A Short account of the Life and Conversion of Sukey Harley, of the Parish of Pulverbach, near Shrewsbury. Taken from her lips by the late Rector's Daughter. In Two Parts.
Part second. - (June, 1858.)
The Sovereignty of God is a great, an unfathomable depth, and needs ever to be approached by the saints and servants of the Most High with trembling steps, and looked at and into with believing, reverent eyes. "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments;" "My heart standeth in awe of thy Word;" "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word." Such is the frame of soul in vital experience, however in our day little known and less regarded, in which it becomes "them that are escaped of Israel" (Isa. 4:2) to look at the sovereign good pleasure of Jehovah in "doing according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." Many fight, with all the desperate enmity and rebellion of the carnal mind, against the bare idea that all men and all things are at the sovereign disposal of the great God of heaven and earth; and others, who are not thus held down hard and fast in the chains of rebellion and error, hold the doctrine of divine sovereignty, if not in unrighteousness, at least in a carnal, presumptuous spirit, which plainly shows that they never learned it feelingly and experimentally in their own souls under the teaching and unction of the Holy Ghost. It is hard, perhaps, to say which of the two is the more repulsive to the spiritual mind - the daring denial of the rebellious Arminian, or the flippant boldness of the dead Calvinist. Error is hateful, but truth in a hardened conscience is awful. The grand and glorious truths which are revealed in the word of God are to be received not as mere speculative doctrines into the natural judgment and reasoning mind, but into the tender heart and living conscience, as the gracious unfolding of the mind and counsel, the will and wisdom of Him who is "greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him." And surely of all truths revealed in the Scriptures none is more to be regarded with trembling awe and holy reverence than the sovereignty of Jehovah in electing some to eternal life and appointing others to eternal destruction. We believe this on the authority of Him who cannot lie; but when we look up into heaven, and see its unspeakable bliss and glory, and look down into hell and view its ever-burning flames, we may well pause and say, "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known." (Ps. 77:19.) There are those who seem almost to exult in a carnal spirit over the destruction of the reprobate. There is, indeed, a solemn submission to, and a believing acquiescence in the sovereign will of the Judge of all the earth, knowing that he must do right, as Aaron "held his peace" when fire from the Lord went out and devoured his two sons, Nadab and Abihu. (Lev. 10:2, 3.) Nay, more, there is a holy joy in the conquest of the Lamb over his enemies, as expressed in the words, "Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets; for God hath avenged you on her;" (Rev. 18:20;) and, "So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord; but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." (Judges 5:31.) But this is a very different feeling from a carnal exultation over the lost, which shows a state of mind, to say the least of it, the exact opposite of Paul's "great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart" for his unbelieving brethren, (Rom. 9:2,) and breathes a language very unlike the prayer of Moses, "Yet, now, if thou wilt forgive their sin - ; and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of thy book which thou hast written." (Exodus 32:32.) Who can think, without grief and sorrow of heart, upon a dear parent, child, or husband departed without any evidence of a work of grace upon the soul? When you awake at midnight and think of the departed one, where is your exultation over those fixed decrees which determined his eternal state? Submission there may be and should be to the will of God; but a man must be a very heathen - "without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful," (Rom. 1:31,) who has neither sigh nor tear for his own flesh, at the thought of their eternal woe.
It is when we look at the sovereignty of God on what we may perhaps call its bright side - its merciful and gracious aspect, as plucking innumerable brands out of the fire, and especially when the decree of election turns its smiling face upon us, that we can rejoice in it, and admire and adore the electing love of God in delivering our souls from the bottomless pit. And not only we who have been made alive from the dead, but every regenerate soul is a living witness of the sovereignty of grace. There is not, there never was, there never will be a manifested vessel of mercy, who is not a monument of the sovereign electing, redeeming, regenerating, and preserving love of a Triune Jehovah; and this every saint of God feels when mercy visits his heart and he is sealed by the Holy Ghost unto the day of redemption. "Why me? why me?" must ever be the wondering, admiring, adoring cry of every child of God when blessed with a feeling, appropriating sense of his personal interest in the precious blood and love of the Lamb. But there are instances which seem to shine forth with peculiar lustre, and to stand out beyond the usual dealings of God as prominent examples of the sovereignty of his eternal love. As in a garden every flower may be beautiful in its kind, and all were planted by the same gardener's hand to deck and adorn his beds, but there may be some which strike the eye as more signal in beauty of shape and brightness of colour than the other occupants of the border, so in the church of God there are trees of