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John Welch and the Friar in France  



Born to a Scottish laird in Dumfriesshire in 1570, John Welch early proved a grief to his father, not infrequently running away from school as a young lad, and subsequently joining the border thieves. But soon his clothes turned to rags, and like the prodigal son he resolved to return to his father. Though at first his father reproached and threatened him severely, his tearful request - made on bended knee - for pardon "for Christ's sake", along with the pleas of a female relation, persuaded him to be reconciled. Being then sent to college the young Welch thrived and was admitted to the ministry of the Gospel. As a pastor Mr Welch was outstanding for his holiness of life and fervency in both prayer and preaching, and his bravery brought him success in quelling bloody riots and reconciling enemies in the streets of Ayr. He married a daughter of John Knox, and when after imprisonment he was banished from Scotland for his Presbyterian views, his wife waited on King James VI (James I of England) to request Welch's return. The King having discovered on inquiry that Mrs Welch was a daughter of John Knox, he exclaimed, "Knox and Welch! the devil never made such a match as that" - to which the woman replied, "It's right like, sir; for we never speired [i.e., asked] his advice". John Welch died in London, still an exile for the cause of Christ, in 1622.



While Mr Welch was minister in one of these French villages, upon an evening, a certain Popish friar travelling through the country, because he could not find a lodging in the whole village, addressed himself to Mr Welch's house for one night: the servants acquainted their master, and he was content to receive this guest. The family had supped before he came, and so the servants conveyed the friar to his chamber, and after they had made his supper, they left him to his rest. There was but a timber partition betwixt him and Mr Welch: after the friar had slept his first sleep, he was surprised at the hearing of a silent, but constant whispering noise, at which he wondered very much, and was not a little troubled with it. The next morning he walked in the fields, where he chanced to meet a countryman, who, saluting him because of his habit, asked him where he had lodged that night? the friar answered, he had lodged with the Huguenot minister: then the countryman asked him, what entertainment he had? the friar answered, very bad, for (said he) I always held there were devils haunting these ministers' houses, and I am persuaded there was one with me this night; for I heard a continual whisper all the night over, which, I believe, was no other thing, than the minister and the devil conversing together. The countryman told him, he was much mistaken, and that it was nothing else but the minister at his night-prayers. O! said the friar, does the minister pray any? yes, more than any man in France (answered the countryman) and if you please to stay another night with him, you may be satisfied. The friar got him home to Mr Welch's house, and pretending indisposition, entreated another night's lodging, which was granted him. Before dinner, Mr Welch came from his chamber, and made his family exercise, according to his custom; first he sung a psalm, then read a portion of scripture, and discoursed upon it, thereafter he prayed with great fervour (as his custom was:) to all which, the friar was an astonished witness. After the exercise, they went to dinner, where the friar was very civilly entertained; Mr Welch forbearing all question and dispute for that time. When the evening came, Mr Welch made his exercise as he had done in the morning, which occasioned yet more wondering in the friar, and after supper to bed they all went; but the friar longed much to know what the night whisper was, and in that he was soon satisfied, for after Mr Welch's first sleep, the noise began, and then the friar resolved to be sure what it was, so he crept silently to Mr Welch's chamber door, and there he heard not only the sound, but the words exactly, and communications betwixt God and man, such as he knew not had been in the world. Upon this, the next morning as soon as Mr Welch was ready, the friar went to him, and told him, that he had been in ignorance, and lived in darkness all his time; but now he was resolved to adventure his soul with Mr Welch, and thereupon declared himself a Protestant. Mr Welch welcomed him, and encouraged him, and he continued a Protestant to his dying day.





“HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF ACCOUNTS OF REVIVAL,”  compiled by the Rev. John Gillies, D.D., 1754. Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1981. p 169.