Royal Arsenal London (1860)


DOES anyone ask, as he reads the above, Who are the Wool­wich boys? I answer in their own words, they are a band of "sinners saved by grace," of "boys washed in the blood of the Lamb." It is somewhat difficult to write about people with the consciousness that they will read for themselves what one is writing, and I confess I shrink from the task. That there is a tendency in all hearts, whether of boys, men, or women, to be puffed up, is undeniable. The great Apostle himself needed a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being exalted above measure, and we are certainly not better than he. There may be danger then to the persons themselves; but, on the other hand, is it not for the glory of God that we should speak of his works and tell of his wondrous doings? May He grant that whatever his servant shall write be wholly and solely to the glory of the grace of God. And now you dear boys, who must needs read this sketch, suffer me to give you a word of caution. It was the wisest of men that wrote "keep thine heart with all diligence;" and it was not without some strong reason that Paul uttered the solemn injunction, " Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he falls into the condemnation of the devil." Dear boys, there is great need that both you and I should be watchful, but no need at all that we should be fear­ful. The same Jesus who said, "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation," said also, " Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." In the good providence of God I went recently to stay with Captain Orr, of the Royal Arsenal; I went expressly to witness and take part in the work of God, if it should please Him so to permit me; and my stay, which was to have been three days, was lengthened out to five weeks. The first time I met the boys was for the purpose of telling them, as I had been asked to do, of the American Revival as I had seen it for myself. At the close, I told them I should be much pleased if they would give me some account of the Revival in Woolwich; and, in accordance with the wish, they arranged a meeting for this express purpose. It was a blessed season to myself and to many others. The meeting was beautifully arranged, being managed entirely by themselves, and from their own lips I gathered my first real knowledge of the work wrought in their midst. About three years ago, a few simple words from the superintendent of the Arsenal Sunday-school (Capt. Orr) were blessed of God to the awakening and conversion of one of the elder boys. He did not make known the change which had taken place in himself to the superintendent, but immediately began to pray for the conversion of others, and before long his prayer was answered, and God gave him a companion, who, having found Christ himself, joined him in earnest prayer that others might be led to seek Him. They prayed on together until the Lord increased the band to the number of seven. Capt. Orr, having been absent three months, which he spent among the scenes of the Irish Revival, returned with quickened zeal and love to his post, and naturally related to the school some of the things he had seen and heard. From that time the work grew and pros­pered; and when, a few weeks ago, a tea-meeting was arranged for the converted boys connected with the arsenal, after the most careful sifting, there was brought together the goodly number of eighty-nine. It was a few days after this gathering that I made my first acquaintance with the Arsenal-school, being permitted to say a few words to them the first Sunday afternoon of my stay at Woolwich. The Lord was pleased to own the effort, and a few boys waited at the close of school with tearful faces to be spoken to about their souls. Seeing that the Lord had done such great things for them, the desire was created in my own heart that a still further visitation might be granted them and that every boy in the school might be con­verted. This was no new thought among themselves, and they gladly responded to a call for special prayer with reference to this matter. We agreed to make it the burden of our prayers for one week, that God would do a great work in the Arsenal-school, and pledged ourselves to plead with Him three times each day for this thing. I know the agreement was faithfully kept, and the precise periods observed as far as circumstances permitted. I remember two little boys calling on me the Saturday afternoon which terminated this week of prayer: I asked them if they had kept their promise with reference to this matter. "Yes," said one of them, "only he forgot once, and I forgot three times, but we made up for it yesterday at the shop.' "How so?" I asked. "We were waiting for work," was the answer, "so we slipped under the table and prayed there." "Did not the men laugh at you?" I asked. "Oh, yes, but we don't care for that; we pray at the shop almost every day." I proposed that we should pray together before parting, and the little fellows were quickly upon their knees pouring out their hearts to God. "Oh, Lord, do bless especially the Arsenal Sunday-school. Oh, Lord, if thou wouldst convert one to-day, and three tomorrow, and five the next day, we should soon have a great lot converted. Do have mercy on the men that work with us. May them that laughs and scoffs at us soon get converted themselves!" Sunday morning came, and we met together for the usual early prayer- meeting. It was quite evident by the tone of the prayers that those who offered them had been in the spirit of prayer during the week. There was a hallowed influence about the meeting, and our hearts still waited upon God for the answer to our prayers. We were not without an answer. It pleased the Lord to touch some hearts that day; but the great shower we had been asking for, and for which we are still looking, did not come then. This, however, I can say to the praise of our prayer-hearing God, that since that week of prayer I have never once opened my lips for Christ without a visible and immediate result, and this has been not only my experience but, as far as I know, that of the boys also.

From the 'Revival Newspaper', Volume III, page 133.

Additional Information

The school was where marked.

Related Wells