his right hand planting which display more conspicuously than others the wonders of his sovereign, distinguishing grace. Saul of Tarsus and the thief on the cross have always struck our own mind as two of the most signal instances of sovereign grace contained in the Scriptures. The self-righteous Pharisee, imbued with all the learning and pride of the Sanhedrin, and overflowing with all the persecuting spirit of the murderers of Stephen, and the malefactor, loaded with the crimes of a life of violence and bloodshed, yet snatched from the jaws of hell at the last gasp - Reader, and admirer of the grace of God, can you strike the balance between these two monuments of electing love, and decide which was the more indebted to sovereign grace? "Ah," but say you, "I know a greater monument of sovereign grace than either." Well, be it so; but next to yourself, can you decide whether Paul or the dying thief was the more indebted to the heights and depths, lengths and breadths of atoning blood and redeeming love? We really, for our part, cannot tell. We look at Paul before and after his conversion, and wonder at and admire the grace of God that made out of such a pharisee, such a bigot, such a strict consistent legalist, such a bloodthirsty persecutor, a saint so rich in every grace, an apostle so endowed with every fruit and gift of the Holy Ghost. Saul on his road to Damascus, "breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord," and Paul, with the words in his heart and mouth, "What mean ye to weep and break my heart? for I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus;" (Acts 21:13;) - O what grace thus to change the lion into the lamb, the man ready to martyr into the man ready to be martyred! But next we turn to the dying thief. Listen with wondering ears and admiring heart to his believing prayer, addressed under such circumstances and at such a moment to the Son of God, in his deepest humiliation, at his lowest point of ignominy and shame, when his very disciples all forsook him and fled, and his glory was hidden under the densest, darkest veil. A risen Jesus appeared to Paul in all the blaze of heavenly glory; a crucified Jesus was hanging before the dying thief in little less shame and degradation than himself and his twin malefactor. O, what faith at such a moment to call him, "Lord," and to believe he had a kingdom, and to desire to be made a partaker of its present grace and future glory! Has not this prayer, believing reader, been mine and thine? Have not we sought to realise the blessed Redeemer as set thus before our eyes? and whilst we threw all our heart and soul into the petition, breathed forth, "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom?" The prayer of the dying thief shines, we must say, in our eyes as one of the greatest, if not the greatest act of faith recorded in the Scriptures, and only paralleled, we cannot say surpassed, by Abraham's sacrifice of his son.
But let us not think that there are not now walking on the face of the earth like monuments of sovereign grace. Up that court, in that garret, there is a dying Mary Magdalene, out of whom the Lord has cast seven devils. Down in that coal-mine there is one whom once "no man could bind, no, not with chains," "neither could any man tame him;" but he is now "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind." Walking under that hedge, now weeping, now praying, now singing, now looking into his little Bible, is a returned prodigal - a base backslider whom the Lord has forgiven, but who can never forgive himself. Hiding his face in the corner of the pew is that persecutor of his poor broken-hearted wife, now in glory, whom since her death the Lord has called by his grace, and whose tears and sighs show how deeply he repents of his sins against her and Him. Whilst the world is going on buying and selling, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, God is here and there raising up these monuments of his grace to live for ever and ever in his presence, when the world and all the fashion of it shall have utterly passed away.
To a spiritual mind, what sweet food for faith, what a field of holy meditation is opened up in the sovereignty of grace as thus displayed in those wonders of redeeming love which every now and then come under our own special knowledge and observation! To what praise and adoration does it give birth; what openings up of the depths of the Father's love; what views of the fullness and perfection of the Redeemer's blood and obedience; what a sight of salvation as a free, irrevocable gift; how independent of all creature works of righteousness, how distinguishing, how superabounding over all the aboundings of sin and guilt, is grace seen to be; what love and union are felt to the objects of this signal mercy; how the soul is more and more firmly established thereby in the truth of God; and that "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy!" Dare any call the sovereignty of God in his electing love and discriminating grace "a licentious doctrine?" Ignorance coined that lie; and enmity gave it circulation. The sovereignty of grace received into a believing heart has led many a one from sin; it never, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, led one into sin. Many a poor, despairing wretch it has saved, not only from the guilt of sin that distressed his conscience, but from the power of sin that entangled his inclinations, and carried him captive. The same Christ Jesus who of God is made to his people "righteousness and redemption," is also made unto them "wisdom and sanctification;" (1 Cor. 1:30;) and those who are "washed and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus," are also "sanctified by the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 6:11.)
