A BLACK COUNTRY CONVERSION
Extracted from Remembered Mercies Recorded by George Rose
One Lord’s day afternoon in the year 1890, when I was seventeen years of age, was the time appointed that I should be convinced of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.
Mr. Edwin Greenwood, of Halifax, was the preacher, and the subject was the Judgment Day. Divine illumination shed its piercing light into my hitherto sin-darkened mind, holy conviction attended the word, the power that breaks the rock was felt and I stood before the Holy Judge in my sin without any covering to screen me from His holy anger against me as a sinner. None can realise this but those that have been brought there, and made to prove that all things are naked and opened before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do. God’s holiness is terrible out of Christ. His justice is awful in its grandeur, and crushing in its sentence. `Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God.’ Words cannot describe the experience. His realised Omniscience was terrible, and I felt not only my outward sins but that my inward frame was all sin. The power attending the word was to make that word sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. I fell down guilty and condemned before God’s holy tribunal and found I had no hiding place. All my sins were brought before my guilty affrighted soul in dread array, and I knew not what to do.
Although I had always heard the truth, yet now I was ignorant of the way of salvation. The revelation of God’s holiness and justice and the powerful application of the law in all its righteous demands and sentence on sinners was as if an earthquake had demolished everything in my life and all was ruin and destruction. All my previous thoughts, pursuits and pleasures were all overthrown and God in His terrible majesty was revealed to me. On that day old things passed away and all things had become new, but, that which I saw with new eyes filled me with terror and fear. I had new fearful thoughts of God, of eternity, of sin, of time, of life, of death, of heaven, of hell, of the Word of God in its purity, of its power and the certainty of its fulfilment, and as I was pricked in my heart, I said, ‘What shall I do?’ It was as if I was alone, my own case seemed to absorb all my thought. I realised I was in God’s presence, there was no escape and I knew that nothing I could do could help me. God was as a lion to me. On that day when judgment was laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet, the hail swept away the refuges of lies, pride was brought down and the Lord alone was exalted. Work was done that none could do but the Arm of Omnipotence. Nothing has ever undone it; darkness may hide the view of it, Satan has questioned its reality and spirituality, but when God shines upon His dealings and the gracious Remembrancer leads me to consider the way He had led me, I have to say, ‘Who teacheth like him?’
I went home from the service like a condemned criminal, without hope. I felt the sentence of death drinking up my spirit, and I learned Â—as I thought to my eternal undoing Â— that God can by no means clear the guilty. Yet there was put into my heart a cry for mercy, but how God could save me I did not know. I did not try to bring anything to God in a way to cause Him to accept me on the ground of works, as I could see that He was so holy and I was so vile and lost, that the East and West might as soon be brought together as God and myself. He was my enemy justly, I was His enemy by wicked works. Now I was powerfully apprehended and cast in prison without any hope in myself of deliverance. The walls were strong and I had no key to fit into the righteous lock of the locked door. I was indeed shut up and could not come forth. By the application of the law sin had become exceedingly sinful, and I sank down in fearfulness of the holy wrath of God and felt in my spirit what a fearful thing it is to fall into the hand of the living God. The hand of the Lord was heavy upon me night and day, and my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. There was no rest in my bones because of my sin. There was condemnation everywhere, and I fell down and there was none to help. As God was against me none could be for me. I was under condemnation and I felt that only God, the God I had sinned against, could have mercy upon me; yet I was shut up to this, that I must pray and seek as long as I lived. I can see now, what I could not discern then, that it was life in my soul that realised the holiness of God as revealed in the law, ‘For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,’ and I could see that the things I once followed after as my life, had ‘curse and death in every stream.’ My willing ignorance was gone, my unconcern about my soul and my state before God was brought to an end, the things with which I was formerly engrossed now yielded me no pleasure, all my pleasant pictures were marred effectually and my sole
concern was, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ In those days I slept the sleep of exhaustion, I was wasted in body, as my spirits were drunk up by the terrors of the Lord and my sin was ever before me. But the Lord did not contend with me for ever, else my spirit would have failed before Him. He had stopped me in my life of living without God and desiring not the knowledge of His ways. How can one sufficiently speak of His wondrous grace and mercy that had thoughts of peace to me and not of evil, to give me an expected end? But, such it was and has been. What wonders are there in grace, ‘For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.’ Salvation is indeed of the Lord, and it is marvellous in the eyes of the quickened sinner who has experienced it.
`Words are but air, and tongues but clay, But Thy compassions all divine.’
On the Sunday School Anniversary day Mr. Jabez Eddison, of Rochdale, was the minister. I did not know anything of the service, I was shut out from it in my feelings and I felt I had no part or lot in what was said. In the afternoon the text was, John 10, verse 16, And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.’ When Mr. Eddison spoke of the way the sheep are brought, he began to describe a law work in the conscience, and to my wonderment, the words arrested my attention and I felt he was speaking about me. Power attended the word, faith was given to believe, and as I did so, my bonds were broken. As Mr. Eddison described how pardon, life and peace are given through the Good Shepherd laying down His life for the sheep, and that justice having received, at the hands of the surety, all the payments due to the law’s righteous demands, the lawful captive was delivered. The gospel was indeed good news from a far country, and as the blessed Spirit of God took of the things of Jesus and skewed them to me, there was a complete change in my soul’s feelings.
