Francis Covell

The Life And Ministry Of Francis Covell

The Sower:

Chapter 1

The late beloved Francis Covell still lives in the affections of thousands of the Lord’s family to whom his ministry was made a blessing. Although his work was chiefly confined to Croydon, yet the influence of his ministry extended far beyond his native town, in which he preached for over thirty-five years. His printed sermons, which were published monthly, have long been out of print, and any stray copies that can still be obtained are always eagerly welcomed by lovers of experimental truth, both for public and private reading. But to read Mr. Covell’s sermons gives only a faint impression of what it was to hear them delivered; the whole man seemed to speak, and none who heard him could fail to realize his tremendous earnestness in seeking the welfare of his hearers’ souls. In the course of his discourse he would introduce some pithy sentence, full of gracious originality, which words, clinging like burrs, would often stick to the hearer’s memory through life. Then with what a burst of natural eloquence would he describe the history of some Bible saint, interspersed with many choice lessons drawn from their lives, delivered in such a forcible manner that some have felt in hearing him that such passages could scarcely be surpassed in eloquence by those who are counted orators by the world; and we have thought with astonishment, Can this be the man who, when called to preach, stammered and stuttered? truly we may say, “What hath God wrought!” But the power of the Holy Spirit that rested upon the preacher was the secret of his usefulness. Most forcible, too, was the way in which he traced out the exercises of the Lord’s people, so as to bring them into a corner, with a, “Thou art the man!” and then he would say, “Dost thou not feel this, poor sinner? thou knowest thou dost”; and then how appropriately hymns and scriptures would be quoted for their encouragement, so that they were compelled to hope against hope.

If Mr. Covell was great as a preacher, he was equally great in prayer. Who ever had such pleading with heaven! It was indeed like Elijah on Carmel, pulling down the blessing, and like Jacob wrestling with the Angel, “I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me.” But he was also a true pastor. How many are the loving, generous actions that he did! Many who received them have passed away, but there are still those living who gratefully call to mind their pastor’s words of warning, counsel, and comfort, and the generous gifts that always supplemented his words. How his people must miss such a pastor, pleader, and preacher, and find it difficult to choose one to follow him! They will not find another Francis Covell, for God does not make duplicates. But though God does not send a Moses or Elijah, may He not a Joshua, or an Elisha—different men but each suitable for the day and the work that the Lord has for them to do?

On the evening of the day Mr. Covell was buried, a well- known minister lectured at a Baptist College to the young men students training for the ministry, and took Mr. Covell in his life and ministry, as the model from which to draw lessons for their instruction. No better example could be placed before them, but no human system can ever train such men as Francis Covell for the ministry; what he was, he was by the grace of God. Might it please the great Head of the Church to fill our pulpits with such faithful men, endowed with similar gifts and grace, as the subject of this memoir.

There are some good men, long gone to their rest, that we have often wished that we could have heard them preach, such as Whitfield, Huntington, Gadsby, Warburton, Sen., and others; but we always feel thankful that there are some that we have heard, and with pleasure and profit sat at their feet, and amongst the foremost of this number is Francis Covell; and truly heartfelt was our sorrow on hearing of his death, to feel that we should never again hear the Gospel from his lips, as he sought to gather out the stumbling block and cast up the way for the people: and if a felt loss to us, only an occasional hearer, how much greater to those who for years had had the bread of life broken unto them continually by this faithful minister of God.

The brief memoir of Mr. Covell published after his death has been long out of print, and we feel sure that a brief record of this eminent servant of the Lord will be interesting to our readers, and we thank Mr. W. G. Covell for so kindly giving us permission to reprint any of the particulars concerning his late beloved father, but these particulars are only brief. Mr. Covell destroyed, some time before his death, an account of himself that he had previously written; doubtless he felt that few men could write an honest account of themselves. He would say, ”While they might be willing to expose many blemishes, yet in most men’s lives there were black spots they do not wish to appear in print, and which it would not be prudent to publish”; these feelings might have influenced him, as he was tender in the fear of God, although few who knew him believed there were any such blemishes in his life. Neither would Mr. Covell in any way seek the applause of men; his only anxiety was to “Show himself approved unto God.” He would often say, at the close of his discourse, “We have done our best, we would have done better if we could.”

Francis Covell was born December 8th, 1808, at Croydon in Surrey, in which parish his ancestors had lived for upwards of two hundred years. His father carried on the business of tin-man and brazier in the High Street. Francis, rather singular to relate, was sent to a school the playground of which formed part of the ground upon which Providence Chapel (the scene of his ministerial labours) was afterwards erected; Mr. Covell, in an address, thus refers to this period of his life:—

“When I consider His great goodness towards me in the helpless days of my infancy, in giving a kind and tender mother to nurse me, to succour and take care of me, and a kind and good father to provide for me, and support me when unable to take care of myself; I might have been thrown out a helpless babe, without friends, neglected, despised, unknown, and uncared for;—when I think of His good hand towards me during my boyish days, correcting me for many evils, checking me in my conscience, and thus keeping me from lying and swearing and many other things that I might have done, but for His restraining power in smiting my conscience; He also brought me through various sicknesses until I arrived at youth and manhood;—oh, the forbearance and long-suffering of God! how He followed me, guarding me by day and preserving me by night, as I lay unmindful of that Eye that was upon me, that Heart that was toward me.

His father was a very hospitable man, and fond of company, which, as Francis grew up, he much enjoyed, and became an eager follower of so-called innocent amusements. He was especially fond of dancing, and in this he became so proficient that others were glad to receive instruction from him, which he willingly gave them, not for remuneration, but from that kindness of disposition which was through life such a marked feature of his character.

When a boy at school, he was the subject of convictions for sin, and when conscience accused he would seek some secret place to pray, and would vow never to do the like again, but only soon to become once more entangled. But his convictions becoming stronger, he became very strict in his attendance at the parish church, watched over his words, gave money to the poor, and set about a general reformation; but in these he found no salvation, and he used to say, “That he was glad to part with a better righteousness than many hoped to be saved by.” His anxiety of mind at this time was so great that he would stand during the sermon, that he might hear better, and he at length believed that his religion was so pleasing to God, that if only two persons in Croydon went to heaven he should be one of them.

It was his custom at set times to retire to his bedroom to say a set number of prayers. Accordingly one Sunday he retired as usual, and began to read his prayers. He had not read far before the Spirit of God opened his heart, and he was filled with horror at the evil he felt within. Terrors seized upon his mind, so that he feared the boards would crack asunder and let him drop straight into hell. As all his secret sins passed in review before him, he cried and groaned for mercy. He now used to wander in the fields and lonely places, praying, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” and shedding thousands of tears of sorrow. He had none to teach him and take him by the hand, but the Lord was leading him in a way that he knew not, and bestowed upon him many tokens that encouraged him still to seek after Him.

About this time, in order to improve himself in the knowledge of his father’s business, he went into a large manufactory in London. One day, feeling himself a lost and ruined sinner, he fell down at the foot of his bed in the apartments where he lived, feeling if God did not have mercy upon him he was lost for ever. But the time of love was come, and the Lord made such a discovery of the Lord Jesus to his soul that he was filled with joy and peace in believing; and in this sweet enjoyment he walked for some months.

The Lord having now delivered his soul, he found the preaching at the parish church did not suit him. This brought him into great trouble, for his father thought it unpardonable that he should think that he knew better than the parson, and as all the family were Church people, he would not allow him to continue to come to his home as formerly, unless he would conform to family custom. This was a bitter trial, for he loved his parents dearly, but, like Moses of old, “He chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God.”

But if Mr. Covell found it impossible to get on at the Church, he also found it difficult to find anyone to understand his feelings amongst Nonconformists. He went one Sunday morning to the seven o’clock prayer-meeting at the Congregational Church, Croydon, and told some of the people there, that God had pardoned his sins and saved his soul; but they told him that he was an Antinomian. What that meant he could not tell, any more than he could understand Arabic; but nothing could strip him of the hope of salvation God had given him.

At this time he often had to be satisfied with a very scanty meal, his dinner frequently being made from a few dried sprats and bread; but such was his enjoyment of the Lord’s presence, that he would walk about the City of London, and feel his portion was infinitely better than all the possessions of merchant princes.

But this season of estrangement, through his father’s displeasure, was brought to a close in an unexpected manner, for his father’s health began to fail, and his affection again ran towards his son, and he therefore sent for him to come home to assist in the business. His father was shortly afterwards removed by death, and by his will left the house and business to his son Francis, who a few months afterwards married his cousin, Elizabeth Turner, who proved a true help meet to him for nearly forty years, and during the whole of that period she never slept away from home a single night.

Mr. Covell had five children, two of whom died in infancy, and two still survive. The eldest son, who was afflicted from the age of two years, was a source of great trial and anxiety, and it was Mr. Covell’s prayer for years, that, if it was the Lord’s will, he might see the end of his afflicted son, and God graciously answered his petitions, by taking the son to Himself a few weeks before his father.

Mr. Covell never heard a clear Gospel sermon until after his marriage. He was one day talking to a friend of his wife’s about the way the Lord had led him, when this friend observed, “There is a man comes to preach in London sometimes that I think would suit you; when he comes next, I will let you know.” He did so. It was at Gower Street Chapel, and the minister was the late William Gadsby: his text on that occasion was, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). When Mr. Gadsby came to describe what sinners are called from and what they are called to, Mr. Covell found great difficulty in restraining himself from calling out in the chapel, “I am called! I am called!” After this he sought opportunities of hearing such ministers as Gadsby, Warburton, Cowper, &c., as often as he could, and tried hard to get the people with whom he worshipped at Croydon to have such men to preach, but in vain. He therefore left the chapel, and met with his wife in their own house for reading and prayer, and in the course of four or five years they were joined by ten or twelve others.

Mr. Covell had long been exercised in his mind respecting the ministry, feeling such a desire to tell of that Jesus who had saved him from the burning pit, and such was his anxiety that, for seven or eight years, his mind was full of tossings up and down respecting this great work, both night and day, but the great obstacle in his way was an impediment in his speech, causing him to stammer and stutter. Oh, how he cried to the Lord with tears to loose his tongue! At length the Lord operated so powerfully on his heart that he felt, unless he did say something of the Lord’s mercy and goodness, he should be cut down as useless. Therefore, with fear and trembling, he determined to make the attempt, feeling a secret persuasion the Lord would remove the impediment in his speech. On July 18, 1844, when the few friends who met at his house had concluded their meeting for prayer, he felt he could not let them part without repeating the text which had been impressed upon his mind (Titus 3:3-6, “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient,” &c. Upon these words he began to make some remarks, and immediately his tongue was loosed; lo, the impediment was gone, and he spoke to the friends for fully an hour, and from that time he never failed or faltered in his speech. The next Sabbath evening, when the friends met for reading and prayer, one of them said, “You have not finished your subject of last Sabbath,” so he preached again from the same words, and continued it also on the following Sabbath.

Chapter 2

The Lord having now loosed the tongue of the stammerer, and caused His servant to put his hand to the Gospel plough, he looked not back, but from that time to within a few days of his being called home, he continued to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, as he had tasted, handled, and felt them. For some time the services continued to be held in his own house, but presently the room would not contain his hearers, and then two rooms were devoted to the purpose, and Mr. Wallis, who led the singing, was told by the speaker to stand between the two rooms to pitch the tune, so that all might the better join in the hymn; but it soon became needful to place forms in the shop, to accommodate the increasing number of hearers; and, said Mr. Covell in after days, “We did not mind the steam (occasioned by the breath of those assembled) getting on the kettles.” But Mr. Covell’s preaching soon became noised abroad, and he used to say in after years, that “He was the talk of the town, from the hotel down to the little pot-house.” Moreover, many of his customers began to expostulate with him, asking him if he thought he knew better than many who had attended the parish church all their lives, and strongly advised him to give up his preaching, and not pretend to know better than his superiors, but this, of course, he was unable to do; they then began to threaten him with withdrawing their custom unless he desisted, and ultimately many did discontinue their custom. This in some measure tried him, and worked peevishness and fretfulness, and he thought the Lord dealt hardly with him. This rebellious state so prevailed one day, that he threw off his working jacket, and he said, in his mind, he would go out into the fields, and have it out with the Lord; and as he poured out his complaints, it seemed as if the Lord drew near, and said, “Now, what is the matter? have I been a barren wilderness? Would you like to change with your persecutors? This so sweetly broke the snare, that he went back to his home blessing and praising the Lord and seeking for mercy and pardon, and was delivered from the fear of man.