But to what are all these remarks - perhaps already extended too far, preparatory? To what signal instance of sovereign grace are they intended as a preface? To one that shines in our eyes with distinguished lustre, but one not wholly a stranger to our pages. About nine years ago* we reviewed the first part of the experience of Sukey Harley. A greater monument of the free, sovereign, discriminating grace of God than this poor, ignorant woman, we believe, scarcely stands on record. We must refer our readers to the Review to which we have alluded for an account of what Sukey was before grace reached her heart. But as there are probably among them some who have not read that Review, or cannot readily refer to it, we may very briefly mention Sukey's birth, pedigree, and education. Do any of our readers know the manners and habits of the working classes who occupy that extensive coal and iron district, commonly called "the black country," stretching between Birmingham and Shrewsbury, and which, from the clouds of smoke by day, and the blazing furnaces by night, would almost recall to the imagination of a poetical traveller Milton's lines:
Sukey was, by birth and origin, one of those men-like women, who are to be found amongst the wives and daughters of the colliers and miners that are as much at home under ground as above it, and as expert with the hammer as the fist. Sukey before her call by grace, could neither read nor write, but was a stout, strong woman who, to use her own expression, could "get through lots of work," and in her carnal days danced, and raved, and worked, and swore, with all the exuberance of health and strength, amidst this lawless population - much more wild, be it remembered, and lawless fifty years ago, when well nigh every collier in his Sunday dress sat on his heels on the pit bank, with his bull dog between his knees. Amidst this wild race Sukey was born and bred; married a collier, whom she despised in her heart because he would not quarrel and fight like other men, and whom she was ready to beat with her brawny fist when he gently reproved her for her unceasing flood of oaths in her common talk. Sukey was not, in her carnal days, immodest or immoral; but rough, and ignorant, and dark beyond description as to the commonest ideas of any kind of religion. But sovereign grace, before time had birth or being, before the foundations of the earth were laid or the dayspring knew its place, had written Sukey's name in the Lamb's book of life, and by firm decree had fixed her "first and second birth." It was not of chance than she was born in a collier's cabin any more than it was of chance that she was new-born into the kingdom of God by his word entering with power into her heart, or of chance that she is now in glory, singing the high praises of God and the Lamb. "Sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ and called" was as true of Sukey as of all the election of grace. "Sanctified" she was "by God the Father" when, in the electing decrees of his sovereign will, he set her apart to be a partaker of his own holiness, and uniting her to the Son of his love as a member of his mystical body thus constituted her holy in the Holy One of Israel. "Preserved" she was "in Jesus Christ," amidst all her ignorance and wild, untamed life, and in the Lord's own time and way was "called" to know him in the sweet manifestations of his love.
* See "Gospel Standard," vol. 15, p. 171. May No., 1849.
Sukey was alive when the first part of her experience was published, but the circumstance was carefully concealed from her; she has now passed to her everlasting rest, and therefore all objection has now ceased to its being made public. We cannot say that the second part is so striking or so deeply interesting as the first, but it is of the same decisive stamp, and as giving a further account of her experience in her latter days, forms a worthy and appropriate sequel. With great honesty and faithfulness the compiler has mentioned some of Sukey's infirmities and failings; not to depreciate her, but to manifest the grace of God in subduing them; and has given us some very interesting conversations with her, preserved in her own honest, homely talk. There is also an account of her death, in which there was nothing remarkable. It was our intention to conclude our Review in this No. with copious extracts from the book itself, as not only extremely interesting and profitable, but because we understand the work itself is so scarce that a copy can hardly be procured. But the exigencies of the printing-office will not this month permit us to insert any more than the following spiritual and experimental letter of Mr. Bourne (whose happy death we lately reviewed) to her after reading the first part of her experience:
"Dear Friend in the Lord, - I have read your account with great delight and sweet spiritual refreshment; and bless God for displaying his sovereign pleasure in choosing out of a wicked world the least likely in all the village where you dwelt. You can never boast of your goodness or natural wisdom, but can with me say, 'It is of his free mercy he has saved us by the washing of regeneration.' True enough, you could not find out how you were to be born again; yet you at last perceived that this spiritual wind blew where it listed, though you could not tell whence it came or whither it went; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8.) I was much encouraged by your description of the way the Lord taught you to read. Is anything too hard for him? No. This ought to encourage you and me to come boldly to a throne of grace with all our wants, and not (as we are so ready to do) go everywhere else. We have all a most foolish feeling that an arm of flesh can do wonders; but this is one thing the Lord will be continually striking at all our days; and will never cease to show us, by various means, that none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good. How the Lord, in your ignorance, instructed you according to his written word! There is no salvation for sinners, but through Jesus Christ; this revelation was made known to you; and the Lord the Spirit put that prayer into your heart, 'Lord, bring me into the true light and knowledge of thy dear Son.' This prayer was heard; and he came into your heart with all his saving benefits. Thus his coming drove out all other objects; all your fiddling, dancing, swearing, and all other vanities, the Lord cast into the depths of the sea of his love, and left no desire to return to them. 'What fruit had you in those things whereof you are now bitterly ashamed?' What fruit? - Misery and wretchedness was the fruit. But what fruit found you in the revelation of Jesus Christ to your soul? The fruit was love, joy, peace, goodness, mercy, and many more fruits of the Spirit, which are always found when he has possession of the heart; and when we walk in the Spirit, and in the sweet enjoyment of these things, what a discovery by the Spirit we often find of the pride of the heart! These evil beasts will show their heads; that corrupt principle called the old man will often seek for the mastery, and fight for it too; and this is the reason the Lord tells us to endure hardness as good soldiers, and put on the whole armour of God - not our fleshly armour, but God's strength, which shall be made perfect in weakness. So, my dear friend, when you are attacked by any of these evil beasts, and they bring on great fears, there are also many confessions and cries; and then your weakness will be manifest, and you will come to the right place where God sends this help, 'Let the weak say, I am strong.' This causes hope to abound and courage to increase, and we again press on, and Christ our Captain never leaves us, but leads us on to victory. May this be your happy lot, not to be discouraged because of the way, but rather look at the almighty arm of our blessed Redeemer, and see if we can
' - - - Sink with such a prop,
"To Sukey Harley." From, Yours in the Lord,
Nov. 8th, 1836." "J. BOURNE.
What a view the believing soul sometimes gets of the fullness, freeness, suitability, and blessedness of the grace of God, as revealed in the Person, blood, and righteousness of the Son of his love; and how it sees it reaching down, as it were, its delivering arms from heaven to earth, infolding and sustaining in its sovereign embrace all the objects of his eternal choice. To the carnal, the profane, the worldly-minded, the lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God, anything that breathes of the holy air of heaven is hateful, as condemning their sensuality and ungodliness. They can do with precepts which they never practise, and with commandments which they never perform; but a religion that would save them from the enjoyment of the sins they so madly love, a breath from the holiness and purity of heaven that would lift them out of their darling lusts and divorce them from their beloved idols, is to them a sentence of imprisonment and death, - as hateful to their vagrant minds as a clean cell in Coldbath Fields Prison to a London thief, or a workhouse bath to a filthy tramp. Grace must begin a work in the heart before there can be any movement of the mind toward it; and the two-edged sword that goes out of Christ's mouth must make a wound in the conscience before the balm of free grace in his atoning blood and dying love can be revealed and applied by a divine power to the soul. But no sooner does the Blessed Spirit open up to a poor law-cursed, conscience-condemned sinner the way of salvation through the blood and righteousness of Christ, and that all is of grace from first to last, than at once his ears are opened to drink in the sweet melody of that joyful sound. There is in salvation by grace such a suitability to all his wants and woes; it is so opened up to his enlightened understanding as reconciling those conflicting claims of justice and mercy which he could not solve, and by which he was racked and torn; it is so commended to his conscience as taking away all merit from the creature, which he well knows can have none, and as giving the whole glory to God, who, he is sure, deserves it all; and it drops with such sweetness and power into his soul as a word of consolation and encouragement, that he embraces it with every tender feeling and warm affection of his heart. No language can describe the feelings of the soul when it first emerges out of darkness into light; when it passes from bondage, guilt, and condemnation into peace, liberty, and love. How different are the feelings and the language of a soul under the first shinings in of the Sun of righteousness from the scoffing recklessness of the profane worldling, the rebellion and enmity of the self-righteous Pharisee, and the hard, unfeeling, talkative presumption of the dead professor. The mere doctrine of grace does nothing for the soul. As long as it is a mere notion or opinion, it has no more saving or sanctifying power than any other notion or opinion. A man may have an opinion that such and such water is very pure and clear, or such and such wine very choice and delicious, or such and such food very nourishing and strengthening; but if the water be still in the well, the wine in the cellar, and the meat in the larder, and neither drop nor morsel of one or the other reach his mouth, he may die of hunger and thirst in the midst of his opinions. How many, O how many of those who sit in our chapels amidst the saints of God are perishing in their sins with the Bible and hymn-book before their eyes, the sound of the gospel in their ears, the doctrine of grace in their lips, but the love of the world in their hearts. Not so with the soul under the teaching and blessing of God. Grace is to him "a charming sound," not because the word pleases his ear or the doctrine gratifies his mind, but because its inexpressible sweetness and power have reached his inmost soul.
And as grace suits the young believer, when he first tastes that the Lord is gracious, and feeds on the sincere milk of the word that he may grow thereby, so in every after-stage of his experience, down to the very grave, it is made more and more suitable, and becomes more and more precious to his heart. For as he journeys onward in the path of temptation and tribulation, he has many painful lessons to learn of which the young Christian knows little or nothing. The dreadful evils of his heart, the snares laid for his feet by Satan, his continual conflicts with the unbelief and infidelity, the pride and rebellion of his fallen nature, the grievous backslidings, departures, and wanderings of his heart from the Lord, the experience he has of his own coldness, deadness, and base ingratitude - these, and a thousand other trials and temptations, make grace, in its blessed manifestations, most suitable to the saint of God who has been for any time in the strait and narrow way. It is the spring of all his happiness and holiness, of all his salvation and sanctification, of all his faith and hope, love and obedience. It revives him when dead, renews him when all heavenly feeling seems lost and gone, delivers him from bondage and condemnation, comforts him in affliction and sorrow, separates him from the world, subdues his iniquities, keeps alive the fear of God in his breast, draws out prayer and supplication, makes sin hateful and Christ precious, and gives him not only his title but his meetness for glory. And when we come to his last hours upon earth,
when nature sinks under a load of pain and languishing, what then can support the soul in the immediate prospect of eternity but that grace which saves from death and hell? In fact, when we have a spiritual view of the majesty and purity of God, the unbending justice of his holy law, and our own vileness and pollution, our guilt, and sin, and shame before him, our thorough emptiness of all good, our thorough fullness of all evil, there is not, there cannot be a single ray of hope for our ruined souls but what grace reveals and applies through a Saviour's blood.
