Part II - The Answer of the Tongue
12 - Mr. Bourne's First Visit
AS it was exceedingly painful to Mercy and Jane to withdraw from their father's ministry, so we find they are very reticent in telling about it. Mr. Bourne had suggested that several of them could meet together in a friend's house for a little service, but in the fierce publicity of a village it is not surprising that we find Mercy saying, "For two years [after his first letter to them] I shrank from making a more open profession, though my convictions of the necessity of giving up all were too strong in my mind to be set aside. Those verses were pressed upon me, "Whosoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven, but whosoever shall deny Me before men him will I also deny", and Jeremiah 14 concerning the false prophets, and other passages, filled me with dread. Oh! how these Scriptures and others of the same import did pierce my soul, and both outwardly and inwardly I felt the truth of those words - "I am not come to send peace on the earth, but a sword". But the tender compassions of the Lord were often very soothing to my troubled mind. Once when I was enabled more than usually to commit my cause unto Him He whispered to my heart that when the time came He would give strength and power.
The Lord led me during each week to look for His blessing to rest on me on the Sabbath day, and He gave me faith to believe it should be so, according to that word "Therefore I say unto you what things so ever ye desire, when ye pray believe that ye receive them and ye shall have them"; and then He remembered the word on which He had thus caused me to hope. For it seemed to me as if His going forth was "prepared as the morning" on these Sabbath days, for when I would go and seek for Him with all my heart and all my soul He would be found of me by the way and opened to me the Scriptures. The treasures of His word seemed unfolded to me. Those verses about the water of life were one day unsealed to me - "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life". I thought I had a little experience of this as if something had begun to flow in my heart that would never cease. It was very surprising and very precious to me to feel these things, for I used to be puzzled at those expressions. And there was a verse in Haggai which had come on my mind a few years before during that barrenness I had been so sensible of and which now came with understanding - "Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you". This verse led me to take a retrospective view of my whole past life which seemed to unfold more and more to me."
In one of Jane's letters we get a glimpse of the sort of accusations thrown up at the sisters. "One of our friends told Mercy that we were under a fearful delusion. Mercy says she felt, Well, there is no refuge for us but in the Lord! She was enabled to make God her refuge, and she found a sure standing place. About three days after that I was walking in the garden and pondering over all these things, and our friend's dreadful warnings about "acting under Satanic influence", and that "Satan would turn our accuser" kept uppermost in my thoughts, because I know something of the meaning of having Satan turning my accuser. Then I had an impression of these words, like the gentlest whisper, "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more them of His household?". It made me exclaim, O! If I could be quite sure that indeed I am one of His household, I should not care what all the world would say against me. I could bear testimony that
Though our cup seems filled with gall
I could not help saying, Surely this can never be the work of Satan! He would never have brought me to say with all my heart,
How harsh so e'er the way,
So that in the end Mercy and I were abundantly confirmed in the truth of the very things we had received, even by those very means which were made use of to terrify us out of them!"
The sisters had little other companionship. In the home were their grieved father, the silent Margaret, and Charles, pursuing his poetical dreams. [He left drawers stuffed with poems.] When Matilda or Catharine came at different times, Mercy says she felt it a most sweet token of the Lord's favour, and once when Bernard was able to come, she says, "When I saw my brother it was to me like Jacob's heart reviving at the wagons of Joseph".
We can gather a few names of such as might come to a little service as Mr. Bourne recommended. Of course there would be Sukey Harley and her husband and daughter. There was a Mrs. Jones, a neighbour, and her daughter, Margaret, about whom Jane says, "You cleaved to us in a way none other of our Shropshire friends have done", by which, in the context, she meant friends of the same social standing. There was Mrs. Morris, the school mistress: possibly the first appointed under the National School scheme which began in 1833. She was very fond of Miss Matilda and is described as "a woman of very lively conversation." It is to this time, too, that the quotation in Chapter I refers about Matilda's pupils, and how "the Lord's blessing was shed on many in Pulverbach (on Mr. Bourne's first visiting them) and this was especially seen in the case of several who, years before, when mere children, had been taught by Matilda and concerning whom she had received the assurance that the Lord would bless them". Maria Carswell, a miner's wife, Betty Mathews, Molly Chidley, and one or two more made up the number. Perhaps about fifteen altogether?
Enough, at any rate, for the fatherly Mr. Bourne to write one or two letters that could be passed round from one to another. The first is dated May 1st, 1837, and is addressed to "The Church of God, or Little Hill of Zion, at Pulverbach in Shropshire".
"I have been much pleased with the accounts which my friends have lately sent, and I cannot but be thankful to see that teachable spirit which so much abounds, and its sweet effects. Godly simplicity is an inestimable grace which will stand the furnace, and never shines more brightly than when depressed and surrounded with all sorts of perplexities and difficulties. (Then comes some advice to Mrs. Oakley.) Be constant at a throne of grace and watch how the Lord receives you there. If you find shyness or difficulty of access then be sure something is wrong, and turn your prayers into confessions, and tell Him He is the light of the world, and He alone can discover the hidden deception of the heart; and be sure you seek to feed spiritually on "the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth" (I Cor. v. 8). I often beg that I may be made and kept transparent; this is in opposition to a double mind which shall obtain nothing from the Lord. I am truly glad to hear that there are a few among you who are seeking for the water of life.
"The young man you speak of appears very hopeful, and I hope the world may not draw him aside from "the simplicity that is in Christ". Tell him to seek most earnestly for that rich treasure, the fear of God. Tell him to read his Bible and pray over it, and confess his sins to the Lord Jesus Christ. Tell him also to beware of the public house, and shun it as he would the devil, either to receive wages, or meet sick clubs, or for any other pretended necessary purpose. Attending funerals of the dead, eating, drinking, carnal company and publicity of all sorts tend to deaden the soul and make the spirit flat when we return in private before God.
Tell Sukey Harley to watch over him, and like a good mother in Israel to pray for his spiritual prosperity. May you all preserve the unity of the Spirit and have the testimony of God that you are of one heart and one way."
In another such letter he says, The communion of saints is what I wish much to impress on your minds, that each of you may learn by it to bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Miss Mercy will, by such communication, learn a purer language, and be led to consider that whether the vessel be mean or not, yet the treasure in it is infinite; and therefore, when addressing herself to such, it is as in the presence of God, whether she be instructing or receiving instruction. This ought to put an awe on our spirits, while we are acting as lively stones in this spiritual house. This will be a comfort to the little few that are watching over one another, and you will be jointly encouraged to see the work of God go on in the midst of an enemy's country".
It was their sister Matilda in London who first suggested that Mr. Bourne might visit Pulverbach and speak to them. Mr. Bourne was now sixty-five years old, and his tutorial work had come to a gradual finish, so that although he still lived by his art, selling his pictures to art shops, he did not travel about as he had done so many years. However, he says, "the loss of my business did not mean the loss of employment, but it pleased God to turn it into another channel, and thus to sanctify my many afflictions to the good of others. I was, at length, brought from these small beginnings (the morning readings) to be more publicly exercised. For two months before I took my first journey to Pulverbach it was much impressed upon my mind that no good would come of it unless, like Paul on his dangerous voyage, I was found in the exercise of the same means, namely, abstinence from self and prayer to the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord put great tenderness into my heart, and a blessing from the words in Exodus 33. 12 to 19, afforded me the sweetest assurance of the Lord's blessing and approbation, removed all my anxiety for the time, and made me quite willing to be at His disposal".
Mercy made a short Memorandum of this period, in which she says, "I have been made to regard the Lord's sending the word to us through Mr. Bourne as a token from Him of His mercy. It has often come to me in a very serious way and filled me with a sweet sense of the love of God. But indeed my hope was tried to the uttermost. O, what it is to feel as if the promise of God was coming to nought! This I felt at one especial time when the providence of God seemed to run counter to the spiritual hope, and I was brought to see that all strivings, hopes, expectations, desires and prayers, must be given up, for the Lord alone to be exalted. None teacheth like God. I think I knew at that time something of what it was to weep before the Lord; and I surely believe He regarded my low estate; for the applications that were made to me in my great sorrow were so sweetly reviving to my troubled soul. One was about the Shunammite's son - his death after she had received him as such a blessed gift from the Lord, and afterwards his resurrection to life. Another was about Hezekiah: the sentence of death was passed upon him. but it was revoked. O how I felt the tender pity of the Lord in applying with such power these things to my heart, and thus bringing up from the grave my dead hopes! I verily believed I should see the goodness of the Lord in this thing, and I had a very special hope also at this time about the communion of saints, and that one day many should be joined together in the Lord in this place, with one heart and one soul. Yet in the long continuance of the trial many fears would again arise in my heart, and many doubts would at times sink me very low. Yet the word of the Lord, on which He had caused me to hope, sustained me".
The postponement of the visit after its first being mooted was one of Mercy's disappointments. A young friend of Mr. Bourne falling ill, the journey into Shropshire was set aside for awhile. This friend was Henry Hagell, a young man about town, living in the West End. Something had drawn him and his two sisters to attend Mr. Burrell's Chapel, where, however, his rather frivolous character was not appreciated by many. But Mr. Bourne felt an affection for him, and the Spring before had written him a kind letter saying, "Your frail appearance leads me to hope you will listen to my recommendation. I have a friend who is the best Physician I have ever met with. I entreat you not to delay to present your case before Him. If you come with all your heart you will not long be unnoticed, but will have some such kind word as this, "What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?"."
In May, hearing that he was now confined to his bed, Mr. Bourne called on him. Henry knew that he was considered by many of his acquaintances to be very trifling and much amused with vain company, but he told Mr. Bourne that few were aware of the anxiety of mind he felt under all this appearance, especially now at sight of the precipice on which he stood, fearing exceedingly lest the Lord should leave him without hope or help in His mercy. "O how deeply I feel the vanity of all things here below," he said, "and the mercy of God in checking my career, and granting that the Bible should sometimes speak so sweetly to me. It says, "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty and floods upon the dry ground", and I am that dry ground." He was very sober-minded. Seeing some of his attendants laughing he said, "I cannot bear to see you laugh. I find it an awful thing to be in the presence of God: He is so holy and I am so unholy. It is no time for lightness. How foolish has my past life been, and how vain!
"When I think of the days of my vanity, how the Lord would not let me alone but continually pursued me with convictions of my many and great sins, till He brought me to this dying bed. He now causes my meditations to be sweet, and though I am getting too weak to read He brings whole chapters to my memory as if I were reading them and they are so opened to my heart and so suitable to my case as I cannot tell you. My heart is united to the people of God. Oh, how I love them, how I pray for them and especially for my minister. How I long most ardently that my sisters were as happy as I. I am lost in the contemplation of eternal life. I was asked yesterday if I wished to read the newspaper. O no! I want nothing but good news from a far country; glad tidings of salvation as revealed in the word of God - that is my newspaper. The Lord is now gathering me. Who would have thought of this when gross darkness covered my heart so little time ago?".
Mr. Bourne said he found "great profit in visiting his dying friend", and he could not tear himself away from London until he had seen his end. Henry once said to him that he had often sat alone for hours meditating on what he had heard from Mr. Burrell in the pulpit and his attention was so taken that he forgot to take his food. He used to feel great anxiety as to whether he was sincere, and begged God to make him honest. "Oh what goodness and mercy He has showed me on this dying bed in so short a time. I feel a longing to be for ever with Him." Mr. Bourne visited him for about five weeks and felt it sweet to strengthen and confirm him. The day before he died he said, "They tell me the Queen is to be crowned on Thursday. [It was the young Queen Victoria.] I shall be crowned before her with an eternal crown, a crown of lovingkindness and tender mercy that shall never fade away!"
A few days after Henry's death Mr. Bourne set out for Pulverbach.
In summer the Shrewsbury mail-coach left London at eight o'clock in the evening, and before sunset would be thundering through deep country on the route later carved out for the Great Western Railway. On such long journeys Mr. Bourne says he liked to be immersed in a book to protect him from "the slang on the coach-top". On the second day he arrived at his destination.
Of course he could not be accommodated at the Rectory, where the old Rector, now eighty-one, doubtless considered him the chief instrument in the disaffection of most of his family, and Charles appeared to "care for none of these things".
Mercy and Jane would be full of trepidation and it is doubtful if they could do more than send a servant to direct him to the cottage they had arranged for him to stay at. But he makes no complaints. Late in the evening the Rector paid him a visit, and he says, "with some politeness welcomed me, but presently he changed his tone and said many painful things which the Lord alone gave me wisdom to manage".
