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MEMOIR OF MR. THOMAS ROFE,
OF TENTERDEN, KENT. MR. THOMAS ROFE was born in the parish of Tenterden, in the county of Kent, in the year 1768. His father was a respectable farmer in that place; and his mother, whose maiden-name was Samson, was a branch of an ancient family of that name, members of which had formerly filled the office of Mayor in the corporation. They both belonged to the Presbyterian church, in Tenterden, which, like too many others in the same connexion, had so far degenerated from the purity of faith and vitality of religious experience professed and enjoyed by their ancestors, that not only had the greater part of its members sunk into a general conformity to the world, but also into a denial of those sacred doctrines, and of that divine influence, which constitute Christianity the one great gift of God our Saviour to a fallen world, intended to effect its recovery to himself. They had become Unitarian.
Of the earlier part of his life he used to relate to his children two remarkable instances in which the providence of God rescued him from apparently certain death; showing that even then, while in his unconverted state, the Lord, who desireth not the death of a sinner, had purposes of mercy concerning him. One of these deliverances was experienced when he was in imminent danger of drowning ;—the other was still more striking. His father and he were in the act of loading a waggon with new-made hay, for the purpose of conveying it from the hay-field to the stack; (and in such labours they were both very active ;) and Thomas, who was on the waggon, receiving the hay as it was thrown up, by some means losing his footing, fell off the load, which had acquired a considerable height, with such violence as to dislocate his neck, and deprive him of all sensation. And without doubt his earthly career would speedily have been terminated; but his father, who was a strong man, with great presence of mind, in an instant, lifting him up by the head from the ground, by a sudden jerk restored the bones of the neck to their natural position, and life and consciousness immediately returned. These merciful providences, however, do not appear to have made, at the time they occurred, either on the mind of the father or the son, those impressions which they were calculated, and doubtless designed, to produce.
Unrestrained by any careful religious training in his childhood, it will not be matter of surprise that as he grew up to manhood, with a vigorous constitution, active habits, and associated with companions like himself, he should have been led into practices which, however varnished over and palliated by men of the world, are plainly condemned by the holy law of God. Difficulties, in which these irregularities had involved him, appear, in the hand of that wise and gracious Providence which sometimes overrules even evil for good, to have been made the first occasion of leading him into serious inquiry as to the ultimate consequences of the course he had been pursuing.
About the twenty-second year of his age, he married, and settled in the Farm called Cold-Harbour, in his native parish, and which had been formerly occupied by his paternal grandfather, in whose grave also he now rests. In the house attached to the farm, his wife, who for many years was truly a help-meet for him, and who died in the Lord a few years ago, bore him eleven children, eight of whom still survive. He now began painfully to feel the inefficiency of the religious profession in which he had been educated, and to examine the principles of the other religious denominations in the town. If he saw more of the form, he did not find more of the power, of godliness among the members of the Church of England, than among those of the body with which he had been associated. He therefore attended, for a time, the services held at the Calvinistic Baptist chapel. But not being able to embrace some of their peculiar views, which at that period were made particularly prominent, and not finding the mental quietness which he was now earnestly seeking, he was at length induced to attend the then despised ministry of the Methodists, who had begun to preach in a room in the obscure dwelling of a poor widow, named Hannah Freeman; whose name it affords the writer pleasure to rescue from oblivion : though her record is on high.
This humble, but pious and devoted, woman, who had been, for some years, a member of Mr. Wesley's society at Rye in Sussex, where she kept a day-school, had felt a powerful impression that she ought to leave Rye and go to Tenterden, in order to introduce there that preaching which had been made the power of God to her own salvation. This impression was probably produced by her knowledge of the fact, that some of the Ministers had occasionally gone to Tenterden and preached there, standing on the horse-block before one of the inns. When she mentioned this impression to her religious friends, they at first strongly opposed her plans. She was lame, poor, and seemingly destitute of all means of acquiring influence; and they told her that they thought she would be going out of her way," were she to leave her school, her connexions, and religious privileges, and go to reside among strangers, with so little prospect of being able to accomplish her object. She had, however, no sooner yielded to their persuasions, than she lost her peace of mind, and became so completely wretched that at length she promised in prayer, that if she obtained the pardon of this sin of omission, and the restoration of the confidence and joy which she had previously possessed, she would, at all hazards, go to Tenterden. She did so. But two years elapsed before she could secure à house in which the message of “the ministry of reconciliation” might be delivered ; and so great was the prejudice against her, that, during this time, she expended the little which she had saved, and suffered