In our last number we gave a slight sketch of the character and experience of Sukey Harley, and as we found in it much that was not only thoroughly original but deeply experimental and profitable, we intended to give copious extracts from the work itself, but were unable to do so from circumstances over which we had no control. In resuming, therefore, the same subject this month, we shall only dwell upon those points in her character and experience which may serve to draw attention to the extracts that we give. No firmer, stouter champion for sovereign grace ever lived than Sukey Harley, for few were more sensibly indebted to it, as well as experimentally knew its efficacy in plucking a brand from the burning, and delivering a vessel of mercy from the power of darkness and translating it into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
But Sukey had faults and blemishes, some of which were deeply ingrained in her natural temper and disposition, and others seem due to the amazing ignorance in which she had lived so many years amidst that wild and lawless population. Among these, one of the most prominent was a naturally high spirit, which made her impatient of contradiction and unable to bear reproof or rebuke. And yet there was that grace in her heart which, sooner or later, made its power felt and known, and brought Sukey down to the Lord's feet with confession and humility. There is one remarkable instance given in the book before us of her pride and resentment under a sermon preached by Mr. Bourne, which she viewed as levelled at her, because this faithful servant of the Lord testified against the pride of the heart, and showed the only way in which it could be subdued. But our limits will not allow us to extract the account, nor the gracious, experimental way in which she was brought to see and confess her fault, and bless the Lord for another proof of his love and grace in showing and subduing the evils of her fallen nature.
Closely connected with this high spirit, was a warmth of temper which sometimes broke out in a way much to rejoice the enemies of godliness and distress her own soul. In her graceless days Sukey had much pugnacity about her, and this natural warmth of temper and spirit of combativeness she carried too much into her religion. The compiler of her experience has, with much wisdom and constancy, let us see the dark side as well as the bright in her character. She has not bedaubed her with fulsome praise, concealing or justifying all her faults; nor, on the other hand, has she roughly and unnecessarily dragged them to light, but has mentioned them only so far as it was needful to give a just estimate of her character and experience, and to show the grace which subdued and the wisdom which brought forth glory to God and good to her own soul out of them. The pugnacity of poor old Sukey in defence of her religion, and its painful consequences, are thus described:
"One mistake which in much ignorance she used to make, was this, that if on any occasion she was reproached or insulted, or any way ill-used, on account of her religion, she considered it right by way of testifying her integrity and her attachment to the cause of God, to retaliate upon the offender with a degree of warmth quite unjustifiable on gospel grounds. She used to call this 'fighting for her religion;' and it may be supposed that during the course of twenty years many battles of this kind were fought, but on which side the victory turned may be considered doubtful.
"A circumstance of this nature transpired about the end of the year 1839: She was one day met, as she was walking along the road, by a young man who was both profligate and profane. He instantly set upon her, and began to ridicule and laugh at her religion, throwing out many bitter invectives against the cause of God. She, in her zeal to defend God's truth in her heart, rebuked him with so much warmth and vehemence of language that the contest between them grew to a very fiery pitch. But the more she endeavoured thus to defend the cause of God with carnal weapons, the more did she bring a reproach upon it. At length, having thus provoked her to wrath, the scoffer gained (as he thought) his point, which was to prove her a hypocrite, and God's truth a lie; and he made a fearful triumph of his victory. There were lookers on also upon this occasion, who evidently enjoyed the scene; and were each wishing to make the most of it to suit his own ends."
Now we shall see how Sukey was shown the evil of these "fights for her religion:"
"Not many days afterwards, Sukey went up to the house of some friends, and related the whole affair herself. They had heard of it before through another channel, and had been greatly troubled at the circumstance. One of them gives the following relation of this interview and the after results of it: 'It was in vain that we endeavoured to enlighten Sukey's eyes into the wrongness of such like proceedings; she would only reply, "Why, I did'na care for myself, but he mocked God's truth, and was not I to face him? Yes; and I would do it again too, except that I am sorry to hurt your feelings. I don'na care who braves me, gentle or simple folks, but I will brave them again. Wasn't it the wicked enmity in his heart against God that made him mock me? To be sure it was; and do you think I'll stand that? No; I must fight for my God as long as I live, let who will try to stop me." "O, Sukey, Sukey," I replied, "how often you say that you are the greatest fool in this world! and surely it is this foolishness that makes you speak in this way. Can you not understand that you are fighting against God, and not for him, in such ways as these?" "No," she answered; "I can'na understand what you mean. But," she added, in a softer tone, "I hope the Lord will give me power to pray about this when I go home, and if I am wrong, I hope he will put me right." She said this as she turned away to leave the house. I plainly perceived that no reasoning could convince Sukey of her error, and I felt utterly hopeless that she ever would be convinced. Just then, the words of Ps. 17:13, 14, occurred to my mind, "Deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword; from men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world." Also 2 Sam. 16:5-12, where an account is given of Shimei cursing David; and I said in my heart, "Lord, it would be very easy for thee to teach her - she does not know that the wicked are thy sword." A few days afterwards, I paid Sukey a visit at her cottage, and without making any comment, or alluding in any way to what had passed, I took the Bible and read those two passages; and while yet the words were in my mouth, she sank down in spirit, and fell before the Lord. "Ah, my dear lady, that is God's word to my heart! Why, I never knew, till this moment, that the wicked are God's sword. What a most notorious, ignorant, wicked woman I must be! I have been fighting against God all these years, while I was thinking I was fighting for him. Isn't it a wonder that he bears with me, such an ignorant fool as I am? The wicked, God's sword! Why, I never knew this before. Ah! David knew it when he said, 'So let him curse, because the Lord hath bidden him.' And I can say so too, now, 'Let him curse, let him curse, because the Lord hath bidden him.' Ah, poor man! he knew not that, though he is the devil's servant, yet he is only a sword in God's hand. No; he understands nothing about that. Well, I feel sorry for him in my heart, I do. I could put my head under his feet to serve him, if it would be of any use. Ah! 'let him curse, let him curse, because the Lord hath bidden him;' but in one moment my God could turn his heart, and instead of cursing there would be blessing."'
