“His character was marked by great caution and wisdom. Some deemed him too hesitating and slow. Still they generally found that at last he was right, and that the steps he had taken were safe. He was a prudent, and admitting our individual and characteristic infirmities, a truly wise man. He never involved himself in difficulty, or plunged into danger through his imprudence. He always thought much before he decided, and when he moved he felt that his ground was firm. He was cautious in abstaining from everything violent. He was no mere party-man; he never committed himself by any political demonstration, and studiously avoided the arena of warm and angry debate, of violent, of clamorous controversy, He strictly confined himself to his duties as a minister of the Gospel. and assiduously discharged them. He never, like many, stepped beyond his own province. He knew what he had to do, and did it. He was characterised by his sageness, which increasingly developed as he advanced in years.”—A Portraiture of William Jay.
By Rev. Thomas Wallace
This chapter will be devoted to a review of the last fifteen years of John Hazelton’s career, a period which was the least eventful, but in many respects the happiest and most useful of his life.
In 1873 many of our bravest standard-bearers had fallen, and not a few others had almost accomplished their warfare below. John Foreman and James Wells had fallen asleep; George Murrell had passed away after a long life of holy service: George Wright had finished his work, and was waiting for the open vision, while Philip Dickerson, William Palmer, and Samuel Milner were gathering their last few sheaves before being called to rest.
Our dear friend stood almost alone, and the sadness of isolation from that time seemed somewhat to overshadow his spirit. He manfully served the people he loved; he refused no help when needed. His ministerial brethren found in him an unwearying counsellor, whose advice was always to be trusted.
He thus kept in touch with his time, and served his generation by the will of God; but his sympathies were, to a large extent, with the views and ways of the men of his earlier years. He made no new friends—in the deepest sense of that great word— and what we remarked of his career at Bungay was the case to the last—he was at heart a solitary man.
The honour of seniority he accepted very quietly, and neither sought nor evaded its responsibilities. He was accessible to the humblest of his brethren, and found time to listen sympathetically to all who sought his aid in sorrow.
His labours both in London and the provinces were extensive. He ordinarily preached four—occasionally five times a week—which, as he never repeated a sermon, involved no small amount of study.
His Monday evening’ expositions, which as a rule occupied half an hour, were most profitable, but not elaborately premeditated.
His services as an anniversary preacher wore valued, not only for the benefit which his visit so often proved, but on account of the moral sanction which his name conferred. Unlike some of his brethren who appear so eager to address an audience—that care not whom they meet or what cause they advocate—he “liked to know where he was going,” and if what he had learned of a chapel was unsatisfactory, an invitation to cross its threshold for any purpose would be quietly declined.
Popular he never was, so far as the Christian world at large was concerned, but he was widely appreciated among those who loved the doctrines of sovereign and distinguishing grace. A respectable and representative congregation could be relied on if he were announced to conduct a special service, and all who came were sure to hear a sermon that would not only stimulate thought, but awaken holy and spiritual feelings.
In his intercourse with his ministerial brethren, he was frank and affectionate, and evidently desired to turn the interviews he held with them to profitable account.
At first, he not unfrequently struck strangers as constrained and reserved. His manner was undemonstrative, and sometimes seemed to lack cordiality. In this he was a contrast to the beaming and gushing brethren (often the hollowest of men) whose effusiveness is, to some, so attractive. John Hazelton was real, as succeeding interviews invariably proved; and his kindness was as true as it was valuable.
He was a member of the Pastoral Fraternity—a friendly union of London ministers which now assembles monthly at Little Alie-street Chapel—and attended its meetings when health and leisure permitted. His visits were welcomed, for he invariably started and stimulated some profitable train of thought, and gave his own opinions without reserve.
The difference between “the work of faith and the labour of love” is a fair specimen of the questions he was wont to start.
His services on behalf of the body of Christians with which he was so closely allied were principally given to two organisations—the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches, and the Strict Baptist Mission.
The Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches he regarded with great interest. At its institution, in 1871, it was feared that the unhappy terminations of some similar attempts would deter him from taking part in this. He, however, warmly promoted the new scheme, attended its inaugural meetings, consented to become its second president, and did all he could to ensure its success. For a time its progress was gratifying, but in 1875 a collapse seemed to be impending. Its leading men were believed, whether rightly or wrongly, to be drifting away from our distinctive principles. Public interest flagged, the members of its committee declined to attend when convened, and at the fourth annual meeting of the Pastors and Delegates the dissolution of the Association seemed inevitable. The president vacated the chair, and not a word was said until some one suggested that brother John Hazelton should again be asked to be President. This was seconded, and again silence prevailed. At length a chorus of voices took up the request, and he consented, on condition that the writer should work with him as Secretary. This meeting with cordial acquiescence, he quietly took the chair, and order and harmony were restored. The eventful day terminated by his delivering his famous discourse on the Perpetuity of the Words of Christ, which, in its printed form, for grandeur of thought, and eloquence of language, is, in our judgment, by far the finest of his sermons that was ever published.
