Waller, Ralph (1784-1837)
MEMOIR OF MR. RALPH WALLER,
Of Mellor, Derbyshire, (New Mills Circuit)
Mr. Ralph Waller was born March 10, 1784, at Rue Barn, about two miles south of Eccleshall in Staffordshire. He was the second son of Ralph and Jane Waller, who long occupied the Rue Barn farm; and made it a point of duty to attend regularly with their family, divine worship at Eccleshall church. There was also a day school to which they sent their children, and where our deceased brother received his juvenile education.
In the year 1799, his father bound him apprentice to the grocery business at Newcastle-under-Lyme. But circumstances not turning out agreeable, he left the place and went to Manchester, where he learned the cotton spinning business; and, having obtained a knowledge of the trade, he and his brothers, Messrs. Thomas and Samuel carried on business on their own account. And although they experienced many heavy losses in trade, yet they proceeded with prudence and perseverance, and God was pleased ultimately to crown their labours with considerable prosperity.
In the year 1805, Mr. Ralph became deeply concerned for the salvation of his soul. And, going frequently with his Brother Thomas to the Wesleyan chapels, he heard much of lovefeasts; and being anxious to attend one to be holden in the Pendleton old Barn, he obtained admission by means of a borrowed ticket. But the words in John x. i. “He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber” gave him much thought. His conscience awoke and whispered, “I am that thief, I am that robber, and have entered into the sheepfold some other way. I have deceived the door-keeper by another’s ticket. I have entered here as a member of this church, but have neither part nor lot amongst them. I am taken by them to be a follower of the Lord Jesus; but I have not given my heart to him,” &c. Often did he say within himself, “Oh! that I had not come!”
His sorrow in this respect was great, and his repentance deep. But the Lord had compassion on him; and his attention began to be taken up with hearing one and another speak of the goodness of God, the manner in which he was first pleased to reveal himself to their souls, and give them the evidence of his pardoning love, the difficulties through which he had brought them, and the bright prospect they still had in his mercy. On hearing these things the burden of his sins began to appear more heavy, his restlessness increased, his heart was moved, the great importance of his situation was strongly impressed on his mind, and he left the place with a full determination never to rest until he had obtained a full sense of the pardoning love of God.
From this time a manifest change took place in his deportment. He wept and prayed, and wrestled again and again at the throne of grace, until God was pleased to reveal himself to him, as a God of mercy, pardoning iniquity, transgression, and sin; by faith he received the Lord Jesus Christ, and obtained a clear sense of pardon and adoption. His heart, before dark and sorrowful, was filled with light and joy; and with a peace, to which he was before a stranger, he gave expression to his feelings in a flood of tears, and a shout of praise. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!”
Among his papers we meet with the following in his own hand writing:-
“It is my happiness to live under the smile of heaven. Where the presence of God is felt, there must be joy. The secret of the Lord is with those that fear him; and bless his adorable name, he has let me into this secret; and O how this secret expands the soul! When God first made this known to me, O what a change it wrought in my heart! — Tears began to flow down my cheeks, — that I who had be en a rebel, had now a hope of heaven. It told me something about Jesus, which I had never known before. O how sweet was his name to me! It was as precious ointment poured forth!
“Jesus all the day long,
Was my joy and my song.”
“When I saw the hole of the pit out of which I was dug, and the mire and clay out of which I was brought, O how my soul was drawn out to love the Lord; and I feel something of that love today. I would not part with this secret for all the world. It gives me to know that my name is written in heaven. It helps me through the difficulties of life. It has often sweetened the bitter cup.”
On another occasion he wrote as follows:-
“O my soul, thou art immortal, and must run parallel with eternity! Thou must dwell a small space of time in this fleshly body, and then depart to reign with Christ, and the glorified in heaven, or lament thy deplorable situation in the black regions of despair, with the damned in torment, and that for ever. And this depends upon thy choice and conduct while in this vale of tears. Life and death are set before thee, therefore choose life and heaven.
