GRACE TRUTH MINISTRIES
We are a ministry declaring God's Grace in Truth.





EXTRACTS

FROM

JOSEPH TANNER'S DIARY



NOTE: This will be an ongoing project as I put in all the Diary, keep checking back for new ones to be added.



I FIRST stood up in the name of the Lord, in much fear and trembling, to attempt to preach the gospel, on the evening of December 24th, 1845; and, singular to say, my friend William Mortimer first spoke at Avebury, Wilts, on the morning of the same day, quite unknown to each other.

Sept. 1, 1853. A dull day in soul. Fell several times with my hasty spirit. Find barrenness and death, ignorance and confusion within. At the prayer-meeting was in a very poor place, feelingly unable to rise above sin and unbelief. O that it were different with me! Conscious that without grace shall for ever be lost, would say, 'Dear Lord, magnify that grace in preserving and saving my soul from sin and death.'

LORD'S DAY, June 21, 1857, at Abingdon. Spoke morning and evening from Eph. 1:13, 'I whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.' Went in much deadness and confusion of mind, with fear. Hope I was a little favored in soul in my feeble attempts to speak in the name of the adorable Lord. Mr. Smart present to hear in the morning, but I knew it not till after. I am a poor, ignorant creature. How little mind have I for the blessed word of God. How little do I understand, and how amazingly little dwells with me. My poor, forgetful soul is so very empty of the word; such great confusion of mind and memory:

"My memory bad, but, what is sad,
Can folly still retain!"

O blessed Remembrancer, be in me, be with me and bless me, for the dear Lord Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.

TUESDAY evening service. Friend H. led the meeting; and friends B. C--h, and H. prayed. My poor soul was favored with a visit from the sinner's dear and blessed Friend. I again felt it good to be at his feet; but O, how soon do I get back into the old place!

On Wednesday night, or rather in the morning, I had a dream about speaking, in which I was shown, in a measure, the hypocrisy of my heart, and it had considerable effect on my mind.

TUESDAY evening, June 30. Prayer-meeting. Friend H. leader. Friend P--r, B, and self prayed. I was favored with much solemnity, and a few sweet moments. Friend P--r came before the church, and was received.

THURSDAY evening, August 14, 1857. Very few out. Very heavy thunderstorms led my mind to meditate on the worth of a refuge in a storm, and spoke from Gen. 7:16, 'And the Lord shut him in.' A little feeling, but not liberty of soul.

August 21, 1858. This day I am fifty years of age, having been spared and kept by the mercy and power of God. I have had more feeling and thoughts about this birthday than any other gone before. My mind has been led to many solemn meditations on the past, the present, and the future; on my past sins and follies; God's past mercies and favors. My present ignorance, darkness, and confusion proving to me how dull and slow of heart I am to believe, and what a poor scholar I am in the school of Christ; yet God's favors and mercies are not taken away nor withholden from me, neither has he utterly forsaken me, though I have deserved it. By his grace I am what I am, and hitherto to the Lord has helped me, and I would raise an 'Ebenezer' to the praise of his glory:

"O to grace how great a debtor!"

Sweet have these words lately been to my soul several times:

"Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound!)
That saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see."

Also the hymn commencing,

"Grace! 'tis a charming sound."

The future is a dark unknown, with leaves not unfolded, both in providence and grace. The Lord give me grace to wait on him; to seek to know his will; and grace to suffer and do it, whether my remaining days be few or many. I feel more of the solemnities of life, of death, and a coming eternity, as I enter upon the evening of life with an afflicted body, and knowing not how soon I must pass out of time into eternity.

LORD'S DAY, Feb. 26, 1860, at Allington. Spoke there morning and afternoon. At Hilmarton in the evening.

