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MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. JOSEPH HOBBS. Our highly-esteemed brother Hobbs was born in London, in the parish of Saint Leonard, Shoreditch, Nov. 29th, 1764. His parents were respectable, and of good moral character, but strangers to vital godliness. In early life he evinced the depravity of his heart, not only by acts of disobedience to his parents, by which their minds were greatly disquieted, but also by other sinful practices. He was not, however, while he was yet young, without some alarming convictions of the evil of sin. On one occasion he went on a Lord's-day morning to skait on the ice, and in returning home his guilty reflections on the sinfulness of this profanation of the Sab bath, and of the danger to which he had exposed bimself, were of so painful a kind as to restrain him from any subsequent repetition of this wickedness. His delight in theatrical performances was in this period of bis history very great : he frequently attended them, and foolishly imagined, that could he be employed in the theatre he should be completely happy. His passion for this kind of amusement was so ardent, as to lead him to suppose that nothing could subdue it; but God was pleased, by a train of circumstances, in his providence and grace entirely to destroy it. One Lord's-day morning he was passing by the Independent chapel in Jewry-street, Aldgate, and thought he would go in. He did so, and Mr. Aldridge, then the minister there, was speaking on the dangerous tendency of public amusements; and in the conclusion of his remarks said, he would not object to bis hearers attending them, on condition that whenever they went they would not fail to take eternity with them. Our friend attended the theatre in the ensuing week, and to his great disappointment, the thought of eternity robbed him of all his accustomed pleasure. This uneasiness of feeling, occasioned by the recollection of eternity, increased in every succeeding attendance on this species of amusement, till he was at length induced to relinquish it, hy the inexpressible borror which he felt while a mimic representation of thunder and lightning was acted, from the apprehension that he should not escape from the place alive, but be hurried from it into an awful eternity. His forebodings of this induced him to resolve, that should God mercifully spare bim, and permit bis return home in safety, he would never again visit the theaire : a resolution which, by the grace of God, he was enabled ever after to fulfil. Now he was led anxiously to inquire, What he must do to be happy? He concluded that real happiness could low only from religion VOL. 3.-N.S.
and he immediately sought it, by attending various places of Worship, and reading books on religious subjects: but though oftentimes greatly affected by them, he still remained a stranger to that entire turning of the heart from sin, in which evangelical repentance so much consists. On Jan. 15th, 1781, his father died, and not having evidence, which he deemed satisfactory, of his conversion to God, this event, in a very painful manner, impressed his mind; and about this time he met with « Alleine's Alarm to the Unconverted; or, a sure guide to heaven.” By reading this book he experienced the most powerful awakenings of conscience, felt the anguish of a wounded spirit, and was alarmed by an abiding sense of the danger to which, by sin, he was exposed. The language of his heart was, What must I do to be saved ? In this state of distress be remained, till he found in another part of this volume some directions and exhortations to the trembling sinner io go to Jesus Christ, with an assurance of his ability and readiness to save to the uttermost all them that come unto God by him. His heart's desire and prayer to God now was, that he might be a christian indeed; but having no christian friend to whom he could open his mind, he was in various respects the subject of distressing perplexities. Sometimes he attended the ministry of evangelical clergyman, and at other times at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, and the word preached was made instrumental to his instruction and comfort; but being led to reside in Whitechapel, he attended at Jewrystreet, where his mind was first so deeply impressed with eternity; here he seemed as a child at home. An incident occurred about this time which induced him to commence family prayer. Mr. Aldridge, the minister at Jewry-street, mentioned from the pulpit at the close of public worship, the case of a pious woman who was in great distress: he went into the vestry and requested him to accept a trifle for her relief. Mr. Aldridge, however, instead of this, pressed hiin to visit her, and made him the bearer of some other donations with his own. He visited her, found her in great poverty, but rich in faith and christian experience; in very trying personal affliction, but rejoicing in God, and he was much strengthened and benefitted by her conversation. When about to leave her she requested him to pray with her: to him this was a great trial; but he made this his first attempt, ånd being assisted through it, was encouraged to commence family worship: an important christian duty, to which he regularly attended through future life. In this period of his career he was greatly discouraged by the scaldalous falls of some professors who stood high in his esteem, and was tempted to conclude, that if such these fell away, it was not to be expected that one so feeble as himself could endure to the end. From this painful state of feeling he was recovered chiefly by a paraphrase given by Mr. Banks, of Princes’-street chapel, on the hymn commencing with, “ Jesus, lover of my soul,” &c.; and for some time, in the communion of this cbris. tian society, he went on bis way rejoicing.
