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THE PREACHER'S PROGRESS.
Ir is not my intention to write a history of my life, but to give an outline of some of those scenes through which I have passed during my short pilgrimage
"But how shall I thy goodness tell,
Bereaved of my dear parents at an early period of my life, and being thus left without parental restraint, like the wild asses colt, I ranged the wide plains of sensual delights, and snuffed the impure gale of dissipation and folly, unconscious of that destruction which floated on the breeze. And that I might more fully enjoy the pleasures of sin, I left my native home for London. But I had not long resided in "town" before my wandering feet were led to Great Queen Street chapel, where, under the ministry of Mr. T. Jenkins, I was brought to the knowledge of my guilty state, and fearfulness and trembling came over me. By divine grace I was led to the only hope set before me in the gospel, and I found peace with God through the blood of the Lamb.
Having obtained mercy, I felt interested in the spiritual welfare of all mankind, especially of my dear relatives, who I knew were satisfied with a vain form of godliness, and destitute of its saving power. I knew also that my native town, in Devonshire, was enveloped in moral night, and destitute of evangelical means of grace, I therefore returned home, licensed a house for public worship, and commenced speaking in the name of the Lord Jesus the things concerning his kingdom.
And now such a scene of riot and persecution arose as is rarely heard of in modern times. Bells, horns, and other discordant sounds were the signal for action, and often my life was in danger from stones and other missiles in going to, and returning from, the place of worship; and the few who dared to worship with me were covered with mud and other filth, and some of them were severely wounded, especially a young lady to whom the gospel had been made the power of God unto salvation. These tumultuous scenes were not repressed but encouraged, I am sorry to say, by the magistrates and clergy-the parish priest placing himself, on one occasion, at the head of a mob in burning the effigy of the baptist minister. But amidst these scenes of persecution God did not forsake us.
THE PREACHER'S PROGRESS.
The first-fruit of my labour was one who had been a most abandoned woman, and had been the means of bringing to the gallows two men by turning king's evidence against them. Despised of men, tormented with a guilty conscience, and weary of her miserable life, she formed the desperate resolution of putting an end to her wretched existence. Passing the house where we were conducting public worship, she was attracted by the singing, and entered. She listened to the word delivered, and the Lord the Spirit applied it with power to her heart. Was not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
After many ineffectual efforts to bring the persecutors to justice, I at last succeeded in sending three of the ringleaders to the county gaol, one of whom was a surgeon, the son of a magistrate in the town. This produced a favourable effect,
and we had more peace.
I had preached the gospel in my native town and neighbouring villages some years previous to my being convinced that there was scriptural authority for believers baptism. Believing it now to be my duty to obey Christ in all things, I consulted not with flesh and blood, but determined to follow his example. For this purpose we repaired to a river adjoining the town, over which was a stone bridge, and on that bridge was assembled to see 66 the strange sight," a company similar to that recorded in Acts xvii. 5. Their first act, while I was in the water, was to throw a large dog over the bridge, followed by shouts of laughter. A large stone was then thrown at my head, but it passed me by, and I was buried with Christ by baptism. Having now identified myself with that sect which is everywhere spoken against, the smoking embers of persecution were again fanned into a flame, and I had to pass through another fiery trial. Still God carried on his work. A dwellinghouse was fitted up for a place of worship, and souls were converted to Christ.
About this time I received an invitation to supply a baptist meeting-house in another town, and ultimately I settled as pastor of the church meeting there.
I was succeeded in my native town by a zealous and successful preacher, who for twenty years continued to labour there with much acceptance and prosperity. Surely I may ask with astonishment, "What hath God wrought?" Many of the children of those magistrates referred to are now engaged in promoting that cause which their fathers endeavoured to
THE PREACHER'S PROGRESS.
destroy. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name."
The Baptist Home Missionary Society being in want of an agent for C- a considerable town in Devonshire, I was recommended by my beloved friend the late Mr. Kilpin of Exeter, whose pulpit I had supplied, as a suitable person, and I removed thither in the year 1821. Here the Lord was pleased to prosper his work, and a good chapel and dwellinghouse were erected, and many baptized, some of whom were called to the work of the ministry.
