John Banks

The Life And Ministry Of John Banks

Earthen Vessel 1899:

In Memoriam

John Waters Banks

By E. Mitchell

Before this is in the hands of our readers, they will have heard of the departure of our beloved brother, Mr. John Waters Banks. The home-call came somewhat suddenly on Friday morning, May 5th. For some time past our brother had been suffering from a weak and diseased heart. On Thursday, April 20th, he attended the anniversary services at Waltham Abbey, but had a very violent seizure in the small hours of the following morning, which it was thought would have proved fatal; but he gradually rallied, and improved sufficiently to take a short walk on Tuesday, May 2nd, and it was hoped that he might have been spared for a time. He was, however, not so well on the Thursday, and at about five o’clock on Friday morning he had another severe attack. Everything that skill and love could devise was done to relieve him, but in vain. His sufferings were acute, but his mind was peaceful, desiring “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Many ejaculatory cries he put up to the Lord to be released, yet ever concluding with, “If it be Thy will,” or, “If it please Thee.” The end came very suddenly. As he was about to send a message to his brethren, the fellow-trustees of the magazine, who were to meet that afternoon, he stopped, laid back in the arm-chair in which he was sitting, closed his eyes, drew three or four breaths, and yielded up bis spirit to his Maker and Redeemer.

The writer was present, having been sent for, as he wished to see him. About twenty minutes before his departure he said to him, “I wanted to say this to you:—

“How sov’reign, wonderful, and free,

Is all His love to sinful me!

He plucked me as a brand from hell.

My Jesus has done all things well.”

This was his dying testimony. All his hope was in the once crucified and now risen Lord and Redeemer.

Our brother had nearly attained to the threescore and ten years of man, having been born in Canterbury, Kent, on November 30th, 1829. He was called by grace when about 17 years of age, and so had been following the Lord for more than fifty years. In 1889 he joined the Church at Chadwell-street, Clerkenwell, and in 1893 was chosen deacon, which office he honourably sustained to the close of his earthly career. A sincere lover of the truth of God, a kind friend to the poor, exemplary in his attendance in the sanctuary, having a great affection for the younger members of the Church and congregation, and warmly attached to the pastor, he discharged the duties of his office with godly assiduity, and will be greatly missed by both pastor and people, the aged and the young alike.

On the death of our beloved brother, William Winters, of happy memory, in August, 1893, the responsibility of conducting this magazine devolved on our brother Banks. He always disclaimed the title of editor, saying that he was only acting as a stop-gap until someone more capable could be found; but he continued editor-in-fact until his death, and, with respect to the magazine, his loss will be severely felt. He possessed an extensive and intimate knowledge of the Churches the magazine serves, while his genial spirit enabled him to quietly endure the many worries connected with its conduct, and endeared him to his numerous correspondents, smoothing down many a difficulty and asperity. His devotion to the magazine was great, it was in his mind day and night, and no pains were too great for him to take if he could in any way promote its usefulness or increase its circulation. The discharge of his office as a deacon, and the conduct of the magazine, engrossed almost the whole of his time, thought, and strength. The administration of “The Lord’s Poor Fund” entrusted to him was cheerfully and faithfully discharged. Many a poor, sorrowful, and aged one of the “household of God” has been cheered not only by a needed donation, but also by the kindly letter that has accompanied the gift.

The mortal remains were interred in his family grave at Nunheadon Friday, May 12th, the large and representative attendance testifying to the esteem in which he was held by the section of the denomination, to which he belonged, while a large number of those gathered were personal friends, who entertained a sincere affection for the departed. An account of the funeral service from the pen of our esteemed brother, Mr. E. Marsh, is given below.

In the January issue for 1897 a portrait of our beloved brother, with a short sketch of his life, appeared. As many of our readers may not have preserved their back numbers, we are giving another portrait of him in this issue, feeling assured that all will be pleased to have this memento. It is one of the last taken, and represents him sitting: in his garden in a free and easy manner. This is quite characteristic of him, as he was most unpretentious and unconventional, without any stiffness or starchiness in his composition.

We affectionately commend our sister the bereaved widow to the sympathies and prayers of our friends. She was a true helpmeet to our brother, and is very highly esteemed by the Churches at Chadwell-street and Waltham Abbey. We trust the magazine will still receive the hearty support of the various Churches it has sought to serve for so many years. The trustees are prayerfully seeking a suitable editor to carry on the work. An announcement respecting its conduct will be found on the Wrapper under the heading, “To Correspondents. Our brother’s peaceful passing away reminds us of the poet’s words:—

“So fades a summer cloud away,

So sinks the gale when storms are o’er,

So gently shuts the eye of day,

So dies a wave upon the shore.”

The Funeral

Supplied By pastor E. Marsh

The procession, consisting of the hearse and six coaches, left the house at 11.30. Accompanying the bereaved family were the pastor and deacons of Chadwell-street, and a deputation from the M.A.S.B.C. of the president, vice-president and secretaries, also the representatives of the magazine Committee, with whom our dear brother had so happily laboured in his Lord’s service.

The cemetery was reached at 1.20, The little chapel was soon crowded, and, many were unable to gain admission. Among the ministers we noticed brethren Box, Beecher, Belcher, Cornwell, Chilvers, Chandler, Clark, Dolbey, Flower, Holden, Hewett, Jones, Lynn, Mitchell, Marsh, Noyes, Palmer,, Voysey, White, etc., with many deacons and delegates from the Churches of the Metropolis and country districts.

The service was opened with prayer by pastor E. Mitchell, The hymn (all of which were composed by the late beloved W. Winters)—”Blest are the dead, for ever blest, Who in the Lord of glory die”—was sung with deep feeling by the large congregation. Brother John Box read the Scriptures.

After the singing of Hymn No. 5 on the sheets provided, an address was delivered by Pastor R. E. Sears.

Our brother said:—“The ministry of Jesus Christ was a ministry of benedictions. His mission to earth was for blessing, and the words blessed, blessed, blessed, again and again rang through His utterances. The ministry of Jesus Christ is not ended yet. This same Jesus speaks to us to-day, and ‘blessed’ is the keynote of His message. He is speaking to us now from the throne of His glory. From thence comes His own Word. Faith listens with attentive ear to His voice while He says, ‘Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth.’ Our brother was blessed of the Lord, and blessed in the Lord. He was blessed to know himself as a lost sinner, and he was blessed to know himself as a sinner saved. He was led to Calvary, there to shelter in the riven side of Christ. He was blessed at the cross. He was blessed all his life, and blessed at the close of his pilgrimage. He was blessed with a place in many a heart at the throne of grace in connection with his important work. God says in 2 Sam. 7:10, ‘I will appoint a place for My people Israel.’ We believe in Divine appointments. The president of the Baptist Union, disturbed with the many calls from his study, found, on returning to it once, a slip of paper with this written on: ‘Interruptions are Divine appointments.’ This calmed his ruffled mind. We have been interrupted in our denominational work, but it is God’s appointment. He has done it. Certainly we never should have done it. Had it been proposed to us that our brother should be removed, there would no one have been found to move the resolution, but God has done it. It is His act. He does not consult us. We thank God He spared our dear brother to us so long to do such service in His cause. In that service God appointed him a place. He had a place in the side of His living Lord and Master, and he had his place in the world, the Church, and the home. J. W. Banks was contented to be himself, imitating none, ever filling his own place. Some years ago he was called to stop a gap and fill an important place, the names of John Waters Banks and William Winters will ever be associated. In life they were like Jonathan and David, and in death they are not divided. It seemed to us a terrible calamity when dear brother Winters was taken; but God in that blank had found a place for brother Banks to fill. He stepped into his own place. He did his work well in his own way. He was not a polished scholar or a great writer, but he did a lot of work—drudgery that no one else could do. He never moved from his place as to the principles he held dear. He was not one of those shifting ones with no fixed place. He knew the truth, and abode by it, and now his Lord has taken him to the place prepared, from which he will never be moved. ‘I go to prepare a place for you.’ May God bless and comfort our dear sister, the family bereaved, our Churches and denomination at large, who have lost a true and faithful friend.” Brother Sears concluded his address by quoting some beautiful lines on “He shall go no more out.” The service was closed with prayer by brother Lynn.

An immense company of sympathising friends gathered at the grave.

Silently we laid the dear dust to rest. The polished breastplate on the coffin simply stated—

“JOHN WATERS BANKS, Died 5th May, 1899, Aged 69 Years.”

When the body had been lowered, the beloved and bereaved pastor of Chadwell-street, Edward Mitchell, said:—“Death is no friend. God Himself has described it as an enemy. In itself considered, death is a friend to none; it is rather the ill offspring of sin; by sin came death. Think of the many things which attend it, and mark what an enemy is here! It is often attended with pain and suffering; bitter anguish and deep sorrow follows its blow wherever it falls. It is no respecter of persons or circumstances. It rends asunder the tenderest ties, dissolves the closest of all unions, that of body and soul. Death hinders the fulness of our joys here and even the ransomed spirits of the just before the throne enter not into the fulness of their joy while death holds for a time their bodies in the dust. The fulness of their joy will not be experienced until Jesus comes again and raises this corruptible in incorruption and this mortal to immortality. Nevertheless, while death is an enemy, it is a conquered enemy. Jesus has conquered it; He has taken its sting away. He has given His people a life death cannot touch. Not only so He makes even this last enemy to play the part of a friend. I was present when our dear brother passed away; I was glad I was. Truly in that chamber of death it could be said—

“One gentle sigh, the fetter broke;

We scarce could say he’s gone,

Before his ransomed spirit took

Its mansion near the throne.”

This in his case was perfectly true. Calmly and peacefully he fell on sleep. Within twenty minutes of his departure he said, “I want to say this—

“How sovereign, wonderful, and free

Is all His love to sinful me!

He plucked me as a brand from hell,

My Jesus has done all things well.”

When a man is brought there, brought to this experience, all that death can do to him is to release the spirit and set the prisoner free. Yes, death is then swallowed up in victory. Oh, what a word is that ‘swallowed up!’ Jesus will annihilate death, as far as His people are concerned. To us today that death which was made to play the part of a friend to our dear brother comes as an enemy; it has robbed us of a friend. Perhaps, next to the immediate relatives and friends none will miss our brother more than I shall. Our friendship was very close. We have laboured together with much pleasure in the service of our beloved Lord. We never had a ruffle. We shall miss him at Chadwell- street, the magazine will miss him, ah I and the poor of the Lord’s people will miss him, for he was truly a friend of the poor; to how many such has it been his delight to minister as the Lord’s steward! We are not here to magnify the creature, and none more than himself would be ready to say, “Give God the glory.” The Lord comfort the heart of the dear bereaved widow, the family, and the Church, and sanctify to all this heavy, bereaving stroke.”

After the singing of Hymn No. 6,—

“Earth to earth” we lay to rest

All that’s mortal of our friend;

Happy is his soul, and blest,

Crowned with joys that never end,”

Pastor E. Marsh committed us all to God in prayer. We sang one verse of—“For ever with the Lord,” and brother Mitchell pronounced the benediction.

A funeral sermon was preached by the pastor at Chadwell-street on Lord’s-day evening, May 14th. to a full congregation from Isa. 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory.” It was a solemn and soul-stirring occasion not soon to be forgotten.

Earthen Vessel 1897:

Origin And Birth

My father, Charles Waters Banks, eldest son of Thomas Banks, builder, was born at Ashford, Kent, and my mother, Mary Burt, eldest-daughter of Charles Burt, builder, was born at Cranbrook, Kent, and the subject of this sketch first saw the light of day in this world, November 30, 1829, in Union-street, Canterbury, Kent, a city noted for its cathedral, numerous “churches,” Roman Catholic tendencies, and its general inhabitants as “being poor and proud,” which facts force upon the mind the words, “Who can bring a dead thing out of an unclean? NOT ONE!” (Job 14:4).

There is nothing to record about our infant days, except that we soon began to give unmistakable manifestations of a mischievous disposition, continually climbing and falling; so that through our infantile gymnastics, early in life we earned the name of “Falling John,” or “John the Faller,” which character we have maintained up to the present hour.

Our First Situation

Being in the providence of God removed to Birmingham, I was, in February, 1841, introduced to a Mr. Phillips, butcher, Livery-street (premises long since pulled down), in whose employ I remained about fifteen months. Mr. and Mrs. P. were remarkably kind to me; by them I was led to Sunday-school, where part of the day was devoted to, instructing the boys and girls in writing and simple arithmetic. Removing to London, I commenced working at the printing “profession,” in Chancery-lane, where I worked on Dr. Hawker’s Bible, setting up the text principally. From here I got work at Messrs. W. & R. Woodcocks, Brunswick-street, Hackney-road, where, on the 30th day of November, 1843, we printed the first number of the “Earthen Vessel”. From that time to the present few numbers have appeared but what we have had something to do with, and now in our latter days, till an editor can be found, the responsibility of compiling its contents has devolved upon ‘’J. W. B.”

We now proceed to give, by God’s help, a reason for the hope we have in God’s saving mercy. From my youngest days I was led to, the house of God, the “Round House,” King-street, Canterbury. No particular impression was made on the mind in those days except learning at the Sunday-school the hymn, “Here we suffer grief and pain,” a fact well known and experienced by many as well as your humble servant.

I moved on careless, unconcerned, and without any thought of, or desire after God, till between l6 and 17 years of age, when, one Sunday afternoon (as was my wont), I was walking along the Blue Anchor-road, Bermondsey, the part then known as the “Seven Islands” (the rendezvous of boys and girl’s seeking “pleasure”), when a young woman fell into the water, and was, as we thought, drowned. This brought such terror and alarm into the mind that I was compelled to give up this mode of spending the Sunday afternoon. For months following I went in fear and dread of meeting eternity unprepared; in walking along the street I thought the earth would open and everlasting perdition would be my fate—afraid to go to sleep lest I should wake up in hell. The language of Burnham expressed, at this time, the desire of the heart:—

“Did I a world possess, that world I’d now resign, 

To feel Thy pard’ning grace and victory over sin,

To find my God within my heart, 

And feel my every sin depart.”

After being some months in this state, while sitting in Crosby-row chapel, on a back seat in the gallery, dear old William Allen was preaching, and he quoted the words, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” Jer. 31:3). Like Bunyan, I lost my burden, and sang with Doddridge:—

“Oh happy day that fixed my choice 

On Thee, my Saviour and my God;

Well may this glowing heart rejoice,

And spread Thy wondrous love abroad.”

The enemy said it was all delusion, but the words came very forcibly and sweetly, “I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me in vain.”

Immediately upon this I applied for membership, was baptized by my beloved father in East-lane chapel, Walworth, and received into communion with the Church at Crosby-row.

We think it to be the greatest miracle ever wrought that one in every way so unworthy should be privileged to have a hope in the saving mercy of God. If we were to attempt to give a phrenological description of the head, we are sure it would present a sad picture, and as for the heart, that is better depicted by the prophet than we can shape words into proper form to describe, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9).

“Alas, from such a heart as mine, 

What can I bring Him forth?

My best is stained and dyed with sin, 

My all is nothing worth.”

We are grateful to the Lord God of Israel for the fact of being kept so many years looking to Him from whence cometh all our help.

There being no Sunday-school at Crosby-row, we were introduced to Kent-street Sunday-school, where we had a class of boys for some years, and here we spent many happy hours and days, under the superintendence of Mr. West, who for 60 years presided; we look back with pleasure upon the days spent among the poor, dejected, ragged children, and a staff of 50 hearty, united teachers and officers in Kent-street Sunday-school—the happiest days of our life.

Some readers might say, “You have not referred much to your late beloved father.” True, but this is not for want of love to his memory; limited space forbids. Suffice it to say, we kept close to him all through his life till he breathed his last, saw him well laid in the grave, and hope to be with him and our dearly beloved affectionate, glorified mother and other of our kindred in the “land of pure delight” when the time arrives for us to “gather up our feet in the bed,” and tune our lyre to the sweet song, “Unto Him that loved us and washed as from our sins in His own blood.” Here we have no continuing city; as pilgrims and sojourners we are always on the move. A little time ago we dwelt for a short while in the 103rd Psalm, but we have got back into the 51st, that has been our chief residence of late; occasionally we are to be found in the first part of Job 14. We hope our next move may be to—

“The land of pure delight, 

Where saints immortal reign, 

Infinite day excludes the night,

And pleasures banish pain.”


John Waters Banks (1829-1899) was a Strict and Particular Baptist editor and publisher. He stepped into the role of editor for the Earthen Vessel in 1893, after William Winter’s death. Four years earlier, he joined the church at Chadwell-street, Clerkenwell, where he was appointed a deacon.