We know not to give flattering titles to men, but we are bound to say, that the individual whose life we have now traced to its close was no ordinary man. He was highly respected, and, on the whole, eminently useful. In the Midland Association his influence was great, and most usefully employed. He had the happiness of seeing several members of the church at Bourton enter the Christian ministry, and honourably discharge its onerous duties.
The Rev John Ryland, sen, AM, was settled at Warwick (in 1750).
The Rev Richard Haines at Bradford, Wilts (1750).
The Rev John Reynolds, AM, in Cripplegate, London (1766).
The Rev Nathaniel Rawlins at Trowbridge (1766).
The Rev Richard Strange at or near Stratton, Wilts (1752)
and the Rev Alexander Payne (place and date uncertain).
Although Mr. Beddome was an indefatigable writer he published but little - his Catechism, in 1752, which he employed at Bourton among adults as well as children, and which was recommended by the Association to other churches, in 1754, and the Circular Letter of 1765, were the only things he thus gave the world. Nevertheless, his fame had passed beyond the Atlantic. So that, in 1770, the Senatus Academicus of Providence College (now Hope University), Rhode Island, conferred on him the title of AM, as a token of their esteem for his talent and learning.
Since he departed this life he has become more widely known through the publication of several volumes of sermons published from his manuscripts. These have been very highly prized both by episcopalian and nonconformist Christians. One volume had reached the sixth edition in the year 1824, and another the fifth in 1831, while in 1835 a much larger volume was published, containing 67 sermons. Admired for their evangelical sentiments and practical tendency, they are scarcely less pleasing in the simplicity and clearness of their style. And yet, we must not forget, that the author had not dreamed that they would be given to the public through the press. They were mere channels dug for his thoughts to flow in, skeletons to be clothed with flesh and receive the breath of life as spoken from the pulpit. In the pulpit he is said to have been emphatically at home. And in some sort he was always there, the pulpit was "in all his thoughts." The goal of one duty was the starting point of the next. We are told that he generally selected on the sabbath evening the topics for the discourses of the next.
We have before observed, that for many years he composed a hymn to be sung after each sermon. These, if collected, would fill several volumes. A selection was made from them, and published for the use of the Baptist denomination, in 1818. This volume contains 830 hymns, and is supplied with a valuable "Index of Scriptures," as well as a general index of subjects. These verses will be ever new, "And sung by numbers yet unborn, On many a coming sabbath morn;" for our ''New Selection" (as well as "Rippon's" and many others used by various denominations), is enriched by many a spiritual song having attached to it the name "Beddome." The hymn-book of which we have spoken was ushered into the world by a recommendatory preface by the late Rev. Robert Hall, ...
In this capacity he evinced great assiduity, tender care, and faithful affection. And the church upheld him in the exercise of a scriptural discipline. Very instructive are the records touching this matter. Fifty years would witness many and various scenes and circumstances to wound the pastor's heart. But discipline was exercised with a beautiful combination of gentleness and firmness. Take the following specimen of suaviter in modo, fortiter in re.
"March 8, 1761 Took notice of the conduct of our sister Hetty Reynolds, who has absented herself from the house of God for several months, and agreed to let her know, that unless she gave satisfactory reasons for her conduct this day month, we shall proceed against her as directed by the divine word."
Accordingly, Mr Beddome sent her the following letter
"March 8, 1761
Sister Reynolds - The Church over which I am pastor, have this day come to a resolution, that if you do not appear before them this day month, to give an account of your irregular conduct in absenting yourself for so many months from the house and table of the Lord, they shall then take your case into consideration, and proceed as they shall think most for the honour of religion. That you may be convinced of your sin in the neglect of God's worship, and breaches of his Sabbath, is the desire, and shall be the prayer of
You grieved pastor,
"April 4, 1761 Sister Hetty Reynolds appeared and behaved with a great deal of confidence, and without the least appearance of remorse or sorrow. She pretended to have been offended and injured by some of the Church, and said that she had already, in part, and should conform to the Establishment. After talking very solemnly to her, with which she seemed not at all affected, she was desired to withdraw, and upon her return was told, that having wilfully absented herself for months together, from God's Word and ordinances, and discovering no repentance, but purposing to persist in the same course, she had, in effect, cut herself off from the society, and, therefore we no longer looked upon her as a member thereof - though we should continue to pray for, and whenever the Lord should graciously open her heart, and effectually convince her of her error, there was a door into the Church as well as out of it. Then Mr Beddome prayed for her, but neither one thing nor another seemed to impress her mind."
