“He that believeth shall not make haste.” (Isa. 28:19)

“Thy way, not mine, O Lord,
However dark it be;
O lead me by Thine own right hand
Choose Thou the path for me.

Smooth let it be, or rough
It will be still the best;
Winding or straight it matters not,
It leads me to Thy rest.

I dare not choose my lot,
I would not if I might:
But choose Thou for me, O my God.
So shall I walk aright.”

Our narrative brings us to the year 1852. A curious lull followed the closing of the Great Exhibition of 1851, which some had considered as the pioneer of the reign of anti-christ, and others as the harbinger of the millennium, but dreams of universal and unbroken peace were soon rudely interrupted by the fierce conflicts of contending politicians at home, and rumours of war in foreign lands. The religious world, however, was calm. No wide-spread controversy agitated the different Protestant denominations, while the fear of Papal aggression tended to unite many evangelical Christians, of divergent views on matters of doctrine and ritual.

Several of the greatest and most popular preachers of the nineteenth century were at this time before the public, nor had lovers of the doctrines of distinguishing grace any cause to be ashamed of the prominent men who were earnestly contending “for the faith once delivered to the saints.” Learned in a secular sense few of these indeed were: but under the tuition of the Spirit of God they had acquired no inconsiderable acquaintance with the truths which the Puritans so loved; while their conscientious application, and varied and versatile gifts, rendered their ministry of the greatest spiritual value.

James Wells, “lord of the lion heart and eagle eye,” indisputably lead the van. Passionately attached to the doctrines he preached; a sworn enemy to free-will,[1] and a close student of his Bible: shrewd, witty, devoted; a fluent speaker, with a wonderful command of words; he delivered his remarkable sermons with rapid and eager utterance. They were a most curious blending of common sense, great gospel thoughts, allegorical interpretations of Scripture, and sarcastic invectives against Arminianism and Fullerism. He possessed a thorough acquaintance with the truth-loving public of his time, and could sway them as he pleased.

John Foreman was also at this time at the height of his popularity and power. Time and experience had somewhat modified and mellowed the character of his ministry. His richly-stored mind still retained its early vigour: the flight of years had chastened and developed, but as yet had not diminished, his wonderful capacity for presenting the truths of the everlasting Gospel in their adaptability to the requirements of the living believer. There was in his sermons a fulness, a variety, a manly honesty, and a vein of the tenderest and truest sympathy, conjoined with spiritual sobriety and savour, which combined to render his words peculiarly weighty.

Young and old alike, when in his presence, felt that they were with one who had received authority from the Master Himself. He could not truckle or temporise. He could be cheerful with the young and happy, and weep with the sorrowful. To the ignorant but honest enquirer, he could speak with unaffected simplicity, while a thoughtful Christian theologian could touch on few points which had not received his earnest attention, and it is the concurrent testimony of all who knew him best, that, take him for all in all—as preacher, theologian, pastor, counsellor and friend—it will, in all human probability, be long before the Church is favoured with his like again. The engraved portrait, with which many are familiar, was published in the previous year.

Other useful brethren were likewise employing their gifts with great profit to their hearers. William Palmer, afterwards of Homerton-row, was then at Manchester. George Wyard, a savoury and interesting preacher, and an intelligent but not profound writer, was at Soho. John Bloomfield was commencing his pastorate at Meard’s-court; Philip Dickerson had long been established at Little Alie-street Chapel, and was employing his pen to great advantage in the Gospel Herald; W. H. Bonner was fulfilling a probationary engagement at Keppel-street, which did not however, lead to a permanent pastorate. John Andrews Jones, then in his seventy-fourth year, retained much of his old force and fire; and was still vigorously engaged in preaching at old Jireh Chapel, Brick-lane, and in bringing to a conclusion his Bunhill Memorial Series—a collection of choice samples of the divinity he loved. Charles Box, while conducting an academy in Featherstone-street, maintained his reputation as a spiritual and suggestive minister at Enon Chapel, Woolwich. James Woodard, grave, thoughtful, and scholarly—beloved of all for his brotherly and unselfish spirit—was labouring at Ilford; his strange fondness for subtle niceties, and out-of-the-way-topics, somewhat retarding the success which his painstaking efforts deserved. Frederick Silver, of Jewry-street, a refined and exact, but withal savoury preacher; William Allen, of Cave Adullam, Stepney; Joseph Sedgwick, of Brighton, ere long to be suddenly called to his eternal home; John Stenson, of Pimlico; Christopher Woollacott, of Little Wild-street; Daniel Curtis, of Homerton-row; Samuel Milner, of Pell-street, Stepney, with many others, all men of honest report and great boldness in the faith, were serving their generation by the will of God worthily and well when John Hazelton came to the metropolis.