"This was God's touch upon Sukey's heart, as David speaks, 'He toucheth the mountains, and they smoke.' (Ps. 104:32.) She never forgot the instruction which had been conveyed to her mind upon this occasion; and there are many who can bear witness that from this time a most remarkable change was wrought in her conduct under circumstances of a like kind."
The dealings of God with Sukey's conscience were peculiar, and this combined with her natural temperament, thorough want of education, and rough mode of life before her call by grace, sometimes made Sukey's faithfulness offensive to the lovers of smooth things. The following extract gives us a striking trait in her character:
"There was one part of her Christian character - and that, perhaps, the most prominent and striking feature in it - which was but little understood, and still less appreciated. She had been made, under the teaching carried on in her own heart, to renounce, as hateful before God, all that counterfeit kind of religion which savours merely of the flesh, and which often makes a very showy appearance, deceiving many by a sort of devotional feeling worked up in the natural affections only. The keen sense she had of the difference which subsists between this deception of the devil and that religion which is wrought in the heart and maintained in 'the inner man' by the Spirit of the living God, so influenced the line of her conduct on some occasions as to bring her under the censure of many, who, if they had had penetration enough to have discovered the principle upon which she acted, and the spirit by which she was guided, would have judged far otherwise. She could never heartily join in religious conversation, even with such as she believed had a real work of grace in their hearts, except she felt in her spirit, or perceived in theirs, a living touch from off God's altar. If this were lacking, she cared not for the discourse, knowing the truth of what we are told by Solomon, that 'the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.' (Prov. 14:23.) She would often, therefore, abruptly turn away with a bluntness of manner peculiarly characteristic in her, or she would put a stop to the conversation with some pointed remark sufficiently demonstrative of her disapprobation, and generally conveying some home-truth to the speaker. In one way or other, and without much ceremony, she was sure to put an extinguisher upon an evil she could not remedy. By this kind of behaviour it may be readily supposed that she often laid herself open to the accusation of being deficient in unity and brotherly love, as well as to a want of spiritual discernment; and she was obliged to lie under the reproach, preferring the honour that cometh of God to that which cometh of men, contrary to the Scribes and Pharisees."
We do not say we have Sukey's boldness and faithfulness in putting so thorough a damper upon the small-talk of carnal professors, but we quite feel with her that there is a good deal of empty sound even in the conversation of those who fear God, and much of what they say upon the things of eternity is light and empty, because they are not at the time under that sweet and sacred influence which gives to words weight and savour. Those who watch the movements of their own hearts, and can discern the difference between flesh and spirit, can easily tell whether they are under a divine influence when they converse with the saints of God, or are speaking what they know to be true, but of which they are not at that moment feeling the power. And as the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat, the discerning of the Lord's family can usually tell what is the influence under which others speak, and whether it is mere talking religiously for religious talk's sake, or the utterance of the heart under the operation of the Blessed Spirit.
The most valuable part of this book is the part in which Sukey speaks herself. There is something in her homely language so forcible and so simple, and yet such reality and power shine forth in almost every word, that a debt of gratitude is due to the compiler for the faithful record with which she has favoured the church of God. As a specimen, we give the first of these recorded conversations with her:
"I want to tell you what the Lord has been showing me this morning. I went to prayer as usual, but I felt no desire for prayer, I felt no strength in body or soul; I could do no more to help myself to God than a new-born babe; I was dead; I had no faith; God had knocked me down for my sin. But he did not leave me long in this way, for in two or three minutes he shone on me, and he said, 'I am here, I am thy strength.' Then I felt all happiness and glory. He said, 'This is a warning for thee not to be lifted up in thyself, nor to trust in thy feelings.' My comfortable feelings; I am not to build upon these things, nor be too much distressed when I am cast down, but look to him. This showed me how many there are who think they have religion in themselves. I feel I have nothing, all is in him. How I feel for those who are looking to themselves and what they can do! I am poor; I found this morning I had no will, no power, no desire. This came on my mind this morning, what the folks say of me, 'O Sukey Harley, you are so good! if I was like you I should not fear to die.' Well, I thought, if they had seen me this morning, they would have seen I had no religion. O those poor creatures who boast of religion in themselves! Well, it will all leave them on their death-beds. They say they can pray always. I cannot pray always; to be sure I might pray all day with words, but what is that? Unless my God comes, my prayer is nothing. I often think of that verse, 'When thou hast shut thy door, pray, &c.;' and I say, 'Lord, thou knowest I cannot shut the door; thou must do it.' The Lord showed me, to-day, what prayer is; I cannot pray one thing without him. I asked him to teach me to pray according to his will. This is what I do; I fall down before my God, and wait, and never give up till he tells me what to say. I cannot speak till he comes. If he does not answer me directly, then I hang upon him, I cry unto him, I wait for him; and when he sees fit he makes me feel his answer. I was thinking how I am just like a little child who is trying to get something that is out of its reach; it will strive and strive, but it cannot get it; and just so do I; I want my God, and I reach and strive, and pray and cry after him."
The following extract will show that Sukey knew experimentally the fellowship of Christ's sufferings:
"O, what a blessed thing for me! Bless and praise his holy name for it! I have got a God to go to, to rely on. Yes, I have. He knows my griefs, he hears my groans. My heavenly Father gives me this assurance, that in Christ Jesus, 'the very hairs of my head are all numbered.' This is the confidence which I have in him - the very faith which he has given me that it was his own blessed will from the foundation of the world to do it for me. He chose me, he called me, he redeemed me; he has all power in heaven and earth. I have had such a blessed experience this morning how that my name was engraved on his heart when he suffered on the cross. Yes, he knowed my name then, and O, he knowed my sins! O, how my sins pierced him! I have been thinking what a sight it must have been; what a woeful sight to see them! those wretches - those monsters! and myself among them, the very worst, the very chiefest among them; I cannot, I dare not call them by one name worse than I can call myself. I was there! I did it! My sins crucified him, pierced him, agonized him! But O, to see them laying hold on that dear, spotless Lamb of God - hauling him, beating him, mocking him, buffeting him, nailing him to the cross. O, what a sight, a woeful sight! Then, again, I thought on that wonderful word which he uttered just before he died; and did you ever consider what a wonderful word it was - what it expresses? Ah, what it expresses! 'It is finished.' O, what a work he had finished then. It was the work his heavenly Father gave him to do; he undertook it, he carried it through, and brought it to an end; and then do you think he can let any poor soul be lost whose name he had written on his heart then? No; he cannot. He gives me this assurance; he saves because he will. Paul says, 'I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith.' Ah, but it was his dear Redeemer that did it for him though; he was well aware of that. Christ fought the fight. He run the race. He won the crown. Glory, glory be to him for ever!"
The great feature in Sukey's religion was, that Christ was her all in all, and that not in doctrine and notion, but in the daily experience of her soul:
"Did I ever tell how, one day, when I felt I had no light, no knowledge, no faith, no hope, no desire, I was miserable, poor, and wretched, for my Saviour had left me? In this state I went to bed, mourning, and grieving, and pining. Well, now, I will tell you how my God came and blest me. He awoke me in one moment with these words, 'My light is thy darkness.' I was up in an instant. He gave me strength, and power, and will, and all I wanted. I can trust him since then, and he helps me to wait on him. He gives me this now, patience to wait a bit longer; and he keeps me low, and bids me sink before his footstool, and he shows me that if he never comes again I can have nothing to say; I feel my condemnation - I am a wretch. But
'I cannot live without thy light,
But when he comes, I have wisdom, and knowledge, and light, and understanding, and joy, and everything. He sends all down from heaven to me; and when he pleases, all is gone again. He comes and he goes just as he sees fit; and this is my life. And when he is with me, how I rejoice; and when he is gone, how I mourn and grieve till he comes again; and he does come, he does not leave me long. He knows I cannot live without him; he is my life. What are my troubles when he is with me? they are nothing. I cannot speak of them; it would be a scandal to him to speak of troubles then. It says, 'I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed.' My God tells me I can have no greater joy than I can have when he is with me, unless he were to release my soul from the body. But O, my heavy temptations! Sometimes I think I am going to heaven through the flames, yes, I may say through the flames. I think of my Saviour, when that wicked foe tempted him. Ah! I dare not speak of my inward trials and temptations. Satan is with me every moment when I am left to myself. My God permits him to harass and tempt me; but my God gives me to watch, and he teaches me to know Satan's devices; and I can tell in a moment now, what is my God, and what is that deceitful foe. Satan has a religion, and he makes us think it is the true; and he deceives many a poor soul by setting before them one good thought after another, so that they look to their hearts, and trust in their hearts. I am quite frightened when I think of our world; not when my God is with me, I am not afraid then - neither men nor devils can make me fear then. But this world is like a prison to me; I feel a lone soul in it. I was thinking what a narrow path we have to walk in. It is as if there was a deep pit of water on both sides, and the way so narrow we could scarcely keep it, and full of dangers on every side. But my Saviour is 'the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'"
But Sukey, though at times greatly favoured, was at others as greatly tried and distressed:
"Who knows anything of my life? It is hid with my dear Redeemer; my life is his life. I have no other life. I walk about this world the same as all the rest, but I am dead. I hate and abhor myself, and I hate and abhor that outside profession. There's plenty of it about here; prayers to no end, reading the word, and abundance of good works and good talk. What trash it all is; I inwardly detest it in my very soul, that false, empty, know-nothing, outward profession! I cannot abide it. My dear Saviour is my religion. He is my possession. What's profession without possession? It is not worth much, indeed; it won't do for me, I know.
