Rippon on Beddome Part 2
In his preaching he laid Christ at the bottom of religion as the support of it, placed him at the top of it as its glory, and made him the centre of it, to unite all its parts, and to add to the beauty and vigour to the whole. As he carefully guarded his people against Arminian principles, so he earnestly dehorted them from countenancing Antinomian practices, with every sentiment which tended to lessen their sincere regard for the law of God - maintaining, that, while it is the happiness of good men to be delivered from the law as a covenant of works, it is their duty, and therefore their honour and interest to be subject to it as a rule of walk and conversation. He was assured, that the least contempt cast on the law tarnishes the gospel - that the same word which asserts believers are dead to the law, so as neither to be distressingly afraid of it, not to place a fiducial dependence on it, does as expressly declare that they are not without law to God, but under the law to Christ. It was an axiom with him, that "If moral weakness and incapacity do not, certainly privileges cannot, lessen our obligation to duty." from this may be gathered, what indeed was a fact, that his discourses were a happy mixture of the doctrinal, experimental, and practical parts of religion.
Though his voice was low, his delivery was forcible and demanded attention. He addressed the hearts and conscience of his hearers. His inventive faculty was extraordinary, and threw an endless variety into his public services. Nature, providence and grace, and formed him for eminence in the church of Christ.
How acceptable his labours were to the churches, when he could be prevailed upon to visit them, has long been known at Abingdon, Bristol, London, and in the circle of the Midland Association.
It is not easy to ascertain the exact number of members in 1740, when Mr. Beddome went to Bourton, as the oldest church book is lost. In May 1743, when 48 persons had been added to the Society, they were in all 113 - if then 15 persons died in these years, they must have been about 80 communicants in the year 1740; but whether fewer or more at that time, such was his success, that in 1751, they were increased to 180. The largeness of such a number in any church will be the occasion of a decrease, unless considerable additions are annually made; but in May 1764, thirteen years after the other calculation, notwithstanding deaths, and other changes, the number had been kept up to 176, and at the close of the year 1766, there had been added to the church, from the time of Mr. Beddome's first coming, about 196 persons.
One considerable instrument of his success may be learnt from the letter he sent to the Association in 1754. In this, it was said, that the work of catechising was kept up at Bourton "with advantage to the children, and to many grown persons who attended thereon." In conducting this service the people were astonished at the words which proceeded out of his lips. But his Catechism will be the best representation of his method: This is indeed a compendium of Divinity. As a larger Catechism than Mr. Keach's had been greatly wanted among the Baptist denomination, he was induced, by the pressing solicitation of many of his friends, to compose this work in imitation of Mr. Henry's. In his preface to the first edition, printed in 1752, he laments the melancholy state of those churches and families where catechising is thrown aside - How much, many of them, have degenerated from the faith, and others from the practice of the gospel. The second edition of this invaluable work was printed in Bristol in 1776, by the last excellent Dr. Evans, who highly prized it, and introduced it among its numerous acquaintances.
As Mr. Beddome had a pleasing poetical talent, he accustomed himself, through the chief part of his life, to prepare a Hymn to be sung after his morning sermon, every Lords-Day. Several specimens of these compositions have appeared, with credit to their author, and are used in many Baptist churches, as well as in some other respectable congregations.
In 1770, the Fellows of Providence College, Rhode Island, conferred on him the degree of A.M. as a token of respect for his literary abilities; not was it the only one to which he was entitled. Being a scholar himself, and residing in a more secluded situation than many of his brethren, he gave several of his sons a classical education at home.
Four or five persons in his time were called to the work of the ministry by his church, in all of whom he had reason to rejoice.
But it is not to be supposed that he was free from trials: Sorrows were mingled with his songs in the house of his pilgrimage. Among the most pungent may be reckoned those which arose from the early deaths of his three sons, John, Benjamin, and Foskett. John was born January 7, 1750, and died enjoying a very desirable frame of mind, February 4, 1765. His brother Foskett, brought up in the medical line, was drowned as he was coming from on board a ship near Deptford, October 10, 1784, in the 26th year of his age. Benjamin was born October 10, 1753. Trained as a professional man, and availing himself of the wisdom which a combination of circumstances threw in his way; his prospects at length became highly flattering. He was master of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, before he went from Bourton to London, and afterwards obtained a knowledge of the French and Italian. He was admitted a member of the medical society at Edinburgh before the usual time, and took his Doctor's degree at Leyden, September 13, 1777. His Thesis has been much admired. It is entitled, Tentamen Philosophicomedicum inaugurale de hominum varietatibus et earum causis. This inaugural Philosophico-medical essay, concerning the varieties of men and their causes, fills 52 handsome pages, in octavo, comprehending a vast variety of matter, and forming, what perhaps competent judges will denominate, an accurate syllabus of the subject. If fine talents, and smiling connexions, could have detained him on earth he had not been removed; but in all the bloom of full life, not having completed the 25th year of his age, he died at Edinburgh of a putrid fever, January 4, 1778.
Mr. Beddome considered it as somewhat observable, that on the very day his son died, not suspecting the news he should receive the next morning, nor indeed knowing of his illness, he preached from Psal. xxxi. 15. My times are in thy hand, after which this remarkable hymn, which he had composed for the sermon, was sung.
My times of sorrow and of joy,
Great God, are in thy hand ;
My choicest comforts come from thee,
And go at thy command.
If thou should'st take them all away,
Yet would I not repine;
Before they were possessed by me
They were entirely thine.
Nor would I drop a murmuring word
Tho' the whole world were gone,
But seek enduring happiness
In thee, and thee alone.
What is the world with all its store?
Tis but a bitter sweet,
When I attempt to pluck the rose,
A pricking thorn I meet.
Here perfect bliss can ne'er be found,
The honey's mixed with gall;
Midst changing scenes and dying friends
Be thou my all in all
Rippon's Selections, Hymn 176
Mr. Beddome had also before Lord's-day, the 4th of January, made preparations for the ensuing Sabbath, January 11th, which was the day before he received the melancholy account of his son's death, from Ezk. x. 12. The wheels were full of eyes round about. Both of these sermons were studied without any particular view. When Mr. Beddome records these notable things, he says, "But alas! how much easier is it to preach than practice. I will complain to God, but not of God. This is undoubtedly the most affecting loss I have ever sustained in my family. Father of mercies let me see the smiles of thy face, whilst I feel the smart of thy rod. Job xiv. 13. Thou destroyest the hope of man."
Early, bright, transient, chaste as morning dew,
He sparkled, was exhal'd, and went to heaven.
Mr. Beddome having for some time felt his infirmities increasing, the church, in 1777, began to look out for a person to assist him in the ministry, and obtained the Rev. William Wilkins of Cirencester, who had been for some time a student at Bristol, and finished his education in Scotland. In their letter to the Association, held at Warwick, 1778, the church says, "The assistant we have procured for our pastor is every way acceptable both to him and us, and we hope the Lord has blessed his labours." But, though fast advancing in years, Mr. Beddome persevered in his pastoral duties.
The Association at Evesham in 1789 was the last he ever attended, or preached at - His first sermon addressed to this body was at Leominster in 1743. He preached to them 17 times in 46 years; this, on an average, was as frequently as he could have been chosen to the service - for it has long been a rule in the Midland Assembly, that no person shall be chosen to preach at the Association oftener than once in three years - But, perhaps, on examination it will appear, in the instance of Mr. Beddome, that this has not been always strictly adhered to from the year 1740, and it seems there was no such limitation at that time.
From his last visit to the Association in 1789, to the end of his days, he set apart for charitable designs, and gave away, all that he received from the people for his services. He was in London to see his children and friends in 1792, and preached with the same acceptance as ever. Though he had a multitude of sermons which had never been preached, he kept on composing, and was lively in his ministry to the very last - and it has been said that his discourses of late years have, after all, been his best; but towards the last he generally destroyed them, on the Monday after he preached them. For a considerable time he was carried to and from meeting, and preached sitting.
In the near prospect of death he was calm and resigned. It had been his earnest wish not to be long laid aide from his beloved work of preaching the gospel, and his prayer was remarkably answered, as he was ill but one Lord's-day; yea, he was composing a hymn about six hours before he died. These are some of the unfinished lines of it:
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 pleas'd, O Lord, to open ours;
Then will we to the world proclaim
The various honors of thy name.
He had left a desire on paper, that no funeral discourse should be preached for him; but as this was not found till after his internment, his affectionate friend, the Rev. Benjamin Francis, performed the funeral solemnities. His text on this solemn occasion was Phil. i. 21. To me to live in Christ, and to die is gain. From which he he considered, first, the excellent life, and the gainful death of Paul. And then secondly, applied the words to the deceased; not as at any time the vaunting language of his lips; but as the humble and ardent desire of his devotional heart. At the close of the sermon, the corpse, which had been in the place of worship all the time of the service, was interred in the yard, near the meeting-house door; after which, Mr. Francis, who remained in the pulpit, recommended to the very numerous audience a due improvement of the labours of this great man of God, and insisted on the importance of being prepared for death.
Mr. Beddome had arrived at the good old age of 79 years, 55 of which he ministered at Bourton. he departed this life Septmeber 3, 1795. We believe he has not printed anything beside his Catechism, mentioned above, and the Midland Association Letter in 1765. He has, however, left behind numerous sketches of sermons. From these manuscripts a selection might be made which would probably redound as much to his credit, as to the advantage of the religious public. But whether we are to be favoured by this desirable publication or not, must be left to his worthy sons, whose wisdom, discretion and public spirit, leave us not entirely without hope.