A Short Account of Martha Thompson. Arminian Magazine VI (1784): 468-471, 524-528.
A Short Account of MARTHA THOMPSON, near York.
I was born in the year 1702, at Rufford, a village near the city of York, of religious parents, who endeavoured to bring up their children, in the fear of God, and diligently taught them to escape the pollutions of the world. Having no sister, I made choice of a serious young woman, who lived in the neighbourhood, for a companion. We constantly laboured to flee from every thing which appeared sinful; and embraced what we thought amiable and praiseworthy. But all this did not satisfy my mind: for I still felt an empty void, and knew not what was to fill it. I frequently cried out to my friend, “For what purpose are we created? Surely for something more than to perform the common affairs of this life.” For, notwithstanding the grace of God wrought in us a fear of offending, yet were we entire strangers to his pardoning love, and unacquainted with the work of heart-conversion.
When I was about twenty-five years of age, God was pleased to visit my friend with a fever, in the beginning of which she had a strong persuasion it would prove mortal. In it the Lord revealed his pardoning love to her soul; and she declared
she would not part with her interest in Christ for a thousand worlds. I waited on her, till her decease, with great composure; but when she was gone, I was inconsolable: like Rachel, I refused to be comforted. I murmured against God, and like Jonah, thought I did well to be angry. Only I knew self-murder was a sin, or I would not have lived. The spirit of despair took such possession of me, that I could neither see, nor enjoy, any of the mercies of God.
After several months spent in this misery, I began to read Dr. Watts’s hymns which gave me some consolation. At length the Lord discovered to me in a dream, the utter insufficiency of all things under the sun to make the soul happy. From that time I began to see my sin and folly. I saw I loved the creature more than God. I was humbled under his mighty hand, and with a calm resignation looked unto him for mercy. He was then pleased to give me that peace which passeth all understanding. The world and all its allurements were put under my feet, and as far as I know, have never been able since to draw away my affections from God. I now became conversable, and attended upon the necessary affairs of life without reluctance.
Soon after my justification I discovered the evils of my heart. I enquired of several of my acquaintance, “Why cannot we keep our hearts from rising against persons whose behaviour is provoking and unreasonable?” Alas, I met with miserable comforters! They told me those evils were natural, and that it was impossible to be delivered from them in this world. However the Lord was pleased to teach me the method of overcoming these unholy tempers: he strongly impressed on my mind, to keep silence whenever I found the least degree of resenment kindling against any one; and when my mind regained its wonted serenity, I was then at leisure to reprove as the case required. By being obedient to this conviction, these happy effects followed: it brought peace into my own soul, and made the reproof, when necessary, more
cordially received; so that those I was daily conversant with, both loved and feared me. From many years experience, and in different stations of life, I must earnestly recommend this method to all who are exercised with the remains of their inward corruptions.
About a year and a half after the death of my friend, I entered into the marriage state with one of her brothers. He was an affectionate husband, a tender parent, and a good master. I had seven children, five of whom survived their father. Twelve years we lived very comfortably together. The Lord was then pleased to take my husband to himself. This was a severe trial, to lose such a partner, who was more dear to me than she had been, and with whom I lived as happy as most that ever entered into that connection. But the Lord so far subdued my mind, that though I deeply mourned, yet I durst not murmur against him. I had a large farm to manage, in order to bring up my children; and was obliged to keep five servants. But all these concerns the Lord enabled me to go through with far less difficulty than could be expected.
In a few years after the death of my husband, the Methodist Preachers visited these parts, and testified openly, that we were to receive in this life, the knowledge of salvation by the remission of our sins. This greatly alarmed the whole country. The first Preacher I heard, I did not rightly comprehend his doctrine, but his deportment much affected me; there appeared such a solemn reverence of God in his very looks as I had never seen in any person before. Mr. Shent, of Leeds, was the next Preacher who came this way: I was so astonished with the heavenly truths he unfolded, that I was almost lost in wonder, love and praise. I invited them to my house, and the Lord opened my understanding to know what he had formerly wrought in my heart: I was kept in wonderful peace, and refreshed with the comforts of his Spirit.
They not only preached justification by faith in Christ Jesus, but sanctification through the influence of his spirit.
This was an additional blessing to me, who had been so long complaining of the remains of sin.
I was greatly animated with love and zeal for God’s glory, and the salvation of souls, and procured the Preachers to visit every place where my friends lived, that would receive them; and praised be the Lord, the word proved to be the favour of life to many souls. Several years we were thus employed, and the preaching was established in the city of York, though not without difficulty. I went forward in the ways of the Lord without regarding either the smiles or the frowns of men.
At first when I met with persons who opposed the truth, I found a warmth that did not spring from love, and for which I was reproved in this manner, “If thou wanted to do my work, thou must do it in my spirit; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” This gave me more and more to see, that the remains of evil often rendered my best performances unacceptable in the sight of God; but the possibility of an entire freedom afforded me great satisfaction.
One day being in company, where I was not so watchful as I ought to have been, and afterwards meeting with a few who were singing hymns, I found my spirit did not join them with its wonted love and zeal. I was surprised; but the Lord made me sensible I had been off my guard, and from that time he bestowed on me such a power of watchfulness, as I shall praise him for while I have a being. One great reason why many converted persons advance but slowly in the divine life, is unwatchfulness. If we earnestly prayed for a watchful spirit, and believed the Lord would enable us to be faithful, our souls would prosper daily; we would make a swift progress in holiness.
When I met with unreasonable treatment, (which indeed, I did very often) the Lord taught me, That it was my duty not to be offended. By constantly observing this rule I soon found, that it was not in the power of any one to deprive me of inward peace, unless I first gave place to some wrong temper. Resentment of injuries arises when the eye is withdrawn from God, and gazeth at the temptation; this darkens the judgment, and we think it right to render evil for evil. But when the eye is single, and steadily fixt upon the proper object, we shall find divine grace sufficient
for us. We often suffer loss, not for want of grace, but through neglecting to use the grace we have. When we indulge our own will, and reject, the will of God, we are the authors of our own unhappiness.
When persecution arose, I did not regard it, till my personal character was aspersed: this I thought was very cruel; but the Lord suggested to my mind, “Art thou not willing to bear it for Christ’s sake?” I was astonished at the divine condescension, and my heart replied, “Yes, Lord, yes:” and ever since I do not know that reproaches have given me any uneasiness.
I remember one person who entertained such a bitter prejudice against me, for endeavouring to direct his wife in the way of salvation, that he often declared. He was not willing to kill me himself, but would freely die for any one who would. Sometime after, he was afflicted with a fever, which confined him for many days. As soon as he recovered; he came to see me on purpose to tell me, he had seen his errors, and was now perfectly reconciled. From that time he continued a fast friend to me as long as he lived.
When the distemper among horned cattle raged in these parts, I lost to the value of sixty or seventy pounds: but the gentlemen who acted as landlords, often declared, I should be considered by them. Yet when my losses were laid before them, they reproached me for my religious connections, and absolutely refused me any assistance. This was a heavy trial: but the Lord upheld me with the arm of his power, and I could stay my soul upon his promises. When my flock was tolerably increased, those gentlemen sent me a discharge. This gave me an opportunity of quitting business; my children being grown up, left my son on the farm, and visited my friends at London, among whom I continued near a year, which was a comfortable, refreshing time.
Though the Lord dealt with me in this gracious manner, yet I had no thought of looking for the witness of purification, till he unexpectedly certified to my conscience what he had
wrought in me, by applying with sovereign efficacy that precious promise, “I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you: a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh,” Ezek. xxxvi. 25.
&c. O how I was astonished at the unbounded mercy and love of God to such an unworthy creature, in making me a witness that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin! Now I knew I loved God with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself. Now I was saved from barrenness and unfruitfulness; my heart was no longer obdurate or inflexible, but like melting wax to the seal, ready to receive and retain all divine instructions. Pride and self-sufficiency had no more any part in me: divine grace humbled me to the dust, and stripped me of all self-righteousness; for I saw and felt my own nothingness, and inability even to think a good thought; but by acting faith upon the Lord, I was enabled to do all things that are commanded in his word; to rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in every thing give thanks; and to add to faith all the fruits of righteousness; this blessed liberty I have now enjoyed for above fourteen years; and if I thus continue to the end, I am well assured that an abundant enterance will be ministered to me into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
The foregoing relation is extracted from a short memorandum written by herself, above seven years ago, at the request of some intimate friends. It may not be unnecessary further to add, that her natural disposition was friendly, open, and generous; which, being purified by grace, rendered her conversation agreeable and edifying to all who relished internal religion. She had a remarkable facility in speaking to the consciences of sinners; her address was mild and affectionate, yet penetrating the heart, and engaging the attention. Nor were
were her efforts to save souls unsuccessful; we have good reason to believe that many were Induced, through the divine blessing upon her earned intreaties, to flee from the wrath to come. She knew how to encourage mourners, to pour the balm of consolation into their aching wound, leading them to the lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world. But she excelled in urging believers to lay hold on the purifying blood of Chist, that they might enjoy an entire freedom from all tormenting tempers; this blessed liberty she possessed with increase, for above twenty years, and adorned her profession by an unspotted life: she was not ashamed to acknowledge that God had taken entire possession of her soul, according to his own faithful promises; and she enjoyed such an uninterrupted plenitude of peace and joy, as not only surprised lukewarm professors, but many adult Christians. When she met with professors, who entertained prejudices against the doctrine of christian perfection, who were advocates for the abiding presence of indwelling sin, her answer was similar to that of the father of Gideon to the men of Ophrah, Will ye plead for Baal? Will ye serve him? If he be a god let him plead for himself. But when all the arguments deduced from scripture, reason, and experience were ineffectual; when the great promises which certify God’s intention to purify his people, were opposed, or explained away, she was grieved for her mistaken brethren, she wept over them in secret before the Lord; her cry was, “O that all the children of God were but willing to receive the precious blessings which Christ hath purchased: O that they would but suffer him to cleanse their hearts from all impure propensities, how soon would he accomplish the work! Then they might live a holy, happy life, and in due time enter his kingdom in the full triumph of faith.”
One thing remarkable in her experience was, that for many years she enjoyed an entire freedom from all distressing temptations. The enemy approached at times as usual, but his suggestions
found no place in her mind; she did not enter into temptation; it made no impression: this appeared singular, if not mysterious, to most of her acquaintance. However we expected she would meet with some severe trials from the powers of darkness when on a death-bed; but in this we were happily mistaken. The day before her departure, an intimate friend enquired into the state of her mind, with a view to have this part of her experience cleared up; he found her in her usual tranquility, praising God, and on the wing of joyous expectation to meet him whom her soul loved. She repeated the words of our Lord to the Philadelphian church, “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I will also keep thee from the hour of temptation;” and observed, that God had performed that promise to her in an uncommon manner, not only during the time of her sickness, but for many years together. Next morning, being the 13th of February 1775, she sweetly fell asleep in Jesus.