Mr. John Perry was born at Fareham, Hants, in the year 1759. At an early age he was placed by his father under the care of the late Rev. Mr. Bowden, of Tooting, Surry. As his father was captain of a coasting vessel, his son sometimes went a voyage with him, and on some occasions when danger was apprehended, his mind was greatly alarmed with fears of death and judgment: From an early period, he seems to have had religious impressions; from frequent convictions of sin, and being overcome by some of the temptations to which youth are peculiarly exposed, his mind was distressed and burdened with guilt. To relieve his conscience he used to repeat the prayers he had learned in his infancy, and endeavour to reform his life. This was the state of his mind till he attained his fourteenth year.
At this period he was removed by divine providence to Lymington, and bound apprentice to his uncle, a religious man. With him he attended the ministry of the late Mr. Stradling, pastor of the Baptist church, and was much indebted to the pious watchful care of his uncle, who was one of the deacons.
During the first two or three years of his apprenticeship, notwithstanding his convictions, he was a stranger to personal religion. He took pleasure in the trifling and vain amusements of the world; had no relish for spiritual pursuits; nor any understanding to discern the beauty and excellency of religion.
When about eighteen years of age, he began to attend the meetings of conference and prayer. At some of these exercises the Lord was pleased to awaken his mind to a discovery of his
character and condition; he now felt the necessity of a change of heart, and saw the suitability of the gospel way of salvation. "I was led," said he, "to choose Christ as my only and all-sufficient Saviour." Having in private made an entire surrender of himself to the Lord, he was soon inclined to give himself up to the Lord's people. Convinced it was his duty to be baptized, he communicated his views to the pastor, and after relating his experience to the church, he was baptized August 6, 1778, and the next month was admitted to communion, and partook of the Lord's supper.
His zeal and diligence were now manifested hy his taking an active part in the meetings for prayer and couference, which had been so useful to his soul. He was soon requested by his brethren to deliver a word of exhortation in connection with some others, and it is well remembered by some of his friends, how much he promoted the prosperity of these social engagements, as well as the general interests of the church.
In 1784, in consequence of his marriage with his now afflicted widow, he removed to Brockenhurst, a village about five miles distant from Lymington. Being thought by the church to possess ministerial talents, he was requested to exercise before his brethren, and by them was called to the work of the ministry, January 13, 1790.
No sooner was he encouraged to preach the gospel, than his active mind contemplated various places where he might instruct his neighbours in the knowledge of salvation. Surrounded by poor ignorant villagers, and having from his business considerable influence among then, he began preaching in his own house; and about two years afterwards erected a meat meeting-house at his own expense. He preached also at Burly, a village about six miles from Ringwood, and at another called Sway, about three miles from Lymington.
For many years he travelled about eighteen miles every other Lord's-day, and preached at all these places. On the alternate Lord's-days he preached twice at home and once at Beaulieu or Sway. At the latter place and at Burly comfortable meeting-houses were built through his influence, and at Beaulieu, there has been lately collected a very considerable congregation by the activity of Mr. Giles of Lymington, Mr. Mursell others.
In connection with other ministers, he was very useful by introducing the gospel to Yarmouth, and some adjacent villages
in the Isle of Wight. Here he often preached till Mr. Read, now pastor of a church in that neighbourhood, went to settle in the Island. It ought to be mentioned that our deceased brother went through these labours with the greatest cheerfulness, and not without considerable expense; though he had no other remuneration than the pleasure derived from perceiving the edifica: tion of his hearers. When it is considered that all this was done in connexion with conducting business, some idea may be formed of our brother's disposition; and his labours cannot fail to be appreciated as proofs that he greatly loved his master's work; and that he preferred the spiritual interests of his neighbours to his own ease and worldly advantage.
With such a sphere of exertion and usefulness, it is wonderful that Mr. Perry should have resolved to leave Brockenhurst, and to relinquish business with the hope of being more extensively useful. Just at this time he received an invitation from a distant church, and this confirmed him in the opinion that providence had called him to remove. Though very easy in his temporal circumstances - highly esteemed by his religious connections - his preaching engagements so numerous that he could scarce supply them - though all his ministéring brethren, except one, intreated him to continue - and this was the opinion also of his own family and christian fiends, yet he was still disposed to leave his station. An unpleasant event at this time (1804) among his immediate connections, led him to resolve that he would remove from his delightful and useful situation at Brockenhurst, where he had resided upwards of twenty years. It is scarcely necessary to observe that in this determination he was not influenced by any pecuniary motives, as he calculated on making great sacrifices, and suffered materially in his circumstances by it.
The church at Malmsbury, Wilts, being destitute of a pastor, he was invited to supply them for twelve months. This he accordingly accepted, and served them during that period; but in consequence of his residence not being agreeable, and some of the people not being well-affected to his ministry, he was discouraged from accepting any further invitation, and began to think seriously of removing from then. Passing through Newbury in 1805, he called on Mr. Bicheno, to see a nephew at his school. Though previously strangers to each other, this circumstance led our departed brother to the last scene of his labours.
Mr. Bicheno wishing to resign the pastoral office, introduced Mr. Perry to his church, and he soon after removed thither with his family. After preaching some time he was ordained, September 20, 1807. Mr. Cole of Whitchurch, Mr. Holloway of Reading, and Mr. Cooper of Wallingford assisted in the service.
Though Mr. Perry preached four sermons a week at Newbury, yet he found time frequently to visit the neighbouring villages. He continued these labours unwearied and unabated till the middle of the summer, 1812. Now his strength began to fail, his nature appeared exhausted, and he became heavily afflicted. On Lord's day, August 6th, he seemed a little better, and preached from Galatins vi. 14. "But God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, &c." This, contrary to his expectation, was his last sermon; he was ever afterwards confined to his house by a complication of disorders from which he never recovered.
During a long and painful affliction, the state of his mind was truly enviable. His hope was generally lively, and his prospects usually bright. The writer is acquainted with two instances in which he suffered in some degree from the assaults of satan. On one of these he said, “Satan would have persuaded me today, that the Lord is unjust, and unkind in thus afflicting me; and that my affliction is a proof that I am not interested in his love; but blessed be God I was provided with an helmet and shield, and I could say No, in the strength of Jesus, No, I never will give up my hold. When I look within there is enough to cause me to fear and distrust; but the blood of Christ is sufficient to cleanse from all sin - else what would become of me.” When asked how he did, he would reply, “helpless but blessed be God not hopeless.”
It would occupy too much room to narrate als the expressions which indicated the holy triumphs of his soul. He continued calm and tranquil even to his last hour; and while attended by his family, he passed unobservedly out of life, without a sigh or groan, on Tuesday evening, November 24, 1812, having just completed his 53rd year. I heard a voice from heaven, saying, unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; yea saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.
[From The Baptist Magazine, 1813, pp. 89-92. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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