INCIDENTS OF GOSPEL WORK
Visit to a village in the Yorkshire Moors
Need of faith
Preached at the Moracian Settlement at Fulneck
Peace with God, and no Condemnation
Preaching tour in Yorkshire
Call to an old woman blessed
An aged relative.
Sometimes in going into strange and out of the way places, faith was tried. I had heard of a few poor Christians, in a village about nine miles from Penistone, on the borders of the Yorkshire moors. I knew none of them, but a dear old fellow-labourer had visited them. I started early, one Lord’s day morning, and walked nine miles over a hilly country. When I arrived, they were holding a prayer meeting, in the forenoon, I found the house, and kneeled with them before the Lord. After the meeting, I told them I had come to speak for my Master. They seemed very shy, and in no hurry to welcome a stranger. It was agreed, however, I should preach in a house near, at three o’clock. No one asked me to dinner, for which I was quite ready, having breakfasted at seven, and walked nine miles, after a journey by rail. I believe it was poverty, and the poor people were ashamed to offer me their poor fare. I walked about the village until two, and then a man asked me if I would take what he had, he would be glad for me to do so. I went in, and we sat down round the cottage table. There was a rice pudding baked hard in a brown dish. I should think it was made with water; and we drank good water out of one yellow mug. That was our dinner, and I, for one, was thankful for it.
Still, my new friends were shy. I went to the house to preach. There was a wooden chair, with high sides, and I sat in it, and sang a hymn, “One there is above all others, O how He loves.” Not a soul would come to sing, or pray, or hear. A few crept to the door to hear there. Certainly, if I had walked by sight that day, I should have got out of that chair, and walked straight to Penistone. I have often found, the greater the difficulty, the greater the blessing. I cam out of doors, and found a few of my shy friends standing about. The Spirit of God directed me to point to a tree, on the green. I said to the men near, “You see that tree, if God has sent me to preach here, you will see a congregation under that tree at such o’clock.” I forget whether it was four or six. At the time named, there was such a congregation as had probably never been seen in that part of the country before. The Spirit of God gave me much liberty in telling out the kindness of God, as illustrated by the history of Mephibosheth. And such was the interest awakened, that the meetings out of doors and in, continued until twelve o’clock that night. I slept in a little closet; but at four they came calling me up for another meeting, before I left at seven, for Penistone station. How the news spread, and the people were collected, I never knew. And this was one of the many places I never saw again. Jesus says, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me;” as David sent and fetched Mephibosheth, so the Holy Ghost can bring whom He will to hear the word, and be saved, And whilst depending on Him we should let no circumstances discourage us.
Sometimes we cannot, by any means, account for His sovereign actings, or the way in which He brings about His purposes. I received a letter from the minister of the Moravian Settlement at Fulneck, near Leeds, to say that by some means a report had got abroad, that I was to preach at the Settlement on the following Lords Day evening. The impression was so universal in the neighborhood, that it was no use trying to alter it. I gathered that the hand of the Lord was in the matte, and went. A few of us had prayer in the vestry, and so coming out we had the greatest difficulty in reaching the pulpit, the crush was so great. From all parts of the country the people streamed to the large hall. I was sorry to hear that many of the Moravians could not get in. I was led to speak on “Peace with God,” and no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. (Rom. V. 1; viii. 1.)
This was evidently the very subject needed, as the aged minister told me afterwards, he scarcely knew one in the Settlement, who knew with certainty that he had peace with God. Is it not sad, that so few even of those who are Christians enjoy this blessed certainty? How many who read these lines may not have that enjoyment! Yet, surely, Jesus made peace by the blood of His cross, for all who believe. It was truly a blessed time, and to have no doubt about meeting many in the presence of the Lord, who passed from death unto life that night.
