Concerning all this time I have most especially to say, that goodness and mercy have followed me every day. My blessings have been many and great, my trials few and small. To the praise of God I will mention a few of the many mercies which He has bestowed on me.
1. I consider it one of the especial mercies that, amidst so many engagements I have been kept in the ways of God, and that this day I have as much desire as ever, yea more than ever, to live alone for Him, who has done so much for me. My greatest grief is that I love Him so little. I desire many things concerning myself; but I desire nothing so much, as to have a heart filled with love to the Lord. I long for a warm personal attachment to Him.
2. I consider it likewise a great mercy, for which I can never sufficiently praise God, that, whilst during these last five years so many of His children have fallen into great errors, and even those who once ran well, I, who am so faithless to Him, should have been kept from them. There is scarcely one point of importance, comparatively speaking, respecting which I have had scriptural reason to alter my views, since I have come to Bristol. My views concerning the fundamental truths of the gospel are the same as they were at the end of the year 1829 though I have been more and more established in them during these last five years, and have seen more minutely the mind of God concerning many truths. My relish for the study of the word of God has not decreased.
3. I consider it further an exceeding great mercy, that I have been kept in uninterrupted love and union with my brother, friend, and fellow-labourer, Henry Craik. Very few of the blessings that the Lord has bestowed on him, on me, and on the two churches, whose servants we are, are of greater importance. There is not one point of importance, as it regards the truth, on which we differ. In judgment, as to matters connected with the welfare of the saints among whom we labour, we have been almost invariably at once of one mind. (Lord, to Thee is the praise due for this!!!) We are as much, or more than ever united in spirit; and if the Lord permit, we desire to labour together till He come. Who that knows the proneness in man to seek his own, and to get glory to himself; who that knows that the heart naturally is full of envy; who that is acquainted with the position which we both hold in the church, and the occasions thereby occurring for the flesh to feel offended :-who that considers these things will not ascribe our union, our uninterrupted union and love, entirely to the Lord? Let the brethren among whom we labour praise God much for it! Let the brethren everywhere, who may read this, praise God for it! This union has glorified God! This union has sprung from God! But, for this union we depend now as much as ever upon God, and therefore let the brethren pray, that God in mercy would give us grace, to put aside every thing that might hinder it.
4. We have had much joy on account of the scriptural conduct of many of the children of God among whom we labour. The two churches have on the whole shown, in some measure, that even in our day there can be love among the brethren. I do not mean that we have been without trials on account of the behaviour of the saints under our care; nor do I mean to say, that either we or they have followed Christ as we might or ought to have done; but only, that we have been mercifully kept hitherto from great divisions; that the cases in which acts of discipline were needed (as the list at the end of the last two years shows) were so few; that we have had much more joy than sorrow on account of the brethren and sisters :-these are matters, worthy to be noticed among the special blessings which God has bestowed on us during the last five years.
5. Another mercy I mention is, that it has pleased God to keep us from some most awful characters, who either actually had proposed themselves for fellowship, or desired to do so, and who, so far as the testimony by word of mouth went, could fully satisfy us. From several such individuals who lived in open sin, we have been kept, by the Spirit constraining them to confess, and that, perhaps, even against their own will, their wicked deeds, which they were practicing; in other instances we suspected them, and, on making inquiry, found out their sins.
6. Another mercy which the Lord has kindly bestowed on us is, that though neither Brother Craik nor I am strong in body, yet we have been helped through much work; and, at the time when we were laid aside, the Lord made up our lack of service, either by sending help from without, or by putting into exercise the gifts of the brethren among us. At those seasons disunion might so easily have sprung up among the brethren; but the good shepherd of the sheep watched so graciously over the flock, that they were kept together in much love and union, whereby also a testimony was given for God, that their faith stood not in the power of man.
7. Sometimes, when particular trials were laid on us, and things appeared very dark, the Lord most mercifully not only supported us under those trials, but also unexpectedly delivered us much sooner out of them, than we could have at all anticipated. May this especially encourage brethren who labour in word and doctrine, or who rule in the church, to trust in the Lord in Seasons of peculiar trial!
8. My temporal wants have all these five years been most richly supplied, so that not once have I lacked the necessaries of life, and generally I have abounded; and all this without having one shilling of regular income. I am not tired of this way of living, nor have I even for once been allowed to regret having begun to live in this way.
