My Early Life And Baptism
Mrs. Parish was a church member at Rochdale Road, Manchester for nearly fifty years. She wrote the following as a small pamphlet three or four years before she died, aged ninety, on December 7th, 1952.
I relate a little of my own experiences, in thankfulness to a kind and gracious God who has kept me through the sixty-one years since I was baptized. I was born in the year 1862 in a small village named Over, near Cambridge, in a godly Christian home. My parents were very gracious people, both members of the Strict Baptist chapel there.
It was a happy home, with seven children. We were brought up strictly to observe the Sabbath – Sunday School morning and afternoon and other three services when old enough. We were not allowed running out in the streets on the Sabbath. It is a fruit-growing country and we had a lovely big fruit garden, where we were permitted to go, in the intervals. The chapel was very near to our home. I never remember Sunday as a dull or dreary day, but look back to those days with much pleasure, especially the Sunday School. We were taught to commit to memory Dr. Watts’s Divine and Moral Songs, many of which I remember today. Only the Bible was read and taught, and many portions learnt by heart, for which I am thankful now.
The chapel and cause is old, now entering on its 300th year. Mr. A. Coughtrey was our minister in my young days and remained there for, I believe, twelve years. He left Over to become the pastor at Nottingham. Some years after he was appointed Editor of the Gospel Standard. I have happy memories of Mr. Coughtrey, but cannot remember much of his preaching; but one thing I never forgot. In his sermon one Sunday morning he quoted that hymn which begins, “Tis a point I long to know, oft it causes anxious thought.” I had never heard it to notice it before. He often mentioned and said, “Blessed Toplady,” whom he seemed to admire so much. In my ignorance I thought he referred to a lady of great learning.
After leaving school I left home to be taught a business life. I became very worldly, entering into pleasures my parents would not have approved. During this time I usually went to a Strict Baptist place of worship on the Sabbath. One Sunday morning I heard a very noted minister from London, Mr. Styles, a tall, solemn preacher. His text was “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be” (Deut. 33. 25). What wonderful language. Is this the gospel? Well, I had never heard it before. I was young, living a careless, frivolous life, and yet I listened to that sermon and strange to say, I felt it was all for me. I have never forgotten the power and blessedness of it, though at that time I knew not the Lord as my Saviour. Many times after I felt that wonderful promise fulfilled.
Mercifully after a time I was brought home through illness and I never returned there. A way was opened for me to earn a good living by business at home. There the Lord met with me. I saw myself a sinner, lost and helpless, and in great need, in remembering those days.
“Amazed, I see the hand,
That stopped me in my wild career;
A miracle of grace I stand
The Lord has taught my heart to fear.”
“Determined to save, He watched o’er my path
When Satan’s blind slave, I sported with death,
And can He have taught me to trust in His name
And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?”
Many were my thoughts and prayers at this time. I travelled much alone. I felt I could not talk about it. I began to attend regularly the services and the weekly meetings for prayers and preaching. I was so attracted to, and envied the dear friends and members of the church, men and women, many poor and old, but to me the best people on earth, for I felt they were indeed the beloved of the Lord. How I loved them and longed to be with them, though very unworthy. At last I spoke to my dear father. He was one of the deacons. He soon found where I was, and to whom I was trusting and looking alone, the dear Lord Jesus. He gave me loving counsel and sympathy and wished me to speak to the minister, which I did. I told him of my great wish to follow my Lord in baptism. I was not great in experience or doctrine or knowledge. That came after, but I know I loved the dear Lord Jesus, who said: “If ye love Me, keep My commandments.”
The minister arranged for me to meet the deacons, and afterwards, I was proposed for baptism. Mr. F. Kirby was proposed at the same time. He afterwards became a deacon and remained so for fifty years. I gave in my testimony first and as I looked round on the faces of those dear people – about thirty or forty – what love I felt to them, which if expressed, would have been:
“Hinder me not, ye much-loved saints,
For I must go with you.”
As I told the friends in my simple way how I had been led along so far, and the words which had so helped me were in the hymn:
“Jesus my All to heaven has gone,
He whom I fix my hopes upon;
His track I see, and I’ll pursue
The narrow way till Him I view.”
It was a time of love. How clearly I recall it all after sixty-one years. We were both received and the baptism was arranged for June 1st, 1887, in the River Ouse at Over Cote. Mrs. Dogget came before the church later and was accepted, and it was arranged for her to join us. There were no baptisteries in the chapels in those days, so friends from other village chapels around came to this place to baptize, “as there was much water there.”
June 1st came, a lovely summer morning. My two dear sisters and parents, with myself, were looking forward with pleasure to the solemn service at the river. During the morning a thunderstorm came with very heavy rain and lasted a long time. My father was busy in the stable, polishing the harness for the pony, as we had two miles to drive to the river. I went to him and said, “Father, will the service be postponed if the rain continues?” He said, “No, my dear. It is ‘Through floods and flames if Jesus leads I’ll follow where He goes.'”
And so I have found it all through life. However, it cleared, and was a beautiful afternoon. There were many people gathered around and it was an impressive sight. Some were sitting on the bank, some in boats and also on the drawbridge. A wagon was there for the minister to conduct the service and give a short address. How lovely the hymns sounded by the river and trees – “Jesus, and shall it ever be, a mortal man ashamed of Thee?” and others. Afterwards we were each led down into the water and baptized; a very quiet and solemn service and never forgotten.
We all returned to the chapel (it was Wednesday afternoon) where tea was provided, and a service in the evening. The minister from Cambridge, Mr. Jull, preached from 1 Corinthians 15.58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast,” etc. How happy I felt to be a member, a follower of the dear Lord Jesus, and one amongst those dear people, so well I loved. I have always felt those few years leading up to my baptism and after were amongst the happiest of my life. Many times since, in looking back, I have said,
“Where is the blessedness I knew
When first I saw the Lord?”
In the year 1888 I was married to Mr. Jethro Parish, of Withington, Manchester. I keenly felt leaving my dear people. My dear husband and I regularly attended Rochdale Road Chapel, which became our spiritual home.
In 1903 I applied for membership. After meeting the minister and deacons, I came before the church on April 3rd to relate my experience, and on April 5th was received into the church. My transfer from Over was sent to the Manchester church. I found many friends at Manchester who received me in a very loving manner and my feeling was:
“There would I find a settled rest
(While others go and come)
No more a stranger or a guest;
But like a child at home.”
From the Gospel Standard April 2006, with permission.
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