“‘Tis not a cause of small import
The Pastor’s care demands.”—Doddridge.
“Preaching administ’ring in every work
Of his sublime vocation, in the walks
Of worldly intercourse ‘twixt man, and man,
And in his humble dwelling, he appears
A labourer with moral virtue girt,
With spiritual graces like a glory crowned.”
The settlement of a pastor over a Church is an important event in the history of religion. It is intimately connected with the glory of God, and the welfare of souls, and is to the individual himself, and to the people of his charge, the commencement of an era of prosperity and success, or an epoch of declension and decay.
In the choice of John Hazelton his people discovered a wise sense of the momentous issues of the future. His varied duties required in a pre-eminent degree, matured talents, consolidated convictions, and considerable experience in the ministry. No novice could have filled the position with credit. The ever-pressing engagements of his pastorate claimed much of the time and demanded much of the energy which a youth could not, in justice to himself or his congregation, spare from the closet and study; while they involved the necessity for that cautious self-repression, and discriminating knowledge of the various phases of Christian character, which nothing but the experience of years can develop.
All true success is to be traced to the absolute will of God. His purposes, however, are inseparably associated with a wise and reverent regard to the principles and precepts contained in His book. Divine sovereignty is neither tyranny nor caprice. While it consults no law known to us in its disposals, we are assured that it is the expression of the will of a righteous and holy Being, all of whose proceedings are in the strictest harmony with His character, and who, while exercising His supreme right to act without any deference to the opinions of His creatures, will never bestow gratuitous good in a way that subverts His equity. He has taught us that there is the closest connection between obedience to His word and the sanction of His smile—that “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap”—and He thus warrants the prayerful anticipation that honest and earnest efforts to serve His cause will be followed by an encouraging measure of success.
When our friend responded to the unanimous call of the Church so long associated with Chad well-street Chapel, he was a few weeks over thirty years of age. He was of middle height, fairly stout, and with a well-knit frame. His complexion was delicate, though by no means devoid of the flush of health, and strongly contrasted with his jet black hair, which he allowed to grow in long waves on each side of his temples and down his neck.
He is remembered as personable and pleasant; with a trace of the punctilious courtesy of the old-fashioned gentleman: and he evidently paid scrupulous attention to his attire, which was faultlessly neat.
The steel-plate engraving by J. Mote, after a daguerreotype by H. Lemaire, doubtless gives a fair general idea of his appearance in these days.
His demeanour was grave, though courteous and unaffected. To strangers he appeared reserved, but to those to whom he was attached he was gentle, frank, and cordial, an element of quiet humour sometimes, though not often, pervading his conversation.
The first home of his married life was at 9, Buckingham-road, Kingsland, London. He and his wife had come together in the fear of God, and in reliance on His providential care, and with the fixed determination to regulate their expenses by the stipend received from the Church.
To do this was not easy. The most rigid economy had to be practised. They kept no servant, and for a time at least experienced the wearisome bitterness of having to make a fair outward appearance on extremely insufficient means.
At the time of their son’s babyhood the clouds gathered very thickly over the little household. Mrs. Hazelton’s health was so delicate as to cause serious apprehensions, and their hearts at times were filled with forebodings of sorrow.
A few, and very few, Christian friends shared their confidence, and were aware of the wonderful consideration, tenderness and affection our clear friend manifested in those days of trial.
We are slow to believe in the depth of feeling of which some undemonstrative natures are susceptible, and are prone to think that those only who parade their troubles are keenly sensitive to them.
Our friend ministered to his beloved partner with a woman’s thoughtful gentleness. He often studied far into the night, and hushed the little one to sleep, that her rest might be unbroken, and brought him down at dawn snugly wrapped in a shawl, and laid him on the sofa while he himself prepared the morning meal.
We flatter ourselves that these details of the life of one who possessed such power to touch our hearts from the pulpit will not be deemed trivial or uninteresting, and they surely furnish a clue to many a sympathetic prayer and homely allusion that lent a charm to his higher ministrations as “a good steward of the mysteries of God.” At length it proved impracticable to provide things honest in the sight of men on the stipend they were receiving, and some decisive step was absolutely necessary. After many days of patient and prolonged prayer they could but feel that the only honourable course was for our dear friend candidly to state his position to his deacons, and inform them that if the Church was really making its utmost efforts for his maintenance, he had no alternative but to place his resignation in their hands. The frank appeal met with a just and generous response. On consideration and enquiry it was found that it was in their power to relieve their beloved pastor of the burden that was weighing him down, and an arrangement was proposed which he deemed satisfactory. A mercenary spirit none could ever charge our dear brother with manifesting. Many struggling causes can attest to his generosity, while his ministerial brethren invariably found in him the most considerate of friends.
This season of protracted care and anxiety passed away. How long it lasted it would profit little to enquire. It must suffice to note—it is trusted with a delicate hand—that the struggle with poverty was among the sorrows of his early years. Every memory of his domestic life which should be made public reveals the affectionate husband, the tender father, and the faithful friend. To his home he was warmly attached. Seldom in these early days did he take a meal elsewhere, and only when he felt that a few hours spent at the house of a Christian friend might effect spiritual good. Even then he returned gladly, finding in his books, his surroundings, and his little family all comfort and joy.
Hardly any records have been preserved of his early labours in the metropolis, but what we have been able to obtain are by no means devoid of interest.
On May 17th, 1853, he took part at one of the remarkable series of meetings held from time in the interests of the Earthen Vessel. J. Thwaites, Esq. (afterwards Sir John Thwaites), presided, and addresses were delivered by a number of influential brethren, including James Wells, Thomas Jones, and J. T. Messer.
A brief report only is preserved of the speech of John Hazelton on the occasion. Having been requested to move “That inasmuch as the Earthen Vessel has been, and still is, found to be of benefit to the good cause, this meeting earnestly solicits the co-operation of all who are friendly to the same in endeavouring to extend and increase its circulation,” he referred on rising to the well-known fable of the monkey, who, wishing to remove some chestnuts from the fire, made use of the paw of a friendly cat for that purpose. He knew instances of persons who did not take in, but were enemies to the Earthen Vessel, but who, nevertheless, were glad to make use of it to serve their own purposes in advertising their meetings. He highly deprecated such conduct, and cordially moved the resolution. Richard Minton accompanied his pastor, and is stated to have delivered a short and warm-hearted address.
It also happens somewhat curiously that we are in possession of the occurrences of one particular day at this period, from which we can no doubt form a fair idea of his life at the time. The quaint little lodge of the gates at the termination of High-bury-place was long a prominent land-mark in the parish of Islington. It was tenanted for many years by Ephraim and Mary Cobb, who eked out their slender means by selling sweets and light confectionery. They were largely patronised, and the writer well remembers that forty years ago, it was his childish opinion that a half-penny could be better invested with them than at any other shop in the locality. Perhaps the kindly souls showed him this consideration in return for an act of service which his father had once rendered them. Certainly the diminutive parlour, with its tiny scales and weights, and clean glass jars of sweets and cakes, and the quiet and smiling woman who showed him such attention, are pleasant memories of long past days. This honest couple, as we learned more than twenty years after, were members of the first Mount Zion, and tenderly loved its newly-chosen minister.
On Thursday, the 26th of May, 1853, Mary Cobb died, and her obituary, which appeared in the Earthen Vessel for the following July, was written by her pastor. It is sufficiently instructive to be worthy of permanence for its own sake. It likewise affords some insight into its writer’s attainments and character, although perhaps its chief interest lies in the fact that, so far as can be ascertained, it is with one exception (to be noted in due course) the only production of our friend’s pen which was ever committed to the press. “We therefore subjoin it:—
THE DEATH OF MARY COBB, OF HIGHBURY, LONDON.
When a spiritual person stands by the bed-side of a departing believer, how forcibly does the following solemn truth occur to his mind,—”The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death”?
This truth flashed into the mind of the writer, while standing by his beloved sister in the Lord, Mary Cobb, of Highbury, London, when the summons came for her to depart, on the morning of Thursday, May 26th, 1853. She was a proof of the truth of Scripture,—”Behold, I leave in the midst of thee a poor and an afflicted people, and they shall trust in the Lord.” In the early part of her life, she was directed from the country to London, by Him who is wise in counsel, and powerful in working; and about fifteen years ago, she became the wife of her now bereaved and sorrowing husband, our brother Cobb. It pleased the Lord to give them a large family, all of whom are living to lament their loss. It does not appear that she was acquainted with her state as a sinner when she became our brother’s wife; on the contrary, she informed him a short time since, that when she was first married she hated his religion; but she never offered any opposition to him, neither did she manifest her hatred of the things of God, for she so thoroughly concealed her feelings that her husband was not at all aware of their existence until a short time before she departed, and then with her “old things had passed away, and all things had become new.”
I never heard, either from our departed friend, or from any one else, how the Lord opened her eyes to see, and touched her heart to feel her awful state and standing as a fallen sinner in the sight of God, but I think the opening up of these mysteries was a gradual work in her soul. The Lord is a Sovereign; and He displays that attribute as much in this part of salvation as any other. Paul was thrown from his horse—the gaoler called for a sword to commit suicide, and the writer suffered much under a broken law, when God began the good work; whereas, Lydia’s heart was gently opened; Zaccheus was called in a mild and gentle manner, and salvation that day went to his house. It appears that the Lord dealt with the subject of these remarks in a similar manner; for she had hopes and fears respecting her interest in Jesus Christ. That she was entirely lost, ruined, helpless and vile, were facts which were created vitally in her soul; but that she was an object of eternal love, that she was redeemed completely by Christ, that she was quickened into life by God the Spirit, that all the promises were hers, and that “a crown that fadeth not away” was hers, were facts which she could not confidently embrace. However, she embraces them now; all her doubts have departed, and all her trembling has ceased; for at eventide it was light and triumph. The dear Lord appeared for the purpose of performing that promise, “as thy days so thy strength shall be;” and therefore in a dying day she had dying grace; and victory over all her fears and unbelief was enjoyed at last.
“The Lord has His way in the mighty waters, and His footsteps are not known.” About five months since our friend was (as we thought) watching her dying husband; but God has in a measure restored him, and has taken her. It is about two months since she was taken; her complaint was rheumatism of the muscles of the abdomen. The physician assured her friends that should it reach the heart, the result might be fatal. For a short time the means employed for her recovery had a most flattering result; as on the last Saturday prior to her death, she was sitting up. The doctor told her she would shortly be about again; her husband’s hopes were raised, and all her spiritual friends were thankful, as her life appeared to us poor mortals to be so necessary. However, God’s thoughts were not as our thoughts; for on Wednesday, May 25th, her weeping husband came to the writer’s house, for us to obtain the physician again, as he feared his wife was going. Mrs. H. started immediately for help; but as I had to preach at Soho that evening, I could not visit her. The rheumatism had returned most violently; it had reached her heart, and all further human aid was without success. On the Wednesday evening her mind was staid, and she had solid peace, and occasionally some holy raptures. On Thursday morning the writer rose early, and walked to her house, which he reached about an hour before she died; she was perfectly sensible, but so weak and exhausted that she could scarcely articulate; he asked her if she knew him. “Yes,” was the reply. He said, “Do you know Jesus? is He precious now?” “O yes,” she answered, “He is, He is, bless His dear name.” Her sufferings were now too great to admit of our talking much, therefore we watched her in silence for a few minutes; at length she broke out in language which is almost peculiar to such solemn circumstances. “Come, dear Jesus, with the chariot of Thy love, to fetch me away from this suffering world.” She then turned to her weeping husband, and told him God had enabled her to give him and her six dear babes up; requested him not to weep for her, as she was both safe and happy; gave him some advice in reference to her children, whom she tenderly loved, and especially in reference to the youngest, who is a babe only eight or nine months old, and then said, “Now let us have one song more.”
“Once more before we part,
We’ll bless the sacred name.”
There could, however, be no singing aloud, either with herself or her sorrowing husband. Her sufferings becoming more intense, her chest heaving with pain, she had patience in sweet exercise, for she was favoured to glance at Gethsemane and Calvary.
“What,” she said, “are my sufferings, compared with Thine, dearest Jesus? Mine are only as a drop in a bucket.” And again, “I long to be gone; for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Death continued his solemn work; he took down her clay cottage rather roughly. She longed to be gone; in the midst of the conflict she turned and said, “Give my love to Mrs. H., and to the dear friends at Mount Zion.” Her sufferings increasing, she turned and said, “Do pray for an easy passage for me.” “Only,” she said, “that my Lord may come with His chariot’ that my passage may be easy, and that I may soon be at home.” “I,” she said, “cannot hear you, but they (meaning her husband, and a dear sister present) and the Lord can.” The writer bowed his knees, and prayed the Lord to grant her request; but strange, although she could not hear us before, she heard every petition, and threw in her petitions—grateful acknowledgments of mercy, and loud and heartfelt amens. If ever the Lord answered prayer, He did then; for as soon as it was over, her sufferings ceased, her pain seemed to depart, and her passage became easy. Her children and husband were not forgotten in approaching the throne, for which she was very thankful, and prayed that God would answer.
We stood in silence watching; she was filled with holy joy; her lips and her lifted hands were moving to express the holy triumph of her soul, but she was too far gone to be heard; she breathed every time more faintly, till at length the cord was broken, the tie cut, she breathed her last, she departed; the chariot came and fetched her away about eight o’clock on Thursday morning.
“In vain, our fancy strives to paint
The moment after death.
The glories that surround the saints,
When yielding up their breath.
One gentle sigh each fetter breaks;
We scarce can say they’re gone,
Before the willing spirit takes
Her mansion near the throne.’
On Lord’s-day following, May 29th, her mortal remains were interred, by her beloved pastor, in Abney Park Cemetery, when the greater part of the Church and congregation assembled, to express their love to her, and their sympathy with their bereaved brother. In the evening Mount Zion was everywhere filled, when the funeral sermon was preached from Rev. 14:13. May God sanctify this dispensation to us as a Church and congregation, and to her excellent husband.
Reader, are you a doubting, fearing child? Does Satan suggest that you never came in right? Are you all your lifetime in bondage through fear of death? Are you among those who can see and hear, but not take hold of the promises? See here, your sister tried severely in these respects, but she came off more than conqueror at last. Some of God’s people come in at the south gate; it not unfrequently happens that they have to go out at the north; while others come in at the north and go out at the south.
Is the reader an established Christian? favoured to possess an abiding, a steady confidence in the love, deeds, oath, promise and faithfulness of God? If so, he will have his faith strengthened, and I trust his heart a little warmed by the perusal of the foregoing. Or are you a painted hypocrite? Death will undress you, your paint and colouring will then go for nothing; naked then shall you stand in the full blaze of eternity’s light. May God reveal this unto you now if it be His pleasure. Perhaps you are a poor careless sinner; if so, may grace all-enlightening, convincing and regenerating, lay the solemnities of death and eternity upon your mind, if it be the will of God, for remember, if “any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.”
On the evening of the same day—Thursday—he conducted a service at Mitchell-street Chapel, Saint Luke’s, and baptised eight persons, most of whom were seals to his ministry. The address, which was based on John 1:25, “Why baptisest thou?” was thus divided:—
I. WHY WE BAPTISE.
1. Because we have the highest authority for so doing, the authority of the throne; the command of the Most High God— Zion’s King, Lord and Law-giver. A sinner, when first convinced of his guilt, is deeply concerned to know by what authority such important matters are observed—by what authority a parish priest sprinkles, and why he sprinkles infants, &:c. The authority is a great consideration with the child of God.
2. Because Christ set us the example. We are followers of Him. Thus “it becometh us”—namely, Himself and His followers—”to fulfil all righteousness.”
3. Because of the mystical import of the ordinance. It sets forth the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; also our death and burial to the world, and our resurrection to newness of life.
4. We baptise by immersion, because of the meaning of the word. To baptise is literally to dip or plunge. To assert that to baptise is to immerse is equivalent to saying that when a man dresses himself he puts on his clothes.
5. To show our attachment to the Lord—His people, His ways, and His house. “The love of Christ constraineth us.”
6. Because without baptism there can be no Scriptural approach to the Lord’s table.
7. Because we are not ashamed to identify ourselves in a public manner with the despised people of God.
II. WHOM WE BAPTISE.
1. Not infants. Such cannot confess by the answer of a good conscience. Religion does not admit of proxy. None can stand in death and judgment for me, and none in vital godliness.
2. Not the dead sinner, for baptism is an ordinance for faith, and he has none. He, therefore, cannot be profited by it.
3. We baptise the saved of the Lord—poor, broken-hearted sinners, whose hope and trust are in the Lord.
III. WHEN WE BAPTISE.
1. After the communication of spiritual life.
2. After confession.
3. Prior to communion at the Lord’s table.
On the following Lord’s day the pastor gave the right hand of fellowship to the above, with five others who had been seeking and had recently found a spiritual home with his people.
The Church meanwhile continued their efforts to obtain a more suitable sanctuary with unflagging perseverance; though their patient and prolonged search had hitherto proved fruitless.
