Mary Jane Topp

The Life And Testimony Of Mary Jane Topp

Gospel Standard 1856:

My dear Friend,—I am thankful to find by your letters that any part of my dear mother’s last days on earth has been blessed to your soul; and as you seem desirous that I should be enabled still to send forth the marvellous dealings of the Lord with his tried and afflicted family, I feel a desire in my heart that a few lines should be written on my dear sister’s last days on earth, that it may be a warning to some of the Lord’s weaklings, and a comfort to others that are full of doubts and fears how it will be with them in their last moments. Though I feel utterly unworthy, and would be the last, to write or speak in his great name, yet I feel inwardly constrained to gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing may be lost.

My dear departed sister, Mary Jane Ellis, was born into this vale of tears on the 26th of June, 1826. She was the youngest daughter of the late Elizabeth Topp, being the youngest of twelve. From a child, the fear of the Lord seems to have been deeply implanted in her soul, and the weighty things of eternity to have lain feelingly on her conscience. Being brought up under the sound of experimental truth, and favored with a God-fearing mother and sisters, a deep concern was felt in her own heart and conscience as to how matters stood between the Lord and her own soul, having a conscious feeling from time to time in her own bosom that unless she could in a measure experience the same blessed realities, handle and taste the same religion, find the same Saviour, and behold the same Jesus suffering on the cross for her, she would be lost to all eternity. Therefore her soul used to go out with many longing desires after the bread of eternal life, feeling herself utterly undone and perishing, without an interest in the finished work of Jesus. Having her feet set in the straight and narrow way, and her face set Zion-ward, she loved the gates of Zion, with loving desires to meet with the assemblies of the saints, her soul being bound up with the Lord’s children, to spend and be spent with them through time and through eternity. And though many fleshly lovers entreated her to go back into the world, yet the language of her soul was, with Ruth, “Entreat me not to go back from following the truth and the people of God, for where they go I will go; their people shall be my people, and their God my God; and where they die there will I die, and there will I be buried.” The Lord’s servants she loved and esteemed as the excellent of the earth; and often were they enabled to let fall some handfuls, which her hungry soul would gladly glean up, and it was the real desire of her heart not to be found in any other field but where the truth was preached in its purity. Having been convinced of sin from childhood, and taught the utter sin and worthlessness of all works of righteousness that she could perform to satisfy the infinite breach that was made between the Lord and her soul, her mouth being thus stopped and her soul brought in guilty before God, nothing but the real truth, the inward power and life of religion, would suit her thirsting, panting soul. She could see a beauty in the person of Jesus, in his offices, character, and relationship, in his love, blood, glory, and righteousness, as suitable to her ruined state as a perishing sinner before God. She could see the safety of the Lord’s people, the blessed state of the righteous, and their sure and certain arrival in eternal glory; but the language of her soul was at times, for many years, “Am I of these highly-favored people? do I bear the marks of one of the followers of the Lamb? Am I born again? Have I passed through that change? Have I an interest in that blessed finished work of Jesus?” What delight she used to take in perusing the “Gospel Standard!” The Obituaries used to be her favorite pieces. How she used to envy those dear departed souls that had felt the rays of immortal glory whilst passing through the valley of the shadow of death. She would frequently repeat that hymn,

“When shall all my sorrows end, 

When my days of mourning cease?

When shall I to Christ ascend, 

Only place of happiness?

“Thirsting, panting after him, 

Longing for that happy day,

Still I cry, My Saviour, come, 

Come, Lord Jesus, come away.”

The last verse also was particularly sweet:

“Blood that answers every claim, 

Tells me Jesus died for me;

Then in his delightful name, 

Sin’s subdued and I am free.”

Thus her soul used often to find some crumbs from reading the blessed experience of others of the Lord’s children that had been and were travelling in the same path, and had the same prize of eternal glory in view. Though she seemed to come behind all the Lord’s children at times, when they could tell how the law had entered their conscience, how their sins had been brought and set before them in the light of the Lord’s countenance, how long they had lain on the borders of black despair, and how at last they had found mercy, and seen Jesus as the scapegoat, bearing their sins away into the land of forgetfulness; though she loved to read and hear of these blessed things, yet she has gone in secret many times, and intreated the Lord that she might experience these divine realities, and rather pass through anything than be deceived. That precious hymn used to speak out the very feelings of her soul,—

“Show me some token, Lord, for good, 

Some token of thy special love;

Show me that I am born of God, 

And that my treasure is above.