Space must also be allotted to one who proved an instrument in the hand of God in directing his steps to his future sphere of labour.

Charles Waters Banks was, in 1852, the pastor of a Church, now long dismembered, which then assembled in Crosby-row. He was a peculiar though powerful preacher, a quaint but interesting writer; and in the conduct of his magazine, the Earthen Vessel, unquestionably displayed very high ability. His whole powers were consecrated to the cause he loved, and his services were as freely and unselfishly rendered as they were widely sought.

Conflicting as were the opinions entertained respecting some of the incidents in his long and chequered career, none could deny his unfailing and unaffected kindness of heart. It cannot be doubted that he felt real pleasure in endeavouring to serve his ministerial brethren, many of whom were under great obligations to him for introducing them to pastorless Churches. His generous help, in this direction, proved of great value to our brother Hazelton.

After an interview at a country anniversary, Mr. Banks wrote to him respecting a small and recently-established interest in London, to which he had himself ministered in a very kind and generous manner.

Its story was interesting. In July, 1851, a few Christians in the neighbourhood of Clerkenwell withdrew themselves from the sanctuary in which they had previously worshipped, ‘and for some months wandered from chapel to chapel unable to find a spiritual home. Two of their number having casually met in the street, a gathering of all the brethren and sisters who had been separated from Church fellowship, and were thus scattered abroad, suggested itself to their minds. It was accordingly arranged to make the matter known, and to convene as many as could come for social converse and prayer, on the following Monday, at the house of Richard Minton, a worthy house-decorator.

None up to this period had entertained any idea of their formation into a distinct body, nor did any foresee the consequences of this first important meeting, which was held, as arranged, on the evening of August 4th. About twenty brethren and sisters were present, and the time was spent in the way proposed. The presence and power of the Holy Ghost were largely enjoyed. Ere they parted they agreed to reassemble at the same spot on the following week. This they did, and finally determined to hold similar gatherings statedly on the afternoon of each Lord’s-day, and on Monday evenings, if a suitable room could be procured. One was at length found at an academy in President-street, King-square. Here they met for the first time on Lord’s-day, the 17th of August, and the brethren were led to offer very earnest petitions for divine blessing and guidance. Here, too, their first collection was made, amounting to 2s. 6d., which paid the hire of the room.

Their numbers increased, and the limited accommodation proving insufficient, they again met at Richard Minton’s, when it was determined to seek a place more suited to their requirements. A larger school-room was accordingly obtained in Corporation-row, Clerkenwell, in which, on Lord’s-day afternoon, August 24th, a goodly number of friends gathered with one accord, and all hearts were warmed by the Saviour’s presence. They again assembled in the evening, and continued to meet twice on the Lord’s-day and on Thursday evenings until September 7th.[2]

The name of C. W. Banks now for the first time occurs in their history. Though pastor of the Church at Crosby-row, he had during the previous year assumed the care of a small congregation assembling in Ebenezer Chapel, Mason’s-court, High-street, Shoreditch. He undertook no more than to preach on Lord’s-day afternoons and Monday evenings, and to provide supplies for the other services, and with this understanding he had been actually recognised as pastor of the Church on November 4th, 1850, by P. W. Williamson, William Allen, and James Wells. The arrangement had not proved successful, and J. T. Messer had accepted the oversight of the little flock.[3]