'My treasure is his precious blood.'
When I see by faith his pierced hands, and feel that my sins have nailed him to the cross, no heart can conceive what that brings before me. I'm lost in wonder. For me! He died for me! Ever since the morning of my conversion, in my old house down at Ryton, my blessed Redeemer has held me in his dear hands. He showed me then that he died for me, that he hung on the cross for my sins. Yes, I saw him, with the eyes of faith, bleeding on the tree for my sins. I can truly say, I am his, and he is mine. God is my father, Jesus Christ is my Redeemer, and heaven is my home; and I can truly say, 'I have fellowship with the Father, and with his son Jesus Christ.' I can truly say I am fed with the living Bread of everlasting life, and my soul is abundantly satisfied. Often, when I have been unable to eat the natural food for my body, I have sat down and said, 'Now, my dear Father, feed me with the Bread of heaven.' And he has come and given me a rich feast, and so filled me with his mercies that I have wanted no food for my body, I have been so strengthened and refreshed. I often think of these words, 'He would have fed them with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock would I have satisfied thee.' But O, how sometimes I find the reverse of all this, and
'Fierce temptations wait around,'
Satan and my own evil heart stir up all, and there am I in the midst; and cannot stir one step to deliver myself till my Redeemer comes and drives Satan away; and then I am left alone with my Saviour - him and me alone. But how hard the battle is sometimes before he comes. He has left me for days and nights together, at times, to fight and wrestle with Satan and my own heart; and sometimes I think my own heart is the worst enemy of the two. I do hate and abhor my heart; I detest and abhor myself on account of the evil that dwells in me. I am ready to tear away this body of sin and death that is in my flesh, if I could."
On the morning of Aug. 16th, 1853, Sukey was seized with a paralytic stroke; and from that time till her death, five days afterwards, she never opened her eyes or spoke, but lay as if unconscious of everything passing around her. From an impression on her spirit, more than thirty years before, Sukey had anticipated that she would be taken away in this manner:
"Often, during her latter years, she has expressed herself in a way somewhat similar, and uniformly maintained her belief that God would be glorified at her death, not by opening her mouth, but by closing it. 'Don't you be terrified,' she would say, 'or think that I have been taken by surprise, if you should hear of my dying suddenly, or being struck speechless, so as not to utter a word on my death-bed. My God has been preparing me for it these years and years past; and I wish to warn you about it, that you may know it will not come upon me by surprise. I never feel satisfied to close my eyes at night, nor can I rest in peace till I feel Jesus Christ in my conscience, so as to say, 'Now, Lord Jesus, if it should be this night, I am ready to go.' O, if he is absent, and guilt is on my conscience, what un-restless [unrestful?] nights I have! My sighs, my groans, my tears none know but he himself! nor can any other bring ease to my distressed soul!'
"'Now I often think about my death - there will be a great disappointment then. The folks will be gathered together to see old Sukey Harley die; and they'll think to hear glorious words from my mouth - they'll think to catch somewhat then. But what's the use of that? Hear me speak! My filthy-rag righteousness, what's that? O, there's a great mistake in our world about this, for they don't see the difference between the flesh and the spirit. But I have this feeling, that my mouth will be stopped then; there will be nothing left for me to say. I shall be nothing, but my blessed Redeemer will be all in all. The folks will see my lump of flesh, but they will not, they cannot see my life. My life is not here; it is hid with Christ in God! Who can see my righteousness? My righteousness is not mine; it is Jesus Christ's. I have asked him, my blessed Saviour, to make me give my dying testimony while I am yet alive, walking up and down in this world. And he has put his words in my mouth, to speak as he bids me. I cannot speak thus to such as won't understand me; they would take my words wrong, and call me a strange woman. Let them talk so, but I have got a Saviour! Yes, and I know him and he knows me!"
We are sorry to add that we understand that the work before us is exceedingly scarce, and that a copy can hardly be anywhere procured. Reprints are rarely successful, as it is extremely difficult to resuscitate a book that has been for some time out of print; and yet we cannot but be sorry that a book so full of choice matter, so thoroughly original, and so deeply experimental, should be lost to the church of God.