1. It has pleased the Lord to continue to bless the word preached by us to the conversion of many sinners, and there seems to have been no period during these five years, in which this work has been stopped by Him. There have come again several cases before us lately, in which individuals have been recently brought to apprehend their lost state by nature, and to see that Jesus of Nazareth alone can save them. The whole number of those who have been converted through our instrumentality in Bristol, and who have been received into fellowship with us is 178; besides this, the Lord has given us many seals to our ministry in this city, but the individuals are now either only standing on the list of candidates for fellowship, or are united to other churches in and out of Bristol, or have fallen asleep before they were united to us.
2. The whole number of the brethren and sisters, now in fellowship with us, is 370: 189 at Gideon, 181 at Bethesda.
3. It is now three years and four months since brother Craik and I began, in dependence upon the Lord for funds, to seek to help the spread of the Gospel through the instrumentality of schools, the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, and by aiding Missionary exertions. Since then there have been circulated through our instrumentality 4030 copies of the Scriptures; four Day-Schools for poor children have been established by us; 1119 children have been instructed in the six Day-Schools, and 353 children are now in those six Day-Schools. Besides this, a Sunday-School, and an Adult-School have been supplied with all they needed, and Missionary exertions in the East Indies, in Upper Canada, and on the Continent of Europe, have been aided. In addition to this the word of God has been preached from house to house among the poor, in connexion with the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, by brother C—r, within the last two years.
4. There have been received into the Orphan-Houses 74 orphans, and there are now 64 in them.
And now, in conclusion, I would say that the reason, why I have spoken so plainly about the sins of my unconverted days, is, that I may magnify the riches of the grace of God, which has been bestowed on me, a guilty wretch. I have weighed much whether I should do so or not, knowing well what contempt it may bring on me; but it appeared to me, after much prayer, that as the object of this little work is to speak well of the Lord, I should say in a few words what I once was, in order that it might be seen so much the more clearly, what He has done for me. I also judged that, in doing so, some, who live at present in sin, might see through my example the misery into which sin leads, even as it regards the present life, and the happiness which is connected with the ways of God; and that they also might be encouraged through what God has done for me, to turn to Him. I have made myself therefore a fool, and degraded myself in the eyes of the inhabitants of Bristol, that you, my dear unconverted fellow sinners, who may read this, may, with God’s blessing, be made wise. The love of Christ has constrained me to speak about my former lies, thefts, fraud, &c., that you might be benefited. Do not think that I am a fool, and therefore I have told out my heart in my folly; but I have made myself a fool for the benefit of your souls. May God in mercy, for His dear Son's sake, grant that these pages may be a savour of life unto life to you!
The reason why I have spoken so plainly about some of the sins and errors into which I have fallen since my conversion, and about my answers to prayer, and the supplies of my temporal wants, and some of my family concerns, and the success which God has given to our labours, -is not, because I do not know that it is contrary to worldly custom, and against the interests of my worldly reputation; nor is it, as if I made light of my falls; nor as if I would boast in having had my prayers so often answered, and having been in such a variety of ways used as an instrument in doing the Lord's work; but, I have written what I have written for the benefit of my brethren. I have mentioned some of my sins and errors, that through my loss the brethren who may read this may gain. I have mentioned the answers of prayer, that through them they may be encouraged to make known their requests unto God. I have spoken about my temporal supplies, that through seeing how richly God has supplied my temporal wants, since the commencement of 1830, when I left London, they may be stirred up "to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness," resting assured, that, in doing so, He will give them what is needful for the life that now is. I have alluded to some family circumstances, that children of God may be encouraged to cast their family burdens upon the Lord, in order that, in doing so, they may find Him carrying the burdens for them. And lastly, I have written about the success which God has been pleased to grant us in His work, that it may be seen, that, in acting on scriptural principles, we have the Lord on our side, and that our mode of preaching is honoured by Him. If in anything which I have written I have been mistaken (and what human work is there which is free from error), I have been mistaken after much prayer. Whilst writing I have often asked help of God. Whilst revising the work, I have still again and again bowed my knees. I have also frequently entreated the Lord to bless this feeble effort of mine to speak to His praise, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying, that, from the earnestness and comfort which I have enjoyed in prayer, and from the sincere self-examination of my heart, I know that God will bless this little work. May I ask you then, my brethren and sisters, who have been benefited in reading this book, to help me with your prayers, that it may be blessed to others. May I also ask you, my brethren and sisters, who think I ought not to have published it, to ask God to bless that which you yourselves consider good and scriptural in it.
And, now last of all, brethren beloved in the Lord, remember me in your prayers.
END OF THE FIRST PART