Richard Weaver, the People’s Apostle, By Edward Leach.
“CAN yer tell me where Richard Waver is to prach?" inquired a country-looking navvy of the writer, as he was perplexedly threading his way some few months ago, on a wet sloughy night, through a neighbourhood, redolent of insalubrious smells, anxiously expecting to alight on the desired haven, and diving down various unlit streets and passages which terminated to his grief in warehouses that might have passed for a side-view of New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. "I am endeavouring to ascertain for myself," was the somewhat curt reply. "It's somewhere down here," said the navvy. "Possibly," replied I, "but let us see—a cruel joke, for seeing through darkness in the propinquity of railway arches was not easy. In mutual companionship, my rough friend and myself pierced our way through the murky labyrinth, and at length, patience was crowned—as it proverbially is—with success. Entering a crowded building on a wretched night, with scarcely standing room, might damp the fervour of the most zealous. But fortunately—such is the remarkable courtesy of working men, a courtesy one invariably meets with in their company—a seat was offered, accepted, and the half of a penny hymn-book tendered. Later on, though densely packed, a lady was invited into our pew, and by some of the men sitting askew, this feat of chivalry was settled, and met with the smiling approval of all concerned. I never before saw a great crowd so wedged and welded together, and yet so comparatively comfortable. The historical twenty-four blackbirds were not better accommodated under their crusted dome than were the worshippers of that evening. It was a curious sight—that miscellaneous, heterogeneous multitude of bone-boilers, curriers, navvies, sweeps, coalheavers, market-gardeners, costermongers, and warehouse-porters, sprinkled here and there with happy-faced, cotton-dressed, and, in some cases, gaily-turbaned women. An occasional attendant on similar gatherings, our olfactory nerves have been somewhat indoctrinated into the nature of the odours arising from onions, tobacco, and soiled fustians, which it is to be feared, even incense could not quench, but aggravate; but on the present occasion, our good humour was severely tested. Some women brought their babies, who lustily continued the chorus long after the assembly had concluded their legitimate portion. The babies, however, intensely interested the preacher. Bring 'em up here, mother," said he; "the more the merrier; they'll put me in mind of being at home"—an invitation which naturally touched every mother's heart. It is doubtful whether they ever listened more attentively to a preacher than they did that night. Many times has Weaver been the means of converting mothers and fathers by tender allusions to their children. A hymn was sung. To hear Richard Weaver sing, a twelve miles' walk would not be too arduous, and to escape from hearing it would be worth another similar performance. With one hand clutching hold of the hymn-book, and the other fortifying one side of his mouth, out roll the loud sounds, some notes rushing pell-mell upon each other, and others striving to out-equal those preceding. Such free rendering of a very common ditty inspired the artisan-audience. The enthusiasm became depressing. The men—not irreverently, for their behaviour was excellent, permitted their feet to accompany the quick strains, until New Park Street Chapel seemed turned into a music-hall. Did Mr. Weaver expostulate? No sir; nor would I. These rude sons of toil were in earnest; they felt the words they were singing; they did, as they always do when their hearts accompany their actions, exert themselves to make themselves happy, and happy indeed they were. A few cheerful nonsensical hits were made before the serious portion of the service commenced. He (Weaver) had hired the chapel to set up "an opposition shop to Spurgeon;" he thought of getting the building, having some elders and deacons, put them in good working order, fill the chapel, raise up the expectations of the solemn functionaries who would sit at the helm of affairs, and then—"cut it." "It was a pity to see so fine a building empty on the Sabbath, wasn't it?"—a query that brought forth an emphatic "yes" from several hundreds. After this and other slightly rompish talk was over, nothing but a serious and earnest feeling seemed to prevail over both speaker and auditors. The sermon, or rather address, was delivered with gravity. To represent in language, Weaver's most characteristic and unusual style of oratory is impossible. His text was Matt. xxv. 46: "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal." He most graphically pictured the woes which wicked men brought on themselves and on others, most unmercifully lashed the vices of the lascivious, and almost murdered the future contentment of those present who were addicted to dram-drinking. He recognised the real devils which the working classes have to fight against, levelled his blows most savagely at them, and seemed to triumph in the luxuriousness of his own declamation. Rant there was none, brutal coarseness was non est; and little, if anything, that might disgust the sensitive mind. His volubility was extraordinary. Words and thoughts flashed forth, sentences leaping over each other, as though the speaker were in a desperate hurry to get rid of them,—sometimes creating amusing involutions, half-kaleidoscopic, half-unfinished, yet always full of force, and uttered with dramatic energy. Some dozen of cases were called up of sinners who ardently cherish different forms of vice, and to each was applied the solemn words, "And these shall go away." Few can listen to Weaver without acknowledging the masculine strength of his oratorical power. He understands how to wield it with effect, how to strike terror in the hardest hearts, and how to draw forth the soft tear from the roughest characters that ever congregate together. His anecdotes are simple in character, always true, and invariably culled from his own experience and observation. Weaver seldom preaches without referring to his sainted mother, his wife and children; and all his personal allusions are far removed from rodomontade.
