In 1832 the late Rev. John Coulson was stationed at Newcastle-on-Tyne. He was an enterprising and intrepid missionary, one of our Connexional pioneers, and was Mr. Clowes's companion in his East Coast tour. He was also the second Primitive Methodist missionary to London. Mr. G. Tetley and he succeeded in laying the foundation of the Primitive Methodist churches in the Metropolis. He was a man of great spiritual discernment and of mighty grasp of faith. He is described, by one who knew him well and who is a competent judge, as "a man eminent for faith and holiness, and who spent frequently several hours of the night in prayer." During his residence at Newcastle he became acquainted with the young Whickham local preacher, and he discerned the depth and intensity of his spiritual life, admired the strong points of his character, and formed a favourable estimate of his aptitude for public life. From Newcastle Mr. Coulson removed to Hexham. At that time the then noted "Squire Shafto" exercised great influence in that circuit and the district round about, so that when the circuit resolved to extend its missionary operations, Mr. Shafto engaged to defray the cost of the undertaking, which, as the sequel will show, would not be a serious tax upon the purse of this holder of an ancient name and an ancient demesne. The district to be missioned was the range of the country between Morpeth and Rothbury, and the Rev. J. Coulson advised the circuit authorities to appoint our young Tyneside local preacher to "break up this ground."
If commencing to preach in a local capacity occasioned him so much perplexity and conflict, this call to leave his home and devote himself to the wider sphere of the itinerancy increased his anxiety a hundredfold. The condition of his home affairs was serious. His mother was a widow, and he was the eldest of the family; was it not therefore his duty to remain, and occupy the position of the "bread-winner?" For several years this thought haunted and perplexed him. Another thought which troubled him was the humble estimate he had formed of his intellectual qualifications for the ministry. But he wrestled with God in prayer for guidance, and ultimately was driven to the conclusion to comply with the call.
An account is furnished by Mr. Hudspith, of Mr. Spoor's first week's work in the Hexham circuit, as he was on his way to the Hexham Quarterly Meeting: "Left home and walked to Spital Shield, a distance of twenty-two miles. Arrived on Saturday evening; conducted a very powerful prayer-meeting. He exhorted them that in order to get on in the Society they must pray mightily, and have faith "as big as pitmen's haystacks."* Next morning preached; walked four miles to Catton after dinner, and preached with power; and at night, at Landley, had a very powerful time."
He had Spital Shield for his base of operation for that week, preaching every night in power and in the Holy Ghost. He arrived at Hexham at the end of the week. He laboured on the Sunday at Hexham with great effect, which greatly encouraged him. On the Monday he attended the quarterly meeting, where he received his commission for the Morpeth and Rothbury mission; and immediately after he went out into a strange country, not knowing whither he went. He had left a comfortable home, a well supplied table, and an income by no means despicable, to become homeless and dependent on a precarious pittance. He had left his hard river work, but found this new work vastly harder. Even in a manual sense his toils were greater, while his hardships as missionary were extreme. His little stock of money was soon run out, a "meat-bill" was not allowed him, and in a cold and unfriendly region he was reduced to great straits. It was common for him to sleep under haystacks and hedges, and often enough his meal-time brought him nothing but wild fruit. He speaks of the relish with which he devoured the blackberries and "haws" he found on the roadsides. What wonder that he was the subject of fierce temptations; and what was worse than all, his work failed in his hands. This district has always been a barren region for Methodism. His want of success greatly embittered his lot, and he so far yielded to temptation that he actually took the road to Newcastle to throw up his commission. However, on his flight from this trying field of duty, he sat down by the roadside to reflect upon his hard lot; then the mortifying thought of his cowardice in running away from duty because of its hardship and suffering flashed upon him. He thought that he was even more cowardly than Jonah. Everything appeared dark and dismal. Dense clouds covered the sky, and he became the subject of a thousand tormenting apprehensions. His heart swelled within him, and as he surrendered himself to the tempest of his emotions he wept bitterly. In his distress he turned to God in prayer; with strong crying and tears he sought and found grace in the hour of his bitter need. He obtained deliverance and a renewal of his strength. The results of this struggle and triumph to him are finely rendered by Archbishop Trench:
Joseph Spoor found and proved through his subsequent life what the Poet Laureate says, that
Yes, on his knees by the roadside, under the open, overarching canopy of heaven, this young minister found Divine power to lift his prostrate soul from the dust, and to invigorate him for the mighty labours and sufferings which marked his career afterwards. So he re-consecrated himself to his work, and returned to his field of labour.
After six months of unproductive toil in this barren region he was taken to the Home branch of the Hexham circuit, where he found more sympathy, and where his efforts were crowned with considerable success. By his zeal, earnestness, and faith, he turned many to righteousness. He was mighty in prayer; he won his battles on his knees. He was an importunate pleader. "It was this," says the Rev. W. Dent, "that made his face shine and his words burn, that made him more honourable than many of his brethren, who in some important respects far exceeded him. Prevailing with God in his closet, he prevailed with men in the pulpit. One instance of what characterised his whole life is here given. There had been a little opposition to his being regularly employed as a travelling preacher. About this time, Mr. Coulson, his superintendent, who had contended for him, happened to call at a house in the country where the ministers commonly stayed when in that neighbourhood, not knowing that his young colleague was there. While engaged in conversation with the lady of the house, he heard a noise he could not account for; the upper part of the house and the windows were shaking, and it seemed as if some one was in great agony. He asked what it was. 'Oh,' said the good woman, 'it is only Joseph engaged in his closet.' 'That's the way for a preacher to get on,' said Coulson; 'he'll make his way, I warrant him.'"
An example of his readiness, simplicity, and boldness is seen in the following incident which occurred in the Hexham circuit. On his way to his appointment one afternoon, he saw on the other side of the hedge about sixteen females at work in a field. An impression seized him that he ought to go and speak to them of Christ. Obeying the impulse, he clambered over the hedge, and ran across the field, and began to shout at the top pitch of his voice, "Well, good people, are you busy with your turnips. I hope you don't forget you have each a soul to save; and if not saved, it must be damned for ever. But Jesus died to save you every one; repent of your sins now every one of you, and believe in Christ, and He will save you and make you happy. If you get religion it will help you in your work. I am a missionary, and am going to preach at C-- tonight. I shall be glad to see you all. God bless you every one. Good afternoon."
"Well," said they, when he was gone, "that's a strange man." One said, "What a bonnie-looking young man." "Ah," said another, "how earnest he looked, and how earnestly he spoke; we'll go and hear him, however." To this they all agreed. The result was that most of them were brought to God. He convinced these women in the field that he meant and felt what he said. His words were not born on his lips, but came from a soul all aflame with a Saviour's love. It was a frequent thing with him on meeting people on the road to draw them into conversation about their souls, and then get them to kneel down in the road or field and pray with them.
An event transpired while he was at Morpeth which manifested good generalship, both in respect to courage and tact. He went one fine summer evening, in company with an excellent local preacher and a few members, to hold a service in the market-place. They commenced singing lustily,
A short distance from them stood the waggon and apparatus of a strolling showman, of great local celebrity, called "Billy Purvis," who was well known all over the counties of Durham and Northumberland. Billy's time for commencing operations had not quite arrived. The sound of the voices engaged in singing brought Billy to the stage, who, fearing them as rivals, resolved to drown them with his "band." Seeing the critical situation of affairs, he summoned his trumpeters, crying out, "Hallo, what's here? Jack, bring the horn and drum, here's a fellow come to oppose us." So full power was duly applied by Billy and his "band" to the instruments. Now Mr. Spoor and friends paused and "took breath," as he phrased it. Presently the musicians tired, and they failed the sooner for the extra force used. Then Spoor started again, but had again to desist when "Billy's band" resumed. But after a few attempts the showman lost heart, his band lost breath, while Spoor and his party were fresh for work. The showman saw that he was beaten; so, ordering his underlings to give it up, he shut the establishment. As a parting salute, Billy took his speaking-trumpet and roared out: "Au warn thou's think thysel a clever fellow noo.' He then disappeared for the night, leaving the field clear for Spoor, who preached in Divine power to a large crowd of persons.
The mission, as a whole, was not a success; he was therefore recalled from this field of labour. It now became a question with Mr. Coulson and the brethren at Hexham as to what should be done with this young Tyneside revivalist. At the Newcastle district meeting, 1833, Mr. C. Hood represented the Brompton circuit, having come at his own cost, the circuit being so low and poor that they could not afford to bear the delegate's expenses, as they were £14 in arrears to their preachers. Mr. Hood secured the station of the Rev. John Wilson to Brompton, and offered to take Mr. Spoor as a hired local preacher. Nothing was done till the end of the year, when Mr. Coulson gave him a letter recommendatory to the Rev. John Wilson, at Brompton. During the Christmas-tide he set off in true primitive style, with a parcel containing his equipment, to walk to Brompton, a distance of about seventy miles from Hexham. His first day's travel brought him to Newcastle, his next to Stockton, where he supped on a penny roll and a drink of water, and slept at very humble lodgings. He walked sixteen miles next day to the village of Appleton Wiske, the difficulty of walking being greatly increased by the slushy and slippery condition of the roads. He entered the village at dusk, December 31, 1833, and found his way to the house of Mr. R. Walker, now of Hendon, Sunderland. The friends of the small church requested him to preach at their watchnight service, which he did. In the morning he completed his journey to Northallerton, where he found Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson took his young friend with him to his Sunday's work, when his fervour and power, with a dash of eccentricity, pleased him and delighted the people. He was forthwith taken out as a hired local preacher, "He was," says Mr. Wilson, "abundantly blessed, and was the right man just come at the right time." The Holy Ghost wrought wonders among the people by His servants; a revival broke out which moved the whole country side. So great and so blessed was this work, that the whole village of Brompton was brought under great religious excitement. Not only was the theatre at Northallerton closed, it was transformed from a synagogue of Satan to a house of God. The scene of unblushing immoralities and the school of vice became a theatre of God's noblest wonders in the salvation of men, and a school of highest morality. Satan has many a time been defeated, but seldom so completely as he was here — even his house taken from him.
After distinguishing himself at the Brompton revival, Mr. Spoor commenced a campaign at Appleton Wiske, that resulted in such a victory as has seldom been seen. All his power and all his intent were thrown into this work; it engrossed his every thought and desire. Every legitimate expedient and device were resorted to in order to "get the work on." He scarce thought or spoke of anything else. Mr. R. Walker, who was intimately associated with him in this work, describes Mr. Spoor as being so powerfully moved and controlled by his sublime passion to save souls, that it interfered with his eating and sleeping, and often when preaching, "it seemed as if it would draw him out of the pulpit." On many occasions this grandest of all passions overmastered his will. He became so "filled with the glory," that he became unconscious, and often fell with great violence to the earth, sometimes falling on forms or chairs, and once even falling on the fire. But in no case, however violent the fall, has it been known that he sustained any bodily damage or hurt. These phenomena the present biographer confesses he is not competent to explain, either philosophically or physiologically, any more than he is prepared to defend them. Here are the facts-a plain, almost prosaic, simple-hearted man, above all guile, when the subject of divine emotions, thrown prostrate and becoming unconscious for some time, lying rigid and catalapsed, then rising up, without harm or injury, rejoicing in God. Such scenes are seldom witnessed now; but whatever doubt the writer might have had regarding this class of facts, it was dispelled a few years ago, when he witnessed this "falling" himself. Among the rest a woman fell with what appeared to be a terrible sort of crash upon a form, but was not in the least hurt. Here are the facts, we say; the theory to account for them is left for critics to propound and explain. At Appleton, some scoffers had the hardihood to feign these physical manifestations. But some of them hurt themselves badly; and the sleight was so palpable, that public indignation soon compelled these tricksters and scorners to hide their diminished heads.
Before the great revival at Appleton, Mr. Spoor was the subject of a severe mental struggle. He was tempted to give up the ministry and go home. The battle ground was the old one — the claims of home, the many hardships of his lot, and his unfurnished condition, intellectually, for his work.
Under the strong sense of suffering, he packed his few chattels and started for home with not a penny in his pocket. On his way he found a penny, and went to the first shop to purchase a piece of bread. He next went to the village well, and got a drink of water; he then ate his bread and began his journey. As he travelled he came to a piece of moorland, where he sat down, and in his musings he remembered a remarkable dream he had had some time before. In his dream he thought the devil came to him in huge portentous shape; but fearing the dreamer, he himself advanced to meet him in personal encounter. Singular to say, as he fought he increased in strength, while his diabolical foe was getting weaker; at length he dealt out with his weapon one final, vengeful blow, that he says, "I knocked his brains right out, and I went away in triumph." He now took the memory of his dream to be a favourable augury. He resorted to his arsenal for ammunition. He fell to praying among the whin and bramble bushes. In that "consecrated hour of man in audience with the Deity," —
rising victor from his knees, he said: "I'll go back and try again." He went to the place of his appointment; visited from house to house; saw good done in his visiting; and in the preaching service the work broke out, and several souls were brought to God. This turned the tide in his career, and was the beginning of better days.
At the outset of the Appleton revival a remarkable scene transpired on this wise. At the close of a Sunday night's service a respectable young woman and a devoted Christian spoke to Mr. Spoor about her solicitude for the conversion of her parents and brothers; and asked him to come to breakfast next morning, in hope that he might have an opportunity of doing them good. Having enquired into the case, he agreed to go, on the proviso that she would spend an hour that night wrestling with God for them, as he would. The condition was readily acceded to, and they both pleaded for the salvation of this family as a thing touching Christ's kingdom. At breakfast next morning a Divine influence rested upon them. At family prayer Mr. Spoor wrestled like another Jacob in holy desperateness, crying, "I will not let thee go;" and to employ the words and figure of the prophet, he "laid hold upon the Most High." "While I was pleading," says Mr. Spoor, "I felt something heavy fall upon my feet, and heard bitter and loud cries for mercy. I looked and saw it was the mother. I went on, keeping hold of mighty faith in prayer; and in a few minutes the father fell upon the floor, roaring aloud for salvation. The eldest son, who was in the weaving shop adjoining the house, hearing the noise, opened the door, looked in, when Mr. Spoor commenced to pray for him, and he literally fell into the room prostrate, and along with the others cried to God for mercy. The noise was now increased, so that the other brother came to the door to see what it all meant, when the Divine power seized him, and he also fell down and joined his parents and brother, shouting aloud under poignant conviction of sin.
The neighbours were attracted by the strange noises, and they first came to the window; then opening the door, some came in and looked upon the extraordinary scene, and were smitten to the floor by the power of God, and their plaints and cries mingled with the cries of others. Some of the neighbours ran through the village, telling of the wonderful things that were transpiring in this house, and many of the villagers flocked into the house, others stood awestricken and wondering around the door. All who came in were instantly over-mastered by the mighty influence, and fell to the floor under its power. The cottage presented a scene which beggars all description. All this time Mr. Spoor continued praying with different persons, men and women, leading them unto a believing view of Christ, and unto the liberty of God's children. Some were exulting in their virgin love; some were weeping the tears of penitence, on account of their sins; some were shouting, and wrestling as with a powerful foe. There they were, old and young, rejoicing and crying, and shouting aloud.