MONDAY, Feb. 27. In the evening I preached at Studley. Slept at Mrs. H.'s at Hilmarton. I went to bed a little after 12 o'clock, after talking and praying with the family. When I was going into my bedroom, this passage of scripture came into my mind, with some little sweetness and power, 2 Tim. 3:16,17; "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." It was attended with some light, and kept being repeated in my soul and opening up a little in its different branches, so that I began to think it might be a word to speak from, on the morrow evening, at Clack. It opened and unfolded in my mind, and led me, in a little sweet measure, to behold the scriptures, with a blessed certainty, to be God's own word, as well as to see the proper deity and personality of God the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:20,21, came to my mind, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." This, with other parts of God's word, opened in my mind with light, so that in his light I was favored a little to see light; which again confirmed me, that as none but God gave the word, so none but God could give to any man the interpretation of it; and as it was given, or came, to holy men of old in prophecy, so it comes now, in its gracious interpretation, to none but holy or converted men, partakers of the grace of God and the spirit of truth and holiness; who testify of it to others as the good 'Word of life' their own eyes have seen, which they have looked upon, handled, and tasted. Also I was led to see a little of the beauty and excellency of the word of God in its various branches, and its uses to the man of God: but before I lay down I was assaulted by Satan, my old foe and adversary.
In the evening, as Mr. H.s son was driving me from Studley to their house, he was telling me of the almost sudden death of his father by apoplexy; of his being bled, and how the blood spirted over the bed-curtains, and still stained them, and that he never spoke after he was seized. He was to have gone before the little church, on the next Lord's day, as a candidate for baptism. Now it was powerfully suggested to my mind that he could not have been a good man, to have been taken away in so unusual a manner, although one that had closely attended the truth for many years, and many of the Lord's people had hoped for him, as his life and conversation were becoming the truth: but now it assaulted me powerfully that God knew his state, and cut him off; and there was little doubt but he died in that very room, and in the night I should certainly see him. Such hold did this take of me, that I took the candle, and began carefully to look over the curtains for the blood; and also a question arose, 'Is there any such thing as the religion you have been very boldly preaching about while with others? Now you are afraid of the devil, and afraid you will see this man.' I felt all this was true; I was filled with both these fears, and yet in my mind I felt the words still working, "All scripture etc'.: but it was suggested that my boldness was caused by my being with other people, but now I was alone I was afraid even to get into bed. I was led to see it was Satan's fiery darts and temptations, and was enabled to leave searching the curtains, and resist him, and to pray to the Lord to rebuke him, and to calm my fears and bless me with his divine and almighty keeping power; and I was a little favored to feel that 'the angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him.' So encouraged and emboldened did I feel by this, that I told Satan, if the poor man did die in that room, I had a good hope that his soul was in heaven with the spirits of other just men made perfect; with all the blood-washed saints above, singing the praises and beholding the face of the once suffering, bleeding, and dying, but now risen, ascended, exalted, and ever-living Jesus; and so his soul or spirit would not be there. The body, I told him, was laid in the grave, there to molder with its mother dust; no more to move till it was raised to meet its glorious Redeemer and its redeemed spirit, in the morning of the resurrection. I found all my fears and conflicts cease; Satan fled, and I was like the poor woman when her accusers went out, and none but the Lord and herself were left standing in the midst; such a sweet, peaceful, calm, and quiet state of soul succeeded, that soon I fell asleep under a sweet and solemn feeling that the Lord, who is the Keeper of Israel, and who never slumbereth nor sleepeth, was my keeper and preserver; and O how blessedly safe and secure did I feel my poor body, as well as my poor soul to be, in his gracious keeping!

I awoke a little after 4 o'clock in a very sweet feeling of spirit, and my soul went up after the Lord in prayer and longings for sweet and blessed communion; also in thanksgiving, praise, and gratitude for his keeping and preserving mercies; and also for the peaceful, refreshing sleep for my body and mind; when, in a sudden, most solemn, blessed, and wonderful manner and degree, I was filled with the goodness of the Lord; by which my poor soul was so enriched with the blessing of the Lord and of his everlasting gospel, that I felt the sweet truth of his own word, "The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow therewith," and with the sweet fruits and graces of the Spirit. I sensibly felt the sacred Three-one God bowed the heavens and came down: and O how my poor soul was favored and blest! what deep solemnity I felt! what reverential awe! what sacred fear of the Majesty of Heaven and Earth! How clearly and distinctly did I behold the three glorious Persons in the eternal Godhead,--the eternal Father, the eternal Son, and the eternal Spirit! These words came powerfully to my mind, "Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it." (Isa. 45:8)

Sweetly and wonderfully did I feel swallowed up in the favor, power, and blessedness of God. I never had so distinct, so blessed, so full and certain a manifestation and understanding of the Three-one God. I felt their presence as fully distinct in their sacred Persons, as ever I did anything of the God of salvation; and yet their unity in one glorious Essence or Godhead was as clearly felt, and as blessedly and sacredly understood: not in a cold, argumentative, or reasoning manner, but in the sweet, soul-humbling, and refreshing revelation of them in and unto my poor soul.

