Morwenstow (1816)

William O'Bryan knew that there was Methodist preaching in the parish of Morwenstow, he looked upon it as beyond the sphere of his influence, until confused and conflicting reports reached him that a woman had preached in its ancient church, standing a few yards from the edge of the grand cliffs which defy the stormy western seas. But a woman preaching in the church was in the opinion of most people then the strangest of all occurrences, at once unaccountable and reprehensible. The strict church woman by the name of Joanna Brooks was the offender. The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, without the aid of preacher or evangelist, had pierced her to the heart. Her terror at times was so great that hen in church she looked up almost expecting to see the flames of the last judgement blazing through the windows. For some time she was in an agony of distress, but at length she had a faint hope that the Lord would save her. She sought Him earnestly night and day and while engaged in prayer to that God who delighted in mercy, He graciously delivered her from all her guilty fears, shed abroad His love in her heart, and gave her the knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins. She was made so abundantly happy that she praise God aloud, to the astonishment of her unconverted neighbours. One great and all absorbing idea took complete possession of Mrs Brooks' mind and heart. Like Peter and John, when the impotent man had been made whole, she could not but speak of the things she had seen and heard. On two Lords days she went to the church, but could not summon up the courage enough to deliver her message; but on the third, has a shrill and piercing voice rang through the building. In plain and striking language she spoke of the power and glory of that abundant grace which had brought peace and pardon to herself, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. She then earnestly exhorted all present to flee from the wrath to come and lay hold of the hope set before them in the Gospel. After she had delivered her testimony, her husband and one of the parish offices compelled her to leave. What followed its best told in her own words:

On leaving the church I went behind it, and falling on my knees, prayed that God would take this matter into His own hands; thanking Him for the strength He had given me to testify of His grace. I prayed also that the Lord would help me, that whatever I might say might tend to His glory and the salvation of souls.

At the church gate I found nearly the whole of the congregation waiting; and there I again spoke to them for about half an hour, endeavouring to enforce the necessity of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. I declared that he was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed; further, that by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses; closing my remarks by again speaking of the great things God had done for my soul.

Great numbers were much affected... Before leaving, Mrs Brooks apologised to the clergyman, and ventured to ask him these searching questions: do you know that Christ has power on earth to forgive sins, and have you experienced His forgiving mercy? She says: my mind was kept in perfect peace, and I felt grateful for the grace given me to point my fellow creatures to the precious blood which cleanseth from all sin. Many persons during the following week called on her, some to warn her that she would be put into the spiritual court and prohibited from attending church again; others hurled flouts and jibes at her, but most of her visitors were under deep concern about their own salvation. Requests poured in upon her to come to this, that, and the other place, to show unto the people the way of life. One of the most memorable of these meetings was held at West Youlstone, when persons were present from several different parishes. Deep impressions were made on the minds of many, and the work spread and grew in a wonderful way. All who live godly in Christ Jesus have to suffer persecution, and Mrs Brooks's husband, his parents, her father and mother, and other near relatives, where at first exceedingly mad against her; but some of them soon, and many of them later, were brought to Christ, and hundreds of persons and, in several instances, whole households were saved.

The Bible Christians: Their Origin and History (1815-1900) by F.W. Bourne - page 31-34.