John Warburton

The Life And Death Of John Warburton

The Sower 1892:

The Late John Warburton, Of Southill, Beds.

The lamented death of our dear friend, John Warburton, will lead our readers to feel an especial interest in the portrait and sketch which we give in this number. The father of our friend thus writes concerning the subject of this memoir, in his “Mercies of a Covenant God”:—

“I shall now relate another sore trial that I passed through, which was one of the keenest I ever had in all my life, so much so that at times I felt as if my very heartstrings were breaking. It was respecting my son John, who is the youngest of ten children now living. I agreed with a person in Trowbridge, who was a tailor, to teach him the business, to whom he went for a few years. One day, on a Tuesday, which was the preaching night at chapel, he did not come home to dinner as usual; when I began to fear that something was the matter; and though our people said that no doubt he was at his sister’s, I felt such fears that all was not right, that I sent to inquire if he had been at his work. The answer returned was, No. Oh, what a shaking and trembling immediately came upon me! I sent messengers up and down the town, but could get no tidings of him. How I got through the preaching, the Lord knows, for I don’t. If I recollect right, he was then in the sixteenth year of his age, and being the youngest, I was over careful with him. We stopped up till one or two o’clock in the morning, but there were no tidings nor appearance of the lad; and, indeed, we might as well have stopped up all night for what sleep we got. The day after, we searched and inquired in every place that we could think of, but in vain. On Friday, about eleven o’clock, a person came to our house to tell me that he had been seen in Salisbury. The moment I heard this I hired a horse and gig, and borrowed ten pounds, and set off for Salisbury; I felt that I could have followed him if it had been across the seas. My very soul was wrapped up in the lad, that I felt determined I would never return more till I could find him. I set off from Trowbridge with a weighted-down soul indeed. ‘Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop.’ Oh, how my soul went out to the Lord as we journeyed on, that He would direct me, and that we might go the right way; and how sweet and precious did those blessed words break into my heart: ‘Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land, for I will not leave thee’ (Gen. 28:15). Oh, how my poor soul was revived; it was the first promise that lad come to my soul since the lad ran off. Oh, what confidence I had that I was doing right in going after the lad, and I felt firmly persuaded that we should find the lad, and bring him back in peace. So on we went till we got to the halfway house, where we stopped to feed the horse; when a man stepped out of the house and said, ‘I saw your son John yesterday, going on his way to Winchester.’ So on we went again, my soul resting on the sweet promise: ‘I am with thee, and will keep thee in the way thou goest, and will bring thee back in peace.’

“We stopped in Salisbury all night, and on Saturday we set off for Winchester, where we arrived about eleven, and inquired after him at what they term the house of call for tailors. We found that he had slept there on Thursday night, and had gone on to Southampton. After we had got a little refreshment, we set off for Southampton, where we arrived about three o’clock, and found out the house of call, where I went in, and inquired if a young man had been there last night asking after work. Before I had time to say more, the person answered, “Yes; I see he is your son; he comes from Trowbridge, in Wilts.” At this I could not contain my feelings, and I wept aloud. ‘Oh, my dear child! my dear child!’ I cried; ‘had he anything to eat?’ She told me he had had something to eat, and had stopped there last night. ‘And I asked him,’ she said, ‘if he had not run away from a good home?, to which he said that he had, and wished he was at home again, and what to do he could not tell; but his father had a friend at Portsmouth, and he would start for that place in the morning.’ I went straight to the inn where we had put up the horse, and found that in a few minutes they expected the Bath Coach to come in, which was going to Portsmouth. So we left the horse and gig, and took coach for Portsmouth; and being quite tired, and to my feelings nearly worn out, I got inside; and there being no other inside passenger, I had it all to myself. Sometimes it came into my mind, ‘Perhaps he is dead in some ditch, and has dropped into hell, where there is no hope to a never-ending eternity.’ Oh, how I did cry to God in that coach, that He would remember His promise that He had caused my soul to hope in, and that He would not suffer the enemy to swallow me up; and what a blessed sweet pouring out of my soul I had from Southampton to Portsmouth, which, if I recollect right, is about twenty-one miles. Oh, how my soul and body trembled when the coach stopped at my friend Doudney’s door, for fear the dear lad was not there!

In I went, without any ceremony whatever, and cried out, ‘Have you seen my child? Is my child here?’ They did not answer my question, but seemed quite surprised at seeing me, and asked me to sit down. But I cried out, Is my child here? If he is not here, I must be off again, for I cannot rest till I can find him.’ They smiled, and told me to look behind me in the corner. I turned round to look, and there sat my beloved child. 

Oh, I thought my very soul would have buret through my body! I cannot tell a thousandth part of my feelings, but I believe there was not one dry cheek in the room. Oh, I had hard work to keep from taking him up in my arms; and I could not help blessing and praising my God that He had led me the right way. I suppose we had travelled betwixt eighty and ninety miles, and I do not know that we had gone one hundred yards from the way the lad had trod with his feet, save about ten of the last miles to Portsmouth. Oh, what a night did I pass through of wonder, praise, and adoration to my God!”

Five times altogether did young John leave his home, and ramble about the country. The last time, he enlisted as a soldier, and was stationed at Plymouth; but here the Lord arrested him. “He felt the arrows of distress, and found he had no hiding place.” Through the instrumentality of the late Mr. Arthur Triggs, his discharge was effected, and he returned home a lamb. The Lord’s work was deep, but at length mercy was revealed, and he was baptized by his father, and in a few years called to preach; and then the liking which he had of traveling about was used by the Lord to send him east, west, north, and south, to proclaim the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Funeral Of Mr. John Warburton

The pretty village of Southall was on Monday, January 25th, the scene where the mortal remains of Mr. John Warburton, for the last forty-seven years pastor of the Baptist Chapel there, were deposited. Mr. Warburton died from bronchitis and influenza, at the advanced age of seventy-six, and extraordinary expressions of regret were evoked throughout the whole county. Commencing his ministry in 1844, Mr. Warburton speedily drew a large congregation together, his discourses being full of simplicity, reverence, and power. He preached on the first Lord’s Day in 1892, and administered the Lord’s Supper, being then in his usual health. On the second Lord’s Day, however, he was too ill to preach, and gradually sank, and died at 2.30 a.m., on Tuesday, 19th inst. His funeral took place on Monday afternoon, and was attended by hundreds from all the country near, the roads leading to the village presenting a busy appearance, carriages and carts passing just before the ceremony, in quick succession, and foot passengers being numerous. The time fixed for the service to commence was two o’clock, but before that time the chapel was filled to overflowing with a sympathetic audience, quite eight hundred people being present. The pulpit was hung around with black cloth. It being impossible to take the coffin into the chapel, by reason of the narrowness of the aisle and the low ceilings, it was placed in the porch while the solemn and impressive service was proceeding. The coffin bore the following inscription:—


Born August 18th, 1815, Died January 19th, 1892,

and was of polished oak, with brass fittings. No wreath or floral tribute was permitted to be placed on the coffin or grave.

Mr. Hemington, of Devizes, was the officiating minister, assisted by Mr. Oldfield of Godmanchester. Hymn 844, “Fountain of life, who givest us breath,” was given out as a commencement of the solemn service. Mr. Hemington preached a touching sermon. He said it was a most solemn and mournful event in God’s providence that had brought them together that afternoon. According to his natural feelings, he should have been glad indeed to have sat in that chapel the day before, and that afternoon to have heard his dear departed brother proclaiming from that, his own pulpit, the exceeding riches of God’s truth. It was to him a most painful and poignant duty to discharge, in being called to commit the body to the tomb. No human face ever wore a more cheerful expression when preaching the blessed Gospel than did their dear departed brother. When his soul was enlarged and all aglow with the fire and liberty of the Gospel which he proclaimed, when the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him, as they well knew it often did, he was like the great Apostle, determined to know nothing amongst men but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Like other servants of God, he had his own peculiar complexion of mind, and it was only natural to him to manifest in the house of God and in his own domestic circle and in the homes of his friends, a characteristic cheerfulness, which some- times rose to little flights of humourousness. But he could honestly declare that he never heard any of those remarks without them being counteracted by deep solemn utterances of God’s eternal truth. So that in giving them his honest opinion of him as a servant of God, he would say that he was no dull, heavy minister of Jesus Christ, but was one of the most lively and animating and soul-stirring ministers as could be seen in any other denomination, and dived down into the mystery of sin and iniquity, of the fall of man, and the total ruin of all mankind, and of salvation alone by the cross of God. And there was always a freshness and a variety and an originality in his preaching. It was no moulding up of stale matter with him; it was no methodical spinning out of mere doctrine in a dry, systematic way with him; but preaching the Gospel of God’s grace was the work of his very heart, just what he had tasted and bandied and felt of the Word of Life for himself. He was persuaded that were God to permit their deceased brother, whilst he was thus speaking to them, to waft into his bosom a whisper whilst he stood before the Throne of God, it would be, “Say not too much about me, but speak to the people for their good; and tell such that need to be told, that if they live and die without hope in the Lord Jesus Christ, they will perish for ever.” The whole of Europe had been moved with the deepest emotion, with the deepest concern, at the loss of a prince, but God came to prince as well as to pauper. God’s ministers were but mortal, and He had seen fit to deprive that Church of His own servant, of their own beloved pastor, who for so many years, reaching almost to fifty, had with earnest zeal laboured amongst them. They had come that afternoon to pay a tribute of esteem to his mortal body. God knew that he (the preacher) loved him, and what precious times they had together. Once the devil tempted his brother and he went to the pulpit distracted in mind; but he (the preacher) heard the greatest Christ exalting sermon he had ever heard, then. It was not that he admired the sermon, but there was such unction, fusion, and power in it that he did not know how to read the hymn, and tears fell down the faces of some of the congregation. His congregation had reason to chronicle as one of the sweetest and blessed times, the one named, when John Warburton visited them. It did the preacher good to once occupy that pulpit; God knew that he was not worthy to stand with such a man, but God knew he needed his calm, peaceful religion.

The preacher read some of the very statements that fell from his mouth before he died. On Monday, January 18th, a few hours before he died, he did not seem so well in the afternoon. His daughter asked him if he thought he would get better. He said, “I don’t know.” Asked if God was good to him he replied, “Very. Precious! Precious!” He repeated two lines of a hymn and said, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.” Again in the evening he said, “Blessed Jesus!” and then added, “God is faithful.” Later on he said, “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich.” They have no sorrow.” These were his last words, and he quietly and peacefully passed away at twenty-five minutes past two, without a sigh, struggle, or groan.

A short prayer concluded the service, and a procession was formed to the grave. The coffin was deposited in a brick grave, close to the right wall of the chapel porch. Mr. Hemington pronounced, “Dust to dust,” &c., and Mr. Oldfield said a few words in concluding the sad service.

John Warburton (1776-1857) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the pastor of Zion, Trowbridge, where he labored in the gospel among the Lord’s people for forty-two years. John Hazelton wrote of him:

“John Warburton (1776-1857) was a link between two generations, for in the early years of his ministry he was encouraged by William Huntington and afterwards became the friend of Joseph Charles Philpot, whom he baptized at Allington in 1835. Of him Mr. Philpot says: "I have heard Mr. Gadsby preach as great, perhaps greater sermons, but I never met with a minister whose prayer in the pulpit, or whose conversation out of it, was so weighty. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have borne witness to the power and savour which rested upon his testimony; but the blessing he has been made to the Church of God will never be fully known until the day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed." Rochdale and Trowbridge were the places of his pastorates, and by his book, "Mercies of a Covenant God," his memory will long be cherished by the family of faith. His account of his interview with Huntington casts light upon the character of these two men of God and gives us a glimpse of the latter in his study in his house at Hermes Hill, Pentonville: "The good old man was sitting at his table with his cap on, and his Bible open before him, and he looked just like the Prophet Elijah in my eyes. But I was so shaken that I could hardly tell what to stammer out, nor did I know for a few moments what to say. At last, however, I said I had read his book, 'The Kingdom of Heaven taken by Prayer,' many years ago, and it had been made a great blessing to my soul then, as it had been ever since at times, and that I had made a vow that if ever I came anywhere near where he was I would tell him of it. But the dear old man never spoke a word, nor lifted up his head. At last I said, 'It is a mercy that we are poor sinners!' He replied, 'There are many poor sinners that know nothing of the matter.' Warburton then began to speak of the work of God the Holy Ghost in the heart. Huntington looked up and said, 'What dost thou know of the love of God? What is it? And what are the effects of it when known and felt in the soul?' Then I told him what God had done for me. He looked up with tears running down his cheeks and blessed God for what He had taught me; and I believe he brought twenty portions of God's Word to prove that it was the teaching of the blessed Spirit of God; and we both wept together. He opened his table-drawer and scraped up all the silver he had in it and poured it into my hands, and said 'I give you this for your family.' With great cordiality he shook me by the hand and uttered words which have been a source of many comfortable moments to me since, when I have been sinking almost into despair. The words were these: 'May the Lord God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, bless thee and go with thee.'"
John Warburton's last moments bore testimony to the blessing invoked. The dying saint wished to say something; he was asked, "Is it to tell how good the Lord is to you in your last moments?" He lifted up both hands, and waving them with peculiar delight, said "Yes, yes." He still continued to appear as if those around him did not sufficiently understand him. With great exertion he lifted up both hands, pointing with his finger and labouring to articulate something. At last he said, "Hal—Hal—!" Then followed with a firm voice, without a waver, "Hallelujah!" and he immediately breathed out his soul. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace."
His son, who became pastor of the church at Southill, Beds, was in his early days very wayward, and enlisted in the army. Dear old Mr. Warburton followed him from place to place with prayers and tears, and at last wrote to Arthur Triggs (1787-1859), who was then at Plymouth—afterwards at Zion Chapel, Waterloo Road, and Gower Street Chapel—asking him to see his boy. He willingly undertook this task, and with the utmost kindness and consideration wrought for the welfare of the lad. His father wrote: "O the kindness, the love, and feeling, that my dear brother Triggs manifested to one so unworthy! It knit my soul to him in a moment, and we were one spirit. Scores of times has my soul begged the best of blessings to rest upon him and his. The poor prodigal returned home, and a hearty welcome he had, and I soon found the work was of God." Here were two good men often libelled as "hard" and "narrow," deeply stirred by concern for this poor wanderer, and in this, as throughout their lives, tender and patient in their dealings with such as he. Every doctrine of grace applied to the heart by the Holy Spirit melts and softens, sanctifies and solemnises, banishes levity, and gives depth, weight, and power to testimony. Father and son never wavered from the truth, were never carried about with divers and strange doctrines, and never speculated or reasoned beyond what they knew and felt for themselves.”