Thursday, 23 September 2010

Billy Bray:The Uneducated Soul-winner

(Billy Bray's Chapel:One of three which he built with his own hands)
I have had the little book:'The King's Son' for many years but have only ever got as far as the first chapter. The reason why I read no further was not the fault of the book, as what I had read of it was excellent, but rather, other things or books had distracted me and prevented me from finishing it.I'm now working my way through it! He certainly was a character and one that many men in particular will find a source of hope for their own lives-if God converted and used Billy Bray in such a manner as he did, there is certainly hope for any of us. He was an uneducated tin miner from Cornwall. He was also a drunk and a fighter yet God used him to bring many into the Kingdom through his ministry. He was also a Methodist and if he was around today people would think he was a Pentecostal because of his constant praising of God! One thing for sure was that though he had been far from God in his life, when God began to work in him he became bright and shining light. He could never keep quiet about his Lord who he knew as his intimate companion. Shortly after his conversion he would often pray with his fellow miners before they went into the mine shaft. Billy not only prayed for their safety but also that if one of them were to die that day, that it would be him and not one of them, because he knew God and would go to meet him. This of course broke the miners's heart so when they had finished, his fellow miners would have streams of tears running down their faces! AK

Billy Bray was was once a drunken and lascivious miner, but grace made him an intensely earnest and decided follower of the Lord Jesus. His conversion was very marked, and was attended with those violent struggles of conscience which frequently attend that great change in strong-minded and passionate natures.
His actual obtaining of peace brought the tears into our eyes as we read it, and made us remember a lad who, more than twenty years ago, found the Lord in a somewhat similar style; it also reminded us of George Fox the Quaker, and John Bunyan the Baptist, when undergoing the sacred change. Children of God are born very much alike; their divergences usually arise as a matter of after years. In their regeneration, as in their prayers, they appear as one. Bray was assailed by the fierce temptation that he would never find mercy; but with the promise, "Seek, and ye shall find," he quenched this fiery dart of the wicked one, and in due time he learned, by blessed experience, that the promise was true. Beautifully simple and touching are his own words:—"I said to the Lord, 'Thou hast said, They that ask shall receive, they that seek shall find, and to them that knock the door shall be opened, and I have faith to believe it.' In an instant the Lord made me so happy that I cannot express what I felt. I shouted for joy. I praised God with my whole heart for what he had done for a poor sinner like me: for I could say, the Lord hath pardoned all my sins. I think this was in November, 1823, but what day of the month I do not know. I remember this, that everything looked new to me; the people, the fields, the cattle, the trees. I was like a man in a new world. I spent the greater part of my time in praising the Lord. I could say with David, 'The Lord hath brought me up out of a horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings, and hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto my God.' I was a new man altogether. I told all I met what the Lord had done for my soul. I have heard some say that they have hard work to get away from their companions, but I had hard work to find them soon enough to tell them what the Lord had done for me. Some said I was mad; and others that they should get me back again next pay-day. But, praise the Lord, it is now more than forty years ago, and they have not got me yet. They said I was a mad-man, but they meant I was a glad man, and, glory be to God! I hare been glad ever since."
No sooner was Billy saved than he began at once looking after others. He prayed for his work-mates, and saw several brought to Jesus in answer to his prayer. His was a simple faith; he believed in the reality of prayer, and meant to be heard, and expected to be answered whenever he supplicated for the souls of his comrades. He was a live man, not a dummy. In his own simple style he did all that he did with rigor, physical vigor being more than sufficiently conspicuous in his shouting and leaping for joy. "He tells us, soon after his conversion, 'I was very happy in my work, and could leap and dance for joy underground as well as on the surface.'
"Bray began publicly to exhort men to repent, and turn to God, about a year after his conversion. Towards the end of 1824 his name was put on the Local Preachers' Plan, and his labors were much blessed in the conversion of souls. He did not commonly select a text, as is the general habit of preachers, but he usually began his addresses by reciting a verse of a hymn, a little of his own experience, or some telling anecdote. But he had the happy art of pleasing and profiting all classes, the rich as much as the poor; and all characters, the worldly as much as the pious, flocked to' hear him. He retained his popularity until the last. Perhaps no preacher in Cornwall ever acquired more extensive or more lasting renown, and the announcement of his name as a speaker at a missionary meeting, or on any special occasion, was a sufficient attraction, whoever else might or might not be present. Sometimes his illustrations and appeals made a powerful impression. I remember once hearing him speak with great effect to a large congregation, principally miners. In that neighborhood there were two mines, one very prosperous, and the other quite the reverse, for the work was hard and the wages low. In his sermon he represented himself as working at that mine all the week, but on the' pay-day' going to the prosperous one for his wages. Had he not been at work at the other mine? the manager inquired. He had, but he liked the wages at the good mine the best. He pleaded very earnestly, but in vain, and was dismissed with the remark, from which there was no appeal, that he must come there to work if he came there for his wages. And then he turned upon the congregation, and the effect was almost irresistible, that they must serve Christ here if they would share his glory hereafter, but if they would serve the devil now, to him they must go for their wages byand- by. A very homely illustration certainly, but one which convinced the understanding and subdued the hearts of his hearers.
"There was excitement in some of his meetings, more than sufficient to shock the prejudices of highly-sensitive or refined persons. Some even who had the fullest confidence and warmest affection for Billy could not enjoy some of the outward manifestations they occasionally witnessed to the extent that he himself did. Billy could not tolerate 'deadness,' as he expressively called it, either in a professing Christian or in a meeting. He had a,leeper sympathy with persons singing, or shouting, or leaping for joy, than he had with

'The speechless awe that dares not move,
And all the silent heaven of love.'"

Methodism is the mother church of Cornwall, and Bray was a genuine though uncultivated child of her heart. As John Wesley always associated the grace of God with the penny a week, so Bray's religion was not all shouting; it had an eminently practical turn in many directions. Billy was quite a mighty chapel builder; he began by getting a piece of freehold from his mother, which he cleared with his own hands, and then proceeded to dig out the foundations of a chapel which was to be called Bethel. Under great discouragement's, both from friends and foes, mostly, however, from the first, he actually built the place, working at it himself, and at the same time begging stone, begging timber, and begging money to pay the workmen. His little all he gave, and moved all around, who had anything to spare, to give likewise. On-lookers thought Billy to be silly, and called him so; but, as he well remarked, "Wise men could not have preached in the chapel if silly Billy had not built it." Almost as soon as one building was finished, he was moved to commence another. It was much needed, and many talked about it, but nobody had the heart to begin it but Billy Bray. He begged the land, borrowed a horse and cart of the giver; and then after doing his own hard day's work underground in the pit, and providing for five small children, he and his son worked at raising stone and building the walls; frequently working twenty hours of the twenty-four. He had a hard struggle over this second chapel; but his own account is best. "When our chapel was up about to the door-head, the devil said to me, 'They are all gone and left you and the chapel, and I would go and leave the place too.' Then I said, 'Devil, doesn't thee know me better than that; by the help of the Lord I will have the chapel up, or lose my skin on the down.' So the devil said no more to me on that subject. Sometimes I had blisters on my hands, and they have been very sore. But I felt I did not mind that, for if the chapel should stand one hundred years, and if one soul were converted in it every year, that would be a hundred souls, and that would pay me well if I got to heaven, for they that 'turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever.' So I thought I should be rich enough when I got there. The chapel was finished after a time; and the opening day came. We had preaching, but the preacher was a wise man, and a dead man. I believe there was not much good done that day, for it was a very dead time with the preacher and people; for he had a great deal of grammar, and but little of Father. 'It is not by might, nor power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord' Weir it was by wisdom or might, I should have but a small part, for my might is little and my wisdom less. Thanks be to God, the work is his, and he can work by whomsoever he pleases. The second Sunday after the chapel was opened I was 'planned' there. I said to the people, 'You know I did not work here about this chapel in order to fill my pocket, but for the good of the neighbors, and the good of souls; and souls I must have, and souls I will have.' The Lord blessed us in a wonderful manner. Two women cried to the Lord for mercy; and when I saw that I said, 'Now the chapel is paid for already.' The good Lord went on to work there; and the society soon went up from fifteen members to thirty. You see how good the Lord is to me; I spoke for one soul a year, and he gave me fifteen souls the first year. Bless and praise his holy name, for he is good, and his mercy endureth for ever, for one soul is worth a thousand worlds. Our little chapel had three windows, one on one side, and two on the other; the old devil, who does not like chapels, put his servants, by way of reproach, to call our chapel Three-Eyes. But, blessed be God, since then the chapel has become too small for the place; and it has been enlarged; now there are six windows instead of three; and they may call the chapel Six-Eyes if they will. For, glory be to God, many that have been converted there are now in heaven; and, when we get there, we will praise him with all our might; and he shall never hear the last of it."
No sooner was this second house finished, than he began a third and larger one, and in this enterprise his talent for collecting, as well as his zeal in giving and working, were well displayed. He had high—and as we believe proper—ideas of his mission, in gathering in the subscriptions of the Lord's stewards. "A friend who was with Billy on a begging expedition, suggested, as they were coming near a gentleman's house, and Billy was evidently making for the front door, that it would be better if they went to the back door. 'No,' said Billy, 'I am the son of a King, and I shall go frontways.'" "At one time, at a missionary meeting, he seemed quite vexed because there was something said in the report about money received for 'rags and bones.' when he rose to address the meeting he said: 'I don't think it is right supporting the Lord's cause with old rags and bones. The Lord deserves the best, and ought to have the best.'" Well done, Billy! This is right good, and sound divinity.
