12/07/2010

POTP 11

Chapter 4 concluded
 
In the year 1777, when Mr Beddome had attained his sixtieth year, it became necessary to procure for him some assistance in his ministerial labours; and the church, at his suggestion, obtained an assistant, or co-pastor, in the Rev William Wilkins, of Cirencester. This gentleman had studied sometime in the Bristol Academy, and afterward completed his education in Scotland. He entered upon his stated services at Bourton, August 3, 1777, and from that time to Midsummer, 1792, the labours and emoluments of the pastorate were equally divided between him and Mr Beddome. A plurality of ministers is not always the most conducive to the comfort of the parties most deeply interested. It is, therefore, pleasing to find that for the most part, the pastors in this case laboured together with cordiality and comfort. After Mr Wilkins, an assistant was found in Mr Reed. During the period now under review, the church had been deprived of two valuable deacons - Mr Boswell and Mr Joseph Strange, and on the sixth of April, 1781, four other brethren were called to that office, viz William Palmer, James Ashwin, Thomas Cresser, and Edward Reynolds.
If we turn from the church to the domestic circle, we shall find that in addition to that which came upon him daily, in the care of the church, Mr Beddome was called to endure a great night of afflictions in his family. In 1757 he was bereaved of his father, and thus lost "an excellent counsellor and a constant friend" that, however, was an event not unlooked for. In 1765 he was severely tried by the death of his son, John, in his fifteenth year. This loss was, happily, greatly mitigated by the calmness and good hope that attended his early death. But the year 1778 opened with one of the severest afflictions he ever had to endure, in the loss of his son Benjamin, who died of a putrid fever, after a few days illness, at Edinburgh, January 4, of that year, in the twenty-fifth year of his age. He had been trained to the medical profession, and very early rose to eminence in his studies. He made himself master of the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages, before he went from Bourton to London, and afterwards acquired a competent knowledge of the French and Italian. He was admitted a member of the Medical Society of Edinburgh before the usual time, and took his doctor's degree at Leyden, September 13, 1777. It is said his inaugural thesis was much admired, as displaying great ingenuity and extensive research. It was on "The Varieties of the Human Species, and the Causes of them." If high endowments, smiling prospects, and numerous and endeared connexions could protect from the shafts of death, he had not died. On the very day his son died (though he had not heard even of his illness), Mr Beddome preached from Psalm 31:15, "My times are in thy hand" and, as his custom was for many years to compose a hymn, and give it out to be sung after sermon, he composed for this service and gave out one singularly suited, not only to the sermon, but to his own situation, though he knew it not. This hymn has since become precious to many who never knew its history.
 
Brooks then quotes it.

After the mournful intelligence had arrived, Mr Beddome, recording these singular and painful events, says, "Alas, how much easier it is to preach than to practise! I will complain to God, but not of God. This is undoubtedly the most afflicting loss I have ever sustained in my family. Heavenly Father! let me see the smiles of thy countenance, while I feel the smart of thy rod. ' Thou destroyest the hope of man.'

Six more years had run their round, and he was bereaved of his beloved wife. For 34 years she had been the sharer of his sorrow and his joy. Mrs Beddome died, January 21, 1784, of a fever, then prevalent in the village. She appears to have been a woman of eminent piety, and amiable disposition; while her patience under suffering excited the admiration of all. Generally beloved while living, her death was deeply lamented. Just completing his sixty-seventh year, this must have been a severe trial to the bereaved husband. But before the year had closed, "the clouds returned after the rain." His son, Foskett, fell into the Thames near Deptford, and was drowned, in the twenty-sixth year of his age. He also had been educated for the medical profession. We can readily imagine that he had, during a period of forty years, witnessed the departure of many of his earliest friends at Bourton. Among these none were missed more than the late William Snook, Esq. The very ground of his fixing upon Bourton as his dwelling-place, as he assured Mr Beddome, was the very great regard he had for him as a friend and a minister. He appears to have been a liberal supporter of the cause of Christ, both at Bourton and in many other places.
In the year 1789 the Association met at Evesham. Mr Beddome preached on that occasion, the seventeenth time in forty-six years. This was the last Association service in which he engaged; and the estimation in which he was held by his brethren, may be inferred from the fact, that he had preached before the Association as many times as the rules allowed.
In 1792 he visited his children and friends in London, where he preached with undiminished acceptance. Infirmities were increasing upon him, still his ministrations were lively and attractive. To preach the word was to him a labour of love. Possessing ample means, he did not continue in the office that he might "eat a piece of bread," but, always liberal, during the last six years of his life he expended all he received from his people on charitable purposes. It was his earnest desire that he might not be long laid aside from his beloved employ, and this was granted ; for having for some time been carried to and from the chapel, where he preached sitting, he was confined to the house only one Lord's Day, and was composing a hymn for public worship only an hour before his death. Of this he had actually written the following lines:

"God of my life, and of my choice, Shall I no longer hear thy voice ? O let that source of joy divine With rapture fill this heart of mine !
"Thou openedst Jonah's prison doors, Be pleased, O Lord, to open ours; Then will we to the world proclaim The various honours of thy name."

In the immediate prospect of this event, he was calm and resigned, in full assurance of hope. Among his last words were these - "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" - "In my father's house are many mansions." Thus he fell asleep in Jesus, September 3, 1795, in the 79th year of his age, - 55 years from the commencement of his ministry at Bourton, and 52 years from the period of his ordination. A funeral sermon was preached by his old friend, the Rev Benjamin Francis, of Horsley, from Philippians 1. 21. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."

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