(Psa. 89. 30-33)
Memorials of the Strict and Particular Baptist Church Meeting at Hope Chapel, Westoning
Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations: ask thy father, and he will shew thee; thy elders, and they will tell thee.——Deut. 32. 7.
These men were blest with humbling grace;
Obscure, they sought no greater place
Than one at Westoning:
To them this meant the house of God;
Snow, rain, or shine, long roads they trod—
And now they see the King!
Having often been asked various questions in reference to the cause at Westoning, among which, on several occasions, has been the question of its origin, we decided to trace, if possible, the origin of the cause and to gather together various facts relative to it during succeeding years. At first, the thought of publishing a little book such as is now presented was far from the thoughts of the friends, who, assisted by the kind help of our aged friend Mr. Windridge, had taken in hand the gathering together of these facts and items of interest. It was, however, felt later that it might prove to be of sufficient interest (and, it is hoped, profit) to the readers to put into the form of a little book the various interesting points in reference to the cause, together with a few obituaries of departed friends who have been connected with it. These points and obituaries are now presented under the heading, “Westoning Memorials.” There is indeed revealed in these “Memorials” much cause for gratitude that, for so long a period as is recorded, a people who have been owned of God have been maintained through many changing scenes, and that to-day, through God’s goodness and longsuffering mercy, we are not without evidence that He still has a favour towards us. To many, “Hope Chapel” has been made a spiritual home, and, to such as are now living, the title of this little book, “Nevertheless,” embraces much. We believe their united desire is expressed in the lines of Dr. Watts:
Peace be within this sacred place.
And joy a constant guest;
With holy gifts and heavenly grace,
Be her attendants blest (361).
We feel unworthy to place before the Lord’s people these “Memorials,” yet, with a hope that His own work is here recorded, we desire His blessing upon them; and, as the twelve stones were set up in Gilgal by Joshua as “a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever” (Joshua 4. 7), so we would, in these few “Memorials,” set up our Ebenezer, and say, “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us” (1 Sam. 7. 12). As time rolls on, may this word yet be true in reference to this corner of the Lord’s vineyard: “One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts” (Psa. 145. 4).
B. J. Lockey.
These “Memorials” are not intended to be a full, smoothly connected, and consecutive history of the church now meeting at Hope Chapel, Westoning. The materials for such a history do not exist. Ancient records of the church have been either lost or destroyed.
In order to secure trustworthy information relating to the life and death of Francis Hews, the first known pastor of Westoning as a Particular Baptist church, and of the events immediately following his death, intensive search has been made in several directions, which need not be particularized here. It must, however, be mentioned that friends both far and near have assisted, by lending books and pamphlets, in getting together the few facts that are here presented. These facts, though disappointingly few, are sufficient to prove that the Strict Baptist cause at Westoning is, in its foundation, nearly three hundred years old and distinctly traceable to the preaching and influence of Bunyan.
On behalf of the Westoning church and congregation, the warmest thanks must be given to all who have so kindly lent a hand in the compilation of these “Memorials”; also to the Editor of the Gospel Standard for permission to reprint the very valuable obituaries of departed Westoning saints. Here, too, it will be noted that, owing to limitations of space, only a few could be inserted——enough, However, to show that God has had a people here for many generations.
It has been my aim, as far as possible, to avoid tiring the reader by reproducing a series of legal documents with their cumbrous and wearisome repetitions; and, on the other hand, to bring to light what may, it is hoped, prove spiritually profitable and instructive to the present and future generations of the people of God, to whom He thus speaks: “Set thee up waymarks, make thee high heaps” (Jer. 31. 21). May He, in infinite mercy, command His blessing to that end!
Origin of the Cause.
The cause appears to have originated from some Westoning people who were members of the church at Bedford, now known as Bunyan Meeting. In the church minute book of 1656, we find it was decided to have a lecture (or, as it would now be expressed, a service) occasionally at Westoning, [[Ivimey, “History of the Baptists,” Vol. II, p. 30.]] “to visit our brethren and sisters; and to certify us how they do body and soul; and to stir them up to come (especially at our monthly meetings) to us at Bedford; and to let them know if they come not, the church will expect an account of the reason of their absence.” [[Dr. Brown’s “Bunyan,” p. 99.]]
Bunyan preached in the Parish of Westoning.
Bunyan, who was baptized in 1653 by John Gifford, the first pastor at Bedford, preached at a cottage in Lower Samsell (in the parish of Westoning) on that memorable 12th November, 1660, when he was arrested by the constable and taken to Harlington; and (as is pointed out by Dr. Brown in his work on Bunyan, page 140) would probably walk the thirteen miles to Bedford with the constable “either through Pulloxhill to the high road at Silsoe, and so through Wilstead and Elstow, or by way of Westoning and Ampthill.” His twelve years’ imprisonment immediately followed. So we see that King Charles, landing in England in May, 1660, put the troublesome tinker in Bedford jail less than six months afterwards. This was quite contrary to Charles’s solemn signature of covenants some years earlier.
William Dell Ejected.
Among the two thousand ministers ejected from their livings in 1662, William Dell was one. He was born near Westoning, was Master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, had held the living of Yelden in Bedfordshire, had been a chaplain in Cromwell’s army, and was a strenuous defender of liberty of conscience.
Westoning Baptists Fined.
But Dell was not the only Bedfordshire man willing to suffer on account of his religion; for in 1671 four people at Westoning were each fined £20 for not going to the Established Church, and for attending a conventicle.[[In 1668, twelve Westoning people had been punished by the authorities for refusing to come to church.]] The Act of Parliament defined a conventicle as “any meeting for worship otherwise than according to the practice of the Church of England which, if held in a house, should have present thereat more than four persons besides the family; or if in the fields or any uninhabited place, more than four persons in all.” The penalty for private persons over sixteen years of age was five shillings for the first offence, ten shillings for the second; for the preacher, £20 for the first offence, £40 for the second. It therefore appears that these four Westoning men went out to preach from the little company of godly people meeting in Westoning.
A Time of Spiritual Dearth.
From the time of Bunyan’s death in 1688 until Whitefield and his contemporaries (Toplady, Berridge, Newton, Romaine, and others) were raised up, spiritual life was very low in England, and no doubt Westoning shared in the general desolation. This is not the place to dwell on the labours of Whitefield, but it may be mentioned in passing that in July, 1758, he preached in Bunyan’s pulpit at Bedford.
first known Pastor of Westoning.
But, though spiritual things were doubtless low in Westoning as in other places, the cause was by no means extinct; for in 1790, or thereabouts, twenty years after the death of Whitefield, we find that Francis Hews was pastor over the two Particular Baptist churches of Dunstable and Westoning, distinct churches then as they are now. He published in 1798 an account of his life under the title “Spoils won in the Day of Battle,”[[See facsimile of title-page on p. 7. About 70 of its 204 pages were reprinted in Zion’s Casket in 1852. Mr. Hews also published two other works: “The Songs of Sion in Gospel Sound” (1800), and “The Old and New Covenants; or, The Eternal Law and Everlasting Gospel” (1801).]] from which we give a few extracts. When he was only twelve years of age, a persecuting neighbour called him a White-fieldite; and, later, he certainly deserved that honourable title. He says: “Walking twenty miles, and preaching three times a day, was my work for a long time … up to the middle of my leg in water and dirt, as I often have done, and must do, to carry the gospel to Edlesborough and Totternhoe. Many times have I been wet to the skin, and scraped flakes of dirt from my stockings with a knife; and never would take a farthing for village preaching in my life” (p. 190, “Spoils,” etc.).
Mr. Hews knew the path of temptation, and was most violently tempted to believe that he had committed the unpardonable sin. He says:
Much of my time was spent in trying to find out what the unpardonable sin was; but here all failed with me. At length I became so desperate that one day I went upstairs, fell before God, and asked Him to send me to hell, that I might know the worst——and I seemed, in my feelings, as if I could not be worse off. But, blessed be His holy name for ever! He would not do this, though I deserved it a thousand times over.
One Lord’s day I went to hear an Independent minister, who, in the course of his sermon, observed that many of God’s own children were much distressed about having sinned against the Holy Ghost, fearing they should never be forgiven. But one thing, he said, would prove they had not; and that was, their concern about it. He believed that a person that had done that, could have no more feeling than the seats we sat on. This I kept in my mind all the way home, and felt some glimmering of hope and some desire to pray, which I attempted when I got home; and, blessed be God! I found some liberty in it.
One evening I went out into a meadow, just by my father’s house, with my mind almost distracted about pardon from God; and this, I had told the Lord in prayer, I must have in such a way as to show it had come from Him, or else I could have no satisfaction. I got under the hedge, up to my knees in snow almost, and there, I thought, I would go to prayer, little thinking what God was going to do with me there. I attempted to pray, and in an instant was tempted to smother myself there. This, with the old temptation, brought me to my wit’s end; and had not God appeared, what would have become of me I know not. I was enabled to kneel down and ask for mercy, and had this passage sent with power into my soul: “And the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1. 7). I felt pardon brought into my soul, and was now satisfied I had not so sinned, as I before thought, against the Holy Ghost as never to be forgiven. But the thought I had had of smothering myself in the snow was handled by the enemy of my soul to such a degree that I could not move from the spot where I was, but stood trembling until I had almost sunk to the earth——when the Lord enabled me to put up another prayer unto Him, and favoured me with a second application of the above-mentioned scripture; which gave me such relief and sweet comfort that I went home with my soul full of joy, and spent most part of that night in praising God that His mercy was so freely and so fully manifested and applied unto me, after so many fears and dreadful apprehensions of perishing as I for a long time had experienced.
But, notwithstanding this blessed experience of the goodness of my God, I was afterwards left to call all into question; and Satan would often terrify my mind with the old temptation of having committed the unpardonable sin. One night I was led to view this, in a distant light, as not real, but the cunning craft of the devil to hinder me in going to prayer. I therefore attempted to make it a matter of prayer, and, finding much liberty in calling on the Lord, I ventured to ask Him, to make clear to my soul whether He had designs of mercy towards me or not; and if He had, to give me to know it, so as to keep me from that distrust which I knew was so dishonouring to Him and so uncomfortable unto me.
Towards the next morning I dreamed that I saw a bright angel come flying unto me, with a letter in his hand, and gave it into my hand. When I had taken it, he said, looking, as I thought, very wishfully in my face: “That is sent you from the King of kings, and the signature it bears is from the broad seal of glory.” He then flying away, I began to look on the letter, which, I thought, shone like the blaze of fire. When I opened it I read these lines wrote, I thought, in letters of gold:
His blood is thy pardon.
His blood is thy plea;
His blood is thy all.
It’s thy advocate—see!
When I awoke I felt exceeding happy; and, in a little time, my mind was blessed again with these words coming with more than usual power: “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.” These things, under God, set my mind free from the temptation of having committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Ghost.
The next Lord’s day, I made a great account of, in my mind, purposing to go to Newmill, and hoping to find comfort there. Nor was I disappointed. My dear friend Mr. Blane preached from Rom. 3. 26: “To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” And my soul was so abundantly blessed with a view of God’s method of justifying sinners in His sight that my soul seemed as if it would have leaped out of my body, so elated with joy, all the time of the sermon. When worship was over, I singled myself out from all the company and made my way home. And, as I was going across a field——which spot I shall never forget—-the blessed God was graciously pleased to shine into my soul in such a manner as to give me, by faith, as clear a discovery of my soul’s justification as I could behold the sun at noonday with my bodily eyes; nor do I think I shall ever forget the circumstance to my dying hour. This, with the dream I had just before, gave such divine delight to my soul that I knew not how to contain myself for joy. This circumstance the Lord has often made of the greatest use to my mind since.
A Revelation of Christ.
After I was thus favoured of the Lord, I spent some time in uninterrupted happiness, and found my soul much drawn out unto the Lord for a knowledge of Jesus and Him crucified. And this desire so prevailed over my mind that I do not know that at that time I wished for anything else; nor could I for some time pray for scarcely anything besides.
I now found liberty to retire for secret prayer frequently every day; and could often find liberty and pleasure in calling on the Lord for an hour or two together. One day that scripture came with power to my mind: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2. 2). This still increased my desire to know a crucified Jesus; and I was fully persuaded there was something to be seen and known in and from Jesus that might well put a soul upon renouncing all for a knowledge of Him. I was directed, with this exercise of mind, into a secret place adjoining my father’s house, where I had the happiness to be delightfully engaged with God for some considerable time.
After I arose from my knees, and was about to leave the place, I felt my mind powerfully inclining to go to prayer again, which I could not omit. In this exercise with my dear God, I was suddenly melted into a flood of tears, and, with much difficulty, asked the Lord to let me know His dear, crucified Son. Nor was the Lord offended; for immediately I had such things impressed on my mind as I never knew before. I thought I saw Jesus with the wounds of His hands, feet, and side all open … I saw so much with the eyes of my soul as laid me flat on the floor; nor could I arise for some time——I think about an hour. At this time I thought my heart would burst, while tears were running in abundance down my face. And no soul can think how awful and hateful sin appeared and what inward anguish my soul felt. While thus weeping, groaning, and rejoicing at the feet of a dear, crucified Lord, the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary were here opened to my soul in such a manner as could not be by all the preaching in the world.
Call to Preach.
When I arose from the floor, I felt my soul possessed of a desire that the Lord would, some time or other, help me to make known that blessed Jesus unto others; and began, from this time, to persevere in praying that the Lord would at some time make a preacher of me. Nor could I ever omit this in prayer, though I often wondered that I should pray for such a thing, and could not think why the Lord should suffer me so to pray. And what seemed most extraordinary to me was that I always found much liberty and firm faith in so praying. The only thing I had in view was this——that I might make a crucified Jesus known. Nor do I think but what I should have preached as legal as any of the preachers of the present day if it had not been for such experience. But, blessed be God! I cannot forget that secret spot and my bleeding Jesus there; nor do I wish to preach a sermon while I live but as Jesus the sum and substance of it.
Thus far Mr. Hews, who was born at Aldbury, Hertfordshire, in 1768. Much more could be added, but limitations of space prevent. Before Mr. Hews became pastor of Dunstable and Westoning churches, he began to itinerate in the surrounding villages when eighteen years of age. Several attempts were made to murder him, but all were frustrated; and he seems to have become a settled pastor in 1795, at the age of twenty-seven. Cornelius Slim, in his “Brief Memorials” (1870), p. 131, says: “This bright and shining light was suddenly removed in the midst of his usefulness, on the 15th of May, 1810, after a ministry of fifteen years, at the early age of forty-one.[[This is a mistake. Mr. Hews was born on 3rd March, 1768, and was therefore forty-two.]] His labours were blessed to many souls.”
A few years after the death of Mr. Hews——that is, in 1813——the church secured a larger place of worship in Mead’s Yard, previously to which, we are told, they had met in a building consisting of two cottages. The following is a copy of the application for registration:——
Sept. 23, 1813. We, the undersigned, do hereby certify we have appropriated a certain building for public worship in the parish of Westoning, in the county of Bedford, for the use of Protestant Dissenters, and do request the same may be registered in the Archdeacon’s Office.——Jn. Smith, H. Martin-dale, Hen. T. Martin, Thos. Oliver.
Photostat copies of the 1813 deeds have been obtained from the Bedford County Records Office, and are now in the possession of the church.
The chapel in Mead’s Yard contained a small burial ground, and we find that, in or about 1831, the church acquired a larger plot of ground in Greenfield Road, not far away, on which the present chapel was built. In that year the little child known as babe Oliver was exhumed from the old burial ground in Mead’s Yard, and was the first to be buried in the new one. The grave is near to the main entrance to the chapel on the left-hand side, and the inscription is quite clear. Two years later, another child, Ruth Mead, aged five, was buried. This grave was then in the open; but, as the present chapel was built over it, the stone can be seen in the centre of the chapel near the stove. The whole of this inscription is also clear.
We might mention that, when excavating for sand for building purposes some years ago, the workmen found traces of some of the old graves in Mead’s Yard.
Mr. George Dance was the first pastor at Mead’s Yard; he continued for about ten years, becoming pastor at Bishop’s Stortford some time in 1824. We have no further knowledge of him.
Mr. Thomas Chew.
We now come to Mr. Chew, the next pastor, who continued to preach in Mead’s Yard until 1828. We shall hear of him occasionally as we proceed.
Chapel in Mead’s Yard blown down.
In that year, during a violent storm one Sunday evening, the chapel was blown down; application was then made for registration of the house of Mr. William Stanley. A copy of the application follows:
To the Worshipful the Archdeacon of Bedford and to his Registrar.
I, William Stanley, of Westoning, in the county of Bedford, do hereby certify that the house now in my occupation, situate at Westoning, in the county of Bedford aforesaid, is intended forthwith to be used as a place of religious worship by an assembly or congregation of Protestants; and I do hereby require you to register and record the same according to the provisions of the Act passed in the 52nd year of the reign of his Majesty King George the III, intituled “An Act to repeal certain Acts, and amend other Acts, relating to Religious Worship and Assemblies, and persons teaching or preaching therein,” and hereby request a certificate thereof.
Witness my hand this 27th day of October, 1828.
Copy of Certificate:
I, Charles Bailey, Deputy Registrar of the Court of the Archdeaconry of Bedford, do hereby certify that a certificate of which the above is a true copy, was this day delivered to me, to be registered and recorded pursuant to the Act of Parliament therein mentioned. Dated this 31st day of October, 1828.
Charles Bailey, Deputy Registrar.
The church continued to meet at Mr. Stanley’s house for about seven years, and we find that on one occasion Mr. John Grace heard Mr. Chew there, as is thus recorded in his “Recollections,” p. 74: “28th December, 1834. To Westoning, where I heard Mr. Chew.”
Present Chapel Built.
The present chapel (Hope) was built in 1835 on part of the site that had been acquired for the new burying ground. It is situated on the main road, is a well-built chapel, with gallery at the back, and has good vestries. The seating accommodation is roughly 240. The following are the names of the original trustees of the present chapel:—— Thos. Fowler, Woburn Green; James Oliver, Westoning; Richard Oliver, Westoning; Saml. Mead, Westoning; Jn. Smith, Toddington; Robt. Sprague, Toddington; Wm. Reynolds, Flitwick; Thos. Hobbs, Flitwick; Jsph. Gudgin, Flitwick; Abraham Martindale, Eversholt.
Mr. Chew continued his labours acceptably for the next nine years. He died in 1844, having been pastor for twenty years, the longest pastorate of any in the history of the church at Westoning.
When Mr. Chew had passed away, it appears that some trouble arose which resulted in a division in 1846. A number of the people left and met for a time in the house of Mr. William Aldrich. They do not, however, seem to have held together very long, but apparently went to other places or returned to Hope.
Five Westoning Worthies.
Before we enter upon some account of Mr. George Muskett’s ministry (1849-65), it may be not only interesting but profitable to read of the experiences of some of those men of God who worshipped here more than a hundred years ago: George Gazeley (1822-1901), John Spring (1778-1873), Richard Hyde (1812-79), Thomas Kingham (1805-61), George Squires (1810-85).
Mr. Gazeley lived at Harlington, and, at the time of his death, was the oldest attendant at Westoning. I [John Neal] have heard him say that he attended the Sabbath school held in the old chapel before the present chapel was built, which was more than sixty years ago. He was not a member of the church at this time; but the Lord gave him a blessed promise, for the fulfilment of which he had to wait a long time, so that he became a companion of Jeremiah when he said, “Wilt Thou be altogether unto me as a liar,” etc. But he lived to have the promise blessedly fulfilled: and when he came before the church to relate his experience, he was received unanimously, and he has been a great help to us in carrying on the cause of truth. He was a man with a sober mind, and would at all times give us good advice. The Lord blessed him with a good gift in prayer, and he was able to take an active part in the services of God’s house when we had no minister. We visited him on his death-bed, and asked him about the state of his mind. He said that he hoped it was well with him, but he wanted “another manifestation from the Lord.” He was taken away rather suddenly, but a little time before he departed he took his aged sister by the hand and said, “It is well.” He passed away on Lord’s day evening, February 24th, 1901, aged 79 years, thus exchanging an earthly Sabbath for a heavenly one. In his will he left twenty pounds to the cause of truth at Westoning, which has been paid to our treasurer.——John Neal (GS. 1901, Nov. wrapper, p. xi.).
It is interesting to trace Mr. Gazeley’s pathway. Born in 1822, he would easily remember attending the Sabbath School in Mead’s Yard as a boy of five (1827) until the chapel was blown down in 1828. Seven years at Mr. Stanley’s house, already mentioned, brings us to 1835. Mr. Gazeley then attends the newly erected chapel, Hope, for forty-nine years before he joins the church in 1884. He was then sixty-two. Truly he waited long for the blessing, but not in vain. He witnessed three great church trials: one soon after Mr. Chew died, already noted; the second under Mr. Muskett; and the last during Mr. Darbyshire’s pastorate. He was brought through them all, upheld by sovereign grace. Blessed man!
In John Spring we have a link with the immortal Toplady, for in the year that that sweet preacher and hymn-writer died John Spring was born—-1778. His daughter, Mrs. Smith, tells us (G.S. 1874) that he was quickened into divine life at about twenty-four years of age; we thus get back to 1802, when the ministerial fame of Francis Hews——“the celebrated Mr. Hews,” as he was called, then pastor at Dunstable and Westoning——was at its height. It is therefore easy to understand John Spring joining Dunstable under that blessed man’s ministry. We are told that Mr. Hews died in 1810. In Mr. Spring’s obituary notice, his daughter says that “after losing his enjoyment, his judgment becoming more and more informed, and his soul more and more exercised in and with the things of God, a spiritual famine” resulted.
On account, therefore, of changes which took place at Dunstable after the death of Mr. Hews, we find Mr. Spring, in search of spiritual food, walking as far as Hitchin, a distance of thirteen miles, where he heard Mr. Gatwood preach from Deut. 32. 9, 10. So great was the blessing on that occasion felt in his soul “that he wept almost all the way home … a day never to be forgotten.”
After this he found a spiritual home at Westoning, three miles to the north of his natural home at Toddington. This would be somewhere about 1828, at the time when Mead’s Yard chapel was blown down. Mr. Spring was then fifty years of age. Mr. Chew, the pastor, died in 1844; Mr. Muskett succeeded in 1849 until 1865; Mr. Darbyshire entered on his pastorate on April 6th, 1873; and on November 3rd of the same year Mr. Spring made a blessed end, with “Hallelujah!” on his lips, having been for about forty-five years a member, and several years a deacon, of Westoning church. He was ninety-five——fully ripe indeed (Job 5. 26).
The life of Richard Hyde (G.S. 1879) falls into the following periods. Born in 1812; called by grace in 1829 (age seventeen); with the General Baptists from 1834-39 (twenty-two to twenty-seven); more clearly instructed by the Spirit of God, joins Westoning, 1839-44 (twenty-seven to thirty-two); on the death of Mr. Chew, backslides into open infidelity for five years, 1844-49 (thirty-two to thirty-seven); restored and returns to church fellowship under Mr. Muskett in 1849: continues in honourable membership until death in 1879 (thirty-seven to sixty-seven). He served the church for many years as a deacon, working amicably in that office with Mr. George Squires. “He had an only daughter [Mrs. Sophia Elmer], who died in the Lord when quite young, leaving three little children. Her obituary is in the G.S. 1865, and is well worth reading.”
Mr. Hyde made a glorious end, which Mr. Darby-shire thus describes:——
Yea, all the blessings he had ever had before were only like so many candles in comparison with the blazing summer sun. Tongue or pen must fail rightly to express the glory that filled his happy soul at this time; but I must try to give a few words on the subject, as it was the crowning point in his valuable life, both to himself and all spiritual observers. Christ Jesus his Lord was revealed to him in a most astonishing manner, as his Daysman, Mediator, Surety, Law-fulfiller, Advocate, High Priest, and almost in every office He sustains to His church and people, but especially as his Saviour. His Saviour! This seemed to swallow up every other name. Saved from all his sins, from death and hell, from the curse of the law and all backslidings, and saved to Christ Himself, to heaven and glory, with an everlasting salvation. I went to see him in this happy state of mind, and his countenance beamed with heavenly joy. He spoke as long as his little strength would allow. Amongst other gracious utterances, he said, “I can now join the Psalmist, and say, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases, and crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies,’ ” etc. Also, “I am a companion to dear Paul. I can now say in truth, ‘I know that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ With other dear saints and servants of God in the Scriptures, I can now well join and say, ‘Praise ye the Lord,’ ” etc.
During one blessed night his soul was lifted up to a very high degree in an experimental enjoyment of his interest in the love of God his heavenly Father, in the blood-shedding and righteousness of Jesus, his dear Saviour and Redeemer; the Spirit bearing His own witness with his spirit that he was in very deed a child of God, a joint-heir with Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. At this point, the world, the family, his business, and all things here below were as if dead to him. In a word, he was as if he had already left the body and his soul was bathing in bliss.
To the surprise of all, he so far recovered as to be able to ride to chapel several Lord’s days, to witness both to small and great the wonders of God to him. He appeared like a man raised from the dead. He felt he must come, if possible, to “tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour he had found” (144). This he did, with all the little strength he had, and very kindly admonished the young male members not to hang back in trying to pray at prayer meetings, etc.
He passed away on July 25th, 1879, aged 67 years. The church has lost a pillar, the children a loving grand-parent, the village a worthily beloved inhabitant, and myself the best and most unswerving friend I ever had in my life.
Thomas Kingham died on August 12th, 1861, at Flitwick, near Ampthill. He was by nature of a desperate turn of mind, a make-sport for fools. I have heard him say that in his natural state he took delight in all manner of wanton mischief. After such conduct his natural conscience would so terrify him that he would be afraid to move in the dark, or go past a churchyard or a wood.
It appears that in or about the year 1831 his convictions became of a very solemn character, and led him to consider his state before God, to read the Bible, and attend to preaching. But these exercises can be better explained by himself in two pieces he wrote to the Editors of the Gospel Standard, which appeared in that periodical in 1838 (pp. 54, 55) and 1839 (pp. 86, 87). I have heard him say that his first convictions were not of that depth that many are, nor of that depth which they often were in his own case after he found mercy. That took place in the harvest field in the year 1833. He then discovered that nearly everyone with whom he conversed was almost an entire stranger to what was going on in his own soul. The Gospel Standard and the preaching of some of the ministers who afterwards came to Woburn were the means, in the hand of God the Holy Ghost, of establishing and building him up in the truth as it is in Jesus. One of his first enlargements was during an affliction of body, when the Lord broke in upon his soul with many passages of Scripture and the 91st hymn of Dr. Rippon’s selection:
Let others boast their ancient line
In long succession great;
In the proud list let heroes shine,
And monarchs swell the state;
Descended from the King of kings,
Each saint a nobler title sings;——
which words, and the following part of the hymn,[[As, perhaps, few of our readers possess a copy of Dr. Rippon’s selection, we have placed the remaining verses of the hymn at the end of this obituary.]] I have heard him repeat with tears of joy, and the very glory of God glistening in his countenance. His was a chequered path indeed in his spiritual experience. I never saw a man sink lower or rise higher. When he sank, such was the power of the adversary, such were the fears of friend Kingham, and such his extravagant language, that it was sometimes difficult for his friends to maintain their hope of him. When the Lord did again break into his soul, he would be talking aloud to everyone, saint and sinner. He would, to careless sinners, set forth the state of the damned in a fearful way, and tell them that, if they should die in their present condition, hell would be their portion. And if he could encounter any Arminians, he would oppose them in such a manner as would completely stop their mouths, and send them away with some dreadful sentiment of God’s word against wondering despisers of His truth of election and His elect people.
But he had a keen discernment of the faintest spark of grace beyond almost all I ever knew. He seemed to have a kind of scent, if I may so speak, to detect grace in whatever heart it abode. I had an instance of this a few days before his death. Having a young man staying with me a few weeks for the benefit of his health, I took him with me to visit him. He spoke a few words to the young man, and said, “Ah, my dear young friend, you have the mark of life in you; if you should live, your path will be one of great tribulation, as mine has been. You are but just entering the wilderness; I am leaving it.” And he told me afterwards of the love he felt in the Spirit to this youth, feeling sure he was one of the Lord’s jewels, and also said what a mercy it would be for him if the Lord called him away through his present affliction. He was a man who, during his lifetime, had walked many hundreds of miles to hear the Gospel. His favourite preachers were Warburton, Gadsby, McKenzie, Tiptaft, Philpot, and such men; but be was not always favoured to hear profitably even them. He often returned with his pitcher empty, calling himself a thousand fools for making the journey. His prejudices often rose against myself, because he could not hear with power, which I believe was partly occasioned by his deafness. He was never tired of Rusk’s pieces in the Standard. He used to say he could, upon the whole, walk with John Rusk better than with any other man. He much admired Mr. Congreve, late of Bedworth. He was so blessed in reading Mr. Charlwood’s dying testimony [in G.S. 1860] that for days he appeared to be present with him in glory.
About last Christmas, working in a mill where he had been a trustworthy servant for more than twenty years, the cold of the night of the sharp frost struck him, from which he never recovered. His sickness, therefore, was long and painful; and, as the dear Lord was about to separate the dross of his experience from the pure gold of His own grace, He chose this furnace in which to do it; and, as “there is not a just man upon earth that doeth good, and sinneth not” (his funeral text), so Thomas Kingham had to pass through a sharper conflict on his death-bed than many.
At the first part of his affliction, he engaged much in conversation, which was often sweet and savoury; but a cloud came over his soul about April last, which continued without intermission for three months. Satan, taking advantage of the opportunity thus put into his hands, plundered his soul at times even of hope. His natural temper was so wrought upon, and he was in such a fearful case, that he concluded that he should, like Spira, die in despair, cursing God.
I have sat by him in this afflicting season, and the Lord has enabled me to be an interpreter of His mind in the matter, and made friend Kingham yield to my judgment. And now it was that the closest communion subsisted between us; all old breaches were healed and forgotten, and he found that he was not all spirit, and that he had often mistaken his own spirit for the Spirit of God——in fact, he had never felt his littleness and nothingness, and the corruption of his entire nature, so much as in this last furnace. And, though he was cutting himself off so frequently, I never once doubted that it would be well with him. About six weeks before he died I had great access to the Lord on his account, and felt that the Lord would surely appear for him once more. Accordingly, I told him so, although he could not believe. I said: “Thomas, if the Lord do not once more liberate your soul from your present bondage and distress, He hath not spoken by me.” About ten days afterwards, the blessed Spirit came over the work afresh, subdued his foes and fears, and, for three days, such were his ecstacies that he said, “Oh, the devil is a liar; now I shall not perish.” Comforts flowed in; the gloom of the house where he lay was chased away like fogs and mists of night before the rising sun. I hoped this blessed state would continue till death; but, no. He must yet grapple with the powers of darkness for a further period, and then bid an everlasting adieu to pain.
But, though he sat in darkness another month, there was a supporting hope; the devil was not permitted to tear him as in the former three months. As his time drew near to depart out of this world unto the Father, much anxiety and prayer was manifest in the hearts of the saints; and, although his darkness continued till within one hour of dissolution, the dear Sun of Righteousness arose upon him, which was at once visible in his face. Though he could scarcely articulate, he made known by smiles, nodding his head, and waving the hand in triumph, that he died in the arms of Everlasting Love. To such questions as these: “Do you feel yourself upon the Rock now?” “Do you feel Christ precious?” it was “Yes, yes”; and being requested, if conscious of all these things, to hold up his right hand, he did so till it dropped upon his breast and his immortal spirit had returned to its Redeemer. Thus died, aged fifty-six, one of the Lord’s own witnesses, who is now with those he loved when living, and also with Him without whose presence all this world is death.——From Obituary by G. Muskett, in GS. 1861, Oct. wrapper, pp. 10, 11.
Pronounce me, gracious God, Thy son,
Own me an heir divine:
I’ll pity princes on the throne
When I can call Thee mine:
Sceptres and crowns unenvied rise.
And lose their lustre in mine eyes.
Content, obscure, I pass my days,
To all I meet unknown;
And wait till Thou Thy child shalt raise,
And seat me near Thy throne:
No name, no honours, here I crave,
Well pleased with those beyond the grave.
Jesus, my elder Brother, lives;
With Him I too shall reign;
Nor sin, nor death, while He survives,
Shall make the promise vain:
In Him my title stands secure,
And shall, while endless years endure.
When He, in robes divinely bright,
Shall once again appear,
Thou, too, my soul, shalt shine in light,
And His full image bear:
Enough! I wait th’ appointed day;
Blest Saviour, haste, and come away.
—Remainder of Hymn 91 in Rippon’s.
George Squires was born in the parish of Silsoe, Bedfordshire, in June, 1810, of poor parents, and had but very little education. He grew up in sin like the rest of Adam’s fallen race, though outwardly a moral man. He said that, to his knowledge, he never swore an oath but once in his life; and his natural conscience smote him severely for that. He lived according to the course of this world, without hope and without God in the world, in the vanity of his mind, serving divers lusts and pleasures (Eph. 2. 2, 12; Eph. 4. 17; Titus 3. 3). This continued until June, 1829; he was then nineteen. At that time God awakened him from a state of death in sin to a deep concern about his never-dying soul. Affliction was laid upon him, and many were his fears of going to hell. He tried to pray and do something to please God; he went to Church and grew into a self-righteous Pharisee. Like Saul of Tarsus, he thought himself, “Touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3. 6). He says that Huntington, in his “Kingdom of Heaven taken by Prayer,” describes the condition of George Squires at this time: “I was a Pharisee of the Pharisees, and thought I was on the threshold of heaven; I thought there was no better Christian man upon the earth than myself.” This went on till about 1839. He leaves his reader to judge whether divine life was in him or not.
In the providence of God he came into the company of a good man in 1839 (Thomas Kingham, of Flitwick). That was the very year, by the way, that Mr. Kingham’s second letter appeared in the G.S., to which reference has already been made in the preceding account. Mr. Squires, we may note, was called in 1829 at the age of nineteen, and his friend Thomas Kingham in 1831 at the age of twenty-six. These two men first met in a field near Ampthill, and then was laid the foundation of a warm friendship that lasted for twenty-two years——that is, until the death of Mr. Kingham in 1861. But, at the time of their first meeting, Mr. Kingham had been led, during his eight years of divine teaching (1831 to 1839), more deeply into the evils of his heart than his younger friend. Mr. Squires, though quickened into spiritual life two years earlier, had been suffered to proceed in his Pharisaic life for several years before meeting Mr. Kingham, who was the means used to bring Mr. Squires to attend Westerning.[[This was in 1839, in which year, the reader will remember, Mr. Richard Hyde joined the church, under the pastorate of Mr. Chew.]] Before this, he had been determined to cling to the Methodist line of teaching (salvation by works).
But we will let him tell us in his own language. Writing on 6th December, 1877, he says:——
We spent hours together in conversation. He talked about free grace, and I talked about my works. I was determined to have my way and hold it fast. He seemed as if he would pull my religion all to pieces, but I stuck to it. Well, the battle between us lasted some months, but the battle was the Lord’s (2 Chron. 20. 15). This was thirty-eight years ago . He wished me to read the Epistle to the Romans through carefully, and I was a great reader at that time. So I commenced reading. He said: “You will hear what Paul says about grace and works.” I took his advice, and thought I would hold my own views. I read it through, and the Spirit of the Lord knocked down all my prejudice, and brought me, like Paul, in love with a free-grace gospel. This text took all my free-will tools out of my hands: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10. 3).
Then all my own righteousness became hateful. I felt I had lost all my religion, and it brought me into real soul trouble, to beg, pray, and cry unto the Lord to have mercy upon my poor, never-dying soul. All hope was gone in my own righteousness, and I feared that God would cast me off for ever. So I made up my mind to go with my new friend to Westoning to hear this new doctrine. The text was: “Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your God,” etc. (Isaiah 40. 1, 2). It was exactly what my friend had been preaching to me. I thought: “I shall be forced to believe this doctrine, and nearly everybody hates it, and I shall be hated of all men” (Mark 13-13). It brought such trouble upon me that I did not know what to do.
I was newly married, and my wife hated this sort of religion. So, to please her, I tried to go to Church again; but they broke all my bones, so that I could not go there, let the worst come that might come. They were physicians of no value.
I read my Bible and cried unto the Lord to lead me into the right way cost what it might. I searched the word of God——read about Cain and Abel, and about the chosen people of Israel. Then I looked at what Paul says of Jacob and Esau: “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth; it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Rom. 9. 11-13). I was brought down into the dust with this Scripture: “Lord, how is it that Thou wilt manifest Thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” (John 14. 22).
I went to Barton to hear Mr. Dormer. I was bowed down with trouble, begging, as I went, all the way there. The old man took for his text, “A disciple of Jesus” (John 19. 38). He went on to show how some professors of religion were, as they thought, made disciples: they went to a free-will school, but God’s dear children to a free-grace school. He opened up to my mind nearly all I had learned at the free-will school, then showed what they were taught at Christ’s school, or by free grace. If he had known all about my exercise of mind, he could not have better described my feelings. My burden fell off, and my soul “escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers” (Psa. 124. 7). To use my own expression, I felt as light as a feather. I felt that I loved the Lord with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength, and my neighbour as myself. I could say with the poet:
I love the Lord with mind and heart.
His people and His ways (251).
Also I said with Ruth, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God,” etc. (Ruth 1. 16, 17). Then I gave up Church and all free-will places.
I went another evening to Pulloxhill to hear Mr. Chew. His text was Ephesians 2. 1: “And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” He explained what it was to be dead in sin and what it was to be quickened into divine life; so he described my feelings as if he knew all about me. I sat just inside the cottage; he looked so hard at me, nodded and said, “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” It raised the same feeling again; I felt as though I could have fled home. My burden was gone, and I felt joy and peace. I looked at the minister as if he had been an angel. All the way home I leaped, I danced, I blessed and praised the name of the Lord. I said:
Jesus, I love Thy charming name;
’Tis music in my ear;
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven might hear (138).
After this the Lord laid the ordinance of baptism upon my mind, and these words made me willing to follow my Lord: “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me and of My words, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when He shall come in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Luke 9. 26).
My wife was much opposed to all this; but my heart was so warm in the things of God that I felt I could not only suffer for His sake, but die for the love I had for my dear Lord and Master. This was the time of my first love, when I could sing:
Soon as the morn the light revealed,
His praises tuned my tongue;
And when the evening shades prevailed
His love was all my song (315 Rippon’s).
Now almost every chapter I read came with power and sweetness, and every sermon brought some blessing. I thought all my troubles were at an end, and with the hymn-writer I could say,
I bid farewell to every fear.
And wipe my weeping eyes (474).
I never thought or dreamed of one more trouble. “The winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land” (Song 2. 11, 12). Everything in providence and grace seemed to smile upon my path. I could feelingly say with David: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits” (Psa. 103. 2). At this season of my experience I have sat up nearly whole nights reading the Bible and good men’s works, such as Bunyan, Huntington, Philpot, Tiptaft, Gospel Standard, Gadsby’s Selection of Hymns,[[A new edition of these, with a Supplement of 120 hymns, had but recently been published (1838).]] and others too numerous to name. I have gone many miles of an evening after the labours of the day to hear good men preach, and have come home blessing and praising the Lord for ever raising up such dear men to preach the glorious gospel of a precious Christ. To my poor soul it was “all my salvation and all my desire” (2 Sam. 23. 5). I felt that I could live and die with such good men and there be buried, and that nothing but death should part us. I firmly believed that heaven would be my home when time with me should be no more.
But Mr. Squires, in common with all mankind, had a heart “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17. 9). When he met Thomas Kingham and heard him talk about this, and how God had stopped him in his mad career as a ringleader in wickedness, Mr. Squires could by no means believe that his own heart was so desperately wicked, though his friend declared that God had revealed the truth to him in his own case. He would quote Hart’s hymns, such as 310 in Gadsby’s selection, “Lord, when Thy Spirit descends to show,” etc. Mr. Squires was frightened, yet felt a cleaving to his friend for his honesty. Hart says of the Christian,
When his pardon is signed and his peace is procured.
From that moment his conflict begins (309).
George Squires found it true, though he had vainly thought, in the pride of his heart, that he would become a wonderfully great man——perhaps even a preacher. But the Lord had, for a time, left him to himself and Satan in order to teach him his sinnership more deeply.
Persecution now fell upon him from all directions——wife, Church people, and Methodists. In fact, he was despised and shunned by all, hated by both professor and profane. Now he was tempted to give up all religion and enjoy himself in the world. But he was preserved from doing this. Here he was taught a little of the evils of his heart and proved Jer. 17. 9 to be true: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” For over forty years, he says, he was learning these two things——the depth of sin and the depth of sovereign grace. He further remarks: “The question still remains, Who can know them?” His answer is, “Not George Squires.”
The Benefit of Affliction.
God laid His afflicting hand upon him in order to show him still more clearly the worth of His salvation. It seemed at first as though God had forsaken him, but again God visited and blessed him, raised him up, and filled him with peace.
Revival and Communion.
We see, then, that instead of being forsaken by God and His people, Mr. Squires was lovingly remembered by them. His dear friend Kingham came along with 11s. 6d. which had been collected by them for their afflicted member. The sum of 11s. 6d. may seem a paltry amount to our readers now; but to some of those who lived in that period, known as “the hungry forties” —— poor farm labourers and others in a similar station—— it was no mean gift. Their kindness (and God’s kindness shining through it) broke the heart of George Squires all to pieces. He had told God, in all simplicity of heart, that the gold and silver were His, and the cattle upon a thousand hills (Hag. 2. 8; Psa. 50. 10), the earth and the fulness thereof (Psa. 24. 1). Of that never-to-be-forgotten season he says: “I held such sweet communion with God for two or three hours as is better felt than expressed by one like me. I called Him by all the endearing names I could think of——kind Lord, loving Lord, my Lord and my God, my Father, my Friend. All my crooked things were made straight in body and soul, for time and eternity. So I proved it true, as one says, that He was ‘My best, my only Friend’ (247). This was in November, 1845.”
After nine weeks of affliction he was able to get out and hear Mr. Muskett, who preached from Job 33. 27, 28: “He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light.” Mr. Squires says: “It was truly a good time; it reminded me of the pit from which I had been so sweetly delivered in my late affliction, and so blessedly confirmed and strengthened my faith and hope in the God of my salvation that I should never go down to the pit, but that my life should see the light.”
Mr. Squires’s manuscript ends at this point. We have no account of his death, nor do we really need it; we see what his life was. Thomas Kingham, a son of the Thomas Kingham whose account precedes this, was baptized by Mr. Darbyshire in 1869, and afterwards became a deacon. He was requested to send Mr. Squires’s account to the Standard, but omitted to do so. This omission, we hope, is now in great part repaired. The manuscript was afterwards copied by a friend, has since been passed round from hand to hand, and in course of time some pages have been lost. The original, written more than seventy years ago, has disappeared; it was possibly destroyed by the widow, who, as the account shows, was a bitter persecutor. Being a Church-woman, she naturally decided that her husband should be buried at Silsoe, which took place on February 19th, 1885. Mr. Squires was seventy-four years of age.
On the resurrection morning, it will be of no consequence whether George Squires was buried at Silsoe or at Westoning. For “the Son of man … shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matt. 24. 30, 31).
George Muskett (G.S. 1866, March Supplement) was born in Shottesham, Norfolk, in 1804. At about the age of eighteen he was called by grace, and brought very heavily into an inward experience of the law. Delivered from bondage in hearing Mr. Job Hupton, of Claxton, who was speaking of Christ as the propitiation (covering), he afterwards settled down under the ministry of William Clarke of Saxlingham, and was baptized before he was twenty. He began to preach at Saxlingham.
He had many trials in providence. After losing his first wife, a godly woman, he married a second time; then had several children, all of whom died in infancy.
Somewhere about 1839, he became acquainted with Mr. A. Charlwood, to whom reference has already been made under Thomas Kingham. Mr. Muskett was the means of delivering Mr. Charlwood from a long captivity. This is also referred to by Mr. W. Fay, pastor at Norwich, in “Thou shalt remember…” pp. 14-17.
The result of Mr. Charlwood’s friendship was that a room was opened in Norwich, known as Jireh. Mr. Gadsby (of Manchester) and Mr. John Gowing (of Norwich) preached at the opening services. Mr. Muskett was pastor there for about nine years, and afterwards (in 1849) became pastor at Westoning. The church records at Westoning for 1849 to 1859 have, we fear, been lost; but we find that, from 1859 to 1865 inclusively, Mr. Muskett baptized eighteen persons.
His health failing in 1864, he returned to Norwich in September of the following year, preached there only two or three times, and died on December 5th, 1865, aged sixty-one, worn out with heavy labours and afflictions.
He was a faithful, searching, and laborious preacher, knowing both law and gospel; and he also used his pen in the proclamation of the truth. Several of his letters and pieces appear in the early numbers of the G.S. He also published a pamphlet on “The Scripture Doctrine of the Divine Sonship of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and three sermons——“Salvation impossible with Man, but possible with God”; “The Old Creation a Shadow of the New”; and “The Waiting Saint and the Coming Saviour.” These are all now out of print.
In his pamphlet on the Eternal Sonship, Mr. Muskett clearly and scripturally proves that the doctrine is “not proposed to us for our investigation in the strength of our reasoning power, but as an article of our precious faith” (p. 8).
Mr. William Darbyshire.
This minister was invited in 1867 to take the pastorate, but, though he frequently preached at Westoning during the next six years, it was not until
1873 that he actually became pastor, when he transferred his membership from Cave Adullam, Haslingden, Lancashire, to Westoning. The Lord’s blessing was evidently upon his labours, for from December, 1868, to November, 1879, he baptized twenty-six persons and received into church fellowship two others who had already been baptized elsewhere. There is an account of Mrs. E. Parker in GS. 1925. She was one of five persons baptized by Mr. Darbyshire in December, 1868, had been an honourable member for fifty-seven years, and made a good end.
Opening of Flitwick Chapel.
Flitwick Chapel, given by Mr. Richard Goodman, was opened in 1869 for the benefit of the aged and infirm who could not walk as far as Westoning, a mile and a half away. Mr. Darbyshire preached on that occasion (October 5th) from Eph. 2. 22. Flitwick is still well attended, and, generally speaking, ministers who preach at Westoning in the morning and afternoon preach, if able, at Flitwick in the evening to practically the same congregation.
Letter by Mr. Darbyshire.
Mr. Darbyshire wrote the obituary of Mr. Hyde, which has already been given, though necessarily curtailed, and he also wrote the following letter, which will afford the reader some idea of the man. It appears in G.S. 1874.
Dear Brother and Sister,——Grace unto you, and peace and love be multiplied.
It is a long time since the poor writer was at your house, and since these dim eyes looked upon you: and it is also a long time since I came to you in the
shape of manuscript: yet, notwithstanding this, my better part has been with you times without number. I mean that part which serves the law of God,—— namely, the mind. You know God in His providence has moved me far away from you, so that I cannot well see you in person, yet I might have seen you by letter; but, O that “but.” Even the apostle had a “but”; “I should have come to you, but Satan hindered me.” Satan will hinder God’s family all he possibly can from doing good to each other. He is a sworn enemy to Jesus Christ, and all the royal seed he would blast and wither, with the King of grace and all the spiritual subjects of His kingdom, if he could; but he can do neither, blessed be God.
I have a religion that has lasted to this day, and the ministry I received of the Lord is not yet extinct; and I sometimes feel persuaded it never will be till my God is about to take down this my vile tabernacle, to take me to a better country, though the devil has threatened its destruction as many times as I have hairs on my head. O what a mercy to be taught of the Lord! Great shall be the peace of such. Though it be but little while passing through this waste, howling wilderness, yet it shall be great, yea, eternally and everlastingly great. God’s quickened elect in this part of the desert are not yet tired of hearing this old ram’s horn blown. They will have it that it gives a certain sound, certain destruction to all partition walls between them and heaven, final victory over every enemy,——external, internal, and infernal, and certain possession of the promised rest, according to the decree of the holy Watcher, who hath said as He hath overcome, His people shall certainly overcome also. God’s truth and work in my soul are like a barrel organ, which can only play certain tunes, organized by the Maker thereof, from which it cannot depart, each tune having three parts, alto, bass, and treble; the first, with high voice, shouting the wonders of electing love, redeeming blood, and almighty power; the second trembling in the deep, the solemn, heavy sound of the dreadful fall of man, with its terrible consequences; and the third the daily exercises of the heaven-born soul. When my people get tired of the notes of free grace and salvation by it alone, then there will be some signs of our parting; but the like truth has been so deeply burnt in them that there is not much fear of this.
Since I last saw you I have passed through many changes, both in body and mind, but I have not changed to a freewiller or Papist yet; and I believe I never shall, though I had a thousand times more changes than heretofore. Having obtained help of God, I continue to this day.
At present I am moderately well in health; my wife also the same. She joins me in love to you both, and all the friends of truth at Haslingden. Will you send us a little account of persons and things at H., especially of the work of God in your souls?
Yours in the Bonds of the Gospel,
Flitwick, near Ampthill, Bedfordshire.
Nov. 18th, 1873.
During Mr. Darbyshire’s pastorate some of the people became disaffected, left, and opened another place. This was at Mr. Vass’s house, opposite the butcher’s shop in High Street. A friend now living remembers that “his uncle collected the seat rents for the break-away.” This place, however, in due time came to nothing.
A Blessed Death.
How refreshing to turn from reading about the fruit of the flesh and to dwell for a few moments on the fruit of the Spirit! The following is a brief extract from an account of the blessed end of one whom Mr. Darbyshire baptized in 1869, Mrs. Vincent. She died on July 4th, 1906, at Flitwick.
She said she could claim as her promise Isa. 60. 1, 2: “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee. For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee.” The day before she died she said, “I can lay my hand upon that promise.” At another time she said, “God has promised me that it shall be light at evening time.” She could not talk much, and it was often difficult to understand what she said, but was heard to say to herself,
Yes, I shall soon be landed
On Canaan’s happy shore.
Weary of earth, myself, and sin.
Dear Jesus, set me free.
One day, when drinking some water, she said, “Christ has promised me that I shall drink of the living water.” My sister one day said, “I should like a piece put in the Gospel Standard about you, mother.” Her reply was, “Say only, a sinner saved by grace.” One night, her cough being troublesome, she said, “Did Christ my Lord suffer, and shall I repine?” The day she died she said, “Oh, shall I be drinking that living water this morning? But I want to wait God’s time.” She passed away at six o’clock in the evening.——M. Vincent, G.S. 1906, p. 571.
Mr. Darbyshire left in 1883, and for some years afterwards Mr. Wilson, of Biggleswade, took a very kindly interest in the cause, and for some time preached there for two Sundays each month. He baptized several persons, including Mr. Gazeley and Mr. Eli Aldridge.
Mr. Wilson died in 1893, and from that year until 1907 the cause was carried on by means of “supply” ministers.
Registration for Marriages.
In June, 1894, the chapel was registered for the solemnization of marriages, and since that time several people who now attend have been married there.
Two Aged Members.
The following are brief accounts of two aged members of the church who passed away between the death of Mr. Wilson and the pastorate of Mr. Field——namely, Mr. Samuel Smith and Mr. Joseph Knight.
Mr. S. Smith, of Eversholt, Bedfordshire, died on March 6th, 1894, aged eighty-one. He was a reader of the Gospel Standard for over thirty years, and esteemed it next to the word of God. He was brought to know the Lord when very young, and at the age of eighteen was baptized at Ridgmont, Bedfordshire. But he was afterwards brought out from the General Baptists, and, hearing Philpot, Doe, Tiptaft, Godwin, and others of blessed memory, he could not go back, but joined the Strict Baptists at Woburn and was, in Mr. Godwin’s time,[[Mr. Godwin was pastor at Woburn from 1847 to 1860.]] made a deacon. After a time Woburn chapel was moved to Woburn Sands; it was further to walk on the Sabbath, so that Mr. Smith made his way to Westoning, where, for a good many years, he remained with the people of God until his summons to eternal glory. When he was laid aside, he was much troubled, and told me how he loved the people at Westoning; he never loved them so much before. I said, “I trust, father, you will recover. If you die, where do you wish to be buried?” He replied, “Nowhere else but in the Westoning meeting ground.” I asked, “Why be buried there?” He said: “I have worshipped, on and off, for fifty years among them, and my father before me; I have lived with them; we have prayed together; they are my people, their God is my God, and I wish to be buried with them, and hope to rise with them at the great rising day. We, as a people at Westoning, are bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord.”
My dear father walked to Woburn and Westoning chapels for over sixty years, seldom missing, wet or fine. When he was compelled to take to his bed, he said to me on one occasion, “Don’t pray to the Lord to spare me, my dear boy. I am in such pain and I desire to die.” He was at this time greatly buffeted by Satan; but the next day he said God had defeated the enemy by applying these words, “Come away from the lions’ dens” (Song 4. 8). And after a few days the Lord shone into his soul with much nearness and sweetness. When I entered the room his countenance was so bright and his soul so full of joy that he seemed enraptured. He told me the Lord had made it all right with him and had spoken these kindly words: “I have betrothed thee unto Me in righteousness for ever and for ever” (See Hos. 2. 19). After this he took no nourishment, and gradually became very weak. As I left him on Sabbath evening after service, he said he should soon be in glory, for the Lord had visited him again and given him sweet comfort, telling him it would be but a short time and he would come and live with Him for ever and ever; that his robe was already wrought out and was ready for him to wear in heaven. For some days before he died he was singing and praising God day and night; he died most triumphantly and has left this world of sin and sorrow. He was a man of much prayer, and his daily and hourly theme was the great, unmerited mercy of Jesus Christ.
At my last visit he desired to give me his blessing, by saying: “And now I am near my end, my dear boy, I must say that through this changing life you will always find a God all-sufficient to meet your every trial. I have found Him a faithful God in everything, and you will find Him the same.” I said: “Very nice, father; I know it. And if we never see each other again in this life, we shall see each other in heaven.” He made a response, and said: “Yes, yes, my boy, we shall.” This was the last time I saw him alive.——Isaac Smith, G.S. 1894, pp. 540-42.
Joseph Knight died on February 28th, 1898, aged seventy-four. His daughter says (G.S. 1898, p. 457) that she believes he was called by grace at about the age of twenty, and that his distress was at that time very great. One Sunday he went into the chapel in that state. The minister said: “The Lord has been telling me, coming along, that I have a young convert here this morning, to whom I am to speak”; and my father received great comfort.
On one occasion Satan seemed quite close to him, but Jesus came, touched him, and said, “Satan has gnashed his teeth and flown away.” Often greatly tried in providence, he would go into the barn or field to pour out his soul to God. He knew the sore season of conflict and temptation after he had asked the Lord to lead him into the meaning of His word.
He rented some grass meadows at Samsell, near Harlington, near to the spot where Bunyan was taken prisoner for preaching the gospel; and he has spoken of the blessed times he has had in prayer to his God in those meadows.
I come to his last few days on earth. Having to keep his bed, he was very cheerful and at times very happy. Some days he would sing, and, having us all round him, exhort us to keep close to the truth. On the Sunday before he died he sang, “The righteous shall hold on his way” (350); but before the evening a cloud came over his mind.
On Wednesday a friend called to see him, when he said, “I feel safe on the Rock.” Two days later we thought he was dying; the cloud had passed from his mind, and he seemed calm and cheerful as before, saying, “Safe! happy! I could sing; and they are the songs when you can sing in death.” On Sunday morning I said to him, “In His arms you will lose your breath.” He said, “Yes, yes. Oh, the blood, the precious blood!” I replied, “Father, we are not redeemed with such corruptible things as silver and gold.” His answer was “No, child.” In the evening his grandchild was holding his head. He said, “The room seems full of holy men and women.” The child made answer, “Yes, they are the angels come to fetch you.” He replied, “Yes, yes”; later, “Holy, holy,” lingered a short time, and then passed away.
——R. Humphrey and J. Neal.
Mr. Joseph Field.
Mr. Field was pastor from 1907 to 1917. Many now living can testify to blessing received under his ministry, and were very much grieved when he left to take a pastorate at Gornal, in Staffordshire. It is greatly to be regretted that he left, so far as we know, no written account of his experience, though we are glad to note that some of his sermons are advertised in the G.S. of July in the present year. From obituary notices and memoirs of some Westoning members who died during his pastorate, we select the following:——
Joseph Evans died on February 2nd, 1911, aged seventy years. For over thirty-four years he was a member, and for the last few years a deacon, at Westoning. The Lord convinced him of his state as a sinner about forty-eight years ago: and, after being kept in bondage for over nine years, he was brought into the liberty of the gospel by a revelation of Christ to his soul as One who had redeemed him from all iniquity. He was baptized by Mr. Darbyshire in 1876. We as a church have lost a praying member and deacon, a simple, God-fearing man, and a true lover of Zion. Being at our prayer meeting on February 1st, he read Psalm 37 and engaged in prayer, and, after praying earnestly for the church and pastor and his afflicted wife and family, he was concluding when he was taken in a fit. He regained consciousness early the next morning, and, speaking of the goodness and mercy of God to him and of the sweet assurance of interest in His love and blood, passed peacefully away in the presence of two of his daughters and myself, to be for ever with the Lord. It may be truly said of him:
No trust in self, on firmer ground he stood;
His only refuge was a Saviour’s blood.
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace” (Psa. 37. 37).
——J. Field, G.S. 1911, p. 478.
