The Bank of Faith - Part 1
William Huntington (1745-1813)
God the Guardian of the Poor and the Bank of Faith
A DISPLAY OF THE PROVIDENCES OF GOD, WHICH HAVE AT SUNDRY TIMES ATTENDED THE AUTHOR.
WHEN I was about seven years of age I heard a person say that God took notice of children's sins. The wonderful workings of my mind upon these words I shall not at present descant on; neither shall I mention the many trials I underwent at the bar of my own conscience while the impression dwelt on my mind. I also remember to have once heard a person say that all things were possible with God; which words I secretly treasured up and pondered in my heart; and as I had great desire at that time to life in the capacity of an errand-boy with a certain gentleman in the place, being very poorly brought up, and knowing much the want of the common necessaries of life, it came into my mind that, if all things were possible with God, it was also possible for him to send me to live as a servant boy with 'Squire Cooke, though at the same time he had a boy who I believed was well approved of. Notwithstanding this last circumstance, I privately asked God, in an extempore way, to give me that boy's place; and made many promises how good I would be if he granted me this request. For many days I privately begged of God this favour, which nobody knew but God and myself, till now I relate it. I believe I went on in this way of praying, sometimes under a hedge, or on my bed, for a week or two; and I thought, if God granted me this favour, I should know whether all things were possible with him or not. Having prayed for many days, and finding no likelihood of an answer, I readily concluded that there was no God; and therefore I had no cause to be so afraid of sinning, nor had I any occasion to pray to him any more. Accordingly I left off praying for some time, and then began again, till at last I left off entirely. Some few days after this, there came a man to my father's house, and said, "William, 'Squire Cooke wants a boy; why don't you go after the place?" I said, "John Dungy lives there." He answered, "No; he is turned away." I asked for what. He replied, "Old Master Coly, the oysterman, went there a few days ago to carry some oysters; and, while the old man was gone with a measure of them into the house, the boy robbed the pads, as they hung on the horse while he was tied up at the gate; and the mistress, seeing him, discharged him for it."
The compunction which I felt - the thoughts that I had - the various workings of my mind - the promises I made, and the petitions I put up, as I went after the place - I choose to conceal; for I think they would hardly be credited, considering I was no more, at this time, than eight years old. However, to my astonishment, I got the place, and the bargain was struck at twenty shilling per annum. For many days and weeks an uncommon impression about the power of God lay fresh on my mind. But soon after this a sudden temptation brought me to believe that there was no God; that, if there was, he took no notice of such creatures as we are, or of any of our affairs; and that it was by chance I got the place: wherefore I imagined that I had no occasion to pray, or to pay the vows which I had made. This temptation made a sufficient breach for me to creep out at, and proved an awful inlet to vice and vanity, which for some months I gave way to. Soon after this I offended my master, was discharged from my servitude, and went home as deeply stung with guilt for my folly as I had been before lifted up at the sight of God's mercy.
After this period I had sharp work in my conscience for some years, at certain times, but was still pursued with deistical principles - that God took no notice of our proceedings; - till at last it appeared rather fixed in my mind, and insensibility and stupor naturally followed. Now it was that I got wholly out of all feat of God, or thoughts of futurity, and very soon learned to dance; which is just as serviceable a net to ruin souls as devils could invent, or frail mortals drop into. However, God put a stop to this by laying a fit of sickness on my tabernacle, which I had never before experienced. I laboured hard, rather than submit to go to bed; and made a shift to keep about my business as long as I was able to move a limb: but at last I was forced to yield Then my conscience began to do her office, and the wrath of God to alarm me; so that I was fully convinced God took notice of my conduct in this life, and would reckon with me for it in the next. I lay in this state of mind until I had all earnest of damnation in my heart; and I had not a single doubt of my portion in everlasting burnings, if I died in that state. God brought me so nigh the end of all flesh, that the rattles of death stopped my breath twice. I tried to fly from death, and got out of the bed to run away, but could not; for I fell on the floor, and there lay till my fellow-servants found me, and put me into bed again by force. Soon after I heard one of the maids say, "Poor William will die." "Yea," said the other, "Doctor Wilson has given him over." - They knew not that I heard them. I tried again to fly from death, but found I could not. So I began to whisper a prayer to God, which conscience would not allow me to do before. As I began to pray I gathered strength, and in less than a month was out of doors. I quitted my servitude, went home to my parents till my recovery, and never danced any more from that hour to this. Soon after I got well, I was informed that one 'Squire Pool, of Charten, in Kent, wanted a servant. I went after the place, and took courage to ask of God the favour of success; as he had been pleased to punish me for my past folly, and had brought me to believe that I had highly offended him, I went under a hedge, and put up a solemn prayer to him, to give me success in my journey, and make me an object of his care for the future: and I cut a stick half through, and bent it down in the hedge, which I promised to look at, on my return, and render praise to God, if he granted me this favour. Somewhat like poor Jacob, in his trouble, when he anointed the pillar, by pouring a little oil upon the top of it; and promising, if God would keep him, then he should be his God; and, of all that God should give him, he would give God the tenth part. God heard my prayer, and I got the place. Though there was a servant in the parlour with the gentleman, and though they had partly agreed when I came in; yet he broke off the bargain with him, to my astonishment. The reason why he chose me in preference to the other was, because he was a married man and I was not. This was the secondary cause; but I resolve it by the primary one. At my return I looked, with many tears, at the stick which I had marked, and offered up an imperfect tribute of praise to the God of my daily mercies, whom I had neglected and much offended.
For some time I endeavoured, while in place, to walk so as to please God, as I imagined; but, alas! the vanities of this world are too strong for any but those "who are kept, by the mighty power of God, through faith unto salvation:" which power I knew nothing of; therefore my resolutions were soon broken, and I forgot my God. But soon after this he again put his afflicting hand on me, and laid me on a sick bed for many months; nor did I recover effectually for three years after. But still, distress of mind at times followed me; and, blessed be God, he did not wholly leave me without some conviction, till he brought me to know the truth as it is in Jesus. One particular instance of Providence I here recollect also: which was, I had ordered my box of clothes to be left at the Star inn, at Maidstone, in Kent, for the Cranbrook carrier to bring to me; but he said it was not there. So I went to search after it, fearing it was lost. At this time I was so poor in pocket, that I had but one shilling left in all the world. However, I thought I should be able to go out and return again in one day, therefore that shilling would bear my charges; but, when I came to Maldstone, the box was not there; I was obliged to go further; and, in my return, I found myself so very weak and low that I could not get back that day. The shilling was gone, my strength was gone, and the weather was very wet and cold; night, too, began to draw on apace, and at this time I was two miles from Maidstone, which was fourteen from Cranbrook. While I was thinking of, and mourning over, my miserable situation, I thought, if I were one that feared and loved God, as others in old time had done, I might have any thing at his hands; but as for me, I had made him my enemy by sin, and therefore he would take no notice of me, nor of any body else in our days, for parsons and people were all wicked alike. Presently after this it came suddenly on my mind to go out of the foot-path, which led through the fields, to go into the horse-road; though, at the same time, the foot-path was by far the best. I had been in the road scarcely a minute before I cast my eye on the ground, and there lay a sixpence. I took it up; and before I had walked many steps further, there lay a shilling also. I took that up, and it supplied my necessities at that time very well. These manifold providences and answers to prayer did, at times, deeply impress my mind that God had some regard for me: but when sin was committed all these thoughts were blasted.
However, I never could entirely, after this time, get rid of all my thoughts about the awful day of judgment - the dreadful consideration of an endless eternity - the tremendous tribunal of God - the woeful state of a guilty sinner before him the certain conquest of triumphant death, and certain approach to God's bar - the wretched figure that a guilty soul would make when all his secret and open sins were exposed to God, angels, and men - and the miserable punishment which souls must feel who have their doom fixed in the gloomy receptacle of the damned. These things were, at times, uppermost in my thoughts; and, though I pursued many pleasures, in order to stifle them, yet I had felt enough to fix a lasting conviction of the truth of them upon my soul.
Having wandered about for some years in this solitary way, "seeking rest and finding none," it happened that I once went to work at Darnbury Park, in Essex, for one 'Squire Fitch. I bad been there but a few days before I fell sick, and was carried to the sign of the Bell, where nobody knew me, and with only two shillings in my pocket; but Providence sent an old widow, whose name was Shepherd, and whose deceased husband had been a butcher. This woman being much of a dectress, doctored me, nursed me, watched with me, and fed me, though she never saw me before or since; nor had she any thing for her trouble, and yet took as much care of me as if I had been her own child. A few years ago I was determined to go down mid see her, and restore her fourfold for her labour, and tell her what God had done for me; but, upon inquiry, I found that she had been dead about three months before my arrival, which I was very sorry for.
I do not remember any other particular providence until I was married, when my wife and I took ready-furnished lodgings at Mortlake, in Surrey, where God smote my conscience effectually. It so happened that I fell lame, having received a wrench in my loins, which rendered me incapable of labour for many days. During this time our money was all gone, and we were but strangers in the place, having been in it but about half a year. After I began to recover a little, there fell a deep snow on the ground, which prevented my working for many days. Here Providence suffered us to know what it was to want. We had one child, about five or six months old, which was our first-born. It happened one morning early that my wife asked me for the tinderbox, seemingly in a great fright, crying out, "I wonder the poor child has not waked all night!" She lighted the candle and took up the child; and behold it was dead, and as black as a coal! It went off in a convulsive fit, as five more have done since, all of whom turned black also. Here Providence appeared again; for, about three or four months before this death happened, a gentleman, in whose garden I at times had wrought, desired me to look after his horse in the country while he was in town, for which I was to have one shilling per week. The very day on which the child died the gentleman came down from London; and I got my money of him for looking after the horse, which just served to bury the poor infant. My lameness, poverty, distress of mind, the sufferings of my wife, loss of my child, and the sense of God's wrath, were the most complicated distresses I had ever felt. From this time spiritual convictions began to plough so deep m my heart as to make way for the word of eternal life; which at length brought me experimentally to know "the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent." And if God should spare my life, and give me time, I may acquaint the world of the whole dealings of God with my soul in a treatise by itself; but in this I intend treating chiefly of the providences of God, lest the book swell too big for the poor to purchase.
I do not remember any particular providence attending me till about three or four years after, when I was brought savingly to believe in Jesus Christ for life and salvation. At this time I dwelt in a ready-furnished lodging at Sunbury, in Middlesex; where my eldest daughter, now living, fell sick, at about five or six months old, and was wasted to a skeleton. We had a doctor to attend her; but she got worse and worse. Having lost our first child, this was a dear idol to us; and I suppose it lay as near my heart as poor Isaac did to the heart of Abraham. However, it appeared as if God was determined to bereave us of her, for he brought her even to death's door. My wife and I have sat up with her night after night, watching the cradle, expecting every breath to be her last, for two or three weeks together. At last I asked the doctor if he thought there was any hope of her life. He answered, No; he would not flatter me; she would surely die. This distressed me beyond measure; and, as he told me he could do no more for her, I left my lodging-room, went to my garden in the evening, and in my little tool-house wrestled hard with God in prayer for the life of the child; but upon these conditions - that, if my request was granted, and she should live to arrive at the full stature in life, and in future times turn wicked, and be damned for sin, and that my earnest prayer should be the cause of it, I beseeched God not to regard my petition for the child, though she was as dear to me as my own life. I went home satisfied that God had heard me; and in three days the child was as well as she is now, and ate as heartily, only her flesh was not perfectly restored. This effectually convinced me that all things were possible with God.
I had now dwelt about fourteen months at Sunbury, and had served a gentleman in the capacity of a gardener at twelve shillings per week. The gentleman informed me he purposed to keep his carriage, and intended that his driver should work in the garden; therefore he should only hire a man now and then a day, but should not keep a gardener constantly. I was, in consequence, discharged from my work; but had the liberty offered me of staying till I could get employment elsewhere. I believe my master often saw the felicity of my mind, and the wisdom God had given me, by the answers I was enabled to give to his various questions. - Grace carries many rays of majesty with it, though it take up its abode in a beggar. However, I thought this world was his god, therefore I refused his offer, as Abraham did the present that was offered him by the king of Sodom; that is, I would take nothing that was his, "from a thread even to a shoe latchet."
After I had been three weeks out of employment I heard of a place at Ewell, in Surrey: which I went after, and engaged in. It was with a gentleman that manufactured gunpowder. I agreed for eleven shillings per week in the summer, and ten shillings in the winter; and procured a ready-furnished room in an old thatched house on Ewell Marsh (if with propriety it might be called a furnished room) at two shillings per week. I was obliged to pawn all my best clothes, in order to defray the remaining expenses which attended my wife's lying-in, owing to my being out of employment; and to hire a cart to carry my personal effects (which were but few) to Ewell. When the cart set us down on Ewell Marsh on the Monday morning, and I had paid the hire of it, I had the total sum of tenpence-haltpenny left, to provide for myself, my wife, and child, till the ensuing Saturday night! But, though I were thus poor, yet I knew God had made me rich in faith; and these words came on my mind with power - "He multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed five thousand men, besides women and children." We went on our knees, and turned the account of that miracle into a prayer, beseeching the Almighty to multiply what we had, or to send relief another way, as his infinite wisdom thought most proper. The next evening my landlord's daughter and son-in-law came up to see their mother with whom I lodged, and brought some baked meat, which they had just taken out of their oven, and brought for me and my wife to sup along with them. These poor people knew nothing of us, nor of our God. The next day in the evening they did the same; and kept sending victuals or garden stuff to us all the week long. We had not made our case known to any but God; nor did we appear ragged, or like people in want; no, we appeared better in dress than even those who relieved us; but God sent an answer to our prayer by them, who knew not at the same time what they were about, nor did I tell them till some months after. While we were at supper I entertained them with spiritual conversation. After supper I went to prayer with them, and prayed most earnestly for them. And God answered it; for he sent the woman home deeply convicted that night: nor did her convictions abate till she was brought to see Christ crucified in the open vision of gospel faith, and to receive peace and pardon from Christ for herself. Sometime after this, God began to work upon the husband also; and then I related the forecited circumstance; at the hearing of which he told me how it was impressed on his mind that I was in want of victuals; and his wife found fault with him for thinking so, and bringing it to me, saying, "The people are better to pass than we are." But he contradicted her, and insisted on her doing as he desired.
It pleased God sorely to afflict this poor man some few years after, during which time I was enabled to restore him fourfold. He left a testimony for God with his dying breath, and I believe he is in eternal glory. His widow is this day a servant to Mr. Linsey, a tallow-chandler in Lambeth Marsh, on the right-hand side of the road which leads from Westminster-bridge to Clapham. Her name is Ann Webb.
I found that the small pittance or eleven shillings per week (as I paid two shillings for a ready-furnished lodging) would amount very slowly towards the getting my clothes out of pawn, which, with the interest, amounted to near forty shilling, and which I was loth to lose. It came into my mind to search my Bible, to see if any instruction for faith could be got about this matter. I turned promiscuously to these words, "there is a lad here which hath five barley loaves and two fishes; but what are they among so many?" I asked my wife if she had ever ate barley bread. She said, "Yes, in Dorsetshire." I told her I never had eaten it, but the poor Saviour and his Apostles had; and I supposed it was because (speaking after the manner of men) they could get no better food. And, as God saw it necessary to keep us in a state of deep poverty, it ill became us to complain, or to refuse the meanest diet, seeing he had blessed us with an assured hope of heaven hereafter. She said she was willing if I was. So she went to a farmer to ask him to sell her a bushel of barley. His reply was, that he sold his barley by the quarter, or lead, to maltsters, for making malt; and should not trouble himself with measuring such a small quantity. So she went to a corn-chandler in Ewell, and asked for the same article; whose answer was, "I have only the refuse of the barley, or tail corn, which I sell for swine and fowls. My wife told him that would do; but did not reform him for what use it was intended. This was ground at the mill, and was very cordially received by us; as the love of God, which we enjoyed in our hearts, more than counterbalanced all the poverty we laboured under: for I well knew it was decreed by God himself that his people should have tribulation in this world, but in Christ Jesus they should have peace. And love made the yoke easy, and the burden light; for, if at any time a murmuring thought entered my mind, it was soon quelled by considering that Christ lived on the alms of his poor followers, and that he was worse off than either the foxes or the birds; as it is written, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." This: has often made my bowels yearn within me, silenced all my murmurings, and dissolved my heart in Gospel gratitude.
My dame and I now kept house at a very cheap rate - two shillings and sixpence per week carried us through tolerably well. As for the world's dainties, we were satisfied without them; for we knew that the grace of God had enabled us to choose that good part which shall never be taken from us; therefore Patience had, in a manner, her perfect work. We soon saved upwards of twenty shillings; with which, on the Saturday night, I set off to Kingston to get some of my clothes out of pawn, leaving money in the hands of my dame to get half a bushel of barley. It so happened that the apparel which I went to redeem came to so much, with the interest, that I had not any money left to bring home. This was a great trial to us; because our poor little girl, who had been but lately weaned, had nothing to carry her through the week but bare barley cakes; and, though she would eat barley, yet I could not endure to see her live on that only. On the Monday following I went heavily to work, and very much distressed to know how my poor little one was to live. I reflected with indignation on myself for parting with my money; thinking I had better have gone without my clothes, than have exposed my poor little one to want the necessaries of life. But, as I went over a bridge that led to my work, I cast my eye on the right hand side, and there lay a very large eel on the mud by the river side, apparently dead. I caught hold of it, and soon found it was only asleep. With difficulty I got it safe out of the mud upon the grass, and then carried it home. My little one was very fond of it, and it richly supplied all her wants that day. But at night I was informed the eel was all gone, so the next day afforded me the same distress and trouble as the preceding day had done. When going to my work, cruelly reflecting on myself for parting with all my money, just as I entered the garden gates I saw a partridge lie dead on the walk. I took it up, and found it warm; so I carried it home, and it richly supplied the table of our little one that day. A few days after this my master told me he had found a partridge on the garden walk also, but that it stunk. I told him I had found one a little before that time. He said that two males had been fighting, and had killed each other, which was very common. But I was enabled to look higher.
Carnal reason always traces every thing from God to second causes, and there leaves them floating upon uncertainties; but faith traces them up to their first cause, and fixes them there; by which means God's hand is known, and himself glorified. I believe this battle between the plumed warriors was proclaimed by the Lord: for, if a sparrow fails not to the ground without God's leave, (as the Scriptures declare) I can hardly think a partridge does.
The third day arrived, and I was still in the same case as before. As I went to my work I saw a bird's nest in one of the shrubs: which, upon examination, I found to be the nest of a large bird, with four young ones in it, just ready to fly. It was with much reluctance I stormed and plundered the little simple citadel - but necessity hath no law; therefore I was forced to rob the poor dam of her young, and leave her mourning and lamenting, while my young one lived upon her's. However, I found it was no sin in God's sight. "If a bird's nest chance to be before thee in the way in any tree, or on the ground, whether they be young ones or eggs, and the dam sitting upon the young ones or upon the eggs, thou shalt not take the dam with the young; but thou shalt in any wise let the dam go, and take the young to thee, that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest prolong thy days," Deut. xxii. 6, 7.
These birds served for that day very well, but the next day found me still unprovided, as before, and brought forth fresh work for faith and prayer. However, the morrow still took thought for the things of itself: for, when I came to take the scythe in my hand to mow the short grass, I looked into the pond, and there I saw three very large carp lying on the water, apparently sick. When my master came to me I told him of it. He went and looked, and said they were dead; and told me I might have them, if I would, for they were not in season. However, they came in due season to me. And I found, morning after morning, there lay two or three of these fish at a time, dead, just as I wanted them; till I believe there was not one live fish remaining, six inches long, in that pond, which was near three hundred feet in length.
While musing on, and admiring, the tender care of my God in his providence, and wondering what could move him thus to pity such a sinner; who was so unworthy of his grace, mercy, and truth, as well as of his providential regard; these words came to my mind, "He turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish," Psal. cv. 39. - Mrs. Webb, the woman before mentioned, has often partaken of these spoils; and the incredulous are very welcome to make inquiry into the matter, for which purpose I have informed them where she lives. My master told me he thought it was the heat of the sun that killed them; and I believe it was: but I knew that the sun and his heat were both from God: and that the sun shined in due season-for me. And it much amazed me to see God so kind, even in temporal matters. - It led me to search his blessed word for similar circumstances. And, when I read of the distress and simple covenant of Jacob - of God's changing the colour of Laban's cattle, that they might change their master - and of God's blessing his simple means of peeling the rods, that the pregnant dams might look at them, and bring forth accordingly, and so setting the dams a-longing to bring forth a motley progeny like the rods, which he set in the troughs, and the dream of the speckled ram begetting the spotted inheritance of faith - I could not help weeping, and admiring the unmerited goodness of my God in setting the birds of the air to war - sending the sun-beams with such a host he force as to slay the inhabitants of the floods - suffering the eel to sleep till the hand of the necessitous had entangled him - and directing my eyes to the little lodgment of birds, when all other supplies seemed to be cut off. It so operated on my mind, that I cannot describe the humility, compunction, love, joy, and peace, which I felt. O the goodness of God to the children of men! - I evidently saw that, both in providence and grace, God is the same to us as he was to the saints in days of old, and that they had no pre-eminence over us in the covenant of grace at all; but that Jesus Christ was the same yesterday that he is to-day, and will be the same for ever. Let not these providences beget a notion in the weak of the flock, of any partiality in God to me in particular; knowing that "God is no respecter of persons; but in every nation those that fear him and work righteousness are accepted of him."
I found that my pay would hardly support my family with comfort; and it came into my mind that I could mend shoes, if I tried. I accordingly sent my dame to Kingston, to buy me some materials for this business; upon which I began, and became a decent proficient in a very little time. This helped me so much, that I got all my things out of pawn, and kept myself entirely out of debt. But it happened one night that my dame complained to me that she had nothing for the child but barley cake. I told her I had a job of cobbling to do, and would sit up that night to finish it, that in the morning the work might be carried home, when peradventure she might get the money. So we sat up and worked together till between eleven and twelve o'clock; when I heard a person call at my window. I went down, and found several men on horseback (to appearance they were smugglers) who inquired their way to Malden Mills. I went a little way to shew them, for which one of them gave me a shilling. On receiving it my very hair moved upon my head, at the reflection of the daily providences of God. I mention this, because God says that the gold and the silver are his; that it is he only who maketh poor and maketh rich; and that it is he who bringeth low and lifteth up. These things so endeared God to me, that I often called him my Bank, my Banker, and my blessed Overseer; and earnestly begged that he would condescend to be my tutor, my master, and my provider; and never leave me in the hands of mortals either for tuition, protection, or for temporal supplies. I no longer envied the rich in this world: for, if they are gracious, they only see one side of God's face, having an independent stock in Mud; and, if graceless, they are of all flesh the most miserable. I clearly perceived that the most eminent saints in the Bible were brought into low circumstances; as Jacob, David, Moses, Joseph, Job, and Jeremiah, and all the apostles; in order that the hand of Providence might be watched.
When harvest came on, my dame informed me that she should go to gleaning, in order to pick up some wheat to make bread with. So we generally arose about three o'clock in the morning; and I gleaned with her till six, and then went to my work; but she continued till eight o'clock; then went home with her corn ate her breakfast, got the child up from bed (which all this time had been left alone), and then she went off for the day. At this time I had begun to preach at Ewell Marsh, which made no small stir that way; therefore the farmers drove my dame out of the fields, and the gleaners came about her like a shoal of small birds attending the funeral of a dead hawk, swearing that parsons wives should not glean there. "What," said they, "wives of the clergy go a gleaning! "I own it is not a good sign, nor a good sight, to see Levites gleaning; but, if the blind guides steal the offerings of God, which should feed the Levites, the Levites then must work or starve.
In scripture a gospel minister is compared to an ox; so that he must take Christ's yoke, and learn to draw; and, when his day's work is ended, he must tread out the corn, if required; and, if God uses him to plough up the fallow ground of the heart, he must expect to work hard and fare hard. To be a gospel labouror is a rare thing; but to be a dumb dog, to lie at the bone and forget to bark, is very common. We read in scripture of the oxen ploughing while the asses were feeding beside them; Job, i. 14. But still God's hand was seen; for, if they drove her out of one field, she was surely directed into another, where she often found them carrying the corn; and then she got the first and prime gleanings of the whole field. At six o'clock I went in search after her, and gleaned with her till nine, or as long as we could see an ear of corn. When I went after her I knew not where she was, nor how far she had been chased that day; but, whether she was one or two miles distant, I always went that road where my mind led me, and constantly went as straight to her as if I had actually known where she was, and never missed her track; but found her every night, the whole five weeks, whether she was east, west, north, or south. And when I came I was entertained with an account of all the chasings her pursuers had given her, and how they had threatened to rob her of her corn. I told her Boaz was not in the field; if he had, he would not have served her so. It is true we use his words in our church service, "The Lord be with you," and the pious reapers reply, "And with thy spirit." But this language is now quite out of fashion in our harvest fields.
Notwithstanding their chasing the clergyman's wife from field to field, she gleaned as much or more than Ruth of old did. As for our harvest, that was piled up on each side of our bed, which served instead of curtains: so we slept, defended with the staff of life, having all our tithes in our bed-chamber; (which, by the by, I believe was one of the smallest tithe-barns in Christendom). Our corn was threshed out in the chamber, and winnowed on the Marsh; a sheet serving for a barn floor. The whole quantity of our wheat, when measured, amounted to four bushels and a quarter, exclusive of some peas and a little barley. My dame threshed out the corn, and baked the bread; and I paid her so much per loaf, as an encouragement to her future industry, and to buy her such necessaries as she wanted. God visiting me with such severe poverty without, and conscience keeping me strictly honest within, drove me to be as severe with my wife as Paul was with his flock, when he made a law that, if any would not work, neither should they eat.
I should not have entertained my reader with such a long account about gleaning, if God had not left so much of it upon record in the book of Ruth; where we have an account of that spiritual proselyte going to glean in order to support herself and her mother-in-law; yea, the grain that she gleaned, and the quandary also; and of the good hand of her God in guiding her to the field of Boaz, a man whom Providence had appointed to be her future partner in life; and who was her husband, in law reckoning, provided the covetous and unbelieving kinsman (whom Heaven refused to honour with such a wife) declined his lawful right, for fear that his obedience to God's command should bring him to poverty. But God, who commands us not to be unequally yoked together, guided her to the field of Boaz; a man who did not curse her for her religion, but commended her for her faith, chastity, and industry; and added the blessing of God to the begun work of grace, wishing her a full reward of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings she was come to trust.
In the following winter the Lord sent a very deep snow, which lay a considerable time on the ground. Our wheat was now of great use to us, as it supplied us with bread for two or three months. But we were shortly brought into another strait through this snow. - We used to buy faggots of our landlady to burn (being all the fuel we could get at that time); who one night informed as that she had but ten faggots left, which she must keep for herself, as there was no likelihood of the snow going away; therefore she said she could sell us no more. To this I replied that, if she was in trouble for fear of suffering with the cold, when she had so much wood by her, surely we had much more cause to fear, who had a young child. However, I begged of God that night to take away the snow, or send us something to burn, that our little one might not perish with the cold; and the next morning the snow was all gone. God had sent out his word, and melted it; he had caused his wind to blow, and the water to flow, Psal. cxlvii. 18.
After some time our wheat was gone, and we were obliged to eat barley again; and, having paid away our money to redeem our clothes, we began to get very short of other necessary apparel, which, however, we soon retrieved; for, as I worked by day, cobbled at nights, and lived upon barley, we kept ourselves out of debt, and tolerably decent in clothes. But this living on barley was attended with very bad consequences; for, as I had never been used to it before, and now living almost entirely upon it, without mixing it with wheat, it threw a violent humour into my eyes, and for some months I was in danger of losing my sight; but, by using one simple thing or other, they got better. My second daughter brought the same humour into the world with net; and both myself and the child had it, more or less, for some years, though not so violently as at first. I have often viewed this affliction on the child with great grief; but, in answer to prayer, God healed her eyes and mine too, so that our sight was perfectly recovered,
When harvest came on again we went to gleaning, as before, and got no less than five bushels of corn; but my dame was pursued as formerly: for my continuing to preach had alarmed and much offended almost the whole parish, therefore they were the more fierce in pursuing her. On the other hand, some were afraid of going near her, lest they should catch a religious infection; it being reported abroad that there was something of a power that seized upon them; and that, if we once got them to hear what we had to say, there was no getting away from our religion; as this secret something, that seized them, held them so fast that they must immediately change their own religion. I have known some men, whom I have met, go quite out of the path, and take a circle in the field, rather than pass me on the road; just as if that secret something could not seize them whilst walking on the grass as well as on the foot-path.
I now began to lose favour with my master; having preached among the poor people till some of them refused to work on the Lord's day. Wherefore he inquired into the cause; and was informed that the gardener had been preaching to them against profaning the Lord's day, which was the reason wily some would not work on that day. Others murmured, because they were compelled to labour while some were exempted. This provoked him much; and he said he should expect me to work in the garden on the Lord's day. I told him I did not choose to do that. He then swore at me, saying that, if I did not, I should not work for him. I replied that I would not, if I lost my employment: - so, in a few days after, he told me, with several imprecations, to work no more for him. He owed me a trifle for a few days work; but as he did not offer to pay me, I never asked him for it. He knew at the same time that my wife was big with child, and ready to lie in; and that we were very poor. I was informed that he expected me to come back with a suppliant knee; but I was determined that I would not sell my conscience for a loaf of barley-bread, as it had cost my Saviour so much to purge it; therefore I set off for Thames Ditton, and carried coals in the river for fourteen months at ten shillings per week, and preached during that time on the Lord's day, and one evening lecture in the week. All this time I suffered much both in body and mind, and found that the iniquity of those who wrought with me began to harden my heart; therefore I was determined to leave that situation, and go to my old business again. I got three or four days work at Moulsey; when a farmer came to my master, and told him to discharge me, having begun to preach out of doors. It was here that I committed this great offence of preaching Jesus Christ in the high road. On this account I was turned out of employment, and remained so for three weeks; during which time a gentleman at Mitcham sent for me to come over there the week following, to preach in their meeting, as he had long entertained a great desire of hearing me.
A few days before this a gentleman had given me an old black coat and waistcoat; which, being very large, made coat, waistcoat, and breeches, for me. So on the day appointed I put on my parsonic attire, which was the first time I ever appeared clad in that colour; my usual appearance being more like the ploughman or the fisherman; but now I appeared in the external habit of a priest. And surely the good hand of my God was with me, and I went and delivered my message in his name. As it had been reported that a coalheaver was coming to preach, there were a great many people gathered together to hear me. After I had finished my discourse, a lady came to me and gave me a new book, and blessed me; a gentleman, too, put a letter into my hand, laying an injunction upon me not to open it till I got home; in which I found inclosed a guinea and four shillings, with these words written, "Take this as from the hand of the Lord, for the labourer is worthy of his hire." Luke, x. 17.
These kind providences of God did wonderfully endear the Lord to me, and brought me to live by the faith of him for a supply of all my wants; and indeed I was obliged to do it, for I could get no employment. And, though I had preaching enough for a bishop, yet I had nothing coming in to live upon for so doing - my flocks were as poor as myself, at least the generality of them; and my family still continued increasing.
In this dilemma a professor of the gospel, who was by trade a shoemaker, asked me one day to come to him and learn to make children's shoes; which at last I agreed to, and learned to make them (though in a very rough manner) in a short space of time.
I now took my work home to my house, and wrought there; and a few poor journeymen, who attended my ministry, and were single men, (and therefore not so poor as their pastor) gave me some tools; till at length I became a shoemaker, and worked at it for my bread; while the love of Christ constrained me to preach for the good of souls, without making the gospel a burden to any. I was now in as bad a state as poor Paul, who preached the gospel freely, and made tents for his livelihood; his own hands ministering to his necessities, while his tongue was ministering to the necessities of thousands. If he had preached up heathen morality he need not have fared so hard; for the world loves that and the preachers of it. The Saviour says, "The world loves her own; and she never serves her own children as she does the children of God."
As I began this business so late in my life-time I was a very slow hand at it; and therefore was obliged to turn my help-meet into a shop-mate; that is, I taught my wife to close the shoes which I made; and both of us could earn about eight shillings per week. I had now five times a week to preach constantly; on which account I was forced to lay the Bible in a chair by me, and now and then read a little, in order to furnish myself with matter for the pulpit. It sometimes happened that I was under sore temptations and desertions; the Bible too, appeared a sealed book, insomuch that I could not furnish myself with a text; nor durst I leave my work in order to study, or read the Bible: if I did my little ones would soon want bread: my business would also run very cross at those times. I therefore found the ministry of the gospel to be work enough for any man, without leaving the work of God to serve tables.
After I had been about eight or ten months at this trade, my master failed in business, and nobody else would employ me. I was now a fortnight, or more, out of work, which sorely tried me indeed; for it so happened that we were forced to put our little ones to bed one night without a supper, and their dinner was a very scanty one. When they saw me look into the cupboard, and shut the door again without giving them any thing, they lisped on, some very pathetic, though broken, accents, expressive of want; which touched my parental feelings very sorely, and took away my rest for that night. In the morning I got up and went out; but where to go I knew not; and I could not endure the thought of staying at home to see my little ones want bread. But these words were sweet and suitable to me, "He hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom." And I well knew it was "easier for a camel to go through the needle's eye than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." In this miserable situation I knew not where to go. If I left off preaching, and run from the work (as Jonah did), I should deny the Lord that bought me. Though I was willing to work, yet none would employ me on account of my religion; and, if I stayed at home, my little ones were crying for bread. Indeed I should often have run from the work of God, had not his terrors stood on my conscience in battle array against me. At this time no book could suit me but the Lamentations of Jeremiah. To these I constantly fled for comfort: for, like him, I often was for running away, but could not; therefore God fulfilled his word - "They shall be my people, and shall not depart from me." I went that morning as far as Kingston, but where I was to find relief I knew not: however, just as I came into the town, it came suddenly in my mind to go to Mr. Chapman, then living on Hourislow Heath; a person who had known me for some years, even before either of us knew the Lord; and who was called by grace about the same time that I was. He had often invited me to come and visit him; wherefore I now obeyed the impulse which I felt, and accordingly went over Kingston-bridge directly to Hounslow Heath, where I found him and his wife at home. I was, however, determined not to make my deep distress known to them, but intended to watch the good hand of my God in this journey. The good man and his wife received me very affectionately; and, after kindly entertaining me, loaded me home with many simple dainties for the children, though at that time they knew not how I had left them. And it came to pass, when I departed, that the good man walked two miles with me, and on the road offered me a guinea, which I refused; saying that, if he would give me half-a-guinea, I would accept it, provided it was with his wife's knowledge. He said it was. So I took the half-guinea, wondering how I should pay the fare of the bridge to get home, fearing they might not be able to give me change: but I cast my eyes on the ground, and there was a penny, which served to pay the tell of the bridge. So I got safe home, and was received with a hearty welcome. And thus I made a better voyage of it than Naomi, who went out full and returned empty.
As I had lost all my employment in shoemaking, I was obliged to try another branch of business: - I therefore commenced cobbler. But, as none would employ me in this business except those who attended my ministry, sometimes I had work, and sometimes I had none. So that I found this branch of business attended with many inconveniences; for it often happened at the beginning of the week that I had little to do, and at the latter end rather more than I could get done; which, with sitting up till twelve o'clock on the Saturday night, and having eleven miles to: walk, and three times to preach on the Lord's day, rendered my labours too hard for me, as my living was very inconsiderable: however, God made this circumstance of great use to my soul; therefore it was one of the all things that work together for good.
I had naturally a very great flow of spirits; so that this poor way of living gradually brought on me an inward weakness, attended with the loss of appetite; which rendered me incapable of taking that nourishment my labours necessarily required. I could drink nothing but water or small beer for some years together, which at times brought me so low that I was obliged to gird my stomach with a handkerchief as tight as I could bear it, in order to gather strength to enable me to deliver three discourses a-day. At length I got so low that one pint of good small beer rendered me incapable of walking steady; and Satan violently tempted me on this head. Some of my friends, who saw the case I was in, fearing that I should shortly come to an end, laboured hard to dissuade me from this mode of living; but in vain. Sometimes they would mix my small beer with a little ale; which I could immediately detect, and was apt to view them my enemies for so doing; but they did it through fear that I should throw myself into a consumption, and that one little branch of the church of Christ might thereby sustain a loss. For five years I went on in this manner, till there was scarce one step between me and death. But I gradually got rid of this habit, as the Lord appeared more precious to me in a way of providence, and God sanctified it to the good of my soul; for this poverty and bad living brought many infirmities on me, which I have at times lain as a canker-worm at the root of my natural levity. I now began clearly to see that God intended to establish me as a preacher of the gospel, by his opening many doors for me, and because many souls were awakened by my instrumentality. Blessed be God, such shall be my joy and crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus.
I found it, however, impossible to preach five or six times a-week and carry on the business of cobbling at the same time; especially, as it generally came in so fast at the latter end of the week - a time when I wanted to study the scriptures, in order to furnish myself with matter for the Lord's day. Wherefore I determined to give up this employment, and continue in the work of God only, whatever I might suffer by it. In consequence of this resolution I went to a poor cobbler, who lived in the same place with me, and to him I gave my kit of tools, threw myself entirely on the propitious arms of kind Providence, and gave myself wholly to the ministry of the word and prayer.
At this time I had left my ready-furnished lodgings, and rented a little cottage at three pounds eighteen shillings per annum; and we had, about half as much furniture to put in it as a porter would carry at one load.
Having thus left off my cobbling business, Providence exercised my faith and patience very sharply at times, and suffered me to get a little behind-hand in the world; which caused me to cry and pray day and night; for I knew that the cause in which I was embarked would be exposed to contempt if I contracted a debt and could not pay it. And, though this is not felt by the rich, yet it lies heavy on the mind of the poor honest Christian. But, in answer to prayer, God sent to my house a gentleman of great property, very much noted in the religious world for liberality; who, after he had stayed with me a few hours, ordered his carriage, and at his departure gave me five guineas; at which I was amazed, he being a stranger to me, and one whom I had never before seen. This served to buy me some few household necessaries, as also to pay off the debt which I had contracted. Oh, who would not choose the precious life of dependency on God, when the tender regard of Providence in our poverty is so clearly seen in those rich supplies which are poured forth in answer to the simple, though powerful, prayer of faith!
At this time I stood in great need of linen, and of a new suit of clothes, my old black ones being almost worn out. I often begged this favour of God agreeable to his own word. "If God so clothe the grass, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into be oven, will he not much more clothe you? O ye of little faith" But God exercised my patience long, teaching me the necessity of importunity in prayer; and at last answered me by terrible things in righteousness; for he sent a violent storm of persecution, which, from its proving intolerable, obliged me to seek redress from the law of the land, as I was legally licensed. My appeal, however, proved in vain; for, upon the trial, my license proved an improper one, from the word teacher, or preacher, being left out of it; which was not my fault, as I had applied and procured it legally. I was now obliged to go to London, and get another license. And here the answer to my former prayers appeared. I was obliged to tarry in town all night; and, as there was a person who had long wanted to see me, (not from any personal knowledge of me, but from various reports he had heard of the Lord's dealings with me) I endeavoured to find him out; and accordingly did. He received me very courteously, and kindly entertained me, at a time of my undergoing a sharp trial. "A man's own heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps."
As answers to prayer now seemed to be wholly denied, my faith in God's providence began to fail. And in very deed I was determined to leave my ministerial work, and go and settle at Guildford, where I thought I could get employment as a gardener, and preach to my little flock at Wooking on the Lord's day. But, alas! "there are many devices in a man's heart, but the counsel of the Lord that shall stand." However, in order to accomplish this with some degree of conscience, I endeavoured to get a supply of ministers for the various places I preached at. But all my efforts were in vain. And indeed there was little encouragement for any to undertake to supply them, as they were so distant from London, and as it was in much opposition that the cause was carried on; - besides, there were neither tithes, offerings, nor surplice fees, attending their labours. Those who undertook the work must have gone on this warfare entirely at their own expense.
As I could not possibly get any assistance in my ministerial labours, I knew not how to go on, having no clothes fit to be seen in. I suffered, too, even, for want of the common necessaries of life; for I had as much travelling and preaching as I was able to do, had I lived ever so well I but, being obliged to live very low, I was hardly able to go through the work in any shape. I was as bad off as poor Paul - I suffered hunger, cold, and nakedness.
The good man whom I have before mentioned, and at whose house I lodged that night, purposed that I should go into. Sussex, to preach at the place of his nativity. I told him that the apparel I then had on was all the clothes I was possessed of, wherefore I was really not fit to be seen any where; and that I was likewise in debt. He asked me if I would stay and preach in one of his rooms in the evening to a few friends, whom he would invite. I complied with his request, and accordingly preached; where three gentlemen gave me each a guinea. The good man also went to some of his friends, and made up the sum nine guineas, with which I got proper clothing and other necessaries; and there was a little money left to pay some debts which I had contracted. - Thus I went home with a full answer to my prayers, and in my second suit of parsonic attire. This circumstance much encouraged my faith in God's providence, and caused me perpetually to beg of God to be my only provider, teacher, and master; and that he would always direct my steps, and supply my wants, and not leave me dependent on an arm of flesh. In my prayers I often made this my plea that, as he had called me, without the instrumentality of any preacher, and sent me out without the approbation or disapprobation of any one, and had in a way of providence opened many doors before me, and blessed my labours to the good of many souls, he would also let his providence appear to me as I might stand in need of it that I might not be burdened with cares about what I should eat, or what I should drink, or wherewithal I should be clothed; but that I might devote body, soul, time, and talents to the glory of his name, and to the good of his chosen. These petitions God has been pleased to answer in some measure ever since. "I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread."
