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- God's Answers - 3/28 -
"These first endeavours to spread the gospel story in a more enlarged way were made in villages where the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon had laboured when not yet twenty years of age, and where souls had been blessed through the youthful preacher. Some of these converts became my helpers, and are co-workers to this day.
"It was in 1863 that I first became an almoner for others, whilst filled with a desire to build a missionhall among the coprolite diggers in Cambridgeshire.
"The friends attending the Barnet Conference heard of my wish and shared my burden."
The following letter to Dr. Elwin shows the sympathy that he felt in her work:--
"My DEAR FRIEND,--Thanking you for your daily remembrance of my continual wants in this the Lord's work among these poor migratory coprolite diggers, I must say it was indeed refreshing to think that this little hidden vineyard was laid on your heart to present to the Lord at the Bristol Conference. The answer has come, and now it is my blessed privilege to ask you to rejoice and praise our loving Father for another six souls born anew. Yes, dear brother, they are those I have laid before you again and again to plead for, that the dead form of godliness might be broken down. Though diggers, they are residents in a neighbouring village, and have attended my ploughmen's Bible-class for some years. From the mouths of many witnesses, in a series of outdoor gatherings every Lord's day evening in the past summer, they have heard, on their own village green, a present, free, and full salvation.
"Is it not kind of the Master to employ us feeble women in His service, by allowing us to use our quiet influence for Him, and to do many little things, such as inviting wanderers to listen, providing hymns and seats, also refreshment for those sent to deliver the King's message? And oh! it is indeed a hallowed privilege to be a 'Hur,' to hold up the hands of the speaker, and watch the index of the soul as the message of love or of warning falls; to slip in and out of the group, and meet the trembling soul with a blessed promise, or grasp the hand with Christian sympathy. Then for us women such service affords opportunity of giving the little leaflet or book, such as the case requires, and following it up in the home with Bible in hand.
"The Lord was very good in sending me helpers, _i.e._, brothers, to speak during all those summer Lord's-Day evenings. On one occasion I was left alone, and yet not alone. At another time my faith was tried. No one had come to speak. The people had gathered. I opened my Testament on the passage, 'Come and see' (John iv.) If the Samaritan woman was led so boldly to say to wicked men, 'Come and see,' surely my Lord knew my burden, and my need for a brother to speak to that village gathering. We sang a hymn. I was led to pray. On arising from the grass, a young man came round the corner and said, 'Miss, the Lord has laid it on my heart to come here and preach to-night. Can I be of any service?' He took for his text, 'Yet there is room.'
"I know you like to trace the links in the chain of blessing, so I will enter a little into detail. One village displayed the most perfect outward form of all that is considered correct as to the using of means. There were clubs, saving of money, young men well dressed and regular at their place of worship, four nights a week at their evening school; but oh! my friend, not one soul of them with a warm heart towards the Lord Jesus Christ. They read and answered my questions on Scripture better, and sought after the library books with more interest, than any in the other villages; but it was all head-work, no heart; all intellect, no love. On Christmas Day six of these joined our coprolite party to tea, and from eight to ten solemn prayer seemed laid on every heart for them; and again the following evening nineteen young men met to pray still for this village. Last evening eighteen Christians of various denominations met in a cottage at this said village. There was no formal address, but after earnest prayer, one of the brethren felt this passage laid solemnly on his heart, 'To-day, if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.' Then some converted stone-diggers pleaded for a blessing. The answer of four years' prayers came, and the feeble infant wail was heard from one after another amid weeping and sobbing. Surely the angelic host had songs of praise while, in that holy stillness, these young men had a sight of themselves. Oh, pray on that our faith waver not, for we believe we shall see still greater things.
"You remember the village where you preached upon 'Jesus passing by.' There is now a band of more than a dozen praying young men meeting constantly in their little outhouse.
"The more we go forward in this labour of love the more evident it is that the cursed drink is our great difficulty. This stone must be rolled away. Another evening home for these men is a stern necessity, and must be provided; a place which they may call their own. Each building would cost 30 pounds. The men would furnish it cheerfully and support it nobly. Two such buildings have been erected, are now in operation, and answer beyond my most sanguine expectations. Morning, noon, and evening, groups of men, while at their hasty meals, are willing to listen to the Holy Scriptures or whatever else may be brought before them."