Mr. E. Rutt (in G.S. 1921, pp. 16-22) writes:——
My beloved wife was born in 1884 at Westoning, and brought up to attend the Strict Baptist chapel; so that she knew the truth in her judgment when young in years. But such a knowledge availed nothing, for, as she grew older, she soon manifested her dislike and averseness to God’s house and His ways. She would rather stay at home, and do anything by way of help, so as to excuse herself from going to chapel. Still, the Lord was gracious even at that time in preserving her outwardly and morally. Also she was very willing naturally, and a good help to her parents. She was about seventeen years of age, as far as I remember, when she was captivated and led away by the sin of novel reading. Many hours did she spend reading novels or such light reading as she could obtain; insomuch that she has had a light in her room to read them by night as well as by day. Thus she went on for some time, but very secretly, as she knew her mother would not sanction such books. This novel reading not only engrossed her time and attention, but had such an effect that it was but very seldom she got to chapel. Still, she would go occasionally, thinking that would make amends for eternity. When about nineteen, she went to a preaching service one week night, and I have often heard her say how unconcerned she was when going, despising even the poor people of God as she passed them on the way. The minister [[Mr. Field, who subsequently became pastor.]] was led to speak of God’s blessing coming to His people, but not by works of righteousness which we have done. He said, “O sinner, sinner, with all your morality, if that is all you have got, hell will and must be your portion.” She had to fall under this arrow, which so entered her soul that she came home feeling a condemned, lost sinner. Her novels, which she had formerly read with such delight, were now made most hateful to her. The Holy Spirit convinced her of this particular sin, and revealed in her soul such a feeling sense of His holiness and of the wrath to come that her life became most miserable. The novels were secretly burned and destroyed, and often she was now constrained by a hidden power to look into the Word of God, although that appeared only to condemn and cut her off,——those portions which testified of eternal woe and endless misery, such as “There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” When at her daily work the words would speak loud and plain again and again, “Sinner, sinner, hell must and will be your portion.” Although brought into such distress, yet she felt she must go to the house of God to hear the gospel proclaimed; but, instead of relief, comfort, and peace, the Holy Spirit from time to time attended with divine power to her soul the thunderings of His holy law and fiery indignation against sinners and their sin. It is easily repeated, but nothing less than the work of God the Holy Spirit can lead you to cleave to that which cuts you most. Surely “He lends an unseen hand, and gives a secret prop” (749).
About this time, whilst labouring under fear and distress, she went to London for a while to stay with some relatives. As she had formerly enjoyed their company, she tried to do so again; went to a theatre, thinking to drown and get rid of all her gloomy thoughts and heaviness of heart. But, instead of getting rid of her burden, when she got there, her fears turned into terror, feeling she would be consigned to endless misery with a witness. She soon made up her mind to return home, feeling that they were no company or comfort to her. She was thus led on, unable to perceive any gleam of comfort; yet, underneath it all, there was that secret craving and desiring, longing and panting, to feel an interest in a precious Christ.
Having been so cut up at times under the preached word, I have heard her say with what tremblings she ventured from time to time to hear. On one occasion the minister was led to speak from these words: “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” She felt a little encouraged as she heard the evidences of a seeking soul traced out; but she has often said that words fail to describe how she felt in her soul when the preacher exclaimed, “He will come, poor sinner. He will come, poor sinner.” Thus she was raised up with a sweet persuasion and a hope and expectation of a manifestation of Christ to her soul. That blessed Spirit who alone can lead into the truth now began to infuse into her soul from time to time ardent desires, heavenly longings and thirstings after this precious Christ, in whom she saw and felt at times every blessing was stored that her naked soul needed. This was in the year 1907, after feeling the sweetness of these secret desires and longings that she might be favoured as the poor woman in the Gospel, who said, “If I may touch the hem of His garment, I shall be made whole.” Alas, alas, instead of laying hold, as she had hoped, of a precious Christ, able to say, “My Beloved is mine, and I am His,” she was brought to feel she had got nothing, and could feel nothing. For some weeks nothing appeared to reach her case; yet what tried her soul was that others profited under the ministry, although she was so dark and barren.
It was just before Easter 1907 that on one Sunday some were baptized, and some of the people had felt it good in the morning and afternoon services; but she returned home feeling her bondage and misery increased. Her mother walked with her to the evening service, and expressed how good she had felt the Lord’s presence and blessing during the day; upon which she only answered she felt sure she was going to hell with her eyes open. When at chapel, the minister in prayer did so beg that, if any had come feeling hard-hearted, unrelenting, and unfeeling, they might feel softened and humbled. Then he uttered the words of Toplady,
Less than Thyself will not suffice
My comfort to restore;
More than Thyself I cannot crave.
And Thou canst give no more (940).
Such divine power at once entered her soul as is beyond all words to express; for her captive soul was at once liberated, and set free to praise and bless the Lord for His rich mercy. The power and effect of this visit rested on her spirit after reaching her home. As she had known what it was to have sleepless hours through distress of soul, now she could neither sleep nor eat much for joy and peace. The words of the church were the feelings of her soul, “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth; for Thy love is better than wine.” The next morning after this gracious visit, she was going to her work, when these words were spoken with a divine power to her soul, “I have redeemed thee, thou art Mine.” Surely now she felt unable to give expression to her sweet and blessed feelings. How often she said she dreaded at this time any company to deaden her, and loved to get alone. At the prayer meeting on Tuesday evening the 35th chapter of Isaiah was read. How sweetly did it fit in with her own soul, especially the last verse: “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” Also Hymn 950 was given out,
What Object’s this which meets my eyes, etc.
which drew forth intense desires and longings after such a faith’s view of a suffering, crucified Christ. How these words also would raise up her expectation that she might be favoured with a manifestation of Christ to her soul: “Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.” During the same week early on the Thursday morning she was favoured for a few minutes to realise, under the powerful operation of the Holy Spirit, and to see by faith, a suffering Redeemer. In speaking of that, how often she felt that the prophet Isaiah expressed her feelings in that chapter where it says, “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, this that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength?” Thus, as she felt, did she realise the sweetness of what is recorded of Naphtali, “Satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord.” She now felt constrained to venture forth to cast in her lot amongst the poor people of God, who were to her the excellent of the earth. She was received into the church at Westoning, and baptized on the first Sunday in May, 1907.
Immediately after being baptized, she was led in the order of divine providence to go to Hucknall, near Nottingham, through the illness of an aunt, who eventually died. These circumstances were the means in the Lord’s hand of her staying at Hucknall some few months. It was at this time I first became acquainted with her, when she came to Chaucer Street, Nottingham. Her conversation at that time had a deep and lasting effect upon my soul. As she spoke so decidedly and clearly about bondage under the law and the sinkings she had felt, and also of what a change had taken place in her soul through a revelation of a precious Christ; to hear of such things greatly increased my own exercises, and were the means of stirring me up in ardent longings, desires, and pantings to enjoy the same rich blessings. We were married on Christmas Day, 1908, at Westoning. Our lot was cast at that time at Hucknall, and we attended for worship at Chaucer Street. We continued there for over two years, when, after exercise of mind and desiring to see the Lord’s hand going before us, we moved to Westoning in the beginning of 1911.
She keenly and painfully felt in her soul what she often expressed in her early days; that was, she often told the Lord she would not mind how thorny the road through the wilderness, if she could but have her heart’s desire granted——for Christ to be revealed in her heart. Yet her soul was held in life through many changes and temptations; and she proved that even famine of soul did not separate her from the love of a precious Christ.
During the year 1913, she waded through much conflict both in mind and body. In November 1913, this was greatly increased, and her distress of soul became painful, through hearing a servant of the Lord exclaim, while preaching and contending for a vital experience, “Away with your forty years’ old religion! Living souls desire daily bread.” The spirit in which it was spoken was carried home with power to her, and she was brought low in bondage and distress, with weakness of body. But in December the Lord, in a special way, turned her captivity. She was favoured with such an overflowing sense of the Lord’s rich goodness and mercy as to feel, for a little while, unable to take food and nourishment for the body. I shall never forget some of the deep, mournful confessions she made of her unbelief and hard thoughts with which she had been plagued, and what ardent desires she expressed to live more in the fear of God and to practise what she professed.
I may pass on to the year 1916, when, surrounded with a small family, she was very weak and ailing in body. This sorely tried her. In August 1916, she had to take to her bed, and, having to endure much pain and anguish of body, she soon became weaker and weaker. But her face bespoke the darkness of her soul. She would often say, “I couldn’t tell anybody,” alluding to her inward conflict. She was then suffering from a heavy temptation which the enemy wielded and hurled against her. and which so worked upon her carnal sense and reason as to lead her to conclude that Christ could not meet her case. During September 1916, she gave birth to a daughter, but, although she was seriously ill, we entertained good hopes of her recovery. Instead of that, in a few days, symptoms of a serious nature became more manifest. Medical advice was sought, when the painful information was given that there was a cancer, and nothing could be done in the matter. The reader may understand how we felt in witnessing such a sad case, knowing life was but short, just a matter of days or weeks. After a sleepless night, before going away one morning, I just repeated the first line of a verse, from which I knew she would grasp the whole:
When called to meet the king of dread (406).
During that day, whilst I was away, my speaking so to her brought on much exercise. She would say in one breath that death seemed close, and then that she hoped to get better for the sake of the family. Knowing how dark and tempted she had been, and how weak in body, one felt unable to open one’s mind and say definitely that she was fast hastening to the grave. Yet she gathered from our appearance and manner how it really was, and would say she hoped against hope that yet her life might be spared.
After painful waiting and watching we had to witness (blessings on a Triune Jehovah!) another scene. That was, to see the darkness made light and the crooked made straight spiritually. The very same words she had spoken in distress, “I couldn’t tell anyone,” she was now constrained to say in a gracious, loving experience. “I couldn’t tell you,” she said, “how these words crept into my heart in the middle of the night,
My Father’s hand prepares the cup,
And what He wills is best (70).