Towards noon Mr. Spoor's strength failed him, and no one but a man of great resource could have laboured so long and so earnestly as he did. Now, however, it was absolutely needful for him to have help, that the victory might be completed. So a messenger ran off to Mr. Walker, who, like a true soldier of the Cross, threw down his hedging gloves, left his tools and men, and hastened to this strange scene of spiritual conflict. With this reinforcement the battle went on gloriously. As the afternoon advanced, and the foe was routed, and as Mr. Spoor had an appointment at another place in the evening, hostilities were suspended. After a hasty tea, he set off to his evening's work, accompanied by the band of recruits enlisted that morning. As they went along they made the welkin ring with their songs, and had many short prayer-meetings on the road. Mr. Spoor spoke to a man, whom they met, about his soul's salvation and though at first he treated it lightly, yet under the urgent and burning words of the preacher he became impressed. They then formed a ring round him for a prayer-meeting, and there they prayed, and the man also began to pray, till he, in the open roadway, found the Pearl of great price, and they shouted together for joy. This road-side convert became an intelligent and efficient local preacher for many years. As it might be expected, they carried the fire of the Lord into the place whither Mr. Spoor was going to preach. A revival broke out there, too, and many of the inhabitants partook of the "glorious bliss."
From Mrs. Barker, of Hutton Low Cross, Guisborough, herself a local preacher of many year's standing, then a resident in Brompton circuit, we learn an incident illustrative of his meekness and spiritual power. The society had been much troubled with a fickle-minded, termagant woman. Means had often been used to get her to live at peace, and remain in the church; but she would not rest when in society, and on receiving the slightest umbrage she would leave, and then shortly return again. When Mr. Spoor knew of the case he determined to rid the society of a pest; so in the renewal of the tickets, he neither spoke to her nor gave her the usual ticket, whereat she jumped up in a fury, and rushed out of the house, exclaiming against the preacher and the members as well. Mr. Spoor said he had been moved to take that course with her. Early the next morning she opened the door, and shouted out in her passion, "Where's that raw-faced lad that insulted me last night? "The youth sat and smiled while this fury vented her rage against him. In the midst of the storm an old woman came in to try to sell some small wares, when Mr. S. leaped up, and addressed the old lady: "Well, old mother, have you prayed this morning? if not, pray now;" and he fell on his knees, and began to pray mightily for the old woman's salvation. The angry beldam meanwhile rushed out of the house, the poor old lady cried for salvation, and God in heaven sent the blessing into her soul, and she shouted for very joy, and went on her way a happy old woman. The troublesome termagant never after interfered with the society.
Another instance of his courage and persistence in duty, even when persecution assailed him occurred in the same village. Indeed, he was one of the few men whose best qualities are developed by opposition and persecution. He was heading a band of people, singing down the street,
when opposite a public-house, a creature of the publican's, the animal and fiend in him roused by a plentiful supply of drink, a man of huge physical proportions, ran out at Mr. Spoor, bellowing and avowing that he would soon stop that noise. Mr. S. stood firm, and looked at the infuriated man a look of pity, into which was concentrated his whole soul, and said to him, kindly but feelingly, as he was running at him to strike him, "Ah, man, thy heart is very bad, but Jesus died to save thee, drunkard as thou art." And just, as the doubled fists of the disturber were within a few inches of his face, Mr. Spoor, as if by sudden inspiration, struck up (the whole company joining him in the burst of song) the heart-stirring lines,
The man, infuriated as he was, stood abashed, and quietly allowed the procession to pass on. This exciting episode had drawn a crowd of spectators most of whom followed the company to a place that had been a dancing saloon, connected with a public-house, but which was now used for preaching. It was crowded with worshippers of God, whose Spirit now descended, and clothed His servant with Divine power, and seven souls that night were delivered from the kingdom of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of Christ.
An example of how the devil outwitted himself is furnished by Mrs. Barker, in connection with Mr. Spoor's going to Langton, in the Brompton circuit. Preaching was now established there, but several things militated against the little cause, amongst which was the want of a suitable house for worship. On this occasion Mr. and Mrs. Barker and friends were with him, just as the meeting commenced, the woman of the house, full of wrath and bitterness, ordered them out. Just as they got out, and were cast down with disappointment, a great reprobate and drunkard, out of a spirit of opposition, said, "Here's my house, come in." They accepted the invitation. Mr. Spoor got to work in his best style, stripped off his coat, as was his wont when in highly excited mood, and put his velvet cap on. While he was preaching in this profane man's house, the Holy Ghost came down upon the owner of the house, and he fell on the floor, pierced with arrows, bitter and many. Mrs. Barker says: "I never witnessed any one in such an agony of prayer. After a great struggle he sprang into liberty, and rejoiced in God his Saviour. A revival broke out, and great good was done; not only that place, but other places caught the flame; so the fire spread, and scores of souls felt and knew its power."
The labours of Mr. Spoor were truly herculean: he was instant in season and out of season. He cared not for health or life, only that men might be saved. And in all these works, the Rev. John Wilson was his true and noble yoke-fellow. Out of this work many officials and local preachers arose, and one became a regular minister.
A review of this Brompton work in its results is very gratifying. The number of members reported at the December quarterly meeting (a fortnight before Mr. Spoor went there) was two hundred and twenty. The next quarter day, March, reported three hundred and seventy-six. So the good work went on till, as he, says, "hundreds were brought out of the slavery and misery of sin into the life and bliss of the gospel." Mr. C. Hood says: "So gloriously had the work gone on, that at the end of the year we had a great increase in members and moneys; and after paying all demands, some arrears, and making presents to needy chapels, we had a balance of £14 in hand, whereas before we were £14 it debt. Too much cannot be said of the work Mr. S. performed in this circuit, and the good he achieved lasts to this day."
The following extracts from Mr. Spoor's journal corroborate and supplement the statements made in this chapter respecting his labours, conflicts, and successes in the Brompton circuit, and will, we doubt not, be read with much interest.
"Jan. 6th, 1834, Monday. — Preached at Northallerton. The granary where we preach was crowded with people. While we were engaged in singing the first hymn the Lord laid hold of some present, and brought three to the ground. I had to get out of the pulpit before starting to preach, that I might pray with some mourning souls. One man who got liberty took hold of my hand, and grasped it with such warmth I thought he would have pulled it off. He was so happy he could scarcely be persuaded he was on earth; he thought himself in heaven. I then went into the pulpit and spoke a little. In the prayer-meeting after three souls got liberty. Glory to God. O Lord, revive thy work, and save the world.
"Wednesday, 8th. — Preached at Chop Gate in the afternoon and evening to large congregations. Good was done. I put the names of three new members in the class-book. May they be found in the Lamb's Book of Life.
"Sunday, 12th. — Preached at Ayton in the afternoon. Two souls got liberty. In the evening the chapel was crowded. A good time. Many tears were shed. One soul got liberty
"Sunday, l9th. — At Hutton in the morning. A hard time; but God laid hold of a young man who cried for mercy. At Potto, in the afternoon, a good time, but nothing visible done. Lord, save these people. At Appleton, in the evening, the Lord came to our help, and two souls got liberty.
"Monday, 20th. — At Ingleby there was a shaking among the dry bones, and God breathed upon them the breath of life. The old house was soon crowded. Five souls were converted. Glory be to God.
"Tuesday, 21st. — At Swainby. This is a hardened place, but God can conquer it. A good company got gathered up, and we had a precious meeting; but the rebels on the outside "rove" open the windows, and fastened the door to prevent our getting out. The Lord have mercy on them.
"Wednesday, 22nd. — At Billsdale. In the afternoon I preached to a large congregation, and the Lord came down in a wonderful manner. Two young men were seized with conviction. One of them ran out of the meeting to a neighbour's house, saying he could not keep his legs, and must either come out or fall to the ground; but he got converted that night. The other went to a public-house and got drunk, thinking in that way to wear off his convictions. But he had to yield, for next day he also got converted. At the same place I preached at seven o'clock to about two hundred people. The place was so awfully hot, I had to put off my coat to preach. The Lord came among them, as twelve souls were in distress, and eight got liberty. We kept going on till midnight. This was such a night as never was known in Billsdale. Glory to God. Let Thy power and glory fill the world.
"Saturday, 25th. — At Chop Gate. Preached to a large congregation. A good meeting-one in distress. Added ten new members. This is the Lord's doing.
"Sunday, Feb. 2nd. — At Northallerton in the morning; crowded place. Three souls in distress, one got liberty. At Brompton at night. A full chapel; mighty power on the people; six souls got liberty. I lost my voice; Lord, send me a new one.
"Monday, March 10th. — Harlsey. Heard Mr. Wilson preach to a full house. Formed a new class of nine members. Glory to God.
"Thursday, 13th. — Appleton. Started a prayer-meeting at nine o'clock in the morning, and carried on till two in the afternoon. Thirteen souls got liberty. Glory to God for ever. Then went to Worsall, and preached in the evening to a large congregation. The Lord came to our help, and four souls obtained salvation and rejoiced in God.
"Sunday, 16th. — Hutton, Potto, and Appleton. At the last place the glory came amongst us, and we did not break up till twelve o'clock at night. Six souls got liberty.
"Monday, 17th. — Appleton again. Engaged all day among the people. In the evening at the chapel, read part of my journal. While reading, the people rose into faith, the glory filled the house, and we carried on the service all night. Sixteen souls got saved.
"Monday, 24th. — Quarter day. Everything done in love. We had the smile of God; and where that is enjoyed all goes well. On the quarter day we had about one hundred increase of members, and £11 over paying all demands. Glory to God for all His great mercies.
"Monday, 31st. — Camp meeting at Brompton. Numerous attendance and a mighty moving. Six or seven persons experienced the renewing power of God.
"Sunday, April 6th. — Lovefeast at Ingleby. Experience sound and brief. The fire of God filled the place. Hell was shaken. Believers rejoiced. Four souls got liberty.
"18th. — Visited twenty-seven families, and led a fellowship-meeting. One soul got saved.
"20th. — Appleton. Preached at the door, and then in the chapel. Nine souls were converted and made happy in God's pardoning love.
"Sunday, May l1th. — Preached at Northallerton in the morning to a large congregation. The fire of heaven came down, and many wept. In the afternoon at Brompton. A time to be remembered. The glory went through the people. At Northallerton in the evening. The power of God prostrated a number on the floor. Five got a clean heart; two got converted; two more went away in deep distress, but have since found peace with God.
"Tuesday, 13th. — Went to Thornton-le-Moor. When I got there I found the village in an uproar with what is called the 'summer Hoppings.' Some were fighting cocks; others were dancing; others swearing and drinking; and the devil was leading them in all directions. I thought by God's help I will try my strength with the devil, and so, getting as near the cock-pit as I could, I began to sing -
The glory sprang up in my soul; all fear and shame left me; the crowds of people flocked to where I was standing, some shouting, 'Pull him down;' others, 'Kill him;' but the Lord kept me calm and unmoved amidst the uproar, and I went on singing, praising, and preaching. One man got hold of my leg, and tried to pull me off the low wall on which I had taken my stand; and though he tugged hard he could not succeed, for the Lord is mightier than the devil, and by His help I won the day. One man got savingly impressed.
"Wednesday, 21st. — Harlsey. When I got there the mountebanks were just starting their performances. I stood up against them, and preached the Word of Life to the people. The players were so enraged they could have eaten their own finger ends; and they did their best to stop me, but they failed. May the Lord save them.
