William Romaine was a safe and predictable minister in eighteenth-century England—until he sat under the preaching of George Whitefield. For the rest of his life, Romaine was a fiery evangelical in the Church of England. His zeal confounded church leaders, and he lost both friends and positions. In at least one church, officials refused to light the building where he spoke, forcing him to preach by the light of a single candle held in his hand. But Romaine’s revivalistic preaching drew larger and larger audiences until all of London was affected.
While Whitefield traveled around the world and Wesley throughout Britain, Romaine held down the fort in London. That was his citadel, and he became the rallying point for London’s Anglicans who loved the evangelical truth.
Romaine was a man of habit. He took breakfast each day at six, reading from the book of Psalms as he ate. Dinner was at half-past one, supper at seven in the evening, after which he took a walk. He conducted family prayer at nine in the morning and at nine at night. Bedtime was ten.
He lived to be 81, working unabated until his final illness. On Saturday, July 25, 1795, Romaine found himself unable to go down the stairs. He settled on an upstairs couch in great weakness, “giving glory to God.” In late afternoon, he was heard to whisper, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.” A little later, a friend bent over and said, “I hope, my dear sir, you now find the salvation of Jesus Christ precious, dear, and valuable to you.” Romaine replied, “He is a precious Savior to me now.” A little later, as though seeing the Lord, he cried, “Holy! Holy! Holy! Blessed Jesus! To thee be endless praise.” And about midnight “as the Sabbath began” he took his final breath. His friends planned a private funeral, but thousands showed up. Fifty coaches followed the hearse, and multitudes on foot. His critics had long since folded their tents. The city loved him, and it loved his truth.
You are true to your name, And you lead me along right paths. I may walk through valleys as dark as death, But I won’t be afraid. You are with me, And your shepherd’s rod makes me feel safe. (Psalm 23:3b,4)
Robert J. Morgan, On This Day : 265 Amazing and Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs & Heroes, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2000, c1997). July 25.