Conversion of heart

Daily Reading for October 29 • James Hannington, Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa, and his Companions, Martyrs, 1885

Mr. Hannington was just the man to be a favourite—as an Oxford undergraduate he won all hearts. He was the leader in everything, and though his heart was not yet given wholly to God, it had desires after Him, and no doubt the Spirit of God was striving with him. Thus he was kept from vicious ways—his influence was always to be found on the side of religion.

But far more than this is needed by one who intends to give himself to the ministry as did James Hannington. Yet he entered on it, as he said, “a mere formalist and fast drifting into ritualism.” His family were Nonconformists, but at this time the real conversion of his heart to the Lord had not yet taken place.

On the 1st March, 1874, he was ordained to the curacy of Martinhoe in North Devon. “So I am a parson,” he writes in his diary, “and the world has to be crucified in me. Oh, for God’s Holy Spirit, without which I must fall—I must perish.” And God’s Holy Spirit heard and answered that prayer.

Mr. Hannington had a college friend, the Rev. E. C. Dawson, and he was the instrument used by God to bring the message to his soul. Mr. Dawson had written to him a few months after his ordination, telling him of his own conversion to God, and begging him to accept the way of peace through Jesus Christ, which he had himself found precious. Mr. Hannington did not answer the letter, but he could not forget it; his soul was burdened and ill at ease, and at last he wrote and begged his friend to come and see him. Mr. Dawson could not do it, but sent him a book with the request that he would read it. It was the late Dr. Mackay’s Grace and Truth.

Mr. Hannington read the preface, did not care for it, and threw the book aside. After awhile he took it up again and got through the first chapter, but that was all and a second time it was cast from him.

Once more he felt impelled for his friend’s sake to return to it. “Well, I must read it to tell Dawson about it,” he said, and there, in his home at Hurst, he did read it. It was the turning-point in his life.

“I took up the old thing,” he says, “and read it on till I came to the chapter called ‘Do you know your sins are forgiven?’ by means of which my eyes were opened. I was in bed at the time reading. I sprang out and leaped about the floor rejoicing and praising God that Jesus died for me; and from that day to this I have lived under the shadow of His wings in the assurance of faith that I am His and He is mine.”

Now all was changed; the right motive power was given, the burden of sin was gone, the true rest found, and with all the characteristic energy of his nature, James Hannington henceforth lived and laboured for Him who had done all for him.

From the Biographical Memoir included in Peril and Adventure in Central Africa: Being Illustrated Letters to the Youngsters at Home by the late Bishop [James] Hannington (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1886). Found at

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