Charles Stanley



Chapter 5



Soon after this, I paid my first visit to Southport.  It was then a comparatively small place.  On my arrival, a serious, if I remember aright, a fatal, accident had occurred on the sands.  I felt greatly pressed to preach the gospel on the sands, but the people were scattered all over the extensive shore.  I spoke, however, to one man, and found he was a believer.  I asked him to stand whilst I read a portion of the word of God.  He did so.  I got on a sand hill, where the promenade is now.  I trembled to begin, and made a little hole to stand in.  I read the chapter, and the people collected from all sides.  After the preaching, I announced a lecture on the “Second Coming of the Lord,”  and we had, it was said, 2000 to hear the word in a large sand valley, half way to Church Town.  Soon after I began, I noticed an aged man come right through the crowd, and sit down on the sand just before me.  In a little while he sprang up, and stood in amazement and ecstasy.  His name was J. H., of Church Town, long since gone to be with the Lord, though quite a colony of his descendants still live in the place.  The Lord, had awakened this dear old Christian in that most out of the way place.  The Holy Spirit had opened his understanding, to understand the Scriptures, and to wait for the Lord Jesus from heaven.  The church of God was fast asleep around him, as foretold in the parable of the ten virgins.  Many other precious truths had God taught His aged servant, such as the apostasy of Christendom from its heavenly calling.  After standing alone for many years, he had become greatly tempted.  He had been praying earnestly to the Lord to send, at least, one of His servants, to confirm him in the truth.  A young man had told him of the lecture, and brought him to hear it.  But when he heard, for the first time, the blessed truth of the Lord’s return, exactly as the Spirit had taught it to him, he could scarcely contain himself for joy.  And this was the beginning of that work which resulted in Christians being gathered to the Lord Jesus in Church Town and Southport.  Yes, in those days many souls passed from death unto life on the sands of Southport and in the open air at Church Town.  To the God of all grace be all praise.


In the midst of such service, my Father and God saw it well and needful to afflict me.  I can truly say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes.”  I had repeated hemorrhage from the lungs very seriously several times.  until I was brought nigh to the grave in consumption.  I spent a winter at Torquay in 1850, and few expected to se me return alive.  Dr. T. told me one lung was nearly gone, and that I could scarcely live in the north, but might, as an invalid, in the south.  There was much prayer throughout England, and the Lord heard and answered; and for 37 years since then have I been strengthened to preach to hundreds, and sometimes thousands, with only one sound lung.


When unable to preach to large companies in towns, the Lord has given me great joy and blessing in village work.  I will here give a sample.  A poor widow invited me over to her house at W.-on-D.  I went, and she asked a few professors to meet me.  They were quite sure there was no need of any preaching at W-, but there was a very neglected, and, as they said, wicked colliery and pottery village a mile away.  Immediately I felt assured this was the place where I should preach.  I went and preached in a house there that night or afternoon.  In twelve months, to a day, I felt led to go again.  I may say, when going to preach at a fresh place, I have often felt the exceeding importance of being guided to just the right place in the village.  In this case, I was guided to take a stand exactly opposite the little homestead of W. M.  His wife’s name was Lydia.  Of course, all were strangers to me.  These people were at that time, greatly averse to what they would have called dissenters, and, I suppose, would not have come twenty yards to hear me.  I was speaking on the cleansing of the leper. (Lev. xiv.) Lydia was crossing the yard as I happened to say, “The little bird is let fly.”  This rather aroused her curiosity, and she came to her gate to look what little bird it was.  She listened with deep attention as she heard how one bird pointed to the death of Jesus for her sins; and the other bird dipped in the blood of the bird that was killed, and sprinkled on the poor leper, and then let fly, to shew that the leper was cleansed.  That this shewed how God declared, by the resurrection of Jesus, our justification; that if the little bird was let loose, the leper was cleansed.  If Jesus, our substitute, who died for our sins, be risen, we, believing God, are justified from all things.  Lydia had never known before what the resurrection of Jesus had to do with our justification; and she was greatly arrested.  She could not help listening again at night.  She was converted, or perhaps, as a quickened soul, found peace.  She and her whole household, from her aged mother, over eighty, to her grandchild, aged about four. All were saved.  We had preaching there seven Lord’s Days, when the table of the Lord was spread in the house of Lydia, and was continued there for many years, and afterward removed to W-.  Thirteen first met to obey the Lord in the breaking of bread.  This brings to my mind one of the most remarkable displays of the Lord’s grace I have ever witnessed.  It took place in this same village some years after.


We had a preaching of the gospel one night in the Pottery, just after the close of the day’s work, in one of the large workshops, called the Throw room.  A number of colliers had also come in, just as they left the pit.  It was a strange-looking company, some as white as millers, some as black as sweeps.  It was a very quiet preaching, the word only was preached with expecting faith; and there was a deep solemnity on the whole company.  At the close, I was repeating the following  scriptures, slowly, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but is passed from death unto life.”  Precious words of Jesus.( John v.24.)  Also, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins; and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”  (Acts xiii. 38.)  I did not make a single remark, but there was the deep sense felt that God the Holy Ghost was speaking these words to lost, guilty sinners.  You have seen the wind pass over a field of corn, bowing every blade and stalk.  It was just like that.  The divine presence passed over the meeting, from end to end, and bowed every heart and every head.  A deep sigh was heard from end to end, many fell, some against the wall, some on forms.  There was a profound silence, only broken by sobs.  Then the Christians present began to speak to the unconverted.  I will give one instance.  D. M. Said to one who leaned against the wall, one who had been a very careless youth, “David, are you anxious to be saved?”  “No,” he said, “I am saved, I have everlasting life.”  David had passed from death unto life, and the new creation was manifested in him to the last; he is with the Lord.  There were few words said to any, but the Lord opened their hearts to receive His word.  They heard His words, they believed God that sent Him, and the Spirit imparted faith to believe it, because He said it.  And is not that a blessed moment when the ear is opened to hear God’s message of forgiveness of sins, and then to know one is justified from all things, for God says so?  But what was so remarkable, Lydia, a Christian of very clear judgment, told me years after this meeting, that she had carefully watched the result, and she had no doubt, that every unsaved person at that meeting was converted, and had either departed to be with the Lord, or were living proofs of the grace of God.  Dear Lydia! One of the first fruits in those parts; she and her husband, and how many more, who were converted in the times I describe, are now with the Lord.