Take another instance, with, a somewhat better issue.
"Feb 3 1751 Brother John Adams, having absented himself from the Lord's-table, and also from public worship, for sometime past. It being also publicly known, that he had frequented ale-houses - mis-spent his time, and acted very imprudently in courting a young girl - the affair was brought before the Church, when our minister certified that he had sent to the said John Adams, and by other methods endeavoured to come to the speech of him, but in vain. It was, therefore, ordered that our brother Richard Edgerton do in the name of the Church accuse him of idleness, tippling, sabbath-breaking, and great imprudence in the management of his secular concerns ; and tell him that next Lord's-day we shall proceed definitively against him, when Ills presence is required."
"Feb 10 1751 John Adams appeared, and the charges against him were renewed, to which he answered, that as for idleness, it was a thing that he abhorred, and had never before been accused of; but that he had been unable to work by reason of a rheumatic pain in his arms. As for tippling, he said that while unable to work, he had frequented the public houses more than formerly, but had sometimes had nothing there but a pint of small beer. With respect to Sabbath breaking, he endeavoured to excuse his absence from public worship by alleging illness, a visit to see his friends round about Chedworth, etc. But it appearing that he was not at Chedworth meeting, when in that country, and that one Lord's-day, when he went up to Stowe, seemingly to attend the service there, he spent the time in an ale-house, instead of at the meeting ; as also that he absented himself from Bourton-meeting another Sabbath, of which he could give little or no account, the Church apprehended his excuses to be insufficient. With respect to his imprudent courtship, he said he humbly apprehended, it was not a matter cognizable by the church. He being desired to retire, the Church considered his case.
"As to the first charge, they apprehended his excuse might be sufficient, as to the second they were doubtful, as to the third and fourth, they were of opinion that he deserved censure; but as he behaved modestly and submissively before the Church, and confessed with seeming concern, that it had not been with him of late " as in months past," and that he hoped and wished for a revival - the Church unanimously agreed not immediately to exclude him, but to desire him to withdraw from special ordinances till they can be satisfied to re-admit him to the re-enjoyment of them."
Whatever else may appear in these cases, they clearly shew us that the church looked with tender concern upon the honour of religion, and would not suffer open sin to rest on any member unreproved. They felt that they were a jury who should "well and truly try, and true deliverance make between" their sovereign Lord and Lawgiver and their fallen friends. And they did it, and so doing maintained the honour of the Saviour's name, and strengthened their pastor's hands. Many instances might be given of the happy issue, but we forbear.
We must not, however, suppose that Mr Beddome was surrounded by none but sympathizing friends in the church and congregation. There were those who dared to oppose and openly withstand him. Before we pass from the period of his ministry, we must give one other "picture" - not of any common occurrence, but of a scene which has no parallel in the history of this church, and we fancy, not in that of many others, at least in modern times.
"Feb 25th, 1764 At the desire of one or two friends Mr Beddome preached from Rev 1:10 "I was in the spirit on the Lord's-day". He meddled with the change of the Sabbath as little as he could to do justice to his text. He did not assert that the Christian Sabbath was intended, but only said that it was generally supposed to be so, assigning some reasons for it. When he had done, before singing, Jonathan Hitchman, of Notgrove, stood up in the face of the whole congregation and opposed him. He asked several questions, and made some objections, to which Mr Beddome answered; but finding there was no likelihood of being an end, he at length told him that his conduct was both indecent and illegal - and that it was no wonder that he, who had so little regard to the Lord himself, as to deny his divinity, and set aside his righteousness, should have as little regard to his day. He replied, he knew no other, righteousness of Christ than obedience to his gospel - to which Mr Beddome answered, that Christ's righteousness was not our obedience to the gospel, but his own obedience to the law. And so the dispute ended."
Great excitement must have been occasioned by this incident. Strange tales would no doubt be told of the scene at the chapel. Had we looked in on that day we might have seen "the village in an uproar." Now all have passed away, let us hope that Jonathan Hitchman did not retain his mistaken views of the righteousness of Christ. Some years after, Mr Beddome recording the death of Mrs Hitchman says - "She was a good woman, a savoury Christian, and not at all tainted with her husband's views."