Butterwick, Samuel George (1808-1859)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by William Lister

Mr. SAMUEL GEORGE BUTTERWICK. Divine inspiration has pronounced the memory of the just to be blessed. Held as they are in everlasting remembrance before God, they ought not to be forgotten by old associates, who still sojourn on earth. Hence it is necessary, not only in conformity with general custom, but in accordance with the agency which God employs for the instruction and edification of His people, to perpetuate the memory of His righteous servants by a record of their conflicts and conquests. Such record is calculated to incite us to follow those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises”

The subject of the following brief memoir was one of those whose character presents such an example, and hence is worthy of being rescued from oblivion. He was born at Shrewsbury, May 7th, 1808. The birth of a child is a common occurrence; but what the child born may become, is left for time and circumstances to develop. Early religious training is often closely associated with a useful development. Our departed friend and brother has not left a line behind him descriptive of his youthful days, nor indeed anything referring either to his religious experience, or labours in the Church, He had intended to prepare a brief account of the dealings of the Lord with him, for the edification of his family, when he found his strength declining, but writing being a heavy tax on his energies, he kept putting off until it was too late. We are not in a position to say what were the religious principles of his parents, or what place of worship they attended, and consequently cannot say what was the parental training which he received on the great subject of religion, only this, that his morals were carefully watched over, and that he was graciously preserved from flagrant wickedness, and the contaminating influence of bad example.

When he was but a boy, his parents, with the family, removed to Newcastle-on-Tyne, where he was apprenticed to work at the flax business. His hours of labour were long; yet having acquired a taste for reading, he sought to cultivate it: by treasuring up the spare minutes he possessed.

It was in the latter part of the year 1822, that the Primitive Methodist missionaries found their way to the north of England, and in the suburbs of the great town of Newcastle they frequently held their religious services in the open air. Young Samuel, with his brother Thomas (who after being a travelling preacher upwards of twenty years in the Connexion, left this country for the United States of America, where he still continues in the ministry) and several other youths, were attracted, and felt interested in the singing. He was soon deeply convinced of his lost state as a rebel against “the throne and monarchy of God;” and shortly after was enabled to embrace the atonement, for human transgression, in the blood of our blessed Lord and Saviour, and was sealed by the Holy Spirit as an heir of eternal glory.

It is a happy day for a young man when he fixes his choice on the God of his life as the God of his salvation. This step can only be taken by the help of the Holy Spirit; He is the Author of the work, the immediate result of which is peace with God, and the final issue, eternal happiness. Faith in Jesus, as “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” is its distinguishing principle; a faith which humbly and thankfully accepts pardon, as offered in the Gospel to the penitent sinner. This is that salvation by faith, which is revealed in the New Testament, which our Protestant Reformers proclaimed, and which Mr. Clowes and his coadjutors so boldly and successfully enforced on the banks of the Tyne, to the conversion of hundreds of sinners. This precious faith and great salvation our young brother had now received, and, like the converted eunuch of old, “went on his way rejoicing.”

He, without hesitation, united himself to the society, and very soon gave proofs of gifts and grace, which he was called to exercise for the benefit of his fellowmen. It was not likely that these were to be overlooked, for at that time the fields were white unto harvest, and labourers were much needed; hence, being appointed by his quarterly meeting, and urged onward by his leader, he went forth to lend a helping hand in gathering souls to Christ. His first attempt at public speaking was made with much fear and trembling, but by prayer and steady perseverance he succeeded, so as in a short time to stand on the plan among the approved local preachers. In the discharge of his duties he rose in the esteem of his brethren, so that the opinion became pretty general among the officials that he ought to enter fully on the ministerial office. Of that he had some thoughts himself, but his entering into the marriage state prevented it for awhile. Though the union which he had formed was likely to be a happy one, it was in the providence of God destined to be but short. Many a fine sunny morning is followed by dark clouds and showers of rain ere mid-day Before many months had elapsed he was called to pass through the heavy trial of following the wife of his youth to her last resting-place on earth; this trial he bore with much meekness and resignation. 

Being again single, and his native circuit wanting a preacher, all eyes were turned towards him. The quarterly meeting gave him a call, to which he responded, and entered on his labours in November, 1837. At the Midsummer following he was stationed to Berwick-on-Tweed. He laboured with considerable acceptance in that station and the following: Pately Bridge, Thirsk, Middleham, Kendal, Barnard Castle, Northallerton, Alston, Sunderland, Wolsingham, and Guisbro’.

His health began to fail when in the Wolsingham Circuit. We will here give a copy of a letter which he sent to our last district meeting, asking to be placed on the superannuated list of preachers, as it will show the yielding of his bodily strength, and the state of his mind under it.

“Dear BRETHREN IN THE LORD,—Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I feel it my painful duty to inform you that I am now, and have been for some months, incapacitated for the discharge of my ministerial duties, through chronic asthma, and very general debility. I was first laid aside in 1854, but for more than a year I had felt my health gradually declining, and symptoms of asthmatic affection. At that time it became fixed, and to the present has never relaxed its hold. In the good providence of God my general health so far improved, that after the lapse of eight months I was enabled to resume my labours, and by the kindness of the brethren, together with the facilities afforded by rail, to continue until my removal to this station in 1856. Here, in consideration of my inability to perform long journeys, the friends kindly provided me a good ass to ride on, by means of which I was enabled to take the most of my work until December, 1857, when I was again under the necessity of relinquishing it, and have been off work ever since. There are times when my health is much better than at others, but I do not attain strength requisite to sustain me through a single service. I have been on the Relief Fund since January, 1858, and am as unlikely to take my work as ever, for my breathing is so bad that the least exertion oversets me. After so long a trial I cannot hope to take another station, and the only course is, to desire you to recommend the Conference to superannuate me. My situation I feel to be both mysterious and trying, but I have seen so much of the goodness and faithfulness of God throughout my protracted affliction, that I cannot but hope and trust, that notwithstanding my unworthiness, He will not forsake me now in this season of helplessness. Permit me here to express my gratitude to God for the manifold mercies which I have received while passing under the rod, and for the patience exercised by the brethren amongst whom I have laboured, by which my path has been greatly smoothed. I have travelled twenty-one years, and now leave my case with you, praying that God may direct you aright in this and every other matter, for Christ’s sake.
“I am, dear Brethren, yours affectionately,
“SAMUEL GEORGE BUTTERWICK.”

“Everything is beautiful in its season,” is the sure maxim of the wise man. The controversy on the comparative claims of the active and contemplative life, we leave for the mystics. The Gospel law enjoins both. While we are to wait on God, and mount up with wings as eagles, we are also to run and not be weary. Both are cherished by those who follow Christ, and in this the servant is as his Lord.

“Between the mount and multitude,
His days were spent in doing good,
His nights in praise and prayer,”

There is no controversy on the necessity and obligation laid on Christians to cultivate the passive graces which belong to their state of earthly suffering. “Man is born to trouble;” religion does not engage to give exemption—it does support under, to bring us safe out of, but not to keep us from trials. The way of suffering is the consecrated pathway to the throne—

“Where sorrow and sighing, pain and death,
Are felt and feared no more.”

Jesus is our pattern as well as sacrifice. The saints are, like the King of saints, to be “made perfect through suffering.”

It is consoling to find the mind of our departed brother so calm and resigned, while doffing his ministerial armour; and to see how in him tribulation worked patience, while he with much submission bowed to the will of God, kissing the rod, and blessing the hand that appointed it.

He made but one more effort in the pulpit. Having an appointment at Guisbro’, in the month of October last, he was very anxious to take it. He prefaced his sermon by a reference to the death of the Rev. J.A. James, of Birmingham, who had left earth for heaven a little while before, then read for his text the same as that from which that great man preached his last sermon. It was an affecting season, it being evident that he spoke under great weakness, and that it was likely his last effort. He continued about as he had been for several months, until within a few days before his death. A strong frost having set in, the cold took hold of him, so that he was obliged to keep his room, and for the most part his bed. The struggle was short, but divine help was there. The former part of the night before his summons came, several friends being in the room, he expressed a desire to engage once more in social prayer. All knelt, Mr. B. Wild prayed, after which our departed brother offered, says Mr. Wild, one of the most remarkable prayers I ever heard, for simplicity, pointedness, earnestness, and strong confidence in God. He pleaded the promises with unusual power. He first prayed for himself, that he might have grace to suffer with patience and resignation the will of his heavenly Father; then for his wife and children, that God would take care of them, and preserve them from the evils in the world, that He would open their way in temporal matters, and especially that He would pardon their sins and save their souls; he pleaded the promise, “Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive,” with great sympathy and power; he then prayed for the prosperity of the branch, beginning with the travelling preacher, that he might possess deep piety, strong faith in God, clear views of the Bible, and success in the conversion of souls,—then for the local preachers and leaders, that they might be fully qualified for, and efficiently discharge their duties,—then for the members with great emphasis four or five times over, and concluded for the general prosperity of the kingdom of Christ in the world. While he prayed the room was filled with the glory of God; every heart was melted, and every eye was suffused with tears, while all were amazed at the measure of strength he put forth. During the night he repeated the whole of his favourite hymn, beginning with—

“Now I have found the ground wherein,” &e.

His sufferings were very severe, but never a murmur escaped his lips. Towards morning he expressed a wish to be up; being assisted to his chair, he glanced around the room, fixed his eye on the ceiling, and without a groan or sigh passed away from this scene of conflict, December 14th, 1859, leaving behind a widow and six children, the eldest of whom is but twelve years and a half old. May his last prayer be answered. May his mourning family, and those among whom he had gone sowing the seed of the kingdom, never forget the blessing wherewith the man of God blessed them on departing, and may all be finally gathered with him into the garner above.

His remains rest in the burial ground at Guisbro’.

On his character and ministry we may notice a few traits, though necessarily brief. In whatever light we contemplate him we shall find, amidst infirmities common to all, many excellencies, the effects of divine grace, which excite our respect and admiration. As a man he was naturally of a mild, retiring disposition, a circumstance which stamped a higher value on his firmness to truth, to rule, and order, and prevented anything like bitterness arising when that firmness was needed. He possessed a sound mind, a warm affectionate heart, a tender conscience, yet not scrupulous, and a spirit devout and ardent, yet not extravagant. His was not a noisy religion. There was a gravity in his deportment which kept frivolity at bay, on the one hand, yet did not give birth to anything that was gloomy or forbidding on the other,—a candour which enabled him to avoid all severe judgment, a patience which was specially exemplified under protracted affliction, while he was never without a grateful sense of the mercies and favours by which he was surrounded. He was not a man of brilliant conceptions, neither did he possess great command of language, nor was he quick in the exercise of his intellectual powers; he perceived things slowly, clearly, and correctly; he had more judgment than imagination, and was more remarkable for strength than acuteness; he was a man to be depended on, not only for veracity, but solidity; he was always calm, always recollected, and this led to a harmony and evenness in his movements which spoke not only the man of judgment, but the man of decision and piety. There was nothing of flash, show, or noisy dash, and yet no want of attention to duty, when health permitted; he did his work, and hence was of good report in all his stations.

He well understood, and dearly loved the system of theology, as held and taught by Methodists. He felt the power of those truths on his own heart, and was convinced that a faithful exhibition of them to the minds and consciences of others was essential to ministerial success; hence he generally bore the character of a sound, faithful preacher. He was not without success in the great work; many were edified, encouraged, built up, and comforted, among those who were committed to his care.

We have not intimated that our departed brother was perfect—that belongs to God, and not to us in this state of being; but if not perfect he was a sincere and faithful servant of God—by grace he was what he was. Ministers die—their work is done. The word of the Lord abideth for ever; the Gospel never dies. “The Lord liveth for ever, and blessed be our Rock, and let the God of our salvation be exalted.” “And I heard a voice from heaven say, Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth, yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours, and their works do follow them.”

Family

Samuel was born on 7 May 1808 at Shrewsbury, Shropshire, to parents George and Elizabeth. he was baptised on 2 April 1809 at St Mary, Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

He married Mary Doughty (1808-1837) on 24 March 1834 at newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland.

He married Hannah Morley (1820-1862) in the spring of 1844 at  Harrogate, Yorkshire. Census returns and birth records identify six children.

  • Ann Mary (b1847)
  • Esther (1849-1934) – a servant (1871); married William Hopkinson, a plate layer, in 1881
  • Frances (b1851) – a servant (1871); married William Jackson, an agricultural labourer, in 1873
  • Robert M (1853-1939) – a painter (1881)
  • Hannah (1856-1864)
  • Jane (1858-1860)

Samuel died on 13 December 1859 at Guisborough, Yorkshire.

After the death of Samuel, Hannah married George Butterwick  in early 1861 in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Circuits

  • 1838 Berwick
  • 1840 Pateley Bridge
  • 1841 Ripon
  • 1842 Middleham
  • 1844 Barnard Castle
  • 1846 Brompton
  • 1848 Alston
  • 1850 Sunderland
  • 1852 Wolsingham
  • 1856 Guisborough

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1860/196

PM Minutes 1860/8

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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