Earthen Vessel 1896:
The Late Mr. Adam Dalton
“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever?” Both No and Yes, says feeling and affection, struggling for the mastery. And while contemplating the attenuated frame of our old friend, we felt glad that his physical sufferings were so nearly ended, and the glory world so nearly reached. We must have talked hundreds of times together of “What must it be to be there?” Our brother now knows, while we for a while must still deal with the ever-increasing conflict of what is to be here.
Brother Dalton was born at the village of Shorne, about midway between Gravesend and Rochester. The country districts at that time were far more than now under the domination of the squire and the parson, both of whom were more at home in the saddle than in pulpit or pew. Religious training consisted in learning to take off the cap when the parson or his daughters happened to pass, and, in general, to learn the catechism and “do your duty in that state of life in which it had pleased God to call you.”
The Wesleyans, however, so often the pioneers of evangelical energy, had a footing at Shorne, and to them our brother Dalton owed some of his first and most powerful struggles of conscience. An elder brother lost his life as the consequence of a drunken quarel, and this solemn circumstance was the means of our friend’s awakening. He devoured eagerly the Wesleyan theology of salvation by works. He read the life of Mr. Fletcher, of Madeley, who, it was affirmed, had become perfect; and young Adam, who did not know the strength of old Adam, resolved to be perfect too. No one went far enough or fast enough to satisfy him. He might have been seen bareheaded, kneeling down in the middle of a dusty road, praying to be made quite perfect.
But Wesleyism and perfection were destined both to be shattered to the winds at a stroke. On a fine and sultry day in July, our brother, being without employment, accepted the offer from a friend of a ride into Gravesend. This friend was busy delivering his wares at a greengrocer’s shop in the town. Another friend, passing by, saw Mr. Dalton sitting down outside the shop, and asked him to come to the anniversary services, at that moment being held at Zoar Chapel. He indignantly refused, going so far as to say, “I would rather be damned than be saved by such a God as you believe in.” Oh, if God were to take us at our word sometimes, where should we have been long since?
But to proceed. The grower having finished his business, they started for home, and had nearly reached it, when the man discovered he had brought away the key of his customer’s cellar, and prevailed upon brother Dalton to tramp back again to Gravesend to return it. Anyone who knows the Wrotham road as we do, its hills and bottoms, knows what that means. By this time the sun was at its greatest power, and when our friend had returned the key, he longed for a cool place to sit down in. So, recollecting the anniversary, he went up to the chapel, and sat down on tho gas-meter box in the lobby, still determined not to go in. But Mr. T. Stringer, the afternoon preacher, had remarkable lungs, and a most unmitigated hatred of Wesleyism, which appeared in most of his sermons.
The text was Isa. 5:10,11: “So shall My word be; it shall not return unto Me void.” &c. Presently he went off as usual: “There are some people in the world called Wesleyans.” Brother Dalton was now all attention. “Their idea is,” continued Mr. Stringer, “that the Word—the personal Word—did return home to heaven void: that He advanced to the throne, and said, ‘Father, I have obeyed Thy command—have been down into yonder world; I have lived Thy life, shown Thy love, done Thy work, suffered, bled, died; but whether anything will ever come of it or not, I am sure I cannot tell—it all depends upon them, and they are not to be depended upon.’ There, that’s Wesleyism,” and said Mr. Dalton, “So it is, and no more of it for me.”
From that moment until his last expiring breath our brother was a staunch free-grace man. But his large heart would never go into a sectarian casket; and so while a firm “Standard” man as to the distinctive tenet of that body he was yet one of the truest and most loving friends of the writer, who is not.
Our brother was soon after this baptized by the then most honoured minister of the county, Mr. Pope, of Meopham, close to whose ashes his own are now deposited. Affliction, as deep and as trying as that which sent Naomi down to Moab, sent brother Dalton into Gravesend, where he joined Zoar Chapel. After a few years he was called to the deacon’s office. It was a memorable night. Mr. Stringer had much wished the choice to faII upon a friend who need not now be mentioned. He has finished his course long years since: peace be with him. But the people chose Mr. Dalton, upon which the gentleman aforesaid arose, seized his hat and his handsome walking-stick, and marched out, exclaiming, “You have chosen a man for a deacon that is not worth a penny!” And this was literally true. That night brother Dalton had not one penny in the world.
But brother Dalton made an admirable deacon for all that. When Zoar was without a pastor, he was a father to it; and during the pastorate of the beloved Thomas Wall, and subsequently of the writer, he discharged his office, always fearlessly, honestly, and as a godly man should do, and was ever the pastor’s assiduous and diligent friend.
Our brother was exercised about the ministry soon after his baptism. His first attempt, however, was not made until he had come to Gravesend, when, on one occasion, Mr. Stringer prevailed upon him to go over to Grays, in Essex, to act as substitute for him. This was, of course, many years before the present cause at Grays existed, or, it may be, any of its members were born. He did so, and was soon in request in many places, asking no remuneration, and receiving very little. At length, after the decease of good old John Neville, the friends at Sutton-at-Hone prevailed upon him to become their pastor, and a few of us can remember the solemn and delightful day when he was set apart for the work there. It does not seem so very long ago, yet the honoured names of W. K. Dexter, J. S. Anderson, Isaac Lingley, and others who were there, are now but monumental.
But brother Dalton clearly had the evangelistic gift rather than the pastoral, and, what is very rare, had sense enough to see it. After a few years, therefore, during which he made many friends, and lost none, he felt constrained to resign, and to devote himself once more to itinerating, and so continued to within a week or two of his call to the better land.
We buried him at Meopham chapel-ground on Tuesday, April 21, in the presence of a large number of friends old and young. Brethren E. Wood (Ryarsh) and I. C. Johnson (Gravesend), formerly co-deacons at Zoar, respectively took devotional services, the writer reading the Scriptures and brother C. Cornwell, of Brixton, delivering a suitable and solemn address. The grave being reached, a final address was delivered by the writer, and a thirty years’ loving friendship was suspended, until we meet again where such scenes are happily known no more.
The Lord send us as many more friends as seems good to Him and good for us; but we are too old now to make any more such historical associations as that of dear old Adam Dalton. The partner of most of his vicissitudes survives to mourn her loss, but an affectionate and godly son is spared to be what earthly comfort and support one mortal can be to another. May the “Immortal” be the sure support of both.
George W. Shepherd
The Late Adam Dalton
It is needless to say much in reference to our departed brother Dalton, whose portrait we give this month, as we inserted in our June number a concise account of his origin, work, and his going home [see above]. It was a pleasure to have the acquaintance of Adam Dalton; he was straight-forward, honest, unpretending, yet ever ready to run with the good news of salvation wherever He who had called Him by His grace had a message for him to take. “Old Adam,” as our brother Isaac Ballard so frequently, in his familiar way, called him, was an experimental preacher, and there was frequently a savour and unction about his utterances. He is gone to his long and blissful home, but the Churches of truth in Kent and Essex, as well as friends at Hill-street, Dorset-square, Keppel-street, and numerous other places, together with his family, will miss his cheerful countenance and genial disposition. “He is not dead, but sleepeth.”
Adam Dalton (?-1896) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed deacon of the church meeting at Zoar Chapel, Gravesend. After receiving a call to preach, he filled the office of pastor for a short time over the church meeting at Sutton-at-Hone. However, recognizing his calling to be more aligned with that of Evangelist than Pastor, he resigned his office and for the remainder of his life served as an itinerate preacher.