THE following Letters are for the most part those written by Mr. Hobbs to his own congregation, on various occasions of absence from his pulpit, either on account of ill-health, or for the benefit of change of air. They are now collected and published, in the hope that it may please the Lord to make them profitable to others besides those for whose more immediate benefit they were originally intended.
Mr. Hobbs was frequently solicited by friends to write some account of the way which the Lord had chosen for bringing him out of darkness into His marvelous light, and sending him forth to proclaim the everlasting gospel; but he appeared to feel little inclination to comply with the request, till about a year before his death, when all hesitation was removed, and he commenced the undertaking. Often interrupted by indisposition, the short remainder of his life sufficed to carry him only a little way into his narrative; but the fragment which he has been permitted to leave behind is so deeply interesting, as exhibiting clearly and unmistakably the wondrous working of God's mighty hand, that it has been deemed desirable to make it public, though it was dictated by the author almost with the unstudied freedom of private intercourse, and had not the advantage of his subsequent revision.
May the Lord condescend to accompany this volume with His gracious blessing, and to Him be given the glory due unto His name.
I was born at Pimlico, June 7th, 1796. What follows respecting my early childhood, I have often heard related by my beloved mother. The third day after my birth, she awoke out of sleep; I was lying by her side with halfpence on my eyes, which naturally excited her surprise. The nurse had gone down stairs for a few minutes, and my brother, who was between three and four years old, was left in the room. My mother said to him, 'What have you been doing? He answered, 'Nurse has let me see a baby with halfpence on its eyes, and I have put halfpence on your baby's eyes.' Within a few hours, violent inflammation of the eyes set in, and the medical attendant sent for Dr. Ware. He said that the inflammation was sufficient to destroy the strongest eye in two hours. Blisters, leeches, and fomentations were used; and at the end of three weeks I was so much reduced that the doctor and nurse said I was dead. But my mother would not believe it, and held me in her lap for not less than six hours, when I began to breathe again. I may indeed say with the Apostle that I have been 'in deaths oft,' or very near the gates of death, as will appear by-and-bye. What I have related was the first remarkable deliverance.
I would add, with reference to my eyes, that Dr. Ware entreated my parents not to allow any quack to put me to pain, under the pretence of restoring sight; but he said he should like to see me when I was about ten or eleven years of age. I remember calling on the doctor, in Bridge Street, Blackfriars. He had a perfect recollection of the case, and of the opinion he gave at first; which opinion was fully confirmed.
I have sometimes thought of what the disciples said to our Lord, respecting the blind man whose sight He recovered: 'Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' Our Lord replied, 'Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents; but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.' And may I not say with the Psalmist: 'I am as a wonder unto many; but Thou art my strong refuge?' It is said prophetically of our Lord: 'Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel.'
When I was about two years old, my parents went to live with my maternal grandfather, near Bridgewater, Somersetshire. He wished my father to assist him in the management of his farm. Soon after we arrived, I was sitting one day before the kitchen fire, which, according to the country fashion, was made of wood piled on the hearth, when my brother in play came behind me, and threw me forward on the fire. At that instant a servant came in and caught me up, I having received no material injury. A minute's delay, and I must have been in flames. This was the second almost miraculous deliverance. The gracious eye and preserving providence of my condescending Lord have ever been over me.
I come now to an event which is perhaps one of my earliest recollections. When between four and five years of age, I was standing outside the back-door of the house, when a lad who was employed on the farm, and had been sent on the pony to fetch grist from the mill, asked me if I would like to ride. I said I should. He took me up before him on the saddle, and knowing, as he afterwards confessed, that if he had been seen from any of the windows, he would not have been allowed to do this, he, to avoid observation, rode into the mill-stream, intending to cross it; but when in the middle, I slipped off the horse into the water. It was not very deep, so that he was able to get me out; but if this had happened a few feet further down the stream, I must have been carried through the mill, and of course killed. When the lad brought me into the house, there was much joy at my preservation. Thus was I again delivered, as it were, from the very jaws of death, by my ever-gracious Lord and Master.
Our sojourn in Somersetshire was shorter than had been expected. The family did not find living together quite congenial, and in the autumn of 1801 we returned to London, and my father entered in to business.
My parents, not being rich, considered it desirable that I should learn to do something for myself; and it was thought that the profession of music might be profitable, as well as an amusement to me. When I was exactly five years and three months old, I began to take lessons on the violin. It recurs to my mind that I could not remember to use the little finger to avoid open notes, and to get B on the fourth string, and I was so angry with myself, that I bit my little finger and made it bleed, saying, 'Now I shall remember to use it, as it is sore.' My master was not at all judicious; he taught me by ear, so that I could play above 500 tunes, but all of a light kind of music.
I do not recollect anything else to remark on, until the summer of the year 1804, when my mother went to spend some weeks with her relations in Somersetshire, and took me with her. I enjoyed the change greatly. The singing of the birds, the hum of the insects, the fragrance of the flowers and fields, and all those signs of life and animation which are so perceptible in the country, delighted me beyond description. Indeed, after my return home, I so regretted the loss of what I had enjoyed, as never to feel thoroughly comfortable in London again; the confinement to the house, the smoke, the noise, and other nuisances, vexed and annoyed me extremely. I am compelled to think that this was the first means the Lord was pleased to use in unsettling me as to this world. There was no spiritual life in it; yet I cannot help thinking it was one step towards my being brought out of Egypt. There was certainly a shaking of the dry bones. I began to feel that I wanted something, but I could not tell what. There seemed to be something like a blank in all my pursuits.
When I was eight years old, I began to learn the pianoforte; and I was made to be very diligent never practicing less than six, and sometimes eight hours a day. But I was not happy, though I was blessed with the most kind and affectionate of mothers. I might almost say I was her sole delight. She used to read the notes to me, and I could learn by heart two pages of Cramer or Clementi in a day, so as to be able to practice them alone.
But I did not receive any religious instruction, until God was graciously pleased to fulfill His own promise made to Zion: 'All thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.' My mother attended church when it was convenient and the weather was fine, but my poor father seldom or never went to any place of worship. My mother taught me the Church Catechism when I was very young, but I had no idea of what was meant by it. I used to be very fond and proud of repeating it, because I learned it better, and could say it much more correctly, than either my sister or brother. I was often very angry with them for their stupidity in making omissions or mistakes; and I was but too much encouraged to triumph over them, as I thought myself more clever than they.
I amused myself with toys, like other children, but was always very particular as to my associates. I was very fond of my own mental arithmetic; such as reckoning how many hours or minutes were contained in any given space of time; but my chief delight was to hear reading. Histories and biographies gratified me the most. It is very singular that before I was blessed with the fear of God, I never liked works of fiction or imagination. When any new book was introduced to me, my usual inquiry was, 'Is it true?' I remember that, having been much amused with Robinson Crusoe, it was long before I would believe that it was not true; and when the conviction was forced upon me, I cried with disappointment. I would leave a game of play with my young companions at any time to be read to, and my dear mother used to oblige me by reading to me as much as she could.
When I was a child, I was very fond of visiting the counting-house of a neighbor, and I could go there by myself. One of the partners, who was a gentlemanly and well-informed man, was very kind to me, and took a great deal of pains to explain different things to me, so that I gained much information from him. I have sat on a high stool by the desk for hours, and been much amused by hearing the clerks post the books, and listening to the conversation on various subjects of those who went in and out.
I took an interest in politics beyond my years, and was always a staunch Tory. I well remember the death of William Pitt and Charles Fox; and also Sir Francis Burdett being sent to the Tower by a warrant of the House of Commons for breach of privilege.
I am now about to relate two events in which the tender care and watchful eye of my ever-gracious and preserving God were exercised towards me, while as yet I knew Him not, nor had any desire after the knowledge of Him or His ways.
It was on a Saturday that I perfectly remember visiting the neighbor's premises before mentioned. I entered the shop, and must have gone straight to an opening in the floor, known as the flap, and which was open at the time. I remember feeling myself fall, but was unconscious of the result. I understand that I was carried home; but I have no recollection of any occurrence till the next morning (Sunday), when I remember the doctor giving me some medicine, but I was in no wise injured by the fall, and only felt a little stiff. There was a flight of stone steps outside the house, leading from the street to the cellar into which I fell, so that if I had struck my head against one of them in falling, I must in all probability have been killed.
After an interval of three or four years, I fell again in a similar way through the same hole. The people who were engaged in the cellar heard the noise, and supposed that some ropes had fallen down; but to their great astonishment, I immediately got up and made my appearance. I had fallen sideways on a pulley used for rolling casks on. I was not at all hurt, and did not tell my mother what had happened till some hours after, that I might not alarm her. May I not say with Jude, 'Preserved in Jesus Christ?' Yes, preserved until called by the God of all grace. And all this time I was dead in trespasses and sins, an enemy to God, and alienated from Him through the ignorance that was in me.
I will now relate how Satan worked upon, and in my corrupt nature in early childhood. There is a difference between the workings of Satan while we are in a state of nature, and that which takes place after a poor sinner is called by Divine grace. In the former case, he leads mankind, whatever may be their age or condition, captive at his will. They are his slaves; for, 'of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.' But when the strong man armed has been cast out of the palace, he assails by way of temptation. I mean that the enemy leads all unregenerated persons with the consent of their will; but the renewed children of God are subject to his fiery darts and cruel temptations: so that there is a difference between captivity to sin and Satan, and temptation to evil. Hence the petition: 'Lead us not into temptation.'
When I was in Somersetshire, as before related, I frequently heard the work-people and servants about the farm talk of witches and witchcraft, in which they had a superstitious belief. There was a person in Devonshire who professed to have the power of controlling the witches. The surplice of the clergyman of the parish had been stolen, but the laundress believed that a poor woman had got it away by witchcraft, and applied about it to the person just mentioned. These stories used to amuse me very much; and I recollect hearing a man say that if any one wished to possess the black art, he must sell himself to the wicked one; and that this could be accomplished by going round a church seven times, and blaspheming the name of God at every pinnacle. Now, who that is unacquainted with the evil of sin in his own heart, would or could believe that a child, young as I then was, could so far sin against God as to desire to possess this abominable power? Yes, he who now dictates this narrative was thus held in captivity by sin and Satan; for after my return to London I often used to think, 'I wish I was a witch.' And I am quite sure that if I had not been prevented by circumstances which rendered it impossible, I should have tried the horrible experiment suggested. I had not the slightest thought about sin or wickedness; I only wanted to gratify my own diabolical wishes. Could anything less than almighty, free, sovereign grace, have ever rescued such a brand from the burning? No, I am quite sure that I never should have turned to, or have sought after God, if He, in His matchless mercy, had not condescended to seek after me. This and other sins of my childhood were laid to my charge when God convinced me of my state as a sinner; and they furnished awful matter for the accusations of Satan and a guilty conscience.
I must mention another circumstance, which may appear to some a mere trifle, but which, when afterwards I found myself in the strong hand of Divine Justice, was to me very fearful. A lad whom I sometimes meet, the nephew of a neighbor in London, one day showed me a small morocco pocket-book. I wished to possess it, and he said he would give it me, if I would bring him my pockets full of chestnuts, an article in which my father dealt. I promised to bring them, and I well remember taking an opportunity, when I thought no one could see me, of filling my trousers' pockets quite full, and giving them to him. Now this circumstance shows that there must have been something like natural conscience in me. I must have known it was wrong, or else why should I have been afraid or ashamed of any one's seeing me take them? I certainly thought nothing about sin; but afterwards when the guilt of sin was charged home upon my conscience by an application of the holy, righteous law of God, I was made to see and feel that I was a thief.
From my earliest recollection I have been the subject of many illnesses, my constitution being naturally delicate. I have often been brought very low; according to all human appearance, very near to the gates of death; but my gracious God has been pleased from time to time so to strengthen and recover me, that I continue until now. For several years during the month of March and part of April I was visited with an attack of severe pain in the head. I could eat, drink, and converse, if my head was held tightly; but if I attempted to move, I suffered an agony. I was carried up and down stairs every day, not being able to bear the pain of moving myself. In addition to our regular medical man, a fresh physician was consulted every year. One said it was an extension of the muscles of the head; another, that it was water on the head; others all gave different opinions; and I used to be brought so low with leeching and blistering that it was scarcely thought I could recover.
I hope never to forget the great goodness of God to me in this respect, even before I knew anything of myself as a sinner, or of Christ as a Saviour, that He has been pleased from time to time to incline one kind friend after another to minister to my comfort. A young lady, about seven years older than myself, the daughter of the friend and neighbor before mentioned, used to come almost every day when I was ill, to read to me some amusing book, and cheer me by her lively conversation. When I was in health, I visited my friend's house almost daily, and always received a cordial welcome. I cannot fully express the sense of obligation that I feel to this family for their kindness to me during my childhood.
I continued to practice the piano, and learned some duets, which I used to play with my kind friend. I had a voice for singing at that time, and sang some of Braham's songs, while she played the accompaniments.
There was a gentleman, the son of a banker, who used to call on me; he also played the piano, but I could play better than he; and I never would alter the time of a duet to meet his deficiencies; but when I played with my female friend, if she was at fault, I always endeavored to cover it. The truth is, I was much more fond of the company of ladies than gentlemen; but I now trace in this a fruit of the corruption of our fallen nature.
It was at the house of my friend so often mentioned that I was first introduced to Captain Duckett, whom I afterwards found to be a well-known hearer of Mr. Huntington. I mention this, because he knew me when I was in the state of nature, and of the world. Years after this, when the Lord had been gracious to me, and after I had commenced speaking in His name, I met him at the house of another friend, when he both rejoiced and wept at the goodness of God to me. I had frequently met him, and had often joined with those who condemned and ridiculed his religion.
I am now about to relate an event, or rather a train of events, in which I have since clearly seen that the hand of the Lord towards me was conspicuously displayed. Satan was permitted to lay a snare for me, which must have ended in the final destruction of both body and soul, if the mercy of that gracious God, whom at that time I neither knew nor acknowledged, had not delivered me. It was a deliverance indeed, as will appear by the sequel.
During my frequent visits to the counting-house before spoken of, I was introduced to Mr. B., a gentleman connected with a large house of business in the City. He soon became deeply interested in me, expressing a very warm attachment to me, and often called on me. He entered into my musical pursuits; but his main object was conversation with me, which soon attracted my very deep attention. I am quite sure that his motives were perfectly sincere, and that he had a feeling of real regard for me; but the enemy of souls was at work through him as an instrument. He frequently read to me interesting pieces of poetry, and extracts from various authors. He often talked about the beauties of creation, and the one only true God, the glorious and incomprehensible Creator.
Such conversations, being perfectly new to me, drew my mind towards him, and furnished matter for contemplation. I afterwards learned that he told different friends that I had a mind capable of receiving impressions beyond my years. I knew him for some time before he introduced the subject of religion; but when he did so, he endeavored to convince me that it was the most important matter that could occupy the human mind. He told me that God had given me reasoning powers sufficient to enable me to judge and decide for myself as to religion, whether natural or revealed. He led me to believe that the human mind was the highest and noblest thing in existence. He admitted that Scripture was a revelation made by God to men concerning Himself and all creation; and asserted that no supernatural teaching was necessary to our forming a right judgment as to its meaning. He extolled philosophy and rationalism above everything; and said that by the right use of our senses we might arrive at the greatest measure of happiness in this world, and in that which is to come.
It need not be wondered at that such teaching was very gratifying to my poor carnal mind. I used to spend hours in thinking over what I had been told.
After I had been acquainted with him some time, he told me that he was a Unitarian; which meant, he said, that he believed in one only true God, and that this was the only scriptural religion. 'As to the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity,' said he, 'let me appeal to your own common sense. Is it possible that three can be one?' I replied, 'Certainly not; it is contrary to common sense.' 'Well then,' he said, 'the church that you attend holds this most unreasonable doctrine.' And I, through the working of Satan on my darkened understanding and perverted carnal mind, was delighted to believe all that I was told.
I forbear to relate the manner in which he explained away the true meaning of all those passages which set forth the Divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Divine Personality of the Holy Ghost. I do so because the arguments of the Unitarians are so subtle, that if any one should read these recollections after my death, they might be led astray even as I was. And I would take this opportunity of remarking to all inquirers after Divine truth, that it is a very unsafe practice to read erroneous authors for the purpose of finding out and confuting their errors. It seems to me to be like tempting the God of truth. O my dear reader, do not trifle with Divine truth, by seeking to understand error!
But to proceed. I well remember when Mr. B. first proposed to my parents to introduce me to a circle of friends, whose acquaintance, he said, would be a very great advantage to me; that I should find food for a mind which, he was pleased to say, was capable of receiving a kind of instruction which it was not possible I could obtain at home; and that a more enlarged acquaintance with men and things would be very gratifying to me, afford me much amusement, and be very useful hereafter. He also said he should like to take me to the place of worship which he attended. This gilded bait delighted my mistaken parents, and they thought themselves only too happy in committing the training of their child to a gentleman who was so willing to undertake it, and so capable of carrying it out. Besides, as they pointed out to me, such disinterested kindness was but rarely met with. Of course I was well pleased to be caught in this snare of Satan; as Solomon says: 'He goeth after her' (a false church) 'straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks.' As to what is commonly called morality, I never witnessed, either in Mr. B. or any of his friends, the slightest deviation from the most strict propriety of conduct.
I was soon taken to the Unitarian Chapel in Essex Street, Strand, where Dr. Belsham was the minister, to whom I was introduced; as also to a very aged Unitarian minister, Dr. Lindsay, who stroked my head, and told me to love God, and God would love me. I became acquainted also with a celebrated author, Dr. Carpenter, of Exeter, who presented me with some volumes of Unitarian sermons, charging me to have them carefully read, and to study them deeply.
Mr. B. frequently took me to private concerts; the society, music, and singing amused me a good deal. And here I must not forbear to relate that in one particular I acted with great craftiness and sad deception towards my poor well-meaning parents. They were anxious that I should continue my study of music; and I was at this time taking lessons of Mr. Jacobs, the then highly-esteemed organist of Surrey Chapel. I have gone to bed at eight o'clock, risen again in the night, not knowing the time, and have practiced till morning. I remember that on one occasion, when I first sat down on the music stool, I heard the watchman cry, 'Twelve o'clock;' and I remained practicing Clementi's Octave Lesson and Cramer's Exercises till seven.
But sometimes it would happen that with all this practice I could not get me lesson perfect for the master; when, in several instances, I adopted the following artifice. My piano was an old-fashioned square one of Broadwood's. There was a tuning hammer left in the end. I used to raise the cover, and knowing that each note was sounded by two strings, I gave two of the pegs, somewhere about the middle of the instrument, a sharp turn, so as to break the strings, then closed the piano as if nothing had happened. After breakfast I would sit down, and begin to play. It was soon discovered that one of the notes would not sound, at which I appeared surprised. But this answered my purpose, as that day was lost in sending for the tuner, and he did not always come the next. By this deception I gained my object of going out with my friend in the evening, and furnishing myself with an excuse for not having my lesson ready. Oh! how deceitful is sin, both as to its first appearance, and all its various ramifications. This will be found both by young and old.
My love of pleasure had at this time arrived at a degree of intensity which I believe is not very common in lads of the age I then was. Society, conversation, going out--in a word, pursuing the charms and allurements of the world, was all that delighted me. Mr. B. would often call for me at five or six o'clock in the evening to take me to various friends of his. I went several times to Dr. Pett's of Hackney, where I met Mrs. Barbauld, the well-known authoress of Early Lessons for Children, and her husband, Dr. and Miss Aikin, the celebrated traveler Mungo Park and his sister, and other literary persons, too many for me to remember. Sometimes music, sometimes reading, scientific conversation, and the discussion of the awful errors of Unitarianism, occupied the evenings till twelve or one o'clock.
At other times Mr. B. would take me to the suburban residences of his friends. I well remember, when Vauxhall Gardens vied as a place of public amusement with Ranelagh, we left home one evening in the month of July to visit a friend at Vauxhall, whose grounds extended to the river. Our object was to sit out of doors to hear the nightingale, and eat radishes, which we gathered and dipped in the water. Such was the neighborhood of Vauxhall at the time to which I refer. We frequently visited other friends at Camberwell, Peckham, Norwood, and Dulwich, rising at four o'clock in the morning, walking several miles before breakfast to enjoy the fresh air, and then returning by one of the morning coaches. I once dined at the Duke of Grafton's, and went several times to Timothy Brown's, the partner of the celebrated brewer, Mr. Whitbread, M. P.
In all this, self-gratification was my only aim. I remember that on one occasion my pride had a severe check. My friend was acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Dakin, one of the minor canons of Westminster, to whom he took me one Sunday, and laughingly said, 'Here I have brought you a youth that will be more than a match for you in divinity.' To which he coolly replied, 'Sir, I esteem you very highly as a philosopher and a scientific friend, but I am grieved that you should have poisoned the mind of this young gentleman with your dangerous errors.' Turning to me, he said, 'My young friend, I will not hear a word you may have to say upon the sacred subject of the Trinity.' Oh! this cut down my pride with a witness. I only wanted an opportunity to show off my imaginary knowledge (which was darker than darkness itself) in argument with a clergyman of the Established Church.
There is one thing more that I cannot omit to mention, that my delight in female society increased greatly with my years. No music pleased me half so much as the female voice. I remember on two occasions, when young friends of mine, with whom I had spent much pleasurable time, married, I was almost inconsolable for a while, saying that I should never enjoy myself again, having lost their society. I knew not at that time the secret evil that was lurking in my fallen nature, but God has in mercy shown it me since.
Before proceeding further with my early recollections, I would pause to reflect a little upon my true state and condition at this period. As a child of Adam, I was involved in all the tremendous consequences of his sin and disobedience. His act was my act, his guilt my guilt, his state in all respects after the fall was my state by imputation, for by the disobedience of one many were made sinners. Besides, Adam begat a son in his own image, after his own likeness; and all his posterity are alike involved in his guilt, alike dead in trespasses and sins, alike alienated from God by wicked works, alike blinded through the darkness of ignorance that is in them, enemies to God, hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, led captive by Satan at his will, having the conscience seared with a hot iron, twice dead to God, and to all righteousness and true holiness. Add to this, that we are all born in a state of total ignorance of this our sad condition, spiritually dead, consequently incapable of performing any spiritual act, and subject to temporal death, as it is appointed unto all men once to die. In this total alienation from God must consist the state of eternal death; it is a final separation from Him who is the fountain of all life, light, and love.
Being thus born into the world, I necessarily pursued one undeviating course of sin and iniquity. Actual transgression is the fruit of original sin; the tree being corrupt, of necessity all its fruit must be corrupt. Hence I went astray from the womb, speaking lies; and so I should have continued to the end, had not the free, sovereign, discriminating grace of God rescued me, by a display of almighty power, from that state of bondage to sin, to self, to Satan, and the world, in which I was held, under the curse and condemnation of a broken law. But of this I was totally ignorant, until enlightened from above with the light of the living.
That the god of this world, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience, is possessed of a very extensive knowledge of the whole creation of God, I have no doubt. He knows the state of innocence in which he was created; he is fully aware of his fall from that state through sin; but Satan can never repent. That he is well acquainted with men in general, and with those things that concern them, I think there can be no question. I have often wondered whether Satan, who is continually going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it, has any means of knowing who among the fallen sons and daughters of Adam are loved by God with an everlasting love, before that love is openly manifested in their behalf. Perhaps the peculiar care that God takes of His own, while they are yet strangers to Him (for they are said to be preserved in Jesus Christ), may be so noticed by Satan as to excite his jealousy against the objects of God's choice; for it seems to me that many of the Lord's redeemed ones, while in the state of nature, have been driven on to a greater degree of sin and opposition against God than others. Abraham was an idolater, and Paul did many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. I, too, at the time to which I am now referring, was very young in years, but old in sin.
On looking back to this period, it often seems to me that Satan was permitted to crowd into a few years of my existence all the evil thoughts and desires and general pollution of man's nature. I was not only full of all real and imaginary evil, but I was led by Satan and unbelief to dishonor that worthy Name by the which all the saints are called, to deny the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He hath sent. For 'he that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father;' and if either of the adorable Persons in the glorious Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, is denied, the whole Godhead is rejected; for there is no God, to the exclusion of either of the glorious Persons of the Trinity in Unity. Reader, may you be led with myself to see, contemplate, and feel the awful state in which I was; and I must have remained in that awful state to all eternity, had not matchless grace interposed to rescue me as a brand from the burning.
I will now proceed, as the Lord is pleased to enable me, to relate the way and manner in which He condescended to deliver me from the power of darkness, and to translate me into the kingdom of His dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. And, in doing this, I would not rely upon a treacherous memory. How many of God's mercies do I continually forget! But there are two things which encourage me to proceed in this undertaking. First, I know that what God does is done for ever. Abraham could never forget that God called him from Ur of the Chaldees; Jacob could never forget the God of Bethel; nor could Moses forget the burning bush, or the good will of Him that dwelt in it. And David says, 'This is my comfort in my affliction, for Thy word hath quickened me.' Some of God's peculiar dealings with His people are written, as it were, not with ink and paper, but in fleshly tables of their hearts; and there are some things which, I feel, I can never forget.
Secondly, I am encouraged by our Lord's promise to His disciples: 'The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' A very dear friend of mine, who is now in glory, used to admire my memory; but I always told him it was not through the power of the natural faculty of memory that I was enabled to repeat much of God's word, for sometimes I felt as though I could not remember half-a-dozen texts; but that the Lord was graciously pleased to fulfill in my behalf the promise just referred to.
Though, as I have before related, I used to go with Mr. B. to the Unitarian Chapel, I still continued at times to accompany my mother to church. One such occasion, when attending at Christ Church, Newgate Street, I can never forget. The Rev. Samuel Crowther, who was then the minister of that church, took the following words of our Lord for his text: 'For if ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins.' (John 8:24) I do not remember any portion of the sermon; it was the text, together with these words, 'Ye shall die in your sins: whither I go, ye cannot come,' (ver. 21) that was accompanied with such a Divine power as I had never experienced before. It came like a flash of lightning, suddenly. Like Paul, I saw a great light shining round about me; that is, my understanding was suddenly enlightened, and I saw in a moment that the Lord Jesus Christ, whom I had so wickedly and impiously denied, is the true God and eternal life. I could not attend to the sermon, but several texts were brought to my mind. I must have known them before; but they never had appeared to me as I now saw them, all confirming that great, that glorious, that fundamental truth, that the Child born and the Son given is indeed the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace; that He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
As I have said, I knew all these and other such texts before; but I never knew them in their true, proper sense and meaning. I had been accustomed to think that wherever the Saviour was spoken of as God, it was only in a figurative sense, ('As there be gods many, and lords many.' Angels are called gods: 'Worship Him all ye gods.' Magistrates and kings are called gods: 'I have said, Ye are gods, and all of you are children of the Most High): or that when the term God was applied to the Saviour, it was nothing more than a poetical licence. But I now saw, as clear as the sun, that it was He, the eternal I AM, that appeared to Moses in the bush, and said, 'I AM THAT I AM;' which signifies, I am what I ever was, and I ever shall be what I now am, the self-existent and independent JEHOVAH. These words occupied my mind during the sermon, and when I returned home I was continually meditating upon the Scripture testimonies concerning the Godhead and Divine Personality of the Saviour. Oh! how different did these testimonies now appear to me. It is written: 'The entrance of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple.'
Here I wish to remark that I had no particular discovery of the evil of sin. I knew nothing as yet of the plague of my own heart; but I clearly saw, and was fully convinced, that that Almighty Saviour, whose Godhead I had been accustomed to deny and dishonor, is the self-existent and independent JEHOVAH, over all, God blessed for evermore.
Although, as I said, I had no particular discovery of the evil of sin, yet I was filled with an indefinable sense of fear, a solemn awe of Him whose holy name I had so dishonored. Now, though there was nothing saving in this discovery, yet I believe it was the commencement of that Divine teaching which the Lord has been graciously pleased to favor me with. As I had not yet any knowledge of my need of a Saviour, His finished salvation was not yet brought to my mind; it was His eternal Godhead and distinct Personality that was revealed to me; and I believe that such teaching is necessary to the salvation of a poor sinner. When Peter made that noble confession, 'Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,' our Lord replied, 'Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter,'--that is, a lively stone in mercy's building,--'and upon this rock'--that is, Himself; for 'Who is a rock, save our God?' and Paul says, 'That rock was Christ'--'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' I believe that no sinner can ever be saved until he is brought to know and believe that Jesus Christ is the great mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh, the eternal Son of God, and that He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.
I went on meditating on these glorious truths for exactly one week. I had no particular inward feeling, but my mind was occupied in what appeared to me to be the most sublime contemplation.
On the Sunday following that of which I have been speaking, I went again to the same church, when Mr. Crowther took for his text, Rom. 6:23, 'For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.' As before, the sermon did not engage my attention. It was God's own word which was brought home to my heart with a convincing power such as I had never before felt--'The wages of sin is death.' I had never till now felt that I was a sinner. My ideas of sin had always been very loose and undefined. I do not know that I had ever had any very serious thoughts about sin. I knew there was such a thing; but what it meant had never been any real concern to me. But now, while the minister was preaching, the word Sin, Sin, rested upon my mind. I said to myself, 'What is it? Surely it is something very terrible, as its wages is death.' The latter part of the text did not at all occupy my thoughts; it was the word SIN.
After I returned home, I continued to be almost constantly thinking about sin; and it occurred to me that whatever we did contrary to God's commandments, must be sin; and whatever we omitted to do, that was enjoined by Him in His Word, that this also must be sin. Such were some of my first ideas concerning the nature of sin.
But this was soon followed up by such reflections as these: 'Why, I have done many things which I knew were wrong, and omitted to do that which I knew was right.' I well remember that the following words, used in the Church Service, rested as a heavy burden upon my mind: 'We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.' I knew that I had often been very passionate, had told many lies, and done many other things which I now knew, and began in some measure to feel, were sinful.
An inexpressible sense of fear now began to possess my mind, which discovered itself in my conduct thus. Mr. B., the Unitarian of whom I have before spoken, called on me a day or two after the second Sunday just referred to, to take me out with him as usual; but, as I had expected him, I before told my mother that I was ill, and went to bed. I felt that it was impossible for me ever to go out with him again. But as he left a message that he would call again in a day or two, I was determined that I would have a cold, and be ill. I knew that damp feet always gave me cold; and the next day when I was up, I poured water into my shoes. This answered my purposed, for I soon had a severe cold, which frightened my mother, and I was confined to my room.
I could speak more freely to my dear mother than to any one; and I told her that when I got well I could never go out again with Mr. B., because his religion was quite wrong. 'He denies that the Lord Jesus Christ is God,' I said; 'and you know that the Bible and the Prayer Book tell us that Christ is God, and I am quite sure that He is; and I do feel that it is the most awful thing in the world to deny this truth.' My mother seemed very must vexed with me, and so did my father, when he knew my resolution. They said that I was throwing away a very advantageous prospect; that Mr. B. was a rich man, that he had no family, and they were fully persuaded that he intended to provide for me very handsomely; and that they should be very angry if I was so foolish. What business had I to interfere with religion? People would differ in their views. And for some time after this, I was often scolded for my perverseness. But that gracious God whom I knew not then, was pleased to deliver me out of this snare of the devil; and the next time I met Mr. B. I was enabled to tell him plainly that I could never go with him again. This was a sore trial to my young mind, for I had a great regard for him, he had been so very kind to me; but the fear of God's anger so worked in me, that I could not consent to his wishes. I was enabled to answer his arguments, and told him that they were all mere sophistry, that he and all the Unitarians were heretics, and that they must all perish in their sins, if they died in the faith of that lie which they held. After this, Mr. B. never called again. I never met him more. My friends were more displeased with me than ever; but my mother soon forgave me. Who can be surprised at a mother's feelings towards her child? I believe that she loved me more than her other children.
From this time my life became more monotonous. I had very few acquaintances. And this state of things suited my feelings; for though I had little or no knowledge of the doctrines of the Bible, except that glorious truth of a Trinity of Persons in the One only true God, I began to feel and to think more deeply about my future state. I had no godly friends or acquaintances to help me either by their conversation or example; no one who could answer any inquiry that I might wish to make about spiritual and eternal things. Those children who are blessed with godly parents have much, very much, to be thankful for: for although it is true, quite true, that parents cannot communicate grace to their offspring, yet the example and conversation of godly parents is a great favor bestowed upon them. Whatever young people may learn of the letter of Divine truth while they are in a state of nature, they will have to give up, or at least to learn over again experimentally, when God condescends to teach them Himself. Yet I must think it a great blessing when young people have their minds stored with the Word of God.
I possessed none of these advantages; and I believe it was best for me, as God was graciously pleased to teach me Himself, without human instrumentality, and thereby to fit me for the work to which He afterwards called me. I do not mean by these remarks to imply that my parents altogether rejected the Word of God; but they were strangers to that power in which His kingdom stands. I soon discovered this, after the Lord began to teach me Himself.
Now a comparatively solitary life was most congenial to my state of mind. I began to feel that I was a sinner before God; and that text, 'The wages of sin is death,' was almost perpetually sounding in my heart; together with, 'God is angry with the wicked every day.' I was led to see that temporal death was not annihilation; that there must be an existence hereafter; and then, if God was angry with me as a sinner, how could I endure His wrath for ever? I used to think a great deal about the wrath of God, and thought I felt it already. This produced in me at times a remarkable state of fear. I was sent to bed at eight o'clock; and sometimes, after falling asleep, I was awakened by the neighbors shutting up their shops, and I would spring out of bed, and run down stairs in my night-clothes, saying that I thought thieves were breaking into the house. But the fact was, I was afraid that I should die or be killed, and then what would become of me?
I never could disclose any of my feelings at this time, no, not even to my mother, as I was sure that no one could understand me. But I gradually sank lower and lower under a sense of sin, though nobody had ever told me that I was a sinner. I felt that my sins were a heavy burden upon my heart, too heavy for me to bear, and I dreaded the eternal wrath of God. That awful passage, 'Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them,' frequently sounded in my ears.
Under this heavy distress of mind, my bodily strength, which was never very great, began to give way. My music was a great annoyance to me; and my affectionate mother, perceiving that my health was fast sinking, kindly consented to my leaving off practicing it. I now found the truth of what the Psalmist says, 'When Thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, Thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth;' and of that in Isaiah, 'All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field; the grass withereth the flower fadeth, because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it.'
My kind mother had always been ready to read for my amusement either history or biography, of which I was very fond; but when the Lord was pleased to set my iniquities before Him, my secret sins in the light of His countenance, I lost my taste for this and every other kind of amusement. I used to ask my mother to read the Bible to me. She would turn to the historical parts, but I generally begged her to read Job or the Psalms. We had no religious books, except The Pilgrim's Progress, Blair's Sermons, and Hervey's Meditations. The sermons were now read on Sunday evenings, instead of the History of England, but I found a great deficiency in them. What it was, or how it was, I could not then tell, only they were not to me like the Bible, and I did not care to hear them read.
At this time I had a very great reverence for the Word of God, firmly believing that the whole of it was true; and I now began to learn a lesson, which was, and still is, very useful to me, namely, that there is the greatest difference between hearing God's Word read, and having it applied by His own almighty power to the mind and conscience. When the promises were read, they made no impression either on my heart or memory. And why? Because I was then under the law. God was teaching me out of His law; and 'what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.' I used to wonder why the wicked were not punished in this life, but, as before noticed, that text which says, 'The wages of sin is death,' continually followed me. I sometimes heard people say that it was 'a happy deliverance,' when persons who had suffered much from pain and sickness were taken out of this world by death; but believing that the wages of sin is death, it appeared to me that death must be a penal sentence, a punishment for sin, and that it has an eternal duration; and I used to think, What are the sufferings of this world in comparison of that Divine wrath which follows death?
I became more and more distressed in my mind; and what seemed to add to my affliction was that I could not mention my feelings to any one. I used to think to myself, Why was I ever born? Why did I not die before I had committed any sin? Like Job, I was ready to curse the day of my birth, such very wicked thoughts would possess my mind. I hated the Almighty, as a cruel, tyrannical being. Self-pity worked to a very great extent, and all this sunk me lower and lower under a sense of guilt. When the sentence of a broken law, the wrath of God revealed therein, a guilty conscience, the fear of death, the workings of sin, and the temptations of Satan all meet together, a poor, wretched, condemned sinner feels as if he must be swallowed up every moment. Such was my sad experience. I could enlarge much more in describing the sorrowful days and sleepless nights which I passed when God's wrath lay heavy upon me, and His hand pressed me sore, but I forbear, lest it should seem that I say too much.
I will now relate, as the Lord is graciously pleased to enable me, how He delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling; how He brought me up out of the horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, set my feet upon a rock, established my goings, and put a new song into my mouth, even praise unto our God.
I perfectly recollect one evening, when I was left alone for several hours, meditating on my sad condition, with a mind as full of rebellion against God as sin and Satan could make it, that God's holy, righteous law was brought before my mind in a most extraordinary manner. It seemed to me like a map laid out before me. Each of the ten commandments occupied my mind separately; and it was as if a voice sounded in my conscience, 'You have broken every one of these.' To which I replied, 'Not so: there are several of the commandments I have never broken, particularly the first three and the seventh; and therefore I cannot be as guilty as many others, who have broken all of them:' when the following words were, as it were, sounded in my ears: 'Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.' This was followed by these words: 'The law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin;' and such light broke in upon my understanding as I had never experienced before. I was led to see that 'the thought of foolishness is sin;' that it is not necessary that the outward sin should be committed, to bring the sinner under condemnation; but that the inward thought of the mind, the inward desire of the heart, the gratification which impure and unholy thoughts afford to the heart, that impure source from which they all proceed, is, in the eye of the law, in the sight of a just and holy God, sin, even that sin which subjects the sinner to temporal and eternal death. This completely stopped my mouth. I had nothing to say why the sentence should not take its full effect upon poor wretched me.
I did indeed feel that I was the chief of sinners; and yet my obdurate heart was so hard and impenitent, that I never so much as thought of putting up one petition for God's mercy to be extended to me. I had never yet cried to God for mercy, for I was so convinced that He was unchangeable in His justice and truth, that I could not ask Him to mitigate the righteous sentence pronounced in His Word against sin and sinners. As I said before, I never knew anything about religion in theory, not having any acquaintances who could instruct me by their conversation concerning the way of salvation. All I knew of a just and holy God, and of myself as a transgressor, was what He was pleased to teach me by the application of His own Word in secret.
I now felt as if I was sinking through the floor. It seemed to me as if I was descending fathoms every moment, and I really thought that I was going into the pit of destruction; when all of a sudden these words sounded in my heart with such a life-giving power as I had never before known: 'Israel shall be saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.' A momentary thought passed through my mind, 'What good can the salvation of Israel do me?' This was immediately followed with, 'I have saved thee with an everlasting salvation.' Faith came by hearing. It was an appropriating faith; and I believe, as firmly as I did my own existence, that I was saved with an everlasting salvation. All my guilt, and all my fear, and shame, and sense of sin were taken away in a moment. Wrath flowed out, and everlasting love flowed in: and I became as happy as I believe it is possible for a poor sinner, saved by sovereign grace, to be in this time state.
And thus it is manifest that neither my conviction of sin, nor the revelation of God's pardoning love, came to me through human instrumentality. I was as ignorant of the plan of salvation as it was possible to be; but it pleased God to reveal His Son in my heart. I heard no sound, no articulate voice, and yet I knew that it was the voice of the Chief Shepherd speaking to my heart, by the power that attended it. It communicated life; as it is written: 'The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live.' It wrought faith in my heart, so that I was constrained to believe that I was indeed saved with an everlasting salvation.
I had very little, or no knowledge of gospel truth. This came afterwards. 'The entrance of Thy words giveth light, it giveth understanding unto the simple.' God wrought His own work in me, and then condescended to shine in my heart, giving me the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Thus experience came first, and a knowledge of that experience followed. He first gave me Divine wisdom, and then gave me understanding to know what He had done for me. This came by degrees. He shone upon His word, and gave me an understanding to know Him that is true. I received, as John says, 'an unction from the Holy One,' and the Scriptures of Divine truth were by little and little unfolded to my mind and understanding, so that I saw, I may say, almost day by day, greater glory, excellency, beauty and preciousness in the Person of my adorable Lord and Saviour. I used to wonder at the light which seemed to shine brighter and brighter. This afforded me such sweet entertainment as I can never describe. I frequently said, 'Lord, what is it?' The whole work seemed to me so wonderful. But God was fulfilling His own gracious word of promise: 'I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.' This I have experienced, both in grace and providence, more or less, to the present time.
I cannot too much insist upon the efficacy of Divine teaching. I have found it to be all-sufficient. Not that I would undervalue human instrumentality. No: God forbid! for He promises, 'I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.' But I am quite sure of this, that all human teaching with respect to Divine things, if unaccompanied with Divine power, is useless, yea, worse than useless; for if the blind lead the blind, both must fall into the ditch.
After this wonderful deliverance from sin and guilt, from the wrath of God, from the curse and condemnation of a broken law, after I was thus turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, I began to tell those about me of what God had done for my soul. But it appeared so strange and unaccountable, that they asked me what I was talking about. My mother told me afterwards that they really thought I had gone out of my mind. She had observed with much pain the low and melancholy state of mind I had been in, so different, as she said, from my natural disposition; and then, all of a sudden, I became so unaccountably happy, that she thought I had certainly lost my senses. Besides, I repeated so much Scripture, which they had no idea that I knew; and what I told them I had experienced was usually confirmed by some text. This astonished those who heard me. Let not the reader suppose there was anything miraculous in this. It was, I believe, the fulfillment of a gracious promise made by our Lord to His disciples, and which promise He has continued to fulfill in my experience to the present time: 'When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth;' and again: 'He shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.' No doubt I had at different times heard the passages read which I quoted, and these, I believe, were brought to my remembrance, as expressed in the promise.
Thus the Lord was graciously pleased to make known to me His great salvation. The effects were wonderful indeed. Instead of constant grief and sorrow, I was blessed with joy unspeakable and full of glory; instead of despondency, I was begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; instead of continual terror and fear, the peace of God ruled and reigned in my heart. I could truly say with the Church of old, 'O Lord, I will praise Thee; for though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me.' The Bible seemed to me to be quite another book from what it was when I was under the law. My meditation was then principally confined to the threatening portions of God's most holy Word; but now the promises flowed into my heart with a power and sweetness which I cannot express; and they all seemed to be my own, as though they were spoken to me. Faith was enabled to receive, appropriate, and apply them all to myself; as the Apostle says, 'All things are yours...and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's.'
The wonderful union subsisting between the Saviour and His Church, and which is so blessedly set forth in the Word of God under a great variety of emblems, was unfolded to my understanding and heart. The glorious truths of the everlasting gospel seemed to shine clearer than the sun. One text after another was continually opening to my mind, which afforded me such sweet entertainment, that I can never fully describe it. I seemed day and night to be favored with communion with my ever-adorable and most merciful Saviour. I could say with the Psalmist: 'I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.' I was thus indulged for about six months after my great deliverance. I do not think that I had a single doubt, or fear, or uneasy thought about my present or future state for that period.
As I appeared so happy, and my health greatly improved, it was thought that I ought to return to my music. This I willingly consented to, as I wished to oblige my parents, especially my dear mother. I again took lessons of Mr. Jacobs, and I had three pupils. But I soon found this employment irksome to me; yet I did not complain of it, as I thought I ought to do something. But it reminded me of the empty, vain, carnal associations I had been formerly accustomed to. I did not like to hear the sound of a pianoforte for some years: I used to think that my feelings must be something like those of a person who disliked and dreaded to pass the public house after being brought to fear God, because it had been a source of temptation to him in former days. Such was then my case with respect to musical entertainments.
Although there was no profession of religion made in our family, yet my dear mother had taught me to kneel down at bed-time and say my prayers, which consisted in repeating the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, Addison's hymn, 'The Lord my pasture shall prepare,' and one of Dr. Watt's hymns for children, beginning, 'Why should I love my sports so well?' But when the Lord was pleased to charge the guilt of sin home upon my conscience, I did not like to repeat the Lord's Prayer, as I feared that God was not my Father; but after He had condescended to shed abroad His own precious love in my heart, as the fruit and effect of the forgiveness of sins, I could say indeed, 'My God, my Father, and the Rock of my salvation.' I soon began to find that forms of prayer were not sufficient for me; and I used to enjoy such wonderful communion with the Father and with His dearly beloved Son, as I can never describe. That promise was sweetly fulfilled to me, 'I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications.' I was favored with such answers to prayer as often astonished me. Whatever I asked for, my gracious God was pleased to grant me. This blessed state of almost supreme happiness was, I believe, what is intended in Scripture by the former rain coming down in its season.
