“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”—Proverbs 4:28
“There stands the messenger of truth! there stands
The legate of the skies! His theme divine,
His office sacred, his credentials clear.
By him the violated law speaks out
Its thunders; and by him, in strains as sweet
As angels use, the gospel whispers peace.”—Cowper
Chadwell-Street is in the heart of a densely populated district in the north of London, and was in 1858 one of the most advantageous positions for a dissenting chapel that could have been found in the whole of the metropolis. Many changes have occurred in recent years. Old Smithfield, which was then an institution, has disappeared. Clerkenwell was the home of numbers of prosperous watch-makers and jewellers, whose wares found a ready sale in every quarter of the globe. Islington still retained its reputation as a not unfashionable suburb; while the inhabitants of Highbury prided themselves on their somewhat exclusive gentility. Pentonville and St. Luke’s were inhabited by vast numbers of the middle class. Tradesmen, as a rule, lived at their places of business, and London terminated a mile beyond the chapel.
The whole locality was wealthier than in the present day. New neighbourhoods have sprung up in what were then fields; and streets and squares then most respectably tenanted have been almost abandoned by the section of the community which then inhabited them. This has necessarily affected the whole social, commercial, and religious life of the neighbourhood, which at the time our narrative has reached, was as prosperous as any to be found at a like distance from the centre of the city.
The pulpits of adjacent sanctuaries were filled by ministers of at least respectable abilities. Henry Allon had assumed the entire pastorate of Union Chapel on the death of the venerable Thomas Lewis. J. Blackburn was struggling against many almost insuperable difficulties at Claremont. J. A. Jones was at (old) Jireh, Brick-lane. J. Peacock was at Spencer-place; J. Glaskin at Islington-green Chapel, and Charles Gilbert at Barnsbury. The Church of England was represented by such men as W. B. Mackenzie, J. Hazlegrave, J. Hambledon, and Daniel Wilson, all of whom had extended their reputations beyond the spheres allotted to their several places of worship. It is obvious, therefore, that a stranger would require talents of no common order to enable him to make his mark in the neighbourhood. This, however, as will appear, John Hazelton, by God’s good help, ere long succeeded in doing.
No further intimation was given to the public that the long disused chapel had been reopened for divine worship, than a plain, but neat notice board, which was fixed between the entrances; but the Lord brought in many for whom He evidently had blessings in reserve. The pews gradually let. The pastor predicted that the galleries would never be required; but ere many months had passed away they accommodated a goodly number of seat-holders.
The cause began to be known far and wide as a holy and peaceful one, and as years rolled by many Christians who had been unsettled elsewhere helped to swell its ranks. Their numerical as well as their spiritual progress was therefore satis- factory. His evident aim was to be a “good minister of Jesus Christ,” and as such he was greatly blessed. He was eminently favoured in his ministerial relations with his flock, his natural qualifications and spiritual gifts cooperating to render him a pastor of no ordinary efficiency. He was a grave, God-fearing man, and the influence of his own sobriety affected the conduct of those who were associated with him. Levity and frivolity he loathed. “Jesting” he deemed “not convenient,” and all business connected with his Church was conducted with the decorum which its important character demanded. Though free from any clerical assumption, he never treated others with familiarity, and all felt that it would be out of place in their conversation with him. Without “standing on his dignity,” he “magnified his office,” and secured for it due respect.
His authority was based on his own unimpeachable integrity, and his stedfast adherence to the principles of the New Testament, while the lustre of his unaffected spirituality commanded the homage of all holy hearts. At the beginning of his metropolitan career his moral and religious principles had evidently been well considered. He manifested the utmost confidence in them, and in all matters in which they were involved was firm and unyielding. Plastic men without decision on questions of doctrine or duty were his special aversion.
In other cases he knew how to concede with dignity what might not altogether coincide with his own ideas. Hence even a transient collision between himself and his colleagues was a thing unknown. In after years he drolly explained that the secret of their long peace was their consideration for each other. “When I have seen that there was a probability of their treading on my toes, I have moved out of their way; and they have invariably done the same when they had reason to fear that I might step on theirs.”
Not a little of his pastoral success was attributable to the attention he devoted to minor matters. Slovenliness is the cause not only of many domestic sorrows, but also of not a few Church disturbances. “Let ALL things be done decently and in order,” was the motto which he continually inculcated and enforced. This formed the basis of his charge to the Church at Soho Chapel on the occasion of the settlement of their present pastor, our brother John Box, and it cannot be questioned that his weighty remarks were based on his own experience.
In the course of this address he also laid great stress on the importance of “seeking peace and pursuing it,” which he illustrated in a way as ingenious as it was characteristic. “At times peace seems to be leaving a Church, but do not let her go. Abandon all other pursuits for the time, and run after her; pursue her; and do not rest till you bring her back.”
How often such a course had to be adopted at Mount Zion during his long pastorate is not for us to say. Certainly this wise counsellor was no unskilled adept at the pacific conduct he so earnestly commanded. He was exceedingly punctual in all his engagements, and was invariably at his chapel fifteen minutes at least before the commencement of the service.
The Church from the beginning of its history, it should be said, was favoured with excellent deacons, who were not only men of honest report and brethren beloved, but possessed rare prudence and business-like tact. They yielded him the homage of affectionate regard. His cautious policy invariably proved advantageous; and they safely deferred to his judgment. Thus, not only as a preacher who ministered to their spiritual wants, but as an elder who ruled well—not by tyranny or despotism, but on holy and constitutional principles—he was counted worthy of “double honour “—and the affairs of the Church proceeded with the harmony of Divine order.
The augmented Church retained much of the simplicity and warmth of its earlier days. Through the goodness of God the steady pulse of spiritual life was always perceptible at its gatherings. At no time did its spirituality and fervour seriously decline nor did it ever blaze into enthusiasm. Hence it never needed or experienced a revival—that most doubtful of all boons to a professing community.
No ministry could have been less sensational. Measures commonly adopted in other places to awaken popular interest were sedulously eschewed. It was a maxim with our friend that the same means should be employed to attract hearers as would suffice in after days to attach them. Hence the congregation, though gradually increasing, was very uniform.
Seldom has a pastor so evidently infused his own character and spirit into the community over which he presided.
The “articles of Faith and rules to be observed by the Church”—originally, it is believed, compiled from some much older source by J. Andrews Jones, for use at Jireh Chapel, Brick-lane—were publicly read once every year. A copy was also submitted to all who sought membership, and none were admitted to fellowship who did not profess to regard it with approval.
All such, whether they were received from other Churches, or were connecting themselves with the Lord’s people for the first time, were required to give a reason of the hope that was in them orally before the assembled members.
The monthly Church meetings were not, as is usual, held at the conclusion of other services, but on evenings exclusively devoted to that purpose. Thus instead of the people’s coming to the consideration of business at a late hour, when all were wearied not only with the toil of the day, but by a previous religious engagement, they were present with unimpaired powers to deliberate on the well-being of Zion.
The members’ list was also revised annually with scrupulous care, which our friend called “weeding the garden,” and every possible effort was made to maintain the vitality and vigour of the assembly.
The blessing of God meanwhile rested on them. His arm was made bare in the salvation of many souls. Many of the members had the unspeakable pleasure of seeing their own children made manifest as the objects of His love. Some seasons of anxiety were inevitable, nor did the Church escape trial and sorrow, but these were so sanctified that sympathy was always manifested, brotherly love continued, and peace as well as truth maintained within their borders.
The pastor entertained a profound dislike to publishing the number of enrolled members, or in any other way tabulating the results of his ministry. Whether this was the result of a conscientious objection to “numbering Israel,” or proceeded from his natural aversion to ostentation and parade, we cannot say. ” Beware of the fallacy of numerical statistics “was on a memorable occasion the earnest counsel of the saintly Charles Stanford, and perhaps John Hazelton felt that, as the secret and mysterious operations of the Holy Ghost cannot be chronicled with anything like precision, it is wisest to make no attempt to represent by figures the results of His work in human hearts.
The growth of the cause was, however, steady and permanent. Based on the principles of eternal truth, ruled with a firm but affectionate hand, and sedulously supervised by one “who watched for souls as one that must give an account,” its progress was such as to cause unfeigned joy to the holy hearts interested in its welfare.
His ideal of the welfare of a Christian Church was a high one. He conceived its success to consist less in a large and heterogenous congregation, than in the oneness of mind and spirit which its members displayed. Spirituality and prosperity he considered convertible terms, and for this he laboured and prayed.
In spite of their heavy pecuniary liability the Church from the first manifested a creditable spirit of evangelical activity.
A benevolent society was instituted in October, 1854, for the relief of the Lord’s poor and afflicted people, and continues to this day to be the means of much practical good to those for whom it was originally designed.
A Sunday School was also commenced in the chapel, but the accommodation was so insufficient and unsatisfactory that the effort had to be abandoned.
The debt of £1,200 with which the little community were at first encumbered was progressively and regularly paid off in the way originally proposed, each monthly instalment being met as it became due to the Building Society.
An examination of the Strict Baptist Magazines of this period excites surprise that the Churches, both of London and the country, were so slow to discover the ability of the minister of Chadwell-street Chapel. It was the epoch of popular anniversaries. Congregations could be gathered on special occasions with little apparent difficulty, and sermons seem to have been listened to with an avidity seldom known in the present day.
Those who remember his later years only, when his assistance was so eagerly sought in all quarters, can but regard this portion of his career with wonder. His story may, however, encourage some young pastor who is similarly tried, and inspire the hope that if he is but true to his convictions and opportunities, God’s time will surely come for his advancement to the most prominent position which he is really qualified to fill. Weary as is sometimes the task of tarrying our Lord’s leisure, it is no loss of time to do so. “They also serve who only stand and wait,” and if the days on which he is not called to the front by the bugle note of duty are spent in heart culture and mental improvement, he will not hereafter regret that once he had passively to tarry for the divine summons to the work for which his heart so longed.
It is also remarkable that years were suffered to pass before his utterances were deemed worthy of publication. He himself, as we have seen, prepared nothing for the press; and none of his hearers made notes of the sermons of this period for insertion in the pages of a magazine.
To the kindness of one of his most endeared colleagues we are, however, indebted for the record of some of the choice sentences winch fell from his lips during the year 1856. It may be needful to premise that they were uttered in the course of his ordinary ministry, and not on special occasions. Broken and fragmentary echoes though they be, they reveal the workings of a mind of no common power.
“There will I meet with thee, and there will I commune with thee, from above the mercy-seat” (Ex 25:22).
It is always the meeting of Misery and Mercy.
The door of the meeting-place is so low that the tall Pharisee with his plumes and paint cannot get in.
It is the meeting of a black sinner and a bleeding Christ exhibiting the Father.
It is a reconciliation meeting.
It is “with;” there is a world of meaning in this little preposition “with.” God will meet a guilty world at last,” but not meet “with.” God is reconciled as a Lawgiver, and God the Holy Ghost comes down to reconcile the souls of His elect to His way of saving sinners. God’s will secures the meeting with the sinner.
The meeting-place is paved with love, and stained with precious blood, and that is why God rests there.
The disappointment from time to time in meeting, endears the mercy of God when it comes.
After a long season of drought, how refreshing the rain to the thirsty earth.
How endearing the meeting of two lovers after a long absence.
Isaiah 45:17: ”But Israel shall be saved” &c.
Salvation implies the solemn fact that man is lost, is the annihilation of all the damning consequences of sin, and the ground of Immanuel’s fame.
It carries the vessel of mercy safely over all the ills, troubles, and opposition with which he can meet.
It is God’s “shall,” the shall of His decree, the shall of His justice, the shall of His power, the shall of His wisdom, the shall of covenant relationship.
It is in the Lord. In Him before they were saved by blood; in His merits and righteousness; the fact itself abides amidst all the believer’s changes, and hence it is of everlasting duration. All lasting things shall break down; but this is everlasting, like its great Author.
God’s family are His charity children. We shall never be ashamed to confess it; or be ashamed of our hope, ashamed of His ordinances, ashamed of His people and truth, or ashamed in the last day.
On the conformity of Christ to His brethren.—Hebrews 2:17,18.
He became conformed to them that they might be conformed to Him. In all things. In His human nature, really man, body and soul, holy.
In obligation made under the law as a substitute.
In “place” He came where His brethren were. In His necessities, prayers, in His outpouring of cries and tears.
In persecution and desertion, and that from His own brethren.
In death, the way to His throne.
The purpose. That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest.
The priesthood of Christ implies an insult and satisfaction. He stood in the tremendous gap.
As a Priest He contains His own fulness.
The great results flowing. He suffered but did not sin; He can and does therefore sympathise with the tempted, suffering saint; He is able to succour.
This is an experimental ability ; He knows how His people feel, and how to adapt His word; he succours by intercession, by upholding power, by a word of promise, by a look.
On reconciliation to God.—Colossians 1:21
All the natural enmity of the natural man arises out of his alienation from God.
Sin first estranges from God, and then puts a weapon, a dagger, a sword in the sinner’s hand.
This enmity is very deeply rooted. It is enmity in the mind; it is so deeply rooted that nothing but grace can uproot it.
Reconciliation is a renewal of friendship. What does the Spirit of God reconcile the people of God to?
God reconciles the sinner to portrait of Himself (painted) in His holy Word.
The sinner’s full length portrait is drawn in Rom. 3.
To the holiness and justice of that law by which he is condemned.
To the righteousness of Christ imputed as his only dress.
To the Gospel which lays the creature low and exalts alone the dear and blest Redeemer.
The Holy Ghost reconciles by giving the sinner a new nature, by which he walks with God. How can two walk together except they be agreed?
The means, by Christ, the Reconciler, who took their nature; their place to remove the cause of the breach. Sin, the Lawgiver, lawbreaker, and Law Fulfiller, all met together on Calvary. It is therefore an eternal, legal, and honourable reconciliation.
The end: the presentation of the whole body of Christ perfect, spotless, and complete, sanctified as well as justified.
God will not blame—
The devil cannot blame—
And we shall not blame ourselves.
On the going forth of the Lord Jesus Christ.—Hosea 6:3.
In the love of His heart, He went forth in eternity towards His Church, and asked her of His Father.
In His covenant engagements He went forth as her Surity.
He went forth at her fall. The Church’s Husband went down to the gates of hell and laid His own decrees and determinations there to save. To hell’s gates the devil was permitted to carry her; but not into hell.
He came forth gradually for 4,000 years. First in a promise, then in typical sacrifices, then in the ceremonial law, then in the prophets, then by His advent, then in redemption, then in preaching the Gospel. He goes forth experimentally in the soul.
“As the morning”—refreshing, freely, unconditionally, gradually. “As the rain,” former and latter. Canaan had two falls of rain during the year: the former rain quickened the seed, and the latter nourished and plumped up the grain. As the rain—sovereignty, penetrating, refreshing, and fertilising.
“I will help thee.”—Isaiah 41:13
He helpeth our infirmities, in prayer, preaching, hearing’; helps in the conflict, in burden-bearing, on the journey, long or short.
The following outline of a fresh and original sermon, preached on Lord’s day, June 10th, I860, is, we believe, the most complete extant specimen of the ministry of this period. Its subject is,—
MARY AT THE SEPULCHRE.
“And as she wept, she stooged down, and looked into the sepulchre, and seeth two angels in white sitting.”—John 20:11,12
John has truly observed that “perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment.”
There may indeed be a sense in which this is not true of natural love, but I am confident that it is correct when applied to spiritual or Gospel matters.
There never was a more beautiful exemplification of this truth than is supplied by the narrative of the evangelist in this chapter. This woman, Mary, who was the Mary Magdalene out of whom the Lord Jesus Christ cast seven devils, felt that she had been the recipient of great mercies from her dear Lord, and she therefore loved him with great warmth and constancy.
It was this love that brought her to His sepulchre. It was morning, early and dark. So far as she knew, the Roman soldiers were there on guard, and would molest her. And, moreover, so great was the malice of the Jews, that she was exposed to the greatest danger in thus seeking for her Lord’s body. Yet hither she comes, her Lord is here, therefore her heart is here.
It is said that love is blind. This might, perhaps, be said of Mary’s love. It was so great as to bewilder her judgment, disorder her understanding, and to cause her to forget what He had said. He had said that He should be crucified, and, after three days, rise from the grave; yet, in her bewilderment, she comes with the cry, “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid Him.”
We shall notice, I. Mary’s conduct; and II. Hie vision which she saw.
I. In looking at the first of these particulars, I observe two points,—Mary’s grief: she stood without at the sepulchre, weeping; and Mary’s act: “stooping down.”
1. Notice then firstly, Mary’s grief.
(1) The cause of her grief was the removal of the Lord’s body, as expressed in her passionate exclamation to Jesus, when she supposed Him to be the gardener: “Sir, if you have borne Him hence, tell me where thou hast laid Him, and I will take Him away.” She wept, and the secret of those tears was the fact that it was ”My Lord.”
(2) She wept at the moving cause of His sufferings for her. The rough and brutal soldiers who crowned His loved head with thorns, mocked, spat upon and buffetted Him, drove the cursed nails through His sacred hands and feet, wept not. The earthquake alarmed and terrified them, but it produced no emotions other than those of fear. But in the breasts of John the beloved disciple, Mary Magdalene, and the few who stood with them at the cross, were other feelings. It was the thought of the love which beamed in His dying eyes, even in the agonies of death.
I am not aware that love produces grief. At any rate, spiritual love in the abstract will not produce it. But it was love, as contrasted with her own unworthiness, that broke her heart, and sent it flowing out at her eyes in a flood of tears.
“How wonderful,” thought she, “that love should exist for me at all,” and that this love should make for itself such outlets as it did at the cross is marvellous indeed. None but the Christ of God could love her so well as to die for her. None but He would have opened a way to heaven for her through His cleft and bleeding side and heart.
Again: what a marvel was it that He should stoop so low. Think of it, friends; Mary had to stoop to see where her Lord had been for her. What condescension is here!
(3) She wept at the procuring or meritorious cause of His sufferings—sin. She was a sinner, and for her He must die, before she could be taken to heaven. Ah! a sense of sin in one- self, of sin upon incarnate God; the thought that we furnished the nails that lacerated His hands and supplied the spear that tore open His side, will fill the soul with grief and the eyes with tears.
(4) The fact, too, that she was personally interested in His death was an incentive to tears. Orators, by means of eloquent descriptions of Christ’s wondrous love, oftentimes work so powerfully upon their hearers, that, by the time they have concluded their oration, the mass of their audience are in tears. But the tears produced by a feeling sense of interest in the love and deeds of our precious Jesus are far more genuine than those produced by mere eloquence. When they laid His body in the grave, the sight, perhaps, brought no drops of sorrow from the eyes of the onlooking soldiers. But certainly did Mary weep.
(5) It was because she felt that she was related to Him. It was relationship. A beautiful illustration of the state of Mary’s mind is furnished by the dove which Noah sent forth of the ark. The creature, finding no rest for the sole of its foot, was restless, and returned. Mary could not rest until she had found Jesus, and was able to say to Him, “Rabboni,” “My master.'”
(6) Another reason for her tears was the absence of her Lord. I pity the man, who, having professed to enjoy, at any time, the presence of Christ, is not miserable in His absence. Depend upon it, there is something radically wrong in such a case.
2. We will now notice the act of Mary.
Jeremiah said, “Mine eye affecteth mine heart.” Mary might have said, “My heart affecteth mine eye.” Both expressions are true in different connections, but here Mary’s heart affected her eye, and brought her on her knees to look for Jesus.
(1) Let us learn a lesson here. Her grief, excessive as it was, did not prevent her from looking for the Saviour. Does not excessive grief, my brethren, sometimes prevent you from looking to the Lord. Alas! it is so at times, if God do not sanctify trouble. But, even if we lose a right eye, or a right hand be cut off, let it not keep us from the Lord.
(2) Mary looked and the grave was open. That is our mercy—He is risen. The debt is paid, salvation is finished, and Christ has cast a bridge across the gulf, one end of which is at the very gate of hell, and the other rests upon the threshold of heaven.
(3) The whole ground was clear. The soldiers were gone, death and the devil had disappeared, and there was none to interfere with that poor, lone woman. Some persons have expressed perplexity at the passage, “He hath gathered together all things in one.” Here is at least one illustration of its meaning. Christ, His Church and angels were gathered there, with no world and no devil to interrupt their communion.
(4) A solemn stillness pervaded the place. The earthquake was over, the curse was gone. Here was no thunder from Sinai; no voice of a trumpet waxing louder and louder, and no fire, Looking into the grave, Mary saw no death, but two angels. And we, brethren, may apply this to the grave, our own resting-place for a brief period, blessed if interested in the Destroyer of death.
(5) But the grave was not destroyed. Perhaps by a miracle it was preserved during the earthquake from filling up. Death was destroyed, but the grave remains perfect; but at the last great day the saying will be accomplished,—”O grave, I will be thy destruction.”
II . The vision Mary saw.
She found the grave occupied by an angelic guard.
(1) Let us take notice of the nature, the array, the posture, and the position of its garrison. There were two angels. Under the Jewish constitution no man could be condemned to death upon the evidence of fewer than two witnesses, and some reference may be had to this fact here. They first drove away the guard of soldiers; alarmed at so sudden an onslaught they fled. Nor were they any longer to keep the grave, for it was now His property who had so gloriously won it. Having driven away the guard, they rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulchre.
(2) Thus they released the Surety. It is erroneous to say that He burst the barriers of the tomb. He came forth by right, and none were there to oppose His coming. Having accomplished these acts, they remained to guard the grave, and direct the woman Mary when she came to the sepulchre.
(3) Their array was white.
They were pure, angelically pure as when they were created. But Mary, vile as she had been, in the mediatorial robe of righteousness was better clothed than they, since He, the great Surety, wrought that robe.
Their white robes signified victory. They were there on the occasion of a victory, for Christ had fought and won the greatest and most important battle ever known.
Their white robes told of joy and freedom through the great actions of Christ.
(4) They were sitting.
For they loved Him who had inhabited the grave and hallowed it, as their Great Preserver, and their God; nor were they ashamed or afraid of sitting in that gloomy grave since He had been there before. Sitting in the grave, too, they show that, as it is the bride’s bedchamber, at the last day they will have to do with her rising from it to meet the Lord.
(5) Their position was at the head and foot.
Some allusion may be intended here to the circumstances of the mercy-seat which covered the ark. A cherub sat at either end with his face looking downward upon the mercy-seat. Christ is the mercy- seat, and the angels were sitting, gazing upon the place where He lay, contemplating the mystery of salvation.
