"GOD'S WAY LEADS INTO TRIAL"--GROUNDS OF THANKFULNESS--PROTRACTED DARKNESS--CAST DOWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED--TRUST IN GOD COMMENDED--THE MEANS OF ITS ATTAINMENT--REVIEW OF THE WORK.
December 15, 1841. From Nov. 12 to this day my fellow-laborers in the church and I have seen thirty inquirers and candidates for fellowship, and some of them we have seen repeatedly. How can we sufficiently praise the Lord for still continuing to use us in his service?
Dec. 18. Saturday morning. There is now the greatest need, and only fourpence in hand, which I found in the box at my house; yet I fully believe the Lord will supply us this day also with all that is required.--Pause a few moments, dear reader. Observe two things. We acted for God in delaying the public meetings and the publishing of the Report; but God's way leads always into trial, so far as sight and sense are concerned. Nature always will be tried in God's ways. The Lord was saying by this poverty, "I will now see whether you truly lean upon me, and whether you truly look to me." Of all the seasons that I had ever passed through since I had been living in this way, up to that time, I never knew any period in which my faith was tried so sharply as during the four months from December 12, 1841, to April 12, 1842. But observe further: We might even now have altered our minds with respect to the public meetings and publishing the Report; for no one knew our determination, at this time, concerning this point. Nay, on the contrary, we knew with what delight very many children of God were looking forward to receive further accounts. But the Lord kept us steadfast to the conclusion at which we arrived under his guidance.--Now to return to Saturday, Dec. 18. Evening. The Lord has been very kind to us this day. In the course of the morning six shillings came in. We had thus, with what provisions there were in hand, all that was needed for the dinner, but no means to provide for the next meal in the afternoon. A few minutes after the laborers had met together for prayer this morning, there was given to one of them a sovereign for himself. By means of this all that was needed for tea could be procured. When we again met in the evening for prayer, we found that the supplies amounted to two pounds eight shillings twopence, enough for all that was required to-day. But one thing more is to be noticed respecting this day. I was informed that three more of the orphans have been recently brought to the knowledge of the truth. We have now been meeting daily for prayer during the last five weeks, and thus the Lord has not merely heard our prayers respecting the funds, but has also blessed these children.
Dec. 23. This is now the sixth week that the laborers in the day schools and Orphan Houses have daily met for prayer. Several precious answers we have already received since we began to meet, as it regards pecuniary supplies, fresh instances of conversion among the children, etc. One of our petitions has been that the Lord would be pleased to furnish us with means for a stove at Callowhill Street schoolroom. But, though we had often mentioned this matter before the Lord, he seemed not to regard our request. Yesterday afternoon, while walking in my little garden, and meditating and praying, I had an unusual assurance that the time was now come when the Lord would answer our request, which arose partly from my being able to believe that he would send the means, and partly from the fact that the answer could no longer be delayed without prayer having failed in this matter, as we could not assemble the children again, after the Christmas vacation, without there being a stove put up. And now, dear reader, observe: This morning I received from A. B. twenty pounds, and we have thus much more than is required for a stove.
REVIEW OF THE YEAR 1841.
1. In reading over my journal, I find that the Lord has given me, during this year, many precious answers to prayer, in addition to those which have been recorded in the previous part of the Narrative. I mention the following for the encouragement of the reader: 1. One of the orphan boys needed to be apprenticed. I knew of no suitable believing master who would take an in-door apprentice. I gave myself to prayer, and brought the matter daily before the Lord. I marked it down among the subjects for which I would daily ask the Lord; and at last, though from May 21 to September I had to pray about the matter, the Lord granted my request; for in September I found a suitable place for him. 2. On May 23 I began to ask the Lord that he would be pleased to deliver a certain sister in the Lord from the great spiritual depression under which she was suffering, and after three days the Lord granted me my request. 3. On June 15 I began to ask the Lord to deliver a brother at a distance from the great spiritual nervousness in which he found himself shut up, which not only distressed him exceedingly, and in a great measure hindered him in his service towards the world and the church, but which in consequence was also a trial to the saints who knew and valued this dear brother. This petition I brought many times before the Lord. The year passed away, and it was not granted. But yet at last this request also has been granted to me and to the many dear saints who I know prayed for this dear brother; for though he was for some years in this state, it is now [in 1845] two years and more since he has been quite restored. 4. On June 15 I also began to ask the Lord daily in his mercy to keep a sister in the Lord from insanity, who was then apparently on the very border of it; and I have now [in 1845] to record to his praise, after nearly four years have passed away, that the Lord has kept her from it. 5. During this year I was informed about the conversion of one of the very greatest sinners that I had ever heard of in all my service for the Lord. Repeatedly I fell on my knees with his wife, and asked the Lord for his conversion, when she came to me in the deepest distress of soul, on account of her most barbarous and cruel treatment that she received from him in his bitter enmity against her for the Lord's sake, and because he could not provoke her to be in a passion, and she would not strike him again, and the like. At the time when it was at its worst I pleaded especially on his behalf the promise in Matthew xviii. 19: "Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven." And now this awful persecutor is converted. 6. On May 25 I began to ask the Lord for greater real spiritual prosperity among the saints among whom I labor in Bristol than there ever yet had been among them; and now I have to record to the praise of the Lord that truly he has answered this request; for, considering all things, at no period has there been more manifestation of grace, and truth, and spiritual power among us, than there is now while I am writing this for the press .
2. The state of the church with reference to numbers. There are 572 at present in communion, 88 having been added during the past year, of whom 30 have been brought to the knowledge of the Lord among us.
3. The Lord's goodness as to my temporal supplies during this year. He has been pleased to give me by freewill offerings of the saints, £238, 11s. 1¾d.
January 3, 1842. This evening we had a precious public prayer meeting. When the usual time for closing the meeting came, it appeared to me that there was a desire to continue to wait upon the Lord. I therefore proposed to the brethren that those who had bodily strength, time, and a desire for waiting still longer upon the Lord, would do so. At least thirty remained, and we continued till after ten in prayer, whilst several brethren prayed. I never knew prayer more really in the Spirit. I experienced for myself unusual nearness to the Lord, and was enabled to ask in faith, nothing doubting.
Jan. 4. As we have often found it to be the case, so it is now. After a season of more than usual poverty, comes a time of more than usual abundance. To-day the same brother who has been spoken of under November 2, and who has drawn his money out of the savings bank to spend it for the Lord, sent twenty pounds more of it. There came in also from Guernsey one pound, and one pound seven shillings besides. I am now able to order oatmeal from Scotland, buy materials for the boys' clothes, order shoes, etc. Thus the Lord has been pleased to answer all our requests with respect to the pecuniary necessities of the orphans, which we have brought before him in our prayer meetings during the last seven weeks. We have thus had of late an abundance, but the expenses have been great also; for within the last twenty-five days I have paid out above one hundred pounds.
Feb. 5. Saturday. As only ten pounds ten shillings sixpence had been received since January 29, i. e. only so much as day by day was needed to provide necessaries for the orphans, there is again the greatest need. It is now twelve o'clock, and there are no means as yet to meet the expenses of to-day. The words in the prayer of Jehoshaphat, "Neither know we what to do, but our eyes are upon thee," are at this moment the language of my heart. I likewise know not what to do, but my eyes are upon the Lord, and I am sure that he will help this day also.--Evening. In the course of the morning came in, by sale of articles, twelve shillings. We were able likewise to dispose of one of the articles which were sent last evening for five shillings. This afternoon one of the laborers gave me ten shillings, and three shillings came in for needlework. By means of this one pound ten shillings we were able to supply all that was needed.
Feb. 8. By what came in yesterday and the day before, the need of yesterday was supplied, and there is enough in all the houses for the meals of to-day; but in none of the houses have we been able to take in any bread; and as yesterday also but little could be taken in, there will not remain any for to-morrow; nor is there money enough to take in milk to-morrow morning. There are likewise coals needed in two houses. Indeed, so far as I know, these three years and seven months, since first the funds were exhausted, we were never in greater poverty; and if the Lord were not to send means before nine o'clock to-morrow morning, his name would be dishonored. But I am fully assured that he will not leave us.--Evening. The Lord has not yet been pleased to send us what is needed for to-morrow, but he has given us a fresh proof that he is mindful of us. Between four and five o'clock this afternoon were sent nine plum cakes, which a sister had ordered to be baked as a treat for the orphans. These cakes were an encouragement to me to continue to look out for further supplies. There was also found in the boxes at the Orphan Houses two shillings and a penny halfpenny, and one shilling fourpence came in for stockings. These little donations are most precious, but they are not enough to meet the need of to-morrow; yea, before nine o'clock to-morrow morning we need more money to be able to take in the milk. Truly, we are poorer than ever; but through grace my eyes look not at the empty stores and the empty purse, but to the riches of the Lord only.
Feb. 9. This morning I went between seven and eight o'clock to the Orphan Houses, to see whether the Lord had sent in anything. When I arrived there, he had just two or three minutes before sent help. A brother, in going to his house of business this morning, had gone already about half a mile, when the Lord was pleased to lay the orphans upon his heart. He said, however, to himself, I cannot well return now, but will take something this evening; and thus he walked on. Nevertheless, he could not go on any further, but felt himself constrained to go back, and to take to brother R. B., at the Boys' Orphan House, three sovereigns. [The donor himself stated this to me afterwards.] Thus the Lord in his faithfulness helped us. Help was never more truly needed, for our poverty was never greater; nor did the help of the Lord ever come more manifestly from himself; for the brother was gone on a good distance, it was between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, and it was so short a time before money would have been needed. Consider this, beloved reader, and with us praise the Lord for his goodness. Praise him particularly that he enabled us to trust in him in this trying hour. There came in besides, to-day, seven shillings sixpence.
Feb. 12. Saturday. Never since the funds were for the first time exhausted had there come in less during any week than during this. We were only able to supply the absolute necessities; but this we were enabled to do. When the meal-times came, the Lord always provided what was needful, and, considering the great distress there is now almost everywhere, our dear orphans are very well provided for. Now this day began not only without there being anything in hand, but our stores were greatly reduced, and we had to procure provisions for two days. One of the laborers gave five shillings in the morning, to provide the means to take in the milk. I collected together some pamphlets, which had been given for sale, to dispose of them, and they were sold about eleven o'clock for four shillings. There came in also by sale of stockings three shillings, and twelve shillings was paid on behalf of one of the orphans. Thus we were provided with means to procure a dinner, and had a little towards purchasing bread, but by no means enough. All the laborers were together in prayer from half-past eleven till one, and we separated comfortably, with the purpose of meeting again in the evening. When I came home there was given to me an old broken silver pencil-case, which, though worth very little, I took as a fresh proof that our Father was mindful of our need. When we met again this evening, we found that three shillings sixpence had come in by sale of stockings, and sixpence for two Reports. As all this was not enough, a few old and needless articles were disposed of for four shillings, also the broken pencil-case for sixpence. I say needless articles, for other articles it did not seem right to us to dispose of, in order that the Lord's own deliverance might be manifest. A laborer was also still further able to give seven shillings of his own. To one of the laborers two shillings had been owed by a certain individual for more than a twelvemonth, which being paid just now, and given by him for the orphans, came in most seasonably. Thus we had one pound eighteen shillings sixpence, as much as was needful to procure provisions till after breakfast on Monday morning. However, the Lord helped still further. Between eight and nine this evening, after we had been together for prayer, and had now separated, some money was given to one of the laborers for himself, by which means he was able to give nine shillings, so that altogether two pounds seven shillings sixpence had come in this day. This has been, of all the weeks, during the last three years and seven months, one of the most trying, so far as it regards the trial of faith. Thanks to the Lord who has helped us this day also! Thanks to him for enabling us already this morning, when we met for prayer, to praise him for the deliverance which we were sure he would work.
Feb. 16. This morning there was now again only sufficient money in hand to take in milk at two of the houses; but as a laborer was able to give six shillings sixpence, we had sufficient for the milk, and had also enough, with the provisions that were in the houses, to provide for the dinner. Nothing more came in in the course of the morning, nor was I able to make inquiries how matters stood. In the afternoon, between three and four o'clock, having once more besought the Lord to send us help, I sat peacefully down to give myself to meditation over the word, considering that that was now my service, though I knew not whether there was a morsel of bread for tea in any one of the houses, but being assured that the Lord would provide. For, through grace, my mind is so fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord, that, in the midst of the greatest need, I am enabled in peace to go about my other work. Indeed, did not the Lord give me this, which is the result of trusting in him, I should scarcely be able to work at all; for it is now comparatively a rare thing that a day comes when I am not in need for one or the other part of the work. Scarcely had I sat down to meditate, when a note was sent to me from the Orphan Houses, in which brother R. B., master of the orphan boys, had written thus: "On visiting the sisters in the Infant and Girls' Orphan Houses, I found them in the greatest need. There was not bread in one of the houses for tea this evening, and the six shillings sixpence was scarcely enough to supply what was needed for the dinner. I therefore opened the box in the Boys' Orphan House, and most unexpectedly found one pound it. Thus, through the kindness of the Lord, we were again abundantly supplied as it regards present necessities." In the evening the Lord, in his love and faithfulness, stretched out his hand still further. I had expounded at the meeting a part of John xi. The last words on which I spoke were, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe thou shouldest see the glory of God?" When the meeting was over, as a fresh proof of the truth of this word, a note was given to me in which a sick sister sent me five pounds for the orphans.
Feb. 19. Saturday. Our means were now again completely spent. Our provision stores were, perhaps, even more exhausted than on any previous Saturday. There was not the least human likelihood of obtaining means for sufficient provisions for this one day, and much less for two days. When I went before breakfast to the Orphan Houses, I found a letter from Nottingham, containing one shilling, which had arrived last evening. This was not only a sweet proof that our Father remembered our need, but it was also like an earnest that he would supply us this day also with all we required. In the course of the morning came in by sale of stockings four shillings elevenpence. In the box at my house I found one shilling. One of the laborers gave four shillings tenpence. Thus we were provided with those things which were absolutely needed for this day. We met between eleven and twelve o'clock for prayer. When we met again in the evening, a second letter had arrived from Nottingham, with another shilling. This was a further sweet proof of our Father's loving remembrance of our need; but with all this we were still without any means to provide bread for to-morrow, the Lord's day. At eight o'clock I separated from my fellow-laborers, as I expected brother R. C. to arrive a little after eight at my house. I therefore requested one of the brethren to go with me, in order to take back to the Orphan Houses what the Lord might send in by post or in any other way. It was now half past eight in the evening, and there was no bread yet in any one of the three houses for to-morrow. A few moments after, brother C. arrived, and he had not been more than about five minutes in my house when he gave me half a sovereign which he brought for the orphans. I soon found an opportunity to leave the room for a little, gave the ten shillings to the brother whom I had brought with me from the Orphan Houses, and who was waiting in another room; and thus between nine and ten o'clock sufficient bread could be bought. Observe! For the trial of our faith the Lord had allowed us to be kept waiting so long. When, however, brother C. had arrived, having money for the orphans, he could not delay giving it at once, a matter most worthy of notice. This has been a week full of trials of faith, but also full of deliverances.
Feb. 21. Since Saturday evening came in one pound eight shillings elevenpence. There was also sent from Plymouth a piece of blond, a piece of quilling net, and eleven pairs of children's stockings, for sale. Thus we were supplied with means for that which was requisite for the beginning of this day; but, as our stores had been so reduced at the end of last week, there was not enough for tea this afternoon. Four o'clock had now come, one hour before the usual tea-time, when a brother from Somersetshire came to see the Orphan Houses, and put a sovereign into each of the boxes. Our great need soon brought out the money, and thus we were supplied. [Observe! The brother, as he himself told me a few days after in the course of conversation, had but little time, and therefore rather hastily went over the houses. Had he stayed long and conversed much, as might have been the case, his donations would not have been in time for the tea.] There came in one shilling besides, by needlework done by the children.
Feb. 25. Greater than now our need had never been. Our trials of faith have never been so sharp as during this week. Indeed, so much so, that most of the laborers felt to-day considerably tried. Yet neither this day has the Lord suffered us to be confounded. Through a remarkable circumstance one of the laborers obtained some money this morning, so that all the need of to-day could be amply met.
Feb. 26. My prayer this morning was in particular that the Lord would be pleased now to look in pity upon us, and take off his hand. Indeed, for several days my prayer has been that he would enable us to continue to trust in him, and not lay more upon us than he would enable us to bear. This is now again Saturday. There having been given yesterday a rich supply to the matrons, I knew that not so much as usual would be required this Saturday; still, I thought that one pound ten shillings would be needed. Between ten and eleven o'clock this morning a parcel came from Clapham, containing two pounds two shillings, with two frocks, two petticoats, two chemises, two pinafores, and six handkerchiefs, all new. Thus we were richly supplied for to-day, for only one pound ten shillings was needed.
March 2. This evening were sent, by order of an Irish sister, thirty-three and a half pounds of woollen yarn. Respecting this donation it is to be remarked that last Saturday we had asked the Lord, in our prayer meeting, that he would be pleased to send us means to purchase worsted, in order that the boys might go on with their knitting.
March 9. At a time of the greatest need, both with regard to the day schools and the orphans, so much so that we could not have gone on any longer without help, I received this day ten pounds from a brother who lives near Dublin. The money was divided between the day schools and the Orphan Houses. The following little circumstance is to be noticed respecting this donation. As our need was so great, and my soul was, through grace, truly waiting upon the Lord, I looked out for supplies in the course of this morning. The post, however, was out, and no supplies had come. This did not in the least discourage me. I said to myself, the Lord can send means without the post, or even now, though the post is out, by this very delivery of letters he may have sent means, though the money is not yet in my hands. It was not long after I had thus spoken to myself when, according to my hope in God, we were helped; for the brother who sent us the ten pounds, had this time directed his letter to the Boys' Orphan House, whence it was sent to me.
