William Boorne

The Life And Testimony Of William Boorne

Gospel Standard 1869:

William Boorne, Of Deptford

Communicated By His Son

The subject of this memoir was born at Deptford, January 1st, 1794. His father and mother were both members of a Particular Baptist church, at Keppell Street, Bedford Square, under the pastoral care of Mr. Martin. His mother died when he was nine months old, but his grandmother often took care of him. She was a strict Churchwoman, and taught her grandson hymns and prayers, which he frequently repeated. He had early natural convictions that he was wicked, and was taught that he must be good to meet the favour of God. As he grew older, his father was accustomed to take him occasionally on a Lord’s day to Keppell Street. When about twelve years of age, he heard Mr. Martin from Col. 1:27: “Christ in you the hope of glory.” He felt there was something in the words desirable to be known, and was by them led to think on God, his omnipresence, &c. He had also some thoughts upon prayer; but his father taught him no form, as his grandmother had done. He noticed, too, his father prayed without a book; so he arrived at these conclusions, that his father prayed from the heart, and that if ever he prayed himself, he must perform the exercise as his father did.

In 1808, he was apprenticed to a Mr. Barfield, Wardour Street, Soho. This person was printer to “The Society for the Promoting of Religious Knowledge amongst the Poor.” Here he had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the works of some sound divines; but, being deprived of parental care, and necessarily cast into the company of ungodly workmen and youths, his mind became depraved. He frequently heard the truth; but considered religion a gloomy subject, and better adapted to persons who, by reason of age, were upon the brink of the grave. He heard that God was merciful; so he hoped he should go to heaven, or that at least he should fare no worse than thousands of his fellow-creatures.

But the time appointed by God to manifest discriminating grace and mercy towards him was in Sept., 1814, when he was effectually wounded, and plucked as a brand from the fire. He was asked one Lord’s day to tea at the home of a work-companion, whose mother attended Tottenham Court Road Chapel; and as this youth considered it his duty to please his mother by going to chapel occasionally, he persuaded my father to accompany him that evening. The preacher was Mr. Parrott, of Reading. His text was John 6:37. During this discourse, an arrow was shot “by the Lord into my father’s heart, showing him his sins against God, of which he had had but natural conceptions. Thus, while both youths went together, the one was taken and the other left. The convictions he received produced in his soul great fears of eternal destruction. He strove to be rid of them, and to make himself happy again; but they were not to be shaken off, and he found he was sinking deeper into the mire. He endeavoured to undertake an entire change by repenting of his past sins, and reforming his future conduct. But all these strivings to work with or against his convictions proved abortive, and he had to return to view himself an undone sinner. Then he wished he had never been born; that he had been of the brute creation, or that he had died in infancy, that no sin might have stood against him; not perceiving the root of his transgressions in Adam, in which, in after years, he was deeply grounded. He now resorted to prayer; for although he had no hope of salvation, yet he was constrained to leave the outward world, and cry to God in secret. But it was suggested to him that his prayer did not come from his heart. He therefore thought his feeble petitions would not be regarded by the Lord. He looked upon some whom he thought to be gracious persons, and wished he possessed the holiness and enjoyed the peace they appeared to have. Now and then he had a glimmering hope of seeing better days; but it soon vanished, as he could not see how such a sinner could be saved consistently with God’s justice.

In this state of soul he continued above two years, and was raised to a hope in the Lord’s mercy by a secret visitation from Heaven. He was at his father’s house at Deptford one Lord’s day, and, as was his wont, he retired to a room for prayer and reading. While here, mourning and sighing over his state, it was as if a voice within him said, “Unclean! unclean!” This was shortly followed by an indescribable ray of light and hope of mercy. Christ was discovered as the door of access, and the only way of salvation. He saw that the invitations of the gospel suited his state and case, and the precious promises flowed in as pleas for him at the throne of grace. Speaking of his former condition of misery, he said, “Many and sore exercises I had during this period; and when I was sinking into hell, according to my feelings, a ray of divine light darted into my soul from the Sun of Righteousness in secret, by which hope was communicated, and I was enabled to seek for mercy and plead promises that I knew not before; so I believe it was the Holy Spirit helping my infirmities. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ. He, in his own good time, in 1816, delivered my soul, and for some months I lived in the happy enjoyment of peace with God; nor did I think I should ever stray from him as I have done. I do not mean outwardly, but in heart. I have been a base backslider; and had he not called me back again, I never should have returned.”

