Frederic W. (Frederic William) Macdonald.

The life of William Morley Punshon, LL.D.250:: erd ed online

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Online LibraryFrederic W. (Frederic William) MacdonaldThe life of William Morley Punshon, LL.D.250:: erd ed → online text (page 38 of 47)
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promise, though my heart bleeds. . . . May God help me, for my
way is dark and tangled, and I long for strength and light. Mr.
Whelpton seriously ill of Roman fever. Lord, spare a life so
precious. - '

•^ April 2nd. — Passed a week of much anxiety. Mr. Hirst's
friendship tried. He has earned my lasting gratitude. . . A

1876.] JOURNAL. 371

wretched return of my pulpit malady this morning, the worst I
have had for years. Present on Thursday at the unveiling of the
monument to John and Charles Wesley in Westminster Abbey, by
Dean Stanley.

" April 9th. — Mourning for dear Mr. Whelpton, who passed away
on Friday evening. For quiet, unostentatious, lovable goodness, we
had not his like in London. It is a mysterious dispensation, — a
family of eight children left fatherless, Church work that he had
undertaken which, to human seeming, there is no one else to do. I
have lost a friend tried, generous, and true ; nor do I know any,
out of my own intimate circle, whose loss would have affected me
more. Sad news from Canada also. George Macdougall, our pioneer
missionary in the Rocky Mountains, has been frozen to death upon
the plains, and died alone with God. Wonderful are Thy ways,
Lord, and Thy judgments past finding out.

" AjJril SOth. — Our missionary services have begun well. I have
felt much anxiety about them because the management has been
left very much in my hands. We are hoping for a good and profit-
able meeting to-morrow. Preached to-day in much weakness.
Thankful to be sustained, but feeling the need of rest. Kind
Lord, undertake for me, and show me Thy mercy.

'' May 1th. — The meeting passed off well. The speaking was
good and well sustained. Another solemn admonishing on Sab-
bath last. Mr. Edwards, the Chapel Secretary, was stricken with
paralysis in Hinde Street pulpit, and now lies critically ill. Very
unwell during the week ; feared being laid aside, and with the
work I have in prospect the thought was hard to bear. Have
heard Milburn from the United States this morning, and felt
comforted and strengthened.

'■''May 2Sth. — Much from home, and in incessant work since my
last entry. Have been preserved in journejdng to Ireland and the
Channel Isles, and in presiding over the First London District,
which I was unexpectedly called to do through the illness of my
dear friend the President. I have suffered seriously from bronchial
cough, and have longed oftentimes for rest.

" June 11th. — Another breach in our ranks since my last entry, by
the death of Mr. Romilly Hall, a valuable servant of Christ, with
peculiarities that unfitted him to exercise a luinsome as well as a wide
influence, but one to whom I feel especially grateful, for his early
ministry was greatly owned of God in arousing my spirit, and con-
firming my youthful re.solves. Sustained through much weakness
in the North Wales District Meeting and in the most important
committees of this week, over which (my friend the President still
resting) I have been called to preside. The consensus of feeling and
sentiment wonderful. I suppose the moral power attending these
deliberations will tell upon the decisions of Conference. It is an
experimentum cruch, but I trust it is wise and safe. May God bless
our efforts, and guide us with Divine wisdom, for we shall need it.

Z']2 W. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. xvit.

It will be a glorious triumph for our Church if we pass through so
great a crisis in peace.

" July 16th. — A distressing attack this morning which made my
last sermon in Warwick Gardens a labour and a struggle. Thought
I should not have been able to preach, but the Lord brought me
through. This trouble occurring so frequently on Sundays is very
mysterious. I wonder if I ought to take it as an intimation that
my preaching work is nearly over. Met Mr. Gladstone at Mr.
Newman Hall's on Wednesday, where were gathered also some fifty
leading Nonconformist ministers and laymen. The talk was mainly
of disestablishment. He is wonderfully versatile as well as accurate.
Met several other members of Parliament on Friday, including Sir
Wilfrid Lawson, Mr. Stansfeld, and Professor Fawcett. More in-
terested, though the interest of these meetings was great, by being
called to unveil an obelisk at Kilburn, erected to the memory of my
dear friend Whelpton.

