« AnteriorContinuar »
directed. The matter was satisfactorily settled, arrangements being made for the continuance of God's cause in the house.
July 18th.-Spoke at Broughing and Patmore Ileath.
Saffron-Walden is a market-town in Essex, about fifteen miles from Cambridge, with a population of about six thousand, The ruins of a Norman castle; a magnificent and commandingly situated church, in the architecture of the period of Henry VII. ; a fairly furnished public museum ; a good subscription library ; a salubrious common, serving as a recreationground; several mansions, together with varied and charming scenery, render the town and vicinity unusually attractive. The site of Miss Berger's house was selected as securing two objects : on the one hand, proximity to a spiritually destitute neighbourhood, that it might be a centre of philanthropic activity; and on the other, natural beauty and quietude, that it might be the abode of strengthening contemplation. The back garden, enclosed by a high flint wall, was within a few paces of courts and yards where it might be said 'Satan's seat' was ; and its gate was furnished with a small aperture for the safe inspection of visitors. But the outlook in front was so lovely as to be a source of perpetual joy to so keen a lover of Nature as Miss Berger. Of her many appreciative expressions concerning this advantage, it may suffice to cite the following : 'Last night, standing at my bedroom window and looking on the beauties of nature by the light of the clear moon, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of the love of God in adorning creation for me, and in adding to that (amazing thought !) the gift of His Son. The retired garden in front witnessed many a prayerful struggle on behalf of the moral wilderness behind the house. Often, like Nathanael, might the several members of this devoted family be found, under the fruittree, in communion with heaven, their ascending strains of praise and prayer mingling with the minstrelsy of nightingale or thrush; with the scarcely less cherished, if less melodious, cawing from an extensive rookery in an adjacent wood, and with numberless other voices of Nature's homage to her God. The house was square-built, plain and substantial; and one of its rooms, designated The Worship-room,' was set apart for Class-meetings, Prayer meetings and other devotional purposes. A few yards from the front garden was the chapel, which would accommodate about three hundred hearers. Uniting to the still very manifest traces of its descent from a barn, massive pews with locks and keys, this place of worship presented a singularly quaint appearance, which, once seen, could not well be forgotten.
Miss Berger's experience at the commencement of her residence at SaffronWalden will appear from a few records made at the time :
• October 4th, 1824.—I felt irrepressible zeal to speak for God, and to let nothing hinder me in the work. --Sunday, October 10th.-Nine more persons accepted an in. vitation to remain to Clasg. Blessed be God! it seems as if He were saying, “ Arise and build.”—-October 11th.--Felt much blessed in family devotions, and believed that the Lord would do great things among us.- -October 31st.--As we were travelling along I cried to the Lord for power more clearly to u pderstand His Word ; and I immediately
felt an overwhelming sense of His presence. When, afterwards, I was speaking about the difference between being saved “ so as by fire," and "an abundant entrance” into everlasting life, I felt a blessed assurance that the Lord would give me the latter.'
A passage from numerous and extensive extracts copied by Miss Berger from Mrs. Rowe's Devout Exercises, as setting forth her own views and feelings at this period, may here be cited :
'I dread nothing more than the guidance of my blind desires. I tremble at the thoughts of such a fatal liberty. Avert, gracious God, that miserable freedom! Thou foreseest all events, and at one view dost look through eternal consequences : therefore do Thou determine my circumstances to advance Thy glory.'
For a season the churches' under the care of these earnest workers 'had rest, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.' To the advantage taken of this favourable season for the zealous prosecution of their labours, as well as to the encouraging degree of success attendant thereupon, making it almost possible to say that, through them, the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved,' the subjoined notices and letter bear gratifying testimony :
December 11th, 1824.- Have seen the Lord's hand in several circumstances of our last visit to London, especially at Kensington and Hammersmith. We had the pleasure also to find that it was well with our people at Leytonstone, and that the work was reviving at Ilford.
* August 2nd, 1825.—Have been graciously and much assisted during the past week, in which, as for several weeks previous, we have spoken every night at different places ; and on Sunday I took a new step, speaking an extra time at Walden. I had a glorious day, as, indeed, I expected to have ; for when I decided upon this additional work, in dependence upon God, I opened upon the following remark of Burkitt's : “ By weak and even dead means, God produces the mightiest effects"; and also on a very encouraging passage in Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.
Sunday, August 21st.–Engaged four times at Walden. Having looked up to the Lord for direction concerning speaking in the street, this passage seemed given mo in answer, “ Cast thy bread upon the waters : for thou shalt find it after many days." • To MESSRS. A. AND C. W.
September 23rd, 1825. • DEAR CHILDREN IN THE LORD, • Though absent in the flesh, we are often with you in spirit, commending you to His grace, Who is able to make and preserve you blameless to the day of His coming. A brief account of our summer's engagements may afford you matter for prayer and praise. Commencing several weeks before harvest, we have up to this date spoken every night except Saturday, mostly in the open air in the adjacent villages, and have had very large congregations. One evening, after our public speaking, a man who had followed us and received special exhortation about his soul seemed deeply affected. He said that he felt convinced, and had done so ever since our first visit, that, unless there was a change in his character and life, he would be lost for ever. We went to his house and prayed with him and his wife. He came to Walden on the following Sunday, according to promise, and every Sunday since he has done so, sometimes bringing his wife, and sometimes others. He declares that the long journey does not tire him so much as his former drunkenness did. His fellow-labourers in the harvest-field soon discovered the change in his character, for he had been notoriously wicked ; and they did not fail to tempt him to return to his old ways. He says he has never spent guch a harvest before, and his thoughts are continually on the coming harvest when the reapers will be the angels. Several other equally genuine cases of conversion havo gladdened us.
· H. E. WEBSTER and C. S. BERGER.'
October 19th.—The following, in Cecil's Remains, has been an encouragement to me [Miss Berger) as respects public speaking : "The meanness of the earthen vessel which conveys to others the Gospel treasure, takes nothing from the value of the treasure. A dying hand may sign a deed of gift of incalculable value. A shepherd's boy may point out the way to a philosopher."
• February 5th, 1826.—The joining of two new members to our Society we trace to the morning Prayer-meetings, which commence at half-past five o'clock.––March 6th, -How bountifully does the Lord deal with us, making His work to prosper in our hands and granting us gracious manifestations of His presence in our meetings ! Constantly persons are coming forward to join themselves to the Lord and to us. I have also to record the Lord's goodness in another respect. Yesterday week I was too poorly to engage in speaking, and was therefore alone, waiting on the Lord, for the greater part of the day. I asked chiefly for spiritual blessing, and secondarily, for the removal of a weakness in my chest which had bowed me down in a measure for fifteen years, so that I could not keep myself upright without great pain and sickness. Glory be to God! He has heard my prayer, removing altogether this physical distress, which I had before expected would increase upon me with my years.
* October 10th.-Glory be to God, Who graciously helped us through the past Sabbath !-a day of rainy weather and of much fatigue to us, on which we travelled thirty miles, and I was enabled to speak three times, twice at Crishall and once at Abington, where the Lord is working blessedly, and the people seem to be seeking Him with all their hearts.
• November 14th.—I had a blessed day on the Sabbath ; spoke at Crishall, morning and afternoon, and at Abington in the evening. I think I never since engaging in this blessed employment felt more assisted than on the latter occasion. Yesterday was my spiritual birthday. Thirteen years have rolled away since I first knew the Lord ; and I am astonished when I review the helps and other mercies which have been crowded into those years, to such an unworthy and unprofitable servant. I would, in the spirit of grateful love and unreserved obedience, offer afresh myself and my little all to that Saviour Who revealed Himself to my soul in such a powerful and unspeakable manner on that blessed day, and to Whom I now can say, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee.” Rather more than a week ago we commenced the five o'clock morning Prayer.meetings for the winter. I felt very anxious to begin them, becanse of their spiritual benefit, and I view it as a special blessing from the Lord that so far from my health suffering damage, as before, under similar circumstances, it has greatly improved.'
But a time of trial was close at hand. Bitter persecution was soon to arise. As there had been at Abington considerable objection, on the part of the heads of the parish, to the work of herself and companions, Miss Berger deemed it advisable to purchase, as the site for a new chapel, a small plot of freehold land in that place, with two cottages upon it, intending subsequently to secure, if possible, the adjoining plot. Under the influence of powerful persecution, the owner of the cottage in which the ladies had hitherto conducted worship was induced to close his doors against them; and even the tenant of the cottage which they had just purchased, stoutly refused to quit. Miss Berger, however, was not dismayed ; but quietly persisted in the course of duty until she secured her right, and therewith a
permanent place in which to continue the worship of God. Of these trials she wrote :
December 25th.-We have had the honour of engaging in another battle with the opposers of the Gospel ; and God's hand hath brought us through victorious.'
A letter from Mrs. Webster, probably to the Superintendent of the Circuit, gives fuller details :
Prospect House, Saffron-Walden,
• October 21st, 1826. DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD,
• Believing that you are not unwilling, that the Lord should make use of some of the weakest instruments, I address you in our present difficulties. The Lord has opened more doors than we can enter ; and we hope that you may be disposed to come to our help. Other service has been offered ; but, as we are old Methodists, while wishing well to all Christian communities, we prefer an enlargement of our own. There are two dark places into which our way has been directed, and both are very accessible to you. In one, about eight miles from Cambridge, several Dissenting Ministers have snccessively attempted to establish a cause ; but in vain, the last, as an old inhabitant informed us, being hooted and stoned out of the village. However, by the leading of Providence, my father went and spoke there, informing the people that, upon our return from London, we should pay them a visit. The Clergyman hearing this, secured the signatures of many of the most respectable inhabitants to a protest against our intention, and so sternly reprimanded the owner of the house in which we were to preach that he promised to close his doors against us. With difficulty, another room was secured ; and licensed ; but its owner also, under threatening, was ultimately constrained to refuse us further tenancy. But almost immediately upon this becoming known, other accommodation was offered, accepted and licensed. Our work has prospered so blessedly that the alehouse keeper is complaining, because the hope of some of his gains is gone, his custom having considerably fallen off, especially on Sunday nights. Our congregations are much too large for the room, necessitating open-air services in favourable weather ; and Prayermeetings are held three times a week. Our landlord has received a lawyer's letter, advising him that, if he do not eject us, proceedings will be taken as early as possible to eject him from his house. We have the first offer of two freehold cottages ; and are prepared to purchase, if you think it advisable to do so.
• Yours in the best of bonds,
H. E. WEBSTER.' The fiercest battle had, however, to be fought by these good soldiers at Saffron-Walden, nearly a year after the Abington struggle; but, by many evidences of the Divine presence and favour, they had been made especially strong for it. A deeply-laid plan to compel them to relinquish their heavenappointed work in Walden began to show itself about September, 1827, and, in the early part of 1828, issued in wanton and intolerable persecution. The water-butts near the chapel were bored ; trees in the garden were destroyed ; stones were thrown across the yard, one of great size being so placed in the path that those who were going to, or returning from, the service would be likely to fall over it in the dark. Inside the chapel, matters were still worso; for there rough boys behaved ludicrously ; drunken men talked loudly and profanely ; and certain lewd fellows of the baser sort'acted with scandalous indecency. At this juncture it became necessary, according to the judgment and request of many of the most respectable inhabitants of Saffron-Walden, that firm, repressive measures should be adopted. Accordingly, an appeal
was made to the magistrates; and a very gifted representative of the Protestant Society for the Protection of Public Worship voluntarily watched the case for the complainants. This gentleman had previously, in his communications about the disturbances, written thus to the ladies : 'Surely your benevolent intentions and true Christian charity do not deserve the wrongs which you endure; and certainly myself and the Protestant Society will cheerfully assist you to obtain protection and redress. . . . All
your measures appear to have been legal and discreet. As to the offenders, they may be punishable by indictment either for conspiracy, or for riots and assault, or by proceedings under the last Toleration Act (52 Geo. iii., c. 155) for disturbing public worship in a registered place.' An urgent request, on the part of herself and friends, that the disturbers should not be prosecuted under the Toleration Act, because of its severe penalties, evidenced their united desire for nothing more than protection, Miss Berger's own particular attitude in this great anxiety may be seen from the appended notes :
*February 1st, 1828.—I arose early, and spread the business of the day before the Lord ; and obtained this gracious answer, “My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.” At half-past nine in the morning we went, according to appointment, to lodge a complaint against some of those who have long disturbed our public worship with impunity, and latterly have gone to such lengths as to endanger the lives of the worshippers. While before the clerk to the magistrates, I lifted up my heart, and committed my case entirely to my Heavenly Master, Whom I silently addressed as “Wonderful, Counsellor.” Whereupon I immediately felt a Divine thrill through soul and body, and a full persuasion that all would be well. February 2nd. We trust that we shall be so directed, through this exercising circumstance, as to secure the permanent safety, quietude and comfort of the dear flock under our care.
-April 11th. - When I awoke this morning, and looked up to the Lord with reference to next Tuesday, the day fixed for the sessions, and on which we expect to appear in court, these words were clearly applied to my mind : “ The battle is the Lord's.”- -Wednesday, April 16th. I feel my soul all turned to praise, for the Lord has helped us beyond our expectation, bringing us through our difficulty with a high hand, O God !
“ Thine arm hath safely brought us
A way no more expected,
Than when Thy sheep
Passed through the deep,
By crystal walls protected." The court opened at 12 p.m., and was soon crowded to excess. We sat on the seat of judgment, in a line with the Recorder, Lord Braybrooke, the Mayor, the deputy Mayor and other Magistrates. The advocate from the Protestant Society acted with great propriety and excellent judgment ; and Lord Braybrooke spoke admirably on our behalf and in reprehension of the disturbers. Two of the offenders were convicted, while the others only escaped through a manoeuvre which confused the witnesses. When the court broke up, Lord Braybrooke, in the most affable manner, came to us and said, “You will have no more of it.",
Peace having thus been restored, Miss Berger and her companions gave themselves undistractedly and gratefully to the cultivation of personal piety and the prosecution of their public duties for the benefit of mankind. Of the state of mind of the two friends at this time the following letters give evidence :