An account of John Morris of the Wolds Leicestershire taken from a letter written by the Rev. Robert Walker to his brother-in-law the Rev. J. S. Sergeant.
SAVED, WITH A GREAT SALVATION
The Vicarage, Wymeswold, Loughborough.
May 27, 1878.
My dear Brother,
It seems very long since we had any correspondence on any subject, but a thing has just occurred which I feel you must hear of, and in which, I am sure, you cannot fail to take a great interest. How it has been so long concealed from my knowledge I know not, but I never heard of it until last week.
Do you remember going with me in the summer of 1860 to the Wolds, to see some farmer sort of people, where there was a very old deaf man sitting in the corner, and we both had a conversation with him by turns till we were both exhausted, and he told us to hold our tongues, as he had known all we could tell him before we were born? His name was John Morris, then about 84 years of age; his two daughters had married men of the name of Hitherly. They were very nice, respectful people. But the old deaf man was a real old public-house goer, and used to come toddling down to the village (two and a half miles) to spend the day occasionally at the “Rose & Crown,” hob-nobbing with the landlord.
I never heard any more of poor old John Morris that I can remember, till in May, 1871, I buried him at the age of 95. I regarded him as a poor old reprobate, at last sealed up in deafness against all the means of grace, and never again destined to have so much as one thought of heaven or hell. But in this I was more brutish than any man, and had not the understanding of a man. For God’s thoughts were not my thoughts, nor had I the smallest idea of His grand purpose of eternal love towards that poor old dark soul.
Well,Â—I had this account from his daughter, Mrs. Hitherly, now herself an old woman. She came here from Grimston, where they now live, for a few days last week, and I called to see her, and she told me as follows:Â—
About six years after our call he would sometimes say in a sort of pensive manner: “Be born again,Â—didn’t Mr. Walker and that gentleman say, I must be born again? Didn’t that gentleman say I must pray to have my heart broken to shivers?” You remember that you said this to him as a parting word before we left the house. She said she was surprised to hear him refer to it in that inquiring way, for she was afraid at the time we were there, he would have broken out, and ordered us out of his house. So she was astonished at his remembering our very words.
The next thing was,Â—her boy, then about 10 years of age,
said to her: “Mother, I’m sure Grandfather will go to heaven for he prays all night.” Still she thought it must be a mistake, till she herself constantly heard him saying: “Born again! Why I’m born again; it is as the gentleman said: “Except a man be born again he cannot see, no he cannot see”Â—laying great stress on “see”Â—”the kingdom of God.”
Then many Scriptures used to come to his mind, which is the more remarkable as he never could read; and he would turn them into prayer or praise. His favourite passage was: “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy Name? for Thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before Thee.” He used to lay great stress on “all nations,” and would say sometimes: “I wish I was a young man, I would go to all nations and tell them what the Lord has done for my soul.” Then he would at times break out and say: “I have found out now, that for the biggest sinner, there is a bigger Saviour. I am a great sinner,Â—I have been a sinner all my long life,Â—I am the biggest sinner, yet I have a bigger Saviour.” He was very diligent on Saturdays to pray for ministers,Â—he would always mention both of us by name, and say: “all others who preach Christ.” On Sunday mornings he would again pray for ministers, then for hearers, then for those who cannot go to worship, and then for those who will not go to worship. He would add sometimes, that he was once one who would not go. There was a public-house, where in his days of darkness, he had spent many an evening and night. Now, he never went there.
Still his daughter had doubts of his conversion, and fancied he had picked up religious expressions from somebody or other when he could hear, and now that he was old, they came to his memory. She could not believe so great a miracle had been wrought, as that his hard, dark, old wicked heart had really been changed. But one fine day they drove over from Grimston to spend the day at “The Durham Ox” with Mrs. Biddies, who was the landlady, and a friend of theirs. Now she saw the reality of the change: instead of taking his accustomed seat on the ale-bench, and drinking as long as they would treat him, he smiled when they offered him any drink, and said: “Thank you, I will have a cup of tea presently;” then he would look very kindly at them. and say: “God bless you; I hope He will bless you as He has blessed me.” To his daughter he said: “Betsy don’t leave me in the tap-room, I will go into the parlour, and have tea with you.” And . then in a very low voice, so as not to hurt Mrs. Biddies feelings, he added: “I can’t bear to see that seat where I used to sit, I hate the very look of it, don’t let me see it.” This was when he was about 91. He lived four years after this. His constant ejaculation was: “I want to go home, I want to go home.” Then he would add very humbly: “Lord, I know I must wait Thy time, and I am sure that will be a good time.” Thus he lived a new man for about five years, being truly born again when he was old, actually 90 years of age.
I must mention that there are several saints in that family. Three of his daughters are dead, and all seemed partakers of grace; his two surviving daughters are certainly godly women, and his grandson is a most godly, enlightened saint, quite a Huntingtonian in experience. Grace seems given to so many in that family. Yet in no case has it been so wonderful as in old John Morris, the grandfather, born again at 90.
His death was as might have been expected,Â—he was quite blind for the last two years. He called his daughter to know what o’clock it was, and being told about 9 a.m., he said: “I shan’t be long now; I have had such a vision, unspeakable, I can’t tell you,Â— unspeakable; but they will soon be here again for me.” Then he continued very dozing for about six hours, and at 3 o’clock he said: “Betsy, they have come again for me, I am going home.” He never spoke again, but smiled and sighed gently, and then never moved again.
Thus ended in hope of eternal life, a man, who till the age of 90, was as hardened a sinner as any in the Wolds. Surely we must say: “Grace, grace unto it.”
I find by enquiring, that when he was a young man, some 60, years ago, he had made a profession among the Methodists, and had lapsed again into utter darkness. But this may account for his knowing so many Scripture texts, if indeed we need account for it in a natural way. I have now omitted one thing which I ought to have told you, viz., that about a month before his death he had a heavy onset from Satan. He was much cast down for days, and at last said to his daughter: “Betsy, he will be too hard for me at last, I shall be conquered after all.” Yet in a few days he said to her: “He is gone, and the Lord has come again. I see Him, and He tells me that I am His;” and after this the enemy never seemed to get any advantage. I mention this, because we commonly say:
“Untried faith is uncertain faith;” but his was deeply tried, and stood the ordeal.
I thought you ought to hear this case; you were, humanly speaking, the instrument God used to strike the spark in his flinty heart, and though all seemed lost for six years, yet at last, at the age of 90, he was brought forth as a new-born son of Zion, desiring the sincere milk of the word. Fancy their never once telling me! I would have walked barefoot to Grimston (about seven miles) to have seen him. And fancy their never mentioning it till now, when he has been in heaven seven years,Â—yet so it was!
I have many encouragements here among my people. Some very blessed marks of the Lord’s goodness to us. My chief cause of downcasting is the worldliness of my own mind. I long for a ray of joy and gladness, a glimpse of eternal love; nothing else does me any good. I am sick of
“Rounds of dead service, forms and ways,
Which men so much esteem.”
I desire the first-ripe fruit and, am glad and rejoice when I can hear the voice of a sinner.
“A sinner is a sacred thing;
The Holy Ghost has made him so.”
Best love to you all,
Yours most affectionately,
An account of John Morris of the Wolds, Leicestershire, taken from a letter written by the Rev. Robert Walker to his brother-in-law, the Rev. J. S. Sergeant.