John Box

The Life And Ministry Of John Box

Earthen Vessel 1902:

In Memoriam

Pastor John Box

Our highly-esteemed and deeply-beloved brother, Mr. John Box, fell asleep in Jesus in the early morning of Christmas-day, Dec. 25, 1901, after an illness extending over 12 months. Among the many offices he so well and ably filled was that of chairman of the trustees of this magazine. We give below a full account of the funeral service. The comprehensive address delivered by brother R. E. Sears, in the Chapel at Heaton-road, contains interesting information concerning the early days of our deceased brother, and will be read with deep interest. The portrait of Mr. Box, which we publish with the account, will, we are sure, be appreciated by our readers.

The 30th December will be remembered by many as the day on which was committed to the tomb the remains of a brother beloved—John Box. The funeral cortege left the house, 10, Knatchbull-road, at 11 o’clock, and wended its way to Heaton road Chapel—the first chapel in which our departed brother spoke in the name of the Master whom he loved and served so well. Here many friends were gathered from all parts, and when the service commenced the commodious building was filled with a sorrowing company of friends, gathered to express their esteem of the brother departed, and sympathy with the family bereaved.

After the singing of the hymn, “O God, our Help in ages past,” pastor G. W. Thomas read selected portions of the Scriptures from l Thess. 4, l Cor. 15, and Rev. 7, and Mr. S. Hutchinson led us sweetly in prayer, commending the family and Church to the care of our covenant-keeping God. The hymn, “Come, let us join our friends above,” was sung, after which brother R. E. Sears gave the address. He said,—

Beloved Brethren And Sisters—I offer no apology for occupying this position to-day. I never have offered apologies for occupying positions into which I have been called. I must, however, ask your sympathy, for I feel it a most difficult position to occupy just now, when there are a hundred brethren who would feel it a mournful privilege to say a word or two about beloved brother Box—not our late brother—no, he is still our brother, he will ever have a warm place in our hearts’ affection and memory. Heaven seems to us a little nearer, though some of us have lived long enough to follow many to the grave. I don’t think, however, anything outside my own family circle has bowed my spirit more than this. The loss is great, but there shines the star of hope. Once, I think only once, in the New Testament it says, “We are saved by hope.” Hope saves us now from breaking down completely under the weight of sorrow that we feel. Strange minglings we have! We are to “rejoice with those that rejoice, and weep with those that weep,” and we may carry the rejoicings beyond the confines of the tomb, and to-day lift up our voice in thanksgiving and praise as we think of the glory that surrounds the brother who has departed, leaving behind him this precious casket which contained the jewel, and which is to be reverently laid in the grave until the Master shall call for the body, as He has already called for the soul.

We are here to express our sympathy with the family in their loss—with the Church in the loss it has sustained, but we are here also to express our confidence in God—that is one of the duties of Christian sonship, to trust God amidst trying circumstances, and believe that He doeth all things well.

For the last quarter of a century the name of John Box has been a household word in that section of the Baptist denomination to which we feel it a privilege to belong. We naturally turn back, and think a little of the earlier days of our brother. Last evening, after my day’s work at “Providence” was done, I looked up a Gospel Herald for March, 1876, from which I will read a short extract:—

“The subject of our present sketch is the son of our respected brother Charles Box, who, for nearly half a century, has been known and loved as a sweet and savoury preacher of the Gospel of the grace of God.

“John Box was born in 1835. To the tender care and pious example of his parents he ascribes many indelible impressions received; nor can he remember the time when he was without a solemn regard for the things of God. It was his father’s practice, on his return, at the close of the Lord’s-day, from his ministerial labour at Enon Chapel, Woolwich, to question his son concerning the sermons he had heard at a place of worship near his home at Finsbury. This naturally induced him to become a most attentive hearer of the Word, as preached at Cumberland-street Chapel, Curtain-road, by Mr. Hugh Killen, and afterwards by the late Charles Smith, a plain and honest preacher of the Gospel.

“When but ten years old, it pleased the Holy Spirit at times to impress the mind of John Box so powerfully as to compel him to seek the retirement of his chamber, to pour out his heart before God and seek His mercy. On one occasion, during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, to which he remained as a spectator, he was powerfully affected by the opening lines of the hymn—“Sweet the moments, rich in blessing, Which before the cross I spend; “ and on another he received much encouragement from an address delivered at a prayer-meeting, from the words, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God.” In 1854 he joined the Church assembling for worship at Providence Chapel, Shoreditch, with which he remained in fellowship for three years.

“At the expiration of this period he removed to Camberwell, where he commenced business on his own account, and eventually he found a spiritual home at East-street, Walworth, under the pastorate of brother Alderson. In 1862 he was admitted into the fellowship of this Church. Four years afterwards he was chosen deacon, and continued for nine years to serve his brethren in that capacity, in a way that greatly endeared him to all with whom he was associated.

“As is often the case, our beloved brother Box had many inward exercises respecting the work of the ministry before the way was open for him to exercise his gift. A solemn fear of running unsent caused him to stifle his desires to ‘tell to sinners round what a dear Saviour he had found,’ and his latent emotions were long known only to God and his own soul.

“On a certain Sabbath afternoon, in the winter of 1871, Mr. Alderson being too unwell to take a promised service at the Camberwell Asylum, our brother was constrained to take the service, and his text was John 1:14.”

But our brother’s first sermon in a chapel was on the first Lord’s-day evening, in 1872, in Heaton-road Chapel, Peckham. How remarkable that in the very place where our brother began his ministry, there the funeral service is being held! Our brother preached with much acceptance in various places. Providence guided his steps to “Soho;” and on Tuesday, November 30th, 1875, he was publicly recognised as the pastor of the Church. Our brother had his wish granted. Some of his wishes were not met, but some have been fully met. I know what our brother said to me several times. He desired to die pastor of the Church at Soho, and I am glad that God was pleased to indulge him in that. How he loved Soho only his own people know. He loved Soho, and whatever may be said, and whatever may be done, Soho Chapel will be his monument. There may have been differences of opinion as to the expenditure of so much money in such a neighbourhood, but our brother felt called of God to erect a chapel that would be a credit to the denomination on freehold land in the neighbourhood of old Soho, and what he considered to be the call of God be was faithful to. He believed that be was called to erect that structure, and he patiently plodded on. He did not see it free from debt, but the chapel will ever remind us of his perseverance.

We think of our brother as the faithful pastor and lover of God’s truth. With his natural genial disposition and lovable nature, there must have been temptations to depart a little here and there, but he was faithful to the principles which God instilled into his mind. A faithful pastor, an honest exponent of God’s truth, and he felt he could die on the truths he had preached, and he could go to heaven and sing of sovereign grace better than he could sing on earth.

We are here to-day to honour the memory of our beloved brother Box, especially in connection with the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches—associated with that body from the first, though not as its secretary. Soon, however, he was in office, and for more than a quarter of a century our brother filled the office of secretary, and what a secretary! Many and many a time we have heard the remark that our brother Box was a born secretary. How he lived, not only for the Church at Soho, but for the Churches! How his desire was to serve them to the utmost of his ability, painstaking to a great degree, conscientious in all he did! He did his work well, not in a half-hearted way. It was the Master’s service, and he believed that what was done for Him should be done well. The name of John Box will be associated with the Association as long as the world shall last. Many will say in the days that are to come, What a remarkable man was John Box! There have been times when the Churches have had to thank God for his loving disposition. In the early days of the Association there was some little friction; but our beloved brother always had the oil of love with him, and many a friction has been removed by his kind and loving words.

He lived to see all that pass away, and the Association firmly established, and oh, how the heart of our beloved brother rejoiced therein! He was one of the trustees, and so died in harness in connection with the Association.

We are here to honour our brother also for his position as president of the Strict Baptist Mission. Here again our brother died in harness. One of the most beautiful letters I ever read was penned by him after the annual meeting in October. I wrote him and told him he was reelected. His reply shows no sign of brain trouble. His heart was full of joy at his brethren’s regard for him. God only knows what his position as president has cost him! He was true and faithfnl to his convictions; in that, though some may have differed from him, all right- minded men will agree.

He was also one of the vice-presidents of the Ministers’ Association.

Our brother has gone. He loved God, He loved the Saviour, and oh, how many times he must have felt the sweetness of those words, “Sweet the moments rich in blessings.” That hymn must have been exceedingly precious to him all through his life and ministry. We are here to speak of the grace of God, and magnify it. The works of our brother do follow him. The works of Christ, our Forerunner went before. Our brother entered heaven as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ and his works follow him. May we learn from our dear brother to do what we have to do in a right spirit. How beautiful the spirit of our brother Box! He was an honour to any society into which he was introduced.

He is happy—we are sad—yet happy to think of his happiness, and so, beloved brethren, before we go to the grave, I picture a little scene before my mind’s eye. Our beloved sister, Mrs. Box, for whom we have the deepest sympathy, and commend her to the Master, she lays her garland upon this casket, which contains the mortal remains of our brother, saying, ”He was a good husband to me.” The sons and daughters come and lay their garland on the coffin; they have lost a good father. What wise counsel he must have given them, what prayers they must have heard in that home, what counsel and teaching! May the voice of the Father be followed by the voice of the Spirit in each heart. Yes, they have lost a beloved father. The Church at Soho— honourable, upright, I never knew a case of more thorough devotedness to the pastor than that of the Church at Soho during the last twelve months—the Church comes and lays its garland upon the coffin, and says, “We have lost a beloved pastor.” The Association comes to lay its tribute—and every Church loved him—the members loved him. No one, I am sure, belonging to any one of the Churches connected with our Association—I say it advisedly and soberly—I don’t believe there is one man who can say John Box ever said an unkind word to him. The Association reveres his memory, and lay its tribute of affection on his coffin. The “Mission” comes to lay its tribute. There are brethren who differed from him as to mode of procedure, and so on, but I think most are united to-day, and clasp hands once more, and lay a garland on his casket. The Aged Pilgrims’ Friend Society comes with its garland, for he has always been its staunch friend, and the Ministers’ Association brings its garland. Yea, the world honours John Box for his Christian courtesy and consistency.