“But remember thou wilt meet with much opposition, both from the world, the flesh, and the devil; and consequently, thou wilt need every assistance that is calculated to preserve, instruct, encourage, and strengthen thee in thy pilgrimage; and therefore we will set thee down a few rules for thee to observe, and, by the blessing of God, to attend to; and
“I. That thou rise in a morning one hour before thy temporal concerns call for thee, in order for holy devotion, that thou mayest be the better prepared to enter into the world of anxiety and care.
“II. When thou goest into the world, beware of the enemy; use much mental prayer; set a strong guard over thy eyes, thy thoughts, and actions; that thou mayest keep thy heart with all diligence.
“III. That thou give not a loose ear to foolish vain reports, nor frothy conversation; but that thy conversation be as becometh the gospel, and tend to edifying.
“IV. That thou endeavour to do good to the souls and bodies of thy fellow mortals, while sojourning here below.
“V. That thy dress and behaviour be such as becometh the character of a Christian.
“VI. That thou misimprove no time in the evening; for if thou hast any leisure time, be instructing thyself in the important doctrines of salvation, or employed in some other godly exercise.
“VII. That before thou layest down to rest, thou examine thyself by these rules, and see whether the exercises of the day have corresponded with them; and if, through the infirmity .of the flesh, thou hast come short, then implore thy Saviour’s forgiveness, and ask a larger measure of his grace, that thou mayest be the better prepared to attend to them in future.
“These RULES, God being my helper, I purpose to observe.
“Signed the 14th day of July 1811. Ralph Waller.”
In the year 1815, he was appointed to the office of class leader, in which he laboured with great humility, and much spiritual profit, both to himself and the people committed to his care.
In the year 1818, he entered into the marriage state; and found in his partner in life a help meet for him, a companion every way suitable. It may truly be said that Mr. and Mrs. Waller lived in a bond of the purest affection, and proved helpers to each other in the way to the kingdom. The strongest confidence existed between them; and without hesitation they were able to communicate to each other their pains and pleasures, their joys and sorrows. Often has it been remarked how comfortable and happy Mr. and Mrs. Waller live together; what a happy scene does their house present. Happy would it be if all houses presented similar scenes.
In the year 1820, through some society occurrences, he and some others were induced to leave the Wesleyans. And he shortly after united with the P. Methodists. He then resided at Manchester; and one of his motives for joining the P. Methodists was, they were comparatively an infant church; and be thought they stood in need of his support, both officially and in the pecuniary sense; and therefore he unhesitatingly gave them his name. (And he was truly a father among the people.)
Two or three years after this, he and his brothers removed ‘their establishment from Manchester to Mellor, or Mellor Moor End, in Derbyshire; to which place, he, of course removed with his family. Their commercial business was weighty and extensive: but his zeal for religion grew in the midst of it, and even increased.
At this place the P. Methodists had a small society connected with the New Mills circuit; and he was soon instrumental in the hands of God of giving greater stability to the society, and in erecting a neat and commodious chapel.
He became responsible as a trustee for four P. M. chapels; and his house was ever open to the preachers either local or itinerant.
One trait in our highly respected brother’s character was humility; for although he never shrunk from any great public duty, yet he was always of a retiring disposition; and was little in his own eyes, but greatly beloved in the circuit; and his wise and judicious counsels were sought after and highly esteemed. Scarcely any thing of weight could occur in the circuit, but his advice and opinion were solicited; so that while he was willing to occupy the lowest office, he was called by his brethren to fill the higher offices; he was a leader and member of the Circuit committee; and in the year 1827, he was elected a member of the Primitive Methodist Conference held at Manchester. And so highly was he respected, that when the Primitive Methodist Connexion was settled by a Deed Poll enrolled in the Chancery, his name was enrolled in the Deed Poll, as one of the permanent members of the annual conference.
He had much affliction; and for several years before his death, as his debilitated state of body prevented him from travelling, and as the March quarterly meeting being next before Conference, was the most important, it was judged expedient to hold it at his house, in order to have the benefit of his prudent counsels.