" July 30th. — At Conference in Nottingham. We feel the need
of the Lord's special guidance, for the situation is critical. A close
contest for the Presidency, which devolved upon Mr. M'Aulay by a
majority of nine over Dr. Rigg, and nineteen over Mr. Coley. The
minds of the brethren are greatly agitated on the lay- representation
question. Much prayer is offered, and I could not doubt that the
Lord will guide. Was at Lambeth Palace last Monday, in confer-
ence with the Archbishop and several of the Bishops on the spread
of infidelity and the best way to counteract it. The Conference
notable only for the sharp contrast between Nonconformists in the
Palace dining-room, and their forerunners, two hundred years ago,
in the Lollards' Tower."

The question of lay-representation in the Methodist
Conference, which had occupied so much of Dr. Punshon's
thoughts during the year, received full discussion, and
■was brought to a decisive issue, at the Nottingham
Conference. In its constitutional bearings it was by far
the most momentous question that had arisen in the
development of Methodism for a long period, perhaps
since the execution of Wesley's Deed of Declaration in
1784. For many years " Committees of Eeview," consist-
ing of ministers and laymen, had assembled prior to each
Conference to consider and advise upon questions of
Connexional administration and finance. But these Com-
mittees, while they had much influence, possessed no
power. They were not properly representative, and they
had no defined and secured rights. They had done good


service in the past, but their day was over. Although in
their personnel they were as weighty as they had ever
been, they were no longer regarded as satisfactory in their
mode of appointment, or as possessing adequate functions.
That something must be done was plain ; and the task
that devolved upon the statesmanship of the Conference
was to devise a mode of formally associating laymen with
ministers in a representative Conference, for the transaction
of such business as was not specially reserved for the
consideration of the Conference when composed of minis-
ters only.

It is difficult, on looking back over the few years that
have elapsed since the principle of lay-representation was
adopted, to realise the fears it awakened and the opposi-
tion it received. The controversy was singularly free
from bitterness, and at no time threatened the Connexion
with a renewal of former agitations. None the less the
opposition was formidable, supported as it was by the
learning and rare personal authority of Dr. Pope, and
the unrivalled constitutional knowledge and debating
power of Dr. Osborn. The arguments on either side,
if not already obsolete, have little interest now save for
students of Connexional history. The result has been
accepted, has become familiar, and is taken as matter of
course. The dismal prophecies have not been fulfilled,
nor do they seem on the way to fulfilment. Never did
great question rise, ripen and pass on to practical issue
more rapidly, and with less cost to the body politic
concerned. In a Church which, a single generation
before, had lost a hundred thousand members by a fierce
agitation, a great constitutional development was effected
without the resignation of a minister or the withdrawal
of a single member.

In the course of a very few years, belief in the principle
of lay-representation passed through the familiar three
stages : it was first a note of heresy ; second, a test of
orthodoxy ; third, a truism.

In the settlement of this question Dr. Punshon took a
prominent part. He had recognised the tendency of things

374 ^- MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. xvii.

in the Connexion, and saw in what direction the solution
must be sought. His aim was altogether practical. He
cared as little for speculative methods in ecclesiastical
affairs as in theology. To make a new constitution, or
tinker an old one, was a task that had no attraction for
him. What worked well was good, and abstract considera-
tions would hardly tempt him to interfere with it. But
if new conditions had arisen, calling for changes and
re-adjustments of system and method, he was not afraid.
In opinion he was liberal, in sentiment and temper
conservative ; and the way in which these elements of his
character were combined and balanced, fitted him to deal
with the question of the day in a common-sense practical
way. After careful examination of the whole range of
matters to be affected, he moved the resolution in the
Conference which was the key to the situation. When
this was secured, the rest was matter of detail. The
resolution was as follows : —

" That it is expedient that lay-representatives shall be admitted
into, and take part in the proceedings of the Conference during the
time when such matters shall be considered and decided as shall be
declared to be within the province of ministers and laymen acting

In introducing this resolution, he said, characteristically
enough : —

" I am no theoriser upon these matters, and, for myself, I am not
disposed to think that lay-representation will either damage the
Connexion to the extent that some of those who fear its introduc-
tion imagine, or benefit it to the extent that some of those who are
ardent in its favour are disposed to think. I beg to say that I am
not dissatisfied personally with the report of the Ministerial Com-
mittee. I could accept either of the reports that have been presented
to the Conference this morning. So far I am not wedded to any
particular scheme ; but, considering the wonderful agreement to
which the members of the Mixed Committee have arrived, I have
felt it my duty to do what I would willingly have been excused
from doing — to come, so to speak, to the front in this discussion."

The debate that followed was a memorable one. It
was distinguished by two unusual incidents. Dr. Pope,
whose health did not allow him to be present, addressed


the CoDference in a carefully written essay which was
read by the Secretary ; and Mr. Arthur, who was present
but unequal to the effort of speaking, placed a written
sj^ieech in the hands of Mr. T. B. Stephenson, and stood
by his side through the three-quarters of an hour that
it occupied in reading.

On the third day of the discussion. Dr. Osborn gathered
himself up and spoke against the resolution with all his
strength — with the force, the ingenuity, the impressive-
ness which, times without number, the Conference has
found irresistible. This time it was not so. Arguments
that a few years earlier might have prevailed, were now
ineffectual. It was inevitable that the speaker should
refer to the circumstances which led to the expulsion
of Alexander Kilham in 1795, and the subsequent forma-
tion of the New Connexion. The references were rhe-
torically, perhaps logically, powerful ; they told upon the
hearers, pleasing some, exciting many, and distressing
a few ; but they did not produce conviction. One passage
was listened to with keen interest : —

" Will any man tell me that the men who admitted me into full
connexion — the men of 171*7 — would have consented to a proposal
for a Mixed Conference? Sir, the men of 1797 brought me up,
Joseph Entwistle baptised me. Jonathan Edmondson gave me my
note on trial as a member, and my first plan as a local preacher.
John Gaulter nominated me to the Quarterly Meeting and to the
Conference ; Richard Reece was my Superintendent ; Richard
Treffiy was my bosom friend, as was his son also. ... If I had
said to those honoured fathers, ' I am in favour of a mixed Con-
ference of ministers and laymen,' they would have said to me, any
one of them, and all of them together, ' My dear George, you have
mistaken your place : go to the New Connexion.' I go farther still.
I say that I would have said the same to every man that lias been
admitted into full connexion since. I would have said the same
to Dr Punshon if he had said in 1849 that he was in favour of a
mixed Conference. I should have said, ' My dear friend, four doors
higher up is the New Connexion Chapel. There you will find a
mixed Conference.' "

Dr. Punshon brought the debate to a close the following
day. At its beginning he had done little more than
formally move his resolution. He now replied upon the

376 TV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. xvii.

whole case at considerable length, and with great vigour.
He had felt somewhat keenly the personal turn of Dr.
Osborn's references, but the interval of adjournment had
sufficed for any feeling of irritation to subside, and for the
preparation of a well-ordered and masterly speech. Debate
was not the sphere most congenial to him, or in which he
had fullest use of his powers ; but on this occasion there
was nothing wanting. Strong in argument, happy in
illustration, pungent upon occasion, but genial throughout,
— he seemed to carry all before him. He had not forgotten
the shrewd passage of the previous day, concerning the
New Connexion as the proper home for those who thought
as he did. His rejoinder was good-humoured, but at least
as keen-edged as the attack.

" I am to be handed over to the New Connexion, am I ? Well,
if I do go, I shall go in goodly company. First in the procession
there would be Mr. Lomas and Dr. Stamp, ' wearing the white
flower of a blameless life.' Then there would be some five or six
Presidents, not excluding my Hfe-long friend here, one of the
manliest and most independent, as well as one of the most genial
and brotherly, in the Connexion. Then, sir, if you could with
propriety leave the chair, you might overtake us, and I rather
think the Secretary would not be far from your heels. Then there
would come two sturdy Presidents-designate arm in arm, and then
such a host of brethren that I am afraid the Conference we had
left would be only a melancholy ' committee of review.' . . . Sir, I
will not go to the New Connexion ; yet I have no quarrel with
them, and I respect them. They went out on a principle which
they maintained, and are doing Christ's service in their own way,
and I have often been called upon to fraternise with them. But
I will keep in the old Connexion, and, so far as my labours and
prayers can avail, will make it a greater power than ever."

The resolution was carried by 369 votes to 49, a majority
of 320. The principle of lay-representation was established.
Two years later the first Eepresentative Conference met in
Bradford, under the presidency of Dr. Rigg, and without
shock or strain, the reconstituted assembly took over the
burdens and the privileges assigned to it.

" The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways."

1876.] JOURNAL. 2>77


^^ September 10th, 187G. — The Conference was an exciting and
eventful one. The debate on lay-representation lasted four days,
and was ably sustained. At the wish of the President and some
of the brethren, I moved the resolution, which affirmed the prin-
ciple. The chief opponents were Pope (by paper), who based his
opposition on high Scriptural views of the supremacy of ministers
as rulers, Jobson, Portrey, G. C. Harvard, Posnett, R. Roberts, and
Dr. Osborn, with J. R. Hargreaves, as the mover of an amendment.
Mr. Arthur embodied his views in an exhaustive paper. Rigg,
Bate, Perks, James, Gregory, Olver and myself did the speaking
on the other side. The speeches of Perks, Gregory, and especially
of Olver, were masterly. God helped me to say what I wished,
and to suppress what I should have been sorry for, although the
effort was great and was followed by much physical weakness.
The principle was affirmed by 3G9 votes against 49, a result for
which I am devoutly thankful."

During his first year of office at the Mission House, Dr.
Punshon continued to reside at Kensington, and preached
at Warwick Gardens as frequently as other duties would
allow. In the meantime, he was looking out for a house
that might be a permanent home, now that he was
released from the necessity of removing every three years.
While so engaged he experienced most of the annoyances
and disappointments incidental to such a quest. In March
1876 he writes : —

" We spend our spare time in house-hunting, and find it weary

Three months later he says : —

" Yesterday I agreed to purchase Mr. Boyce's house, Tranhij
Lodge, Brixton. I got quite sickened with weary searchings for
a place wherein to put myself ; and although there are some things
lacking in it, I am glad to have the matter settled, and must
forthwith bend any energies I have to make it as comfortable as

The process of settlement was, as is common in such
cases, a long one. The course of house fitting and
furnishing seldom runs smooth. Cares, half amusing,
half vexatious, seem inevitable. They are hinted at in
the Journal.

" There seems but little of honest punctual work done now-a

378 IV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. xvii.

days. Led into rather unprofitable speculations as to the little
influence the gospel seems to have on life.''

It was probably the plumber's man who furnished the
starting point for these painful speculations.

But even in these matters the end comes at last, and
when the new home was complete, it was, and continued
to be, a pleasant and much prized possession.


'^ Septemher 11th, 1876.— My first Sabbath in Tranhy. Thanks to
the great name of the Lord, who has led me all my life long until
now. I would renew my covenant, and erect my altar on taking
possession of my new home. Lord, save me from any possible
evil, from the sense of elation, from being at ease in my possessions,
from over-anxiety, from extravagance, from sloth, from any ten-
dency to distrust or forget Thy providence.

" Bless our home, and if it please Thee, give us health to enjoy
it, and to work for Thee.

" Septemher 23rrZ. — My anniversary, upon which I cannot yet
think without a pang. I have lived over again the shock, the
complicated and unutterable agony of six years ago. God has
surrounded me with many mercies, for which I praise Him, but
there is a quick trouble as I recall the incidents of that great
mystery of sorrow. May God sanctify me wholly, by any means.
I think I can heartily pray that prayer, though the 'If it be
possible ' of the garden-supplication still trembles from the lips.

" Octoher \st. — Have been during this week in an atmosphere not
the most favourable for spiritual life. On Thursday and Friday
I was in attendance on the Sheriff as his Chaplain, and introduced
to some of the customs and gaieties of civic life. They are worth
a study, but it would fare ill with me if my life were spent in
the midst of them. At the banquet in Baker's Hall had some
interesting conversation with the Ordinary of Newgate, on prison
discipline and reformatory work."

During the next few months the Journal records much
hard work — not accomplished without weariness and pain
— domestic anxieties, and the death of several friends. Dr.
Waddy, Mr. George Moore, Mr. S. B. Hodge, Dr. Stamp,
and others. He was often much cast down, but never
long together without consolation and quickening. He
was now a frequent hearer of other men's ministry, and
took to himself sincerely and simply whatever of exhorta-
tion or encouragement their preaching afforded. He

1876.] LOVE OF LIFE. 379

refers to " a searching, humbling sermon from Mr. Osborn,
on confessing Christ " ; and again, " Was lovingly rebuked
this morning in an exquisite discourse from Dr. Gregory,
on the Labourers in the vineyard."
In December he was laid aside.