"The memory of the just is blessed." It is sweet to recall any incident in the life of him who will ever live in the hearts of many. Miss Macpherson thus records the day of blessing:--
"It was at a meeting in July 1864, at Mildmay Park, that it was laid on my heart to gather together, before the harvest-time, the stone-diggers, villagers, and their friends, and to invite the Rev. W. and Mrs. Pennefather to see face to face the hundreds of souls for whom they had wrestled with God. Early in the afternoon of the day appointed, streams of poor men and women came, having walked distances of from two to ten miles to be with us. Conveyances brought earnest lively Christians from Cambridge, and, including the stone-diggers, there were representatives from more than thirty towns and villages. On the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Pennefather, great was our joy; and who of you cannot imagine our beloved friend in the midst of this multitude, of warm hearts, as with tears in his eyes he exclaimed, 'This is another conference'? Gatherings on the grass were formed as tables were insufficient, and our dear friend went in and out among them, every feature showing forth the love with which God had filled his heart. His loving eye alone discovered poor Tom, lately out of the workhouse, standing trembling, and afraid to approach the party; behind the tent tears of joy streamed after he had secured, amid the rush for tea, a supply for the wants of this poor Tom. A lovely sunset was shedding its radiance over the humble gathering, when Mr. Pennefather rose and spoke to them of 'the coming glory,' first reading Luke ix. 25-35; and knowing that many before him would as Christians be called upon to endure ridicule from ungodly companions, he pointed out to them that in all the Gospels which speak of the Transfiguration, the event is preceded by an account of the Christian's path of self-denial. After an earnest address to the unsaved, this delightful gathering was closed by his telling them that a little offering had been made at Mildmay Park, and that, by the help of that money would now be presented to each man and woman, (stone-diggers and boys included), a pocket Testament, to be used in the intervals of harvest toil.
"Many are their struggles in resisting bad companionship and drink, in trying to improve in reading, in seeking to clothe themselves, to help their parents, to work for Jesus with little light, and less time, and few talents. Oh, how much do they glorify God compared with some in other circumstances, who have been surrounded by heaven-breathing associations all their days! Well, indeed, can we understand that verse, 'The first shall be last, and the last first.'"
Scenes of a different character must now be described.
Sad and deeply humiliating as the sights and sounds of the East End of London still are, none who now visit the vast region lying eastward of St. Paul's can realise the sense of desolation that overpowered one's spirit when beholding it at the time Mr. Radcliffe began his services in 1860-1861. At that time the condition of the millions who existed there was ignored by those dwelling in more favoured regions. No railways had been as yet constructed by which visitors could come from the north and west. The space now occupied by the great railway stations in Broad Street and Liverpool Street was then crowded with unwholesome dwellings, well remembered for deaths in every house. No centres of usefulness where Christian workers could meet for prayer or counsel then existed. The Bedford Institute had not then been built, and no Temperance Coffee-Palace had even been heard of.
The power of the Lord had been very present to wound and to heal in the City of London Theatre and at other services held by Mr. Radcliffe, and the young women who had been blessed were invited to meet for a week-evening Bible-reading and prayer-meeting, and for this purpose Lady Rowley rented a room in Wellclose Square. In this meeting, and in Lady Rowley's mothers' meeting in Worship Street, Miss Macpherson began the ministry of love which has extended so widely. She afterwards visited the homes of the poor, and the toil and suffering she witnessed, especially in those where matchbox-making was the means of livelihood, lay heavy on her heart. With _her_ feelings of pity were always quickly followed by practical effort. In the midst of the winter's distress, one of the most cheering gifts received was from her praying band of coprolite diggers. After a watchnight service, they had spent the first moments of the consecrated new year in making a gathering from their hard-earned wages. Miss Macpherson had placed the East of London foremost in the list of subjects to be remembered at their prayer-union every Lord's Day. Little did the praying band think that in fulfilling this petition, the Lord would take their beloved leader from among them.
It was in 1865 that Miss Macpherson was guided of the Lord to leave scenes endeared to her by many hallowed associations, and to encounter the trials and seek the blessings of Christian work in the East of London. Her first efforts were in answer to an invitation from the Society of Friends to hold classes for young men, both on the Lord's Day and on week evenings, at the Bedford Institute, a building lately erected by that Society, and which stood out conspicuously as a monument of Christian love. On the week evenings, instruction in reading and writing was the inducement held out to attend. The first fruits may be seen in G. C., once a violent opposer, afterwards a valuable helper in Canada, and now a preacher of the Gospel in China. The work at the Bedford attracted so much interest, that many helpers were drawn to it from other parts. The Sunday Bible-classes became an object of remarkable interest. Perhaps such an assemblage has seldom been seen. Many tables were filled in one hall with men, in another with women, many of whom were very aged, all with large-print Bibles before them, and each table headed by some earnest teacher, all at the close being gathered together for the final address.
Other Gospel meetings were also held at the Bedford, but Miss Macpherson's labours could not be confined to this spot. In several little rooms poor Christian women were gathered for prayer, and depots for tracts were established, and Scripture texts placed in the
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