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- God's Answers - 2/28 -
by far the most important service as it is ever the most toilsome and painful.
In the work of the kingdom of God on earth the true worker is in point of importance first. Apart from the wise, holy, beneficent soul, even the truth of the Gospel is but a dead letter. It is in the intelligence, loveliness, magnanimity and sweetness of a human spirit, touched finely by His own grace, that the Holy Ghost finds His chief instrumentality. Preparation for a good work is usually begun in early life, and the worker, whose story is to fill the following pages, unconsciously learnt her first lessons for this service in her father's house. There was, indeed, seemingly little to be learned of any rare sort in the quiet village of Campsie, where life passed as peacefully as the clouds sailing along the peaceful heavens. Almost the only break in the even tenor of those days was an occasional sojourn in the house of her uncle, the Rev. Dr. Edwards, a minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Glasgow, where that venerable soldier of the cross still lingers, as if halfway betwixt the Church militant and the Church triumphant But whether in the father's house or in the uncle's manse, kind and truthful speech was the coin current, a good example the domestic stock-in-trade, and an interchange of cheerful, loving service the main business. It was a quiet school, whose very hum was peaceful; and yet the schooling was thorough; things strong often grow as quietly as things feeble. The oak rises as silently in the forest as the lily in the garden. Strong characters, too, under any conditions of life, school themselves much more than they are schooled. Active, inquisitive, resolute, and possessing a fair share of the national _perfervidum ingenium_, not without some tincture of those elements of the Scottish character known as the "canny" and the "dour," our worker early developed that robust vigour of mind and body which has so long stood the wear and tear of severely trying work.
One passage of significance in the family history deserves notice, especially as suggesting a peculiar feature in her early training and supplying a link in the chain of providential events. In work among the young her father was an enthusiast. With a heart bigger than her own family circle, her mother took in two orphans to foster and rear. Thus in the work of caring for the outcast and the forlorn Annie Macpherson was "to the manner born." Inheriting her father's enthusiasm and her mother's sympathetic nature, the quick-witted, warm-hearted girl would not fail to note the equal footing enjoyed by the stranger children, and would know the reason why: the much tact employed to keep the new and difficult relations sweet would engage her attention; and the exceeding tenderness with which the motherless little ones were treated, would be a very practical Gospel to our young scholar in Christian philanthropy. Were matters sometimes strained? did little jars arise and a shadow now and then gather on the faces of the strangers because their own mother was not? The wise foster-mother would set all right again by some merry quip, some gleesome turn, some one of those playful gleams of humour which furnish a key to the secret of successful work among the young. To be a mother to those orphans, to make life in its duties and joys, as far as possible, the same to them as if they had not lost their own mother, ay, and to teach them to gather the brightest roses from the thorniest bushes, was at once a good work in itself, and a model for one who was destined to similar service, only on an immensely wider scale and on a tenfold more difficult field. The sisterly fostering of the orphans was a providential training for her future life-work. To learn to love and to serve over and above the claims of mere natural affection, could not fail to enlarge the heart and awaken the sympathies of a quick, susceptible child. Little did her mother know what she was doing when she took the orphans to her bosom. She only thought to make a warm home and a bright future for the hapless pair; but in effect she was preparing a warm home and a bright future for thousands of the poorest children on God's earth.
But there was something better in store. Girlish days swept by much as usual--the rapid growth of warm thought and feeling making each revolving year a continuous springtide, an opening summer. At nineteen, Annie Macpherson looked out on a world that always promises more to youthful eyes than it ever fulfils. Eager hope was drawing much on a future whose furthest horizon was Time. Suddenly a shadow fell. A word spoken by a friend was the vehicle of a divine message. A more distant and awful horizon arose to view: Time with its hopes and joys, like a thin mist in early morning, vanished in the light of eternity; and quickly from that young heart, pierced with a new sorrow, went up the prayer, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
How little the world understands that same old prayer. Yonder afar off stands a man who, having trafficked in all iniquity, having matured in wickedness, and perfected himself in the fine art of dodging truth and conscience, is at length found out in the thicket of his own vices by a bull's eye that glares on him like hell. Well it befits such an one, even the world admits, to smite upon his breast and cry for mercy. But for a girl in her teens, an innocent, merry-hearted, pure-minded young thing, to raise a cry for mercy like a very publican or a prodigal, is confounding to the world's sense of propriety and measure in things; and hence that world is angry, and in effect repudiates the need of so much mercy, of so much abasement and urgency in a case like this. The root and rise of this cry for mercy the natural man does not understand; but that soul knows it right well, where the lightnings of Omniscient Holiness have gleamed and the shadows of God's anger have fallen.
The cry was heard. Light arose on that troubled soul, the Saviour appeared and drew the sinking one out of the waters. Even where there is little to be changed outwardly, conversion is always followed by remarkable effects; the light of the morning is like a new creation on the cultivated field as well as on the barren moor. Our young convert saw everything in a new light. She understood now, as she had not before, why her mother, stealing precious hours from sleep, wearied her fingers and weakened her eyes with the self-imposed task of providing for the necessities of children not her own. If a ruling motive is one of the greatest things in the secret of a human life, the grandest of all forces on earth is the love of Christ. This she felt, and it was to her a divine revelation. From the feeble starlight of natural sympathies she had passed into the clear day of Christian affections, and she now knew the secret joy and power of self-sacrifice. A hundred lessons and practical illustrations given her by both her parents were suddenly lighted up with a new meaning, and clothed with a beauty she had not heretofore seen, and a power she had not hitherto felt. All she had learned before of truth, and prudence, and kindness, she learned over again, and learned with the quickness characteristic of the young convert. Very soon her whole treasury of knowledge and feeling, of experience and character, was laid with youthful jubilance on the altar of the Lord. From that hour she began to work for Christ with an intensity of enthusiasm that ever since has known no abatement.
Prayer of Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel--Residence in Cambridgeshire-- Visit to London in 1861, and first attendance at Barnet Conferences-- Visit of Rev. W. and Mrs. Pennefather--East of London, 1861--Left Cambridgeshire, 1865--Work in Bedford Institute--1866: Voyage to New York and return, 1867--First girl rescued--Matchbox makers--First boy rescued--Revival Refuge open for boys and girls--1868: Home of Industry secured--1869: Opened.
The winter of 1860-61 is a time to be had much in remembrance before the Lord. It was then that the East of London, with all its sins and sorrows, was laid as a heavy, burden on the heart of His faithful and beloved servant Reginald Radcliffe.
Before the commencement of his labours, a few Christian friends met for prayer at the invitation of the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel. The East of London, and its "stunning-tide of human care and crime," was not the only thought of that revered man of God. His faith looked forward to greater things, and one well-remembered petition was, that blessing through the work then to be begun in that deeply degraded and neglected region, might not be stayed there, but might flow from thence to far-off lands. One then present, the Dowager Lady Rowley, was not long permitted to sow precious seed with her own hand, but was instrumental in the fulfilment of this petition, as it was through her leading that Miss Macpherson's voice was first heard in the East of London.
At that time Miss Macpherson was residing in the neighbourhood of Cambridge with her sister and brother-in-law, Mr. Merry, and, was already a worker in the Lord's vineyard.
She thus writes of the year 1861:--
"It was a turning point in my life. I made a pilgrimage to London to attend the preaching of Reginald Radcliffe in the City of London Theatre, Shoreditch. There I met Dr. Elwin. On the following evening, at the Young Men's Christian Association, Great Marlborough Street, he introduced me to Lady Rowley, Mr. Morgan, and many other Christian friends. Through them I was led to attend the next Barnet Conference, where I learned what it was to wait for the coming of the Lord."
With this bright and blessed hope she returned to work with a strength and power before unknown. Many souls had already been awakened, but the full tide of blessing had not yet come. In the villages around her hundreds of labourers were employed in digging for coprolites, a fossil which, when ground, is useful as manure. Among these men were many of the wildest wanderers, and Miss Macpherson's heart was deeply stirred for their spiritual welfare, and her time and strength were given to reach them by every means in her power. She had established evening schools, lending libraries and coffee-sheds, and of these and further efforts she wrote:--
"Second to the preaching of the gospel, we lay every laudable snare to induce men to learn to read and write. In doing this, spare time is occupied to the best account, and the enemy is foiled in some of his thousand-and-one ways of ensnaring the toil-worn navvy at the close of day.
"The more our little band goes forward, the more we feel that drink, in all its forms and foolish customs, must be resisted,--first, by the powerful influence of a felt example; and secondly, by gently and kindly instructing the minds of those amongst whom we labour as to its hurtful snares. We are accused by some of putting this subject before the blessed gospel. God forbid! But when we look on every reclaimed one and know that this was his besetting sin, we regard the giving it up as the rolling away of the stone before the Saviour's voice, 'Come forth,' can be obeyed.
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