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BRIEF MEMOIR OF MR. JOHN WHITWORTH, OF MEASHAM.
“ HEAVEN gives us friends to bless the present scene;" and it is because they do bless the present scene that we desire their continuance, and mourn their departure. The pain of separation is proportioned to the pleasure we have derived from their society, and the affection we cherished for them. It has ever been regarded as a mysterious dispensation of Providence, when those whose benevolent and affectionate conduct had endeared them to a large circle of friends and acquaintances, are cut off at a time when their longer continuance seemed especially desirable ; but the Christian bows with adoring submission to the righteous will of Heaven, assured that the Supreme Arbiter of life and death doeth all things well. Such an event has recently occurred in the removal from this transitory state of Mr. John Whitworth, of Measham, in the fifty-seventh year of his age. His death was affectingly sudden. On Friday, Jan. 15th, the day preceding his departure, it was remarked that he was unusually lively and cheerful. In the evening, when preparing to retire to rest, he was seized with an apoplectic fit, by which he was at once deprived of the power of speech. He lingered in a state of insensibility till the following afternoon, when he bade adieu to time. Owing to a regretted delay in the forwarding of a letter, the writer of this was not apprized of danger till nearly two days after the termination of the mortal struggle, nor did he know the worst till he reached the house of mourning. By this sudden and solemn visitation, a large family has been bereft of a relative on whom some of its members were dependent, and to whom all of them were greatly indebted; the poor and needy, the fatherless and widow, have lost a helper on whose sympathy and aid they could always rely in the time of need; the minister and church also have sustained a loss which is far from being inconsiderable, and they have sustained it at a time when, as it seems to our short-sighted capacities, the presence and counsels of the deceased would have been of essential service.
While the benevolent disposition of Mr. Whitworth frequently laid all his relatives under obligations, the writer will be pardoned for stating, that in his case the obligations were peculiarly strong. The remembrance of his uncle's kindness, during a painful and protracted affliction, will be cherished by him with the deepest sentiments of gratitude to his dying
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day; and he owes it to the divine blessing on the means which that kind. ness spontaneously and cheerfully furnished, that his affliction was happily removed, and the way open for his introduction to the ministry. He desires not to forget that it was the gracious Giver of every good and perfect gift who rendered his deceased benefactor all that he was to himself and to many others. Many who read this imperfect memorial of departed excellence can bear witness to the christian kindness which they have received under his hospitable roof: he did good to all, but especially to them who were of the household of faith. Job xxix. 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, might with truth be applied to him. His benevolent acts, too, were perfectly free from ostentation : the direction of the Saviour was not overlooked, “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.” The prosperity with which a beneficent providence crowned his temporal engagements was an exemplification of the Scripture, “there is that scattereth and yet increaseth."
I deeply regret that my beloved uncle did not sustain a christian profession, and it greatly increased the distress into which we were all plunged by his afflictive removal, that the nature of his dying illness precluded our receiving any account of the state of his mind in the prospect of eternity; but we do not sorrow as those who have no hope. Those who had the best opportunity of judging, entertain a pleasing persuasion that he was not a stranger to an experimental acquaintance with the vital truths of the Gospel. Our grief is alleviated by the hope of meeting him among the spirits of just men made perfect. The language of the poet appears not inapplicable,
“How many fall as sudden, not as safe!” His remains were committed to the tomb on the following Tuesday afternoon, when Mr. Goadby, sen., in compliance with the request of the mourning family, kindly officiated. The sermon was founded on Psalm cxliv. 4, “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away." The funeral sermon was preached on the following Sabbath evening by Mr. Staples, from 1 Cor. xv. 26, “ The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” The congregation at each service was large and deeply affected : sorrow was depicted on every countenance, and tears flowed from many an eye. It is not probably too much to suppose that no instance of mortality has occurred in the village, within the memory of any of its inhabitants, by which so many feel that they have sustained a loss as in the present case.
The family of my honoured relative has ever been closely connected with the Baptist cause at Measham : for many years before the erection of the chapel, preaching was carried on in his father's house. Some account of this good man is furnished in the General Baptist Repository, Vol. IX., small size, p. 133. All his children, with the exception of the deceased, were baptized and united to the Church of Christ : one of them only survives; the others have fallen asleep. (See G. B. R. for 1826, p. 296-7; also for 1830, p. 138.) It will gratify the pious reader to learn that hopeful indications of piety have recently been apparent in several of the younger members of the family. During the last year of my uncle's life, he witnessed five of his nieces, all of them in the morning of life, profess a good profession before many witnesses. May the kind Shepherd of Israel preserve these
lambs of his flock from all harm; and when they have blessed the Church below, translate them to the Church in heaven; and may the Lord mercifally heal the breach which has been made in the family and the Church by this solemn and distressing bereavement.
“'Mid changing scenes, and dying friends,
Be thou our all in all." Harborough, Feb. 11th, 1841.
SUBSTANCE OF AN ADDRESS Delivered at the formation of the General Baptist Church, Leeds, on
Lord's-day afternoon, Feb. 28th, 1841. When Moses was commanded to construct a Tabernacle for the performance of the worship of God, the most exact and complete directions were given him from heaven. The form, size, parts, and materials of the erection, and the various instruments of service, even to the smallest and most insignificant, were minutely described ; and the solemn injunction was thrice repeated, “See that thou make all things according to the pattern that was showed thee in the holy mount.”
When Solomon erected the Temple, the same conformity to a divine rule and pattern was required. God himself was the Architect, and caused David “to understand in writing by his hand upon him all the works of the pattern," which David gave to Solomon for his guidance. That distinguished monarch was not left, therefore, to indulge his own taste, but to work according to a plan and specifications drawn and appointed by the Almighty Architect himself. (Read 1 Chron. xxviii. 11-19.) This building, situate on mount Moriah, appeared worthy of its projector ; and by its lofty position, its immense magnitude, the costliness, order and beauty of its structure, the splendor of its interior decorations, and the superb elegance of its instruments of worship, it was of such surpassing magnificence as led the worshiper of God to regard it as "the perfection of beauty," and to sing, “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King.”
A Christian Church, however, is a temple of an order superior to that of Solomon. It is a spiritual fabric, and is " builded together as a habitation of God through the Spirit.” “Ye are God's building," is the language of St. Paul: “Ye then, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house," that of Peter. And in the construction of this divine building, we have every needful direction given us in the New Testament. The precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ, the practice of the inspired apostles, and the order and constitution of the first Christian Churches, those which were collected and organized by them, present all Christians with a model for this temple, to which, in their Church order, it is their duty to conform. Here we have instructions as to the materials, the form, the powers and reponsibilities, and office bearers of the Church of God. To this divine pattern it is our wish closely to adhere, though in doing so we are compelled to separate from all ecclesiastical establishments connected with the state, and from other communities of professing Christians.
We would be far from
assuming airs of infallibility, or from presuming that our Churches are free from defect; but on occasions like the present, we can cheerfully invite our neighbours, and even those who differ from us, to contemplate the model on which we are formed, and consider its claims on their attention.
“ Let strangers walk around
The city where we dwell;
And mark the building well :
The worship of thy courts,
And make a fair report." I purpose, my brethren, on the present occasion, to point out some of the leading features of the apostolic Churches - mention a few of their claims as a model for our imitation-and notice the evils which have resulted from a disregard to this pattern.
I. The apostolic Churches may be contemplated as to the persons who composed them, their constitution, their powers, and their office-bearers,
1. The persons or characters who composed the apostolic Churches are pointed out so clearly that they cannot be misunderstood. They were “ believers in the Lord Jesus Christ;" such as were “called to be saints ;" “sanctified in Christ Jesus ;" “ renewed in the spirit of their mind;" or, in other words, sincere and devoted disciples of Christ.
