Edward Brooke, 17791871
UR WESLEYAN BRETHREN have lately lost from their ministry an eminently useful preacher, who was the last survivor of a little band of simple-hearted and downright earnest men, who in their day were mighty winners of souls, but had the reputation of' being somewhat eccentric. 'William Dawson and Samuel Hick were worthily perpetuated in Squire Brooke, who entered into rest in January, 1871. We must not be supposed to endorse all his theology, or to hold up to admiration all his modes of procedure; but we have no patience with those who imagine that you cannot admire a man's character unless you agree with him in every doctrinal sentiment. Mr. Brooke was soundly abused in his day, and certain scurrilous papers imputed the most outrageous conduct to him; but, in truth, he was only a homely and somewhat quaint preacher of the old, old gospel, and his Master clothed him with great power.
All night his earnest crying made.
About four o'clock in the morning, whilst kneeling by the old arm-chair in his father's kitchen, still pleading for mercy through the mediation of Jesus, his soul grew desperate, and like Jacob wrestling with the angel till the break of day, he resolved, 'I will not let thee go except thou bless me.'
"That mighty importunity was the manifestation of true faith. He was enabled to receive Jesus as his Savior, and believing with the heart unto righteousness, these words were applied to his heart, as distinctly and impressively as though spoken by a voice from heaven: 'Thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee, go in peace and sin no more.' All fear and sorrow vanished, and, believing, he rejoiced with joy unspeakable and full of glory.
"Exulting in his wonderful deliverance, his first impulse was to make it known. He hastened to his sister's chamber and told her the gladnews that Christ had saved hima glorious announcement on her bridal morn: then, early though it was, he ran out into the village and roused a praying man called Ben Naylot, whose heart he knew would be in sympathy with his, and told him how he had found the Lord; and they two called up a third, named Joseph Donkersley, to share their joy; and from the rejoicing trio up went a song of praise, the jubilant and sweet notes of which were music in God's ear, and woke up the songs of angels, and gave new impulse to the happiness of heaven,' for there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth,'"
From that moment Edward Brooke was what he would have called "a bran new man." He could do nothing by halves, and therefore he renounced once for all his former course of life, and finding field sports to have too great a charm for him, he gave them up in the most resolute manner. "Sir," said he to a Christian friend, "I found that the gate was strait, and so I pressed into it myself, and left my horses, and dogs, and the world outside." In his zeal to be quit of what he felt to be a temptation, he gave orders to have his dog kennels pulled down, on hearing which, his father interposed and countermanded the instructions, saying, "I hope Edward will want the kennels again"; but it was in vain, the die was cast, the camel had gone through the needle's eye, and could not come back through so narrow a passage. Edward Brooke frequented cottage prayer-meetings, talked with the workpeople at the.mill, exhorted in his father s kitchen, and instructed wayfarers by the roadside; he began, in fact, to put himself in training to become "a mighty hunter before the Lord," a consecrated Nimrod whose game would be the souls of men.
Mr. Brooke's early career illustrates the great usefulness of small meetings in rooms and cottages, where the uneducated, the poor, and raw beginners may feel at home in their first attempts at speaking. Had it not been for such gatherings he might have remained silent, for he could not have dared to make his first essays before a large congregation. Our author wisely remarks that "The cottage prayer-meeting is certainly one of the best training schools for the development of Christian gifts. In some of our town-circuits, where chapels are few and large, and the pulpits invariably supplied by ordained ministers, and where Sunday afternoon services have been discontinued, and no rooms or cottages are opened for mission work, what opportunity have those whom the Spirit moves to preach his word, to test their call by actual experiment, and to develop their preaching power by frequent practice?
"In such meetings, Edward Brooke first ventured to deliver the message of salvation, which was as a burning fire shut up in his bones, till he was weary with forbearing and could not stay; and there he found encouragement and strength for further service.
"After prayerful consideration and consultation with Christian friends, it was arranged that Edward Brooke should submit his convictions of duty to the judgment of others, by preaching in James Donkersley's chamber, a large room which answered the threefold purpose of a workshop, a bedroom, and a place where the neighbors might gather to worship God. The service was duly announced, and great interest awakened in the young squire's first appearance as a preacher. The chamber was thronged, and many a heart uplifted in earnest prayer that God would encourage and help his young servant in this first trial of his pulpit gifts. The preacher took for his text a passage in harmony with his intense convictions: 'The wicked shall be turned into hell.' Acting upon a sense of duty, and humbly relying on God, the preacher was divinely assisted, and the effort was a success.
"The news that the young squire had begun to preach soon spread through the neighborhood and district, and created no small sensation. Opportunity to exercise his gifts offered on every hand, which he accepted as a call from God. Those who had known the squire in his wild days, and those who had heard of his remarkable conversion, all flocked to hear him. The announcement that Squire Brooke would preach, not only drew young squires, but emptied the public houses far and near, and was the signal for many an old poacher, dog-fighter, pigeon-flyer, drunkard, and habitual Sabbath-breaker, to find his way to the house of God. The squire attracted congregations such as no other man could get, comprising the fast men, the publicans and harlots, the roughs and outcasts of society, the sight of whom, in the house of God, must have made the heart of the preacher leap for joy, and carried him out of himself.
"Influenced by the strange character of the congregations which thronged to hear him, and by the fact that many heard him, to whose untaught, sensual minds, theological terms and doctrinal definitions conveyed no meaning, and ordinary preaching was unintelligible, he, of set purpose, renounced the style of his first sermon in favor of another, which but for the preacher's motive and exceptional position, might be open to criticism, and which, in a copyist, would be most reprehensible."
