"HERE HAVE WE NO CONTINUING CITY"--CAUTION TO THE CHRISTIAN TRAVELLER--NEW TOKENS FOR GOOD--THE WAY MADE CLEAR--MEETINGS FOR INQUIRY--NO RESPECT OF PERSONS WITH GOD--FRANCKE, "BEING DEAD, YET SPEAKETH"--DAILY BREAD SUPPLIED--A PECULIAR PEOPLE.
April 8. I have felt much this day that Teignmouth is no longer my place, and that I shall leave it. I would observe that in August of 1831 I began greatly to feel as if my work at Teignmouth were done, and that I should go somewhere else. I was led to consider the matter more maturely, and at last had it settled in this way,--that it was not likely to be of God, because, for certain reasons, I should naturally have liked to leave Teignmouth. Afterwards, I felt quite comfortable in remaining there. In the commencement of the year 1832 I began again much to doubt whether Teignmouth was my place, or whether my gift was not much more that of going about from place to place, seeking to bring believers back to the Scriptures, than to stay in one place and to labor as a pastor. I resolved to try whether it were not the will of God that I should still give myself to pastoral work among the brethren at Teignmouth; and with more earnestness and faithfulness than ever I was enabled to give myself to this work, and was certainly much refreshed and blessed in it; and I saw immediately blessings result from it. This my experience seemed more than ever to settle me at Teignmouth. But notwithstanding this, the impression that my work was done there came back after some time, as the remark in my journal of April 8 shows, and it became stronger and stronger. There was one point remarkable in connection with this. Wherever I went I preached with much more enjoyment and power than at Teignmouth, the very reverse of which had been the case on my first going there. Moreover, almost everywhere I had many more hearers than at Teignmouth, and found the people hungering after food, which, generally speaking, was no longer the case at Teignmouth.
April 11. Felt again much that Teignmouth will not much longer be my residence. April 12. Still feel the impression that Teignmouth is no longer my place. April 13. Found a letter from brother Craik, from Bristol, on my return from Torquay, where I had been to preach. He invites me to come and help him. It appears to me, from what he writes, that such places as Bristol more suit my gifts. O Lord, teach me! I have felt this day more than ever that I shall soon leave Teignmouth. I fear, however, there is much connected with it which savors of the flesh, and that makes me fearful. It seems to me as if I should shortly go to Bristol, if the Lord permit. April 14. Wrote a letter to brother Craik, in which I said I should come, if I clearly saw it to be the Lord's will. Have felt again very much to-day, yea, far more than ever, that I shall soon leave Teignmouth.
April 15. Lord's day. This evening I preached, as fully as time would permit, on the Lord's second coming. After having done so, I told the brethren what effect this doctrine had had upon me, on first receiving it, even to determine me to leave London, and to preach throughout the kingdom; but that the Lord had kept me chiefly at Teignmouth for these two years and three months, and that it seemed to me now that the time was near when I should leave them. I reminded them of what I told them when they requested me to take the oversight of them, that I could make no certain engagement, but stay only so long with them as I should see it to be the Lord's will to do so. There was much weeping afterwards. But I am now again in peace.
April 16. This morning I am still in peace. I am glad I have spoken to the brethren, that they may be prepared, in case the Lord should take me away. I left to-day for Dartmouth, where I preached in the evening. I had five answers to prayer to-day. 1. I awoke at five, for which I had asked the Lord last evening. 2. The Lord removed from my dear wife an indisposition under which she had been suffering. It would have been trying to me to have had to leave her in that state. 3. The Lord sent us money. 4. There was a place vacant on the Dartmouth coach, which only passes through Teignmouth. 5. This evening I was assisted in preaching, and my own soul refreshed.
April 21. I would offer here a word of warning to believers. Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls. On the 19th I had left Dartmouth, conversed a good deal that day, preached in the evening, walked afterwards eight miles, had only about five hours' sleep, travelled again the next day twenty-five miles, preached twice, and conversed very much besides, went to bed at eleven, and arose before five. All this shows that my body and spirit required rest, and, therefore, however careless about the Lord's work I might have appeared to my brethren, I ought to have had a great deal of quiet time for prayer and reading the word, especially as I had a long journey before me that day, and as I was going to Bristol, which in itself required much prayer. Instead of this, I hurried to the prayer meeting, after a few minutes' private prayer. But let none think that public prayer will make up for closet communion. Then again, afterwards, when I ought to have withdrawn myself, as it were, by force, from the company of beloved brethren and sisters, and given my testimony for the Lord, (and, indeed, it would have been the best testimony I could have given them,) by telling them that I needed secret communion with the Lord, I did not do so, but spent the time, till the coach came, in conversation with them. Now, however profitable in some respects it may have been made to those with whom I was on that morning, yet my own soul needed food; and not having had it, I was lean, and felt the effects of it the whole day; and hence I believe it came that I was dumb on the coach, and did not speak a word for Christ, nor give away a single tract, though I had my pockets full on purpose.
April 22. This morning I preached at Gideon Chapel, Bristol. In the afternoon I preached at the Pithay Chapel. This sermon was a blessing to many, many souls; and many were brought through it to come afterwards to hear brother Craik and me. Among others it was the means of converting a young man who was a notorious drunkard, and who was just again on his way to a public house, when an acquaintance of his met him, and asked him to go with him to hear a foreigner preach. He did so; and from that moment he was so completely altered, that he never again went to a public house, and was so happy in the Lord afterwards that he often neglected his supper, from eagerness to read the Scriptures, as his wife told me. He died about five months afterwards. This evening I was much instructed in hearing brother Craik preach. I am now fully persuaded that Bristol is the place where the Lord will have me to labor.
April 27. It seems to brother Craik and myself the Lord's will that we should go home next week, in order that in quietness, without being influenced by what we see here, we may more inquire into the Lord's will concerning us. It especially appears to us much more likely that we should come to a right conclusion among the brethren and sisters in Devonshire, whose tears we shall have to witness, and whose entreaties to stay with them we shall have to hear, than here in Bristol, where we see only those who wish us to stay.
April 28. It still seems to us the Lord's will that we should both leave soon, to have quiet time for prayer concerning Bristol. April 29. I preached this morning on Rev. iii. 14-22. As it afterwards appeared, that testimony was blessed to many, though I lacked enjoyment in my own soul. This afternoon brother Craik preached in a vessel called the Clifton Ark, fitted up for a chapel. In the evening I preached in the same vessel. These testimonies also God greatly honored, and made them the means of afterwards bringing several, who then heard us, to our meeting places. How was God with us, and how did he help us, thereby evidently showing that he himself had sent us to this city!
April 30. It was most affecting to take leave of the dear children of God, dozens pressing us to return soon, many with tears in their eyes. The blessing which the Lord has given to our ministry seems to be very great. We both see it fully the Lord's will to come here, though we do not see under what circumstances. A brother has promised to take Bethesda Chapel for us, and to be answerable for the payment of the rent; so that thus we should have two large chapels. I saw, again, two instances to-day in which my preaching has been blessed.
May 1. Brother Craik and I left this morning for Devonshire.
May 3. I saw several of the brethren to-day, and felt so fully assured that it is the Lord's will that I should go to Bristol, that I told them so. This evening I had a meeting with the three deacons, when I told them plainly about it; asking them, if they see anything wrong in me concerning this matter, to tell me of it. They had nothing to say against it; yea, though much wishing me to stay, they were convinced themselves that my going is of God.
May 5. One other striking proof to my mind that my leaving Teignmouth is of God, is, that some truly spiritual believers, though they much wish me to stay, themselves see that I ought to go to Bristol.
May 7. Having received a letter from Bristol on May 5, it was answered to-day in such a way that the Lord may have another opportunity to prevent our going thither if it be not of him.
May 15. Just when I was in prayer concerning Bristol, I was sent for to come to brother Craik. Two letters had arrived from Bristol. The brethren assembling at Gideon accept our offer to come under the conditions we have made, i. e. for the present, to consider us only as ministering among them, but not in any fixed pastoral relationship, so that we may preach as we consider it to be according to the mind of God, without reference to any rules among them; that the pew-rents should be done away with; and that we should go on, respecting the supply of our temporal wants, as in Devonshire. We intend, the Lord willing, to leave in about a week, though there is nothing settled respecting Bethesda Chapel.
May 21. I began to-day to take leave of the brethren at Teignmouth, calling on each of them. It has been a trying day. Much weeping on the part of the saints. Were I not so fully persuaded that it is the will of God we should go to Bristol, I should have been hardly able to bear it.
May 22. The brethren at Teignmouth say that they expect us soon back again. As far as I understand the way in which God deals with his children, this seems very unlikely. Towards the evening, the Lord, after repeated prayer, gave me Col. i. 21-23 as a text for the last word of exhortation. It seemed to me best to speak as little as possible about myself, and as much as possible about Christ. I scarcely alluded to our separation, and only commended myself and the brethren, in the concluding prayer, to the Lord. The parting scenes are very trying, but my full persuasion is that the separation is of the Lord. May 23. My wife, Mr. Groves, my father-in-law, and I left this morning for Exeter. Dear brother Craik intends to follow us to-morrow.
We had unexpectedly received, just before we left Teignmouth, about fifteen pounds, else we should not have been able to defray all the expenses connected with leaving, travelling, etc. By this, also, the Lord showed his mind concerning our going to Bristol.
The following record will now show to the believing reader how far what I have said concerning my persuasion that it was the will of God that we should go to Bristol has been proved by facts.
May 25, 1832. This evening we arrived at Bristol. May 27. This morning we received a sovereign, sent to us by a sister residing in Devonshire, which we take as an earnest that the Lord will provide for us here also. May 28. When we were going to speak to the brethren, who manage the temporal affairs of Gideon Chapel, about giving up the pew-rents, having all the seats free, and receiving the free-will offerings through a box, a matter which was not quite settled on their part, as brother Craik and I had thought, we found that the Lord had so graciously ordered this matter for us that there was not the least objection on the part of these brethren.
June 4. For several days we have been looking about for lodgings, but finding none plain and cheap enough, we were led to make this also a subject of earnest prayer; and now, immediately afterwards, the Lord has given us such as are suitable. We pay only eighteen shillings a week for two sitting-rooms and three bedrooms, coals, and attendance. It was particularly difficult to find cheap furnished lodgings, having five rooms in the same house, which we need, as brother Craik and we live together. How good is the Lord to have thus appeared for us, in answer to prayer, and what an encouragement to commit everything to him in prayer!
June 25. To-day it was finally settled to take Bethesda Chapel for a twelvemonth, on condition that a brother at once paid the rent, with the understanding that, if the Lord shall bless our labors in that place, so that believers are gathered together in fellowship, he expects them to help him; but if not, that he will pay all. This was the only way in which we could take the chapel; for we could not think it to be of God to have had this chapel, though there should be every prospect of usefulness, if it had made us in any way debtors.
July 6. To-day we commenced preaching at Bethesda Chapel. It was a good day. July 13. To-day we heard of the first cases of cholera in Bristol. July 16. This evening, from six to nine o'clock, we had appointed for conversing at the vestry, one by one, with individuals who wished to speak to us about their souls. There were so many that we were engaged from six till twenty minutes past ten.
These meetings we have continued ever since, twice a week, or once a week, or once a fortnight, or once a month, as our strength and time allowed it, or as they seemed needed. We have found them beneficial in the following respects:--
1. Many persons, on account of timidity, would prefer coming at an appointed time to the vestry to converse with us, to calling on us in our own house. 2. The very fact of appointing a time for seeing people, to converse with them in private concerning the things of eternity, has brought some, who, humanly speaking, never would have called upon us under other circumstances; yea, it has brought even those who, though they thought they were concerned about the things of God, yet were completely ignorant; and thus we have had an opportunity of speaking to them. 3. These meetings have also been a great encouragement to ourselves in the work, for often, when we thought that such and such expositions of the word had done no good at all, it was through these meetings found to be the reverse; and likewise, when our hands were hanging down, we have been afresh encouraged to go forward in the work of the Lord, and to continue sowing the seed in hope, by seeing at these meetings fresh cases in which the Lord has condescended to use us as instruments, particularly as in this way instances have sometimes occurred in which individuals have spoken to us about the benefit which they derived from our ministry not only a few months before, but even as long as two, three, and four years before.
