Earthen Vessel 1898:
Pastor John Norris Throssell, Of “Salem,” Ramsey, Hunts.
Dear Brother,—At your request, I send you an account of the Lord’s dealings with me in providence and grace.
I was born of humble parents, on July 26th, 1868, at Peterborough. When nearly seven years of age, my father was removed in God’s all- wise providence, to March, in Cambridgeshire, where he remained until called home. His feet were led to Providence Baptist Chapel, where he sat under the ministry of the late Edman Forman, which was greatly blessed to him, and he very soon united with the Church meeting there, having been previously immersed at the Tabernacle, Peterborough.
At an early age, I became solemnly impressed with thoughts of death, eternity, heaven and hell. Death to me was a mystery of which I had very peculiar ideas. The different periods of life at which men died much puzzled me, failing to understand why some died at an earlier age than others. This led me to dread it, and wonder where I should go, if it came to me.
Often did I deny myself necessary food, for I could only think at that time, death came when people had eaten too much. Frequently did I try to pray to God alone, for to me there was something more in prayer than to use a form of words at my mother’s knee. I attended the Sabbath-school connected with Providence Chapel, where words often fell from the lips of teachers (Mr. Skinner in particular), which were made useful to me, giving me encouragement to hope that I might one day be a Christian.
When eleven years of age God was pleased to take my dear mother from this scene of care; this circumstance was by the Holy Spirit used to deepen the concern of soul which I was the subject of, leading me to cry continually, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Many times after this did I sit alone at night, to read God’s Word and talk with Him, which was made a great blessing to me; His Word being very precious. The preaching of the Word by the late Edman Forman was often the means of encouraging me, and sometimes when listening, the Word came with such power that I shook from head to foot. Ofttimes I vowed that after service I would go home and think upon the Word, but more frequently was I easily enticed, and found taking a walk with my companions. I was truly afraid of them and dare not say “No” to their entreaties. Thus things went on for many months, being helped under the ministry of the Word, then consenting to go for a walk lest my companions should think me at all religious. There were times when the Word was so cutting to my soul, that while I walked I dare not talk of any matter, much less that matter, although I found afterwards that those with whom I walked were subjects of deep soul concern. Once in particular Mr. Forman preached from the words, “What is thy life?” This was so powerfully applied by the Holy Spirit of God, that I begged for the hour to come when I should know my sins forgiven. God was pleased to lead me by a remarkable providence, in the year 1887, to the place where He intended to bring me into Gospel liberty.
On Good-Friday (so-called) I was at home, and was asked to visit an old lady living near, who was in the furnace of affliction. I had seen her several times, and thought each time would be the last, but now in going God had a purpose to perform. I read and prayed with her as was my usual practice, the portion this time being John’s Gospel, 14th chapter. While reading the sixth verse, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man cometh unto the Father but by Me,” light broke in upon my soul. No more could I read, but rejoice at God’s throne, for the manifest fulfilment of His word, “For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord” (Prov. 8:35). My friend was very low, and no hope was given of her recovery, but strange to tell she began to amend from that hour, and lived eight years. Of a truth,
“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.”
The following Sabbath evening Mr. Forman preached from “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with His right hand, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:30,31). That was a savoury season to my soul; God was pleased to lead His servant into my very experience, also making me to feel I was really one of His redeemed. So happy was I, that I felt I must go without delay, and tell the man of God what great things the Lord had done, making known my desire to join the Church. This I assayed to do the following evening, but found he was not at home. This disappointment the enemy handled, telling me there was nothing good in me, and I felt much inclined to believe it was so. Up to this time I had not opened my mind to my dear father, or any other human being; having told him I was going after business to speak with our pastor, he naturally enquired when I returned home, for what purpose I went. Could I now keep it from him? No. Well do I remember his words as he wept and threw his arms around me, “God bless you, my boy!”
The following evening I went again to see Mr. Forman, who was so pleased to see me, but so little could I say; yet he knew all about it, and expected to see me, also stating he should propose me for baptism, being quite satisfied the work of grace was there. This troubled me rather, but what an answer to prayer. If ever I prayed, it was about a year and nine months before this, in Providence Chapel, at a baptizing service. A brother named William Culy, now in glory, was about to put on Christ, and I did beg that I might be the next to be proposed, and so it was. After my name was brought before the Church, my dear father died somewhat suddenly. This circumstance was a great trial to me, and I waited another month, for I feared God was not in the matter. My testimony was received, and I was baptized on June 28th, by Mr. S. Willis, then of Whittlesea, who took the service, Mr. Forman being ill in bed. His text was, “Ye are not your own.” Was received into the Church the first Lord’s-day in July, 1887.
Exercised About The Ministry
My mind for some long time had been exercised about preaching the Gospel, yet had not opened my mind to anyone. Often as I had seen the people living near wasting the Sabbath, reading newspapers, or in gossip, was my heart grieved; how I wished I could speak to them of the Jesus I desired to serve. Yet there was the feeling, well they would only laugh at me. Very pleased was I as a lad to go with my dear father to distribute tracts, and especially when allowed to take a district alone. In this I felt the seed was being sown, and how my heart loved and burned to be in His service. One Sabbath in the month of January 1888, I was asked to take the evening service at a chapel on the Whittlesea-road, and after much prayer I promised to go; and there the Lord helped me to speak a few words in His Name. One of my chief companions to whom I mentioned this matter, tried to discourage me, but God’s message was, “Go thou up in the strength of the Lord thy God.” To no one else dared I name the subject of preaching, but left it with the Lord, who makes all things plain.
Often was I so distressed about it, that I vowed I would never go again if asked, but how beautifully was this broken down for the time being, by these words: “Thou, therefore, gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them” (Jer. 1:17). But how many times since then have I needed a renewal of the force of these words, for how often my heart sinks. So the Lord strengthened me, and I preached six times that year. It becoming known abroad that I had been speaking in the Master’s name, the following year I was invited to preach at a chapel about five miles from March. How I trembled, my text being fully expressive of my feelings, “So I prayed to the God of heaven.”
Very soon after an invitation was received from Tip’s End, then, Benwick, and with these places I quickly found all the Sabbaths taken up. Here the Lord was graciously pleased to bless my poor feeble testimony, for signs have followed as the dear Master promised.
These Churches I served as desired, until called to preach the Gospel at Salem Chapel, Ramsey, Huntingdonshire. Several times invitations had been sent me from Ramsey, but I was engaged, until the last Lord’s-day in January, 1892, which day I went, and found the friends desired to hear me again. About this time things were working very unpleasantly in my situation at March, which I had held for nearly eleven years. The Lord’s hand I desired to watch, as I knew not what to do nor where to go. At one time when at God’s mercy-seat, these words came with almighty power, “Be still and know I am God,” and “I will do it.” This was so blessed to me, I was enabled to leave the whole matter in His hands.
The Church at Ramsey sought my services, and as opportunity presented itself I served them. This led to their inviting me to preach for three months with a view to the pastorate; this I accepted, hoping the Lord’s hand was in it, knowing the unsettled state of affairs at March. I came to reside here in the December of same year, having given up my situation. Not seeing my way clear to become their recognized pastor, I continued to serve for given periods until January 8th, 1895, when my recognition took place.
To take one step at a time, so feeling my way here, I believe was God’s will, and the Lord has upheld me in my labour of love until now. With great humility I would mention, God has owned my testimony; He has been pleased to give seals to my ministry and souls for my hire. So I still press on in the name of the Lord, looking unto Him from whence cometh my help.
Believe me to remain, yours in Gospel bongs,
John Norris Throssell