During the twelve months which followed, the Association was practically reestablished on its present basis. The President spared no trouble in fulfilling his engagement. He revised his sermon for the press, assisted the secretary in the preparation of the statement appended to it, which was nominally in lieu of a report; but actually intended to reassure the public as to the true character of the Association.
He attended every meeting of the committee. Under his wise direction, some simple and practical rules for the prompt utilization of its funds were formulated and adopted in place of others which had only hampered the committee, and the first two or three loans were granted. At the termination of his year of office, public confidence was fully restored; and the Secretary had the pleasure of nominating John Box as his successor, the dear brother to whom so much of the prosperity of succeeding years is attributable. Humanly speaking, however, and giving all honour to those who have subsequently contributed to raise the Association to its present pitch of influence and usefulness, its existence would have terminated on the occasion referred to, had not our brother John Hazelton acted as he did, at this crisis of its history.
To the last he remained its firm and faithful friend, and served it to the utmost of his decreasing powers. He was chosen its President several times.
The Strict Baptist Mission also found in him an attached and unfailing adherent. Its early history was a chequered one. Peculiar difficulties arose from the fact that its distinguishing characteristic is, when possible, the employment of native teachers, and these too often proved unworthy of the confidence reposed in them. One and another, who at first promised well, resigned their posts for more lucrative engagements, or had to be dismissed for unsatisfactory conduct. Hence for some years the little society made but slow progress.
The first two presidents were Samuel Milner and James Woodard. On the death of the latter in 1882, a wise and devoted leader was earnestly desired, and each prominent Metropolitan minister was anxiously considered, and all wondered who was able and willing to fill the responsible position. Our friend’s name was, of course, mentioned, but it was feared that his many engagements and delicate health would compel him to decline the invitation. He, however, accepted it, and threw his heart into the office. As a rule he attended each meeting of the committee, and entered into all deliberations with warm interest. His policy was a happy blending of caution and enterprise, and under his guidance the Mission began to progress as it had never done heretofore.
These varied calls upon his time and energy in no way interfered with his devotion to the people of his choice and charge. Unlike some pastors, who are accused of carrying their cream abroad and keeping their skim-milk for home consumption, he invariably reserved his best efforts for his own congregation. Excellent as were many of his anniversary sermons, his week night lectures were of higher average excellence, richer in matter and illustration, and delivered with more inspiring energy.
From his pulpit utterances, it is clear that he attached great importance to the doctrine commonly called the Commercial view of the Atonement. This has, however, failed to commend itself to some students of the Bible, and in 1874 it was somewhat vigorously assailed by one of our Strict Baptist, ministerial brethren. In harmony with his principles, John Hazelton penned no word in defence of the truth he loved, but when a treatise on the subject was projected by his friend, Israel Atkinson, of Brighton, he felt the greatest pleasure, and introduced the work to the public by a graceful Preface—interesting as being one of the productions of his own pen that saw the light. It is to be regretted that so useful a book has, apparently, failed to obtain the attention it indisputably deserved.
As years rolled by, and another generation of hearers succeeded those who had first gathered round him, the love of his people grew almost reverential in its loyal and attached devotion.
Twice during this period the interior of the chapel was reconstructed. In 1872 an attempt was made to improve the ventilation—the hot and impure air having proved extremely detrimental to the pastor’s health. The ceiling was accordingly removed, and the roof boarded inside; and thus a considerable improvement was effected. In 1884 it was re-pewed, and converted into a neat and commodious place of worship. It is to be regretted, however, that efforts were not made in bygone years to erect a new sanctuary, suited to the requirements of such a ministry. In justice to the Church and congregation, it should be said that the project would have been gladly entertained by them but for their pastor’s inveterate objection to it.
Few incidents in his life present the characteristics of anecdotes, so often supposed to be essential to the interest of a biography. The following, however, are worth preserving.
He entertained a deeply-rooted dislike to the use of musical instruments in the sanctuary, and resolutely opposed the introduction of a harmonium into his own chapel. This some of the members greatly desired, and it was arranged that the matter should be discussed at a Church meeting. In introducing it, the pastor observed that he had a remark to make. “If you have that thing down here, you must find another man to preach up there,” pointing to the pulpit. It is needless to say that nothing further was said.
At the close of a Lord’s-day a worthy brother observed: “Ah, my dear sir, how sweet it will be to reach that world where Sabbaths have no end.” “Yes,” was the reply, “but I am glad they do here. I want to get home and have my supper.”
An uninteresting person, who imagined that he was called to preach the Gospel, was at one time accustomed to accost him on his way home on Lord’s-day evenings, and tire him with his tedious conversation. On one occasion he gave a long and prosy account of an extraordinary sermon that he had preached from the words, “He keepeth all his bones, not one of them is broken.” John Hazelton at length could endure it no longer, and gruffly retorted, “I should think, my friend, that before you had done with it, there was not a whole bone left in its ‘body.’ This terminated an undesirable friendship.
An incident that illustrated his kindness of heart in a touching way occurred on October 7th, 1873. The writer had gone with him to Guildford to assist at the recognition of our brother William Kern as minister of the old Baptist Chapel.
Our friend in the morning delivered the customary statement of the nature of a Gospel Church. In the afternoon he also gave the charge to the pastor, and it then fell to my lot to address a few words of counsel to the Church. It happened that I was unusually depressed and nervous. My dear mother had recently died under very melancholy circumstances, and my health was exceedingly bad. The brother who opened the service had prayed about everything “in the heavens above and in the earth beneath,” and I had almost said, “in the waters under the earth,” but had made no reference to my poor, nervous, trembling self. The address to the pastor had been so full and exhaustive that I was wondering how I could possibly interest the people. As I passed brother Hazelton at the foot of the pulpit stairs, he looked into my face, and perhaps read my fears there, for he took my right hand in his, and gave it a warm, earnest clasp. A heart full of affection was expressed in the action. It was an assurance of his interest, sympathy and prayerful solicitude for my success, and so strengthened me that my heart did not flutter or my voice falter, and many thanked me afterwards.
A man’s dotage (or the childishness of old age) it has been humorously said is often preceded by his anecdotage. To this period our dear friend never attained, for his mind was vigorous and his powers unimpaired when he left us. He lived too much in the earnest present to maunder over memories of the past, and but rarely indulged in such stories as some old men never tire of telling.
The following scraps of conversation may, however, be read with interest:—
A Friend.—”Do you not observe that spirituality is at a very low ebb, and that much of the spirit of the world has crept into the Churches, which is sad?”
J. H.—”Yes, I do; I observe so much that I should come to the conclusion that religion was nothing but a fable, if I did not realise something in my own heart.”
A friend enquired as to the nature of George Murrell’s influence. His sermons are not striking to read.
J. H.—”It is difficult to say; but I think his power lay in the fact that he lived in such close fellowship with God. He had no comfort at home, and seemed to live in God’s presence. He was on one occasion offering prayer, previously to preaching at a country anniversary, and so elevated and spiritual were his thoughts that a man (I think he was a worldly person) who was present nudged someone who was sitting next him, and asked, ‘Where does that man live?’ ‘IN HEA VEN,’ was the reply, and he was about right.”
Friend.—It is said that Joseph Sedgwick’s gift was the power of sanctified pathos. Would you say the same of Murrell?
J. H.—”Hardly; something higher than that. I remember hearing him preach on ‘Behold, the Lamb of God.’ After a few words of introduction, in his then curious voice, he announced his divisions—1. The object, ‘The Lamb of God.’ 2. The act, ‘Taking away sin.’ 3. The direction, ‘Behold.’ Then he again named his first division, and added, ‘THE LAMB—bless His name—not the lion, but THE LAMB of God.’ This is nothing to tell, but there was something indescribable in his way of uttering these words, and the whole chapel full of people burst into tears.”
Friend.—Then there was the force of spirituality in Mr. Murrell?
J. H.—”Yes, you know we used often to interchange, and when he was at my house he always made little John stand by him at family prayers, and he would put his arm round him when he knelt clown, and would pray for little John and give him a hug; and every separate petition was followed by another hug. The little fellow did not soon forget those prayers.”
“John was a good theologian. Divine truth assumed an orderly form in his mind, and he instinctively regarded it as an harmonious and beautiful whole. He often did not study his sermons, though. I remember being with him at a country anniversary, and he was smoking in the vestry at the time for the commencement of the service. ‘Time is up,’ some one said, but he requested that another minister would read and pray. At length, when the last verse of the last hymn before the sermon was being read, he laid down his pipe, ascended the pulpit, and read a text. I am sure he had not the slightest idea what to say, and he told us that he ‘felt like a man hunting rats in a barn. Ho rakes here, and out pops a rat and escapes. He pokes there, and another runs away.’ All this time he was beating his brains for a thought, and at last one came, and he worked it out grandly, and preached a really fine sermon.”
ACCEPTING A PASTORAL CALL.
Friend.—”Mr. Atkinson was telling me that he was once advised ‘not to accept a pastorate against the wishes of a respectable minority.” What do you think?”
J. H.—”I should be sorry to advise any one to accept a pastorate against the wishes of a minority at all.”
CHURCHES HAVE PECULIARITIES.
J. H.—”A well-made glove will not fit every hand, and a good minister will not suit every Church. There are peculiarities about all Churches that should be taken into account before pastoral invitations are accepted.”
THE TOP OF THE LADDER.
J. H.—“S— has been asking my advice about accepting the invitation to the pastorate at. I reminded him of what Samuel Milner said: ‘It is a critical thing to begin at the top of a ladder, for every step must be a step downwards.'”
Friend (in reference to a Church who were fascinated by a wholly unworthy minister, and seemed likely to give him a call to the pastorate).—”If I were you, I should tell them what I know” (spoken excitedly).
J. H.—”If you were I, you would probably do as I mean to do—say nothing.”’
The event showed that he acted wisely.
TEMPERANCE IS A VIRTUE.
J. H.—”Some time ago I received a request to preach a teetotal sermon, and a form was enclosed for me to fill up and return. I simply wrote on it, ’And when Paul reasoned on temperance, righteousness, and judgment, Felix trembled,’ and returned it in the envelope which had been enclosed.”
SHEAVES OF GLORY.
Friend.—”In one of your sermons (vol. 1., page 224), you state that ‘the bodies of those saints who were raised from the dead when our Lord left the tomb, are in heaven’—when do you think that they left the earth in their whole persons, as they must have done if this view is correct?”
J. H.—”I imagine they went to Heaven with Christ. That is the view I have taken of this verse in the selection (finds hymn 53 in Denham, and reads)—
”’Lift your immortal heads,
Your Lord’s from conquest come:
On sin and death He treads,
Let Heaven prepare Him room.
A sheaf of glory’s harvest ears,
The victor in His chariot bears.'”
His ordinary platform addresses were, as has been stated, sermonettes rather than speeches, but the writer remembers that he once made some rather caustic remarks on the spurious conversions that he feared were too common in certain quarters. To exemplify his meaning, he related the case of a female who imagined that she had ‘got religion’ at a revival service. When pressed to describe her emotions at this solemn time, she replied, “Ok, I felt just as if I had had a good glass of stout.” This was related with the utmost gravity—a quiet twinkle of the eye alone showing that the speaker appreciated the somewhat grim humour of the story.
WAYMAN OF KIMBOLTON.
More than once we have heard him relate that Lewis Wayman was in the company of the Duke of Manchester when some undergraduates from Cambridge University were on a visit to his son.
The Duke.—”This person is a blacksmith. He is also a dissenting minister, and he is so well acquainted with the Bible that I warrant he will answer any question relating to it you may like to put to him.”
Undergraduates (after conferring together).—”Well, Mr. Wayman, tell us whether the golden calf that Aaron made was a heifer or a bull?”
Wayman (without a moment’s hesitation).—”That, gentlemen, is soon answered, for we read in Psalm 106 that ‘They changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass.’”
THE GOSPEL AND THE PREACHER.
J . H.—”I have preached so long to one congregation that the strain to bring them some fresh thoughts gets to be very great.”
Friend.—”Oh, sir, you should not be afraid, you know that the Gospel is an inexhaustible subject.”
J. H.—”I know that, my friend. The Gospel will never be exhausted, but the mind of the man who preaches it may be, and I often fear mine is.”
One of the marked peculiarities of our friend as a conversationalist was that he liked to talk over sermons that he had recently preached. Many of his ministerial brethren will remember this trait, and recall how, with half-closed eyes, he would go over point by point, and often, after giving the gist of a full, original and striking discourse, such as he only could deliver it, would end by saying, “So I handled the text, you see, very simply, in its natural and obvious sense.” How often have we wished that “the natural and obvious sense” would strike us as it did him, and wondered that passages should suggest so much to him that never occurred to others.
This period (1873-1887) was a solemn one on account of the removal of so many of his friends by death.
In May, 1873, William Palmer was called home, and on John Hazelton the duty devolved of preaching his funeral sermon, the sketch of which, in the Gospel Herald for July, 1873, proves that it must have been a masterly effort.
“Your late pastor,” he averred, “‘being dead yet speaketh.’ The results of his gifts and the fruits of his abilities will follow him. The books he wrote; the Churches to which he was united; the sinners and saints that have been blessed under his ministry—all these are works which will follow.
But when the workman himself came into the deep solemnities of death, he ignored his gifts, he put off his official robes, wrapped himself in the obedience of his Saviour by a living-faith, and depended not for a moment on any of his sermons, hut cast himself on the salvation of God.”
In March, 1875, Samuel Milner passed away in his sleep. “Look well to the foundations,” were his parting words to John Hazelton, who, not long after, was called upon to address the congregation assembled in Keppel-street Chapel, prior to the funeral.
His friend, he observed, was a good man, a good minister, and a good pastor. He could not be mean or deceitful, for had God in His sovereign grace clone nothing for him, he would have been upright and honourable.
Mr. Mote, an honoured deacon of the Church, and Mr. Hodges, an esteemed member of the congregation, passed away in 1879; and Richard Minton, most sedulous and affectionate of deacons departed this life in 1881, in the eighty-second year of his age. Others—beloved for the truth’s sake—followed, and their pastor was called upon at sadly frequent intervals to utter the last farewell at the grave of one and another who had been dear to him.
