Earthen Vessel 1897:
Pastor Ebenezer Medhurst, Fleet, Hants.
By the urgent request of the Editor of the Earthen Vessel & Gospel Herald, I forward my Portrait, Origin, Call by Grace, Call to the Ministry, and Call to the Pastorate at Fleet, Hants., for insertion therein, with the earnest desire, that by it God may be honoured and glorified, His saints blest, and sinners called out of nature’s darkness into the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ, His dear Son.
I was born on the first of February, 1850, at Coggins, Mill Street, in the Parish of Mayfield, in the County of Sussex, of poor but Christian parents. From my birth I have to say with David, “My times are in Thy hands”—it being a question for some time as to whether I was a living soul—and even for several years my life was despaired of. The general conclusion was, that I should not be raised; but His thoughts were not their thoughts, as the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, for, “Till He bids I cannot die.”
Call by Grace
About the age of five years, I began to be solemnly impressed about the end of time, and the judgment day. My father at this time attending the ministry of Thomas Russel, at Rotherfield, Sussex, about three and a half miles from Mayfield, he frequently took me with him, carrying me upon his shoulders. A Mr. Wigmore occasionally preached there at that time, and, O, how solemn was his message to me; the word judgment seemed to be in every sentence he uttered. The very name of the man seemed to strike me with terror, and his voice was like thunder to my soul. If I heard the town crier in the street I thought he was come to tell us the end of the world was come. At these times I would get into the chimney corner and hide away there so as not to hear the sound of his voice. I also asked a larger boy when the end would be. His answer was, “When the clouds got down close to the ground.” With eagerness I watched them, sometimes thinking they were a little lower, then I sank; then they would seem a little higher, then I was brighter. Such was the exercised state of my mind at that early age. When about eleven years old I lost my mother, and having to go to work, I was one day very much impressed that my mother was gone to heaven. I wept with the feelings, I wanted to go too to be with her, yes, and earnestly prayed for it to be so. I was then a child, and thought and spake as a child; now I want to go to heaven because Jesus is there.
After this I formed acquaintance with ungodly companions. My previous and solemn impressions somewhat abated, but not finally to leave me. For though I was left to join the company above stated, yet after spending the evenings in places, and at things that were altogether of a sinful nature and character, I have been afraid to go home, thinking Satan was following to overtake and hurl me into everlasting perdition. When about seventeen, my father dropped dead in Mayfield Old Chapel, while we were singing hymn, “Save me, O God, my spirit cries,” &c. (954, Gadsby’s Selection, to tune “Eaton,” Union). O, solemn scene-the like I never wish to witness again. Mr. Page was preaching. This made some little impression, but, as Hart says:—
“Law and terrors do but harden
All the while they work along.”
Thus I went on till about my 20th year, sinning, confessing, vowing. O, the longsuffering of our God. Here I would like to say to my young readers, “If sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” They said to me, ”There is no harm just to look at them as they play certain games; you need not play.” But, O, to my sorrow, grief, and shame, I was enticed, and caught in the snare of the devil.
In the providence of God, I was now called to live with an uncle, at Framfield, Sussex, who had a son, a God-fearing young man, and who attended the ministry of Mr. Hallet. While listening to this young man’s godly conversation, I was solemnly impressed, that I was destitute of those blessed things he spoke about. Now the axe was laid at the root of the tree; now I fell before God as a lost, ruined sinner. My tongue and pen fail to describe the trouble I now passed through for about five years. Being ignorant of God’s plan of saving sinners, my daily and hourly cry was, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” All means of preaching and reading God’s Word seemed only to aggravate my case. I had sinned against light and knowledge, and therefore there was no hope for me. I now left Sussex and went to Haslemere, Surrey, where I attended the ministry of Mr. Reuben Harding. The friends tried to comfort me, but all to no purpose. I was tempted that I was altogether deceived and was deceiving the friends. With these feelings I would keep out of their company. On one of these occasions, while wandering in the fields (O, sacred spot), I was favoured with a sight of Christ on the cross suffering for His dear people, but not for me. Now I was almost in despair. I could see how I could be saved, but no interest in it. Only those who have felt the same will understand the agony of my mind. I wrung my hands and wept aloud; at the same time, my should was ready to burst through my body—with longings and cries— “Jesus reveal Thyself to me.” Such was the state of my mind that I envied the brute creation, the cat at the fireside washing itself. I use to say, “Happy creature, no soul to be saved or lost.” I dare not go near the first, fearing it would catch my clothes; have also also crawled by the ponds of water lest by walking I might stumble in, so by these means of burning or drowning I should be hurled into a miserable eternity of woe. In the midst of these exercises I went one day to the top of the mill, fell on my knees embracing a post, there crying mightily to God for pardon. With power the words were applied, “The prayers of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord; my mouth was closed, Then followed, “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Next came, “Faith is the gift of God.” I fell prostrate on the floor, and with an agonizing soul that cannot be described, I sent forth the cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Here I learnt salvation is of grace. But I forbear to mention more, although the above is but a mere sketch of what I passed through. Mr. Ashdown once said, “The Lord tries with one hand, and holds up with the other” Indeed, I needed an unseen hand to support me in all this.
Now the dear Lord was pleased to give me a little comfort by the way, by applying the following Scripture, “Since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still” (Jeremiah 31:20); also, “For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee” (Isaiah 54:7). The poet too was helpful—
“The Lord whom thou seekest will not tarry long.”
Likewise a sermon by Mr. Kern, from the words, “I will be as the dew unto Israel;” also Mr. Day. So I was helped till the set-time to favour my soul arrived, which took place on February 21, 1875. I went as usual to get my dinner, and as I sat down, I seemed to be overshadowed with a feeling sense of God’s mercy; all around me seemed to say,”mercy.” And suddenly a powerful voice sounded into my soul, “And it is a mercy that you are out of hell.” I immediately left my dinner, ran upstairs, fell on my knees and cried out, “O Lord, as I am out of a deserved hell, do manifest Thyself to me as a sin pardoning God.” The answer came, “I have loved thee, I have redeemed thee, I have called thee, thou art Mine.” I said, “What, me!” “Yes, thee.” “What, me!” ”Yes, thee.” I arose from my knees, took up God’s Word, and my hap was to open upon the 9th chapter of Matthew, my eyes being directed to those sacred words, “Son, thy sins are all forgiven thee.” My joy was great beyond description. I returned to my dinner. My wife saying, “What is the matter?” I replied, “It is all mercy.” I returned to my work ; and it appeared as though I had not been in the world for a long time. All things seemed new. “Old things had passed away, and behold, all things were become new.” And, no wonder, for I was enjoying mercy, so transcendantly sweet. But the enemy would not let me rest, for he came and whispered, saying, “That Jesus did not expressly say that He died for me.” My faith began to shake, and my joy to abate, but about eleven o’clock the next day (O, memorable hour), the Lord was pleased to make known to my soul, that in the promise given the day before, the Father said, “I have loved thee;” the Son. “I have redeemed thee;” the Spirit, “I have called thee.” Thus I was assured that the glorious Trinity in Unity all spake to my soul in those sacred words, the joy of my soul being unspeakable. From then till now I have been a Trinitarian. I now offered myself for baptism, was accepted, and joined the Church at Hungry-hill, near Farnham, being baptized by Mr. Kern, at Guildford, on the last Sabbath in March, 1875.
Call to the Ministry
Solomon, in Eccles. 10:21, exhorts, “Not to curse neither the king nor the rich, for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” So the Lord solemnly impressed my mind about the important work of the ministry by an hedge-sparrow, when I was twelve years of age. I was with my father in the woods at Cold- harbour, in Mayfield Parish, when this little winged fowl continually seemed to say, “Go and preach the truth.” This so impressed my mind as never to forget it, and it at once brought on a deep concern about it, and my first prayer was, “O, Lord, make me a right parson” (original). This exercise lasted 22 years. I shall not attempt to describe what I passed through. Suffice it to say, I was often tempted to conclude that by indulging the thought, I had committed the unpardonable sin. After my soul was set at liberty, I then felt a willingness, but the unfitness was so great. Many Scriptures were applied to meet my arguments, such as, “Who made man’s mouth;” “Go in this thy might;” “I have given thee the tongue of the learned ;” “I have set before thee an open door;” “Why sit ye here idle all the day, go work in My vineyard:” also many friends said the Lord intended me for this important work, but no one took the matter up. Consequently, I, according to a solemn impression, made it known to the Church. They decided, that as I generally superintended the prayer-meetings, I was at liberty to speak whenever I felt so moved. This continued six months, when it was decided that I should take the alternate Wednesday evenings and preach. This continued another six months, when by the request of the Church, I preached a trial sermon on a Sabbath morning, from the words, “Whom have I heaven but Thee, and there is none on earth that I desire beside Thee.” They professed satisfaction, engaged me for their meant Sabbaths, and said that I was at liberty to go wherever doors opened for me. These were soon opened, and I was soon fully engaged, and have not wanted for a Sabbath since, now thirteen years, and I am not without many signs that the Lord has blest His Word through my feeble instrumentality, to whom alone all the praise is due. I might just say here, and I speak it lovingly, that the Churches need not follow the example in giving their young ministers twelve months’ trial. The trial I waded through waiting their decision, the Lord alone knows.
Call To Fleet
Some particulars of this matter are given in the September number, where the Recognition Services are published, but I may here add, that “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” At my first visit, there “was no doubt a union formed and felt, though they were all strangers to me. The more I went amongst them, the closer we seemed to get to each other: till at last they sent me an unanimous invite to become their pastor. My chief reasons for accepting it are: first, because I believe it to be the will of God that Churches should seek pastors; secondly, the Church has followed the Scriptural course in so choosing a pastor; thirdly, the sweet liberty I have felt both in prayer and preaching amongst them; fourthly, the ardent desire I feel in my soul that we may be instrumental in establishing a cause of truth after our own faith and order in that growing neighbourhood, together with certain Scriptures that have been applied constraining me to accept their invite.
Now by way of conclusion, I have to say, we are a little people, a little Church, a little preacher, but our united prayer is, that “a little one may become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation—I the Lord will hasten it in His time” (Isaiah 60:22).
Fern Villa, St. George’s Road, Aldershot
Earthen Vessel 1897:
A Day of Rejoicing at Fleet, Hants
Recognition of Mr, Ebenezer Medhurst
Tuesday, July 13, 1897, proved to be a day of rejoicing and of much interest to the infant Church at Fleet, who were greatly encouraged by the presence of friends from London and the surrounding country. The Spirit of the living God was in their midst, and many were heard to say, “Master, it is good to be here.”
The ministerial brethren who took part in the service were Messrs. Mitchell (Clerkenwell), F. C. Holden (Lime- house), and J. P. Gibbens (Leyton). Gadsby’e Selection of hymns is used.
The afternoon service commenced by singing Hymn 356. Mr. Mitchell read Ephes. 4, and, after prayers, gave a short discourse from “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the Churches” (Rev 2:29). The preachers was evidently in the Spirit, the discourse being full of exhortation, Christian experience, and necessary and interesting instruction.
This was followed by the pastor-elect giving his call by grace, which evidently began when he was about five years of age. A long season of deep soul-trouble followed till he was about 20, containing many points of a touching and interesting nature. This we hope to give in a future number.
’The needful and acceptable tea followed, being appreciated by a goodly number. The evening meeting commenced at six, when our brother Pool (in the unavoidable absence of Mr. H. Wells. J.P., of Aldershot) presided. Hymn 373 was sung and part of Psa. 119 (verses 57-64) read and brother Lawrence engaged in prayer, and brother Medhurst gave his call to the ministry, and the leadings of diving providence to the pastorate at Fleet.
At this juncture the chairman asked brother White to give a statement the rise and growth of the church.
Rise and Growth of the Church
Mr. White said: There being several living in this neighbourhood who were Strict Baptists, adhering to the doctrines and observing the Church order of the New Testament, and there being no Church of that order nearer than Hartley-row, we used to meet to read God’s Word and meditate thereon. This continued for several months, some of us going to Hartley-row and elsewhere to head the Word preached. But others of our numbering unable to go so far, we thought we should like to have a preaching service, when a friend opportunely told us of Mr. Medhurst. A meeting of our friends was consequently held at Miss Townsend’s room on June 19th, 1894, when it was unanimously agreed to write to Mr. Medhurst to come and preach, which invite he accepted and preached his first sermon on June 26th, 1894, taking his first text from Ephes. 6:7. At our Bible-reading meeting, on July 7th, it was agreed to write him to come again, which he did, and so continued once a fortnight to the end of the year 1894.
Then the friends desired to have a place for Lord’s-day services, and, as this chapel was let to Mr. Sisterson, he was approached by Mr. Pool, in consequence of which he granted us the use of the chapel on Lord’s-days till the end of his tenancy.
In December, 1894, the friends, after much prayer, agreed to form themselves into a Church, and it was unanimously agreed to invite Mr. Medhurst to form the Church, which he did on the first Lord’s-day in January, 1895, nine members uniting. Mr. Medhurst supplying the pulpit on the first Lord’s-days during the years 1895-96, and his ministrations being generally accepted and blessed to the Church and congregation, on the initiation of the church he agreed to Gove us the first and third Lord’s days during 1897; but the members being desirous of his services as a pastor, a Church meeting was called on February 10th, 1897, when, after prayerful consideration, it was unanimously resolved to invite him to the pastorate, brother White to write to him on behalf of this Church, and reviewed the follow answer, July 13th:—
Fern Villa, St. George’s-road., Aldershot.
Dear Brother,—Just a line to say that the unanimous expression of the Church is duly to hand. I may say it Brough me down on my knees before God, who alone knows the issue. I should like a few words with the deacons after the service next Wednesday evening, after which I hope to decide, according to the mind and will off our God, the matter. Till then, brethren, cease not to pray for me. With Christian love to all. Believe me, yours to serve in the Gospel.
On the following Wednesday evening after the service, he saw us together, and discussed matters, after which, on July 26th, we received a further answer:—
Fern Villa, St. George’s-road., Aldershot.
To the Church of Christ, meeting for Divine worship at the Strict Baptist Chapel. Reading-road, Fleet, Hants.
Dear Brethren and Sisters,—After prayerful and careful consideration, I trust I am led by the lord to accept you unanimous invite to become the pastor of the Church of Christ meeting for divine worship in the above place.
May heaven’s blessings rest upon the settlement.
Respecting the time to commence the same, shall we say Easter of this year, 1897.
I should like to complete my present engagements with the Haslemere Church if they do not succeed in getting a substitute— that is, for the resent year, 1897.
Trusting the above will meet with your approval.
I am, dear brethren and sisters,
Yours to serve in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,
The Church met on March 5th, and unanimously accepted the terms of our brother, and which this day we are privilege, by the blessing of God, to see consummated in the public recognition of our dear pastor, Ebenezer Medhurst and the blessing of the Triune-Jehovah rest upon pastor and people.
Our Present Position
As before stated, we began with nine members, and during the year 1895 two were added to us from another Church and on the first Lord’s-day in 1896 two by baptism; during 1896 one by baptism, which, with our pastor and his wife, makes a total of 21 members. Of this number one left us, and one that daed Lord has taken home to Himself to the Church triumphant above. And, further, in the providence of God, on the completion of Mr. Sisterson’s tenancy, we obtained sole possession of the chapel. Then we cleansed and renovated it at a cost of about £17, and this was entirely clear off by the special services. Our brother Pool then very kindly offered to sell the chapel to us for the sum of £150, which amount we are happy say, by the blessing of God, is entirely cleared off, and the chapel is now put in trust to the denomination forever, and that by the kindness of friends near and far, to whom we wish to return our heartfelt thanks.
We are also great to our brethren in the ministry who have supplied the pulpit for us.
In this retrospect we have great reasons to be humbly thankful to the God of all grave for the blessings revived up to the present, and grounds for hope and assurance for increase blessings in the future which are in the hand of Him with whom we have to do.
Brother Holden now joined the hands of deacons and pastor, all members standing up, announced the union before the congregation, and prayed earnestly for the pastor and Church, that it may prove a blessing to many precious souls. After singing hymn 357, My. Mitchel gave the charge to this pastor, basing his remarks on the words, “Be thou faithful into death, and I will give thee a crown of life,” which charge was most faithfully and lovingly given.
Brother Holden gave the charge to the Church, his discourse being based on the first Epistle of Thessalonians, part of 5th chapter, which was listened to with rapt attention.
Brother Gibbens gave a more general address for Philippians, where Paul spike so lovingly to that Church, which if any child of God reads, must feel how he loved them.
Our brother Pool then lead us in prayer, and we sang “All hail the power of jesu’s name” most heartily, brother Mitchel pronouncing the benediction. To God be all the Glory is at the prayer of us all.