A BRIEF ACCOUNT
WORK OF GOD,
I had many ups and downs:- None can tell the Affliction which a Minister of Jesus Christ feels, when he has the Care of a Parish, and very little Fruit of his Labour; this is like hewing of Wood; or drawing of Water. Those who are called Ministers, but are not sent of God, Gallio like, care for none of these Things; if they have their Salary, and their Income answers their Expectation, all is well with them; they desire no further Proof of their being sent of God; but this will not content a true Evangelical Minister, notwithstanding that he wants not Food and Raiment, and the Labourer is worthy of his Hire; all which is reasonable, seeing it is written, Thou shalt not muzzle the Ox that treadeth out the Corn. A true Minister looks for a more glorious Fruit of his Labour, and Proof that God has called him to preach his everlasting Gospel. He looks for a Reformation of Manners; such as the Wicked to forsake his Ways, and the Unrighteous Man his Thoughts. And as the Understanding is first informed, it then follows for the Life and Manners to be reformed. This was, in some Measure, the Case in Newfoundland, though not in general, for some would not be persuaded to part with their beloved Lusts. Behold, ye Despisers, and wonder, and perish: I work a Work in your Days, which you shall in no wise believe, though a Man declare it unto you.
The Way in which this Work began was very remarkable. In the Course of the Winter, I went from House to House, and read a portion of God's Word; and expounded the same: This I continued to do about four Times a Week, for near three Years, before I perceived the least Fruit of my Labour; but at length God was pleased to bless my Endeavours in a very wonderful Manner: For now many were pricked to the Heart, and cried out; What must I do to be saved? Some prayed aloud in the Congregation; others praised aloud, and declared what God had done for their Souls: Nor was this only at their private Meetings, now and then, but also in the great Congregations. The Word was now like Fire, or like a Hammer, that breaketh the Rock to Pieces. Now the Word was indeed quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged Sword; dividing between Soul and Spirit, Joint and Marrow; and was a Discerner of the Thoughts and Intents of the Heart. Now the Devil began to roar; hitherto he had kept his Palace, and his Goods were in Peace: Jesus, who is the Stronger, came and spoiled his Goods, and took away his Armour, wherein he trusted; so that he was a conquered Foe.
Now, to be revenged, Satan sets to work from another Quarter, which was to work in the Hearts of the Children of Disobedience. The Gentlemen and Magistrates began to threaten what they would do; accordingly they drew up a Petition, signed by twelve Merchants, and Gentlemen, so called, wherein they set me forth black enough to the Governor, and begged that he would either silence, or turn me out of the Land. After this, I was called before a Court of Judicature, where they laid Things to my Charge which I knew not: Some of my Friends were ashamed, and others intimidated; but the Everlasting Friend of Sinners appeared for me, and all my Enemies were found Liars. They that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded.
Another Instance of the great Care which the Shepherd of Israel has over his Sheep, thus appears: Those Enemies, finding they could not prevail to stop my Mouth, or turn me out of the Land, laid a Scheme (it seems) to get the Doctor to give me a Dose, which would put an End to my Existence; but this was discovered by the Doctor, who desired that I would be upon my guard. No Weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper. The Lord God is a Sun and Shield, and will give Grace and Glory. All this while, God was doing great Things for his People.- It is no Wonder, when the Kingdom of the Wicked One is shaken, that he should raise up his Children to disturb the Peace of God's People.
For three Years I laboured Night and Day, from House to House; but I could not perceive any Appearance of Conviction, or Conversion, take place throughout the Parish; during which Time, we had no outward Persecution; but at length a glorious Work broke out.- The Joys of the Children of God on one hand, and cries of broken- hearted Sinners on the other, were very alarming-. I then began to be ashamed of my Littleness of Faith; for it was but a few Weeks before this Outpouring of the Spirit, that I concluded, that God had never sent me to that People; and therefore I had settled my Affairs, in order to return to England; but seeing the Arm of the Lord revealed, it silenced all my Fears, and constrained me to cry out, This is the Lord's Doing, and may he have all the Glory: 'It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth Mercy. My poor Heart often cried out, the Power will come in such a Time, and under such a Sermon; but the Voice of God is not in our Way or Time, but when he will, and by whom, and in what Manner he pleases.