"I went to rest after my tedious journey and fell asleep, but presently awoke in terror and confusion of spirit. The enemy told me I should be. driven out of the village, exposed to shame, and reproached by all for a fool. I arose at three o'clock in the morning to pray and to plead all that had passed before respecting my journey. The Lord knew He had made me very tender and I was more afraid of offending Him than of anything that could happen. I entreated Him to show me His way, and to compose my troubled spirit, and these words came with a divine and comforting power - "The battle is not yours, but God's . . ." and "The Angel of God which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them". I now felt power to rest and fell asleep. I rose early in the morning, and though my spirit was composed I felt I had received a great wound. But the word of God was sweet: it shone into my heart, "They shall not be ashamed that wait for Me". This gave me courage, and thus equipped I was enabled to begin my spiritual labours."
It must have been a great ordeal for the sensitive Mr. Bourne. He was well used to travelling, of course, but this time what a different environment he enters! Instead of the spacious architecture and elegant furnishings of the homes of his aristocratic pupils - and in his time he had taught a future Archbishop of Canterbury, a Prime Minister and many titled people - he is housed in a small cottage. He cannot stroll about as the anonymous art-tutor, but is stared at as a strange man of religion as he passes down the coal-miners" lanes. He has to speak to a roomful of strangers crammed round him in a cottage parlour.
Another letter gives an early account of things.
"My dear friends [Matilda and Catherine Gilpin] - Tomorrow will be Sunday and I hope and pray the Lord will be with us. I purpose spending it at Sukey Harley's, which gives great offence. My heart is united to her and her husband. I am greatly surprised at the knowledge that poor woman has attained to, living in a wood, and never hearing anything. The Lord has given her a diligent spirit and clear understanding. Her spiritual language is very pure.
"The Lord keeps my spirit tender and watchful. He shines in His word; opens both my mouth and heart, and I shall be happy to hear that your sisters here find the same. They are narrowly watched. I found these words very sweet this morning; they entered my heart and manifested great condescension and kindness in the Lord to me - "He showed His word to Jacob; His statutes and His judgments to Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation and as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise ye the Lord". This came with a sweet discriminating power to me, and I felt able to praise the Lord, for I am sure He is with me here, though I move in a continual fear. I have found these words to enter and compose my spirit - "There I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat". The "There" I found to be Christ, the living Ark. In Him only can we make our approaches to the Father. The Spirit testified this sweetly upon my heart and I was delighted with the revelation of this mercy to me.
"O what sweet confidence this gives in Him! What repose I find here! It was here that the soul of our poor dying young friend Henry Hagell gave a hearty welcome to death last week. It was here that Stephen said, in the midst of the shower of stones, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit". Here we must all commend our spirits into His hands sooner or later; and I am sure a more blessed place will never be found on this side eternity."
A little later he says, "My difficulties in this place appear to be many, but the Lord is my stay. I only desire so to walk as to keep Him in my company. I have been much pleased with my Sabbath at Sukey's. The Lord was with us; a sweet sense of His approbation comforted my heart; and many home truths were spoken through His grace. Though something of an unruly spirit was at first manifested by some who had not been accustomed to the discipline of the word, yet was the power of the Lord present to heal, and to give efficacy and divine authority to the Gospel of the Kingdom which He had sent to a poor and afflicted people".
One of these "undisciplined" ones was Maria Carswell, a miner's wife. 'she used to be a neighbour of Sukey Harley when both lived in Coal-pit Lane, but though Sukey talked with her, and she heard Sukey reading her Bible out loud, she had no love for Sukey then, though presently unhappiness drove her to read her Bible herself. She lost a child in early life by a sudden stroke. The child had taken his father's dinner to the pit and fell down the shaft. Sorrow swept over her and she gave way to unbelief for a time, but later she felt much submission to the will of God and also a very sweet hope that the Lord took the child to Himself. Again she went through a dark time, fearing she would be lost while she slept; neighbours told her she was going out of her mind, and she felt she was herself.
