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THE EEV. THOMAS BOAZ, LL.D*
Pursuant to the intimation given in our last number, (page 72,) we now proceed to narrate the circumstances, under which Mr. Boaz was brought to consider the propriety of the course he was pursuing, and the change which was produced on his mind and conduct.
Amongst those associates who have been mentioned as encouraging one another in folly, there was one with whom he had held the most intimate fellowship. He had been the companion of Mr. Boaz's earliest years, and they had left the scenes of youth nearly at the same time, and under very similar impressions. They commenced their course of dissipated pleasures under the same auspices. He was the elder of the two, and the superior in mental qualifications, which caused him to exercise a great influence over his companion, whom he led on until his daring flights of infidelity, and acts of sin, induced Mr. Boaz to decline more than an occasional intercourse with him. One morning Mr. Boaz received a note from him stating that he intended to take an excursion on the river the following Sunday for the last time, for that afterwards he should be more attentive to religious matters. He urged Mr. Boaz to accompany the party, but ho declined, and was called on that morning to visit a distant part of the metropolis at a very early hour. On his return his attention was arrested by an individual preaching in the open air. This was the Eev. G. C. Smith, of Penzance, better known as "Boatswain Smith," whose long and useful, although eccentric, life has just ended in its 81st year. Mr. Boaz approached the assembled multitude with indescribable feelings: for he had been for some time past endeavouring, but without success, to commend himself to God by his own righteous deeds. The preacher's text was "My Grace is sufficient for thee." He dwelt on the fulness and freeness of Divine Grace. Mr. Boaz's soul was quieted—he wept—he prayed—he sought pardon through the Saviour's blood.
On the morning of the following Sabbath he received a note, stating that his former companion in sin was lying in one of the hospitals in a most deplorable condition. He hastened to the scene of distress, and found him labouring under an inflammatory attack, brought on by the dissipation of the previous Sunday, and an im
* "The Mission Pastor." Memorials of the Bey. Thomas Boaz, LL.D. Twenty-four years Missionary in Calcutta. By his Widow. Edited by his Brother-in-law. London; John Snow PP. 47«.
prudent exposure to midnight damps. His onoe calm eye flitted with distraction from object to object, and his features were distorted bywild mental and bodily suffering. He was either recounting some recent scene of guilt, or calling upon his vicious companions for aid, but not one was there. Then he would refer to his own awful state, and exclaim in the bitterest agony, "I Bhall die—I must be eternally damned!—' he that knoweth the will of God, and doeth it not, to him it is sin'—I have known, but I have not done." Then shading his face with his hands, he exclaimed, "0, Saviour! Thy look of mercy distracts and condemns me." Mr. Boaz stood by his dying couch—spoke to him—pressed his palsied hand, but in vain. At length his countenance became more calm, and looking round, he recognized his friend. Then he shrieked "My friend 1 my friend! Oh, have you come to see me die? I am lost—lost for ever. Infidelity may do for the living sinner, but it will not do for the guilty dying sinner. No, no! Oh, that I could tell you all that I now feel—horrors, horrors indescribable." Mr. Boaz told him he ought to pray. He replied "I cannot, but perhaps you may be heard. Will you pray for me?" Mr. Boaz felt that he could scarcely pray for himself—that he was but a stranger to the throne on high. But he could not resist such an appeal, and with tears lifted up his voice to the Father of mercies; but such was his agonized feelings, that he forgot the dying youth, in supplications for himself. He clasped Mr. Boaz's hand with his own, which gave evidence, by its palsied touch, that the lamp of life was almost extinct. Mr. Boaz breathed a supplication to the Father, through the Son of his love, for his soul's welfare. He looked once more, in the most imploring manner, but his speech was gone—his eye grew dim, and ere a few hours had passed, he was at the throne of God. This awfully instructive circumstance, following the impressions made by Mr. Smith's sermon, led Mr. Boaz, with great earnestness, to the foot of the cross, where he lay in deep distress, until God, by his Holy Spirit, enabled him to arise, singing
"A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On thy kind arms I fall;
My Jesus, and my all."
From that day forward Mr. Boaz was an altered man—old things had passed away, all things became new. His former associates were abandoned, new companions were sought and found; former haunts of folly were avoided, other scenes and engagements were delighted in—pure and holy, and fitted for the education of an immortal spirit He immediately sought a spiritual guide, and found one in the Rev. Dr. Reed, of Wycliffe Chapel, with whose church he was connected for some years, and for whose faithful instruction and efficient ministrations he ever felt deeply grateful. He immediately inquired what he could do for the glory of God, and the good of his fellow men. His mind was not of a contemplative cast, nor much inclined to quiet and retiring meditation. He could not remain long in a state of inactivity. He had no taste for asceticism—the cloister would not have suited him; and, had he lived in the middle ages, his name would not have flourished in the calendar of those saints whose chief merit consisted in retirement and meditation, and a lazy routine of fastings and bodily mortifications. He was naturally restless—he must be up and busily occupied. As soon therefore as he joined Dr. Reed's congregation, he took an active part in the labours of the Sunday school. His kindly manner and pleasing address, soon gained the affections of his pupils, and the esteem of his fellow-teachers, and he became a great favourite. His aptitude for imparting religious instruction, and the facility with which he gave utterance to his thoughts, did not escape the notice of the snperintendent and elder teachers. He had not been long hi the school, when they urged hiui to deliver an address. He hesitated at first, but overcome by their importunity, at length yielded. This was a sore trial: with much prayer and meditation he prepared for the ordeal. On the following Sabbath, with much fear and trembling, he began his address, but found that the task was not so fearful as ho had anticipated. The matter had been carefully studied, and the words came as they were needed. A remarkable circumstance which attended this first attempt in public speaking, gave an impetus to his zeal for preaching the Gospel, that was felt to the end of his life. That address was the means of the conversion of two persons—one of them a little girl, who, with joy lighting up her countenance on a dying bed, expressed her gratitude that through his instrumentality she was about to enter life eternal, where she hoped to meet him in the presence of the Lamb. The other was a teacher, who though he had for some time pointed out the way of life to others, was himself a stranger to the saving grace of the Gospel. These results of his address had an important influence on his future career. They seemed to point out the path of duty. He began to seek for opportunities of usefulness, and to address the poor and the outcast in the back streets and lanes of the metropolis, with a power and frequency very unusual at his age. In these efforts ho was encouraged by Mr. Smith, at that time the most popular street preacher in Loudon, especially to sailors. Mr. Boaz accompanied him to the floating Bethels on the
Thames—to mean hovels in dark dingy courts and alleys, and to the narrow streets and passages in the neighbourhood of the Minories and Shadwell, and took a part in all the services that were carried on in those places.
