January 9, 1834. During these past eighteen months, brother Craik and I have preached once a month at Brislington, a village near Bristol. We had not seen any fruit from our labors there. This led me to pray earnestly to the Lord for the conversion of sinners in that place. I asked the Lord to convert at least one soul this evening so that we might have a little encouragement. Tonight a young man was brought to the knowledge of the truth.
February 21. I began to form a plan to establish an institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. I trust this matter is of God.
February 25. I was led again today to pray about forming a new missionary institution and felt more certain that we should do so. Some people may ask why we formed a new institution for the spread of the gospel and why we did not unite with some of the religious societies already in existence. I give, therefore, our reasons in order to show that nothing but the desire to maintain a good conscience led us to act as we have.
The Word of God is the only rule of action for the disciples of the Lord Jesus. In comparing the existing religious societies with the Word of God, we found that they departed so far from it that we could not be united with them and maintain a good conscience.
The goal which these religious societies are working toward is that the whole world will eventually be converted. They refer to the passage in Hab. 2:14, "For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea;" or the one in Isa. 11:9, "For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
These passages have no reference to the present dispensation but to the one which will begin when the Lord returns. In the present time, things will not become spiritually better, but worse. Only people gathered out from among the Gentiles for the Lord will be converted. This is clear from many passages in God's Word. (See Matt. 13:24-30,36-43; 2 Tim. 3:1-13; Acts 15:14.) A hearty desire and earnest prayer for the conversion of sinners is quite scriptural. But it is unscriptural to expect the conversion of the whole world. We could not set such a goal for ourselves in the service of the Lord.
But even worse is the connection of those religious societies with the world. In temporal things, the children of God must make use of the world but the work to be done requires that those who attend to it should have spiritual life (of which unbelievers are utterly destitute). The children of God are bound by their loyalty to their Lord to refrain from any association with the unregenerate.
The connection with the world is obvious in these religious societies, for everyone who donates a certain amount is considered to be a member. Although such an individual may live in sin; although he may manifest to everyone that he does not know the Lord Jesus; if only the money is paid, he is a member and has a right to vote. Moreover, whoever pays a larger sum can be a member for life, however openly sinful his life is. Surely such things ought not to be.
The methods used in these religious societies to obtain money for the work of the Lord are also unscriptural. It is common to ask the unconverted for money, which even Abraham would not have done. (See Gen. 14:21-24.) How much less should we do it! We are forbidden to have fellowship with unbelievers in all such matters because we are in fellowship with the Father and the Son. We can, therefore, obtain everything from the Lord we can possibly need in His service without being obliged to go to the unconverted world. The first disciple did this in 3 John 7-"Because that for his name's sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles."
The individuals who manage the affairs of the societies may be unconverted persons or even open enemies to the truth. This is permitted because they are rich or influential. I have never known a case of a poor, but wise and experienced, servant of Christ being invited to lead such public meetings. Surely the Galilean fishermen or even our Lord Himself would not have been called to this office according to these principles. The disciples of the Lord Jesus should not judge a person's fitness for service in the Church by the position he fills in the world or by the wealth he possesses.
Almost all these societies contract debts so that it is rare to read a report of any of them without finding that they have expended more than they have received. This is contrary both to the spirit and to the letter of the New Testament. "Owe no man anything, but to love one another" (Rom. 13:8).
Brother Craik and I heartily agree that many true children of God are connected with these religious societies. The Lord has blessed their efforts in many ways, despite the existence of practices we judge to be unscriptural. Yet it appeared to us to be His will that we should be separate from these societies.
By the blessing of God, we may help the children of God in those societies to realize their unscriptural practices. We remained united in brotherly love with the individual believers belonging to them. We would by no means judge them if they do not see that their practices are contrary to Scripture. But since we see them to be so ourselves, we could not with a clear conscience remain.
We thought that it would be harmful to the brethren among whom we labored if we did nothing to support missionary work. Therefore, we wanted to do something to spread the gospel at home and abroad, however small the beginning might be.
March 5. This evening at a public meeting, brother Craik and I stated the principles on which we intend to establish our institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroad. There was nothing outwardly impressive either in the number of people present or in our speeches. May the Lord graciously grant His blessing upon the institution which will be called The Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad.
The Principles Of The Institution We consider every believer to be called to help the cause of Christ, and we have scriptural reasons to expect the Lord's blessing on our work of faith and labor of love. The world will not be converted before the coming of our Lord Jesus, but while He tarries, all scriptural means should be employed for the ingathering of the elect of God.
With the Lord's help, we will not seek the patronage of the world. We never intend to ask unconverted people of rank or wealth to support this institution because we believe this would be dishonorable to the Lord. "In the name of our God we will set up our banners" (Psa. 20:5). He alone will be our patron. If He helps us we will prosper; and if He is not on our side, we will not succeed.