"Sunday, June 27th. — Northallerton. In the evening had a hard time, but the Lord was present, and one soul got converted. After service was over, an old woman came to my lodgings in great distress of mind. She said that all the time I was preaching she was so distressed she did not know what to do, and could not help crying to God for mercy. Before she left me the Lord set her soul at liberty."
The amount of work performed, as recorded in these journals, is very great, and the success accomplished is a matter for jubilant rejoicing. Who can help rejoicing that many of the worst characters were reclaimed from misery, degradation, and death? The case spoken of at Thornton-le-Moor was truly an extraordinary one, and displayed to great advantage Mr. Spoor's capital generalship and dauntless heroism. The facts of the case are these: Great difficulty had been found in securing a house for the preaching, but at the Whitsuntide feast the wife of Mr. S. Spence gave Mr. Spoor leave to hold service in an unoccupied house of his sister's; but shortly after the service was commenced the drunken rabble came to disturb them, and broke down a very choice quick-set hedge. This wanton destruction so annoyed Mr. Spence that he instantly turned them all out, whereupon Mr. Spoor and the friends sang up the street to hold the service close to the principal cock-pit.
Not many would have attempted to beard the lion in such a den as this; but his righteous soul was shocked at the horribleness of the devil's carnival in this village. Men and women from all the country around were assembled at this fair. Strong drink had so enflamed the passions that they were ready for any deed of darkness and crime. Bands of music were playing to the dancing parties scattered over the village, while shouts of brawls and quarrelling mingled strangely with the music. But the worst scene of all was crowds of brutal men who thronged the cock-pit. Here were these demons in human form looking excitedly on as the poor birds tore each other to pieces. Mr. Spoor's strategy was bold, but was nobly carried out. He chose a low wall hard by the cock-pit. The wall raised him above the crowd, while it was so built that he could hold himself if assailed. Here he took his stand, and with a voice of grand compass and power began to sing. Nothing could surpass first the amazement, then the fury of the mob thus interrupted in their demoniac sport. After a few moments of astonishment the crowd forsook the cock-pit and dance, and came rushing towards this young evangelist, shouting and yelling; but the heavenly power with which he was clothed abashed them. They stood and continued at intervals their yells and curses. The preacher was in a grand spiritual condition; his preaching was in power and in the Holy Ghost. In the midst of his preaching a powerful-looking man, in company with another man, "a giant in size and a giant in sin," full of rage, rushed at him. As Mr. Spoor looked at him he says that he had never seen so hideous a spectacle in his life. The man was a sweep, and was unwashed and in his sooty garb,-his eyes glared, his countenance was horrible in its contortions, his gesticulations were wild, while his threats and oaths were most blasphemous. Altogether the sight was so uncanny, indeed so unhuman, that Mr. Spoor was possessed by the impression that this was the devil in person come to assail him. Not only the sight of the man, but the surroundings favoured the impression, which seized and almost overpowered him for the instant; but he soon recovered himself and grappled with his assailant. With violence accompanied with vociferous shouting, the wretch endeavoured to drag the preacher from his stand. The tussle lasted for some time. With dexterity and strength Spoor kept his foothold, now appealing to the man, then seizing a minute's respite to exhort the people, till at length his baffled and defeated enemy retired, swearing and chagrined, and Mr. Spoor finished the service in peace. A deep spiritual influence rested upon the crowd, and, as he says, one man was led to forsake his sins and turn to the Lord.
"After this," says Mr. S. Spence, of Monkwearmouth, a respectable and talented local preacher, "many others were converted, and a good society was raised up. A chapel was built; and when I left the place there was a good congregation and Sunday-school. At the time of the above occurrence I was unconverted, yet before Mr. Spoor left Brompton I was converted and formed part of the society."
[*Colliery haystacks are usually of very large dimensions.]