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neither the writer nor his readers will probably become shouters or jumpers; but, for the life of us, we cannot see why natural expressions of holy joy in rough pitmen should not be quite as acceptable with God as the more silent and decorous modes of thanksgiving adopted by more refined converts. The deadly decorum which represses all the ebullitions of unsophisticated nature is none of our favourites. We have half a mind to give a leap or two ourselves, or shout “Glory, glory!" just to show how heartily we despise the stiffness of unregenerate gentility, which has stolen the name of propriety.
“Bray began publicly to exhort_men to repent, and turn to God, about a year after his conversion. Towards the end of 1824 his name was put on the Local Preachers' Plan, and his labours were much blessed in the conversion of souls. He did not commonly select a text, as is the general habit of preachers, but he usually began his addresses by reciting a verse of a hymn, a little of his own experience, or some telling anecdote. But he had the happy art of pleasing and profiting
. the people, so that persons of all ages, the young as much as the old, of all classes, the rich as much as the poor, and of all characters, the worldly as much as the pious, flocked to hear him, and he retained his popolarity until the last. Perhaps no preacher in Cornwall ever acquired more extensive or more lasting renown, and the announcement of his name as a speaker at a missionary meeting, or any anniversary or special occasion, was a sufficient attraction, whoever might or might not be present else. Sometimes his illustrations and appeals made a powerful impression. I remember once hearing him speak with great effect to a large congregation, principally miners. In that neighbourhood there were two mines, one very prosperous, and the other quite the reverse, for the work was hard and the wages low. He represented himself as working at that mine, but on the pay-day going tothe prosperous one for his wages. But had he not been at work at the other mine ? the manager inquired. He had, but he liked the wages at the good mine the best. He pleaded very earnestly, but in vain. He was dismissed at last with the remark, from which there was no appeal, that he must come there to work if ho came there for his wages. And then he turned upon the congregation, and the effect was almost irresistible, that they must, serve Christ hero if they would share his glory hereafter, but if they would serve the devil now, to him they must go for their wages by-and-by. A very homely illustration certainly, but one that convinced the understanding and subdued the hearts of his hearers.
" There was great excitement and much apparent confusion in some of his meetings, more than sufficient to shock the prejudices of highlysensitive or refined, or over-fastidious persons. Some even who had the fullest confidence and warmest affection for Billy could not enjoy some of the outward manifestations they occasionally witnessed to the extent that he himself did, or persons of similar temperament. Billy could not tolerate .deadness,' as he expressively called it, either in a professing Christian or in a meeting. He had a deeper sympathy with persons singing, or shouting, or leaping for joy, than he had with
• The speechless awe that dares not move,
His life, though not without its trials, must have been a remarkably happy one. Mr. Gilbert says of him, on one occasion, “When Billy was about to leave, in company with a youth who had come with him, he said, 'Johnny and I, we'll make the valleys ring with our singing and praising as we go home! I said, “Then you are a singer, Billy,' O yes, bless the Lord! I can sing. My heavenly Father likes to hear me sing, I can't sing so sweetly as some, but my Father likes to hear me sing as well as those who sing better than I can. My Father likes to hear the crow as well as the nightingale, for he made them both.” When much opposed and persecuted for singing so much, he would exclaim, “ If they were to put me into a barrel, I would shout glory through the bung-hole!"
Methodism is the mother church of Cornwall, and Bray was a genuine though uncultivated child of her heart. As John Wesley always associated the grace of God with the penny a week, so Bray's religion was not all shouting; it had an eminently practical turn in many directions. Billy was quite a mighty chapel builder ; he began by getting a piece of freehold from his mother, which he cleared with his own hands, and then proceeded to dig out the foundations of a chapel which was to be called Bethel. Under great discouragements, both from friends and foes, mostly, however, from the first, he actually built the place, working at it himself, and at the same time begging stone, begging timber, and begging money to pay the workmen. His little all he gave, and moved all around, who had anything to spare, to give likewise. On-lookers thought Billy to be silly, and called him so; but, as he well remarked, “Wise men could not have preached in the chapel if silly Billy had not built it.” Almost as soon as one building was finished, he was moved to commence another. It was much needed, and many talked about it, but nobody had the heart to begin it but Billy Bray. He begged the land, borrowed a horse and cart of the giver; and then after doing his own hard day's work underground in the pit, and providing for five small children, he and his son worked at raising stone and building the walls; frequently working twenty hours of the twenty-four. He had a hard struggle over this second chapel; but his own account is best. “When our chapel was up about to the door-head, the devil said to me, 'They are all gone and left you and the chapel, and I would go and leave the place too. Then I said, • Devil, doesn't thee know me better than that; by the help of the Lord I will have the chapel up, or lose my skin on the down.' So the devil said no more to me on that subject. Sometimes I had blisters on my hands, and they have been very sore. But I felt I did not mind that, for if the chapel should stand one hundred years, and if one soul were converted in it every year, that would be a hundred souls, and that would pay me well if I got to heaven, for they that turn many to righteousness, shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.' So I thought I should be rich enough when I got there. The chapel was finished after a time ; and the opening day came. We had preaching, but the preacher was a wise man, and a dead man. I believe there was not much good done that day, for it was a very dead time with the preacher and people; for he had a great deal of grammar, and but little of Father. • It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit saith the Lord.' If it was by wisdom or might, I should have but a small part, for my might is little and my wisdom less. Thanks be to God, the work is his, and he can work by whomsoever he pleases. The second Sunday
, after the chapel was opened I was planned' there. I said to the people, 'You know I did not work here about this chapel in order to fill my pocket, but for the good of the neighbours, and the good of souls; and souls I must have, and souls I will have.' The Lord blessed us in a wonderful manner. Two women cried to the Lord for mercy; and when I saw that, I said, 'Now the chapel is paid for already.' The good Lord went on to work there; and the society soon went up from fifteen members to thirty. You see how good the Lord is to me; I spoke for one soul a year, and he gave me fifteen souls the first year. Bless and praise his holy name, for he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever, for one soul is worth a thousand worlds. Our little chapel had three windows, one on one side, and two on the other ; the old devil, who does not like chapels, put his servants, by way of reproach, to call our chapel Three-Eyes. But, blessed be God, since then, the chapel has become too small for the place; and it has been enlarged; now there are six windows instead of three; and they may call the chapel Six-Eyes if they will. For, glory be to God, many that have been converted there are now in heaven. And, when we get there, we will praise him with all our might; and he shall never hear the last of it.”
No sooner was this second house finished, than he began a third and larger one, and in this enterprise his talent for collecting, as well as his zeal in giving and working, were well displayed. He had high—and as we believe proper-ideas of his mission, in gathering in the subscriptions of the Lord's stewards. “A friend who was with Billy on a begging expedition, suggested, as they were coming near a gentleman's house, and Billy was evidently making for the front door, that it would be better if they went to the back door. 'No,' said Billy, 'I am the son of a King, and I shall go frontways.'” " At one time, at a missionary meeting, he seemed quite vexed because there was something said in the report about money received for rags and bones.' And when he rose to address the meeting he said: 'I don't think it is right supporting the Lord's cause with old rags and bones. The Lord deserves the best, and ought to have the best.'” Well done, Billy! This is right good, and sound divinity.
Simple souls like Billy, with all their happiness, have also their trials. His true life unto God observed the molesting influence of the evil spirit, and he viewed him in much the same realistic manner as Martin Luther had done before him. “King of the Blacks,” was his common name for the arch-enemy. “The devil knows where I live,” was a common saying of Billy's, in answer to remarks of persons that he knew but little or nothing of trial and temptation. He was tempted, so he said, to do many bad things, to swear, to tell lies, etc., and sometimes to end his life by throwing himself down the “shaft” of a mine. But he told the tempter, “old smutty-face,” as he called him, to do this himself, and see how he would like it.
This cool way of ridiculing the fiend reminds us of a story of the Puritan times. We will give it as we find it. “Mr. White, of Dorchester, being a member of the Assembly of Divines, was appointed minister
of Lambeth, but, for the present, could get no convenient house to dwell in, but one that was possessed by the devil. This he took; and, not long after, his maid, sitting up late, the devil appeared to her; whereupon, in a great fright, she ran up to tell her master. He bid her go to bed, saying, she was well served for sitting up so late. Presently after, the devil appeared to Mr. White himself, standing at his bed's feet; to whom Mr. White said, 'If thou hast nothing else to do, thou mayest stand there still, and I will betake myself to rest ;' and, accordingly, composing himself to sleep, the devil vanished.” Á little of this coolness would soon end the nonsense of impostors, and would probably be the best treatment for the fallen angel himself, if he did literally appear. While
upon this subject, we are tempted to quote Mr. Bourne again, especially as the passage shows Billy Bray to the life. “We may give two or three incidents, as they show not only the eccentricity, but also the force of bis genius. He thus repelled the tempter, when he suggested that he would not go to heaven when he died : “Hast thee got a little “lew” place for me in hell where I could sing thee a song ? Thee cus'n'l burn me, devil. There's no grease in me';* or, ‘If thee shouldst get me, I should rex thee a lot, for I should bring Jesus with me.
