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My Days and My Ways

An Autobiography

by Robert Roberts


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN:  Origin of “Twelve Lectures”.


We returned to Huddersfield on the 15th of July, 1861.  My secular avocation I always regarded as a mere accessory to what the Bible had brought me to look upon as the main business of life – that of preparing for the Lord’s use in the higher existence to which he would introduce the accepted at his coming.  I had no ambitions, and no purposes to serve beyond getting through faithfully in this line.  The idea of saving money, or aiming at a competency, or even at getting up or on in my profession, was the furthest from my thoughts.  I regarded such a policy as out of reach, and out of question in those seeking to be faithful servants of the Lord in this day of darkness and small things, when we are called upon to lay ourselves upon the altar, in the maintenance of a testimony for the truth, and the assistance of the needy.


Therefore, the first thing we did on returning to Huddersfield was to arrange for the resumption of the Sunday operations connected with this object: that is, after we were re-settled.  This re-settlement was a very simple affair.  We had not saved enough to take up house again at once, so we took apartments in a private temperance hotel in Queen Street, kept by a Campbellite of the name of Butler, a round-headed, energetic Yorkshireman.  This hotel was a very quiet affair – scarcely more than a private lodging-house.  But there were only two of us, and the two rooms placed at our disposal were ample enough, so that we were nicely suited, and for a while greatly enjoyed the change from out wandering life.  The landlord had a little knowledge of Dr. Thomas from Campbellite writings and felt a kindly, cousin-like interest in our devotedness to him; and the landlady, without much intelligence in the matter, one way or other, was a kindly, motherly person, of somewhat portly dimensions, and a general style that did not savour of over-fastidiousness in person or otherwise.


 She had a son John who proved an item in the evolution of things.  He was in a draper’s shop (if I recollect right), and did not like his occupation.  I suggested to him that he should learn shorthand and get into newspaper work by taking part of my duties in an informal way.  He was delighted with the idea, which was favoured by both father and mother.  I mentioned the matter to my employer, and he was well pleased that the young man should acquire experience in the way proposed by working without salary.  I had no idea at the time what use this arrangement would be to me.  I  doubt if Twelve Lectures would have been written apart from it, for I could not have commanded the necessary leisure if I had not had an assistant to take the police-court drudgery, which my young friend was soon ready for.


I have laid my hand upon an ecclesial minute-book, commenced a fortnight after our return.  From this I discovered what I had forgotten, that when I came through on a visit to Huddersfield from York, as recorded in the last chapter, I found two men and the wife of one of them ready for immersion as the result of the Senior schoolroom effort, and baptised them in Lockwood baths, which was the commencement of the Huddersfield ecclesia. The following entry occurs in said minute book under the heading of “Origin of meeting”: --


                “In the month of October and the following months of the year 1860, ___________ delivered a course of eight public lectures in Senior’s schoolroom, East Parade, Huddersfield, to which attention had been attracted by previous outdoor labours.  The subjects related to ‘the things concerning the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.’  The lectures aroused the attention of several individuals, who were afterwards supplied with copies of Elpis Israel, by John Thomas, M.D., of America.  The perusal of this work led to conviction, and on Sunday, the 11th day of May, 1861, Mr. Josiah Rhodes and Mr. John William Kaye and his wife were baptised at Lockwood baths by ________ at their own retquest. These individuals were joined by brother Clisset, form Heckmondwike, who had up to that time been meeting with the church assembling at Halifax, which is more distant from Heckmondwike than Huddersfield.  On July 15th, brother and sister _______ returned from a six months’ absence from Huddersfield, and the ecclesia in Huddersfield was thus increased in numbers to six.


                “Spring Street Academy, having been vacated by the Campbellites, it was resolved to engage that place for first day meetings, and for the proclamation of the truth…. Steps were then taken to arrange for a public opening of the Academy, with the view of making known our existence in Huddersfield, and of proclaiming the truth to the public. --On Sunday, the 21st day of July, 1861, the brethren assembled at the house of brother Rhodes, and after completing such arrangements, they proceeded to organise themselves for the purpose of more fully and effectively carrying out the objects of the meetings.  Brother I. Clissett was appointed presiding elder; brother R. Roberts, general and corresponding secretary; brother J.W. Kaye, treasurer; and brother J. Rhodes, deacon.  During the following week, placards were posted on the walls and an advertisement inserted in the Huddersfield Examiner, worded as follows: --


                “ ‘OPENING SERVICES – The inhabitants of Huddersfield and the surrounding district are respectfully informed that the Spring Street Academy will be opened on Sunday next, July 28th, for Christian proceedings based upon the Scriptures of Moses, the prophets, and the apostles.  Addresses will be delivered on the occasion as follows:  --Morning, at half-past tne, by Mr. David Briggs, of Leeds, and others; afternoon, at half-past two; evening, at six, by Mr. Robert Roberts, of Huddersfield.  Subjects:  Afternoon, “Paul’s prediction fulfilled in the state of modern orthodoxy”; evening, “The faith once delivered to the saints in contradistinction to the faith of the religious systems of the present day.”  The afternoon meeting will be held in St. George’s Square, weather permitting, otherwise to be held in the Academy.  Searchers after truth are earnestly invited to attend, Bible in hand.  N.B. –In future, addresses will be delivered in the Academy of Sunday evenings at six o’clock, explanatory of the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.’”


From the minutes, it appears that the advertised speaker for the morning did not come, and that the whole company present only amounted to four.  In the afternoon, the meeting being held in the open air in St. George’s Square, an attendance of street stragglers to the number of 70 was realised.  At the evening meeting, indoors, only 12 persons attended.  After that, meetings were held in the Academy regularly morning and evening, the afternoons being devoted to out-of-door addresses, either in St. George’s Square or the Market Place, when the weather was favourable.  Out out-of-door audiences were of course the best.  The indoor audiences varied from thirteen to zero.  I find one entry as follows: --


                 “Sunday, Nov. 10 ----Brother Rhodes was absent from severe illness.  Brother Clissett was spending the day at Heckmondwike, according to previous notice.  Brother Kaye was detained by another engagement.  Sister Kaye no so well – remained at home, and sister Roberts was kept at home with baby, in consequence of the wetness of the weather, having no umbrella.  Brother Roberts was therefore the only person in attendance.  He spent a pleasant and profitable afternoon by himself.  Evening: Present, two strangers.  Messrs. Townsend and Drake.  There were no formal proceedings.  The evening was spent in pleasant conversation on religious topics in general around the fire.”  On Nov. 17, is the following entry:  --“Present, brother Robert Roberts and Mr. Townsend.  After 20 minutes’ conversation, the meeting was closed.”


As the year drew towards its close, it was resolved that we should make a more systematic effort and that I  should give a complete course of lectures in exhibition of the whole system of the truth.  I accordingly drew out a programme of twelve lectures, to be delivered on twelve successive Sunday afternoons.  Of this, I had a thousand copied printed as handbills and a hundred posters, and arranged for their distribution.  It then occurred to me that it would be better to write and read the lectures than to attempt the extempore delivery from skeleton notes, as I was in the habit of doing.  This idea I was enabled to carry out through having the reporting assistance before spoken of.  Many police court day, I sat in the reporter’s room in The Examiner office, getting ready the next Sunday’s lecture, while my assistant was busy taking notes of the drunk and disorderly and petty assault and larceny cases heard before the magistrates.


The first lecture was delivered December 1st, 1861; about a hundred persons attended.  At the second (December 8th), the attendance was between 50 and 60.  At the third (December 15th), the attendance again rose to 100.  At the fourth (December 22nd), it again fell.  At the fifth, it went up again; at the sixth, it was 70, and so on up and down till the last, which was delivered February 16th, 1862.  There was close attention throughout, and some afternoons, questions were put at the close.  There was not the same life in a read lecture as in one extemporised fresh from the heart.  At the same time, there was this advantage: when the lectures were over, I had them in my possession in a written form.


I did not know what was to grow out of this.  I supposed their work was done when read before the fluctuating audience of Huddersfield people, who heard them in Huddersfield in the winter of 1861.  When the lectures were over, we had a tea-meeting of interested hearers at our lodgings.  My companion wrote out the tickets of admission.  One of these she showed me the other day.  It was not a large party, numbering, perhaps, fifteen people.  At this meeting, the suggestion was thrown out that the lectures should be published.  I said I had no objections, but how was it to be done?  It would take more money than it was in the power of our feeble company to raise.  An old stager, having some experience in such matters, suggested that the experiment might be tried with one lecture.  “Find out,” said he, “what it would cost to print a thousand copies of the first lecture; then see how many copies friends would take here and there at 1d.; and perhaps you will get them all out in that way.”  The suggestion seemed highly feasible; but had the lectures not been in actual writing, it could not have borne fruit.  As it was, it was not long in leading to something.  My companion wrote letters to all the friends we knew in sundry parts, apprising them of the proposal, and asking how many copies they would take.  It was a time before the response was complete.  It did not come up to the number necessary for the payment of the printer, but it was sufficiently near (something over two-thirds) to justify the venture, relying on future sales.  So the first lecture was placed in the hands of the printer (G. and J. Brooke, of Westgate, Huddersfield), and in due course, it came out, a neatly printed crown octavo in leaded brevier, extending to  sixteen pages.  On being supplied to the various friends who had ordered, they almost without exception expressed their satisfaction, and ordered the succeeding lectures to be sent.


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