CALEB, THE COLLIER
AN EXTRAORDINARY INSTANCE OF DIVINE INTERPOSITION
The following remarkable narrative was related by Dr. Samuel StennettÂ—obtained from Dr. Joseph Stennett, his fatherÂ—so that its truth is beyond a doubt.
Dr. Joseph Stennett married a lady in Wales; in consequence of which he there resided for several years, and preached with great acceptance to the Baptist congregation in Abergavenny. There was a poor man in that congregation generally known by the name of Caleb. He was a collier, and lived among the hills between Abergavenny and Hereford. He had a wife and several little children, and walked seven or eight miles every Lord’s day to hear Dr. Stennett, the weather seldom preventing him. He was a very good man; and his knowledge and understanding were remarkable, considering the disadvantages of his situation and circumstances. Dr. Stennett was very partial to him, and pleased with his conversation.
One winter there was a severe frost, which lasted many weeks, and not only blocked Caleb’s way to the meeting, so that he could not possibly pass without danger, but also prevented him from working for the support of himself and his family. The Doctor and many others were much concerned, lest they should perish for want. However, as soon as the frost had broken, Caleb again appeared. The Doctor saw him from the pulpit, and as soon as the service was ended, went to him, and said, “O Caleb, how glad I am to see you! How have you fared during the severity of the weather?” He cheerfully answered, “Never better in my life. I had not only the necessaries, but lived upon dainties during the whole time, and have some still remaining, which will serve us for some time to come.” The Doctor expressed his surprise, and wished to be informed of the particulars.
Caleb told him that one night, soon after the commencement of the frost, they had eaten up all their stock and had not one morsel left for the morning nor had any human probability of getting a new supply; but he found his mind quite calm and composed, relying on a gracious God, who wanted neither power nor means to supply his wants. He went to prayer with his family, and then to rest, and slept soundly till the morning. Before he was up, he heard a knock at his door, and on going to see who was there, he saw a man standing with a horse, loaded, who asked if his name was Caleb. He answered in the affirmative, and the man immediately desired him to help to take down the load. Caleb asked what it was. He said, “Provision.” On his enquiring who sent it, the man said he believed God had sent it;
and no other answer could he obtain. When he came to examine the contents, he was struck with amazement at the quantity and variety of the articles. There were bread, flour, oatmeal, butter,
cheese, salt meat and fresh, tongue, etc., which served them throughout the frost, and some remained to that present time.
The Doctor was much affected with the account, and mentioned it in all companies where he went, in hope of finding out the benevolent donor. His attempts, however, were in vain; till he went, about two years afterwards, to visit Dr. Talbot, a noted physician in Hereford. Dr. Talbot was a man of good moral character and of a very generous disposition, but an infidel in principle. His wife was a godly woman, and a member of the Baptist Church at Abergavenny, but could not attend very often on account of the distance. Dr. Stennett used to go and visit her now and then, and Dr. Talbot, though a man of no religion himself, always received Dr. Stennett with great politeness; and Dr. Stennett generally stayed there a night or two when he went. While they were conversing very pleasantly one evening. Dr. Stennett, with the view of introducing something entertaining and profitable, spoke of the great efficacy ; of true prayer, and instanced the case of poor Caleb. As he was relating the affair. Dr. Talbot smiled, and said, “Caleb! I shall never forget him as long as I live.” “What! did you know him?” asked Dr. Stennett. “I had but little knowledge of him,” said Dr. Talbot, “but from your description I know he must be the same man you mention.” Dr. Stennett was now very anxious to hear what account Dr. Talbot had to give of him; upon which Dr. Talbot freely related the following circumstances:Â—
During the summer previous to the hard winter above-mentioned, he was riding on horseback for the benefit of the air, as was his usual custom when he had a leisure hour, and generally chose to ride among the hills, it being more pleasant, rural, and romantic. A few farm-houses were dispersed here and there, and a few little cottages. As he was riding along, he observed a number of people assembled in a barn, and his curiosity led him to ride up to the barn door, to learn the cause of their assembling. He found, to his great surprise, that there was a man preaching to a vast number of people, and he stopped till the service was ended. He observed that the people were very attentive to what the preacher said; and one poor man in particular attracted his notice. He had a little Bible in his hand, and turned to every passage of Scripture the minister quoted. Dr. Talbot wondered to see how ready he was, for a man of his appearance, in turning to the places, and likewise noticed that his Bible was full of dog’s ears; that is, the corner of the leaves were turned down very thickly. When the service was over, he walked his horse gently along, in order to observe the people, and the poor man whom he had so particularly noticed happened to walk by his side. Dr. Talbot entered into conversation with him, asked many questions concerning the meeting and the minister, and found the poor man to be more intelligent than he could have expected. He enquired of him his employment, his family, and his name, which he said was Caleb.
After the Doctor had satisfied his curiosity, he rode off, and thought no more about Caleb till the great frost came on, the following winter. He was in bed one night, but could not tell for certain whether he was asleep or awake, when he thought he heard a voice say, “Send provision to Caleb.” He was at first a little startled; but, concluding it to be a dream, endeavoured to compose himself to sleep. It was not long, however, before he imagined he heard the same words repeated, but louder and stronger. He then awakened his wife, who was in a sound sleep, and told her what he had heard; but she persuaded him that it could be none other than a dream, and she soon fell asleep again. The Doctor’s mind, however, was so much impressed that he could not sleep. He turned and tossed himself about for some time; till at last he heard the voice so powerfully, saying, “Get up and send provision to Caleb,” that he could resist no longer. He got up, called his man, and bade him bring the horse. He then went to his larder, and stuffed a pair of panniers as full as he possibly could with whatever he could find; and, having assisted the man to load the horse, bade him take the provision to Caleb. “Caleb?” said the man, “What Caleb, Sir?” “I know very little of him,” said the Doctor, “but he lives among the hills; let the horse go and you will be sure and find him.” The man seemed to be under the same
influence as his master, which accounts for his telling Caleb, “God sent it, I believe.”
Thus faithfully does the blessed Redeemer keep His word, that those who are enabled to make His glory their chief aim and endeavour shall not lack earthly things. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things,”Â—food, drink, and clothing, “shall be added unto you.” The neglect, therefore, of His services, instead of being necessary, at any time, to the supply of our need, is one very thing which renders it uncertain. The most godly sometimes may be reduced to straits. The apostle Paul says he was instructed both “to abound and to suffer need”, but in the very chapter in which he records this, he states also that his need had been supplied and assures those who had ministered to his necessities, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” “Trust in the LORD, and do good, . . . and verily thou shalt be fed.”