with the people. When I was put into a
seat, I saw a hymnbook which, to my surprise, was written by good old
John Kent. I said to myself, “The truth is declared here.” And so I
found it. A converted Jew (as he called himself) was there that evening,
whom I had seen some months before at Middlesborough-on-Tees. After
the service, he went to the leading deacon, told him a deplorable tale, and
begged for help. He related his experience, as he called it; but I found
he was contradicting his former statement. I stepped forward, and spoke
to the deacon, as I felt bound to expose his deceit. The poor Jew lost his
temper, and took himself off. The deacon thanked me kindly.

One of the members, who had been listening to our conversation,
also spoke kindly to me, and asked from whence I came. I replied from
Burnham, in Essex. I have never disowned my country or birthplace,
which are dear to me. I was once killed there, and twice made alive.
“Well,” this person said, “do you know Maldon, in Essex?” My reply
was, “Yes.” He then asked if I knew Mr. Collins, and I replied, “I know
no man better; I was cut down under his ministry.” He said, “My mother
is a member with him.” I asked her name, and he said it was Alson.
When I told him I knew her, he would have me go home with him, and
we became intimate friends.

During the time I was at Sunderland, a minister came from a little
place close to North Shields to speak to these people on a Sunday. The
deacon asked me to go and spend an hour with this minister at his
lodgings, which I did. We had a comfortable time in speaking of the
Lord’s dealings with us. We wept and rejoiced together. Before we
parted, he asked me to what place I generally traded. I told him West
Hartlepool; when he informed me a few friends of truth met there for
worship, and that he went once a month to speak to them. Truly this was
good news to me. I can say it was far more precious than all the gold
and silver I had gathered from the north of England. How true it is that
“the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in
his way”! I never did delight in my ways since the Lord called me by
divine grace; that is, when faith has been in exercise; for all my ways, as
a man, have been and ever will be contrary to God’s ways. How true that “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” No; it is in my precious
Lord Jesus Christ that my soul delighteth. He says, “I am the Way, the
Truth, and the Life.”

But to return. The next voyage we made to Hartlepool I made
diligent search for these people, and the dear Lord directed me aright.
These poor, hidden ones met to worship in an upper room. It was late in
the forenoon when I found them. Truly, as the man of God says, a day
in the courts of the Lord’s house is better than a thousand elsewhere. I
soon felt at home with these few despised ones. After the service the
leading man came and spoke friendly to me, and asked if I knew anything
about these things. I said, “I hope I do.” He asked me to come with
them in the afternoon as they had a prayer meeting; I went and had a
good time. The leading man said, “You must speak to the people this
evening in the name of the Lord.” I went on board my ship, and then my
labour pains came on and I thought I would not go; but I had no rest in
my spirit; so I felt, go I must.

When I reached the place the troubles of my heart were enlarged.
I wanted a text, wisdom to open it, and a mouth to speak from it. The cry
of my soul was up to the Lord to appear for me, which He did in a
wonderful way. He gave me for a text Romans 5. 9. I did not know
whether I should have five or five hundred words to speak. Truly God
had given His poor worm the faith of trust, and I did believe God was
able to supply all my needs out of the riches of His grace by Christ Jesus
my Lord. And this He did to the wonder and surprise of His poor worm;
and it was for no other cause than to show forth the praise of His glory,
who first enabled me to trust in Christ. The people rejoiced and were
glad. It was the first time I had ever opened my mouth in public.
Some may say, “Where is your call to the work of the ministry?”

Well, I hope to be enabled to give some account, which will be spiritual;
for if I, or any other man, speak contrary to the law and testimony, it is
because there is no light in us. This law is no other than the law of faith,
and the testimony of God’s most holy Word. The Word being applied to
the soul of every true servant of God by the Holy Ghost, in its
strengthening, confirming, upholding and enabling powers, makes him
a workman that needeth not to be ashamed of his work. I was sorely tried, and exercised about the ministry for several years. I often feared
it was only pride in me to desire such a thing. I wished to put it aside,
and never again to think of it. But this I could not do. On one occasion,
when sitting under the preached Word with an earnest desire that the
Lord would decide the matter, these words came with power into my
mind: “I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth:
thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the
hills as chaff.” And again: “I will make thee as a brazen wall against this
people.” Again, when in distress of mind, contending for the truth, these
words came to me with much sweetness, as with a still small voice
speaking to me: “Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end
should greatly increase.” These blessed words are as fresh upon my
mind now I am writing as when they were applied to my soul, and I
believe they will be to all eternity; for what God has done is done for
ever. I believe every portion of truth that my soul has received is
engraved upon the table of my heart by God the Holy Ghost.

