“The LORD Will Provide”
We are reminded of the sore poverty that some of the saints of God had to endure in a former generation.
Work was now very bad, and provisions immensely dear. We had three small children, and had lost one about six months before.
One circumstance that occurred about this time I think I shall never forget. One week we had a very scanty allowance of food, not sufficient to last us through. In the hope of getting my piece out [of cloth; he was a handloom weaver], if it were possible, by Saturday, I worked very hard; but this hard work and the want of nourishment, our food being principally barley, so exhausted me that I was obliged through weakness to leave off on Friday at the very time when we had not one morsel of food remaining.
Here was a gloomy scene, not a morsel of food for husband, wife or child; the wife, too, with an infant at her breast. If ever I prayed in my life, I did that night, that the Lord would take away our appetite and send us to bed satisfied. And I believe the Lord heard my cry, for the poor children wanted to go to bed, and said not one word about anything to eat, for which I felt thankful.
But my trouble was about the morning, for I could not leave the morrow to take thought for the things of itself.
I rose very early the following morning, and worked till I was obliged to leave the loom, and could scarcely walk or stand, I was so faint and weak. My poor wife, who was as weak and sickly as I, burst into tears, and cried, “O what shall we do? I cannot live. I am sure we shall die of want!” and I was sunk so low, both in body and mind, that I verily believed it would be the case.
But what was the finishing stroke to my feelings was that my eldest child, who was about five years of age, looked up to me with tears running down its little cheeks, and cried, “Father, give me some bread; O my father, do give me some bread.”
I thought my soul would have burst of grief. “O,” cried I, “are my children to die of want before my face, and I cannot help them?”
I ran into a little place under the cellar stairs, fell on my knees before God, and entreated the Lord with all my soul to take away my life. “O Lord, do take away my life; let me die; how can I behold the death of wife and children?”
Whilst I was upon my knees entreating God to take away my life, these words came with great power and force into my mind: “And they did all eat and were filled; and they took up the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.” And it was repeated again: “And they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
I did all I could to put it away. “What,” said I, “can it have to do with me in our situation? It has nothing to do with me.”
I kept crying for some time, but the whole connection came so powerfully to my mind how the Lord had fed five thousand in the wilderness with five loaves and two fishes, and they were all filled. “Well,” thought I, “He is as able to feed us now with fish and bread as He was then.” That precious text flowed into my soul with such light, life, liberty, power and glory: “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever,” and my soul was so refreshed, and my faith so strengthened by it that I was as sure that we should have a supply as that there was a God.
I arose off my knees as strong as a giant in mind and body, and told my wife that the Lord would most certainly send us something to eat, and very soon. She wanted to know how and when. “It does not matter,” said I, “about the how nor the when. I know it will be the case, and my soul can bless God for it before it comes.”
Just upon the back of this, a man knocked at the door, and I went and opened it to him. It was a gentleman’s servant. “John,” said he, “my master has bought some herrings to give to his factory people. I had no orders to leave you any, but I thought as I came along that I would leave you twelve, if you like to accept them.”
I was so overpowered that I could scarcely speak to the man. The goodness, mercy and kindness of my dear Lord shone so brightly that I was quite lost in wonder. Whilst I was still wondering and admiring the goodness of God to a worthless worm, a neighbour sent two cakes of bread. I thought my very soul would have burst through my poor body, and taken its flight into glory unto my dear Jesus.
I withdrew into the little palace under the cellar steps, the very place in which, a few hours before, I had begged God to take away my life.
And O what a heavenly palace it was!
After returning my God thanks, some of the fish were soon ready, and we sat down to the table all crying together. “Come, my dears,” said I, “we are now dining on the same food as Jesus and the five thousand dined on in the wilderness”; and I do believe in my very soul that Jesus sat with us at the table.
O the sweetness of that fish and bread!
And how wonderful the goodness and mercy of the Lord appeared to me in sending fish and bread as the food of the soul in promise, and then the first morsel of food to the body must be fish and bread also. The fish were so sweet and good that we soon made a breach into the twelve.
O how my poor soul was overcome with the lovingkindness of my dear Lord!
The remainder of the day was taken up with nothing but praises, thanksgivings, adorations and honours to my God for His wonderful deliverance.
– From Mercies of a Covenant God by John Warburton (1776-1857).