2. The constitution of the Churches formed by the apostles is equally plain and simple. A Church is an assembly; and a Christian Church is an assembly of Christians, who are united together, and have received each other as Christians and brethren, that they may worship together, commune with each other, and mutually support and promote the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ. Such was the Church at Jerusalem. The Church at Corinth, the Churches in Asia, in Samaria and Galatia, and Judea, were communities of this kind. They were not national, they were not æcumenical, or under a single visible head; but they were congregational, distinct, and separate. Some of these were large, and had many members; others were small, for we read of the Church at the house of Priscilla and Aquila ; but whether large or small, every distinct union and society was a Church of God, and for their encouragement they had the promise of Christ, “ Where two or three are met together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
3. The powers and authority of a Christian Church are very important, and arise out of the principles of their union and their subjection to Christ. It is theirs to elect those who bear office amongst them. This is a right that is apparently inherent in all voluntary societies. It was recognized by the inspired apostles as belonging to the Christian Church. For example, when deacons were appointed in the Church at Jerusalem, the multitude of the members were told to “look out men of good report," and the whole multitude “chose Stephen ” and his companions. The apostles then ordained them, or by prayer and the imposition of hands set them apart for this office. Thus also, when Paul and Barnabas were appointed of the Holy Spirit to a special mission, we are told that they ordained elders in every Church. Here there is no intimation that these elders had not first been chosen by the Churches themselves, but, on the
contrary, the example so clearly given of the popular choice of deacons at Jerusalem, would afford presumptive evidence that the same principle had been acted on in these Churches. Moreover, the Greek term which is here rendered ordain, signifies to vote, or elect by suffrage. It is xsiçetorse, from trup the hand, and twow, to extend or stretch out, and conveys an intimation that they were appointed according to the suffrages of the people, given by holding up the hand to express their assent.
The right of choosing their own officers was held sacred in the primitive Churches. And such as were thus chosen, if they possessed the qualifications and dispositions suited to the office, were set apart, or solemnly ordained or appointed by the apostles, evangelists, or a company of elders.
Another and very extensive branch of the powers of a Christian Church pertains to the administration of discipline. This includes the reception of members—the reproof, or correction, or suspension of such as err-and the exclusion of such as depart from the faith of the Gospel, or evince by their conduct that they are not under its influence. Hence the Church at Rome is enjoined “to receive such as are sincere, though they may be weak in the faith ;" that at Corinth “to put away a wicked person ;" and that at Thessalonica to "withdraw from a disorderly brother,” and “admonish him.” But all the discipline of the apostolic Churches was of a spiritual nature, and extended only to such as belonged to them. “Their weapons were not carnal.” The infliction of civil punishments, fines, imprisonments, &c., are no part of the discipline of Christ's Churches; and the excommunication of such as never belonged to them is an absurd paradox, known only to popery and national establishments.
The Churches in the New Testament had not power to decree rites and ceremonies, or authority in matters of faith.” Their faith consisted of a belief in what Christ and his inspired servants taught them, and their rites and ceremonies were such only as were appointed by our Lord, and observed by his apostles-the great principle of their union being a subjection to Christ.
4. The officers in the apostolic Churches, of an ordinary kind, were two, pastors and deacons. It is true we read of several others, but they were not such as could be chosen by the people, and they ceased with the apostolic age. The apostolic office was special and intransmissible. An apostle was one who had “seen the Lord,” and was appointed by his own word to establish his kingdom Prophets were an order of men whose office ceased with the age of inspiration. Evangelists were those who assisted the apostles in their work, and acted under their immediate direction. These offices necessarily ceased with the apostolic age. The two that I have named appear to be the only ordinary and permanent officers in the Churches of God.
The deacons were chosen and appointed to superintend the secular affairs of the Church, distributing its alms to the poor, attending to the contributions of the people for the support of the ministry of the word, and, in Scripture phrase, to "serve tables.” The pastors were appointed to "feed the flock of God" with Scripture instruction ; to“ take the oversight thereof;" to " preside over them,” and be their “ leaders and guides."