“My supplication, Lord, is this,

That all my sins may be subdued,

That all thy precious promises 

May be to me and for my good.”

Indeed, the whole of the hymn spoke out the language of her soul, so that she often read it over and over in a very feeling manner. What delight she used also to take in meeting with the people of God, in going up to the house of the Lord in company, and mingling her voice with them in sounding forth the songs of Zion! Scarcely ever was her seat empty on the Lord’s-day or week evening. How she used to long for the Lord’s-day to come, that she might go up to the house of the Lord! She used to take her hymn-book into her bed-room on the Saturday evening; often during the days of summer, and early on the Lord’s-day morning, would she read many precious hymns out, so that nearly all around her could hear her, with a weighty, solemn tone. She would attend the service in the morning, nearly always in time; would return to her home, partake of her dinner, afterwards search for the “Standard,” take it up into her bed-room, and there peruse it till service time again; then go to chapel in the afternoon; after service take a walk with her favored sister and brother-in-law across the fields to the neighbouring village, where they lived, and take tea with them. Many favored hours did she spend in those days with some of her dearest friends, and return with them to chapel in the evening. Close and sweet was her union to me, far beyond the love of many a sister. We were scarcely ever happier than in each other’s company. When the time drew near when I was about to take my late dear wife into the marriage union that was appointed from all eternity, she used to weep bitterly, fearing it would be the means of breaking the union between us. I told her that she should live with us as long as I had a home, or she liked to stay; and she did till the day that she was married. But these things did not satisfy her. Therefore she had gone to the Lord many times in secret, and poured out her soul before him; and in his own time he spoke a word to her troubled heart and gave her a “go in peace.” About this time (1848) the Lord was pleased to visit her with his afflicting hand with an inward serious complaint, which continued for some time, and baffled all the skill of both doctors and physicians to find out. They called it an inward tumour; but my dear sister was not affected at their hard speeches concerning it. She knew that all things were possible with the Lord, that he could remove it and none else; and if it was not his righteous will to remove it, but had appointed it to be the means of her death, could she see her interest clear, feel her sins put away, and feel assured that Christ was hers, she could welcome death and feel a longing desire to enter into the presence of Jesus, where her only hope and treasure were. My sister was thus afflicted for nearly two years, yet in answer to prayer the Lord was pleased to remove it in a moment in his own good time. When her feet were hastening to hear his blessed truth preached at a distant village, the Lord put forth his blessed hand and removed it entirely away in a moment on the road, and it never returned, which indeed was a marvellous thing to all that knew it; and my dear sister returned home believing in her own conscience that the Lord had appeared for her on the road, and she could give him the glory due unto his blessed name. Now she could believe that the Lord would still remember her, and deliver her soul in his own good time, and seal home mercy and pardon, and give her to see that her sins were blotted out, that her soul was bound up in the bundle of life, and made right for eternity. The ministry of the late Mr. Dark was very encouraging. His ministry being instrumental in finding out the Lord’s weaklings, my dear sister used often to meet with some sweet encouragement under his ministry, and sweet was the union between them in those days.

