Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by John Bell
‘Oh! that without a lingering groan
I may the welcome word receive;
My body with my charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live!’
has been the fond and devout aspiration of many an earnest labourer in the cause of Christ. Some have been so rewarded. They have been taken from self-sacrificing, exhausting toil, without an interval of pain or sorrow, to active, happy, joyful rest in the ‘Better Land.’
Our dear brother Brown, however, had not this experience. Much as he would have liked it, God saw best that it should be otherwise with him, and he never questioned the wisdom or the love of God, or murmured at the dispensations of His providence. For twenty-nine years he was separated from the regular work of the ministry, having been superannuated by the Conference of 1862. For some time he hoped that after needed rest he might resume that work. But the hope was vain. Damp beds had done their work too effectually for this, and destroyed a constitution otherwise robust and strong. He could, however, and did, for twelve or fourteen of those years serve the Connexion and the cause of Christ as occasional mission preacher, and on anniversary occasions, and many at such times led to Christ by him, or edified by his expositions of experimental and practical Christian truth, will be his crown of rejoicing in the day of the Lord.
But even these occasional efforts became impossible, and he had to exchange active for passive service. But He who gave him grace to do, gave him also grace to suffer and die as only a Christian can.
Reuben Brown was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, on the 23rd of May, 1815. His mother was a godly Methodist, a member of the Wesleyan church. Her piety had great influence on Reuben, and though he lost her when he was only seven years of age, he never shook off the influence of her prayers. He in advanced life spoke of her with deep emotion. At the age of twenty-one he was converted to Christ, became a new creature in Christ, and adopted the Primitive Methodist church as the church of his choice. He joined the society, loved the class meeting, and his earnestness soon caused him to be made a leader, and his name to be placed on the circuit plan as a local preacher. When twenty-four years of age he was recommended by his circuit for the regular ministry, accepted by the Conference of 1839, and stationed at Ramsor. His succeeding spheres of labour were Newcastle-under-Lyme (his native circuit), Wrockwardine Wood, Lisburn (Ireland, for the Oswestry circuit), Prees Green, Lichfield, Redditch, Oswestry, Weobley, Market Drayton, Prees Green (a second time), Bishop’s Castle, Leek and Cwm, where his health and strength failed, involving the necessity of superannuation.
Here he settled for eighteen years, and the welfare of the circuit lay near his heart. He was a willing helper when to help was at all in his power, and when strength failed he could quote the words of the great apostle, ‘To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not.’ His home now became largely a preachers’ home, in a wider sense, and much brotherly intercourse he enjoyed with his fellow-workers, now more active than himself, on their visits to the circuit. He loved the brotherhood and was loved by them.
Mr. Brown had married, early in his ministerial life, a member of his native circuit, who still lives to mourn her loss. One son and three daughters were also given and spared to him, as helpers and comforters in the years of his increasing weakness. The assured conversion of three of them, and their union with the church of his choice, gladdened their father’s heart, while the fourth, his only son, was the subject of his earnest counsels and believing prayers, still treasured up by the Hearer and Answerer of all true prayer.
In the year 1880 Mr. Brown with his family removed to Leeds. Since that time he was chiefly connected with the small church in Craven Road, in the Leeds Third circuit, until he was by his loving Master called up higher, even to the church triumphant.
Here I became acquainted with him, and living not far away enjoyed occasional opportunities of conversation and prayer with him. I found him to be a decided Christian. There was no doubt in his mind on the divinity of the Sacred Scriptures. ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ came to him with authority and meant all that it was clearly intended to mean. Those Scriptures with purpose of heart he received as the standards of truth, and the rules of duty.
The doctrine of Divine Providence, as taught in those Scriptures, often comforted his heart. He was in God’s hands, and therefore in safe keeping. He could not labour for those he loved, but he could trust God for them. He could not fill his place in the church, but he felt that it is ‘the church of God, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.’ The sanctity of the Christian Sabbath he held tenaciously, demanding its strict observance in his own home, setting the example in his own life. The atonement of Christ he held with appropriating faith. Christ, indeed, was his pattern, and he sought to copy that pattern; but Christ also was his God and Saviour, whom he loved, and by whose grace he was saved. His favourite hymn was:-
‘Now I have found the ground wherein
Sure my soul’s anchor may remain:
The wounds of Jesus, for my sin
Before the world’s foundation slain,
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When heaven and earth are fled away.’
The Rev. William Evans, now of Wednesbury, writing to one of Mr. Brown’s daughters since her father’s death, says, ‘It is a long time since I first saw your father. One Sunday afternoon about fifty years ago he came to my father’s house to tea. After tea he prayed for the conversion of my brother Samuel and myself. His petition, “Lord, convert the lads,” which he repeated some half-dozen times, I shall never forget. Ten years later I saw him again. At that meeting I was engaged as a hired local preacher, and in the July following he became my superintendent in the Prees Green circuit. We then formed a union that has only now been suspended by his death, but to be resumed again in our Father’s home above.’
In the early days of summer his weakness became increasingly manifest. He was first confined to his room, then to his couch, and early in July his medical man intimated that the end was very near.
The whole of July and August was a time of watchful anxiety for the family, but of peaceful trust for him. I once reminded him that I had called to see him on two previous occasions and found him asleep, and was glad he could sleep, but now I was glad to find him awake. ‘Yes,’ the said, ‘and better still, you find me in Christ.’ Another time I repeated to him the words:
‘Not a cloud doth arise
To darken the skies.’
To which he smilingly responded:
‘Or hide for a moment
My Lord from my eyes.’
And now he has gone to be with his dear Lord for ever.
Long as death had been looked for it seemed to come suddenly at last. At noon, on Friday, the 4th of September, 1891, he asked to be raised for a moment’s change, then lying down again he gently passed away, a sweet, quiet smile resting on the face that in life had often been distorted by pain.
Reuben was born on 23 May 1815 at Newcastle under Lyme, Staffordshire.
He married Ann Capper (b abt1821) in late 1843 at Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire. Census returns identify four children.
- Elizabeth (b abt1845) – married name Morgan; a school governess (1891)
- Abigail (1849-1923) – a book sewer (1891)
- Reuben Herbert (1855-1922) – a tailor (1891)
- Ann Capper (1857-1946) – a cashier (1891); married Sidney Keywood, a house furnisher, in 1900
Reuben died on 4 September 1891 at Leeds, Yorkshire. he was buried on 7 September 1891 at Beckett Street Cemetery, Leeds.
- 1837 Malton
- 1838 Hull
- 1839 Ramsor
- 1840 Wrockwardinewood
- 1841 Oswestry
- 1842 Market Drayton
- 1843 Prees
- 1845 Lichfield
- 1846 Birmingham
- 1847 Oswestry
- 1849 Leominister
- 1850 Weobley
- 1851 Market Drayton
- 1852 Prees Green
- 1855 Bishop’s Castle
- 1858 Leek
- 1860 Cwm
- 1865 Cwm (Sup)
- 1880 Keighley
- 1881 Leeds I
- 1883 Leeds III
Primitive Methodist Magazine 1892/628
PM Minutes 1892/16
W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990
Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers