Transcription of Article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by William Windsor
It was camp-meeting Sunday, always a red-letter day with us. There had been the usual early morning prayers, the processions, the preaching from a waggon under the grateful shade of great trees, the open-air singing, so different from the singing indoors, the eager prayers of the men and women kneeling in a ring on the grass, and in all these exercises a deepening fervour as the hours passed. Now we were met in the bare, unlovely little chapel for the evening Lovefeast.
The attendance was considerably larger than usual on Sunday nights. Some who had been attracted by the processions and open-air preaching came to the Lovefeast. Scarcely a member of the church was absent. The rostrum was quite full. The superintendent minister and three lay preachers sufficed to crowd it. From the first even we children were conscious of a strange sense of expectancy; the atmosphere seemed to be charged with emotion. The singing of the first hymn revealed it, as well as the prayers that followed. After the usual invocatory verse, and the passing round of the bread and water, the superintendent, without loss of time, gave his personal testimony.
He was a tall man, with prominent features, a large Roman nose, high cheek bones, a kindly eye, and a pleasant soothing voice. He did not exhibit as much emotion as some of his brethren, but his witness was strong and clear. It was the word of one who knew Jesus Christ and loved to serve Him. He was followed in rapid succession by the three lay preachers. One in particular rivetted our attention. His words and whole manner affected us greatly.
We could not have described our feelings. He enthralled us. We listened with wonder, mingled with something very much like awe. He was a spare man of dark complexion, with a singularly mobile face. As he talked his face literally shone, his eyes seemed to dance with joy, and the glad tears ran down his cheeks in a sort of radiant abandon. He declared himself a man unspeakably blest, though well-nigh as poor as Lazarus. He was a blacksmith, whose forge was in a rather lonely spot on the hills a few miles away. He avowed that, spite of everything, he was gloriously happy 365 days in the year. It was a wonderful testimony. There was no mistake as to its reality. Every word and tone was eloquent of conviction and sincerity. The impression of that witness of the country blacksmith will live with us as long as memory lasts.
Testimony quickly followed testimony. It formed a strange and fascinating mosaic. There were few pauses. A tall man of ruddy complexion every now and then started some stirring hymn. He had a strong, not unmusical voice, and considerable power of emotion. He showed it when he came to speak, but his testimony had not the glorious ring of assurance that made the blacksmith’s words inspiring. A man almost blind excited our lively interest. He betrayed his infirmity by an odd movement of the head and eyes. His tone was subdued, but his words were sensible and evidently sincere. Nobody appeared so nervous as a middle-aged man of good physique, who rose in a front pew when the meeting had been in progress about half an hour. His voice trembled, and he clutched the pew rail in the manifest effort to control his nerves. Evidently he was labouring under deep emotion. There was no hesitation in his witness for Christ—no reserve in his avowal of devotion. It was, obviously, a case of constitutional sensitiveness in the matter of public speech.
Strange that this strong man, speaking only in the company of his fellow-Methodists, should have been so unnerved. In his daily life he stood fearlessly by principle, holding to truth and right with rare tenacity, at whatever cost. Two old men added their testimony. They were the oldest men of the Society, one of them the Society Class Leader. They interested us, not so much by what they said, as by their simple, earnest manner and our keen sense—children as we were—of their unaffected goodness. Several women spoke, for the most part in gentle tones, but with emphasis and fervour.
One of them had a pathetic note in her voice. It was pitched low, and its tones were sweet. Her eyes seemed to be closed, her face had a rapt expression, and once, as her emotion deepened, a large tear stole slowly down her cheek. She spoke clearly and distinctly, with a quiet intensity which compelled attention. Her words suggested grave and deep thoughts about the mysteries of grace, and passionate longings for purity of heart. The meeting was very still whilst she was speaking, only a low-voiced response was heard now and again from the rostrum.
How we children listened! One of us, at least, could not keep back the gathering tears. No appeal from the pulpit ever affected us as did that tense, devout witness spoken in grave and tender tones. If somebody had taken us by the hand then and there we might have been in the kingdom of grace years before we were.
Older persons were cared for, and before the meeting closed there was a great rejoicing because of fresh manifestations of the grace of God. We were allowed to go away without one direct word of invitation or encouragement, but we were not unblessed. We carried with us a holy memory—a memory that will never die. Mightier than all the sermons we ever heard, than all the books we have read, is that memory still. The firm, clear testimony of hearts that know Jesus Christ and have received the supreme consciousness of His grace is an incompatable treasure, God only knows its worth.
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1910/355