Barnet (1861)

A month since, a few Christian friends, under the sanction of their pastor, the Rev. W. Pennefather, of Christchurch, invited all the rough boys of the town to tea at the Star coffee ­house. Two of the dear youths from Woolwich were also invited. Nearly 200 boys came. After tea, and amid much uproar, a revival hymn was sung, and by degrees they were calmed down. Prayer was then offered; and, after a very earnest address from the youths and a Christian sister, they became quiet and listened attentively. For three successive Sunday and Wednesday evenings these services continued. Much prayer was offered for them in our daily prayer-meeting, when our gracious loving Lord did truly answer prayer. Last Sunday evening (12th), when we had Mr Whitwell with us, very many boys came in to laugh and jeer; but before the service concluded many of them were found in tears, deeply touched with the burden of their sins. A few found peace, and one came baldly forward and confessed what God had done for his soul, and how he had been taunted; but how he had received strength to stand firm, for he now felt the love of Jesus in his heart. And when our first service ended, and we requested the anxious ones to remain for conversation and prayers not one was willing to go. We gathered them into little companies, and it was truly a happy sight to see our young converts taking them on one side to pray for them and to point them to Jesus. It was with some little difficulty we closed this interesting meeting. We intend continuing there services and beg the prayers of our beloved brothers and sisters in Christ that the Holy Ghost may work mightily in our midst, and that Jeans may become very precious to many of these dear boys.

Last week nightly services for the working-classes were held in the large Iron Room, and many souls were led to rejoice in Jesus. T

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume IV, page 70.

My dear Sir,—You were so kind as to insert in your valuable paper a request for prayer in behalf of Barnet. I now beg your readers to unite with me in thanksgiving to God for his gracious answers to our petitions. Truly the Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. We have "proved Him," and He has poured us out such a blessing that there seems seem "room enough to receive it."

I confess that it is after some hesitation, and only in compliance with the earnest request of friends, that I have made up my mind to give you even an outline of a work which I find it most difficult to describe, and which requires to be tested by the lapse of time. When a traveller stands beside a deep and mighty river, and sees its broad waters calmly rolling on, the thought arises in his mind, "Where is its source?" And if that trav­eller pursues his way up the banks of that river, by-and-by he comes, now to one, and now to another tributary stream; and, at length, after many hundred miles, he finds himself amidst rocky gorges whose depths are fed by eternal snows. But far beyond his power is it to discover from which mountain summit the first rivulet has descended that is the parent of those ex­panded waters which filled the inhabited plains far below with joy, and life, and wealth. And so it is, that when the child of God sees flowing through that portion of the vineyard in which his lot is cast the blessed waters of salvation, the thought arises, "Who has opened these flood-gates? and who has irrigated the thirsty land with these refreshing streams?" and as he tries to trace the river, he finds that God has employed many agents to bring about the results he witnesses and that he must trace up even to the everlasting hills on which the throne of the Lord rests, the fertility and joy which lie around him.

Long before I was acquainted with the town of Barnet it was made the subject of many prayers. Some valued labourers in the Lord's vineyard had "gone forth weeping, bearing precious seed," and had "come again" from time to time "rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them." In 1856 we held our first Conference, or assembly of Christians, for the purpose of mutual edification, prayer, and praise. Since then, there have been three such assemblies of the Lord's dear people in this place, and many have been the fervent prayers put up by brethren from different parts of the world in behalf of this town. When we met in July last it was felt by very many that God was about, in an especial manner, to bless this locality; and some of the brethren then assembled seemed like the Levites in the days of Jehoshaphat, to give thanks for victory even before the blessing was obtained (see 2 Chron. xx. 21, 22). They pleaded so believingly that they "had the petitions that they desired." Many persons failed to gain admittance to the meet­ings from lack of room. Some poor people walked miles after their day's work, hoping to worship with God's children, and found, to their dismay, the school-room full to the very door.

It was touching to learn that a washerwoman had risen very early to get her work done in time, and having succeeded, set out for the meeting; but only to find that entrance into the room was impossible. These, and other facts, stirred up some of my dear flock to desire increased accommodation before another Conference should take place, and it was at length pro­posed to erect an iron-room for that purpose, and for children's services on the Lord's day. I was anxious that, if possible, the building should be fit for use by the close of last year and the beginning of this year, because at such seasons we have long been accustomed to hold special meetings. Much prayer was offered that God would be pleased to consecrate the building with his own presence and that in it souls might be saved, and the name of the Lord glorified. In October last the building was commenced, and about that time a very decided work of God began in the family of a dear brother resident in this neighbourhood, and he was permitted to kindle the light of truth in a village not far distant, where he had long toiled, ap­parently without any very marked results. Meetings were held there every night for some weeks in the autumn of last year, and God added to his church night by night such as should be saved. The young converts, with their dear leader at their head, cried earnestly to God on behalf of the immediate locality where I labour, and God did not keep them long without an answer. Our stated prayer-meetings and other means of grace soon deepened in interest, and there were not wanting cases of real spiritual blessing resulting from our ordinary Sabbath and week-day services. The week of prayer in 1860 observed here gave rise to a daily united prayer-meeting, which has been held ever since, and it also proved the origin of a very interesting weekly prayer-meeting held by the section of the Metropolitan police force stationed in Barnet. God has set his seal of bless­ing on this policemen's prayer-meeting. Several of light, have been brought from darkness into marvellous light, and often as those faithful men pursue their nightly rounds, their prayers ascend up the Lord of Hosts.

The "iron room" was completed by Christmas-day, and on that evening a prayer-meeting was held in it.

On December 26 and 27 our dear brother, Mr Whitwell, gave two exhibitions of dissolving views, illustrative of the Scriptures. The latter night was free to the poor, and about 1000 persons crowded to see these illustrations, and to hear from his lips the words of salvation. None who were present on the second night can forget the deep solemnity which rested on that assembly, composed, as it was for the most part, of persons who rarely, if ever, frequent the means of grace ; and as the Scriptures were repeated, and God's praises sung, He was worshipped by not a few for the first time in spirit and in truth. That night was a now era in their lives. Many have since told me, in answer to the question, "How long is it since you began to think about your soul?" "I never knew Jesus as my Saviour till I saw the pictures! "And now we began to "hear a sound of abundance of rain." There were the usual prayer-meetings on December 31 and January 1, and to these the Lord vouchsafed his blessing. The Lodiana week of prayer quickly followed, and every morning and even­ing we met to read God's word, and to pour out our hearts before Hire The family of a missionary labouring in southern India were ordered to England on account of the health of his wife. She, though unacquainted with this place, determined to take up her residence here during her absence from her husband. God visited her family in a very marked manner during this week of prayer. Her sister and two daughters were brought to the feet of Jesus. Her own eldest son and daughter likewise partook of the blessing, and truly her "mouth was filled with laughter and her tongue with singing." Her aged mother came to see her, and she too was subsequently found by the Good Shepherd and led into his fold. The widow of an Indian officer arrived in Barnet on a brief visit to a friend, on Monday, January 7. She was present, with her eldest boy, in the room, when Mr Venn, from Hereford, gave a deeply-interesting ac­count of the Lord's work in Wales, on Tuesday, the 8th. After the meeting was over, her boy was spoken to earnestly about his soul. Subsequently, special prayer, at the request of his mother, was offered up on his behalf, and on the following Mon­day that boy came to tell me what great things the Lord had done for him. Never having been baptized as an infant, he made a public profession of his faith in baptism before going to school. The weather became so severe that no more special meet­ings were held until the week beginning February 17. Since then, they have been continued every night without intermission, and numbers have been led, not only to listen to the sound of the gospel, but to "receive with meekness that engrafted word" which has saved their souls. Special meetings on Sunday even­ings have been held for lads and boys, who, for the most part, habitually absented themselves from public worship; and here, too, God has manifested his power, and many, it is believed, are now found "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in their right mind." The orphan institutions under my care have likewise been visited with dew from above. But oh! what care do the tender plants of grace need to cultivate their growth and to mature their fruit! The services which have been held in the iron-room during the last few weeks attracted many from the neighbouring villages, and some members of a dear brother's flock, having received spiritual benefit at the meetings, felt anxious that similar services should be carried on amongst them. Accordingly, their dear pastor met them night by night, and the God of all grace has blessed them also very abundantly. And now the tide of mercy seems flowing further and further. I cannot conclude without stating that not only have many souls been, I trust, savingly converted, but God's believing people have been "knit together in love," their faith has been strengthened, and their hope brightened. The family bond which unites all the children of God is more than ever recog­nized amongst us, and the voice of joy and thanksgiving is heard in our dwellings. Oh, that all labourers in the vineyard of the Lord may more than ever feel that now is the accepted time, and that "yet a little while" and the "day of our visit­ation" shall have passed. away forever. May I ask your readers to lift up their hearts in prayer for me and for that portion of the vineyard whereunto God has cast my lot; and may this simple sketch prove, with God's blessing, the means of strengthening the faith a his children and leading some who are “out of the way " to know the infinite grace and love of Him who " came to seek and to save that which was lost."

Believe me to remain, my dear sir, ever yours in the best bonds, WILLIAM PENNEFATHER

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume IV, page 125.

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