I well remember that after this I awoke one morning in what then appeared to me a most remarkable state of mind. All my comfort and enjoyment was gone. I did not feel any sense of Divine displeasure; it was not the guilt of sin; but I had lost the presence of my gracious God and Saviour. Like the Church of old, I sought Him, but I could not find Him; I called Him, but He gave me no answer. I wondered how it was. I had thought before that I should never have to mourn the absence of my best Friend. I knew that it was said of the Saviour, that, 'having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end;' but I had lost the sweet manifestation of His love; and the following scripture occurred to my mind: 'Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life.' It was then suggested that I had been mistaken, that all my happiness was nothing but imagination, and that I never had drunk of the water of life, for if I had, I should not thirst again, according to the text.
I had no reply to make to this temptation, for such I believe it was, and I sank very low in my mind. I did not feel that condemnation which I had formerly experienced when under the law, but I had lost all that was dear and precious to me in this world and in that which was to come. The Saviour was gone, and I feared I should never enjoy His presence again. I thought all my religion had been a delusion. Surely I never had any interest in Him whom my soul loved; if I had, I could not feel the distress I was now in. This lasted, I think, for about a fortnight. I had no light upon my path; all was darkness and obscurity. The Bridegroom had withdrawn Himself, and I could but mourn His absence; and what was worse than all, I feared He would never return. But I learned by this deep trial that Satan can apply Scripture to God's tempted family. He did so to the Saviour Himself in the wilderness.
One day, when sitting alone, and musing on my wretched condition, I thought that I was in a worse state than if I had never known the Lord, and enjoyed His presence; for to be for ever separated from Him who is the only fountain of life, light, and love, seemed to me far more distressing than anything that could happen to me; when all of a sudden a ray of Divine light was darted into my mind, yes, it reached my very heart, showing me that the meaning of the text was this: He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst for any other. And this I have ever since believed to be the true sense of the passage. I could truly say that I did not thirst for any other water than that of which I had been favored to drink. I wanted no other religion. I remembered that David, who had been so greatly indulged, afterwards thirsted for God, for the living God, even as the hart panteth after the water-brooks. And the Saviour blesses those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. Thus I was led to see that it is the common lot of all whom the Saviour loves, to mourn His absence at times. When the Bridegroom is taken away from the children of the bridechamber, as to the enjoyment of His sensible presence, they cannot but fast in those days.
I do not wish for a faith that is empty of love. To be satisfied with notions about the Saviour, and yet not to be sensible of His sweet manifestations and His withdrawings, is, in my view, no good sign. I am sure that those who believe in, and love, the Saviour, cannot be satisfied when at a distance from Him. I could appeal to my own conscience that it was the enjoyment of the Lord's presence that I wanted, and that I did not thirst for anything else. Thus I was delivered from my great distress of mind. He restored to me the joy of His salvation, and I did again rejoice in hope of the glory of God, and believed that the work wrought in my soul was God's own work.
Some short time after this, I sank again in my feelings as low as before. I had been meditating about the forgiveness of sins, and the wonderful love of the Saviour, in laying down his life for sinners, and, what was more wonderful than all to me, that He should ever have been pleased to make known His amazing love to me, and that without any human instrumentality. It seemed so very astonishing, and yet I knew it was so. I could say with John, 'We love Him, because He first loved us.' While thus employed, this thought suddenly came into my mind--that I had been assured of an interest in God's great salvation, that my sins were forgiven me for the Saviour's sake; but this did not seem to be enough, that something more was wanting than the removal of sin from the conscience; that those who are saved must not only be freed from sin, but they must be all righteous. Christ had indeed been revealed to my heart as a Saviour, but I knew nothing about positive righteousness. The way in which poor sinners are made righteous had not been discovered to me; and as the unrighteous cannot inherit the kingdom of God, I feared that the work in me was not perfect, and that after all I should come short of the kingdom of heaven. This suggestion sunk me very low indeed. 'What, after all that I have enjoyed,' thought I, 'to be mistaken! to be resting upon a false foundation, to perish for want of a perfect righteousness! Oh! this indeed is distressing beyond measure.' These overwhelming thoughts and feelings continued with me for some days. I had no one to whom I could speak about them, and I was truly miserable.
While earnestly crying to God that He would be pleased to perfect what I had hoped was His own work, by making me righteous, He graciously showed me that Christ could not be divided; that in receiving Him as my Saviour from sin, I had also received Him as the Lord my Righteousness. And from this, the Lord the Spirit kindly discovered to me that whoever receives Christ by faith into his heart, receives Him in all His covenant characters and relations to His people; that He is made of God unto them wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. So that there is no such thing as receiving Christ in any one of His characters alone, but whosoever receives Him, receives a whole Christ. His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He comes with all the fullness of His Godhead, with all the fullness of Divine grace. All the promises are in Him yea and amen, to the glory of God by us. Himself is the Alpha and Omega, the All and in all of a poor sinner's salvation. And as He had graciously assured my heart that I had an interest in this great salvation, I was fully persuaded that in possessing Him I had all that was necessary for me, for time and eternity, all needful grace here, and all the blessings of eternal glory hereafter.
This blessed manifestation made me as happy as before; I almost think, more happy than I had ever been. My heart was filled with love to my dear Saviour, and I could do nothing but bless Him, and thank Him, and praise Him, for what He was to me, and for what He had done for me. But this was all secret between this Almighty Saviour and me, a poor lost sinner, saved only by full, and free, and sovereign grace. The snare was now broken, and I was like a bird escaped out of the hand of the fowler. The enjoyment of this continued with me for some time.
Soon after, an event took place which was painful to my feelings. My mother was sent for suddenly to go into Somersetshire, to see her father, who was very near his end. A few days after her return he died. By his will he left to my mother much less than to her only sister, she having married in opposition to the wishes of her family. The interest was to be paid to her for her sole and separate use, and at her death the principal was to be divided amongst her three children. This arrangement made my father very angry, and was the source of much unhappiness between him and my mother. Though I was very young, I deeply felt their disagreement, which continued and increased. I remember thinking of what our Lord says, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.'
This daily cross has attended me until now, and will, I believe, continue to the end. Each follower of the Saviour is to take up his own cross. I have found it to consist principally in the following things:
1. My own sinful self is the heaviest burden I have ever been called to bear; for though I am not left to a sense of unappeased wrath or unatoned guilt, yet I continally feel what Paul says, 'that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.' I am continually prone to backslide from God in my affections, to depart from Him through the power of unbelief, to rebel against many of His dispensations towards me, to entertain hard thoughts concerning His ways; in a word, there is so much of the old Adam nature in me and about me, that I can truly say, 'We that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened.' There is the carnality of the mind, the wandering of the thoughts and desires, together with a whole host of inward evils.
2. There are the infirmities of the poor body, weakness, sickness, etc.
3. There are the continual temptations of Satan, fiery darts, evil suggestions, and a great variety of secret workings which proceed from him.
4. There are the weaknesses and infirmities of the church of God, my dear brethren and sisters in Christ. I do know something of what Paul means: 'Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.' God's dear people are often remembered by me at the throne of grace.
5. There is the open enmity and persecution of the world at large. This is sometimes hard to bear; but we can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth us.
6. The almost every day occurrences of life. Whilst we know that they are all appointed for us in infinite wisdom and fatherly love, yet I find that my stubborn will often produces much discontent within, and sometimes unguarded expressions are uttered, causing a sense of guilt and shame.
I think all these things together constitute our daily cross; and each of us has his own particular cross to bear.
I still continued to go to church with my mother whenever I had an opportunity, thinking that it must be right to attend the house of God; and I was sorry that I could not go more regularly. I used to wonder why the clergymen that I heard, seldom, if ever, said anything in their sermons about the things that I had experienced.
Having learned the Church Catechism, the part about baptism struck my mind. The question asked the learner is, 'What is the outward visible sign, or form, in baptism?' The answer is, 'Water; wherein the person is baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' Then, 'What is the inward and spiritual grace?' Answer, 'A death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness: for being by nature born in sin, and the children of wrath, we are hereby made the children of grace.'
I knew indeed both from the Bible and my own experience that I was born in sin; and though I understood that I had been baptized in infancy, I knew by sad experience that I was not then regenerated, or born again. This used to puzzle me. Having a very high reverence for the Established Church and its ministers, I could not for a moment allow myself to think that they could be wrong, and yet I could not see how it was possible that they were right.
Another thing in the Catechism rested upon my mind. The child is made to say, 'I learn to believe...in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the elect people of God;' and I wondered what was meant by the elect people of God. I used to go to church, hoping that this might be explained at some time or other; but I do not remember ever hearing anything about the doctrine of election. It was neither affirmed nor denied. It occurred to me that the Prayer Book must have been made from the Bible, and therefore I listened very attentively whenever my mother had time to read it to me, to hear if there was anything said in it about the elect people of God; and I soon found that this glorious doctrine shines like the sun throughout the whole inspired volume. I found that God chose Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also their posterity, to be His peculiar people. He says, 'You only have I known of all the families of the earth.' The four Gospels and the Epistles also affirm the same truth in the fullest and clearest manner. This, through Divine teaching, led me into a deeper knowledge of the everlasting, immutable, discriminating love of God, of which I had been favored to have so sweet a taste. What I had experienced I was constrained to believe, and therefore could now say with John, 'We have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love.'
Also the blessed truth concerning regeneration appeared to me to be quite plainly stated by our Lord in John 3, and in very many other passages; and I was enabled really to believe that through sovereign grace I myself was born again; as Paul says, 'Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.'
Here again the Lord was pleased first to favor me with an experience of Divine truth, and then to shine upon His own work in me, by unfolding His sacred Word to my heart and understanding.
Some time during the year 1810, I became acquainted with Mr. W., an elderly gentleman, who had retired from business, and lived very near us. He was a bachelor, and a man of somewhat eccentric habits. At this distance of time I cannot recollect how I was first introduced to him; but I well remember his telling me that he went to church every day, and asking if I would go with him. He said he should like me for a companion, and I was very pleased to accept his kind proposal. I felt desirous of going to different churches, hoping that I might hear something harmonizing with that teaching which the Lord had favored me with. He said if I would go with him he would call for me every evening, which he did, and we went to different churches. I cannot remember them all. St. Lawrence, Jewry, and St. Antholin's, Watling-street, were among them; and as he knew of no church open on Saturday evenings, we went to the Tabernacle in Moorfields, where we used to hear Mr. Draper, a very old minister, the father of Dr. Draper, whom I afterwards heard at Spafields Chapel. Mr. W. was always very kind and attentive to me, but I never found anything spiritual in his conversation. I made a few attempts to tell him of what the Lord had graciously done for me, but he did not seem at all to understand it. He would talk on any commonplace subject on the way to and from church, and used to say I was a very good boy, and he hoped I should always be religious. We were generally at church before the rest of the congregation, and he would employ himself in finding the places in the books for the clergyman and the clerk.
I was continually looking out for spiritual good; for something descriptive of the Lord's dealings with my own soul; but, alas! I was constantly disappointed. There was much truth advanced from time to time, principally relating to the moral duties of man. The Saviour was sometimes spoken of, but I cannot say that I ever heard the work of the Spirit described, in convincing poor sinners of their sinful and totally helpless condition, and in revealing Christ as a Saviour to their souls; so that I always came away unsatisfied. I used to tell my friend this. He would say, 'Oh! you will like it better in time.' But I could not feed upon such provision. Besides, in two or three months I became quite weary of the continual repetition of the same prayers. They seemed to me very dry; there was no springing well.
I have since been led to see that a form of prayer, however sound and scriptural, is deficient in this respect--it seems to do away with the necessity of the fulfillment of God's promise, 'I will pour upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and of supplications.' He says, 'I create the fruit of the lips;' and, 'The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.' Now, if words are prepared for us, and we are always to use them, what necessity remains for the fulfillment of the foregoing declarations? God forbid that I should find fault with the good men in the Church of England, who continue in the use of the form; this being a matter between God and their own souls. All I can say is that I found a form of prayer insufficient for my wants, and the continual repetition of it brought me into a state of bondage.
This I was obliged to tell my kind friend, and also that I could no longer accompany him to church. He seemed vexed and very sorry. I am sure he meant nothing but kindness to me; but I could not be contented with the form of worship which satisfied him.
I do not wish to attach any supposed sanctity to a building; yet I think that a certain reverence should mark our conduct when in a place dedicated to the worship of God; that is, if it is really felt. I would not have anything assumed, but I do think there is a great deficiency amongst us as to this matter. My friend would talk aloud in the church about any indifferent subject. I recollect he used to say to me immediately at the close of the service, before leaving the church, 'Amen here's your hat,' as it were in one breath; and I felt grieved at such want of reverence.
MY refusing to go any more with Mr. W. to church was another cause of displeasure to my friends. They were very angry with me, and said that I threw away every prospect of advantage through my obstinacy and nonsense; for they had no doubt that Mr. W. intended to do something handsome for me. It was in vain that I urged the plea of my own conscience and feelings. My father said it was all nonsense. My poor mother was much more gentle with me, though she was very sorry I could not see it right to continue to cultivate his friendship.
About this time I received from Mr. Jacobs, of whom I was still taking music lessons, a ticket of admission for four persons to a performance on the organ at Surrey Chapel, signed by the Rev. Hill. I had gone the two precious years to these entertainments, but now I felt a repugnance to them. I thought that a house devoted to the service of God should not be made a place of amusement; and I began to feel a dislike to instrumental music being introduced into Divine worship. I do not think that organs can properly form any part of that worship which the Saviour says is required of those who are the true worshippers, which must be in spirit and in truth. And here I would take occasion to say that I now think that dissolving views, and lectures on scientific, philosophical, and other secular subjects, are altogether unsuitable to the places designed for God's service, and that the Almighty is thereby dishonored.
Having such views, I declined using the ticket myself; and having some knowledge of a family who resided near us, and were fond of music, I sent it to them. One of the young people called a few days after to thank me for it, when we entered into conversation about churches and chapels. I remarked that I knew little about chapels (having been brought up with a prejudice against Dissenters), but that I had been to a great number of churches, and could not find such an explanation of Bible truth as would satisfy me. I said a little about what God had graciously done for me, when my young friend told me that I ought to go to chapel, for that I should find there what I was seeking after; that the preaching was very different from that usually met with at church. I replied that I wanted to find a minister who could describe my experience; and was told that I should find many such among the Dissenters, and that if I would go with them and try, they would have much pleasure in calling for me on Sundays, and occasionally on week-evenings.
I was very delighted at the prospect of hearing what I had hitherto sought in vain; and from this time a close intimacy commenced between the family and myself. My mother also became attached to them. I went with them to many chapels, and heard many preachers (I forbear mentioning names); and although I often heard what appeared to me much more scriptural and spiritual than that which I had been accustomed to hear at church, and though the extempore prayers were much more satisfactory to me than the form, yet I still found a deficiency. When a minister took a text, I could often see much beauty in it. Various heads of discourse were presented to my mind, and I could frequently trace out a sweet vein of experience running through the whole, that greatly delighted me. But I seldom, if ever, found the matter impressed on my own mind brought forth. Generally speaking, ministers preached the doctrines of the gospel according to their own standard; in many instances they were very clearly and scripturally stated. Also I heard much that is usually denominated practical preaching. But the teaching of the Spirit, in a personal discovery of sin to the sinner, and in a revelation of Christ as a Saviour, was not often mentioned, or but slightly touched upon. And though I sometimes liked what I heard, there seemed to me a want of that peculiar power in which the kingdom of God stands,--a power to quicken from a death in trespasses and sins, to constrain a sinner to come to Christ, to produce faith in his heart, to apply the atonement to his conscience, and, in a word, so to reveal Christ as a Saviour, as to enable him to say with Paul, 'I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.'
