Mr Whitlock left our house yesterday for Burwash, after a month's stay, which was reciprocally happy; during which time, another brother was brought to God, the last one that was away from Him. Mr Whitlock declares Ryde to be the worst place he has ever seen; calls it, “Hell's centre;“ it is acknowledged by travellers to be the worst town in England, in proportion to the number of inhabitants. Religion has almost died out, “iniquity, abounded, and the love of many waxed cold.“ The last revival of religion was in the year 1815 to 1818; nearly all are dead, but a few bright stars remain.
On the evening of the 4th of May, Mr Whitlock commenced his labours in the Volunteer Drill shed, the largest building in Rye. In his address, he appealed to the drunken wifebeater. A drunken sea captain bawled out, “I am the man,“ swore at the preacher, and made a disturbance. A prayer meeting was afterwards held in the independent Chapel, eight or 10, found peace, most of them having been before awakened under his addresses at Udimore, and Winchelsea. The devil's agents were aroused; next night, the roughs of the town filled the chapel; the Deacons refused to close the doors against them, so we were obliged to leave after Wednesday.
On Thursday, continued in the shed, which was crowded. A dozen or more praying men rode down in a van from Brede to be present at the prayer meeting. Just as it was commencing, someone turned off the gas and scores of roughs, to add to the confusion, set up a hideous shout in the darkness and rushed out of the place. But the good people were not much alarmed; soon lighted it again, and proceeded with the prayer meeting. Again, a disturbance took place by the return of some of these men and eggs were thrown at Mr Whitlock‘s head. The next day we asked the mayor for protection, who sent the police to the shed, but said that he could not prevent a disturbance in the streets.
The next day, proceeding to the prayer meeting, there was such a scene as I have read of, but never witnessed. A large mob followed, the exhausted, little servant of God, who had hold of my arm. They made the most hideous yells, and as he stopped for a moment to speak to them, they tried to bonnet him.
On Sunday the 10th, Mr Whitlock delivered three addresses to crowded congregations. I never saw so great an impression made; silence reigned, nearly all were moved to tears. The large schoolroom would not hold the people who came to the prayer meeting, so he obtained permission on Monday to have the Wesleyan Chapel. An example of the hostility to God's cause which we have had to encounter, our poor horse was stabbed in the stomach, and after carrying us home (for we did not discover the wound) died a few days afterwards.
On the 12th we had a glorious time and more than a dozen found the Saviour and on Thursday nearly 30 penitents came out. On that evening, there was a young man who had been a ringleader in these riots brought to Christ, and we have since seen him labouring in the vineyard.
On Saturday morning, Mr Whitlock went and visited an old man who was dying in this parish. The old man said, “Sir, I found peace near the wagon in which you was preaching in the field at Udimore, the Sunday before last.“ Mr Whitlock sang the 25th hymn in Weaver‘s book and while singing the chorus, “Oh, Lamb of God, I come,“ the old man lifted his arms and tried to sing. He died the next morning to finish his Sabbath above. He was well and happy in the shed at Rye, the Sunday before his death.
On Saturday night, the shed was full and the public house was empty. The policeman said he had never seen it so before. On Sunday the 17th many came in from the country, some in vans from a distance of 15 miles; the place was crowded in the morning and afternoon also, which is not usual, and in the evening there was such a concourse as had never been seen on a Sunday in the town. Hundreds could not get into the shed, so they were addressed outside by three of Mr Whitlock‘s first converts from Hastings. They were well known to many as notorious and wicked characters formally. They told one after another, the tale of their clear conversions, boldly, in the still evening, to the listening hundreds, who were all as quiet as lambs. They stood as living witnesses of the power of divine grace and many hundreds went up to the prayer meeting, and from 30 to 40 came up to the rails to decide for God, young and old and many found peace.
The whole town seems shaken. Weaver's hymns, sung everywhere and especially by the children and youths of both sexes. We have hired the shed for three months for a Sunday evening service; we are promised the support of good local preachers and many will probably continue to come that have never been to a place of worship before.
Another case will prove the good work there is going on. A poor, pious widow, who has to work hard for her living, said on Saturday that she had not been able to do any of her usual work for a week Through her neighbours coming into her cottage all day long in concern about their souls. She said it was as much as she could do to cancel and pray with them. God is truly working in a wonderful manner in Rye; may he continue to carry it on for his name sake.
“The Revival,” June 25, 1863.