CHAPTER 11 – A Memoir and Memorial
WE are not surprised to hear that the Memoirs of Samuel Pearce were waited for with some impatience, and that when they appeared they were eagerly read. The beautiful life they portrayed, as well as the hand that was to draw the picture, provoked an expectation which was not disappointed. The deep, true friendship of these holy men gives a flavour to the book nothing else could have supplied. Perhaps its chief charm is the contrast between the character of the biographer and the life he sketches, – a charm that had before attached itself to their friendship. If a man’s work reveals his character, so also does his love.
The experience of men in the highest regions of spiritual affection is often in singular contrast to the acquaintanceships of ordinary society. A friendship upon equal terms is that commonly recognised by the world. But in nobler fellowships, like does not flow to like, but the most opposite qualities make haste to meet and help each other. The strong man, with that sense of imperfection which belongs to every true nature, leans upon some one gentler and possibly feebler than himself, sighing for the childlike tenderness and humility of his fellow; while the man of more gentle mould looks up to the strength that is bending over him, and clings in its turn to the nature that is in reality resting upon him. When two such spirits meet each other, a friendship is formed far richer than that which results from similarity of disposition.
Such appears to have been the character of the love that knit together the souls of Andrew Fuller and Samuel Pearce.
Their friendship did not last many years; but it was not in the length of time they were permitted to enjoy it, that its significance was found. Death parted the hands of these twomen, as they struggled together to realize a common purpose, but it could not separate their spirits, and to the last hour of Andrew Fuller’s life the shade of Samuel Pearce walked by his side.
There was everything in the close of Mr. Pearce’s life calculated to excite a deep interest in his Memoir. Consumption was the gentle messenger that summoned him away:-
"It was observed," Mr. Fuller tells us in his Introduction, "by this excellent man, during his affliction, that he never till then gained any personal instruction from our Lord’s telling Peter by what death He should glorify God. To die by a consumption had used to be an object of dread to him; but, ‘O my dear Lord,’ said he, ‘if by this death I can most glorify Thee, I prefer it to all others.’ The lingering death of the cross, by which our Saviour himself expired, afforded Him an opportunity of uttering some of the most affecting sentences which are left on sacred record; and to the lingering death of this His honoured servant we are indebted for a considerable part of the materials which appear in these Memoirs. Had he been taken away suddenly, there had been no opportunity for him to have expressed his sentiments and feelings in the manner he has now done in letters to his friends. While in health, his hands were full of labour, and consequently his letters were written mostly upon the spur of occasion; and related principally to business, or to things which would be less interesting to Christians in general. It is true, even in them it was his manner to drop a few sentiments, towards the close, of an experimental kind; and many of these hints will be interspersed in this brief account of him; but it was during his affliction, when being laid aside nearly a year, and obliged to desist from all public concerns, that he gave scope to all the feelings of his heart. Here, standing as on an eminence, he reviewed his life, re-examined the ground of his hope, and anticipated the crown which awaited him, with a joy truly unspeakable and full of glory.
"Like Elijah, he has left the chariot of Israel,’ and ascended as in a ‘chariot of fire;’ but not without having first communicated of his eminently Christian spirit. Oh that a double portion of it may rest upon us!"
There are few things more beautiful than to see rough hands busy at gentle work. Mr. Fuller’s hand, so accustomed to wield the sledge-hammer and draw the sword, might be thought to be hardly at home in tracing the delicate graces of Mr. Pearce’s life and character. But he has all the tenderness of a child in the handling of his theme; with a gentle touch he brings out all the low soft notes which made such welcome music amidst many jarring sounds. How delicately drawn is the following little description, given when introducing a letter of Mr. Pearce’s. "The letter," says the biographer, "seems not to be more than a common letter, yet it shows not only the tenderness of his affection, but his heavenly mindedness, his gentle manner of persuading, and how every argument was fetched from religion, and every incident improved for introducing it!"
Mr. Pearce’s "passion for the mission," as he calls it, bound him to Mr. Fuller with a love that only fellow-labourers know. "Mr. Pearce," he says, "was uniformly the active servant of Christ; but neither his spirituality nor his activity would have appeared in the manner they have but for his engagement in the introduction of the Gospel among the heathen." No wonder the two men were drawn together, when Mr. Fuller received from his Birmingham brother such letters as the following:-
"I am willing to go anywhere, and do anything in my power, but I hope no plan will be suffered to interfere with the affecting – hoped for – dreaded day, March 13 (the day of our brethren Carey and Thomas’s solemn designation at Leicester). Oh how the anticipation of it at once rejoices and affiicts me! Our hearts need steeling to part with our much-loved brethren, who are about to venture their all for the name of the Lord Jesus. I feel my soul melting within me when I read the 20th chapter of the Acts, and especially verses 36-38. But why grieve? We shall see them again. Oh yes; them and the children whom the Lord will give them:- we and the children whom the Lord hath given us. We shall meet again, not to weep and pray, but to smile and praise."
It would seem that Mr. Pearce himself earnestly desired to go as a missionary to India. Mr. Carey, as he bade him farewell, exclaimed: "You will follow me soon." The committee only refused his application because he could not be spared at home. It would have been difficult to find a man more fitted for such a work. Nothing delighted him more than to find his way into the heart of the Forest of Dean, conversing and praying with the colliers. In a poor hut, with a stone to stand upon, and a three-legged stool for his desk, surrounded with thirty or forty of the smutty neighbours, he felt such an "unction from above," that the whole auditory were melted into tears while he directed them to the "Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world;" while he, weeping among them, could scarcely speak, or they hear, for interrupting sighs and sobs. Surely such holy fervour must have found its way even to the cold hearts of the Hindoos! Although he was bitterly disappointed at the decision of the committee, yet he received it with resignation: his zeal for the mission was, however, unabated. "I long to raise," he says, "my Master’s banner in climes where the sound of His fame hath scarcely reached. He hath said, for my encouragement, that all nations shall flow unto it." Mr. Fuller devotes a whole chapter of the Memoir to "Mr. Pearce’s laborious exertions in promoting missions to the heathen, and his offering himself to become a missionary."
Mr. Fuller pursues the plan of letting the subject of his Memoir speak for himself, through his Diary, and in those letters so overflowing with love to God and man, concluding with a "general outline" of his character. The "ruling principle" of Samuel Pearce’s life is held up to view with a most satisfying completeness in the opening paragraph of this chapter. Surely no summary of life was ever more beautifully or truthfully rendered.
"The governing principle in Mr. Pearce," writes Mr. Fuller, "was beyond all doubt HOLY LOVE. To mention this is sufficient to prove it to all who knew him. His friends have often compared him to ‘that disciple whom Jesus loved.’ His religion was that of the heart. Almost everything he saw, or heard, or read, or studied, was converted to the feeding of this Divine flame. Every subject that passed through his hands seemed to have been cast into this mould. Things that to a merely speculative mind would have furnished matter only for curiosity, to him afforded materials for devotion. His sermons were generally the effusions of his heart, and invariably aimed at the hearts of his hearers.
"For the justness of the above remarks I might appeal not only to the letters which he addressed to his friends, but to those which his friends addressed to him. It is worthy of notice how much we are influenced in our correspondence by the turn of mind of the person we address. If we write to a humorous character, we shall generally find that what we write, perhaps without being conscious of it, will be interspersed with pleasantries; or if to one of a very serious cast, our letters will be more serious than usual. On this principle it has been thought we may form some judgment of our own spirit by the spirit in which our friends address us. These remarks will apply with singular propriety to the correspondence of Mr. Pearce. In looking over the first volume of ‘Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Mission,’ the reader will easily perceive the most affectionate letters from the missionaries are those which are addressed to him.
"It is not enough to say, of this affectionate spirit, that it formed a prominent feature in his character; it was rather the life-blood that animated the whole system. He seemed, as one of his friends observed, to be baptized in it. It was holy love that gave the tone to his general deportment: as a son, a subject, a neighbour, a Christian, a minister, a pastor, a friend, a husband, and a father, he was manifestly governed by this principle; and this it was that produced in him that lovely uniformity of character which constitutes the true beauty of holiness.
"By the grace of God he was what he was; and to the honour of grace, and not for the glory of a sinful worm, be it recorded. Like all other men, he was the subject of a depraved nature. He felt it, and lamented it, and longed to depart that he might be freed from it; but certainly we have seldom seen a character, taking him altogether, ‘whose excellences were so many and so uniform, and whose imperfections were so few.’ We have seen men rise high in contemplation, who have abounded but little in action. We have seen zeal mingled with bitterness, and candour degenerate into indifference; experimental religion mixed with a large portion of enthusiasm; and what is called rational religion void of everything that interests the heart of man. We have seen splendid talents tarnished with insufferable pride; seriousness with melancholy; cheerfulness with levity; and great attainments in religion with uncharitable censoriousness towards men of low degree:- but we have not seen these things in our Brother
"There have been few men in whom has been united a greater portion of the contemplative and the active – holy zeal and genuine candour – spirituality and rationality – talents that attracted almost universal applause, and yet the – most unaffected modesty – faithfulness in bearing testimony against evil, with the tenderest compassion to the soul of the evil-doer – fortitude that would encounter any difficulty in the way of duty, without anything boisterous, noisy, or overbearing – deep seriousness, with habitual cheerfulness – and a constant aim to promote the highest degrees of piety in himself and others, with a readiness to hope the best of the lowest; not ‘breaking the bruised reed,’ nor ‘quenching the smoking flax.’ "
The concluding sentences of the volume are in the old vein, – such a clear flowing of wise thoughts. The reader is left with just the right lesson, impressed so quietly and yet so earnestly, that he cannot well forget it.
"Finally, In him we see that the way to true excellence is not to affect eccentricity, nor to aspire after the performance of a few splendid actions,’ but to fill up our lives with a sober, modest, sincere, affectionate, assiduous, and uniform conduct. Real greatness attaches to character; and character arises from a course of action. The solid reputation of a merchant arises not from his having made his fortune by a few successful adventures, but from a course of wise economy and honourable industry, which, gradually accumulating, advances by pence to shillings, and by shillings to pounds. The most excellent philosophers are not those who have dealt chiefly in splendid speculation, and looked down upon the ordinary concerns of men as things beneath their notice; but those who have felt their interests united with the interests of mankind, and bent their principal attention to things of real and public utility. It is much the same in religion. We do not esteem a man for one, or two, or three good deeds, any further than as these deeds are indications of the real state of his mind. We do not estimate the character of Christ himself so much from His having given sight to the blind, or restoring Lazarus from the grave, as from His going about continually doing good.
"These single attempts at great things are frequently the efforts of a vain mind, which pants for fame and has not patience to wait for it, nor discernment to know the way in which it is obtained. One pursues the shade, and it flies from him; while another turns his back upon it, and it follows him. The one aims to climb the rock, but falls ere he reaches the summit; the other, in pursuit of a different object, ere he is aware, possesses it; seeking the approbation of his God, he finds with it that of his fellow Christians."
Amongst all the remains of Andrew Fuller, not one is more treasured by his friends than the Memoir of Samuel Pearce. They cherish it as a memorial of a friendship fruitful in most blessed results to the church of God; and, moreover, as revealing the character of the biographer as faithfully as the life he sketches, – the stern, strong hand that drew the picture, bringing out in bold relief the gentle features on the canvas, while the heavenly sweetness of the face flings back its toned reflection on the painter’s figure.
Perhaps the last character under which we should expect Mr. Fuller to appear would be that of a poet; and yet, though he can scarcely claim that name, he wrote some verses not unworthy of attention. The lines already quoted on his dying child are perhaps the best. The reading of the prayer on the child’s face, and bearing its meaning to the throne of God, when its tiny lips are dumb, is an exquisite thought, rendered impressively, though perhaps the clothing is scarcely delicate enough for the conception. The verses to the memory of his dear and venerable friend, Robert Hall, of Arnsby, are probably, with the exception of the last three or four lines, almost unknown. The lines which we have consecutively italicised have in them a very felicitous comparison; and the poem, taken as a whole, is a complete, well-drawn picture of his friend. Now and then, a line comes in with a rather matter-of-fact sound; but the blankverse measure is well caught, and shows plainly that he had read one whom he calls
"our admired Milton."
TO THE MEMORY OF MY DEAR AND VENERABLE FRIEND, THE REV. ROBERT HALL,
Who died in the sixty-third year of his age, on March 13th, 1791.
AND is my much-respected friend no more?
How painful are the tidings to my heart !
And is that light extinguished which so long
Has burned with brightest lustre, and diffused,
Through all his loved connexions round about,
Pure rays of evangelic light and joy?
Is all that stock of true substantial worth
Become as water spilt upon the ground? –
That universal knowledge, which embraced
A compass wide and large, of men and things ?
That well-known solid wisdom, which, improved
By long experience, made his face to shine?
That uprightness of character, by which
He lived down slander, and of foes made friends ?