Now, as a new and powerful Work appeared, the Devil began with new Temptations;- before, my Fears were that there was no Good done; now, the Enemy came in, with, perhaps this will not stand, or why could there not be a Work of God carried on without such a Noise, both in private Houses and in the great Congregations? (although with regard to crying out I never encouraged it, nor dare I speak directly against it;) but so it was, that, under almost every Sermon and Exhortation some were cut to the Heart, and others rejoiced in loud Songs of Praises. Here I was at a stand, and did not know what to do; that the mighty Power of God came down was very manifest, but my great Fear was, that the Devil would strive to mingle therewith some false Fire, and impose upon some, in order to bring an evil Report upon the good Land: But in this, God took care of his own Work, which was sweetly carried on every Week. God was daily adding Members to the Church, such as should be eternally saved. For a Proof of this, the Reader may see the various Accounts which I have received from several Persons; some of whom are living Witnesses of this glorious Truth: Their Language is artless and simple, without the least human Embellishment, but as they experienced the Workings of the Spirit of God; nor is it to be wondered, that so much Simplicity should be seen in the following Accounts, seeing that, in this Part of Newfoundland, they never had a Minister, till the Providence of God sent me there: Many of them declared, that at first they came not to hear me, but to see me, whether I was like another Man: As to the Gospel, they had not the least Notion of it: Drinking, and Dancing, and Gaming, they were acquainted with; these, they were taught by the Europeans, who came annually to fish: Accordingly, this Remark they made to me,- That whereas the Europeans did such Things, they thought it no Harm. But here I might use the Language of Scripture, with a little Deviation, and say of England, Scotland, and Ireland, had the mighty Works, which were done in thee, been done in Newfoundland, they would, before now, have been burning and shining Lights.
This Work was carried on with great Success; and all that the Children of Darkness could do against it availed little. The Enemy now began to work from another Quarter, in the following Manner: One Merchant was sent in the Name of many, or as a Representative of the Body, to me, with this Message, That if I did not change my Way of Preaching, they would withdraw their Subscriptions; but this Gentleman said, he would not, notwithstanding he knew the others would, for that they said my Way of preaching was Madness. I told him, that on the next Sunday I would prove I was not mad. Accordingly, on next Lord's Day Morning, I preached from Acts XXVI.25. I am not mad. From which Words, I first shewed, who they were that might be properly said to be mad, namely, Drunkards, Swearers, &c. were mad; and, in the next place, I shewed, that those who were turned from Darkness to Light, and feared God, and worked Righteousness, could not, with any Propriety, be considered as mad. From this Time, many of the Gentry withdrew their Subscriptions, and as they could not stop me from preaching, they were determined to starve me; but this also proved abortive; and I could rest upon the Words of my dear Master, Thy Bread shall be given thee, and thy Water shall be sure; they that trust in the Lord shall lack no Manner of Thing that is good;- and I found, this Truth was also fulfilled, Godliness is profitable to all Things, having the Promise of this Life, and of that which is to come. This was the Case with many of the Natives, for, before they received the Gospel, they spent much of their Time in Rioting and Drunkenness; but when the Word took place in their Hearts, many of them not only got out of Debt, but also had to spare.
Here I would remark, how groundless is that Report, that those People who grow religious grow poor, or turn Beggers. In the best Sense of the Word, they are made poor, not as to outward Things, for if they have but little they have Content: Godliness with Contentment is great Gain; so that, if the Children of God are poor, they have Bread to eat which the World knoweth nothing of. Indeed they are all Beggars at the Throne of Grace; and in this they glory, that they have an hearty Welcome to come, and that, without Money, and without Price. They ask and have, they seek and find: God is faithful to his Promise: They that wait upon him shall renew their Strength.
But to return, to give my Reader a particular Account of the above Work going on.- As Religion is an Offence the World will never forgive, a Report soon spread over the Bay, and great Part of the Land, that the People at Harbour-Grace and Carbonear were going mad; this was taken for granted; but out of this seeming Evil, God brought forth Good: All Things work together for Good, to them that love God, to them that are the Called according to his People- The Report of the Madness brought many from various Quarters to hear for themselves, and when they heard, many of them were like the Bereans, they searched the Scriptures, and found what they heard to be agreeable thereto.- Some came fifteen, some twenty Miles, to hear the Word: I have known some come, with their dear Infants in their Arms, over Mountains of Snow, at the Hazard of their Lives; so mightily did the Word of God prevail.
I now had Invitations from various Quarters, which I attended to, when the Weather permitted, as a great Part of our travelling was by Water, in little Skiffs, not much larger than the small Boats upon the River Thames, in London. The Power of God attended the Word wherever I came: I could clearly see, it was the Day of God's Power.
But as my Consolations now abounded, so did also my Sufferings; I had such dreadful Apprehensions of the Sea, when going in such very small Boats, that my Life was one continued Martyrdom: I had little Rest Day or Night.- The Work spread more and more; where Sabbathbreaking, Playing, and many other Vices had before abounded, the Employment was now Prayer, and singing of Hymns. At this Time, my Health was greatly impaired; hard Labour, and in general salt Provisions, were what Flesh and Blood could not put up with; yet God gave Strength proportionable to my Day.
The Winters in Newfoundland are very severe, there being great Falls of Snow, and hard Frost; the Houses there are mostly very disagreeable to those who are not used to them; in general; they are all Wood; the Walls, so called, are Studs put into the Ground close together, and between each, they stop Moss, as they call it, to keep out the Snow; this they cover with Bark of Trees, and put great Clods over that; some are covered with Boards: In such Houses I have been, and in the Morning my Bedside has had a beautiful white Covering of Snow; my Shoes have been so hard frozen, that I could not well put them on, till brought to the Fire: But under all this, I was supported, seeing a glorious Work going on.
Now, as God opened the blind Eyes, the People in remote Parts, where I came, saw the Need of forming themselves together, in order to read the Word of God, and to spend some Time in Singing and Prayer, agreeable to the Scriptures: They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.
The Bay being very extensive, one Church would not do; so that we soon had three Churches- A Proof of the great Zeal, which filled those dear Souls in one Part of the Bay, called Blackhead, upon the North Shore, was this:- They proposed to me, to point out a Place where I would choose to build a Church, which was agreed upon; accordingly all Hands went into the Wood, and cut down as much of it as they wanted, which they hauled out upon what they call Slides. When they had the Timber upon the Place, they sent for me, and I went, thinking there was not one Stick hewn; however they had made great Progress in the Work; the People there in general are good Hatchet Men, ( there are very few Carpenters in Europe, who are able to hew a Piece of Timber with those in Newfoundland, this they take up naturally;) they are People of a very bright Genius: I have known a Man, who could not read a Letter in a Book, go into the Wood, and cut down Timber, bring the same out with the Help of a Servant, and build a Boat, rig it, and afterwards go to Sea with the same Boat,- But to return; the said Church was framed, and covered in, in less than fourteen Days, which contained about four hundred People.-God raised up here a precious People; some, I doubt not, are from this Place gone to Glory; and I trust there are a few to this Day, that continue stedfast, and will be my Crown of Rejoicing in the Great Day.
Having preached in the New Church at Black-head sometimes, as I could come here but seldom, it being a very wild Shore, I appointed them to meet together, and read the Church Service; and afterwards to read a Sermon, which I furnished them with: Thus they continued to do; and when the Weather permitted them, they would come to Harbour-Grace and Carbonear, notwithstanding it was near eighteen Miles by Water. I have known them often come over the mighty Waters, at the Hazard of their Lives, with their little Babes in their Arms;- but what will not precious Souls, who have the Love of God shed abroad in their Hearts, go through for a dear Redeemer: God did great Things, in a short Time, in these Parts.