At my return from London I could not help making my boast of God, even in the pulpit. And, as my persecutors had burnt me in effigy a little while before, I told my audience that God had sent me a new suit of clothes as it were out of the ashes, my persecutors having burnt a suit, with which they clothed the effigy, not much unlike my old one. Seeing me thus clad was a great grief to the opposers of God: they were sorry to see any raised up to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.
I had now a pleasing gale of prosperity for some time; but shortly after another cloud of frowning providences gathered thick over my head, and kept me long in suspense, until I had run fourteen or fifteen pounds in debt - more by ten pounds than I had ever owed before. But, as my faith in providence had been sharply tried, and was strengthened by these trials, a greater burden was laid upon me. And thus I found Faith's task to be always proportionable to her strength. In the midst of this trouble, the little flock at Wooking desired me to take the charge of, and to be ordained over, them; to which I consented, and gave my promise. On my return home afterwards, however, Satan violently tempted me; and unbelief and carnal reason fell ill with the temptation. It was for having refused some calls ill the country, where the people would have supported me as their pastor if I would have accepted their call; but now, as I had agreed to take the charge of a flock that could not support me, I should be for ever tied down from accepting any other call that my family was still increasing - that I was deeply in debt - that my clothes were got as bad as ever - that my year was now out - and that my gracious Master had not given me a new livery: nor was there any appearance of it. But, blessed be God, I had the inward recompense of a good conscience, because I did not take the oversight of God's flock for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind.
Having waded some time in this dreadful flood, I began at length to reason, from past experience, that God had hitherto been gracious; and, as he had set me to work, I must look to him for my wages. But this Satan attempted to overthrow, by suggesting that I was never so much in debt before. Which I knew to be true; so that my faith began to fail, and I mistrusted the providence of God. But these words came so sweet to my mind, and with so much power, that they bore down all that the tempter could suggest - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." - "A word spoken in due season is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."
The next day in the evening I preached at Hammersmith; and when I came down from the pulpit a gentleman desired me to call at his house, where he had ordered a tailor to measure me for a suit of clothes, of which he intended to make me a present. As soon as the words were out of his mouth, the same scripture recoiled with power on my mind" Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." I hung down my head, and wept for joy at the goodness of my God to one who was so slow of heart to believe. In a few days my clothes were made, and I went and received them. This was one sharp blow to my unbelief; and led me to see that God took care to order apparel for me as well as for Aaron and his sons.
Now the principal and most difficult work of faith was, to reconcile my mind as to the discharge of my large debt. And how this was to be done I knew not: but this I knew, that I had not imprudently presumed on God's providence, having contracted it merely to supply my wants; and, as the Lord made me trust him for the fulfilment of his promises, I was forced to get others to trust me till my faith could get her wages in. Thus I scored up my blessed Master, who, in his own time, always discharged my debts with honour. That God, who wrought a miracle to clear the debt of a poor widow by Elisha the prophet, will surely clear the just debts of his poor ministers.
Soon after this my friend in London asked me, and I agreed, to preach at his house; and on the day appointed I went; when he told me that he had consulted the managers of Margaret-street chapel about my preaching there; to which they had agreed, and it was advertised that I should preach there that night. At this I was sorely offended, being very much averse to preaching in London, for several reasons. - First, because I had been told it abounded so much with all sorts of errors, that I was afraid of falling into them, there were so many that lay in wait to deceive: secondly, because I had no learning, and therefore feared I should not be able to deliver myself with any degree of propriety; and, as I knew nothing of Greek or Hebrew, nor even of the English grammar, that I should be exposed to the scourging tongue of every critic in London. However, I preached that night; and soon after found myself induced, by sundry persuasions, to preach the word of God statedly in that very chapel. During many weeks I laboured under much distress of mind, respecting my want of abilities to preach in this great metropolis. But God in duo time removed that distress, by condescending to bless his word, even from my mouth; and he was pleased to deliver a young man from a capital error by the first discourse I ever delivered in that place; which appeared not only a great encouragement to me at that time, but also a prelude to that future success which I might expect under God's promised blessing. The above-mentioned young man is now a preacher of the gospel, and has been instrumental in calling others. So that I am become a grandfather from the first London discourse.
Being a native of the Weald of Kent, which is none of the most polite parts of the world, I retained a good deal of my provincial dialect; and many of my expressions, to the ears of a grammarian, sounded very harsh and uncouth. This circumstance caused many unsanctified critics to laugh and cavil at me. But, when God permitted me to drop promiscuously into company with any of those who were so very learned, and they began to pour contempt on some of my expressions, I generally found them very deficient in the work of the Spirit on their own souls: and, though some of them seemed very wise in gospel doctrines, yet I could easily find that their knowledge was borrowed from commentators, by their appealing great strangers to the experience of them on their hearts, and also to the happy enjoyment of them; which I knew they would be able to give an account of, if they had received them wet with dew and warm with love from heaven, in answer to the prayer of faith. It is true that some have often confounded me in the sense and meaning of words, as also in the original texts; yet I found that I could as much confound them in the sensible operations of the Holy Ghost, agreeable to the word of God; and, by my own experience of the Spirit's work, could overthrow some expressions of theirs from the Hebrew language, especially those who laboured to overthrow the divinity of the Son of God; the manifestation of whom to my own soul, agreeable to his word, has enabled me to foil the most accomplished Arian I have ever yet contended with upon that point. The only way to prove Christ's divinity is to go to him when overwhelmed with guilt and horror, and to pray to him as the eternal God; and, if he appears to honour our faith and to answer our prayers, and delivers us from the wrath of God, the guilt of sin, the power of Satan, the fear of death, the curse of the law, and eternal damnation, and blesses us with pardon, peace, love, and liberty, he shall be the eternal God of our sours salvation, though Satan the god of this unhallowed world. For, though the Arians talk of Christ as a stone of help, yet, if they allow him to be no more than a creature, they might as well call him a sand- foundation as a rock; for all flesh is dust, and to dust it must return. If he had not been God, he certainly would have seen corruption, as well as other creatures have done; and that he was raised from the dead is not owing to his being man, but to his being God - "put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit." His flesh was raised without seeing corruption, because he was the son of God with power, and had immortality and eternal life in himself, as the self-existent and independent Jehovah. And, as God the Father prepared a body for him, and he willingly came and took it on him to do his Father's will, so he wore that fleshly garment till he had finished the work his Father gave him to do, and then dipped it in blood, and sanctified himself for our sakes, that he might sanctify us; he then laid it down for our life, and raised it again for our justification; took it at last to heaven as the first fruits of them that sleep; and appears in it as in an eternal temple, wherein dwells the glorious Shekinah, or "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." All our access to God is only through that rent vail of his flesh; and he, who allows Christ to be no more than a creature, denies all the intrinsic glory of the eternal Godhead that ever dwelt between the cherubim, and condemns every hoping soul that ever took shelter under the shadowing wings of the Almighty.
Upon the whole, I found my ignorance of Greek and Hebrew to be no impediment in the way of the Spirit of power, as I firmly believed that God had written his law on my heart: and I am persuaded that what the Holy Ghost writes on the mind of man is always agreeable to the original text; and that, if there are any errors in our English translation, the blessed Spirit will never impress the minds of God's elect from a like copy, nor appear as the broad seal of heaven to ratify a lie. No; "he shall guide you into all truth, and he shall glorify me."
But I shall now return to my former subject, and inform my reader how my faith managed the great debt before mentioned, God having long exercised my faith and patience, until I began to despair of ever getting it paid. It so happened that a capital error crept into the church of God at Hotsham, in Sussex: and some e friends sent for me, as it was a place where I had often preached; indeed it was the first place that I ever preached at in a public manner. I therefore complied with their request; and in my way thither was blessed with one of the most comfortable and lively frames of mind that I had ever enjoyed. This frame was attended with a most delightful chain of heavenly meditations; which, when I arrived at my journey's en d, I committed to paper, and sent to a friend in town. This circumstance, under God, paved a way for my being invited to preach at Chelsea, where I delivered a discourse from this text - "Children, have ye any meat?" I was afterward informed that a confirmed Arian came out of curiosity to hear me and, though I knew nothing of it, I was led, in the course of my sermon, to be very severe against the destructive tenets of that sect. In consequence of which he went home convinced; and upon his arrival there was seized with a fit of illness, during which Christ was graciously pleased to manifest his atonement to his conscience. When he felt the power, he cried out, "The darkness is now past, and the true light shineth." He continued in this divine ecstacy till his body dropped into the jaws of death, which was about a fortnight after the above discourse was delivered. Thus God fulfils his word, "Those that erred in spirit shall come to understanding, and those that murmured shall learn doctrine."
But to return to my subject. - A gentleman, famous for a liberal turn of mind, asked me to lodge at his house, with which I gladly complied; and in the evening he inquired about my health, ministerial success, and also concerning my circumstances. As God alone knew my wants, so none but God could have inclined his heart to relieve me. At my departure he gave me ten guineas. This precious answer to prayer, coming so seasonably in a time of need, put my discontent to the blush, dashed infidelity itself out of countenance, and stopped the mouth of an accusing devil. "Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed," Psal. xxxvii. 3.
I found God's promises to be the Christian's bank note; and a living faith will always draw on the divine Banker; yea, and the spirit of prayer, and a deep sense of want, will give an heir of promise a filial boldness at the inexhaustible bank of heaven.
Indeed the providence of God is a great mystery; nor could I unriddle it, even while I was daily exercised with it. During my residence at Ewell I have often begun the week with eighteen or twenty pence, sometimes with two shillings, and sometimes with hall a crown; and we have lived through the whole week upon that only, without contracting any debt. And I found it impossible at the week's end, upon the best reflection I could make, to tell how we had been supported through the week. At other times I have found that my craving appetite had lost its keenness, insomuch that I have been able to work hard for two days together without any food at all. And sometimes God has indulged me with such heavenly views of a glorified state, and entertained my mind with such sweet contemplations on futurity, that my dinner hour has passed away unnoticed; nor have I once had a thought about it till four or five o'clock, or near the time of leaving my labour. But these blessed acts of God's providential regard are nothing new; for he took away the appetite of Moses and Elijah for forty days together; and he is the same God still. Nor is his bountiful hand at all shortened, though the faith of the necessitous has so often stretched it out. "I will leave in the midst of thee a poor and an afflicted people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord," Zeph. iii. 19.
At my return I discharged my debt as far as the ten guineas would go, and left the other standing on the book, which Providence used as a future exercise for my faith. About that time I was ordained over my little flock at Wooking, when I found Providence began to frown again, in order to keep me humble. However, all things worked together for my good; for, being kept daily dependent on God's providence by faith, I had the precious enjoyment of sweet communion with God; and every day did his providence and gracious care appear more or less over me. I generally found those blessings the sweetest which had caused me the most importunity in prayer. This makes the "dinner of herbs, where love is, better than a stalled ox and hatred therewith," Prov. xv. 17.
Some time after this I was brought into another strait, by receiving a letter that required me to give up one of my little flocks, which happened to be at that time my chief support. This plot was laid by a person who made a god of his wealth, and therefore found fault with my sermons, conceiving they were levelled at him. And indeed the allegation was certainly well-founded; for, if a man has got the world in his heart, the preacher is sure of hitting him, if he should only draw a bow at a venture. For, if the love of money be the root of all evil, it is impossible to wield the sword of the Spirit without cutting either root or branch.
This treatment drove me to London. When I left my own home on the Lord's clay morning, my whole stock of money amounted to no more than twopence; of which I took one half. and left my dame the other. One halfpenny of this I paid at Hampton Court bridge; and soon after a poor man asked an alms of me, to whom I gave the other halfpenny. Then I besought the Lord not to send any other person to ask alms of me, until his bountiful hand had supplied my own wants. However, this trial also worked together for my good; for it was the means of bringing me to preach constantly in London; and many, who had heard me in town, met with me at my friend's house, and invited me to preach at Margaret-street chapel. Several friends also sent for me to their houses. One gave me a guinea, and others half-a-guinea, till I had enough to discharge the debt I owed.
Mentioning these minute circumstances has offended many; and some (of an independent fortune) have condemned my prayers as carnal, in praying for such temporal things; but I know that they have taken many worse steps both to accumulate and to keep their independence; and I think it is better to beg than to steal, as say those who speak in proverbs.
I now wanted to return home, fearing that my family would want bread; but just before the time of my departure a friend from Richmond arrived, who informed me that he had been to Ditton, and supplied the wants of my family; for he said he had been informed of the affair, and guessed how my pocket stood. "Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!" - "Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works," Eccles. ix. 7.
At my return home I discharged my debts; and for a time went sweetly on, under the sunshine both of Providence and Grace; and God sent me back again to the flock which I had been commanded to leave by the mouth of a rich and covetous professor. Thus God frustrates the counsels of the wicked, so that his hands cannot perform his enterprise.
But, as the life of faith consists in bearing the cross of Christ, we must not expect to be long without trials. Providence soon frowned on me again, and I got behind-hand as usual. This happened, too, at a time when my wife was lying-in, destitute of those necessaries of life which are needful at such times. The nurse came and told her there was no tea in the house. My wife replied, "Set the kettle on if there is not." The nurse (whose name was Ann Webb, a daughter of mine in the faith, and the first soul that God called by me) said, "You have no tea, nor can you get any." My wife replied, "Set on the kettle?" She did so; and before it boiled a woman (with whom at that time we had no acquaintance) came to the door, and told the nurse that she had brought some tea as a present for my wife. Thus God, who shewed Moses a stick to sweeten the waters of Marah, sent a little tea to bitter the water in my dame's kettle. Soon after my dame got over her lying-in, tidings were brought to us that a gospel minister was coming down to Kingston to preach an evening lecture, and to break bread to the congregation. I had a great desire to go to the table, and also to have my child baptized at the same time: but, as I never could go from the Lord's table without offering my mite, and at this time had no money in my pocket, I could not go. However, I begged of God to send me a little money, some way or other, for this purpose; which I verily believed he would. So I waited till within half an hour of the time to go, and then began to think I should be disappointed; but, just as unbelief set me to murmuring and complaining, I heard a man ride up to my door as I was in my study at the back part of the house; and when he rode away again I called to my wife to get ready to go. "Get ready! " said she, "why you know we have no money! " - "Poh! poh!" said I, "God has sent the money!" And true enough it was that God had sent it; for all the business the man had with us was to give us some money! Surely it was God that sent him, and none else; for, if the hairs of our head are all numbered, we have reason to believe that our wants are; and, if God keeps our hairs from falling to the ground, he certainly supplies our wants too. Thus the good God and Saviour, who made a fish produce money for an earthly tribute, sent the man with three shillings as an offering to God, and of his own we offered to him, I Chron. xxix. 14.
Soon after this I was obliged to borrow a guinea of a certain friend: which I promised to pay him on the Thursday night following, if he would call for it. And I begged of God to send me from some quarter or other, firmly believing he would. The day before my friend had appointed to call on me for the money: I was to go out to preach among my friends; and I earnestly besought God to send it me that day, if it was his will and pleasure; of which I had no more doubt than of my own existence. However, I returned home without it, and wondered how it could be, seeing the Saviour says, "Whatsoever ye shall ask, believing, ye shall have it; and nothing shall be impossible unto yon." I told the Lord that I had prayed in faith for it, firmly believing I should have it, but had not obtained it. This text of scripture came with power to my mind, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen." I had from that time a sweet view of that passage; and delivered several discourses from it, which God seemed to bless with power. But to return to my subject. As soon as I came home I began to fret, because I had not got the money that I expected; but still the text answered me, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," &c. I replied, "If it be the substance, it is as sure as the thing itself." Upon this the good man came into my study, and I was going to make an apology to him; but before I opened my mouth he said, "I come to desire you not to think of paying me the guinea, for I have made you a present of it, and God bless you with it." As soon as he was gone the same passage of Scripture recoiled upon my mind again with much comfort, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for," &c. And indeed I clearly saw it to be so, both in spirituals and temporals. Thus my faith was not confounded, nor my hope disappointed; all my trouble sprung from my own sin, which was, limiting the Holy One of Israel. I was expecting money to pay the debt; but God took away from my creditor the expectation of payment. Thus, like Joseph's brethren, I intended to shew myself faithful and honest, by paying the money; but our spiritual Joseph was minded to shew me that he had given me treasure in the heart of my creditor.
About that time a person called upon me, and offered to let me the house he then lived in, which he was going to leave. I own I had a desire after it, because there was a large garden belonging to it, which I could look after myself, and raise many vegetables, that would help to support my family. The garden was walled in, too, which I much admired, being very fond of retirement. There was a stable, a brewhouse, and every other convenience; and the rent was only six pounds ten shillings per annum. But the man told me it would cost seven or eight pounds to take the fixtures of the house; wherefore I gave up the thoughts of it, as I had no view of raising such a sum. So I drove it from my thoughts, though I much wanted it. But God hath "determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitations; that we should seek the Lord," Acts, xvii. 26.
A few days after this a friend called to see me, whom I consulted about the house, and shewed it to him. He persuaded me to take it, which I accordingly did; but was obliged to wait a few weeks, till the person I was to succeed could provide himself with another situation, suitable for his business. I therefore asked God in prayer to enable me to purchase the fixtures of this house, if it was agreeable to his sovereign will and pleasure; for I knew that God had "set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel," Deut. xxxii. 8. And the providence of God appeared so conspicuous, that I shortly obtained money enough to pay for the fixtures; but the person desired me to wait a few weeks longer, as he had been disappointed of the house he expected to go into; so I waited two months, during which time the money was all spent. Then I begged of God to frustrate my going into the house at all, if it was displeasing to him, although I much wanted it; because my little cot was placed in a very vulgar neighbourhood, and the windows were so very low, that I could not study at any of them without being exposed to the view of my enemies; who often threw stones through the glass, or saluted me with a volley of oaths or imprecations. This was very disagreeable to me. In my public ministrations I expected nothing else but the cruel venom of asps; but to commune with my God in private was the only sweet refuge I had to flee to, and the only door of hope that was open for comfort and relief. However, Providence soon began to shine again; and indeed I had nothing else to live on from year's end to year's end, but what God sent me in answer to prayer. At this time a person gave me five guineas; which kind providence I rather wondered at. But the following night I had a dream - (I hope my brethren will not hate me yet the more because of my dreams, Gen. xxxvii. ,5; seeing we have a Scriptural warrant for the relation of them; "He that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word," Jer. xxii;. 28.) - I dreamed that the person before-mentioned sent to inform me that he was going to leave his house; that the things were to be appraised on Friday morning; and that he should expect me to pay him the money down for the fixtures. I said in my dream, "Lord, thou knowest I cannot go, for I have not money enough." Then came this answer, - "Go to Mr. Munday, cutler, at Kingston-upon-Thames, and he will lend you as much as you want." I soon after awoke, and behold it was a dream! therefore I took little notice of it. But in a few hours the person sent me word that he was going to leave his house, and should expect me to come and see the things appraised the next morning, and pay him for the same. Then I began to think it was more than a dream. The same night Mr. Munday, of Kingston, called on me; and, to the best of my remembrance, he had never been at my house before. I asked him if he would lend me a little money; he replied, "I will lend you all that I have in my pocket; and, if you will call on me tomorrow at Kingston, I will lend you five pounds if you want it." He accordingly lent me what he then had with him; and the next morning, after the things were appraised to me, I paid for them, having just nine shillings left. - This is the end of my dream. Whether this blessing came from Fortune on the wheel, or from the Searcher and Disposer of hearts, I shall leave those to determine who have got learning and an independent fortune at command.