That ardent and affectionate concern
For truth, for righteousness, for Zion’s good,
Which, with a social kindness, long endeared
His name, and renders him a public loss ?
That grace that ruled and seasoned all his soul,
And as with sacred unction filled his lips,
In which as life declined he ripened fast,
And shone still more and more to perfect day ?
That tender sympathy that often soothed
The sorrowing heart, and wiped the mourner’s tear?
That sweet humility, and self-abasement,
With which we heard him oft invoke his God;
Which ne’er assumed, though first in counsel skilled,
The lordly look, or proud dictator’s chair? –
That guileless pleasantry that brightened up
Each countenance, and cheered the social hour?
(If he were there, it seemed that all were there:
If he were missing, none could fill his place.)
That store of excellence, in short, to which
(As to a ship well fraught) one might repair,
And be enriched with treasures new and old?
Is all, as by a kind of fatal wreck,
Destroyed, and sunk at once to rise no more?
Dear friend (for still I fain would talk to thee!),
Shall I discern thy cheering face no more?
And must thy gladdening voice no more be heard?
And when I visit thy much-Ioved abode;
Shall I not find thee there as heretofore?
Nor sit, nor walk, as erst with pleasure wont,
Nor mingle souls beneath the friendly bower?
No. . . this is past. . . nor aught seems left for me,
Except to walk, and sigh upon thy stone!
Dear friend! I saw thee burdened years ago
With heavy loads of complicated grief;
And grief more complicate, though less intense,
I’m told thou didst in earlier days endure;
But tribulation patience in thee wrought,
And such a stock of rich experience this,
That few like thee could reach the mourner’s case,
Or ease the burdens of the labouring heart.
We saw thee ripen in thy later years,
As when rich-laden autumn droops her head:
That theme on which thy thoughts of late were penned,
(NOTE: Communion with God, the subject of the Circular Letter for 1789,
which was Mr. Hall’s last printed performance.)
None knew like thee, nor could have touched so well;
It seemed thy element, the native air
Thy holy Spirit had long been used to breathe.
Such things we saw with sacred pleasure; yet
‘Twas pleasure tinged with painful fear, lest these
(As fruit when ripe is quickly gathered in)
Should only prove portentous of thy end.
O Thou Great Arbiter of life and death!
Thy ways are just, and true, and wise, and good;
Though clouds and darkness compass Thee around,
Justice and judgment still support Thy throne.
Had it been left to us, he still had lived,
And lived for years to come, and blessed us still;
But thus ’tis not: Thy thoughts are not as ours.
Had poor short-sighted mortals had their will,
‘The Great Redeemer had not bled or died.
Teach us to say, "Thy will, not ours, be done;"
To drink the cup Thou givest us to drink.
Dear relatives and friends, his special charge!
Bereaved at once of him whose life was spent
In unremitted labours for your good;
We must not call on you to mourn, but try
To stem the tide, or wipe the o’erflowing tear.
‘Tis true his course is finished, and your ears
Shall hear no more the long-accustomed sound;
But ’tis as he desired, when late we heard
Drop from his lips, what seemed his last farewell:
The prize for which he counted life not dear
Is fully gained; his course with joy he closed.
What did I say? the ship was wrecked and lost?
No, it is not; ’tis safe arrived in port,
And all the precious cargo, too, is safe;
His knowledge, wisdom, love, and every grace,
Are not extinct, but gloriously matured,
Beyond whate’er he grasped in this frail state.
A fit companion now for purer minds, –
For patriarchs, prophets, martyrs, and for those
Whom once he knew and loved, who went before;
For HIM whose name was dear to him on earth,
And whose sweet presence now creates his heaven.
Nor is all lost to those who yet survive:
Though he is gone, his mantle’s left behind.
Kind memory may recall his words, and deeds,
And prayers, and counsels; and conviction aid
Or cheer the heart, or guide the doubtful feet,
Or prompt to imitate his holy life.
Nor memory alone; the faithful page
Is charged with some remains, in which the man
And his communications yet are seen;
In these, though he be dead, he speaketh still.
Yes, here’s Elijah’s mantle: may there too
A double portion of his spirit rest
Upon us all; and, might I be indulged
In one more special wish, that wish should be,
That he who fills his father’s sacred trust
Might share the blessings of his father’s God,
And tread his steps; that all may see and say,
"Elijah’s spirit on Elisha rests."
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