Billy knew how to fight the devil and his agents with their own weapons. Returning late from a revival meeting, on a dark night in a lonely road, "certain lewd fellows of the baser sort," tried to frighten him by making all sorts of unearthly sounds; but he went singing on his way. At last one of them said, in the most terrible tones, "But I'm the devil up here in the hedge, Billy Bray." "Bless the Lord! Bless the Lord!" said Billy, "I did not know thee 'wust' so far away as that." To use Billy's own expression, "What could the devil do with such as he?"
"One of the most blessed results of his deep piety was his unfeigned humility, and his continual sense of dependence upon God. The Lord's servants without the Lord's presence are weak like other men, like Samson, when he lost his locks. Here is one experience of Billy's: 'When I was in the St. Neot's Circuit, I was on the plan; and I remember that one Sunday I was planned at Redgate, and there was a chapel full of people, and the Lord gave me great power and liberty in speaking; but all at once the Lord took away his Spirit from me, so that I could not speak a word: and this might have been the best sermon that some of them ever heard. What! you say, and you looking like a fool and not able to speak? Yes, for it was not long before I said, I am glad I am stopped, and that for three reasons. And the first is, To humble my soul, and make me feel more dependent on my Lord, to think more fully of the Lord and less of myself. The next reason is, To convince you that are ungodly, for you say we can speak what we have a mind to, without the Lord as well as with him; but you cannot say so now, for you hear how I was speaking, but when the Lord took away his Spirit I could not say another word; without my Lord I could do nothing. And the third reason is, That some of you young men who are standing here may be called to stand in the pulpit some day as I am, and the Lord may take his Spirit from you as he has from me, and then you might say, it is no good for me to try to preach or exhort, for I was stopped the last time I tried to preach, and I shall preach no more. But now you can say, I saw poor old Billy Bray stopped once like me, and he did not mind it, and told the people that he was glad his Lord had stopped him: Billy Bray's Lord is my Lord, and I am glad he stopped me too, for if I can benefit the people and glorify God, that is what I want. I then spoke a great while, and told the people what the Lord gave me to say.'"
Preaching in such a spirit Bray was sure to have a blessing, and a blessing he had. Many orators and doctors in divinity look very small by the side of Billy Bray, if we estimate ministries by their results in soul-winning, and they will look smaller still when the souls saved by poor humble speakers shall shine forth like stars, and their own rhetorical fame and boasted learning shall be as darkness.
We say no more, but refer the reader to the memoir of Billy Bray, written by Mr. F.W. Bourne, and published at the Bible Christian Book Room, 57, Fairbank Street, East Road.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Moving Video of an Iraqi Christian Pastor which challenges our Christian way of life in the West.

Ghassan from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.

The video above of the brave Iraqi Pastor from Baghdad again reminds us of how easy we have it as Christians in both the UK and the USA.This story should not only inspire us to help them in whatever way can, but also to use the freedom we have to spread the Good News in our own country, in a winsome manner- and while we have yet time! Especially, but not exclusively,those called or gifted in evangelism should be praying and looking continally for open doors to go through in order to spread the Word.God has called us to be a blessing to the world,not for us to grow rich 'spiritually' and financially while we take our ease in Zion (i.e. in our holy huddle).But as the great preacher John Wesley declared in his day so I encourage each of us :“You have nothing to do but to save souls. Therefore spend and be spent in this work. And go not only to those that need you, but to those that need you most…It is not your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society; but to save as many souls as you can; to bring as many sinners as you possibly can to repentance.”

Monday, 13 September 2010

'Gangs more like Family than Church' says Ex-Gang Member.