The labours of C. W. Banks on the afternoon of the Lord’s-day and on Monday evenings had thus terminated; and finding that he was desirous for another door to be opened elsewhere upon these occasions, and being themselves in circumstances of need, the little band of Christians who were meeting in Corporation-row were led to view the providential hand of God in this as an answer to prayer. They accordingly invited him to preach for them on Monday evening, September 8th. He came, was well received, and continued to conduct regular services at the above times, till the congregation so increased that it was again necessary to seek some more commodious place to meet in.

A little chapel in Nelson-place, City-road, suggested itself as suitable for their purpose. It had been long disused. On examination it proved to be in a filthy and dilapidated condition, and would cost at least £40 to renovate. This, to so small a congregation, was a serious undertaking; but after prayerful deliberation they decided to take it, Richard Minton generously agreeing to do the necessary repairs and to trust for payment.

While these were in progress, they, of course, continued worshipping in the place in which they had experienced so much blessing, the last services being arranged to be held on the morning and evening of Sunday, September 28th. A good congregation was desired, as collections were to be made to defray the incidental expenses of their meetings. C. W. Banks accordingly suggested that John Hazelton should be invited, and it was understood that he engaged to come. Bills were printed and circulated, but, to the disappointment of all, James Fenlon, a worthy brother of very ordinary gifts, appeared in lieu of the preacher whom they so eagerly expected. Who was to blame, is not now known, but the event was overruled for good. In all probability, had their future pastor paid his first visit before they were formed into a Church or had settled in their future chapel, a permanent union would neither have been suggested nor effected.

On the following Sabbath they met for the first time in their newly-renovated Mount Zion. No minister was present, and the time was spent in prayer and praise. On Monday, October 6th, the place was publicly reopened for the worship of God, three sermons being preached by John Foreman, W. Allen, and C. W. Banks. A report of the proceedings of the day, evidently from the Editor’s own pen, is given in the Earthen Vessel for November, 1851. The sermons were good and appropriate, and we are told that “at the tea-meeting all seemed cheerful and united in the great things which had been preached unto them.” Much true enthusiasm evidently prevailed.

On Tuesday, November 4th, their new chapel was the scene of a yet more significant service—the formation of thirty-four baptised Christians into a Church of the faith and order of the New Testament. R. Alldis, Israel Atkinson, and other pastors, took their share in the important proceedings of the day, the nature of a Gospel Church being explained, and the usual questions asked by George Wyard. In response, the lucid and interesting statement which appears in the Earthen Vessel for December, 1851, was read by its writer, George Barrell, as were the articles of faith which were to compose the doctrinal basis of the union about to be consummated.

John Foreman proceeded to address those who had requested him to perform this impressive duty, requiring them all to stand, and join hand-in-hand, and thus express their oneness in the truth and ordinances of the Gospel. He next called upon each to lift up the right hand, in solemn vow to their covenant God, by the help of His grace, to stand fast in the faith they had publicly professed, and to endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; concluding by giving the right hand of fellowship to two of the brethren in the name of the rest.

The simple but sublime service was brought to a close by the administration of the Lord’s Supper, in which several friends from sister Churches united.

In a few days, the Church, thus scripturally organised, elected three of its numbers, Richard Minton, George Burrell, and William Akerman, to serve it as its deacons—a step which was signally crowned in the future with the Lord’s evident blessing.

In January, 1852, John Hazelton yielded to the solicitations of his friend C. W. Banks, and consented to become his guest, and to serve the little Church. He therefore came to the metropolis, and it is remembered how weary and dispirited he seemed when he at length reached his destination in the Bermondsey Kew-road.

