BUCKENHAM FERRY, NEAR Norwich.- It would take more time than I can spare just now, and more space than you can afford, to tell of all, even all we know - and how little can that be compared with what the Lord Himself sees - of his wonderful and gracious work in this neighbourhood. Something, however, I cannot refuse to record in your pages. May it be for the praise of our good and gracious God, and the encouragement of some of the many labourers He is now sending forth into His harvest. We live in eventful and portentous times and men are hurrying on as if they felt that time was very short and felt more and more that souls are precious and more than ever that Jesus is worthy. A dear brother writes to say "Is not this also a sign of the last days? As it was in the days of Lot, the careless ones were careless, but God's angels were leading away the saved ones from impending destruction, so it is now, thank the Lord our God!"
This is a very small parish. It contains four cottages, a railway station, and three other houses. Who of men would have thought of such a place wherein to begin a glorious work? There are great towns and cities, teeming with population and reeking with wickedness where the hearts of the faithful are stirred within them to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; their hope is still in many instances deferred, while a wilderness like this does blossom as a rose and indeed the fragrance of the very Rose of Sharon is shed abroad here! How mysterious are the ways of God. We doubted whether to come and
our hearts sunk within us to see no people and no houses and the text was given, "Arise, go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem to Gaza which is desert" (Acts viii. 26). There Philip found the special work which the Lord had provided for him. So have we found here a special work and unexpected; I mean as to its extent and influence. Let no one despise a small beginning, or the Lord's leading to what seems to men an unlikely place.
In October last we invited a few into our house who seemed impressed at the public services of the church, for conversation and prayer; but the few became a larger number than our rooms would hold, and it became necessary to, prepare a larger room, which was promptly done. This was soon so densely crowded that it became necessary again to provide more extensive accommodation. This we found in a barn close by. Here week after week the Lord has poured his blessing upon a people whom He has gathered from five or six adjoining parishes, who have come willingly through darkness and cold, through frost, and snow, and rain, some three, some four, some even five and six miles! For three months now has this blessed season been prolonged, and yet it seems only in its beginning. Some hundreds of souls have been converted to God or refreshed so that the once cold, barren country neighbourhood now resounds with the songs of thanksgiving and praise. From these many new born souls and from older Christians roused up to fresh energy of action, there is raised a testimony for God and for his work which cannot fail to arrest and demand attention.
On the day of Pentecost there were believers praising and convicted sinners crying in prayer, and the mockers mocking. It must ever be so in every manifestation of the Holy Spirit. It is so here. While the believers are "glad, and glorify the word of the Lord," the word is published, as of yore, throughout all the region, and as of yore, the Jews still stir up the devout and honourable women, and the chief men, at least as many as they can, in opposition. (Acts xiii) Nevertheless, mightily grows the word and prevails.
The ale-house bench is not so crowded this winter, and some publicans are to be seen from time to time in the meetings. One of this class has been turned to the Lord so decidedly that he has opened his house to prayer meetings. It was my privilege a week or two ago, at his request, to address a throng of people who filled his rooms. I stood with my back to the front door and spoke in the passage to the unseen audience in the various rooms upstairs and down. The power of the Lord was present with the word, and some began to cry aloud for mercy, even while I was speaking. It was nearly ten o'clock before all who had been praying aloud for forgiveness could rejoice in the Lord. At a densely crowded meeting in a very spacious barn, last night, I heard it announced that there would be a prayer meeting on Saturday night in that public house. We have generally held meetings on a Saturday evening, to keep people or draw people away from such places; but here is an attraction of a novel kind, the Lord be praised. The Lord who has blessed this publican's family, so that he and his house rejoice in God.
In the neighbouring parish of Limpenhoe, the rector has been and is labouring with much blessing and success, and is greatly cheered in his own soul. Oh that more of the clergy could be brought to see and rejoice in the blessedness of such a work. What a true blessing of God would rest on themselves and what a blessing they would be to the souls committed to their charge. Ministers of reconciliation indeed would they be, and ministers of Christ really ministering Christ to Christless souls. What is the chief end of Christian ministry? The glory of God and salvation of men; and where these are not accomplished - where souls are not awakened and saved -- what avails the external decencies, and proprieties, and prosperities of which so many boast? "I am losing the end of my ministry," said one sorrowfully. "I have a good congregation my people are pleased with me, all is quiet and harmonious, but souls are not converted, people are not awakened to a concern for eternal things. I am spending my strength for nought, labouring in vain; I am wearing out my life without fruit that will follow me into eternity!" This is true, and just such a lamentation as ministers should make when they become alive to the
nature and importance of their great calling and work, and see that their ministry is fruitless in conversion of souls to God.
Last Christmas Day the church was full, and in the evening the barn was crowded to excess, and upwards of a hundred persons stood outside. Numbers were then convicted. They had kept Christmas for many years and endeavoured to make themselves happy on the birthday of Christ, but they had not thought of Him whose birthday it was. "I never knew," said one, and another "what Christmas was about before." One large, desperate-looking man said, "Oh, will He take a devil's heart, like mine. Oh, Lord, save me--save me." The prayer was granted, his soul astonished and filled with rejoicing. Coming out of the barn, He saw a farmer who had himself been recently brought to the Lord. "Oh, master, said he, "the Lord has pulled me out of the mud," This man had been engaged a few days before by this farmer to save a horse which was sinking into the marsh-dike. Upwards of 100 stayed behinf for the after-meeting, they declared and assented that they never before had such a happy Christmas. "This is my first Christmas", "and mine" - "and mine," said many voices!
...Our meetings are more and more blessed every day and they are spreading now to more distant parishes. Last week a large barn, holding 1,000 people, was crowded and many souls were converted; and last week another farmer offered a barn which will hold 1,300 or 1,500 people.It will take three or four days to clear it out, but if it take the whole week, never mind, only do come. Thus is the Lord inclining the hearts of the people and making provision for the extension of His work. WILLIAM HASLAM
"The Revival," February 4th, 1864.