"One Saturday night," she said, "about eleven o"clock I went down on my knees in the garden and begged the Lord to let me know there was mercy for me. The next day I again begged for mercy, and these words came, "This day is salvation come to this house". It brought hope and an eager looking for salvation. I wondered if it might be at the chapel I had often attended at a neighbouring village, so being Sunday morning I went, full of hope and expectation. I listened eagerly, but no, nothing came to me there. But as I was walking home, just crossing a field, these words were clearly spoken upon my heart, "For yet a little while and He that shall come will come and will not tarry". This was precious to me. My burden dropped off and I rejoiced exceedingly. My joy was as great as my sorrow had been. I thought all the trees and shrubs rejoiced with me. Oh how precious was the Lord Jesus to my soul. I hastened home to my Bible. I thought I should always live in the same enjoyment, and so I did for about three weeks, then it began to pass away and I got very low. I now loved Sukey, and got much instruction from her. I was truly sorry when she went away to live at Brom Hill.
"Maria could find no life in the chapel she attended, and finally gave up and spent her Sundays at home. When Mr. Bourne came into the neighbourhood, she had long settled down in a cold profession, but going to hear him, her spirit was stirred exceedingly. She was unable to bear the reproofs of life without feeling anger rise against him He visited her at Longden Common, but she could not take pleasure in his visit. But as he went away the Lord graciously met her with the words, "If thou hast done foolishly in lifting up thyself, or if thou hast thought evil, lay thine hand upon thy mouth". She was filled with love and repentance, so that she left her cottage to look after Mr. Bourne if she might catch sight of him before he was quite gone away. This was a touch of true humility, and bound her soul fast to him from that time onward." [Indeed, love to him led her long afterwards to walk many miles to Sutton Coldfield to see him on his deathbed.]
Maria had "much natural force of character, was remarkable for her disinterested kindness, especially shown to those in poverty in times of sickness and sorrow. And whenever spiritual counsel or reproof was called for she would faithfully give it, and in so ready and courteous a manner as always to avoid offence".
In reading Huntington's Bank of Faith she could chime in with one or two remarkable experiences of her own.
"Once," she said, "my husband and all our pitmen were down in Staffordshire. I had nothing one Sunday in the house for my dinner. I had a little pie given me, and the children had that. I thought I would go to a poor neighbour and borrow a little oatmeal, but first I turned to pray. As I stood just under the stairs such a blessed feeling came into my soul. I felt exactly as if I had had bread and wine and wanted nothing that day or the next. I felt so to praise the Lord that I had meat to eat the world knew not of. It was long before my husband could send any money, but in one way or another food was sent in after that."
It was not surprising that Sukey Harley, too, with her "naturally high, unbending spirit", fell into many mistakes. 'she had never before attended on a ministry where she felt "her hidden life and righteousness in Jesus Christ", as she used to express herself, were understood. Under it she became much more disciplined in mind and meekened in spirit". Jane adds, "None can know till experimentally taught, either the faintings and scatterings of Christ's true Church while they are as sheep not having a shepherd, or the resistance and perverseness of that flesh in them which lusteth against the Spirit, when subjected to spiritual discipline. On one occasion Mr. Bourne preached from the words, "Thou shall hide them in the secret of Thy presence from the pride of man: Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues". Sukey felt the discourse was levelled against the pride of her heart; but the immediate effect of this was the stirring up of the evil principle within her more and more, so that her spirit (as she afterwards expressed it) "became all in an uproar". While in this condition she went to her friends at the Rectory and bitterly complained that Mr. Bourne had preached the sermon against her and it made her feel very angry. They read to her some remarks which Mr. Bourne had on a former occasion made on Micah 7. 19, "He will subdue our iniquities". "The Lord does this by other means than we expect. He sets our iniquities before our eyes and makes us feel the tumultuous effects of them upon our spirits. Then we cry to Him for mercy under fear and terror, by which means He shows us the value of the Saviour's blood. When His arm is revealed, where is pride and enmity then? Where is strife and contention? Where is every evil thing? These evil beasts are all gone: they creep into their dens when this Sun arises. They cannot show themselves. Thus are we hidden in God's pavilion from our own iniquity and kept safe in His presence from our own pride and the strife of our own tongues".
