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FEBRUARY, 1810. ^
THE REV. JOHN M^GFBBON,
late Pastor of the Independent Church at Birdsbush, in-JFiUthirt.
To record what God has done for his people, is an irrp perious duty. Some, indeed, object that, in the liv'es of most jrood men, there is such a sameness as forbids publicity; but it should be remembered, that, in- many respects, there mus,t necessarily be a similarity in the experience of the .truly pious. The biographical monument is not, therefore, erected merely because novel, but to perpetuate the power of divine grace, and stimulate othersto action". ., .
The subject of this memoir, ,it> is acknowledged, does not furnish any thing of the marvellous. The most conspicuous traits in him were those of "a truly good man and devoted minister of the Lord Jesus". If, however, unfeigned piety, aiul an entire dedication to the service of the RejTee'mer, will re? commend a life to the.notice.of the religious public, it is presumed this will not be wholly useless.
The Rev. John M'Gibbon was a native.of Scotland, born at Edinburgh, Oct. 8, 1776. From Tats infancy his Religious advantages were great: his own words on this subject arc,— 'Being blest with a religious education, enjoying the privilege of a gospel ministry,! began early to feel religious impressions. I received much benefit hy committing to memory different catechisms and various portions of Scripture; but especially from the preaching of the word, and attending-meetings . for prayer and religious conversation. 1 cannot mention the exact time of my conversion: the work appears to have been gradual to the present day*! I recollect many periods in my life, when I felt a more than ordinary concern about my eternal state; but cannot fix on the particular time when I first
* This extract is lakes from his confession on the day Of his ordioatjon, XVIII. II
46 MEMOIR OF THE REV. J®HN M'gibbon.
received renewing grace. Fpr several years, I depended o* my own diligence in performing duties. By different means, however, I began to see clearly that all my performances Were mixed with sin, and could not! justify me in the sight of God. I beheld an infinite glory in the Saviour, and an exact suitableness in his salvation to my state. I trust I was enabled to receive him as my Redeemer, and, in a very imperfect manner, to follow him. I hope .that I feel some scriptural evidence of divine grace. I desire to love the Lord Jesus and his people; to delight in the Bible and all the ordinances of the gospel; t« live above the world, and hate sin. I see a dirine excellence in holiness, and earnestly desire an increase of every gracious principle, till I arrive at perfection in glory.'
Soon after the Lord had given him a view of the all-sufficiency of divine grace, he felt a strong and growing desire to impart the knowledge of Christ to his fellow-sinners. 'When,' says he,' I beheld men disobeying the commands of God, rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, and incurring the divine displeasure, I was truly grieved. Feeling the bitterness of sin, and the preciousness of the gospel, I earnestly desired to devote myself to the ministry of the word, that I might warn sinners of their danger, and invite them to believe on the Lord Jesus.' These desires were followed with constant and fervent prayer; an*!, in due time, the wishes of his heart were answered, and a way opened for his entrance on a course of studies preparatory to the work of the ministry.
Having an earnest desire to. be useful, and knowing the vast importance of a religious education, he became a teacher in some of the Sabbath Schools in Edinburgh and its vicinity. It was here his talents for instruction, and his zeal for the * divine glory, became more visible. At this time, a proposal was made him of devoting himself to the ministry. Deeply sensible of his own inability, and the great importance of the work, he took some time seriously to consider the subject, and to examine his own views in desiring the sacred office. On mature deliberation, he accepted the offer, and, in the year 1796, became a student under the Rev. D. Bogue, at Gosport* There he was quite in his element, as he had an uncommon thirst for improvement. This disposition enereascd daily, so that his profiting appeared to all. Nor did he hide his talent in a napkin; but as his stock of knowledge increased, his desire to communicate it increased also. Few persons had a greater love to the instruction of the rising generation, or were better qualified for it. In every place, where he liad but a temporary residence, one of his first enquiries was,' What can be done for the young people?' If he stayed but a few weeks in a family, his absence, when h^ left it, was regretted as a serious .lpss to the younger branches in particular. In several in
stances, there is reason to hope his labours of love, in this respect, were crowned with success.