The ordinance of believers’ baptism she saw was becoming all the followers of the Lord of glory; and gladly would she have passed through it in love to her dearest Lord, could she have seen her interest clear. She would go for miles to witness it, and often felt a solemn pleasure in standing by the water side. How she used to envy those who were thus following their Lord, and obeying his commands; for she was both ready and willing to take up her cross, and follow her dearest Lord through evil and good report, seeing that it was the way the Shepherd trod out for his redeemed to follow, to show forth the overwhelming sufferings of his holy body and soul! When the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper was attended to, she used to be almost always present; and when the parting hymn was sung, she generally took a part in it, for she felt that there was something infinitely blessed in thus obeying and doing these things in remembrance of their dear departed Lord. For many years she thus felt such cleaving to the people of God, her soul being born again, and bound for eternal glory. She held all things in this mortal state with a loose hand, daily being led to see that everything here was vanishing and would soon pass away; and the commanding word having reached her heart, “Arise and depart, for this is not your rest.” Having a conscious feeling from day to day that her heart was deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, she needed to be washed in the fountain opened in the wounded side of Jesus; and a daily feeling of her guilt, shame, and nakedness, made her long after that spotless robe, woven without any seam of creature obedience, to clothe her needy, naked soul; for she daily felt that, in all her best performances, her sins did appear; in everything she came short of the glory of God; all her consistency of life, love to the truth, servants, and people of God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, living desires, earnest breathings after an interest in his great salvation, were all as nothing, and must all fall down before the infinitely blessed, finished work of Jesus; and that, if ever she was saved, it must be through the sufferings, death, and cross of Jesus. How she used to long for the spring season to come, to see the account of dear Mr. P’s coming to Allington! His ministry used to be generally sweet and blest to her soul, and many times has been as bread cast upon the waters, found after many days; also Mr. Godwin’s ministry. I used often to observe her on the Lord’s-day morning, when we have been going or riding on the road. How anxiously she used to look out for the hill that lies near the village! The very spot and place was dear to her soul; and when at times I could not get away to go with the horse, she would get a friend to go with her and walk. So, again, when we have had some of the Lord’s ministers at our house, how she used to sit at their feet, and listen to their blessed conversation! I used to look on my late dear wife as “Martha, being cumbered about much serving,” while my dear sister “Mary had chosen the good part, which could not be taken from her.” Many hours have my dear sister and wife spent together in singing the blessed songs of Zion by their fire­ side; at times I have sat by and listened to them till I could contain my keen feelings no longer; and I have been obliged to withdraw into the garden, something seeming to tell me that I should not be privileged with those two favored souls long; and, indeed, if any one had told me that, in little more than three years, these my two dearest friends and my mother, too, would be taken away, I must have sunk into despair. But to come to her last days on earth. My dear sister having spent many favored years with her whole affections fixed on an eternal state, the day of trouble and temptation drew near. Being of a cheerful, fair countenance, of good report, and an industrious soul, many young men tried to entangle her in wed­ lock, but she was enabled to resist them all, though some came under a profession of religion, and some rich with this world’s goods; but she “chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God,” and abide by the followers of her dearest Lord. In 1852, the mournful day arrived. A young man, a member of an Independent chapel, came arrayed in sheep’s clothing, and made her an offer in marriage; he professed to have been taught the truth, told how the Lord had begun a work of grace in his heart, stating its effects, and how he had been blessed under Mr. Godwin’s ministry, and felt deliverance through him. He therefore was admitted into her company, attended the little chapel with her, and became her suitor. My sister having a number of Mr. P.’s sermons bound together, which she used often to read, this young man having been accustomed to meet a few people in a certain house in a distant village for public worship on Lord’s-day evenings, desired the loan of these sermons, to read them on certain occasions, and my sister like­ wise accompanied him. Here it was that my dear sister first felt a natural affection that she had no power to withstand, and found herself involved with love, believing in her own conscience that he was a living soul; and, at length, in the autumn of 1853, the fatal day came that she gave herself to him, and brought grief and trouble on her last days on earth, and her soul down with sorrow to the grave.

Let this be a fearful warning to all God-fearing, unmarried females, and as a beacon on a hill, that they may be enabled, in the strength of the Lord, to stand up against all such wolves in sheep’s clothing as come to them arrayed in Gospel garb, to entangle them, and draw their silly feet into the marriage net.

The Lord now began to visit my dear sister with affliction of both body and mind, withdrawing all that blessed nearness and sweet communion that she had felt at times for many years past, and frowning her precious soul into bondage, darkness, grief, and sorrow. Her eyes began to be opened also to see through the mask of religion, and the awful hypocrisy of him that once appeared as an angel of light. Being often led away by him from the truth to hear error preached, she has returned to her home with a wounded conscience; and now, instead of the sabbath days being spent with sweet delight, they were passed in lamentation and sorrow; still her heart and affections were up unto the Lord. She was enabled to look again and again towards his holy temple; and though the Lord seemed to frown her soul away, yet she felt, Who can tell but that the time may come when I may see the golden sceptre of mercy held out towards me, and find acceptance before the pure majesty of heaven? She now knew what it was for one with whom she had gone up to the house of the Lord in company, and took sweet counsel together, not to spare to spit in her face, and persecute her precious soul; and with her dearest Lord she hid not her face from shame and spitting, but bore it all patiently, clearly seeing that she had justly merited it all from the hands of a righteous God. To an esteemed friend that witnessed her painful path, she said, “Do not tell my brother and sisters of what I pass through, because they will take such trouble about me. My brother used to tell me about ——, but I would not hearken unto him, and what I should have to pass through, but I paid no regard, and now it is come home to me; I have justly merited it all.” My sister’s illness still increased, and being pregnant, and her months hastening to accomplish, her doctor foretelling her that she would not live, but would surely die; yet she was not affrighted, for she felt that it would be better for her to die than to live; and on the 19th of July she brought forth her first-born. But her illness still increased, and the weighty, solemn tidings of death lay with great weight and power on her soul, so that she became anxiously concerned as to how the case stood between the Lord and her soul, with many anxious cries unto the pure Majesty of heaven. She felt for several days as one forsaken, and to whom the Lord paid no regard; but her eyes, heart, and affections for days and nights were up to the blessed throne of mercy and grace with ardent lovings and pantings. I shall never forget, when I entered her room, about a week before she died, how her soul was going out after the manifested presence of the Lord, with feelings that pierced me through, whilst she continued repeating, “Lord, do appear for me! do appear! have mercy upon me! oh, do, Lord, have mercy on me, even me, even me, even me, Lord, the least of all! oh, do, Lord! do, Lord! do, do, do!” My heart was broken, and tears ran down my face. I went near; and the moment she saw me, what love she felt to me! I said, “You want to feel Christ precious.” She replied, “I do, I do, I do! I cannot see my interest clear! I cannot feel that my sins are put away!” I said, “If the Lord has given you a desire after Christ, he will reveal him, and fulfill that desire.” She then raised her hands, and said, “Oh, then, give me a desire, Lord! a real desire, a true desire, Lord! and then fulfill that desire! oh, do, Lord! do, Lord!” An esteemed friend of hers came into the room; on asking her how her mind was respect­ ing death, she answered, “I am not going to flatter you; I cannot tell how it will be with me at the last.” He replied, that he did not want to be flattered; “but you cannot say but that you feel some thirstings and strugglings after the Lord.” She replied, “Yes; that is quite a different thing:—

“‘His love in times past forbids me to think 

He will leave me at last in trouble to sink;

Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,

Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.'”

Her nurse checked her for speaking, as she was so dreadfully ill, but it was of no use; and though she had been always from childhood quite reserved, and never had but little to say concerning soul matters, now it did not matter who was in the room; eternity, with all its solemnities, was laid so powerfully on her conscience, she could not refrain. At times she would burst out with an exceeding bitter cry, and say, “Oh, my sweet babe, what trouble are you born to!” Then, again, she would repeat, “The Lord have mercy upon me, and my dear child!” The following morning, when her sister entered her room, she looked at her, and said, “‘Praise God from whom all blessings flow.'”

During the day she was more composed. Her favored sister was at the time dangerously ill, and appeared at the point of death; I asked her if she could not send her love to her; she earnestly replied, “Yes, if I cannot send my love to her, whom can I send it to?” On the following Lord’s-day, she felt again some sweet touches, and several lines of hymns were very precious; but still her soul was going out after the Lord day after day, with such pressing desires, so that she could take no denial; and, on Friday, the 4th of August, two days before her death, the Lord was pleased to reveal pardon and mercy to her soul, and gave her a sight of Jesus bearing her sins away in his own body on the cross; and she exclaimed, “I have felt the forgiveness of all my sins, and am not afraid to die, for my soul is made right for eternity.” Being too ill for any conversation, or any earthly company, she lay in a quiet, calm, serene, composed state, till the happy moment came when her precious soul took its flight, on Lord’s-day afternoon, to enter on an eternal sabbath, free from all sorrow, pain, and trouble, to receive a crown of glory, and gaze on the sweet face of Jesus; to drink into his blessed likeness, adore and praise the grace that reached her, the love that was fixed upon her, the blood that washed her from all her sins, and landed her safe on the shores of eternal bliss and glory for evermore. Thus fell asleep in Jesus my very dear sister, Mary Jane Ellis, August 6th, 1854, aged twenty-eight years. Her mortal remains were committed to the grave on the following Wednesday, to rest with her de­ parted mother till the last great day.

A Lover Of Truth (Joseph Topp)

Market Lavington, Wilts, March 21, 1856.

Mary Topp (1826-1854) was a Strict and Particular Baptist believer. She was the sister of Joseph Topp, a God-fearing man whose intimate knowledge of the brethren allowed him to contribute several biographical sketches of departed saints to the “Gospel Standard”.