For the above reasons I would particularly recommend to other servants of Christ, especially to those who live in large towns, if they have not already introduced a similar plan, to consider whether it may not be well for them also to set apart such times for seeing inquirers. Those meetings, however, require much prayer, to be enabled to speak aright to all those who come, according to their different need; and one is led continually to feel that one is not sufficient of one's self for these things, but that our sufficiency can be alone of God. These meetings also have been by far the most wearing-out part of all our work, though at the same time the most refreshing.
July 18. To-day I spent the whole morning in the vestry, to procure a quiet season. This has now for some time been the only way, on account of the multiplicity of engagements, to make sure of time for prayer, reading the word, and meditation. July 19. I spent from half past nine till one in the vestry, and had real communion with the Lord. The Lord be praised, who has put it into my mind to use the vestry for a place of retirement!
August 5. When all our money was gone to-day, the Lord again graciously supplied our wants. August 6. This afternoon, from two till after six, brother Craik and I spent in the vestry, to see the inquirers. We have had again, in seeing several instances of blessing upon our labors, abundant reason brought before us to praise the Lord for having sent us to Bristol.
August 13. This evening one brother and four sisters united with brother Craik and me in church-fellowship at Bethesda, without any rules, desiring only to act as the Lord shall be pleased to give us light through his word.
September 17. This morning the Lord, in addition to all his other mercies, has given us a little girl, who, with her mother, is doing well.
October 1. A meeting for inquirers this afternoon from two to five. Many more are convinced of sin through brother Craik's preaching than my own. This circumstance led me to inquire into the reasons, which are probably these: 1. That brother Craik is more spiritually minded than I am. 2. That he prays more earnestly for the conversion of sinners than I do. 3. That he more frequently addresses sinners, as such, in his public ministrations, than I do. This led me to more frequent and earnest prayer for the conversion of sinners, and to address them more frequently as such. The latter had never been intentionally left undone, but it had not been so frequently brought to my mind as to that of brother Craik. Since then, the cases in which it has pleased the Lord to use me as an instrument of conversion have been quite as many as those in which brother Craik has been used.
February 9, 1833. I read a part of Franke's life. The Lord graciously help me to follow him, as far as he followed Christ. Most of the Lord's people whom we know in Bristol are poor, and if the Lord were to give us grace to live more as this dear man of God did, we might draw much more than we have as yet done out of our heavenly Father's bank, for our poor brethren and sisters. March 2. A man in the street ran up to brother Craik and put a paper containing ten shillings into his hand, saying, "That is for you and Mr. Müller," and went hastily away. May 28. This morning, whilst sitting in my room, the distress of several brethren and sisters was brought to my mind, and I said to myself, "O that it might please the Lord to give me means to help them!" About an hour afterwards I received sixty pounds from a brother whom up to this day I never saw, and who then lived, as he does still, a distance of several thousand miles.
May 29. Review of the last twelve months, as it regards the fruits of our labors in Bristol: 1. The total number of those added to us within the year has been one hundred and nine. 2. There have been converted through our instrumentality, so far as we have heard and can judge respecting the individuals, sixty-five. 3. Many backsliders have been reclaimed, and many of the children of God have been encouraged and strengthened in the way of truth.
June 12. I felt, this morning, that we might do something for the souls of those poor boys and girls, and grown-up or aged people, to whom we have daily given bread for some time past, in establishing a school for them, reading the Scriptures to them, and speaking to them about the Lord. This desire was not carried out. The chief obstacle in the way was a pressure of work coming upon brother Craik and me just about that time. Shortly after, the number of the poor who came for bread increased to between sixty and eighty a day, whereby our neighbors were molested, as the beggars were lying about in troops in the street, on account of which we were obliged to tell them no longer to come for bread. This thought ultimately issued in the formation of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, and in the establishment of the Orphan Houses.
December 17. This evening brother Craik and I took tea with a family of whom five had been brought to the knowledge of the Lord through our instrumentality. As an encouragement to brethren who may desire to preach the gospel in a language not their own, I would mention that the first member of this family who was converted came merely out of curiosity to hear my foreign accent, some words having been mentioned to her which I did not pronounce properly.
December 31. In looking over my journal, I find,--1. That at least two hundred and sixty persons (according to the number of names we have marked down, but there have been many more) have come to converse with us about the concerns of their souls. Out of these, one hundred and fifty-three have been added to us in fellowship these last eighteen months, sixty of whom have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord through our instrumentality.
2. In looking over the Lord's dealings with me as to temporal things, I find that he has sent me, during the past year,--
1. In freewill offerings through the boxes, as my part
2. Presents in money given to me
3. Presents in clothes and provisions, worth, at least
4. A brother sent me, from a distance
5. We live free of rent, which is worth for our part
It is just now four years since I first began to trust in the Lord alone for the supply of my temporal wants. My little all I then had, at most worth one hundred pounds a year, I gave up for the Lord, having then nothing left but about five pounds. The Lord greatly honored this little sacrifice, and he gave me, in return, not only as much as I had given up, but considerably more. For during the first year, he sent me already, in one way or other, including what came to me through family connection, about one hundred and thirty pounds. During the second year, one hundred and fifty-one pounds eighteen shillings and eight pence. During the third year, one hundred and ninety-five pounds three shillings. During this year, two hundred and sixty-seven pounds fifteen shillings and eight and one fourth pence. The following points require particular notice: 1. During the last three years and three months I never have asked any one for anything; but, by the help of the Lord, I have been enabled at all times to bring my wants to him, and he graciously has supplied them all. 2. At the close of each of these four years, though my income has been comparatively great, I have had only a few shillings or nothing at all left; and thus it is also to-day, by the help of God. 3. During the last year a considerable part of my income has come from a distance of several thousand miles, from a brother whom I never saw. 4. Since we have been obliged to discontinue the giving away of bread to about fifty poor people every day, on account of our neighbors, our income has not been during the second part of this year nearly so great, scarcely one half as much, as during the first part of it.
January 9, 1834. Brother Craik and I have preached during these eighteen months, once a month, at Brislington, a village near Bristol, but have not seen any fruit of our labors there. This led me to-day very earnestly to pray to the Lord for the conversion of sinners in that place. I was also, in the chapel, especially led to pray again about this, and asked the Lord in particular that he would be pleased to convert, at least, one soul this evening, that we might have a little encouragement. I preached with much help, and I hope there has been good done this evening. The Lord did according to my request. There was a young man brought to the knowledge of the truth.
January 14. I was greatly tried by the difficulty of fixing upon a text from which to preach on the morning of October 20, and at last preached without enjoyment. To-day I heard of a ninth instance in which this very sermon has been blessed.
January 31. This evening a Dorcas Society was formed among the sisters in communion with us, but not according to the manner in which we found one when we came to Bristol; for, as we have dismissed all teachers from the Sunday School who were not real believers, so now believing females only will meet together to make clothes for the poor. The being mixed up with unbelievers had not only proved a barrier to spiritual conversation among the sisters, but must have been also injurious to both parties in several respects. One sister, now united to us in fellowship, acknowledged that the being connected with the Dorcas Society, previous to her conversion, had been, in a measure, the means of keeping her in security; as she thought that, by helping on such like things, she might gain heaven at last. O that the saints, in faithful love, according to the word of God (2 Cor. vi. 14-18), might be more separated in all spiritual matters from unbelievers, and not be unequally yoked together with them!