Part III - The Unity of the Spirit
18 - Mr. Bourne's Fourth Visit
AN entry from Bernard's diary around this time might interest readers as showing the unity that really manifested itself between these godly men.
"Being in London I called on Mr. Burrell. On my entering I said, "I hope I shall not disturb you". He replied, "No, I hope not", and immediately entered with the greatest simplicity and power on spiritual subjects. I was quite astonished at the compass of his words, and very thankful I had been there. Thankful also for the expression of unity with me, and can truly say I felt abased before the goodness of the Lord. After I had been in the City I went to Mr. Nunn's and sat with him till chapel time. He gave me a long and very edifying account of R.'s case. But when I said his sister's want of unity with R. was perhaps more justified than it had been judged to be, I was quite struck by the simple candour with which Mr. Nunn replied.
" "Just so, Mr. Gilpin, he used to say he could not find unity with his sister. Her spirit seemed so contrary to his that he could not have family prayers while she stayed with him. But if our religion is not able to pray down all these obstacles to family worship, what is it worth? For myself I must tell you what, if you have seen some of my letters to Mr. Bourne, is no secret to you, that I have been a little - and indeed more than a little - out with him! Now if I give way to this sad prejudice instead of stopping both my ears and praying for Mr. Bourne night and day, that the Lord may bless him and those with whom he is (and he was at Pulverbach just then) oh, Mr. Gilpin, where should I be in a very little while?"
"My heart united exceedingly with Mr. Nunn while he thus spoke. I never had a clearer example before me of the meaning of this - "It is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me", and I did not wonder, that notwithstanding these temptations, the Lord blessed him so that his soul was as a watered garden."
We now come to Mr. Bourne's fourth visit to Pulverbach. He arrived at The Grove in April, 1844, on his seventy-first birthday. In his diary he notes, "In God's all-wise providence He brought me here six years ago, and I believe He gave me both grace and utterance to set forth before this people the path of tribulation. I have had many blessings pronounced upon me by those who heard me, and who have since manifested the true fear of God". And in his first letter back to London (it is to Mr. Nunn) he says, "I find the people most sincerely glad to see me, and am much surprised at the effect the word has had upon them since I first came among them. The very sharp exercises I am generally under seem given me for my subjects to set before them; and the manner in which the Lord comforts me under them gives the people encouragement.
"It is a source of humbling to me to see the place [the Morris's] so crowded, even by strangers that none of us know! And the extreme stillness is wonderful. My heart both trembles and rejoices. And sometimes I scarcely know how to proceed from the sweet sense of the Lord's presence, and the great fear I feel lest I should grieve the most Holy Spirit of God, so that my soul should be covered with a cloud and lose the perception of His presence amongst us."
To Mr. Thaine (another deacon at Titchfield Street) he says, "How glad I should be to see you here and take you round to some of the poor people and show you our order on the Sundays. The Lord is certainly with us".
To another friend he sketches out the sermon he preached from "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto Thee in a time when Thou mayest be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him". "I do not know," he says "when I have found such a sweet power upon my own heart while speaking. I was exceedingly comforted, and felt surely all this cannot be for nothing, and the few I overtook on the road going home seemed to have received it with much awe and godly fear. I perceive that the people grow much more serious, and cannot make light of the Word. Those who come to judge find that it comes so close upon them that they cannot face it; and those who seemed to halt between two opinions begin to acknowledge there is a something which the general professors know nothing about. A few, by the mercy of God, fall under the word and are encouraged to hope, while others are much comforted and instructed."
I must now tell you that it is the custom of all the poor of this parish, old and young, to go a-gleaning. Everything is given up for about five weeks for this purpose, as it is supposed that a mother with a few small children can earn by it three or four shillings a day. But this work becomes a terrible means of evil communication, and I hear there is no end of low talk in their various meetings in the field, also that some of our people have been found amongst the vain talkers. This led me to speak in the course of my discourse of the necessity of a spiritual and godly fear. One of my hearers said later,
'sir, I am thinking of those gleaners that love their company in the field better than our preaching. On Wednesday last I had been very comfortable in the morning but the word withered and withered till it was all gone. My body was sick and weakly and my soul worse. I feared I should not be able to hear the preaching. I prayed and cried and the Lord gave strength, and though very ill I got safely there. In the first hymn I found a word that met my desolate condition, and in your prayer I found more, and my heart was enlarged, but when you gave out your text, "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God", then the Lord came altogether into my heart, and every word seemed spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ upon my heart so that I went home rejoicing and better in body too. Now what should I have lost if I had gone to glean instead of hearing? How can I express the loss? Can any temporal advantage be equal to what I had found? What might the gleaners have found if they had come? If I had gathered fourteen handfuls of corn it would have yielded me, Sir, one peck of flour. But what is this to what I gained by hearing? Blessed be the Lord for ever that I should ever lay this to heart! O what should I have lost if I had gone to gain the peck of flour? I cannot tell you the joy that I found.""
"There were some that went to the fields and at the time of our meeting threw their bundles down at the door and attended. I was much encouraged by this. I was also told that our people were marked and mocked at, but in general they gleaned aloof from the crowd and went by themselves and so escaped the tumult.
"I called on Sukey one day. She said, "I sat knitting at my door on Friday evening and was very earnest in prayer for you, Sir, and thought of when you spoke on that verse, They are children that will not lie, so He was their Saviour". I was once a big liar, but now one lie is as big as my house - ah! bigger - as big as a mountain and brings me down in much sorrow. How often have I said He would never come again, when He had promised never to leave me nor forsake me. What a dishonouring lie! Charles said he was so filled with the love of God during your sermon as not to be able to speak".
"Oh how I see the Lord blesses these very poor and outwardly destitute ones with a double portion of His Spirit. Their outward comforts are very small. Charles often out of work. He is over seventy and is now obliged to go nearly four miles for his day's work, and then four miles home. Sukey says he is so fatigued he sometimes lies down and never stirs till he rises for work again."
Mr. Bourne's discriminating sermons were not received well by everyone who heard them. In October of that seven-month visit he had to face a difficult situation, and records it in a letter to a London friend. "The Lord has been lately much amongst the flock, instructing and comforting many of them, but our crafty adversary has stirred up some others to hear "another gospel", and their cry is, It is all the same; we are all one! Thus grievous wolves are suffered to enter and seek to join with us, but not in heart; for they are desperately offended and will hear no reproof. These things have led me to much prayer and much thoughtfulness, and while alone yesterday morning, being Wednesday, the Lord drew nigh, and gave me softness of spirit and great calmness, and impressed my mind with awe and a sweet sense of His supporting power, and that He would give me wisdom and words to meet the people in the evening, for I had many things to enter into.
"My first prayer was for the Lord's especial help that He would plead our cause, that He would go forth as a mighty man against them that persecute us, that they might be ashamed and turned back that desire our hurt, and that the false witnesses that rise up may not be able to prove that it is all the same. O Lord, the sons of Eliab declare that we take too much upon ourselves, for, say they, we are as holy as you and as fit to teach; and when they are called to order they rebel at reproof and are quite sure their way is right. Do Thou be pleased to show who is on Thy side, and whom Thou choosest and causest to approach unto Thee. O Lord, they complain that we have brought them from the land that floweth with milk and honey, and have left them in the wilderness. Thou knowest what has been set before them, the utter impossibility of attaining to or maintaining the life of Christ in the soul without the daily cross and self-denial. O Lord, protect Thy tender ones that are full of fears and cleave close to Thee, that they may be preserved in the day of battle.
"I then began my discourse from Rev. 22, beginning at the 10th verse 'seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book"; the tidings are terrible; if the Lord be on our side we shall know it by our spiritual obedience to His Word. The Spirit is set forth as a reprover; and if we find grace to fall under the word we are told that the way of life is in it; but if we think we know better, and seek to establish ourselves in anything contrary to the unity of the Church of God, this sentence will reach us, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still; and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still"; and how will such an one meet the Saviour in the day of judgment? The evil begins with conceit and pride of heart, saying, We know as well as you; then they are offended and increase their offence by going about to spread the venom; then they quickly separate. Thus the sifting time comes on before you are aware, and you strong ones make it manifest you are nothing but chaff. All this comes of not bearing to be taught. But others can tell of the great comfort they find in hearing these truths, the Spirit being a constant reprover and at the same time leading them to the fountain opened. Thus they see their danger, and by the mercy of the Lord Jesus are healed.
" "Blessed are they that do His commandments;" but how few render this spiritual obedience! Many say, but few do. I have known some who have been immersed in some family troubles for seven years, and are yet entangled in them, without the least increase of spiritual understanding or any sweet token of their profiting by them, and all for want of spiritual obedience to God's Word. A will of their own and a way of their own completely binds them, and separates them from showing forth or bringing into the Church of God the glory and honour of the Lord's grace for the edification of His people; therefore they remain this day as they were seven years back, still in the furnace and still under the dominion of self."
It is possible that in this description Mr. Bourne has his own wife in view, for the editor of his Letters tells us in a preface that though a godly person, "experiencing gracious reliefs from time to time, she walked much in darkness through besetting cares and a want of submission to the hand of God crossing her natural will". Mr. Bourne several times refers to his "afflicted" daughter being "a maul upon our pride" as her mental illness broke out from time to time, and possibly it was this that Mrs. Bourne felt was hard to face. The editor describes her path as "widely differing from that of her much blest partner in life, her natural disposition also strongly contrasting with his". But, he adds, 'she was another example of God's effectual call, not, as in his case, openly declared to the comfort and edification of many, but still discerned and acknowledged by such as had more intimate converse with her".
How clearly this shows that grace is neither a reflection nor an infection from another, but is worked out individually according to the character given by God to each of His people. For we may be sure Mr. Bourne would have been much in prayer for his wife's attitude to trouble, yet he could not give her the comfort he himself got from it.
To continue with the sermon: "Blessed are they that obey the word; they only "have right to the tree of life and may enter in through the gates into the city". But how, many seem to come very near this gate, and we receive them in love because we see them so near, but alas! they start aside at this very point. And I fear some of you, my hearers, have become teachers, though you never knew anything about going through this gate, which is Christ Jesus; stopping short of those evidences that accompany salvation, you imagine you have wisdom enough not only to find another way as good, but also to show your neighbours the same. What sort of a religion is that which leads you in your trouble to go to an arm of flesh for help? It is a fearful thing to have no better hope or help than we can get from a fellow-mortal. Some of you have tongues long enough for teachers, but they only betray your ignorance, and give no account of the reason of the hope that is in you, either in meekness or in fear. If you are enabled to make the Lord your refuge, you will find him "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother". Take heed. "Lord Jesus," send the Spirit of God in a faithful ministry. None else can get at the secret. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and they won't say that Shibboleth and Sibboleth are the same. If the Lord Jesus send us, He will make us testify of many things not pleasant to the flesh, for which we must bear the cross and be hated of all men. Christ here calls Himself "the bright and morning star". He that walks with Christ walks in the light, and will neither stumble nor cause others to stumble.
" "He that hath an ear, let him hear," and join with all the Church of God in inviting poor sinners to Jesus Christ. Many among you know the sound of the Gospel, but with a false zeal mix many errors with it, and go about to sow them; but he that is truly athirst will come with godly simplicity and show his sorrows and fears by the disquietude of his mind and the distress he finds in whatever company he goes into. He can find no rest for his soul till he tastes of this water of life. These are they who are made willing in the day of God's power.
"When I was a youth I hated religion and often resolved never to enter any place of worship, and I used to run out of the house when family prayer was likely to begin, but the day of God's power was felt by me in many ways. Sickness, disappointments, and vexations of all sorts made me stoop, and though like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke the Lord never left me till He broke the neck of my rebellion; and the first taste of this water of life made me very willing to be found in God's way.