In 1789 he accompanied a Methodist local preacher to Clerkenwell workhouse, and being requested by him to preach in his stead to the inmates there, he was persuaded to aliempt it. ' Tbis, his first sermon, was from Mark xvi. 15, 16; he was after this employed as an occasional preacher in various places in and about London. On March 21st, 1790, he put on the Lord Jesus Christ by being baptized nnto him, agreeably to Christ's commission to his apostles, by Mr. George Compton, in Worship-street, near Moorfields. This instance of practical submission to the Redeemer's will eventually led to his being fixed in the stations in wbich his useful labours were subsequently employed.
On March 8th, 1791, he was married in Stepney church to Elizabeth Trustrum, the amiable and highly-esteemed companion of his future years, She proved herself, through the long period in which they dwelt together, as heirs of the grace of life, a help-meet for him. In his diary, when recording this event, he thus expresses himself, “I married Elizabeth Trustrum, believing it was the will of God that this union should take place. May it continue many years on earth, and may we be associates in heaven for ever and ever." This his desire was granted him : they were spared to share in each others joys and sorrows for nearly fifty years, and then death removed him from time to eternity. His beloved wife, who had often, and especially since ber busband bad suffered the loss of his eyesight, expressed her desire to be permitted to minister to his wants till the close of his pil. grimage, and then be, in the providence of God, allowed quickly to follow bim into the world of spirits, survived him only one month, and then fell asleep in Christ.
In 1792, Mr. Hobbs attended the annual assembly of General Baptists in Worship Street, and after public service entered into conversation with Mr. Samuel Neale, who had been forty-eight years pastor of the General Baptist Church at Chatham. He expressed a desire to have an assistant, and urged Mr. Hobbs to visit his friends there. With this invitation he complied, and the Church there requested him to visit them again : he did so, and a third visit was desired; and then he consented at their urgent entreaty to labour among them for twelve months. He commenced this period of service March 17th, 1793; and the usefulness of his ministry soon became apparent. Several put on the Lord Jesus Christ by baptism, and were added to the Church. His heart was encouraged, and his hands were strengthened, by the testimony which the Lord gave to the word of his grace; but with all this there was associated the commencement of a long series of trials, by which bis subsequent residence at this place was embittered. A deacon of the Church, of low arian or unitarian sentiments, refused to attend the administration of the baptismal institution, because he thought Mr. Hobbs chargeable with idolatry, in having declared Christ to be the proper object of worship; and in honouring the Son even as he honoured the Father. In one way and another, this person, assisted by others, who like himself were opposed to the leading doctrines included in " the truth as it is in Jesus," did not fail to seize every opportunity to perplex and harrass him. Sometimes they endeavoured to introduce socinian preachers into the pulpit, and when repulsed in this attempt exhibited signs of violent displeasure; and at length they refused to contribute to his peniary support. On January 13th, 1795, Mr. Samuel Neale, the aged pastor of the Church, was removed by death ; and in a few weeks afterwards Mr. Hobbs was invited to take the pastoral oversight of this people. With the exception of Mr. Chilley, the deacon before alluded to, their choice of him was unanimous. After deliberating a few weeks on this important matter, during which period he, in his accustomed manner, sougbt earnestly the direction of God, he consented to become their pastor, and was ordained over them on April 30, 1795. In the solemn and interesting services of this day, in which not only brother Hobbs was set apart to the work of the ministry, but three deacons also were ordained, the following ministers were employed :-Mr. Morris, of Maidstone, read i Tim. iii, and Heb. xii, and prayed ; Mr. Dan Taylor, offered the general prayer, and delivered an introductory discourse; Mr. Austin, of Fetter lane,
proposed the questions to the Church, to the deacons, and to Mr. Hobbs, and received his confession of faith; Mr. D. Taylor offered up the ordination prayer, accompanied with the laying on of hands, and afterwards delivered a solemn and affectionate charge to the newly ordained minister, from 1 Tim. iv. 16. In the afternoon Mr. Austin began with prayer, and Mr. D. Taylor addressed a charge to the deacons, from 1 Tim. iii. 13, and concluded with prayer. In the evening Mr. Morris prayed, and Mr. Austin preached to the Church from 2 Thess. iii. 16, and Mr. Knott, the pastor of ibe Particular Baptist Church at Chatham, concluded the work of this solemn and delighiful day, by commending both pastor and people to the smiles and abundant blessings of God.
For about seven years after this Mr. Hobbs continued to labour in the word and doctrine at Chatham, and numerous were the tokens of Divine approbation, in the conversion of sinners, and the edification of believers, with which his ministry was attended. The Lord, by his instrumentality, added many to the Church, of whom no inconsiderable number cleaved to the Lord with full purpose of heart, till their days were numbered, and they were called to realize the blessedness of “the dead who die in the Lord.” But throughout this period, at times, his unitarian opposer was a thorn in his flesh; and at length, when a peculiarly favourable opportunity of manifesting his enmity to the truth, and to this faithful preacher of it
, presented itself, be in the most unfeeling and discreditable manner, with great eagerness availed himself of it.
On Monday, June 30th, 1800, a very alarming fire broke out at Chatham, near to the residence of Mr. Hobbs, and in two or three hours upwards of fifty houses were in ruins; and in the whole, nearly seventy, either de. stroyed or greatly damaged. His own dwelling was one of them. In this time of distress some Methodist friends, without his knowledge, procured two small rooms for him, and for the temporary convenience which these afforded he often expressed his thankfulness to God, as well as to his sympathizing friends; but still be experienced very painfully the loss of his shop, in which, by the sale of books and stationery, he had been enabled lo contribute to the support of his numerous and increasing family. This season of pecuniary loss and difficulty was the period of which his opposer, the deacon before mentioned, availed himself, to state at a monthly Churchmeeting, Oct. 17th, that as he and some others were dissatisfied with his preaching, they should withhold their subscriptions; and in consequence, the subscriptions for the quarter then just ended amounted to only £5 158. 7d. This small pittance was altogether so inadequate to the maintenance of himself, wife, and six children, that he was compelled, painful as he felt the necessity, to inform the Church that be must leave them as soon as a door should be opened to him by divine providence for the exercise of bis ministry in another part of the Lord's vineyard. When this intimation to the Church became known in the neighbourhood, as might be expected, from the piety of his character, his constant readiness to every good work, together with the universal amiableness of his deportment to all with whom at any time his work as a christian minister called him to associate, and the very considerable extent of his usefulness as a preacher at Chatham, bis labours in this department were earnestly sought by other congregations. Mr. John Kingsford, of Deal, proposed to give him £60 to assist him for a year, but he was constrained, knowing that there were some Unitarians in his Church and congregation, to decline his very kind offer. Mr. William
Kingsford, of Barton Mill, Canterbury, another pious and amiable branch of the families of this name in the county of Kent, offered to insure him the same sum per annum if he would settle at Canterbury, and preach in the surrounding villages; but chiefly on account of the immediate contact into which it would bring him with Mr. Sampson Kingsford, the pastor of the Church at Canterbury, a professed Arian, and possessed of great property and influence; he respectfully declined this offer also, and waited in the exercise of prayerful and patient resignation for the opened door which the Great Head of the Church might in his providence set before him. At this time his esteemed and venerated friend, Mr. Dan Taylor, whose advice he always received with the greatest deference, and which, indeed, he almost considered imperative, and others of his brethren and christian friends in London, urged him to remain as long as possible at Chatham, and promised him some pecuniary assistance. To comply with this advice his affection for his beloved people at Chatham, most of whom were the fruits of his ministry there, very readily inclined him; but a train of circumstances that quickly followed, by which his opposers before referred to contrived to get possession of the meeting-house in which he preached, when they denied him the use of it, compelled him to leave this early scene of his ministerial labours, and his beloved and attached companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom, being affectionately desirous of them, he was willing to impart unto them, not the Gospel of God only, but his own soul also, because they were dear unto him.
In February, 1802, be removed with his family to Berkhampstead, and there commenced his labours in the ministry, which extended themselves in the indulgent providence of God through the long period of thirty-eight years. When he entered on this sphere of usefulness Mr. Edward Sexton was the esteemed pastor of the Church, and his pious and amiable brother, Mr. John Sexton, was his assistant, and with these excellent ministers be laboured in uninterrupted harmony and affection till they exchanged the toils and sufferings of earth for the happiness and glories of heaven.
The writer of this part of the memoir of Mr. Hobbs, very gratefully and affectionately remembers the great kindness with which the subject of it guided bis feet into the way of peace, when, while he was yet young, he was brought to inquire, “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?" and after his union to the Church over which he presided, encouraged and assisted bim lo commence the work of the ministry, and to enter on a course of preparatory studies in the General Baptist Academy, with a view to his more successful employment in it. He esteems, and must till the powers of recollection entirely fail, esteem it a peculiar blessing to be indulged with the uninterrupted friendsbip of this good minister of Jesus Christ through so long a period as included between forty and filty years. Louth.
F. C. (To be continued.)
ON INFANT SALVATION.
That children dying in infancy, or previous to their attainment of the knowledge of good and evil, enjoy salvation, are taken to heaven, and made happy in a future life, is a doctrine generally believed among us as a denomination. The contrary opinion is so repugnant to our feelings, to the workings of natural affection, and to all those conceptions which reason and