Brown, John Thomas (1850-1874)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by F Rudd

“Yet have I known it long,
Too restless and too strong,
Within this clay, hath been the o‘er mastering flame;
Swift thoughts that came and went,
Like torrents o’er me sent,
Have shaken, as a reed, this thrilling frame.”

JOHN THOMAS BROWN was born at Boston on the 29th of December, 1850. His parents were not in circumstances of affluence, but were honest, industrious persons, ordering their household in the fear of God. It is said of the mother of the late Dr. Jabez Bunting, that “in a season of deep sorrow she visited a chapel near her residence in the hope of obtaining some consolation; and that while seated in the sacred edifice she was so powerfully impressed with a sense of the goodness of God, that she resolved to dedicate her forthcoming child, should it prove a male, to his service, as a minister of His gospel. Being soon after this favoured with a son she called her vows to remembrance, and it became her anxious care to guide his young feet in the way of truth.” We have heard the mother of the subject of his sketch say that even before he was born she gave him to the Lord, and at his birth, like the honoured mother of Bunting, resolved that if God would accept her offering he should be a preacher of the gospel. On her devolved chiefly the training of the children; she carefully and with maternal anxiety watched over his childhood and youth, often taking him aside that she might pray with him and instruct him in the verities of our holy religion. From early youth he evinced a strong attachment to the Primitive Methodist section of the Christian church, and when scarcely thirteen years of age he gave his heart to God one Sabbath evening, after a sermon preached by the writer of this sketch. 

Brother I. C. Jackson, an intelligent leader and local preacher, invited him to his class and took great pains with him, and whose kindness and instructions were gratefully remembered and appreciated by Brother Brown as long as he lived. Brother Jackson, referring to this period, writes:- “For three years he was a member of my class and a pupil in the day school of which I had charge in connection with Spring Gardens Chapel. I had, therefore, a favourable opportunity of becoming intimately acquainted with both his excellencies and defects, and I did not fail to encourage the former and to nip the latter while yet in the bud.” 

In early life he began to have serious thoughts of preaching Christ and the resurrection, and very frequently he would devote his evenings, until a late hour, in writing short essays on various subjects, sermons, &c., and though the pen of his preceptor was often drawn across whole lines of his MSS., yet he would courageously begin to revise and re-write with a diligence and perseverance rarely to be found in one so young. In process of time efforts were made by his friends to bring his talents into exercise as a preacher; he therefore received an official note authorizing him to accompany an experienced lay preacher to his appointments who permitted him to improve the gift within him. – He soon proved himself a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” In due time his name appeared on the Doncaster Circuit Plan and most zealously did he devote himself to the work allotted him. 

His pulpit ministrations giving great satisfaction, he was recommended by the quarterly meeting of his circuit as a suitable person for the regular ministry. He accordingly spent a year at the Sunderland Theological Institute. His own views of the work on which he was now entering we will give in his own words from a letter written to his mother on his twentieth birthday; he writes:- “I shall never forget the year 1863, on the 22nd of November when T.B. and I gave our hearts to the Lord in Spring Gardens school-room, Doncaster. Since then great changes have taken place. I am now working for my God – continually about my Father’s business. I may say I am very happy in the work: it is the work I love – the work of my choice, and the work heaven has called me to: my great desire is – more than ever – to live and labour for his glory. I feel an increasing desire to do more for God – to consecrate my all as a living sacrifice to him. I feel that my responsibilities as a minister are great, may the Lord help me to act worthy of the vocation to which I am called.’ Remember me ever, dear mother, in your prayers.” 

A young man, entering the ministry with such views of its responsibilities and with a zeal so ardent as the preceding extract evinces, could not fail to be acceptable and useful in the circuits to which he was appointed subsequently to labour. His first station to which he was appointed was Croydon, or London sixth circuit. There he laboured successfully for one year and a half, and left many friends, when by the conference of 1871 he was removed to Northampton where for two years he was in “labours more abundant” and saw much fruit. He was invited to remain a third year and accepted the invitation, but the Conference of 1873 saw fit to remove him to the Leighton Buzzard circuit. Though disappointed in not being allowed to remain at Northampton, he nevertheless willingly acquiesced in the appointment. I find the following entry in his journal, – “I am stationed by the Conference for Leighton Buzzard. In reference to my appointment I feel that

I would not choose my work;
The field is thine, my Father and my Guide.
Send thou me forth; oh send me where thou wilt,
So thou be glorified !”

