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terest to our Readers: and, to provide room for this additional matter, we have commenced the present volume with a page considerably enlarged.
Early in this volume (which, for the accommodation of new Subscribers, will be kept perfectly distinct from the preceding, so that it may be considered as a new and improved series) we propose to lay before our Readers, a review of the Present State of Religion and Religious Literature in the various parts of Europe, with the exertions now making among various denominations for the support and enlargement of the Kedeemer's kingdom: and in this design, as indeed in every part of our work, we shall be happy to receive the assistance of our Correspondents, and particularly of those tried and faithful friends on whose aid we can always rely, and whose former favours merit, not only annually, but at all times, our gratitude and acknowledgments.
It gives us much pleasure to reflect to how many useful and benevolent institutions the EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE has, since its commencement, given rise, encouragement, and notoriety. The various means of doing good are not exhausted. The "liberal will still devise liberal things;" and the real friends of Christ will not soon be "weary in well-doing." Plans of this nature are in embryo, which we shall be happy, in due time, to lay before our Readers. Those who recollect what the divine Redeemer has done for them, will never think they can do too much for him.
We must not conclude our Preface without acknowledging the divine goodness and assistance: "Hitherto hath the Lord helped us!" And, while we remember that not only many noble plans and merciful institutions have originated from suggestions in our work; but that we have also been enabled, from its profits, to distribute some thousands among the Widows of the Lord's Ministers, and others,—and hope, by an increasing circulation, to do still more; we cannot help exclaiming, with the royal and venerable Psalmist, “Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name! — but who are we, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort! for all things are of thee; and of thine own have we given thee!"
MEMOIR OF THE LIFE OF
THE REVEREND THOMAS RABAN,
PASTOR OF THE INDEPENDENT CHURCH AT YARDLEY HASTINGS, IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.
To give an impartial delineation of the character of a departed saint, is a difficult task; personal regard, is apt to warp the judgment and misguide the pen. However, it was the avowed opinion of the subject of this memoir, that the scriptural mode of describing human character, detailing faults as well as excellencies, ought to be closely adhered to. An attention, therefore, to this principle, is the design of his biographer.
Mr. Raban was born at Turvey, in the county of Bedford, in the year 1734. He was the youngest son of parents in middling circumstances of life; whose character and dying experience seemed to testify (though not favoured with an evangelical ministry) they were no strangers to the spirit and influence of the Gospel. His grandfather came from the Isle of Wight into Bedfordshire; and Mr. Rabau had good reason to believe he was a French protestant refugee, and banished from France by the cruel revocation of the Edict of Nantz. Mr. Raban ever expressed the warmest gratitude to his parents, particularly towards his mother, for having early taught him to read and revetence the Scriptures. To this circumstance is attributed (what his friends so much admired) the singular aptitude he possessed of quoting Scripture, in the most pertinent manner, in private and public discourse.-Let parents profit by this instance of maternal piety.
Luder the instruction of a clergyman, he became a ready accountant; and, at a suitable time, he was pnt apprentice to a carpenter and builder in Olney. At this period, the year 1748,
the Gospel began to be preached in Olney church, Mr. Moses Browne, author of Sunday Thoughts, being inducted to the living; and, through an indulgent Providence, it has continued there ever since. Mr. Raban attended Mr. Browne's ministry, as well as that of other ministers; and often became the subject of serious impressions. By this means he was restrained from many youthful propensities; yet he had attained his nineteenth year before the Lord effectually convinced him of the evil of sin, and the way of deliverance therefrom. His sorrow for his transgressions was now very great; sometimes he was nearly driven. to despair; and once he felt a strong temptation to commit suieide. Yet the Lord graciously preserved him in the dark and cloudy day, and brought him into the marvellous light of the Gospel. He felt, and joyfully acknowledged, the power of converting grace. Before this, he had occasionally heard Mr. Whitefield, with deep conviction of soul; but now he could enjoy much pleasure in hearing him as often as it lay in his power; and to his dying day retained a savour of the truths which that eminent servant of Christ delivered. Speaking of Mr. Whitefield, he would say, 'I once had the honour of having him hang on my arm; and to be sure I thought myself the happiest of men! And at another time I attended him as a guide to a village, where he was going to preach, to my unspeakable gratification! He sometimes, also, attended Mr. Hervey's ministry; and he would speak of his sermons with renewed satisfaction and delight, to the end of his life. However, he became the stated hearer and affectionate friend of Mr. Browne, and joined in communion with the church.
Commencing business for himself, Mr. Raban contracted an acquaintance with an agreeable and pious young woman of Oney, to whom he was married in the year 1760. By her he had ten children, eight of whom, with Mrs. Raban, survive, to lament their loss. In domestic life, there was much to admire, and but little to censure, in his conduct. He was an affectionate husband, an indulgent parent, and a good master. His temper, however, was naturally warm, and sometimes impetuous. But the rectitude of his principles, the general mildness of his spirit, his willingness to be convinced, his readiness to forgive, or to ask forgiveness, more than compensated the occasional irregularity of his temper. In discharging the duties that devolved upon him, he uniformly acted on the maxims of the Gospel. He had a quick perception of what was proper to be done; and then he tenaciously persevered in his principles and conduct. He was ever desirous of preserving family order and decorum in the worship of God, and mourned over any casual interruptions in these exercises. His private devotions were often very sweet to his soul; though, perhaps, in general, he enjoyed most communion with God in spiritual ejaculations.
On this point he gratefully acknowledged, that when, through the pressing calls of family or worldly concerns, he could not command the time he wished, he felt great nearness to God, and a sweet sense of his presence. Though his head and hands were employed in the things of Earth, his heart was in Heaven, his treasure being there also. This by no means countenances the lukewarm spirit of too many professors, who are negligent of secret prayer, and of course are careless in the performance of family duty; it only seems to favour omissions in certain extreme cases, the propriety of which may be known by the frame of mind that is then indulged. Mr. Raban's knowledge of Scripture, and acquaintance with the works of judicious Divines, made him in early life a solid Christian; and though he called no man father upon earth, having learnt his creed from an infallible guide, he was a Calvinist in youth; and such he continued to be to the end of life.
Through many temporal engagements, Mr. Raban was often led into company, in which, at certain periods of life, his very sociable and conciliating disposition proved a snare to him. This, in some instances, exposed him to the pity or censure of friends. Yet, when they did not misunderstand his motives, their advice and reproof was sure to draw forth the most attentive regard. As a proof of this, a pastoral letter, written to him in the year 1767, was retained by him till death. Indeed, in cases where his friends were mistaken, such was his deference to their fidelity, that he contented himself with pointing out their mistakes, and left their animadversions for a survivor to destroy.
About the year 1778, a new scene opened before him :Through the solicitation of others, and in conjunction with an intimate friend, he began to exhort at prayer-meetings, attended by members of the establishment. They persevered in the practice some time, solely with a view of being serviceable to their fellow-Christians in that neighbourhood; though the Lord, by this step, was preparing them for spheres of usefulness in another direction; and the great Bishop of Souls soon found employment for both of them*. The gifts of Mr. Raban, for prayer and public exhortation, were acknowledged to be profitable, and were gratefully remembered by many, some of whom survive him. The congregation at Yardley, being destitute of a minister, requested his assistance. According to their wishes, he, with others, occasionally preached to them; and his labours proving acceptable, he received a call; and was ordained in the year 1783. From this time he was much de voted to the spiritual intcrests of his congregation. He was
Mr. Raban's friend, Mr. Perry, received an invitation from a congregation at Wollastone, a few miles from Yardley. He became their minister, and lived with growing usefulness to the last.
disinterested, laborious, and faithful in serving them. Having a numerous family, he continued at Oiney, following his occupation. This enabled him to serve his flock with scarcely any reward, but their affections and prayers. He used to say, "I must look for my reward in another world." Yet his affection for them did not diminish to the last; and if, in any instance, he saw a want of mutual regard, with the most singular propriety and feeling, he would quote Paul's language, "I will gladly spend, and be spent for you, though the more abundantly I love, the less I be loved." But his labours were not confined to one spot. He loved, occasionally, to itinerate. He maintained lectures in different places with unwearied perseverance; and, here it is worthy of remark, he was the first Dissenting Minister who established a lecture at Woburn, Bedfordshire; where there is now a settled congregation, and a respectable ninister. He and Mr. Bull continued a regular course of lectures there for some years, till the cause assumed a pleasing and permanent appearance.
Mr. Raban was careful what he taught his people. His knowledge of the doctrines of grace was very clear. He was ever attentive to distinguish the design of the law and gospel; -the law to condemn the sinner, and the gospel to liberate him; the law to rule the saint, and the gospel to animate him in his heavenly warfare. The general strain of his preaching was rather adapted to bind up the broken-hearted, and to comfort and establish the believer, than to awaken the stupid and careless. He lamented his deficiency; however, the Lord so far blessed his labours to the unconverted, that there was scarcely a year elapsed without some increase of the church; and, at his departure, he left several inquirers after the way to Zion. Notwithstanding this, he had many fears and conflicts about his unworthiness, and the inutility of his labours: he judged himself to be an unprofitable servant; and was fearful the Lord would give him some decided proof of it; yet, it has been seen that his apprehensions were groundless.
In conducting his worldly concerns, he endeavoured to maintain a conscience void of offence towards God and man. He was scrupulously moderate in his charges. He was a good mechanic; and, for all the purposes of common life, a skilful architect; which procured him considerable employment in the erection of houses, &c. However, he gradually withdrew from this employ, and applied himself to farming during the last twenty years of his life. In this sphere he was a wise observer of Providence; and often, when walking in his fields, enjoyed very profitable meditations on the wisdom, power, and goodness of God. Success attending him, he gratefully acknowledged the hand of the Lord in providing more comfortably for him as the evening of life came on, than it might otherwise have been. In reviewing the goodness of God towards him, how