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MEMOIR OF THE LIFE OF
THE REVEREND THOMAS RABAN,
INGS, IN NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.
To give an impartial delineation of the character of a de
parted 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 evangeHical ministry) they were no strangers to the spirit and influence of the Gospel. llis grandfather came from the Isle of Wight into Bedfordshire; and Mr. Raban 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 warınest gratitude to his parents, particularly towards his mother, for having early taught him to read and reverence the Scriptures. To this circumstance is attributed (what his friends so much admiresl) 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.
Under the instruction of a clergyman, he became a ready accountant; and, at a suitable time, he was put apprentice to a karpenter and builder in Olney. At this period, the year 1.748,
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 weariy driven to despair; and once he felt a strong templation to commit suicide. 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 cominunion with the church.
Commencing business for himself, Mr. Raban contracted an acquaintance with an agreeable and pious young woman of Olney, 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, inore than compensated the occasional irregularity of his temper. In discharging the duties that devolved upon him, he uniformly acted on the maxiais of the Gospel. He had a quick perception of what was proper to be done; and then he tenaciously persevered in his principles and condut. He was ever desirous of preserving family order and decorum in the worship of Gori, and mourned over any casual interruptions in these exercises. His private devotions were often ery sweet to his soul; though, perhaps, in general, he enjoyed inost 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 Eurth, bis heart was in Ileaven, 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 soine instances, exposed him to the pity or censure of friends. Yet, when they did not inisunderstand 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 hin in the year 1767, was retained by him till death. Indeed, in cases where his friends were mistaken, such was his deference to their fidelits , that he contented himself with pointing ont 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 devoted to the spiritual interests of his congregation. He was
• Mr. Raban's friend, Mr. Perry, received an invitation from a congregation at Wollastone, a few miles from Yurdley, He became their mi jster, apd lived with growing usefulness to the last
disinterested, laborious, and faithful in serving thein. Having a numerous family, he continued at Olney, 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 minister. He and Mr. Bull continued a regular course of lectures there for some years, till the cause assumed a pleasing and permanent appearance.
Mr. Rabàn 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 condeinn 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 servañt; 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
ever, he observed how much his case resembled that of Elijah when fed by ravens, in obtaining the most unexpected means of support. Though he felt tuly thankful for every instance of kindness shewn him, succour often caine from a friend the Lord directed to him, and not which he himself had sought *.
As a friend, Mr. Raban was kind, faithful, constant, and disinterested. His ear and his heart were ever accessible, - ever open to the communications of a friend; perhaps his wish to do good to all, within his sphere of influence, inight be carried too far by him, considering his numerous engageinents. On this subject he often lamented that many professors, while they apparently pay a great attention to the precepts of the first table, overlook the second : on the contrary, he maintained, both by doctrine and example, that a due regard to our neighbour would be a decided proof of our love to God.
He was kind and attentive to the poor. He had great influence in parochial concerns ; and while his advice was resorted to in conducting them, the necessitous and afflicted could look up to him as their constant friend and supporter. His charity was not easily provoked ; for when extreme poverty furnished a pretext for stealing fire-wood from lois premisses, if he knew of it, he would say, “ Had I been there, [ should have turned my head another way; or have said, Poor fellow! do not overload yourself; and the next time you want, fuel, come and ask my leave!” But his love of justice made him anxious to punish a detected villain, who could not offer such an excuse. As another proof of the benevolence of his heart, when he could not himself relieve a needy object to the extent of his wishes, he would become their advocate with those who could.
He was a sincere lover of his country. During the feuds which loyalty and disloyalty produced, he conscientiously prayed for his Sovereign and Royal Family, for the return of peace, and for individual and national happiness...
* Mr. Raban often regretted, that men of fortune, especially profes. sors of the gospel, did not more readily come forward to assist industri. ous tradesmen with the loan of a few pounds without interest. 1 part of the character of a righteous man is, " That he putteth not out his money to usury;" and to this purpose our Lord says, “Do good and lend, hopings for nothirig again, and your reward shall be great," &c. Bearing these, and other Scriptures in mind, he contended, That the opulent would be no losers, while they would materially assist a worthy part of the community; who, without such assistance, often fall into poverty, or struggle with difficulties all their days,
[To be concluded in our next ]