Conversion of Thomas Armitage

The following is from the Baptist Encyclopedia, edited by William Cathcart, 1883, Louis H. Everts, Philadelphia: Thomas Armitage was born in Yorkshire, England, in 1819. He is descended from the old and honored family of the Armitages of that section of Yorkshire, one of whom, Sir John Armitage of Barnsley, was created a baronet by Charles I in 1640. He lost his father at a tender age, and his mother when he was five years old. She was the grand-daughter of the Rev. Thomas Barrat, a Methodist minister. She had great faith in Jesus, and prayed often and confidently for the salvation of her oldest son, Thomas. At her death she gave him her Bible, her chief treasure, which she received as a reward from her teacher in the Sunday School. Her last prayer for him was that he might be converted and become a good minister of the Saviour. The religious influence of his godly mother never forsook him. While listening to a sermon on the text, “Is it well with thee?” his sins and danger filled him with grief and alarm, and before he left the sanctuary his heart was filled with the love of Christ.
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A REMARKABLE INCIDENT (The following is from an updated clipping of the Watchman paper, probably about 1885.) A remarkable episode in a public religious service once occurred while a minister was preaching from the brief text, “Is it well with thee?” (2 Kings 4:26) which refers to Elisha and the Shunamite woman, at a little church in Yorkshire, England, in the year 1831. The minister was a good man with no little gospel power in his heart and manner, and he made it solemnly plain to the auditory that the Saviour was present, looking into their thoughts with kind inquiry, and testing the spirit of every one. “Is it well with thee? Is it well with thee?” Suddenly an exclamation was heard from one of the pews, and a boy twelve years old, who had been intently listening, fell on his knees and began to weep and pray. A strange thrill ran through the congregation, and many rose to their feet. The minister paused in his sermon, and all attention was riveted on the kneeling boy. Everybody knew little Tommy, for he belonged to one of the Yorkshire families, and his ancestors of Barnsley had worn the arms of a baronet. He was a bright, gifted boy, now six years motherless, but carrying in his heart the indelible impression of his mother’s early religious teachings. The honest Yorkshire people felt too deeply themselves the effect of the sermon to misunderstand Tommy’s emotion. They did not think he was crazy. The minister did not. “Let us pray,” he said for he saw more need of prayer than preaching at a moment when before men and angels a young soul first spoke its want. The whole congregation at once assumed the attitude of devotion. Many strong and loving petitions went up to God for the little boy whom, like Samuel, he had called in his own tabernacle. The scene was a strange one–that sudden prayer meeting in the middle of sermon time. The prayers were answered, too. Tommy rose from his knees with a radiant face. Thenceforth the seal of a divine anointing was on him. For the next eight years he continued to give increasing proofs of a Christian spirit and Christian zeal, and rare and happy fitness for winning souls. When very young, he was licensed to preach. At the age of twenty he left his native land and came to the United States. Since then he has not neglected the gift that is in him. The voice that so long ago said to him, on the other side of the sea, “Is it well with thee?” has ever been gladly recognized, and he has “followed Jesus all the way.” It led him to Long Island; it led him to Albany; it led him down the Hudson again–and very many whom his words first taught the heavenly lesson now know “It is well” with them. Today few stand higher among the American ministry or more honored of the Great Master, than Tommy, the Yorkshire boy–now Dr. Thomas Armitage of New York