In November, 1883, his good deacon, Robert Hoddy, was called away by death, and John Hazelton felt the stroke keenly. He conducted the funeral with peculiar solemnity: delivered a sweet and pathetic sermon in connection with the mournful event; and for the second and last time in his life prepared an article for a religious magazine. His “Memoir of Mr. Robert Hoddy,” appeared in the Gospel Herald for January, 1884. It largely consists of extracts, but one or two sentences are very characteristic of their thoughtful and spiritually-minded author:—
“The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance. Their character is formed by God; their new and holy life is the result of union with Christ; God ‘worketh in them to will and to do of His good pleasure;’ crowns of righteousness are prepared for them on high, and shall be given them by the righteous Judge of all; and therefore they are for ever remembered in heaven.”
“All labour in Christ’s cause must be a labour of love to be pleasant to the labourer and profitable to others.”
“His character was spiritual, his life was useful, his end was peace, and he is in everlasting remembrance at home.”
Many of his attached hearers passed away about this time: others were removed, by Providence, from the locality; and George Burrell, for so many years the devoted Church Secretary had become the esteemed minister of Mount Zion Chapel, Watford.
Still, amid dying and departing friends, he was cheered with the smile of his ever living Lord—whose blessing continued to rest on his labours. Seats vacated by those who had passed away were again occupied—and his congregations did not diminish.
With the following productions of his pen—all but one of which are letters—this chapter will be brought to a close:—
To a lady whose husband was seriously ill.
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD,—If sincere hopes and fervent prayer on the part of your friends would restore health to your dear husband he would soon be out again, but “none can stay God’s hand, nor say unto Him, what doest Thou?”
Now you both feel the importance a n d preciousness of faith, and above all the preciousness of our Lord Jesus. If He is, under ordinary circumstances, “precious to them that believe,” how precious He must be when one is in the furnace of affliction. Then without the Lord there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to rest upon, or afford solid comfort; but you know Him, and your suffering husband knows Him, and, although His dealings are mysterious, you know you are in His arms, and in His heart, and that His fulness cannot fail. God gives faith and He tries it also; and frequently in circumstances like yours faith is apt to faint, and let go its hold. I trust that while you are in the fire your faith in Him that sits by, may be strong. It may be hard to believe that it is as well with us in the depths as on the heights, but it is nevertheless a n unalterable fact, for our Father says, “I will surely do thee good,” and “if we believe not yet He abideth faithful, and cannot stay Himself.” Being creatures, a n d viewing things as we do, we should not always, had we the control of circumstances, have things as they are; but if we saw all as our God sees it, we should do precisely as He does; and, therefore, if all things are considered, there is no ground for complaint, but, on the contrary, abundant reasons why we should leave ourselves in His wise hands, and trust in His great and gracious care and name.
I am, dear Sister, yours truly in the Lord,
J. H .
May 6th, 1874.
To a Christian lady, acknowledging a New Year’s gift of a box of cigars.
MY DEAR SISTER,—Many thanks for your kind present and note just received. Having some experience of the nature and qualities of the contents of the box, I have made up my mind to burn them all, and am neither afraid nor ashamed to tell you so; indeed I opine that you expected I should do so. Unless I burn them I cannot conceive what use to put them to; only I think they must be burnt on high-days and holidays; they are so pleasing to the eye, and doubtless will be so to the mouth and other organs. I thank you much for them.
A new year is come, and we are permitted to see its commencement; but who will see its end? If we are found in Him, our life and death will be right, and the duration of our existence here will not be of great moment. Since health, however, is a great blessing, I send you a few directions concerning it. Cleanliness being important, see that you bathe every day, or oftener, in the blood of the Lamb. Good air is essential; be on the mount of everlasting love as much as possible, and avoid low and dark places. Your diet must be good; the bread and water of eternal life, are at hand and cheap. Be particular as to your clothing, which must be the garments of salvation. With respect to your company, engage the presence of Christ very frequently. Let your employment be “the work of faith and labour of love,” and be sure you rest much in the Lord. “If you do these things you shall never fail.”
My cough is troublesome, but I am better. Mrs. H. and John, who are well, desire me to express their love to you. Accept expressions of Christian esteem from,
Yours very truly in the Lord,
Jan. 1st, 1879.
To a Christian lady congratulating her on her husband’s restoration to health.
DEAR SISTER,—I received yours on the 26th in due order, and regret I have not been able to acknowledge its receipt before. My time is so fully engaged, and my bronchitis so trying, that I cannot do what I would. There are not many persons more truly thankful for your good husband’s recovery than myself. I trust and pray the Lord will perfectly restore him to health and strength and to his dear wife and family.
Life, as it appears before the young, is very promising and rosy, but as it is gradually entered, the illusion disappears, and stern reality takes its place. Yet we who are gone to Canaan have much to be thankful for, and even to induce us to sing in the night.
Your affliction and sorrow, though deep, might have been deeper, and like many you might have had no God to lean upon. Your good husband is in God’s everlasting arms, and he knows and feels it, and at times rejoices in the pleasing fact. Afflictions are bitter blessings to believers, but perhaps they are as good, or even better, than those which are sweet. We have recently seen that terrible fogs envelop us when the weather is calm, and yet the stormy wind, though it clears the atmosphere, is far from agreeable. The Lord, your Saviour and Friend, ruleth over all. Into tribulation the Lord has led you, and out of it He will in due time bring you and yours, ” and God, even our own God, will bless
Give my Christian love to Mr. G—; I will (D.V.), call some day. In much Christian esteem.
I am, dear Sister, yours very truly in the Lord,
January 31st, 1882.
To Mrs. M—, expressing condolence at the death of her son.
MY DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD,—Having learned that your beloved son is gone, I thought a line by my hand, and from my heart, would not be unacceptable to you: especially as my spiritual relation to you has been one of long standing, and a source of holy pleasure to us both. The bereaving hand which has left a gap in your family—a wound in your heart—and a young widow in a new and trying position—is the hand of your heavenly Father. Second causes exist and operate, but they are guided by our God, who will do all His pleasure. “Till He bids Ave cannot die.” The operations of Divine Providence, even the most dark, and mysterious, fulfil God’s wise and loving purposes. Having made provision for His people, and bound Himself to do them good, “His eternal thought moves on His undisturbed affairs.”
One of my first thoughts respecting the loss you have sustained was this—how much there is in the affliction of Sister M— to alleviate her sorrow! You have Scriptural and abundant reasons to believe that your son was God’s child—a purchased! polished, and heavenly jewel, and an heir of life and heaven. You gave birth to this now glorified one, and you nursed him for the Lord. He has met his holy and glorified Father, and you are expecting to join them both again; but what is best of all is the fact, that all shall “be for ever with the Lord,” and like Him too. His pilgrimage was short; the city with foundations, to which he was bound, was soon seen, and reached, and entered; and the woes, the wants, and the toil of life are for ever left behind. He carried sin and a suffering body to the gates of glory, and then dropped the load, and began to live, as no one can live here. Sorrow you may and must feel, but your sorrow, unlike that of many, is mixed with solemn and grateful joy.
May our Lord draw near to you at this time, and fulfil His promise, and be to you all He has been in former bereavements; may He be now your consolation, your refuge, and your stay. As our reasons for desiring to remain on earth are decreasing in number and in force, so may our desire to depart and be with our glorious Lord become more and more intense, but in subjection to His will.
I trust the Lord will sanctify this loss to all concerned. May the widow and family be blessed, and also the two mothers, who are sisters in the flesh, and in the Lord; likewise all the branches of the numerous family. May all possess a meetness for heaven, and be finally gathered with others gone before, where all is life and rest.
With Christian love, I remain, my dear sister, yours affectionately in the Lord,
February 8th, 1883.
My sufferings this winter have been great, and are so still. Occasionally I am unable to be in my place; but my people are affectionate and considerate; and my God is good and merciful. On ordinance days I take my dinner, &c., and stay all day in the vestry; thus I avoid much pain and coughing. But who and what am I, that I should have no suffering? “The Lord trieth the righteous”—they need it, at least I do, therefore, “let Him do as seemeth Him good.”
I am grieved for my dear Brother Meeres and his wife, and I wish I could help his friends at the Chapel. At our meeting he was unusually animated, and his address, the last he delivered, was peculiarly sweet. May the Lord answer prayer on his behalf. I intended seeing him this morning, but my cough distresses me, and my wife, who is again ill, persuades me to remain indoors.
At Chadwell-street we suffered much last year by death, and our loss through the departure of dear Hoddy is great. I trust however the Lord is with us, for I received four good members into communion yesterday, and should have admitted eight, had I been able to baptise.
…Text yesterday: morning, Heb. 12:23; evening, Psa. 122:6.
January 17th, 1884.
To Mr. G. S—, one of his deacons, when staying at the seaside.
MY DEAR BROTHER,—I received yours in due course, and thank you for the brotherly feeling it expresses, and will let the brethren see it tomorrow evening, as they are mentioned in it.
I am sorry you felt as if you were in Egypt when you arrived at H—. To be in darkness, bondage, and exile, is bitter experience, though it may, through our Father’s blessing, lead to good and profitable results. Bondage tends to endear liberty, a n d darkness may enable us the better to appreciate the sweet and unctuous light of heaven. It seems that your state of mind prepared you to receive God’s word with avidity and delight, for you were n o t one of those full souls that loathe the honeycomb. Salvation, in all its branches, is of God; and our sorrows, like our joys, are part of God’s ways. “I am thy salvation,” is the word we desire our God to repeat again and again. We read the words in the Holy Book, but want to receive them from God’s own mouth; “let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth.” Say it again; Father, say it again. Sweet words, to rise with in the morning, and to fall asleep with at night.