By the advice of his worthy tutor (who was ever anxious to introduce his students as early as possible to what was likely to be their grand employment) he consented to spend the vacation, in 1798, at Guernsey. His visit to that island was evidently of God, as appeared by his being made remarkably useful. During his short stay, an unusual spirit of hearing . was the prelude to much real good. His first sermon there was preached to eleven persons; but the number increased to some-hundreds. In the most affectionate manner did the people desire him to' continue with them, for their furtherance in the knowledge of the gospel;'—but, after serious consideration, he concluded it to be his duty to return to Gosport, and improve the short time allotted him for increasing his stock of knowledge: however, before he left Guernsey, a plan was fixed for future supplies, and the serious people united in churchfellowship. The church and congregation were left in peace and harmony; and in the most earnest manner did he exhort them ' to hold the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.'
Previously to his return to Gosport, he spent a few weeks at Swanage. This visit he often mentioned with peculiar pleasure. There the Lord gave testimony to the word of his grace;' and it Was remarked by the congregation, that a peculiar unction attended his preaching. To this day his name i.4 mentioned, both in Guernsey and Swnnage, with the greatest respect. He finished his studies at the seminary in November, 1799, high in the esteem of his venerable preceptor, and of alt who knew him;, nor were the hopes then excited of his becoming a holy and useful minister ever disappointed.- ,.
Mr. JVl'Gibbon possessed, very early in life, a true missionary spirit; and, prior to his leaving Scotland, thoMght seriously of accepting a proposal to go to Sierra Leone. This*, however; was relinquished from fear of inability, and sense of filial duty. The exertions made by the Missionary Society in London, kindled afresh the latent spark. Alt his 'preaching, praying, knd conversation, now savoured of a heart, truly affected by the miserable state of the Heathen world. At length, it was actually fixed that he and Mr. —^— should devote themselves to the Missionary Society, to spend their days, far from their native land, in the cause of the Redeemer ; — but his friend, who had engaged with him, being prevented by his relations; and some difficulties arising from the delicacy of his own health, he once more very reluctantly gave, up his plan -. yet still looked forward to a period, when he hoped the Lord would open an effectual door. With what delight did he hear of the success of this good work! At the monthly meetings for Jprayer, it was his constant practice to stir up a missionary spirit, by collecting all possible intelligence respecting the
43 MEMOIR OF THE REV. JOHtf M'GIBBON.
missionaries, and, in the most affectionate manner, relating ife to the people, making, as he went along, suitable reflections, and charging them to bear in their minds, at the throne of grace, those who were labouring among the poor Heathen*
Thus was the spirit of these meetings kept up
. It was in August, 1802, that, by a wise and kind Providence, he was directed to Btrdsbush. %Hcre l^c, was received as an angel of the XiOrd; and, to the honour of minister and people, the union which then commenced was never broken, but be-^came closer and closer till dissolved by death. On consenting to continue here, he remarks1: 'The prospect of usefulness appears considerable at Birdfebush. There is a spirit of hear-, ing, — many praying members. The people are affectionate.' There is unity in their request to 'me to continue amongst them. Whether the Great Head of the Church intends to keep me there, I know not: I am in his hands, and desire to wait his call, and pray that he may guide me and the people by his counsel.' Alter labouring amongst the people nearly nine months, they were all of one heart. Little obstacles, which had kept some from the means of grace,- were now re-, moved, and Mr. M'Gibbon received a most affectionate and unanimous call to assume the pastoral charge; which, after serious deliberation, he accepted. On this occasion, he says, 'The experience of every day proves that God intends X should settle at Birdsbush. The spirit of hearing still prevails, and things, on the whole, are very pleasing. 1 have received an unanimous call from the people. Taking time to deliberate, and after carefully watching the dispensations of Providence, and spending much time in prayer for direction, I have finally detc'iiined to rest here. I trust that my decision is agreeable to Scripture, and, by its effects, will appear that it was of God. —On a view of the immense importance of the work, I almost sink into despair; and, were it not for the promised strength of Jesus, 1 should altogether sink. O! may the blood of souls never rest on my head! A pastor of the sheep of Christ! — a preacher of the gospel! O! how important the work! How shall I perform it? Who is sufficient for these things? My soul shrinks back at the very idea! Ji^ain would I now give up all; but I have prit my hand to the plough : I dare not look back. On thy arm, O Jesus, I,lean! I am undone if thou dost not support me! Let me never be the means of the damnation of one soul by my sinful neglect! Savipur, thou knowest tiie difficulties, the temptations, the discouragements attending this work, carry me through, — keep mc from dishonouring thee! 1 rely on thy promise, —' Lo, I am with you always V
Locking forward to his ordination,' he says,' I set this day apart for fasting and prayer. The religious.exercises in which. 1 engaged, were remarkably useful to my son]. I think t