26/02/2007

Life Story 05

Earlier trials
‘The wish’ was certainly answered but from 1750 Beddome had to face various trials not encountered in the past. Shortly after marrying, he became seriously ill and for six weeks was at death’s door. ‘Languor seized’ his ‘feeble frame’. He ‘mourned and chattered like a dove. (See Hymns 741, 742, both headed Recovery from sickness).
The church was much in prayer for him and did all they could to help him. Eventually, in the goodness of God, he made a full recovery. As he himself wrote of the Lord,

He spake, and lo, afflicting pains
My wasted limbs forsook;
Death threw his poisoned dart in vain,
For he repelled the stroke.
(Hymn 741, verse 4 of 5 verses)

It was a distressing time for Beddome and his new wife. Always writing poetry, he wrote doleful verses dreading his demise but later added more confident verses in the following vein.

‘If I must die’ - O let me die
Trusting in Jesus’ blood;
That blood which full atonement made
And reconciles to God.
(Hymn 778, verse 1 of 4 verses under the heading Death Inevitable)

The lines quoted before, have not been dated. They also say,

When sore diseases threatened death,
’Twas he restrained their power,
Did then prolong my fleeting breath,
My feeble frame restore.
(Hymn 741, verse 3)

As in so many dark providences, there was a beautiful outcome to this one. It served to endear the people to their pastor who they had so nearly lost with more than ordinary bonds of love.
This factor was to have an immediate effect in a trial of a quite different sort. In this same year Samuel Wilson died in London and in the November Beddome and his church received letters strongly urging that he come to pastor the Little Prescott Street church. (Written copies are preserved in the archive of the Angus Library. They are reproduced in Dix). That church feared its congregation would soon be scattered unless someone of Beddome’s stature came to them soon. It was London’s largest Baptist church at the time and to receive a unanimous call from such a church must have tempted Beddome to leave what was, despite many advantages, something of a backwater ('a place of little influence' he calls it in his letter. See Dix) to return to his father’s church and the place where he himself was baptised and called to the ministry. However, he declined to move unless the people at Bourton, most of whom had been converted under his own ministry, were willing.
For their part, the church unanimously felt that they could not comply. ‘Our great love and esteem for this our learned and faithful pastor would make the parting stroke very severe and unsupportable’ they argued. They were strengthened in their resolve not only by their pastor’s recent recovery from illness but also by the thought

'that we were destitute for many years, and not withstanding our many cries to Almighty God, he was pleased to withhold direct answers to prayers until at length he graciously raised up, eminently qualified, and unexpectedly sent, our dearly beloved and Rev. pastor, Mr Beddome, to become our pastor.'

It also weighed heavily with them that

'his endeavours have been wonderfully blessed for restoring decayed religion, the increasing of our church ... and the raising up of gifts for the help of other churches, some of which are fixed as pastors'. (All quotations from Dix. The letter is signed by 3 deacons and 37 male church members).
They felt it would be ungratefulness to God to allow him to go.
Such a firm refusal should have put an end to the matter but in February 1751, the London church wrote once more, imploring the Gloucester folk to think again. The members at Bourton were unshaken and immediately responded negatively, urging their brothers to reconsider where God’s Providence was leading them. Beddome also wrote acquiescing and quoting John Owen’s view that without the free consent of both churches involved it is unlawful for a minister to move from his charge. (Beddome appears to have owned several volumes by Owen. No doubt he had in mind at this point Chapter 6 of The true nature of a Gospel church and its government). He also felt Dr Gill was on his side. He wrote,

'If my people would have consented to my removal though I should have had much to sacrifice on account of the great affection I bear to them, yet I should then have made no scruple in accepting of your call; but as they absolutely refuse it, the will of the Lord be done. I am determined I will not violently rend myself from them; for I would rather honour God in a station much inferior to that in which he hath placed me, than to intrude myself into a higher without his direction.' (Cf Dix).

Apart from a last ditch attempt from a small group within the London church who wrote to Beddome at the end of 1751, that was the end of the matter. As Kenneth Dix observes, the whole incident reveals a man who was not concerned about himself and his own reputation.
It must have been an unsettling time for Beddome and his new wife. However, his singular commitment to his congregation impressed itself upon the members and led to a fresh appreciation of their pastor. This came to expression in increased material comforts for him and his family and the paying off of a debt of nearly £100 outstanding on their meetinghouse.
As well as the deaths of at least two infants in the early 1750s, further sadnesses in the earlier part of his ministry include the deaths of an older generation. His father died on October 24th, 1757, aged 83, and in the following year there were three more deaths. On March 23rd, his mother, who was 62 and on September 17th, Bernard Foskett, aged 74. On October 29th Elizabeth’s mother Hannah Boswell, aged 60, died from a fever.

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