Last Lord’s-day both our texts were taken out of Psalm 107—morning, verse 20; evening, verses 41, 42, and the results, as to the people, I must leave with God.
With Christian love to yourself, Mrs. S—, and all with you. I remain, my dear brother, yours truly in the Lord,
September 24th, 1884.
To the same, wider similar circumstances.
MY DEAR BROTHER,—I was pleased to have a letter from you this morning, and was glad to learn you were better. I trust you may continue to gain strength and return quite well. Our good friends at Chadwell-street have been rather tried by the absence of so many of us at the same time…On Sabbath morning at Chadwell-street our subject was in Jeremiah 23:6; and in the evening Ezekiel 34:14. I did as well as I could; may the Lord bless His Word.
To-morrow I am off to Clapham in the afternoon.
What turmoil and bustle are in this world, and even religion is not without them. O for some quiet nook where one’s soul might hold daily intercourse with the God of peace. Well, as it is, we must not complain. We live on the best bread and wine—we bathe in the best sea—a Saviour’s blood, we wear the best-clothes, the garments of salvation—we have the best relations, God and His people—and we have the best home just before us. Let us magnify the Lord together.
With Christian love, I am yours sincerely in the Lord,
July 25th, 1885.
‘To a young lady, condoling with her on the death of her mother.
DEAR FRIEND,—Of course I had heard of the death of your dear mother before I received your letter this morning, but notwithstanding I was glad to have a line from you respecting her last hours.
The salvation, life, and pilgrimage of your beloved parent are full of instruction in Divine things to the thoughtful child of God. Her’s was no ordinary experience, as appears from papers she wrote which Mr. S— lent me to look over. I have read them through, and they suggest to me the glorious words “What hath God wrought!” God made her what she was as a saint, He led her about, and instructed her in a peculiar manner. He kept her as the apple of His eye; He gave her no common measure of light upon the mysteries of the Gospel; He kept her in the wilderness many years, He made her ripe and ready for heaven, and He has now taken her to Himself. Her life was the life of a well tried believer; her progress upward was gradual, her end was peace; her arrival at home was welcome, and her eternal rest with her Lord is joyful. Rejoice, my friend, for you know what your mother was, a “justified spirit made perfect,” and you know where she is, “For ever with the Lord.” “May we die the death of the righteous, and may our last end be like his.”
I thank you for taking my infirmity into consideration as to your mother’s funeral. You have done me a favour by excusing me on the occasion. I shall, if the Lord will, refer to her departure next Lord’s-day evening, and say something upon the text which has been given to me as the portion she loved so well and held so fast: “Unto you therefore which believe He is precious,” and may God bless the event and the service to us all.
With Christian regards and prayerful wishes to and for all concerned, that what has taken place may be sanctified to you and yours,
I remain, dear friend, yours truly in the Lord,
September 29th, 1885.
To a Christian lady, once a worshipper at Chadwell-street.
DEAR SISTER IN THE LORD,—It is some days since I received your letter, but want of opportunity and my trying cough are the cause of its having remained unanswered until now.
Time flies apace, and carries all things with it. I should not have imagined that nine years had passed away since you became a member with us at Chadwell-street. It seems, however, it is a fact, and you appear to remember it well. What changes have taken place during these nine years—changes in the nation, in Churches, in families, and in ourselves, but not in our God. He sitteth King upon the floods, the rising and sinking, and the ebbing and flowing of which fulfil His unchanging purposes. How many miseries during that time we have been the subjects of, how many we have escaped, and how many mercies we have received! Nine years’ supplies, nine years’ protection, nine years’ guidance, and nine years’ perseverance, call for songs of loudest praise. Doubtless you owe much to our Lord, but I owe more than you. Are we thankful? “Who can give unto the Lord the glory which is due unto His name?” He bears with our manners in the wilderness like a God, for “He is in one mind, and who can turn Him?”
I am glad to learn that your heart is sometimes warm, and also that you obtain help in the sanctuary. It helps a minister to know the Word preached is blessed, and that his friends find it in their hearts to pray for him. Most of my life on earth is behind me, and if my hearers will help me with their supplications, perhaps I shall not be cast off in my declining years. W e need more grace, not in Christ, but from Him, to enable us to lean on His ann, to hang our all on His Person, to hide in His name, and to triumph in His righteousness. May you grow in grace, live near to the Lord, and become increasingly like Him. So prays
Your affectionate Pastor,
November 11th, 1885.
To a Christian sister, acknowledging, an expression of kindness. The last letter penned by the writer.
DEAR CHRISTIAN FRIEND,—Kindly accept our sincere thanks for your kindness, and also our earnest and prayerful wishes that every needful temporal and spiritual blessing’ may be vouchsafed to you by our covenant God.
I trust you are we.ll and benefiting by your residence in Wales, where I doubt not the air is far better than ours in foggy London. Of late London has been most trying, particularly to persons who, like myself, suffer from bronchitis.
Let us not, however, complain; there are worse places than London. One may have pure air and beautiful scenery, but no Gospel, no Christian friends, or even no God. You have a God, a great One; and you know Him for yourself. This, in addition to your temporal mercies, and the local advantages surrounding you, constitute you a debtor indeed to grace. Doubtless, however, you have taken sin, unbelief, doubts and fears with you into Wales, where most likely you sometimes meet the tempter. Hence, whether at home or abroad, the conflict goes on, and earth’s best is far short of heaven.
Another year is gone, and we have entered upon a new one. What will the young year bring and reveal as it advances? What worms we are! How limited is our knowledge, and how feeble our arm! But “all our times are in God’s hands,” and underneath are His everlasting arms.
I trust you are favoured with nearness to Him every day, and that as new wants arise they are abundantly supplied by our loving God.
Mrs. H. unites with me in Christian love. May the Lord be ever with and bless you.
I am, dear Christian friend, yours sincerely in the Lord,
January 2nd, 1888.
(Written for an album, Nov, 29th, 1886.)
I am acquainted with a man who many years ago became a pilgrim, and started for the Holy Land. He was not naturally inclined to this life, for all his desires were earthly and sinful, and opposed to such a course. It was believed that after a time he would prove a most agreeable companion of the wild and the wicked, and also achieve a position for himself in the world. The influences he was surrounded by, were not such as to lead any to expect that a change of heart and mind would take place, or that he would ever love and esteem persons bound for heaven. Sin was his element, Satan his lord and master, this World his home, and opposition and mischief to God’s saints his delight. Being young when I first knew him, I am prepared to say that he promised himself much joy and pleasure in the future, and at the time there seemed some probability of his realising some of his expectations. His thoughts, however, were not God’s thoughts, for strange to say, the Lord loved him even when he was “dead in trespasses and sins.”
When he was quite young, he saw a great light, and heard a great voice, and felt a strong power upon his heart, which revealed what he had never seen before, and placed him where he had never before stood. God, whom he hated, placed him in His presence, and the young enemy trembled before Him. It was not God’s purpose, however, to punish, but to pardon the transgressor, which, after many cries, tears, and fears, on the young man’s part, He did, and set him free.
Having thus released him, God put a staff into his hand, a girdle round his loins, and shoes on his feet, and bade him follow Him. Thus, amid the jeers and gibes of his former companions, he started for the new Jerusalem, expecting to reach it soon.
He had not long been a pilgrim, when he found a band of persons whose hearts God had touched, and feeling a love to them he said, “I will go with you, for I perceive that God is with you,” and they replied, “Come with us and we will do yon good,” which word they fulfilled. I know that these were happy days with this young traveller, and that he expected nothing but good company, good cheer, and an agreeable journey to the better land. He had not travelled far, however, before a wilderness came in sight, which he entered, and he has journeyed in it ever since. Here his staff which, when necessary, becomes a sword, came into use, his girdle strengthened him, and his shoes were a blessing and a comfort. The whole desert is infested with enemies and dangers. When weary, he leans on his staff; when enemies approach, he tries to use his sword; when his mind becomes loose or careless he endeavours to gird it up, and having shoes of iron and brass he has had to “tread upon the lion and the adder, and the young lion and the dragon he has trampled under feet.”
After a time this pilgrim became acquainted with many bands of travellers to Canaan, and found himself, at times, surrounded by many sojourners on earth listening to him while he endeavoured to speak well of God, and to comfort weary ones on earth. For many years he has been united to one of these companies, and he is often astonished at the Lord’s patience and pity, and also at the kind-heartedness of his fellow-travellers, whom he is privileged to know. He is now considerably beyond the middle of the wilderness, in fact he is nearing its border, and has no desire to return into his former state; sometimes he sighs and sometimes he sings. I know him much better than I did at first, yet I must say he is a mystery and puzzles me. He declares that in him, in the flesh, dwelleth no good thing, and yet he often sings, “All things are mine.” The last time I met him he was still in the way, and he said, “I am faint, yet pursuing.” J. H.
 See John Hazelton’s Sermons, Vol. I., No. 1; also the notice of “Gethsemane” on page 118 of this work; and portions of the Sermon on the Love of the Spirit.” page 176. The reader will find the subject discussed in the Author’s “Manual of Faith and Practice,” pages 47-49.
 See Gospel Herald for 1873, page 258.
 See page 148.
 See Letter on page 211.
William Styles (1842-1914) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He is the author of several works, including “A Guide To Church Fellowship As Maintained By Primitive Or Strict And Particular Baptists” and “A Manual Of Faith And Practice”.