March 17. From the 12th to the 16th had come in four pounds five shillings elevenpence halfpenny for the orphans. This morning our poverty, which now has lasted more or less for several months, had become exceedingly great. I left my house a few minutes after seven to go to the Orphan Houses to see whether there was money enough to take in the milk, which is brought about eight o'clock. On my way it was especially my request that the Lord would be pleased to pity us, even as a father pitieth his children, and that he would not lay more upon us than he would enable us to bear. I especially entreated him that he would now be pleased to refresh our hearts by sending us help. I likewise reminded him of the consequences that would result, both in reference to believers and unbelievers, if we should have to give up the work because of want of means, and that he therefore would not permit its coming to nought. I moreover again confessed before the Lord that I deserved not that he should continue to use me in this work any longer. While I was thus in prayer, about two minutes' walk from the Orphan Houses, I met a brother who was going at this early hour to his business. After having exchanged a few words with him, I went on; but he presently ran after me, and gave me one pound for the orphans. Thus the Lord speedily answered my prayer. Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith for the sake of having day by day such precious proofs of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. And how should our Father do otherwise? He that has given us the greatest possible proof of his love which he could have done, in giving us his own Son, surely he will with him also freely give us all things. It is worth also being poor and greatly tried in faith, if but thereby the hearts of the children of God may be comforted and their faith strengthened, and if but those who do not know God, and who may read or hear of his dealings with us, should be led thereby to see that faith in God is more than a mere notion, and that there is indeed reality in Christianity. In the course of this day there came in still further thirteen shillings.
March 19. Saturday. As it has often been the case on Saturdays, so it was this day in particular. We began the day in very great poverty, as only seven shillings had come in since the day before yesterday. There was not one ray of light as to natural prospects. The heart would be overwhelmed at such seasons, were there not an abundance of repose to be found by trusting in God. The trial having continued so long, and our poverty having now come to such a degree that it was necessary we should have help in order that the name of the Lord might not be dishonored, I had proposed to my fellow-laborers that we should set apart this day especially for prayer. We met accordingly at half past ten in the morning. By that time had come in four shillings sixpence, seven shillings sixpence, and ten shillings. In the afternoon we met again at three, when ten shillings came in. In the evening, at seven, we met once more, there being yet about three shillings needed to provide all that was required. This also we received, and even three shillings more than was actually needed came in, just when we were about to separate.
April 9. Saturday. Only one shilling sixpence had come in since yesterday afternoon. We needed more money than there was in hand, especially as it was Saturday, but the Lord was pleased particularly to try our faith. In the course of the morning came from some sisters in Dublin, eighteen yards of calico, thirty-four yards of print, forty-three balls of cotton, and a pair of worn lady's boots. This donation came most seasonably, as we had been mentioning repeatedly the need of calico and print in our prayers, and the sewing-cotton and the pair of boots came at once into use. Moreover, this donation was a sweet encouragement to me to continue waiting upon the Lord. Evening was now approaching, and no money had yet come in for provisions, etc., which would be needed on the Lord's day. About six o'clock, I gave myself once more to prayer with my wife, and requested the Lord in my prayer that if the sister who in love to him has taken upon her the service of disposing of the articles which are given for sale had any money in hand, he would be pleased to incline her heart to bring or send the money this evening. After this I sat down peacefully to read the Scriptures, being assured that this time also the Lord would stretch out his hand on our behalf. About half past seven o'clock, the sister, to whom reference has just now been made, came and brought one pound ten shillings fourpence for articles which she had sold, stating that, though she was unwell, yet she felt herself constrained not to delay bringing this money. Thus we had all that was needed, and six shillings more. When I arrived with the money at the Infant Orphan House, about eight o'clock, I found my fellow-laborers in prayer, and while we still continued in prayer a sister sent a large basket of stale bread, being five brown loaves, seven bread cakes, and five French loaves.
April 12. We were never in greater need than to-day, perhaps never in so much, when I received this morning one hundred pounds from the East Indies. It is impossible to describe the real joy in God it gave me. My prayer had been again this morning particularly that our Father would pity us, and now at last send larger sums. I was not in the least surprised or excited when this donation came, for I took it as that which came in answer to prayer, and had been long looked for.
May 6. Only three pounds ten shillings twopence halfpenny had been received since the 2d, on which account there would have been only enough means in hand to provide for the breakfast to-morrow morning, when in this our fresh need we received eighty-six pounds, two pair of gold earrings, a brooch, and two rupees.
May 10. To-day, in closing the accounts, we have left, at the end of this period of seventeen months, in which we have been so often penniless, the sum of sixteen pounds eighteen shillings tenpence halfpenny for the orphans, and forty-eight pounds twelve shillings five and one fourth pence for the other objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
The time now seemed to us to have come, when, for the profit of the church at large, the Lord's dealings with us, with reference to the various objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, should be made known by publishing another Report. For, whilst we, on purpose, had delayed it at this time five months longer than during the previous years, and that during a period when we were in deeper poverty than during any previous time; yet, as from the commencement it had appeared to me important from time to time to make known the Lord's dealings with us, so I judged it profitable still to seek to comfort, to encourage, to exhort, to instruct, and to warn the dear children of God by the printed accounts of the Lord's goodness to us.