Such is the remarkable man whose usefulness has been thus eulogized by no mean judge: "I would not mind asking the whole world to find a Master of Arts now living who has brought more souls to Christ Jesus than Richard Weaver. If the whole bench of bishops have done a tenth as much in the way of soul-winning as that one man, it is more than most of us can give them credit for. Let us give to our God all the glory, but still let us not deny that this sinner saved with the brogue of the collier still about him, fresh from the coal-pit, tells the story of the cross, by God's grace, in such a way that Right Reverend Fathers in God might humbly sit at his feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn soul." C. H. Spurgeon. These are strong words, my masters; let us ascertain how far they can be justified by facts.
Richard Weaver was born at Asterby, in Shropshire, in 1827, and is consequently five and thirty years of age. Some very excellent portraits of him have been issued at various times, so that it is a work of supererogation to attempt to paint his features by words. His father was a drunken, stupid fellow, who never did a reasonable thing in his life, except marrying a good woman. His mother was a great sufferer from the brutality of her husband, and even of her children. Here were two contending forces striving to exercise a mastery over Richard's heart—a godly example and a depraved influence. Cases are very rare where, in boys, a father's bad instruction does not more than counterbalance a mother's fond endeavours. At home, he saw a drunken, blasphemous, murderous father, who threatened to cleave his mother's head in twain for reading the Bible; abroad, he was subjected to a variety of temptations which unregenerate nature seldom resists. The colliers are a demoralised race, and when Weaver was a restive lad, were far worse than they are now, thanks to the missionary enterprises of the Methodists, who have completely revolutionised the disgraceful social habits of the colliery districts of the North. They were rough, uncivilised, drunken, pugilistic fellows, fond of cuddy-races, tap-room excitements, strikes, cock-fights, and practical joking of all kinds. Add to these, a sort of inherited love for bloody noses and well-battered faces, and you have a type of collierism, to perpetuate which Richard Weaver soon manifested his anxiety. He commenced his career of sin with an oath which partly shocked his youthful heart while giving it utterance. Then followed drunken revelry, and its concomitant sins of lasciviousness and fighting. He tells us that he has spent fourteen pounds on one spree, and frequently returned home with a bruised and bleeding face. After returning from one of these saturnalias, he on arriving at daybreak at the door of his home, overheard his mother praying for him. When he knocked, the good woman rushed to the door—and oh, what a sight for the mother who had given him birth! As she washed his disfigured face, she prayed for his soul, he all the time threatening to murder her, and fouling her ear with curses. She followed him to bed with her prayers, and he, devil as he was, grasped her grey hairs, and again cursed her to her face with words which one would have thought were hardly to be found in hell's dictionary. "I will never give thee up" was the only answer of this godly woman. "It's hard work, my lad, to see thee threatening to murder me for praying for thee, but, O Lord, though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee." Ah! noble woman, when a father's patience is exhausted, thine is not. Weaver's conscience would not permit him to continue this idiotic revelry at home. The mother's prayers were always ringing in his ears. So, he travelled into another county—Staffordshire,—where he wasted his manly energies in riotous living. Here he ripened fast for Hades. He nearly murdered a drunken woman in a brothel; he was on the point of committing suicide twice; he almost killed himself in the pit. "I know the temptation of the razor and the river," said he, on one occasion at a gathering of harlots. "Once I would have taken the life of one like you if I could."
In May 1852, while preparing for a pugilistic encounter, he overheard some religious conversation which for a time had a great influence upon him. The die was cast. Thoughts of hell, whither he was tending, seemed to arrest him. Remorse, which eats as a canker at the heart, got hold of him. He took to drink, he took to boxing, but mercy took to him. He dreamt of everlasting punishment, of God's righteous indignation. He heard a voice saying, "Depart, ye cursed." He imagined that the door of hell was opened, and himself thrown into the infernal pit, "and as I dropped among the flames," said he, "there was such a yell as I had never heard before; and all the devils with their eyes of fire, and every damned soul, chased me through the caverns of hell, some biting me, some kicking me, and others crying out, 'What made you come to torment us in these flames?' Oh, how I declared, if the Lord would deliver me from that place, I would do anything to save others from it! But no; 'Too late,' rung in my ears; and again, I thought a host of the infernal followed me through the blue flames and overtook me and held me with their blazing hands. Then I thought they cut my breast open and began to pour a burning fluid into my heart." Such convictions were enough to turn the most stubborn will; but they turned not Weaver. Some weeks after, while sparring one night with a negro, he planted his heavy iron hand on his assailant's face, bringing forth streams of blood. Instantly the words occurred to him, "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." He returned to his lodgings in great bitterness of spirit, prayed for four hours for Divine forgiveness, and—O glorious grace!—obtained it. Since that night, Weaver and the Devil have been sworn foes.
Here was a man of strong emotions, of daring energy—"Undaunted Dick" he was called—of untiring zeal, filled with the love of Christ, anxious to be as enthusiastic in his Saviour's service as before he was devoted to that of Satan. Whenever extraordinary work has to be performed, some unusual implements are used. To fit ordinary timber for heavy sea works, where those curious little insects known as the teredo navalis and limnoria terebrar abound, and attack and destroy with their penetrating powers the toughest wood, a severe process of pitching, kyanising or creosoting, is resorted to. And it is not too much to say that that fearful experience of the most defiling sins which seemed at one time to exude from the very pores of Weaver's soul and body, has added greatly to his gigantic power in heroically resisting the attacks of the powers of darkness. Certainly, those stern, if not awful, convictions, which were as powerful as "adamantine chains and penal fire," acted as mighty preparatives for the hardiest service in the building of that fair temple which at some future day, shall be crowned with the most magnificent top-stone that human eyes have ever beheld. All God's saints, my reader, cannot be polished stones, even as a building cannot be all ornament and beauty. In the noble work of the ministry, there must be some rude stuff. Let it therefore lie, remembered when complaints are made of the erratic sayings and equally erratic conduct of this ex-pugilist, that his sphere of duty and the methods of fulfilling it faithfully are not to be judged by ordinary standards. Of all people in the world, educated Christians should excuse an illiterate man's defiant allusions to "Billy Shakespeare" and "Bobby Burns." If Weaver had had educational opportunities in his earlier days, it seems probable that he would have shone greatly intellectually. Even since the day of his conversion, he has improved his mind in elementary knowledge, and of late years has mastered the Greek language sufficiently to confound some who have professed great attachment to their Greek Testaments. Only recently in quibbling with a Unitarian respecting the last verse of chap. i. of St. John's Gospel, he silenced his opponent with an elaborate analysis of the meaning of the word λόγος (logos). Had he, however, gathered from learning's page every scrap of knowledge, it is doubtful whether his usefulness would have been so great among the classes who so willingly accept his teachings. On a recent occasion in mentioning, inter alia, his opinion as to the proper translation of a certain passage, which I now forget, he gave the original Greek in true professorial style—which I observed caused many of his rough audience to "tip the wink" to each other, for of all gratifications, none are to working men so delightful as one of their own order baffling a superior.
Possessing a rare gift of word-painting, it is not strange to find Weaver soon exhibiting a desire to instruct his fellow sinners. He had married a godly woman, who had encouraged him in the ways of holiness. In a Derbyshire village, he first preached a sermon on the words, "I am the Way." Some of the conversions which were effected through him by most extraordinary methods will be given in our next article. One however is so characteristic of the man as regenerated, and so opposed to his former habits, that the temptation to give it here is too great to be resisted. While engaged one day in colliery operations, he was appealed to by a youth to assist him in preventing a collier unfairly seizing Weaver's wagon or tub, the loss of which would have been a matter of some shillings. Weaver thought that God did not tell him to let another man rob him, and so he told his mate. The answer he received was accompanied with the usual orthodox oaths of colliers, and with a threat that he would push the tub over him. "Nay," said Weaver, "but the Lord will not allow thee," which was but a mild form of expostulation. However, the mate was angered at Richard's piety and calmness, and swore again that he would push the wagon over him,—"thou Methody devil." And so he did, Weaver pushing too, singing the while, Jesus the name high over all," &c., and the collier threatening to smack Weaver on his face. He was told he could do it, and the man accepted the invitation. Richard, instead of returning the heavy compliment, turned to him the other cheek, not by way of change, but to fulfil the memorable peace-policy of the Master. Six blows either tired the collier or exasperated him; for he retired from so unequal a contest, leaving Weaver battered and bruised, praying, "Lord forgive him, for thou knowest I do; Lord save him." The next time he saw his assailant, which was in the coal-pit, he wept and asked for forgiveness. Weaver gladly granted it as before, and both knelt down in that strange place, and before they ascended the shaft, another soul was added to the redeemed on earth. This indeed was a marvellous conversion.
Richard Weaver then took charge of a Bible stall at leisure hours, and while thus engaged, he attracted the attention of "the Liverpool lawyer," Mr. Reginald Radcliffe, whose missionary efforts have been so strikingly blessed by God. He was urged to devote himself to the Lord's service but demurred. One day however, he took up his Bible, determining if the verse he first read directed him to become an evangelist, he would do so. He alighted on that passage, "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken nor his seed begging bread." He thereupon entered upon his evangelistic labours. He preached in Liverpool with great acceptance. The vilest and most forlorn outcasts were blessed. At this time, his theological views were grossly conflicting; but this, happily has been changed, for his usefulness in the conversion of sinners is far from being cramped in consequence of adopting more Scriptural views of the Gospel. His course of labours now became extensive. He preached to thousands on the occasion of the execution of William Palmer in 1857. He confronted infidels, sceptics, and that class of inflated idiots who are always displaying their conceitedness before street preachers, and invariably he met with success. In some places, he was severely handled, and was almost murdered at Wolverhampton. He became a town missionary at Prescot, where he was greatly persecuted, especially by the Papists, who I need hardly remind the reader, are pretty strong numerically in certain parts of the North of England. He was not, however, destined to remain here nor anywhere for a long period. He journeyed from one place to another—first in Yorkshire, then in London, then in Dublin, and then, in Scotland, until he has become a restless wanderer—everywhere scattering the pearls of Divine truth, everywhere being blessed with conversions, and seldom if ever, meeting with unsuccess. His first address in London was delivered at a sweeps' meeting, held by Mr. Carter in the Euston Road. He was then prevailed upon to preach to the roughest of the roughs who live in that most delightful town, Sheffield. Monster meetings were held in the theatre and circus, and hundreds were converted. In London, his most striking powers of oratory gained considerable attention.
