INCIDENTS OF GOSPEL WORK
Direct answers to prayer.
Led to Leeds, and preserved from danger.
Danger in Sheffield from the Roman Catholics.
The Roman Catholics in Glasgow gladly hear the preaching.
There is something most strengthening to faith in having direct answers to prayer even in the little things, but especially in the service to God. You preach in quite a different way if you have the certainty that God has sent you to a place. I remember being distinctly led to go to Leeds to preach, and immediately went. A prayer meeting was being held when I arrived. I kneeled down without its being known I was there, near the door. Prayer was being offered for me at the time, that I might be dent in the power of the Spirit, and that there might be blessing on the following day. I think it was Saturday night; and if I remember rightly. It was on that occasion my life was threatened, whilst preaching to a great company in what was called the Vicar’s Croft. The infidel party seemed filled with Satanic rage’ but the Lord preserved me, and the result was the room crowded to hear the word that night.
I had much narrower escape whilst preaching in the open air in Sheffield, at the pump, in Gibraltar. I had noticed a good number of Irish Roman Catholics gradually close around me. Then two men, one on each side, got behind me, and pressed my arm close whilst speaking. At that moment I felt the point of some sharp instrument at my back. I immediately said, “In the mane of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to make an opening for me, that I may walk out of this throng; my life is being attacked.” It was a strange sight to see that people fall on each side, until an opening was mane, as it were, in an instant. It was the hand of God. I walked firmly away for one or two hundred yards, and then my legs seemed utterly to fail me, and I could scarcely walk home.
It would, however, be an injustice to leave the impression, that I usually received this kind of treatment from the Roman Catholics. Generally they have listened to me with respectful attention in the open air, as I was accustomed to preach the gospel, and not attack them. I will gibe an instance: —
I was walking with a friend one Lord’s day morning, at Newcastle, in the Potteries. My friend said, “The man we are meeting is a very earnest, devoted Roman Catholic.” I turned aside to him, and said,, “Here, I want you for a particular matter this afternoon, I want you to make know to the Roman Catholics that I hope to preach in the market, at three o’clock to-day, and mind you let them know that I am about to prove that the doctrine of the Church of Rome, in the year 60, is the only true doctrine.” “I quite understand,” said he. “And,” I continued, “You see now that they all stand as near me as they can get, and that they don’t let any one disturb or hinder me from going through the discourse.” It was astonishing what a number of them were there by three o’clock; and they stood packed all round, so that no one could have got at me. I then commenced, and shewed that there were not left in any uncertainty as to which was the true church at Rome, in the year 60. It was composed of all the believers in Rome—the on church, the only true one church at Rome. Neither were we left in any uncertainty as to what were the true doctrines of the church at Rome in the year 60. We have an inspired account of those doctrines and to that document we will turn our attention. From chapters i. to iii. we found the statement as to the total ruin of man through sin. Whether Jews or Gentiles, all were sinners, all guilty, all utterly unable to acquire righteousness be works of law. Every man found it so, for this was the true doctrine on the subject of the church at Rome in the year 60; and it was the only true church in the year 60, at Rome. There was no other.
I then went on to shew God’s righteousness revealed in the glorious plan of redemption. How He is righteous through the atoning death of Jesus, in justifying all that believe Him. “Their faith is reckoned for righteousness.” (Chap. iv.) Believing God, “who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our iniquities and was raised again for our justification.” They are thus accounted righteous—justified. I gave illustrations of these, to shew that the mighty debt of our sins had been paid; and the everlasting proof was Jesus risen from the dead. He is our everlasting righteousness. Now this being the case, there was one striking peculiarity of the church at Rome, or the believers at Rome. A mark of the true doctrine was this, that they had did not hope to be saved. They did not hope to make their peace with God. They HAD peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here is the true doctrine of the church at Rome in the year 60. All doctrine contrary to this is heresy and falsehood. The utter corruption of human nature; all guilty. Redemption through the blood of Christ, not human works, is the remedy. All that believe God are justified and have peace with Him—are not hoping to make their peace with God. Jesus has finished the work on the cross. They believe it, and have peace with God through Jesus Christ.
