Written by by Oliver Heywood, 1660.
Adapted from “Heart Treasure or the Furniture of a Holy Soul.”
Edited for thought and sense.
“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. –Romans 7:18-20 (ESV)
How is it possible that I can have a treasure of grace, while I have such a treasure of sin?
The Lord knows that my heart is even stuffed full of corruption. There is such a huge load of imperfections on my back, such a monstrous body of death, that I much fear whether I have any spiritual life at all. My sins bear me down like a torrent and lust is predominant—how, then, can grace prevail?
I answer, it is no new thing to hear a Paul cry out from a “body of death.” Living men feel the weight of a burden, but dead men are unconscious of it. Do you really complain of the power of sin? Then it is a tyrant, not a king in thy heart. Do you sigh and fight against it? Bless God for light to see it, and life to oppose it. Do you invoke almighty strength to help you to overcome it?
The believer, even when vanquished reveals his integrity by earnest cries to God.
It is not a complete conquest, so long as the soul struggles with it’s enemy, and gives not up the fort of the heart. You may have a large measure of inward grace, and yet feel frequent and impetuous workings of inward depravity. Grace may be strong, and corruption be strong also. God may, for wise and merciful ends, even give it a commission to make violent incursions upon you.
Consider only whether your prayers against it are ardent, your resistance to it vehement, and your sorrow for it sincere and abiding. If it be thus with you, you may have, notwithstanding all thy lapses and falls, not only a principle of grace, but have it in lively and vigorous exercise. Opposites prove and illustrate each other; and though there be strong lusting of the flesh against the Spirit, yet if there be also proportionate struggling of the Spirit against the flesh, it shows that a holy element has been infused into the soul, which shall finally gain a complete and glorious victory.But the disconsolate Christian replies, ‘You have spoken much concerning a treasure of comforts; yet, alas, I know not what comfort means. My poor, mourning soul is a stranger to religious joy.
Surely, if I had any grace, I should have peace. But instead of this, I have been long under sadness, and harassed with doubts and fears. How can one walk in such darkness, and still be a child of God?’
To this I answer, ‘Grace and peace are by no means inseparable, but are often dis-joined for a time, as both Scripture and experience testify. Many a true believer has been called to wade through deep spiritual sorrows. A ship may sail over a tempestuous sea to a quiet harbor. So a soul may be buffeted by fierce winds and waves, and yet reach the port of endless joy in safety.’
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Oliver Heywood (1630–1702) was a British nonconformist minister, ejected for his beliefs.
His parents were strong puritans. After passing through the Bolton grammar school and other schools, he was admitted at Trinity College, Cambridge, on 12 June 1647, his tutor being Akehurst, who afterwards became a quaker.
In religious matters he was much influenced by the preaching of Samuel Hammond and joined with other students in a kind of religious club which met in the “garret-chamber” of Thomas Jollie. In 1650 he graduated Bachelor of Arts and soon began to preach; his first sermon was delivered at a village in the neighbourhood of Preston, Lancashire. By his uncle, Francis Critchlaw, he was recommended as preacher at Coley Chapel, near the village of Northowram, in the parish of Halifax, West Riding. He accepted this post, with a stipend of £30, on 26 November 1650, and refused an offer of Houghton Chapel, Lancashire. Though under the regular age, he was ordained on 4 August 1652 at Bury, Lancashire, by the second presbyterian classis of that county. His younger brother, Nathaniel, was minister at Illingworth Chapel, in the same parish of Halifax, and the two lived together in 1654 at Godley House.
Heywood removed to Northowram on his marriage in 1655. For many years before his settlement there had been no administration of Communion at Coley; he restored a monthly celebration in 1655, connecting it in 1657 with the introduction of church discipline in the presbyterian way. Hitherto his parishioners had been united in attachment to his ministry; the discipline divided them, and ‘sincere Christians’ became his ‘greatest trouble;’ his communion list reached seventy-three names. He persevered against opposition, declining calls to one of the two churches of St. Martin, York, and to the vicarage of Preston.
Heywood was a royalist presbyterian, and though he took no part in the insurrection under George Booth, 1st Baron Delamer, he disobeyed the order requiring a public thanksgiving for its suppression, and was accordingly apprehended and threatened with sequestration in August 1659. On the news that Monck had declared for the king, he breaks out in his diary into a psalm of praise. With the Restoration, however, his serious troubles began. Richard Hooke, the new vicar of Halifax, prohibited baptism in the outlying chapelries. Heywood continued to baptise, making his peace by sending the customary perquisites to the vicar. On 23 January 1661 his ‘private fast’ was stopped by authority. Among his parishioners an influential party, headed by Stephen Ellis of Hipperholme, the man of most substance in the chapelry, was in favour of the resumption of the prayer-book. A copy was accordingly laid on the pulpit cushion on 25 August 1661. Heywood quietly set it aside. At the instigation of Ellis, Heywood was cited to York on 13 September, After several hearings his suspension from ministering in the diocese of York was published on 29 June 1662 in Halifax Church. For two or three Sundays he persisted in preaching; within a month of the taking effect of the Uniformity Act (24 August 1662) he was excommunicated, the sentence of excommunication being publicly read in Halifax Church on 2 November, in the parish church of Bolton, Lancashire, on 4 January 1663, and again at Halifax on 3 December 1663. Hence attempts were made to exclude him from churches, even as a hearer; while, on the other hand, Ellis, as churchwarden, claimed fines for his non-attendance at Coley Chapel, under the statute of Elizabeth. John Angier, his father-in-law, admitted him to the communion at Denton Chapel, Lancashire; on 5 June 1664 he preached, by the vicar’s invitation, in the parish church of Mottram-in-Longen Dale, Cheshire; and on 13 August 1665 he preached at Shadwell Chapel, near Leeds, Hardcastle, the minister, being then in prison for nonconformity.
Though according to law a ‘silenced’ minister, Heywood persistently held conventicles at the houses of the presbyterian gentry and farmers, in open defiance of the act of 1664. On the passing of the Five Mile Act (1665) he left his residence (at that time Coley Hall), but only to become an itinerant evangelist throughout the northern counties. It was his opinion that this act, by carrying the ejected ministers into new localities, promoted rather than hindered the nonconformist cause. Taking advantage of his successor’s absence, he preached at Coley Chapel on the first Sunday of 1668 to ‘a very great assembly;’ his appearances in the pulpits of parish churches were frequent at this time. At length, on 13 March 1670, he was apprehended after preaching at Little Woodhouse, near Leeds, but was released two days after. His goods, however, were seized (13 July) to meet the fine under the new Conventicle Act, which came into force on 10 May. Under the royal indulgence of 1672 he took out two licenses as a presbyterian ‘teacher,’ one (20 April) for his own house at Northowram, the other (25 July) for the house of John Butterworth at Warley in the parish of Halifax. Over a hundred of his former parishioners entered with him (12 June) into a church covenant void of presbyterian peculiarities, and hence joined (18 June) by the members of a congregational church gathered at Sowerby Chapel in Halifax parish, by Henry Root (d 20 Oct. 1669).
On 29 October 1672 he took part in the first ordination by presbyterians of the north since the Restoration, held in Deansgate, Manchester, at the house of Robert Eaton, an ejected divine, afterwards minister of Stand, Lancashire. When the licenses were recalled (February 1675) Heywood resumed his itinerant labours. He is said in a single year to have travelled 1,400 miles, preached 105 times, besides Sunday duty, and kept fifty fast days and nine of thanksgiving. He assisted in the first presbyterian ordination in Yorkshire, at Richard Mitchel’s house in Craven, on 8 July 1678. On 16 January 1685 he was convicted at the Wakefield sessions for ‘a riotous assembly’ in his house. Refusing to pay a fine of £50. and to give sureties for good behaviour, he was imprisoned in York Castle from 26 January to 19 December. He approved of James’s declaration (1687) for liberty of conscience, and at once set about building a meeting-house at Northowram (opened 8 July 1688), to which he subsequently added a school. The first master was David Hartley (appointed 5 October 1693), father of David Hartley the philosopher. His meeting-house was licensed under the Toleration Act on 18 July 1689.
Heywood was one of the many nonconformist divines who attended solemn fasts (September 1689) in connection with the case of Richard Dugdale, known as the ‘Surey demoniac.’ It is clear that he originally believed in the reality of Dugdale’s possession, yet in the subsequent defence of the ministers concerned he took no part.
Character excerpts from Wikipedia