^^ December llth, 187G.— Shortly after I had written the last
entry, my throat began to bleed, and I have been a prisoner for the
week. It was a merciful chastening, a summpns to come apart
into a quiet place, and rest awhile ; but it awakened me in many
and not unprofitable thoughts. Would that some master in Israel
would settle for me whether this warm love of life is sinful. I
am always trying myself by the test, ' Would you be willing to die
now ? ' and as I cannot truthfully say that I could preserve an
absolute balance of will, I come into a sort of condemnation. But
if it was to be so, I think I can trust for the needful grace. I
know not how much the body influences the mind, . . . but the
Lord will make all these things right in His time.''

It is easy to say of this frequently-recurring conflict
with himself, that it denoted a morbid condition of mind.
But there is in these matters no fixed standard of healthy
thought and feeling. Men are differently affected by
different aspects of " life, death, and that vast for ever."
The cast of mind, and the habit of the mind's close
partner the body, largely determine the range and
quality of religious emotion. With the majority of
persons the mystery of death is, as it were, taken for
granted, and then dismissed. It lies over; and meantime
does not press upon or overshadow life. But there are
those who cannot thus dismiss the subject. It pursues
and haunts. It awes the soul with deep, vague suggestions
that cannot be reduced to language, or submitted to the
logical understanding. No length of familiarity breeds
contempt. Solemn, pathetic, heart-moving, — the thought
of death ministers life-long chastening. It was so in
Morley Punshon's case, a part of the whole discipline by
which his character was moulded, and from which he was
only released in the presence of death. Face to face with
it all fear was gone. Its power was spent ; it liad no
more that it could do.

38o TV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. xvii.


''''February 15th, 1877. — Two things may be recorded that have
happened since the last entry ; the one, my presentation at Court,
which has frightened and humbled me not a little. Now that it is
over, I look back upon it with no elation, but with thankfulness
that, without stifling my convictions, or sailing under false colours,
I have been thus honoured. It was a great trial of nerve and
patience. The other I record without comment. Some fifteen
years ago a lady from Brighton entered into conversation with a
porter at Paddington Station. She found him to be a Christian
man. His conversion, he told her, was brought about by a dream,
in which he fancied himself walking listlessly about London on
the Sunday. Passing a chapel, and attracted by the singing, he
entered, saw a minister in the pulpit, a minister whose face, tones,
etc., impressed themselves on his memory. On waking, the dream
haunted him. Some time after, when he had banished it from his
mind, he was strolling aimlessly one Sunday, when the sound of
singing from a certain chapel brought it vividly back to him. He
went into the chapel, found it as he had dreamt of it, recognised
the minister who was preaching as the one he had seen in his
dream, was touched by the word, and became a new man. That
minister was myself.

" February 26ih. — A bad bronchial attack during the week,
occasioned partly by preaching in an unfinished chapel. Depressed
in spirit. Helped, though in pain, to go through several engage-
ments, but have had to give up three that were due next week.
Hope to start for Italy, if it be God's will, on Saturday, at once
to visit the Churches, and to seek a little rest in change of employ-
ment. Dr. Wood of Southport gone. Very few of that generation

" April 8th. — I have to record the preserving care of my Heavenly
Father, who has kept our party in health and safety during five
weeks of constant travel. I preached in Paris and in Rome, and
saw something of our work in Spezia, Bologna, and Padua, giving,
moreover, two or three addresses which Mr. Pigott interpreted. I
have been much interested with the efforts that are being made
to rescue Italy for Christ ; but pressed in spirit on account of the
abounding ungodliness and superstition. I come home with a
sense of gratitude for clearer light and greater privilege, and of
shame for not being a braver and purer witness for my Lord.
No fewer than seven ministers have been called away since 1 left
home. The day wanes, and there is much work to be done."

Dr. Punshon's missionary speeches in these later years

Online LibraryFrederic W. (Frederic William) MacdonaldThe life of William Morley Punshon, LL.D.250:: erd ed → online text (page 38 of 47)