Night-Whisper | GRACE |
Genesis 26:19-22 |
“Also Isaac’s servants dug in the valley, and found a well of running water there. But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac’s herdsmen, saying, ‘The water is ours.’ So he called the name of the well Esek, because they quarrelled with him. Then they dug another well, and they quarrelled over that one also. So he called its name Sitnah. And he moved from there and dug another well, and they did not quarrel over it. So he called its name Rehoboth, because he said, ‘For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land.’” NKJV
Less than thirty miles away from the city of Brighton, is one of my favorite old market towns, Horsham. There survives here, an old historical Strict and Particular Baptist church called ‘Reheboth,’ whose composite meaning would be ‘a broad, made space.’ This Reheboth in Horsham was ‘Strict’ in terms of membership and membership access to the communion table, and ‘Particular’ in terms of the Calvinistic, some might even say hyper-Calvinistic thought which they held which stated that Christ died for the elect and only the elect.
In our text for tonight, Isaac had tried to dwell with some peace, space and safety in the land of his sojourn, only to have his first two attempts end in dreadful failure, pictured by the naming of wells once dug, called ‘Esek’ and ‘Sitnah,’ or better still, ‘contention’ and ‘hatred.’
The naming of the Baptist Chapel in Horsham bears the marks of similar disappointment in its own personal history in that it was, like most all Baptist churches, borne out of a church split, where just six people at that time set out on their own, from the talking, teaching and practice which they considered to be contrary to their understanding of the Gospel. They were not alone, for in the 1800s this ‘Strict and Particular’ viewpoint and action was gathering some steam.
Even so, these disgruntled six souls met in an old farmhouse and grew enough in numbers to acquire the monies to rent a vacant chapel building. Here they grew still and soon purchased the property in which they met. Over the next fourteen years, with the help of one man in particular, the wee flock grew further in finances, enough to call and pay for their very first full time Pastor.
I am an ordained Countess of Huntingdon minister, proud of my Selina heritage and her most famous of Chaplains and preachers, the Rev George Whitfield. Indeed, it was from a Connexion Chapel in Tottenham, and one of Whitfield’s churches that a young man who “didn’t even know” there was a God, eventually came to faith in Jesus under the then resident preacher, the Rev John Hyatt. This new convert was Edward Mote.
After apprenticing and functioning as a cabinet-maker Edward Mote felt himself “called to preach” and I do believe was himself ordained as a Countess of Huntingdon Minister. However, it is this same man, who we now find being that one man in particular in Horsham, who secured the building for a group of Christians most definitely not in line with the beliefs of the Connexion. It was this one man in particular who was also called as Reheboth’s first full time pastor, and was also offered the trust deed of the property. Mote declined saying “I do not want the chapel, I only want the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.”
The history of heaven’s church militant is one most unfortunately marked by consistent contention and hatred, even as we all seek spaces and places to be and to grow. Born today in 1797, I think Edward Mote, the Reheboth Baptist Chapel and their joint history, is a colorful snapshot of the church, which for centuries has been rent asunder by various ungracious divisions. Often, while seeking the true peace of righteousness, the Christian experience of one another in all our fragmentation has been far from gracious.
Though its title is often opposite to our personal experience of one another, Mote, in one of many hymns of his, has left us all with an enduring focus of hope. Mote called this hymn, “The Gracious Experience of a Christian.” I hope it is your gracious experience as well, despite those ‘other’ Christians!
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.
(Refrain)’On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.’
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
Pray: Lord, help us, the receivers of Your great grace, be so secured in Your righteousness, that we might be gracious to one another and stand so firm in You, that the sinking of ten thousand times ten thousands of our own and homemade Reheboths, our own broad and often ungracious spaces upon this broken planet, will make such little difference to our experiential standing in You, that we would always be found rejoicing in You, yes in You, the great rock of our salvation. In Your great name we pray, amen and let be so.