John Axford

The Life And Ministry Of John Axford

Earthen Vessel 1891:

Mr. John Axford was born in or near Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England, on the 28th of April, 1810. He married early, and came to New York in or about 1829 or 1830. He has told the writer of his call by grace and his early struggles for truth in New York. But memory is too treacherous to enter into particulars about these early times; suffice it to say, several ministers came from England then, and among them Thomas Reed, who preached here for several years. At that time there were several “old school Baptists” that preached the truth here well. The writer of this landed in New York on Sept. 30, 1850. On Oct. 1 he called upon Mr. Axford; who then kept a book store at 168, Bowery. Mr. James Manser had just come out of what is called here the “new school,” and commenced preaching as the pastor of the “old school Baptists” Church, then worshipping in a hall. Mr. Axford and family worshipped there at that time, and his (Mr. Axford’s) store was the only place I knew where works of truth were sold in this city. Mr. Manser soon after left the old school Baptists, and organised an independent Church in connection with Mr. Axford and others, but was taken sick about the spring of 1853, and lingered until Feb. 25, 1854, when he died. The writer conducted his funeral services, and Mr. and Mrs. Axford and others came to my coloured Church when I preached his funeral sermon. The Church then discontinued. There were several ministers under Mr. Axford’s management, who came and preached; but no steady preaching was continued until Mr. John Bennett came here in 1855. A hall in the Bowery was taken, where Mr. Bennett preached for some time; but that was given up, I don’t know the cause. When Mr. Bennett was called to a Church in Thirty-sixth street, near Seventh Avenue. Mr. March, the minister, had just died at that time, and Mr. Bennett remained there one year. Mr. Axford and others worshipped there with him. When Mr. Bennett left Thirty-sixth Street, Mr. Axford and a great many others organised the Beulah Particular Baptist Church in about the beginning of 1858, and succeeded well; but in or about September, 1859, owing to his wife’s health, he returned to England. They had Mr. Wm. Erskine, I think, for about two years; then James Hooper followed for some time. Afterwards Mr. Hopes came, then Mr. Walker. Thos. Witts (once a soldier in India), and others occasionally came, but when those failed, Mr. Axford took to reading sermons, and several brethren assisted by praying and singing. All the sermons he read were of the first order, by various men of truth. This he continued to the last when he had no one to preach. When brother John Bennett came here (April 12th) on his way from Canada, and preached for Mr. Axford, his old congregation had nearly all disappeared, the most of them had passed to their eternal home, the rest had grown old and become scattered to other parts. Brother Bennett preached from April 12 until the last Lord’s-day in May, except one Lord’s-day, when he was at Troy, N.Y. Brother Axford and wife were both taken with the La Grippe about April 16, and were both dangerously sick. Mrs. Axford has fully recovered. When brother Bennett went away the writer of this conducted the services for brother Axford for two Sundays, he not being quite recovered. I then went to Troy on the last Lord’s-day in June, and brother Axford conducted the services, and adjourned the meeting until the first Lord’s-day in September, as was usual. He worshipped at our meeting while I was gone to Troy. On July 19 I spoke at our place in Brooklyn, 32, Myrtle-avenue, upon Ruth, Orpah, and Naomi, when I saw him he was much affected during the service; and when I gave out the last hymn, “O for a closer walk with God,” he broke right down, and wept like a child, and said, as I took him by the hand,” O, have you ever had any idols?” I said, “Dear brother, I have had too many of them all my life.” He pressed us to go home to tea. We consented, and I had three hours’ conversation with him. I did not think of his dying, although he did not look well. This was on July 19, and on the 27th and 28th he came from Brooklyn to New York to attend to some business that troubled him. On the 29th he arose from bed, and said he did not feel so well. They told him to lay down on the sofa, which he did for a short time; then he got up and sat down at the window. He afterwards removed to another chair, then began to cough. His dear wife went to help him, when his head dropped on one side on the back of the chair, and the heart stopped heating. He never moved again, and thus passed away, without a sigh or a groan, at ten minutes past 2 o’clock, July 29, 1891, aged 81 years three months and one day.

Mr. John Axford was a remarkable man. Known far and wide, wherever the distinguishing doctrines of grace were promulgated, in connection with his book store, and afterwards his printing and publishing works on free and sovereign grace. He avoided controversy as much as possible, but never deviated a hair’s breadth from the great truths of salvation alone by the blood and righteousness of the God-man, the Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ.

On Saturday, August 1, the funeral services were held at the house, Brother James Prior read the Scriptures, and I spoke from Isa. 73:24, “Thou shalt guide with Thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.” The house was full, and we stood in the hall that we might be heard up and down stairs. The burial was conducted privately on Sunday morning, August 2, 1891.

On August 2, at 32, Myrtle-avenue, Brooklyn (our place of meeting), I preached the funeral sermon to a goodly company. Text, Job 5:26: “Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age, like a shock of corn cometh in his season.” This closed the scene of all that was mortal of dear brother John Axford. 

Chas. Graham

John Axford (1810-1891) was a Strict and Particular Baptist business man and printer. Born in England, but moved to New York around the age of twenty. He came under the gospel ministry of several English preachers, but eventually joined the Old School Baptists. He kept a bookstore and promoted free grace literature. With a Particular Baptist church organized in the vicinity, Mr. Axford and his family removed to that fellowship.