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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 him, 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 which 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 taken 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 him to conduct one of the services. He 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 week. days were necessarily devoted to the service 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. Reed, 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 Bucks, they engaging to defray a part of his expenses while there. That seminary was then under the management of the pious and able Rev. 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 resources at command to replenish it. He candidly confessed to
the deacons, who urged him to remain, the real state of the case, and told them he had only another sermon left. They constrained him to preach the following Sabbath morning, promising to supply the pulpit in the evening by another preacher. After the service, some of the congregation took leave of him in the vestry. When they had all departed, the principal deacon, with a sad countenance, accosted him thus :
“My young friend, you must preach in the evening." “No," said Mr. Boaz, " that is impossible, I am not prepared." “Oh, but," said the other, “you must preach."
Mr. Boaz remonstrated, pleaded his inexperience, and stoutly refused.
“Well," said the deacon, "you won't preach, won't you?" “No, I cannot."
“Very well," said the deacon. Then going to the door, he added, "My young friend, in that cupboard,” pointing to it, "you will find a Bible and a Cruden's Concordance, and writing materials. You can prepare your sermon. I shall send you some dinner, and no one will disturb you till the evening service.” So saying, he locked the door, put the key in his pocket, and went off.
Mr. Boaz did not like an impressment after this fashion, but he was under constraint, and prepared for the solemn service as well as he could. He preached in the evening with great acceptance. He received from the ladies of the congregation an elegant pulpit Bible, as a token of their esteem, and appreciation of his ministrations. During the week he went to Scarborough on his way to college and preached in his native town to a crowded audience, among whom were his parents, who, as may be supposed, were delighted with their young son.
He entered Newport Pagnall, in June, 1829, and continued there about four years.
He was much engaged during his stay in preaching. This materially interfered with his studies, but activity was an essential element of his character, and he seldom passed a Sabbath without preaching. In 1833 he left Newport Pagnall, and as the delicacy of his health caused his friends to object to his becoming a missionary in a foreign land as he desired, he accepted an appointment to one of the stations of the Surrey Mission at Elstead, near Farnham. Here he laboured happily and usefully for some months, but his health becoming established, he offered his services to the London Missionary Society, and was accepted. He then resigned his charge at Elstead, and went to the East India College, at Haleybury, to study the Oriental languages under Professor Johnson. He resided at Hertford during his attendance on the college, and preached either in the town or the surrounding neighbourhood every Sabbath, and often on week days. He was popular as a preacher, and his services were much sought after. These engagements were, however, very serious interruptions to his studies, so that his proficiency in the Oriental languages fell far short of what might have been expected from a young man of his abilities. But the Lord was preparing him (unknown to himself) for the work to which he had appointed him--to preach the Gospel in a heathen country, not in a foreign tongue, but in his own language. He regretted these interruptions at the time, and his friends witnessed with sorrow how much his preparatory studies were broken in upon. They disapproved of this, and wished to see him apply more vigorously and constantly to those pursuits which were necessary to qualify him for missionary labours. But these preaching engagements were the proper school for fitting him for the work for which God, and not man, had designed him. They were the best preparation for the sphere which he was afterwards called to occupy, and in which he was more useful than he would have been had he laboured directly as an evangelist among the natives of India. While there, even, he did not lose sight of Elstead. It seems to have made an indelible impression on his mind, which no change of place or association could efface
ould efface. From the banks of the Ganges he addressed the children in the Sabbath school at Elstead, in the following simple and characteristic style :
" To TUE LITTLE CHILDREN IN THE SABBATH SCHOOL.
"Little children, love one another.' “MY DEAR LITTLE CHILDREN, -Perhaps you have almost forgotten me. I have not forgotten you. Sometimes I pray for you. Will you pray for me? Do you pray for yourselves? If not, God will not love you, and I shall not meet you in heaven, if Jesus kindly takes me there. Since I saw you, God has been very good to me. He carried me safely over the great sea, a great distance—15,000 miles. I wish to be thankful to Him for his goodness ; we should always be thankful for mercy. Will you thank God for me? He brought me to this city, and the Christians are glad through my coming, for they say, “Now we see that Christians in England love the Christians in India. One Indian Christian cried when he saw me, and said, 'We have been praying a long time, now God is answering our prayers. You little people can assist in making these Indians happy. If I were to tell you, that if you gave a little money you could do it, you would say, “Oh, I will give something every week.' Give it, then, and be honest; but, above all, love Jesus Christ. And you should try to send missionaries to preach to them, and teach them the Bible. I have said that the country in which I am living is a large and beautiful country, but here the people are very wicked. There is a house where your home is, a large and
beautiful country, where there are no wicked children. Dr. Watts speaks of it in the hymn
" There is a land of pure delight.' I hope to meet many of you there; but you must remember the word of Jesus, 'Except you be born again you cannot enter the kingdom of God.'
Perhaps you are too young to do anything for missionaries. Let me remind
you that Jesus once was a little boy, and He was very active in doing good. He became a little child that He might teach little children how to be good. You must try to be like Jesus, not only good, but active ; children cannot be idle. If you try to sit still you cannot; you must be active, and the child's hymn says, that
Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.'
If you are not working for Jesus you are working for Satan, and I hope none of you wish to be his servants. Some of you, I hope, wish to be missionaries. If you do, you must read your Bible very much ; you should read about little Samuel, how he feared and served God : about good Timothy, who knew the Scriptures from a child. They were both missionaries. You should love the company of pious people, pray very much, and love Jesus with all your heart, and poor sinners as yourselves. My dear little children, I fear I have tired you. I love you, and therefore will not write any more.
“ Your affectionate friend,
He was set apart to his work on June 18th, 1834, at Manchester. Amongst other ministers who took part in the services were the Revs. J. A. James, R. Knill, J. Parsons, and R. Wardlaw, D.D. He has left an affecting account of his visit to his native place, to take leave of his family, in which he thus closes the recital of the parting
My father, in a stifled voice, while he pressed my hand, said, 'Oh, my boy, I have long prayed for submission to the will of God in this trying hour,' then turning his head, whispered, • The Lord go with thee and bless thee;' again raising his voice, regardless of the crowd which had gathered together, he said, while he crossed his face with his hands, "I give him up to Thee-to Thee, O Lord, protect and guide him for ever, for ever, for ever.' My father,' I responded, while with deep agony I said, “O God, bless this honoured parent, and all these my weeping friends, with thy grace and glory.””
Mr. Boaz left his native shores in August, 1834; and in a future paper we may give our readers some account of his labours in India, to which country he was appointed to proceed.