(BY HIS SON)
JOHN R. LEWIN
"He being dead yet speaketh "
My father was one of the early pioneers of Primitive Methodism in the Isle of Man. He was born on 11th February, 1803-a hundred and forty-one years ago. He preached his first sermon at Ballakilmerton Chapel (now derelict) in the year 1824, I have heard him say that he was so nervous on that occasion that he made an ineffectual attempt to hide behind the portly person of the Rev. John Butcher, who accompanied him in the pulpit. He afterwards toured the whole Island with Mr. Butcher.
Although the "Ranters " soon ceased to " rant," and became the highly respectable Primitive Methodists, my father remained a " ranter " to the last ; and was proud of the title. He was the most perfect character I ever met. The beautiful tranquility of his manner and the sanctity of his life won the admiration of all who knew him. To converse with him would transport one to a higher altitude, for his words seemed guided by the immediate inspiration of Heaven.
I have the very tenderest recollections of my dear old Dad. He would enter into all my childhood sports with great glee. He made most of my playthings with his own hands-from wood and other material. In addition, he gathered large quantities of rushes, and weaved them into baskets, cradle-beds, etc. Not crude and ungainly things, but perfect in design and structure.
A country walk with my father was a great delight, . and a liberal education. He would tell me the names of the various plants that grew by the wayside, and their use. He was careful to point out the poisonous herbs. When we came to a clump of trees, he would tell me their names, and distinctive characteristics.
On a bright moonlight night he would pause and direct my attention to the stars, naming them, and pointing out their location.
In this way I acquired an elementary knowledge of botany, natural history and astronomy. My very choicest memories go back to the very early days, when I was only a tiny tot, and my dear old Dad would take me on his knee, and tell me Bible stories. He first took me on a tour right through the Old Testament. How those stories lived and breathed! How vivid and realistic were those word-pictures! All the characters were taken in turn, and their faults and failings were not omitted. I have since read many books dealing with the historical characters of the Bible, and written by many learned men, but they all pale into insignificance when I remember my father's portrayal of those same characters.
From the Old Testament we went to the New. Although I was snuggling on my Dad's knee, and his arms were around me, and my head was nestling on his breast, I never once went to sleep! How could I? I was too absorbed and entranced with the beautiful story he was telling me. How well 1 remember the homecoming of the Prodigal! I could see the boy, spent and weary, coming down the hillside with lagging step. I could see the old father-his cheeks are furrowed, his heart is broken. But he is still watching-watching. He still hopes and believes that when his poor foolish boy has spent all, he will come to himself. He is watching the approaching tramp, when suddenly he recognises his boy. " While he was yet a great way off, the father knew him." He forgets his crutches and the stiffness of his joints, and bounds away like a mountain goat. I could see the embrace and the kiss of forgiveness. My father was careful to point out that the returning Prodigal was not scolded, and told " You went away in fine and beautiful clothes and now return in rags and tatters. You went off healthy and come back sick and wasted." The son, all ragged, and haggard, and filthy, and wretched, stood before his father.
And the father took him to his heart, just as he was and kissed him!
And then he would spiritualise the story. Did I recognize that father? Who was it? It was God! God is a Father-kind, loving, lenient, gentle, long-suffering, patient, and if only we will approach him He will see us while we are yet a great way off, and will run to meet us, and fall upon our neck and kiss us-and kiss us again and again.
The elder brother in this story was a bit grumpy, and very smug and self-satisfied ; but I meet quite a lot of " elder brothers " knocking about still. When they glance in my direction I can see "I am holier than thou written all over them.
Space will not allow me to narrate all the delightful scripture narratives told me by my father, but they are ever green in my memory.
My father never had occasion to whip me. If I was naughty (and I fear I often was) one look from my father would break my heart.
My father was, unquestionably, one of the greatest preachers of his day ; and his ministrations covered the whole Island. A gentleman near by placed his gig at my father's disposal, and would frequently accompany him on these long-distance journeys ; and it was usually a very late hour when they returned. When quite a little child, I can remember standing with my mother in the doorway on a Sunday night, listening for the sound of the wheels. If the night was clear and frosty, or the wind in the right direction, we could hear them singing (long before the sound of wheels became audible)
" I am bound for the Kingdom, Will you go to Glory with me?
Oh ! Hallelujah! glory, Hallelujah!" And we knew that when my father returned singing there had been " convertions " in the chapel that night. He went expecting results, and he got them.
When still a small boy, I can remember a Superintendent Minister coming to the circuit who was noted for the gravity of his countenance. When I looked at him I used to wonder if he smiled would his face crack. The " locals " said his preaching was sound (whatever that means) but dry. His voice was weak and monotonous, and the solemnity of his face was appalling. I went with my father to Baldrine Chapel one night to hear this Super. preach. He called upon my father to pray. Now I knew when Dad got going things were going to happen. Shading my face with my hands, I kept my eyes glued on the preacher. Presently, I saw him open one eye and glance in my father's direction. Then he opened both eyes. Then a most heavenly smile expanded his countenance, and his face became like the rising sun. Ejaculations leapt from his lips, " Hallelujah! Glory," etc. And the grave old Super. literally danced in the pulpit.
On one occasion, when the vicar of Lonan paid us a visit, he said to my father, " It must be a great joy to you to look_ back upon a life well spent, and think of all your many good deeds." " Good deeds!" exclaimed my father, " I have taken all my good deeds and my bad deeds and flung them in a. heap together, and fled from them both to Christ."
" Nothing in my hand I bring, Simply to His Cross I cling."
One night, an outsider " was seen to enter my father's class-meeting. This was most unusual. As everyone within the circle of Methodism knows, these meetings are held exclusively for class-members. The meeting proceeded in the usual way, every person giving their testimony, or, as Methodists term it, " relating their experience." When all had finished my father looked at the stranger and said, " Perhaps our brother would like to say something?" Slowly and falteringly he rose to his feet, and said : " I can't say what you folk have been saying, but I'm a sinner ; will you pray for me." Instantly my father was by his side, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he cried: " Why! you are the very man for whom Christ died!"
Instantly there was a typical " ranter " glee-party. If you have never been to one of those glee-parties you never will go now. They have long ago ceased to exist. Religion, with most folk, is a thing to be endured, not enjoyed.
I frequently see ministers of religion passing to and fro in the street. They are perfect strangers to me. 1 know their calling by the " dog-collar." The majority have such a gloomy cast of countenance that they appear to have abandoned all hope for this world and the next. I could not imagine them proclaiming the " glad tidings of great joy." They have need to pray, as the Psalmist did-" Restore unto me the joy of Thy Salvation."
On one occasion, when father was visiting my grandmother, who had been ill for a long period, my aunt gave me an autograph album. I seized it eagerly and rushed upstairs to the bedroom, and begged my father to write the first verse in my new, album. He wrote
" Dear John,-Keep sober wherever you go,
And if drunkands entice you be sure to say "No."
And if Satan's temptations doth you assail
Through faith in the Saviour you'll always prevail."
When grandmother read it, she said, " Do, please, write a verse for me-write it on the fly-leaf of my Bible "; and my father wrote
Dear Mother, how very long you are ill
Your sickness has baffled the doctor's skill.
But, cheer up, dear Mother, there's Another to try
Who lives, in the mansions of glory on high."
Then my father dropped down on his knees and prayed, as never before, that she might be raised up from her bed of sickness.
Whenever my father prayed he (to use his own language) " laid hold upon the horns of the Altar, and pulled the blessing down."
When I called next day, I found grandmother seated in her arm-chair in the kitchen-fully recovered.
My father was in great requisition as a sick visitor. Very frequently he would receive an urgent call in the middle of the night to visit someone who was dying.
His beaming countenance in the sick-room was a grand spiritual tonic in itself. He was so changed and charged, so fired and filled with the Spirit of Christ; that he carried the divine presence with him wherever he went. His religion was not taught, but caught. It was highly infectious, and wherever he went people caught the " infection." Why? Because his body was a Sanctuary enshrining the very presence and power of the Son of God!
He was once summoned to the death-bed of an old colleague. This man had been a useful local preacher for many years, but now that he was brought face to face with death, a nameless fear had seized upon him, and nothing could dispel it. Hosts of Christian friends, including the " travelling " minister, rallied round him with words of comfort and cheer, but not one ray of light could pierce the gloom. At last, he said, feebly " Send for Lewin, quick!" In great haste a messenger was dispatched for my father.
Upon entering the sick-room he cast one swift, comprehensive glance at the figure who lay there ; and saw the unutterable pain and horror depicted in those dying features. Then, with a sudden flash of inspiration, the dear Dad raised aloft his right arm, pointing upwards, and exclaimed, with a ring of triumph: "HE LIVETH ! "
In an instant the face of the dying man became transformed ; and mustering
all his remaining strength, he shouted at the top of his voice,
" Glory! so He does!"
"O death, where is Thy sting?
O grave, where is thy victory?"
When extreme old age, with its attendant infirmities, came upon him, my father was somewhat reluctant to visit sick persons who lived at any considerable distance from his home. But very often these calls were very insistent. He was held in such high esteem, because of his deep spirituality, that many sick persons seemed to think that if only he could be induced to visit them, he would carry a sure passport to heaven.
I remember one winter evening, after father had retired for the night, a messenger arrived with a most earnest entreaty that he would visit a sick lady some distance away. At that time he was very old-about 85, I think and very deaf. He was suffering, too, from a severe cold, and loss of voice, and could only speak in a whisper. My mother explained this to the messenger ; and said that if he felt equal to the exertion he would come on the following day. The messenger departed, apparently satisfied with the explanation.
That night we were awakened by a loud knocking at the front door, and found that the man had returned with a still more urgent message. He said: "Mrs. Faragher (the lady in question) does not mind if Mr. Lewin is too hoarse to talk or pray with her, if he will only come and stand by her bedside." When this message was communicated to my father, he promptly got up, and accompanied the messenger.
I was standing at my bedroom window watching the " miracle of the dawn," when he returned. And, strange to relate, his huskiness had entirely disappeared. As he opened the garden gate, I could hear him singing" Canaan! bright Canaan!
I'm bound for the land of Canaan."
I have a very vivid recollection of the last revival services conducted by Baldrine Chapel, in which my father took an active part. Rev. William Brass was at that time the resident minister in Laxey. The late Mr. William Quayle (afterwards killed in Laxey Mine), the late Mr. John Scarffe, and the late Mr. William Mylrea, and Mr. Walter Moore (still going strong) took an active part in these services, which were carried on for several successive weeks.
Nearly all the young men in the neighbourhood were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus ; and many older persons as well. Many of these persons moved to other parts of the Island, some to the mainland, while some went abroad to foreign countries, each carrying with him the " Word " which they had " hid in their heart." How far-reaching were the results of that revival only eternity will reveal.
While these meetings were in course of progress, my father was indisposed for two nights and unable to attend. On the second night of his indisposition we were all seated round the fire, and father had taken down the Bible, preparatory to family worship, when suddenly we heard singing-the voices coming nearer, and finally stopping at our house.
I rushed to the door, and there discovered a crowd of people surrounding our garden wall. When they had finished their hymn, they started another, and still another.
It transpired that these people comprised the congregation from Baldrine Chapel. At the conclusion of the service they had all come over in a body to visit father. I am quite sure we never had such a crowd at family prayers as we had that night.
I must now bring these hallowed memories to a close. I daresay, if father was living to-day, his preaching would be regarded as " old-fashioned." We are living in an age when people glory in being " Modern." If you are not " Modern," you are not in the fashion. Well-SIN is " old-fashioned "-but as much in vogue to-day as ever. The Devil is " old-fashioned --very! But his Satanic Majesty seems to be having greater popularity to-day than ever. The Divine Plan of Salvation is "old-fashioned."
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
Much of our preaching to-day is " Modern." But if you are not saved in the "old-fashioned" way, you will never be saved at all!
Woman is " Modern."
The last and best of God's creative acts was the making of a Woman.
To see her to-day, as she has made herself, is the greatest tragedy under the canopy of Heaven. A sight to make the angels weep! She only attracts licentious men-and their name is "legion"!
Thank God there are still many noble, pure-minded women abroad ; true, and loyal, and steadfast, come weal or woe.
Happy-thrice happy-is the man who has one such for his partner.
I am in possession of two things which I greatly treasure:
(1) A packet, containing Christmas and New Year cards, which passed between myself and my dearest and most cherished Pal, for eleven happy years-the happiest years of my life.
(2) My father's note-book-containing notes of sermons
delivered well over 100 years ago. Much of its contents it is impossible to decipher. The writing has faded with the passage of the years. Many of these sketches, too, are so fragmentary and disjointed as to be quite unintelligible to anyone but my father himself. A few are fairly complete. I have ventured to transcribe one in the hope that it may, prove an interesting example of the method of sermonizing that prevailed among the Primitive Methodists a hundred years ago.
Here is the synopsis
TEXT: " For some have not the knowledge of God, I speak this to your shame."-1 Con, 15-34.
1. The knowledge of God which every man can obtain. (1) There is a knowledge of God obtained by reflecting on his works-thus the heavens declare the glory of the Lord, etc.
(2) By perusing His word. The Bible reveals God
to us in-(a) His spirituality, John 4-24 ; (b) His eternity, Ps. 9o-2 ; (c) His immensity and omnisci ence, Ps. 139-7 ; (e) His justice, Gen. 18-25; (f) His long suffering, 2 Peter 3-9
(3) By the revelation of Himself to the mind. This knowledge is termed experimental, as it is not obtained by any inference drawn from His works, nor even by reading His word, but from the direct influence of the Holy Ghost, " taking of the things of God, and showing them unto us." This knowledge cloth not so much refer to' what God is in Himself-, as to what He is to us: (a) Our Father-" For we have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear," etc. " The spirit beareth witness with our spirit." (b) Our Saviour-"In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise Thee, though Thou wast angry," etc. (c) Our portion-" Thou art my portion," etc. (d) Our God-Ps. 73, 25-26. "All knowledge is influential. The knowledge of God produces love to Him.-John 4. 7,8. Confidence in Him.Ps. 8-1o. Obedience to Him-1 John, 2-34
II. Prove the Assertion in the Text.
" Some have not the knowledge of God." This is true of a great number of the human race. Many are now alive who never heard of God. But it is not with heathen and savages that we have at present to do. The individuals who come more immediately under our notice may be ranked-(1) As avowed infidels. Such there have always been. In the days of David there were fools who said in their heart
there is no God. When Christ was on earth there were Sadducees who said there were neither angels nor spirits. In the Apostles' age there were those who denied the Lord that bought them. And in the present day there are individuals who glory in their infidelity, and are not ashamed to declare iteternal sleep-annihilation, etc., etc.
(2) Profligate sinners have not the knowledge of God.
(3) Nominal Christians admitted into the visible church-partake of sacraments-attend His ordinances-contribute to His cause-say their prayersand yet have not the knowledge of God. Note Saul of Tarsus who, touching the law, was blameless. Note young man who came to Christ, saying, "Good Master," etc. Note Pharisee in temple.
(4) Hypocrites and false professors have not the knowledge of God.
III. Endeavour to show that this is spoken to their' shame.
It is a shame-(1) When we consider the object of this knowledge. A Being who unites in Himself all possible perfections. A Being to Whom we are under so many obligations. What a shame to live without knowing the God by Whom we live.
(2) Consider the congeniality of this knowledge with the nature of man. The human soul was formed to know God. God is the only object in the universe capable of satisfying and gratifying that intense and inextinguishable thirst for knowledge which is the leading characteristic of man.
(3) Consider the means afforded for obtaining this knowledge. Had we been born among Turks, Hindoos or Hottentots we might have partially escaped the disgrace and shame of living without this knowledge, but having Bibles, etc.-divine spirit, ministry, etc.
(4) Consider the ease with which it may be secured. Human knowledge often acquired with great difficulty. Comparatively speaking, how easy to obtain divine knowledge-Bible,' the history of God--Prayer, " if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God"-the Spirit, "which taketh of the things of God and revealeth them unto us."
(5) Consider the present and prospective happiness you will enjoy by attaining to this knowledge-"this is life, eternal to know Thee, the only true God."
(6) Consider the consequences of not having this knowledge-here and hereafter.
On January 16th, 1891, came the call, "come up higher." The call was short but sharp. Being deprived of the power of speech, he could not say " Good-bye." His eyes were tightly closed. I seized his hand in mine, and cried, " Dear Dad, do you know me? If you do, squeeze my hand." He squeezed it hard. Then, as he was passing away, a most beatific and heavenly smile flickered over his face, and I knew-oh, yes, I knew there were enough angels in that room to chant a coronation ! That smile came to stay.
During the days that followed, many people passed into that chamber. All stood in silent wonder and awe as they looked down at that smiling face. The funeral service was conducted by the Rev, J. T. Barkby.
Many moons have waxed and waned since then, and my whole life has been filled with tragedy. Even when I fondly hoped that " the years which the locusts had eaten " were being " restored unto me," it ended in the greatest tragedy of all.
My father's God is my God too-and my trust is stayed in Him. The Hand that holds the Universe holds me! What is it that the whole world is groaning for to-day? PEACE. It will come with the coming of the Prince of Peace-King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He will surely come. Hearts are breaking to-day, but joy cometh :n the morning.
I see that some have already presumed to fix the date of His coming. I do not know. But He will come soon If the cry went forth at midnight, " Behold the Bridegroom cometh," I have nothing fit to wear-nothing! But gladly-oh, so gladly-do I accept the Robe that is offered me.
" Jesus Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress, Arrayed in these bright robes aloneI'll view the splendour of Thy Throne."
And when I have feasted mine eyes upon " the King in His beauty "-I shall next want to see my dear old Dad-that " ranter " preacher of a hundred years ago.
And then-I'm SURE-I'll be awaiting and watching at the Beautiful Gate-eagerly and hopefully-for the Sender of those Christmas and New Year Cards!
" For who is a pardoning God like Thee ! Or who has grace so rich and free!"