« 前へ次へ »
Mr. Heywood's thankfulness for private Liberty-Declaration of
public Liberty to the Nonconformists~Mr. Heywood's removal to. Northowram-Receipt of License-Reflections Formation of a christian Society at Northowram—Church covenant-Union of Presbyterians and Independents-Mr. Heywood's Labours and success— Ordination at Manchester-Dr. Hook's Opposition Dedication of his sons to the Ministry—Personal Covenants.
In the preceding detail we have seen the severity with which the Nonconformists were treated ; and, though Mr. Heywood was involved in trouble for preaching publicly at Coley chapel, yet he was protected in his private labours. This mercy made a deep impression on his grateful heart, and he set apart Jan. 31st, 1672, as a day of thanksgiving. On this occasion he says, “ It was a good day. Reflect, O my soul, on the circumstances of thy case. What! a day of thanksgiving in so sad a time of affliction! Is it seasonable? Is it not a solecism to rejoice in a day of sorrow ? No. As public restraint may be consistent with private liberty; so private thankfulness may be consistent with occasion of public mourning. It is true, carnal joy is unsuitable to the time of the church's sorrow; yet spiritual joy may be maintained in the midst of outward grief. Blessed be God that we have his presence though in private. I have now been at Coley-hall above six years, and have had interesting, frequent, and numerous meetings all the time without disturbance: and doth not this deserve our thankfulness? Well may we bless
God for a little opening of the door of liberty, though there be many adversaries, for praise may push it further open as well as prayer. The Act of Parliament saith, five shall not meet; God saith, five score shall - meet to worship him in private. Men say, we shall be punished ; God saith, no, 'touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm :' and it must be according to the divine commission. Men shut, but God opens; the omnipotent God is beyond impotent man. God's ordinances wherever dispensed, are the gate of the Lord, into which the righteous do enter. Who knows what good the Lord hath done to precious souls in a private way? He is the same in a chamber as in a church ; God orders all for the best. Little did I think to have been thus employed; my resolution was to attend in public, if not to be a speaker, at least a hearer; but God hath seen good otherwise to dispose of me, for when men had thrust me out of public work, he employed me in private. I have many times thought and said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name,' at least in this place and in these times ; but his word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones. Sometimes I have altered the time and given notice to the contrary, but it would not do, the people have pressed in uponi me, frequent vacancies have occurred at the chapel, and poor souls have been famishing and crying out for a morsel of spiritual bread. I have put my credit, estate, and liberty in my hand to distribute to them the word of life, and God has secured me so that I have never suffered for private work at home, though for what has been public I have been plundered. Blessed be God for this door of hope in the valley of Achor: though I am civilly dead, yet ‘I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord.' This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.' O Lord, make this private brook to hold out till thou give plentiful rain upon the earth.” This sacrifice of praise was accepted, and some of the above remarks were partly prophetical.
It is notorious that Charles was a papist, and under the pretence of a conciliatory disposition towards the persecuted and oppressed Nonconformists, he sought to encourage popery. Had he been the real friend of the ejected ministers, he would not have suffered them to have groaned ten long years under the grievous yoke of penal laws. By an exertion of arbitrary power, he was pleased to suspend the execution of the laws that had been passed against the Nonconformists, and issued a declaration, dated March 15th, 1672, in which it was acknowledged, “ that there was very little fruit of all those forcible methods which had been used for reducing erring and dissenting persons.” This declaration was a merciful and unexpected answer of prayer, and was received as such by Mr. Heywood, who says: “ March 18th, I went to keep a fast at J. Smith's near Great Horton. God wonderfully helped my heart both in prayer and preaching, but especially in prayer for the church, and for poor ministers, that (after a silence of almost ten years,) their mouths might be opened. Indeed it hath long been my earnest request, but then more enlargedly; and behold a sudden return! On Tuesday two messengers came, one from Halifax and the other from Leeds, to bring me the joyful tidings of liberty to Nonconformists to preach in public places. I confess it was welcome news, and almost incredible; but having heard the particular relation together with the reasons assigned, I was bound to credit it, and rejoice in God's mercy. Ezra vii. 27, 28, caine into my thoughts upon hearing the news; and with respect to the return of prayer, Isa. lxv. 24, is very applicable. This day, March 20th, we had appointed for a solemn fast, and God sent in this mercy beforehand to melt our hearts and encourage us in our waiting on him. Truly it was an affecting day; God wonderfully drew out my heart, and I hope will give further returns of prayer.” This indulgence was very cautiously received by the Nonconformists, for they knew the king was not influenced by love to them, and some would not embrace the proffered liberty, lest they should be considered as sanctioning his arbitrary measures, and encouraging popery. Mr. H. was one of eighteen ministers who assembled at Manchester on the 19th of April, to consult what steps they should take, when they unanimously agreed to embrace the opportunity of usefulness thus afforded them.
About this time, Mr. Heywood being under the necessity of removing from Coley Hall, where he had resided six years, he returned to the house at Northowram, where he had first become a housekeeper, and in which he continued till removed to that house which became his eternal home. The house with two crofts he purchased of B. Boys, of Halifax, for a hundred marks. As Mr. H. was an attentive observer of the ways of Providence, and as there were some remarkable circumstances attending this purchase and removal, he has left a minute narrative of the event, from which the following is an extract. “March 4th, 1672, I paid for my house, and have it assured to me and mine as strongly as the law can make it. There are several observable providences interwoven with this affair. l. This is the place in which I kept house immediately on my first marriage. Here my two sons drew their first breath, and in it my very dear mother breathed her last, ascending from thence to heaven. Here I have enjoyed much mercy, and experienced some affliction; I prefer it above all the houses in the country. 2. It comes to me clear of every objection, none opposing. 3. It comes to me seasonably, when we knew not what course to take; we had been expressing our gratitude to God, and this occurrence took place. A sense of mercy is acceptable to God, and obtains further mercy. 4. God hath in a surprising manner enabled me to make this purchase. After I had been ejected from my living, and cashiered as a minister. After I had been exposed to persecution, and had suffered the loss of property, the liberality of the friends of religion placed me in better pecuniary circumstances than those in which I had been before. 5. My manner of leaving it was strange. The year before the Cheshire-rising, being suspected, I was apprehended and prosecuted as a plotter, and as one disaffected to the state. Two young men, rash and heady, prevailed upon my landlady to remove me, having raised my rent twice before. I was turned out of the house in 1660, in hopes of driving me from the chapel; but God found me another house. The house, after I left it, remained empty several years, and the eldest son of the landlady is in necessitous circumstances, while I am restored to the place again, in point of title, as my own. 6. It is a gracious providence that God should order a settlement for me and mine at Coley, to which my heart is attached more than to any place in the world, having been here above twenty-one years. God blessed my public labours when I lived in this house more than all the time before or since, and who knows what work he hath for me to do still ? However, I shall not be at the pleasure of persecuting landlords. When men curse, God blesses; when men resist, God assists; when men withraw, God affords supply; the worse