Friday, November 07, 2008

William Nobes

The following has been excerpted from Bethan Lloyd-Jones' Memories of Sandfields, pp. 63-67:

William Nobes, a lean, almost boyish, figure, was always meticulously clean and neat and had a beautiful face: regular features and clear blue eyes, clean-shaven with a pink and white complexion and white hair, and always a pleasant expression with a ready smile. He was quiet and unobtrusive and not given to public utterance. Only once do I remember hearing him speak and that was truly an occasion to be remembered. It was at the Fellowship Meeting.

The talk had been free and often moving, when something said, or some inner constraint, brought William Nobes to his feet, and he told us the story of his conversion. He did not speak glibly or even easily, but hesitantly. He was soft-voiced with a 'burr' that spoke of one of the Southern counties. Every eye was fixed upon him and we waited for what he had to say with something more than an expectant hush.

He said little about his early days, or whether he had Christian forbears. I do not know whether he had experienced previous pangs of conscience or agonies of conviction -- how I wish I had asked him more at the time! My impression is that he had never been a violent, aggressive sinner, but he was completely indifferent to God and had not the faintest interest in spiritual things. And then, with his youth behind him, when he was well on to middle age, he had a dream.

The horror of that dream was real to him yet, and he managed, in the hush of that meeting, to involve us, too, in the horror of it. In his dream he was hanging over a flaming inferno, helpless and frantic. Above him and almost obstructing the opening of the pit was an enormous ball, like a great globe, and he found himself trying to climb up the roundness of this ball to get away from the heat of the flames below, and out into the clean, cool air above. Sometimes he would make two or three feet, sometimes more, at times only two or three inches.

Once he thought he had really got over the widest part of the ball, but in spite of all his efforts and his mounting fear and agony, the result was always the same -- he would fail to keep his hold, fail to make another inch, fail to keep what ground he had gained, and in helpless weakness slide and slither back along that fearsome slope, to find himself back where he had started.

This seemed to go on for an eternity, and then at last, all hope gone, and hanging over the open jaws of hell, he looked up once more at the light above him and uttered one great despairing cry -- and there was a face in that light looking down at him, full of love and pity, and a hand reached down and grasped his, and drew him up out of all the horror below him and stood him on the firm sweet earth and in the pure clear air.

What did David say? '...he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit...and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God' (Psa. 40:1-3). All these words William Nobes could say too, and they were all true of him. From then on he walked before the Lord in love and thankfulness.

William Nobes was very poor in this world's goods. The meagre pension of the time kept body and soul together, and paid the rent of his little bachelor room. But no one ever heard him grumble or complain. 'There's just four of us now', was his contented answer to someone who asked him about family and relatives, 'my bed and my table, my Book and me'!

Someone might feel that, although his name is written in heaven, there is not much to write about his earthly life. Perhaps not, but apart from the sweetness of his nature William Nobes had one rare and precious gift, a surprising gift, one might think, in one of so shy and retiring a nature. He could talk about God and spiritual things to anybody and everybody at any time and in any place, without offence.

There was a window-sill in the open place outside the entrance to the market. It caught all the available sunshine and William Nobes could usually be found sitting there, chatting happily in his gentle, kindly manner to any and all who had time to stop and talk to him.

When sometimes we came across the havoc wrought by the blundering unwisdom of some of the most well-meaning Christians, we knew that the gift of this unobtrusive gentle disciple of the Lord, was of a very high order indeed, and always felt that he must have his place, if not among the three 'mighties', then surely among the thirty!

William Nobes died as he had lived, quietly and peacefully. He had no family, no living relations of any kind as far as anyone knew, but he was the son of the King, and on the day of his funeral there was no lack of 'family' to lay his earthly frame to rest, 'in sure and certain hope of the resurrection'. Even on this, his last journey, William Nobes was still bearing witness -- the sight of the large company of his fellow church members -- his family -- following the Minister behind the simple coffin, wending their way through the town, and up the long three miles to the cemetery on the mountain side, spoke to the hearts of many -- curious, interested, careless, thoughtful -- onlookers. It reminded them again, in the midst of the busy-ness of everyday life, of those 'unseen things' which the Word of God tells us 'are eternal'.

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