"I then referred to the preceding chapter, where the Lord says, "Behold, I will make all things new". What are the old things? Self-will and many such things. The new are humility and spiritual obedience, which will lead us to have our testimony from God and not from one another. I know some who have sadly mistaken this point, and in natural affection have given a brilliant testimony that has come to nothing at all. God's testimony will teach us not to be all leaders, but in all humility to seek to be instructed and watch the hand of God. Do not profess to know how to walk without knowing something of the Lord Jesus Christ. He alone will be a sure guide. If you get a taste of this "water of life" you will have the eyes of your understanding enlightened; if not (pretend as you please to teach) you will only be like the wooden guide-post at the corner of this garden and point out the way without going one step in it. "He that overcometh shall inherit all things." It is a terrible overcoming. Think for a moment of your pressing at the strait gate without the Lord for your refuge? What signifies your profession of religion if your sentence comes not forth from the Lord Jesus Christ? You know not the snares that are about you. The books you distribute are not of God, nor are they the same that we preach. The art of the enemy is to mix some truth with many errors, and especially to work a false spirit, and thus, if possible, to draw aside the simple. May the Lord give you grace to take the warning. O how my heart goes up in prayer that you may not be devoured by wolves!_ Take heed lest the light that is in you be like that of the foolish virgins who had no oil in their lamps, which went out when most needed."
Mr Bourne told them a little of his visits to a young miner in the village, Maurice Perkins. The Perkins, a Pulverbach family, had moved to Llanidloes in Wales when the mines failed a while, and Maurice had been born there in 1817. They returned to Pulverbach later, and had all attended Mr. Bourne's preaching in the different cottages. The parents found it a blessing to their souls, but to Maurice, a lively, carefree lad, it had had no effect except a few twinges to his conscience until he fell ill in 1843. He said, "At that time I became very unhappy, for I knew I was not fit for heaven and I feared hell. When Mr. Bourne first visited me I was in a desperate dark dead state. I could not understand anything, yet when he talked I longed to get at the things he spoke of. I felt to love Mr. Bourne, but he puzzled me sometimes, and seemed to press hard on me". Mr. Bourne said, on his side, "When first taken ill our young friend Maurice thought he knew everything, and told me that he had answers to prayer as well as I; but it pleased God to show him the condition in which he stood in God's sight which was very different from his own judgment of his state. Here he fell and could get no answer till at last he cried out, "I am utterly lost". My visits now became acceptable to him, and he began to enquire if there might be any hope for him now, his sins were so great and so many; and it pleased God in great mercy to reveal Himself to his soul in many ways, first with encouragement, and then with a brighter hope. Finding an earnest spirit of prayer for him, I returned again and again".
Maurice continues, "I never could speak freely to Mr. Bourne till I had him all alone one morning before I was up. I was able to open up all my heart to him, and he did speak mighty sweet to me then. Oh, how I did love his visits then and his letters to me now". Maurice presently spoke of the difference he felt in the religion of his neighbours in general and that which he saw he must now possess. He had many changes but very seldom was without hope. Friends who visited him (Sukey Harley was one and the Gilpin ladies others) found his conversation so sweet that they left saying, "Happy Maurice!"
"You read me about Stephen looking up steadfastly," he said to Mr. Bourne. "That's the look I have always found brought me in something! When I can look that way to Christ I find it not in vain, but looking to ourselves brings darkness and trouble."
He was also able to say, "I have no desire to return to the world; I have no appetite for it. I don't know how I could return to it, for everything is contrary to what I now want".
"What do you now want, Maurice?" asked Mr. Bourne.
"Nothing but Christ; and He is not to be found in the world. When he is absent, I have no comfort. When He comes I have no want, either for body or for soul."
'surely," comments Mr. Bourne, "there is a reality in this! This is a teachable spirit that causes none to stumble."
In November, 1844, Mr. Bourne left Pulverbach again. He says, "The Lord has been with me there in a peculiar manner; He has been a very present help in many sore conflicts and has blessed the word to many souls". And to Mr. Maydwell he writes, "I am happy to say that I leave the people in unity. I have faithfully set before them, to the utmost of my power, the danger of stopping short; or if they appear to know anything aright, that their lives may not be vain and light; for I am forced to tell them that the enemy is continually going about to trip up the heels of such and make them rue their folly many days. It is not said in vain to young and old, "Be sober, be vigilant"; for where you least suspect, there you are soonest betrayed".
After Pulverbach, Mr. Bourne spent a few weeks at Hertford, preaching for Bernard, while he went North to his old home, and preached at Wrentnall. These two visits - Mr. Bourne's seven-month one and Bernard's three weeks - were like a feast to the little congregation. Samuel Hughes says of this time, "Mr. Bourne and also Mr. Bernard Gilpin were instruments in the hand of God in confirming and establishing me in the truth of the Gospel, and particularly the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of God's living family. While they have been describing this I have often spelt out my own, and gone home rejoicing in the God of my salvation. About this time I purchased Hart's Hymns, which were a great help to me. I carried them in my pocket till I wore the book out; I have found them a rare pocket companion ever since I had them". How sweet to Mr. Bourne must Samuel's "profiting" have appeared, when he could write: 'surely I have found it a warfare.
I fain would have lived as holy as God is holy if I could; but I could no more do it than I could make a world. If I did not sin outwardly my thoughts wandered like the fool's eyes to the ends of the earth. This led me to look entirely from self - holy self, good self, righteous self, sinful self, wretched self, wicked self to the finished work of Christ, whose precious blood sealed and ratified the everlasting covenant of grace, ordered in all things and sure. Here I am enabled to look and trust, from self and out of self. But you know there are passing clouds between the sun and us naturally, and when they are past we see the sun again. This is just as it is with me. Sometimes the cloud passes; then it is easy work to read and pray and look through the telescope of faith to the fields of promise, the provisions of grace, the heavenly Canaan, the place where Jesus is, where angels dwell, and the eternal home of the Christian. O happy thought, our Jesus is the light of that place! This promise was once laid upon my heart, "The Lord shall be thy everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended"."
And in the strength of that meat Samuel toiled on at the barytes mines and talked to his fellow-miners and shared with the godly among them his correspondence with Mr. Bourne.
Maurice Perkins lingered on into the spring of the next year. In great weakness and distress one time he was strengthened, he said, "by a lovely "Fear not, I have called thee by thy name". The Lord gave it me, and I cannot express the love He puts into my heart. Tell Mr. Bourne this; I know he will be glad to hear it".
Mr. Bourne was glad, and wrote to him as follows: "What an inexpressible mercy that the Lord should condescend to visit you under your present weakness! How many there are who are sick as you are, and yet know nothing but sorrow and despair! How remarkably the Lord has appeared to the relief and comfort of both body and soul, telling you that He is gently taking you to Himself, where there will be no more pain or sickness. I have no doubt you have some sorrowful hours, but something whispers,
Cheer up, ye travelling souls,
and then (as you say) when you have prayed a little, He comes into your heart and you hardly know how, but it gives such a turn to your thoughts that instead of poring over your troubles, you are drawn out in meditation on the love of Christ to you, and this makes you to forget your poverty and remember your misery no more (Prov. 31, 6. 7). I believe it has pleased God to spare your life and to keep you so long in the furnace of affliction for the good of others, that your friends and neighbours may see the power His grace; how He can and does keep the soul alive in the midst death. Tell your dear brother and his wife I sincerely hope that the eyes of their understanding may be opened to discern what is truth, and that they may see the power of it in you - how it has raised you from death and ignorance to newness of life, and often brings in a sweet assurance of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Lord bless you and take you by the hand as you enter this river Jordan, and you will then find that there will be no sinking with Him for your prop "who holds the world and all things up".
"During the last week of his life Maurice got his brother to read as much as possible, for his soul so longed to be fed with the Word of God. His mother said she often saw him praying; once when she heard him say, "Oh Lord, do come to me again! I can't live without Thee now", she crept into the next room and before she could return he was blessing the Lord that his prayer seemed answered at once\ On the morning of his death Sukey Harley called on him. He said "I am very bad now. I can't pray nor look up". She said, "The Lord knows what you can do now when heart and flesh fail, but your life is hid with Christ in God. It is nothing now but Thy blood, O Jesus!"
"He answered, "I cannot praise Him now, but I shall praise Him afterwards".
"His brother said, "Do you feel happy?". He whispered, "I know He loves me!". His last words were "Glory! Glory!" and he was gone. He was twenty-eight years old.