The Triumph of Free Grace
A remarkable account of how a wicked man was cut down by the power of God’s grace in the very act of persecuting his godly wife.
Between forty and fifty years ago, it pleased the Lord to call by His grace the wife of a farmer at Ashburton in Devonshire, whose husband in consequence became a bitter opposer to her.
This opposition was greatly increased when he had reason to believe that she was going to be baptized. The wife, however, thought that on account of his great enmity she would choose a time for being baptized when he was not at home. A time was therefore chosen when he was to be absent at a fair at Exeter.
The farmer went to the fair, but having learned on Thursday that his wife was to be baptized at eleven o’clock on the next morning, in haste to return he rose early on Friday morning to put a stop to the proceeding. After having ridden several miles, he said to himself, “No: I will not go. Let her do what she pleases; I will not care about her at all”; and he therefore rode back again towards Exeter.
But after a while he altered his mind again, and said to himself, “Nay, I will go; she shall not have her own way”; and he rode again towards Ashburton. He pursued his way, and then changed his mind a third time, and turned towards Exeter; but not long after this, a fourth time he had different thoughts, and determined to ride home.
Now, however, he remembered that, on account of his having gone backward and forward, and that for several miles, he had wasted somuch time that he could not possibly be at Ashburton by eleven 0’clock, a distance of more than twenty miles from Exeter.
Enraged by this thought. he dismounted from his horse on Halden Common, between Exeter and Teignrnouth, cut a large stick out of the hedge, and determined to beat his wife with that stick as long as a part of it remained.
At last he reached his home late in the afternoon, and found his wife had been baptized. In a great rage, he now began to beat her, and continued to do so till the stick in his hand was actually broken to pieces. Having thus most cruelly treated her, her body being full of bruises, he ordered her to bed. She meekly began to undress herself, and intended to go to bed without saying a word; but when he saw her about to go, he said, “You shall not sleep in my bed any more. Go to the children’s bed.” She obeyed. When now on the point of lying down on the children’s bed, he ran into the kitchen, fetched a piece of wood, threw her down on the bed, and was about to begin again to beat her, when suddenly he let the piece of wood fall and went away without saying a word.
The poor suffering wife saw no more of him that evening or night. On the next morning, Saturday, before she had risen, her husband had left the house, and was absent all day till evening.
In the evening the wife gave him to understand, when retiring for the night that according to his wish she was again going to sleep in the children’s bed, when he meekly said to her, “Will you not sleep in your own bed?”
She thought he meant to mock her, and would beat her again if she did go into her own bed. As, however, he continued in a meek and kind way to desire her to lie down in her own bed, she did so. All night, from Saturday to the Lord’s day, he lay groaning by her side, turning about in the bed, but having no sleep.
On the Lord’s day morning he rose early. After a while he came to her and said, “….My dear, it is time to get up. If you will get up and make the breakfast, I will go with you to the meeting.” Still the wife thought he only meant to mock her, and that perhaps he would beat her again when she was on the point of going to the meeting.
Nevertheless, she rose, prepared the breakfast, and at last, as he continued meek and kind as before, she made herself ready for going to the meeting. How great was the astonishment and surprise of the people in the small town, where the thing had become known to almost everyone, when arm in arm he walked with his wife to the meeting and entered it himself, a thing which he had never done before!
After the meeting was over, he related before all persons present what had passed in his mind between Exeter and Ashburton ~ how he had most cruelly beaten his wife: how he had ordered her to go to the children’s bed; how he ran into the kitchen to fetch a piece of wood to beat his wife a second time; how he had thrown her for that purpose on the bed; and how he had already lifted his hand with the piece of wood in it, when there was like an audible voice saying to him, “Why persecutest thou Me?” The piece of wood had then fallen out of his hand, and he had felt instantly that he was persecuting the Lord Jesus. From that moment his soul had become most distressed. He had been sleepless and miserable during the night, from Friday to Saturday.
On Saturday morning he had left the house early, in the greatest agonies of soul, and had been roving about in the fields and neighbouring villages all day. He had come home and passed another sleepless night from Saturday to the Lord’s day ~ and then passed what has been related.
From this time this persecutor became a disciple of the Lord Jesus. He found peace through the blood of the Lord Jesus, by faith in His Name, and walked about thirty years in peace and love with his wife, and adorned the gospel of the grace of God.
Surely the arm of the Lord is not shortened in our days? In a moment He may turn the heart of the greatest persecutor. Think on Paul, think on Manasseh.
“Hail, mighty Jesus! how divine
Is Thy victorious sword!
Thou stoutest rebel must resign
At Thy commanding word.”