Every now and again there springs up a character whose overflowing joy in God shines like a sun rising at midnight. Such a character was Billy Bray – “the King's son,” as he often called himself.
Billy was born in the Cornish town of Twelve-heads in the year 1794. His father was a man of faith and brought up his children in the ways of faith. In 1811, however, when Billy Bray left his native town to work as a miner in the county of Devon, he also left all the good influence that his father had surrounded him with. He drank too much. His language became terrible.
So Billy remained until he read a book by John Bunyan, the famous author of Pilgrim's Progress. The book sobered Billy's soul. For the first time in his married life, Billy Bray came home with his wages intact, and a clear eye to see his wife.
That was what you might call the “first fruits” of Billy Bray's conscience being awakened. As yet, however, he had no real assurance that his sins were forgiven by God. He dreaded the thought of death, and what might come after death. He began to seek with prayers and tears to be delivered from that fear, and at last that deliverance came – an overflowing joy of sins forgiven, of knowing God as his loving heavenly Father He had become the son of a King! For the rest of Billy's life, this joy became a living feature of the newly-born “King's son”.
Billy tells us about the day of his salvation: “I think it was in November 1823,” he writes, “but what day of the month I do not know. But I remember this: everything looked new to me. I was like a man in a new world. I spent the greater part of my time praising the Lord.” Referring to his life in the mines, he used to say, “I was born in the fire, and could not live in the smoke.”
Of course, Billy Bray had his trials and temptations like every living soul under the sun, but he had the joyous assurance that God was his God by faith in Christ. How the “King's son” could express that assurance, in his own unmistakable way! At a gathering where several people were speaking about their “ups and downs”, Billy had the last words. “Well, friends,” he said, “I've been taking vinegar and honey, too; but, praise God, I've been taking the vinegar with a spoon, and the honey with a ladle!” The honey was the joy he had in knowing he was the King's son.
Times were hard in those days, and the supply of life's bare necessities could sometimes be hard to come by. But the old Cornish miner had a tremendous capacity to trust in his God; “Do you think that He'll starve Billy?” he used to say. “No, no, there's sure to be a bit of flour at the bottom of the barrel for Billy. While I trust Him, He'd as soon starve Michael the Archangel as starve Billy.”
Not every one has the character, or the temperament, or the expressive language of a Billy Bray, the Cornish miner. But millions have shared his experience of spiritual joy – of being children of the King.
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Galatians 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:15–16 “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: