J. L. Meeres

The Life And Ministry Of J. L. Meeres

Earthen Vessel 1888, 1897:

Pastor Of The Strict Baptist Church, New Church Street, Bermondsey

My father died before I was two years of age, leaving my mother with four children other than myself. She was an industrious and kind parent, although at that time not a partaker of grace. After I knew the Lord for myself my constant prayer was that He would bring my dear mother to know Him, and which I have every reason to believe He answered, for (though late in life) I had a good hope that she was resting on the Rock, Christ Jesus.

When old enough, I was admitted into Zion Chapel Sunday-school, in connection with the Countess of Huntingdon’s chapel, in Whitechapel; and when my name was enrolled, I remember my mother saying·, “It would keep me from the streets:” but my God had more in store for me than that. It was in that school I first had convictions of sin, and although at times I tried to shake them off, yet when I went out into the world and mixed with ungodly persons, who tried to lead me into worldly pleasure on the Lord’s day, I found I could not sin so cheaply as they could; and deep remorse often followed, yet again and again Satan urged me to continue in the ways of sin while young, and seek religion when I grew older. But my God was looking on, and when out of my apprenticeship I was removed in providence to Canterbury, when all my former convictions returned. I inquired for a chapel, and was directed to the Countess of Huntingdon’s, Mr. Blomfield being the minister, well known to our late brother C. W. Banks, and under his ministry I began to feel my real sinnership, before a heart-searching God, and went mourning many a day, thinking hell would be my portion. But in His own time the dear Spirit of God brought me to realize my interest in Christ as my Redeemer, through His obedience and sufferings on the cross, and thus I was brought sweetly to realize that He shed His blood for me. I became a teacher in that Sunday-school, and met with the young people for prayer in the vestry after the services on Lord’s-day evenings, and was helped of the Lord to open my mouth in public prayer; and when I was leaving Canterbury a special prayer-meeting was held to commend me to the Lord, the savour of which I shall never forget, and from that day to this I have prized an interest in the prayers of His people. In the providence of God, I came to London, and through the influence of a young friend, who had been a former scholar with me in the same Sunday-school, I was induced to attend the Mariners’ Church, in Wellclose Square, Mr. G. C. Smith, of Penzance, being the minister, and there the Spirit carried on the work in my soul, and after some time I was received into the Church. Then several of the friends hired a large room in the Ratcliffe Highway for preaching to sailors on Lord’s-day afternoons. On one occasion the supply failed to come, and after waiting some time, I may say I was forced into the pulpit; I endeavoured to speak to the people from Exodus 17:6: “Christ smitten for His people and His great salvation,” which has been my theme ever since, though 50 years have passed since then. Soon after this, on reading the third chapter of Matthew, I was convinced of baptism, and found the evangelists and all the spiritual followers of Christ were baptized; but being in a mixed Church, some, when they found that my mind was exercised about it, wanted me to read books for and against it; I said “I want neither, I have the New Testament and there is Christ’s example and command, and that is all I want!” Mr. G. C. Smith being a Baptist, I mentioned it to him. So one Lord’s-day morning, now nearly 50 years since, myself and wife, and six others were baptized at Mr. Lucombe’s chapel, City Road, kindly lent Mr. Smith for the occasion. At that service the late John Bunyan McCure became prejudiced against the Ordinance, but was afterwards convinced that it was a New Testament command, and eventually was baptized in the same pool, and became a member of the Church. Soon after this I believed strict communion to be right, and was received into the Church under the pastoral care of my late beloved brother, S. Milner; there the word was so blessed to my soul that tears of joy ran down my cheeks (though I was then passing through deep trials); I often wish I had those hallowed seasons now. But my late dear pastor said to me: “It is fitting you to be a comfort to the Lord’s people in years to come.” I itinerated in the Churches of truth for about six years. About this time some persons took my present chapel, and in seeking a supply came from Bermondsey to Commercial Road East for Mr. J. Collis, but he being engaged he sent him to me. I went; the Word was blessed; and they asked me to continue coming; and six months afterwards a Church was formed of seven persons by Mr. S. Milner and J. A. Jones—Mr. Milner coming to break bread to them once a month. 