“A while back a former gang member came to our church. He was heavily tattooed and rough around the edges, but he was curious to see what church was like. He had a relationship with Jesus and seemed to get fairly involved with the church. After a few months, I found out the guy was no longer coming to the church. When asked why he didn’t come anymore, he gave the following explanation: ‘I had the wrong idea of what church was going to be like. When I joined the church, I thought it was going to be like joining a gang. You see, in the gangs we weren’t just nice to each other once a week – we were family.’ That killed me because I knew that what he expected is what the church is intended to be. It saddened me to think that a gang could paint a better picture of commitment, loyalty, and family than the local church body.” Francis Chan

It is embarrassing to read the above quotation by Mr Chan-and he probably goes to a lively ,progressive hip, happy clappy church! How do 'lesser' churches among us fare.Is your church like a family? I'm not meaning is it like a family for some of the long term members who have been able to form themselves into a clique which might be defined as a small close-knit group of people who do not readily allow others to join them.What I am talking about is: Can it be family for all the strange ones who come to our meetings who love, or want to love Jesus but who may be different,punkish, working class,radical,enthusiastic,outgoing, addicts,tattooed or loud-or all of the above! My guess is that in most cases it's not family for them! Which makes me say three words: Shame on us! Remember that the now famous evangelist Nicky Cruz was once a ragamuffin, and it was for those such as him that Christ came and died!

Do you agree or do you think I am too harsh?

God is jealous.(God is Jealous?) C.H.Spurgeon

Nahum 1:2
Your Lord is very jealous of your love, O believer. Did he choose you? He cannot bear that you should choose another. Did he buy you with his own blood? He cannot endure that you should think that you are your own, or that you belong to this world. He loved you with such a love that he would not stay in heaven without you; he would sooner die than you should perish, and he cannot endure that anything should stand between your heart’s love and himself. He is very jealous of your trust. He will not permit you to trust in an arm of flesh. He cannot bear that you should hew out broken cisterns, when the overflowing fountain is always free to you. When we lean upon him, he is glad, but when we transfer our dependence to another, when we rely upon our own wisdom, or the wisdom of a friend—worst of all, when we trust in any works of our own, he is displeased, and will chasten us that he may bring us to himself. He is also very jealous of our company. There should be no one with whom we converse so much as with Jesus. To abide in him only, this is true love; but to commune with the world, to find sufficient solace in our carnal comforts, to prefer even the society of our fellow Christians to secret intercourse with him, this is grievous to our jealous Lord. He would want have us to abide in him, and enjoy constant fellowship with himself; and many of the trials which he sends us are for the purpose of weaning our hearts from the creature, and fixing them more closely upon himself. Let this jealousy which would keep us near to Christ be also a comfort to us, for if he loves us so much as to care about our love we may be sure that he will suffer nothing to harm us, and will protect us from all our enemies. Oh that we may have grace this day to keep our hearts in sacred chastity for our Beloved alone, with sacred jealousy shutting our eyes to all the fascinations of the world!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Funeral of Professor Alan Ervine

The last few weeks have been a very sad time for my family due to the death after a short illness of my brother-in-law and friend Alan Ervine. I had known Alan for over 25 years(my wife much longer)and always appreciated his friendship. He was brought up in a Christian home and had once told me that he was named after the famous preacher Alan Redpath. During the funeral his brother Ian shared the story that in their bedroom they had a picture of a boy at his studying at his desk and underneath it was the verse:'Trust in the the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.This was to become an inspiration for their lifestyles as both choose to work hard at study as well as to develop a strong faith in God.Apart from UNiversity life Alan was very involved in both church and charity work. The last year saw him involved in water projects with Tear Fund were he offered his expertise and raised funds for various projects. At the end Alan suffered alot and on his final day had asked the Lord to take him him.During his final trial Alan was beset at times by doubts and fears though he never once lost his faith. Like Christ in the garden of Gethsemane he ultimately surrendered his will to God's.He was always able to confess like Job:'I know that my Redeemer lives'.At the bottom of this post you will find one of Alan's inspiring posts soon after he discovered he had cancer.

