The Conversion of George Brealey.
THE APOSTLE OF THE BLACKDOWN HILLS.
George Brealey's father was a Christian, and a "local" preacher of no small success, for many scores were through his instrumentality "turned from darkness into light." But George's life was more powerfully influenced by his mother than by his father; for while his father was of a kind heart, and very fond of his boy, yet his sense of righteousness rendered him stern and sometimes severe. His mother, on the other hand, though of equally decided principles and character, was nevertheless more tender and sympathetic, and sought to lead him by love rather than drive him by sternness. She was of Scotch origin; shrewd, conscientious, of sound common-sense and judgment, and thoroughly practical. In addition to these qualities, she was, after her conversion, exceptionally spiritually minded, and a woman of faith and prayer in no small degree.
From the day of his birth, his mother's heart's desire was the eternal welfare of her child, and with this object before her, it was no marvel if she was often found praying to God that her son might be brought up in the ways of the Lord. In a short auto-biography, he wrote in after-life, referring to the early impressions he received through his mother's teaching and prayers, he says, "I distinctly remember, even now, the deep sense of the Lord's presence and of sin which I felt, and that I would be often found on my knees praying for a new heart.'' These impressions, however, after some years, wore off, and when George grew up among other boys, there was no power to withstand the evil example and temptations of youth.
About this time, a Bible was offered to the Sunday School scholar who should repeat verbatim the whole of the gospel of John. The day appointed for the test arrived and excitement ran high. Ten competitors entered but the only one who accomplished the extraordinary feat was a little boy, not ten years of age, the youngest by far of the whole, who received not only a perfect ovation from the delighted congregation, but what was to him of infinitely more value, the Book of God. That little boy was George Brealey. The Word of God was to be to him in later life his broadsword, shield and girdle, and the impetus that day's success gave him was of untold value. He would go away alone with his precious prize and read and learn the wondrous words, and as he read, the tears would flow and his heart would burn.
George's early life was one of hardship, and there seemed but little prospect for the future. Soon the influence of a godly mother would cease to shine directly on his pathway, for, strange to say, though her husband was a Christian, he was induced to place his only boy as an apprentice to his brother, an infidel, who, in addition to his trade as a shoemaker, kept a saloon. Into that atmosphere, at the age of fifteen, the boy was placed. The influence of the man, and the elements around, soon told on the tender susceptibilities of the lad, and here the uncle taught the nephew to drink, to swear, and to fight.
Yet a Divine hand was overruling, and the wisdom of God caused the very circumstances in which he was placed to be a means of moulding the character, for the qualities which were developed in the service of sin were afterwards consecrated to the service of Christ.
About this time an illness overtook him and he returned to his mother to be nursed. While there, she tenderly watched and prayed for her son. And now it was that the anxious parents, especially the mother, saw with sorrow what evil company had done for their boy, and this led to more fervent prayer to God, and more earnest converse with the son, which resulted in fresh conviction of sin. All his past life was arrayed before him with terrible distinctness. His conscience was lashed as with scorpions, and to escape this, on his recovery, he rushed into evil company and betook himself to drinking and card-playing and a life of sin. Such a hold had the enemy upon him that not all a mother's love and entreaties, or a father's stern commands, could stem the torrent of evil that was rapidly dragging him down to ruin. But what stern commands and gentle loving entreaties failed to do, the Lord in His abundant grace accomplished. Soon, God was to be glorified, Satan defeated, the wanderer brought home, and angels with saints to rejoice over a sinner rescued from the grasp and kingdom of the wicked one.
Sir Alexander Campbell was to preach in the city of Exeter, and the mother's heart yearned for the salvation of her son. She therefore greatly desired that George should go to hear him, and she fervently prayed that he might be saved. Strong were the appeals of the loving parents to accompany them to the Gospel preaching. But no, he flatly refused to be seen in a meeting house again. Already, however, the arrow had penetrated to his soul, yet he dared not divulge the secrets of his heart. There was a sad war raging within. His conscience had been aroused and was like the angry billows lashed by the tempest. A perfect tornado was raging in his soul, and forth rushed the half-maddened youth through fields, lanes, anywhere and almost everywhere except in the right direction, fiercely driven by the devil.
With his Sunday garments torn, the poor unhappy young man wandered until his steps were arrested by some of his evil companions, who taunted him with being a "Methodist", a reproach hurled at him because they had sometimes seen him with his parents on their way to the meetings. This was too much for his excited brain, and he gave two of them a severe thrashing (in doing which he injured his arm) and then took them to a saloon to make friends, and to show that he was no "Methodist." Here they remained and at three o'clock on Sunday afternoon; they were playing cards when the Lord came to the rescue. George Brealey's mother had gone off to the meeting-room that morning with a heavy heart, made sad by the wicked ways of her ungodly son. About the middle of the day, she went in quest of her son, and, after many inquiries and diligent search, she was distracted to discover him in such a place and at such employment. With a breaking heart, she exclaimed, "Oh, my dear son, it pains me more than I can tell to find you here; I never expected to see you in such a place as this," and falling on her knees, she pleaded with God for her unhappy boy. That was too much for the young man. Turning to his associates he said, "Goodbye, mates, I shall never enter this place again as I have done.'' "What!" they replied, "you going to turn Methodist? He's afraid of his mother." Suppressing his rising indignation, he calmly said, "No, I am not afraid of my mother, and you know that; I love her too well; but I am afraid of God and of my sins. Will either of you go to hell for me? "No", they replied, ''we don't want to go for ourselves, much less for you." "Then,'' said he, "don't laugh at me for turning around and wishing to escape."
He followed his heart-sick mother to her home, where he fell at the feet of Jesus and sought for mercy. He did not at once obtain full peace and joy in the Lord, not from any unwillingness on the Lord's part, but entirely from blindness and from being taken up more with his sin than with the Saviour. And oh, what conflict he had. One especial fear that he had, while he was at home with his injured arm, was that he would not be able to meet with his old companions, to resist their enticements, or to bear their sneers. But when it pleased the Lord to reveal His Son in him, and to fill his soul with joy and the Holy Ghost, all the enemy's suggestions were driven to the winds. His heart was brimming over with gladness, and it would have been almost impossible to have restrained him from speaking of God's wondrous love.
Shortly after, one Sunday morning, five of his companions determined to waylay him as he went to the meeting, and endeavour, if possible, to get him back among them as before. They intended on his first appearance to swoop down on him and entice him by flattery or, that failing, to abuse him. But they had not counted on their being first attacked. When their supposed victim pounced on them, laying hold of the two central figures, and then and there preached to them, the wind was completely taken out of their sails. Crestfallen and utterly cowed, three of them ran away, and as he said afterwards, "the other two would have if they could." From that time, he never had any trouble shaking off old companions. His company was now distasteful to them, for they hated his Lord and Master, and, as he said, "the difficulty was to get at them at all." The whole of these five have since been converted, and the atheist uncle was lovingly brought to the knowledge of the truth, by the preaching and visits of his nephew, George Brealey, one of the greatest joys that nephew ever knew.
“Assembly Annals” 1939