Soon after this Work began, God gave a blessed Testimony thereto (which I trust was much to his Glory, and to the establishing the Word of his Grace among this People) which was by calling one of his dear Children to eternal Rest, who, when upon his Death-Bed, desired that the Minister might be sent for; accordingly I went, and asked him why he sent for me, to which he made answer, "Sir, I sent for you, to tell you what God has done for my poor Soul; but before I tell you, I desire, that all my Friends may be present:"- They were sent for; and he desired, that he might partake of the blessed Sacrament; we then joined in Prayer, and of a Truth it was a Time of Love; God filled the House with his Glory.- "Thy Presence makes my Paradise, and where thou art is Heaven." When Jesus is present, all Things go well.-After Sacrament, he told me, in what Manner God first called him under the Word, and also the Time and Place where God first began the Work of Grace upon his Soul, and said, I am thy Salvation; which enabled him to cry out, with the Prophet, Though thou wast angry with me, thine Anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me. He then adressed his ancient Parents, and desired them to seek this Truth, which he felt and found to his Soul's Salvation; he also addressed his Wife, and earnestly besought her to make the Lord her Husband.- This was a very moving Sight; his ancient Parents on one Side, his Wife and six small Children on the other.- This Family was remarkable for Harmony and Love.- He said to his Wife, "My dear, I am now going out of a poor miserable World, and I can now tell you where I am going; and I shall be soon crowned with a Crown that fadeth not away: As a Husband, I hope, I loved you; and as a Father, I laboured, under God, for my dear Children; but they are no more mine; I give you and them up to my dear Jesus, who gave them me, and He will be a Father to the Fatherless, and a Husband to the Widow. I asked him, if he had any Fear of Death? He said, "No, Sir, I long for Death, it will be a blessed Messenger to my Soul." Can you, said I, give up your dear Wife and six Children? He replied, "Oh, Sir, I can; Christ is more to me than all the World;- Oh, what are all Things to me; Christ is All and in All!" Thus he continued to his last Moments. Blessed are the Dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their Labours, and their Works do follow them.
In this Place, another very awful Circumstance happened: a poor ungodly Sinner, who was much addicted to Drunkenness, often attended the Word, but made light of it, so far, that he opposed me in the open Church; I admonished him, from Time to Time, but he was like the deaf Adder, and would not hear: He pleaded, that he was for the Church, the Church; and that he was sure, the Clergy in England did not preach up, that People must go to Hell, except they were born again; and as for his Part, he would not believe it: This he made good; he never did. He that is often reproved, and hardeneth his Neck, shall fall into Destruction, and that without Remedy. This Scripture was fulfilled in this unhappy Wretch; God after a Time called him away; but upon his Death-Bed, he cried out, "I am damned to all Eternity; I have sinned away the Day of Grace, and now I am sealed for ever unto eternal Damnation. God called, and his Minister called, but I refused; I would not have the Lord to reign over me; I loved my Sins." One of his Children cried out, and said, "Dear Father, pray to the Lord Jesus; he came to seek and save poor lost Sinners:" To which he made answer, "Oh! my Child, your poor Father cannot pray; he soon will be tormented in the Flames of everlasting Burnings; all is over, it is too late:" He farther cried, "Oh! I already feel the Torments of the Damned; none can tell what I feel: Oh! I see thousands of Devils in this Room; could you see them, you would not stay in this Place: Oh! everlasting Burning! Oh! Eternity!"- Thus he continued to the last, uttering many more Things, which would be shocking to mention. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my Hand, and no Man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my Counsel, and would none of my Reproof: I also will laugh at your Calamity; I will mock when your Fear cometh: When your Fear cometh as Desolation, and your Destruction cometh as a Whirlwind; when Distress and Anguish cometh upon you: For that they hated Knowledge, and did not choose the Fear of the Lord, Prov. i.24-29.- Here I would drop a Word of Exhortation: Seek the Lord, while he may be found; call ye upon him, while he is near. Let the Wicked forsake his Way, and the Unrighteous Man his Thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have Mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon, Isaiah IV.6,7.
But I will refer my reader to the following EXPERIENCES, and LETTERS, for the Truth of the powerful Work carried on in Newfoundland; and if the same should prove a Blessing to any one Soul, may the Glory be to him who hath loved us, and washed us from our Sins in his own Blood.