Most of this interesting book consists of the autobiographical account of Elsie Dawson (1890-1969), wife of Herbert Dawson (also 1890-1969), who was the pastor of the Strict Baptist Chapel, Bethersden, Kent, for 54 years. The remainder of the book charts his own life, again in autobiographical form. “The writings of his wife”, says the foreword, “give a fascinating insight, behind the scenes, of a pastor’s life” – and also of the life of a pastor’s wife.
Having been taught “here a little and there a little” from the age of seven, Elsie Dawson “passed from death to life” when she was 16 or earlier, and was given a view by faith of Christ as that blessed Man who is “a covert from the tempest” – the Refuge and Hiding Place of His people.
She was a loyal Strict Baptist: so those who hold the Scripture doctrine of infant baptism need not be surprised that her baptism by immersion covers several pages; and those who believe, equally scripturally, that only the Psalms of David are to be used as praise in public worship need not be surprised that she frequently quotes from hymns. She herself was a gifted writer of spiritual verse.
Of course, as a true child of God, she had the Word of God as the ground of her hope, and many were the promises, and other portions of Scripture, that were applied to her heart by the Spirit of God on her pilgrimage path during her remaining 62 years. For example, before the birth of the third of their ten children, she was very anxious. “I asked the Lord”, she said, “to give me a promise that all would be well, and this came with power: ‘I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness'”. Not only so, but her husband, quite unaware of her experience, preached on these words the following Sabbath morning.
Her afflictions, especially in later life, were many – spiritual afflictions (for she was poured from vessel to vessel and often assailed by Satan), physical (she had chronic heart trouble), and mental (she once suffered a breakdown). “My wife has had many a reminder”, said her husband, “that ‘we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’.”
Herbert Dawson himself was an 18-year-old apprentice printer when, as he said, “a solemn consciousness of what I was as a sinner took possession of me, and my conscience was loaded with guilt”. This happened when he was injured while playing football. After he was led to faith in Christ and was accepted by the Church, he began his ministry not long before his twenty-fourth birthday. “His extensive labours and fruitful ministry,” says the foreword, “both in the pulpit and in his numerous letters, are still remembered by many older believers with deep affection.”
The purpose of both husband and wife in recording the way (oftentimes hidden and perplexing) by which the Lord led them in providence and grace was to show forth His praise. This they do, for they repeatedly ascribe glory to Him as the God of all grace. May the reading of this record of their lives be helpful to many.