On June 22, 1847, I was publicly recognised as pastor, Messrs. S. Milner, G. Wyard, G. Moyle, and D. Curtis taking part in the service; and by the Lord’s help I have now preached there 43 years. I have not been so useful as I could wish in gathering large numbers out of the world, yet I have been encouraged now and again, even in this respect. I have several still with me whom I baptized more than 30 years ago, who can testify to the fact, that when they came into that chapel first they were strangers to God and His salvation, but under the ministry of the Word found Him to the joy and rejoicing of their hearts. But I have been oftener blessed to the tried and harassed child of God, and to the comforting of the more advanced Christian. I have buried many, very many, of both members and hearers, that when committing their bodies to the grave I could say with confidence that I buried them in a “sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection,” for they left a pleasing testimony behind them both in life and in death.

On December 11, 1883, the Lord laid me low with a stroke of paralysis, and neither physician, doctor, or friends thought I should recover, but the Lord gave me two passages of Scripture to rest upon. One was, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God;” the other, “I will give health and cure;” and the Lord raised me up again, and enabled me to preach to my loving people. Last February and March I was laid aside with a disease of the liver, and although suffering intense pain, had such enjoyment of the Lord’s presence that those around me thought my end was near, but the Lord had a little more work for me to do; for, with gratitude I say it, by the Spirit’s help I am now able, though often in much weekness, to take all the services, by the help of a brother reading and praying for me in the evening. To my brother, Mr. Joseph Hall, I shall ever feel grateful for the willing help he has always given me through all my afflictions. My deacons and people have likewise given proof of their loving sympathy.

I am now in my seventy-seventh year, and can testify as a Christian minister my God has been faithful, and though many times have I ascended my pulpit in fear and trembling, yet have been enabled to erect many Ebenezers to His praise, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped me.” And should it be His will, I hope to be able to extol Him to the last; then when my work is finished, say with Jacob of old—“The God that fed me all my life long, to this day, and the angel that redeemed me from all evil be eternally praised for His continued goodness and mercy to one so unworthy of all His mercies.” I hope at last to join those who have “gone up out of great tribulation and have washed their robe, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

The Late Mr. J. L. Meeres

Mr. Meeres received serious impressions in a Sunday-school when only six years of age. To use his own words, “Here the Lord made first impressions on my soul, giving me to feel my lost state as a sinner.” After this he was left to indulge in sin for a time. Being in the providence of God removed to Canterbury, he was led to attend the ministry of Mr. Blomfield, a minister of the “Countess of Huntingdon’s” order, which was made a great blessing to him. Eventually he returned to London; settled down at the East-end; became associated with some who attended the “Mariners’ Church” in Wellclose-square. In course of time he, with others, opened a room in Ratcliffe Highway for preaching to sailors on a Sunday afternoon. Here he was first induced to speak in the Lord’s name. About the year 1845, he was invited to speak to a few friends in Bermondsey, who, after hearing him for some months, took the chapel in New Church-street, where a Strict Communion Church was formed, and on June 22nd, 1847, was ordained pastor, and remained with them till the summons came on Lord’s-day, March 14th, 1897.

Most of his early associates in the ministry, among whom were Messrs. Francis, Fenton, Fenelon, Foreman, Hamblin, Hazelton, J. A. Jones, Moyll, Jeffrey, Moody, Murrell, E. Mote, Milner, Castleden, Carpenter, Coomb, Curtis, Newborn, Anderson, Box (senr.) have long since crossed “The stream—The narrow stream of death.” Brother J. L. Meeres has now joined them in singing the one song “Unto Him,” &c.

The Funeral

Took place on Saturday, March 20, at Nunhead Cemetery, in the presence of a large concourse of friends from all parts of the metropolis, and distant parts. The funeral cortege consisted of an open car drawn by four horses, and eight pair-horse carriages, most of the latter being filled with members of the Church. At the direct request of the deceased there were no flowers. The chief mourners were as follows:—Mr. John Drabble, Mr. James Drabble, Mr. James Drabble, jun., Mr. Willingale, Mr. A. Steele, Mr. Hall (former assistant to Mr. Meeres), Mr. Barney (one of the deacons), Mr. Day and Mr. Waite.

The service at Nunhead Cemetery was fixed for 4.30 p.m., but long before this hour, large numbers of persons had assembled, and several hundreds were present when the cortege reached the chapel. Among the ministers noticed, were the Messrs. T. B. Dale, of Lynton-road, Bermondsey, T. Jones (New Cross), E. White (Woolwich), J. Mead (Nunhead), James and G. W. Clark (Peckham), and J. Box (secretary of the Baptist Association), T. Carr, T. Green, and J. M. Rundell (Surrey Tabernacle), John W. Banks and others from Chadwell-street, C. Burt Banks, City Press, &c. Friends and residents from Bermondsey included Dr. Pridmore, Mr. John Sindall, Mr. Wood, Mr. F. Shaw, and Mr. Henry Hall. The coffin having been placed in the chapel, the building, including the gallery, was soon crowded by deceased’s friends. That service was of the simplest and yet most impressive character. The 231st hymn in Denham’s selection, commencing—

“My hope is built on nothing less

That Jesus’ blood and righteousness”

was sung with deep feeling by those assembled, the hymn being given out verse by verse by Mr. Hall, who also conducted the first portion of the service. Mr. Albert Steele then ascended the pulpit, and with a voice full of emotion said, that though a place like that witnessed the sorrow of those who came to it, those now present need not give way to such sorrow, for they knew that they were about to consign to his last resting place one of the Lord’s dead. God had an interest in that dust, and had promised to take care of it. They could not wish him back again, for he had been looking out for that very hour with anticipation, and it were cruel to wish him back. In the words of the Psalmist they might say, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth, for the faithful fail from among the children of men.” They were grateful for the life he had lived, and for his testimony all through the long years to the grace which had saved him. Such a life was a powerful testimony to the power of God in all his relationships to them—as a man, a brother beloved, a Christian, and a minister. He was indeed a man, not a very big one as they all knew, but he was scrupulous in all his doings, and there had never been a breath against his reputation. His word was never a cloak to hide his thought. How sympathetic he was to all with whom he came in contact, especially to the household of faith. He might give a word of reproof where it was needed, but the wants of others always touched him, and he was ever ready to relieve them. His modesty was such that they knew he would say, “Give God the praise. As for me, I am but a sinner.”

His life was a long one, and a large portion of his 86 years had been devoted to his Lord aud Master’s service. How he loved to tell what grace had done for him—that wondrous grace which destroys while it creates, and casts out while it puts in! He was always delighted to commend that grace to others, and to tell them that what it had done for him it could also do for them. What he might have been but for this saving grace none could say. They were not concerned with that negative view, but with the positive. Grace had made him an upright man, a sincere Christian, a minister beloved, and had saved him through the blood of the Lamb.

He was a minister of the Gospel before many of those present saw the light. Christ was his theme ever and always, and his big heart yearned for the salvation of sinners. He (the speaker) knew there were now present seals to his ministry. His words had gone like arrows to many hearts. Then he was true to the doctrines of the denomination to which they belonged. He never kept back a whit of the whole counsel of God, and maintained that profession for 50 years. He had gone to his home relying on the truths he had so long preached. With him they were parting with the last link of worthy men like Hazleton, Anderson, Foreman, and others.

He had died in a green old age, and his presence had been called for by the Saviour who loved him. To talk thus about him suited their purpose, but they knew it would not be so welcome to him. The voice, if it could come from that coffin, would say, “Talk not of good things about me, my ministry, or my sermons. Away with them all as rags! My one desire has only been to win Christ.” Pointing to the coffin he said: “That is not our brother there. We shall commit those remains to the dust, but his spirit is not there; it has gone to the home above. He ends his earthly life, but to be for ever with the Lord. Ah, for ever with the Lord! Perhaps you caught the tones of his voice as I uttered those words, which he loved to dwell upon.

“Not only was his death a message to his fellow believers, but to those present who were not God’s there came the words—“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” There must be something in that religion which sustained him for 80 years. He found cleansing, peace, and pardon, and may you also. I point you to his Jesus. May these last moments be sanctified to all.”

At The Grave

The long procession of mourners then followed the coffin from the chapel to the graveside, which is close to the pathway turning to the left past the front of the chapel, and is almost in a line with the chapel. Here the last offices were conducted by Mr. Steele. First came the hymn:—“How sweet the name of Jesus sounds.”

Mr. John Box, of Soho, delivered a brief address, in the course of which he also referred to the deceased as being the last link between them and the ancients they knew as children. They were laying to rest a warrior who had held front rank in their day. His silver trumpet had fallen from his grasp, but it had been replaced with the golden trumpet and palm branch. He had always had the confidence of those who knew him, and had had the distinction of being one of the earlier presidents of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches, a position which he held for three years. God be thanked for such men. He recalled the face and form of Mr. Meeres 36 years ago, when he (the speaker) as one of the younger ministers carried messages to him. He recalled the dark hair, the penetrating eye, and the resounding voice of the man who had been so great a lover of the truth, and so valiant a wielder of the sword.

The closing sentences of the burial service were then given by Mr. Steele, and the final prayer and Benediction were offered by Mr. Thos. Jones, of Zion, New Cross. The assembly lingered for some time around the open grave, reluctant to lose sight of the remains of one who had evidently been a faithful, personal friend, teacher and pastor to them.

The Late Mr. J. L. Meeres

A Testimony From Oswestry

As an old ex-deacon of Mr. Meeres, I feel it laid on my heart to send you my brief testimony to his loving devotion and zealous fidelity in the ministry of the Gospel. In the memory of his life and service the words of the apostle have impressed me—viz., “Whose faith follow” (Heb. 13:7). Christ was the Alpha and Omega of his faith; “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” was the end of his conversation. Surely his faith was the faith of God’s elect, a living faith demonstrated by the works which accompanied it in a most consistent life; his conduct and conversation was always in harmony with his profession, and, in so far as I remember, he followed Christ: the words, “Whose faith follow,” have a special significance and application. Then I remember the constancy of his faith and teaching. The Gospel he preached when I first knew him, about thirty years ago, he preached to the very end. In these days of changing creeds and views of faith we cannot fully estimate the value of a ministry sound in the faith, and which presents to the people correct views of truth, and the words speak to us again, saying, “Whose faith follow.”

As a pastor he took the oversight of his first and only Church with a ready mind, certainly not for filthy lucre’s sake. For many years he laboured, working with his own hands, that he might not be burdensome to the Church, and to the end of his pastorate he was always content with what the Church could justly afford to give; his faith rested on the promise the Lord gave him after many adverse dispensations of Providence—viz., “From this day will I bless thee,” which promise was fulfilled in his experience to the end. O for more men like-minded, his “faith to follow.”

Then, again, as pastor he was no “autocrat.” It was not his disposition to domineer or exercise lordship over God’s heritage. He always studiously avoided interfering or doing anything which he thought might be trenching on the province of the diaconate; an instance of this I observed when up to attend his jubilee celebration.

There should be no strained relations between pastor and deacons, and it is a happy state of things when both pastor and deacons have the wisdom and grace to know and keep their respective places. I shall never forget the peace and happiness I enjoyed during my term of office, which I think was largely due to the loving, peaceable character of our dear departed brother, “Whose faith follow.”

The text of his last pastoral sermon was, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.” Yes, he finished his course, the time of his departure has come, and I beg you to accept (and publish, if you will) my humble, loving testimony that he fought a good fight, kept the faith, and I unquestionably believe has received the “crown of righteousness,” which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give not to him only, but unto them also that love His appearing.

J. L. Meeres (1811-1897) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. In 1847, he was appointed pastor of the chapel on New Church-street, Bermondsey. He was also one of the earlier presidents of the Metropolitan Association of Strict Baptist Churches, a role he filled for three years. His loss was deeply felt by the Strict Baptist ‘denomination’ as he was the last link between the old generation of gospel preachers (Hazelton, Foreman, Anderson, Box, etc.) and the new.