I used to tell my friends this, and that I really could not find a ministry that seemed to satisfy my wants. They would pleasantly reply, 'Oh! you will like it better when you have heard more.' Sometimes I thought, Is it not presumption in me to suppose that all these good men are deficient in their ministerial work, and that I only am right? This would often produce a conflict in my own mind. I was afraid of thinking or speaking anything slightingly of those who, I supposed, must be God's servants. I could appeal to the Searcher of all hearts that my desire was to be led in a right way, and therefore I waited with many earnest petitions for the Lord to show me what was His will concerning this matter. Not that I had any doubt as to the experience wrought in my heart being the work of God, and therefore I could not give it up; but then I said, How is it that His ministering servants do not describe it? It is according to His own Word. These thoughts produced in me a very anxious and earnest wish that the Lord would so confirm His own work in me, that I might be enabled to give up all human teaching that did not accord therewith. Having drunk of the old wine, I desired not new, knowing that the old was better.
And thus I went on, becoming daily more and more dissatisfied with what I heard. At last I told my friends that there were none in our day who preached like Paul. They said, this I could not expect, for that the apostolic age was peculiar; that I could not suppose the same power attended the preaching of the word now, as then. I replied, 'Yes, but it must be the same Spirit.' And I really began to fear that there were no sent servants of God now. I said, 'Perhaps there have been none since the Apostle's days.' My friends said they would lend me a book that would show me how greatly I was mistaken. This was Foxe's Book of Martyrs. In this, they told me, I should find how many, who were really taught of God, had laid down their lives for the truth.
I was at this time in a manner almost ignorant of ecclesiastical history. I had indeed some vague ideas concerning the Reformation from Popery, derived from the History of England, though I had never thought much about it. But I found that John Rogers, vicar of St. Sepulcher's, who was the first burned at Smithfield in Mary's reign, Lawrence Saunders, of Coventry, John Hooper, bishop of Gloucester, and Dr. Rowland Taylor, vicar of Hadleigh, were all blessed with the same knowledge and experience of Divine truth as the Lord had, in rich mercy, bestowed upon unworthy me. In their letters from prison, as also those of Archdeacon Philpot, John Bradford, Careless, and many others, I found that rich, savory, experimental knowledge of Christ, through the teaching of the Spirit, which was so precious to my poor soul. The Saviour's blessed name, which is as ointment poured forth, was abundantly known by these confessors of the truth. And thus I was led to see that there were others indeed who had received the same Divine teaching as I had been favored with. In these I found real companions. It was like coming to the spirits of just men made perfect. I could say of them, as Paul says of Abel, that they, being dead, yet spoke. This was very encouraging to me, and tended much to establish me in the truth as it is in Jesus. Foxe's Book of Martyrs was the first book in which I found spiritual comfort, and I took much delight in hearing it.
And thus I went on for some time, waiting, watching, expecting, and looking for a display, in the public means of grace, of that almighty power which I had been favored to experience in secret. I wanted to hear the voice of the Chief Shepherd in the preaching of the word; but I could not find that which I was so earnestly seeking for. I was frequently enabled, when alone, to realize that which is written by the beloved disciple: 'Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.' But in hearing the word, although, as I have already said, there was much truth, to me the true power, life, and savor were wanting, and this often produced in me great discontent.
I often wondered how it was, that, whilst I was led to see eye to eye with some of the ministers that I heard, as to doctrinal truth, still there was something deficient. It was the Saviour's voice speaking home to my heart that I was constantly craving. Without this, no preaching, however clear and sound it may be, will ever satisfy a soul that is hungering and thirsting for the bread and water of eternal life.
But to proceed. I can never forget what happened one day. The late Henry Peto, Esq., calling at my father's shop, and making some remark which I cannot now remember, only that it was about religion, and attracted my attention, I said, 'I wish I could find a minister that could satisfy my mind as to the things of God.' Mr. Peto then began to talk to me about himself, and what God had done for him. He told me that he was a native of Surrey; that his father was a farmer; that he was apprenticed to a country carpenter at Leatherhead; that while he was there, he was brought under deep concern about the state of his soul; that he could not hear the church clergyman with any satisfaction; that his father was very angry with him because he went to chapel, and said, 'If that boy ever gets 20 pounds in his pocket, the Methodist parsons will have it from him;' that, beside the expense of his apprenticeship and tools, half-a-guinea for a drawing-book, and 25s. for a case of mathematical instruments, he had never cost his father anything since he left home; that when his apprenticeship was ended, he came to London; and, having passed through many deep trials, God had been pleased to bless him very abundantly both in grace and providence. Having been much grieved at his father's displeasure, he did not let him know that he had gained anything until he possessed a thousand pounds.
But I must not write the life of my dear friend. What he said so astonished and interested me, that I was constrained to say, 'Sir, I did not know that anybody knew anything about such things besides myself.' He replied with a smile, 'My dear young friend, I hope and believe that I can say I do.' 'I an very glad,' I answered, 'to find that somebody else has been taught of God like myself, but I cannot find any minister that preaches these things. I have heard, as I am told, most of the eminent men in London, but I cannot find any of them that preach like Paul. There seems to me to be but very little or no power attending the word. I suppose that there have been none who could describe God's work in the souls of His people since the Apostle's days; at least, I cannot find any.' He said, 'I think I can take you to hear one who, you will say, both knows and preaches these things; and if you will be ready a quarter before ten next Lord's Day, I shall have great pleasure in calling for you, and taking you to hear him;' adding, turning to my mother, 'If you will allow me.'
I do not remember on what day of the week this took place, but I looked forward to the coming Lord's Day with much anxious concern. I had hitherto been disappointed with respect to hearing the word preached; but Mr. Peto's conversation had been so profitable to me, that my expectation was raised very high. From the savor and power which I had experienced, I felt assured that the minister I was about to hear would be such as I had been long and earnestly seeking after. These thoughts, desires, and expectations occupied my mind almost entirely until the Sunday morning came.
I was ready and waiting for Mr. Peto before the hour he named. He was quite punctual. I do not remember our conversation by the way, my mind being taken up with thoughts about what I was going to hear. At last we arrived at Providence Chapel, Titchfield Street; when and where I heard for the first time the late Rev. William Huntington. And I must say that when I heard him in prayer, a mingled feeling of astonishment, delight, and admiration was at once produced in me. The very solemn and impressive manner in which he pleaded the promises of God, was to me exceedingly sweet. And here I must remark that I usually found afterwards that Mr. Huntington's way of addressing the Almighty in prayer, was attended with such a measure of fervor, filial fear, and humble familiarity, as showed that he was favored with very close communion and fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ, through the Divine anointing of the Spirit. Often have I heard him express my own feelings, wishes, wants, and desires, more clearly and fully than I could myself.
I do not remember the text from which he preached, but the whole sermon was accompanied with a power, light, life, and savor, which truly astonished me; and while he was preaching, I could not help blessing and praising the Lord, that He had at last led me to such a ministry. Under this first discourse, I was fully convinced that Mr. Huntington was indeed a sent servant of the Lord. His ministry was made manifest in my conscience, nor have I ever had a single doubt about it from that time. I told Mr. Peto that I did not think I should ever wish to hear any other ministry; and I can truly say that I never have heard any of God's dear servants whose preaching has been made so useful to me. As I have said before, the Lord was graciously pleased to convince me of sin, and to reveal His pardoning love in my heart, before I had ever heard a work of grace described by any one; but Mr. Huntington was made instrumental in shedding that Divine light upon what God had wrought in me, which confirmed it as being of His own operation; as it is written, 'Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.'
When hearing Mr. Huntington, I heard something more than man's voice. It was this, indeed, that I heard with my outward ears, but then I frequently heard more, even the voice of the Chief Shepherd, in, through, and by the word preached. I know it was His voice, by the power that attended it. 'Where the word of a King is, there is power.' It attracted my heart to Himself, His servant, His word, His ordinances, and His dear people. It was like manna to a hungry soul. I frequently enjoyed under the word the sweet flowings of that pure river of the water of life which proceedeth out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. Oh! how often has my poor, needy, thirsty soul been refreshed, comforted, encouraged, and strengthened by the instrumentality of this wonderful ministry.
I never heard a man who was enabled to trace out the path of life, and that pathway wherein there is no death, with the ability and clearness which distinguished Mr. Huntington's preaching. He was most beautiful in setting forth the glorious doctrines of the everlasting gospel: such as a Trinity of Persons in the Unity of One God, the Incarnation of the Saviour, the Divine Personality of the Holy Ghost, God's everlasting love to His Church, His eternal choice of her in Christ; the doctrine of original sin, and the universal fall of man in Adam; full and free pardon and justification through the precious blood and perfect righteousness of a once crucified, and now risen and exalted Saviour, made known by the teaching of the Spirit, to poor, lost, ruined, and undone sinners; the personal and effectual vocation of such by the power of Divine grace; the indwelling of the Spirit in the hearts of the saints, and their final perseverance, as kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
He was wonderfully clear in showing the types of the ceremonial law as accomplished in and by Christ, who, as the eternal God, is the altar which sanctifies the gift; as Man, the sacrifice that was once offered; and as God-man Mediator, the High Priest of our profession. He used to show the deep mysteries of the word of God, the prophecies and their fulfillment, in a remarkable manner. But that which so endeared him to me and other poor lost sinners saved by free and sovereign grace, was the distinct, solemn, and masterly way in which he used to describe the work of the Spirit in the hearts of God's dear children, together with the trials, exercises, deliverances, and sweet enjoyments, which they who are taught of God are sure to experience more or less. It is this which will, I believe, make the name of Huntington dear to the church of God while time shall last. In confirmation of this my opinion, I appeal to his invaluable writings.
Dear reader, you will not be surprised that I soon told my mother that I had found a pastor according to God's own heart, who could feed His people with knowledge and understanding; and that he was so completely after my own heart, that I really thought I should never wish to hear any other, and I earnestly begged her to go with me to hear him. She was a very dear, indulgent mother to me, and I do not think she ever refused me anything that she thought would gratify me, if it was in her power. I had no difficulty in inducing her to consent to my wish.
All this took place about a fortnight before the chapel in Titchfield Street was burned down. When I first heard of this calamity, it was a great distress of mind to me. I was told that Mr. Huntington had some thoughts of ending his days at Lewes, and preaching at Jireh Chapel there. This added to my concern. But when I heard that his friends had determined on making him a present of a sum of money sufficient to purchase the ground and to build a chapel, it rejoiced my heart indeed.
I think about a month elapsed before the City Chapel, Grub Street (now Milton Street), was taken for a Sunday afternoon service and a Wednesday evening lecture by Mr. Huntington. This good news made me truly glad; yet I was not without fear that, as strangers, we should not be able to get sittings, but my dear friend, Mr. Peto, obtained them for us.
When the Sunday arrived, my mother and I went to chapel, taking care to be there early. I do not remember anything remarkable in the service, only that I heard as before described. I was anxious about my mother's hearing; and though when we returned she made no particular remark, as to whether she liked what she had heard, yet she promised me she would always go with me if I wished it. This I thought a great mercy, and was enabled to offer a tribute of thanksgiving to the Lord, as also to entreat that He would bless the word to my dear mother.
Another circumstance took place about this time, in which I saw the power of God kindly displayed in my behalf, beyond any expectation of mine. My father was induced by the persuasion of my mother and myself to go with us to hear Mr. Huntington. When he consented, I was surprised beyond measure, and very thankful I felt to the God of all my mercies.
Whilst recalling these recollections of the Lord's work of grace in me, it was suggested to my mind to omit in great measure an account of His providential dealings. This, I believe, sprang from my own pride and unbelief, and from the temptations of Satan. Moses says, 'Thou shalt remember all the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments or no.' He records the daily supply of manna, the miraculous flowing of water from the rock; that the raiment of the Israelites did not wax old, neither did their foot swell. In the case of Elijah, the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and when the brook dried up (many a brook have I seen dried up), a widow woman was commanded to sustain him, and a promise made that the barrel of meal should not waste, nor the cruse of oil fail, till the Lord sent rain on the earth. There is also the woman with her pot of oil, sufficient to fill all the empty vessels. Again, we read how our dear Lord fed multitudes on what appeared an altogether insufficient supply. Last, but not least, there is Mr. Huntington's Bank of Faith. These and other such accounts were so brought to my mind, that I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself for thinking for one moment of suppressing the kind, gracious, and condescending acts of my dear Lord and Master towards His unworthy servant. How often has a providential supply, sent from an unexpected source by Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will, refreshed my spirit! Food, raiment, and the necessary comforts of life are peculiarly sweetened, when we can trace them as flowing from the love of the heart of Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, towards us.
On Tuesday, 24th March, 1811, we all went to chapel in the afternoon. I locked the door of the house when we left home, and put the key in my pocket. On our return my mother saw that the door was open, before we reached it, and said to me, 'You locked the door?' I replied, 'Yes.' She said, 'Your father and other people are gone in.' On going up stairs, we found that a strong box standing in a closet had been forced open, and more than 190 pounds taken away, together with some rings and other articles of jewellery belonging to my mother. This loss was necessarily felt very deeply by us all; and what added greatly to my affliction was that my father blamed me as the cause of it. He said if he had not been such a fool as to listen to my nonsense, it would not have happened.
Many thoughts passed through my mind. I said to myself, 'How is it that the Lord has permitted this to happen?' We were engaged in His service, seeking His face according to His revealed will. And I thought of the promise made to the Israelites of old, that when they went up to Jerusalem to keep the Lord's feasts, no man should desire their land. All this was very puzzling to me. But the Lord was graciously pleased afterwards to make the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. And in how many instances since, has He condescended to show me that He can make all things work together for good! Like poor old Jacob, I have often said, 'All these things are against me;' but, like him, I have been constrained to acknowledge that God hath kept me and fed me all my life long unto this day.
The news of what had taken place reached Mr. Peto the same evening, and he very kindly came to sympathize with us concerning our loss. My father would not see him. Mr. Peto told my mother that he would on no account wound her feelings, or offend Mr. Hobbs, by what he was about to suggest; but, as it was possible that the loss might cause inconvenience, he had thought of speaking to two or three friends, who, he knew, would very willingly join with him in making it up; that, if it was accepted, it must be distinctly understood that it was done entirely on John's account, and that it should be considered as a present made to him. My poor father, when he heard of this, appeared very sullen, not at all pleased, and repeated that it was all my fault, and that of my friends. Mr. Peto kindly performed all he had promised, though my father said he did not want it, and never thanked him for it.
I have often thought of what I have now related, as being one of the first conspicuous instances of God's kind providential care over me, after He had condescended to reveal Himself as my God and Saviour. Many have been the times since, in which the same gracious Providence has in a remarkable manner supplied my necessities. He has never forgotten His poor unworthy servant, though, alas! I have been too often unmindful of him. I find that notwithstanding His great goodness towards me, unbelief will still continue to work; but, blessed be God! it does not reign and rule. No, every renewed manifestation of the Saviour's love revives and restores that faith which is His gift, which works by love, and stands in His own almighty power, both to produce it, and to perform what it credits and believes.