There are still living six or more of the hearers who attended the services in Mr. Covell’s shop, and one of them, who knew the preacher well, has kindly given the following reminiscence of these early but memorable days of his ministry:—

“I remember Mr. Francis Covell from about the year 1840; he was always of a cheerful and pleasant disposition, and kept a tin- man or brazier’s shop in the High Street, Croydon He worked at his trade, and employed some three or four hands: he was a friend of my father’s, and used to visit at our house occasionally. I used to observe that he was ready to assist every good work, and to show kindness to the poor. In July, 1844, I was calling upon one of our customers in Croydon, when he informed me that Mr. Covell had begun to preach. I felt surprised to hear this as he used to stutter in speaking and was moreover so cheerful: and at times jocular in his manner, that I had not thought him at all likely to become a minister. Upon my arriving home, I told my father, and he said, ‘Well, we will take an opportunity some Sunday evening of hearing him.’ At that time my father attended the chapel at Beddington Corner, where we had supplies and Mr. Covell also sometimes attended.

“In a few weeks my father and other members of the family went over to Croydon to hear Mr. Covell, and my father said afterwards, that while hearing him preach, the words came to his mind, ‘Arise, anoint him, this is he!’ and I felt myself, after hearing him preach, that this kind of ministry was what I should like to sit under. He was solemn and discriminating, and yet most encouraging to seeking souls. He was also very practical in his discourse, and moreover such power attended the Word, that his sermons were not easily forgotten. I heard one countryman say, after hearing him, ‘Mr. Covell seems to get inside of you.’ Another person who came to hear him said ‘he should not come again, as it was too hot for him.’

“I had a favoured season on one occasion while hearing him preach in his shop. His sermons in those days were very long, and often occupied one and a-half hour in their delivery; indeed, sometimes he was so led out that I have known him exceed that time.

“Mr. Covell was one day travelling in the train, and fell into conversation with a fellow-traveller, and the subject turned upon religion. Presently Mr. Covell’s name was mentioned by his fellow-passenger, who began to find fault with him, and spoke against him as a bad kind of man. Mr. Covell agreed with him in this, but added, ‘I believe he means well, and that he is an honest man.’ Mr. Covell afterwards related the incident to a friend who knew the passenger aforenamed, who asked him if he remembered the conversation in the train. He said, ‘Yes.’ He then informed him that his fellow-traveller was none other than Mr. Covell of whom he had spoken such hard things. The poor man, on hearing this, was much confused and put-out with himself for speaking as he had done, which no doubt had been prompted by jealousy, as he was a preacher living about two miles from Croydon, and some of his hearers had left him, feeling they could profit more in hearing Mr. Covell.

“In February, 1845, Mr. Covell began to preach once a month on a Sunday at Beddington Corner, and continued to do so for twelve months. Many of his Croydon friends came to hear him there, and the chapel was filled whenever he preached. The other Sundays in the month he still preached in his shop; but the place soon became too scant for them, and they were anxious for a more commodious meeting-place; and it so happened, in the providenc of God, that a chapel—‘Ebenezer’—in the old town was at liberty, and was hired by the friends. When Mr. Covell commenced his ministry here he took for his text the last eight verses of the seventy-eighth Psalm, and preached three or four Sundays from these words. It soon became evident that a still larger and more suitable chapel was needful for the increasing congregation, therefore the friends determined to build a new chapel in West Street. When the plan of the proposed building was shown to Mr. Covell by a friend, he said, ‘It is too large.’ The friend replied, ‘Is it too large for your faith?’ ‘No,’ replied Mr. Covell; ‘it is too large for the people’s pockets.’ ‘Then,’ said his friend, ‘it shall not be one inch smaller.’ The people had such a mind for the work that the chapel was completed quickly, and was opened on the second Sunday in March, 1848, and was called Providence Chapel. The cost of the building, with the ground, was £1,460. Towards this amount £560 was raised and paid, the remainder was borrowed at a moderate interest, which by degrees was paid off; but it took some years to accomplish this task.

“The chapel at first was about half filled; but the congregation slowly increased, and for a few years previous to Mr. Covell’s death it was most difficult to find seats for the hearers. About eleven years after his death the chapel was enlarged, at a cost of £1,174 15s. 10d., which amount was soon paid by the liberal subscriptions of friends. The chapel was re-opened on January 19th, 1871, by the late Mr. John Warburton, of Southill.

“Mr. Covell was always ready to counsel those young in the way against anything that he thought might injure them. I remember once that I was about joining a literary society, but he advised me not to do so, but to keep at home, observing, ‘You will get more into society than will do you any real good, and these are little foxes that will spoil the tender grapes.’ I followed his advice, and have often been glad I did so.

“Mr. Covell was once walking in a lonely lane, and he met two men that he felt sure were after no good. He began at once to consider what he should do, and decided that it was his duty to speak to them, which he did in a very serious manner, speaking to them of the solemnities of death; asking them if they ever thought of their dying day. The men seemed very uneasy, and were glad when the opportunity occurred of getting away from the stranger who spoke to them so pointedly and solemnly.

“I was a close observer of Mr. Covell’s life from the commencement of his ministry till his death, and I can testify that the following Scripture was fulfilled in his career, ‘The liberal soul devideth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand’ (Isa. 32:8). He was always kind to the poor, especially to the household of faith. He seemed to live for the cause of God and the good of His people. His words and actions showed that the salvation of sinners, and the honour and glory of God was his real aim. He had a single eye to the glory of God. For some few years he took nothing for preaching, but when the friends found out how his circumstances had changed through his business falling off, and his liberality to the needy, they showed their love to him by supplying his needs.’’

The following interesting letter was written in the early days of Mr. Covell’s ministry:—

“Croydon, February 11th, 1847. “MY VERY DEAR FRIEND,—I have received a note from Dr. B., with a very kind present in it; and as I understand you were one of the most active in the matter, I cannot but send you a few lines to acknowledge my warmest thanks to you. That I desire no gift for my poor services the Lord knows; for, having freely received, I freely give according to the ability that I have. But that God has in any way owned me to the encouragement or good of any of His people, and that as a proof they have thus made me so handsome a gift, causes me to bless the Almighty, and thank His dear children.

“I can say, friend Boorne, when first I got acquainted with you, you soon obtained a place in my heart; and the more I became acquainted with you the faster you got hold of me. And I now believe nothing will ever separate us but death; for you are in my heart to live and die with; and may the Almighty bless you indeed. I can say to you, and such as you, I can open my heart and tell all my troubles, fears, and misgivings, hopes and joys; whilst my heart is sealed to many that would be something; and that the Lord would own me to you in any way has been my earnest cry to Him.

“I can willingly spend myself and die in the cause of my Master, for the real good of such as you, who I know really love Him. How often I think of your coming over, again and again, week by week, to Croydon; and my poor heart goes up, ‘Do, Lord, bless him.’ And I do not believe at times I cry in vain; and then I bless the Lord for hearing my poor cry.

“Oh, what a blessed Master we serve! And we do not serve Him in bondage, but cheerfully run in His ways, for we know what it is to be made free by the Son of God; and this enlarges our hearts, and makes His ways ways of pleasantness, and we find at times His paths to be peace. Then we know what it is to sing, and to say, ‘A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it’; and we feel what it is to be watered every moment, and then rejoice that His eye is upon us for good.

“Oh, Boorne, how often have you and I thought God took no notice of us so as to bless us! And then how we have fretted in our poor minds, knowing, if the Lord did not help us, vain was the help of man. And how often has He appeared, so that we have found what Abraham called ‘The Mount’ remains to this day; and we would not have been without our troubles on any account. They have proved to us the faithfulness of God; and we have sung, ‘Who is a God like unto our God? Praise Him in His name JAH, and rejoice before Him.’

“When God sends forth His servant, He makes him know the bitterness of sin by feeling, and the blessedness of salvation by the application of the atoning blood of the Lamb to his conscience; and then the man speaks out of the abundance of his heart; for ‘the tongue of the wise is health.’ Then, as be speaks of these things, they come into the consciences of poor sinners who have been in the same steps, and the preacher gets into the hearts of the hearers, and they speak to him of what God hath wrought in their hearts; and the hearers get into the heart of the preacher, and they become one in spirit; and love cements the bond, which is more binding than all the agreements in the world, and stronger. I believe this is the case with the most part of those at our little place; and I can say I count nothing too dear, so that their souls may be profited; and my heart yearns over, and for, the people. I believe many prayers go up from them on my behalf; and how sweetly these things come together. My heart flows out freely to them, and their hands are open freely to me, as this present has proved.

“Now may the good Lord make and keep me honest in His sight and to the souls of men; and keep me from all errors and snares of the devil and men; make me a real blessing to His own people, and in the salvation of poor sinners. May He bless you and yours indeed; keep you both as the apple of His eye, and bless you a hundredfold for all your kindness to me, both spiritually and temporally, that you may sweetly find the truth of what He has said, ‘Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me.’

“I was coming over to tea with you today, but thought I would send you a line, and come one day next week. Do not notice to any one that I have written to you at present, as I have not written to any one else. I have sent a letter to Dr. B., which is to answer the purpose of my writing to each of the friends. 

“Believe me, yours truly,

“F. Covell

“To Mr. T. Boorne, Wellington, Surrey.”

Mr. Covell was baptized July 2nd, 1850, at Eden Street Chapel, London, by Mr. Tiptaft, in the presence of a crowded congregation. Mr. Covell spoke at the pool for a short time before going into the water; and the next day and the following he felt so favoured in his soul, that he said, to realize this would make the weakest go through the ordinance.

Mr. Covell was led to give up business in June, 1851, and throw himself upon the providence of God, giving himself wholly to the ministry of the Word.

The following year, 1852, began under a cloud, owing to a bad gathering on his hand and the failure of his general health, so that his medical attendant said that he could not say what the end might be. Having passed through several days and nights in great pain, he earnestly begged of God to heal him, and he felt a persuasion in his soul that God would answer him. A day or two after he told the doctor he believed he should get better. The doctor replied, “Time will prove that; but if you do, you will not be able to use your hand for some time.” But so rapid was the cure, that in a fortnight from that time he was able to write a letter. Mr. Covell’s providential trials drove him to a throne of grace, and help came in answer to prayer. He used to say, “The Lord has suffered me to come into a low place to enable me to speak to the profit and comfort of exercised business men, and others in like circumstances. Ah! my friends, you little know how I have walked the fields, crying, ‘Have pity upon me, Lord; what will men say of Thy truth? How Thy name will be blasphemed! What will become of Thy faithfulness? where will Thy love and power be seen? Good God, do help me! pray save me from impending ruin which I see before me.’ I have stood in the pulpit in times past without a sovereign in my pocket with which I could say I was going through the next week; but His watchful eye and loving heart and bountiful hand appeared for me again and again, causing me to acknowledge His goodness, testifying that I had a God that cared for me, who would hold me up, and see me through every strait and every difficulty.”

In the recently published Memorials of the late James Boorne, of Greenwich, there is a particularly interesting account given of the great blessing that he received under Mr. Covell’s ministry, in the year 1856. Mr. Boorne had felt to be in a backsliding state of soul, but on Sunday, May 10th, he heard Mr. Covell from Hebrews 10:21, 22. During his discourse he took up the case of one who, through sinking into a backsliding state, could not draw near to God. He said, “When such a man is retiring to rest, Satan will say, ‘You are not fit to go to God tonight, put it off till tomorrow morning; get into bed and meditate over a few things there.’ But,” said he, “as sure as you get into bed you will go to sleep, and Satan will rock you to sleep, too; and, God only knows, there may be a poor soul here who has been in this case, and gone on in it week after week, week after week.” These remarks came home to Mr. Boorne with a, “Thou art the man,” and the tears began to flow. Then Mr. Covell went on to show that though a child of God—like king Asa—might be drawn aside by the power of Satan, yet the Scripture declares the heart of Asa was perfect all his days. “Therefore, poor soul, Satan’s sieve may turn thee this way and that way, but thou hast at the bottom a true heart amidst all the rubbish thou knowest that thou hast.” Again Mr. Boorne’s eyes overflowed with tears, and he felt, “Oh, how marvelous! a true heart to be in me.” This sermon led to a very gracious revival of the work of grace in his soul, the full particulars of which are recorded in the interesting volume of “Memorials of James Boorne” that has recently been published.

Chapter 3

Mr. Covell was an excellent letter writer, but it is only a few of his letters that have found their way into print, and the want of space will not admit of our reproducing many of them in the present article, but the following letter is so excellent and seems to speak so like the good man, that we cannot omit it as we are sure it will interest our readers:—

“Croydon, November 6th, 1848.

”The weather-beaten youth to the Little One sendeth greeting: I hear that you have been poorly, but fear not, dame, you will never die, for Christ lives, therefore you will live also. Death is only a sleep, to those who die in Jesus. I believe that you are after the Lord Jesus, and you may depend upon it that you will never be deluged in wrath, make shipwreck of faith, nor be dashed in pieces by the many rocks of error that lie in the way. The Captain of your salvation hath declared that it is not the will of His Heavenly Father that one of His little ones should perish, and as He holds the winds in His fists, and the storms are under His control, you will land safely in spite of all opposition, and praise Him for ever that kept such a poor vessel as you together, when so many have been drowned in perdition. Oh, dame, you and I want so much ballast, for we are so heady and light, and should soon be carried we know not where. Therefore the Lord sends different trials; these keep the vessel in its place, and make us sail steadily. Every trial, opposition, and persecution drives us more from self, and are so many waves that bring us to Jesus, who is the haven of rest, and while Satan and men mean our hurt, the Son of God causes it to work for good. How many times have I proved this! We read that He rides upon the storm, and until the poor soul gets into the harbour of God’s love he is tossed about. The Son of God suffers all sorts of things to come upon us; these are so many winds that fill our sails and bring us quicker to Him; and when we enter here and lay hold on the Son of God by faith, how safe we feel while men are roaring about us. Come, dame, you have got such a Captain that never failed of bringing every vessel safe that has been committed to Him, and you have been obliged to fall at His feet and cry, ‘Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.’ Bless your soul, He surely will. Oh, dame, to think that the darling Son of God should set His love upon such an one as you when there were so many great folks in the world; yet to pass by them and say to you, ‘Come with Me, My sister, My spouse, look from the lions’ den and mountain of leopards, and thou art all fair, My sister, there is no spot in you.’ This is wonderful, indeed, but not more wonderful than true. Oh, when you sit with Him at last, crowned with glory, who then would think that was the blacksmith’s wife, who while on earth was full of fears and doubts, and felt such a body of sin that made her sigh and cry, and that the folks laughed and sneered at, and were afraid to come to her house. Oh, how things will be altered, you comforted and they tormented. ‘Oh,’ say you, ‘can this be possible?’ Yes, for the first time you came to hear me, Jesus sent you this word, that He was ‘appointed to comfort all that mourn in Zion’; and you are one of them, for you mourn your hardness, unbelief, coldness, sin, and the evils of your heart. You mourn because you cannot love Him more, nor serve Him better, and He has said He will give you beauty for ashes, and clothe you with the garment of praise for the spirit heaviness, and you shall have the oil of joy that shall last for ever. He will be as good as His word, therefore the word that has gone out of His mouth will stand for ever, and your unbelief will never alter it. Oh, you may bless God for this; He is not a man that He should repent, therefore good days are before you, yea, bright and glorious indeed, when all your trials and troubles will be lost for ever, and you singing the song, ‘Salvation to God and the Lamb.’ I have written what I believe, and you will find it true. Tell your husband that the Lord has spoken good concerning Israel, and that a full reward will be given him from the Lord, under whose wings he has come to trust. Therefore tell him, let faith and patience have their perfect work, and in the end he shall praise the Lord. Tell Tom I shall be glad to see him, and I should think he could come this moon,

“I remain, yours truly,

“F. Covell”

During the year 1864 the late beloved J. C. Philpot, owing to failing health, found it needful to resign his pastorate over the Churches of Stamford and Oakham, and he was led to choose Croydon as a suitable locality to reside in, especially as he would be able to enjoy the ministry of Mr. Covell. The two ministers, known to each other before as lovers and preachers of the same Gospel, now, owing to frequent opportunities of converse, became warm and attached friends. Whenever health permitted, the gracious scholar loved to sit at the feet of the gracious “Tinman,” and whenever the scholar could be prevailed upon to take the pulpit, the “Tinman” was equally delighted to sit at his feet for instruction.

It was Mr. Philpot’s dying wish that Mr. Covell should conduct the service at his funeral, with which request Mr. Covell complied, and his address upon that occasion was a masterly one; and we cannot pay it a greater compliment than by saying, it was worthy of the memory of the gracious, talented man whose body he committed to the silent grave. In speaking of Mr. Philpot as a friend, Mr. Covell said: “I can bear testimony, from a long intercourse, to his courteous and affable manner, and it must ever be a source of satisfaction to me that he declared that he enjoyed my ministry; again and again has he expressed how thankful he was to God for bringing him to Croydon.”

In September, 1865, Mr. Covell ruptured a blood-vessel, and lost a considerable quantity of blood. This alarming event caused much consternation and anxiety to his wife and family, but Mr. Covell seemed to be kept very quiet in his mind during the occurrence, and when he reached the top of the stairs leading to his bedroom, he said, evidently for the comfort of his family— 

“All things for our good are given, 

Comforts, crosses, staffs, and rods;

All is ours in earth and Heaven,

We are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

As he lay in bed forbidden to speak or to see anyone, God blessed his soul, and shone into his heart in a wonderful manner, and when allowed to speak a little, he said: “For some time past I have been putting up many cries to God, and He blessed me with many little tokens and manifestations of His favour; but since I have been on my bed, I have found they were only foretastes of what was to follow. I have indeed proved the truth of what the Psalmist says, ‘He that goeth forth weeping, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.'”

On June 18th, 1870, his loving and devoted wife died after a short illness, of whom her husband could say, “I believe she is now in heaven.”

Mr. Covell having so recently known the trial of losing a good wife, could feelingly sympathize with others in a similar bereavement. The following letter, extracted from the Gospel Standard has been sent us by a friend:—

“MY DEAR FRIEND,—How true it is that ‘man is born to trouble,’ and that ‘few and evil are our days.’ How the good Lord has cut away the strings that were likely to hold you here, and speaks to you by them, ‘Behold, I come quickly,’ that your heart may respond in the sweet feeling, ‘Come, Lord Jesus! for what wait I for? Truly my hope is even in Thee.’

“As to your dear wife, it were almost cruel to wish to keep her here in such continual pain and sickness. Oh, the blessed change, to be swallowed up in life and love! Oh, the child of God has got the best of it; and now she reaps a harvest of joy, and of the blessedness of it there will be no end. You may mourn, but she rejoices. I trust you may see and feel a Father’s hand in it; and this will enable you to say, ‘Not my will, but Thine be done!’ Oh, what a mercy it is when our will is swallowed up in His! How true we find it, that every good gift is from above! We can see what is right and good, but we cannot reach it. All our strength is in Him; and the Lord is pleased to make us know it. May He be pleased to help you at this time, that you may feel the Lord is good and a stronghold in the day of trouble, and have another token for good that the Lord loves and cares for you; for sometimes it is by terrible things in righteousness He answers us; and so we prove that all things, dark as well as light, work together for good.

“Accept of my best wishes and sympathy in this trial, and may you have to say, ‘I was brought low; but the Lord helped me,’ 

“Yours truly,

“Croydon, Dec. 27, 1871.” 

“F. Covell.”

Mr. Covell used occasionally to preach at Cranbrook, and he did so in 1873, soon after the death of our late dear father, Mr. James Wilmshurst. Before leaving the town he called on our mother to sympathize with her; this visit was a model of brevity and point. He shook hands, inquired after her health and that of her family, and then, in his striking manner, quoted the lines of Berridge—

“If sick, or blind, or poor, 

Or by the world abhorred,

There’s not a cross lies at thy door 

But cometh from the Lord.”

Having repeated the verse he at once said, “Good-bye,” and was gone, but the brief visit and the lines quoted were felt to be most helpful, and were never forgotten by those who heard them.

Mr. Covell was always of a particularly friendly disposition, and would speak freely to anyone he came in contact with, however much opposed to them he might be in his views of truth: he would do so to Father Davey, who was for many years the Roman Catholic priest in Croydon. On one occasion, Father Davey was telling him of his new house which he said was beautifully furnished. “No,” said Mr. Covell, “it cannot be.” “Indeed, it is,” said the priest; “you come and see.” “No,” replied Mr. Covell; “there is one thing lacking, you need a wife.” And all true Protestants will agree with Mr. Covell that the priests’ homes would be better if their vows of celibacy were removed, and their homes brightened by the presence of a good wife, which is from the Lord.

On another occasion the Baptist minister and the Romish priest met opposite a new church in Croydon, in which extreme Ritualistic practices are carried on. Mr. Covell said, pointing to the church, “They (the worshippers) will soon come over to you.” “No,” said the priest, “we do not want them.” But however Father Davey and his fellow-priests may repudiate the Ritualists, there is little doubt that the statement of the Baptist minister is according to the truth, for the way is now well beaten by the feet of the thousands who are continually passing from the ranks of Ritualism to those of Romanism.

One day Mr. Covell met a man that, when he was following his business avocation, he had worked with. The man was in a poor and wretched condition, having given way to drink. The man solicited help from him. Calling him by his name, Mr. Covell said, “You do serve your master well; he is a hard master; he does pay you badly, yet you serve him faithfully. How thankful I am that I have a better Master, who pays me good wages.” Mr. Covell closed his admonition by relieving the man’s needs, as he had done on previous occasions.

One Sunday morning two men of respectable appearance came into Providence Chapel. As the service proceeded, they appeared by their actions to have come to make game of the preacher. Mr. Covell observed their proceedings, and in the course of his discourse he looked straight at them, and said, in his solemn and impressive manner—

“Fools make a mock at sin, 

And with destruction sport;

But death will stop their simple grin, 

And cut their laughter short.”

The arrow evidently hit its mark, for the two men at once rose from their seats, and left the chapel—we would hope, sadder but wiser men.

We now give an extract from a letter received from a friend, which will give expression to the deep affection felt towards Mr. Covell by his constant hearers:—

“I think the little account, as far as it is written, in the Sower is very good and truthful, especially what you say about the loss to his regular hearers, which was indeed heavy, and is still deeply felt. What a father he was to his people! and whatever his own griefs might be, always kind and cheery when one met him, like a ray of sunshine, shedding a warm, bright influence around him. How he watched over his flock with earnest desires for their salvation, and noted if any were absent from chapel. Never can they find such another. ‘I’ve got the best,’ he said, in allusion to his departure and unknown successor, and you can’t have first love at the end.’ His prayers were remarkable—just like himself—such fervency, such tender pleading, as one never hears elsewhere, except from his brother, who died a year or two ago, and who had a similar gift, though not quite in the same degree.

“Towards the close of his days, dear Mr. Covell ripened very fast; and I well remember one Wednesday evening, a few months before his death, being greatly disappointed, on going into the chapel, at seeing him in the desk, while another minister occupied the pulpit; but can never forget the solemn and pathetic manner in which he gave out that hymn of Berridge’s, ‘If Jesus kindly say,’ &c.; and when he came to the last verse, with what emphasis and feeling it dropped from his lips, as if his heart was in every word—

“‘A soft and tender sigh

Now heaves my hallowed breast,

I long to lay me down and die, 

And find eternal rest.’

“I am sorry these few recollections are so meagre. There are some living who knew him much more intimately, yet I doubt if they loved him more. Years have softened our grief, but the loss is as great as ever, and there seems to be no one who can in any measure supply his place.”

Chapter 4

It has already been observed in the earlier portion of this memoir, that one striking feature of Mr. Covell’s ministry was the manner in which he would give utterance to some pithy sentence, which seemed to attach themselves like burrs to the memories of his hearers, and were remembered by them years after they heard them uttered. A few of these sayings we are now able to give, which are worthy of being preserved.

1. There are no babes among the devil’s children; they are all kings; they are all great men.

2. You will never get anything in the company of the ungodly but guilt or grief. 

3. Remember, you are not beyond the reach of the truth, when you are out of the sound of my voice. (N.B. The above was said at the close of a searching discourse from Psalm 147:2.)

4. Unbelief never speaks well of God.

5. The world has two breasts, at one or the other of which all worldly people suck—Pleasure and Profit.

6. When I pass the shops of some of my hearers who are in business, and who, I know, have a trying and perplexing path, I often say within myself, “I wish you were in heaven!”

7. You complain of your hard heart, you say it is just like a stone. No, poor soul, it is not like a stone. It is more like a lump of ice. Let the sun shine on a stone, it makes no impression upon it, but let it shine on a lump of ice, how quickly it begins to melt, and how quickly your heart softens when the Lord shines upon it!

8. Election was never a hindrance to my seeking the Lord when I was in concern of soul, for if I had known there was only one person in Croydon going to be saved, I could not have rested till I knew that I was that one.

9. I want to outstrip the Apostle Paul, but I am leagues behind him, leagues behind him. (How many of his hearers have felt that they were leagues behind Mr. Covell.)

10. Lord, help us to compass Thee about with Thy promise in such a way that Thou mayest not be able to get out of it.

11. Poor sinner, have you started on the way to heaven? If you were going to walk from Croydon to London, you would come to a certain spot on the road, you would come to Thornton Heath Pond, and then pass on to Streatham; and presently you would reach the Elephant and Castle. Ah! perhaps some of you will say, “I have never got as far as the Elephant and Castle.” Well, my friends, have you got as far as Thornton Heath Pond? Those who have been started by the Lord on the way to the kingdom will surely reach it.

12. I have often prayed that God would not allow certain things to happen, but they have happened, and I have lived to bless God for those very things.

13. Oh to have nothing to do but to die!

14. It’s not wishing, but willing. The desire for grace is grace.

15. Hold out, faith and patience; a few more steps, and we shall be over Jordan.

16. If I’ve got your heart, I’ve got you.

17. If the Lord starts a soul in the path to the kingdom, will He not pay his fare there?

18. Our God can make a straight line with a crooked stick.

19. Riches make to themselves wings, and fly away; the best way to clip their wings is by giving away to the poor.

20. Before leaving my bedroom in the morning, I plead with the Lord, “Oh, keep me from sin today; Lord, keep me from sin today.” But what is the first thing I have to do when I get into my room at night, but to fall upon my knees, and cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner’’?

21. When we come to die, all our religion will go into a nut- shell.

22. Two of Mr. Covell’s favourite expressions in prayer were, “Lord, put the great question out of question,” and, “Lord, make us to believe what we do believe.”

23. Let those who want to have Divine sovereignty in eternal matters explained, so as to satisfy human reason, first explain why the Creator gave to the violet a fragrant odour, and made the daisy scentless.

24. Meeting one day one of the anxious ones of his hearers, he asked him how be was getting on. The hearer said, “I have not yet got what I want.” Mr. Covell replied, “If you want for it till the last days of your life, you will find it worth waiting for.

25. It is one thing for sin to live in you, and another for you to live in that.

26. If you can’t do without God, He won’t do without you.

27. Death, how certain; judgment, how strict; hell, how woeful; heaven, how glorious!

28. Praying will make a man leave off sinning, or sinning will make a man leave off praying.

29. What is all the tinsel of this world to a good hope through grace!

30. If you do not hate all sin, you never really hated one.

31. Many of you think about going to heaven, and have never shed a tear in your life over sin as sin.

32. If you can’t stand before a vessel of clay like me, what will you do in rebukes of fire?

33. If you know anything about the things I have been faintly describing, you will not prove Covell a liar and his speech nothing worth.

34. There is nothing that will make a man hate sin so much as the felt forgiveness of it.

35. The Lord can bring good out of evil; we sin and He will make us feel the guilt, and the need of cleansing blood; but let none make light of sin and take advantage of His mercy. If you do, it will be a pin in your throat that will choke you.

It being the custom only to have annual collections at Providence Chapel, Croydon, Mr. Covell used frequently on these occasions give some interesting reminiscences, which made those addresses interesting and valuable.

On March 12th, 1876, being collection day, he made the following remarks at the close of his discourse:—

“It is twenty-eight years since the chapel was opened. What has held us together in Prayer. I believe many of you have come up praying for God’s blessing—‘Lord, bless him that we expect to hear,’ so you have been delivered from all pick-thank feelings, finding fault with the weakness that has been displayed. As you have come up, so I believe I have come up—’Lord, bless the people; smile upon them; do them good.’ So this tie between us has been a better one than man could have invented. We have no handsome place to draw you to; you are not likely to increase your business by coming here; it has not been the excellent singing, or the splendid tones of an instrument that has attracted you; nor has it been the silver eloquence of the preacher. If anything has reached your hearts, it is because out of his weakness God has perfected strength.

”When I look round, what faces I miss that I was wont to see twenty-eight years ago! Where are those faces that used to meet in my own house, that wended their way to the little chapel in the old town, and who, with heart and hand, helped to build this place? I have no doubt that some are singing of that grace which saved sinners like them. What fears and shakings I have had, what puffings from the devil, that I should not hold out and hold on, and that you would be tired of me! But notwithstanding my fears, God has multiplied us. We have had no Penny Readings to get you together, no concerts; we have had nothing else to attract you but the truth that you are sinners, and must be saved by the grace of God.

‘’When we opened this chapel, I thought the forty-eight pounds collected on the opening day was a wonderful sum; but He has since opened your hearts to such an extent that your praise is in all the Churches. If this year’s collection does not come up to what it did last year, I shall not think your affection towards me and the cause of God is in the least diminished, but that it is your circumstances have brought you to do what you have done. Whatever you give, whether two mites or more, God enable you to feel, Lord, prosper Zion.”

The total sum collected on this day was £462 15s. 7d.

In the year 1878 we attended the funeral, at Croydon, of our dear friend, William West, of Croydon, who had been one of Mr. Covell’s most attached hearers. When the mourners were all assembled at the house, a little while before the time fixed for the funeral, Mr. Covell arrived, and no sooner had he taken his seat than he began, in his solemn way, to speak weighty words, by which he sought to impress the living then present, with the lessons that such a solemn event should teach. Amongst other remarks, he said, “One Sunday when I was preaching, I saw sitting before me a young man (apparently from the country), accompanied by a young woman. A few days after, the latter called upon me, saying her friend was very unwell, and asked me to visit him. I did so; and after some preliminary conversation, I asked him what his hope was in prospect of death; to which he replied, ‘Alas! I fear, none, for I have been brought up under the truth, yet have neglected what I have heard. Two or three times before this I have been ill, and have made vows of reformation, which have vanished with my illness, and now I feel my soul is indeed lost. Too late!’ I endeavoured to put before him the mercy of God, telling him what a long arm He had to reach the most desperate case; but he could not receive it; so I left him. Twice afterwards I visited him, but found him still in the same despairing state, most painful to witness, he being unable to grasp any comfort or hope. Shortly after my last visit, someone called from his house and requested me to come, saying he was wringing his hands and tearing the hair from his head in the agonies of despair. This, on visiting him, I found only too true. Again I attempted to direct his mind to the mercy of God to lost and ruined sinners, but he put it from him, saying, ‘I am lost, lost, lost!’ and in this sad state he died.”

The relation of this sad event, especially under the solemn circumstances under which we were gathered, seemed to fall with a weight upon our own mind, and we believe on that of the other mourners who heard it related.

Mr. Covell then went on to contrast the happy departure of the dear friend whose body we were about to consign to the silent tomb, who could say as he got near Jordan, “Oh, how I long to be gone, to be with Him, to love and praise Him as I desire.” “Lord Jesus, take my ransomed spirit home to Thyself; oh, do come!” “An abiding peace.”

And equally impressive were Mr. Covell’s words at the grave. “O sin! O sin! what hast thou done, in bringing death and misery into the world, and marred God’s fair creation?” O death! O death! what hast thou done? Thou hast robbed me of my dear friend, one that I had thought would have been a pillar and support to my Church and people, when my head is laid low in the grave.” He then went on to show how, through Christ, death had been robbed of its sting, and the grave of its victory.

In the evening of the same day Mr. Covell preached a funeral sermon, from the words, “Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” Previous to his discourse Mr. Covell offered up a touching prayer, some portion of which we are able to record in these pages:—

“In mercy, O Lord, remember the bereaved; God Almighty succour, help, and defend the widow, and take care of the fatherless. Thou art a good God, loving and kind; Thou knowest in infinite wisdom what Thou hast done in truth and in love, and to our blind eyes a mystery indeed. But Thou canst make no mistake; too good to be unkind, pray remember her; she is left without a protector; guide, defend, and support her. Thou canst be all, and above all; be to her better than ten husbands. Thou hast said, ‘A Father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in His holy habitation: ‘Leave thy fatherless children to Me, and let thy widows trust in Me.’ May she realize, prove, and find it so; he able to speak well of Thee when she comes to die; feel and find goodness and mercy hath followed her all the days of her life; to say, ‘Thou hast been a good God, loving and kind, having exceeded and outdone all she could think, hope, or expect.’ In mercy let her feel Thy guiding hand; smile upon her soul; give her a blessed testimony that she has found favour in Thy sight; so for soul and body exceed and outdo for her all she can ask or desire. In mercy take care of the children. Oh, that their father’s God may be their God! Hear Thou his dying prayer, as it came out of his heart and mouth, ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob bless the children.’ Answer the prayer that they may have Thee to be their Father, find him (their father) at last, sing with him in heaven, ‘Salvation to God and the Lamb.’ Take care of them, preserve them in all their paths; drop Thy fear in their hearts, bring them early to seek and know Thee and find eternal life.”

Chapter 5

Mr. Kershaw And Mr. Covell

We might here refer to the fact that the late Mr. John Kershaw, of Rochdale, was one of the first to distinguish that Mr. Covell had gifts that were likely to be useful to the Church of God. Mr. Kershaw occasionally came to Croydon to preach, and when he did so, he stayed at Mr. Covell’s house. One evening, as he was sitting somewhat apart from the others, trying to meditate upon the Word previous to going to the service, he could not forbear hearing Mr. Covell’s conversation to some friends in the room, which impressed him so much, that when walking together to chapel, Mr. Kershaw asked him if he had not been exercised about the ministry. Mr. Covell put off the question, saying, “We are going to chapel now, don’t trouble about such things as that;” but Mr. Kershaw at a later period renewed his question, saying, “The matter so rests upon my mind, that I feel if I am wrong in my impressions upon this point I may be in others.” When so pressed, Mr. Covell had to acknowledge that it was so, but pledged Mr. Kershaw to keep the secret. When Mr. Kershaw came again and found that Mr. Covell had not gone forward in the matter, he threatened to tell the people, but Mr. Covell said, “You dare not, because you are bound by your promise.” One of the greatest obstacles in the way was the affliction Mr. Covell had of stuttering when he spoke, which was at times so bad, that it is related that when serving a lady in his shop on one occasion, he had so much difficulty in replying to her questions, that she told him he had better go and call his master, not thinking she was speaking to the master.

In God’s own time the attempt was made to preach, as already related in an earlier [chapter], and at the conclusion of the discourse one friend observed in astonishment to another, “Why, he didn’t stutter”—neither did he from that time forward. Soon after he had commenced to preach, Mr. Covell had to go on business to Bedington, and called on the mother of the rector of the parish. She having heard that he had commenced preaching, asked how he could do so, as he had never been to college. He replied, “I have not been to college, but for eleven years I have diligently studied the Scriptures.” Doubtless that eleven years’ study of the Word, under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, was the best training he could have had, and laid the foundation of that wonderful knowledge of the Scriptures which was such a marked feature of his ministry.

Gratitude A Gift From God

Mr. Covell, in one of his discourses, said: “God has made me prove that ‘every good and perfect gift is from above.’ You can no more work gratitude in your heart than you can faith or love. If it will redound to the glory of God, I am willing to tell you simply how He made me prove it. I was driven hard for £200. As I walked the fields I said, ‘Good God, if Thou wilt help me, how I will praise, love, and bless Thee.’ I could no more see the way in which I was to have it than I can see my way to the throne of England. I thought if God helped me, if I did not praise Him the very stones would cry out: I felt I must, I could not help it. I said, ‘O Lord, I will believe and trust in Thee as long as I live, and never doubt Thy goodness any more.’ I thought I should make the hedges ring and echo. My friends, God gave me the money, and as I had it in my hands there was no more thankfulness in my heart than there is life in this cushion. When I went to pay it, my heart was as cold as the ground I walked on. I thought—’What a wretch I am! Did you not say how you would praise God?’ But I could not do it. I did say with my lips, ‘Lord, I thank Thee,’ but there was no heart in it. I thought, ‘Perhaps when I get the receipt that will do it.’ I came home as cold as I went out. I could no more bring my heart to gratitude than the devil. I remember a few days afterwards a little circumstance transpired in which I saw somewhat of the finger of God moving towards me, and my heart broke, and my eyes ran out with tears. That is the way God will teach us the riches of His grace.”

Memorable Seasons At Gower Street Chapel

Mr. Covell once gave the following relation of blessings he received at Gower Street:—“Some years after hearing Mr. Gadsby the first time in Gower Street Chapel, I went to preach there, and a good man waited on me after the service and said, ‘Do you remember any particular time here?’ I said, ‘Yes, I have been many times blessed here when hearing different good men.’ ‘But do you remember any time in particular?’ ‘Yes, I do,’ I said; ‘I was very blessed at one time when hearing Mr. Gadsby.’ ‘That was the time I mean,’ he said; ‘I sat close to you, and you could not sit still, and I thought, “That man has got something; he has got a blessing,” and directly you got into the pulpit today I recognised you.’ I had no idea but that I sat quietly, although I was feeling so much. Some time after that I was going to preach there again, and my poor afflicted son had been very trying, and had caused me some tears and sorrow. As I was going down Gower Street in the evening, very low in mind, I cried out, ‘Have pity on me, O Lord!’ God seemed to bring these things to my mind, ‘Are you not the man that was willing to have any trouble, and pass through anything, some years ago, knowing that all things should work together for your good?’ I said, ‘Yes, Lord, I am.’ Then these words dropped in my heart, ‘The Lord taketh pleasure in His people; He will beautify the meek with salvation.’ That turned my sorrow into joy, and made me go singing to preach.”

The “Croydon Advertiser” On Mr. Covell

Mr. Covell did not come under that woe which the Lord Jesus referred to when He said, “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.” In August, 1873, the Croydon Advertiser gave an article upon him, under the title of “Croydon Crayons.” The writer of the sketch seemed to dip his pen in vinegar, and gives abundant evidence that he did not approve the doctrines which Mr. Covell loved to preach. We could not re-publish the chief portion of that article, but give an extract of the most favourable part of the writer’s criticism:—

“Mr. Covell’s face does not betoken supreme happiness; it may be that a touch of solemnity is a peculiarity of the members of this sect, for we noticed that many quaintnesses which might have provoked an involuntary smile on the part of strangers, had not the slightest effect upon the gravity of the regular seat-holders. Indeed, the congregation would have little time to digest a mild joke, for Mr. Covell is at times a quick speaker, and his congregation are so intent upon watching for the coming gem, that they too often forget to polish the preceding one. We must confess we were not pleased at the absence of Sunday scholars; no Christian Church can be said to be complete without this much-needed and useful branch of Evangelical work. The congregation seem content to feast upon the food provided by their energetic Pastor, without seeming to distribute any to others. The subject of this sketch is undoubtedly a good man; no one can hear him without conceding that the speaker feels all he says, and believes all he preaches. But all men have their peculiarities. While reading the Scriptures he makes many comments, often intensely personal, sometimes in a colloquial strain, and always in a disjointed, interjaculatory style. The discourse is very vigorous, always original, sometimes clever.

“In private life, we believe, no one is more respected in his circle of acquaintance. For more than a quarter of a century he has held together a large and influential body of believers, by whom he is greatly beloved.”

A few years later the same paper made further reference to Mr. Covell, these remarks being of an entirely favourable character:—

“The Church and congregation to whom Mr. Covell ministered was probably the most regular in attendance in Croydon, and for devotion to their pastor are unsurpassed in any quarter. While their minister and spiritual adviser, Mr. Covell was also their friend and counsellor in temporal matters, and his congregation seemed to look upon him as much in the light of a father as in that of a pastor. The recipient of numberless confidences, his advice was always kindly given, and invariably accepted and acted up to…As a preacher, Mr. Covell was most earnest and original; under the apparent solemnity of his manner there lurked an abundance of the milk of human kindness, and there will be many persons who have to acknowledge acts of charity and large-heartedness, which Mr. Covell studiously avoided proclaiming, and would, perhaps, have repudiated any credit for.”

Words To The Young

Although Mr. Covell had no Sunday School, he would occasionally speak to the young from the pulpit, and always with much kindness and solemnity. In reading the first chapter of Job he would stop at the fifth verse, and tell the young who had godly fathers and mothers what a good thing it was to have parents who prayed for them. Also he would sometimes say, “Listen, children!’’ and then would relate the call of Samuel. Once, when reading 2 Kings 22, he made the following remarks:—

“How young was Josiah to have it recorded of him that he took an interest in the house of God. There are many young people here, how many of them love God’s house? You are never too young to die, you have no lease of your lives; if you look in the cemetery you will see the names of many younger than you. A week today, for aught you know, your friends may be saying over you, ‘Dust to dust, ashes to ashes,’ and while they were saying it, would they have any to believe that you were singing in heaven? Would they be able to say that, though you did not observe it, they had watched and seen you go by yourself and pour out your soul in prayer to God? Would they find any leave; in your Bible turned down? Would they have ever heard you say that you liked this or that servant of God for his earnest manner of setting forth God’s Word? You would like to be in heaven; but if you do not walk the way that He walked on earth you will never be with Him where He now is.”

Sayings Of Mr. Covell

1. If you were to go into a room and see a number of wheels and spindles running round, and one should say to you, “What makes them move?’’ you would say, “The engine.” “But I do not see it.” ”That does not matter,” you would say; “it is the engine moves them, though we cannot see it.” So with our souls; God is the engine, so to speak, that sets our desires going, and makes us say, “The desire of my soul is to Thy Name, and to the remembrance of Thee.”

2. As Moses’ rod swallowed up all the other rods, so God’s love at times will swallow up all other loves.

3. You know there is many a shilling and half-crown worn so smooth that you can hardly see the impression, but it has got the right stamp on it. Now, has your religion got the right stamp on it? Are you willing to give up anything for Jesus Christ? Can you say at times, “All other things are nothing in comparison with Him?”

4. A man that overcomes the world is a greater conqueror than Alexander the Great, Wellington, or Napoleon. They took months or years to overcome little spots of land, while the child of God overcomes the whole world.

5. Many times when walking in the fields, or on my knees at home, I have felt, “If I had all the sins of all the parish of Croydon laid on me (and, my friends, none but God knows my many sins, and the sighs and tears that have fallen from my eyes, my mournings and grievings on account of them), yet, with all this, with faith in the Son of God I shall not fear, such is the virtue and cleansing efficacy of His blood.”

6. “The mercy of the Lord endureth for ever.” There is no getting to the end of it. I am persuaded that if it did not endure for ever, the best, the most circumspect, and the most careful of you would run it all out, and what would become of the worst!

7. Love is of God: “If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned”; it is a free gift, a beam from the Almighty, a spark of the nature of God. All other things will die, fade, and leave us, but love.

8. A man may be going to shoot at a target, another man may jog his elbow, so the arrow may go outside the target; but he meant to hit the bullseye, he took his aim according to it, but the Jog of the arm sent it on one side. So if God has made your heart right with Him, and you know what it is at times to say, “Lord, search me, and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting”; then your aim is right, although sometimes the world comes and gives you a jog, and you miss the mark.

Chapter 6

“They Said, ‘He Is A Methodist.’”

Mr. Covell once gave the following relation of how he was enabled to show his colours amongst his fellow-workmen:—

“Without wanting to speak with egotism, I may say, when I was working in a shop in London, my father one day came into the shop, but the men did not know him. He said, referring to me, ‘What sort of a young man is that?’ They said, ‘He is a Methodist.’ They could see a difference between me and them in this: at meal-times I read the Bible; I had moral courage enough, it is not everyone that has that; I could say to them at night, ‘I am going to chapel, which of you will go with me?’ I have never repented that I made an open profession of what I was. God made it manifest that I was His in a shop of sixty to eighty men. I would have got tipsy, lied, and sworn as they did, but for the grace of God.”

Fears And Faith

“When I was in business I had a persuasion that God would take my soul to heaven, yet I had many fears whether He would enable me to pay my debts and bring up my family. I have walked about for an hour or two, and argued, and have not made one hair white or black to my advantage. Praying is better than arguing, and committing our way to God is better than planning and scheming.

“At one time, when sorely pinched, sharply squeezed, and in fear how the matter would end, I ran to a secret place, and dropped on my knees before God, crying, ‘Help me, Lord.’ God dropped these words into my heart (what golden words they were to me), ‘Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all other things shall be added unto you.’ ‘Good God, I shall be helped!’ I said. I knew what Hannah felt when she went away with her countenance no more sad. Nor was mine either.”

Beggars And Their Pleas

“What pleas men will make when they come begging. I have plenty of beggars at my door. How the various pleas they make give them a claim upon me, they think, and entitle them to get something from me. They come to the door; when I go, they say, ‘I hope you will help me, sir.’ ‘I do not know you,’ I say. ‘Why, I have been living in Union Street all my life.’ Along comes another; ‘I wish you would help me, sir.’ ‘Why did you come to me? Who sent you?’ ‘Well, sir, l heard you were charitable and good-natured, so I thought you would give me something.’ Another comes, ‘Do, sir, help me. I have sat under such a minister, and I know such and such people you may know.’ Along comes another; ‘I don’t know you,’ I say. ‘Why, sir, I come to your chapel at times.’ They think that is quite enough. They conclude these things are all claims, and that I have a right to assist them; though, you see, there is no claim in the least; yet, for the life of me, when they come with these pleas, I cannot send them away. Now, what I want to show is this: In going to the Son of God you have got a claim, you have got a plea; He has encouraged you to come. It is declared by the Holy Ghost, ‘Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”’

Presentation On The Seventieth Birthday

On December 8th, 1878, Mr. Covell completed his seventieth year, and the members of his Church and congregation availed themselves of the opportunity to express their affection towards their pastor. The presentation consisted of an oil painting of Mr. Covell, a time-piece and stand (valued at £50), one hundred and thirty-one new sovereigns, and an illuminated address. The birthday being on Sunday, the presentation was made on the previous Friday evening. On the following Sunday morning Mr. Covell preached from Joshua. 23:14, “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing bath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” The sermon was a most impressive one, and the address that Mr. Covell gave on returning thanks for the expression of his people’s kindness towards him was of a most interesting character; in which he made reference to many incidents already referred to in our narrative, therefore space will only now allow us to give a brief extract from the address:—

“Love and gratitude to the God of all my mercies, and to you, my friends, for your kindness, affection, and liberality, constrain me to speak. None can tell, none can tell, but those who have been placed in the same pleasing position, the feelings of that man whose friends shower down blessings upon him, while he feels so unworthy and undeserving; it will sink him into nothingness. This obligation you have laid me under—and a sweet obligation it is, too—has brought me in debtor to you, never to cease lifting up my heart to God in prayer that your souls may be comforted, that He may bless you heart and soul. May God so lay me upon your hearts that you may never bow the knee in prayer, but His poor servant, and your servant for Christ’s sake, may be remembered by you. May you cry, ‘God help him; God be with him, and assist him continually; make him faithful and affectionate. God make him a blessing to our souls.'”

A Dream And Its Fulfillment

A good man living in the country was some years ago passing through a season of trial and great exercise of mind, during which time he had a dream, in which he thought himself near a palace, when a summons was brought him to go and speak to the prince. On hearing this his mind was filled with fear, feeling that he was utterly unable and unworthy to go in and speak with the prince. Just then he thought he heard Mr. Covell’s name announced, which greatly relieved his anxiety, for he felt, Mr. Covell can go in and speak to the Prince for me. Here his dream concluded, but a short time afterwards, while still under this exercise of mind, an opportunity was offered of going to hear Mr. Covell preach at Tonbridge. While Mr. Covell was speaking in prayer, in his usual powerful manner, the good man was so overcome and favoured in his soul that he felt his dream was fulfilled, and that Mr. Covell had indeed gone in and spoken to the Prince for him.

A Reminiscence Of Mr. Covell

I should be very happy to send you any scrap relative to good Mr. Covell were it easy to do so. The fact is, there was such savour in his conversation, combined with an individuality all his own, that it is not possible to reproduce Mr. Covell on paper. This, doubtless, largely accounts for the poverty of his printed memoir, I well remember Mr. Covell telling me of a sweet visit he had from his Lord while walking in Addington Park, the grounds attached to the palace of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He said it was in his earliest days, when “the poor tin-man” (a frequent signature of his in his letters to Mr. Crouch and Mr. Pitcher) was in much trial with regard both to his business and his ministry, he walked out one evening to try to relieve his burdened soul in prayer. While in the park, pleading with God, the Lord broke in upon his trial, made it sweet, and gave him to realize more blessedly than ever before hie personal interest in His covenant promises. Those who knew Mr. Covell will well understand that I am unable to convey to paper the power and sweetness with which he concluded this narrative by quoting the words, “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.” It was chiefly in prayer that Mr. Covell excelled. He said once to me, “I shouldn’t dare to tell my people what tears I shed over them in this chair. They talk about hearing me to profit. Pooh! I wish they would come to hear wet-eyed. I have had both hells and heavens in this room about my ministry, and the people don’t know half of what it costs me.” 

Mr. Covell On The Supply System

March 9th, 1879, being collection day, Mr. Covell gave, as was his wont, an interesting and characteristic address.

1 ‘I needed no memorial of your kindness, my friends; but I have one at home (referring to his testimonial) that, when we have all passed away, and are mouldering in the dust, my children and my children’s children will be enabled to look upon in proof of the union that existed between pastor and people at West Street Chapel. There is a union between us that no casual Supply can ever feel towards a people to whom he speaks only occasionally. Supplies who visit a people once in two or three months, as the use may be, cannot feel towards them, nor they towards him, as a stated minister and people feel towards each other. The Supply does not yearn for them as the Pastor does; he does not carry them on his heart as he moves from place to place all the year round; he cannot present them to God continually—Lord, bless the people. It is not possible that the thing can exist in the heart of Supplies as it does with the Pastor, who tries to feed them with knowledge and with understanding, to build them up in the truth, having them on his heart and affections. The SUPPLY SYSTEM is therefore a bad system at the very root. I know that in some places it cannot be avoided, but in many places, I fear, the real prosperity of Zion does not lay at the hearts of the people. And something else I am almost ashamed to say— the Supply System is thought by some a cheaper system. God Almighty root out such a sordid spirit. Is it likely, if cheapness be the order of the day, that real soul prosperity can exist in such a place? But I have not to say this of you, my friends. When other ministers have spoken to me of our large collections, I say to them, ‘I cast my eye over your congregation and that of others, and see as much money in those congregations as in mine.’ It is not the amount of money, but being willing to part with what they possess. Where there is love in the heart, it needs no exhortation to give. It is not the amount of money given, but the heart that prompts it.”

At the evening service Mr. Covell said:—“When I tell you the amount collected this morning amounted to £464 14s. ll1⁄2d, you must say love has grown stronger, and be ready to ask where can it come from? Well, I would say, from loving hearts and hands. The same love that brought us together, and has kept us to this day, be with us to the end. The end must be close at hand. But there is one thing I feel gratified about: Whoever may follow me, however able he may be, although he may excel me so far as the sun excels the stars, I have had the cream of your affections; nor do I expect he will ever be able to live in your affections as I have done. If it be the Lord’s will, may he gain your esteem, and may you grow up together in love, and may he find you as I have ever found you, abounding in liberality, kindness, and forbearance. But he must not expect to have your first love, as I have had the best; and no one who follows me can expect to have the first love at the end. However, my earnest prayer is that you may show to the world that there is such a thing as the spirit of Christ, the love of God, and the fruit of the Holy Ghost to be found in the Church of the living God, and thus may you be enabled to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things.”

The total morning and evening collections were £510 16s. O1⁄2d.

Sayings Of Mr. Covell

1. Sometimes temptation falling on our hearts is like lightning falling on dry thatch, it sets it on fire. As Satan shoots from off the wall into our hearts, it comes upon the dry thatch of our corrupt nature, and we are driven hither and thither.

2. I sometimes compare God’s providential dealings with us to ladies’ wool-work. Look one side, what knots and ends, and what a piece of confusion it seems. Turn it over, what roses, lilies, and other flowers there are—they come out so pretty and well. If we were to see a man throwing grapes into a tub, and another stamping them down with his feet, we should say, if we did not know better, “What a pity to spoil those beautiful grapes by mashing them all up!” “Stay a minute,” says the man; “it is to bring out the wine.” Sometimes we think, “Surely this is wrong; surely the Lord has made a mistake.” You will have the wine, by-and-by, my friends.

3. You can find out which is your darling sin by this: “This may go; that may go; but Benjamin shall not go.” “If ye will obey My voice indeed,” Benjamin must go. God will pull out your right eye, cut off your right arm, so to speak. “Now, Lord, Benjamin shall go; I will be Thine and serve Thee, though I die in a workhouse.”

4. This is blazoned on the Royal Exchange, it stands out for all the City merchants and others to see, “The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” But the generality of people that attend that Exchange have more faith in their own wit and wisdom, and they have more confidence in the money they get. Mind this, it testifies against them.

5. The love which you and I have is only just a spark, a grain. God is a globe of love, so to speak, a fire of love, which runs out and burns in all its vehemency to His poor children.

6. There are no people in the world so humble as God’s people. We fell by pride, that leaven has leavened the whole lump; we rise by humility. The Son of God “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” All His children drink into that spirit.

7. What is real prayer? It is the flame of faith in the heart breaking out into words. It is want felt, help desired, and a persuasion in the heart that God will hear.

8. I believe that God loves His people, the weakest of them, the worst of them, a thousand times more than the highest arch-angel loves God.

9. Gold-diggers do not throw away the earth when they see a small particle of gold, so God can see that particle of gold among all the earth and worldliness you may feel.

10. God’s people are called members of Christ’s body. You will not cut off your little toe because it has rheumatism or gout in it at times. If you have got a pain in your eye, or a head-ache, you will not put out the one or cut off the other. So fear not; “We are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones.” He will not cut us off because we slip with our feet or wander with our eyes.

11. If you do not see, feel, and find that you are a daily sinner, you do not want an every-day Christ. I not only want Him every day, but I often want Him several times in a day.

12. How these passages ran through my mind for a few minutes yesterday (November 24th, 1877): “If we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves”; and this, “There is not a just man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not”; then I felt I could come in with them.

13. Prayer is heart work. It is the heart running towards God, sighing, “Oh, that I were different!” The man means what he says. What makes it acceptable is, being perfumed with the incense of the Christ of God. The best prayer you ever uttered, unless it was perfumed with Christ’s merit, would be enough to damn you, instead of bringing a blessing down. The worst prayer, so to speak, that ever you put up, the Son of God can make it ring in heaven, and move the Father’s heart. It is His merit, blood, and obedience makes it come up before God as sweet incense.

Chapter 7

Heart Prayers

When I went to church, I am not aware that I ever pleaded for mercy in the whole of my prayers, yet I was good in my own estimation, and other people thought so too. But while upon my knees one day, going through my wonted prayers, God shone into my heart, and showed me the evil, sinfulness, devilishness, and abominations therein, and feeling that, I should sink into hell, I cried out in earnestness, “God, have mercy upon me.” Mercy has been my plea from that day to this. The night that God blessed my soul, pardoned my sin, and made me as happy as I could hold, I dropped at the foot of my bed, and cried, “Lord, save me; Lord, have mercy upon me; Lord, do save me.” In His love and pity He heard me. I do not mind saying there was a good man I was made useful to, I trust, before I began to preach. [He came to Corydon, and worked for my father for many years, until his health failed, when he was maintained by my father and other friends until his death. I remember him very well.—W. G. C.] When he came to lodge at the house where I did (as he desired it), we used to kneel together in prayer. I used to say, “You speak, Ned.” For three months he never went farther than this, morning and night, “God, have mercy upon me; Lord, do save me; Lord, have mercy upon me.” He lived for some years to prove the goodness of that God whose mercy he sought; he made a blessed end, he went to heaven, and is now singing, I have no doubt, “to Him that loved him, and washed him from his sins in His own blood.”

“Love And Grief”

When God was pleased to pardon my sins, and to give me to realize that I was saved with everlasting salvation; when His love flowed into my heart, and I felt Christ was mine, then how I hated my sins. I felt that my sins would never damn me, but of all the filthy wretches under heaven I was the worst. How I loathed and detested myself on account of my sins, while I felt Christ had put them away by the sacrifice of Himself; I washed His feet with my tears, and grieved because I had put Him to such a shameful death by my sins.

Trust In The Lord

I know this to be true, “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.” Once in my life I put a deal of confidence in a friend of mine, but I was deceived. I have often trusted in my heart, and that has deceived me. Again and again I have been brought to trust in the Lord, and never was disappointed or deceived. Therefore I will speak well for God. I know His name; I have found Him to be a Refuge; I know Him to be a God of power, a God of mercy, a God of wisdom, a God of love. Though I desire to bless God for many kind and good friends I have, yet my trust is in the Lord that made heaven and earth.

Oh, My Sin, My Sin!

Nothing will make a man’s knees bow like this, “Oh, my sin, my sin!” “Enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no flesh living be justified.” As a father, I have known something of trouble; as a husband, I have known something of trouble in the loss of a wife; as a man of business, I have known what trouble is in losses, crosses, and disappointments; as a man, I have known what it is to lose friends; but nothing has brought such tears out of my eyes, nothing has made me droop, or sent me upon my knees, like my sins. I know a little of what dear Hart says—

“O thou hideous monster, sin,

What a curse hast thou brought in!”

“”What Has God Wrought!”

See my first beginning to preach, without any ordination from a bishop or any congregational recommendation. Beginning where? Not in a church nor a chapel, but in a little room in my own humble house, with the small number of ten or eleven persons. Scorned by professors, despised by the world, often the jeer and contempt of fools, yet the Lord was seen over us, to comfort, to revive, to encourage, and to add to us from time to time such as should be saved. So He was seen over us from step to step till He brought us here. Now many are willing to say, “What has God wrought!” Many are willing to confess, “The Lord hath done great things for them”; while some of us can say, “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

Godly Fear In The Heart

Sometimes I have such a desire to run after the things of the world, then I bring myself to this, “Now, if you were in India, America, or anywhere where you were unknown to any soul, could you do it then? would you do it?” “Good God, I could not, though none knew it but Thee and me.” Thus the Lord is seen over us, to preserve us from the world and from the power of sin.

Mr. Covell’s Afflicted Son

In September, 1879, Mr. Covell lost his eldest son, who had been greatly afflicted from childhood, and had formed a heavy burden upon the heart of his loving father for forty years. The Gospel Echo for February, 1892, gives the following interesting narrative in reference to this afflicted son, arising out of a visit that the late Mr. Crouch once paid to Mr. Covell. The writer says:—

“A minister was preaching in London this evening, and having occasion in his remarks to refer to the thorn in the flesh, as recorded by the Apostle Paul, he named the following incident in the life of the late honoured servant of God, Francis Covell, of Croydon.

“A friend called upon him during a brief visit to Croydon, and the two ministers had an enjoyable conversation upon divine things. It is well known that Mr. Covell was much favoured of God, and that he lived very near to Him in his daily life. During conversation the friend remarked that he should think his (Mr. Covell’s) a very happy lot. ‘You have a loving people, all you can desire in this world, and an abiding assurance of eternal blessedness in the world to come. You can have little or nothing to give you any sorrow.’

“Mr. Covell made no response to this at the moment, but before bidding his guest farewell, asked him into an adjoining room, and showed him his imbecile son, totally unfit for employment. This sad sight needed no emphasis of words to convince the visitor of the mistake he had made in his estimate of Mr. Covell’s lot in life.”

Sermon On His Son’s Death

The first time Mr. Covell preached after his son’s death was on September 21st, 1879. His text was, “To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. 2:7). In the course of his sermon he said (speaking with great feeling), “Just to show how God answers His people’s prayers, although He often sorely tries their patience first, I must touch upon something in my own case. I mean my poor boy’s death, though I cannot say very much about it, for it is a very tender point with me. I feel myself so weak when speaking of it, that I know if I talk much about it I shall be overcome; but I must mention it to show God’s great goodness and forbearance. No one knows the many petitions I have put up that God would spare me to see the dear boy’s end, for I knew that nobody would care for him, and bear with him as I did, neither could anyone be expected to; but I have often kicked against it till the last three months, when I have felt such submission to the Lord’s will, and that if He did take me first all would be well. And now His time was come to deliver him, and to answer my three petitions, which were—that I should be with him at the last, that a medical attendant should be also present at his death, and that he should be spared much suffering.”

A Touching Interview

Mr. Wileman, in his little tract entitled, “The Dying Pillow,” gives the following interesting account of his farewell interview with Mr. Covell. He says: “The last time I saw this favoured man of God was three weeks before his death. After referring to the death of his afflicted son, with his face beaming with holy joy, he said, ‘And now God has answered all my requests, and I have nothing to live for, but to enjoy Him. I think of a morning when I get up, if the Lord were to come and say to me, “Now, Covell, I have come,” I should reply, “Here I am, any minute, Lord.” It is not that I want to die to get out of trouble, not that, for I have every earthly comfort; but oh, to see Him! oh, to be near Him! oh, to be like Him! oh, to get at Him! oh, to bask in His smile! oh, to get at the fountain! oh, to have a look from His eyes, and a smile from His face!—what is all below to this?’”

Sayings Of Mr. Covell

1. When a man is fishing, there may be a bite, then away the fish goes; but by-and-by under goes the float, such a pull at the line, he has got the fish. So it is with the Word of God, it lays hold of the gills, so to speak.

2. Our flesh is like a deceitful bow. Bend the bow down, there it is; the moment that pressure is taken off it straightens again. So with our flesh. God comes with His love, kisses, and smiles, working something in our souls that subdues our flesh, and keeps it down. The moment that sweet feeling is gone, out the flesh runs again. Like a bird in a cage, it hops about till the door of the cage is opened, then out it flies. We shall never make our flesh better; it will be flesh against Spirit, and Spirit against flesh to the end of the chapter.

3. If a ship is going to sail to America, they steer by the compass, it is going straight according to that. But there comes such a storm, the sea rolls mountains high, as we say, waves toss the ship about, winds blow it hither and thither, and it gets to Spain. “I did not mean to come here,” the captain says, “but the wind blew me here.” So what God looks at is the settled aim and end. Though at times the winds of temptation blow hard, and toss you about, you are not where you would be.

Chapter 8

Sayings Of Mr. Covell

The many striking and original remarks frequently made by Mr. Covell were of no common order, many samples of which we have given in previous [chapters], and as through the kind assistance of Mr. W. G. Covell, son of the late beloved pastor, we have in hand a good collection of “Sayings,” we give as many as we can in the present [chapter].

1. Everything is according to its nature. The horse feeds upon grass, the fish lives in water, and holiness is the element in which the child of God lives.

2. “For they be Thy people and thine inheritance.” If you have an inheritance you will not part with it. If it consists in houses, if the tiles blow off or they want repairing, you will not given them up. You will not say, “I will have no more to do with them.” You will not say to your neighbor, “I will give them to you.” If it lies in land, you will not give it up because some briars or thorns spring up in it. You will not say, ”I will not plough that field any more; do what I may, these poppies come up.” You will not say so, because it is your inheritance. This is just how it is between us and God. He says, ”I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.” So He bears with us. He will not hand us over to the devil, notwithstanding the weeds and briars that come up; He will not turn us off. “Once in Him, in Him for ever.”

3. I often tell God in my simplicity, “Lord, why I ask such great things is because you are such a great and good God.”

4. A man may go for a day without eating anything; but let him go without for two days, how his strength begins to fail. So if there is nothing coming in in reading God’s Word or hearing His truth, the soul will begin to faint, and talk of giving up; but He will not.

5. If the Holy Spirit says anything good to you, it will stand when the world is in a blaze. He never says, and then unsays. He is like the dove that came and told Noah the waters wore assuaged. That was true. He comes from heaven with the olive branch in His mouth, and tells the man, “God loves you”; “Christ died for you”; “The Lord is on your side.” That is true.

6. Look at the great Apostle, the perils and distresses he was in. “Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed”; “bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus”; being stoned and shipwrecked. How little of this has fallen to our lot! I have thought, when I have been reading about him at times, “I wish I had his grace, could walk with God as he did, longing to be absent from the body and present with the Lord.” Then I have thought I should not like that way to have it; I want the sweets, but not the bitters whereby they come; but they go together.

7. We do not think much of the arm and power of God while we can get on by ourselves or our friends can help us; but God brings us into straits and troubles, then we remember His power, and what His right hand and holy arm can do.

8. At one time I did not want Jesus Christ, except to save me from the burning pit when I came to die. In my days of vanity, when I was fond of hunting and dancing, I did not want to give them up; but when He sent His messenger before Him, then I wanted Him.

9. Our unbelief, shortcomings, and guilt, produce doubt; this brings about an army of fears. These very fears prove there is something going on in our hearts, for “they that have no changes fear not God.”

10. When God sent His Word and healed me, after convincing me of my sins, with what a light heart and joyful lips did my soul praise, delight, and rejoice in Him. The next morning, almost as soon as I awoke, these words came dropping into my heart, “What more can I do to My vineyard that I have not done in it?” I said, “Nothing, Lord, Thou hast saved my soul.” I went skipping down Cornhill and Cheapside, and through Smithfield to my work, saying, “I have a God that loves me, a Christ that saved me, and a Holy Ghost to witness to my heart! Mercy smiles, Justice is satisfied, the law is magnified. God has executed judgment for me in smiting the Shepherd, and letting the sheep go free”; Christ by His one offering “put away (my) sin by the sacrifice of Himself,” and ”brought in an everlasting righteousness, which is to all and upon all them that believe”; and I believed, and found peace and joy in believing.

11. I remember how I was oppressed in circumstances at one time. I rolled the matter upon God; the spot is in my eye at this moment, as I went along Waddon Marsh to Mitcham Common, and I felt God had got it; He carried me through.

12. I think I may say, without egotism, I have tried hard to serve God aright. I have thought, “I am sorry for what I did yesterday, I will go straight today.” I have said before I got up, “Lord, do not let me sin today; I am sorry for any foolishness of my tongue, and any evil that I found and felt came out of my heart yesterday; do not let me sin in thought, word, or deed today.” But it is not long, perhaps, before I have to say, “Is this better than yesterday?” Now look at the compassion of God, see what His love has to bear with. This is day by day.

13. If God has separated you from the world in heart you need not go into a monastery. In days past, at the time I was living in London, as I walked along Cheapside or Cornhill, it was no more to me than if I had been in a wood. I have known what it is to be in the midst of all evil in the house of God. In the house of God you may be encompassed with evil, while you may walk with the busy throng, and yet be separate in spirit.

14. How people will try to mix a little religion on the Sunday with the world on the morrow. Just the same as I once read about a musician, who played very nicely, and got many to hear him. By-and-by the market bell rang, and they soon went off. One man stayed behind, so the musician said to him he was glad he appreciated the music, and did not go when the market bell rang. “What! has the market bell rung?” said he, “I am rather deaf and did not hear it.” He went off too. So, my friends, on the Sunday some of you serve God, you listen and hear; but Monday comes, the charms, gains, profits, and pleasures of the world entice you, and all your religion goes.

15. How I have felt in the past week, I am not what I ought to be; how deficient I could see I was in many things. I am not what I wish to be. I wish to abhor that which is evil, and to cleave to that which is good. I am not what I hope to be. I hope to see God’s face with joy, and sing His everlasting praises.

16. I could no more cease from praying than I could cease to breathe, and still live. If there should be a law go forth on the morrow, “If you pray on the next day, your life shall be forfeited,” I should as surely pray as I am a living man. It is the life of my soul, the breath whereby I live. Often I know what it is to be cold in it. I often feel my heart as hard as a rock, and my affections as cold as ice, yet I pray, “Lord, soften me; Lord, take my affections.”

17. We are like children at school; they are taken up with their marbles, toys, or cricket; no thoughts of father, mother, or home. Unexpectedly, father or mother comes. “Your father has come, Tom.” I will venture to say no game of cricket would hold him. If he has been away from home a month, he would not stop to pick up his marbles. That will tell you where his heart is. You would have thought before he did not care for father or mother, but the moment father comes that does it. So we can say, “Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee;” The desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee.” We love to hear about Him, His Son, His works, and His ways. We love to get near Him, to read His Word; we love to have a touch or a look from Him. God has got our hearts, and He will keep them, He will hold them fast; the world and its allurements, the devil with all his suggestions, will never get them.

18. You will not want a prayer-book if you are in trouble. I knew what it was, years ago, to use the prayer-book more than some of you do, perhaps, if you are Church people; yet it did me no good. I can never speak well of a form of prayer, for that bridge never carried me safe over. I do not remember that God once answered me from it. I have known what it is to be in trouble, both in soul and body, a great many times since then, and to God’s honour I will speak it, to His faithfulness I will declare it, I never called upon Him in real trouble but He has heard me. I must speak well of God. I know, my friends, when He spoilt that form of prayer He knocked it on one side in a minute, and I have never used it since. I was using it, and the good Spirit shone into my heart, showed me my pride and hypocrisy, and this made me cry out, “O Lord, do pardon my sin, and save my soul.” He did answer me, to the joy of my heart, in His own good time.

19. I was made willing to leave all for Jesus Christ. I thought in days past it would bring me to the Union-house; I thought if I could only go there as an honest man I would not mind. But God dropped these words once in my heart, “I remember thee, the kindness of thy youth, the love of thine espousals, when thou wentest after Me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown.” I believe He will never forget it till He puts me at the right-hand of His dear Son. Not only in temporal things has He remembered me, but I have had a hundredfold in joy in my soul, peace in my conscience, heaven dropped down into my heart, and in walking with God.

20. Many times I have known what it is to try to wash my hands before going to God, and to clothe myself, but have never found much acceptance that way. Many times with filth and guilt on my heart I have dropped my head before God, and cried out, “God be merciful to me. I am a sinner, good God; pity me, and save me. I have nothing to say on my own behalf.” His mercy, love, and compassion, have come dropping in my heart, and made me get off my knees a happy man.

21. I have known what it is to trust in God, and have had thousands of fears about it, but He has never deceived me. I have known what it is to trust in Him, and have no fears. I have dropped the matter into His hands, and left it. Glory, honour, and praise to his name, He stands fast; “He knows them that trust in Him.”

22. I used to think, before God made known His love in my heart, if I could but feel and be assured that God loved me, how contented and easy I should be, knowing what a great God He is, what wisdom and power He has. I thought, if I have got a place in His heart, how everything would work for my good, and what comforts I should have here. Now, I have had many reasons to believe, many tokens and proofs, many soul-confirming testimonies and assurances (that at times neither unbelief nor the devil could dispute me out of) that God does love me, yet how, I have thought at times, in many things I have been in, “If He does love me, why am I thus?”

23. “‘Though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.’ I know it is so. At one time what would I not have given for a grain of faith, and to know that the anxiety which I felt sprang from the life of God in my heart. What castings-down I have had, but I have proved the inward man is renewed. I am not so soon moved as I was. I believe I am made a partaker of God’s grace, that I have union to His blessed Son, a hope that is sure, and that enters within the veil. I feel now I love the Lord. I could not say these things at one time.

24. In days past, oh, what forebodings, fears, and apprehensions I have had, whether I should be accepted of God at last, I cannot say I feel so now. I thought, if He should say at last, “Depart, ye cursed,” my eyes would follow Him till the gates of hell closed the sight. I thought I would tell that He was a good God, though I was suffering the punishment of my sins, and had my deserts.

25. God often keeps His people short in this world for this reason: “They have enough in Me,” He says. There is enough in God to satisfy the largest heart, the most enlightened mind, and the most capacious wish and desire.

26. Sometimes I have known what it is to backslide in heart from God. He has sent a messenger with peace and truth in his mouth. Once in particular, when in a wretched place, I was walking near West Croydon Station, and considering what a sad state I was in, these words came into my heart, “Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.” I had fears that I had never really felt the joy of salvation; then I thought, “If you never had it God could not restore it, for He could not restore what you had not lost.” In a minute the God of heaven came into my heart, gladdening pardoning, healing, reviving, and blessing me; away went my affections after Him, down dropped the world and all its charms, love and grief compounded an unction, and so prepared my heart for God.

Chapter 9

Mr. Covell’s Closing Sermon

When Mr. Covell, in his address to his congregation on the anniversary Sabbath in March, 1879, said, “The end is not far off,” probably neither he nor any of his hearers thought how near it was. On Wednesday evening, November 19th, 1879, he preached his last sermon, taking for his text those striking words in Psalm 120:5, “Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar!” The discourse was characteristic and impressive, and seemed to be uttered by one evidently on the threshold of heaven, longing, sighing, panting to be there, freed from sojourning in Mesech, no longer obliged to dwell in the tents of Kedar, but as he would often say—

“Bid a farewell to evil—a final farewell, 

Shut in with my Jesus for ever to dwell.”

Being reminded on his death-bed of this sermon, he said, ”Oh, I felt as if I wanted to get through the tents, to get through them! Through them! To get to Him!”

His Last Ilness

On Friday, feeling great pain, he sent for his friend Dr. Evans, who at once saw the dangerous nature of the malady (intestinal displacement, causing obstruction of the bowels), and advised an operation, to which he submitted; and which was skilfully performed the same night. Just previous to the operation he clasped his hands, and raising them, offered a most fervent prayer, that wisdom, skill, and judgment might be given to the surgeons, and that success might follow the operation; and if not, the will of the Lord be done. But the appointed time was come, and not all the surgeons’ skill, and not all the people’s entreaties, could turn the Lord from His purpose. He was about to fulfill the prayer of the Lord Jesus, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory.” Yet his family and friends watched, and prayed, and hoped, but the doctor, who was fearful of the issue from the first, found his worst fears were confirmed, and that his patient was gradually sinking.


On Tuesday, November 25th, it was deemed advisable to let him see his family and other members of his Church and congregation. He spoke very affectionately to each individual case. He then gave instructions as to his private affairs and funeral, and what he should like placed on his tomb. He then prayed for his people, and exhorted those around him to tell them to be kind to one another, and bear with each other’s infirmities, and to take care that they fell not out by the way. “Tell them I have the comfort of it now; I never tattled from one to another.” He also said, “If anyone should like to say anything about me, they might speak from these words—if the Lord should lead them to it, I have no wish to dictate to anyone—‘Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation: Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.’ I love a private religion more than making a show, but if it will encourage any, and honour God’s dear Son, and His grace and truth, they might speak a little about me, and may some poor sinner be comforted by it. Give my love to the people; tell them to bear and forbear one with another, and ‘remember them that have the rule over them.” He spoke lovingly to his deacons, giving them excellent pastoral advice. To a friend he said, “Well, Mr. M——, you’ve come to see a poor sinner die. What a good God mine is. You know something of Him. Seek His face, seek His face; cleave close to Him; follow hard after Him. Give my love to friend Smart [Daniel Smart of Cranbrook]; tell him I thought he would go first, but I’ve got the start of him. ‘The last shall be first. Good-bye, God bless you.

Dying Sayings

Many were the sweet and precious expressions that fell from his lips during the last few hours of his life, amongst which were the following, although not given quite in the order in which they were uttered:—

“The Lord is so good; I am so blessed.” ‘No horrors make me weep,’

“‘But now I stand where Moses stood, 

And view the landscape o’er,

Not Jordan’s stream nor death’s cold flood 

Can fright me from the shore.’

I had a sight of it a fortnight or three weeks ago in the chapel, and I thought my body would have dropped in the pulpit then, and my soul have gone to heaven. I am a poor sensible wretch, and have nothing to rest on but the finished work and obedience of the Christ of God and I fall into His arms, who, I believe, is taking me to heaven to sing His praise.”

