Living Testimonies




I hope you will excuse my writing to you at this time. I know your work is great, and your time much taken up, in feeding the household of faith. Having, by the blessing of God, received a morsel by your books and preaching, I cannot eat it alone, or conceal it any longer; but, as a penny of the Lord's coin, I am constrained to send this, that praise to God from you may redound on my account. About five years back, being in a barn threshing corn, a sense of guilt was powerfully impressed on my mind, and these words came, This do, and live; this do, and live.' This was repeated many times over, and for many days. Not knowing any thing of the word of God, being scarcely able to read a word therein, and having such an enmity to all that were called Dissenters; but having a brother who was partly a Dissenter, and partly a Churchman, I went to him, and asked him if there were any such, words in the Bible, or in any author he had read. He told me he thought there were in Gen. xlii. This set me to reading up and down the Bible; in doing this, God was pleased to direct me to the 5th of Amos, 6th verse, "Seek the Lord and ye shall live, lest he break out like fire, and devour the house of Joseph, and there be none in Bethel to quench it." But how to seek the Lord I knew not; yet the fear of this fire breaking out on me filled me with great dread. This drove me to hear a Baptist minister of C----------te; and he, insisting that the Lord was to be sought in all the appointed means, made me diligent in hoaxing. I now began to view his followers as angels; but found myself nothing but sin. I longed to he with them; but, alas! I viewed myself too bad, and the shew of my countenance witnessed against me. Thus I continued for six months; in which time several of his people would often converse with me, particularly Thurgood, who would often say, Come, will you tell us what God has done for you? This was generally done when fresh members joined the church. But I wanted to know whether it was God or the devil that set me out in a profession. If I had but known that it was. the Lord, I thought I could bear the indignation of the Lord, because I had sinned against him: but the minister often saying, this you may try yourself by, if you have left off sabbath-breaking, drunkenness, swearing, lying, and the like; if you love the ways and people of God, undoubtedly old things are done away, all things are become new. Once when he was preaching from Lamentations, "He sitteth alone, and putteth his mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope;" by what he said on those words, 'If you cannot go into the company of the world, and see yourself unfit for the society of God's people, thus you sit alone with a witness; thus you may have reason for hope;' here I first began to hope. Then he preached from these words, "Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord." This was to be done, he said, in the ways of God, and in the ordinances of his house, being zealous to know the Lord, and to follow on to know him, soon got into the water, hoping to leave my burden at the bottom of the pool; as the minister often used to say, 'Come to his ordinances, and you will get comfort;' yet, alas! I brought my burden up out of the water with me, which soon grew too heavy for me to bear. This being the ease, I often broke my mind to friend Thurgood, still viewing him as an angel; and, my experience agreeing with his, I got upon his back, as it were, trusting to him as a guide; but when your letter to Caleb Evans came out it cut up all his religion, and down came he, and I too. I now thought that my guide was deceived by reading your books, because he began to be dissatisfied with the ministry that we sat under, which our minister said was the case. I being simple, believed every word that the preacher said, for so I had been taught, that every word spoken by him, when in the pulpit, must be believed as though Christ himself was there. This being the case, I carried a weapon to our preacher against Thurgood, which was this, "They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercies," and I wished the minister to preach from it: so foolish was I. But so it is, a bond child cannot love a freeborn son: yet, blessed be God, we were then brethren in the purpose of God. This it was that made him often come to speak to me, though he seemed to be cut off from our community; and I was zealous for chastening him. This I did in ignorance and unbelief; however my burden still kept upon my back, and increasing worse and worse, till at last, like Peter, I cried out, "Lord, save, or I perish." Thus I went mourning, till these words came with power to my mind, "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted;" "Say to them of a fearful heart, Be strong." Before these words came I was sorely tried and tempted with blasphemous thoughts, till I did not know whether I uttered them or not: this made me mourn sore; but the above words, blessed be God, removed the temptation, the burden, and all; and on the next Lord's day I waited for our pastor on the road coming to C —te, in order to tell him of my deliverance. I had also another passage brought to me, which was this, "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father:" this I also told him at the same time, with the joy and peace I found in believing in those precious words. I told him I had considered what my mourning sprung from, which was being burdened with sin and those temptations; and then what my comfort sprung from, which was having an advocate with the Father: to which he made answer, that Satan could tempt, accuse, condemn, and comfort too. Then, said I, Satan must be divided against himself. He said, he wished his hearers to steer between Antinomianism and Arminianism; but never described the way. This stripped me of all my comfort, and kept me mourning till you published your second part of -the Barber; which delivered me from my burden; the particulars I shall relate by and by. I have since found out what he meant by steering between Antinomianism and Arminianism; which was, by all means to avoid reading your books, or hearing you preach: for he declared, in the public pulpit, that he would set his hand to burn all your books as soon as he came down, for it was them that had made all the disturbances amongst us; for Thurgood had circulated your books very much among us, and I had read several of them, which gave me some degree of comfort, and made me anxious to hear you.

At last Thurgood took me to London with him to hear you preach; and, blessed be God, I never repented me of my journey. Your text in the morning was in Luke: I well remember the words, and I think I ever shall; "Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound, lo these eighteen years, be loosed from her infirmity on the sabbath-day?" In describing the likeness between Abraham and his seed, you quoted this passage, " Abraham went out, not knowing whither he went:" this you applied to every sinner when first setting out, that if he met any one he could not tell which way he was going. This came with such power to me, and being so similar to my case, comforted. me, for I set out not knowing one step of the way; but you said, He set out for the land of Canaan, and to the land of Canaan he came:' so, thought I, surely, I have set out to find the Lord, and find him I shall. I went in the strength of this meat many days; and, though my brother died whilst I was in London, yet when I came home the comfort I received was so great that it had no effect upon me. Thus, sir, you was made manifest in my conscience, and had a great place in my affections.