"When Sukey heard this paper read, she said, "Now that I feel every word. I know it is all true, for my experience goes along with it". But she was much surprised when told that the sermon to which she objected had expressed the very same experience. "Well!" she added, "what a foolish ignorant woman I am. I know nothing at all!" On her return home she found Mr. Bourne himself at her cottage; and having during her walk reflected much on what had passed she was full of repentance."
Mr. Bourne mentioned this incident in a letter to a friend. 'sukey on seeing me said, "Oh how I have sinned! How full of confusion has my mind been! I tried to persuade myself all was right, but could not; all was turmoil. And while I kept saying my blessed Jesus taught me and not man, I never felt more miserable, though I tried hard to persuade myself I was happy and that my God was with me. I could not pray; I felt nothing but anger. At last the ladies read me an old sermon of yours and I came away with a little help - my proud heart began to humble. As I walked on and considered what they had read, I saw the pride of my heart had caused me to be angry, and I began to pray to the Lord Jesus to have mercy upon me. Somehow I prayed for you, as a blessed man, and thanked the Lord He had sent you, for I would have it before that He had not sent you. And my heart went out in love and gratitude to Him for sending a faithful friend to instruct us. Then my bondage began to give way, and at last my blessed Jesus showed His face and brought me clean and clear out; so that now I am not able to say how happy I am, and how sure the Lord has sent you to us. Oh what need I have of being taught! Oh my proud heart, how soon I am gone out of the way, but what a mercy that the Lord brings me back!".
"Thus you see what a conflict Sukey had. Her natural high spirit is and always has been a great trial to her but I think I never felt or saw in anyone a greater sense of humiliation or more clear marks of the true grace of God and its efficacy on the heart of a poor proud sinner. How she abased herself and exalted her blessed Redeemer - and showed love and gratitude to me as His instrument. I was greatly encouraged by this myself, and my soul partook in a measure of her joy."
Mr. Bourne's visit lasted two months. Towards the end he wrote: "O what a day this has been! First, fears and dismay; then, some distant intimation of God's sweet favour in conversation with some of the people here; then some attacks from another quarter, and a letter bringing iniquity to light, and many causes why the Lord should send the rod; and withal much mourning and fearing lest there should be no token of a spiritual Sabbath tomorrow. But while thus bemoaning myself the Lord slept in, and broke my heart with the sight of His beauty and goodness, so that now I can with a holy confidence, declare to my poor friends here how dear a Saviour I have found and how near he is, if haply we "feel after Him". (Sunday). I have had a very encouraging morning reading from the words, "How great is His goodness!". If the Lord permit I hope in the evening to speak from the following words, "How great is His beauty" (Zech. 9. 17). While speaking in the evening I came to these words - "When Thou didst march through the wilderness, the earth shook, the heavens also dropped, at the presence of God". I remembered how terrible a thing I had felt it for the Lord to march up and down in my wilderness heart, and how, when one thing and another which had been carefully covered was by this marching brought forward against me, I did indeed tremble and shake. I also well remember it was then the Lord in infinite mercy, fulfilled to me these words - "Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance when it was weary". Thus did He prepare of His goodness for the poor, or I should have sunk into despair. I look back at those times with astonishment, and bless His holy Name who has not left me to perish, but has led me to set forth the wonders of His grace to a few poor desponding souls here and there, who tell me it encourages them to press on and never rest until they obtain the same deliverance."
Finally Mr. Bourne was able to say, The Lord has been with me through a host of difficulties. I dared not leave my little set of people sooner; I have been divinely supported and comforted in taking leave of them".
He had had at least two interviews with the Rector, and says, "The Lord armed me with sobriety and composure and gave me such gentleness to utter the weightiest truths that they could but be received with kindness if a profession of religion is held at all. I believe the Lord gave me some favour in his eyes and I think he was for a time convinced of that unruly spirit by which he has lately been awfully actuated. I told him the wisdom that is from above is pure, peaceable, gentle, etc. I still fear every day. At another interview the Lord so armed me with His fear that I meekly told him more of his condition as he stands in the sight of God than he ever knew before and plainly set before him the impossibility of such a spirit being in the fear of God and that these his cruel invectives will prove his ruin if not repented of. I have told him he is surrounded with many flattering hypocrites that never speak the truth. They pity him and set him against his family. I hope that his children will gain courage and learn that God must be obeyed. He said, "My poor pious children are all such bigots: we were of one mind once but those happy days are passed, and now my parricide children forsake me in my old age". "Now sir," replied I, "you believe all your children are pious?" "O yes," he said, "beyond a doubt." I then replied, "What little knowledge you can have of the plan of salvation to call your children pious murderers! What will you next do?". He said many things that he would do but I replied, "You have left this out - // God permit" and then we parted. He is much under the influence of his curate, a subtle mischief-maker to the grief of the ladies, but the Lord makes no mistakes; He has some humbling work to do, and many in the parish look on with serious pondering." [This curate was not the one who was with the family at the time of Elizabeth's accident.]
'sukey tells me," adds Mr. Bourne, "that the people here that are false professors will be very silent while I am here but they will set up their backs as soon as I am gone. I never witnessed the extent of malice and bitterness that all ranks manifest to this family for the truth's sake, and what the Lord will do for them does not yet appear. I think your sisters are much enlightened to discover what they knew not before. As it respects myself nobody will have anything to say to me that has any secret suspicion that I am a friend to your sisters. I am packed off with scorn, but I trust the Lord has made it manifest that some have profited spiritually here with me, and if only one soul has gained the knowledge of salvation by such weak means this is of more importance than all the temporal prosperity that we can have."
A short visit to Hertford followed on, and though these experiences were the beginning of a ministry, no one could call it a triumphal journey, when we find Mr. Bourne writing, "I droop in spirit more than I can express, and would often run away from God, from myself, and from the eyes of all living; but the Lord will not have it so. I must stand the brunt and face it out, to make manifest the power and efficacy of God's regenerating grace". He mentions Henrietta. "Her tender fears are evidence that spiritual life is abundantly in her. It would do you good to hear her account from herself, and see her spirit. Another friend also has had a sweet refreshing from the presence of the Lord, and I think some others are looking out of obscurity."
But the visit to Hertford was cut short by news from home of the serious illness of his "afflicted" daughter, Helen, and he had to hurry back to London. The poor girl was too ill to know him, and he describes the depths he went into over her case. He felt as if God meant to "crush him and his family", for he "could get no sensible help nor find his prayers were heard". "My daughter's affliction often appeared too desperate for carnal reason or the most sanguine fleshly hope to think it could end in anything but death. We twice sat up to see her end; yet the Lord not only overruled it, but comforted her at times with the sweetest consolation. To add to my sorrow, however, I was often found fault with because of my absenting myself from company; but none knew how I was daily tried with the feeling of shame, sorrow, and confusion of face. The reproach we fell into, though I can scarcely tell wherefore (except as the Lord suffers it to fall upon us all) added much to my sorrow. Once, being in a large company I was accused of improper bearing in my affliction. I shall never forget how I was secretly warned not to contend, but from first to last it kept sounding in my ears, "Wait on the Lord, and He shall strengthen thine heart". This was a great support and a means of composing my spirit. Still I perceived the faces of many were not towards me as they had been, which was a perpetual cause of grief to me. All friends stood aloof; and I believe it was that none should ward off the blow which the Lord was determined to lay upon us for our humbling, and that in love. I cannot but acknowledge with thankfulness the good effect this affliction, from the first to the present time, has had on my family."
Mr. Bourne had married in middle life, and his family of seven would be in ages about twenty-seven to seventeen at this time. He once wrote, "O how I feel, as a father, the dreadful consequences of parents bringing up their children to Moloch. What excuses and reasonings we have about the needfulness of sending them into the world for their well-doing and well-being, and how strongly I have been accused for putting a check upon visiting where there is no fear of God!" In a letter to Mrs. Oakley earlier in that year he mentions, "I have a family of seven children constantly at home, and neither wisdom nor prudence (naturally) to manage them, but I perceive the Lord is all-sufficient, and often clears my way in answer to prayer. I fear what God says about the families that call not upon Him, and therefore seek to warn and caution my family in all directions. I have often many fears and much anxiety respecting them, but hitherto the Lord has dealt very kindly with me; and I am sure if you are in the habit of watching, you will be surprised at the various turns which take place in your favour, even when you have feared beyond measure".
This was now one of these "turns" in which Mr. Bourne had to prove again, at anguish point, the faithfulness of his God