WILLIAM BLACK'S VISIT IN 1791

From: "The Journal of Mr. William Black, in his visit to Newfoundland." THE ARMINIAN MAGAZINE 15(1792), 120-23, 176-81, 233-37.

Having had an intention for some time of paying a visit to Newfoundland, on AUGUST 2, 1791, I agreed for a passage on board the Snow Turner, Robert Young, master, an enemy to religion. On my going on board the vessel, I found they had hung a cart over my berth, in which two butchers were to sleep; and it came so low that it would be impossible for me to live under it. I requested the Captain that it might be moved. He gave me an insolent, blasphemous answer, declaring if I did not like it, I might let it alone. I thought if things were so before we left port, I did not know what might be the consequence before we reached Newfoundland.

I told him it would be impossible for me to breathe under that cart: and there being no other berth but mine in the cabin, I should decline going, unless he would give orders for it to be removed. He swore he did not care what I did. I gave orders for my trunk to be taken on shore again, but it was in vain; go I must: unless I left my trunk, and lost three pounds, the money I paid for my passage. I said no more, but quietly went down into the cabin, praying the Lord to overrule all for his glory. In about a quarter of an hour after, we sailed for St. John's.

In the evening he came down into the cabin, said he had been in a passion before, hoped we should be as agreeable as possible, and gave orders to have the cart removed. So can God restrain the wrath of man. Perhaps Satan saw and feared the consequences of my coming to this Island, therefore he wished to prevent my coming altogether. And indeed he had well nigh carried his point.

WEDNESDAY 3. Most of this day, I was strongly tempted, and much borne down by a sense of my unfaithfulness to God. I thought I saw God chastising me. And felt his rod in the conduct of the Captain towards me. I endeavoured to humble myself before his throne, and resolved to live more to him.

THURSDAY 4. We have had a fine passage so far. The Captain is far more kind to me, than I expected to find him; but has an implacable hatred to religion. He cannot bear one word to be said about God, or the things of God. Lord, pity his poor soul.

I feel a desire to set out anew in the ways of God. My lukewarmness and unfaithfulness stare me in the face, and fill me with confusion. O my God! why should I wander in heart from thee! Where can I go? Thou art the joy of my soul! Still, my soul shall hang by faith on thee. To thee I'll look for quickening, healing grace. I cannot, even now in my distress, doubt thy love and favour! I know thou lovest me! But, Lord, I am distressed with a sense of my soul ingratitude. O enable me to repent, and fill all my powers with humble love.

SATURDAY 6. I feel my mind quickened by thy grace, comforted by thy love and encouraged by thy word. Thou art my portion: and I am well satisfied with thee. Lord, I want no better, no greater good than thyself. Thou art all the world to me! Thy loving kindness is better than life! O that my soul may never lose its relish for thee and the enjoyments of thy love. I long to love thee with all my heart, and soul, and strength. I know the world, with all it can afford, is a poor, empty, vain thing; but, Lord, thy sweet smile is heaven! Thou art the joy, and life and strength of my soul! Unto those that believe, Jesus is precious! Unspeakably so! And so thou art to me, O thou comfort of the afflicted! Thou light to those that are in darkness! Thou strength of the weak!

TUESDAY 9. Through mercy, we arrived safe at ST. JOHN'S. I waited on MR. JONES the Presbyterian minister, who is a kind, friendly, christian man. He has suffered much for Jesus, and has been blessed in his labours. After spending the evening with him, I retired to a neighboring house, where the good man had provided me with lodgings. I found myself happy here also. Both the man and his wife appear to be no strangers to Jesus. I could not but admire the goodness of God to me! My heart overflowed with gratitude. My soul seems like a bird escaped from the cage. How happy to dwell with the followers of Jesus! O Lord, what people are like unto thy people! With these may I live and die! It matters little by what name we are distinguished amongst men. We could not agree in our sentiments concerning the decrees; but no matter, I trust we agreed in this, "Jesus is altogether lovely; and we will count all things but dung, so we may win Christ, and be found in him at last."

WEDNESDAY 10. At six in the evening I preached in MR. JONES'S MEETING-HOUSE, to about a hundred people. The old gentleman thanked me for my discourse, and added, "It was a good, plain, old Methodist sermon." St. John's is but a fishing town. I suppose, in the summer-season it may contain three thousand inhabitants, many of whom return home in autumn to England or Ireland, and come out again in the spring of the year.

THURSDAY 11. In the morning I left ST. JOHN'S in a fishing boat, and in the afternoon reached CARBONEAR, where I was joyfully received by brother M'GEARY. He said, he had been weeping before the Lord over his lonely situation, and the lamentable state of the people. It seems there was once, (about twenty years ago) a great stir amongst the people in different harbours of this bay, under MR. COUGHLAN, many of whom were converted to God. Some of these have removed to different parts of the world; some have turned to folly again; and not a few of them are gone to heaven: so that now there is no regular Society: only about fifteen women meet among themselves. O my God, do thou lay to thy hand, make bare thine arm, and the mountains shall become a plain. Convince them of the worth of their souls, the emptiness of the world, and the preciousness of thy love; and they will gladly meet together to strengthen each others hands, and encourage each others hearts, in the way to thy kingdom. O that my conversation, and preaching may, under thy powerful influence, be made a means of rousing them from their sad lethargy, and bringing them home to thee! Tonight I am to preach to them. My God, let it not be without thine aid and blessing! I would not preach myself, but Christ Jesus and him crucified. In the evening I preached, on, Behold I stand at the door, etc., but the people were little moved.

Sunday 14. The last evening I preached, I believe God convinced many of their foul revolt. Some, I trust, resolved to return to Jesus the Shepherd and Bishop of Souls. Several who never knew his ways, were much affected. I feel encouraged now, and trust I have not come here in vain.

This morning I had much liberty in preaching Jesus to the people at CARBONEAR. God was with us! The power of his Spirit was amongst the people both to wound and to comfort. In the afternoon I went over, with about thirty more, in a boat to HARBOUR GRACE, and in the evening preached to a crowded audience. I feel a great hope that God will make bare his arm here. I have no doubt now, but God sent me in mercy to this people. I desire to live to God alone, and with a single eye pursue the work he has given me to do. I aim at sincerity in the Lord's work, and pray that I may be found faithful.

TUESDAY 16. Yesterday evening I preached in the church built by brother STRETTON. God is evidently at work here also. Several are beginning to awake out of their sins. The word seems to have reached their hearts. Several also are stirred up, and some not a little comforted. There is no regular Society here: only about twelve or thirteen women meet together in Class. In the forenoon I went across the bay to visit a few poor people on that side. My heart was pained with the sight. They are not many degrees above the savage tribes, either in manner of living, or intellectual improvements. My God think upon them, that they perish not! After praying with them, I gave each a few words of exhortation, and then commended them to God. I was glad to find them all at the preaching in the evening.

This morning I called on the minister of the church of England, MR. BELFOUR, but he was not at home. I then walked over to CARBONEAR and dined at brother VALENTINE'S. He appears to be a friendly, pious man. He informed us that about fifteen were under conviction, and some very deeply so.

TUESDAY 16. I preached in the evening in the church at CARBONEAR. Under the sermon some began to cry out. I stopped preaching, and began to pray. My voice was soon drowned. I left the pulpit, and went up and down the church, exhorting those that were wounded and crying for mercy, to look unto Jesus as the only Redeemer. Weeping was on every side. About thirty were under deep distress, if one might so conclude from weeping eyes, heaving breasts, solemn groans, shrill cries, self accusations, and serious, reiterated inquiries "What shall I do to be saved?"