'Drop down, ye heavens, etc.' again and again would sound in all the chambers or powers of my soul, with such sweetness, power, and blessedness I never could set forth. I could not remember ever having read the words, nor did I know what part of God's word they were in; but I felt assured they were spoken into my soul by God, as his truth, by the power attending them; for no words but the words of the King are with such power as I felt in these, to me, blessed and precious words. I knew the heavens had 'dropped' or come down to me, unworthy me,--even heaven's great Creator, the living Three-one God,--the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

I know not how to attempt to describe or set forth even a little of what my soul both saw and felt of the glory, the majesty, the power, the goodness, and wonders of our God, in all the rich, sovereign, unutterable blessings of the everlasting gospel; the whole of the blessings of the covenant of grace, made between these three sacred Persons for the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. All which blessings, with their persons too, are in the Lord Jesus Christ, their living and everlasting Head; from whom flows their life, by virtue of union, eternal union with him, as his mystical body, "the fulness of him that filleth all in all;" (Eph. 1:23) the living Fountain from whence all the springs of grace and mercy rise and flow; and in whom, from whom, and with whom shall be their eternal glory-state. I felt the door of hope and the gate of life set wide open before me, and I blessedly entered into a faith's possession or realization of eternal life in Jesus. I praised, blessed, and adored the Incarnate Mystery, our Emmanuel, and danced before the ark of God with all the might and powers of my soul; and I wept and praised aloud, so that I afterwards feared I had disturbed the inmates of the house. The blessed word of God flowed into my soul with such preciousness, such suitability, such light, life, and power I am not able to tell; while, like good old Simeon, I did indeed clasp the Lord Jesus in the arms of my faith, as God's salvation; in which salvation I rejoiced aloud. 'Drop down, ye heavens, etc.' would again sound as graciously fulfilled in my own soul's experience. I had the presence and the blessing of Israel's Jehovah richly bestowed on me; and such a sweet, simple, childlike feeling filled me, that I lay before the Lord in deep humility and self-abasement, as a sinner saved by grace: and, while favored to talk and commune with the Lord, the subject of the eternal Sonship of God's only begotten and beloved Son, which had been a cause of strife and contention, and was still rending and dividing churches and preachers asunder, came into my mind; and in much humility and simplicity I spake to his Sacred Majesty in these words, as nearly as I can relate: 'O Lord Jesus, my Lord and my God, my salvation, my blessed Redeemer; my precious, my glorious, my present and everlasting All; thou knowest all things, thou knowest I would desire not to believe anything, to receive anything, nor to speak, teach, nor preach anything of thee or thy word, but what is according to thy own word, and is the truth! I humbly pray thee, as thou hast thus condescended so to favor, so to bless and reveal thyself unto me at this time, and so to commune with me, I pray thee to grant me this one favor more; O Lord, I have received thee, loved thee, and embraced thee in my soul as God's eternal Son; if, O Lord, I am wrong, O in mercy show it me! if I am right, O in mercy now, at this time, further and blessedly confirm my soul in it!' when these words slowly, solemnly, and distinctly sounded three times in my soul: 'Christ the eternal Son of God; Christ, the eternal Son of God; Christ, the eternal Son of God;' and with such blessedness, that I felt that nothing which could be said or written against it by man, nor all the reasoning or arguments which man could produce, could shake my soul in this, to me, now blessed Bible truth. I felt I could stand by it even to the stake, if called upon, as a life and death doctrine: and O how precious again was he! what sacred familiarity I had with him: these sweet words were felt, "My beloved is mine, and I am his:" and, "My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away:" also, "His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me." O how very sensibly and preciously did I feel and melt under his sweet embrace! "A bundle of myrrh is my well-beloved unto me; he shall lie all night betwixt my breasts." O with what sacred, intense love did I embrace him in the warm and hallowed affections of my heart, now filled with love to him, even to the running over! Then these words followed, "He brought me to the banqueting house (or the house of wine), and his banner over me was love." How blessedly was that banner waved over my favored, my ransomed soul; and so filled my heart, that it flowed back to its eternal Fountain with humble but warm love and adoration. While I thus sat in the banqueting house, my beloved spake in my soul, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly (margin, and be drunken with loves), O beloved!"

Again and again would the words 'Drop down, ye heavens, etc.' sound in my soul. The 'Heavens' I felt to be the blessed Trinity of Persons, and all those glorious blessings of my present and everlasting salvation, flowing to me through a precious Jesus; the 'earth,' to be my poor soul, my heart, which sweetly opened wide under the enlarging power of God's grace; and I felt God created it all, and the fruit of the lips as well. The Lord Jesus I felt to take the towel and gird himself, and wash my feet in great condescension; and O what a blessedness did I feel in this, that it was only my daily contracted filth which needed to be washed away, feeling what the gracious Lord said to Peter, 'He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit;' and, 'Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.'

I felt almost more of the blessing, the grace, and the glory of the Lord, than my poor body could bear; and such love, such softness and meekness did I feel, that I was overwhelmed with the unspeakable love and goodness of the Lord Jesus, and, like poor Mary, I did indeed wash his sacred feet (where I lay) with my tears, and wipe and kiss them, and love much, under a sense of much forgiven. I felt, indeed, so much of the glory, the power, and the blessing of God in my soul, that my poor body straitened me, and my soul was, as it were, ready to leap out of its cage to enter the bliss of heaven above; and I wept and blessed the Lord, while I humbly entreated him graciously to stay his hand or take me to himself, as my body was not able to bear the weight of glory.

In the midst of my blessedness these words came into my mind, 'Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for thee;' which caused some thoughts to arise in my mind that the Lord would call me to a hard journey, and this was a gracious visit to prepare and fit me, as it was to the prophet of old; yet I had a kid to make merry with, and I could neither sorrow nor cease to sound the timbrel, but go forth in the dance with those that make merry, for I was blessed with a day of soul prosperity, and did rejoice; and I left the morrow of adversity to the Lord my God, in whose sacred will mine was swallowed up, being persuaded he was 'too wise to err, and too good to be unkind;' and that all he bestowed upon me, whether the kiss or the rod, was by the same gracious hand, guided by the same kind, fatherly wisdom, in the same unchanging love, and equally alike for my real profit and his glory.

While thus favored, I found all was, as it were, suddenly drawn up into heaven, like Peter's sheet. I never so sensibly felt and saw the heavens open, and a Triune God, with all the blessings I enjoyed, come down from heaven, and likewise return to heaven; and, while I saw the Lord Jesus thus depart, my soul earnestly looked up and after him with intense desire, for a few moments, when these words sounded in my mind, 'Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.' My poor soul cried, 'When Lord? when Lord?' it was then spoken in my mind, 'It is not for you to know the times or the seasons;' by which I feared it would be a long season, and that perhaps I should at once enter upon a dark, hard journey; when suddenly the Lord Jesus again descended in all his glory, grace, mercy, preciousness, and love, as before, and took blessed possession of my soul and my heart: and O how my poor heart opened to receive him, and his train filled the temple! while the scriptures, in such a blessed measure, came into my soul with such fullness, life, and power, that they shone like stars. O how I looked on the love, the faithfulness, the power and grace of Israel's Three-one God! how my soul went through the land of promise in the length and breadth of it, while I felt the solemn soul satisfaction and witness that I had an interest in Jesus; in the covenant of grace; in all the love, the electing love, of the Father; in the redeeming love of the Son; in the drawing, quickening, and sealing love of the Spirit; that sacred bond by which my precious, never-dying soul was bound up in the bundle of life with my most glorious and beloved Head, by whom came grace and truth; grace to save me, and truth to teach me how. How I walked round about Zion, and marked her bulwarks, considered her palaces, counted her towers, and rejoiced within her walls of salvation. I did indeed admire her; while my soul entered into her gates with praise--'God is known in her palaces for a refuge'--and here I worshipped the Lord in the beauty of holiness. I looked at the stability of Zion; her glorious and sure foundations; her present and eternal safety and security; her abundant stores of blessings and provisions for time; and her everlasting exaltation and glorification in and with her risen and glorious King and Head. The words of the hymn came sweetly into my mind.

"How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?"

And as the exceeding great and precious promises, and the many and various sweet and blessed portions sweetly flowed into my soul, which was like a well-watered garden and a cup which ran over, and, like Naphtali, 'satisfied with favour, and full with the blessed of the Lord,' I felt and said there was nothing more the God of all grace could say; but it was his sacred power clothing his own word that made it to my soul as 'marrow and fatness,' and as 'wines on the lees well refined.'

Again the words 'Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for thee,' came into my mind with such weight that I felt assured my soul would have hard and heavy traveling; yet so blessed did I feel, that, having the beloved Bridegroom, and being one of the days of the Son of man, I could neither mourn nor fast, although I felt the day would come when he would be taken away, and then I should mourn. The following verses were very sweet to me:

"When Jesus, with his MIGHTY love,
Visits my troubled breast,
My doubts subside, my fears remove,
And I'm COMPLETELY blest.

"I love the Lord with mind and heart,
His people and his ways;
Envy, and pride, and lust depart,
And all his works I praise.

"Nothing but Jesus I esteem;
My soul is then sincere;
And everything that's dear to him,
To me is also dear."

O how I sung this with melody in my heart! but not a line further could I go, the remaining part of the hymn not then being in my soul's rich experience.