''Alan's funeral was held on Wednesday in the Chapel of Glasgow University, a truly beautiful setting on a wonderful sunny and warm day.
Alan's brother Ian spoke about their lives together as children in Ireland being brought up in a loving Christian family. His colleague Bill spoke about their friendship formed over many years of working together and supporting he same football team. Davy Robertson spoke eloquently on behalf of Alan's friends about what Alan was like as a friend, as a gentle, smiling person who enriched all our lives. David McCarthy told of Alan's great faith in God and how he was encouraged by Alan to be a better person and a better pastor. All of them mentioned Alan's ability to throw in the odd wee grenade to liven things up and make them more interesting. His brother, Clive, read from Revelation 21: 1-4, 22: 1-5.
His long and loving marriage to Liz and his love for and pride in his son were spoken about too.
We sang good old, well known and well loved hymns:- "Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder, Guide me O thou Great Jehovah and Thine be the glory"
The organist said later it was the best singing by a congregation he had ever heard.
The previous evening there had been a short service in St Silas where Alan's coffin was brought in to rest overnight. We prayed and had our own thoughts.
We all then proceeded to the cemetery where Alan was laid to rest in a lovely shaded spot.
The day went on from there. We joined Liz and Paul for lunch in a local restaurant and spent much of the afternoon chatting with friends, old and new.
It was a very good day for a very sad reason.
Alan is now with God. We are left to remember.
Tricia and Gordon Henderson

A post from Alan's blog 28th June

Is it possible to surrender your will to God?

May seem like a strange question coming from a Christian, but thought I would ask this today, and see where the discussion goes. All through the Bible and in Christian literature, we are encouraged to surrender every ounce of our being, our will, our personalities into his hand; it appears like a non-question. I have heard people speak in glowing terms how they have surrendered their lives and their will to God. Is this a case of self-deception? (As an aside, I came across a case of self- deception yesterday following the England debacle in the World Cup playing Germany. England had just been outclassed in every part of the field; and in fact looked more like an episode of the Keystone Cops. An interview with a few English players following the game painted a different picture of something more akin to an evenly balanced match that the Germans edged in the end. I wondered what game these players had witnessed- and reminded myself again of our great capacity towards self-deception)

My answer to the question posed in the title is yes, and I take my inspiration from Andrew Murray’s book, “Absolute Surrender”, first published in 1895 and recently up-dated in 1999.I will briefly share Murray’s argument with you for I believe “absolute surrender” has the potential to transform lives positively more than almost anything else. Murray’s basic premise is that God requires Christian followers to surrender their lives, lock, stock and barrel into his hands. This is a condition of God blessing you completely and fully and a condition for the Holy Spirit to flow through you as freely as He had intended. God expects your surrender, not in a half-hearted way as in my case, many or most Christians, for He cannot work effectively through half surrendered lives. A pen with two hands guiding it will never be able produce effective writing. Murray argues that we cannot achieve this degree of surrender on our own steam and can only reach such levels through the power of the Holy Spirit. I agree with this premise having tried on my own and failed and only making a little progress through being open to ask the Spirit for help. In other words, God accomplishes the surrender for you as long as you are willing to go through the process. I hope you will be blessed from exposure to his work and be encouraged to read it for yourself. Easy to get these old published works on Amazon- if you are so inclined.

I feel in some ways it may need a crisis or a period of discomfort or distress for us ever to get round to taking the question seriously. It shouldn’t do, but human nature being what it is, prefers sailing along in comfort and non-surrender and involved in projects, until an event or a happening intervenes that forces a re-think, a look at truly surrendering to God, and indeed a giant step towards life indeed

“Be separate.” 2 Corinthians 6:17 A reflection by C.H.Spurgeon

The Christian, while in the world, is not to be of the world. He should be distinguished from it in the great object of his life. To him, “to live,” should be “Christ.” Whether he eats, or drinks, or whatever he does, he should do all to God’s glory. You may lay up treasure; but lay it up in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, where thieves break not through nor steal. You may strive to be rich; but be it your ambition to be “rich in faith,” and good works. You may have pleasure; but when you are merry, sing psalms and make melody in your hearts to the Lord. In your spirit, as well as in your aim, you should differ from the world.

Waiting humbly before God, always conscious of his presence, delighting in communion with him, and seeking to know his will, you will prove that you are of heavenly race. And you should be separate from the world in your actions. If a thing be right, though you lose by it, it must be done; if it be wrong, though you would gain by it, you must scorn the sin for your Master’s sake. You must have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Walk worthy of your high calling and dignity.

Remember, O Christian, that you are a child of the King of kings. Therefore, keep yourself unspotted from the world. Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings; let not these eyes become the windows of lust which are soon to see the King in his beauty—let not those feet be defiled in muddy places, which are soon to walk the golden streets—let not those hearts be filled with pride and bitterness which are before long to be filled with heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy.

Then rise my soul! and soar away,

Above the thoughtless crowd;

Above the pleasures of the pleasure seekers,

And splendours of the proud;

Up where eternal beauties bloom,

And pleasures all divine;

Where wealth, that never can consume,

And endless glories shine.