THE BLESSING OF THE GOSPEL IN
STANLEY DELVES’ CONVERSION
Extracted from Preaching Peace by Peter M. Rowell
The Harmer’s new shop-boy however proved to be diligent and very interested in the business, and Stanley himself soon began to feel that his future lay in the grocery trade rather than the Police Force. One feature of the new shop assistant which much impressed his employer was that he was the first of their shop-boys who wanted to attend a place of worship, and for a while he went with them to Hanover Strict Baptist Chapel in the centre of Tunbridge Wells. In the good providence of God we have a record of the development of Stanley’s spiritual concerns through this period in his own words:
In due time I came to Tunbridge Wells to live, and I was then about 15 or 16 years of age. By that time my concern had settled down into a seeking after the knowledge of the truth. I felt I wanted to know the truth and to believe the truth, but I felt very ignorant and very confused and, as you have heard me say, about that time my prayer so often was (and it was really the prayer of my heart and the confession of my heart) Â—’Lord, I feel so ignorant, I do not seem to know what to believe, I do not seem to know what the truth is, I do not even seem to know what it is to believe. Do teach me. Do show me the truth’. Well, in that way I used to attend the ministry of Mr. Newton at Hanover Chapel. I had a very great regard for Mr. Newton. I felt he was a very venerable servant of the Lord, but somehow his preaching did not seem to have much effect on my own heart. It was not because I had no concern, because at that time in my life I used to pray my way along the street to Chapel, asking that the Lord would bless my soul, but still nothing seemed to come with any particular power to me. However, one Sunday morning I got to Hanover Chapel very early, too early to go into the service, so I felt I would go for a walk on the common. I was so lost in my thoughts and ponderings in these matters that I came to realise that at 11 o’clock I was at the bottom of the common. I thought ‘Well, if I go back to Hanover I shall be very late for the service’, so I went into Rehoboth.* Mr. Evans, the Pastor, was then preaching, and I remember that Mr. Evans’ ministry had an effect on me that I had never felt before. There seemed a power in it that affected me and held me and so I went again in the evening. If I remember right, Mr. Evans was then preaching on the sufferings of Jesus Christ. It was not that I could understand things very clearly but there seemed to be a power in his preaching that I had not felt before, which of course attracted me to his ministry. So I commenced to attend Rehoboth Chapel.
At about that time a friend lent me a book on ‘The Passover as a Type of the Lord Jesus Christ’. As I read this and pondered over it, and especially these words in it ‘And the blood shall be to you for a token,… and when I see the blood I will pass over you’, I verily believe the Holy Spirit began to enlighten my understanding and the first ray of Gospel light that ever shone into my confused mind and spirit was through that Scripture. In that light I saw the heart of the Gospel to be the substitution of Jesus Christ in the sinner’s place, bearing away his sin. It was made to appear to me that the blood was a token that there had been death in that house, the death of the lamb, and where there had been the death of the lamb there would not be the death of the firstborn. It was because of the blood, the sign of the death of the lamb, that the firstborn was preserved from the fateful stroke that night.
So I began to see the Gospel truth of substitution, that it was really this Â— it was ‘Jesus in the sinner’s place’. Now as I saw that, so I believed it. My heart responded to that wonderful truth, and this was the feeling and response which my heart felt to that truth:
`Go, ye that rest upon the law,
And toil and seek salvation there, Look to the flame that Moses saw, And shrink, and tremble, and despair.
But I’ll retire beneath the Cross;
Saviour, at thy dear feet I’ll lie!
And the keen sword that Justice draws,
Flaming and red, shall pass me by. Watts
* This is another Strict Baptist chapel situated only a few yards from the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells.
Well now, that teaching and that light and that revelation brought my very heart to believe in the precious blood of Jesus Christ as a substitute for sin. I do not know that it brought me an assurance with regard to my own sins being pardoned, so much as showing me the way of God’s mercy. It was through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ, because I had never seen that, although of course I had heard of Jesus Christ all my early days. I remember I came to Tunbridge Wells when I was in this concern of mind, and a minister (it was in fact our Mr. Relf’s grandfather who used occasionally to preach at the chapel) raised this question, as to how God could be just and forgive sin. Well, I knew I felt God was just and very holy Â— there was no mistake about that in my mind, I knew that I was sinful and I felt that, and it seemed to me as though it was a straight issue between the sinfulness of my heart and the holiness and the justice of God. I could not see any way out of it. But I remember Mr. Relf made this remark, ‘Well, it is through the doing and the dying of the Lord Jesus’ and there he left it. He did not explain it. Well, I listened but I could not see what the doing and the dying of the Lord Jesus had to do with it. It seemed to me that the crux of the matter was the holiness of God and the sinfulness of my nature. I think we ministers make a mistake in thinking that our congregations so understand the elementary principles of the Gospel that there is no need for us to expound them. That is a mistake. It would have been very helpful to me if that good minister had expounded the point as to how `the doing’, as he called it, and ‘the dying’ of the Lord Jesus Christ could be of any blessing to me. But I saw it so clearly afterwards. 0, in that precious blood I saw it. I saw how my soul could be saved, how God could be holy, just, and yet kind, loving, tender and merciful, and my heart responded to it. And so I came to believe in Jesus Christ and His precious blood, and to shelter my soul believingly beneath His protection, I was then, I suppose, about 16 or 17 years old. There I was then: there I am today. There I hope to live and there I hope to die, sheltered beneath that precious blood.
Well, as I came to believe these things in my heart so I began to feel the blessing of the Gospel. I began to feel that sweet, that holy, and that heavenly peace which comes by the blood of the Cross. And it was sweet to me too! My soul lived in it. Words like this, for instance, would be very much my feelings:
`Sweet the moments, rich in blessing, Which before the Cross I spend.’
`Here it is I find my heaven,
While upon the Lamb I gaze.’ Allen & Batty
And I did spend them and they were rich to my soul. I felt the peace of
God to be heavenly and I enjoyed the services. The Lord’s house and the Lord’s people were very attractive to me, and I developed a very great love for Rehoboth Chapel. I remember once coming away down the little passage from the chapel and stopping and turning round and looking at the chapel and that word coming to me, ‘Thy servants take pleasure in her stones and favour the dust thereof’.* I felt a love to every stone of the place. Well, being thus brought into the knowledge of the Gospel and feeling the blessing of it in my soul, I went along very comfortably for a while. I enjoyed the ministry; the Word preached was mixed with faith in my heart in hearing it, and I profited by it accordingly. I always look back on those days as my good hearing days. They really were my hearing days. I have not had the like since, but then I fed on the Word.
Well, as time went on, with these feelings in my heart, I became concerned about baptism. For one thing, baptisms were very frequent at Rehoboth in those days, and the Pastor gave a certain prominence to baptism in his ministry, and I accordingly became concerned with regard to this matter. I wanted to do what was right. So I betook myself to praying over this question and asking the Lord to show me that it was right for me to be baptized. But I never seemed to get very far with that nor to feel very much access to the Lord about it, until it was made to appear to me that the Lord had already shown me in His Word that it was right for me to be baptized Â— on this principle Â— that baptism was appointed for all believers in Jesus Christ. It seemed to me then that I was setting aside the plain direction of the scripture and looking for some special direction from the Lord. And that so wrought on my mind that I became quite unable to pray about it at all. It seemed to me that I was setting aside the plain direction which the Lord had given to all believers. It is not the Lord’s will that some believers should he baptized and not others. If that were the case, we would need a special and individual direction from the Lord about it. But when it is the Lord’s will for all believers, what ground have we to expect that He will give us some special, individual and personal direction? Well, I was constrained by love and so I came forward and made application to be baptized. But just at this juncture I must say that you will not understand all the tensions of mind that I subsequently went through, unless you appreciate that unhappily I am a man of a very fearful heart and extremely averse to publicity, and I still am, in my natural disposition, very retiring. The thought of having to speak before the Church seemed to be such an ordeal, and I remember before I went into the Church meeting, I was waiting all in a shake and a tremble, and my spirit rather rebelled against it. I remember saying, ‘Why can’t we follow the Lord in this way without being subject to such a strain and such an ordeal as
* Psalm 102.14
this?’ However, I did speak, but I hardly know how. I was received and, of course, baptized. I never felt any particular blessing in my baptism. Certainly nothing like I have felt from time to time in baptizing others. But still, I felt that I had taken the right step. I felt that in my heart I believed in Jesus Christ. I loved His name, His truth and His ways. So I was baptized and commenced my public confession of my faith in Jesus Christ, and all that I have been through since has never once made me wish that I had not taken that step.