In the midst of this general distress, one young woman rose up and declared the loving kindness of the Lord to her soul. She appeared almost carried beyond herself. The happiness she found within, sparkled in her eyes, and gave an uncommon beauty to every feature: so that she looked not like the same person. I requested those who were in distress to withdraw to brother M'GEARY'S house, but they would not leave the church: so that it was between nine and ten o'clock before the meeting broke up. After they left the church, one might hear the language of distress for a considerable distance in different directions. What a change among this people in so short a time! Lord, the work is thine; carry it on unto full salvation. I trust this is but the beginning of good days. I almost dread the thought of leaving them so soon as in all probability I must. However, the work is the Lord's. Not my will, but thine be done. I desire to labour faithfully while I am here, and leave the rest to the Lord.

WEDNESDAY 17. This morning I visited the young woman that found peace last night. She was rejoicing in the Lord, and praising the wonders of redeeming love. Peace and joy still sparkled in her eyes. I gave her and two others who were in the house, a few words of advice, and by prayer commended them to God.

I walked about six miles to HARBOUR-GRACE, in company with brother STRETTON, and preached in our chapel, built by him at his own expense. Before we parted, the spirit of conviction was poured upon the people here also, much in the same manner as at CARBONEAR. Some followed me to brother STRETTON'S house. I prayed and exhorted, until my strength was so exhausted that I could scarcely speak. Nothing was to be seen or heard in all parts of the room but the marks of distress; tears, groans, cries, prayers, etc. I know I cannot absolutely judge of the depth of the work by these outward circumstances; yet I apprehend they are pleasing symptoms, and they make my heart to rejoice.

THURSDAY 18. I discoursed upon the nature and necessity of religious Society. I read the rules of our Society, and explained to them some points of our discipline. Deep attention sat on every face; and many resolved to give themselves to God. Before I dismissed the people, I gave an invitation to those under distress, to call upon me at brother STRETTON'S, and I would spend half an hour with them in prayer, and serious conversation. Presently the house was filled. The spirit of conviction fell on the people. Nothing was to be heard through the whole room but the language of distress, attended with the most affecting prayers and cries for pardon. Some of them I trust are not far from the kingdom of God. It was difficult to get the people to leave the house. Some of them stayed till twelve o'clock. I prayed, exhorted and talked till a pain in my breast obliged me to desist. At last, I retired to my chamber in order that they might go home; but they knew not how to leave the house without the blessing they sought for. One young man from BRISTOL in England, who came to the house weary and heavy laden, was delivered of his burden, and went home rejoicing in Jesus.

I believe there is a general shaking throughout the place; particularly amongst the young people. This is the day of their visitation. Lord, grant them to know and improve it!

FRIDAY 19. This morning several of those who are awakened called upon me at brother STRETTON'S, to join with us in prayer, and receive a word of exhortation. There is a blessed prospect! O my God, carry on the work, and enable me to be faithful,

My soul thirsteth after perfect purity of intention, and affection. The greatest grief of my life is, that I do not always live in the spirit of full conformity to God.

SATURDAY 20. Yesterday, I rode over to CARBONEAR. About thirty persons came round in a boat. In the evening I preached in the church. O what a time! weeping, praying, etc. were on every side. Three more profess converting grace. My God, let none snatch at comfort 'till administered by thee. About one o'clock in the morning, I was called to go and pray with one in deep distress of soul, but did not go till about eight o'clock. Some had been praying and singing with her all night. I left her as I found her, refusing to be comforted, till God gave her the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. Her soul seemed to be in dreadful agonies. A man may easily sustain his natural infirmities; but a wounded spirit, who can bear!

SUNDAY 21. I preached to about three hundred people at PORT DE GRAVE in the open air; and in the afternoon to about two hundred and fifty at BAY ROBERTS, where I found about twenty six that met together in Society, though not many of them have yet found peace. They appeared much affected. I formed them into a regular class, and added five more to their number. A pious young man leads them, and I trust will be a great blessing to them.

Having met the Society, I set off for HARBOUR-GRACE in a small skiff. The wind came a-head, and began to blow fresh, so that we were obliged to land, and grope our way through the woods in the dark. Such a road I have hardly ever travelled before. About ten o'clock we arrived safe at brother STRETTON'S, a fisherman putting us across the harbour.

MONDAY 22. While preaching at HARBOUR GRACE, there was such a shaking among the dry bones, as I have not seen since I came to the Island. Weeping, praying, groaning, etc. were on every side. O what a sight! to see forty or fifty drowned in tears: some crying in the most affecting manner, deeply bewailing their sins, and supplicating mercy for three hours together. One I hope found peace to his weary soul.

WEDNESDAY 24. I cannot but observe the goodness of God in sending me here and that by a chain of providences. My intention was, instead of coming to Newfoundland, to have visited Pasamaquady, the river St. John's, etc., etc. But the Lord over- ruled, and by visiting two or three of the preachers with sickness, occasioned my return to Halifax at the time the before- mentioned vessel was to sail for this Island. I now see his design was big with mercy. What a change has God wrought in less than two weeks.

I rode with Brother STRETTON to CARBONEAR. In the evening we had a most powerful season, while I endeavoured to point out the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not. Many were pricked at their hearts, and cried out, "What shall I do to be saved?" Some in a most affecting manner. One young woman, who was in extreme distress for some time, was delivered from her burden, and went home rejoicing greatly in the God of her salvation. There are now five or six who have professed redemption in the blood of Christ within these few days. Many backsliders are healed, and not a few under deep convictions for sin. Lord, the work is thine, carry it on, until righteousness fill the earth.

THURSDAY 25. Brother M'GEARY and I set off in a small boat for BLACK-HEAD. We arrived in time to give an exhortation to a few that came together. Two young persons were much affected, and roared aloud. Lord, suffer them not to rest without thy peace.

FRIDAY 26, I preached in the evening for Acts xi. 15. which was certainly verified anew. The Holy Ghost did indeed fall on many that heard the word, both as a spirit of fear and bondage, and as a spirit of liberty and love.

SABBATH-DAY 28, I preached twice, and held a love feast in the church at BLACKHEAD. This also was a quickening time. Some backsliders were healed and comforted. Some believers much refreshed, and those under awakenings more deeply affected with their state. I bless God for my coming here also. Some animosities are removed; some souls awakened; some new members added to the Society; and a general quickening through the whole. There are now about forty resolved to meet together in Class.

MONDAY 29. I returned to CARBONEAR, not daring to proceed to PERLEKIN, lest I should miss a passage to HALIFAX, and be detained upon the island all the winter. From what I can learn, about thirty meet together in Society there; and there would be many more, if they could have the Gospel preached amongst them more frequently. Brother M'GEARY can seldom go there. At six in the evening I preached in the church. God spoke, and the people trembled. Many were the affecting cries of those under conviction; many were the expressions of joy from those who have found peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Six or seven more profess a living, experimental knowledge of God, in this Harbour.

TUESDAY 30 AND WEDNESDAY 31. I preached both days: joined about fifty in Classes, and endeavoured with all my might to point out and guard them against the wiles of the devil. These were affecting, and profitable seasons. May they never be forgotten! Lord, thou art our wisdom, righteousness and strength. May we always trust in thee!

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1. I walked over to HARBOUR-GRACE, in the company with Mr. RICHARD VALENTINE. His conversation was truly christian and peculiarly instructive. His trials have been various and heavy. His experience is deep and scriptural; and his life exemplary and becoming. For many years he has been in the narrow way, and has steadfastly moved along through violent inward and outward exercises. O that I may drink more deeply into his spirit.

SUNDAY 4. I preached at CARBONEAR. The people sat with deep attention under the word. Many were much blessed, and silently melted down before the Lord. I administered the sacrament to about one hundred and thirty. Such a communion I never saw before. Verily, the Lord was there. An awful sense of the divine presence seemed to pervade every heart. Many were the weeping eyes, the falling tears, affectionate cries, and earnest prayers at the table and afterwards. Such backsliders were reclaimed, and restored to the favour of God again, and mightily filled with joy; as were the believers in general. But at the Love-feast in the afternoon, we had a still more remarkable season. To describe it fully is impossible. Suffice it to say in general, there was an universal shaking among the people. The cries of the penitents, together with the songs of those who were converted, drowned my voice, so that it could not be heard. I attempted to sing, but still could not be heard. To see the very countenances of the people, was peculiarly moving. While distress and awe were painted on the cheeks, and flared through the eyes of those under conviction, inward joy and rapture sparkled in the eyes, and shone on the countenances of those who were lately brought out of darkness into the marvellous light of grace. Thus prayer and praises, songs and grains, joys and sorrows were observable on all hands. Some were brought into the liberty of Jesus, felt the virtue of his blood, and testified that he is able to forgive sins.

