John Boorne

The Life And Ministry Of John Boorne

The Sower 1896:

[The following brief account of our late friend and brother, John Boorne, has been abstracted from a small manuscript which he wrote after a partial deliverance from a deep mental affliction.—Editor]

I was born on the 7th of October, 1838. My parents, who were godly people, sought the spiritual welfare of their children, training them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I heard the truth at home and in the house of God, which gave me in early days a reverence for God’s Name, His Word, and His ways. Like Timothy, from a child I knew the Holy Scriptures. I was thus kept from the grosser acts of sin, feeling within me an abhorrence of many evils in which other youths delighted. As an instance of God’s preserving care over my life, when about eleven years of age, I was sent on an errand which took me by the River Ravensbourne: walking incautiously along a dangerous bank, I fell in up to my neck, but safely reached the path without human assistance. I have often looked back, and thought, “How would it have been with me then, if left to die?”

In early years I had convictions of sin, which caused me sleepless nights, fearing I might awake in hell. I tried to amend my ways, knowing how unfit I was to appear before God. These good resolutions were soon broken, but I was not left here; the fear of God began to work in my heart, my conscience was made tender, and the things of eternity weighed upon my mind. The death of my godly mother was the means of deepening the work of grace in my soul. My earnest desire was that an arrow of conviction might enter my heart, so that I might be rightly convinced of sin. I could appeal to Him who is the Searcher of hearts, to teach and guide me in the right way. My language was—

“Never, never may we dare,

What we are not, to say we are.”

I could not sing those hymns which contained the language of assurance, but Mr. Hart’s were especially blessed to me, for I felt concerned for heart-work.

“Gracious God, Thy children keep; 

Jesus, guide Thy silly sheep;

Fix oh! fix our fickle souls: 

Lord, direct us; we are fools.”

This was a very favorite hymn, also that of Newton’s, “’Tis a point I long to know.” One Sunday evening, on returning to my home at Woolwich, the hymn—

“We pray to be new-born,

But know not when we mean;

We think it something very great, 

Something that’s undiscovered yet,”

dropped into my mind and my understanding seemed enlightened. I felt persuaded that was just my case; to me it was as yet undiscovered, but the cry of my heart was, as Bunyan puts it, “Life! life! eternal life!” I willingly put my fingers in my ears against the attractions of the world, and I felt strengthened in the things of God, but could not call God “My Father.” I felt enabled to wait, and this Scripture was suited to me, “Though the vision tarry, wait for it.” And the hymn, ”Tarry His leisure then,” &c. Faith was in my heart, although I could not then perceive it, for I had a sweet persuasion that—

“The time of love would come, 

When I should clearly see,

Not only that He shed His blood, 

But that ’twas shed for me.”

How blessed to feel that the Spirit of promise which God puts into the hearts of his people, and keeps them pressing on amidst many difficulties, for “The Christian often cannot see his faith, and yet believes.” I was shown more and more the evils of my own heart, which caused me to exclaim, ”Can ever God dwell here?” I did indeed prove that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” which brought me to feel more the need of the remedy—Christ Jesus. I was favoured at times in hearing the Word, one time in particular, under the late Mr. Abrahams, from these words, “Thou shalt call thy walls salvation, and thy gates praise.” Being engaged in business, I had but little time for reading, but the Word of God was my companion. I felt continually my need of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the sacred page, and when He did so, I read with new eyes. I felt encouraged in hearing Mr. John Clark, from these words, “Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” I trust I was receiving that teaching which cometh from above—“Wisdom, which is first pure, then peaceable, full of good fruits, without partiality.” I received the greatest blessing at home, or about my business, and I felt it came from the Fountain Head, for the sweet effects it produced on my soul were such that I was drawn heaven-wards; my soul seemed like a bird trying to be freed from its cage; I looked forward with sweet anticipation when I should drop mortality, and join the ransomed hosts above, and I felt the force of the words of Hart—

“Boast not, ye sons of earth, 

Nor look with scornful eyes;

Above your highest mirth

Our saddest hours we prize;

For though our cup seems filled with gall, 

There’s something secret sweetens all.”

The desire of my soul was to know more and more of the blessed secret which is with them that fear the Lord. What longing desires I found spring up for His presence, and the sweet fruits of the Spirit, and I longed to have the witness of the Spirit in my heart, testifying of Christ to my soul. I hoped I was seeking the Lord with all my heart, though I found it drawn aside, at times, to other things, but when the Lord was absent I was troubled, and felt an aching void which nothing of an earthly nature could fill.

I found Hawker’s “Visits to and from Jesus” very sweet, and much enjoyed Searle’s “Christian Remembranced,” also Huntington’s “Bank of Faith,” and Mr. James Bourne’s letters, and I felt a kindred spirit to the writers.

During this time of exercise I had many conversations with my brother, who was more advanced in years, and in the spiritual life, and many times we mingled our petitions at a throne of grace. In attending the means of grace, it was the secret desire of my soul to feel the power of Sun of Righteousness warming my heart, and unless I could in some measure feel it, I went away disappointed, for my desire was that my religion might not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

“What is all the house to me

Unless the Master I can see”?

If I heard of any who had made a profession of the name of Christ falling away, it caused a trembling of heart lest I should be found among such characters, for the living soul will lay these things to heart. I wished to follow the Lord closely, in such a spirit as Joseph, and Nehemiah, who said, “So did not I, because of the fear of God”; also Obadiah, who feared the Lord greatly.