On the second Lord’s-day in this month he occupied the pulpit for the first time. The impression produced was most favourable. His manner was earnest and solemn; and his two discourses thoughtful and able. Christ was exalted in the morning—the text being Zech. 6:13; and in the evening he preached from Dan. 4:35—his theme being the sublime doctrine the absolute sovereignty of Him who “doeth according to His will in the armies of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth.” The Word was blessed to the hearts of the people.

The week passed. He attended the Thursday evening prayer meeting, and on the Friday was introduced to some of the friends at R. Minton’s hospitable home. On the following Lord’s-day he again supplied the pulpit—and the services proved profitable to many. Understanding that he was at liberty, a unanimous wish was expressed that he should be invited to minister in Mount Zion for three months. On the following Wednesday evening a special prayer meeting was held to entreat the Lord to direct the movements of the Church, and to incline the heart of His servant, if agreeable to His will, to accede to their request.

The following letter to their Brother Hazelton was submitted, approved, and forwarded:—

——————-
DEAR BROTHER IN THE LORD—We, as a little Church of Jesus Christ, meeting for the worship of God in the above place, can, and do sincerely and affectionately hail you as a brother beloved in the Lord.

In looking back upon the past eventful footsteps we have trodden, under the gracious leadings of our good and great Shepherd, we are constrained gratefully to say, “What hath God wrought!” We have as a little flock to record His mercies, having been the subjects of His tender care and covenant regard. He has kept and preserved us in peace, led us into a little fold, and often met and fed us there with His own rich provision; our souls have been comforted and edified by means of the supplies we have had from time to time. Yet our desire has been to the God of our mercies, that He would, agreeably to His word of promise, in His own good time and way, graciously be pleased to raise up and bring amongst us one of His own sent servants, “a pastor after His own heart,” who shall feed the Church which He hath purchased with His own blood, with knowledge and understanding. Having heard you for the past two Lord’s-days to our unanimous satisfaction and soul profit, and finding you are at liberty to be removed from where you now statedly labour, we do hope it is of the Lord in bringing you amongst us.

We cannot but feel thankful to our covenant God, that He has raised you up and endued you with grace and gifts for so solemn and important a work, and enabled you in a soul-edifying and instructive manner to open up and set forth the great truths of the everlasting gospel. We likewise do feel very thankful that He has been pleased graciously to preserve you, not only to speak the truth, but to live the truth, in a consistent, upright, and God-fearing walk, adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour in the midst of this gainsaying and evil generation. And looking above by prayer and supplication to our gracious Leader, we do as a Church unanimously invite you to break the bread of life to us for three successive months, commencing the first Lord’s-day in April next, by which time we trust, labouring together in prayer and watching thereunto, we shall be able better to understand what is the will of our gracious covenant God towards us. Praying that great grace may abound towards you and us in directing all our steps, we beg to remain, dear brother, yours in covenant bonds of indissoluble love.

(Signed on behalf of the Church),

GEORGE BURRELL,
RICHARD MINTON,
WILLIAM AKERMAN,
Deacons

January 21st, 1852.
——————-

This frank and affectionate communication caused its recipient no small embarrassment. His heart was not drawn to the metropolis as the sphere of his future labour, and he indulged the hope that every post would bring him an invitation to become the minister of Meopham Chapel, Kent, to which he must have paid some visits, of which no record exists. No such communication arriving, after some days’ delay, and, as we may judge, with peculiar and conflicting emotions, he penned the following reply to his friends in London:—

——————-
To the Church of Jesus Christ, meeting for the worship of God in Mount Zion Chapel, Nelson-place, City-road.

DEAR BRETHREN AND SISTERS IN GRACE RELATIONSHIP,—I have received a unanimous invitation from you to serve you in the Gospel for three successive months, signed by your deacons on behalf of the whole Church; and as I am requested to reply before I leave town, I sit down this morning for that purpose. Our God is in the heavens, and He hath done whatsoever it pleased Him—to watch the hand of God is one great part of the Christian’s work. You have been mercifully called out of the world and are united as a part of Christ’s visible Zion. An infinitely wise God has permitted and brought about a concurrence of circumstances which have placed you at Mount Zion for the purpose of spiritual worship. You have been supplied with the Word of Truth by God’s sent servants from time to time, and at length, in the order of Divine providence, my steps were directed towards you. I came to London reluctantly. I confess that I prayed against it, spoke against it, and indirectly wrote against it, but was after all obliged to come. I entered Mount Zion on Lord’s-day morning, January 11th, with no common feelings of reluctance. On seating myself in your vestry, I was sweetly led forth with a good brother in prayer. I entered the pulpit and preached Christ as well as I could, and it was with some holy feelings; but in the evening I felt, “Surely the Lord is in this place.” It appears the Word was blessed, and knowing that I am leaving my charge at Guyhirn, you have invited me for a time. O that we may act holily and uprightly! I feel,—I cannot but feel, my dear friends, the great importance of my present position. God’s glory is involved in it,—the peace of my own mind to a certain extent is connected with it. Your interest and edification are involved in it. Friends are anticipating. Enemies are watching. Is God smiling? I certainly believe He is. Do those circumstances under which we mutually appear, to any satisfactory extent open up the will of God? I am obliged—cheerfully obliged, to confess they do. In humble dependence upon that dear Jesus who hath hitherto helped me, I venture to accept your invitation, and with you, my dear friends, I pray that God will reveal His will as we mutually go forward, prayerfully watching His hand. If the Lord will, my labours at Mount Zion shall commence on the first Lord’s-day in April.

I hope I am thankful I have a warm interest in your prayers. Let prayer ascend to God for me. Brethren, pray for me. My prayer is, that “I may come amongst you in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.” I shall aim to preach Christ to you. May you grow up into Him, be conformed to Him, and have grace to represent Him here below. May we together suck honey out of the Rock. May clusters of grapes from Eshcol refresh us. May hidden manna fall. May streams from the smitten Rock follow us. May enemies be defeated. May trials be overruled for our good. May you have great peace and real prosperity, and may it fully appear that your invitation and my acceptance (and it is cordial), are according to the good pleasure of God’s will. Brethren, the Lord be with you. So prays yours in the Lord of life and glory, to serve affectionately and to the best ability God giveth, in the best of causes,

J. H.
——————-

The very next morning the long delayed letter from Meopham arrived, containing the expected request. It was of course too late; for the decisive step, which committed him to a term of service in London, had been taken.

Thus on apparently trivial circumstances momentous issues depend—and the God of all grace glorifies Himself by the wonderful fulfilment of purposes unalterably settled before the foundation of the world.

All human events are managed by His wisdom. Chance is a creature of the imagination, a falsehood, an illusion. It has no existence in the moral government of God.

“Our life’s minutest circumstance,
Is subject to His eye.”

“An invisible hand is at work in connection with every step which we take, in a manner which will glorify God and secure our endless happiness and rest. In connection with every painful and every pleasant circumstance of our course here there is a deep laid and concealed purpose. A divine and golden thread connects them with the name and honour of Almighty God.”[4]

“The cloud” a few months subsequently led Isaac Lingley, who was just then leaving Colnbrook, to the vacant sphere in the Kentish village, while John Hazelton reluctantly accepted the Divine indication that his life-work was to be performed amid the rush and noise, the sins and sorrows of the million-peopled city.

During the interval which elapsed between the reception of this kind and characteristic letter, and the commencement of the probationary engagement in April—the congregation continued to increase, and a few were added to the Church—tokens for good which were gratefully welcomed by all.

On Lord’s-day, April 4th, according to engagement, the three months’ labours commenced. Mr. Hazelton preached in the morning, afternoon, and evening, after which he broke bread to the Church for the first time. It was a good day. Three friends were received into church fellowship, and the hearts of the people were encouraged and strengthened.