I had been very much favored from the time when the Lord was pleased to turn my captivity. He put off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness: I was indulged with much communion with the Father, and with His dearly beloved Son; the word had been greatly blessed to my soul through the ministry of Mr. Huntington. But now there came a weaning time. I began to be exercised with a daily cross. Being naturally of a delicate constitution, my health began to give way from the close air of London, and I believe that I was much injured through improper medical treatment. I had hoped that my inward enemies, such as unbelief, impatience, discontent, together with all the members of the old man, had been entirely destroyed; but alas! I found that they revived again, and were still strong and lively. This caused me much grief. In addition, my home was uncomfortable. My father was unkind to my mother, and could never be reconciled to our going to chapel. He had always manifested a propensity to occasional intemperance, and it gradually increased. He never got thoroughly intoxicated, but would be continually taking small quantities, which made him irritable and quarrelsome. He began to say that my mother and I should not go to chapel any more, and spoke in a very unbecoming manner of Mr. Huntington and his hearers. This wounded my feelings very deeply. To be deprived of the privilege of hearing the word, seemed to me the greatest affliction that could befall me. I knew that God was my refuge, and that He alone could help me.
My father would commence on Monday morning, declaring that we should on no account go to chapel any more. This he would repeat continually through the week, and I used to cry mightily to the Lord, that He would prevent him from hindering our going. The more violent my father was, the more earnestly I used to plead at the throne of grace. This continued, when I was at home, until the death of Mr. Huntington; and, most remarkable to relate, in no one instance was my father ever permitted to carry out his design. I thought he was like Nebal, of whom it is said that his heart died within him; for after storming and raging through the week, when the Sunday morning came, he was always quiet. He seldom left the house on Sunday, never indulged in any excess, but spent the day in indolence, and said very little to any one. But on the Monday morning he began afresh, calling himself a thousand fools for not keeping his word, and declaring that we certainly should not go next Sunday. And this, as I said, continued for more than two years. I used to bless and praise the Almighty for His great goodness to me; so that between entreating the Lord for the future and thanking Him for the past, I was much occupied in secret.
And here I will not omit to relate, that, knowing that faith and prayer were the only means by which a poor helpless sinner like myself could prevail, I made a resolution to wait upon God seven times a day, like the Psalmist; once before breakfast, twice between breakfast and dinner, twice before tea, once after, and at bed-time. I came to this determination, lest I should neglect seeking the Lord, the matter being so very important to me.
Not that I would recommend others to adopt such a practice, as formality in Divine worship has a legal tendency. Still, I found it profitable at the time. There was a good deal of legality in my feelings; for I used to think that I could call upon God with more freedom when kneeling before Him than in any other posture. But He has abundantly shown me since, that He hears the desires of the humble, that He will prepare their heart, that He will cause His ear to hear, whatever may be the position of the body. Solomon knelt before the Lord when He prayed; David went in and sat before Him; Abraham stood when God communed with him; and our dear Lord and Saviour fell on His face, when, being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly. I too have known what it is to be so pressed out of measure, above strength, as to be constrained to throw myself upon the ground before the Lord. But in sickness I have found that the Lord does condescend to hear the cry that issues from a broken heart, when lying on the bed of languishing. So that it comes to this--we find that God is a Spirit, and that those who worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Oh! how often has He heard my secret desires when walking by the way. Even in the midst of company, I have often found my thoughts wander away from that which occupied others, to my gracious God. Yet I must own that I do love to present myself in secret before Him. Our Lord says, 'Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.' This open reward is often seen in a cheerful countenance. Like Hannah, we come away, and our countenance is no more sad. Oh! how many burdens have I been favored from time to time to cast thus upon the Lord; and to the honor of His truth and veracity, I must say that He has hitherto sustained me.
Soon after my first hearing Mr. Huntington, a circumstance occurred, which I wish to record to the honor of God. The friend who had recommended me to go to chapel, and who, while believing that Mr. Huntington was a good man and a servant of God, yet thought that he was too narrow and exclusive in his preaching, when she found that I was so attached to his ministry that I did not wish to hear any one else, observed that she feared I should become like most of Mr. Huntington's hearers, who were so bigoted as to think that there were no other ministers who preached the gospel with the same fullness and clearness that he did. I said plainly that I had never found any whose ministry was attended with equal power to my soul.
One day this friend invited me to spend the evening, as she wished to read a sermon of 'the Doctor's' to me. Mr. Huntington's most attached friends were accustomed to call him 'the Doctor,' so that I necessarily supposed the sermon I was to hear was one of his. Its title was, 'The sword of the Lord and of Gideon.' My friend had not read many pages before I remarked, 'This is not a sermon of the Doctor's.' She said, 'You must hear further before you say this.' She proceeded; and after hearing some more, I said, 'This is not the Doctor's sermon.' She said, 'Don't be so hasty in deciding; let me read some more;' to which I replied, 'You may read as much as you please, but I am sure that sermon was never preached nor written by Mr. Huntington.' She said, 'Well, you'll hear to the end?' I said, 'Certainly, if you please.' When it was finished, she said, 'Now, what do you think?' I said, 'There is no thinking about it. What I have said I have said, and I am quite sure I am right.' She then said, 'You are right; but I really did not think that you could discover it was not Mr. Huntington's. Remember, I did not say he was the author of it; but I think the writer had as much right to be called "Doctor" as he.' Such an attempt to deceive me was unjustifiable; but I believe my friend really thought the sermon was so much like Mr. Huntington's, that it was mere prejudice and bigotry on my part not to receive its author as a sent servant of God.
Some short time before this, I had been invited to accompany some friends to hear a popular minister, who, they told me, was quite equal to Mr. Huntington. I am sure that I heard him without prejudice, for I was very desirous to find other servants of the Lord whom I could hear to profit; especially as this happened during the time when Mr. Huntington preached only on the Sunday afternoon. But Oh! with what different feelings did I hear Mr. C. Though I could not say that he advanced anything erroneous, yet there was a light, flippant, bold manner about him, that I could by no means tolerate. He spoke of sacred things with such a want of reverence, that I really trembled while I heard him. I felt assured that the guilt of sin had never been charged home upon his conscience, that he did not stand in awe of the Almighty, and had never had an experience of the precious truths of the gospel which he attempted to set forth. He spoke of sin as being no matter of concern to those who believed in Christ. In a word, his ministry appeared to me to be altogether carnal.
After leaving, I told my friends all this, and much more; yet, to oblige them, I consented to hear him a second time, as they said they were sure it was nothing but prejudice and bigotry that prevented my receiving him. But the second hearing was, if possible, more revolting to me than the first. I really felt that I was wrong in going again. The bold and arrogant manner he displayed in speaking of the things of God so distressed me, that I resolved I would never hear him again, and told my friends so. He was the author of the sermon which was read to me under the circumstances I have just related.
Oh! how I blessed God for enabling me, through His teaching, to detect the difference between the preaching of a minister of Christ and that of a minister of Satan. 'Such,' Paul says, 'are false apostles, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.' And this man by his outward conduct afterwards made it but too manifest that he was a stranger in heart to the truths which he preached.
I have often reflected on this circumstance, and have felt truly humbled under a sense of the wonderful goodness and kindness of my gracious God, in not suffering me to be deceived by the false light displayed in the sermon which was read to me. Paul says to the Thessalonians, 'Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power.' It is this power attending the preaching of the word, that can alone make it manifest to be God's own truth. It matters not what we may hear, if the Saviour's voice is not heard speaking to our hearts; and this is known by the life it communicates and feeds, by the encouragement it affords, by the faith it works; in a word, poor sinners are thereby brought to say, 'It is the voice of my Beloved that knocketh.'
Many have endeavored to imitate this sweet, this most precious voice, but there never was, nor ever will be, anything that can equal it. The Church says, 'His mouth is most sweet.' His doctrine drops as the rain, His speech distils as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass. It revives, renews, refreshes, and comforts the soul in a way that nothing else can; and poor sinners who have been quickened into spiritual life by this voice, can never be satisfied with any other.
I continued to be much favored in hearing Mr. Huntington at the City Chapel, Grub Street. I remember two sermons which were very sweet and profitable to me; one from Ezekiel 1:20, 'For the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels;' and the other from Ezekiel 36:26, 'A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.' That which I found so peculiarly precious in Mr. Huntington's ministry was, that in opening and giving the sense of the text, it described the teaching that I had received from the Lord, so that my own experience and God's most holy Word harmonized. It was not simply that peculiar gift of unfolding dark passages, for which he was so eminent, though this is very pleasing to hear; but it was that bright shining which discovers God's work in the soul; according to Paul: 'God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'
My esteemed friend, Mr. Peto, would frequently call of an evening, and spend two or three hours. I found his conversation very refreshing and establishing. He had a large acquaintance with the Word of God, and was deeply taught in spiritual things. He could trace the work of God, begun and carried on in his own soul, very clearly, and would often speak with much feeling and tenderness of the Lord's goodness to him, both as the God of grace and of providence. I never enjoyed more sweet spiritual communion with any of the Lord's dear family than with him; and I know that he felt a close knitting with me in spirit, and was very fond of talking to me about the things of God. He kindly commenced lending us some of Mr. Huntington's writings, also some of Dr. Owen's. This tended to produce a strong desire in my mind for the possession of spiritual books, and I was led to a remarkable method of obtaining money for the purchase of them, through what I believe was the hand of God.
As an orange-merchant, my father dealt in nuts. Those which had holes in them were separated from the sound ones, before selling them to the fruiterers; and the children about would call for penny-worths or halfpenny-worths of those that were thrown aside, to use as marbles. They also inquired for the damaged chestnuts. These nuts were given to me, and I began selling them at a halfpenny a quart; but the demand increased so rapidly, that I raised the price to a penny a quart, and occasionally even higher, and sometimes made as much as a shilling a day. It is by such simple means that God often works. Those who are rich in this world are too apt to undervalue such insignificant efforts; but I must say that I believe the hand of a kind and gracious God was with me in this matter. It was the more remarkable that my father permitted me to do this, as he was generally angry with me about my religion; but I believe the thing proceeded from the Lord.
With the money thus obtained, I commenced purchasing books. The first I bought was a quarto Bible, with marginal references, for twenty-five shillings. Wishing to possess The Book of Martyrs myself, I took it in, in a hundred sixpenny numbers, and had it bound.
Another providential circumstance I may relate. I have already stated that I had two or three music pupils. One day a gentleman called, and inquired for me. He was a lieutenant in the navy, and had been recommended by the friends of one of the pupils to ask me to assist him with my judgment in the purchase of a pianoforte. I accompanied him to an instrument-maker's for that purpose; and after selecting a piano, for which he gave a cheque for thirty-two guineas, I received, as a professional teacher, the usual commission of twenty-five per cent. Eight guineas was a great addition to my finances, enabling me to buy many more books,--Luther On the Galatians, Elisha Coles On God's Sovereignty, Toplady's Works in six volumes, Romaine's Works in eight volumes, Calvin's Institutes, a very old work by Perkins, who lived in Queen Elizabeth's time, and some others. I now felt myself quite rich in books; and my dear mother read as much to me as time would allow.
I still continued to practice the piano, in compliance with the wishes of my relatives, though it did not afford me any pleasure; and I went to no parties. A friend made me a present of the full score of Handel's oratorio of The Messiah; and as I had studied thorough-bass, I employed myself in arranging the different parts for my own use, with the assistance of my mother, who read the notes to me. But I soon became weary of this work. The continued repetition of the sacred words of Scripture clashed with my feelings; it seemed to me like breaking through that reverence which I felt for God's most holy Word. I do esteem it among my greatest mercies to be kept trembling at God's Word.
It occurred to my mind one day that I would not, and I ought not to retain the Unitarian books that had been given me by Mr. B. I thought of what we read in Acts 19:19,20. Having several volumes of sermons, I proposed to myself to sell them for waste paper; but then again I thought, I will not do this, lest any person should read them, and be ensnared by them. So, with my mother's assistance, they were burned, at a time when my father was from home. I think that those who fear God should destroy all books of an infidel tendency that they may have in their possession. No one can tell the amount of mischief often produced in the minds of young people, through reading erroneous theological works. Like the society of carnal professors, they are far more dangerous than such as are altogether worldly.
My mother possessed other books--novels, plays, and such like literature; and I induced her to consent to their being sold, and the proceeds laid out in the purchase of some more of Dr. Owen's works for me. His treatise On Communion with God was very much blessed to me. His description of communion with each Person of the Godhead, I found especially sweet and instructive. It is a work that I would recommend to the perusal of those who can say, like John, 'Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.' The several acts of communion with each Person distinctly are very fully set forth. Also his Exposition of Psalm 130, I found to contain much deep, heartfelt, experimental religion. The various depths, out of which the seeking soul cries to God, are very beautifully described.
On June 23rd, 1811, Providence Chapel, Gray's Inn Lane, was opened; when Mr. Huntington preached two sermons from Haggai 2:6-9. I heard them with great satisfaction. They were afterwards published. It will be found that they were very suitable for the occasion; and the last clause, 'In this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts,' was opened in a very sweet and experimental manner. I had been anxiously waiting for this event, longing to hear twice on the Sunday, and on Wednesday evenings; and I must say, to the honor of God, that I more than realized what I expected. I thought myself richly fed indeed, when I could hear three times a week. The ministry seemed more powerful and experimental than ever. I found that the promise of God was abundantly fulfilled to myself, and, I believe, to others: 'I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.'
But this rich blessing was attended with an additional trouble. The opposition at home became still more determined, as there were more opportunities of hearing the word. But my gracious God did not forsake me in this trial; for, as it increased, I was enabled to be more earnest in pleading with the Lord about it. I sought Him many times in the day, and my thoughts were almost continually occupied with it. I often sighed out, 'Lord, do not take away from me the blessed privilege of hearing Thy precious word;' and to the honor of His name I must repeat that, though the threatenings usually commenced on Monday morning, and continued more or less through the week, on no occasion were we ever prevented from going to hear. Sunday was always passed in silence.
Soon after the opening of the chapel, we made the acquaintance of an attentive hearer of Mr. Huntington, and she lent us in succession the twenty volumes of his works. The reading of them was very profitable to me. My dear mother's health was not very good, and I have often sat for hours by her bed-side, while she read to me. I loved to watch and attend upon her; and though she seldom remarked on what she read, yet I believe that God had commenced a secret work in her soul. The operation of Divine grace is often carried on as our Lord describes it in the parable: 'The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened.' The working of this leaven in a sinner's heart is often so secret as to be almost imperceptible, but it never fails in the end; according to Paul's declaration, 'he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.' If my reader is brought to be a seeker of the Saviour, oh! let him take encouragement from this. The Saviour never breaks the bruised reed, nor will He ever quench the smoking flax. Let us not despise the day of small things. And this leaven of Divine grace must continue to work until the whole church is leavened.
I used to be very fond of stopping at the old bookshops, and getting my mother to read the titles of such books as might interest me. I found, by conversing with the different booksellers, that my Book of Martyrs was an abridgment of Foxe's original work, that consisted of three volumes folio, entitled Acts and Monuments of the Church; and I could not feel satisfied till I possessed a copy. One day I found what I wanted. I was assured that it had been the property of Sir Isaac Newton. It was in rather a shattered condition, but quite perfect as to the contents. There had been three editions of Foxe, two of which were in black letter, and the last printed in 1684. The copy which was offered to me, and which I bought for the small sum of £2 IOS., belonged to the last edition, which is the best. This work, when in good condition, usually sold for eight or ten guineas, being very scarce. I had the volumes bound, which cost be £2 8s. I lost no time in exchanging my first Book of Martyrs for a work I wished for, having often heard Mr. Huntington mention it,--Whiston's translation of Josephus.
On a Sunday morning, early in the year 1812, Mr. Huntington preached from Hebrews 10:34, 'For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.' First he commented on the preceding verses, 'But call to remembrance the former days,' etc. He drew a comparison between the sufferings of the primitive church and those of our reformed church in England during the time of Queen Mary and the Stuarts, and showed that it is through much tribulation that the church of Christ in all ages must enter into the kingdom of heaven. He then pointed out that those who belonged to the Lord might, in all probability, be called again to suffer from the Roman Antichrist. After the sermon, he said that a public meeting had been held at the London Tavern, Bishopgate Street, when a petition to Parliament was agreed to, against what was called Catholic Emancipation; that a committee had been formed to carry out this object; that the secretary had applied to him to assist in it, and that he did hope that all who loved the Saviour and were loyal to the throne and institutions of the country would sign the petition, which was now ready at the chapel, and that a person would attend in the vestry through the following week, to receive signatures. It was then thought unnecessary for women to sign public petitions, as the men were supposed fully to represent them.
Having been made acquainted in some measure with the antichristian, intolerant, and persecuting spirit of Rome, through reading of the sufferings of the martyrs, I felt a very lively interest in this matter; and after entreating the Lord that I might be successful, I asked my father to allow parchments for signatures to the petition against Catholic Emancipation to lie on the desk in his shop; to which he consented, saying to my mother, 'Jack is always up to something or other.'
I sent to the secretary, and obtained the parchments and a packet of papers containing the form of the petition, which I circulated as much as I could, and embraced every opportunity of asking those who came into the shop, to sign it. We obtained nearly three hundred signatures. The petition was signed by more than three hundred thousand persons, when it was presented to the Peers by the Lord Chancellor, and to the Commons by the four City members.
In those days Protestant loyalty was more in fashion than it is now. The feelings of the public were more alive to the true interest of the nation, than, alas! I fear they are at present. May the good Lord in mercy revive His work amongst us in the midst of the years!
The bill that had been brought into Parliament to give the Roman Catholics equal privileges with the Protestants, passed through its several stages in the Commons to the third reading, but when it was moved 'that this bill do pass,' the Speaker, the Hon. Manners Sutton, gave his casting-vote against it. The bill was consequently rejected; but still the Romanist party were greatly encouraged, as they considered they had achieved a triumph.
I do not wonder that the world at large, in these liberal times, should advocate the universal right of all the subjects of the crown to equal privileges; this is quite natural. But that the members of the Established Church and the great body of Dissenters should be so blinded by the god of this world, as to support the interest of Antichrist, this is sad indeed. The argument usually urged in favor of Catholic Emancipation is that all men have equal civil rights. But if, as in this case, certain persons are compelled by their religion to persecute their fellow-men, is it not right to withhold from them the power of so doing? Shall we say that wolves and tigers have an equal right to prowl about the fields with sheep? This might be true, if it was not the well-known propensity of the wolf to destroy the sheep. Now this is exactly the case, as it respects Romanism and Protestantism. And do not these facts fully appear at the present time?
In September of the same year, Buonaparte, having subdued all the continental nations, entered Moscow at the head of his army, but was very soon obliged to leave it, in consequence of the Russians setting it on fire in several places. With the disastrous retreat of the French, all who are conversant with the history of that time will be fully acquainted. Mr. Huntington, who was one of the most loyal subjects of the British crown that I ever knew, manifested the greatest interest in this tremendous affair. In speaking of it from the pulpit, he applied Isaiah 14:12 to Napoleon, 'How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!' Speaking very beautifully of the Lord's preserving care over us, he believed that the British isles are referred to in Isaiah 42:4, 'The isles shall wait for His law;' and that the prayers of God's people had been heard and answered, during that terrible war in which England had been so long engaged. He said he felt deeply for the suffering Russians, and hoped for a liberal collection that morning, as he wished that some houses might be built at Moscow, to be called Providence Row.
That dear man of God was a very chose observer of Divine Providence. He used to say that those who watched and acknowledge the hand of God, would never want a Providence to watch over them. There was a liberal response to his appeal, as I understood that more than £400 was collected. But the generosity of Mr. Huntington and his people was strikingly remarkable. He preached a free grace salvation to lost sinners, and it is written, 'The liberal deviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.' How fully was this verified in his own experience.
About this time I was able to buy Owen On the Hebrews, the best edition, 4 vols. folio, for which I paid six guineas. This is a work I very highly prize. I bought also a folio volume of sermons, and several other works by the same author. I used to think books were my greatest earthly treasure.
During this year and part of the following, we had frequent intimations that Mr. Huntington's ministerial career was near its close, both from his observations from the pulpit, and several temporary attacks of illness, during which Mr. Lock used to preach for him. I can never forget the anxious fears I experienced, that I should be deprived of what to me was the greatest privilege and delight I was favored with. I well remember his preaching from Ps. 104:3. This discourse was afterwards published, entitled, 'The Apartments, Equipage, and Parade of Immanuel.' Also from Ps. 18:9,10; Amos 9:13; Zech. 1:18-20. And many other texts I could mention, which were made especial blessings to me, and to which I can truly apply the words of Moses in Deut. 32:2.
My worst fears and those of many others were at last realized. On June 9th, 1813 (it was on a Wednesday evening), he preached from Rev. 3:3, 'Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.' This was one of the most remarkable sermons I ever heard him preach. The chapel was very full, and many of his hearers thought it would be his last. After service, he was asked in the vestry to publish it; to which he replied, 'I will, if I have time; but I believe my work is done.' Yet he had appeared stronger than usual. On the following Friday morning he was taken ill, and the next Friday went to Tunbridge Wells, where he died on July 1st, and was buried at Jireh Chapel, Lewes, in the same vault with his beloved brother and fellow-minister, the Rev. Jenkin Jenkins; and an epitaph, written by himself, was inscribed on his tomb. Vast numbers of his sorrowful hearers, from London and other places attended his funeral.
Called with a holy calling, richly endued with the fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, favored with a very large number of seals to his ministry, raised by Divine Providence from a poor station in life to a position of comfort and affluence, William Huntington, like John Bunyan, was a very striking illustration of what Paul says in 1 Cor. 1:26-29, 'For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in His presence.'
If the reader of these recollections should wish to know why I so highly prized and greatly esteemed the ministry and writings of Mr. Huntington, my answer is, that though I have heard good men preach the everlasting gospel, I never heard any, whose testimony was so abundantly manifested in my conscience, and blessed to my soul, as his. I used to hear the voice of the Chief Shepherd through his ministry. He spoke as one having authority from God. His preaching came not in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance. He was a sincere lover of the tried sons and daughters of Zion, ever ready to feed the poor of the flock, and was preeminent for largeness of heart and liberality to the poor.
I cannot fully express the sorrow of heart which I felt when the Lord was pleased to call him home. The thought that I should never hear him preach again, seemed to be almost overwhelming; and such, I believe, was the feeling of very many of the Lord's people who had been favored to hear him, throughout the length and breadth of the land. His copious works have been blessed to thousands, and are a standing monument of the triumphs of free, sovereign grace.
After his death, the congregation at Providence Chapel waited with much expectation to hear Mr. Chamberlain of Leicester. An account of God's dealings with him had been published by Mr. Huntington, in a little work, entitled, The Love of Christ always the same, Park III. From this, together with different remarks made by him from time to time, most of us were led to conclude that he believed that Mr. Chamberlain would, in the providence of God, be his successor in the ministry. I can well remember my feelings before going to chapel to hear him preach for the first time. It was on a Wednesday evening. I was enabled to plead earnestly with the Lord that He would condescend to be with His servant, and that he might be made manifest in the hearts and consciences of those who were about to hear him; that the spirit of Elijah might rest on Elisha. I did not expect to find the same amount of life, power, and savor as I had been accustomed to; but I did hope that the great Head of the church was about to favor us with a pastor according to His own heart; and was enabled to be very earnest in asking this blessing of the Lord.
When my mother and I arrived at the chapel, we found it quite full,--a Sunday congregation. When Mr. Chamberlain engaged in prayer, I heard him as a good man indeed, but I felt that he was, like David, shut up, and could not come forth. I did beg the Lord to help His servant. He took for his text the first three verses of the 61st of Isaiah, but he seemed to be deeply exercised with a spirit of bondage. What he said was every way scriptural, but it was unconnected; there was no opening up of the text. I was led to look for its fulfillment, to a certain extent, in the ministry of the preacher; but, though fully satisfied that he was a good man, and I could not help believing that he was a sent servant of God, yet the sermon greatly disappointed me. He did not preach, I think, more than forty minutes; and by his manner I felt sure that he was deeply disappointed himself.
Several years after, this dear man of God told me, when dining with him at Mr. Bensley's, that he had thought himself a great man before the Wednesday evening of which I have been speaking, but that he had never been a great man since. No, he was indeed blessed with a humble spirit. I do not think that he generally enjoyed much liberty in preaching, but he was very earnest in the Lord's work, and his ministry was suited, and much blessed, to those who were experiencing deep soul trouble. Many a poor, tried sinner was brought forth out of darkness into God's marvelous light, through the instrumentality of his ministry.
But to return. Mr. Lock had assisted Mr. Huntington when he was ill or out of town, for some years. He was originally in the Countess of Huntingdon's connection, but had been attracted to Mr. Huntington's ministry by the power that attended it to his own soul. He went one evening after service into the vestry, and spoke to Mr. Huntington, who afterwards said that he felt drawn out in love to him, and it was as if a voice said, 'Take Lock to help you.' From that time Mr. Lock used to spend one day in every week with him, and preached whenever he was required. He became the settled minister at Providence Chapel, in connection with Mr. Burgess, who was another friend of Mr. Huntington's. They preached alternate Sundays, and Mr. Chamberlain preached four Sundays in each year.
I continued with my mother to attend the chapel regularly, never going anywhere else while I remained in London. I heard Mr. Lock as a truly gracious man. There was no order or method in his preaching; he did not open his texts. I used in my mind to compare his sermons to a bunch of beautiful flowers, sweetly scented, but thrown together without any order. I felt a sweet union of spirit with him. I seldom got much under Mr. Burgess's ministry. He was a good man, but much afflicted both in mind and body, and he was greatly annoyed and distressed with an irritable temper. He would sometimes in the pulpit read letters he had received from persons opposed to him, which was unprofitable both to himself and his hearers. He deeply felt any real or supposed unkindness. Yet, notwithstanding all his natural fretfulness, I rejoice to say that he died happily in the Lord. 'Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.' And we know that all the perfection and uprightness of the saints, together with the peace they enjoy, is in, through, from, and by Christ.
Though I continued to attend the chapel, yet I experienced much spiritual barrenness. I was surrounded by many trials. Missing that ministry which had so richly fed my soul with knowledge and understanding, I ardently longed for the presence of the Chief Shepherd. This was not altogether withheld from me, for I found Mr. Huntington's writings very precious. I endeavored, as it were, by increased earnestness in seeking the Lord in private, to retain my former enjoyments. Like the Spouse of old, I held Him fast, and would not let Him go, and sometimes could say with Jacob, 'I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me.' And here I found that with all this earnestness there was a mixture of legality, something of self; for if, through any unavoidable circumstance, I omitted to call upon the Lord at either of the appointed times, I was dissatisfied with myself; while there was a good deal of self-gratification in my own regularity.
My home was very uncomfortable from the opposition of my poor father, and during the first part of the year 1814 my health greatly declined. Dr. Babington of Aldermanbury was consulted, and he told my mother that he did not think I should live more than nine or ten weeks, that country air was the most likely thing to do me good; and he declined to prescribe any medicine for me.
It was on the 2nd of June in that year that I went by myself into Somersetshire, home circumstances not permitting my mother to go with me at that time. The journey occupied thirty hours. Mr. Bellamy, the husband of my mother's sister, met me at Bridgwater, and drove me to his own house at Sandford, about two miles from that place. And here I must not omit to mention that peculiar providence of my gracious God and Father, which was over me at this time. My aunt, Mr. Bellamy, and all their family, received me with the greatest possible kindness. Knowing the state of my health, not a thing was omitted which they thought calculated to promote my comfort. If I had been their own son, it would have been impossible for them to do more for me.
After I had been there a few days, Mr. Bellamy wished to introduce me to a very eminent medical practitioner at Taunton, who consequently visited me at Sandford, and after a lengthened examination as to the state of my health, gave an opinion quite at variance with that of the London Physician. He said that I was naturally very delicate, and that I had been much reduced, but he saw no reason why, with proper medical care and nursing, I should not recover. In a few hours after this visit I became much worse. I fell into a state of torpor. If I was spoken to, I gave a rational answer, but immediately forgot that I had been spoken to. I altogether forgot the days of the week, and knew no difference between day and night. My mind and memory seemed entirely lost. I did not think of anything, and seemed quite unconscious as to all spiritual concerns. I continued in this state, I believe, about a fortnight. My case was thought strange, and several doctors from Bridgwater and Taunton visited me.
The first thing of which I have any distinct recollection, was the recurrence to my mind of some passages from Luther On the Galatians, which I had heard read just before leaving home. The very clear distinction which that great reformer makes between Law and Gospel, came one day to my mind; and I was enabled to believe that the Lord had graciously delivered me from the bondage of the one, and brought me into the glorious liberty of the other. This afforded me sweet consolation; and I became conscious of all persons and things by which I was surrounded. My head had been shaved and a blister applied, of which I knew nothing, and I could not help wondering how the time had been passed during my absence of mind. I believe everything that medical skill and the most devoted affection and attention could do, had been done for me. I cannot forbear to remark that Mr. Bellamy would not allow his men to come into the house to have any meal, but he paid them out of doors, lest they should disturb me. This must appear the more remarkable when I come to relate other circumstances connected with his conduct towards me. I cannot attribute it to natural relationship. No, my dear reader, it was the hand of my gracious God providing for me the most suitable situation in which I could have been placed, and He shall have all the praise.
All the doctors said that I never could have recovered, had I not had the advantage of fine country air, and a very large and lofty sleeping apartment. When I was getting better, my mother arrived, which added to my comfort; though my aunt and her family, the governess, and the servants, all showed me the most unremitting attention. As I understood afterwards, I was never left quite alone.
While I was recovering, I had some sweet meditation of a sermon I had heard preached by Mr. Huntington, from Amos 9:13. The manner in which he opened his text was brought back to my memory; the mountains and hills, the grapes and the sweet wine afforded me matter for very pleasing thought. After the season of darkness which I had experienced had passed away, I found that the Lord was as kind and gracious as ever, my comforts and enjoyments were restored to me, and I had abundant evidence that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. I believe that this blessed realization of God's truth and faithfulness greatly promoted the recovery of my health. 'He sent His word and healed them:' yea, He says, 'I am the Lord that healeth thee.'
Though very weak when I rose, I regained strength rapidly. I had brought some of Mr. Huntington's books with me, which the governess was very kindly willing to read to me when I wished, though, poor thing, I fear she did not understand them; yet she would often express her admiration of them. As soon as I was able to bear it, Mr. Bellamy commenced driving me out every day, which I very much enjoyed.
I had another uncle, my mother's half-brother, John Evans, who lived at Spaxton, five miles from Bridgwater. He was very kind and attentive to me through my illness. On my recovery he went with me to Taunton, and generously paid the doctor's bill, which seemed to afford him much pleasure. He also said to me, 'John, your recovery is like a resurrection from the dead, and I should wish to make you a present. What would you like the best?' I replied, 'Uncle, there is nothing in the world I should so much wish for as Mr. Huntington's works.' He said, 'What will they cost?' I answered, '£12 to nonsubscribers.' When we got back, he gave me the £12, saying he had much pleasure in doing it. I could not help feeling that this was a remarkable display of the hand of God; for I had often earnestly desired to possess these books. My uncle had no knowledge of Mr. Huntington, only he had often heard me speak of him.
In dismissing this part of my narrative, I desire to acknowledge the great goodness of God, in inclining the hearts of my relatives to show me such marked kindness. I have always looked at these circumstances as tokens for good, evidences of God's watchful eye and special care over me, and to Him be all the praise.
I think it was in September that I returned home with my mother. I embraced the earliest opportunity of spending my uncle's kind present in the purchase of Mr. Huntington's works, which I esteemed as a great treasure. I bought also his other writings not contained in the twenty volumes.
I found the congregation at Providence Chapel greatly diminished. The ministry of Mr. Lock and Mr. Burgess, though highly esteemed by many, did not satisfy the majority of Mr. Huntington's hearers. I believe that most of the poor of the flock, that waited upon the Lord, knew that it was His word. But there were many who had sought and found entertainment in the very extraordinary gifts bestowed upon Mr. Huntington, which were largely displayed in the opening of dark texts, and in his extensive acquaintance with the sacred Word of God. Many of these persons were altogether discontented with the more slender gifts of the good men who succeeded him; though I believe that most of those who could be satisfied with the sincere milk of the word, often found a feast of things. We went nowhere else, except occasionally to hear Mr. Wilkinson at the Haberdasher' Almshouses, Hoxton, on a Sunday evening. We had been recommended to hear that truly gracious servant of the Lord by my friend Mr. Peto, who highly valued his ministry, which, though simple, was very sweet and savory........
In addition to the narrative here broken off, some few particulars relating to the commencement of Mr. Hobbs ministry are found in the following letter:--
Fair Mile, Cobham, September, 1826.
To the much honored, greatly revered, and highly favored ambassador of the King of Zion, the Rev. Mr. Oxenham, John Hobbs most affectionately wishes abundance of grace, mercy, and peace, 'from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, and from the seven Spirits which are before His throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful Witness, and the First-begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'
My very dear Sir,--I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your favor dated Lewes, September 8th, and allow me to offer my very sincere thanks for the kind advice it conveys. I feel that its contents are weighty and important, and have found it sweet to spread the matter before the Lord. I must observe that I have long been favored to commit my ways unto Him by earnest prayer and supplication, to ask counsel of Him, and seek direction from Him: and to the honor of His Divine veracity be it acknowledged, He has never permitted me to seek His face in vain. I have been rather peculiarly favored of late, in pouring out my heart before Him; and what I am most earnestly desiring, is, not so much to judge from any outward appearances, either encouraging or discouraging, but rather to trace the Divine operations, teaching, and anointing of God's most Holy Spirit in my own heart. When at times I am enabled to enter into the everlasting, discriminating, unparalleled love of my ever-gracious God and Father, so as to feel its sweet and precious influence, my heart melts under the Divine impression that He should have loved me with an everlasting love, chosen me in Christ to eternal salvation, and blessed me with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Him; that, in the execution of His own eternal purpose, He should have been pleased to call me forth with an holy calling when very young, to separate me by His grace from all my natural relations and friends, to teach, instruct, and chasten me out of His law; and finally to bring me to sit down at His ever-blessed feet to receive of His sacred words, and to be found clothed, and in my right mind. He washed me in His most precious blood, gave me the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness, shed abroad His own everlasting love in my heart, and condescended to give me the sweetest tokens, manifestations, and assurances of His Divine favor. These things, enjoyed in the sweet experience of them, and traced by the eye of faith up to His own everlasting love, will, my dear Sir, form a theme of eternal praise, when all the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing and everlasting joy upon their covenant Head, when they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall for ever flee away.
But to return to the subject of your letter. Allow me to observe, with all becoming respect, that it does appear that my dear friend has received rather a mistaken impression as to my anxiety about being settled over a people. I know that the human heart is deceitful above all things, and I often think my own is the most deceitful; but my ever-gracious Lord and Saviour is pleased to indulge me to make very free with Him. He has commanded me to give Him my heart; and how sweet do I often find it to entreat that He will take it and form it for Himself, that He will condescend to reign supreme in my affections, to keep my will in a state of submission to His own sovereign good pleasure, and never permit me to seek after that which He has not appointed to bestow. In tracing these things, I sometimes find that faith is greatly encouraged, because the Lord knows that I have no control over my own desires; and I have generally found that when I have been permitted to desire anything contrary to His will, the holy and ever-blessed Spirit suspends His Divine operations, particularly at a throne of grace; shyness and distance are produced; nor can the soul get near to the Lord, so as to unbosom, pour out, and make known its desires unto Him.
Now, quite the reverse of this has been my happy experience of late. Although I have very frequently been pressed out of measure, beyond strength, yet there has been no wrath, guilt, or despair working within; but the Lord has often said, 'Peace, be still;' has unfolded the precious love of His heart, and indulged me with such a sweet sense of His Divine approbation, that faith has joined her Amen to that precious promise, 'The Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.' Yet my dear friend will believe me, that even those endearing manifestations do not free the soul from its concern about many things. Nor do I wish they should; because by these things I am kept earnest at a throne of grace, diligent in pleading before the Lord, very watchful of His kind and gracious hand, and tender in observing the inward checks and encouragements, withdrawings and manifestations, contractions and enlargements, which are experienced: 'Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.'
But I am still wandering from my subject, to which I now return. May I entreat the indulgence of my dear friend, not while I attempt anything like self-justification, but simply lay before him a correct account of the way in which my ever-gracious God and Father has been pleased to lead me as it respects the ministry.
In the year 1814 I went to live near Bridgwater in Somersetshire, where I heard no preaching, nor had I any Christian friend to commune with. Here the Lord was pleased to impress my mind for several years that He would in His own good time send me forth to speak in His great and holy name. In the year 1823 I visited London, where I met Mr. Vinall at the house of our esteemed friend Mr. Peto. It appears that Mr. Peto had had impressions on his mind as to my being called to labor in the Lord's vineyard, even before it had been brought upon my own mind; but he never communicated it to me, nor did I ever name it to him, or to my beloved mother. Before our going to hear Mr. Vinall, I was requested to engage in prayer, when the same impression came upon his mind; and after a conversation with Mr. Peto, he (Mr. Vinall) on the following morning asked me whether I had ever felt any impressions as to my speaking in the Lord's name. He drew out all my feelings upon the subject, and with much kindness and affection advised my watching the Lord's hand.
Soon after this, I received two pressing invitations from a Mr. Westbrook, the trustee of a chapel at Hounslow, to speak at that place, as they found it difficult to get the word ministered among them. I cannot describe the exercise of my mind for some time, but my dear friend will enter into my feelings. Many fears of rushing forward in presumption, much darkness in my own soul, and at times an irresistible impression that I must go, agitated my mind; till the good Lord was pleased to decide the doubtful point, by applying in a very sweet and powerful manner the 16th ver. of the 71st Psalm, 'I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Thy righteousness, even of Thine only.' I simply told the Lord that if He would condescend to be with me, I desired to be devoted to His service, that all the glory might redound to Himself; but if not, I begged I might not be permitted to presume in future. Here faith was proved to be the substance of things hoped for; for on the 27th September, 1823, I went to Hounslow with my valuable friend Mr. Peto, when the good Lord gave matter for two discourses from the before-cited portion of His most holy Word. On this occasion, a dear friend, the late Mrs. Westbrook, who, I have no doubt, is now with the Lord, was closely united to me in spirit, and remained so ever after.
The chapel was then supplied by three other persons and myself; and the congregation increased on my Sabbath from thirty or forty to at least two hundred persons. Many pressing invitations were given me to settle in that place, and a house and garden, the property of Mr. Westbrook, were kindly offered me, but I could never see my way clear to settle there.
On the 2nd of the following November, I received an invitation to speak twice at Mayford in Surrey; and in the evening of the same day for the first time at Cobham, where I have since continued, in connection with other places. The following December and January I supplied Mr. Vinall's lecture in London, and in February I visited my mother (who then resided in Somersetshire), in consequence of her experiencing severe indisposition, when I told her that it was my firm impression I should never be settled at Cobham. This impression has ever since continued. Since my first speaking, the good Lord has opened more than fifty different places to me, and a few persons here and there have been gathered by the word. In many of them very pressing invitations have been given me to settle--at Brentford in Middlesex, at Richmond, Chertsey, and Woking in Surrey.
I take the freedom of troubling you with this account, to show that no anxiety has been, or is, manifested on my part to be settled over a people, until the good Lord shall be pleased to make it quite plain. In the first two years I was called to speak four hundred and eight times.
On the 18th September, 1825, I received a letter from Chichester, informing me that I had been given out to speak at that place on the following Sabbath, as it was known I was going to Brighton for my health. I spoke from 1 John 2:27, after which I proceeded to Brighton and Lewes. On the feelings expressed by the friends in these places I forbear making any remark. With my different visits to Chichester you are fully acquainted. The most earnest solicitations have been made from the first by the friends at that place, that I should settle among them, which solicitations have increased to the present time: and I have often admired their affection and ingenuity in contriving means of inducement. But I have always been uniform in telling them that he that believes shall not make haste; nor have I given, nor can I give them any promise, until my kind and gracious Lord shall be pleased to instruct me in His sacred mind and will.
On one occasion, about six or seven years since, when under a very deep exercise, the Lord was pleased most sweetly and powerfully to assure my heart from Exodus 33:14, 'And He said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest;' and more recently from Isaiah 58:10,11, 'If thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon-day: and the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.' These exceeding great and precious promises I call in a peculiar manner my own; and faith sometimes is strong enough to take them in her hand, and plead them before the throne; nor has the great Author, eternal Finisher, grand Center, and glorious Object of faith, ever turned a deaf ear to her humble, but earnest and importunate suit.
But I return once more. When I first spoke in London, certain friends expressed a very strong desire that a chapel should be taken for me; but others, with whom I have had the happiness of being more intimately acquainted, rather wished to wait and watch the Lord's hand.
I began to think that it was not the Lord's will that I should speak in London; but immediately on the back of this, Staining Lane Chapel presented itself. My mind has been brought into a very great strait, attended with much pleading before the Lord that I might not be permitted to act contrary to His sacred mind and will. I have been induced to say that I desire to leave it here--that if the Lord opened the door for me, and gathered a people together, I could at present feel free to speak among them. Further than this I have not engaged myself by any promise. Here, then, I desire to stand upon my watchtower, till the Lord's mind and will shall be fully known. After much self-examination, I do feel that the Lord has graciously kept me from connecting my own natural feelings with that dispensation of the gospel which He has been pleased kindly to call me unto, and I do most earnestly hope that I shall be favored with an interest in the prayers of my dear friend.
I do not recollect that I can say anything more at present, but express the very sincere desires of my heart that the good Lord will bless you and keep you, that He will be very gracious unto you, and cause His face to shine upon you, that He will lift up the light of His countenance upon you, and give you peace; that you and yours may ever be under His watchful eye and His paternal care; that He will spare you long as a blessing to His church and people; that your soul may be as a watered garden, and as a spring of water, whose waters fail not; that you may be favored with many endearing visitations, precious manifestations, and sweet discoveries of the everlasting love of Jehovah, in His eternal choice of His people, in the gift of His dear Son, and in the precious outpouring of His most Holy Spirit, so that you may dwell on high, and be indulged with many sweet views of the King in His beauty, and of that land which is very far off. That these, with all other new covenant blessings, may abundantly rest upon you and yours, is, my dear Sir, the very earnest desire of him who begs to subscribe himself, yours in the bond of everlasting love,
AFTER his becoming the settled minister at Staining Lane Chapel, where he first preached November 5th, 1826, and was ordained to the pastoral care of the church November 16th, 1829, Mr. Hobbs life was outwardly an uneventful one. Had he been permitted to complete his narrative, he would have had much to tell of the varied workings of God's providence, and the gracious instruction communicated to him thereby. But these secret operations of the Holy Spirit on his soul could be related by none but himself; and the Lord, in the mystery of His wisdom, has seen fit to seal up from his attached congregation and others, much which, in their view, might have been profitable to the church. Enough, however, has been written by him to serve as one more testimony to be added to that of the great cloud of witnesses, who have proclaimed from their own experience the goodness and mercy of the Lord.
He continued to minister in Staining Lane for forty-four years, with the exception of a short interval, when, in consequence of alterations in the arrangements of the Haberdashers' Company, to whom the chapel belonged, the congregation removed to another place of worship. Through failing health, his labors were frequently irregular, and though his whole heart was in his work, he found himself compelled in the autumn of 1870 to relinquish his Sunday evening service, though still continuing his week-evening lecture. He preached for the last time on Wednesday evening, December 21st, apparently in his usual health; but the intense cold of that night was too much for him, and doubtless produced an aggravation of his complaint, from which he never recovered. He rallied after the first attack several times, and week after week indulged the hope that on the next Sabbath he should be able to go up again to the house of the Lord. But his work in proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ was done. Once more only, on the first Sunday in May 1871, was he enabled to meet his beloved flock, and that only as a worshipper. On this occasion he for the last time took his accustomed place at the Lord's Table, and with great difficulty and in much suffering he spoke for a few minutes during the administration of the sacred ordinance.
On returning home, he expressed his pleasure and thankfulness that he had been allowed to carry out the desire of his heart, but appeared to have no presentiment that he would meet his people no more. On the contrary, his health again improved, and he still hoped that after a change of air he should be able to resume his work.
On Sunday, May 28th, he was much engaged in dictating a letter to his congregation, according to his usual custom. But it was left unfinished; for on the evening of that day he was seized with an attack of acute bronchitis, followed by pleurisy. It seemed that God mercifully hid from him that it was the messenger of death; for on many occasions he had spoken of his dread of the suffering which he feared he must go through when he drew near his end, considering the nature of his complaint. He gave no intimation that he felt that his life was so nearly closed, and to all appearance, before he was aware that he was approaching the banks of Jordan, the waters were divided before him, and he was safe on the heavenly shore.
His redeemed spirit returned to God who gave it, on the 1st of June 1871 and on the 7th, on which day he would have completed his 75th year, the mortal body was laid in Kingston Cemetery, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.