Though our trials of faith during these seventeen months lasted longer and were sharper than during any previous period, yet during all this time the orphans had everything that was needful in the way of nourishing food, the necessary articles of clothing, etc. Indeed, I should rather at once send the children back to their relations than keep them without sufficient maintenance.
I desire that all the children of God who may read these details may thereby be led to increased and more simple confidence in God for everything which they may need under any circumstances, and that these many answers to prayer may encourage them to pray, particularly as it regards the conversion of their friends and relations, their own progress in grace and knowledge, the state of the saints whom they may know personally, the state of the church of Christ at large, and the success of the preaching of the gospel. Especially, I affectionately warn them against being led away by the device of Satan, to think that these things are peculiar to me, and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God; for though, as has been stated before, every believer is not called upon to establish orphan houses, charity schools, etc., and trust in the Lord for means, yet all believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens upon him, to trust in him for everything, and not only to make everything a subject of prayer, but to expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to his will and in the name of the Lord Jesus. Think not, dear reader, that I have the gift of faith, that is, that gift of which we read in 1 Cor. xii. 9, and which is mentioned along with "the gifts of healing," "the working of miracles," "prophecy," and that on that account I am able to trust in the Lord. It is true that the faith which I am enabled to exercise is altogether God's own gift; it is true that he alone supports it, and that he alone can increase it; it is true that moment by moment, I depend on him for it, and that if I were only one moment left to myself my faith would utterly fail; but it is not true that my faith is that gift of faith which is spoken of in 1 Cor. xii. 9. It is the self-same faith which is found in every believer, and the growth of which I am most sensible of to myself; for by little and little it has been increasing for the last six and twenty years.
This faith which is exercised respecting the Orphan Houses, and my own temporal necessities shows itself in the same measure, for instance, concerning the following points: I have never been permitted to doubt during the last twenty-seven years that my sins are forgiven, that I am a child of God, that I am beloved of God, and that I shall be finally saved; because I am enabled by the grace of God to exercise faith upon the word of God, and believe what God says in those passages which settle these matters (1 John v. 1; Gal. iii. 26; Acts x. 43; Romans x. 9, 10; John iii. 16, etc.). Further, at the time when I thought I should be insane, though there was not the least ground for thinking so, I was in peace; because my soul believed the truth of that word, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." Rom. viii. 28. Further: When my brother in the flesh and my dear aged father died, and when concerning both of them I had no evidence whatever that they were saved (though I dare not say that they are lost, for I know it not), yet my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace, under this great trial, this exceedingly great trial, this trial which is one of the greatest perhaps which can befall a believer. And what was it that gave me peace? My soul laid hold on that word, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" This word, together with the whole character of God, as he has revealed himself in his holy word, settled all questionings. I believed what he has said concerning himself, and I was at peace, and have been at peace ever since, concerning this matter. Further: When the Lord took from me a beloved infant, my soul was at peace, perfectly at peace; I could only weep tears of joy when I did weep. And why? Because my soul laid hold in faith on that word, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew xix. 14. Further: When sometimes all has been dark, exceedingly dark, with reference to my service among the saints, judging from natural appearances; yea, when I should have been overwhelmed indeed in grief and despair had I looked at things after the outward appearance: at such times I have sought to encourage myself in God, by laying hold in faith on his almighty power, his unchangeable love, and his infinite wisdom, and I have said to myself, God is able and willing to deliver me, if it be good for me; for it is written, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" Rom. viii. 32. This it was which, being believed by me through grace, kept my soul in peace. Further: When in connection with the Orphan Houses, day schools, etc., trials have come upon me which were far heavier than the want of means, when lying reports were spread that the orphans had not enough to eat, or that they were cruelly treated in other respects, and the like; or when other trials, still greater, but which I cannot mention, have befallen me in connection with this work, and that at a time when I was nearly a thousand miles absent from Bristol, and had to remain absent week after week; at such times my soul was stayed upon God; I believed his word of promise which was applicable to such cases; I poured out my soul before God, and arose from my knees in peace, because the trouble that was in the soul was in believing prayer cast upon God, and thus I was kept in peace, though I saw it to be the will of God to remain far away from the work. Further: When I needed houses, fellow-laborers, masters and mistresses for the orphans or for the day schools, I have been enabled to look for all to the Lord, and trust in him for help.