MONDAY 5. I breakfasted with a mother in Israel. A poor distressed woman called me into the kitchen to speak with me about her soul; but her heart was too full to say much. I brought her into the parlour, where we joined in prayer. She sunk down on the floor in deep distress. The next day the Lord set her weary soul at liberty.

The former Deed of the church being not according to the Methodist plan, I have procured another, and now the church and dwelling-house are made over to the Conference.

I know not that I ever saw such a meeting as was here this evening. Great indeed was the noise and shaking among the dry bones. Brother STRETTON observed, "The scene was truly awful! some in the depth of distress; others in the transports of joy! It appeared to me a faint picture of heaven and hell." Several found peace with God this night also. The church appeared all in confusion. Nothing was to be seen but heaving breasts and weeping eyes! Nothing to be heard but prayer, or praise! The expressions of sorrow or joy, repentance or faith! Blessed Jesus, ride on and conquer!

Part of this work may be natural or animal; may arise from sympathy; but it is evident much of it is divine. Nothing but the Spirit of God can awaken and alarm the sleepy, guilty conscience of fallen man. God alone can enlighten his understanding, and beget in him a due sense of the vileness of sin, as it stands opposed to the divine nature and will: can draw his affections from earth, and fix them on heavenly objects; can fill his soul with meekness, patience, resignation; with contentedness, peace and joy; with faith, hope, love; none I say but God can produce these. But these are produced; it follows then, this evidently is a work of God, notwithstanding some appendages or attendants of the work may be from nature; yea, from Satan.

THURSDAY 8. I found it peculiarly refreshing to be at the Class-meeting last evening. It was lively season to my soul, and to others. Three more have found peace with God. Blessed be the Lord, more are made to taste his love daily. I had thoughts of sailing immediately for ST. JOHN'S, but I know not how to leave the people yet; and have therefore concluded to stay a few days longer.

FRIDAY 9. I walked to CARBONEAR, and preached in the church. O what a season! In the time of sermon, many were affected, and the voice of mourning in a silent way ran through the church. In the last prayer it became more general. Those under conviction roared aloud, and prayed most fervently. Presently one began to publish the news of deliverance, and praised God with a loud voice, extolling the riches of boundless grace. After this another, and another, were enabled to cast their burdens on the Lord, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus . Among this number was a woman, who was not long since a persecutor. She ridiculed the idea of people's crying out under the sense of their sins. She was sure they might help it if they would. But, God laid his hand upon her under the word, and she roared aloud in the disquietude of her soul. She is now rejoicing in the God of her salvation. How many were brought into the liberty at this meeting, it is impossible for me to say. I heard four or five declare they had found rest to their weary souls. O that they may never dishonour their profession!

It was a time of general joy among the Christians; and of peculiar distress among the penitents. The latter hardly knew how to leave the church without the sense of forgiveness. I was now obliged to take my leave of them. We had to tear ourselves from each other. It was a most affecting time. They wept as for an only son. Blessed be God, there is a world of love, where we shall not weep the departure of a friend, or the absence of a brother.

Until our safe arrival in this happy world of love, may the great Redeemer keep us pure in faith and love, watching unto prayer. Nothing but a sense of duty could induce me to leave this dear and loving people.

SUNDAY 11. I preached at HARBOUR-GRACE, and met the Society. I now bade farewell to my friends here also. It was a weeping time. I had literally to tear myself away from them. Well,

May I meet them at God's right hand.


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