Hastings (1862)

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord."

The Lord has wrought and is still working a great work in Hastings. With devout thankfulness for thus using us at all in his service, we desire to accord to Him all the honour and the praise, for the work is entirely his own. It is now eighteen months since God was pleased to direct to this town Mr Whitlock, once a tanner in Bermondsey, a brother in Christ, who has been mainly instrumental in carrying on the great work here. Our heavenly Father has put it into the heart of one of his children, rich in the things of this world, to give him all that he needs for himself and family, without labouring with his own hands. He is thus free to work in whichever part of the vineyard the great Husbandman may direct. There are hundreds of hearts who in cheerful song and thanksgiving, send up a note of grateful praise to the Lord for directing him here. Our dear brother commenced his work on one of the capstans in the fish-market. He preached at first to a small audience, amidst much ridicule. He leant upon the promise, "It shall return," still continuing to tell of the unchanging love of Christ. Standing by himself, he would soon have become disheartened, but by his side to cheer him on, was One who said, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end. Preach the Gospel to every creature." Opposition soon ceased. The numbers attending the service increased, and it became a matter of earnest prayer that the Lord would open a building where the gospel might be preached on the Sabbath. The use of the market-hall was granted by the town council, for 25 per annum. It accommodates about 500 or 600 persons. Here "Christ Jesus and Him crucified" has been faithfully and simply but ravingly preached, and many here, and at St. Leonard's, bless God for these services. In answer to prayer, the attendance, which at first was very small, has so increased that the place is now crowded on Sunday evenings and brethren who stand at the door state that for two Sabbaths past many have gone away unable to find a seat. One Sunday evening recently we held our usual meeting for anxious ones, at the close of the preaching service. Many remained behind, and many found rest in Christ. "By their fruits shall ye know them." With zeal, earnestness and boldness those who have been brought to Christ speak of his redeeming love to their former com?panions in sin. "You all know what I was, you see what, by the grace of God, I benow," was the confident appeal of one to those who would gladly have found some occasion against him. There are in our town some of God's brightest children. Day labourers, untaught of man, but wise unto salvation, and shining lights. A woman gave the following unsolicited testimony to a friend who called upon her with a tract. I attach the more importance to it in as much as it comes from one who is not a professor of religion. "Such a change has come over A. and his wife. They were the terror of all the neighbours. Their presence in our street was always sufficient to induce me to run into my house and close the door. Each aimed to outstrip the other in blasphemy; their oaths and curses were terrible. But lately such a change has come over them. It was quite sudden. They have become quite religious, and I cannot tell where they have learnt it all so soon, but it is quite a treat for either of them to come in and speak, they talk so nicely." On the same Sabbath evening of which I first wrote, four daughters in one family received the truth in the love of it. They had long been professors; members of a choir at a neighbouring church, their voices had often mingled with those of God's people, but there was no music there to his ear. "Nothing but leaves only." But now, they sing a new song, making melody in their heart unto God. "He brought us up also out of the horrible pit and the miry clay, hath set our feet upon the Rock of Ages, hath established our going, and put a new song into our mouth, even a song of praise." Their father has long been a disciple of Christ. Amidst many tears he has testified to the people of what the Lord hath done for him, and for them. It was a broken utterance, for sobs kept back his words. But his tears of joy spoke more eloquently and forcibly than any other lan?guage could have done. We believe we know of ten cases of conversion that evening; of how many more He may know the great day only will reveal. Last Sunday was an equally happy day. All the services throughout were well attended, and a great blessing upon the evening meeting. The truth, spoken but feebly, came home convincing of sin, and at the after meeting many broken-hearted ones were healed by the Great Physician. I will instance but one case. About the time of our evening service, a man passed by the wall. He came to the door, he was invited in, but he did not accept the invitation. On their return, however, bidding his wife go home, he slipped unobserved into the hall. Surely he will stay now and listen to the truth. No. Good resolutions gave way. He picked up his hat, left the hall, and walked quietly home. The rising truth stifled again. Conviction suppressed, the Spirit resisted, the Spirit grieved. He could not rest at home. Again he is in the street, a third time at the hall doors; he is listening to the truth again, he is just in time to hear the preacher's voice warning against delay, service was all but closed when he entered, he heard but a few words, but it was enough. In reply to a question why he remained, he said, "I have been a determined persecutor of the gospel, but this is too much for me. By God's help, I won't leave here to-night without this blessing of which you speak." And the blessing came. The tears rolled down his weather-beaten cheeks, as God's love in Christ was presented to him. He burst out, "I have it, I have it." He had found the Pearl of great price, the living Jesus, "a very present help." his usual Sunday evening walk with his wife. AsIt was just dark on Tuesday evening, when the same brother who had been instrumental in the Lord's hand in presenting the truth to this man, was passing through the fish-market. A working-man was standing upon the capstan, stammering out, as well as he could, something of the love of Christ. He listened. It was evidently the truth, but the preacher certainly had a poor memory, or but little acquaintance with the Scripture. The day was too far gone to allow him to read the text he was endeavouring to repeat, "He that bath the Son hath life, he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." He tells the people of what God has done for him. "I am one of Sunday night's conversions at the market-hall. I have come to tell you what God has done for me. I can't explain the Bible to you, but I have it here in my heart, and I want you to have it too. May God bless you." It was the same man. Not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, he could not but speak of those things which he had seen and heard. Our hands are upheld by many Christians of all denominations, Episcopalians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Wesleyans, and Brethren. They come not to criticise, but to pray. Some indeed, who have come only to question, have remained to praise God on their own behalf in leading them to the simple truth. It is the earnest prayers of God's people on behalf of this great work that has so signally pushed it forward. Yours in Christ Jesus, H. STEWART.

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume VII, page 72-3.

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