And here I would pause to wonder and adore! I must sing of judgment as well as of mercy. "Verily there is a God that judgeth in the earth.”
Although justice does not always overtake the persecutor in this life, God is pleased, sometimes, to visit with signal judgment the opposers of his cause. I could mention several awful instances of this kind which occurred in my native town; one must suffice, it is that of a young man who had proved the enmity of his heart against God by persecuting his people.
While I was at C, I heard that he was sent to Exeter gaol for murder. He was tried, found guilty on circumstantial evidence, and ordered to be executed. Knowing him, I felt interested in his case, and determined, if possible, to gain admittance to his cell. For this purpose I went to Exeter, and succeeded in getting into the gaoler's house, where the magistrates were then sitting. I addressed them in the following manner, 'Gentlemen, will you have the kindness to permit me to see PC, who is under sentence of death?" Sir, who are you?" "A dissenting minister." "Of what persuasion ?" "The baptist." "Oh, the baptist, he is no baptist, and he does not want to have his mind disturbed with your dogmas; he has the chaplain; but he is a hardened villain, he will not confess his guilt, and what do you suppose you can do?" "Gentlemen, it will be no credit to me, nor to the denomination to which I belong, to proselyte a poor condemned malefactor; but he possesses an immortal spirit that will enter eternity on Monday, to give an account for the deeds done in the body, before God the judge of all. If, therefore, you, gentlemen, believe in the existence of a Supreme Being; if you hope for salvation by the atoning blood of Christ: if you feel any compassion for a guilty sinner, permit me to see him." "It is contrary to the rules of the gaol; no dissenting minister can be allowed to visit any of the prisoners except they send for him, and
THE PREACHER'S PROGRESS.
he has not sent for you." I again pleaded with all earnestness, when the sitting magistrate rose and said, "Sir, I believe you are very sincere; you shall see him." I then went to the turnkey, and said, "Have the goodness to conduct me to the condemned cell of P- C." The sound of the locks, the dismal grating of the massive iron gates, and the rattling of heavy chains, echoing through the long stone passages, caused a chilly thrill to pass over me. But when I entered the gloomy cell, and was locked up with the prisoner, I felt as I had never felt before. There stood a fine young man, in the prime of life, but a murderer, bound in chains, and one who had been a persecutor of God's people; one whose days and hours were now numbered, and who was soon to end his short and sinful career by an ignominious death. No time was to be lost. I therefore set before him his awful condition as a sinner against God, and exhorted him to repent, and seek forgiveness by faith in that blood which cleanseth us from all sin. I took him by the hand, which felt cold as death, pressed it between my own, and in a solemn and affectionate manner urged him to confess his guilt, and seek mercy from God. He hesitated, equivocated, and would fain have evaded the subject, but I pressed so closely, that at length he made confession, and related in what manner he perpetrated the horrid deed. I afterwards communicated this to the magistrates, who were pleased to thank me for my perseverance, and gave me permission to visit the gaol at any time. I availed myself of this liberty, and visited another young man who was also lying under sentence of death. This young man, a fortnight after, I attended to the fatal drop. When waiting the awful moment, he requested me to take from his pocket his bible, and give it to the young woman to whom he had intended to be married. I hope he knew something of the blessed truths contained in that word, although when I first visited him he was very ignorant of the way of salvation.
The day on which poor C- was executed I rose at three o'clock, and spent several hours with him in his gloomy cell. I will not occupy your pages by relating all that passed during those solemn hours, but oh, it was an awful and an anxious time. Every hour the deep-toned prison clock struck on our ear as if a voice from the eternal world had cried, "Prepare to meet thy God.". The last hour struck, and, in sepulchral tones, proclaimed "time no longer." The sheriff appeared at the cell gate, demanded his body, and the javelin-men guarded