Dear reader, I may seem to boast; but, by the grace of God, I do not boast in thus speaking. From my inmost soul I do ascribe it to God alone that he has enabled me to trust in him, and that hitherto he has not suffered my confidence in him to fail. But I thought it needful to make these remarks, lest any one should think that my depending upon God was a particular gift given to me which other saints have no right to look for; or lest it should be thought that this my depending upon him had only to do with the obtaining of money by prayer and faith. By the grace of God I desire that my faith in God should extend towards everything, the smallest of my own temporal and spiritual concerns, and the smallest of the temporal and spiritual concerns of my family, towards the saints among whom I labor, the church at large, everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, etc. Dear reader, do not think that I have attained in faith (and how much less in other respects!) to that degree to which I might and ought to attain; but thank God for the faith which he has given me, and ask him to uphold and increase it. And lastly, once more, let not Satan deceive you in making you think that you could not have the same faith, but that it is only for persons who are situated as I am. When I lose such a thing as a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it, and I look for an answer to my prayer; when a person with whom I have made an appointment does not come, according to the fixed time, and I begin to be inconvenienced by it, I ask the Lord to be pleased to hasten him to me, and I look for an answer; when I do not understand a passage of the word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord, that he would be pleased, by his Holy Spirit, to instruct me, and I expect to be taught, though I do not fix the time when, and the manner how it should be; when I am going to minister in the word, I seek help from the Lord, and while I, in the consciousness of natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, begin this his service, I am not cast down, but of good cheer, because I look for his assistance, and believe that he, for his dear Son's sake, will help me. And thus in other of my temporal and spiritual concerns I pray to the Lord, and expect an answer to my requests; and may not you do the same, dear believing reader? Oh! I beseech you, do not think me an extraordinary believer, having privileges above other of God's dear children, which they cannot have; nor look on my way of acting as something that would not do for other believers. Make but trial! Do but stand still in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in him. But there is so often a forsaking the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, and thus the food for faith, the means whereby our faith may be increased, is lost. This leads me to the following important point. You ask, How may I, a true believer, have my faith strengthened? The answer is this:--
I. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." James i. 17. As the increase of faith is a good gift, it must come from God, and therefore he ought to be asked for this blessing.
II. The following means, however, ought to be used: 1. The careful reading of the word of God, combined with meditation on it. Through reading of the word of God, and especially through meditation on the word of God, the believer becomes more and more acquainted with the nature and character of God, and thus sees more and more, besides his holiness and justice, what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful being he is, and, therefore, in poverty, affliction of body, bereavement in his family, difficulty in his service, want of a situation or employment, he will repose upon the ability of God to help him, because he has not only learned from his word that he is of almighty power and infinite wisdom, but he has also seen instance upon instance in the Holy Scriptures in which his almighty power and infinite wisdom have been actually exercised in helping and delivering his people; and he will repose upon the willingness of God to help him, because he has not only learned from the Scriptures what a kind, good, merciful, gracious, and faithful being God is, but because he has also seen in the word of God, how in a great variety of instances he has proved himself to be so. And the consideration of this, if God has become known to us through prayer and meditation on his own word, will lead us, in general at least, with a measure of confidence to rely upon him: and thus the reading of the word of God, together with meditation on it, will be one especial means to strengthen our faith.
2. As, with reference to the growth of every grace of the Spirit, it is of the utmost importance that we seek to maintain an upright heart and a good conscience, and, therefore, do not knowingly and habitually indulge in those things which are contrary to the mind of God, so it is also particularly the case with reference to the growth in faith. How can I possibly continue to act faith upon God, concerning anything, if I am habitually grieving him, and seek to detract from the glory and honor of him in whom I profess to trust, upon whom I profess to depend? All my confidence towards God, all my leaning upon him in the hour of trial, will be gone, if I have a guilty conscience, and do not seek to put away this guilty conscience, but still continue to do things which are contrary to the mind of God. And if, in any particular instance, I cannot trust in God, because of the guilty conscience, then my faith is weakened by that instance of distrust; for faith with every fresh trial of it either increases by trusting God, and thus getting help, or it decreases by not trusting him; and then there is less and less power of looking simply and directly to him, and a habit of self-dependence is begotten or encouraged. One or other of these will always be the case in each particular instance. Either we trust in God, and in that case we neither trust in ourselves, nor in our fellow-men, nor in circumstances, nor in anything besides; or we do trust in one or more of these, and in that case do not trust in God.
3. If we, indeed, desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried, and, therefore, through the trial, be strengthened. In our natural state we dislike dealing with God alone. Through our natural alienation from God we shrink from him, and from eternal realities. This cleaves to us more or less, even after our regeneration. Hence it is that, more or less, even as believers, we have the same shrinking from standing with God alone, from depending upon him alone, from looking to him alone; and yet this is the very position in which we ought to be, if we wish our faith to be strengthened. The more I am in a position to be tried in faith with reference to my body, my family, my service for the Lord, my business, etc., the more shall I have opportunity of seeing God's help and deliverance; and every fresh instance in which he helps and delivers me will tend towards the increase of my faith. On this account, therefore, the believer should not shrink from situations, positions, circumstances, in which his faith may be tried, but should cheerfully embrace them as opportunities where he may see the hand of God stretched out on his behalf, to help and deliver him, and whereby he may thus have his faith strengthened.
