Charles Masterson

The Life And Ministry Of Charles Masterson

Earthen Vessel 1893:

The Late Charles Masterson, Of Brighton

A Brief Memoir, By Philip Reynolds

It is with a feeling of pain that those words, “the late,” are penned. It is, alas! too true. Charles Masterson is no more. Stay! that is not exactly correct. Charles Masterson is alive for evermore. The goodly tabernacle has been suddenly shaken down, but its fall has not ruined its late resident. Absent from the body, he is present with the Lord.

Our beloved brother began his natural life in the parish of Laxfield Suffolk, in the year 1846. He was, therefore, still in the prime of life when stricken with his last illness, being only forty-seven when the Master called him home. The Lord had need of him.

How many of God’s ministering servants have need to bless Him for godly parents. The subject of this brief sketch ever cherished a sacred memory of his dear mother. It was her habit to talk almost daily to her children of the love of Jesus, and also of the intense affection of the martyrs, who would rather die than give up their Lord. This talk made Charles burn with a kind of affection towards Christ and His people, and of indignation towards His enemies. Between the age of thirteen and fourteen, however, he became very careless and indifferent about attending the means of grace; and, although preserved from launching into great iniquity, he wandered from the path of rectitude. This gave his friends, and especially his dear mother, great distress of mind. But, through sovereign grace, he was not permitted to remain long in this state of open revolt against, God and His ways.

The Lord has varied means of bringing sinners to Himself. In Charles Masterson’s case, the fact of attempting to do what he was not spiritually fitted for was blessed by the Holy Ghost to his conversion. He was asked to take a class in Sunday-school, and for some little time refused, but at last consented. He says, “I shall ever have cause to bless God that I was led to do so; for it was while there that serious thoughts concerning my spiritual and eternal condition were produced. I became convinced of my sins, and, with a broken and bleeding heart, was enabled to cast myself upon the merits of Christ for life and salvation. “Bunyan’s Visions of Heaven and Hell,” coming into his hands about this time, greatly deepened his sense of sin. Although he had no long law-work, it was yet deep enough to create a solemn concern in his mind. He had gone so far as to hate the doctrines of distinguishing grace, which were so precious to his dear mother. Let us have his own words concerning the glorious change which came to him:—”One evening, in 1860, as I sat by the fireside, thinking out my state and wondering what my end would be, all in a moment, like lightning, a ray of divine light darted into my soul. Oh, what feelings were at once produced! My chains had fallen off from me; darkness, ignorance, prejudice, and all the feelings attendant upon conviction of sin, had gone, and a sweet sense of Divine forgiveness was communicated. After this marvelous change, the truth and nothing but the truth in Jesus became exceeding precious to me, more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold.”

At the time this spiritual blessing came to him, he was a teacher in a Church of England Sunday-school; but he was shortly constrained to leave, and seek spiritual food and instruction elsewhere. At the Baptist Meeting-house, Toning-street, Lowestoft, he found the food his soul craved, under the faithful ministry of the pastor, Mr. Dunn. Here, on the Lord’s-day, April 7th, 1861, in his fifteenth year, he was publicly immersed in the name of the Sacred Trinity, and the following month was received as a member of the Church. For some time the young disciple continued in a state of holy joy and delight, not thinking that he should ever feel miserable again; but, in common with the rest of the Lord’s family, he soon found a warfare begin between the old and new nature, which only terminated with his death.

It is said that a real poet is born, not made. The saying applies to a true Gospel minister. Those who have proved themselves to be true preachers, stamped with Divine approval, have most of them evidenced in very early years a longing for the sacred exercise of preaching. When quite a child, Charles Masterson attended missionary meetings, and had his soul so stirred within him, that he vehemently desired to become a preacher of the Gospel to the heathen. The Master, however, had other work for him. In the beginning of 1863, when he was in his seventeenth year, he was invited to conduct a prayer-meeting at Pakefield, a village about a mile from Lowestoft. While reading the Scripture, he was led to address a word of exhortation to the people. He was requested to continue his visits. This he did; and, on one occasion, ventured to take a text, and attempt to sermonise. His first text was illustrative of his character, and was also a great solace to him in after times. The words were, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” He was helped to speak with liberty, and the congregation heard with profit. At this little village of Pakefield he was enabled to minister the word of life for upwards of two years, and not without signs of usefulness both in the conversion of sinners and the edification of believers. As the result of his labours, a band of believers was formed, which, keeping together, afterwards erected a neat little chapel.

When it became known that the Lord had opened Charles Masterson’s mouth, the saintly Taylor, of Pulham-St.-Mary, gave him much encouragement, and helped him greatly in procuring suitable books for study. He was soon engaged preaching at various places, such as Carlton Rode, Norwich, Yarmouth, Shelfanger, Fressingfield, Bungay, Pulham, Halesworth, and Hoxne. The last named place he visited for the first time in July, 1865, when he preached from the words. “Being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” After one more visit to Hoxne, he accepted an invite to labour among the people for three months. After this, he accepted a twelve months’ call, with a view to the pastorate. Very soon he was exercised as to how he was to subsist, since the people could only raise him £40 a year. It was now that the first text he ever preached from proved its value as a solace; and its truth was proved, too, for help was sent from other quarters, so that he never wanted.

At Hoxne our brother laboured for over five years, with considerable success. From a membership of only fifteen, the church increased to eighty-four, chiefly by baptism, while the debt on the building was almost obliterated, and various additions made to the structure. Six preaching stations and a flourishing Sunday-school were established.

The second Lord’s-day in November, 1870, was a memorable day for Charles Masterson, since it was the first time he occupied the pulpit of Little Alie-street Chapel, London. The pulpit of this honoured sanctuary had for many years been filled by that faithful and savory man of God, Philip Dickerson. He was still alive, but was happy to resign, and serve as a deacon, in order that the ministry might be carried on by a younger and more energetic man. To this sphere of labour our brother Masterson received a unanimous call. His recognition services were held on Thursday, May 11th, 1871. All those ministers who took a prominent part in that service have gone home to glory, namely, Messrs. Anderson, Collins, and Milner. For eleven and a half years he laboured at Alie-street, beloved by all. It was in the latter part of his term of service at Alie-street that the writer first met him and found him a hearty and genuine friend.

It is not necessary that we should attempt to guage the influence of his ministry, since many who read these lines, and who still remain at Alie-street, can do that much better than a comparative stranger. Nor are we able to state why he left London; but, doubtless, he felt that the call to Brighton was a Divine call. This we are glad to record, that our brother ever had some of his best friends in London, and could always depend upon a hearty welcome at Alie-street, from both the present pastor and the people.

The early part of his ministry at Brighton was fairly successful, but the last two or three years were clouded; and, doubtless, our dear brother worked with a great strain at his heart. Very few understand the trials of the ministry, the constant strain upon brain and nervous system. It is hard when everything connected with the Church is most peaceful, but it is increased a thousandfold when church unity is impaired.

His life ended peacefully; for he literally fell asleep. The Saturday of his life came, and he gladly went to rest, to wake up in the eternal Sabbath. There are no “last words” to record, for he did not know he was dying, but went over dry-shod.

A faithful servant of Christ has gone; a devoted adherent to New Testament doctrine and practice has passed away. We thank God for him, and pray that the Divine Comforter may solace his widow and children, and also support the dear aged father-in-law, Mr. Ince, who was one of his deacons. May wisdom be given to the Church; and may all of us, who knew our dear brother, gird our loins tighter for service now there is one less to work for our common Master.

Charles Masterson (1846-1893) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. In 1866, he was appointed pastor of the church meeting at Hoxne, Suffolk, a position he filled for five years. In 1871, he was appointed pastor of the church meeting at Little Alie-street, London, a position he held for eleven years and a half. In 1883, he was appointed pastor of the church meeting in Brighton.