But in the midst of all the respect that was paid him, he still held humbling views of himself; and on one occasion, he writes, “Lord, employ me where thou wilt, and as thou wilt, only let me be thy servant. Let me be the eye or the hand, only let me be thine.”
Though it was in the order of providence that he should move in the higher walks of life, yet he would converse in a free and open manner with the poorest members of society; and would acknowledge any brother, however mean or low in temporal circumstances, or whatever society he belonged to.
When sitting under the word, he never evinced a critical disposition, but maintained there was much good in all; and that it was wrong to gather chaff when there was much good grain.
Patience shone among his virtues. Amidst all his trials, which were both great and varied, he appeared seldom moved. He took them as they came, and bore them without complaint.
During his long affliction, the severity of which, was known only to himself, and God, he was never heard to murmur or complain. It is true, he was sometimes led to wonder how it was, that some, while passing through this probationary state, enjoyed almost uninterrupted health, while others were the subjects of continual affliction. But all such reflections ended in a calm and patient submission to the Divine will, saying, “The Lord knows best what will suit each of his people. He is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind. He sometimes moves in the deep waters; and where I cannot trace him I will trust him. In the midst of all my afflictions I feel he makes my soul happy. My lot is better than many, and better than I deserve. The Lord has been good to me and I will praise him. He has brought my soul out of the horrible pit, and established my goings.”
He experienced joy in the Lord. Frequently when assembled with the people of the Lord, he would shout the praise of God in the highest strains. Also the consideration of what God had done for him was a source of consolation. He writes, “I consider myself highly favoured of heaven, that ever the Almighty condescended to snatch me as a brand from the burning. I was wandering on the dark mountains, walking in sin, till a ray of heavenly light was diffused into my dark and benighted mind, which gave me to see what a sinful, hell-deserving creature I was; and, by the hand of mercy, I was brought to a crucified Saviour. That was a happy hour for me. My Lord took me in, and wiped away my sorrows and my sin. O what a heaven springs up in my heart! A sweet foretaste of that glory which departed saints and the heavenly hosts continually enjoy before the throne.”
Again he writes, “I have been thinking how many since that blessed hour,” (the time of his conversion,) “who walked with me part of the way, in my pilgrimage, have backslidden from God, and left the good way. Some of these have been hurried into eternity. Oh! what has been their fate? I leave it with the Almighty, who will judge righteously. And some remain still in the world, far from happiness and God. But O what a goodly company have got safe landed! Some of my relations; many of my Christian friends, among whom are three of my class leaders, holy men of God. These, I believe have all entered triumphant portals of our Father’s house. And when I look how far he has brought me on my journey thither, my soul does indeed praise him. I feel I am his to-day: his love is in my heart, and I can say:-
“I languish and sigh to be there,
Where Jesus hath fixed his abode:
And there I shall stand
With my harp in my hand,
Interrupted no more,
But steadily sing,
And rejoice in my King,
Whom saints and angels adore.”
“Blessed place where saints and angels join to adore our redeeming Lord.”
On another occasion he writes, “When the heart is influenced by the Spirit or grace of God, what religious feelings! what heart-stirring joys it inspires! Well might the Psalmist cry out, “They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house, and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasure.” And perhaps the joys of the sanctuary exceed the joys of the angels. However, I feel something of it, as the poet sweetly sings:-
“The soul’s calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy,
Which nothing earthly gives, or can destroy.”
For sometime previous to his death, he appeared perfectly sensible of his approaching dissolution, and fully resigned to the will of his Heavenly Father. But on some occasions was heard to regret his not being able to praise God so lustily as formerly ; but his confidence continued strong, he felt an unwavering repose in God. His piety was like a deep river, running silently along. The fear of death was taken away, and his will appeared lost in the will of his Heavenly Father; and he could, with perfect confidence, commit his family and all his concerns into the hands of Him who had so long been his keeper, and who had promised to be “A Father to the fatherless, and a husband to the widow.”
On being apprized, by his medical attendant, of the near approach of his dissolution, he expressed a desire to see his second son, then at Fairfield school. He was immediately sent for; and on his arrival, was seriously addressed by his affectionate father, as he had addressed the rest of his children. And now his work seemed done. His children having received the dying charge of their loving father, he was enabled, with confidence, to leave them in the care of the all-wise God, who hath said, “He careth for them.” His mind seemed at perfect rest, calmly waiting for his release from this world of affliction and trouble, to join the innumerable company, who had gone before, in singing with nobler and happier strains, the glories of his redeeming Lord.
Having to preach the annual sermons at Mellor, I arrived at Mr. Waller’s, April 1, 1837, and found him much afflicted in body. But he said, “I feel I am HIS,” namely, the Lord’s, “I have no doubt of my acceptance with God. I do not experience such rapturous feelings as I have done before time; but enjoy a calm and settled peace.”
On Sunday, being a little better, he conversed more freely, and expressed himself fully satisfied, whatever might be the event.
On Monday morning while at prayer, his whole soul appeared to be lost in God. In taking leave of him and the dear family, he said, “Well, if we meet no more on earth, I trust we shall meet in our Father’s house to part no more.”
His eldest nephew, during the two or three last weeks of his life, frequently visited him, and always found him in a happy and composed frame of mind, his only desire, as he expressed it, being to praise the Lord more lustily. He said, “I cannot praise him so lustily as I could wish.”
On one occasion he said, “Your Uncle’s life has now for a long time been a life of suffering.” “Yes,” replied the nephew, “but heaven will recompense for all”
On another occasion, speaking of the sudden and dangerous illness of one of the neighbours, his uncle asked, “Will he die before me?” This he asked as though he had a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. The answer was, “Yes, he will.” And Mr. Waller immediately appeared to breathe a spirit of resignation, which said, “Thy will be done.”
The morning previous to his death, he said the devil had been tempting him to doubt. His nephew repeated some of the promises of God, applicable to his case. On which he expressed a confidence in the promises of God, and praised him for his blessings.
On the following morning, about two o’clock, he rose in bed, and asked for a little water; and, without a struggle or groan, expired. So soon as his death was announced, the neighbourhood was moved.
His funeral was appointed to be on Friday, June 16, 1837. And such was the strong anxiety of nearly all employed in the factory to testify their respect to their departed master, that they sent a deputation to wait upon his widow, Mrs. R. Waller, to obtain permission for them to walk in a body after the corpse, to the place of interment; and be allowed thus to manifest their strong affection and esteem for one in whom they had ever found a kind master and faithful friend.
On the day appointed for the funeral, the friends assembled; and after dinner, the members of his class, and as many of the friends as could conveniently stand in the hall where the corpse was laid, attempted to sing hymn 53, large book:-
“Hark a voice divides the sky!
Happy are the faithful dead!” &c.
But their voices faltered; and at length their sorrows broke out in tears. And in the room above was heard the widow and her female children, giving vent to all the tender feelings of nature, with loud sobs and flowing tears. — The intensity of feeling was heightened by the language of the youngest child, a girl three years of age; who, addressing the mother in a tone of anxiety and distress, exclaimed, “My father! — They shant take away my father! — They shant take away! — Oh! my poor father!” The dear mother’s heart appeared ready to burst — All within hearing seemed to feel the effect: such a flow of feeling ensued as is seldom witnessed. — The singing was discontinued, it not being possible to proceed. They all kneeled down, and Brother Charlton, superintendant preacher, offered up to Almighty God an affecting and solemn prayer. After this the coffin was put into the herse [sic], and all moved in slow and solemn procession to the grave, around which, several hundreds were assembled to witness the interment; and see the minister commit his mortal remains to the earth, in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection to eternal life.
Thus finished the course of one who feared God above many; leaving behind him, on the tempestuous ocean of time, a widow and seven children, to lament the loss of an affectionate husband, and a pious and tender father.
On Sunday evening, July 16,1837, by request, this visitation of Divine Providence was improved by Brother Thomas Charlton, from Rev. xiv. 13, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” &c., to an overflowing, and deeply affected congregation. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Ralph Knowles Waller
(Approved by the Quarter day Board, March 19,1838.)
Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1838. Pages 330-336.