I never go anywhere without he. I should raise such a peal about thy ears as thee hasn't heard for this two-seven years. I should do nothing but sing and tell about Jesus. If the temptation was that he was a fool to go to preach, as he would never get anything for it, the answer was, 'Not so big a fool as thee art, for once tlice was in a good situation, and did not know how to keep it. When his crop of potatoes failed, while his neighbours had plenty, the temptation was, “What a God thine is ! He gives others plenty of potatoes and you none.
I would not serve such a God as that.' Billy's reply was, “Then I would, for this shows that my heavenly Father is omnipotent, and that he can give potatoes or take them away!' and the devil left at once, and, as Billy said, ' without having the manners to say good morning. It is long long ago since Satan asked the Almighty, • Doth Job fear God fur nought craftily insinuating that there was no disinterested virtue, and that God had only to touch what Job had, and he would curse him to his face. But Christians love God for what he is, and not for profit or reward; and they love holiness, not only because it is happiness, but because it is his image who is to them “the fairest among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. It is a miserable, shallow philosophy to suppose that the Lord rewards those who are poor in spirit, and pure in heart, and patient under suffering, with mere earthly good, or that their trust, and love, and devotion, and service, can be alienated by any sorrows and evils he permits to come upon them.
Billy, too, knew how to fight the devil and his agents with their own weapons. Returning late from a revival meeting, on a dark night in a lonely road, certain lewd fellows of the baser sort,' tried to frighten him by making all sorts of unearthly sounds ; but he went singing on his way. At last one of them said, in the most terrible tones, But I'm the devil up here in the hedge, Billy Bray.' • Bless the Lord ! Bless the Lord !'
* He doubtless meant that his sin had been fully pardoned.
said Billy, *1 did not know thee "wust” so far away as that.' To use Billy's own expression, "What could the devil" do with such as he ?»»
This good man's heart and soul were in all that he did, and to him things were as the Book of God describes them. We do not suppose that we should have agreed with his theo'ogy; but we sympathise witha his experience, and admire his holy childlikeness. We feel obliged to Mr. Bourne for telling the simple, unvarnished tale, and only hope our borrowing from him, may, like the bees who suck the flowers, do no hurt to his book. We expect that our readers will get it for themselves, and exhaust the edition. They will find a good deal which they will not endorse, but much more that they will read with interest, and we trust with profit. We shall not tell more of his life and death, but close with an incident which we admire beyond everything else in the book, for we believe in the Holy Ghost moving preachers, and would gladly be silent if we did not feel his power.
“One of the most blessed results of his deep piety was his unfeigneil humility, and his continual sense of dependence upon God. The Lord's servants without the Lord's presence are weak like other men, like Samson, when he lost his locks. Here is one experience of Billy's : • When I was in the St. Neot's Circuit, I was on the plan; and I remember that one Sunday I was planned at Redgate, and there was a chapel full of people, and the Lord gave me great power and liberty in speaking ; but all at once the Lord took away his Spirit from me, so that I could not speak a word: and this might have been the best sermon that some of them ever heard. What! you say, and looking like a fool and not able to speak? Yes, for it was not long before I said, I am glad I am stopped, and that for threc reasons. And the first is, To humble my soul, and make me feel more dependent on my Lord, to think more fully of the Lord, and less of myself. The next reason is, To convince you that are ungodly, for you say we can speak what we have a mind to, without the Lord as well as with bin ; but you cannot say so now, for you hear how I was speaking, but when the Lord took away his Spirit I could not say another word; without my Lord I could do nothing. And the third reason is, That some of you young men who are standing here may be called to stand in the pulpit some day as I am; and the Lord may take his Spirit from you as he has from me, and then you might say, it is no good for me to try to preach or exhort, for I was stopped the last time I tried to preach, and I shall prcach vo more. But now you can say, I saw poor old Billy Bray stopped once like me, and he did not mind it, and told the people that he was glad his Lord had stopped him, and Billy Bray's Lord is my Lord, and I am glad he stopped ine too, for if I can benefit the people, and glorify God, that is what I want. I then spoke a great
, while, and told the people what tho Lord gave me to say.'”