We cannot pretend to give even an outline of Mr. Brooke's long and useful life, but must content ourselves with citing incidents which illustrate both his eccentricity and fervor. He gradually relinquished all his secular pursuits for the sake of soul-winning, and having an ample fortune he traveled far and wide, bearing his own charges, and preaching the gospel without money and without price, a mode of life which we both admire and envy. In his rambles, and at other times, he was always on the look-out for individual cases, with which he dealt in his own fashion, and with remarkable success.:Note the following:
"One of the members of the Sheepridge Society unhappily tampered with strong drink, till his enemy got the advantage of him. He was found one day, in a public-house, indulging in free potations; and his wife's persuasions failing to bring him out, she came to the squire to ask his interference.
"Away went the squire forthwith, conducted by the sorrowing woman, and, reaching the house, he walked straight into the bar, where a number of old topers were soaking according to their custom; and there, in their midst, was the fallen man. 'What art thou doing here?' said the squire, fixing his eyes upon the poor backslider, 'this is no place for thee.' Disconcerted by Mr. Brooke's unexpected appearance, and consciencestricken, the man gave no reply, and seemed as though he would fain have dropped through the floor to escape the terrible gaze of the squire's reproving eyes. 'Come out with me and come home with me,' said the squire, and as the culprit still kept his seat, he seized him by his coat collar and pulled him out into the street."
"The topers, exasperated by such infringement of the 'liberty of the subject,' sprang to their feet and rushed to the rescue. The squire turned himself about, looked his opponents in the face, and raising his big, powerful arm, said, 'There is not a man in the lot dare lay a finger on me.' He then walked off his captive, gave him good counsel, and there is reason to believe that he never fell into the snare again."
"Driving to an appointment on a flue Sabbath morning in spring, with Mr. D. Smith, a Sheffield local preacher and a colleague in labor, Mr. Brooke suddenly said, 'Pall up, Smith.' Mr. Brooke then stood up in the conveyance and shouted to a man in a distant part of a field by the wayside, who was gathering nettles, 'Here, I want thee,' beckoning with his hand at the same time for the man to come to him, When he came up to the fence, Mr. Brooke said,' Thou poor foolish sinner, art thou going to sell thy precious soul to the devil on a Sunday morning for a few paltry nettles!' and looking earnestly into his face, he prayed with great solemnity, 'The Lord have mercy on thy soul. Amen.' Then, quick as thought, he said,' Drive on, Smith.' When fairly on the way again, he said, 'I could not let that man sell his soul for nettles without warning him.'" "Driving to some village in Derbyshire, where he was expected to preach in the after part of the day, the squire pulled up at a wayside inn. Having seen his horse fed, he ordered his usual refreshment of ham and eggs. A fine, healthy-looking young countryman entered the room and sat down to rest. The squire made some friendly observations, and when his repast was spread, invited the young man to join him. The offer was gratefully accepted. Whilst enjoying their savory dish the youth's heart opened, and there was a pleasant flow of conversation. 'We are expecting a very strange preacher,' said he,' at our village to-night. He is a great man for prayer-meetings, and tries to convert all the folks into Methodists.' 'Indeed,' replied the squire, with evident interest in the topic, 'have you ever heard him?' 'No, I haven't,' said the youth, 'but my brother has.' 'Well, what did your brother say about him?' enquired the squire. 'Oh, he told me he never heard such a queer chap in his life; indeed, he didn't know if he were quite right in his head; but,' said the young man, 'I intend to go and hear for myself.' 'That is right, my lad,' said the squire, 'and get your brother to go too, he may have a word to suit you both.' They did go, and greatly to the young man's surprise, as the preacher mounted the pulpit, he recognized his friendly entertainer at the wayside inn. As the squire proceeded with the service the young man's heart was touched, and his brothers also. At the prayer-meeting they were found amongst the penitent seekers of salvation, and were both converted not merely into Methodists, but into Christian believers."
Here is a specimen of his characteristic letters: brief, but all on fire:
"Dear John,In reply to yours, I beg leave to say that our labor at Honley was not in vain. A new class has been formed, and about a dozen have gone to it. Two found peace. Praise the Lord! We shall rise. All hell is on the move, but we must go round about the bulwarks of our Zion, and mark well her palaces, and we shall ultimately and finally triumph over all. I say all. Go on, John, in the work. Live near to God. Be a giant in religion; one of the first and best men in your day. Plead with God. Live in the glory. 'Advance' is the Christian's motto. Onward to certain victory over sin, the world, and hell. Trample down worldly, fashionable conformity, Know the will of Got and do it. Do it heartily, cheerfully, fully, eternally, and heaven will be your guide, defense, and all in all. Our kind respects.
"And in your prayers, remember
We take farewell of Squire Brooke with regret, as we copy the last entry from his diary:"'In returning and rest shall ye be saved: in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.''Thou shalt see greater things than these.''Thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness.''I will do better unto you than at your beginnings.''My soul is even as a weaned child.' And then, possibly to express his fuller apprehension of the infinite mercy of his covenant God, and a firmer trust than he had heretofore exercised, he writes with a trembling hand that was soon to forget its cunning, 'Never before.'"
We do not wonder that his memoir is in the fourth thousand ("Squire Brooke," by the Rev. J. H. Lord. Hamilton, Adams and Co.); it is exceedingly well written, and we congratulate Mr. Lord upon his spirit and ability.