28/02/2007

Life Story 08

Final years
For the last eight years of his life Beddome lived frugally and apparently adopted the policy of giving away all of his stipend to charity. It is clear from his will (the original document of 1791 or 1792 is in the archive of the Angus Library with a photocopy and a typed record) that he had grown quite a wealthy man with several thousand pounds at his disposal as well as property. In 1789, in his seventies, he attended his last Association meeting, at Evesham, and preached for the seventeenth and last time. To hear this man of God preach, even in his declining years, must have been a great privilege. In these final years he would preach sitting down and had to be carried to meetings in a chair. He had the habit of composing sermons, many of which were never preached. He began the general practice of destroying his sermon notes on the Monday after he had preached, perhaps to prevent him from preaching them again.
Hymn 721 is an 8 verser interestingly headed Old age. It begins 'Old age, with all its sickly train, Soon makes its dread approach’. Negatively, there is ‘Languor, debility and pain’, ‘Life’s gaieties’ having lost appeal, loss of eyesight, increase of griefs, death of friends and a rising ‘uncongenial’ generation. Positively, the darkness and woe is assuaged by grace and especially Jesus himself who will soon ‘bring your weary feet, To his eternal rest’
In 1792 he made a final visit to London to preach and to see his remaining children and friends. On October 25 he amended his will, rescinding his previous decision to provide for poor members of the Bourton congregation and poor ministers in nearby congregations. He also revoked his intention to leave part of his library and certain furnishings in the manse for the use of future ministers. The reason given is ‘the irritating Conduct I have met with after 52 years service’. (See Beddome’s will and the copy of it in the Angus Library.) Quite what provoked his evident ire is not clear though we have mentioned the difficulties with Wilkins. Back in 1750 when he was as close to the church as ever, he could only say in his letter to the Prescott Street Church, that they had ‘in general treated me with the greatest affection’.
It was at this time that Carey’s Enquiry was published and the Particular Baptist Society for the Propagation of the Gospel was just beginning. (William Carey 1761-1834 preached at Bourton on August 24, 1787, according to the Bourton Church Book 1765-1920, 67, preserved in the archive of the Angus Library). In a letter to Andrew Fuller in 1793 Beddome expressed his doubts as to the wisdom of mounting an overseas mission. (Cf Hymn 721, verse 4, on Old Age, which says ‘Minds uncongenial now appear, A race unknown before’). ‘Considering the paucity of well qualified ministers’ he believed it had a ‘very unfavourable aspect with respect to destitute churches’ in Britain, where ‘charity ought to begin’. (The quotations are from Chapter 2 of The Life of William Carey, Shoemaker and Missionary by George Smith 1833-1919, 1st ed 1909, Reprinted 1913, 1922. Available here). He lined up with the negative viewpoint found in Haggai 1:2, candidly confessing that the problem was perhaps his own lack of faith. He expressed the view that Carey might have succeeded him at Bourton but he realised that was now impossible. Beddome certainly cannot be accused of a complete lack of vision. Compare these lines

Where’er the sun begins its race
Or stops its swift career
Both east and west shall own his grace
And Christ be honoured there.

Also

Thus shall spread the glorious gospel,
To the earth’s remotest bound.
Distant empires, lands and nations,
Soon shall hear the solemn sound;
Darkness fleeing
Light shall everywhere abound.

(Hymn 702, verse 2 of 4 verses under the heading Triumphs of the Saviour. Hymn 707, verse 2 of 4, under the heading Rapid Spread of the Gospel. David Breed also cites Hymn 705, which begins ‘Ascend thy throne, Almighty King’. Breed, The history and use of hymns and hymn tunes, Chicago, Fleming H Revell, 1903, 150).
The truth is that a new era in God’s work was dawning and Beddome would not and could not be part of it. He was destined for another world.

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