But it is not always in public preaching that God displays His sovereign grace. Nothing perhaps shews that grace more strikingly than the call of the aged; and the various, nay particular means, that He may use in calling them by His grace. A few Christians had it laid on their hearts to take a long drive in a waggonette, through the villages in Yorkshire, around my native village, Brookhouse, and leave a tract at every house, and preach the Gospel as the Lord might direct. After passing Whiston some distance, we came to where one road turned up to Laughton, and the other down to Brookhouse. I felt deeply impressed that the Lord had now some special case I must see in Brookhouse. I called to the driver, who was a Christian also, and said, “B., you must drive down to Brookhouse, and stop just when I tell you,” He said, “We cannot turn round in the place.” I said, “We must go, and you can drive to Hooton, and there you can turn the vehicle.” We drove down the village, I was in prayer to the Lord to guide me to the right person He had in view. At least I felt assured, “This is a safe place!” and called out for B. to stop. I got out, and found myself exactly opposite a little bridge over the brook. I had well known that bridge in childhood, and often had I crossed it to buy sweets, as a child, from a little shop up a short walk, kept then by a person known as Becky F. To the door of that once little shop I felt directed. I knocked at the door. A middle-aged woman came to the door. I said, “May I ask you, is Mrs. F. still living?” “Yes,” she said, “she is still alive; please walk in.” And she took me to the little parlour, and there, propped up in bed, was the aged dying woman, Becky F. I do not know that I had seen her for forty years. It was a solemn moment. She was perfectly sensible, and knew me. She said, “Is that Charles Stanley? Why the Lord has sent you. I am dying; and I have no one to tell me how I can be saved, and go to heaven. Oh, tell me how I can be saved.” I assured her God had sent me to declare to her, through the atoning death of Jesus, the free, full, everlasting forgiveness of sins (Acts xiii. 38, 39) I shewed her from scripture that that atoning death was finished; that God had raised Jesus form the dead; and declared that, through Him, all who believe are justified, and have peace with Him.
It was, however, the blessed Person of Christ speaking those words, that had been blest to so many, and that will be yet blest to many who read this paper, until Jesus comes. The Spirit had prepared this very aged dying woman to hear the words of Jesus. I said, “Now Jesus says to you ‘verily, verily, I say unto you, He that hearth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death to life.’ (John v. 24.)” Oh, it was blessed to see how she drank in those life-giving words. I said, “Do you hear these words of Jesus?” “I do,” she said. “And do you believe that God sent Him; that God so loved?” “I do,” “He says, then, you shall not come into judgment. Do you believe Him?” “I do,” Yes, it is most true, for He has borne the judgment due to all who believe in Him. “He says, then, you have passed from death unto life. Do you believe Him?” “I do.” Yes, through grace, believed the words of Jesus. She sweetly passed from death unto life. I said, “We will now give thanks.” I kneeled down, and gave thanks unto God. As I rose, I heard the carriage returning. I left her a new creation, soon to be for ever with the Lord; a blessed trophy of infinite grace. In what a variety of ways will God be glorified!
This was not the only case that day. We then drove on to Laughton. We got out, with tracts, and gave to very house, and also to all the children in the school where I had sat, a little by, so many years before. We also had a preaching opposite the chapel, where the Lord first opened my mouth, when a little more than fourteen years of age. We then drove on to Firbeck. I suddenly remembered that some of my ancestors lived in that village. I called at a cottage, and inquired if any of that name were left in the village. I was soon directed to the house of my grandfather’s sister-in-law, the very aged widow of his brother. She was sitting in her cottage, with the door open, surrounded by her children, and their children, who had come to see her that day. She had never seen since I was eight years of age. Yet, strange to say, she knew me, and felt that I was a messenger sent from God. She was anxious to be saved, and had no one to shew her the way of life. I have every reason to believe that God blesst His word to her hat day. O was accustomed after that to visit her unto the day of her departure. Though so aged, she was able to walk over to Roche Abbey, one mile, and there we had preaching of the gospel. The large and excellent school from Workshop was there that day, and the boys desired to hear us preach. The masters very readily gave their consent. The boys, and also my aged friend, listened with the deepest attention. It was a happy day’s service, because spent in communion with Christ, in telling out the love of God to lost sinners, It is a most solemn thought, that even service, if not in communion, is worth nothing; nay, is it not sin?