Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine in the series “Wonderful Conversions” by D. Manterfield
WILLIAM WOOD was very noisy. If the preacher had a good time when preaching or praying, or if, during the reading of the lesson or the singing of a hymn some word came home to Wood’s heart with special force, the congregation would hear his voice ringing out “Glory be to God! Hallelujah.” In the prayer meeting and the class meeting he often became strangely excited, and said and did extraordinary things which shocked the sensibilities of the sedate.
Though not on the plan he frequently spoke in public—going about as a sort of “free lance,” taking part in mission services, speaking in the Market Square or at the Queen’s monument, and when in summer he went for his holidays to Scarborough or Douglas, Wood never failed to take his part in open-air evangelism. He was not afraid to take his stand alone, and though illiterate, could obtain and keep the attention of the much-discussed “man in the street,” for he never stood up to speak until he had first got his message while on his knees—a message which was delivered with intense earnestness and great unction.
When people said anything about shouting, Wood always replied that he could not help it. He had something to shout for. “The Lord had done great things for him whereof he was glad.”
Temporally, God had blessed him abundantly. In appearance he was quite a gentleman, and looked very stylish in his frock-coat, silk hat, kid gloves, and gold-rimmed spectacles. Rows of property belonged to him—property well-built and well tenanted. He was a prosperous builder and did not believe in “jerry-building,” and so his houses commanded good tenants, and were rarely empty. Wood had always plenty of work, because he had secured a reputation for quality and honesty. “If,” said a man to his friend, “you want someone who will put conscience into his work, engage Wood,” which he did to his great satisfaction.
Feeling himself to be but a steward, bound to use what he received for God’s glory, Wood was very liberal with his money, but strictly forbade the announcement of his name in connection with any subscription.
It was a singular thing that while he was unable to keep his own accounts, he possessed great judgment and was able to give in a price for any work with almost unfailing exactness. He said the secret was to be found in the fact that everything was taken to God in prayer, and He always guided him aright.
What a dark, sad, lost character he was before his conversion! By drinking and betting on handicaps he had reached the lowest depths. The wonderful change in his heart and life must be attributed to the efforts of Sammy Wright, a filecutter, who was always on the look-out for lost men. We were surprised if Sammy ever came to chapel without someone whom he had sought. There are several of us who remember when he first brought Wood—rough, ragged, unkempt. The newcomer had never been in a chapel before, and everything seemed so strange to him and so different from the Church services that he occasionally attended when a boy. The Rev. James Cooper Antliff, M.A.,
was preaching, and as he told the story of the matchless love of God it was a revelation to Wood, and made its appeal to his heart. He stayed to the prayer meeting and went forward and knelt at the communion rail. To deal with him was no easy task; he was so densely ignorant; he needed so much instruction. They had to explain to him the very alphabet of the Gospel, but at length he was made to understand, and exercising faith he realised God’s saving power and went home rejoicing. The wretchedness of that home one can hardly imagine. It was the abode of poverty, squalor, cruelty and misery.
In after days Wood often described for us, in rough and homely phrase, its scanty, ricketty furniture; the privation and hopelessness of his family, and his own wilful, ignorant, despicable conduct. We laughed heartily as he pictured the fearful and wonderful garments in which he arrayed himself, when, having been caught in a storm, his wet clothes had to be dried—but at the time it was no laughing matter for him or his family. The children were so accustomed to cruel treatment that they accepted it as a matter of course, and wondered when it ceased. A week after their father’s conversion, one of them, marvelling at the change in his manner, said to her mother, “Mother, what has happened to my father. He hasn’t given us any boot this week.” Wood overheard the question, and before his wife could reply, broke in with a sob in his voice, “You’ve had that too long. Your father has been very foolish, but now, thank God, I’ve come to my senses.”
The new convert commenced to attend the means of grace with great regularity. One thing which surprised him was the readiness and power with which filecutters, grinders, labourers and such like were able to relate their experience and pray. He could never hope to do it in public. If he could only repeat the Lord’s Prayer he would be satisfied. To this end, some one must act as teacher. Sammy Wright consented to do so, and then the great effort began. What a task it was! The mastery of another language by a skilled linguist is no more serious affair than this was, but in the end, after many lessons and not a few failures, Wood was able to repeat it from memory. This stimulated him to further effort. He wanted to read the Bible, and so began to spell out its words. It became his constant companion. He believed its promises and sought to obey its precepts. Attending regularly to his work, he soon paid off his debts, furnished his home, and removed to a respectable neighbourhood. In a few years he was in a position to commence business for himself. The hand of the Lord was upon him. He prospered greatly, and as he increased in worldly goods he increased in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. With simple faith he placed all his concerns before God, and looked for Divine guidance. The result showed that his confidence was not misplaced.
We who knew his history in the past rejoiced as heaven smiled upon him. When he began to take up a more public position we bore with his eccentricities in deed and speech. He might act strangely and shout loudly, but his life was holy. By his generous gifts he made the widow’s heart to sing for joy, and the blessing of many that were ready to perish came upon him. His testimony was not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, and the recital of what God had done for him was used to the salvation of many souls.
I have not been able to identify William in online records. Can anyone point me in the right direction? He almost certainly lived in Sheffield, Yorkshire.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1911/898
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers