•  5 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Henry William Soltau, the author of The Tabernacle, the Priesthood, and the Offerings, was born in the year 1805. When a youth he was under serious religious impressions, and was for a long time groping after salvation. At Cambridge University he was a regular attendant at church; sought the society of Christian men; went to hear the best preachers; and by good works and prayers hoped to attain to eternal life. In those days a clear gospel was rarely preached; and the earnest cravings of the soul after reality remained unsatisfied.
When his University career was ended he came to London, entered the legal profession, and became a Chancery barrister. After tasting the pleasures of London life the whole of his religious impressions were cast off, and he plunged into all the gaiety and amusements of the day. His attractive manners, sparkling wit, keen intellect, and extensive literary acquirements, made him a favorite in society. A bright career of worldly prosperity was opening up before him; the world was welcoming him as one worthy of its honor. But "the Lord had need of him," and the way was being prepared for his deliverance, though he knew it not. God was allowing him to have his own way, till at length he felt like the Israelites when they lusted for flesh, and God gave it to them to the full. He loathed the excitement and pleasure afforded by the scenes of gaiety in which he moved, and yet had no power to stop himself; seeming happy to those around him, whilst at heart he was wretched.
In the beginning of the year 1837 tidings reached him of the illness of his mother, and he prepared to go to Plymouth to see her. Whilst packing his portmanteau he felt convinced that he should only arrive home to find his mother dead. There was nothing alarming in the letter, but he began to realize it was God's voice to him. The tedious coach journey was accomplished, and, as he had surmised, his mother had departed. Falling down on his knees by her coffin alone that night he cried out, " Lord, thou must save me, or I am lost forever." That was a real prayer.
Shortly afterward he was led to Christ through the preaching of an earnest servant of God in Plymouth, and from that day to him "to live was Christ." He turned his back there and then on the world, and gave up his profession that he might devote himself to the study of the Scriptures and to the work of the gospel. There were at that time many earnest and godly men in Plymouth with whom he was thrown; and these met daily for the study of the Scriptures and for prayer. He thus became trained in the work of the gospel, and entered on a new career of unswerving devotion in the Master's cause.
For several years his labors were confined chiefly to Devonshire; and through the whole of the county he went preaching Christ crucified, and ably ministering the word of God amongst Christians. Plymouth, Exmouth, Bideford, and Barnstaple were the chief centers of his work for a time. Latterly, on going to Exeter to reside, the sphere of his influence widened considerably. His name is specially associated with the prophetic meetings held in London, in Freemasons' Hall, in the years 1865 and 1867; and his visits to Dublin, Glasgow, Birmingham, Hereford, and Taunton, will long be remembered by those who were privileged to meet him and hear him speak.
His teaching was remarkable, not only for its clearness and depth, but also for its close adherence to Scripture, thus proving how much he lived in communion with God. The great central truths of Salvation through the cross of Christ, and of the Second Coming of the Lord, were ever present to his mind, and pervaded all his teaching. Fearless in his denunciation of what he believed to be error; intensely solemn in his warnings of the power and the consequences of sin; an unflinching standard-bearer of the gospel of God's grace, and yet most tender in ministering the truth of God to stricken ones-he was the means of strengthening the hands of many a feeble one, and of preserving from the snares of the adversary many of God's people.
His last visit to London was made in the autumn of 1867; and although symptoms had then appeared of the disease that so soon after laid him altogether aside, he relaxed none of his energies.
On the Lord's-day he gave no less than six addresses, one of them being delivered in the open-air in Soho Square. He touchingly referred to the days long gone by when he, as a young man of fashion, was well acquainted with that locality; narrating the incidents that had led to the great change in his life, and then testifying to the happiness and blessing of the period of his life since spent in the Lord's service. Fervently he appealed to the numbers of young men crowding around him to turn their backs on the world and sin, and come boldly forth for Christ. It was past ten o'clock that night before he had finished his work; and it was amongst the last of his days of public service for the Lord.
Very shortly afterward paralysis supervened, which gradually exhausted his mental and physical powers. So gradual was the progress of the disease that for seven years and a half he remained amongst his family, though unable to take any active part in the work of the Lord. During this long trial of patience and faith no murmur ever passed his lips. His peace was unbroken, and his mind unclouded by any fear or doubt. He always delighted to hear of the Lord's work, especially that portion in which his own children were engaged. In July, 1875, he quietly passed away, falling asleep in Jesus to await the day of resurrection.