A MAN WHO LOVED HIS LORD
Extracts from the autobiographical notes of Harold Hoadley*
Harold Hoadley, through the mercy of God, by Christ Jesus redeemed from sin, death and hell, made a servant of God.
Birth and Early Days
I was born on September 9th 1906, the fourth son of William and Mildred Hoadley, in Station Road, Reigate, in the county of Surrey. Both my parents lie in Handcross Chapel Yard where many others of the family are buried. My father and mother feared God as did their parents; this I believe is a favour of God but does not confer grace which is the gift of God.
On the night I was born the doctor said, “This child cannot live” but father coming in said, “This child is set for the work of the ministry”. This was not revealed until I had entered the ministry, then in the congregation at Mount Bures Chapel was the woman (Mrs. Mynott) who attended my mother and related the circumtances to me. Later my mother confirmed this to me. It appears as a child I was a weakling, so lost much schooling, but my weakness kept me from much sin outwardly, but my heart was desperately wicked which I had to learn in latter years very painfully.
Twice in my young life I had escapes from death, once when at Handcross I was run over by a car and suffered a broken rib, and at Harlow while paddling in the river near an overspill, I slipped and would have been carried over the fall but managed to grasp the root of a tree till a passer-by saw my plight and pulled me out. These things made me pray that I would be good, but alas my goodness was like the morning dew. These solemn warnings for a season checked my downward path.
A first deep impression came when I was taken to see a dying younger brother. As I stood by his bed, mother said to him, “Are you going to get better?” He replied, “No, I am going to be with Jesus”, and so passed away on his sixth birthday at 11 o’clock – the same hour as he was born six years ago. Oh, what thoughts came into my young heart – “Would I go to heaven if I died?” I was about
ten years old, but the fears of hell gradually wore off and my heart became hardened. Although taken to chapel, I never listened to what was said and only too glad when it was over; the same with family prayers. Yet I never dared to go to sleep without prayer of some sort in case I died in my sleep, but I think this was only natural fear.
When about eleven years old, I heard some boys swear. This took hold of me and oh the grief it caused me in after years, for it oft-times broke out, bringing me in guilty before a Holy God; and whenever I hear others swear I am reminded of my shame. My parents would on no account allow us children to go to places of amusement, not even as part of our “education”.
We were a large family of eight boys and three girls, and through affliction were often in great straits, sometimes scarcely any food except a little bread and water for a meal, till a sack of flour arrived from Uncle David of Handcross. In the year 1916 the winter was severe; while at school at Tadworth a great blizzard came on and my eldest brother and I with other boys were lost on Walton Heath, as all footsteps became obliterated, so sense of direction was lost. A search party eventually found us. The snow by morning was so very deep, there was no more school for three weeks, and father was unable to walk to Tadworth where he worked. There was an army camp under canvas nearby and the poor fellows were billeted wherever room could be found. We had one, a nice young fellow, who never returned from the war. How true it is, “Not a single shaft can hit till the God of love sees fit”. This I have proved all through my life; as I write this I am almost 81 years. “Great is Thy faithfulness”.
The New Birth and Baptism
By the time I was 19 I thought I was all right as I read my Bible, said my prayers and went to chapel twice on Sunday and once in the week, and thought that those who mourned over their sins were not right, as God did not intend us to be miserable; but the time of awakening was coming when I was to pass through times of deepest distress on account of indwelling sin.
In the year 1928 I came to London to work at a pawnbrokers at Lower Marsh, Lambeth. This was a most evil district. At first I went to Brixton Tabernacle under Mr. E. Roe’s ministry. It cut me all to pieces. For a long time no one spoke to me, but after about six months a certain person. Miss R. Burson, felt it laid on her mind to invite me to her home; thus commenced a friendship which lasted 27 years. She was a mother in Israel to me, giving me much gracious counsel, and the Lord began to chasten me sore for my wilful heart and I had to suffer much at the hands of a drunken housekeeper,
who often kept me out in the cold by refusing to open the door when I came home from chapel on Sunday nights; but this was the Lord’s means to subdue my wrathful spirit.
About this time, 1931, a time of serious rioting broke out, shops being looted, many baton charges by the police and troops standing by. For three days and nights Lower Marsh was like a battlefield, and we could not leave the premises. Oh, how I cried unto the Lord to preserve the shop, as it was a jewellers, and although the shops each side were broken into, the Lord stayed them from attacking the shop where I lived and worked. After three days the riot was quelled, and I could venture out to Gower Street Chapel. It came about on this wise: one Thursday evening I went to Drayton Gardens and found it closed, so asked the caretaker if he knew of another chapel open that evening. He said, yes, there was a prayer meeting at Gower Street. Now he had heard that these people were very hard, so with much trembling I ventured in, but oh, when the dear men began to pray, I said, “Lord, this is the people, here will I come”. But now a great darkness of mind came upon me, fearing I must for ever be lost as I had sinned against light and reason, till at last feeling full of despair I was determined to do away with myself by jumping over Westminster Bridge as I had seen others do. I arrived at the bridge, when these words came so softly, “Say, poor sinner, lovest thou Me?” I said, “Lord, Thou knowest I would if I could”. From there I wandered on to Hyde Park, where was a little band of women singing,
Hark my soul, it is the Lord,
‘Tis thy Saviour, hear His word;
Jesus speaks, and speaks to thee:
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou Me?
Oh, it was like music from heaven to my poor tempest-tossed soul. This was the turning point in my darkness – truly saved by grace.
January, 1934. At this time I was becoming very concerned over baptism, often weeping in secret before my God, and I longed to clearly know my name was written in heaven. I was also deeply tried about seeking another situation. By mid-January I was laid aside with muscular rheumatism and had to return home to Portsmouth.
Today is my birthday, 9th September, 28 years old. Oh, what cause have I to say, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, for bringing me, a poor sinner, to hear His voice, and at Gower Street heard that dear man of God, W. S. Cooper of Lakenheath, oh how blessedly he spoke of the ordinances of His house, oh the longing I had after them.
Monday, 10th September. Had such a blessing today, could
hardly do my work because of my melting heart, at the love of God to me.
Thursday, went up to the prayer meeting, begging the Lord to move some to speak of baptism in their prayers. Bless His dear name, He did so move them that each one who prayed mentioned baptism; so the Lord hears my cry. Feel I cannot hold out any longer, must come forward.
Tuesday, 20th November 1934. Tonight went to Gower Street for my baptism. Oh the fear and trembling lest I be left to fall. A very large congregation had assembled, about 200, Mr. C. Sawyer of Mayfield officiating. Praise the Lord, He was better than all my fears, giving me a quiet mind, so felt completely at peace. Reading:
John 3. Text: John 3, v.30. Hymns: 90, 201, 427, Gadsbys. Text given me in the pool: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’. After the baptism, as I came out of the vestry door, a woman (Mrs. Whitbread) called out in a loud voice, “This young man is set for the work of the ministry’. Oh, how I wished she had kept silent, but it appeared to be the thoughts of many.
Saturday, December 22nd 1934. Doris Fincham’s birthday. At Waterloo Station we became engaged to be married and I slipped the diamond and sapphire ring on her finger: we believe the Lord is with us in the matter, and that He has brought us together.
On December 31st 1934 I wrote this in my diary: “What wonders hath the Lord wrought. First He taught me the way of salvation, then His redeeming grace, then He brought me to put on Christ Jesus by publicly following Him through the waters of baptism, and sit at His table, for He loves me with an everlasting love. Then He gave me a loving God-fearing companion to walk with:
In all His holy sovereign will
He is, I daily find,
Too wise to be mistaken, still,
Too good to be unkind.
What though I can’t His goings see,
Nor all His footsteps find?
Too wise to be mistaken, He,
Too good to be unkind.”