We will not ask unbelievers for money although we will accept their contributions if they offer them of their own accord. (See Acts 28:2- 10.)
We reject the help of unbelievers in managing or carrying on the affairs of the institution. (See 2 Cor. 6:14-18.)
We intend never to enlarge the field of labor by contracting debts and then appealing to the Church for help. This is contrary both to the letter and the spirit of the New Testament. In secret prayer, God helping us, we will carry the needs of the institution to the Lord and act according to the direction that God gives.
We will not measure the success of the institution by the amount of money given or the number of Bibles distributed, but by the Lord's blessing on the work. "Not by might, nor by power, but my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). We expect His blessing in proportion to our waiting upon Him in prayer.
While we avoid needless separation, we desire to go on simply according to Scripture, without compromising the truth. We will thankfully receive any scriptural instruction which experienced believers, after prayer, may have to give us concerning the institution.
The Goals Of The Institution 1. We will assist day schools, Sunday schools, and adult schools which give instruction on scriptural principles. As the Lord supplies the finances and suitable teachers and makes our path clear, we will establish schools of this kind. We also intend to place poor children into such day schools.
Our day school teachers must be godly people, the way of salvation must be scripturally pointed out, and no instruction may oppose the principles of the gospel.
Our Sunday school teachers must be believers and the Holy Scriptures alone will be the foundation of instruction. We consider it unscriptural that any people who do not know the Lord themselves should be allowed to. give religious instruction.
The institution will not provide any adult school with the supply of Bibles, Testaments, or spelling books unless the teachers are believers.
2. We will distribute the Holy Scriptures.
3. We will assist missionaries whose ministry appears to be carried out according to the Scitiptures.
March 7. Today we have only one shilling left. This evening when we came home from our work, we found our tailor waiting for us. He brought a new suit of clothes for brother Craik and me, which another brother had ordered for us.
April 23. Yesterday and today I asked the Lord to send us twenty pounds, that we might be able to purchase a larger stock of Bibles and Testaments than our small fund would allow. This evening a sister, unasked, promised to give us that sum. She added that she felt a particular joy in circulating the Holy Scriptures because reading the Word had brought her to the knowledge of the Lord.
June 8. I obtained no text for my sermon this morning despite repeated prayer and reading of the Word. When I awoke, these words were on my mind: "My grace is sufficient for thee." As soon as I dressed, I turned to 2 Cor. 12 to consider this passage. But after prayer, I decided that I had not been directed to this portion for the sake of speaking on it, as I at first thought.
Therefore, I followed my usual practice in such cases-I continued reading the Scriptures where I left off last evening. When I came to Heb. 11:13-16, I felt that this was the text. 'Having prayed, I was confirmed in it, and the Lord opened this passage to me. I preached on it with great enjoyment. God greatly blessed what I said, and at least one soul was brought to the Lord.
June 25. These last three days I have had very little real communion with God, and have therefore been irritable and weak spiritually.
June 26. I rose early this morning and spent nearly two hours in prayer before breakfast. I now feel more comfortable.
July 11. I have prayed much about a director for the boys' school which will be established in connection with our little institution. Eight have applied for the position, but none seemed to be suitable. Now, at last, the Lord has given us a brother who will begin the work.
October 9. Our institution, established in dependence upon the Lord, has now been in operation for seven months. Many have been benefited with instruction. In the Sunday school we have about 120 children; in the adult school, about 40 adults; in the day schools, 209 children. We have circulated 482 Bibles and 520 New Testaments. Lastly, a sizable amount has been spent to aid missionary work.
October 28. We heard a moving account of a poor little orphan boy who for some time attended one of our schools. He was recently taken to the poorhouse some miles outside of Bristol. He expressed great sorrow that he could no longer attend our school and ministry. May this lead me to do something to supply the temporal needs of poor children, the pressure of which has caused this poor boy to be taken away from our school!
November 4. I spent most of the morning reading the Word and in prayer. I also asked for our daily bread, for we have scarcely any money left.
November 5. I spent almost the whole day in prayer and reading the Word. I prayed again for the supply of our temporal needs, but the Lord has not yet answered.
November 8. The Lord has graciously again supplied our temporal needs during this week, although at the beginning of it we had little left. I have prayed much this week for money, more than any other week since we have been in Bristol. The Lord has provided through people paying what they owed us. We also sold some of the things that we did not need.
December 31. Since brother Craik and I have been laboring in Bristol, 227 brothers and sisters have been added to us in fellowship. Out of these, 103 have been converted, and many have been brought into the liberty of the gospel or reclaimed from backsliding. Forty-seven young converts are at Gideon and fifty-six at Bethesda.
January 1, 1835. Last evening we had a special prayer meeting to praise the Lord for His many mercies which we have received during the past year. We asked Him to continue to show us His favor.
January 13. I visited from house to house the people living on Orange Street, to find out whether any individuals wanted Bibles, whether they could read, and whether they wanted their children placed in our day schools or Sunday school. This gave me many opportunities to converse with them about their souls.
January 15. This morning I went again from house to house on Orange Street. I greatly delight in such work, for it is very important; but my hands are so full with other work that I can do little of it.
January 21. I received, in answer to prayer, five pounds for the Scriptural Knowledge Institution. The Lord pours in, while we continue to pour out. During the past week, fifty-eight copies of the Scriptures were sold at reduced prices. We want to continue this important work, but we will require much financial help.
January 28. For these past few days, I have prayed much about whether the Lord will have me to go as a missionary to the East Indies. I am willing to go if He wants to use me in this way.
January 29. I have been greatly stirred to pray about going to Calcutta as a missionary. May the Lord guide me in this matter!
February 25. In the name of the Lord and in dependence on Him alone for support, we have established a fifth day school for poor children, which opened today. We now have two boys' schools and three girls' schools.
June 3. Today we held a public meeting on account of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution for Home and Abroad. For the past fifteen months we have been able to provide poor children with schooling, circulate the Holy Scriptures, and aid missionary labors.
During this time, although the field of labor has been continually enlarging and although we have at times been brought low in funds, the Lord has never allowed us to stop the work. We have established three day schools and two other charity day schools, which otherwise would have been closed for- lack of funds.
The number of children that have been provided with schooling in the day schools. amounts to 439. The number of copies of the Holy Scriptures which have been circulated is 795 Bibles and 753 New Testaments. We have also sent aid to missionary labors in Canada, the East Indies, and on the continent of Europe.
June 25. Our little boy is so ill that I have no hope of his recovery.
June 26. My prayer last evening was that God would support my dear wife under the trial. Two hours later, the little one went home to be with the Lord. I fully realize that the dear infant is much better off with the Lord Jesus than with us, and when I weep, I weep for joy.
July 18. I have felt weak in my chest for several days. Today I felt it more than ever, and think it would be wise to refrain next week from all public speaking. May the Lord grant that I may be brought nearer to Him through this.
July 31. Today a former minister came to us and began to go from house to house to spread the truth as a city missionary. This was a divine appointment. Brother Craik had for some months been unable, on account of illness, to labor in the work of the schools and the circulation of the Scriptures. My own weakness increased so that I was obliged to give up the work entirely. How gracious, therefore, of the Lord to send our brother that the work might go on!
August 24. I feel very weak and suffer more than ever from the disease. Should I leave Bristol for a while? I have no money to go away to recover. A sister in the country invited me to visit for a week, and I may accept the invitation and go tomorrow.
August 26. Today I had five pounds given to me for the purpose of going away to recover.
August 29. Today I received another five pounds for the same purpose.
August 30. Today, for the first Sunday since our arrival in Bristol, I have been kept from preaching because-of illness. How mercifully the Lord has dealt in giving me so much strength for these years! Another five pounds were sent to me today. How kind the Lord is to provide me with the money to leave Bristol!
September 19. I received a kind letter from a brother and two sisters in the Lord who live on the Isle of Wight. They invited me to come and stay with them for some. time. In addition to this, they wrote that they had repeatedly prayed about the matter and were persuaded that I ought to come.
The Lord graciously provided the money so that my family and I could travel there for the rest that we needed.
September 29. Last evening when I said goodnight to the family, I wanted to go to sleep at once. The weakness in my body and the coldness of the night tempted me to pray no longer. However, the Lord helped me to kneel before Him. No sooner had I begun to pray than His Spirit shone into my soul and gave me such a spirit of prayer as I had not enjoyed for many weeks. He graciously revived His work in my heart. I enjoyed that nearness to God and fervency in prayer for more than an hour. My soul had been panting for many weeks for this sweet experience.
For the first time during this illness, I asked the Lord earnestly to restore me to health. I now long to go back to the work in Bristol, yet I am not impatient. The Lord will strengthen me to return to it. I went to bed especially happy and awoke this morning in great peace. For more than an hour, I had real communion with the Lord before breakfast. May He in mercy continue this state of heart to His most unworthy child!
November 15. We arrived safely in Bristol. Last week we prayed repeatedly concerning the work of the Scriptural Knowledge. Institution and especially that the Lord would give us the means to continue and even enlarge the work. In addition to this, I have asked for my own needs to be met and He has kindly granted both these requests. May I have grace to trust Him more and more!