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Selina of Sussex 1818-1886
by Leonard Holder
Family life in Sussex, southern England, seen through the eyes of Selina, the wife of Eli Page, farmer and Baptist minister
22.9 x 15.2 x 2.1 cm
Published by Xlibris
(A visit by the deacon of Dicker Chapel)
Having spoken to Mr Vinall about it, on behalf of the chapel, he would like to invite Eli to preach the sermon on one of the Sundays that Mr Vinall was unable to find them a preacher. What did Eli think about this?
I was flabbergasted. My Eli, a preacher! To me at that time preachers were very holy people. I saw them as men called by God to the solemn responsibility of bringing God’s Word to us ordinary people. I knew Eli inside out. I slept with him every night; he came in sweaty every evening from the farm. I’d seen him cut the throat of pigs, ring the necks of chickens, castrate bullocks, lose his temper with our workers, there was nothing especially holy about Eli!
Eli said very little by way of an answer to this invitation.
‘Mr Guy,’ he said, ‘I appreciate greatly the honour you’ve offered me, but I need to think and pray about it. I can only do this if I’m certain it’s God’s calling.’
‘Thank you, Eli,’ answered Richard Guy. ‘That’s the sort of answer I hoped you would give. But bear in mind that part of God’s calling is the recognition of a person’s gifts by other Christians.’
As I sat in the old rocking chair beside our four-poster bed with little Richard at my breast, I mused on the night before. Part of me was thrilled at what was happening. God was calling my husband to be a preacher! But another part of me recognised that the way ahead could be hard, and I had no idea what to expect. I prayed silently, committing our future days fully into God’s hand, and as I prayed, I felt an amazing sense of peace. I looked down at little Richard sucking contentedly at my breast and thanked God for him, and then it struck me that I too was just like a baby before God and in a way through my prayer I was sucking at God’s breast. At first I felt it was blasphemy to have such a thought, but then I believe God gave me his peace about it, and I found it such a wonderful idea and it helped me tremendously. I needed God, just like Richard needed me, and he would sustain and strengthen me just like my milk was nourishing Richard.
Eli was now preaching every now and then at chapel, and I knew the people appreciated his sermons. He was also getting invitations to preach in other villages. Small independent chapels had sprung up all around Sussex and only a few of them had pastors or regular ministers, so there was a demand for preachers whom these congregations could respect and who could bring them God’s Word in a way that fed their souls. Because of his farming responsibilities, it was clear to Eli that he couldn’t accept all the invitations he received, and I know this worried him as he wanted to put God first in his life. I know he prayed about it, and one evening he shared with me how he was thinking.
‘Seli,’ he said, ‘I believe we have two alternatives. Preach I must, God has clearly called me to this and he is opening many doors of opportunity. I could give up farming and concentrate on preaching, trusting God to supply our needs. I have been challenged by this, but I’m not convinced it’s right for us, at least not at this time. The alternative is to work and expand the farming so that we have the potential for more income and can employ more workers which should, if all goes well, and it can with God’s approval and blessing, free me up to spend more time preaching.’
I listened quietly to his thoughts. I must say they sounded very optimistic, but I didn’t voice this to Eli. I knew he would need my encouragement and support and not my criticism if we were to go down this road.
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