At the age of twenty-one I obtained a situation in London, and found myself exposed to many temptations and fresh trials, but the Lord gave me favour in the eyes of my employer. Having to take my meals at a dining-room or coffee-room, I used to see the newspaper, and other things, which I felt to be a snare to me, as those spare moments might have been more profitably spent. “To him that thinketh a thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean,” and if the Lord were to deal with us as we deserve, who could stand? But God is faithful to His Word, “If My people forsake My law, then will I visit their transgressions with a rod, and their iniquity with stripes.”

I felt my mind led to cast in my lot with the people of God who then assembled at Ebenezer Chapel, Deptford (now no longer in existence), and was baptized by Mr. Hazlerigg, at Gower Street. I saw the ordinance of believers’ baptism as inseparably connected with the Lord’s Supper, and I had many sweet seasons in hearing the Word, and many passages of Scripture were good to me, so that during business hours I have felt my heart quite softened under His goodness. During the four and a-half years I lived in London, I used to visit a good woman, a widow living in an almshouse, and found a pleasure and profit in so doing; the time was spent in reading God’s Word. During my summer holiday I visited Ramsgate, and at that time was introduced to my future wife. My desire was to be united to one who feared God, and I have through my married life been persuaded that I was led aright, and took that step in the fear of the Lord. I was now solicited to take the management of a business at Woolwich, and in December, 1864, we moved there. This brought a fresh trial, as the air did not agree with my wife, and she was obliged to go away for change. This affliction, accompanied with my own personal trials, gave me many errands to a throne of grace; the hidden evils of my heart began more and more to open up. I inwardly sighed after holiness, and I was led to feel the necessity of the remedy, the precious blood of Christ, to cleanse me from sin. Many cries went up to the Lord under the load: the Word of God was precious to me, and I felt a great desire that this dispensation might be sanctified to me.

One morning, when in prayer, pouring out my heart before the Lord, and complaining of my state, and feeling the need of Him who is the Helper of the helpless, these words came, “Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee.” Oh, the divine compassion of our covenant-keeping God in Christ Jesus! I was like a little child. Oh, how unworthy I felt to receive such a blessing, for it was a blessing indeed, which only God can give, for it was by His sweet Spirit I received it into my heart. I wondered at the Lord’s goodness; I felt my sins were pardoned; it was a sealing time in my soul’s experience. I shed many tears, feeling the Lord’s goodness to one so unworthy to receive such a mark of the divine favour of Heaven. I have many times looked back to it as one of the hill Mizars; it gave me fresh strength to run in the ways of the Lord. We know not what we shall require in our path, but it is known to our God. When we are brought into dark places, and feel no present help, these special visits of God’s love are in some sweet measure a help to us. The testimonies of the Lord are very sure, therefore my soul loves them. I began to know a little of that “peace which passeth all understanding,” and nothing so endears the Lord to us as the peace of God felt and enjoyed in the heart.

My family began to increase; we lost our first—a fine boy—and it touched me closely when I heard from the nurse that the child was dead, though only just born. I found my heart and mind engaged respecting its safety, when those words of Malachi came, “And they shall be Mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up My jewels.” I found the Lord faithful to His promise, “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” The Word of God is a sweet cordial in trouble: is it not often made the bread of life sent down from heaven, so that we “find the Word and eat it”? and nothing is so establishing and confirming, when we can in any measure realize that our souls are established upon the unalterable Word of God. How secure we feel our salvation to be: “Chosen in Christ from before the foundation of the world,” redeemed by His precious blood, and quickened by the Holy Ghost into life. I had further discoveries of my own heart, and many sighs went up to the Lord for more communion; I learned, like Paul, “that in me (that is, in my flesh) there dwelleth no good thing.”

My soul was often bowed down within me through domestic affliction, but I was led to the fountain of living waters, to seek for that supply my soul needed; I found the dear Lord’s words true, “In Me ye shall have peace.” Oh, how my soul has been favoured at times to drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem! it cheered my heart, and fitted me for business. I well remember one morning, before rising from my bed, I awoke under the sweet influence of the Lord the Spirit, and how precious I felt the bread of life to my soul. This was a short time before the death of my dear father. It is the virtue that flows from the Covenant Head to His members which endears Christ to the soul as the Beloved, and the more we receive from Him the more shall we desire.”

The latter days of our brother were embittered with a severe relapse into mental suffering. He became the subject of extreme depression, through physical weakness. In the early part of 1895 he took a chill, which developed into acute bronchitis, and after a few days’ illness, he peacefully entered into rest, February 23rd, 1895. He greatly recovered from the sad depression he had been labouring under, and desired those who visited him to give his love to the friends whom he loved in the Lord.

His mortal remains were interred at Nunhead Cemetery. Mr. J. Whittome officiated on the occasion.

Mr. Greenwood, of Halifax, who was supplying the pulpit at Devonshire Road Chapel, Greenwich (where Mr. J. Boorne was a member), on the Sunday after the interment preached a very suitable and excellent discourse from the words, “These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb”; and in the course of his remarks he made special reference to the departed, whom he felt confident was now among the redeemed and overcomers referred to in the text.

On the day of the funeral, our friend, Mr. C. Self, who had for years walked in fellowship with Mr. Boorne, was almost suddenly removed by death. He, like Mr. John Boorne, was one of the few members who first formed the Baptist Church at Counter Hill, previous to the removal to Devonshire Road, Greenwich, particulars of which are recorded in the “Memorials of the late Mr. James Boorne.” Mr. Self sat for many hours with his friend above referred to, during the last mental affliction preceding his death. 

John Boorne (1838-1896) was a Strict and Particular Baptist believer. He was the younger brother of James Boorne (1833-1894), a Strict and Particular Baptist pastor of the church meeting at Devonshire Road Chapel, Greenwich.