Extracts from the book "Yeomen of the Cotswolds" by Eleanor Porter and Mary Abbott.
Thomas West Porter had a happy home-going into the presence of Christ. Attending a Bible reading at Stow-on-the-Wold he sang, "O Lord of Thee we ne'er would tire" (no. 186 in the 1903 rendering of the Little Flock hymn book) and passed into the presence of his Lord and Master. The middle verse of that hymn expressed in a beautiful way what was Mr. Porter's experience, "To shed no tears, to feel no pain, but see Thee face to face"
Who was T.W. Porter? He was a yeoman farmer who farmed in Oxfordshire when he took up the tenancy of Manor Farm in Holwell in 1870. As a farmer he experienced many 'ups and downs'. Long periods of extremely bad weather seriously affected his farming interests. That bad times did not affect his faith in God is seen in an entry in his diary. "Our God in His infinite wisdom and love is at this present time trying our faith severely by sending us continuous rain in the very midst of harvest, so that, although the corn is nearly all out, nothing can be put in the stack. We have tonight been comforted by the 4th. of Mark in which we see Jesus rebuking the winds as He sees fit. We do not ask that it shall be so unless it be His will, but we do ask that His grace may be bestowed upon us so that we may be kept from rebelling against His will and from harbouring suspicions of His faithfulness and love". After a year of great trial when he was forced to cry out "I know not what to do", he was able to bless the Lord and say, "But my eyes are upon Thee, O Lord"
One morning in the midst of hay-making, he wished for fine weather, but rain fell in torrents. In asking himself what could be done, the text from Prov. 3:5-6 came into his mind, "Trust in the Lord with all Thy heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths". He prayed for strength to do so and to be kept from rebelling against the will of his loving Father.
Much of this devotion and faithfulness was the result of being brought up in a godly home where he was particularly close to his mother. After her burial he wrote, "She who tenderly nursed me in my infancy, watched and prayed over me in my youth, has ever been a most kind and indulgent mother. Truly the memory of the just is blessed".
Mr. Porter served as a church-warden and also taught in the Sunday School. Although he was on good terms with Daniel Goddard, the parson, he found little comfort or encouragement in his church. Between 1878 and 1884, Mr Porter was very concerned about his sins. A few deaths during that time affected him a great deal. Just before Christmas 1881, Mr. Porter became acquainted with Mr. Henry D'Arcy Champney who gathered with the 'Exclusive Brethren' and later with Mr. T.H. Reynolds (he wrote 4 hymns in his rendering of the Little Flock Hymn book in 1903) who was a good influence upon him. He read some of the Brethren literature and felt very much drawn towards them. In March 1884 he severed his connection with the Anglican Church and threw in his lot with the Brethren.
At Manor Farm a wash-house was arranged for prayer meetings and preaching occasions. When the weather was very cold, a roaring fire was kindled, but sometimes it was too hot for the preacher. Eventually the kitchen in the farm-house took precedence over the wash house. The family dog, Bob, used to sit in the kitchen, but when he heard "hymn books and bibles" he got up and went out.
Mr. Porter was a man of the utmost integrity as the following incident reveals. He purchased a mare which proved to be almost useless. He was shocked by the deceit and falsehoods that were practised upon him by the owner of the mare and was tempted to exact revenge upon him. The Lord enabled him to overcome the temptation and to desire that the deceitful man should be led by the Lord to seek forgiveness. He was also tempted to sell the worthless animal and make it appear as if it were a good animal. He resisted this temptation and said, "How can I do this great wickedness against God. And now, Lord, I desire to cast this care upon Thee and look to Thee for future guidance in this matter, Amen".
Mr Porter suffered much bereavement: his wife died aged 41 years old, leaving seven children, the youngest of whom was only a few weeks old. This daughter died when she was only twelve and a son died at the age of sixteen, and added to this he had the burden of a Down's syndrome child. Most of his notebooks were used to write down his own thoughts but in one of his notebooks he copied out pieces by others, particularly J.N. Darby, but also J.G. Bellett and G.V. Wigram (whose poem written after the death of his daughter was included). Here is another (anonymous) piece he copied: "God's eye is more upon the glory than we think, in the discipline and training we go through here. He is training us for Himself, working in us moral fitness for the glory. We are thinking of the circumstances and even of present blessing from the discipline, but His eye is on the results up there".
Mr. Porter's hymns in 'Spiritual Songs' are; no. 182. "O Lord, how blest — as day by day We pass along our pilgrim way" and no. 225, "Oh scenes of heavenly joy! The Father's house above".
No. 182 is often used in the prayer meetings of the brethren and no. 225 expresses a yearning for the Father's house above.