"How firm a foundation,"

again and again would be inwardly shouted; but I can never recount the many blessed words and acts of God's grace to unworthy me, that blessed night, by Christ Jesus. I wept so much, that my pillows were literally so wet I was afraid they would wonder what was the cause; while my poor body was so exhausted, that I felt worn out, as the sweetness and power remained with me for about four hours; then there was a little abatement, but still that joy and peace in believing, which the world and dead professors are strangers to.

I arose in the morning at 8 c'clock, in such a sweet, calm, blessed, and peaceful state of soul, that there seemed neither a ripple nor a wave upon my feelings; for, although the power and rapture were abated, the peace of God which truly passeth all understanding, did so rule in my soul that not a dog moved his tongue; while the word of God sweetly and richly dwelt in me, and also the hymns quoted, and many others. I felt so taken up with the Lord, that I wished to be away from all creatures and from all created things, to be with the Lord Jesus; and, like poor Peter on the mount, I said, 'Lord it is good for us to be here;' and also wanted to make tabernacles, to dwell there with the Lord Jesus.

I went to Clack to preach in the evening, but felt I could neither pray nor preach; my poor soul was still full to the running over. I had during the day found the words, "Drop down, ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the Lord have created it." I read them, and told the people that I felt I could neither pray nor preach, for the Lord has so favored my soul, I could only love and praise him; and I would, as well as I could, relate a little of what I had felt and enjoyed of his soul-enriching blessing; which I did. Some days afterwards I received a letter from some unknown person, telling me of being much favored in soul in hearing, and of feeling so great a soul union as to be constrained to write and tell me. I could not make out who it was, but the writing appeared to be that of a female of some education.

Day after day did I then witness a gradual decline or going back after this, so that by the Saturday I began to enter upon the fourth verse of the hymn:

"But Ah! when these short visits end,
Though not quite left alone,
I miss the presence of my Friend,
Like one whose comfort's gone."

I never remember so marked and gradual a way in which I lost all the sweetness, life, freshness, and blessedness of a visitation from the Lord; and from the fourth verse of the hymn, I fell into the fifth, with a full realization of it in my poor soul:

"I to my own sad place return,
My wretched state to feel;
I tire, and faint, and mope, and mourn,
And am but barren still."

I still sunk and fell, till I found myself shut up in the prison; and, moreover, it seemed as though Satan did, like the Philippian jailor by Paul and Silas, thrust me into the inner prison, and made my feet fast in the stocks. And now where was my harp? truly hung on the willows; my blessedness gone; and now the hard journey was before me, and I began to travel it. Things without, as well as things within, began to bear heavily upon me; but, like the prophet of old, the strength of the meat on that memorable night much sustained me; for I was favored to hold it in sweet remembrance, as God's own blessing and favor; and to see and feel, in some measure, the mercy of having a faithful and unchangeable God as my God; who was still the same, although I change, and his dealings with me change, as says the poet:

"Unchangeable his will;
Whatever be my frame,
His loving heart is still
Eternally the same,
My soul through many changes goes;
His love no variation knows."

SATURDAY, July 7. Went to Chippenham; very poorly in body, and dark, cold, and confused in my mind. Slept at my friend Mr. Mortimer's, for whom I am engaged to supply tomorrow.

LORD'S DAY, July 8. Rose at 6 o'clock. Tried to call on the Lord in prayer; found my thoughts wandering, and unable to stay them on God or the things of God. In reading his word felt so dark, wandering, and confused, that it seemed, as it were, a sealed book. "Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?" (Ps. 10:1) O Lord, convince me of my sin, and show me those secret, hidden faults, and cleanse me from them; and "create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me." (Ps. 51:10) Lord, thou knowest my sin, and my iniquities are not hid from thee. Do thou in mercy subdue all my sins, and bestow upon me that measure of grace which shall enable me to live, both inwardly and outwardly, more as becometh my profession of thy truth; and bless and enrich my soul today with thy heavenly grace. In the morning I preached from 2 Peter 1:10, "Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." Felt much my confusion, barrenness, and darkness, but some solemnity of soul. In the evening I spoke from Eph. 2:13, "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ." Still a feeling of sensible distance from the Lord, and the feebleness, darkness, and deadness of my soul.

TUESDAY, July 10. Still poorly in body, and in my mind peevish, cold, and barren. At the prayer-meeting in the evening, friends B., H., and C--s engaged in prayer; friend H. leading. Had a little blink in hearing him, but soon lost it: was glad to hear him desirous of an increase of the life and power of God's holy truth in the soul. Heard of the happy death of poor Miss S.; very sorry to hear of her being taken away, she being a very consistent, useful, God-fearing member of the little church at Tetbury. Little did I think, when I baptized her, that I should outlive her.