Early in 1817, he was baptized, and became a member of a Particular Baptist church at Deptford. Being full of love and zeal, he counted much upon meeting amongst the people on Lord’s days, to tell of God’s love and goodness to him, and to hear the word preached; for now the Bible, instead of being as before, full of threats and condemnation, was replete with sweet consolation. Christ was seen in well-nigh every page. The world had lost its charms, and his conversation was in heaven, where he hoped soon to be. When he retired at night, he felt he was the Lord’s, and when he awoke, he was still with him. Pardon and peace were enjoyed. He could go with Bunyan to the cross, and say:

“Blest cross, blest sepulchre, blest rather be, 

The man that here was put to shame for me.”

“On March 3rd, 1816,” he said: “I enjoyed much happiness while hearing a person preach at Deptford from Prov. 8:17; and about this time I spent a happy day at an anniversary, where I heard Mr. Bailey, of Great Alie Street, in the morning, from Matt. 16:19; in the afternoon, Mr. Francis, of Snow’s Fields, from Isa. 53:1; and in the evening, Mr. Williams, of Grafton Street, from 1 Pet. 2:4.

“At this time I was acquainted with several Christian friends who were hearers of Mr. Burgess at King Street, Deptford, and I occasionally heard him preach, and discovered something in his preaching different to what I generally found where I was a church member: so by degrees I was led to watch and wait to know the Lord’s will, and was constrained at length to unite with those with whom I felt most of the blessing of God. I may say that under Mr. Burgess’s ministry the eyes of my understanding became more enlightened; and the soul-establishing truths I received fixed my heart and caused me to turn my back upon many I had highly esteemed before. Light maketh manifest.”

I have many times heard my father say that when he heard Mr. Burgess preach from Eph. 1:18, such precious things were spoken that he felt compelled never to return to his former place of hearing; so he became a constant hearer and attached friend of Mr. Burgess’s until the Lord removed him by death from the vineyard, which was in 1824.

After this, a division arose among the leading men at the chapel, which resulted in the majority of the church and several of the best hearers leaving the chapel and meeting for prayer, reading, and occasional preaching at the house of Mr. Burgess’s widow. My father went with them. They assembled together for a time; but by-and-by a spirit of disaffection entered, and several, having strong confidence in Mr. Huntington’s predictions of coming trial and persecution, resolved to emigrate to America, where they hoped to live in union one with another and be delivered from the calamities which they imagined were coming upon their native land. This to my father became a matter of exercise; but he saw eventually it was the work of him who separates chief friends; for the emigrants, instead of living so as to be able to worship together on the Lord’s-days, were scattered in various parts of the United States and Canada; and the advice sent by one to a friend was, “Never leave England while you can get a crust.”

After the people had met at Mrs. Burgess’s house for about twelve years, Mrs. B. died, and the cause was given up. But now the Lord made a way for gracious men to supply occasionally at the chapel in King Street on week evenings, among whom were Messrs. Hardy, Fowler, Gadsby, Warburton, and Turner; but as the preaching there on Lord’s days was for the most part of a different kind, my father went to London to hear, which, indeed, he often also did prior to Mrs. Burgess’s death.

About 1825, my father’s business becoming prosperous, he was permitted to fall into a state of heart backsliding from the Lord, which season of spiritual declension continued more or less for a period of seven years; wherein, although his attendance upon the means of grace was the same outwardly, he sensibly felt he had not that keenness of appetite, vehement desire, and ardent love as formerly; nor did he find those heavenly refreshings from the word of God, either in public or in private, which he had formerly done. The Lord variously and mysteriously exercised him to restore himself, but Heb. 11:7 was made effectual to that end.

The ministry of the late Isaac Beeman, on his occasional visit to London, was made a great blessing to my father. He also received profit in hearing the late Henry Cole, at the time of his secession from the Established Church. He was brought to consider deeply the state of his soul, of the church of God, and of the nation. In his note-book, he says, “The troubles I was thinking about had such an effect, at times, that I could not eat; and the Lord gave me these words with power and sweetness: ‘To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna.'”

There are notes in my father’s book of having heard Mr. Beeman several times after this, wherein he was much established in the things of God. Subsequently he became a constant hearer at Zoar Chapel, Great Alie Street, where Messrs. Gadsby, Warburton, Kershaw, Philpot, M’Kenzie, Tiptaft, and others supplied. Here the word was blessed to his soul. Subsequently he returned to the chapel at Deptford, and had the appointing of supplies for week evenings; and although the congregation was small, yet some now in glory and others living had reason to bless God for what was spoken at various times from the pulpit. In 1856, the lease of the chapel having nearly expired, the friends removed to Counter Hill, where they still meet; but the church is now dissolved.

From the time of the spiritual deliverance experienced by my father in 1832, he was much exercised respecting the ministry, which troubled him more or less for about twenty years.

Writing to a friend, he said, “In 1832, I was visited in a powerful manner. It brought me into great exercises about following the Lord in word and doctrine; and this continued for nearly twenty years; but time has proved that the exercise was not to prepare me for pulpit service, but for another office in his church, in which he has used me as a humble instrument for his glory; so that those who knew the state of Ebenezer Chapel twenty years ago, and compare it with its present state I do not mean in reference to numbers, but to divine life in the pulpit and in the pews may say, ‘What hath the Lord wrought?’ And whatever the heathen may say, some of us can exclaim, ‘The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.'”

As my father had been long and well established in the things of God, the accuser of the brethren was not able so easily to gainsay the reality of his religion as formerly; and although, as he often said, he could not boast of an unshaken confidence, yet for several years latterly his experience was described by Hart in these words:

“lt Neither lifted up with air,

Nor dejected to despair.”

To a friend, on June 11th, 1867, he wrote: “Writing seems to me more labour than formerly; yet I sometimes get a little spiritual feeling in writing to Christian friends more than I get in hearing many sermons; and a little spiritual feeling I prize now-a-days. I want to feel more of the power of that faith which works by love, and purifies the heart; but what an unspeakable mercy that we have any real evidence that we possess the least grain of that faith! The prayers of such are well described by Hart:

“‘The feeblest prayer, if faith be there, 

Exceeds all empty notion!’

This I believe; and I hope I answer the description; but how poor and nothing worth my prayers appear to me at times, so that I wish no one was in hearing; but when alone sometimes I feel at liberty to say anything, without fearing how or what to say; for I believe the Lord knows all my weakness and infirmities, and all my wants and necessities; and if I forget to tell him all that is intended, which sometimes is the case, yet, blessed be his dear name, he does not forget, but kindly appears for me and helps me in my little difficulties; and this encourages me to believe that

“‘David’s Lord and Gideon’s Friend 

Will help his servant to the end.'”

To another friend, February 27th, 1867, he said, “We have been mercifully preserved, and we hope we shall be cared for while passing through this vale of tears. I believe with you that we learn more of the faithfulness of God in our latter years than in our earlier days. The Lord says to those he has visited, ‘I will see you again.’ The power of unbelief in my early days was so great, that I often questioned whether I knew anything real, and what it was to have a visit from the Lord; but I hope I am a little more powerfully persuaded now, though I cannot say much as to frequent and powerful visits, yet I feel more satisfied that

“‘He sees us when we see not him, 

And always hears our cry.’

This keeps me watchful, and at times I can say with the psalmist, ‘I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications; because he hath inclined his ear unto me, and heard my cry, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.'”

Speaking of the late Mr. Tiptaft and Mr. Tanner, he said, “They are both well laid in their graves, and I feel it a great mercy that I have a hope of the same; for I am quite sensible that nature with me is decaying. We know not the number of our days; but sometimes I think my time here will be short. The Lord be praised for a better prospect than what seems exhibited in these dark days. No night there! Cheer up!

“‘He that conquered for us once, 

Will in us conquer too!’

The battle is the Lord’s; therefore boasting must be excluded; and we shall be led to say, ‘Not unto us,’ &c. In heaven, as the poet sings,

“’Our Redeemer lives, all bright and glorious;

O’er sin and death and hell he reigns victorious.’

In October, 1868, it became evident my father was fast approaching his dissolution. Of this he was persuaded, and at times felt happy in the prospect. One evening he tried to sing with his wife Mr. Hart’s hymn (Hart’s 103rd, Gadsby’s 681st): “Blessed are they whose guilt is gone.” He could not get through it, but said, “We shall have immortal lungs by-and-by.” She read to him 2 Kings 2, respecting the departure of Elijah. He said, “The Lord will send a chariot for me some day;” but the days of darkness were many. He stated that, although his former experience had been made out to him so clear, yet now he found his religion was brought into a very small compass; and he spoke very faithfully and affectionately to some who visited him, hoping the Lord might prepare them for the ordeal he was then passing through. He had many fears, at times, of what he might suffer in the article of death. One time, in answer to a friend’s inquiry of the state of his mind, he said he was right in the main, but he had not the bright shillings he could wish. His feelings were described by Job: “Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit;” which, he said, was not pleasant to the feelings. He remarked he had lived to know what were the life of faith, the walk of faith, and in some measure the triumph of faith. The last words of David, as recorded in 2 Sam. 23:5, were sweetly applied to his soul, affording him much refreshment. Speaking of this, he said, although he had not those heavenly raptures and sweet feelings many have in such circumstances, and although he was so burdened with bodily infirmities that he could not pray or meditate as he could desire to do, yet he was led by the Spirit to draw comfort from this, that the Lord had made with him an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure. This became a hill of help to him, and he referred to it several times in his affliction.

On Dec. 25th, upon inquiring how he was, he replied, “I have much to be thankful for, for I have had a good night, and have been enabled to eat a tolerably good breakfast; but what is more than all, I have a good hope through grace; and, whether this grace be in the bud or in the blossom, it is the same as that possessed by Simeon when he had the dear babe of Bethlehem in his arms and Christ in the heart the hope of glory.” His countenance beamed with brightness while he spoke of the sweet hope he had beyond the grave.

As the year waned, he appeared to sink fast; so that it was doubted whether he would live to see the new year in; but after this he appeared somewhat better in health. This created in him a fear that it might prove a long affliction; and although he seemed to have a spirit of submission to bear all the Lord might be pleased to lay upon him, yet he said he felt himself such a rebellious creature, that he had to beg of the Lord to give him much patience and resignation to his will. He expressed gratitude to the Lord for the preservation of his mental faculties; for he said he felt sure his head was the weakest part. Some of the late Mr. Bourne’s letters were read to him. He said, ”They cast alight upon my path. David had to travel this way, and many others. I believe I shall be among the crowd in heaven.” (Rev. 7:9.)

On Lord’s day, Feb. 7th, he was telling of some of his fears and troubles, when he burst into tears, and said, “‘He sees what fears your soul alarms, And smiling says, Fear not, thou worm.'” Then these words:  ”Fear not, thou worm Jacob;” by which he was melted.

On Feb. 8th he was favoured with a manifestation of his best Beloved, by which his soul was much revived; but in the night he was sorely tempted by Satan, and felt as if the enemy were let loose upon him; by which he perceived the Lord had a special purpose in previously visiting him. Another day he was much favoured, and said to his wife, while tears rolled down his cheeks, “My blessed Saviour is coming to take me; yes, he is indeed coming to take me. I long to be there, I long to be there.”

On Lord’s day, Feb. 14th, his sinkings were great; but his soul was full of prayer. He kept crying out, “Heavenly Father, heavenly Father, have mercy, have mercy!” He remarked, “I know he has said, ‘For the oppression of the poor and for the sighing of the needy now will I arise;'” and he repeated other promises, saying, “I know the Lord will not be offended. God is my refuge and strength; underneath are the everlasting arms. I long for him to come and deliver me from this tabernacle.” He felt he must cry all the day; for these words had been applied to him: “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.”

From the time he was first taken ill he was unable to lie down; therefore he sat up supported by pillows; but on Feb. 15th he was removed to another room, and was enabled to lie down. The next day he said, “I know I shall not be here long now.”

On Friday evening he appeared taken for death. I was sent for. On entering the room he was sitting up, painfully gasping for breath. He expressed a wish to know if the doctor thought him to be in dying circumstances; but he had not seen him in that state. I said, “It’s all right, father.” He replied, “O yes, my dear, it’s all right; it’s all right. God Almighty bless you all.” After this, amidst his struggles, he lifted up his eyes and cried very earnestly, “Heavenly Father, heavenly Father!” I said to him, “You are looking for that blessed hope?” “Yes,” he answered, “and the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Upon being told that the doctor had been to see him, he asked what he thought of him. I said, “He could not say for certain whether you were passing through death or not.” He said, “Ah, well; I thought it was death, and you see he could not tell; but if the Lord does not fetch me by this post, he may by the next.” After this, slight delirium was manifest, which continued more or less through the night.

On Saturday morning, before daybreak, he had the last attack from the enemy. He said the devil had come to him with many lies, and told him he would be cast into hell after all; “but,” my father said, “it will end better yet.” At night the delirium increased; yet of this he was very sensible, saying he felt as if the things in the room were going round.

On Sunday morning, the day of his departure from this world, the mental agitation had subsided, and he was sweetly stayed upon his beloved Lord. I called upon him about 6 o’clock, as I had to travel several miles that day. I told him where I was going. He said, “Good bye. May the Lord go with you, and be everything to you that you need.” He continued very comfortable through the morning. About an hour before his departure, he said, “I am resting upon the Rock,” and repeated a part of Toplady’s hymn: “Rock of ages, cleft for me,” &c.; and said, “What a mercy to be well laid in the grave.”

His final struggle with death lasted only half an hour, and he quietly ceased to breathe at half-past one in the afternoon on Lord’s day, Feb. 21, 1869. He was interred at Nunhead Cemetery by Mr. Cowley and Mr. Walker in the grave with his son Thomas and his former wife, whose obituaries appeared in the “Gospel Standard ” respectively, July, 1850, and April, 1853; and it may be truly said by those who knew them all that the three bodies had been consigned to the earth in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection to eternal life.

William Boorne (1794-1869) was a Strict and Particular Baptist believer. Although not a preacher of the gospel, he was a servant of churches and did much for the cause of Christ. He was the father of Thomas, John and James, whose biographical sketches are included in the online archive of The Baptist Particular.