"A man of rough speech," observes his biographer, R. C. Morgan, "using hard words, not toning down the everlasting realities of life and death, heaven and hell, to please the ear; but describing the terrors of hell and the torments of the damned, with an imagery gathered from the dense darkness of the coal-pit, the flames of the fire damp, and the suffocating vapour of the choke damp. He had seen men killed at his side, had often marvellously escaped himself, and knew that in the great majority of cases, accidents by which individuals or multitudes were suddenly destroyed, were the effects of negligence, indifference, or carelessness. Moreover, he had, as we have said, stood by hundreds of dying beds, and heard the death-howl of the lost as they sank into the everlasting burning, and it could not be but that out of a college such as this, should issue a prophet after the pattern of Elijah or John, a man of the desert, clad in a rough garment, feeding on wilderness fare, and crying, 'The Lord that answereth by fire, let him be God.' “
Mr. Weaver, or, as he still persists in being styled, "Richard," was about two years ago, half-inclined to settle in London. Though presenting some advantages, this step did not appear of such an imperative and wise character as to justify him in taking it. His most valued and intimate friends counselled him to the contrary, and that wisely. Still, it was thought that the great masses which in the metropolis never listen to any preacher, might be induced to hear, in a suitable and large building, a man who had all the peculiarities and feelings of their class. The matter was submitted to the Lord; and however answered, the determination of our evangelist is now fixed. He will not sacrifice the pleasure of preaching to his countrymen of all parts of Great Britain to gain a quiet home and a stated sphere of labour. His excessive labours are astonishing. He seems ever to keep in remembrance the counsel of Abd-ur-Rahman, one of the greatest of the Afghan poets:—
"If thou hast any object to attain, be quick, for time is short;
Flatter not thyself on the performance of this brief existence."
"I mean to preach," said Weaver a few months ago, "everywhere I can—I have had great inducements to remain in one place; but I won't accept them." And this fact he turns to account in this way:—"Why should I leave my dear wife and children so many miles away, and travel about to preach? Do you think I would do it for money? No; why a man offered me the title deeds of a nice house some time ago, and I would not have them, because he was an unconverted man. And what do you think? Why the next day, a man presented me with the deeds of two houses, which if I hadn't accepted, would have gone to the Pope; and I thought they were better in my pocket than in the Pope's, and so I had them. No, bless the Lord, I won't be tied down to any place. I mean your good—every man's good. I have a gospel for you all, and I mean to preach it to you all. That is why I leave the comforts of home; it's for your sakes." It may be added that Weaver was baptized by Mr. Spurgeon about two years ago. Originally, he was a Primitive Methodist; now he may be claimed as a Baptist, though it would be almost a pity to rob him of his own title, "Jesus Christ's man."
In all ages and among all people, the insignificant origin of the most useful men has excited universal wonderment. "He hath exalted them of low degree!" was Mary's exclamation at the honour to which Jehovah had called her. Horace, in that magnificent ode—the thirty-fourth—declares that "the Deity is able to make an exchange between the highest and lowest and diminishes the exalted by bringing to light the obscure." Plutarch is struck with admiration at the glorious progress to renown which Dion and Brutus made, especially when he considers "their insignificant beginnings." The exaltation of the unlearned, the socially degraded, and of those whose father's house can never be their boast, to posts of honour, influence and usefulness in God's service is to the world a matter of surprise, if not incredulity. Some have thought that the cause of Christ has suffered from the weakness of its supporters. Chrysostom tells us of a Christian who in a disputation with a Greek, asserted the pre-eminence of Paul's learning and oratorical powers over Plato, "but the Greek's argument was," he says, “more cogent. It is no slander," continues this Father, on the apostles to say they were illiterate, but it is a glory that, being such, they should have outshone the world." Whitfield's mean parentage exalted God's sovereignty. Richard Weaver's former degradation supplies a subject for holy astonishment. Passing by men of intellect, emolument, position and worldly influence, God selected a rude pitman to show forth His praise and make known His saving power in those dark spots where vice and ignorance have shut out the light of Divine truth.