I continued to speak to this people as often as I was there, following
my calling as a sea-faring man. But one day, to my surprise, the leading
man took the desk and never again asked me to speak. O the depths I
sank into! I thought I must have committed myself in some way. O how
I did search and examine myself and my poor preaching! I could not find
out wherein I was wrong. I begged of the Almighty to show me; but
“there was neither voice, nor hearing.” I found the wrong rested with the
minister, who had sharply reproved the leading man when he knew he
had asked me to speak, and said he would not come again if I continued
to speak. And this was the end of my first preaching there. Truly
“jealousy is cruel as the grave.” He thought I should rob him of his
ministerial fees; but God knows my heart, that I did not wish to deprive
him of anything. Thus all my plans were upset, and the devices of man
brought to nought.

I shall never forget the last evening my dear friend William Hall
(who asked me to preach) and I spent together. He said, with tears,
“How you have borne all this I cannot tell. You have done nothing
wrong.” He then told me more than I have related. I feel this was only
one amongst the all things that shall work together for good.
This was the means of removing me seven hundred miles away – to
Jersey, where I drank deeply into the bitters of affliction. I should not be
truthful if I said I had no sweets by the way. I followed my calling as a
fisherman, and attended a little Baptist cause about five miles from where
I lived. On one occasion the minister was taken ill. It was thought he
would not be able to speak on the Lord’s day, and I was asked to conduct
the services; which I consented to do. When my friends and I went to the
chapel, to the surprise of us all, the poor man was in the pulpit. He was so ill that he could hardly get through the morning service. I spoke to
them in the afternoon.

After the service there was a church meeting, when it was arranged
that I should speak to them every afternoon. The minister did not like
this, but the living among the people kept close to me, which so enraged
him that he left, and hired another place, and most of the outsiders
followed him. I desire to leave him in the hands of God. He heard me
one day, when he said the things I spoke of were not fit for the pulpit.
I told him what God had taught me in secret He commanded me to
proclaim upon the house-top. He soon afterwards gave up the place he
had hired and went away. By the help of God, I have been enabled to
hold on my way to this day, declaring no other things than those which
the prophets and apostles declared: “Peace by Jesus Christ: (He is Lord
of all.)”

I must now speak a little of God’s dealings with me in providence.
After the fishing season was over, I had no employment, and the little
money I had was soon spent. I tried hard to get something to do, but
every door was shut. For five years I do not think I ever received five
shillings for preaching. I lived in a house belonging to the chapel, for
which I paid six pounds a year rent. It is, however, just for me to
mention that God was pleased to raise up friends to help me in my time
of need. I well remember at one time a gentleman called on me. He had
heard I was not well, and he asked me to go to his house the next day.
Before I started in the morning, I bowed my knees at a throne of grace,
and begged of the Lord to go before me, and give me favour in the eyes
of the man. We had only a few shillings in the house at this time. When
asking the Lord to go before me, these words were very sweet to me:
“Ask what thou wilt.” I then asked the Lord to put it into this
gentleman’s heart to give me two pounds. I said, “No more, and no
less.” I felt if this was granted me, it would be a sweet confirmation to
my soul that the thing prayed for was of God.

I started in the morning, begging most of the way, sometimes up and
sometimes down. I was received very kindly, and we had some talk
about the best things. He then asked if I would walk with him to the
bank. When we reached there, he said, “You wait on the outside for
me.” My eyes were lifted to the Lord, and I said, “Thou knowest I have
no riches deposited in this earthly bank; but I do hope I have a precious
Christ, who is both bank and banker to me.” Truly I felt He is the rich
storehouse wherein is treasured up all the riches of grace and glory for
all the blood-bought family of heaven. Christ says, “Lay not up for
yourselves treasures upon earth ... where thieves break through and
steal.” All the wealth I had in this world was only a few shillings. My
faith and prayer were proved to be of God, for the gentleman gave me the two pounds; no more and no less. He promised to let me have more
when I wanted it. I would sooner go to my Father in heaven than to an
earthly brother.

Many times since then I have had to beg hard for the bread that
perisheth; but God has never sent me empty away, nor has He ever given
me a stone instead of a piece of bread. Christ says, “Ask, and it shall be
given you; seek, and ye shall find,” and I have proved Him faithful to His
Word, when He has enabled me to ask in faith. This gentleman was
much concerned for my temporal welfare. He offered to lend me any
amount of money without interest, and he prevailed on me to take a
business of some kind.

About this time a coal merchant came to me, and said he wished to
part with his business. He said, “I could live comfortably and put by
eighty pounds a year.” I went to my friend who promised to let me have
money, and told him about it. I had appointed to see the coal merchant
at his residence the next day. Before I started I felt constrained to ask
counsel of God. I felt jealous about the truth of the man’s statement, and
begged of the Lord to make him speak the truth. When I reached his
house, I said to him, “Can I get an honest living in this business?” The
man looked at me, and said, “If you want an honest living, there is not a
bread and cheese living for you.” He then told me how he made it pay
– by robbing his customers, at which I was astonished and declined
having anything to do with him. Poor man! He was not in my secret.
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will shew
them His covenant.” The fear of the Lord is a blessed ingredient in a
man’s religion. As Hart says,

“’Twill keep us from sinning, ’twill prosper our ways,
And is the beginning of wisdom and grace.”


I desire to leave this man and all his wrong doings in the hands of a just
God.

I was now without employment. I tried to get work, but could not.
One of my hearers was a miller, whose master owned two or three mills,
and he offered to let him one at £52 a year, if he could get a friend with
a little money to start with. The man came to me and said, “Here is an
opening for you to get a good living.” He said if I could find the money
he would do the grinding, and that we would share all profits. I
mentioned it to the gentleman, who was willing to let me have the money.
Everything went on comfortably for about two years, when things
changed, and it was a struggle to make two ends meet. I cannot tell how
my dear wife managed; but I do not think we got one pound in debt. She
would often say, “It cannot go on long; it must come to a crisis.” And so
it did; for I was obliged to stop. I went to the landlord and told him I must give up, when he said, “I wonder you have kept on as long as you
have, with such a rogue for a partner.” I soon found his words were true.
I owed my landlord fifty pounds, which I paid, and everyone else to
whom I owed money, as far as I could. I went to the person who had
advanced money for me, and told him how I stood. He was very kind,
and said he would take the will for the deed.

I had no work to do. The man who had worked in the mill came to
me, with tears in his eyes to tell me there was a mill at St. John’s which
we might have at a very low rent, as it had been standing still some time.
He said he was sure we might do. I was overcome by his entreaties, and
agreed to take it with him. It was a grist mill. I used to take the weight
of grain in the name of the persons to whom it belonged. In the island
of Jersey all the farmers have their names on their bags or sacks which
they send to the mill. One day I found a bag marked in blue worsted,
“J.B.” When I went to the mill, I asked if all the bags were right. He
said they were. I called them over, and put them down in my book, when
I found this one marked “J.B.” was missing. He said I had never sent it,
or that I might have sold it. I looked at him and said, “Well, you make
me out a rogue and a liar.” I turned from him as a wounded hart runs to
the water to allay its thirst.

I had to go some distance on business along a lonely road, and there
I poured out my soul in sighs and groans to the Lord, and pleaded that
this piece of dishonesty might be brought to light; and the Lord so
blessed me with peace and quietness that I was enabled to leave it all in
His hands. Truly these words were fulfilled, “I am the Lord that ...
maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their
knowledge foolish,” for in less than forty hours this poor man was
running mad.