“Take me sweetly, lovingly; don’t leave me now, Lord, the waters are ankle deep; it is hard work going up the hill; Lord Jesus, pull me into heaven. Oh that I were there to see Him as I have longed to see Him, and serve Him, and know Him better. I am a poor sinner, Lord, grace alone is of any use to me now. I have loved to speak of and exalt Thy grace, and was never more happy than when encouraging sinners to trust in Thee.”

“Oh the many blessed, happy hours I have spent with my Jesus alone—Him and me, Him and me. Oh the sweetness and blessedness there is in Christ Jesus.”

“I would not exchange this dying bed with the Queen of England. Why! when she comes to the same place, she can have no more than I. The Queen upon the throne the beggar in the poor-house, and Frank Covell only want the same—that is, to have some one to wet their lips with a feather; that’s all.”

“What heavenly hours I have had with God in His house, in the fields, in this room; I have had a Triune God in my heart.”

“I’ve often talked of the palm and the crown, and now I am going to have them.”

“Oh, what a great thing to be right. What is honour, wealth, or mirth! Sooner have Paul’s grace than an emperor’s crown.”

“I long to be with Him. I see Him behind the cloud.”

“The waters are so low I can go over dryshod and without fear.”

“‘Say ye to the righteous, it shall be well with him.’ Here’s a proof of it; you can all say you have seen a proof of it. You can say you have seen a man upon a dying pillow who has nothing to do but to die.”

“All is settled, and my soul approves it well.”

“Safe, safe, safe. ‘Saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.’ Hallelujah, hallelujah, and now all earthly objects, however fair, farewell.”

When he moaned, being asked if he was in pain, said, “Oh no, I’m so happy, so happy, so happy; honour Him, praise Him, magnify Him; good God, good God; oh, so happy; glorious glorious, glorious.”

After trying for some time to sleep, he said, ”God so fills me with His glory and blessed presence that I cannot sleep. Queen Bess said, ‘The half of my kingdom for an inch of time’; but I say, ‘Make haste, my Beloved, make haste! What a difference! and she a queen, too, while I’m only a poor sinner.”

To those who stood around his bed he said, “All you have had your meals today, but I have only had my lips moistened with a feather, yet I’ve had the best. Is there a fire in the room?” “Yes; do you wish to see it?” “No, I’ve done with earthly things. I’ve had a sight of Jesus, and that has tarnished all, and shall soon be gone.” (His eyes were closed most of the time during his illness.)

“Just and righteous are all His ways; he makes all things work together for good. He has granted every wish of my heart; I’ve been dead to the world many months.”

“What a hard thing it is for old nature to die; death is a struggle—such a hill, such a hill, a long hill. Death is a penalty which all have to bear. Abraham, Isaac, Israel, and the prophets had to go through it, and why should I be exempted? What a burning desire I have had for the people’s welfare; what a desire to speak well for God, to encourage His people, and how often I have had God’s testimony in my heart. It was not said, ‘Well done, good and successful servant,’ but ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.'”

“I long to be with Him. I see Him behind the cloud. ‘Tis hard dying, but for the many precious promises.”

“All saved on the same footing. Grace, true grace, shall have all the glory. Happy man, happy man; ‘Saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.'”

The Closing Scene

As he drew near to the end, the doctor whispered to a friend, ”Pulse very low.” Mr. Covell said, ”What, Doctor?” “You are nearing home now.” He replied, “Hallelujah, Hallelujah! grace, grace—home and peace.”

After an interval he said again, “I’ll struggle to the last to tell about grace. I’ve tried my voice, it tried my voice, but I did it as well as I could.” The doctor said, softly, “Any conflict?” Reply—“No; a little in the night, but it was soon over; I was enabled to stand fast, the Lord was my stay. I told the enemy what the Lord had wrought in me and for me, and that will stand.”

He now sank rapidly. At 10 a.m. the words could just be caught, “I’m so happy, so happy,—it’s all ordered well! all ordered well!

After this he was evidently engaged in prayer. His lips moved, but no words could be understood, and at 11.15, Wednesday morning, November 26th, 1879, in the seventy-first year of his age, his soul took its flight to that happy abode, where he had so long desired to be.

“A solemn yet a pleasing sight 

To see believers die;

They smile and wish the world good night, 

And take their flight on high.”

Chapter 10

The Church and congregation worshipping at Providence Chapel, Croydon were filled with deep sorrow when they learned of the decease of their beloved pastor, and knew that his earnest voice, speaking words of counsel and comfort, would be heard by them no more.

Mr. Hazlerigg On Mr. Covell

Mr. Hazlerigg preached at the chapel shortly after the beloved pastor’s death, and he thus described the secret of the power which was so conspicuous in his ministry:—“Your pastor,” he said, “is only gone to heaven, where his heart was before. “We read in the Pilgrims’ Progress how the pilgrims came to the place where they were so ravished with the sweetness of the gardens that one felt sick of love; now it appears that your pastor felt that love sickness. Mark your late pastor. What a great deal of private religion the good man had; how much of soul communion with God; and what a man he was in prayer. It is no irreverence to say of him, that it seemed as if he would pull down a blessing from God upon his people; he was truly a mighty man in prayer; secret communion and private prayer were the secrets of his ministerial power. What a mighty man he was in the Scriptures. Then, what a blessed experience; what an experience of the plague of the heart. I have heard him speak many things about the discoveries of his heart. Then, what a heaven of pardoning mercy, righteousness, and the love of God shed abroad in his heart, he enjoyed at times, His life and conversation manifested three sweet Gospel characteristics— humility, love, and peaceableness. In him we have a religion before and with God, manifesting itself in a blessed Gospel walk before men.”

Letter From The Vicar Of Addington

Some four miles from Croydon lies the churchyard of rural Addington, where for two hundred and fifty years the Covells have had a family vault, and here it was determined to deposit the remains of the late beloved pastor, and an application was made to the Vicar that he would allow the Rev. W. L. Rolleston, Vicar of Scraptoft, Leicestershire, an old friend of Mr. Covell’s, to conduct the funeral service in the churchyard; to this request the Vicar forwarded the following courteous reply:—

“Addington Vicarage Croydon,

“November 29th

“To Mr. W. G. Covell,

“MY DEAR SIR,—In writing to you yesterday, I did not at the time associate the death of your father with that of the minister whose life and labours I have always heard spoken of with such deep respect. I should be glad to give expression, as far as I am able, to my veneration for a life devoted to the Master’s service, and propose therefore, if it should meet with your wishes, to take some part in the service on Tuesday next. I shall, of course, request Mr. Rolleston to take the more solemn part at the grave itself, but if you should prefer for any reason that he should take the whole service, I trust you will not hesitate to say so. I should regret extremely that anything should be done contrary to your feelings in the matter.

”I remain, dear sir, yours very faithfully,

“Erskine W. Knollys”

The Funeral Service At Croydon

The mortal remains of Mr. Francis Covell were deposited in their last resting-place on Tuesday, December 2nd, 1879. Signs were everywhere visible in the town, throughout the forenoon, of the deep respect in which the deceased gentleman was held; all along the High Street and South End many shops were partially or entirely closed and everybody who had known him seemed anxious to testify to the reverence in which they held his memory. Although the preliminary service was announced for twelve o’clock, in the chapel in which Mr. Covell for so many years presided, long before the hour appointed the chapel was crowded in every part. The scene was indeed mournful and impressive; there was hardly a person present who had not attired himself or herself in black, and the drapery round the pulpit was of the same sombre hue.

Owing to a delay through the inclement weather, it was nearly half-past twelve before the funeral procession arrived at the chapel. The coffin having been placed in the front of the pulpit, Mr. Hazlerigg commenced the solemn service. His voice was broken with emotion as he spoke of Mr. Covell as being a man whose prayers had been mighty with the Omnipotent, and the whole family of God had sustained a great loss by his death. He then read a portion of the fifteenth chapter of the first Epistle to the Corinthians.

Mr. Hull, of Hastings, offered prayer, seeking the Lord’s blessing upon the sorrowing family and the mourning Church and congregation.

Mr. Hatton, of Redhill, next occupied the pulpit, and in the course of an address marked with much earnestness he spoke of Mr. Covell; he alluded to his dislike and hatred of all praise, and said he felt sure that if he were listening to his words, and heard him say friend Covell was a good man, he would reply and say, “Don’t say it a second time; ‘by the grace of God I am what I am.'” Speaking of his charity, he said Mr. Covell was in the habit of giving away something like a pound every day of his life. He did not, when appealed to for aid, ask, “Do you come to our chapel?” but he gave away the means with which he had been blessed. He also said, I do not say, Look at our friend Covell; no, I say, Look at the grace of God in him. It is not every man that has a praying heart as he had. It is not every man who preaches the Gospel and will stand for it as he did, and sacrifice things for it as he did. The Lord grant you and me more of that grace. This grace will make a good man, or a good woman, or a good child. And now we follow the remains of our dear departed friend; his works will speak for him in this town amongst professors who would probably despise his religion. Let me tell you, to do this is to despise the cause in which he died, and by which his light shined when alive, in the presence of his God and in the presence of his people.

Mr. Covell’s favourite hymn was then sung, to his favourite tune, “Martyrdom.” The hymn commences—

“At length he bowed his dying head, 

And guardian angels come;

The spirit dropped its clay and fled— 

Fled off triumphant home.”

Mr. Hazlerigg then pronounced the Benediction, and the coffin was removed from the chapel to the hearse.

The Journey To Addington

The crowd assembled in the street was very large, and when it was increased by those leaving the chapel, must have numbered considerably over a thousand. Two mourning coaches, filled with relatives and friends, followed the hearse, and immediately behind came about sixty vehicles, comprising carriages of all kinds. In addition to these, several hundred persons walked the entire distance. The weather was bitterly cold, and snow covered the ground, but the friends toiled determinedly along the frost- bound roads, and breasted the slippery hills and vales of the route. All honour to those who were thus zealous to brave all difficulties to show their respect for their late pastor. The mournful procession reached Addington at half-past two.

Concluding Services At Addington

The pretty little church was filled to overflowing, very few of the many mourners being able to enter, Mr. Knollys, the Vicar, concluding most of the service in the church. The coffin was then taken into the churchyard, and lowered into the vault. The coffin plate, bore the following inscription: 

“Francis Covell, died November 26th, 1879, in his seventy-first year.”

The service at the grave was read by Mr. Rolleston. The clergyman having concluded, many hundreds went down one by one into the vault to take a final look at the coffin in which reposed all that remains on earth of one of the most simple-minded and blameless men that ever lived in this town.

The Funeral Sermons

The following Sabbath funeral sermons were preached by Mr. Ashdown, at Providence Chapel. The text for the occasion was the one chosen by Mr. Covell on his death-bed, “Remember them that have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the Word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation, Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” During the discourse, Mr. Ashdown referred very feelingly to the loss the Church had sustained, giving them wise counsel, and related many particulars of their late pastor’s life and peaceful death.

The Memorial Tablet

The Church and congregation determined to erect in the chapel a marble tablet with a suitable inscription. This work was entrusted to a tablet committee, who invited three or four gentle men to draw up a suitable inscription. These were sent in anonymously, and read out at a meeting of the committee, when one was unanimously voted as being considerably the best. It proved to have been composed by Mr. George Covell (brother of the deceased pastor), and with a slight alteration was the one adopted.

Inscription On Mr. Covell’s Tablet

By A Sorrowing Church And Congregation, In Loving Remembrance Of Francis Covell, For 31 Years Minister Of This Chapel.

Called According To The Eternal Purpose Of God, Through The Rich Mercy Of The Lord Jesus Christ, And Graciously Endowed By The Holy Spirit, He Ardently Longed To Preach The Gospel To His Fellow Sinners.

The Lord Fulfilled His Desire, By Releasing Him From The Infirmity Of A Stammering Tongue, And Making Him The Honoured Instrument Of Establishing This Cause Of Truth.

His Ministry Was Eminently Useful In Strengthening The Weak, Succoring The Tempted, And Encouraging The Distressed. 

Having Proved The Faithfulness Of God To All His Promises, He Triumphantly Entered Into Rest On The 26th November, 1879, In The 71st Year Of His Age.

“None But Jesus

Can Do Helpless Sinners Good.”

“Remember Them Which Have The Rule Over You, Who Have Spoken Unto You The Word Of God; Whose Faith Follow.”—Hebrews 13:7


Our labour of love in recording briefly the life story of Francis Covell is now finished. We regret that the details of his useful life are somewhat fragmentary, but we feel sure what has been recorded of his pithy sayings, godly life, and happy death, will be commended to the hearts of spiritual readers. May the great Head of the Church raise up and spiritually endow many such men as pastors of His Church, and in appointing them to their spheres of labour, may one be given to fill the Pastorate at Providence Chapel, Croydon, rendered vacant sixteen years ago, when Francis Covell was taken home.

E. Wilmshurst


Francis Covell (1808-1879) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Providence Chapel, Croydon, England.

Francis Covell Sermons