New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
And the Society at Peter Street, Manchester
WE have related the circumstances associated with the erection of Peter Street Church, and the difficulties that arose early from the waywardness of the clergyman they brought from St. John's, the Rev. Mr. Cowherd, just as the first apostles had uncertainties and disagreements which early brought them into trouble. The new congregation at Peter Street had also many excellent men, gentle, spiritually-minded, good every way. The Holgates, Atkinsons, Harrisons, Princes, Foxes, Murrays, Locketts, excellent people who would sit round delighted while Mr. Jones would give his monthly lectures to the young men, of whom the writer was one.
Not of this earliest group; but soon after, through his marriage with his admirable partner in life, who had been connected with Peter Street many years earlier, as an intelligent member, and a portion of the choir, Mr. Broadfield became known to me.
His affectionate nature soon led to a warm attachment, and the same characteristic caused him to imbibe the principles of the Church with great avidity. He accompanied me in my first missionary journey through Yorkshire. And while I preached in kitchens and barns, or chapels, he revelled in spiritual delight. That was more than fifty years ago, before there was any chapel at Embsay. His business led him to make a round once a week, on Monday, and he usually ended by calling upon me to speak upon the truths mutually interesting, and exchange ideas on passing events. I was then unmarried, and my housekeeper, not a New Churchwoman, but a kindhearted body, knew him as the "gentleman with the large watch-key."
If anything had prevented me from being at home when he called she would soon let me know, with a smile on her face, that the gentleman with the large watch-key had been, expressed his regret, and left his kind regards. He was diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. Assisted by his invaluable wife, who was quite a mother in Israel, they became prosperous; and the more they prospered, the more liberal they became, not only to the Church in their own Society, but to all round, and all the institutions. In the Charity Sermon time, in spring and early summer, the friends would be sure to be cheered by the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Broadfield. And, when they saw their kind, cheerful, smiling faces, they were certain they would have a good collection.
He was one of the most humble, as well as the most kind and generous men I ever knew. There was no self assertion about him. He would wait, while a thing was being discussed fully on both sides; and then, very modestly, but practically, state the view which commended itself to him, and offer to bear a generous part.
As the doctrines grew with him, they pervaded his whole being, and at length, having attained a moderate sufficiency, he withdrew from business, leaving it to his sons, with the full acquiescence of dear Mrs. Broadfield, that he might devote himself to assist the church, the schools, and works of benevolence generally. His life thenceforward for twenty years was devoted diligently to doing good. For many, many years the two had been the New Church in business; thenceforward, they were the New Church walking about, wherever good was to be done, doing good.
For more than fifty years, when he passed to his higher home, in 1876, he had been a loving and consistent member of the society. Through great part of Mr. Jones's ministry he was a constant attendant, through the whole of Mr. Smithson's, and onwards for many years. He had been for very many years a member of the committee, Trustee of the Church, Trustee of Conference; and he represented the Society in Conference TWENTY-NINE TIMES. He was a steady supporter of the Day Schools, and from the beginning on the Committee. He was the constant helper of the Sunday School, and all its departments of use. He was the special active manager of the Provident Saving Society, and the leader of the Band of Hope. He was ever ready to promote with purse and influence every needful improvement in school or church, to the last.
As I addressed to the Society words of consolation at the conclusion of his career, every one evidently felt the manifest simple justice of the remarks then made, and which now I cannot do better than repeat. "He was the general peacemaker. In the conduct of affairs, even in a religious society, differences will sometimes arise. Zeal for the opinions we regard as correct, and are persuaded are important, will sometimes be pushed to angularity, and a disregard for the equally cherished opinions of others; in all such cases within his sphere he was ever ready with the sweet persuasiveness of charity, allaying feeling, and inducing consideration and peace.
"He was especially the comforter of the Society. If any one were sick, or in trouble, and he heard of it, he would not be long before he was there. With words of sympathy, consolation, and aid so far as might be, he was sure to do his best to cheer and to lead the sufferer to his Heavenly Father, the Saviour, and thus aid to bind up the brokenhearted, and to comfort those that mourned. Indeed standing among you, surrounded by this great audience, consisting of acquaintances and friends in the Church who have come to evince their esteem and admiration for his virtues, and having known him intimately for almost fifty years without one unkind expression or one shadow having come over our friendship in all that time, I cannot but look round and feel as if every man, woman, and child of this Society, from every portion of the building, almost from every flag and pew here, which he prized with fond affection, there would come a sweet memory, a fragrant recollection of the mutual friend, the loving, good John Broadfield."
He had to leave his home in Bridgenorth, where there was little opening for business, a mother whom he tenderly loved, and who tenderly loved him, to come quite a youth to Manchester, and he felt dreadfully lonely. He had a severe fever in his early manhood, and seemed still more tried and alone. But Divine Providence so overruled these things, that they led to connections that were just the right thing, and to the conviction ever after that—ALL IS FOR THE BEST.
He would relate to you how apparent evils had been often turned to real good, how crosses had been surmounted by crowns, how in his own career things that had seemed most untoward had turned out to be the very best that could have been done, and so he had learned to the fullest extent to be assured that THE LORD WILL PROVIDE.
He could realise the history of Joseph when rejected by his brethren, and left in the pit, to be devoured by wild beasts, even when sold as a slave, and his character temporarily destroyed by calumny. He learned in due time that this was the way to a sacred mission for the safety of his family and a nation—ALL WAS FOR THE BEST.
Of course troubles will sometimes occur. This is a world of discipline, and afflictions, like blessings, have their uses. If they come, let them come, and let us humbly try to profit by them. But let us not forestall them. If they won't come, let us not try to fetch them, and strive to drag them in by unwise anticipation.
Sufficient for the day is the evil thereof, rest in the Lord. Take the sweet messenger Hope, and hear her gentle whisper: "Unto the upright there ariseth a light in the darkness." Hope, trust, wait—ALL IS FOR THE BEST.
Duty and trust, as he would explain, must go together. We must do everything a case demands, as if success entirely depended upon ourselves; and then trust as if we entirely depended upon the Lord, and are sure that He will make all right.
He was very great upon duty, and doing your best. He was himself in business, and at all times A HARD WORKER. "Do your duty," he would say, "a little more if you like, but not less. Always do your duty."
He prayeth well, who loveth well,
Both man, and bird, and beast.
He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loves them all.
Another axiom great with Mr. Broadfield, and of supreme value, was—"BE HAPPY NOW."
Often have I heard him, long years ago, impressing this doctrine upon some complaining soul, well-disposed, but weak in faith. "You think you would be happy if you had so much, or when you are in such and such circumstances, which you hope to attain in seven years. But you should be grateful for the blessings you have; don't mind what you have not. Whatever you really want for the future, the Lord will provide. But don't wait for that—BE HAPPY NOW." And this would be said with such kindly earnestness, that he helped many a sad soul to lay aside half its burden, and go away with a lighter heart. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord. If ordered by Him, they must be ordered in the very best way. What varieties of weather the trees have to pass through, from the early bud to the ripened fruit—the sunshine and the storm, the frost and the mellowing warmth. But it is all ordered by the Lord, and at length comes the matured and luscious fruit. How much of the keen energy of winter is needed to divide the clods, and prepare the kindly soil of spring. It is all right, and we should be thankful for the winter, as well as for the summer. So the good man progresses through trouble and triumph, through mourning and comfort, and thus attains Christian perfection. Let us take then our dear friend Broadfield's maxim, and BE HAPPY NOW.
"Thus," he would add, "we GO TO HEAVEN now, by being heavenly." My last visit to him was about a month before his departure. Being in the neighbourhood, and learning that his illness was very serious, I went over to see him. It was a privilege to pass a little time with him, when his weakness was so great that he could receive only those who stood in very close relation either of family or friendship. As I was leaving he said: "My dear friend, we have been close friends a very long time. There is just one thing I want to mention. I have been considering how many blessings I am surrounded by on earth; and then there is the other side. I have been thinking if I had to determine whether I should go or stay by moving my finger, how I should do; and I have concluded I could not do it. I LEAVE IT ALL WITH THE LORD."
His last word, I believe, was "Mary," as if he felt the presence of her who had been so meet a help for him on earth, and was charged by the Lord to receive him on entering the inner world of being. Perhaps he saw her; I have good reason to believe in many instances such glimpses have been permitted for the comfort of good people, toward the last.
Blest is the man who dies in peace,
And gently yields his soul to rest;
Who gains from earth the kind release,
Leaning upon his Saviour's breast.