Charles Banks,  The Earthen Vessel

A Report On The Annual Meeting In Support Of The Earth Vessel

Earthen Vessel 1853:

Holden In London, Tuesday-Evening, May 17, 1853

To the Ministering Brethren—to the Members of the Church of Christ at Crosby Row—and to all who gave their countenance and help at the Annual Meeting on behalf of The Earthen Vessel, on Tuesday, May 17, 1853, this small expression of my gratitude is presented with feelings of increasing desire that my labours may be more than ever devoted to the bringing together, building up, and feeding of a portion of the ransomed church of the living God.

Riding this morning, (Wednesday, May 18th) from Paddington to Wantage, in Berkshire, (where I hope to preach the gospel of God) my mind has been stirred up with a desire to address a few words to you expressive of my sincere thanks for every token both of the divine favour and of your kindness.

That meeting, upon the whole, was the most powerful demonstration of the Lord’s mercy to me, as also of the use he is pleased to make of me, that I have ever before witnessed; and I trust, therefore, erect this little stone of help, this Ebenezer, and inscribe thereon, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped me.”

Without presuming, I may say that meeting presented a three-fold testimony in favour of The Earthen Vessel. In the first place we had a Providential Testimony; for, although the work has been, and is, encompassed with pecuniary difficulties, still, such friends have been raised up for it as to furnish good ground to hope that, ultimately, the work will be set free from all pecuniary embarrassment; and as regards its circulation, we may say it has steadily progressed, averaging nearly, if not quite, seven-thousand per mouth. This renders it an important medium; and when I consider the fact that certainly not less than from fifteen to twenty-thousand persons read The Earthen Vessel monthly, it loudly calls upon me (as our very worthy chairman and kind Christian brother, Mr. John Thwaites, observed) to be exceedingly careful that nothing but good, wholesome, and useful matter be found on its pages. I can truly say, the desire and the determination to keep the work clear of mischievous and unholy matter, has been the predominant feeling in my mind of late.

Secondly, we had at our meeting A Ministerial Testimony in favour of The Earthen Vessel. Our brother Wells’s sermon in the afternoon on the seventh of Daniel’s prophecy, was excellent, and was evidently the fruit of a deep and careful research into the analogy existing between the history of nations and the fulfilment of prophecy. I am sure many of my readers will be gratified to learn that I fully expect to be enabled to print that discourse in the forthcoming numbers of the Vessel. The faithful testimony borne to the usefulness of the work by all the ministers, was of a cheering character. Mr. John Thwaites opened the business of the meeting in a noble and faithful spirit, shewing the difficulties connected with the Editorship; and urgently called upon the meeting to impress upon the Editor the necessity of exercising great decision, and a careful discernment in the choice of articles to fill its columns.

Brethren Messer, James Wells and William Allen, Thomas Jones, Hazleton, Thomas Chivers, Charles Shipway, Richard Searle, of King’s Langley, J. P . Searle, of Kingsland, and others, all entered practically, and faithfully into the details of the matter; but as I hope to publish the substance of each of their addresses, I will here simply thank each and every one of them for the very able, faithful and friendly spirit in which they came forward to hold up my hands. 

At nearly the close of the meeting, while I was speaking to a Christian brother in the vestry, a gentleman came up to me, and said, “You have gained a friend tonight; I came here somewhat prejudiced; but my prejudices have been removed.” He further said, that he knew a man who would like to boil me and my Vessel together in his “Pot.” “That man (said the speaker) represented you in Exeter, as a most voracious and covetous man; and has done much to injure the circulation of the Vessel; but as far as my influence can go, he shall do it no further.”

I thanked the gentleman for his spontaneous and truly Christian testimony; and soon learned that he was a brother minister from the West of England; and is at present supplying a pulpit in London.

The man and his “Pot” to whom this gentleman referred, is but one of a multitude who would rejoice to see the Vessel smashed in pieces, and scattered to the winds; but I forgive them; and (the Lord permitting) shall still press on, aiming to the utmost of my power to disseminate all the truth I can. I am for no contention or division among ministers or churches; and I pray ever to be kept from despising or trying to injure the editors or authors of other works. It a gracious providence has given them—what he has given me—a position of usefulness in Zion—let them learn to occupy that position in a gospel, in a faithful, in an evangelical spirit, and let them do as (by heaven’s help, and divine permission) I am resolved to do—that is—“work while (with me) it is called today, knowing that night—the end of my day—will soon come.” The eyes that now read; the hand that now writes; the tongue that now speaks; the body that now moves from place to place, must soon be silent in the grave. The solemn moment when our Lord and Master will come and reckon with us, hastens on, let us therefore walk in the Spirit; labour in love; and aim with christian courage to fight a good fight, and to finish our course with joy. If in anywise, I have offended, or hurt the mind of any of Zion’s servants or saints, I trust they will forgive me; as I do all who have spoken of me in cruel and unfaithful terms.

But, thirdly, the meeting also presented an Experimental Testimony in favor of the Earthen Vessel, nearly 400 persons took tea; and at the meeting the chapel was more than filled with friends anxious to aid in the support of the work. Beside this, our brother Thomas Chivers spoke of letters he had received from America, from Scotland, and from Hampshire, all expressive of the edification and comfort which the writers had received from perusing the Earthen Vessel. Before I close this brief address, I must record my warmest thanks to the deacons, their wives and many of the members in Crosby Row, and other friends, who exerted themselves in furnishing the friends with tea.

And now, beseeching you to pray for me that great grace may be given unto me; that my life may be spared for usefulness; and that my labours may be crowned with great success, I am, dear friends, your most devoted and willing servant.—Charles Waters Banks

Brief Notice Of The Addresses Delivered At The Annual Meeting Of The Friends And Supporters Of The Earthen Vessel And Christian Record, Tuesday-Evening, May 17, 1853

We cannot possibly give a full Report of the excellent speeches delivered on the above occasion; and to select portions of them is a difficult task. We have, however, done our best fairly to represent the meeting; and the following is the fruit of our labour.

The meeting was commended by Mr. T. Jones, late of Chatham, who read the hymn, “Come we that love the Lord,” which was sung very heartily by the numerous assembly. After the hymn had been sung, J. T. Messer, of Ebenezer, Shoreditch, in a short address, moved, “That J. Thwaites, Esq., do take the chair, which motion was seconded by C. W. Banks, and carried unanimously. 

Mr. Thwaites, on taking the chair, requested Mr. Allen, the respected pastor of Cave Adullam, to offer prayer, at the conclusion of which the chairman addressed the meeting. After some few prefatory remarks, Mr. Thwaites said—It may not be out of place to state that this is termed an anniversary meeting of the “Earthen Vessel.” I am glad to see so many assembled here this evening. It expresses your sympathy with the objects of the Earthen Vessel and its Editor. It expresses an anxiety on your part that she shall continue to sail on, steering clear of every rock; and safely carry her peaceful cargo. Our brother Banks, I am sure, will be the last to take any offence at suggestions which may be made for the improvement of the magazine. I do not at all wish that another “chart” should be drawn out; but suggestions may be thrown out in a Christian spirit, relative to certain points: and the Editor, I am sure, will see that they come from a strong desire to improve the Vessel. We well know what a crooked set editors in general have to deal with; and can well sympathise with our brother Banks in the arduous task he has to perform. Next to a gold man, an editor should be an intelligent man, and a courageous man. There is no greater snare, for a man who is of course anxious to obtain as large a measure of support as possible—no greater temptation, that to receive communications of a spurious and ordinary character; coming, as they frequently do, from persons whose motives are not pure; whose productions are not of sufficient weight; but whose pretended love and zeal for the gospel preached by the Editor has a great influence over his mind. [Mr. Thwaites entered very minutely and faithfully into the difficulties and temptations by which the conductor of a religious periodical may often be surrounded, and then said]—

As regards the circulation of the Earthen Vessel, it is a scandal on the great cause with which we are identified—the Particular Baptists—that they are not better represented than they are: others have their periodicals and their papers, whereby they spread their peculiar tenets. But the Baptists have been very quiet—have paid little attention to the spread of their distinctive principles—cared little that the world should know their doctrines. But I hold that it is one of the first principles that we should propagate what we believe to be the truth of God. To sustain the Earthen Vessel would clearly be doing that. We have there information that is exceedingly interesting. I allude to the reports of various causes in the metropolis and the country; ordinations, and additions to the churches. These are encouraging to the people of God. The information which the Earthen Vessel gives, monthly, is peculiarly interesting. I don’t want to hear quarrels in churches. We cannot allow such goods to be shipped on board the Vessel. You have met this night to say you feel a spiritual care for the Vessel; you feel an anxiety for the quality of the Vessel, and a concern for the character of its Editor; and you cannot allow brother Banks to admit anything subversive of the great principles of truth. I am particularly anxious for the character of the Earthen Vessel. I cannot see why its circulation cannot be greatly extended. Although its circulation does amount to 7000 monthly, it is very small when compared to the number of our body. After a very impressive and suitable address, the chairman called upon Mr. T. J. Messer, to move the first resolution. Before reading the resolution, Mr. Messer passed a high enconium on the discourse delivered in the afternoon by Mr. Wells. He spoke experimentally of the difficulties an editor has to contend with. He reiterated Mr. Thwaite’s idea in reference to the insertion of petty feuds among churches and people; gave some sound practical advice—proposed a better classification of articles; and particularly animadverted on the poetical department—some of which he considered the vilest doggerel that ever was penned; he expressed the warmest sympathy with the objects of the meeting, and read the following resolution:

“That this meeting cheerfully unites with the Editor of the “Earthen Vessel,” in gratefully acknowledging the continued goodness of a gracious God toward him in his labors connected with that publication; his prospects of usefulness being of a more encouraging character than heretofore.”

Mr. Messer most effectually rivited the attention of the meeting. In the course of an energetic speech, he said—The resolution was a very sweet intimation that God had been kind to the Vessel and its Editor; and when I look at what he has done for him—I feel a desire to render the homage of a grateful heart, that he has maintained the Vessel on her way through the surging kind of ocean, on which she has had to sail. He wished the Earthen Vessel to become such an organ of their party, as that they might have nothing to be ashamed of. He hoped they would that night encourage the hands of the Editor, that with a glad heart he might continue in his course, edifying the children of God, and promoting the happiness of Zion.

Mr. James Wells in seconding the resolution, said-Mr. Chairman, so much has already been said to the point, that there remains but little to be said. I quite agree with you in reference to the matter that should occupy the pages of the Earthen Vessel. But there is some difficulty about this. It may frequently happen that out of the great mass of matter the Editor receives, there are no articles that are either valuable, deep or savoury; the month is going on and the magazine must come out. This is oftentimes the position of brother Banks, I dare say. I am sure he will not consider any remarks or suggestions thrown out tonight, as doubting his fitness for the responsible post he holds. I believe him to be well qualified. He has gifts, which render him a useful man. You were saying, Mr. Chairman, that an editor needed courage. I think our brother Banks has shown a considerable deal of courage in conducting the Earthen Vessel. There are some poor brethren, who having, at some time or other, been overtaken by a fault; have, by the rest, been cast aside, and looked upon with contempt. What has the Earthen Vessel done? It has come along, picked up, and owned them. And for this, the Vessel, and its Editor, are despised in many places; yet I greatly admire its liberal spirit. The spirit of the Earthen Vessel is a Christian spirit. It may sometimes incline a little to the wrong side; but it is better to err on the charitable side. As regards the circulation, ministers may do well to speak of it wherever they go. I do think it ought to be printed in larger type. I think the small type a great drawback. I like the object, the design, and the doctrine of the Earthen Vessel; and I hope that the Editor may be spared many years to spread abroad the truths of the everlasting gospel. He felt great pleasure in seconding the resolution moved by brother Messer. 

Mr. R. Searle, of Apsley Mill, in supporting this resolution fully concurred in the remarks made by the chairman in his opening address. He had been agent for the sale of the Earthen Vessel in the counties of Berkshire and Hertfordshire now some five or six years; he was much prejudices against it and the Editor at one time, but that vanished away after hearing him; he had had much to contend with from its enemies whom he met at various places. The appearance of the Earthen vessel was hailed with delight in many parts where that, and the Bible, comprised their whole library. Mr. Searle cordially supported the resolution, which was carried unanimously. 

Mr. W. Allen, of Stepney, in rising to move the second resolution, said, “The question is this—has the blessing of God attended the Earthen Vessel and its Editor? If it has, and I verily believe it has, it wants nothing else to recommend it. I most heartily move,

“That this meeting recognizes the use of such an instrumentality as the “Earthen Vessel,” believing, in the hands of a kind providence, it is calculated to further the cause of truth—to furnish useful information—and to promote unity among the different ministers and members of our Churches.”

Mr. T. Jones, late of Chatham, in an interesting and well-spoken address seconded the resolution. He did not think that in a periodical of this kind the diction and grammatical correctness was of so much importance as in works of a more literary character. It was plan and simple truth that the child of God wanted. Were it a philosophical, or a literary journal, of course it would be expected that the diction would be strictly grammatical. There are some good Christians who know nothing of grammar or any other requisite foor writing for the public press, who, nevertheless, are possessed of another acumen, whereby they can describe, though in broken language, the life of God in the soul. The people of God want that warm-hearted matter which the Holy Spirit dictates. God’s blessing has hitherto attended the Vessel. I have no doubt she has many enemies; but there is one kind of opposition the Editor must submit to endure—that of ignorance and malice combined, such as was employed by the bigoted, stupid, and malicious priests who described Luther as a bad man, because be circulated a very heretical book which he called the Bible. Mr. Jones cordially seconded the resolution.

Mr. C. Shipway, of Zoar Chapel, Holloway, in a short address advocated the principle of lending the Vessel to persons who had never seen it. He supported the resolution, and the meeting unanimously carried it. 

The Editor of the Earthen Vessel then stepped forward, and said that after the many useful suggestions which had fallen from the lips of the speakers, he felt a desire to acknowledge with gratitude their kindness. He had not instructed either of them what to say, nor had he given any hints; but had be taken them aside one by one, they could not more correctly have entered into his difficulties, nor more generously encouraged his heart, than they had done. A vast amount of labor was connected with the conducting the Earthen Vessel. Every day brought him some ten or twenty letters, bearing upon the various subjects connected with the cause of God. If he knew his own heart aright, his only desire was, that he might be enabled to continue it with a single eye to the glory of God, and the real good of our spiritual Zion. What his brother Thwaites had said, was as true as though he had walked in his path. In many ways he was called upon the serve the poorer churches of our denomination; but the hand of the Lord, in much mercy, had sustained him; his growing desire was to preserve in manifest usefulness to the living family, and in a holy, righteous and consistent walk and conversation, to glorify God of his salvation. 

The Chairman having remarked upon the Editors address, he called on Mr. J. Hazelton of Mount Zion, City Road, to move the third resolution; in doing which he referred to the anecdote of the monkey who made use of the cat’s paw. He knew instances where persons, who did not take in, but who were enemies to, the Earthen Vessel, but who nevertheless, were glad to make use of it to serve their own purpose in advertising their meetings, &c. He highly deprecated such conduct, and moved the following resolution.

“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 cooperation of all who are friendly to the same, in endeavoring to extend and increase its circulation.” 

Mr. Thomas Chivers, of Ebenezer Chapel, Bermondsey New Road, then rose and said, after so much excellent advice, it would be unnecessary for me to attempt to give any. Brother Banks has had many discouragements. I will tell him something for his encouragement. Not long since I received a letter from a friend living at Wisconsin, twelve hundred miles from New York, N. A. He there speaks of the book of God, and the Earthen Vessel, as being made the great blessing to his soul. So that in the wilds of America, in the woods, amongst the woods, surrounded perhaps, by wild beasts, and venomous reptiles; even there is the Earthen Vessel to be found conveying comfort to the soul of the child of God. Another letter I received from a friend at Edinbugh enclosing a tract full of the vilest trash imaginable, desired me to compare it with the Earthen Vessel. He desired me to congratulate you on this occasion. Another friend at Portsmouth writes me that he does not hear a gospel sermon there. The only bit of gospel that he gets is the Earthen Vessel. These are encouragements to you brother Banks in your laborious undertakings.

Mr. Chivers also spoke of the good which was done by the Earthen Vessel in another way. He mentioned that at the Surrey Tabernacle the whole of the profits arising from the sale of the magazine in that place, amounting to at least six pounds per annum, was devoted to the Poor Sick Fund; an admirable plan, which they had also followed at Ebenezer. He recommended others to the same, whereby they would be assisting a good cause, spreading the truth, and fulfilling the Master’s commands, “Do good unto all men, especially unto the household of faith.” He wished the Editor success with his Vessel: believing that at last he would be welcomed with the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant, thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Mr. Chivers then heartily seconded the resolution, which was unanimously carried. 

Mr. J. P. Searle, of Kingsland moved the fourth and last resolution. 

“That this meeting kindly invites ministers and the members of our Churches to furnish communications to the Editor, for rendering more efficient and valuable, the pages of the “Earthen Vessel.”

He heartily wished the Vessel God-speed; and spoke of the benefits he had received in his own soul from a perusal of its contents. 

Mr. R. Minton, in a short, but warm hearted address, seconded the resolution, which was unanimously carried. 

Mr. Joseph Flory moved, and Mr. C. W. Banks, seconded, a vote of thanks to the Chairman; to which he replied.

The Doxology was sung; and Mr. Thwaites concluded the interesting meeting with the benediction.

The chapel was crowded in every corner. 

Charles Banks (1806-1886) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher and printer. He served as pastor for several churches in London. In 1845, he started a sovereign grace magazine called "The Earthen Vessel and Christian Record”, remaining its sole editor for more than forty years. There was a rapid growth in popularity of the magazine, with 200 copies printed the first year, to over 6,000 by 1852.