Saturday, February 28, 2009

A tale of Bury Bob

Stacksteads, near Bacup in Lancashire, England, is not, if it will forgive me for saying so, the most imposing of places. But it once had a revival.

Sam Chadwick, born in 1860, was later principal of Cliff College and president of the Methodist Conference. He was brought up in a tiny, two-roomed house in Back Hammerton Street, Burnley. He was converted to Christ when he was 10 years old. He had little education - he started work when he was eight years old - but felt a call to preach, and studied all the hours he could find.

His biography tells how his first appointment was as lay evangelist at Stacksteads Methodist Church, where he upset all the local brewers with his temperance preaching.[1]

Living in Stacksteads was a man named Robert Hamer, known to everyone in the town as Bury Bob. He was a notorious drunkard. It was said he had committed every crime in the book except murder, and it was only by God's grace he hadn't committed that. He had fought a bulldog with his hands tied behind his back, worried rats with his teeth, eaten glass, swallowed knives, smashed furniture, wrecked public houses, mauled policemen and fought all comers.

One day he walked into a meeting and signed the pledge (a pledge, that is, to abstain from alcohol). The next Sunday he was converted to Christ. The following morning he arrived early at the quarry where he worked and told the men one by one as they arrived what had happened to him.

The men laughed and jeered all week (something they wouldn't have dared to do before), until Friday. On Friday, a huge piece of rock trapped his finger. Before he knew it, he let out a great oath. The men laughed. "Ah," they said, "where's your religion now?" To their surprise, he fell to his knees and with the blood dripping off his elbow, cried out loud to God for forgiveness until peace came. When he got up, every man was standing with his cap in his hand.

The following Sunday the town turned out to see Bury Bob go to church. In the following weeks and months, hundreds were converted to Christ.

[1] Norman G. Dunning. Samuel Chadwick. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1933.