When I saw him I thought, “Has not God answered my poor
prayers?” But, “In such a way as almost drove me to despair.” “O!” I
thought, “what shall I do? I am in a worse plight than ever.” I cannot
express what my feelings were. My dear wife and I had to watch the
poor man. On one occasion, when his wife was sitting by him and we
were downstairs by the fire, she called aloud for help. We went to her,
when the man seized my hand with his teeth, like a dog; and there he held
me till the blood ran down the corners of his mouth. It was well that my
wife was there. She struck him on the throat, which made him let go his
hold. He then kicked me, but without injuring me. My wife and I went
downstairs and I felt as if I must lose my senses. I begged of the Lord to
give me a little sleep, which He did. When I awoke I felt refreshed.
In the morning my wife was looking in a cupboard in this man’s
house, when she saw the very bag that was lost. The letters “J.B.” were
upon it. The man had sold the contents and taken the money. O how God brings hidden things to light, and makes manifest the ungodly acts
of poor, empty professors! Truly it might be said in this case, “Be sure
your sins will find you out.”

The poor man had to be sent home to his parish, and then to an
asylum, where he died.

I was left to struggle on as I could. I gave up the mill, and the Lord
supported me through the whole, to the honour of His great name.
I strove hard to get employment, as I was very poor; and at last I got
work in a foundry. The first money I received was eight shillings, for
which I was thankful.

I must now speak of the time when I had to leave the Island of
Jersey. I had many times begged of the Lord to bring me out of that
place and from that people. The Lord gave these words to me: “Ye shall
not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you”
– and so He did. The Lord laid a heavy affliction upon my poor body for
several months. Many people thought I could not live, and I thought so
myself. The doctor said he could do no more for me; but he advised me
to go to my native place, and my wife wished me to go. We had no
money, but she said we must sell a timepiece we had. One of my hearers
who had always been kind to me in word only, for his heart was as hard
as a stone, let my wife have twenty-five shillings upon the timepiece. He
took it to a watchmaker and had it valued. After I had left, he and his
wife came to my poor wife and wanted some glass to make up the value,
as they said, but my wife told them they had good value for their money;
and so they had.

I felt much in having to leave my wife in this, to her, desolate island,
without a friend to help her, with no money, and the rent of the house to
pay. I can never forget the morning I left her. When the conveyance
came to take me to the boat, I got up, but fell back upon the couch. My
strength failed me. In my fainting I sighed to the Almighty, and He gave
me strength to get to the conveyance. The man who drove me was a Primitive Methodist. He was very kind, and would not take anything for
his trouble.

The sea air soon began to strengthen me; but O the distress of my
soul – no home, no friends to take me in, and in such a weak state of
health, I dreaded to meet my friends, as it was suggested to me they
would say, “This is the man who went out full, and is come home empty.
He went out to preach; he is deceived; and is wrong altogether.” And
they did say this, and much more. O the sinkings and the fears I had that
I should have no place to lie down in.

Blessed be God, He brought me to my native place in safety. I went
to see my half-brother, who was glad to receive me. He had been laid by
some time with a bad leg. When I told him I had no place to go to for the
night, he said I could sleep with him, as his wife was gone out. I felt this
was a timely interposition of the Almighty. I remained here just long
enough, until another kind friend, and one who feared God, took me in.
I began to gain strength and tried to get employment; but could not
succeed.

One day I was sorely pressed in my feelings that the Lord would not
appear; when suddenly these words came to me: “The Lord can make a
way where there is no way.” I said, “True, Lord; but how can it be
brought about?” I was soon shown what God could do. The very
situation I left I had to take again, as the young man who had been there
ever since I gave it up would not remain any longer. He gave no cause
why he wished to leave. I believe it was because the Lord would have
it so, to make room for me. Truly I could see the hand of the Lord in it.
I went to work with a willing mind, and the Lord just gave me strength
to labour for the bread which perisheth.

At the end of the month my dear wife came to me. She was obliged
to sell all the furniture, with the exception of our bed, to pay the rent and
get to me. This kind friend took her in. After a little time, my wife said,
“We must have a home of our own,” and she hired one. When I entered
my new abode I looked round, and although we had little more than my
sea chest and my wife’s box, I felt I was better dealt with than the Lord
of heaven and earth, who had not where to lay His head. With God’s
blessing, and using great economy, and with hard work, we soon had a
comfortable home.

