Brethren Archive
The Year 1901

The Apostles of the South East

by T.F. Bullen

Tom said ...
Fascinating account of a Brethren meeting and mission work in Rotherhithe, in the later 1800s. Well worth a flick through at least, particularly the early chapters and the description of the Breaking of Bread service, here is an extract,

Of darted Jemmy, and in a very short time reappeared clad in his well known canonicals , a full suit of black , given to him years ago by a Christian friend who loved him for his simple exposition of the Word, and his sweet , happy disposition. Entering his parlour with a reverent air, he went to the couch , whereon lay a brown - paper parcel containing a carefully got up tablecloth . This he Spread over the table with careful hands , and upon it, exactly in the centre , he placed a bottle containing wine (British port at a shilling a bottle) , a fat, dropsical looking tumbler, and a penny loaf on a blue dinner plate . Then , around the margin of the table , at regular intervals , he placed Copies of the Hymns and Spiritual Songs with Appendix , with out which no meeting of the Brethren for worship could be considered complete . And this holds good , no matter how many Slightly varying congregations that decidedly fissiparous body becomes divided into .

The chairs placed in position , all preparations were complete , and Jemmy , big Bible in hand and collection - box at his side , seated himself to await the coming of the Church . The members dropped in one by one until the little apartment was full, and when it appeared that all were present who would be that morning, Jemmy opened the meeting with prayer . And now might be seen the secret of power possessed by these humble , primitive followers of the humblest of men . There were no adjuncts to tickle the senses, no external influences acting with subtle force upon the worshippers and misleading them into the belief that their feelings were evidence of their being truly in touch with the invisible things of God . Jemmy's face was transfigured . Big tears rolled down his cheeks and glistened in his russet beard like diamonds . His voice Shook , his body trembled , and when he sat down, no one in the room had any doubt whatever that as in the days of the Master upon earth , so he was in very deed and truth present with them, head of this table spread in the wilderness . A song followed the prayer :

"Praise the Savio u r, ye w ho know Him
Think, Oh, think how m u ch w e o w e Him ;
Gladly le t u s rend e r to Him
All we are and have .”

Then a reading by Brother Salmon of an appropriate portion . Then another prayer , another Song, and so on without calling upon individuals , but each one rising and doing his or her part spontaneously , until at last there was an expectant hush . For several minutes no one stirred ; all sat with heads bowed , apparently in awe - stricken communion with the Unseen .

Then Jemmy rose , and drawing the platter and loaf towards him, placed his hand upon the loaf, and lifting his face with eyes fast- closed , said

[*best read in the book itself as the many apostrophes are there to show his means or pronunciation!]

Dear Master an’ Lord , agen we’ve met aroun’ your table t’ remember your broken body , your poured - out blood till you come . We’re very poor, very ignorant, very ’umble , but we believe an’ are shore ’at you are glad ave us come an’ do just wot you ’ve told us t’ do . We ain’t got no priest made by man because you’ve told us that you yourself are our ’Igh Priest , abidin’ continually . We can’t see thee , but we know you’re ’ere . An’ though these pore ’ands o’ mine takes this bread (taking it up) and breaks it as you did in that upper room long ago , we know that it’s all just as pleasant to you as it was w’en you ’ad all your disciples aroun’ you. We know, an’ are shore that all your beloved ones is one with you as this loaf is one now, an ’ we know that as we break this loaf” (breaking it into four) according to thy kermarnment, so your blessed body , the ’uman body you wore fur our sakes , was broken fur us . An’ now we’re a- goin’ t’ ’ and it round an’ eat of it accordin’ t' thy word This do in rememberance of me till I come .’

And having thus spoken , Jemmy passed to his next neighbour the plate with the broken loaf . Brother Salmon , for it was he , broke off a goodly portion and passed the plate to his neighbour . So it made the circuit of the table in solemn silence , and all ate— did not merely taste one crumb , but ate as if they were actually consuming the sweetest morsel they had evertasted in their lives . When the plate had completed its round there was another period of solemn silence , during which each member either communed with God in the secret places of his own soul or sat dumbly , with his mind a blank , as many dear earnest ones do Who find it impossible to concentrate their thoughts on their petitions or praises unless they utter them aloud .

Again Jemmy rose from his knees, and with trembling hands took up the bottle and glass . He poured out about a quarter of a glassful and then , gently replacing the bottle on the middle of the table , held his hand over the glass and said : Lord , knowin’ that without sheddin’ of blood there is no remission of sins, we remember with thankful ’arts ’at your precious blood was shed for us. Don’t let us ever fergit fur one minute ’at it cost thee thy ’eart's blood t’ redeem us from our sins . We remember, dear Lord , ’at you was just a ’ard - workin’ man on earth like we are , only we’re a great deal better off than ever you was . An’ please don’t let us fergit, ’at although you did pour out your soul unto death— an’ this wine which is the type of life to us is also the type of death to you , the death of your ’uman ’ouse— yet, glory be to thy ’Oly Name , the grave couldn’t ’old you , you made a Show of it ; an’ like Samson a—carryin’ away the Gates of Gazer , you took captivity captive an’ you’re alive forevermore . An’ more ’an that, dear Saviour, we want alwus to hold in our ’eart of ’earts ’at you ’re not a long way away from us , but ’at here an’ now you’re wiv us a- sayin’ unto us, ‘ Lo , I am wiv you alwus, even unto the end of the world. ’The cup of blessin’ w’ich we bless , is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? As often as ye Shall drink this cup in obedience to Christ’s word an’ kermarnment ye do Show forf the Lord’s death till he come .”

Monday, Mar 20, 2017 : 19:54
Jonathan said ...
I enjoyed reading that very much. 1 Corinthians 14:25.

One part did strike me: "but each one rising and doing his or her part spontaneously". "Her"? Amongst the late 1800s brethren? Surely not...?
Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 : 13:30
Timothy Stunt said ...
For the record, there is an entry for the author, 'Bullen, Frank Thomas (1857–1915), merchant seaman and writer' in the 'Oxford Dictionary of National Biography'. Timothy Stunt
Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 : 15:39
Tom said ...
Interesting, I didn't even notice that! I did see in another part of the book, at a home Bible study a sister prayed which I thought was a bit odd. The book is actually fictional though based on real events I think; not quite sure though whether that means just the names are changed or the author has taken more license with the story. Also they would have been 'open' Brethren, probably at the 'revivalist' end of the spectrum - actually at one point it mentions someone (who appears to come from an Exclusive meeting) who helps with the gospel outreach, and there is a bit of a discussion on that. And as well, I don't think the author himself was Brethren so he might have added things more common with his own experience.
Tuesday, Mar 21, 2017 : 18:23

Add Comment: