A WHEEL IN THE MIDDLE OF A WHEEL
The late Mr. Thomas Bradbury dined one day at the house of Mrs. Tooly, who was famous in her day for the love she bore to Christ and to all His servants and people. Mr. Timothy Rogers, who wrote the book on Religious Melancholy, and was himself many years under that distemper, dined there the same day with Mr. Bradbury; and, after dinner, he entertained Mrs. Tooly and him with some stories concerning his father, who was one of the ejected ministers in the year 1662, and the sufferings he underwent on account of his non-conformity. Mr. Rogers related one anecdote, that he had often heard his father tell to himself and others, concerning a deliverance which he had from being sent to prison, after his mittimus was written out for that purpose. He lived near the house of one Sir Richard Cradock, a Justice of the Peace, who was a most violent persecutor, and laid out himself to distress serious Dissenters by all the means which the severe laws then in being put in his power, particularly by enforcing the statute against conventicles. He bore a great hatred to Mr. Rogers, and wanted above all things to have him in his power; and a fair opportunity, as he thought, offered itself to him. He heard that Mr. Rogers was to preach at a place some miles distant, so he hired two men to go as spies, who were to take the names of several hearers they knew, and to witness against them. The thing succeeded to his wish. They brought the names of several persons who were hearers on that occasion; and Sir Richard sent and warned such of them as he had a particular spite again, and Mr. Rogers, to appear before him. They all came, with trembling hearts, expecting the worst, for they knew the violence of the man. While they were in his great hall, expecting to be called upon, there came a little girl, a grandchild of Sir Richard’s, about six or seven years of age. She looked at Mr. Rogers, being much taken with his venerable appearance and he, being naturally fond of children, took her on his knee, making a great deal of her, and she became fond of him. At last Sir Richard sent one of his servants to inform the company that one of the witnesses was fallen sick and could not be present that day, warning them to come on another day, which he named to them. Accordingly they came and the crime, as the Justice called it, was proved. He ordered their mittimus to be written, to send them all to jail.
Mr. Rogers, expecting to see the little girl again, had brought some sweets to give her and he was not disappointed, for she came running to him, and was fonder of him than she had been the day before. She was, it seems, a particular favourite of her grandfather’s, and had got such an ascendency over him that he could deny her nothing. She was withal a child of a violent spirit, and could bear no contradiction, as she was indulged in everything. Once, it seems, when she was contradicted in something, she ran
a penknife into her arm, which almost cost her either her life or the loss of her arm. After this. Sir Richard would not suffer her to be contradicted in anything. While she was sitting on Mr. Rogers’s knee, and eating the sweetmeat he gave her, she looked wishfully on him, and said, “What are you here for. Sir?” He answered, “I believe your grandfather is going to send my friends and I, whom you see here, to jail.” “To jail!” said she, “Why? What have you done?” “I did nothing but preach at such a place; and they did nothing but hear me.” She said, “My grandpa shan’t send you to jail.” “Ay but, my dear,” said he, “I believe he is now making out our mittimus, to send us all there.” She ran immediately to the room where her grandfather was and knocked with her hand and heels till she got in; and then said, “What are you going to do with my good old gentleman in the hall?” “That’s nothing to you,” said her grandfather; “get you about your business.” “But 1 won’t,” said she. “He tells me that you are going to send him and his friends to jail; and if you do send them, I’ll drown myself in the pond as soon as they are gone. I will, indeed.” When he saw the girl was resolute and peremptory, it shook him, and overcame the wicked design he had formed to persecute these innocent men. He stepped into the hall, with the mittimus in his hand, and said, “I had here made out your mittimus, to send you all to prison, as you deserve; but, at my grandchild’s request, I let fall the prosecution, and set you all at liberty.” They all bowed and thanked him. After which, Mr. Rogers stepped up to the child, and laid his hands upon her head; and, lifting up his eyes to Heaven, he said, “God bless you, my dear child. May the blessing of that God whose cause you now did plead, though as yet you know Him not, be upon you in life, at death, and throughout eternity.” And then he and his friends went away. Mrs. Tooly listened, with uncommon attention, to the story; and, looking on Mr. Rogers, said, “And are you that Mr. Roger’s son?” “Yes, I am,” answered he, “I am.” “Well,” said she, “as long as I have been acquainted with you I never knew that before. And now I will tell you something which you never knew before. I am the very person your dear father blessed in the manner you have now related. It made such an impression on me as I could never forget.” Upon this double discovery, Mrs. Tooly and Mr. Rogers found they had a super-added tie of Christian regard to each other, beyond what they had before. And then he and Mr. Bradbury were desirous to know how she, who had been brought up with an aversion to real religion, was now so eminent for it. She complied with their request, and very freely told them her story. She said that, after her grandfather’s death, she was left sole heiress of his great estate; and, being in the bloom of youth, and having none to control her, she ran after all the fashionable diversions of the time in which she lived, without any manner of restraint. But, at the same time, she confessed that, at the end of them all, she found a dissatisfaction both with herself and them which always struck a damp to herheart, which she did not know how to get rid of. She contracted some slight illness, upon which she thought she would go to Bath, hearing that was a place for pleasure as well as health. When she arrived there, she was led in providence to consult an Apothecary, who was a religious man. He enquired what ailed her. “Why,” said she, “doctor, I don’t ail much as to my body; but I have an uneasy mind, which I cannot get rid of.” “Truly,” said he, “I was too, till I met with a Book that cured me of it.” “Books!” said she. “I get all the books I can lay my hands on; all the plays, novels, and romances I can hear of; but, after I have read them, my uneasiness is the same.” “That may be,” said he. “I don’t wonder at it. But this Book I speak of, I can say of it what I can say of no other I ever read. I never tire of reading it, but can begin to read it again, as if I had never seen it before. And I always find something new in it.” “Pray,” said she, “doctor, what book is that?” “Nay,” answered he, “that is a secret I don’t tell everyone.” “But could not I get a sight of that book?” said she. “Yes, if you will promise one thing, I will bring it you; and that is, that you read it carefully; and, if you do not see much in it at first, that you will give it a second reading.” She promised faithfully she would; and, after raising her curiosity by coming without bringing it, he at last brought it, took it out of his pocket, and gave it her. It was a New Testament. When she looked on it, she said, “Pooh, I could get that at any time.” “Why, so you might, replied the doctor; “but remember, I have your solemn promise that you will read it carefully.” “Well,” said she, “though I never read it before, I will give it a reading.” Accordingly she began to read it, and it soon attracted her attention. She saw something in it which occasioned deep concern and if she were uneasy in her mind before, she was ten times more so now. She did not know what to do with herself so went back to London, to see what the diversions there would do. But all was in vain. Electing love had decreed to save her, and effectual grace was determined to have her. She lodged at the court end of the town, and had a gentlewoman with her, by way of a companion.
One Saturday night, she dreamed she was in a place of worship, and heard a sermon which she could remember nothing of, when she awaked, excepting the text; but the dream made such an impression on her mind that the idea she had of the place and the minister’s face was as strong as if she had been acquainted with both for a number of years. She told her dream to her companion on the Lord’s day morning; and, after breakfast, she was resolved to go in quest of it, if she should go from one end of London to the other. Accordingly they set out, and went into this and the other church, as they passed along; but none of them answered to what she saw in her dream. About one o’clock they found themselves in the heart of the City and went into an eating-house for lunch and then set out again in search of this unknown place. About half past two they were in the Poultry and saw a great many
people going down the Old Jewry; and she was determined she would see where they were going. She followed them into a building and as soon as she entered the place she turned to her companion and said, with some surprise, “This is the very place I saw in my dream.” She had not stood long, till Mr. Shower, who was then minister of the place, went up into the pulpit and, as soon as she looked at him, with greater surprise still, she said, “This is the very man I saw in my dream and, if every part of it hold true, he will take for his text. Psalm 116 verse 7, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.” When he began to pray, she was all attention, and every sentence went to her heart. Having finished prayer, he announced for his text the very words quoted above; and there God met with her soul in a saving way. She at last obtained, what she so long sought for in vain elsewhere, rest to her soul in Him who is the life and happiness of them that believe.