Well, the application began to be too pointed for my friends. They looked at each other, as I asked if this was the doctrine of those around me. Had they found that they were utterly lost sinners; and that, try as they might, they could not acquire righteousness or peace by works of the law? Had they accepted this full salvation through Jesus Christ? Did they really believe God? Were they hoping to get peace, or could they say, with the Roman believers in the year 60, “We have peace with God”? I assured them there was no salvation apart from the doctrine of the Church of Rome, as revealed in this epistle in the year 60.
By this time some of my inside friends had become outsiders, and some had disappeared, but many listened to the end; and I had not an insulting word. Oh, may the day declare, that souls were that day brought to rest in Christ, and believe the word of God.
This brings to my mind the remarkable way in which the Roman Catholics stood by me in the Salt Marked, Glasgow. It came about in this way. On arrival in Glasgow from Birmingham, one day, a beloved Christian friend walked with me to the Salt Market, a large open space, where, at that time, there were frequently preachings and lectures of all kinds. An aged Scotch minister was preaching. He was urging the people to give up their sins, become good, religious, and sober; and finally asked them all to attend the kirk, and at once to go with him to such a kirk. When he concluded, I stood up and said I had come about 300 miles, and I wished to add a few words: indeed, I had something I wished to tell them. Scarcely a person went off to kirk, but all listened with eager attention; and the crowd began to gather from all sides. I did not think it wise to them what I thought of the preaching they had been hearing, but took up the matter in this way.
I said, “You have heard now what this aged preacher has told you; and now, would you not be most happy if you did as he told you to do? Would it not be far better for every one of you if you were to give up your sins, and become a sober, holy, religious people? You know it would be far better with you were holy; yes, so holy that you were fit for heaven, and sure to go there? Would anything make you more happy than to be quite sure of going to heaven?” Many were the unresponsive sighs. “But,” I said, “Now tell me, Have not many of you tried to do all this, that the preacher has told you to do? You have tried to give up all sins, and you have tried to be holy. You have longed to be fit for heaven, and you have utterly failed. Some of you have felt as if it were no use trying. You feel as If you only get worse and worse. You go to kirk, and try to be religious, but you are not a bit better for it. You long to do what this preacher has told you to do, but you fail to do it. Now is not this the honest truth?”
The people seemed convicted on the spot. I then said (I give the substance as near as I can remember), “I will now tell you what I have come 300 miles to say. God knows your utterly helpless, guilty condition. Yes, He saw us not only guilty, but without strength to be better, just as you have found. He saw us lost, and we should not be lost, if we could help ourselves. That vessel among the breakers is not lost if the crew have the least hope of reaching the shore. But see, all hope is gone; she is on the rocks; she is going to pieces. Now, if a man is saved it must by the lifeboat. You are lost! Every effort to save yourselves only proves you are lost, LOST. Oh, to you is JESUS, the lifeboat sent! Yes, God sent His son ‘to seek and save the lost.’” The scriptures were then opened, and they were shewn how God had so loved them, lost in sins and helpless, and had sent His Son to make propitiation for sin. And if they had learned that they could not attain to holiness or righteousness, by their efforts or woks, I had now the glorious message to declare to them, free forgiveness of sins, through Jesus Christ the Lord. I then concluded, as it was getting late; but not one person would move, and I was entreated to go on, and tell them more of the blessed news. I had to preach again, I should say, a full hour.
Many may read this who heard the gospel of their salvation that night. There are many Roman Catholics around the Salt Market, in Glasgow. Many came and heard, and none paid deeper attention. Some years after, I went again, immediately I walked on the open space I was recognized, and especially by the Irish Catholics, who came and stood, from beginning to the end of the preaching, which had again to be prolonged to a late hour. Indeed, I was told that they were most interested in these preachings. I mane this to show the importance of preaching the grave of God, so needed by every soul, instead of attacking others. Nothing exposes our human errors like the truth of God. And let us remember, that man in his natural state, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, is darkness; not merely in darkness, but darkness itself. “For ye were sometimes darkness; but now are ye light in the Lord.” (Eph. V.8.) There is no true knowledge of God, no light, but in Christ: out of Him all is moral darkness.
It was very remarkable, as in the above case, how the Lord gathered large companies to hear the word preached without any of the usual means of post bills, or otherwise. When I spoke first in the Glasgow Salt Market, I only knew four Christians north of Scarborough.