Earthen Vessel 1893:
Mr. B. T. Dale, Of Bermondsey
Call By Grace
Dear Brother,—According to your request, I send you a few particulars of my life. I was born on March 3rd, 1853, and as the Scriptures affirm, and which I fully believe, born in sin, as my after-life goes to prove, although I thank God I was never left to enter into any open sin which the world could point to with the finger of scorn. Yet I can say with the Psalmist, “My sin or mine iniquities are great,” and have more than once felt the truth of John Bradford’s words when he saw a man walking up to the gallows, “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God.” Twice in the course of my boyhood have I been preserved from death, which caused the thought of eternity to rise in my mind more than once in a very solemn manner, but these things were soon choked by thoughts of pleasure. My parents were very poor, and I being the eldest son, now about nine or ten years of age, had to assist in earning something towards our support, and might have been seen vending newspapers round City-road, Shepherdess-walk, and surrounding neighbourhood, Sundays and week-days; but about this time the Lord saw fit to lay me aside with dropsy, and to remove my only sister by death; my mother also was in bed by my side, and my father came home exhausted and weak, and there we lay almost without a friend to help. I have heard my mother say that she vowed to the Lord that if He restored her she would serve Him. It pleased the Lord to restore us all except my only sister, whom, as I have just stated, died; and as soon as we were recovered my parents, according to their vow, sought for a place to hear the Word, but being ignorant of true religion, first went to hear such men as W. Carter and R. Weaver. Not finding anything there they felt to want, they went to hear a Mr. Searle, of Shaftesbury-court, Aldersgate-street. There they met with a member of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, and he was going to move to New Cross. This was about the year 1864. We also moved to New Cross, and now sought again for a place to hear the Gospel. Sometimes we journeyed to our good brother Anderson’s, but eventually found out a Mr. Butterfield, in Rotherhithe, where, in a few months, my father was met by the Lord, and soon after my mother was called by the Lord, they both cast in their lot with the people of God there under the pastoral care of Mr. J. Butterfield. About this time I, being about twelve years of age, was sitting in the Sunday-school, when the superintendent (Mr. Sly) gave an address from the words, “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow.” (Lam. 1:12). I cannot describe my feelings as I sat listening to him, my eyes streaming with tears, and my heart feeling as though it would break as he (the superintendent) shewed the cause of this sorrow. I felt that I was truly a dreadful sinner, and felt to need pardon, but knew not as yet where or how pardon was to be obtained. Soon after this Mr. B. preached from the words, “For this child I prayed,” from which I received a little comfort; and now began my trials and heartfelt exercises, sometimes hoping I was among God’s people, and at other times fearing I was not. These exercises lasted for about ten months. On none occasion my father was led out in prayer on my behalf more especially. One expression I well remember; it was “God bless the boy.” This was more than I could endure. It fairly broke me down, but still I tried to keep my exercises to myself fearing I might after all be wrong; but one Sunday morning, going along the Deptford Lower-road, my mother said to me, “My son I have something to say to you.” I answered, “Mother, say on,” and she told me all that was in my heart, how she was convinced of the work of God in my soul, and I was obliged to confess and say, “It is even so,” and we wept together in the road. That morning I was introduced to Mr. B., and in due time became a member of that Church. I shall never forget the evening I had to appear before the Church. I walked from Holborn Viaduct with my father to the chapel in Deptford-road without opening my mouth, but with heart uplifted to God to help me tell the truth. I was helped greatly in speaking my experience, and was received, and remained a member until the chapel was sold.
Recognition Of Mr. B. T. Dale, At Lynton-road, Bermondsey
Tuesday, Sept. 5, will long be remembered by the church worshipping at this place, and we most earnestly pray this interesting and auspicious occasion may be followed with showers of blessing. It is a long day since Lynton-road presented such a cheerful appearance. Lovers of the truth gathered from all parts to wish the Church and pastor God speed. This is just as it should be. Before the time fore commencing the service friends began to arrive from far and near, with expressions of joy and gladness on their countenance; hoping, longing, praying in their heart for God’s blessing to rest on the day’s proceedings. There was no attempt at display on the part of the officials, each and all quietly setting down in simple faith and humble assurance in the eighty-fourth Psalm.
At 3:30 Mr. Holden entered the pulpit, and Mr. Dale, the pastor-elect, as precentor, announced hymn 164, Denham’s—
“Jesus, Thy saints assemble here
Thy power and goodness to declare;
O may these happy seasons prove
That we have known redeeming love.”
One of the officials in the congregation unostentatiously raised the tune, and the congregation caught the strain, and a volume of praise and prayer couched in this sweet hymn of Swaine’s rose, as Stennet says, “Like grateful incense to the skies.” As the service commenced so it went on to the close, at the orthodox hour of nine o’clock, a commendable time. Certainly there was the interval for tea (provided in the spacious school-room under the chapel), which afforded an opportunity for Christian greeting and salutation, sincerely reciprocal. The Church here has long been in the low-lands; darkness and almost death had enveloped the Church, but there were “Beams of daybreak” and this elioited from all present songs of adoration and praise. But we must proceed with the report without giving further expression to the pleasure we felt in being present.
At the close of the hymn, sung through after the prevailing fashion, Mr. Holden, the afternoon preacher, read from the second chapter of “The Acts of the Apostles,” and fervently sought the Lord’s presence and blessing on the services of the day. After hymn 168 (Denham), Mr, Holden proceeded to state the nature and order of a Gospel Church, which, for its excellence, simplicity, scriptural truthfulness, straightforward statement, and comprehensiveness, we greatly admire, and which will be found in substance (See Article, “The Nature And Order Of A New Testament Church”). Hymn 749—
“Would you the church of God survey,
Its beauty, strength, and harmony?
Then Christ Emmanuel see!
Where all perfections in Him meet,
There is the Church of God complete,
The sum of all is He.”
Sweetly rolled out to “Praise,” brought the afternoon service to a close. At the evening meeting Mr. E. Beecher presided, and gave out hymn 793, read a portion of Scripture, and Mr. W. Osmond prayed for God’s blessing on the sacred and interesting occasion. The chairman expressed sorry at the cause of brother Cornwell’s absence, hoped the Lord would soon restore him, and also expressed gratitude to the Lord in guiding the church to choose a pastor, and constraining brother Dale to accept the same, and asked Mr. Dale to give his call by grace (see above), and his call to the ministry.
Call To The Ministry
Mr. Dale said: I always felt in my earlier days I should like to be a minister, although I neither understood the duties of the anxieties attending that position. When about 18 years of age, I was asked to speak to a company of young men. Being carried away with the though, I consented, and when the time came I stood up and gave out my text, 1 Cor 15:58, and when I read my text I had not a word to say, and simply said, “Excuse me, friends, I have nothing to say,” and sat down covered with shame and confusion. I felt this so severely that I vowed I would never attempt to speak in the name of the Lord any more, and the burning desire to preach which I once had had nearly expired, but still it would now and then rise, and I though again and again of my failure and vow, which seemed to tell me if I was a child of God I certainly was never meant for a preacher of the gospel. This went on for som two or three yeas, when I was called upon to give an address in the Sabbath-school. It was a long time before I consented; at last I did, and this time I cautiously and prayerfully stood up to speak from the words, “nothing but leaves,” and as I tried to describe a fruitless professor I trembled lest I should be found one of them. But the dear Lord broke in with such peace that I was helped and enabled to feel that at least I had had joys the world could not boast of; I had felt my heart go out in love to Jesus Christ, yea, rather that Jesus Christ was all in all to me. Still for years I labored under my felt unworthiness to minister to God’s saints. About this time I was led to cast my with Mr. Meeres, of New Church-street, Bermondsey, and sweet have been the seasons in listening to the Word from his lips. After I had been there some time my old feeling returned, and I was greatly exercised about it. Passing across the gallery on one occasion I was met with these words, “I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shaIt say.” Not knowing quite what to think of them, when, one Sunday morning, much to my surprise, I received a message from our brother Vincent asking me to go to St. Albans for him, as he was too ill to go. I went praying the whole of the way that I might not be put to confusion. The Lord blessed me with a door of utterance, and it was felt by some to be a good time. But I did not feel quite satisfied yet about my call to the ministry. On receiving another application to supply the pulpit, I was led out most earnestly in prayer that the Lord would assure me whether I was to speak or keep silent, and the words already quoted sounded again, “I will be with thy mouth,” and as I feelingly told the Lord my weakness and unfitness, I had to the following words with great power, “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.” These words were followed up with, “Thou wilt ordain peace for us, for Thou hast wrought all our work in us.” With these words I went forward, and by the help and in the strength of the Lord I have continued, and with the apostle Paul feel, “Having obtained help of God, I continue until this day.”
Mr. Beecher expressed satisfaction at the statements made by Mr. Dale, and of his doctrinal believe, and called upon Mr. Knott to state on behalf of the church, the leadings of providence in inviting Mr. Dale to the pastorate.
Mr. Knott, after referring to the absence of brother Cornwell through severe indisposition, and expressing a hope that the Lord will speedily restore him to his much loved work, said it was now nearly 11 years since the Lord in His inscrutable wisdom saw fit to remove from the church their much loved pastor. Mr. Lawrence, since which time up to 1887 the church had supplies, whose testimony from time to time was owned and blessed, notwithstanding which the church and congregation gradually declined in numbers till, in 1887, Mr. Ward served the church statedly for a short time; but the Lord not blessing the Word, recourse was again had to supplies, but up to the end of 1889 things seemed to get worse and worse, and it really seemed as though the doors would have to be closed, and the speaker will remembers walking across Blackheath with an esteemed colleague, talking over the gloomy state of affairs and what would be the end of it, till there seemed no other resource left but to “cry unto the Lord,” and He who has always heard the cry of His children, was faithful to His promise still, for, as it afterwards appeared, a sowing time had been going on, and the ministry of brethren Bush, Carr, and Rundell, and last but not least, that of our good brother and colleague, Mr. Blackman, had been owned and blessed by the Lord. And just when it seemed to us at the darkest point, one dear sister, whose heart had long pined for a knowledge of her interest in a precious Christ, was set at happy liberty and became desirous of telling to the Church what the Lord had done for her never-dying soul. On announcing this, others were led by the Lord to do like-wise, so that in the year 1890 nine were baptized and added to the Church, our good friend and brother Mr. Bush kindly leading them down into the water. Again in 1891 our brother had the happiness of baptizing eight, and also of baptizing again in the early part of 1892. Notwithstanding the Lord was blessing us with supplies, we yet felt more and more our need of a settled ministry, and on June 11, 1891, instead of our usual preaching service, a special prayer-meeting was held to ask the Lord, if His gracious will, to send us an under-shepherd. No immediate result followed this service, but we were kept waiting and watching. In October of that year Mr. Dale was mentioned to the speaker, who at once wrote asking him to supply one Thursday evening, but at that time Mr. Dale was not able to leave business sufficiently early to get to chapel in time for the commencing of the service, and therefore declined. A little later on, however, things altered, and Mr. Dale found himself in a position to come one Thursday evening, when the Lord so blessed his testimony that the friends wished to hear him again. Again his testimony was blessed, and he was asked for many Thursday evenings during the ensuing year, during which time his testimony seemed to be made a comfort to the tried and tempted of the Lord’s people, as also as a word of encouragement to seeking souls. A conference as to a settled pastor took place between the deacons and all the male members of the church on Sept. 5, 1891, when it was evidently the feeling of nearly everyone present that Mr. Dale should be asked to supply with a view to the pastorate, and this was finally done at a special Church meeting, held Oct. 10th, 1892, the church having heard him preach between 30 and 40 times. He commenced his six months’ labour on Jan. 1st of the present year, and so acceptable was his ministry made that at a Church meeting held June 26th, he was unanimously elected to the pastorate, the vote being taken by ballot, as stipulated in the trust deed. Before this church meeting he had preached to the church and congregation over 100 times, besides conducting the Monday evening prayer meetings for six months. Thus the scriptural injunction of laying hands suddenly on no man had been carried out. The desire of the deacons was that the Lord would continue to make the Word a blessing, that the union would be a lasting one, one which should be to the honour and glory of God, and be blessed to the welfare of many souls, and that the church may be handed down to future generations as one that stands out boldly for the truth of God, and that the grand and glorious doctrines of distinguishing grace which have been held by the church since its formation in 1813 may ever be maintained within its walls.
The chairman expressed appreciation of Mr. Knott’s comprehensive reply, and asked the members of the church present to rise and hold up their right hand to ratify the choice, after which Mr. Beecher joined the hands of the pastor and brother Blackman, deacon (representing the church), and declared the union to be consummated in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, declaring, “What God hath joined together let no man put asunder,” concluding with a very solemn and impressive prayer.
Mr. Myerson followed with a brief address to the pastor, and Messrs. Bush, Carr, and Rundell spoke on the privileges and obligations of the church and congregation.
The body of the chapel was quite full, and a great many in the gallery, from Surrey Tabernacle, Chadwell-street, Snodland, Brixton, Camden-town, Lime-house, Norbiton, &c., among whom we noticed Messrs. Arnold Boulden, Bennett, Burbridge, J. Taylor, J. Wheeler, and others. The Lord prosper the church at Lynton-road, prays—John Waters Banks.