Above all, I hear a voice from heaven saying, “Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.” Our brother rests from his labours—a labourer indeed, no loiterer; he never scamped his work. The Master Himself comes to-day to lay His garland (forgive the expression), “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

Many of those present then followed to the grave, where others were awaiting the arrival of the funeral. With deep emotion the hymn, “For ever with the Lord,” was sung, and pastor E. Mitchell gave a solemn and suitable address. He said:—

Beloved Brethren And Dear Friends,—It would be little if any short of a crime for me to keep you standing here on the wet grass for any length of time. Yet we cannot lay the remains of our beloved brother Box to rest without a few words. It is not our custom to eulogise the creature, but we glorify God in our dear departed brother. When I think of John Box straightway the picture of Barnabas arises before my mind.

His portrait is thus drawn for us in Holy Writ: “He was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith.” Our brother was emphatically a “good man,” such an one in his measure as was Barnabas. To us he was eminently “a brother beloved.’’

We think that in spirit he resembled the beloved disciple whose name-sake he was. God made him of a finer texture naturally than some of us have been made of. We are at best but as rough homespun, but his was a finer and more sensitive nature. God made him naturally a gentleman, and in his early life implanted His grace within him, and so made him a true “Christian gentleman”—the highest type of man. I do but voice your feelings, brethren, when I say that we not only loved him, but we were proud of him as a representative of our Churches and Association. We glorify God in him. A gentleman in manners, a saint in spirit, a brother in sympathy, and ever wise in counsel, was our dear brother. David’s lament over Jonathan rises to our lips: “We are distressed for thee our brother John: very pleasant hast thou been unto us.”

He was not only a brother beloved, but also “a faithful minister of the Lord.” When the call to open service came to our brother, and became unmistakable in his soul, he did not consult with flesh and blood, but went forth in his Master’s service, at some considerable material loss. He knew the truth of God experimentally, preached it intelligently in the spirit of love, and abode unswervingly by it to the end. “He fought the good fight, he has finished his course, he kept the faith,” and will receive the crown of righteousness from the hand of his beloved Lord in that day.

In labours he was more abundant, for he was not only the faithful and laborious pastor to the Church at Soho, but his name and praise are in all the Churches whom he delighted to serve on special occasions. It were difficult if not impossible to say how much the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches owes to his labours as its devoted chief and honorary secretary for so many years. The Strict Baptist Mission also took a large toll from him. Time and strength were ungrudingly and unstintedly bestowed upon it. Indeed it will not be too much to say that his arduous labours, and anxiety in the cause of the Lord, ultimately broke down his naturally fine constitution, and brought him to his end years earlier than otherwise might have been the case.

We lay his mortal remains to rest. The labourer’s toil is over; the Christian warrior has obtained the victory; the traveller’s journey is ended; the exile has returned to his own country; the child has been welcomed to his Father’s home. Thy spirit, brother, is with thy Saviour; ’tis but the casket we lay to rest. Death may seem to have conquered, but he could not touch thy real life, and his dominion over thy body shall soon be broken. We commit these mortal remains to the keeping of the grave in sure and certain hope of the resurrection of eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Three verses of the hymn, commencing “Give me the wings of faith to rise,” were then sung, and prayer by brother E. Mitchell, in which he commended the widow and family to the mercy of the Lord, followed by the Benediction, brought the impressive services to a close.

The Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches was represented by Messrs. Newman Fromow, Cornwell, and Mutimer; the Strict Baptist Mission by Messrs. Abbott, Millwood, and J. E. Flegg; and Mr. W. J. Styles attended as representing the London Baptist Board. Among those present were pastors T. Jones (New Cross), E. White (Woolwich), J. Parnell (Stepney), E. Marsh (Stratford), O. S. Dolbey (Surrey Tabernacle), H. T. Chilvers (Keppel-street), A. Steele (Bermondsey), E. Beecher (Croydon), and F. Fells (Highbury).—J. E. Flegg.

A funeral sermon was preached by Mr. W. J. Styles, at Soho Chapel, on the Lord’s-day following the funeral, and sympathetic allusion to Mr. Box’s death were made from many pulpits on the same date.

John Box (1835-1901) was a distinguished Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He served many roles during his ministry, including that of Pastor over the church at Soho, Chairman of the trustees for the Earthen Vessel, Vice-President of the Ministers’ Association, President of the Strict Baptist Mission and Secretary of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches.