Seeing the Invisible: Ordinary People of Extraordinary Faith
Durham, England: Evangelical Press, 1998, 152 pages.
In this book, the author takes 10 individuals from the pages of church history, most of whom we have never heard of, and shows how each demonstrated faith in God in an extraordinary way. The accounts are very brief—from 10 to 20 pages each--but each life makes a lasting impression. For example, there is William Darney, “Scotch Will,” the peddler and shoemaker who combined his daily work with his preaching and became one of the earliest itinerant preachers of the 18th century evangelical revival in England. He endured frequent maltreatment, and often tasted violence at the hands of unruly mobs. One time he was stripped, rolled in the mud, and marched through the streets. Another time he was covered with tar. And yet another time he barely escaped a lynching. Through all of these trials and more, Scotch Will knew of sharing the sufferings of his Saviour, and showed a similar steadfastness of purpose, until after a lifetime of sufferings he finally retired.
Then there is the story of Jane, remembered as “a child who believed,” who at the age of 12 became the first convert of the new minister on the Isle of Wight in 1797. Though Jane seemed to be a quiet and unpromising child as she sat in his catechism class, the new minister soon learned otherwise as she was stricken with a serious illness. As a result, he then had an opportunity open of visiting her sickbed where he learned that she had taken to heart everything he had taught in the class, and had developed a fervent faith and love for Christ. Her final words to him before her departure were: “God bless and reward you…my soul is saved! Christ is everything to me…Sir, we shall meet in heaven, won’t we? Oh yes! yes!!…Then all will be peace..peace…peace.” Her story is more fully recounted in a book that became very popular during the 19th century.
Also there is Elizabeth Bunyan, who remained faithful to her husband John (the famed author of Pilgrim’s Progress), during the years he spent in prison. She married John after his first wife had died, but only shortly after their marriage, John was imprisoned for preaching. She struggled to bring up her four stepchildren (one of whom was blind) on the meager income John received from his writings while in prison and the laces he made and sold at the prison gate. She boldly expended great efforts interceding on his behalf with the religious and civil authorities that had imprisoned him. It was only after 12 years that he was finally freed, and spent the remaining 16 years of his life in the occupation he loved best: a preacher of the gospel of God’s grace. During the years in prison, a steady stream of books had flowed from his fertile mind, and these books would be read for generations to come. Elizabeth’s later years were gladdened by two children of her own. After John’s death, Elizabeth discovered 10 unpublished manuscripts on his desk, and made them available to interested parties to publish. And so the world was given some of Bunyan’s most treasured books, including The Heavenly Footman, and The Acceptable Sacrifice.
Among the other lives recounted are Robert Jermain Thomas who brought the gospel to Korea in 1863, and Lavinia Bartlett, who single-handedly conducted a woman’s Bible class in Charles Spurgeon’s church from 1859 until her death in 1874. The class began with only 3 teenage girls in attendance, but ultimately grew to between seven and eight hundred women, ranging from late teens to elderly grandmothers. Mrs. Bartlett had a passionate desire for the salvation of others, and her fervent appeals to the unconverted were legendary. She gave all of her time and energies to the class, at great cost to her health. Though she was of course not an officer in the church, Spurgeon nevertheless said of her, “my best deacon is a woman.” Words on her gravestone, chosen by Spurgeon, testified to her faithful work: “She was indeed a mother in Israel. Often she did say, ‘keep near the cross, my sister.’”
Then there is Leonard Dober, who volunteered to become a slave in order to bring the gospel to the Virgin Islands of the West Indies.
And Harriet Newell, who at the age of 18 sailed to India, with her husband Samuel and Adoniram and Nancy Judson, in 1812.
The other lives recounted are equally memorable and inspiring, as each expended themselves for the same glorious and powerful God who enabled them to “endure as seeing Him who is invisible.”