My year being now expired, I wanted a new parsonic livery; wherefore in humble prayer I told my most blessed Lord and Master that my year was out, and my apparel bad - that I had nowhere to go for these things out to him; and, as he had promised to give his servants food and raiment, I hoped he would fulfil his promise to me, though one of the worst of them. Seeing no immediate signs of my livery coming, I began to omit praying for it; though God says, "For all these things I will be inquired of by the house of Israel, that I may do these things for them." It fell out one day that I called on a poor man, who complained that he could not attend the word of God for want of apparel. This drove me to pray again for my new suit of clothes, that I might give my old ones to him. A few days after this I was desired to call at a gentleman's house near London. Indeed it had been impressed on my mind for six weeks before, that God would use that gentleman as an instrument to furnish me with my next suit. And so it fell out; for, when I called on him, upon leaving his house he went a little way with me; and while we were on the road he said, "I think you want a new suit of clothes." I answered, "Yes, Sir, I do; and I know a poor man that would be very glad of this which I have on, if my Master would furnish me with another." When we parted, he desired me to call on him the next morning, which I accordingly did; when he sent a tailor into the room, and generously told me to be measured for what clothes I chose, and a great coat also. When I got the dew, I furnished the poor man with my old suit. This was the fourth suit of apparel that my Master gave me in this providential manner, in answer to the prayer of faith. This God, who kept Israel's clothes from waxing old, though in constant use for forty years, gave me a new suit every year.
I was soon afterwards brought into another strait. Having contracted a debt of five pounds for some necessaries which I wanted, I promised to pay it on a certain day; and I put up many prayers that God would enable me to fulfil my promise. At last the day arrived, and I had not one farthing towards it. About ten o'clock the bell rung at my gate. Supposing it to be my creditor, I kneeled down, and begged of God not to let him come till he had sent me the money to pay him. It proved not to be the man I expected: but soon after the bell rung again, and I kneeled down again, and prayed with the same words; and was informed a stranger wanted to see me. He had much to say to me about the things of God; and when he left me he gave me two guineas. Soon after this I went to work in my garden; and another person, who lived at a great distance, came to speak with me, and gave me another guinea. After that I took a walk in the fields, and met with two gentlemen who feared God, and who came from London on purpose to see me. They gave me two guineas. The next day my creditor came, and his money was ready for him. This is like the Lord's dealings with the poor widow by Elisha; when the creditor came to take the mother and son for bond-servants, God sent the creditor all his demands in a pot of oil.
I have omitted one providence which has just occurred to my mind, and which happened at the time when I carried coals for my bread. It fell out one night that we were forced to put our little ones to bed without a supper, which grieved me much, and on which account I got but little sleep all night; for I lay and wept bitterly under my hard fate. While I was weeping and praying a person came to the window, and told me there was a lead of wooden hoops come to the wharf from Dorking, in Surrey, and that I must get up and unload them; which I soon did. When I had done the farmer told me he had brought me a little meat pie and a flagon of cyder, of which he had heard me say I was very fond. As soon as he was gone I went home, and endeavoured to awake my young ones, but in vain; however, I set them up on the bolster, and they began to eat before they were fully awake. Thus God sent food from a very remote place, in answer to the groaning petition of my burdened heart. God grant that, if my reader be a poor Christian, he may take encouragement from these accounts to pray and watch the hand of God in every time of trouble; until he sees, agreeable to the promise, that God causes all his goodness to pass before him. Oh, how sweet is the least mercy when fitly timed, and brought forth so seasonably! - how it endears God to the soul! When the poor widow of Zarepta was gathering two sticks to bake the last cake for her and her son, that they might eat once more before they died, then comes the man of God, and swears that the barrel of meal shall not fail till God send rain upon the earth, I Kings, xvii. 14.
At this time I had many doors opened to me for preaching the gospel, very wide apart. I preached at Margaret-street in London; at Richmond, at Ditton, at Cobham, at Wooking, at Worplesdon, and at Farnham, in Surrey. This I found too much for my strength. However, I continued for a considerable time, till at last I was generally laid up sick about once a month. I found I had great need of a horse; but feared I should not be able to keep it, if I had one. However, it happened that I had a very severe week's work to do; I was to go to Wooking and preach on the Lord's day morning, to Worplesdon in the afternoon, and from thence to Farnham in the evening; to preach at Petworth, in Sussex, on the Monday, at Horsham on the Tuesday, at Margaret-street chapel on the Wednesday, and at Ditton on the Thursday evening; but before I could reach Ditton on the Wednesday, I was so far spent, that I thought I must have lain down on the road; yet, with much difficulty, I reached home; and then I had to go to London. Finding myself wholly unable to perform all this labour, I went to prayer, and besought God to give me more strength, less work, or a horse. I used my prayers as gunners use their swivels, turning them every way, as the various cases required. I then hired a horse to ride to town; and, when I came there, went to put him up at Mr. Jackson's livery-stables, near the chapel, in Margaret-street; but the ostler told me they had not room to take him in. I asked if his master was in the yard. He said, Yes. I desired to see him; and he told me he could not take the horse in. I was then going out of the yard, when he stepped after me, and asked if I was the person that preached at Margaret-street chapel. I told him I was; He burst into tears, saying he would send one of his own horses out and take mine in; and informed me of his coming one night to hear me out of curiosity, because he had been informed that I had been a coal-heaver, He then told me that under the first sermon, God shewed him the insufficiency of his own wretched righteousness - the carnality and hypocrisy of his religion - the true state of his soul - and the necessity of the spirit and grace of Christ Jesus the Lord to change his heart if ever he was saved; and blessed God for sending me there. This was good nears to me. He also said that some of my friends had been gathering money to buy me a horse, and that he gave something towards him. Directly after I found the horse was bought and paid for; and one person gave me a guinea to buy a bridle, another gave me two whips, a third gave me some things necessary for the stable, another trusted me for a saddle - and here was a full answer to my prayer. So I mounted my horse and rode home; and he turned out as good an animal as ever was rode. I believe this horse was the gift of God, because he tells me in his word that all the beasts of the forest are his, and so are the cattle on a thousand hills. I have often thought that, if my horse could have spoken, he would have had more to say than Balaam's ass; as he might have said, "I am an answer to my master's prayers - I live by my master's faith, travel with mysteries, and suffer persecution, but I do not know for what;" for many a stone has been thrown at him.
On my road home, while meditating on the manifold blessings I had received from God, both in a way of grace and providence, how unworthy I was of them, and how unthankful I had been for them, I told God that I had more work for my faith now than heretofore; for the horse would cost half as much to keep him as my whole family. In answer to which this scripture came to my mind with power and comfort, "Dwell in the land and do good, and verily thou shalt be fed." This was a bank-note put into the hand of my faith; which when I got poor, I pleaded before God; and he answered it. So that I lived and cleared my way just as well when I had my horse to keep as I did before; for I could not then get any thing either to eat or drink, wear, or use, without begging it of God. Sometimes I found much murmuring in my heart against being held in with so tight a rein; for which I was sure to suffer afterwards. So I found, by daily experience, that I could not add one cubit to God's stature, no not even in the least thing; therefore it was in vain for me to take thought for the rest.
Having now had my horse for some time, and riding a great deal every week, I soon wore my breeches out, as they were not fit to ride in. I hope the reader will excuse my mentioning the word breeches, which I should have avoided, had not this passage of scripture obtruded into my mind, just as I had resolved in my own thoughts not to mention this kind providence of God. "And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs shall they reach. And they shall be upon Aaron and upon his sons when they come into the tabernacle of the congregation, or when they come near unto the altar to minister in the holy place; that they bear not iniquity and die. It shall be a statute for ever unto him and his seed after him," Exod. xxviii. 42, 43. By which, and three others, (namely, Ezek. xliv. 1S; Lev. vi. 10; and Lev. xvi. 4,) I saw that it was no crime to mention the word breeches, nor the way in which God sent them to me; Aaron and his sons being clothed entirely by Providence; and as God himself condescended to give orders what they should be made of, and how they should be cut. And I believe the same God ordered mine, as I trust it will appear in the following history.
The scripture tells us to call no man master, for one is our master, even Christ. I therefore told my most bountiful and ever-adored Master what I wanted; and he, who stripped Adam and Eve of their fig-leaved aprons, and made coats of skins, and clothed them; and who clothes the grass of the field, which to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven; must clothe us, or we shall soon grow naked; - and so Israel found it, when God took away his wool and his flax, which he gave to cover their nakedness, and which they prepared for Baal: for which iniquity was their skirts discovered, and their heels made bare, Jer. xiii. 22.
I often made very free in my prayers with my invaluable Master for this favour: but he still kept me so amazingly poor that I could not get them at any rate. At last I was determined to go to a friend of mine at Kingston, who is of that branch of business, to bespeak a pair; and to get him to trust me until my Master sent me money to pay him. I was that day going to London, fully determined to bespeak them as I rode through the town. However, when I passed the shop I forgot it; but when I came to London I called on Mr. Croucher, a shoemaker in Shepherd's Market, who told me a parcel was left there for me, but what it was he knew not. I opened it, and behold there was a pair of leather breeches, with a note in them! the substance of which was, to the best of my remembrance, as follows:
"I have sent you a pair of breeches, and hope they will fit. I beg your acceptance of them: and, if they want any alteration, leave in a note what the alteration is, and I will call in a few days and alter them.
I tried them on, and they fitted as well as if I had been measured for them: at which I was amazed, having never been measured by any leather-breeches-maker in London. I wrote an answer to the note to this effect:
"I received your present, and thank you for it. I was going to order a pair of leather breeches to be made, because I did not know till now that my Master had bespoke them of you. They fit very well, which fully convinces me that the same God, who moved thy heart to give, guided thy hand to cut; because he perfectly knows my size, having clothed me in a miraculous manner for near five years. When you are in trouble, Sir, I hope you will tell my Master of this, and what you have done for me, and he will repay you with honour."
This is as near as I am able to relate it; and I added,
"I cannot make out I.S. unless I put I for Israelite indeed, and S for Sincerity; because you did not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do.'"
About that time twelvemonth I got another pair of breeches in the same extraordinary manner, without my ever being measured for them. But perhaps my reader may blame me for this relation; and think that, as the good man gave his alms entirely in secret, it ought not to be published to the world. To which I answer - Our blessed Saviour, when he was on earth, spake his parables openly; but, when in private, he communicated to his disciples all the rich treasures of wisdom and knowledge that lay couched in them. Thus Christ gave his spiritual alms in secret; yet he commanded them to proclaim the riches of his grace upon the housetops. It is true, he charged his patients when he healed them not to tell any man what he had done; to shew them that he sought not the applause of man, but the honour of God, while he remained a bond-servant under the law, and in a state of humiliation: yet, after his death, they were to proclaim the whole of it to all the world. And all that Christ healed by the disciples were allowed to proclaim it; and sometimes were presented before the councils as witnesses of his power. And, though our alms are to be in secret, and we are commanded to say we are unprofitable servants; yet the Redeemer, who graciously condescends to receive and accept the fruits of our faith, will proclaim them one day before all the offspring of Adam. "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me; sick and in prison, and ye visited me." And, being stripped of all Arminianism, they said, "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered?" &c. &c. - "Forasmuch as ye have done it unto one of these little ones, ye have done it unto me."
These things plainly show us that our alms ought to be given in secret, and that the giver ought to be silent about it: but the receiver ought not to be mute, but proclaim it to the honour of God, who opens the heart; and to the praise of his brother, Who has done well through grace. Thus Paul and John, in their epistles, commend many who abounded in the grace of liberality.
As I was one frosty night going to Richmond to preach, when there was much snow on the ground, I met a poor cripple in a very deplorable condition. He solicited an alms of me; and I refused him, because I had but one shilling in all the world, and did not choose to part with that; however, I found myself greatly distressed because I did not give it to him, he appeared in such a miserable condition. I thought, perhaps, In such a severe night is that was, he might perish for want of the necessaries of life. When I came to Richmond I told a friend of it, and said thought him to be in a dreadful situation, because I was so much distressed about refusing to relieve him; declaring that, if I met him again, I would give it him, if I never had another shilling of my own. The next night, as I was going to preach at a village adjacent, I met the same poor object, and had got the same shilling in my pocket, and no more. The poor creature passed me, but asked nothing of me; however, I turned back, and gave him the shilling. The poor man received it with great joy and thankfullness, and told me a deal of his sufferings, which fully convinced me he was in great want; and this blessed passage of scripture came to my mind, "He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth to the Lord: and that which he hath given will he pay him again; Prov. xix. 17. I went that night and delivered my discourse; and when I had done, a woman took me aside into room, and put three half-crown pieces into my hand, saying, "I was commanded to give you that," I asked her "By whom?" She replied, "By a gentleman; but you are not to know his name." Thus I received my shilling again, with very considerable interest; and thus also the fulfilment of the word took place. "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, and it tendeth to penury," Prov. xi. 24.
One providence I had almost forgot. We were at that time very badly off for beds and bedding; my children were no better provided than the Saviour when he laid in a manger, for they slept upon bags of hay: but prayer at a long run brought in these things also. Some of my most intimate acquaintances knew how I was tried in this respect, though I never made it known to any body who was capable of helping me out of my trouble. But one night, after I had done preaching at Richmond, a person invited me home to his house, and showed me a large bundle tied up, saying it was for me. I asked who the donor was; he replied, "You are not to know that." I carried it home, when lo it proved to be bedding, and the very thing I stood so much in need of! Thus the blessed Saviour fulfils his gracious promise which he made to his servants, "Whatsoever ye ask in my name, that will I do, that the father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it," John, xiv 13, 14.
Some time after this I took gospel courage, and asked my Master to give me a new bed; and importuned his ever-blessed and most excellent Majesty until I got it. Perceiving that the Lord approved of a bold, though not of a presumptuous beggar, agreeable to his word, "Let us come boldly unto the throne of grace," &c. I boldly asked him the favour, and persevered in it, until I was one day informed by a friend that four or five pious people were coming on such a day from London to visit me. Then my faith told me I should soon have the bed. Accordingly they came, and we had some comfortable conversation together. Toward evening they departed, giving me four guineas. O! what Christian in his right mind would murmur and complain at his poverty, when, with a watchful eye, he sees such liberal supplies poured forth from the inexhaustible stores of Providence! Thus God, who provided a comfortable lodging for Elisha the prophet, provided me "a bed a table a stool and a candlestick." 2 Kings, iv. 10.
I was determined to keep this money for a bed; and therefore went to a good man in London, and bespoke one; which he very soon sent me, with a rug also, and a pair of very good blankets. Soon after I called to pay him for it; when he told me to pay his clerk, who gave me a receipt for the same; but afterwards the gentleman went a little way with me, and at his departure gave me all the money back again. How sweet are temporal mercies, when received by those who are under the influence of grace! when they are seen to come from a covenant God and Father, in answer to the simple prayer of faith! Surely he that "will observe these things, even he shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord," Psal. evil. 43. The promises of God pleaded in humble prayer, and promised mercies received in answer thereto, always come so as to make a divine impression, being sweetened with love to us; for every such mercy is "sanctified by the word of God and prayer." But to the unbelieving and prayerless there is nothing clean, though there be ever so much stock in hand. "A little that a righteous man hath, is better than the treasures of many wicked," Psal. xxxvi. 16.
I have sometimes been proud and vain enough to think that my habitation and temporal mercies, which my God has sent me, attended with the blessed influences of comforting grace, have been as much consecrated to me as any cathedral church or church-yard in Europe, which had even the consecration of a bishop to make it sacred: being persuaded that it is the presence of God and that only, which consecrates a house of prayer; that it is God's blessing the habitation of the just with his presence that makes their tents holy; and that on whatever spot God is pleased to visit a soul with his powerful and free salvation, and to manifest himself a sin-pardoning God, through Christ, by his most Holy Spirit, such spots of ground, and such only, can with propriety be called holy ground. And I believe it would puzzle even the learned themselves to shew any other consecration than this that is good for any thing.
As for the consecration of church-yards, which some are so fond of laying their bodies in, I have no desire after them, as I believe all the corpses that lie there were sown in weakness, sown in dishonour, and sown in corruption; and living consecration doth not dwell with dead men's bones and all uncleanness, but with living souls, who are consecrated kings, priests, and Nazarites. to God for evermore.
I hope my reader will excuse my running so far out of the way after consecration; but indeed I am not the first man that mock consecration has led astray; however, I should not have meddled with it had it not intruded itself into my thoughts; wherefore, rather than displease my reader, I will resume my subject.
Another year having rolled over my head, I began to look about for my livery; for I always took care to let my most propitious Master know when my year was out. And indeed I wanted it bad enough, for riding on horseback soiled my clothes much more than walking did. However, my Lord exercised my faith and patience for six weeks together about this livery; and I looked all manner of ways for it; but every door seemed shut up; and I could not see from what quarter it was to come. (You know, reader, we are all very fond of running before God; but he takes his own pace.) At length I was informed by Mr. Byrchmore that a gentleman in Well-street wanted to see me. Accordingly I went; and was admitted into the parlour to the gentleman and his spouse. He wept, and begged I would not be angry at what he was going to relate; which was, that he had for some time desired to make me a present of a suit of clothes, but was afraid I should be offended at his offer, and refuse it. - "Ah! " says Envy, "there need be no fear of that, for Methodist parsons are all for what they can get." It is true; for we are commanded to "covet earnestly the best things;" and so we do, and expect a double reward of the Lord - one in this world, and the other in the next. And this is no more than our Master has promised to give us; for we are to "receive an hundred fold in this world, and in the world to come life everlasting." I told the good man that I had been for some time expecting a suit of clothes, but knew not how to procure them. They both wept for joy upon my accepting them, and I wept for joy, that they gave them so freely. As they had been fearful that I should be offended at their offer, and not receive them; so I had been much exercised in my mind, lest my Master would not give them to me, as he usually had done. However, our minds were now eased of our fears on both sides, and I was clothed; and it was the best suit that I ever had. This is the fifth livery that my trembling hand of faith put on my back, and every one came from a different quarter. The name of the good man who gave me this suit is Randall, in Wells-street, Oxford-market. I mention his name to shew that I cannot keep such secrets, because he strictly charged me not to let it be known. However, I have imitated the disciples of old in this, for it is said of them that "the more Christ charged them to keep silence, the more they spread it abroad." And indeed it must be so, or else the Lord would be deprived of the honour that is due to his holy name. Though by the Saviour's charge, it plainly appeared that he sought not the applause of men, yet it is the indispensable duty of every Christian to applaud the Saviour. With my reader's permission, I will shew my opinion why he charged them to keep his miracles concealed. I believe one reason was, because those whom he healed were in general very ignorant of his deity; yea, and even his disciples themselves, at that time, had but very gross, low, and shallow thoughts and views of his being the omnipotent and self-existent Jehovah. We often hear them calling him by the name of his manhood only; as when he rebuked the waves of the sea, they said, "What manner of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him?" And as two of them were going to Emmaus, and the Saviour drew near to them, asking them the reason of their being sad, they said, "Art thou a stranger in Jerusalem, and knowest not these things?" When he said, "What things?" they replied, "concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man mighty in words and deeds before God and all the people," &c. mentioning his manhood only. And Martha, at her brother's grave, had her gross thoughts lifted up no higher, when she said, "But even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee." The Saviour's answer was, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, (mark, in me) though he were dead, yet shall he live; and he that liveth and believeth shall never die. Dost thou believe this?" "Thou believest that I am prevalent with God in prayer, and that God will give me what I ask of him. If thy faith, Martha, centers in me, as one who is only prevalent with God in prayer, thou makest me no more than Noah, Daniel, and Job, were. But dost thou believe that I am the resurrection itself, and that eternal life which lives in all the just, and which all the just live in? Dost thou believe this?"
It is to be observed that, if any came to our Lord Jesus Christ, with their carnal thoughts hovering altogether about his manhood, they generally met with a sharp reproof. - "Good master, what good thing shall I do?" said one. "Why callest thou me good," said the Saviour, "there is none good but one, that is God." But, if any approached him as the Omnipotent Jehovah, the real object of faith and worship, they were sure to meet with his approbation. Thus the tenth leper, who was healed, worshipped him as the real object of faith; and his faith was approved, and peace added to it. "Go thy way," said Christ, "thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace." And when Thomas cried out, "My Lord and my God!" "Aye, Thomas," said the Saviour, "Aye." - And again, "You call me Lord and Master; and ye say well, for so I am." Thus it appears that our dear Lord often lifted their thoughts up to his godhead, when (like the birds upon Abraham's sacrifice) they were settling upon his flesh and blood only; as the Arians in our days do, just like a shoal of eagles, always working upon the carcass, but cannot see the altar that sanctified the sacrifice. Job's eagle did not so; she mounted up when God commanded her, and made her nest on high. She dwelt and abode upon the rock, not upon the sand; yea, she sat upon the crag of the Rock, even the arm of Omnipotence, that strong place: from thence she sought the prey; that is, she fed upon Christ crucified by faith. And her eyes beheld afar off; that is, in hope she looked at Christ glorified, now in the highest heavens; and there she saw the king in his beauty, in that land which is very far off, Isa. xxxiii. 17. "Her young ones also suck up blood;" they live by faith on the atonement; "and where the slain are there is she;" agreeable to the Saviour's comment on these words, "Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together," Matt. xxiv. 28; Job, xxxix. 27 - 30.