`I looked for hell, He brought me heaven.’
And now my sins were washed away, life and peace flowed into my heart, and I was brought to the gospel exchange. Isaiah 61, verses 1 to 3 describes my experience better than any words of mine can do. The Lord Jesus was revealed to me in His love and grace and power. Guilt, darkness and bondage were taken away, peace, love, joy and praise succeeded, and I felt heaven begun in my soul. The concluding hymn of that service I was enabled to sing as my own.
Firm as the earth Thy gospel stands,
My Lord, my hope, my trust,
Since I am found in Jesus’ hands,
My soul can ne’er be lost. His honour is engaged to save
The meanest of his sheep,
All that His heavenly Father gave, His hands securely keep.
Nor death nor hell shall e’er remove,
His favourites from His breast,
In the dear bosom of His love
They must for ever rest.
All now was changed. ‘Weeping may endure for the night, but joy cometh in the morning.’
The teaching of the Holy Spirit is clear, authoritative and conclusive and carries its own witness, which is superior to all others. Its grace and truth and power exactly fit into the soul’s experience, ‘Like apples of gold in pictures of silver.’ As before I could take no pleasure in life, now I could see the mercy and goodness of God in all things. The pardon of my sins seemed the key to all blessings. ‘He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?’ I felt I was provided for in time and for eternity, and it is wonderful to me even after so many years how (on that memorable day) the eyes of my understanding were enlightened.
In the evening the text was Psalm 126, verse 3. ‘The Lord bath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.’ The first part of the sermon dealt with providential mercies, then the preacher passed on to great things in grace. Redemption was blessedly traced out, and the word was honey to my taste. All the blessings that accompany salvation were described with heaven as the fruition of the great things God will do, for His people. I did not know how to live under such wondrous love and grace; there is weight in the things of Jesus Christ and the human frame can only bear a little of the terrors of the law or of the love of God manifested in the Saviour. His dealings are ‘in weight or measure, though so little understood’ by us. I said nothing to anyone in those days, ‘The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger Both not intermeddle with his joy.’ I went home and to bed as soon as I could, I slept but little. I did not want to do so, my soul was ravished with the love of Christ, I sat down under His shadow with great delight and His fruit was sweet to my taste. As the morning dawned I realised that I must go to my daily employment, and the thought brought trouble with it, because I knew the company I must go into was the very reverse of godliness, and possibly the first thing I should hear would be someone taking the name of the Lord in vain. On my way to work I felt I could not go into the company of the ungodly, sin was dreadful to me, so that I felt I would rather die than sin: also I wanted to be with Christ which is far better. I had to pass a farm and when beyond the house I stopped
at the field gate, placed my arm on the top bar, leaned my head on my arm, closed my eyes and begged of the Lord to take me to Himself. Many passages of scripture and verses of hymns were my prayer, and I waited for the Lord to take me home.
Weary of earth, myself and sin, Dear Jesus set me free,
And to Thy glory take me in,
For there I long to be.
Empty, polluted, dark and vain, Is all this world to me,
May I that better world obtain, For there I long to be.
Lord, let a tempest-tossed soul
That peaceful harbour see,
Where waves and billows never roll, For there I long to be.
I did not want to open my eyes any more upon this world, life had no charms for me, a precious Christ filled my heart and I was dead to all beside. The blessed Spirit filled my soul with joy and peace in believing and I could feel already what heaven is, as I enjoyed the earnest of the inheritance and entered into rest. My security could not be destroyed for Christ was mine, I knew that He was in heaven for me and that nothing could separate Him from me. He was my all and I lay at His feet dissolved in love, gratitude and praise. Wonder filled my heart when I thought of His love in stooping so low, in being made sin for me, that I might be made the righteousness of God in Him, and enduring my hell that I might enjoy His heaven. All the language my love could use, my love so freely bestowed from His ocean, was spent in extolling Him, for well I felt that my love was but the reflection of His love to me, that I loved Him because He first loved me, that all that I enjoyed was from the fulness that it pleased the Father should dwell in Him, and I believed that while He lived, I should live and had a life commensurate with His. As John expresses it, ‘Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.’
I waited a long time in prayer, to be taken home, in worship and adoration, and wanted nothing to come between my soul and a precious Christ, but I had to go to work. Everything in the world was but dung and dross; a great gulf was fixed in my mind between earthly things and heavenly things. I realised ‘For the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ How impossible it is for the carnal mind to conceive of the things that God has laid up for them that love Him. There must of necessity be a new nature bestowed, because nothing can rise above its nature. Tor they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.’
I walked for some time in this sweet frame of mind, contrasting so blessedly with the guilt, bondage and slavish fear which I felt when under the sentence of the law, and proved the words of Jesus, ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ At one time everything I saw in the Bible condemned me, now everything was changed, and I could realise that through Christ I possessed all things. As the apostle wrote to the Corinthians, ‘Therefore, let no man glory in men, for all things are your’s; Whether Paul or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your’s; and ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’