4. The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is, that we let God work for us, when the hour of the trial of our faith comes, and do not work a deliverance of our own. Wherever God has given faith, it is given, among other reasons, for the very purpose of being tried. Yea, however weak our faith may be, God will try it; only with this restriction, that as, in every way, he leads us on gently, gradually, patiently, so also with reference to the trial of our faith. At first, our faith will be tried very little in comparison with what it may be afterwards; for God never lays more upon us than he is willing to enable us to bear. Now, when the trial of faith comes, we are naturally inclined to distrust God, and to trust rather in ourselves, or in our friends, or in circumstances. We will rather work a deliverance of our own, somehow or other, than simply look to God and wait for his help. But if we do not patiently wait for God's help, if we work a deliverance of our own, then at the next trial of our faith it will be thus again, we shall be again inclined to deliver ourselves; and thus, with every fresh instance of that kind, our faith will decrease; whilst, on the contrary, were we to stand still in order to see the salvation of God, to see his hand stretched out on our behalf, trusting in him alone, then our faith would be increased, and with every fresh case in which the hand of God is stretched out on our behalf in the hour of the trial of our faith, our faith would be increased yet more. Would the believer, therefore, have his faith strengthened, he must, especially, give time to God, who tries his faith in order to prove to his child, in the end, how willing he is to help and deliver him, the moment it is good for him.
I now return, dear reader, to the Narrative, giving you some further information with reference to the seventeen months from Dec. 10, 1840, to May 10, 1842, as it respects the Orphan Houses, and other objects of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad, besides the facts of which mention has been already made.
During this period, also, 1. Two Sunday schools were entirely supported by the funds of the Institution. 2. There were two adult schools, one for females, and one for males, entirely supported during these seventeen months, in which on two evenings of the week the males, and on two evenings the females, were instructed, quite gratuitously, in reading and writing, and were furnished with books and writing materials gratuitously. There were, during these seventeen months, 344 adults taught in these two schools, and on May 10, 1842, the number under instruction amounted to 110. 3. There were, during these seventeen months, also six day schools entirely supported by the funds of the Institution, three for boys and three for girls. On May 10, 1842, the number of the children who attended these day schools was 363; and the total number who, from the formation of the Institution, March 5, 1834, up to May 10, 1842, had been instructed in the day schools, which are supported by the funds of the Institution, amounts to 2,616. 4. During these seventeen months, 798 copies of the Holy Scriptures were circulated, and from the commencement of the Institution, up to May 10, 1842, 6,842 copies. 5. During these seventeen months was spent for missionary purposes the sum of £126, 15s. 3d. of the funds of the Institution, whereby assistance was rendered to the work of God in Jamaica, in Australia, in Canada, and in the East Indies. 6. At the commencement of these seventeen months, i. e. on Dec. 10, 1840, a new object was begun, the circulation of such publications as may be beneficial, with the blessing of God, to both unbelievers and believers. We laid out for this object during these seventeen months the sum of £62, 17s. 4d., for which 22,190 such little publications were purchased, and of which number 19,609 were actually given away. 7. There were received into the three Orphan Houses 15 orphans, who, together with those who were in the houses on Dec. 10, 1840, make up 106 in all. Of these, five girls were sent out to service, two boys and one girl were apprenticed, one girl was removed by a lady who had placed her for a time under our care, and one was sent back to his relations, as he was injurious to the other children.
There were on May 10, 1842, 96 orphans in the three houses, i. e. 30 in the Girls' Orphan House, 37 in the Infant Orphan House, and 29 in the Boys' Orphan House. Besides this, three apprentices were supported by the funds of the Institution; so that the total number was 99. The number of orphans who were under our care from April, 1836, to May 10, 1842, amounts to 144.
I notice further, in connection with the Orphan Houses, that, without any one having been asked for anything by me, the sum of £5,276, 14s. 8d. was given to me from the beginning of the work up to May 10, 1842, as the result of prayer to God.
The total of the expenditure for the various objects of the Institution, exclusive of the Orphan Houses, during these seventeen months, amounted to £710, 11s. 5d.; the total of the income amounted to £746, 1s. 0½d. The total of the expenditure for the three Orphan Houses, from Dec. 10, 1840, to May 10, 1842, amounted to £1,337, 15s. 2¾d.; the total of the income amounted to £1,339, 13s. 7d.