This journey made me as a speckled bird to my former brethren; and, when they spoke against your books, or you, or your followers, it went like a dagger to my heart. However, they first began to whip me with this text, "Woe be to him by whom the offence cometh." This had some weight on my mind at first, till I considered if I had offended it was for the truth's sake, my conscience bearing me witness in the Spirit that it was the truth I had heard from you. About this time God was pleased to send the gospel to Wellwyn. I attended there the first time to hear our dear pastor, Mr. O. whom God has now given us; he spoke from those words, Ephes. ii. 13-15. This doctrine was what we had not been used to hear. Here I got convinced, that the law was not the believer's rule of life, and of God's knowing that partition which stood between him and my soul. In short, I was determined to hear him again when he came. Thus, sir, I continued at Wellwyn until the minister called at my house to reprove me for not filling up my place at his meeting. I went out trembling, knowing my own weakness, fearing lest I should be left to say a confederacy with him in speaking against you and your books, conscience bearing me witness to the truth; and, not knowing what to say to him, I first asked if he did not think you was a good man: to which he answered, Yes; and then intimated you to be of a bad spirit, which to this day puzzles me much, how they can make a good man without the Spirit of Christ. But I shall leave that to their blindness, as in many other things, for they know not what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

But, sir, I shall leave this and proceed further. I begged of the minister to have a week to consider of this matter. The next day, being Monday, as I was making faggots, these scriptures came into my mind, but where to find them I knew not: the one was this, "Whatsoever they say unto you, that observe and do, but do not after their works, for they say and do not;" the next was this, "Whether it be right to hearken to you more than unto God, judge ye." These were as though some one had repeated them over, and over, and over again; and seemed to work some persuasion in my mind that it was concerning the point in hand. This continued on my mind all the week, and on the Lord's day I went to C---te, and told the minister I could not consent to the terms he proposed. He endeavoured to prevail with me, but I could not, I durst not, so I ran away like a lusty fellow, as the proverb is; for, in my judgment, it was from the appearance of evil.

Now, sir, all this time my experience lay buried in confusion; when I had any promise come with some degree of power, and caused comfort to spring up, this would come in again, ' Ah, Satan, can comfort;' and then down I went again. Thus, sir, I went mourning many a day sometimes these words came to my mind, out of Dr. Watts, Why should the children of a king go mourning all their days?' which would make me wonder what this could mean. I have read your account of Little Faith, and I have thought you must know something of my ease; but how to express my feelings fully to you I cannot. But thus, sir, I went mourning, staggering, and stumbling, up and down, till providence directed into my hand your Barber, the second part; and, as I was reading it, I felt myself as I thought like a prisoner who was in humble hope of hearing some one speak the word that I might come out: thus, Sir, as I was reading your answer to the quotation in page 10, where T. Priestley says, 'The most eminent Christians, who have been indulged with the greatest manifestations of divine love, cannot be satisfied with these;' in your answer to this, in pointing out the feelings of a soul in its first love, you describe the first promise that is applied with power, and say, from the word of God, that it is the saint s first landmark, 'And to walk in love is the more excellent way.' Ah, Sir, this came to me with such power as I am not able to relate; it immediately brought to my mind the former portions of scripture which I had been plundered of, and thereby stripped and wounded and left half dead. Under the joy and peace which sprung up in believing, I burst into tears, and in these words said to my wife, I felt this as I was going over such a field.' And from that time, blessed be God, my eyes were opened; surely, "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart;" and thus, Sir, upon this mountain I find the Lord is destroying veil, the face of the covering, that is cast over all people

One morning, as I was sitting by the fire, meditating on the goodness of God, my heart was overwhelmed with a sense of God's love, and I verily thought I saw, as it had been, a piece of paper drawn before my natural eyes, and on it, as I thought, these words, "Him whom ye have not seen ye love;" but, not knowing where these words were, nor the meaning of them, I went to my friend Bunker, and he directed me to the passage in the epistle of Peter. Thus I found faith came by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Thus, Sir, have your books and your preaching been blessed to my soul; and, as the Lord has promised that his secret shall be with the righteous, and to them he will chew his covenant, I desire to be found blessing and praising his holy name for every means of his matchless grace in raising up such faithful servants to declare his truth, and for sending such an one as we have got to us at Wellwyn, as we have reason to believe he is after God's own heart, who has and does feed his people with knowledge and understanding, whilst "The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them, because they cannot find the way to the city" of habitation.

Thus far I have endeavoured to give you a short account of the little experience which has by you and your books, in the hand of God, been brought to light in my soul; I therefore beg you will excuse my ignorance and mean manner of expressing myself. I hear, Sir, that every day discovers fresh troubles to you; but blessed be God, who has promised that as our day is so our strength shall be. May he ever give us faith to exercise on his own word, and in him we shall be able to stand and withstand. You have many enemies, and they are mighty: but may the Lord give you light and liberty, that every tongue that rises up against you and his truth you may be enabled utterly to condemn. So I shall proceed no further at present, only beg an interest in your petitions when it is well with you; and may the Lord bless you and keep you, and all that love Jesus Christ in sincerity and in truth, is the desire and hearty prayer of

Your unworthy Servant,

 WM. W____ N.