Monday, August 29, 2011

Joseph Spoor 1813-69, Primitive Methodist preacher in North Yorkshire

The December quarterly meeting of 1837 appointed Mr. Spoor to open a mission at Boroughbridge. .... It was in a place near Boroughbridge that he had an encounter with an Anglican priest, which made great noise in the neighbourhood at the time, and which raised many a laugh at the cost of his priestly assailant. One Sabbath morning Mr. Spoor took his customary stand on the village green to preach the gospel. It will not be difficult of belief to those who knew him that his voice in prayer and preaching rang all over the village. The priest hearing this vociferating intruder, came out in a rage, saying, in a lordly imperious manner, "What are you doing here? what do you want, sir?" Mr. S.: "I am come to do a bit of work to help you, for I see by the state of the place that it needs more than you are doing." This was hard hitting, and heightened the anger of his reverence; so he shouted out, "You shall not preach here." Mr. S.: "I say respectfully but decidedly, that I shall." The priest, with rage burning in his face, exclaimed, "I'll stop you." Mr. S.: "There are several ways of stopping you, but there's only one of stopping me." Priest: "What do you mean; what do you mean, sir?" "Why," said Mr. S., amid the ill-suppressed laugh of the bystanders, who had gathered in considerable numbers, "take away your gown, and you dare not preach; take away your book, and you cannot preach; and take away your rich income, and you won't preach; while the only way to stop me is by cutting my tongue out." ..... So he kept his congregation, and preached to them earnestly the gospel of Jesus.

In the year 1838, while Mr. Spoor was on the Boroughbridge mission, a scene occurred in Ripon market-place which created a considerable sensation, and in which he and the Rev. W. Fulton figured prominently. Mr. Fulton's account of the event is mainly followed here. The two brethren, Messrs. Spoor and Fulton, met from their branch stations at the Rev. W. Lister's, the superintendent of the circuit. Mr. Lister being in the country, Mr. Spoor said, "Brother Fulton, what do you think if we go and have a preaching at the city market-cross this evening?" Mr. Fulton instantly agreed. They cast lots who should preach, and the lot fell upon Mr. Spoor. So they sallied out to the broad market-square, and took their stand upon the cross, which is rather on one side of the square. Mr. Spoor was giving out the hymn and leading the singing, when a policeman came up with official and peremptory air, saying "Come down, or I'll fetch you down quickly." But as Mr. Spoor was determined not to yield in his Master's service without a struggle, he planted himself firmly to keep his foothold, Mr. Fulton standing at his left hand. Seizing Mr. Spoor, the constable dragged him down; but he soon shook off his assailant, and leaped instantly upon the standing-place again. His impotence in opposing these two resolute and godly men being made plain to him the enraged officer cried out, "I'll have you down yet, I am going to get a warrant for you." While he was gone the singing went on gloriously; and Mr. Fulton was in the midst of a fervent and powerful prayer, when the rude officer returned with his "letter of authority," and rushing up to him, seized him by the arm, saying, "Stop a bit, I want to speak to you." But the prayer went on. "I kept praying on," says Mr. Fulton, "for the Lord in His mighty saving power to take hold of the crowd and save the policeman, and no one could clerk better than Spoor, and clerk he did right lustily. When I ceased praying and opened my eyes, the first thing I saw in the surging, excited crowd below was a struggle going on between Spoor and the policeman at the foot of the cross, Spoor struggling for his place, and to defend me whilst my eyes were shut in prayer. Presently a man came forward with his arms spread, crying at the top of his voice, while his whole manner was excited, 'I'll fight for the ranters.' An immense crowd now drew up, and people were rushing to the scene of excitement; all around the square the windows were thrown up, and every one looking towards us. The people seemed deeply concerned, but it was only amusement for Mr. Spoor and me. A force of constables was obtained, and we were marched off to the magistrates. They, in a very summary manner, were going to send us to prison for creating a disturbance. Despite of all we could say they determined to punish us by sending us to prison (familiarly called the 'Kittie'). When we heard that we were going to prison, my friend Spoor burst out with rapture — 'Glory be to God! the kittie for Christ! Hallelujah! the kittie for Christ!' He rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake. Mr. Braithwaite, a friend of ours, having some influence with the magistrates, hearing of our apprehension, hastened to the court, and demanded to know upon what grounds we had been committed. The policeman muttered something about 'a row in the market-place.' Mr. Braithwaite remonstrated against our being committed to jail upon such contemptible charges. We were allowed to explain the whole affair. The magistrates asked-'Are these men your friends?' Mr. B.: 'Not exactly that; but if you knew their character and worth as I do, you would protect them and not interrupt them.' Having been informed of the affair, the gentlemen on the bench turned upon the officer, and having reprimanded they dismissed him, saying, 'Go, you have betrayed your trust.' The populace outside, learning that he was the bribed tool of a publican, were so embittered against him for doing his 'dirty work,' that they would have maltreated him had he not escaped. Mr. S. and I marched to the chapel (for it was dark, and we could not continue the service out of doors), singing and exhorting the immense crowd, who filled the building. Spoor preached as I have very seldom heard him, and three souls were converted to God.

"A long and able letter appeared in the newspaper, insisting upon the right to conduct public worship in the open-air, and censuring the policemen and the magistrates. It was said to have been written by the Bishop of Ripon, Dr. Longley, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. I have heard Spoor tell this story with great zest. He was a marvellous man in those days,-a man of great power and earnestness, and far more eccentric than in after years.".....

It was shortly after his marriage that he had a rough, encounter with a footpad, as he was returning from Harrogate to Knaresborough one dark night. In a lonely part of the road the miscreant, by one bound from his hiding-place, was on him. With all his herculean strength Mr. Spoor grappled with the villain, and made him feel that there were arms stronger than his. In the struggle they fell into a ditch nearly dry, Mr. Spoor being uppermost. Now the robber found he was mastered. In surly and gruff tones he begged to be freed from Mr. Spoor's terrible grip. But there he held him, his knee on his chest, and his hand grasping his collar. Mr. Spoor now began to expostulate with his unwilling auditor, in a strain like this — "O you miserable wretched sinner, why do you want to rob me, a poor ranter preacher? I've been to Harrogate to publish salvation to sinners, and now you want to rob me. The Lord have mercy upon your wretched soul. I have very little money on me. If you go on this way the devil will get you as sure as I have you now, and there'll be no getting away from him. Man, going on this way, hell is your doom. You must repent, — repent and make restitution, or you'll go to hell. If you repent, God will save you, robber as you are, for Jesus died for thieves." During the delivery of this short sermon, the man gave unmistakeable signs that he considered it too long, and its application too pointed. He begged to be liberated, but Mr. Spoor would not heed his application, until to had promised to amend his life. Of course the man was prepared to promise anything in the circumstances. Having cautiously provided against a possible repetition of the assault he loosed his hold, and the man bounded over the hedge and disappeared. It took Mr. Spoor some little time to recover himself from so sudden a shock; but when he did recover, his heart bounded with gratitude, and his lips sang out a song of praise for this deliverance. The marks of the encounter remained on his person for some time.

From, THE EARNEST PREACHER Click on title.

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