His sphere of labour gradually extended. He often went to the villages around London, and preached to small but attentive audiences in humble cottages, and sometimes in school-rooms. His ministrations among those poor simple cottagers were acceptable, and the young parson, as they called lnm, was always received with hearty welcome. His manner was pleasing and familiar. He sympathized with all their little trials and sorrows. He had nothing of the appearance, of condescension about him; he did not seem to make an effort to come down to their level, but he spoke to them after their own fashion in a familiar easy style, in such a way as they could understand and appreciate. They perceived they had a man of their own class among them—one who could understand them, and enter into their feelings. His easy and playful manner gained the affections of the younger portion of his hearers, and the esteem of his seniors in years. Not only the young, but the hoary-headed and horny-handed labourers would hang upon the lips of the youthful preacher, and listen to his simple but earnest entreaties to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, with as much interest as if he were an old and practised expounder of the mysteries of godliness. In this humble walk of usefulness he was not left without seals to his ministry. Some of these poor cottagers who had long lived without God and without hope, were led, by his instrumentality, to forsake their evil ways, and turn to Christ with full purpose of heart. Long was he remembered among them as the young parson with the kind heart and smiling face. This was a good training for the sphere in wliich he was afterwards occupied. It was thus he acquired the habit of extemporaneous preaching, in which he excelled, and that facility of expression for which he was remarkable; for whatever might have been the deficiencies of his pulpit ministrations in other respects, he was never at a loss for words. Though he might not (to use Bacon's words) be a full man, nor at all times a correct man, he was always a ready man.
In the midst of these humble labours, he was unexpectedly invited to preach to a stated congregation in the suburbs of the metropolis, the pastor of which was suddenly takon ill and laid aside. No provision had been made to supply the pulpit on the coming Lord's day. In the emergency, the deacons sent a deputation to the young Sunday school teacher, to invite liim to conduct one of tho services. Ho was not prepared for such an undertaking, but he was not the man then, nor at any subsequent period, to escape from what he considered the call of duty. He carefully prepared for the services of the sanctuary, and went and preached with comfort to himself and edification to the people. They were so satisfied, that he was invited once and again to minister to them the words of life. At this time, however, Mr. Boaz had received no theological training, and had but little Christian experience; his stock of knowledge was exceedingly meagre, and derived principally from his Bible and the few works of practical divinity within his reach, but his heart was fired with zeal for the conversion of souls, and he drank deep at the fountain-head of spiritual truth—the pure Word of God. Although he was well and usefully occupied on the Sabbath, he was still in business, and his weekdays were necessarily devoted to the servioe of his employer, so that he had little time for study and intellectual culture. He felt his deficiencies, and ardently longed for opportunities of improvement. His thoughts were also directed towards missionary labour, and he made known his wishes to Dr. Eeed, and the deacons of the church, as well as to his friend, Mr. Townsend. By their advice, he became a student in the Theological Seminary at Newport Pagnall, in Buoks, they engaging to defray a part of his expenses while there. That seminary was then under the management of the pious and able Bev. T. B. Bull, who is still remembered with affection by the ministers who were trained under his instructions.
Mr. Boaz felt that he who commences the systematic and critical study of the sacred Scriptures, with the very slender equipment which he himself possessed, has a difficult task to perform, he therefore determined to enter upon his studies with the ardour and earnestness characteristic of his nature. That he might not be interrupted in them by the calls of friendship, he went into the North, in December, 1828, to visit his friends and relatives before entering Newport Pagnall. While there, he was invited to preach in Wall Knoll Chapel, Newcastle, the congregation of which was, at that time, without a pastor. His ministry was so acceptable, that he was pressed, week after week, to continue his services. His remonstrances and pleas of inability were to no purpose, the deacons would not take a refusal. In this way, six or eight Sabbaths passed, his popularity continuing to increase. But now came the crisis. He knew what was not known to his hearers, that he must stop short or lose his influence. The fact was, his stock of sermons, which, it may be supposed, was a very small one, was exhausted. "The tub was empty," and he had not sufficient ^sources at command to replenish it. He candidly confessed to