My troubles were not, however, at an end. The work of the ministry
was often heavy upon my mind. I feared sometimes that I was deceived
altogether, both as to my call by grace and the work of the ministry. Still
I could not give it up, because it had taken such a root in my very soul
that the salvation of my soul seemed to hang upon it. O the cries and
sighs and groans that went up to the Almighty that He would make it plain. One morning I was going to my labour when the Lord applied
these words to my soul: “The vision is yet for an appointed time ...
though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.”
I said, “O Lord, I can wait for it now; it matters not how long.” Nor do
I believe this left me till the time came, though I had to wait fifteen
months before I dared take a text to speak from. I had to be as a dumb
man, in whose mouth are no reproofs. Zacharias had to be dumb till the
day that those things should be performed; so that I was not the first man
who had to be dumb for a season.

Blessed be God’s holy name, He is not only a promising God, but
He is also a performing God. When I was asked by a person how I could
remain so quiet, I said, “My time is not come to open my mouth; but
when my time does come, I shall not stop again till death comes.” I dare
say the poor man thought I spoke with pride, but I do believe I spoke as
prompted from within.

Not long after this, one Lord’s day my wife said to me, “Are you not
going to chapel?” I said, “No, I am not.” I had an impression on my
mind that the Lord would meet with me in my house. I went to my
bedroom, and fell upon my knees, and had not long opened my mouth
before I had a blessed faith’s view of the Lord Jesus Christ suffering as
my crucified, now risen, exalted Redeemer. My heart was broken, and
my eyes ran down with tears, and I could not help breaking out in an
ecstasy of joy, calling Christ all the endearing names I could think of. I
talked so loud that if some people had heard me they would have thought
me mad. How true it is that “the heart knoweth his own bitterness; and
a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joys.” As soon as the power had
subsided a little, I begged of the Lord to settle the matter in my soul
about the work of the ministry. I rose from my knees, took the Bible, and
told the Lord that where I opened I would read, which was Matthew 20.
7: “Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no
man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and
whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.” I said, “I will go wherever
Thou art pleased to send me.”

About fourteen days from this time a door was opened for me
twenty-two miles from my home, where I have often travelled on the
Saturday evening after my day’s labour, sometimes wet to the skin, and
no dry clothes to put on. I have preached three times on the Sunday,
returned on Monday morning with sometimes money out of pocket, and
sometimes one-and-sixpence in my pocket. More doors were opened for
me than I could supply. I have tried my best to preach God’s truth for
twenty years. I have never set any price upon my poor services, and
never but once asked for more money, when ten shillings were given me for three services, and I asked for three shillings more, so that I might
pay my travelling expenses and save me the trouble of walking. The
leading deacon was a man of good means; but he had a covetous heart.
He said they were a poor people, and I think he said as I had calls nearer
home I had better accept them. I took him at his word. On the following
Sunday I gave notice that on that day month I should leave them, and bid
them farewell. The living souls were struck dumb with astonishment. I
left them, and I have never regretted doing so. For the last few years I
have supplied regularly at two or three places, and by the help of God I
continue to this day, the way He has led me to the place where I am now
writing.

While in Essex, as I before said, I supplied three different places.
To one place I went twice in the month, and once a month to the other
two places: and I thought I was settled for life. “There are many devices
in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand,”
and He will do all His pleasure. I found that labouring six days for the
bread that perisheth, and then on the seventh, up and travel twelve or
fourteen miles, then go through three services, and return home at night,
brought a weary body on Monday morning – and this for six or seven
years, and I do not know that I missed going only three Lord’s days
during the whole of that time, and that was through ill-health. Besides
this, now and then I had a day to supply at other places, which was an
understanding with the friends at Tillingham.

About twelve months or more before I left those places in Essex to
come where I am now, there was such a death come over all my
preaching that I wondered what was coming upon me. It made me so
dissatisfied with myself, my place with the people, and everything that
I had to do with, that at last my soul was drawn out in prayer to the
Almighty that He would bring me out and open a way for me that I might
go to some place, and there labour amongst the people statedly in Word
and doctrine. And the more I kept crying to the Lord for deliverance, the
more I felt bound in my preaching; and sometimes I thought that the
people were all dead and I was dead also. If I could have given up all
thoughts of preaching with a quiet conscience, I surely should have done
so.

One evening, as we were driving home from one of those places, I
said to my wife, “This work will kill me”; and she made her own
comment upon it, which was just in accordance with my own feelings.
My discourse that afternoon bounded back into my own bosom; and there
lies a deep secret here, namely, that when the Lord enables a servant of
His to draw out his soul to the hungry, it is like the fond mother drawing
out the full breast to the hungry child. The mother is eased and the hungry child satisfied. And so with the living family; and this binds
minister and people together. It is the sincere milk of the Word that the
child of God wants, and not the London sky-blue: that is, truth well
dashed with human composition. Truth got out of the waters and out of
the fires is too dearly bought to be parted with for toys.

Well, to return. My cry was, “Lord, do deliver me from this place,
and open a way Thyself, and do go before me.” We want the Lord to
lead us and go before us; but at the same time we lay our own plans, and
then want the Lord to work by them, but this He never will.
In the order of God’s providence, it fell to my lot to go to a people
that a good old man named William Bugg had been over for more than
twenty years. Some of those people were his own children, and they had
a great desire to hear him once more before he died; but they never did,
as my sequel will show. This dear old man had been rather bitter against
me, through lending his ears to tale-bearers who brought a false report to
him; and when this reached my ears I was wounded and grieved. Indeed,
my spirit at last got soured, and I thought I would give him a stroke for
this; and surely I should have done if I had been left to myself. But it
was not so.

One Lord’s day he was appointed to preach at my own native place,
and my wife went to hear the dear old man; and when I came home on
the Sunday evening, I said “Well, my dear, how did you get on with
friend Bugg?” “O!” she said, “he won’t be a trouble to anybody long;
for I believe his time here is short, for he looked like a dying man as he
stood in the pulpit.” At this news all my hard thoughts and bitter feelings
towards him fled, and I felt such a love spring up in my soul to him as a
servant of God that I could have done anything for him. We are
commanded not to love in word only, but in deed; and I am well
persuaded that love in the heart will bring that man or woman to love
God and His people, and yield sweet obedience to the commands of God
in His Word. In keeping His commands there is great reward; not for,
but in keeping them.

Well, a thought came into my mind that I might be of some service
to the dear old man in this way, as I knew that he was engaged most of
his time in Kent. I thought I would take a Sunday or two for him and let
him stop at home, and the first opportunity I had, which was in not more
than about a fortnight, I sent word by one of the friends; and when this
friend told him my proposition, he was completely beaten. The dear old
man said, “Thank him; I will let him know as soon as I return from
Kent.” He was engaged for Staplehurst the next Lord’s day. So you will
see the lot was cast into the lap, and the whole disposal thereof was of
the Lord.

When the dear old man had tried to preach in the morning, for he
had the arrow of death sticking in him at the time, he said to the senior
deacon, “I have a friend in Essex, a much younger man than I am; he will
come and supply my place for you the two Sundays I am engaged here,
as I am so poorly”; and they were quite willing that it should be so,
seeing that his work was nearly done; for so it was. The Lord’s day that
he was appointed to preach at Heybridge to his old friends, he was dying,
and in a few days his ransomed soul left its clay tenement for that bright
mansion which Love had ordained for him.

The time came for me to pay a visit to the friends at Staplehurst, and
when I arrived I found myself in a strange place, and not a person I
knew. It is true I had the address where to go, and at last I found it, and
was kindly received by the mistress of the house. I had some tea, and
soon went to bed, and from the bottom of my heart I wished I had never
set foot in the place. But so it was, and could not be altered. The
morning came and I was miserable and wretched, and was afraid I had
done wrong in coming. And while pacing up and down the garden, the
mistress of the house came out to me and said, “The deacon is coming to
see you,” and with that she left me. I followed and I had some strange
thoughts before I reached the deacon. When we met we greeted each
other by name, and he bade me God speed in the name of the Lord, and
left me.

My first text, if I mistake not, was out of Psalm 145. 11: “They shall
speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power”; and I do
believe the Holy Ghost accompanied it with divine power into the hearts
of some, which brought a love to the speaker; and a real union was formed that evening in sweet communion with my friend the senior
deacon.

I supplied for them my two Lord’s days, and was asked to give them
as many days as I could the next year; and I did so. And as soon as this
was done, my prayer ceased for the Lord to open a way for my leaving
my native place; and some people might be led to ask if I had any
intimation from God that that would be my future sphere of labour.
At that time I had no desire of settling over the people at
Staplehurst. I believe it was about the third time of my coming to
Staplehurst that, on the Monday morning at my lodgings, I awoke about
five o’clock. As soon as my eyes were open such a powerful, feeling
sense of the love, mercy and goodness of God in Christ Jesus dropped
into my soul that I wept and praised His precious and blessed name that
ever He should in so unexpected a time and way come to me, such a vile,
sinful, ill and hell-deserving wretch as I. O how grace humbles a poor
sinner into the dust of self-abasement and self loathing! O how I hated
even the garments spotted by the flesh, and how the love of God in a
poor sinner’s heart softens and crumbles him, and draws out the soul in
love to Jesus Christ! I truly thought my soul would have burst the bonds
of the old tabernacle and flown into the everlasting embrace of my
precious Lord Jesus. Truly He is precious to those who believe: and I
did believe with all my heart that He died for me, that His blood had
atoned for all my sins, and that He had wrought out a righteousness to
cover my poor, naked soul. Truly the language of the poet suited me
well:

“And lest the shadow of a spot
Should on my soul be found,
He took the robe the Saviour wrought,
And cast it all around.”


What a blessed reality there is in vital godliness felt and known in
the hearts of God’s elect! This is not the child of fancy, which so many
are satisfied with. Those very characters are soon offended with a man
if he contends for the power of truth upon the heart by the work of the
eternal Spirit. Whenever this work is begun by the Holy Ghost, the
outward walk and conduct in the world and in the churches of God will
be in sweet accordance with the rule laid down in the Word of God. The
Lord Jesus says, The tree shall be known by its fruit. And again, “For
the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live
soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.” While the grace
of our God brings sweet and happy deliverance to the us, who are the
election of grace, all the men of the world, whether in open profanity or
in a dead profession, only see the outside; but the us receive an internal application; and this produces corresponding fruits without, as the great
Head of the church said in the days of His flesh: “Let your light so shine
before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father
which is in heaven.”

When the power of this sweet visit had in some measure abated, I
began to consider what it all could mean; for I find that the Lord does not
give those sweet and blessed visits for nothing. No. There is something
to be done or to be endured. My soul was led out in prayer to the Lord
that He would make known to me His mind and will. With that I turned
to the written Word, and where I opened the Book I read; which was
1 Samuel 16. 7-12: “And he sent, and brought him in.” When it came to
the last clause of the verse a sweet anointing came into my heart with the
word: “And the Lord said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.” No man had
any hand in this business in bringing it about; and I am quite sure no man
shall make it null and void. Though a Saul may cast a javelin at me, he
will surely miss his mark. Why I say so is because David’s God is my
God, and He has given me His word as my support: “No weapon that is
formed against thee shall prosper.” And truly I felt, as much as David
did, that God had anointed me over the people at Staplehurst.
This people had been looking out for a man to go in and out before
them, and sometimes they thought, like good old Samuel, that surely the
Lord’s anointed is before us, arise and anoint him. But they could not
get the anointing oil to come down. No. Not because they were not
brethren; for I believe they were, and far exceeded the poor fisherman in
gifts and appearance and grace. Man looketh at the outward appearance,
but God looketh at the heart, and God’s choice often widely differs from
man’s; for He has chosen the base things, and the foolish things, and
things that are not.

O what a condescending stoop for that great God that formed the
universe by His wisdom, and spake all things into being by the word of
His power, should ever stoop to pick up such a nothing as I am. But
truly, He does work like a God, and will not be brought under any
obligation to His creatures. We are the clay, He the great Potter. “He
raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the
dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne
of glory.” And surely there can be nothing in this poor, dunghill sinner,
either position, place or birth, to induce the Almighty to favour and
honour him so. No; nothing but a further display of His wisdom and
power towards the objects of His love and pity. “Yea, He loved the
people”; and it is marvellous in our eyes that He will raise this poor,
despicable outcast and downcast one to inherit a throne of glory that shall
never fade away; while the proud, lofty monarch of earth our God will
cast down into the depths of never-ending misery and woe:

“O to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.”


The thing was of the Lord. I was fully assured of it from the power
I felt in my own soul. From this time I had to watch the hand of God in
the hearts of the people; and I soon found that their minds were exercised
about the same thing. And when in the house of one of the members,
they put the question to me, whether I had any thoughts of settling over
them, I tried to waive the subject; but all to no purpose. “Yes,” or, “No,”
she must have, so at last I told this member that I was as sure I should be
over this people as I was sitting in her house. A church meeting was
soon called to ascertain the minds of the members; their call for me to
become their pastor was unanimous; and in due time I came, according
to the call of God and His church at Staplehurst. And I must believe, at
times, that I am in the right place; though sometimes I think I am
altogether wrong; and have had many thoughts of running clean away
from the work. But I know that I cannot run away from trouble; for in
the world we have and must have trouble. The trouble generally comes
the wrong way and at the wrong time. The Almighty is pleased to drop
the trouble on to the tenderest place, and keep it there till it has done its
work; and then He gives us grace to receive it, and acknowledge that His
strokes have been fewer and lighter than our crimes. Then we can say,
“Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

I must say a little respecting us as a church and people. Our chapel,
I found, began to want repairing, and we wanted accommodation for our
people from a distance to have their dinner in, as some had to go to the
various public houses, which I am very much opposed to. But I do fear
there are some professing the doctrines of grace who would sooner go
and sit down in a public house, and have their ale and talk over their
business matters than sit down with a few poor, sensible sinners and
speak of what God has done for their souls. I fear the secret is because
God never has done anything for their souls. All that is done for them
has been done by their tongues; and when their tongues lie silent in death
their religion will be silent too. It will never speak for them before God
in heaven, nor before men on earth: for, “the wicked shall be silent in
darkness; for by strength shall no man prevail.”

But to return. We had not a foot of ground belonging to the chapel
outside its walls; but there was an old house and slip of ground abutting
on to the chapel. My friend, Mr. Chapman, said to me one day, “I think
the time has come that we must do something to the chapel.” “Well,” I
said, “I hope it has”; and I felt truly glad, though I knew it would cut out plenty of work for body and soul. And truly I found it so. The wise man
says, “In all labour there is profit”; but sometimes we have plenty of
labour before we realise much profit. But I hope we are now enjoying
a little of the fruits of our labour.

Well, we purchased the old house at a cost of a little over £100, and
we sat down and counted the cost before we began to build, and found
it would cost something over £300. The method we adopted to raise it
was for myself and the four deacons to have books, and for the church
and congregation to put their names down for as much as they could; and
truly they came forth most liberally, considering the times had been so
bad, for most of our people are men that cultivate the soil, labourers and
farmers. I must also speak a little of the builder. Truly it was a favour
from our God to fall into the hands of such a man, who was kind, honest
and tender-hearted, and I believe has the fear of God in his heart. And
may the Lord bless him in his basket and in his store.
The work went on. When the payments became due the money was
always ready; and when the work was completed, with extra work we had
to have done, we found the cost would be £450; but when we had our
thanksgiving, the debt was all cleared off. We might well exclaim,
“What hath God wrought for us!” Well, my reader, I will tell you what
He has done. Just what He told me He would do for us. While the work
was going on, I was sitting in my room and the Lord dropped these words
into my soul: “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut
it: for thou hast a little strength, and ... hast not denied My name.”
Blessings on His dear name, I do humbly hope I shall never deny His
name. I do believe He has given me seals to my ministry and souls for
my hire in this place; and my prayer to Almighty God is that the place
may be the spiritual birthplace of many poor sinners to come.
I pray the great Head of the church may bless these my poor
scribblings to His poor and afflicted people, for His name’s sake.

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