When Weaver first addressed a London audience, many turned away, sickened at the sight of a rough and blatant orator, who did not atone for his vulgarity by a spirit of reverence or a consideration for finer feelings than his own. Undoubtedly, there was much to condemn in his first essay on a London platform; and his earlier improprieties were shockingly developed in the climax of his earnestness. For instance, a dear friend who listened to a running discourse on the words, "Awake thou that sleepest!" though not sufficiently awake to prevent the misdeeds of a pickpocket by his side, tells me that he found it impossible to control his risibility when the ex-pugilist lugged a mechanic by his coat-collar, pretending to shake him vigorously, and with stentorian lungs bidding him "Awake, thou that sleepest!" His tirades against well-dressing were equally unpardonable. To Weaver, there was a sign of something specially unregenerate in wearing black cloth and silk dresses. He once commenced a sermon, delivered in Rochdale, thus:—"This congregation is a great deal better than the one last night; but still there are too many fine folks here. I find that many of you are dressed in fine satins and ribbons, and I would rather have more of those with shawls thrown over their heads." No one would certainly complain of Weaver's want of appreciation of the artistic element in this piece of personality; but an uncultivated man must be abashed at his own ignorance of elementary knowledge in the presence of more cultured minds. "If I had known," continued our eccentric friend, "I should not have come to the chapel in my black suit to-night, but my wife persuaded me. I do not feel at home in black clothes at all."
These vagaries, however, form a subsidiary part of his discourses. Only a small idea of the wealth of imagery, anecdotal lore and well dove-tailed, apposite illustrations, can be formed from the few selections which are here given. Speaking of the good condition of the highway of glory (Isaiah xxxv. 10) Weaver thus breaks out:—"Proprietors and contractors like to have a good road; waggoners and carters like to have a good road. This is a good highway: 'It shall be called the way of holiness, and the unclean shall not pass over it.' There is always a ditch on each side of a good road. When I used to get drunk, I tried to keep in the middle of the highway, or else I soon got into the ditch. You young women of fashion, you young men of fashion, you keep too near the ditch. Get upon the highway. If you go too near the ditch, there is danger of getting your heads into the hedges, and the thorns will scratch your faces. The road is marked out by the blood of the Lamb, and if you get upon that highway, the lion of hell cannot touch you." There is a well-worn, yet suggestive thought in the following excerpt from the same sermon:—"I went to see a poor believing woman who was in trouble; she was in the seventh of Romans; and what I said to her I say to you, troubled souls, this afternoon; make a good Lancashire spring out of the seventh into the eighth—out of, 'O wretched man that I am' into 'no condemnation'—out of 'this body of death' into Christ Jesus.” The next is a pleasant, natural, and instructive illustration:—"I remember while the engine was stopping to take in water, seeing a man cross the line with a lamb in his arms, and the old ewe followed baa-ing after him. God has been doing so by you. He took your child away to draw you after him, and you have less respect to your child than the poor dumb sheep for her lamb. God has taken your child to Himself, and you don't even give a look heavenward after it."
But Weaver concentrates nearly all his power in the living anecdotes he relates. His earlier addresses consisted, for the most part, of a miscellaneous selection of anecdotes derived from his own personal experience and observation. He is more careful in choosing his racy tales now and has learnt to give greater prominence to the truths of the gospel than was his wont. Of the perfect genuineness of his narratives, there can be no question; and they are always of a character to captivate the classes to whom they are specially addressed. To obtain the attention of the labouring classes, anecdotes must be frequently used.
(Thousands are everywhere following a revivalist who has just visited London, and who bears the singular cognomen of "Fiddler Joss." Joss, or Joshua Poole, is almost a second Weaver, and is, I think, likely to become about as useful, if not quite as popular, amongst the lowest dregs of humanity . . . Meanwhile, it may be observed, that the secret of the fiddler's popularity is greatly to be attributed to his wondrous anecdotes, which are told with unusual eloquence—he is a perfect orator by the way—and with transparent truthfulness.)
The illiterate enjoy above all things, good anecdotes and bad music, and he who wishes to engage their ears, must give a reasonable quantity of the former. A large number of Weaver's anecdotes consist of the recital of conversions effected through his means. This fact alone will be a sufficient apology for my selecting one or two such cases as a type of hundreds with which to conclude this paper; in this way, indeed, I shall best fulfil my proposed intention of recording not only the character of the mission and the peculiarities of the missionary, but the nature of the blessings which our faithful God has bestowed upon the means used. Selecting them at random, we find a case which has had its parallel in many a minister's experience. It is selected from the address on "The Master's call." "There was a young man in Staffordshire," relates Weaver, "who was employed as a clerk in an office. His wife came to hear me preach, and the Spirit of God came home to her heart. When she went home, she began to cry, and her husband seemed much surprised, and he began to curse and swear. He called me bad names, and I went to see him. He told me if I ever preached there again, he would come and pull me out of the pulpit. I said to him, 'Whether you pull me out of the pulpit or not, I shall preach there again.' I did preach, and was talking about people coming to Christ, telling them what a Saviour He was; and I said, 'Who will volunteer for Christ?' The young man jumped up in the gallery, and he said, 'I will volunteer for Christ. When I came to the chapel to-night, I was determined that I would come and pull you out of the pulpit, but the gospel has come to my heart, and I have found my Saviour.' "The young man's conversion proved to be genuine. Here is another remarkable case—Weaver was once preaching in Edinburgh, and telling the people that a thief was present, when a young man jumped up and said, "Who told you I was here? I have just had my hand in this lady's pocket and taken her purse; but if it is possible, may the Lord forgive me!" Weaver once preached to fifty female prisoners in Edinburgh goal; out of the fifty, upwards of thirty enquired the way of salvation, and many were converted to God. His readiness to please his outrageously vulgar auditors is remarkable. In the midst of an uproarious assembly, the main point to be considered is how to keep your temper. You have invited a host of the unwashed and unkempt to tea, the provisions are swallowed up with avidity, and you find members leaving the room, and others creating such a disturbance that lungs and gesticulations are powerless to restore order. The position is a trying one. You beg and entreat and are met with laughter, coarse jokes, hootings, slang-witticisms, and, not unlikely, find the attention of no inconsiderable portion of the assembly concentrated on a sparring match going on in the middle of the room, and where it is exceedingly difficult to get at the combatants to separate them. What can be done? Similarly placed, Weaver, after failing with ordinary methods, ventured on promising to sing a song. Few methods are likely to be more successful, for a song is to roughs the highest creation of immortal wit, and the singing of a song the noblest attribute of manhood. But Weaver found it necessary to take an additional step, so he said, "Now Jim, thee keep Jack quiet. Now, if thee don't be quiet, I'll turn thee out." Weaver then sang "Glory to God on high,'' amidst the furious plaudits of the assembled sweeps. One song was not sufficient, so two other hymns were sung, and the noisy crowd, having been gratified by the pleasantry and amiability of the speaker, listened to the Word of truth the rest of the evening. The Holy Spirit worked mightily, and many of these singular characters were manifestly changed. Weaver has the happy knack to perfection of seeking out the lost sheep, and, by means which ministers of refinement and sensibility could not adopt, of bringing them to the heavenly fold. A strange woman accosted him in the streets of Liverpool, as he was going to preach to the labouring classes which crowd that city. Instead of rebuking, he invited her to accompany him. "I am going," he said, "to a dancing-room; will you be my partner?" On reaching the hall, which was already crowded, he, with the girl, pushed his way to the top, and on seeing "the partner" ascend the platform, she seated herself in the body of the room. The word was quickening, the sermon was powerful, and the operations of the Holy Ghost resulted in her entire conversion. Another forlorn girl hearing him address the bystanders in a street, asked "Can Christ save me?" He replied that the greatest sinners and the most unclean could be subdued by invincible grace, and on his setting forth the promises of Scripture applicable to her case, the distressed girl dropped on her knees, crying, "O Lord, if thou canst save poor prostitutes, save me here and save me now." That prayer was simple, but oh how direct! It obtained a hearing at heaven's courts, and after a few expressive sighs, groans, and sobs, the immortal work was done—the once abandoned sinner had received heaven's message of pardon. We are informed that this woman is still an earnest Christian; is a wife and mother and let us hope is useful in seeking to turn sinners to the highway which leadeth to the cross.
More cases, equally striking, might be added; but sufficient has been related to convince the intelligent reader that "the people's apostle" is wonderfully assisted in his endeavours to propagate the good news of salvation. While these lines are being written he is addressing immense crowds in Edinburgh and other large towns in Scotland, and scarcely a day passes without a conversion, if not several, through his labours. May a like blessing attend all the efforts of Immanuel's ambassadors!
“The Sword and the Trowel” 1866