A Pleasing Discovery
Mr Peter Ince, ejected from the rectory of Dunhead, in Wilts, after being silenced, clothed himself in the dress of a shepherd, and engaged himself in that capacity to a Mr Grove, that in this way he might obtain support for himself and his family. But not long after the year 1662, the wife of Mr Grove, who was a gentleman of great opulence, was taken dangerously ill, and Mr G sent for the parish minister to pray with her. When the messenger came, he was just going out with the hounds, and sent word that he would come when the hunt was over. Mr Grove expressed much resentment against the minister, for choosing rather to follow his diversion than attend his wife, under the circumstances in which she then lay, when one of the servants said, "Sir, our shepherd, if you will send for him, can pray, very well; we have often heard him at prayer in the field." Upon this he was immediately sent for, and Mr Grove asked him whether he ever did or could pray. The shepherd fixed his eyes upon him, and, with peculiar seriousness in his countenance, replied, "God forbid, sir, I should live one day without prayer." Hereupon he was desired to pray with the sick lady, which he did so pertinently to her case, with such fluency and fervency of devotion, as greatly to astonish the husband and all the family that were present. When they arose from their knees, Mr Grove said, "Your language and manner discover you to be a very different person from what your present appearance indicates. I conjure you to inform me who and what you are, and what were your views and situation in life before you came into my service." Whereupon he told him that he was one of the ministers that had been lately ejected from the Church, and that having nothing of his own left, he was content, for a livelihood, to submit to the honest and peaceful employment of tending sheep. Upon hearing this, Mr Grove said, "Then you shall be my shepherd" and immediately erected a meeting-house on his own estate, in which Mr Ince preached, and gathered a congregation of Dissenters. He is said to have been a good scholar, well skilled in the languages, especially in the Hebrew, and a good practical preacher. He had an admirable gift in prayer, and would, in days of special prayer, pour forth his soul with such spirituality, variety, fluency, and affection, that he was called praying Ince.