I have never been able to say ‘My Father,’ before. Oh, words fail to express my feelings——my Father! And then these words dropped as dew, and crumbled and humbled me in the dust,
His way was much rougher and darker than mine;
Did Christ my Lord suffer, and shall I repine (232)?”
Thus was she once again delivered from the noise of archers, and enabled to rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord. As the psalmist also expressed it, “Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.” The yellow gold of faith was graciously increased through the following words being applied with power and sweetness to her soul:
Thou shalt see My glory soon,
When the work of grace is done,
Partner of My throne shalt be;
Say, poor sinner, lovest thou Me? (968).
What sweet enlargement of heart this afforded her, and how freely she spoke of the inward conflicts she had been brought through! How many times she said she was sorely tried, when in the dark, that she would prove to be just like Ignorance. That was, to be fumbling about for the certificate when it was most needed, and unable to find it. “But, oh!” she said, “blessed be God to have a Luz, a Bethel, to look back upon! I feel that is the certificate. Yea, even my misery and the distress of soul at the beginning afford me consolation to look back upon.”
The Lord was of a truth very gracious and of tender mercy in her few remaining days on earth. As she was able to take only little nourishment, she was in a short time reduced in body. Yet, though the body decayed, the inward man of grace was renewed day by day, and the enemy of souls was not suffered again to prevail. Her conversation, when she recovered a little from time to time, would immediately be upon eternal realities and her departure from this vain sinful world. She would often remark what a great change had taken place as to her feeling willing to leave all behind; yea, she was favoured to speak with the assurance of faith that the Lord would make a way in the unknown future. Death to her had no terror; she would continually be speaking of it. The doctor, noticing how quickly she wasted away, said, “We can, but make you as comfortable as possible; we can do no more;” when she humbly and simply replied, “I am not afraid to die, Doctor.” She was kept sensible to the last. The sweetness and spirit of the words rested upon her soul again and again,
Thou shalt see My glory soon.
She lingered on until October 30th, 1916, when during the day it became more apparent that she was near the swellings of Jordan. She was too prostrate to speak, and she breathed her last without a sigh or groan, aged only thirty-two. She was buried in the chapel burial-ground, Westoning, on November 3rd, by Mr. Field. It was a wet and stormy day, but I felt inward peace. I was sure tribulation’s days were shortened, and she was hidden in the peaceful tomb.
Mr. J. S. Tingley.
From 1917 to 1921, the cause was again carried on by means of “supplies,” and in that year Mr. Tingley became pastor until his removal to London in 1931. During his pastorate at Westoning he preached two sermons at Zion, Malham Road, Forest Hill, on Song 2. 14 (January 18th, 1925), which were published by Messrs. Farncombe, together with four other sermons by Mr. E. S. Hickmott and Mr. W. Hickman. We do not know of any other published sermons or letters by Mr. Tingley; but, on the death of his deacon Mr. Eli Aldridge, August 1st, 1929, aged seventy-five years, Mr. Tingley wrote thus (GS. 1930, p. 152):——
The call out of the world of our late dear friend was very clear to those who knew him, he being very fond of visiting the public house and such places. He has often said that he loved the world, and what a wrench it was to him to leave it. He was naturally of a quick temperament, which caused him in his zeal and contention for the truth at times to speak unadvisedly. The error and mistake in this he was brought to see, particularly in the latter period of his life, which he mourned over and confessed. Being appointed to read the hymns at Westoning during the last two or three years of his life, it was often remarked how broken in spirit he was in so doing, and he often testified of the truths contained in them being food to his soul. I observed his great concern as to his end, both in private conversation and in public prayer. He frequently repeated, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” About a month before he died, he attended the chapel for the last time, and expressed to the writer how glad he was to be there, the sermon being blessed to him, which was upon the ascension of Christ; also at the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, being especially favoured under the singing of 482:
In heaven my choicest treasure lies.
It was very noticeable that from this time the fear of death was removed. The doctor being called in, he pronounced his case to be hopeless. This intelligence he received very calmly. When I visited him later with a friend, he related much of his experience, one of his expressions being, “Every tool was cut out of my hand, and I felt to be damned, without mercy.” He has often remarked that he saw the line of separation clearly drawn from all eternity. His bodily sufferings towards the end were very great, which necessitated his removal to Bedford Hospital, where he died. The day before his end, he commenced quoting to a friend,
Jesus sought me when a stranger.
Wandering from the fold of God (199),
which the friend finished for him, and he gave assent. All his interest in the world was taken away, and he expressed a longing to be gone. Being requested to raise his hand if unable to speak and if he felt it was well with him, he raised his arm twice. His daughter perceived that a beautiful colour and expression came over his face; he gently laid his head back upon the pillow, and fell asleep. His mortal remains were interred in the chapel burying ground in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection unto eternal life. The hymn 191,
O why did Jesus show to me
The beauties of His face?
was sung by his request. Three sons and one daughter are left to mourn the loss of a loving and well-wishing parent. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord.”
The following is an account of Mrs. Daniels, who was baptized at the same time as Mr. George Gazeley, by Mr. Wilson, on 13th July, 1884:——
Priscilla Daniels, widow of Henry Daniels, of Ampthill, died on July 8th, 1939, aged eighty-five years. She was a member at Westoning for fifty-five years. Her call by grace occurred after her marriage; thereafter she gladly accompanied her husband to the chapel, and was grieved that previously she had resented his religion. She writes (in 1924):——
The first impressions I had of my state as a sinner were about fifty years ago, when I awoke with these words in my ears: “Thy ways are an abomination unto the Lord.” I was made to see I had sinned in thought, word, and deed against a holy God. I feared I must be lost for ever. I cried to the Lord for mercy, begging that He would pardon my sins; but I feared He would not, as I felt too bad. These lines gave me a little hope:
The door of His mercy stands open all day.
To the poor and the needy who knock by the way (11).
At last I told God I did not mind what I went through if only I knew I was one of His children. My prayer was answered “in such a way as almost drove me to despair” (295). On a bed of affliction, when my life was despaired of, after some weeks of hard pressing in prayer, the Lord broke into my soul, saying with power, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” I was so blessed I could not keep quiet; the sweetness I felt made my poor weak body tremble, so that I asked the Lord to stay the blessing until I was more able to bear it; and (bless His dear Name!) He did. He kept me in a calm state for three days and then came again with such powerful blessing that I was willing to die if His will. But He raised me up, and in about four months I came before the church at Westoning and was received, being baptized about forty years ago. I can say with the hymn-writer,
Many days have passed since then;
Many changes I have seen;
But have been upheld till now;
Who could hold me up but Thou? (376).
I trust He will still help me the little time I have to remain here.
And can He have taught me to trust in His name.
And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?
I can at times say, “No, never!”
This ends her own account. Mrs. Daniels had much affliction during the last two years of her life, being wholly laid aside for the last six months. She had many seasons of refreshing in her room, which was at times like a little Bethel. When asked how she was, she once replied, “I shall be better when I awake in His likeness.” Her countenance was radiant in anticipation of her departure. These words were much blessed to her when in great pain,
In love I correct thee thy soul to refine,
To make thee at length in My likeness to shine (993).
She said, “I have seen myself shine in that likeness.” At another time she remarked, “Nothing in my hand I bring”; adding, “It will be all grace if I get to heaven.”
Two days before the end, when Hymn 242 was read, she said, “That is what I want, to die in peace with God.” Then, “my heart glows with love to my gracious Lord for His goodness to me in this vale of tears.” Just before unconsciousness came, she whispered,
Cast, He said, on Me thy care;
’Tis enough that I am nigh;
I will all thy burdens bear;
I will all thy needs supply (277).
She passed peacefully away to be for ever with the Lord.
—Her Daughter, G.S. 1939.
Since Mr. Tingley’s pastorate, many G.S. ministers have supplied the pulpit at Westoning, including the late Mr. William Haddow, who very frequently preached there and was well received. Some of the friends, indeed, hoped that he might ultimately settle with them; but it was the Lord’s will that he should remain at Welwyn until his death at the early age of 37 (G.S. 1939). Many of his letters have appeared in the Friendly Companion.
The attendance at Westoning is still good, and includes a large proportion of young people and children, which encourages the hope that God will long continue His truth here. Westoning church has been favoured at various times in hearing the gospel preached by such well known servants of God as the following (to name but a few):—— R. Adams, S. Curtis, J. Dennett, J. Dickens, F. Fountain, T. Godwin, G. Gorton, C. Hemington, J. Lindsey, F. Marshall, O. Mortimer, S. Sargeant, D. Smart, W. Tiptaft, F. Tryon, W. Whiting, J. Wilcox. Without doubt, blessings have been bestowed on such occasions. We know of one particular instance——that of Mr. John Barrett, of Clophill, who was greatly favoured in hearing Mr. Hemington at Westoning (this took place in 1865). Mr. Hemington wrote an obituary notice of Mr. Barrett (G.S. 1881, pp. 284-286), and says that this hearing time laid the foundation of “a warm-hearted friendship between us throughout the remaining years of his life.”
Through the death of several members, the church became very much reduced some ten or twelve years ago, but since that time a number of both male and female friends have been led to join, so that the church is now, through mercy, somewhat raised up again.
As a “supply,” I have known the Westoning church for over twenty years. Some living ministers have doubtless known the cause for a much longer period, and are therefore better acquainted with the many trials, sorrows, and difficulties through which the church has been brought. These changes serve to remind us of the experiences set forth in Psalm 107, and to root more firmly in our hearts the passage containing the title of our little book: “If his children forsake My law, and walk not in My judgments; if they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments; then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless My lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail” (Psa. 89. 30-33).
Originally published: ‘C. J. Farncombe & Sons, Ltd.‘, 55 South End, Croydon. 1949