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FOR MARCH, 1832.
MEMOIR Or THE LATE REV. THOMAS HEATHCOTE,
OF GORXA,L, WARWICKSHIRE.
The apostle says, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us." Such vessels are susceptible of the slightest injury, and soon unfit for use. Some, alas! too soon, according to our short-sightedness. Removed in the very midst of their usefulness, and when their lives seemed in all respects particularly ilesirable, who can wonder if people heave the sigh of regret, that the gourd from which so much satisfaction was anticipated should so speedily wither! Such reflections almost involuntarily occur to the mind, by the mysterious providence which has deprived a church and congregation of their devoted pastor, whose memorial they would fain preserve in the pages of a Magazine, that, in addition to its other important titles, might be justly designated, "The Biography of faithful Ministers of Jesus Christ."
The Rev. Thomas Heathcote, late pastor of the Independent thnrch at Gonial, near Dudley,
was a native of Warwick, horn Jan. 9, 1781. The following extract from his experience, delivered at his ordination, will make Mr. H. in a great measure his own biographer.
"Before this assembly," he observes, "I am obliged to acknowledge, that I have but one subject in which I can glory, and that is, the mercy of God, of a covenant God, a God in Christ, reconciling sinners unto himself. And here I am before you to-day as the chief of sinners; and yet, I humbly hope and trust, a sinner reconciled—not by repentance, not by prayer, not by faith, not by merit, but purely by the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ, through the regenerating and sanctifying influence of the Spirit of God—to whose power and grace, for the first eighteen years of my life, I was an entire stranger. Though a descendant from pious ancestors, and taught the Scriptures from my childhood, earnestly watched over, constantly prayed for, and regularly led to the house of God, where the truths of the everlasting gospel were preached; yet,
* To manhood from youth as I grew,
Ah! do I say the grave!—but had justice pursued me, where, O where at this moment would my guilty soul haye been?—a compaK
nion of devils! But forbearing mercy spared, even whilst living eighteen years in open rebellion against the Author of all my mercies. And indeed, my friends, when God first met with my soul, it was at a time when I was struggling hard to throw off all religious restraint, and to satisfy myself with what I vainly imagined to be pleasure; it was when I had so far deviated from those paths in which I had, from the earliest dawn of reason, been instructed, as to be on the very precipice of dissipation and vice; it was at that time, when all prayer and all religious admonitions from some of the best of God's ministers in those days appeared to be completely lost; it was then that the Lord said, 'Hitherto shalt thou go, but no further.' This was early in the summer of 1799. I was solicited to go and hear Mr. Cooper, of Dublin, at King Street Chapel, Birmingham, and I went from motives of curiosity, flis text was Heb. ii. 3: 'How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvationV These words were like a nail fastened in a sure place; I came out of the chapel with very different feelings and views to what I had when I went in. 'The entrance of thy word giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple.' This was exemplified in my experience. I had read the Scriptures; I had been catechised, instructed, and admonished; but all like waters poured on the barren rock—till now; 'but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.' From this time I became concerned about this salvation, this 'great salvation,' that had so long been neglected, despised, trampled on— from this time I had new eyes, new ears, new feelings; new work to do, and great opposition in pursuing it. In reviewing this part of my experience, I stand astonished— astonished that I have not been finally overcome by sin and Satan; so strong were the workings of flesh and blood, so suitable were the temptations, that I am constrained to say, 'What hath God wrought!' But I was made willing in the day of his power. Some little time after this change was wrought, I was enabled, in the exercise of faith, to view the Loid Jesus Christ as my Saviour, and to cast my soul on him, with a firm persuasion of an interest in his meritorious death. His ways I found to be ways of pleasantness, and his paths, paths of peace; yet I cannot say that 1 found sin dead in me, nor do I even yet: no, it is still my burden, and makes me at times to cry out, 'O wretched man that I am,' &c. for' sin is mixed with all I do.* On the 18th August, 1799, I joined the society worshipping where God was pleased first to meet with my soul; and as one for whom the Lord had done great things, his cause lay near my heart. Being, taught the value of my immortal, soul, I be-came concerned about the salvation of others; and,, feeling Christ precious, I wat desirous
that others should know him. As a member, deacon, and manager for several years in that place, much devolved on me, which, as far as my abilities permitted me, it generally was my joy to perform. Her.e I remained till it pleased the Lord to thrust me, as a poor labourer, into this part of his vineyard; and now to me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among them the unsearchable riches of Christ."
Mr. H. was greatly blessed in his labours, and lived much in the affections of his people. He found the cause in a low state when he went, and was the means of considerably increasing it. He was instrumental in building a new and very commodious chapel, which was opened in July, 1830; his efforts in collecting for which are thought much to have impaired his health. Near to the chapel is a neat and substantial building, for the use of Sunday and infantschools—objects that lay near his heart—and while these edifices remain, his name cannot be forgotten. Mr. H.'s talents, disposition, and active turn of mind were remarkably well adapted to the station appointed him by the great Head of the church. From his entrance to Gornal as a minister, the people themselves entertained this idea, and hence, on his introduction among them, one of their number, convinced that he was likely to suit them, said, "He is come now, if he never came before." The text on which he founded his iirst discourse, Matt. xi. 28, gave them a correct anticipation of their future pastor.
Towards the close of his ministry, his mind appeared to be more weaned from the world, and delightfully absorbed in spiritual things. He was very anxious to improve the eventful times for the benefit of his charge, and therefore appointed special meetings for prayer, on account of the pestilence, which has not only proved awfully fatal in other countries, but has also been permitted by the Almighty to visit our native land. He had just formed a plan for visiting every family where a member of the church resided, and others who might wish it, for the purpose of reading and expounding the Scriptures.questioningthem on their contents, discoursing on religious subjects, and engaging in prayer; the whole to occupy about an hour. This plan he suggested at the very last church meeting he attended, when he mourned over the state of the whole neighbourhood, and the little success which he thought had resulted from his labours. Under this emotion, he said, "I am not tired of my work," and expressed himself, in a particular manner, as resigned to the will of God in the midst of all, saying with the apostle, " To live is Christ, to die is gain."
Mr. Heathcote's friends think he had a presentiment of his approaching dissolution. His earnestness on the first Lord's-day, in Dec. 1831, which proved to be the last of his labours and his life, was remarked by all. In the morning he preached from Ps. xxxi. 14,15: "I said.thouartmyGod. Mytimesare in thy hand." In the afternoon he administered the Lord's Supper, and, when addressing the spectators, said, "Why stand ye here all the day idle?" and related two instances of death that had come under his own notice: one of a young man about nineteen, removed in a sudden and unexpected manner, and the other about his own age; "and who," he asked, "will be the next? It may be your minister." And so it proved. On the Sabbath evening he spoke from Isai. xxvi. 3. He met his people for the last time on the next evening, and impressed on his audience the necessity of prayer, and the importance of being prepared for death. The last psalm given
out by him was the 91st: "He that hath made his refuge God," &c. He seemed particularly reluctant to close the service, and said, "I feel as though I could not let you go; you must stay a little, longer; I have something to relate to you," and then mentioned an instance in which prayer, that had been offered up for a child, was answered many years afterwards. He was taken ill on Wednesday, Dec. 7th, and died the following day. He suffered excruciating pain, but was very tranquil and resigned, and exceedingly grateful for the attention of kind friends. On one occasion he repeated that passage of Scripture, "My times are in thy hand," and observed, "the doctrines of the cross afford me great consolation." Anticipating his approaching change, he repeated the language of the Christian poet:
"Prepare me, Lord, for thy right hand;
Then come the joyful day;
To bear my soul away!"
Having taken leave of his beloved wife, dear children, and Christian friends, committing his soul into the hands of a gracious Redeemer, he breathed his last without a sigh or groan. By the removal of this servant of Christ, his widow and two children have sustained a great loss, as also other dear relations, and a numerous circle of pious friends, besides the people of his charge, who feel that they had no one else like-minded towards themselves.
On Tuesday, the 13th, his remains were interred in a vault, chosen by himself, beneath the spot on which he had, for so many years, stood, to point his fellow men to the Saviour of sinners. Several of the neighbouring ministers, and some particular friends, preceded the corpse. The pall was borne by Messrs. Roaf, Hudson, Dawson, Hammond, East, and Percy, He