These indications of the Divine favour were continued and multiplied. On Tuesday, May 18th, another prayer-meeting was held, specially to implore Divine guidance, and on the 9th of June a Church meeting was held at which it was decided—in accordance with the rules of the Church—to proceed to a ballot; when it proved to be the unanimous wish that John Hazelton should be invited to accept the pastorate.

The following letter was therefore forwarded:—

——————-
Mount Zion Chapel, Nelson Place, City Road,
June 9th, 1852.

DEAR BROTHER HAZELTON,—The time of your probation amongst us, dispensing the word of eternal life, having nearly elapsed, we as a Church have met together, and after united prayer and consultation on the all-important matter which lies before us, have come to the following unanimous conclusion. And first we can, and do, sincerely bless the Lord our God who in His all-wise arrangements of Divine providence directed your way unto us. Our united prayer was, that our great Shepherd would according to His gracious promise appear for His little flock, and send amongst us one who would instrumentally feed our souls with knowledge and understanding. In this we believe our request has been graciously granted, and upon your coming amongst us we did earnestly desire that you might be brought amongst us in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ. In this also with gratitude to our covenant God we acknowledge we have been heard and answered to the joy and satisfaction of our souls. Him whom our souls love, and in whom our wishes meet, and hopes centre, we have rejoiced to find the sum and substance of your ministry. Christ, Alpha and Omega, all and in all, has been set forth, and we can gratefully bear witness that it has proved to our souls an edifying, comforting, and fruitful ministry. Our desire has been, and is, with you to make Christ and His cross all our theme; so that in this respect, thanks to our God, we are one; and while we have been praying for some token of our Lord’s approval and smile upon our proceedings, we have endeavoured to watch His good hand, and are encouraged to find, not only in the Church, but from many of those persons who are now stated hearers in the congregation, and who have been blessed under the ministry, a desire that you might continue amongst us.

We may say, in looking back upon that short period of time that has elapsed since you have been with us, we have had many sweet seasons in the house of God. We have felt the presence of the Lord, and our hearts have flowed together in sweet Gospel union, and the God of peace hath still maintained peace and unanimity in our borders.

We have been anxious to know and do the will of God, and our eyes we trust are still up unto Him, and all our future expectations are from Him: we have therefore after prayerful consideration, come to the conclusion, and that unanimously, to invite you, at the expiration of the three months, to accept the pastorate over us, and the Lord grant, if His holy will and pleasure, our will, and mind, and way, may be one, and that the mind and will of our God.

Praying that the all-wise God may direct both us and you in this important step, we remain, dear brother, yours most affectionately in Christ.

RICHARD MINION,
GEORGE BURRELL,
WILLIAM AKERMAN,
Deacons.
——————-

In spite of this most encouraging letter he hesitated to send an affirmative reply. Happily he took the lady, whom he afterwards married, into his confidence. To her the indications of the leadings of Divine providence seemed much clearer than to him. She wrote urging him to consent, “for if he did not, the Lord would make a Jonah of him.”

In due course, therefore, he sent a letter accepting the invitation, prayerfully and hopefully. This was returned to him at his request to copy; was mislaid and lost; so that no record of it was entered in the Church book. It contained, however, a cordial and affectionate response to the Church’s request, and breathed earnest desire and prayerful solicitude for the continuation of the Lord’s manifest favours, which had been already so unmistakably apparent. The pastorate was entered upon at once, without any public notice or recognition, except the recognition of God. We are sure that the union was spiritual, and formed by God Himself; seeing that it was followed abundantly by tokens of Divine favour and approbation.

It is remarkable that our brother, who assisted at the settlement of so many of his ministerial brethren, on which occasions his words were ordinarily most weighty and encouraging, never once had any service of the kind in relation to his acceptance of either of his charges.

We believe, indeed, that though he rarely declined, he rather shrank from such engagements: as he too often had occasion to observe that recognition services of the most jubilant and enthusiastic character were followed by coldness, collapse, and disunion.[5]

On the following Lord’s-day he was prostrated by an attack of marsh ague, a predisposition to which he doubtless acquired while living in the Fens, and which the anxiety of these critical days may have accelerated.