There are few joys more deep and real than to see your children in the Lord depart in peace.  What a picture of calm, perfect peace was the face of aged Lydia, as she lay in the sleep of death!  What will it be in that morn, too bright for mortal eyes, to see thousands to whom the word has thus been blest, rise in the glory of Christ, to meet Him in the air!  Will you, dear reader, be there, or for ever shut out?


My heart lingers on these village labours, but I must hasten away to other scenes.


I would now relate how the Lord laid it on my heart to write the Railway Tracts, and from them all that followed.  I had been preaching the word at Tetbury, where I frequently went in those days.  Our Brother W. said to me, “Why don’t you print some of those incidents of the Lord’s work in the railway carriages? I am sure the Lord would use them.”  I said, I had never thought of it.  He urged me to do so.  I felt the Lord had spoken to me thus to do it for Him, expecting Him to bless them to souls.  How little did I think, at that moment, how the Lord would use them in so many languages all over the world.  Nos. 1,2,3, 4 Railway Tracts were the first that were written, and how many souls have been saved through the Spirit of God using those four little papers.  I had already written “What is the Sabbath?”  I will name a few thoughts I had in writing every tract.  To look to God to give me to write just what He pleased, and to enable me to write it plainly, without many adornment.  To never allow me to write with a party feeling, but to write for the whole church of God, or gospel to every sinner.  In every incident related, to give the exact words, as near as I could possibly recollect.


It has thus been my constant habit to write a paper, as I believe the Lord has led me to do so; such tracts as “Mephibosheth,” “Joseph,” “Ruth,” “Jonathan,” “Job,” “Nehemiah,” etc., etc., etc.,   These have been written after preaching them in different parts of the country, during a period of over forty years.  I believe the Lord rarely ever led me to preach from Mephibosheth, as a type of Christ, without souls being converted.  He has also been pleased to use that tract very often, when repeated or read to the sick and dying, and also through others preaching it.  Mr. M. told me he had preached it in almost every city and town in America, and, he thought, never without souls being brought to God.  It would fill a volume to tell of the great number of cases that the Lord has been pleased to bring to my own notice.  Oh!  How often has our God and Father, by the Holy Ghost, been pleased to use a tract in the dark places of England, when the door seemed closed against the light of the gospel.


Over thirty years ago, I was told of a tract, I think it was “Smashed to Pieces,” that was given to a poor woman in Rutlandshire.  She was taken ill.  The Lord spoke peace to her soul through this little paper.  She died with it enclosed in her hand.  Her dying request to her husband was, that he should read it to her children.  After her departure, that tract was blessed to the conversion of eight persons.  Many similar cases have occurred, and many in America, India, and Australia.  I will name one.


An overlooker on a very large sheep run, far out in the Australian bush, found a poor, lonely shepherd, on a distant station, in a dying state, and greatly alarmed at the prospect of death and judgment.  There was no person near him to point the way to Christ.  The young man rode a great distance to his residence, and took a tract, and read it to the dying man.  God spoke peace to his soul.  He departed from the lonely bush to be with the Lord, which is far better.


And how many of that deeply interesting class, the sailors, have been blest through a tract. I was walking one day in Glasgow, when the late Captain G. met me, and said, “I must tell you of a very interesting case, how the Lord was pleased to bless the tract “Victory.”  During my late voyage,”   he said, “one of my men was taken very ill, and became anxious about his soul.  I got the mate to hold the lamp whilst I read the tract “Victory” to him; and it pleased the Lord to use the reading of the tract, both to the conversion of the poor man, and also of the mate.  The man died in peace, and we buried the body at sea.”  That was the last time I saw Captain G.  He sailed with his mate shortly after for the West Indies, and was never heard of again. 


I am sure it is God who thus is pleased to use these little papers, because, in themselves, they are so unlikely to meet the cases.  Take the following: A poor Hindu coolie, in Demerara, was in great distress about his soul.  He could no more bathe in the Ganges, and, therefore, could get no relief for the distress of his soul.  He had a friend, a Mahometan, who was much moved at his distress.  He said, ‘I believe I have a paper that would give you the relief you long for.”  He read and translated to him the little paper, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” They were both converted to Christ, and became preachers of the gospel.  Now there was nothing in the paper likely, to human reason, to accomplish so wonderful a result.  God was pleased to use His own word in the tract.  This same little tract was used to a dying infidel in Sheffield, in the following manner: This man refused to read, or receive the visit of any one, to speak to him about Christ.  He was a soul going down to hell in darkness and unbelief.  A woman folded the tract in her hand, so that just the text only was seen, as it lay inside her hand.  She put  her hand before him, and said, “Can you see this?  Can you read?”  He read the works “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”  He started.  It was God speaking to his soul.  Yes, God said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”  And the sins of a past life stood out before him; and God, in infinite love for Christ’s sake, said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.”  Through divine grace he believed God, and the next day he was in heaven.  Who can measure or limit the grace of God?  I might tell of hundreds of cases, but must now return to the way the Lord hath led me.