May 5th 1936. Today is our wedding at Lakenheath. Could not have more than three days off and was told I must lose my money, but afterwards my employer relented. Oh the many cries that had gone up to the Lord over this. How our patience was tried. The day came bright but cold. My cousin, Mr. E. G. Rowell, conducted the
service assisted by Mr. W. S. Cooper, Doris’s grandparent, pastor of Lakenheath chapel. Felt it was a blessed day for my soul.
August 1939. The nation is now feverishly preparing to defend itself against the might of Germany; many nations have already fallen to her arms and Britain stands alone. “O God, hear the many prayers for deliverance”.
September 2nd 1939. On this day the City of Portsmouth Fire Services Auxiliaries were mobilized. I was called from my place of business to Fire Brigade Headquarters to put on a uniform which I was to wear for seven long years and to pass through scenes of terrible destruction and endure great hardship, but mercifully brought safely through, whereas some who paraded with me on that night never saw the end.
The Ministry of the Word
July 1943. Am on leave at Lakenheath. Mr. J. S. Green preached. Was asked to take a Sunday School class of girls, felt the Lord helped me. The following Sunday, no minister. I was asked to take part of the service, the dear Lord did help me. Of late have had some weighty thoughts concerning the ministry, but this word comes, ‘Wait, for the vision is yet for an appointed time’ Hab. 2, v.3. At this time I asked my dear wife if she had ever thought I should enter the ministry. She had to confess, yes.
(After many trials and much opposition he began to preach.)
I now record the promises that had gone before concerning the work of the ministry:
After I had preached my first sermon, my mother wrote to me and said, “I can now reveal what has been kept secret till now. On the day you were born the doctor laid you aside and said, ‘This child cannot live’, but your father coming at that instant said, ‘This child is set for the work of the ministry’. Also my aunt, Miss G. Green, said the same thing”.
Later, when I had preached at Mount Bures in Essex, an old lady came up to me and asked if my Christian name was Harold and was I born in Reigate. I said it was so. She then said she was in attendance on my mother at my birth and repeated what my mother had said. [Her name was Mrs. Mynott.)
The second place in which I preached was Rehoboth, Stotfold. The deacon, Mr. Henry King, said, “You may wonder why you have been asked here to preach. Well, years ago you worked for my uncle, James Hitchin of Portsmouth, who told me many years before that if I heard that Harold Hoadley had gone out to preach, I should ask him to come to Rehoboth, for the Lord has surely sent him”. How he knew this I know not, for I was a naughty lad. Oh the
sweet times I had in dear Rehoboth, alas now gone.
The next is Swanwick Shore. As I was staying in the cottage of dear Mr. and Mrs. Fred Bevis with Mr. Edwards, they began to question me. Had I lived at Handcross as a boy, they asked. Having satisfied them, they then related that thirty years before a minister (Mr. Bewers) had sat in the same chair and told them he knew a little boy named Harold Hoadley, who one day would come and preach to them – and now it is fulfilled. Here I had my first fruit to the ministry and still sometimes preach there, although over 80 years old. But to return: then Mr. Edwards took up his story, relating that many years ago at a special service a young man came in late and as he stood at the desk it came to him, “Here comes a servant of the Lord”. To hear all this afterwards was a great comfort to my soul.
The Pastorate at Brooke
Lord’s Day, June 13th 1954. This day was at Brooke; felt wonderfully helped and then took the ordinance with them. After the service the deacon, Mr. Alfred Moore, said the church and congregation desired me for their pastor.
Had a letter from the friends at Brooke confirming their desire for me to be their pastor. Oh the tossings up and down. I questioned my wife to know if she had ever had thoughts about Brooke. She said, Â•’Yes, for a long time, but I do not want to go there. But this word comes: ‘Take care of him’.”