He was not permitted to labour long in his new station, for towards the end of September 1873 he was stricken with fever. He came home to his mother’s. He soon rallied, and being anxious about his work, he returned sooner than he should have done. But with his characteristic ardour he engaged in study, preaching, visiting, &c., until he was completely exhausted and was compelled again to give up the work he so dearly loved. He came again to his mother’s; medical advice and attention were secured; but disease refused to succumb. He rapidly grew weaker; delirium surprevened, and it was seldom he recognized his attendants. In one of my visits he recognised me and held out his wasted hands to greet me. I spoke to him of Jesus; he sweetly smiled, though too weak to articulate. Bro. Jackson says, “I visited him the sabbath evening before he died; as soon as he recognized me he shouted at the top of his voice, ‘My Father! my honoured Father! Glory! Glory! We have often sung and prayed and preached together on earth, but oh! how much more perfectly shall we perform our work of praise when we meet in heaven. Glory!’ He was fully prepared for the great change which awaited him. He never spoke much afterwards, but soon passed away to the “Paradise of God.” On Saturday morning March 14, 1878, he entered into that “rest that remaineth to the people of God.”

The Rev. J. Ashworth says, “The Rev. J.T. Brown came to travel with me at Croydon, London sixth circuit. This was his first station after leaving the Theological Institution; a day or two before he came he had been called to bear the great trial of following his dear father to the grave, but to this trying bereavement he bowed with great Christian resignation. Being so very young, and the friends knowing that he had come to them from the very grave-side of his earthly father, they received him with great affection and strove to make him comfortable. In this circuit he laboured with great acceptance for a year and a half and his labours were not in vain in the Lord. He was very much at home in the prayer meetings; he seemed to possess an aptitude for discovering those who were under good impressions, taking them by the hand and leading them to Christ. In ministerial family visiting he was very diligent and useful; indeed he was an excellent colleague, ready to assist in every department of Christian work. From Croydon he removed to Northampton (my present station). Since l came here, I have often heard him spoken of with great esteem. During the time of his travelling here with the Rev. S.J. Wallis, the Northampton new chapel was built. In this work he rendered very valuable assistance to his superintendent. Since I came I have heard some of the most influential gentlemen of the town (to whom he appealed for help) speak of his zeal, perseverance and Christian deportment in the most commendatory terms; indeed the report of his death was received by many persons of other Christian denominations as well as our own with very deep sorrow. In conclusion I may say that in my opinion his talents, piety, love for souls, and activity in every department of Christian labour were such, that, I could wish we had a hundred men like him to call into the work of our ministry.

The Rev. S.J. Wallis says, “I could say a great deal in praise of the gifts and graces of my dear departed colleague without being accused by those who knew him of burning the incense of flattery to the ashes of the dead. He had his failings, or he would not have been mortal, but these were lost amid abounding excellencies as the scars of earth are hid beneath a robe of summer beauty. In a word I found him an earnest, laborious, kind and pious colleague, and our labouring together for two years at Northampton has left fragrant reminiscences which will linger for many a day. His pulpit gifts were at least equal, if not superior to those possessed by our ministers in general, and had he been spared to labour in the church of his choice, I have no doubt he would have been a great blessing to the Connexion. ”

The Rev. H. Doe says, “I was but slightly acquainted with Bro. Brown before he came to labour here last July, and being unwell most of the time he was with us, he did not appear in the best possible light; still he was well received and highly esteemed by the people; he was very zealous in the great work of winning souls to Christ. He was not a man of brilliant talents or of learning but better than these he was useful in saving souls; he was truly a man of God, and laboured even beyond his strength for the good of others. He was of a most nervous, excitable temperament, and over-anxiety respecting his fourth year’s examination and the future, hastened his death. He was a kind good colleague and we doubt not but he has already heard the Master say, ‘Well done.’ ”

The leading trait manifested in the ministerial life of Bro. Brown was intense earnestness; this characterized him in the study, in the pulpit, in the prayer meeting, in pastoral visiting, and in circuit business. He could do nothing half-heartedly. Had his constitution been strong enough to have borne the strain he put upon it, he would undoubtedly have been a most useful man to the Connexion. May his sorrowing mother and sisters meet him “before the Throne.”


John was born on 29 December 1850 at Boston, Lincolnshire, to parents Robert, a garden labourer, and Prudence.

John died on 14 March 1874 at Doncaster, Yorkshire. He was buried on 18 March 1874 in Hyde Park Cemetery, Doncaster.


  • 1870 London VI
  • 1871 Northampton
  • 1873 Leighton Buzzard


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1875/234

PM Minutes 1874/9

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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