(6) Thus they teach that the identical body is guarded in the grave, and will be raised at the last day.
(7) So the body of the Christian Church is safe from all evil, possessing a glorious immunity from all present dangers, protected from head to foot. Thus is ensured to them safety while travelling through this vale of tears, repose in the grave, and afterwards the full fruition of their gracious hopes and anticipations in the “plenitude of heaven.”
The following selected sentences must bring our reminiscences of the pulpit labours of this period to a close:—
The Gospel is that great light brought from the eternal throne, to guide pilgrims home through the wilderness.
The Gospel is such a mystery, that a child may apprehend it, yet Gabriel cannot comprehend it.
The Gospel is so contracted, that it can dwell in the heart, and yet so great, that heaven could not hold it.
God would not give His people shoes of iron and brass if they had not to pass through briers and brambles on their way home. Redemption is the largest book God ever wrote. It was concocted in eternity, and opened on the cross.
Fleshly perfection is a vague notion of the brain.
The plant of renown, and that obnoxious weed, human merit, cannot grow together in the same soil.
The Lord Jesus, dropped into the soul, is the seed of all good works.
A regenerated man will always be a reformed man, but a reformed man will not always be a regenerated man.
Regeneration is that which brings the father and child together.
When God has made a sinner a saint, the devil cannot make a saint a sinner.
Sanctified affliction makes a channel for comfort to flow in. The Church’s bank is ever full, millions have been drawing, and are drawing, yet it is as full as ever.
Truth and love go together, truth is the wall, and love the cement.
Truth is the impression, love is the fire that melts the heart. Truth and love make death and eternity desirable.
Truth alone is awful on a dying bed, but truth and love make all firm and fast for ever.
Christ is heaven’s great lamp, and all the lights that will burn in heaven for ever were lighted at Him.
The cross of Christ is the great outbreaking of Jehovah’s love, and it is the only place where the sinner and God are made friends.
Death shot his arrow into Jesus Christ, but he did not draw it out again, so that we need not fear to meet death, since he is a stingless enemy.
The whale never swallowed such a sweet morsel as when he swallowed Jonah, and the grave never swallowed such a sweet morsel as the Lord Jesus Christ.
A little humble, spiritual hope is better than all the presumption in the world.
That hope which arises out of the atonement can never be annihilated, however the waves of trouble may dash against it.
It is not in our power to say much of John Hazelton as a correspondent. There is ample proof that he might, had he chosen, have excelled in epistolatory composition—but it was only under special circumstances that his letters contained more than a few kind and sympathetic sentences in addition to the communication for which it was penned. Two, however, of a more extended character, which were penned at about the period to which this chapter is devoted, have been preserved. They manifest the utmost kindness, tenderness, and wisdom, and furnish us with an insight into their writer’s true character, which we otherwise might have been unable to obtain.
TO A YOUNG CHRISTIAN WHO WAS ABOUT TO JOIN THE CHURCH.
MY DEAR YOUNG CHRISTIAN FRIEND,—I received your letter in due order, and you would have heard from m e before if time and engagements had permitted.
I must assure you in the first place, that I do not consider you have taken a liberty in addressing a letter to me, for I feel pleased and thankful that, from the use God has made of my ministry to you, you can feel some “relief” in writing me upon eternal things. A minister, like a private Christian, needs encouragement, and when, either by letter or otherwise, he finds that his labours are useful to his people, his heart rejoices, and he takes fresh courage in his work.
You tell me that you feel ashamed because you cannot say more about that love which has made you free: it is, my friend, an unspeakable love; it is a love which passes knowledge and language also.
But there are times when one feels a greater freedom in conversing about Christ than at other times. This, I suppose, is the case with you. You have occasionally felt thus: Now if I could see Mr. Hazelton, or if I were now before the Church, I could freely and fluently tell them what great things the Lord has done for me. And while this feeling was upon you, you resolved again and again to speak to me or to the friends. You see I know where you are. And how is this? Why, I have been there myself, therefore I know your peculiar feelings in relation to these great matters.
While in the body, and imperfect, our experience will be, must be—”That which I would not, that do I.” The Holy Spirit is sovereign in His operations. When He sheds abroad God’s love in the heart, and raises us into holy astonishment that we are loved, washed, and saved, then we can say, “Come all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what He has done for my soul.” Our safety, our salvation do not depend upon happy frames or warmth of heart; were it so, how many would be saved? Salvation is of God, and therefore it never varies, in all frames, feelings, events, times, and weathers: in all ages, from buoyant youth to trembling old age, our salvation is the same.
It is your mercy not only that you are saved, but that you know the truth so as to have been made free from those tormenting fears which must arise from the belief that salvation in whole or in part depends upon the creature or any of his deeds. Grace for grace is your hope, your rock, and your glory. Grace as high as God, as changeless as God, as eternal as God.
You are thankful to be a debtor, and your grief is that you are not more thankful to Him who did not feel that He had done enough for you until He shed His blood and died for you. Love Him! Aye, you love Him—the signs you write me are the fruits of His love. You love the “fold, the sheep, and the Shepherd too.” God gives us new eyes, new hearts, new ears, and a new tongue. Who but a grace-taught soul will or can love the fold, sheep, and Shepherd? With them may you be numbered both here and hereafter; and when the flock is made up, O may A. F. and John Hazelton be among them.
I hope you may leave the fear of man behind you on Wednesday, there really is nothing to fear. May the dear Spirit be your remembrancer and your help, and if spared to go through the ordinance may Jesus be with you that you may realise the truth, “in keeping Thy commandments there is great reward.” The Lord help you. I will not forget you at the throne, try to remember me there, and thus we shall refresh each other. May Jesus be precious and in bitter crosses sanctified, and heaven anticipated by my dear young friend.
I am, in much Christian affection, your minister,
July 10th, 1860.
TO A CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN AND HIS WIFE, IN REPLY TO A LETTER DEPLORING THE LOW SPIRITUAL CONDITION OF THE CHURCH TO WHICH THEY BELONGED.
DEAR FRIENDS,—I embrace the first opportunity that offers to answer your letter of the 21st March. I am thankful to inform you that we are all as well as usual, and am happy to hear that you have your health.
You appear to be in no small trouble because of the spiritual barrenness of; I wish I could help you, but you are too far off. I can sympathize with you, and am sorry that ministers of Jesus Christ do not throw their energies into the important work God has called them to do. I am more than ever convinced that if a minister will not read hard, think hard, and pray hard, he will not be able to feed the Church of God. Talking and wordiness in the pulpit is not preaching; there must be digging in the study, prayer in the closet, and labour in the pulpit. With these things and God’s blessing there will be prosperity in the pews.
We are still going forward at Chadwell Street: last Church meeting we had four before us, and I proposed eight more, and others are coming, so that I look on and wonder. Last Lord’s-day evening we had to open the vestries for the people: our chapel is not large enough for the evening when the weather is fine.
Last night Mrs. B. sent for me to visit her, as she thought she was dying. She is astonishingly happy in the things of God, and I think will soon leave the world for her peaceful and eternal home.
Last Sunday I preached in the morning from Hebrews 12:10, “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakersof His holiness.” We noticed three things:—(1) God’s right to chastise His people: He is our Father. (2) The rule according to which He does it: For our profit. (3) The end to be answered: That we might be partakers of His holiness.
In the evening our text was Hebrews 11 part of 16th verse, “Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” (1) The relationship: their God. (2) The fact stated: He is not ashamed to be called their God. (3) The inferences from the fact.
Next Thursday master John goes to a new school: he will then have to buckle on the harness and work away to make himself a man.
I remain, dear friends, yours in the Lord,
April 2nd, 1861.
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”.