September 27th 1954. At Gower Street Tuesday evening. Heard that dear man of God preach so sweetly from Isaiah 40. vs. 3-5, that when I reached home was compelled to write to the dear friends at Brooke accepting their call to the pastorate. No sooner was the letter posted than my fears ran high, the enemy coming in like a flood telling me the people were all old and how should I live or get work? But the Lord said, ‘Lean not to thine own understanding;
feed My sheep’.
I had long held a driving licence. During 1963 I had several times walked from Poringland. Usually I was given a lift by various persons including the local vicar, but on one occasion no one .stopped. Feeling very weary one Lord’s Day, I said, “Lord, make a way for me to live at Brooke or provide me with a car so I can get to thy house and visit the friends in affliction”.
The year wore away and I could get no leadings to leave Llandaff House. Then in January 1964,1 cried unto the Lord to direct me to a God-fearing man to sell me a car at a price I could afford. That
Christmas I had Â£30 given me and an increase in my salary at work. Then in February I overheard two men talking about a certain man in the motor trade in Norwich who feared God. On this I made my request known unto God. Early in January I went and saw this man, who said, “You have asked me a hard thing, for I have nothing that would be any good to you for Â£30. Let us pray about it, and come and see me at the end of the month”.
At the end of the month I felt a strong feeling to go and see Mr. Cooke. He at once said, “I am pleased to see you come, as I have come to a decision about a car for you. When you first came I had a car which I felt would do for you, although it was much more than you could afford, so I put a ‘sold’ label on it. Now come and look at it, an Austin A30. When I saw it I feared to ask the price, but Mr. Cooke said, “It’s yours for Â£30. The difference is between me and the Lord, for you must have a good car for your work. My man will go over it and replace any worn parts and deliver it ready for use”. I told the dear friends at Brooke; they said they had been praying that 1 might have a car. (It gave me good service.) My God does all things well.
September 1966. On the Monday we went to Burgess Hill where I had ofttimes preached and heard that dear man of God Mr. J. W. Tyler preach. His text was “We know that all things work together for good …” Little did we know how soon we were to prove it. On the following day we set out in the car for Hailsham to visit my sister Edna and two old friends, but as we came into Hailsham very unpleasant sounds came from the car and it would go no further, but in mercy it stopped outside a large garage, so with much fear I inquired if they could do an emergency repair. They looked at my car and said, yes, it would take about two days and cost about Â£14. This cast us down, as we saw it would take all our spare money. When we made known our plight to our friends, they willingly put us up, although we had no night clothes with us.
We spent the time in visiting the aged and afflicted. In the evening we went to the Dicker Chapel, it being prayer meeting night. I thought Mr. Tyier would not know we were there, but he had seen me as he came in, so was called on, but would have gladly remained silent, yet it was a relief to pour out my heart before the Lord; and we felt the address was blessed to our souls. After the service I whispered to Mr. Tyier how it was we were there.
The next day we went to collect our car, when the receptionist said, “The manager wants to see you”. At this my heart sank, fearing the bill was bigger than expected. The man said, “Are you Pastor Hoadley from Brooke?” I replied, “Yes”. Then he said, “I am pleased to say your car is now quite all right, and I hope you enjoy the rest of your holiday”. Then with many fears I asked for the
bill. He said, “Oh, there is no bill; a friend has paid it for you”. I was so astonished I could not say anything, so the man called for the secretary to bring the accounts and showed me written across the bill “Paid”.
My diary entries are as follows:
September 9th 1971. Today is my 65th birthday. Yesterday was my last day of secular labour. The firm tried to persuade me to stay on, but I firmly said, ‘No, you have had plenty of time to get a replacement’. After 16 years with them, there was not even a farewell. They said, ‘We liked you as a workman, but hated your religion’.
How often did I wonder if I would ever see this day. Surely goodness and mercy have followed me all my days, and what can I say as I look back except ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul’; abundant grace on the part of my God, but sin on my part. Through many sorrows we have been brought, but upheld till now; all our needs supplied so we have lacked nothing. I realise only one more change awaits me, which is to be with Christ which is far better.
(With increasing age he had to resign his pastorate at Brooke, 1979.)
My mind was in a turmoil at the thought of leaving dear Brooke where we had ministered so long, but the Lord broke in with an old promise, “I will be with thee in all places whither thou goest”. This calmed our troubled minds, and when we reached Brooke the words came, “Regard not your stuff.Â”
Our room (at the Pilgrim Home, Brighton), is now ready and waiting for us, and we can see ’tis of the Lord. For some time because of the weakness of the body I have not known how to get through the services; of course the friends are dismayed at our departure, but the Lord has raised up a man to help.
So after 24 years as pastor, I leave on the 21st August for Sussex. ‘He who has helped us hitherto will help us all our journey through”. Amen.
As I look back over the past year (1981), I can see it was needful for me to be brought south by the hand of God. Some are added to the churches, others are brought under conviction through the word of God, and the poor and needy are fed. All praise and glory to God, Amen.
My health and strength is maintained, so can go in and out. My dear one’s health declines and causes some anxiety, but HE KNOWS”.
On November 12th 1982, I wrote this: “The church at Brooke having ceased to function, we being the only two members left, have felt deeply exercised for a spiritual home, but cannot join just for a convenience but want spiritual loving union. Hastings showed much practical love, but could feel no leadings that way. But at Horsham, have felt a sweet union and liberty in preaching to them, so wrote and asked to join their little church. Tuesday, November 9th, we went before the little church and told how great things the Lord had done for us. We were both much helped to speak of our leadings to Hope, Horsham; this was unanimously received. Then I briefly related the Lord’s leadings into the solemn work of the ministry. The deacon, Mr. John Cockram, then related the exercise of the church that we should be brought amongst them, feeling our ministry was acceptable to them. Praise ye the Lord. Now we wait for the cloud to move.
1st February 1984. We have been in our new home at Warnham just one week. Oh how good has the dear Lord been to us, in the provision of a real home of our own again, and as we look around at all the furniture which friends have so kindly supplied, and the peaceful surroundings in which we now reside, so near our dear Horsham friends, who so kindly help us in every way, we are so thankful. Bless the Lord, O my soul. Amen.
September 9th 1984. It is some time since I last recorded anything for this book, and have now reached my 78th birthday. What mercies have we daily received from our dear Redeemer’s hands. We have been in this little flat for nearly eight months, and do feel it is the right place for us. We are still happy with the dear friends at Hope Chapel, Horsham, who show us so many kindnesses, and speak of blessings as I feel led to speak to them from time to time, and still travel around the little Sussex flocks.
January 1988. I now commence my 40th year in the ministry. What hath God wrought through such a poor instrument. But ‘my record is on high’. Nine years since I resigned the pastorate at Brooke, but still on the walls of Zion sounding forth the gospel message, with signs following, so is fulfilled the word, even down to old age they shall bring forth fruit. May all the praise be unto the Lord. Amen.
Sunday, 20th August 1989. The fortieth anniversary of my preaching the Gospel at Handcross, the place where I had from the Lord my first intimation at four years old that I would one day stand in that pulpit – and so it came to pass forty years ago, and I have
been upheld to this present moment of time.
My subject, so suitable to the occasion,-was: “But the word of the Lord endureth for ever, And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you” 1 Peter 1, v.25.
And so I continue to this present day by God’s help. Amen.
After a severe stroke, Harold Hoadley went to be with the Saviour he loved so deeply and served so faithfully on April 12,1990, and was laid to rest in Handcross Baptist Chapel graveyard on April 18th where a large congregation of loving friends gathered for the funeral conducted by the Editor.
* These notes form a very brief, inadequate summary of a fascinating life story gathered from his own diary notes and personal jottings. It is hoped that the full account will eventually be available. Any requests for copies should be addressed to Mrs. D. Hoadley, Flat 3, Farebrothers, Church Street, Warnham, W. Sussex LH12 3DZ.