This happily transient indisposition, however, only served to draw out the sympathies of his people. The complaint left him, and the following week, being in a great measure restored, he preached twice.

——————-
The evening discourse was specially thoughtful and suggestive. It was based on the comprehensive words, “The Lord reigneth” (Psa. 97:1). His divisions were:—

I. The declaration.
II. The present obscurity.
III. The exhortation.
IV. The vindication of the Divine character.
——————-

It was felt that the sickness which had laid him aside had not been without its precious fruit.

But few records of his sermons at this period have been preserved, yet these, though but imperfect and fragmentary jottings, show that he gave the utmost possible preparation to the labours of the pulpit.

——————-
Two discourses, delivered on the morning and afternoon of Lord’s-day, April 25th, 1852, were considered especially memorable, the text on both occasions being Mai. 3:17, “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.”

The divisions of the first sermon were as follows:—

I. Who are the Lord’s jewels?
II. Where they are found.
III. What their condition.
IV. Who their finder.
V. Their value to their Proprietor.
VI. Their safety and security.
VII. Their casket.
VIII. Their brilliancy—they glittered, when and how? At the throne—in trouble (when sanctified), in death, through eternity.

The second sermon had two main branches, and was thus divided:—

I. The PROPRIETOR of these jewels—”THE LORD OF HOSTS.”
1. The Lord—His supremacy.
2. The Lord of Hosts—the hosts of angels, men, and devils.
3. The Lord of Hosts, for their protection.
4. The Lord above all—and able therefore to keep a n d care for His jewels.

II. Their MANIFESTATION—”When I make up.”
1. By regeneration.
2. In death.
3. In the day of judgment.

The following divisions of a sermon, delivered on the previous Lord’s-day, are also very characteristic:—

“But rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

I. The family register.
II. Some of the prominent features of the registered names.
III. The believer’s ground of rejoicing.
——————-

“It was a God-honouring and blessed sermon,” adds the correspondent, to whose kindness we are indebted for both of the above.*[6]

Encouraging results soon began to follow this hard and honest Gospel work. The congregations so increased that considerable inconvenience was experienced. Three hundred people were frequently crammed into the little building, while others could not gain admission. The Church was therefore brought to the gratifying but very serious difficulty of confessing that their present accommodation was utterly insufficient for their requirements. They therefore sought divine direction. A committee was formed for the purpose of raising the requisite money to build or procure a larger place of worship. £3 were collected there and then to commence with. Enquiries were at once prosecuted in every direction in adjacent parishes, but nothing suitable could be found.

In August, 1852, their pastor paid a visit to the scene of his former labours. His object was a happy one. Some months previously he had formed an attachment to Miss Jane Johnson, a member of the Church at Guyhirn, and on the 12th they were married at the Baptist Chapel, Ely-place, Wisbech.

Many distinguished ministers of the Gospel have displayed a singular lack of wisdom in their choice of helpmeets, and their whole future career has been hindered by the incompatibility and uncongeniality of the women whom they imprudently took to their hearts and homes. Mutual disparity in purpose and pursuit has embittered and marred their whole lives.

This union, however, through many chequered years, proved all that could be desired. Gentle and unobtrusive, the lady he loved possessed a very clear insight into human character, and an almost intuitive perception of what was right and befitting in conduct. Firm and judicious, keenly interested in her husband’s important work, but never obtruding herself, kind, calm, domesticated and devoted, his heart safely trusted in her, and his people found not only a wise counsellor, but a safe and sympathetic friend. She cheered him in times of depression, shielded him from the petty vexations which are incidental to the happiest pastorate, and which so tend to rob a minister’s spirits of elasticity and earnestness. One in spiritual things, they ever shared their holiest confidences, and their love, like a calmly flowing current, gathered strength as time rolled by.

A perceptible improvement in some important features of our friend’s official character is perceptible from this period. He had never lacked enthusiasm in his calling. He had invariably laboured with transparent singleness of heart. His work had been solid and laborious, and he had spared no pains to attain polish and perfection. An almost indefinable impetuosity, an impatience of restraint, a wild eagerness that too soon subsided into weary depression, had, however, marked, if they had not marred, his public life. A new and subtle influence now began to correct and develop his character; and the calm purposefulness, the habitual repression, and the steady determination which were such important factors in his subsequent usefulness, gradually became habitual to him.

Meanwhile the Church were not unmindful of the paramount necessity for a more commodious place of worship. On the 22nd of September a public meeting was held. A report of the proceedings of the committee was presented, and cards and books were issued with a view to raise money for the necessary object. A prayerful and hopeful spirit prevailed. This was a period of great mercy to the Church. Constant additions were made to their numbers, and their little sanctuary, in the hot summer weather, was crowded to the very doors.

Some months rolled on, till on the night of December 31st, 1852, what is sometimes called a watch-night service was held. The gracious conduct of God was gratefully reviewed, the blessing that had followed the ministrations of their “dear brother and now beloved pastor” was cordially acknowledged, and “the continuation of the Lord’s great lovingkindness and manifest favours ” in the future was earnestly entreated.

* * * * * * *

These scattered people were thus gathered together under the care of one of the wisest of under-shepherds. In these days, when Churches are so apt to give rash and unwise invitations to untried men, and ministers are so prone to make hasty pastoral engagements which cannot but terminate in sorrow and confusion, the preceding account of the prayerful caution so solicitously manifested by this infant Church is fraught with important lessons. They took no step “without the light, and therefore did not stumble. “In all their ways they acknowledged the Lord,” and “He directed their paths.” The peace and prosperity of following years had the most intimate connection with the holy prudence of these early days.

John Hazelton’s settlement in London is also not unworthy of consideration on more than one account. Happy as the issues proved, it was a step which he himself was most reluctant to take. Thirty-one years afterwards he recalled the circumstance to his attached and affectionate flock. “I am sure,” he said, when preaching on Isa. 49:16, “I had no desire to come to London. I wrote and schemed and planned against coming, as some of my hearers know, but the bounds of our habitation are fixed, and the ‘purpose of the Lord, it shall stand.’ It was the intention of the great Redeemer that I should come and labour here, and here I have been sustained through a period of twenty-nine or thirty years” (Sermons, vol. III., p. 102).

It is also instructive to recall the chequered and circuitous road by which he was led to the spot in which he was hereafter to be so abundantly blessed. It happened to him, as to the majority of men of marked individuality, that he did not at first find bis appropriate sphere of pastoral labour; but Bungay and Guyhirn, bitter as were the sorrows associated with them, sustained no unimportant relations to Chadwell-street. Thither too he was guided by God’s unerring hand at the right time, a time most auspicious for him, most advantageous to his people, and most opportune for his section of the Baptist denomination. Few can study the history of our Churches at this period without perceiving that a cultured, sober, affectionate, and spiritually-minded man, who could think clearly and act decisively was at this very juncture sorely needed to occupy a prominent position in the metropolis.

The advent of our dear brother was a singular blessing to all who had the interest of a full-orbed Gospel at heart. How he was helped to establish his position, how his influence widened and extended till he became, in his own peculiar way, as truly a power for good as any of the eminent men whose names are mentioned above, it will be the object of the following pages to show.

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[1] A Prayer Book by J. Wells, 1832.
[2] Earthen Vessel, 1850, page 274.
[3] Earthen Vessel, 1851, page 291.
[4] John Hazelton’s Sermons, Vol I., pages 14,15.
[5] He regarded such, as recognitions and not ordination. In this he differed from the older English dissenters, who very earnestly believed in the scripturalness of ordination by the laying on of the hands of the properly ordained ministers who were present.
[6] These notes were most kindly furnished by our brother George Burrell, of Watford, from whose “History of the Church at Chadwell-street Chapel” much information has also been obtained.



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