At length their attention was directed to a chapel in Chadwell-street, Clerkenwell.
Its history had been a chequered one. It was built for the use of a congregation of Presbyterians, under the care of a Mr. Whitley. He was followed by Dr. W. C. Smith, the poet, now of Edinburgh, and he by Josias Wilson, a devoted and earnest Presbyterian minister, in whose time the Church removed to their present sanctuary in Colebrook-row, in which however he did not live long to preach.
The chapel was, after an interval, re-let to some members of the Congregational denomination, Ridley H. Herschell, a converted Israelite, being appointed its minister. A very notable sermon was delivered at the reopening by Thomas Binney. In course of time, this effort for some reason collapsed, and the chapel was again disused. It was then let to a company of Plymouth Brethren, who had seceded from Islington Chapel, with their pastor, W. H. Dorman. In consequence of their diminished numbers, they in turn retired to a school-room in Rawstorne-street, and in 1853 the chapel once more stood empty.
It was ascertained that, with an adjoining house, it could be purchased for £1,230, and on inspection it proved all that could be desired. It however at first seemed impossible for them to obtain it. At length a sister in the Church volunteered to lend a part of the money without security, if the payment of interest were guaranteed by some of the friends, and it was ascertained that a Building Society was ready to advance what more was required on a mortgage of the premises. Much deliberation was given to this idea. At times it was relinquished as rash and presumptuous; and again it appeared more feasible.
On the 9th of September, some of the friends accompanied their pastor to the place and counted the seats. He then for the first time ascended the pulpit which was destined to be so intimately associated with his future labours, and read aloud—the selection was characteristic—”two or three verses out of the third chapter of Lamentations!” Nearly all despaired of being able to obtain the place; but some believed the day would come yet when we should sit in it and hear the Word. None were less sanguine than the pastor himself.
On the 18th of September a Church meeting was held, to decide as to the practicability of taking any further steps in endeavouring to obtain Chadwell-street Chapel. The gravest objections were at first raised, but at the close a change of opinion was expressed.
Further steps were subsequently taken, and a united effort was made in the strength of the Lord to go forward and obtain the place. The money was borrowed of their kind friend. The necessary loan was effected with the Building Society, and an engagement was entered into to pay this back by monthly instalments of £6 18s. for a term of 15 years. The step was taken by faith and in prayerful dependence upon the Lord our God, and though they wondered how the means would be raised, and who would live to see the debt extinguished, yet, through the mercy of their faithful God, many lived to see the whole performed, and to join to bless His name.
On December 4th, 1853, they met for the last time in “dear little Mount Zion,” to commemorate the Saviour’s dying love; on which occasion three friends were received into full communion, making in all about sixty additions to the Church.
Many souls were born there, and nourished by the everlasting gospel. Peace and prosperity had attended them, and with grateful feelings as a Church, all were constrained to exclaim, “What hath God wrought!”
On Lord’s-day, December 11th, 1853, the opening of Mount Zion Chapel, Chadwell-street, took place, when a special prayer meeting was held at half-past nine in the morning. The first hymn sung on that occasion has been so richly experienced in their history, that perhaps it is worthy of note—it commenced—
“Mount Zion’s faithful King,
Proclaims in faithfulness.”
John Hazelton, John Foreman and George Wyard supplied the pulpit. The place was well filled, the Word blessed, and £27 3s. collected.
On the following Tuesday, a tea and public meeting was held. The pastor gave an outline of the providential and gracious way in which the Church had been brought into the place, which was followed by addresses by Messrs. G. Wyard, S. K. Bland, Garrett, Moyle, Newborn, and C. Smith.
All were overjoyed, and an enthusiastic report was sent to the Earthen Vessel, which, after stating that “any donations from kind friends would be thankfully received and acknowledged by our brother Minton,” concludes with the brief but plaintive sentence, “We are a poor people.”
On the 14th of December, 1853, the purchase of the property was legally completed, the whole responsibility incurred being for the sum of £1,252 12s.
Thus the second eventful year of our brother’s labours in London was brought to a close.
 It is curious to notice that the singular blunder in which the Earthen Vessel is alluded to as a ship, was perpetrated—perhaps for the first time—by Sir John Thwaites on this occasion. From Vol. I. of the Magazine it is evident that the Earthen Vessel is C. W. Banks himself, and that his original design was to make it the medium of his own autobiography.
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”.