But to return to my subject. I had an invitation to go and preach at Horsham, in Sussex, one Monday evening. On the preceding Lord's day I preached at Wooking, in Surrey, and had to ride from thence to Horsham on the Monday. Then I set out to go across the country: (it was in the winter season;) and just as I had got out of Guildford town it began to rain, and continued in a violent manner all the time I was on the road. It so happened that I had but one shilling in my pocket, which would only procure a feed of corn for my horse, and pay the turnpikes. My surtout, which was a very thin Bath coat, was of very little use, being almost worn out; wherefore I was much exposed to this violent storm of rain; and I think I never had been so wet before. I was obliged to strip, and even to have my shirt washed before I could preach. I then secretly wished for a large horseman's coat, being obliged to ride in all weathers: but, as I had been begging so many things of my most indulgent Master, I thought by my continual coming I should weary him; not considering that God commands us to open our mouths wide that he may fill them; which, I believe, means that our desires should be as extensive at the throne of grace as God's pregnant promises, which he made us in the dear Son of his love. Christ is the heir of all things, and the Christian is an heir of promise; therefore he has a right to ask for those things that will defray his expenses through this world with that honour which becomes a saint, and not a miser.
My mock-modesty would not allow me to ask God for a great coat; though I earnestly desired it, and murmured at God's providence because I was kept so poor that I could not purchase one. However, it was not in the power of my unbelief, nor yet in the power of my sinful murmuring, to close the bountiful hand of my Maker; for, when I came to London on the Wednesday following, and had preached at Margaret-street chapel in the evening, a person approached me just as I came out of the chapel, saying, "I want to speak to you;" which was to inform me that he intended, with the assistance of some more friends, to make me a present of a horseman's coat; wherefore he desired me to be measured for it; accordingly I was, and that gentleman, with a few others, honourably paid for it. Surely to deny the overruling providence of God is to deny the whole journal of the children of Israel, and all the wondrous works of God which daily appeared on their behalf for forty years together. But there are some who consider not "the operation of God's hands; therefore he shall destroy them, and not build them up," Psal. xxviii. 5.
Thus my mock-modesty and unbelief could not make the promise of God of none effect; and God forbid it ever should. Zechariah desired a sign when the angel told him that his prayer was heard, and a son was to be given: and God gave him an awful sign, but his unbelief did not hinder the birth of John. After receiving this gift from God this scripture came sweet to my soul, "I know both how to be abused, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things, I am instructed, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need," Phil. iv. 12. And indeed I found by all these trials that I also was instructed; for I learned one blessed doctrine by this providence, which I never saw clearly before; namely, the power of internal or mental prayer ascending so prevalently to God, under the influences of the Spirit, even when the understanding and the lips were both unfruitful. And the application of the following texts gave me sweet views of it; "Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear," Psal. x. 17. - "Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desire of thine heart." "Commit thy ways unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass," Psal. xxxvii. 4, 5. These scriptures led me to consider, and apply with comfort to my own soul, the many precious promises which God has made in Christ Jesus to the spiritual anxiety of a renewed soul at the throne of grace, even when the sound of the voice, the sound of the organ, and that confused gabbling of monkish mimicry, called chanting of prayers, are left quite out of the promise; as will appear in the following passages, which I beseech my reader to consider: - "The desire of the righteous shall be granted," Prov. x. 24. - "For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness," Psal. evil. 9. - "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him." "For he looked down from the height of his sanctuary; from heaven did the Lord behold the earth, to hear the groaning of the prisoner; (mark that, to hear the groaning of the prisoner) to loose those that are appointed to death," Psal. cii. 19, 20. Thus the Holy Ghost makes "intercession for the saints according to the will of God; and God, who searcheth the heart, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit," Rom. viii. 27.
Hence observe, reader, that the promise is made to a spiritual hunger - a spiritual thirst - an holy longing - a deep heart-felt sigh - an earnest desire - and moaning - from a burdened mind. All these are petitions put up by the blessed Spirit of supplication alone, (without the use of the lips) who "maketh intercession for us with groanings that cannot be uttered." These were the prayers which our blessed Saviour put up at Lazarus's grave, when "he groaned in the Spirit, and was troubled." "Jesus therefore again groaned" in spirit, John, xi. 83, 38. Again, "And Jesus looking up to heaven, sighed, and saith unto him, Ephphatha; that is, Be opened. And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain," Mark, vii. 34, 35. Thus it appears that agonies, tears, groans, and sighs, were chiefly the all-preveiling petitions put up by our dear Redeemer when in a state of humiliation. Christian, learn thou of him who is meek and lowly in heart, and thou shalt find rest for thy soul.
It is not an eloquent voice, elegant speech, lofty compliments, swelling words, much speaking, long prayers, nor yet the numberless repetitions of "We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord," that shall ever prevail with God: it is "not every one that saith, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom." The foolish virgins were too late with, Lord, Lord. God will accept of no sacrifice but that which comes in the hallowed flame of his own kindling, and perfumed with the sweet-smelling savour of that blessed, ever-aveiling, and ever-living sacrifice of his dear Son. The prayers of that man who calls himself a Christian, or a follower of the Saviour, but is an utter stranger to menial prayer, have never yet reached the ears of God: for God is a Spirit, and will accept of nothing short of spiritual prayer. It was the groanings of the children of Israel that went up before God, and brought him down to deliver them, as declared by God himself to Moses at Horeb, Exod. ii. 24. Let this encourage thee, reader, if thou art one who cannot find words to express thyself at a throne of grace. If thou canst pour out thy soul before the Lord, shew him thy trouble, and leave thy burdens with him - these are precious prayers; and, if thou comest from thy knees with thy mind eased, thy faith strengthened, thy hope encouraged, thy bowels refreshed, and with confidence that God hath heard thy prayer for his dear Son's sake, oh! these are sweet answers from God. Be thankful, and pray on. Such was the answer that Hannah got when she went from Shiloh with her countenance no more sad.
During the space of three years I secretly wished in my soul that God would favour me with a chapel of my own, being sick of the errors that were perpetually broached by some one or other in Margaret-street chapel, where I then preached. But, though I so much desired this, yet I could not ask God for such a favour, thinking it was not to be brought about by one so very mean, low, and poor, as myself. However, God sent a person, unknown to me, to look at a certain spot, who afterwards took me to look at it; but I trembled at the very thought of such an immense undertaking. Then God stirred up a wise man to offer to build a chapel, and to manage the whole work without fee or reward. God drew the pattern on his imagination while he was hearing me preach a sermon. I then took the ground; this person executed the plan; and the chapel sprung up like a mushroom. As soon as it was finished, this precious scripture came sweet to my soul, "He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him," Psal. cxlv. 19. Thus the chapel appeared as an answer to the earnest desire which God had kindled in my heart; and which he intended to fulfil in his own good time, to the honour of his own great name, the good of many souls, and to the encouragement of my poor, weak, tottering faith. It is confessed in the church of England service, that "all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, proceed from God;" and I believe they do.
Another kind providence I experienced while I resided at Thames Dillon. My surtout coat was got very thin and bad, and the weather at that time was very cold. It happened that I was invited to preach at a little place near London. As I went thither I felt the cold very severely; and, as soon as I had delivered my discourse, I desired a young man to fetch my old great coat, in order to put it on before I went out of the warm meeting-house. When he came back, lo, he brought me a new one! I told him that was not mine. He said it was. And, though I insisted upon it, that it was not, he persisted in saying it was. So I put it on, and it fitted me very well. In one of the pockets there was a letter, which informed me that my blessed Lord and Master had sent it me to wrap my poor worthless carcass in during that very severe winter. Oh the tender care of our most gracious Lord and Master! Solomon says, "The favour of a king is as a cloud of the latter rain." I think he must mean the cloud of God's divine favour; which blotted out our transgressions as a cloud, and appears as a cloud by day to screen us from the storm of wrath: and, if my reader watches the bountiful hand of God, he will see this blessed cloud daily discharging itself in the genial showers of grace and providence; as it is written, "And I will make them and the places round about my hill a blessing; and l will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessings," Ezek. xxxiv. 26
They have a common saying in the Weald of Kent, when the daughter of an old farmer is married. If it be inquired what portion the old man gave, the answer is, "He gave not much money; but the old people are always sending them something - there is always something sent from a farm-house." Then the observation usually is, "Aye, her's is a hand-basket portion, which is generally the best; for there is no end to that." Even our everlasting Father gives to his poor children a hand-basket portion - a basket being that which we generally fetch our daily provisions in: and God sometimes puts his blessing even in the basket, and then it seldom comes home empty; as it is written, "Blessed shall be thy basket," Deut. xxviii. 5. Our blessed Saviour eyed this promise on the mount. When he was going to feed five thousand men, beside women and children, with five barley loaves and two small fishes, it is said, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and brake, &c. And that blessing was enough; for they were all filled, and there were twelve baskets full of fragments. Thus the blessing appeared in the basket; and that made the Saviour so fond of the fragments as to give this strict charge to his disciples, "Let nothing be lost." Thus, too, the proverb of the hand-basket portion appears true; and our blessed Saviour himself lived on it while he dwelt below; yea, the whole Levitical tribe lived on the hand-basket portion; for the shew-bread, that was set hot before God on the golden table, was brought in a basket. So that God himself has highly honoured the basket.
I am firmly of opinion that the hand-basket portion is the best, both for soul and body; because it keeps us to prayer, exercises our faith, engages our watchfullness, and excites to gratitude. It does not appear that the prodigal son added much to his fortune when he desired the portion of goods that fell to him; that is he desired to be an Arminian, to have an independent stock of his own, and to be left to improve it by himself; wherefore he did not choose to live near his father, lest he should interfere; but went into a far country, that his father might see how he flourished in the world when once he became independent. But self-will, free-agency, self-sufficiency, and independency of God, seldom gain much by trading; for we all know that this independent merchant would have been starved and damned too, if free grace had not undertook to feed him, and to save him. Poor soul! I warrant you he flourished away at first, but he soon brought himself down upon a level with the swine. Free Agency, with her boasted dignity, made but a poor figure while she sat banqueting at the hog-trough! And one would imagine that, if any thing would have excluded boasting, this certainly would. He could not boast of the entertainment, because it was nothing but husks; nor could he boast much of the company, they being only swine. I believe the prodigal left all boasting behind when he forsook the pig's Pound. If my reader, therefore, is an unbeliever, and has got a stock in hand, he may murmur against his portion and view it as a snare or trap. Indeed it is a trap to many who set their hearts upon it. This was the case with Israel. Their table "became a trap, a stumbling-block, and a recompense unto them; yea, that which should have been for their welfare became a trap." But, if my reader be a believer in a dear Redeemer, his stock is a blessing while he is thankful to God for it, and does not place his affections on it: and, if he is liberal of the stock God has given him, his liberality daily sanctities it - "Give alms," says the Saviour, "of such things as ye have, and behold all things are clean unto you." Paul declares that the lively faith of a believing husband would sanctify an unbelieving wife, and make her a temporal blessing. The first sheaf under the law, being given to God, sanctified the harvest; therefore I refer my reader, if he be one that has a stock in hand, to God's promised blessing, "Blessed shall be thy store," Deut. xxviii. 5.
I once preached on the Lord's day at Wooking in Surrey; and the week before that time I and my family had been sorely tried for want of the common necessaries of life. I was very fond of feeding my little ones when I had wherewithal to feed them, because I knew how much I had suffered when young through my parents poverty. That week the little ones had lived chiefly on bread, which grieved me much, as the appetite of young growing children is so craving after food. When I used to shut the cupboard door, and give them nothing but bread, my eldest daughter would look me in the face with much earnestness and solemnity, and ask me this important question, "Is the boo all boppee, daddy?" which gibberish by interpretation signified, "Is the butter all gone, father?" She would at such times lean her head on one shoulder, look me full in the face, and lay a particular emphasis upon the particle all, which she would draw out with a very long tone. Then she would use some of her logic, and reason the point with me, asking me many strange questions; which I partly understood, as they amounted chiefly to the inquiry when the butter would come, or whether there was any ground to hope for any: but at that time I could give her no promise as a ground for her hope, every door being apparently shut.
We had at that season but little fuel, though it was a very severe frost, and the snow laid on the ground. As I was returning from Wooking on the Monday morning, before I came to Cobham (having left Wooking very early without breakfast) I was exceedingly hungry and weary, and had but little to expect when I arrived at home; for I knew I had nothing but bread, and perhaps not that. When I came on the common which is called Fair Mile, lying between Cobham and Esher, I fretted and wept bitterly at my hard fate, and yet trembled for fear of offending God by my complaining, as he had given me so full a persuasion of my eternal salvation through Christ. I often feared that he would hear my murmuring as he did the murmuring of Israel in the wilderness, when he answered them by terrible things; namely, "He gave them meat for their lust, but sent leanness into their souls." And I thought, if God should take away the happy enjoyment of his love from me, and lay me in a stock of temporal things instead thereof, I should have cause, like Job, to curse the day wherein the change was made; therefore I often prayed against that, and the blessed Spirit greatly helped my infirmities in those prayers.
But when I got about half over the common it came suddenly into my mind to go out of the horse-road into a little narrow track, which leads over the hills, between the hand-post and the Bathhouse. I could gain but very little ground by this, nor do I remember that I had ever gone that way before; but I soon found what this impression meant; for there was to be a battle fought between a stoat, or weasel, and a large rabbit. The stoat, or weasel, was to fight the battle and to win the field, and I was to take the prey. So I took up the rabbit, and gladly carried him home; and it proved as fine a one as I ever saw, being quite in season, in every sense of the word, for we had nothing but bread in the house.
This occurrence happened before I received the horse. But I cannot recollect every circumstance so as to range it in its proper place, my memory being naturally bad. I lived in this manner for seven or eight years together, and every day afforded some providence or trial.
My dame about this time was pregnant, and not far from her lying-in. She gave me a large catalogue of the necessaries that she should want against that time. I told her I had no money, nor was there any signs of my having any; and we could not get them without. She went on in suspense this way, till she expected her time every day, and began at last to fret amazingly. I told her I thought that God tried her thus because she was remiss in the blessed privilege of private prayer. I also remarked to her that God would be inquired of by us, that he might do these things for us, and that, if she did not pray for them, she was not like to have them. I believe this drove my dame to prayer; for soon after this there was a parcel sent from Lambeth, another from Kingston, another from Richmond, and a few things from some neighbours nearer home. I now asked the old woman if she thought she had got enough. She replied, "Yes, and more than enough." God had exceeded all her desires; for she had feared that she should not get money enough to buy the stuff to make up her little things; and that, if she did get it, it would have been so late that she should not have had time to make them. "But God," said she, "has sent them ready-made." So Mary was very well pleased, and richly supplied. Thus the universal Provider of all in heaven and earth, richly provides not only for them that are in the world, but for them also that are coming into it. This providence rather appeared strange to me, as I had not made known the case to any person, to the best of my knowledge; but God, who knew our straits, and heard and answered our prayers, did, by some means or other, inform some friends of our wants and then touched their hearts with a spirit of sympathy and liberality. And I think, for three or fourth births successively, the Almighty raised up one Dorcas here, and another there, to provide for my dame against her lying-in. Thus the ever-blessed God, who inflicted the judgment of sorrow on women in bringing forth children, as a punishment to their sex for being first in the transgression, richly supplies their wants against the hour in which his own decreed and predicted sorrow comes on; so likewise the just sentence denounced in his just displeasure against the female sex, for their disobedience, only makes more work for sovereign mercy, in supplying their wants, supporting them in their troubles, and bringing them through their sorrows. Oh how sweetly does a covenant of grace (confirmed by the Saviour's death) engage the sweet mercy and love of the Almighty! for, whatever Justice, Holiness, or Truth, demanded of us, they brought in all their bills to Sovereign Mercy in the bowels of Christ Jesus; so that one perfection of the deity became, through rich grace, a debtor to the other. If Justice will not abate a mite of the sinner's debt, Everlasting Love is determined to have a gaol delivery, if the creditor himself appears in the character of the debtor, and then of the surety. Thus the whole bill of Justice falls on the score of Love, and a gaol delivery is proclaimed to us; and, though we contracted the whole debt, yet we go free, with only acknowledging ourselves debtors to Grace! A sweet way of paying debts truly! My very soul has often rejoiced and wept to see how Loving Kindness and Tender Mercy have been put to their shifts to pay off the unlimited demands of vindictive Justice - and that such poor debtors and rebels as we are, who contracted so great a debt as that of eternal suffering, and which we never could pay, though we suffered to all eternity - that we should have a surety provided to pay both the perceptive and penal sum for us! - for God's Eternal Spirit to be sent to proclaim a full and clear discharge from the whole, and a receipt in full of all demands, written by the finger of the creditor, sealed by the Holy Ghost, and witnessed by Father, Son, and Spirit, confirmed by the blood of the Surety, supported by all the laws of God, and for ever settled in heaven! - and for Justice to stand hound with a thousand ties never to come upon the debtor to Grace again! O the sweet mystery that makes our souls tremble, and yet stand so fast; - that makes us rejoice with joy unspeakable, and yet weep till our bowels yearn!
My dame, having recovered from her lying-in, came with another complaint; which was, that she had cut up almost all her old gowns for the children, and that she stood in great need of a new one. I told her that I could not buy her one, for I had no money, and there was no likelihood of getting any. As I often heard this complaint, I at last told her that she must beg it of God if she would have it, as I did my clothes; for God had promised us these things, and his word informed me that "the gold and silver, the corn, the wine, the oil, the wool, and the flax," were his own; and that, if she had faith in him, she would have her request granted in answer to her prayer. I had now a great desire to see whether she would have any success at a throne of grace or not. It passed on, however, for a long time before the gown appeared; but at length it came, in this manner. After preaching at Margaret-street chapel, one evening, a person delivered a parcel into my hands, which I received: and, when I opened it, there was a note with these words, "This is a present for Mrs. Huntington." It contained twelve yards of cotton, to make a gown. Who the person was that gave it I never knew from that hour to this, though I believe some of my friends did. I carried it home to Ditton, where it gave great satisfaction; and Mary was not a little delighted to find that God had granted the request of her lips.
I endeavoured as much as possible to get my dame to live by faith; and often encouraged her to prayer, by telling her that she had a right to expect her support from God as well as myself, seeing the Almighty had taken me from my daily labour to work in his vineyard; and I supported my argument from this consideration, that the whole Levitical tribe lived of old on the offerings of the Lord, both women and children, as well as those men who waited at the altar.
Soon after this Providence sent me three guineas, with which I was determined to furnish my dame with some other apparel. I accordingly bought her another gown; and soon after a friend gave her a third. At this she seemed highly pleased. Her unbelief was confounded, her murmuring stopped, and all was well. However, I took care not to break through the bounds of Paul's assertion," But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife; but I would have you without carefullness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord," I Cot. vii. 31, 32. We must endeavour to please our Master, if we cannot always please our mistress.
After this the bountiful hand of my Lord seemed to be closed again for a long time; until I got five guineas in debt, and began to want even provisions. Now I began to fret, and unbelief crept in apace: but, just as the spirit of murmuring and complaining began to operate, there came a letter to me from a gentleman at Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. I opened it, and found the following contents:
"I have sent you a hamper by one of my ships, which will be at London by such a time, if God permit: and I have ordered it to be left at Hungerford-stairs for you. The first present is for your wife, which is two ends - the other is for your children; being a cow, and her milk-maid attending her; a cow being very useful where there is a family - the last article according to my judgment, is a very useful fixing for you, and for every gospel minister Tender my best respects to your wife and little ones, and accept the same from
"Your humble servant, J.D."
Here is the riddle, and I had seven days to find it out. My dame asked me if my present was a Bible. I said no, I believed not. I told her that Paul called a gospel-minister an ox - "Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care of oxen, or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes no doubt this is written." "Thus," said I, "God compares a preacher to an ox. Treading out the corn, is unfolding and explaining God's word; muzzling the ox, is not giving him food to eat for his labour, as Paul explains it, Even so hath the Lord ordained, that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel,'" I Cor. ix. 14. I further added, that the same apostle, who compares the preacher to an ox, tells us, in his epistle to the church at Colosse, to "let our speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that we may know how we ought to answer every man," Col. iv. 6. Therefore I conjectured that my present was a bullock's tongue well salted; and that my wife's, winch the letter expressed to be two ends, must be a fitch of bacon cut in two pieces; but, as for the cow, I could not conjecture what that could be. When the hamper came we all got round it, to sea what was the substance of the riddle in the carcass of the lion: and, when it was opened, I found that my present was a bullock's tongue dried; my dame's was two large pieces of bacon; and the children's present was a cheese, with the print of a cow and milkmaid milking her on it. Such was the present, and this was the explanation of the riddle.
About this time I went once a fortnight to preach at a place in Middlesex, about ten miles from London (where I lived) and they gave me three shillings a time for preaching to them. There was a single gentleman, who was a member of the church, a man of great property, supposed to be worth twenty or thirty thousand pounds. This gentleman once saw me pass by his door, as I had been that way to visit a sick woman. He called me into his house, and expressed much love to my Master Jesus, and a great satisfaction in hearing my discourses on the doctrines of grace; and desired me the next time I came to deliver a discourse from this passage of Scripture, "But the land whither ye go to possess it is a land of hills and rallies, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven; a land which the Lord thy God careth for: the eyes of the Lord thy God are upon it, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year," Deut. xi. 11, 12. So I promised to offer my thoughts on the text when I came again to preach. At my departure he gave me the right hand of fellowship, blessed me in the name of the Lord, and, putting his hand into his pocket, very generously made me a present of a whole shilling! I took it, and thanked him kindly; for I thought it was the first fruits of liberality that ever grew upon that tree, and perhaps the last; and I mention it now to the honour of his compassionate bowels. I afterwards found that he had made many inquiries concerning me; and had been informed that I was a poor man, had a large family, that I walked ten miles out and ten miles back again, and was from home all night when I preached at that place, for which I received only three shillings. These things reaching his ears, conveyed that sympathetic touch to his feelings, and finally dragged that whole shilling out of his pericardium. "How hardly shall those that have riches enter the kingdom of God!
I believe that every man has a god of some sort or other. Self is the god of the pharisee; the belly the god of the epicurean Mammon the god of the miser; and Jehovah the God of the Christian. And all these have their representatives. Hagar is the mother of the pharisees; Nabal the head of the gluttons; Judas of the Mammonites; and Simon Magus is the figurative sire of every person who is labouring hard to purchase the grace of God, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost, by their own supposed merit.
Having been one night to preach at Richmond, I was Invited home by my friends Mr. and Mrs. Chapman, at Petersham, near Richmond, to sleep. In the morning Mrs. Chapman, smiling, told me she had twelve yards of stuff damask by her, which she intended to make me a present of, for a morning gown. I laughed, and told them that I thought a coal-heaver would cut a strange figure in a morning gown. I should appear like a beggar in dignity; but that was better than dignity in ruins. However, they saw that God had begun to lift up my head, and were determined their pastor should make a more respectable figure; wherefore they insisted on my having it; to which I objected, because a gown has such a cottish appearance on a labourer in the vineyard I therefore turned it into a banyan, or coat; and after it was made up I hid it for two or three months before I could reconcile myself to appear in it.
I had now received a letter from a friend in the country, who was in great distress, and stood much in need of a little relief; but at that time I myself was four or five pounds in debt, which I had been a long time in expectation that my God would enable me to discharge. However, I found that God now began much to try my patience; and that I ought to importune, and watch, and wait upon the Lord, and to keep my eye fixed on him, as a servant's eye is on the hand of his master, until I obtained an answer. And I never waited on his blessed Majesty in vain, for it was sure to come at length. After putting up many petitions, and having been long in suspense, I one night called on Mr. and Mrs. Smith, in Chandler-street, Oxford-road, who were great friends to me. Before I departed they generously-made me a present of three guineas. I humbly beg their pardon for mentioning their names, and exposing their secret alms; but, as I prayed to my Father which seeth in secret, and he in mercy rewarded me openly, I therefore must proclaim it upon the house-top, to encourage the weak faith of others, that they may make God their Guardian and their Bank. The liberality of Job's friends is left upon record to their honour, when "every man gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold," Job, xlii. 11.
I now took encouragement to hope that my gracious Master would add to this blessing a sufficiency for the purpose of discharging my debt, and relieving my friend; which, in answer to prayer, he was graciously pleased to do. The next morning a person knocked at my door, desiring to see me. When he came into my study I looked at him, and perceived him to be a gentleman that I had never seen before. He told me that he had once heard me preach at Dr. GitFord's meeting-house, and once or twice in Margaret-street chapel, and that he had heard me greatly to his satisfaction: and the reason of his coming to see me now was, that he had been exercised the last night with a dream - that he dreamed the word of God came to him, saying, "If thy brother be waxen poor, thou shalt open thy hand to thy poor brother," &c. He asked me if there was such a portion of Scripture? I answered the words were these, "If there be among you a poor man, one of thy brethren, within any of thy gates, in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother; but thou shalt open thine hand wide unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need, in that which he wanteth. Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart, saying, The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him nought, and he cry unto the Lord against thee, and it be sin unto thee. Thou shalt surely give him, and thine heart shall not be grieved when thou givest him; because that for this thing the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thy works, and in all that thou puttest thine hand unto. For the poor shall never cease out of the land. Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy in the land," Deut. xv. 7 - 11. He told me many of these words came to him in his sleep; and in the morning when he awoke, he felt the power of them. In wondering who this poor brother could be, he informed me it was impressed on his mind, that I was the poor brother about whom he had dreamed; and asked me concerning my circumstances. I then told him of the trial I was in; and, as he was truly satisfied it was of God, he wondered much at it. At his departure he gave me a new pair of doe-skin gloves, two new white handkerchiefs, very good, and a guinea. He then blessed me, and left me; and I do not remember ever seeing him before that time, nor but once since. Thus God, who commanded a widow to sustain Elijah, commanded this man to relieve me.
The next day a friend told me that a person had left a guinea with him for me; - and, while at Mr. Byrchmore's, in Margaret-street, a lady came to his door in a coach, inquiring for me. When I went to the door, she put her hand out and gave me a guinea, and then ordered the coachman to drive away, having done all the business God sent her to do. Thus our most bountiful Benefactor answered these my poor petitions also, after he had been pleased for a time to exercise my faith and patience, in order to encourage me to a stronger confidence in his grace and providence. And I now make it known to the honour of his veracity, and to the encouragement of the poor of his flock, who are obliged to live, both spiritually and temporally, "by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." And, as God has been pleased to reveal himself as a God that will hear and answer prayer, and has appeared so to me, one of the worst and least of all his creatures, I chose therefore to subscribe with my hands; (Isa. xliv. 5) set to my seal; and proclaim, to all that fear his name, that God is true; John, iii. 3.3.
Oh how sweet have these words often been to my soul! and as applicable to my case as possible; "And thou shalt remember all the ways 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. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know: that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord doth man live," Deut. viii. 2, 3. When these precious answers to prayer appeared, they always came attended with humbling grace, and were sweetened to my soul with a blessed sense of unmerited love; and, though at certain times, when unbelief was prevalent, I have found it hard work to keep from murmuring; especially when I have seen the basest of mortals rolling in wealth and pleasure, and spending it to support the shattered interest of the devil; while I could appeal to God that I loved him, and sought his glory, and the good of his chosen, yea, even laboured beyond my strength in his cause and interest, and yet suffered for want of common necessaries. But these two Scriptures generally silenced my murmuring: "The wicked have there portion in this life, whose belly God fills with his hid treasure;" and "the righteous are God's witnesses against the wicked." These words likewise would sometimes occur to my mind, "He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed." And again," To one it is given to gather together and heap up, but never an heart given to do good therewith; this is a sore travail." And that in Job, "Though the wicked prepare raiment as the sand, yet the righteous shall put it on, and the innocent shall divide the silver." Better is gospel contentment with poverty, than the sacrifices of many wicked; and I have often found the most comfort in my soul, when my outward matters have appeared to wear the most gloomy aspect - internal consolations have more than once counterbalanced all my external afflictions. These daily crosses attending me in circumstances, I found were made very useful to those whom God had called by me, as the means to establish them in the faith of Christ, who is the Saviour of the body as well as the soul, and in whom the invaluable promise is yea and amen to every soul that is interested in his finished salvation. God hath given us all things in Christ, whether life or death - yea, we have the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; which promise even includes "all things pertaining to life and godliness." Happy is that soul that credits God's promise - places his confidence in him for the fulfilment of it - makes use of the means God has appointed - daily pleads his promise in the humble prayer of faith - patiently waits his time - daily watches his hand - lives in a holy expectation of a daily supply of spiritual and temporal mercies from the God of his salvation - and who is humbly thankful to God for every favour that flows through the atoning blood and prevalent intercession of a dear Redeemer! I say, let not such envy the crowned head nor sceptred hand; for, if there be any virtue, or if there be any praise, if there be any serenity of mind, if any peace of conscience, if any honour to God, if any fruit brought forth to the glory of the Most High, it is to be found in such a soul; and he, with the greatest propriety, may be said to think on these things.
At another time, when Providence had been exercising my faith and patience till the cupboard was quite empty, in answer to simple prayer he sent one of the largest hams that I ever saw. Indeed I saw clearly that I had nothing to do but to pray, to study, and to preach; for God took care for me, and my family also, agreeable to his own promise, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." And I have often thought the reason why our dear Lord and Master gave no inheritance to the Levitical tribe, who performed the sanctuary service, was, that they might learn to live by faith, and likewise to exercise and try the liberality of the worshipping tribes. And this appears to be the reason why the apostles were sent out to preach without purse or scrip. Certainly God could have sent them out as rich as the sanhedrin, had he thought proper. But no; he left the blind priest to live on the offerings and tithes of the blind followers, as their portion; and it is to be feared that was the only portion that some of them ever had from God. But the poor apostles were to go out with only a portion of grace in their hearts; and where they sowed those spiritual things God opened the hearts of the converts to bring forth temporal things to them. And it often appeared that as soon as the grace of God had taken the government of a young convert's heart, his temporal riches appeared at the apostles feet. Thus the gospel defrayed the expenses of the dispensers of it. And this I believe was intended to try the sincerity of the grace of those who were enabled to believe the gospel; as Paul put some of his followers upon a like trial, and made liberality one of the touchstones. "See that ye come not behind in this grace also." Yea, and even our dear Lord and Master lived on the alms of his followers; for, as soon as he was born, the eastern sages opened their treasures, and presented unto him gold, frankincense, and myrrh; and even until his crucifixion he lived on the liberality of his poor disciples, who were said to minister to him of their substance. It is true, Satan offered him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them, upon certain conditions; but he refused; choosing to suffer hunger rather than turn stones into bread to prove his sonship, and please an accusing devil.
Providence was pleased again to try me, till I run five guineas in debt. After I had prayed and waited some time, a gentleman, belonging to the Stamp-office (a very faithful friend to me for many years together, during my state of extreme poverty) called upon me, and generously made me a present of five guineas, which payed oft that debt. Oh, the goodness of God to those that fear his name and hope in his mercy! He even sent a raven to feed the prophet Elijah when he dwelt by the brook Cherith; an angel, too, was sent from heaven to bake him a cake on a fire, and bring him a cruise of water, when, being weary, he slept under the juniper-tree, in his road to Horeb. "Arise, and eat," said the celestial guest, "for the journey is too great for thee," I Kings, xix. 7.
I now began to get quite weary of living at Thames Ditton, as I did not see that God had any thing more for me to do there. His word had appeared a savour of life unto life to some few, and a savour of death unto death to many, who were indefatigable in opposing it. In short, I secretly longed to leave, but was determined not to do so until I saw the Lord himself open the door; for, "when he puts forth his own sheep, he goes before them." I was fully persuaded that I should end my ministry in London, and had long told a friend in town of it. Another reason for my wanting to quit Ditton was, the bad state of health that I felt myself in, which rendered me incapable of such long journeys and so much labour. But I have generally found God to kindle a desire in my heart after that which he intended to bring to pass. Thus, when the time came for Israel to leave Egypt, the spirit of supplication was sent to make intercession in many of their hearts, after their deliverance from bondage; and God told Moses he had heard the groanings of his people Israel, by reason of their task-masters; and "I am come down," said God, "to deliver them." And so it will appear even in this matter when I have related it.
After preaching at Wooking one evening, I returned home about twelve o'clock at night; and before I could shift myself, and take care of my horse, it was between one and two. Having an infant very ill, I told my dame that I would lie alone that night, as the child was so very restless I was apprehensive I should get no rest myself, being very weary; and, having another journey to go the next day, I was fearful I should not be able to perform it unless I had some rest. Accordingly I went into another bed, and fell into a very sound sleep. When I dreamed; and behold! in my dream I thought I heard the Lord call to me with a very shrill distinct voice, saying, "Son of man! son of man! prophesy son of man, prophesy! "I answered, "Lord, what shall I prophesy?" The voice came again, saying, "Prophesy upon the thick boughs." I immediately awoke, and felt a comfortable power on my heart, and thought the voice seemed fresh in my ears. I knew not what it meant, nor did I remember ever seeing any such words as "thick boughs" in the Bible. However, I got up immediately, and traced my Bible, to see if I could find those words there; thinking that, if I could, I should conclude the dream to be from God. I soon found the words, and perceived the thick boughs to be men; Ezek. xxxi. 3; xvii. 23. But what the command could mean I could not then tell, because I was employed in prophesying upon the boughs almost every day. I went into my dame's room, and told her of it; but observed at the same time that I could not think what it meant, though I certainly should know hereafter. The next day I came to London, and told it to Mr. Byrehmore; adding, that I knew there was a mystery in it, and that, as it was from God, it would shortly be revealed to me. - "God speaketh once, yea, twice, but man perceiveth it not; in a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumbering upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction," Job, xxxiii. 14, 15.
However, it passed on for some days entirely hid from me what the meaning could be. But I knew the vision would speak in time; and, though it tarried some days, yet I waited for it, Hab. ii, 3. I likewise told Mr. Butler, another friend, of it; but he did not seem to like it, as he wished me to stay at Ditton.
It so happened that shortly after this I was taken ill, and was obliged to be shut up in my room for two or three days; during which time, I was ruminating in my own mind the conduct of the people at Ditton; how long I had preached among them, and how unwearied they had been in persecuting the Gospel of Christ; and that, though God had cut off so many of them in their rebellion, yet they were still blind both to his mercies and to his judgments. As I had appeared in that place in the mean capacity of a coalheaver, they would not allow themselves to think that God had sent such a one as me to preach to them. I then thought on my infirm state of body, and of the many weaknesses I laboured under, which were brought on me by living abstemiously, and by hard labour, and that I was bringing my years "to an end like a tale that is told." And such is the policy of the devil that I believe he would counterfeit holiness, and tempt souls even to extreme abstinence, if he could by such means rid the world of an experienced believer; who he knows is a brazen wall and an iron pillar against his interest; for such have weathered out his besiegers ever since the unjustifiable war was proclaimed by the devil against God. In short, I secretly wished that God would remove me from that place.
While musing in this manner, it was suddenly impressed on my mind to leave Thames Ditton, and to take a house in London; that I should leave these little places in the country, and preach in the great metropolis, where hearers were more numerous; and that this was the meaning of the words that came to me in the vision, "Prophesy, son of man, prophesy on the thick boughs." Under this impulse I found myself very happy; and was thankful to God for my intended removal, it seemed to me so clearly to be of him. I then told the Lord that they hated me because of my poverty and mean appearance; when these words came to my mind with power, "A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country and in his father's house." It was further suggested to my mind that God had permitted them lately to persecute me more than usual, that they might wholly drive the gospel from them. And I much question if ever God sends his word there again, for I think they are left almost as inexcusable as Chorazin and Capernaum; as no less than ten awful judgments had been conspicuously executed on them in their rebellion against the word, as is related in my Naked Bow of God. And I believe, in less than two years after I left that place, there were not less than ten who were awfully destroyed by themselves or others. But to return. I then sent for a friend of mine, one Mr. Felton, and informed him of it; who said, he thought me justifiable in leaving the place, observing also that a prophet has no honour in his own country. I then took my horse, rode to London, and informed some friends of it; every one of whom approved of my resolution. I accordingly took a house, and soon after ordered two carts from London to bring my household furniture from Ditton. - Carts, I say, for I had no need of Joseph's waggons, as I had got but little in that inhospitable Canaan.
Five years of the term being unexpired, of the lease of the house I was going to leave, I pondered in my own mind the impropriety of quitting before it was let, being fearful it would lie on my hands, and that I should want the money I had paid for the fixtures to carry with me, and what I had expended in planting the garden.
But my most blessed Banker provided against this trial also; for it came to pass, just as I had loaded my goods, that a person came and asked me if I had let my house. I told him, "No." Upon which he replied, "I will take it off you: and buy your fixtures, your trees, and the garden crop also." In short, my landlord accepted him for his tenant, the lease was assigned over to him, the fixtures and plants appraised, the money paid down, the keys delivered up; and all was settled to my wish, and beyond all expectation. "Therefore, thou son of man, prepare thee stuff for removings, and remove by day in their sight; and thou shalt remove from thy place to another place in their sight; it may be they will consider, though they be a rebellious house," Ezekiel, xii. 3.
Thus far my vision appeared true. The next thing I had to observe was, whether the boughs were thick or not; because the voice in the vision was, "Son of man, prophesy among the thick boughs." I then believed that the other part of the vision would be fulfilled, though all the world should oppose; and, having opened a larger chapel than I preached in at first, seemed still to confirm it more and more. I have now lived to see the boughs too thick for the chapel to contain them; and in this, as well as in every thing else, I set to my seal "that God is true."
When I first began to open my mouth for the Lord, the master for whom I carried coals was rather displeased; at which I do not wonder, as he was an Arminian of the Arminians, or a pharisee of the pharisees. I told him, however, that I should prophesy to thousands before I died; and soon after the doors began to be opened to receive my message. When this appeared, and I had left the slavish employment of coal-carrying, others objected to my master against such a fellow as me taking up the office of a minister. His answer was, "Let him alone; I once heard him say that he should prophecy to thousands before he died; let us see whether this prophesy comes to pass or not." He had, as I suppose, that passage in view mentioned by Moses, "And, if thou say in thine heart, How shall I know the word which the Lord hath spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing when the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him."
However, they very shortly saw that it came to pass, and in a very extraordinary manner too; for God opened four doors to me presently; and in a very little time brought me to preach out of doors.
At my first beginning to speak in public many professors and possessors of grace opposed me, as well as the world: some from a principle of jealousy; others from a principle of love, fearing that I should run before I was sent; but they knew not the impulse that I was under. Of their oppositions to me, however, I often complained to God in prayer, telling him that I expected some degree of support and encouragement from his own children; instead of which I had nothing but opposition, and a weakening of my hands. Indeed some kept themselves at a distance from me, and have contradicted me at times, behaving quite insolent. In answer to my petitions the Lord applied these words to my heart, and gave me a strong faith in them; "A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men," Prov. xviii. 16. At length I was led to see that I must be weaned from the church as well as from the world; and these words confirmed me in it, "Trust ye not in a friend, put ye no confidence in a guide; keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom," Mic. vii. 5. "The best of them is as a brier, the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge," ver. 4.
God took an effectual method to convince many of his people of his having called me to the work of the ministry; for it so happened that a certain professor had engaged a minister to come from London and preach out of doors, at Moulsey, on the Lord's day morning. This was published at our meetings; and, as I had never heard a sermon out of doors, I was determined to go. As he was to preach at six o'clock in the morning, I could hear him without encroaching upon those hours in which our little church met. About three o'clock on the Lord's day morning I arose; but, as soon as I was out of bed, (pleasing myself at the thoughts of hearing a sermon, and having an opportunity of trying my doctrine by the standard of a London preacher) there came a voice to me with power, which I both heard and felt, saying, "You must preach out of doors to-day, and you must preach from this text, "Go therefore into the highways, and as many as ye find bid to the marriage," Matt. xii. 9. I was much amazed at this sudden impulse; yet I thought it was from God. If, however, I happened to mention any thing of this sort to some people, they would call it a delusion; but, notwithstanding this, God generally shewed me afterwards that they themselves had but little, if any, experimental knowledge of God.
I shall now relate every circumstance of this extraordinary affair, and leave the unprejudiced to judge whether it was from God or from Satan. I sat down to look out the text, but could not find if I then got up, and went to a friend about two miles off, who I knew had a little concordance. I called him up, and asked him to look me out such a text, which he accordingly did. I turned it down, put my Bible into my pocket, and went with him to hear the gentleman that was to come from London. When we came to the place, I saw a great many people gathered together, and the table was set for the preacher to stand on - but behold he never came! So we waited till seven o'clock, when every one of those who had formerly opposed me, begged me to get up and preach. I could not but admire the divine conduct in this matter, that those who had opposed me (some because my language was bad - others, because they thought they had more understanding in the word than I had - others, because I was but a babe in grace, and they of longer standing) were the very people who now invited me to preach. But here the cause of God was at stake, and there was now no answer in the mouth of any of those who had opposed me; therefore they forced that person up, whom they before had tried, by their conduct, to pull down. I complied with their request, and went trembling up to my station. As soon, however, as my heart began to get warm in the cause, all my fears left me. I now delivered my message from the text God gave me, and he was with me in the work. Then it was that some were ready to cry "Hosannah! "However, they had so battered me about, that neither their applause nor their disapprobation had any weight with me. I often thought of those words spoken by Eliphaz to Job," Call now, if there be any that will answer thee; and to which of the saints wilt thou turn?" Job, v. 1. Turn! turn to none but God, for, if the most upright among men is but as a brier, and sharper than a thorn hedge, we have no reason, like Abraham's ram, to hang our horns in a bush, lest we fall a sacrifice. "Cease from man, Whose breath is in his nostrils," says the Almighty, "for wherein is he to be accounted of?" But there was a young widow who came to hear me preach that first sermon; and Providence opened her heart, so that she attended to the things spoken by the coal-hearer, and heard the gospel constantly afterward. At last she was seized with most violent convictions, being obliged to leave her place, and go home to Esher workhouse, where a doctor was sent for to lay a blister on her head; which is not a very proper remedy to draw out the bane of guilt, where the sting of death has so fatally envenomed the conscience. At times they found her quite delirious, and then she called earnestly on the Lord Jesus Christ. They then shook her, abused her for praying, and declared her mad; and, when they found she had been among the Methodists, it was easily accounted for; therefore they handled her accordingly. But, when she got a little better, she sent for me to come and pray by her, which I accordingly did; and then she tom me of their cruel usage to her. I spoke to my wife about it; and we borrowed a bed, and got her home to our house. My dame nursed her body, and I tried to nurse her soul; soon after which she got well in body, and happy in mind. Then she took a lodging, worked for her bread, and continued to sit under my ministry for about six years. At last she fell into a deep decline, and soon took to her bed; and for two or three days before her death she was violently tempted and distressed, even beyond measure. After this she came forth from that dark cloud, shining like the rising sun; and continued in these blessed rays of glory till she closed her eyes in death, launching forth into eternity in all the triumph of a gospel conqueror. And here is the end of that mystery. The woman's name was Simmons. One of the men who forced me up to deliver that sermon, was Mr. Butler, now one of the pew-openers at Providence chapel. During her first sickness I promised to pay for her board, and for physic; but, alas, God kept me so poor that I could not! so I sent to a lady, to do it for me, and told her my receipt should be her discharge. She readily complied, and paid the whole bill.
I will now give my reader an account of another providence. A person came from Richmond to hear me preach at Ditton; and, when he returned, informed several persons that he approved of my ministry. They accordingly sent me an invitation to come over to Richmond and help them; but I refused to go: however, they sent for me a second time, when I again refused. At last they went to the shoemaker I then worked for, who persuaded me to go, but not to preach in the chapel, but in a house that was licensed. I went very reluctantly indeed; but, when I came there, I found the Lord's presence sweetly with me; and, at their request; I went again on the Tuesday following. Soon after I found that I had done wrong in going there, though God had been powerfully with me; for it came to pass that tidings had been carried to London, and had reached the ears of two professing gentlemen, who were the managers of Richmond chapel. Whereupon they came down to Richmond to make inquisition whether any coal-heaver had ever presumed to preach the gospel to the poor souls at that place. Upon inquiry the thing was found to be certain, and the tidings were true; so the man and woman, at whose house I had preached, received a very sharp reprimand, and were threatened also with the penal sum of fifty pounds, for letting me preach in their house, because I was, not at that time properly licensed. Soon after this a day was appointed for preaching and prayer at Richmond chapel, and a dinner ordered at an inn for all the congregation that chose to dine there, and pay for it. Two ministers were appointed to preach on that occasion - after the commandments of men, and not after Christ. An old gentleman took his text out of the Acts, and preached from these words, "And when Barnabas saw the grace of God he was glad," &c Surely there was nothing in the text against my preaching at Richmond, for I was as glad to see the grace of God as ever Barnabas was. But he turned his text into a nose-of-wax, in order to make it fit my face; and told the people they might readily suppose that Barnabas had his credentials, or credential letters, from the elders that were at Jerusalem; and so out of that supposition he spun a cat-o-nine-tails to lash me with - a man whom he had never seen. But where I was to go for credentials I knew not; had he required credentials from God, I could have produced them. Had I been there, I think I should have asked him whether that sermon had been from heaven or of men: however, at the long run it appeared to be of men, because it came to nought. These things wonderfully distressed and puzzled me: first, because the people sent three times after me before I would go at all; and, secondly, the presence and power of God seemed so visible to my comfort, and the comfort of those that heard me: and yet I was puzzled, that these great men, who were called Christians, should oppose me so much. The people, however, determined to hear me; and I generally found God with me in the work, notwithstanding which I always went reluctantly. In this matter I set off to an arm of flesh for counsel; though the presence of God was counsel sufficient, had I been wise enough to have rested on it However, I was not as yet weaned from an arm of flesh; therefore I went to ask counsel at Abel, and so hoped to end the matter. The counsel I received from the good man I consulted (after I had related the whole circumstance to him) was, that I should stay away from preaching there, as it gave offence to some great men. I took his advice, and came home much eased in my mind, and glad that I could so get my neck out of the yoke. But, when the Tuesday following arrived, being the day on which I was appointed to preach at Richmond, I found the broken reed on which my foolish soul had rested began to give way, and I sunk again into all my distresses. Then it came into my mind how that God had comforted me in the work. And, if the supporting arm and comforting presence of God are not a sufficient testimony of God's approbation, we are not likely to get me from man. I still doubted, however, whether I should not offend God by trusting to this human counsel; thinking, if God had called me to preach at Richmond, and I should stay away when the little flock expected me, I should much offend the righteous Majesty of heaven, and be disobedient to the heavenly call; and, if it was wrong for me to go, I could appeal to God I had no desire for it. As to selfish views, I had none; for one night they collected a parcel of money for me, knowing how poor I was, and how much I had suffered in the work; which they thrust into my pocket by three; but I positively refused it, and insisted on having no more than eighteen-pence for my trouble in going from Ditton to Richmond to preach. It now came suddenly into my mind to lay this matter before my blessed Lord and Master, who never disappointed nor deceived me in his counsel. I therefore left my cobbling, went into my chamber, and prayed in the following manner: "Oh God, my Saviour, and dear Redeemer, thou knowest I have no desire to go and preach at Richmond; but the people came after me several times. If thou hast any thing to do there by me, incline my heart to go, let who will oppose it; but, if not, let not thy servant presume, as my heart has no desire to go there: and as I would not offend thy Majesty either by going or staying, I beseech thee to convince me by the first scripture that occurs to my mind. Oh Lord, reveal thy mind and will to me in this particular, and let me not offend thee, as I am willing to obey thy voice, if thou art pleased to make it known to me. Amen."
As soon as I arose from my knees these words came with power to my mind, "Be not weary in well-doing, for in due time ye shall reap, if ye faint not." This gave me some comfort. But, when I went and sat down to my cobbling again, I began to reason thus; "Be not weary in well-doing - true: but, if it is displeasing to God for me to go to Richmond, then it would be well-doing to stay at home; and, if it be displeasing to God for me to stay at home, then it would be well-doing for me to go and preach at Richmond." So, like Gideon, I tried the fleece once more, and said to myself that, if God should give me a text and a sermon on it, I should think it was from him, and that I had a just right to carry God's message. I had no sooner made this a criterion than these words came with power and understanding. "And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand; and there was the hiding of his power," Hab. iii. 3, 4. The 2d and 3d verses of the 33d chapter of Deuteronomy I found were a key to this text. I therefore arose and went, being determined to deliver that message there at that time only, and then to inform them that I would come there no more. But before I began to preach I earnestly begged of God to comfort the people greatly, if he approved of my preaching to them; and if not, that he would send them away dejected, and shut me up till I had little or nothing to say to them. In that night God blessed us wonderfully; and when I had done I hesitated whether I should inform them of my intention of not coming again, as it so offended the managers. But these words came to my mind, "And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them: and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not be so; but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief as he that doth serve," Luke, xxii. 25, 26. Having received these words, I published myself to preach there again the next Tuesday; being fully convinced that no proprietor of a building had any warrant from God to keep a gospel message from the ears and hearts of God's children, unless they could prove the messengers either erroneous or wicked; which they could not, for they had never either seen or heard me.
After I had preached there a few times it came to pass one evening, when I had finished my sermon, that a person came to inform me that a woman (who was lately taken very ill, and was apparently near death) desired to see me. I accordingly went; and, when I came to her bedside, asked her if she had sent for me. She replied," Yes." I asked her what she had sent for me to do. She said to pray by her. I asked her what I was to pray for - that she might be raised up again? She replied, "No; pray God to give resignation to his will, and that he may not depart from me." I asked her if she was sure the Lord was with her? She said, "Yes." I asked how she came by the knowledge of God's comfortable presence? She told me she was a native of Scotland, where she had often heard people speak of their comforts and peace, but used to envy them for it, and at other times thought they spoke nonsense; but still she found a secret want of something, which she had long sought; and she told me she had never found that power until I preached the sermon from the text in Habbakuk - "he had horns coming out of his hand, and there was hiding of his power." "Under that discourse," said she, "the Spirit of power came to me. My husband is a stone-mason, and is gone to Ireland, to be the foreman of a very large building there, and I am in time to go after him, if God spares my life; but, as my good man has left me for a time, the Almighty has come in his room." She now gave me a very sweet account of the operations of the Holy Ghost, and of the precious liberty which he proclaimed by the revelation and application of Christ crucified to her understanding, mind, and conscience. These tidings made by bowels yearn, as I could call to my remembrance the soul-travail I had been exercised with on the day that the text was brought to my mind, and the blessed mystery that was opened to me in it; as also God's goodness in accompanying it with such power to her soul, and now to lay her on a sick-bed, that she might send for me, to inform me that I had not preached nor travelled in vain. O! the conversion of such souls are greater riches to me than all the treasures of Egypt! God in mercy soon after raised her up again; and she attended my ministry for about two years, appearing a most amiable Christian. She always sat with her head down, and heard me with all the attention imaginable, and, when she had got her portion, like Hannah, she would set off without either looking or speaking to any body, as if she suspected every one that spoke to her to be a robber of her conscience. Indeed, she was no bastard - she was my own daughter - she loved a private religion, that lay between Christ crucified and her own conscience; and I believe she kept her day-book very strictly. Her name is Stuart. I dearly loved her soul in the bowels of Christ, as I had begotten her, and had sorely travailed for her.
She has now been in Baron's Court in Ireland for several years, a place where there is no gospel preached; yet she corresponds with her pious friends at Richmond, still stands fast in the faith of Christ, and is shortly expected in England. May God land her and her spouse safe on the coast of our Israel, and at last on the shore of "that land which is very far off."
The conversion of this woman seemed to me such a testimony from God, that it confirmed me more in my call to preach at Richmond than the testimony of all the divines in Britain would have done; for, "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater," I hope never to despise the former, but choose to stick close by the latter. This conversion appeared still more conspicuous, as her head was well stocked with gospel notions; for I have often found those, whose judgments were furnished with evangelical creeds, to be the forwardest to laugh at those who insisted on the force, the power, and happy enjoyment, of truth on the souls of God's elect.
I shall now return to my subject, of leaving Ditton, and coming to settle in London.
After having seen so much of the vision fulfilled, I began to watch for the development of the words thick boughs. I knew thick boughs in Ezekiel's prophecy meant sinners, and the boughs of the palm-tree in the Song of Solomon meant saints; therefore, if I could see my ministry well attended, either with sinners or saints, the whole vision would appear evidently to be from God for, if the Lord speaks, it is done; and, if he commands, it comes to pass.
After I had been some time in London, I found our chapel in Margaret-street was open to every erroneous preacher, This stirred up the hearts of my hearers to look out for another place for me, and very soon a larger chapel was proposed to be built. This still appeared to pave the way more and more for the fulfilment of the words brought to my mind, "prophesy on the thick boughs." The chapel was soon erected; and the good hand of our God was with us, in the work, to our comfort. But, when it was opened, I saw the strong opposition it would meet with from every quarter. This at first rather surprised me; but soon after these words returned on my mind, "prophesy on the thick boughs." I was enabled to rest on them, and gathered much comfort to my soul from the consideration of its being opposed; for I have ever observed that, when a work has appeared to be of God, it has generally met with the greatest opposition; and, when a cause flourishes in the face of many opposers, it appears still plainer to be God's work. The fewer human props there are to support the ark, the clearer God's hand is perceived; for then God appears to work, and none can let it, though they try at it. In this way God endears himself to the instrument he employs, weans the instrument from the creature, and secures all the glory to himself. I have often thought that, if Martin Luther, John Bunyan, or George Whitefield, had been alive in my days, they would rather have invited me than shut me out of their pulpits. However, I believe I shall still prophesy on the thick boughs; and, according to my faith, so it will be unto me. I have found my very soul at times melted down with gratitude at the goodness of God to so unworthy a creature as myself, when I have heard that several good people in London have asked great men, employed under God, to let me preach in their pulpits, as Margaret-street Chapel was too small for me; but this favour could not be granted. I thought my case was similar to that of poor sore-eyed Leah, who said, "the Lord saw that I was despised, therefore he gave me this son also." And I have now reason to conclude, with her, that God had endowed me with a good dowry of spiritual children, though he saw that I was hated, and these spotted sheep shall be for my hire when they shall appear before the Lord; so shall the righteousness which I have preached answer for me in that day when my ministry and the seals of it shall appear before God to witness for me.
I will now inform my reader of the kind providence of my God at the time of building the chapel, which I named Providence Chapel; and also mention a few free-will offerings which the people brought.
The name that I gave to the chapel has offended many. However, since it was named, I have seen a place called Providence Court, and a chapel called Trinity Chapel, where the Trinity is little known I believe: - this was not the case at the naming of Providence Chapel.
But to return. They first offered about eleven pounds, and laid it on the foundation at the beginning of the building. A good gentleman, with whom I had but little acquaintance, and of whom I bought a load of timber, sent it me in with a bill and receipt in full, as a present to the Chapel of Providence. Another good man came with tears in his eyes, and blessed me, and desired to paint my pulpit, desk, &c., as a present to the chapel. Another person gave half a dozen chairs for the vestry; and my friends Mr. and Mrs. Lyon furnished me with a tea-chest well-stored, and a set of china. My good friends, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, furnished me with a very handsome bed, bedstead, and all its furniture and necessaries, that I might not be under the necessity of walking home in the cold winter nights. A daughter of mine in the faith, gave me a looking-glass for my chapel study. Another friend gave me my pulpit-cushion, and a book-case for my study. Another gave me a book-case for the vestry. And my good friend Mr. E. seemed to level all his displeasure at the devil; for he was in hopes I should be enabled, through the gracious arm of the Lord, to cut Rahab in piers; therefore he furnished me with a sword of the Spirit - a new Bible, with morocco binding and silver clasps. Perhaps, too, he had his eyes fixed on the rams' horns and silver trumpets that sounded the destruction of Jericho, which some say typified two sorts of ministers - the illiterate and the learned; the illiterate was represented by the rams' horns, and the learned by the silver trumpets; so, according to this, our blessed Lord, who spake as never man spake, and all his apostles, are jumbled in among the rams' horns. But I think, as a ram's horn has a very rough unpleasing sound, it rather typified the legal ministry under the law, where so many rams were offered; and the silver trumpets, having a more pleasing sound, held forth the evangelical ministry under the dispensation of the Spirit; which exceeds the old economy in glory as much as the sound of a silver trumpet does that of a ram's horn. The Revelation of St. John holds forth every sound, from the death of Christ to the general judgment, to be by seven trumpets, not horns. I think we may speak thus without offering any violence to the Scriptures, and without nursing the pride or pedantry of a scholar.
A certain gentleman some time ago preached from Pharaoh's vision of the seven fat and seven lean kine. The lean kine he made out to be poor, mean, illiterate people; and, as he had a great many rich, dressy hearers, he made out the fat kine and well-favoured to hold forth the rich, honourable, and learned of the earth; though God says it is the rich that grind the face of the poor, and eat up his people as they would eat bread; but I never read in all the Bible that the poor eat up the rich; for I think every poor man in England will hold with me in this particular, that the rich are agreed to keep that person poor who is poor. But I shall return to my subject, and leave these menpleasers to themselves; as they serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own bellies; and with fair speeches and feigned words make merchandise of souls.
But I shall shew that I have yet to speak on the behalf of Providence, which was so conspicuous in furnishing me with money necessary for building the chapel. I never went to one person to borrow money for the building who denied me. God so opened their hearts, that I was amazed at his providence and their kindness towards me. As for my friend Mr. Lloyd, by his cheap way of going to work, I believe he saved me two or three hundred pounds at least; which I should not have desired him to have done had I been a man of property; for I think it is the duty of every man, who is able, to encourage trade, it being the strength of a nation: and it appears to me that those who make it their business to shake that pillar are sure to pull down the house about their own ears. "Seek ye the peace of the city, for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace."
Some time after these things, God seemed wholly to withdraw his conspicuous providential acts; and I began to lay aside my watchfullness and daily dependence on his bounties, as my stated income began to be tolerable. However, it is the safest and sweetest way to live from hand to mouth, as say those who speak in proverbs; for it is impossible that men should be so grateful to God when they have a stock in hand, as when they receive a daily supply from a never-failing stock in God's hand. After some little time I was forced to look to him again for temporals as well as spirituals; for as my income increased, my family increased also; so that I was shortly brought into as great straits as ever: money began to run short, and clothes were wanting. But God: who fainteth not, neither is weary, was pleased to appear in a way of providence again; and after this manner shewed he himself.
I had been doing a little work in my flower garden; and, finding that it wanted a few additional roots, I went to a garden at a little distance from my house to look over a few things. While I was walking about by myself among the flowers, a welldressed motherly-looking woman stepped up to me, and, supposing me to be the gardener, (for my appearance was more like the slave than the prelate) she thus addressed me in a free and jocose manner; "Now, Mr. Gardener, if you please, I want a root to put into my pot; and it must be a root that will last." I looked up very seriously at the lady, and replied, "Well, I believe I can tell you where you may get such a root." At this answer she smilingly asked "Where? I answered, "In the book of Job; for he says, "The root of the matter is found in me," Job, xix. 28. And, if you can get that root into your pot, the root and the pot both will last for ever." She then asked, "And pray have you got that root in you?" I answered her, "I verily believe I have." Upon which she replied, "It is well with you, and it is very true what you have said." I then told her that I was not the gardener, but that she would find him at the bottom of the garden, attending some ladies and gentlemen. She dropped a curtsy, and departed with a smile. I thought, by her pertinent reply, that she was not altogether ignorant of that wisdom which dwells with prudence, and finds out knowledge of witty inventions, Prov. viii. 12. And I secretly Wished that the words which I had spoken might dwell on her mind until the root of gospel love struck an everlasting fibre in her heart.
I believe the lady above-mentioned inquired of the gardener who I was; for soon after both she and her spouse came to hear me, and have continued so to do ever since. God grant that the word of his grace may take deep root in their hearts, that they may be "trees of righteousness, the right hand planting of God. that he may be glorified. Some time after this there came a person to my house, and left a letter for me, the contents of which were as follow
"I wish you would be at home on such a day, if convenient; as a person will call to measure you for a great coat, which you are desired to accept, and to ask no questions of the person who comes to measure," &c.
I looked upon this letter as sent from some enemy to the gospel of Christ: because it came soon after my Bank of Faith had made its appearance in the world; and I daily heard of some professor or other ridiculing it, because I had therein taken notice of very insignificant things, at least in their opinion. However, had they been exercised with a hungry belly, as the prophet Elijah was, they would have been glad of a cake baked with two sticks, and have thanked God for commanding the widow woman to sustain him with that. 1 Kings, xvii. 9. The Holy Ghost thought this kind providence of God, which appeared in sending the prophet that cake, worthy of being recorded in divine revelation: if so, what kind of spirit must those professors be of who deem the special and minute interference of Providence worthy only of their public scorn and contempt? Such men are rebuked even by the brute creation; for "the ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib," but the carnal professor knoweth not the God of his mercies; and, although he loves the crib, yet he doth not consider who it is that keeps his crib full.
Some bought my book on purpose to laugh at it; and then lent it to others for them to do the same, to whom God blessed it; and who, instead of laughing at it, wept over it, and had their faith encouraged by it. Those gentlemen acted the part of the Pharisees in the Saviour's days, who would not accept of his grace themselves, yet were made instrumental in bringing the poor adulterous woman to him. And, when such persons called on those to whom they lent my book, and told them how they approved of it, they (like the Pharisees) sneaked away as soon as conscience had done her office. Wisdom's children will justify their venerable mother, and disdain to slight the breasts that have afforded them perpetual nourishment, or to accuse a poor preacher for endeavouring to encourage the faith of his poor brethren, by displaying the parental care, tender regard, and narrow inspection, of God in his universal providence. I know the word of God bears me out in it, and much farther than I have gone; for I have taken no notice of the hairs of our head, which Christ says are all numbered, and not one shall ever be lost; nay, he affirms that there shall not a hair of our head perish, Luke xxi. 18. But alas! such men are not acquainted with the Spirit of God, nor with the word of God; if they were they would acknowledge the tender mercies of God to be over oil his works; Psalm, cxlv. 9; and his love, seen in executing judgment for the fatherless and the widow, and even to the stranger in giving him food and raiment, Deut. x. 18.
Indeed it is not worth my while to take notice of such professors, or even to regard their reproaches; for no person's heart can ever be right with God who laughs at his word or works nor can they fare any better for their contempt of the truth than the Pharisees did, who came to accuse the poor woman even before Christ himself, whom Heaven had appointed for her wonderful councellor and ever-preveiling advocate.
But to return to my subject. I was deceived in supposing that the letter was sent as a trap to keep me at home on such a day, that they might have to laugh at my expectation as I conjectured; for it was sent by a friend; and the man came as was appointed to measure me for a great coat. I asked who sent him. He told me that was to be kept secret. But, as I suspected the letter to be a cheat, sent by some enemy, I insisted on knowing who sent him. He then said that he was sent by a woman who once asked me for a root to put into her pot. I told him that I had got two very good great-coats, but stood in need of a close-bodied one; and, if the lady thought proper to make me a present of such, I should be obliged to her; but that I had no need of a great coat. The man measured me, and brought me the coat home. I offered him a small present for his trouble; but he refused it, saying, that he had received orders not to take any thing. Christian reader, give God the glory for his wonderful works, and let not fortune and luck rob him of his honour; "Jesus we know, but who are they?"
Some have objected to my book, saying, that asking for carnal things shews a carnal heart. It is true, that, if a man follows Christ for loaves and fishes, it certainly does. But, for a believer in Christ, and a labourer in the vineyard, to ask his heavenly Father to bless the work of his hands, and to send him food and raiment, shews just as much carnality as the Saviour's looking up to heaven for a blessing to multiply the barley loaves to feed his hungry followers, when he said, "I have compassion on the multitude; I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint by the way," Mark, viii. 23.
The man that robs God of his glory, and makes a god of his money, shews more carnality than he does who prays for neither poverty nor riches, but to be fed with food convenient for him, lest he be full and defy God (by giving glory to his own wisdom or good luck); or lest he be poor, and steal, and take God's name in vain, (to escape the while or the pillory,) Prov. xxx. 8, 9.
I found at times a great desire to read some old commentators, in order to see how my judgment agreed with theirs in some particular texts of scripture. And, when I have heard of a book being published, I have found a great desire to have it, if I thought the author was sound. This bookish fit, coming often upon me, drained my pocket of now and then a guinea, which I wanted more ways than one. In short, I found buying of books to be like Solomon's account of compiling them, "In making many books there is no end;" nor is there any end in buying of them, except you have plenty of money to go to market with. However, the Almighty condescended to stop the rapid spreading of this disease by a singular circumstance I received the following note from an unknown friend:
"Mr. and-Arminius's free-grace love to Mr. Huntington, begs his acceptance of a dish of dead men's brains; he believes most of them are of the evangelical family; they will be with him in a day or two: he is desired to ask no questions of the bearers."
"Dead-man's Place," &c.
What these dead men's brains were I could not conjecture; but suspected something to be sent by way of contempt, as the doctrines which God hath taught me are point blank against Arminianism. Howbeit, in a day or two the dead men's brains arrived in a very large packing-case, brought by two chairmen; which I at first refused to take in, suspecting an Arminian cheat; however, I opened the wooden scull, examined the brains, and round them to be three or four hundred volumes of divinity, geography, history, &c.
A Jew days afterwards he was pleased to send me another dish of brains, or a second course; which he informed me, by notes consisted of some good and some bad. And so I found them: for, among others, were the tracts of the irreverent Dr. Priestley, clothed in a suit of red morocco, embroidered with gold. I had not read much of him before his priestly craft greatly disgusted me. I stripped him out of his coat of many colours, and served it as I think Christ will serve the author; that is, I cut it asunder, and appointed it a portion in the fire, as the Lord will do with all hypocrites and unbelievers. I confess I was much displeased to find some precious old authors, who were administering comfort to the people of God, with nothing but a sheep's-skin jacket about them; while the doctor, that sworn enemy to the God of armies, (busy in undermining and destroying that comfort), was strutting about with an embroidered uniform! "Ah, doctor! " thought I, "I will put this scarlet suit on one of these old warriors who have been good soldiers of Jesus Christ; they shall walk in embroidery, for they are worthy." There were a few more sly hypocrites crept in among them, to whom I gave house-room until I found them out, when I sent them bag and baggage after the doctor.
This present of books served to quench my bookish thirst for the time being; for they will take me two or three years to read over, sort out, and vamp up; and then perhaps the fit may take me again. Who the friend was that sent them to me I know not, nor do I believe he intends I ever shall.
Some time after I received these dead men's brains, God was pleased to lay his afflicting hand upon my body, and to bring me very low; so that, as it were, he laid me aside for a month. To this I very reluctantly submitted, being very poor in pocket. My wife and eldest daughter were also taken ill at the same time. However, the morrow took thought for the things of itself; for in a day or two a person brought me a guinea, another two guineas; and a few days after a lady sent me six; so that God paid me my wages while I lay useless, the same as if I had been bearing the burden of the day.
I learned one blessed lesson in this affliction, agreeable to that holy text which affirms that "all things work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose." For during my illness I was several nights insensible, while the fever was at its height; and, during the time that I was in a state of insensibility as to every thing round me, I discerned a most glorious ray of divine light, which shone conspicuously on me covenant of grace agreed on in the ancient council and settlements of the Trinity, sweetly executed by Christ, and revealed by the Holy Ghost; and of the stability of it to poor penitent sinners: and, to be plain, I had no doubt of my own interest in it. This taught me a lesson which I had long wished to learn, having often thought with myself, "Suppose I should die delirious in a high fever, or go out of the world without the use of my rational faculties, how would it be then?" I now clearly saw, by this glorious display of divine light during my state of insensibility, that the holy and blessed Spirit of God can, and I believe often does, operate as the candle of the Lord, as the Spirit of love and of power; and make his glory appear fresh in us, even if we are delirious; as saith the Psalmist, "My heart and my flesh fail; but the Lord is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." In which words I presume something more is meant than simply heart and flesh in a natural sense; for neither heart nor flesh can support a soul in a trying or dying hour.
The sweet and bright views which I had during my illness grew fainter as I recovered, though there still appeared a glimmering ray of it at a distance; yet I could not collect my views so as to form them into a sermon. But it afforded me great satisfaction to think of the condescension of God, who has promised to make our bed in our sickness; and that, as our days are, so shall our strength be. For my part, I comfortably believed that a soul, once effectually enlightened by the Holy Ghost, shall never totally lose sight of the covenant again; as appears by the prophets, who even in their darkest seasons spoke the most glorious truths. O! happy and blessed is that soul upon whom the Sun of Righteousness has risen with healing in his beams; such shall find the Lord to be their everlasting light, and their sun shall no more go down.
I once had a most glorious view of a passage in the book of Daniel, during a fit of sickness which I had at Thames Ditton. The text that occured to my mind was this; "I saw in the night visions; and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him," Dan. vii. 13. This text rolled over my mind perpetually during a great part of my illness, bringing great light and comfort with it; and led me to see the clear and concise views that the old testament saints had of the blessed Saviour. One of them saw conspicuously his ancient undertaking in the eternal council of the Trinity; and his goings forth from of old, yea, from everlasting, Mic. v. 2. Another had clear views of his coming to assume human nature. "Burnt offerings, and offerings for sin, thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me." Another saw his birth, and says," Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given." Another saw Herod, that wretched blood-hound, grinning like a dog, pursuing or chasing the "hind of the morning." Another represents Rachael as weeping in Ramah over her slaughtered grand-children; the offspring of her Benout, the son of her sorrow. Another saw Joseph and Mary bringing the young child out of Egypt, and says, "Out of Egypt have I called my son." Another saw him sitting among the doctors, and mentions the first text that he publicly handled, "The Spirit of God is upon me," &c. Another saw his harbinger John preparing his way before him, and making ready a people prepared for the Lord. Another saw him tempted in the wilderness, &c., and at last placed on the pinnacle of the temple; and says, "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone." Another saw him in the ministry, spreading his glorious light and truth; and says, "The land of Naphtali, &c., the people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Zachariah saw Judas selling his master; and tells the rabbies who bought his blood to cast the thirty pieces of silver to the potter. David saw the band of soldiers apprehending him in the garden, and going back and falling to the ground, when Jesus said, "Whom seek ye?" and says, "When they came to eat up my flesh they stumbled and fell." Isaiah saw him nailed to the cross "as a nail fastened in a sure place," that every vessel of mercy, even from the cups to the flagons, might hang all their hopes on him with safety. And all the glory of their salvation must hang there too, Isa. xxii. 23 - 25. David beholds this, and says, "They have pierced my hands and my feet; I may tell all my bones; they stare and look upon me," Psalm xxii. 16, 17. David hears his confession and complaint, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Psalm xxii. 1. And expresses the cruel insults of his murderers, which were afterwards repeated, "He trusted in God that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him?" He saw them giving him gall for his meat, and vinegar for his drink; parting his garments among them, and casting lots upon his vesture; and after that yielding up his spirit to God, and sinking into the shades of death. Isaiah saw his resurrection, and says (speaking by his Spirit) "With my dead body shall they arise." Hosea saw him vanquishing death; "O Death, I will be thy plague! O Grave, I will be thy destruction! Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes." David saw him ascend, after he had captured the devil, sin, death, and the world; saying, "He hath ascended on high, he hath led captivity captive, and received gifts for men, yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." David also saw him enter the royal pavilions of heaven, when he says," Lift up your heads, ye gates; and be liked up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall enter in." This was prefigured when the ark was brought into the tabernacle in Zion; and realized when the anti-typical Ark ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, as "a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle which God pitched, and not man," Heb. viii. 2. David likewise hears the heavenly anthems sung; "Who is the King of Glory? The Lord of Hosts, mighty in battle." He then reflects on his own blessed hope, saying, "I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness," Psalm xvii. 15.
Daniel's faith takes him up where David left him: namely, just as he ascended; and saw the son of man come with the clouds of heaven. By which may be meant, first, the cloud that received him out of the apostles sight. But the angelic hosts, and the spirits of the just made perfect, seem chiefly to be intended here; the cloud of witnesses with which we are compassed about, Heb. xii. 1. Who fled as a cloud to the rock of ages, or "as the doves to their windows," Isa. Ix. 8. And who, like a cloud, fled, and spread heavenly testimony among men, while "their doctrines dropped as the rain, and their speech distilled as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass," Deut. xxxii. 2.
"He came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before him," Dan. vii. 13. The angels attended his glorious Majesty as their confirmative Head; and the spirits of just men made perfect followed him as their Redeemer, Saviour, and Almighty Deliverer; and attended him to the Ancient of Days; and in all the glorious acclamations of heaven they brought their glorious Head near before him; mercy and truth being met together, righteousness and peace having kissed each other. The grand Creditor was well pleased at the infinite satisfaction given by the Surety, while all the hosts of heaven attended the solemn coronation of the King of kings and Lord of lords, who appeared in his garments (of human nature) dipped in blood.
This was typified by the coronation of Solomon while the acclamations of the attendants made the earth ring again. But it was verified at the coronation of Christ after he had vanquished all his enemies; there was "a crown given unto him; and he went forth conquering, and to conquer," Rev. vi. 2. Or, as it is in Daniel, vii. 14, "There was given him dominion and glory, and a kingdom; that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
The triumphant church above, who is the mother of us all, is the mother of Christ also, as touching his human nature; even as Christ's Father is our Father (John, xx. 17,) by spiritual regeneration. Of Zion it shall be said, that he was born in her, Psalm, lxxxvii. 6; even as we are said to be born of God, John, i. 13. Salvation is of the Jews, John, iv. 22; "of them, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, who is over all God blessed for ever," Rom. ix. 5. And it is plain that his venerable mother, the triumphant church, dropped her crown before him, and crowned him with the praise and glory of all her salvation at his glorious coronation, when God set his king upon his holy hill of Zion, Psalms, ii. 6. And we must while here below, copy after her and submit to the sovereignty of his grace, his mental government, and eternal reign. "Go forth, oh ye daughters of Zion, and behold king Solomon with the crown, wherewith his mother crowned him on the day of his espousals, and on the day of the gladness of his heart," Song iii. 11.
He ascended his throne as David's son hereditary, and as a lamb slain, to shew that he was to appear as a perfect sacrifice once, for all his members; and now as an everliving interceding priest, to make intercession for us. "He shall be a priest upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both" Zech. vi. 13. So that "he ever lives to make intercession for us."
Thus God led me to trace the blessed Saviour up to his glorious exaltation on his throne - a blessed view! - to see his human nature (which is a part of ours) exalted so high, "far above all principality and power, and might and dominion, and every name that is named," Eph. i. 21. His being a lamb slain shews him to be both a sacrifice and a priest; and his throne shews his divine sovereignty, as it is written, "And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne stood a lamb, as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes." The seven horns were represented to me as shewing his perfect and universal dominion, or as representing his sevenfold government. First, he is "king of glory," Psalm, xxiv. 10. - Secondly, he is "king of Zion," Psalm, ii. 6. - Thirdly, he is "king of nations," Jerem. x. 7. - Fourthly, he is "king of [all earthly] kings," Rev. xix. 16. - Fifthly, as the God of armies, he is king over all devils; Eph. iv. 8. - Sixthly, as the Holy One, he is king over all sin, Rom. vi. 14. - And, seventhly, as the resurrection and the life, he is king over death; Hosea, xlii. 14; or the lord of life and death; Rom. xiv. 9. This is thy king, O Zion, who once came unto thee riding upon an ass, and on a colt, the foal of an ass; who is now risen, exalted, and crowned.
God the Father delivers the book with all its seals into his hand; containing the Father's will, the number and names of all the elect, and all the promises made to Christ and his seed, which were these - First, God promised that of the fruit of David's body he would raise up Christ to sit on David's throne, and build up his throne to all generations; a throne of grace to all generations of the covenant line; or all generations shall submit to his iron rod, or peaceable sceptre. This you see is fulfilled; he is crowned and seated upon the throne of David according to the promise, "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end; upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will performs [hath performed] this," Isa. ix. 7.
Secondly, That he would give him the heathen for his inheritance, and the utmost parts of the earth for his possession. Not that all the human race are the special gift of God the Father to him; nor were all redeemed by him; for all are not sheep. No: but God gave him power over all flesh, [to awe and control them that he might give eternal life to as many as the Father hath given him, John, xvii. 2.
Thirdly, The Father promised to give him the sure mercies of David. These mercies, given to him as a federal head, were to be sure to all his seed, or offspring; for loving-kindness is never to be taken from him, nor the faithfulness of God to fail them. This mercy, given to him as a federal head, was given to him as a king likewise, and is secured to all his subjects; so that it is to terminate in one single kingdom - a kingdom that will outlive all other kingdoms, and be proof against all revolutions and commotions whatever; as it is written, "Once more I shake not only earth, but heaven; - but we, having received a kingdom that cannot be moved, let us have grace whereby we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and godly fear," Heb. xiii. 27, 28. This kingdom shall surely demolish all these earthly kingdoms, and make them like the chaff of the summer's threshing floor; - survive them all, and appear the only kingdom in the "new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness." Thus, mercy shall be built up for ever, and [God's] faithfulness shall be established in the very heavens," Psalm, lxxxix. 2.
Fourthly, God promised that the Saviour should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied - that the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand - that kings should shut their mouths at him; and that he should have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. That every chosen vessel should be gathered by him, and gathered to him as their proper head; - be governed by him as their rightful sovereign, and wait for his second coming, as the grand accomplisher of the whole divine scheme of man's salvation and glorification.
Then he shall appear to be admired by all that know and love the truth, when the world shall be destroyed, the mystery of God finished, the church exalted at the right hand of the king; in which will be manifested the secret intention of God, which was to display "the riches of his grace in glory by Christ Jesus."
The angels above, and the spirits of just men made perfect; who are perfect in knowledge when compared to us, understanding these things better than we can in this state of ignorance, seem wonderfully enraptured at the exaltation and coronation of their great Confirmer and Deliverer; and each host, both angels and glorified souls, sung their coronation carols. The spirits of just men made perfect began first, as it was impossible for them to keep silence when the Lord of Hosts appeared in human nature, as one that had trod a wine vat; or, as a man of war, with his garments rolled in blood. They saw the scars of war on his humanity, and the sword of eternal victory by his side, a proof of his Deity. "He hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords," Rev. xix. 16. I say the redeemed first began their carol. This was prefigured when he rode triumphant into Jerusalem on an ass - the multitudes pulling off their clothes, covering the ass, spreading boughs, casting their garments in the way, and crying, "Save, Lord, we beseech thee," - or, "We beseech thee, send prosperity." But it was realized when Jesus entered the heavenly Jerusalem above, not on an ass, but in the triumphant chariot of an Almighty Conqueror; and where he received the kingdom, while his enemies in local Jerusalem sent after him, saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us." But when he had received the kingdom he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burnt up their city, Luke xii. 12. Matt. xxii. 7.
When the Saviour entered the earthly Jerusalem he said, if his infant attendants held their peace, the stones would immediately cry out; - how much more when he entered the heavenly Jerusalem, where all knew his divine majesty his super-excellent amiableness, and what he had done for them! They did not deride him, refuse him, nor withhold divine homage from him; but began their triumphant anthems (or songs) without hesitation, when the solemnity of his coronation was ended. And he came and took the book out of the right hand of him that sat upon the throne; - "And when he had taken the book, the four beasts; [or representatives of all the hosts of gospel witnesses, including both ministers and people - but chiefly ministers] and the four and twenty elders [or twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, the natural and ministerial foundations of the Jewish and Gentile churches, as representatives of them both] fell down before the Lamb; having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. And they sung a new song, saying, "Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and has redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation and hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign on the earth." And indeed the militant church, whom they represent, does reign on the earth, through grace;. but in the new heaven and new earth they shall reign without an enemy, and their king without a rival.
The angels coronation carol comes next, and ends with a united chorus. "And I beheld, and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousand of thousands; saying, with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, [to govern ;] and riches, [to endow;] and wisdom, [to direct;] and strength, [to support;] and honour, [as an everlasting Father;] and glory, [as the God of all salvation;] and blessing," [as the sinner's loving, immutable, and best friend,] Rev. v. 12.
Now comes the united chorus; some hymn his glorious grace, some his creation work, and some his universal providence; which is echoed from the heavens, the church, the world, and the sea. "And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I, saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen," Rev. v. 13. Thus the fruit of David's body ascended the throne, and appeared as a lamb slain. As God, he never was from the throne; for, as God, he is both throne and king. As man he was crowned; and as man he received wisdom, power, and strength; and, as God-man, he received honour, and glory, and blessing; but as God he could receive nothing - for all things were created by him, and for him, and by him all things consist.
Reader, I could have mentioned many more blessings which came to me in a way of providence; but, as I have recited, perhaps, too many of them already, I have here given thee only a few fathoms of heavenly meditation, with which the God of all grace enabled me to sound this mystery in a fit of sickness that befell me at Thames Ditton. Then it was that I received the greatest part of this consistent chain; the links of which kept every faculty of my soul, and every thought of my heart, so delighted and entertained, that I sat down a most willing, submissive, and delighted captive, at the foot of my preveiling lover and almighty conqueror.
If my reader should meet with any worldly professor, who tells him that temporal mercies are not promised to us, nor to be sought by us, let him examine all the prayers that are left upon record in the Bible, and he will find nine out of ten of them to have temporal mercies included. And surely he must be a native of Ashdod, or a bastard Jew, that contradicts the consecrated languages, and gives the Divine Speaker the lie. Such men appear to me to be the figurative offspring of Epicurus, who first assaulted the doctrine of providence; of whom Cotta declares that, "by making God careless of the affairs of men, he utterly subverted all religion." And I think Aristotle's reply to Epicurus's system of nullity is applicable to many bastard professors in our days; wherefore I shall bring him to rebuke them. "Diversity of questions," says he, "requires diversity of answers. Some ask whether fire be hot! These must be answered by being made to touch it. Some ask whether their parents are to be honoured! These are not to be discoursed with, but rebuked. Others ask whether there be any Providence that rules the world, and refuse to believe it without apparent demonstration! Such men should be answered by a whip, rather than by a philosopher." Reader, fare thee well Grace and Providence be with thee while I remain,
Thine to serve,