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I should ever become one of the officers of the Tract Society, with the good pastor of the Baptist Chapel. When the Lord has a work to be performed, he soon raises up the needful instruments. Mr. Hughes, in 1821, presented him with some elegantly bound volumes, · Burnside, on the Religion of Mankind,' as an acknowledgment of kind services, which were much appreeiated by those who had listened to his teaching.
The town of Hitchin was also the scene of some of his early labours at the chapel of his esteemed friend, the Rev. Charles Sloper. He says, with reference to this place of worship :'I can recall many hallowed seasons; I hope they were useful. It was in connexion with this place that I was present at the first service in a barn in the village of Shillington, near Hitchin. It was a singular scene.
Mr. Sloper hired the barn, and had an interview with the rector of the parish, who was also a magistrate. He told him he intended to open the barn for preaching, and claimed his protection against the violent conduct he expected from some of the labouring men. The rector kindly assured him that he might depend on his enforcing the law against all who violated the rights of toleration On the Sabbath evening we reached the spot. All was commotion in the village. No sooner
had we entered the barn than one gush of wind extinguished all the lights—a few only could be re-lighted. “Can you preach in the dark ? ” asked Mr. Sloper. I replied that I would endeavour to do so. He then addressed the people, explained the law for the protection of dissenting worship, told them of his interview with the rector, and assured them that any one who attempted to interrupt the service would be taken before the magistrate. We sang, prayed, and preached in the dark. All went off quietly, but not having such iron nerves as my good friend, I must own I was glad when it was over. After the service, a poor man came to me with the big tear in his eye, and said, “ I remember many years ago, when a gentleman came from Hitchin to preach the Gospel, I was one that disturbed the worship, and made an attempt to throw the preacher into the pond at the end of the village.” Now the bold opponent was a gentle follower of the Lamb, and thanked us gratefully for our visit. What doth God effect by his Spirit !”
1 In a letter written at the time to his old and valued friend, Mr. H. Hadland, he thus describes this adventure:-“Yesterday evening (Sept. 22, 1822) I went to Shillington, a village six miles
I distant from this place (Hitchin), and preached in an old barn to upwards of 300 poor country people. Oh! 'twas a lovely sight! I was perched on a stool, crammed in by the people, and felt great delight in preaching from those words, “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” I never preached to a more attentive auditory; and I am to enjoy the privilege of preaching to the people again next Sabbath evening. ... I should like you to have seen me on my perch. The barn would not hold all the people; many were in the adjoining house, and others standing against the churchyard wall. Oh! the unspeakable privilege of preaching the Gospel of Christ !'
At Putney his labours in the pulpit seem to have been very acceptable, for in the year 1822 a unanimous invitation was forwarded to him, from the congregation assembling in the Independent chapel, to accept the pastoral office. He prayerfully considered this invitation, and, after conferring with the Rev. Rowland Hill and other friends on the subject, felt that it was his duty at once to decline the wishes of his friends. • Feeling,' he says, in his reply to them, the great importance of such an engagement, I hope I have given the matter that due consideration which it demanded, and have sought counsel of Him who alone can qualify his servants for ministerial usefulness. My own venerable and beloved pastor has kindly and fully advised me on all the points that I submitted to him. In addition to this, I have received the counsel of other ministerial friends ; and their views concurring with my own, leave no doubt as to my duty in declining your affectionate invitation. It is very desirable that a pastor should reside in the midst of his people. He should be of ready access, since in the present condition of your cause much would depend in reviving the cause of
pure and undefiled religion, under the Divine blessing, on his friendly and pastoral visits. My present engagements would quite prevent my thus giving myself up entirely to the work of the ministry among you, and therefore, my duty is clear in this matter. My prayer is that the Lord may send you a pastor “according to his own heart,” who will “feed you with knowledge and understanding."
Some few years after he spent a Sunday at Gloucester, and preached in the Independent chapel. An impression was made by his addresses, and a strong wish expressed that he should become the successor to their late minister, the Rev. W. Bishop. He was, however, fully persuaded that he had been guided by the providence of God to his present position in the Religious Tract Society, and felt it right at once to decline an appointment incompatible with a due fulfilment of its duties. In his reply he expresses his hope that they may be guided
' by the Great Head of the Church to a suitable pastor, and one who in all respects will efficiently represent their religious body in the peculiarly important sphere of his labours.'
Chatham was also the scene of many happy reminiscences in connexion with the congregation of his friend, the Rev. Joseph Slatterie. Here he formed several friendships which were a source of much comfort to him. His ministrations appear to have been useful, and he highly prized the warm friendship of Mr. Slatterie. His recollections of the close of that good man's life are deeply interesting. I visited him,' he writes, on several occasions during the closing days of his life. It was a painful scene to me; his strong mind had given way, and he was almost imbecile. There were some few seasons when reason appeared to rally for a short time. On one occasion I stood by his couch. I took his hand, but he seemed quite unconscious. After a little while I found he pressed my hand.
I felt he knew me, and inquired who I was. The dear old man smiled, and said, “If any one meets you and says you are not Jones of Surrey Chapel, don't believe it.” On another occasion when I called he was on the sofa, playing with the button of his coat. He took no notice of me. His daughter whispered to me to ask him about Jesus. I asked him if the Saviour was precious to him. At once his eye brightened, and he repeated with an emphasis that I shall never forget: