Calvert, Thomas (1815-1881)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Arthur Beaven

Mr. Thomas Calvert was born in the neighbourhood of Skipton, Yorkshire, May 1, 1815, and exchanged mortality for life, at Hereford, on Thursday, November 24, 1881, having maintained an unbroken fellowship with the church of his choice for upwards of fifty years. Concerning the earlier years of his life little is known, except that when about thirteen years of age he sought and obtained the remission of sins, through faith in Christ, and at once identified himself with the Primitive Methodist Society. 

The reality of the blessed change he had experienced was fully borne out in his after life; and when only sixteen he commenced his labours as a local preacher, telling to others what a Saviour he himself had found. In 1834 he was called into the work of the regular ministry. His first circuit was Burnley, where, according to the Conference Minutes, he was pledged in 1835. He subsequently travelled on the following stations: Mansfield, Fulbeck, Bottesford, Cwm, Market Drayton, Much Wenlock, Darlaston, Kidderminster, and Rubery Branch of Birmingham Circuit. Here his health completely failed; his constitution, always delicate, was unequal to the severe strain imposed by the onerous and exhausting duties demanded of the early preachers and pioneers of the Connexion. Thus after fifteen years of faithful and successful ministerial service, he was reluctantly compelled to resign a work in which his soul delighted, and in which it was ever his joy to engage, as health and opportunity permitted. The last twenty-eight years of his life were spent in connection with the Hereford Circuit, where he was greatly esteemed and beloved. In all that related to the prosperity of the Church, he took a deep and constant interest. About twenty-three years ago, he commenced a class in his own house, and continued to the last its faithful and beloved leader.

For more than twenty years, he was superintendent of St. Owen’s-street Sunday-school. For this important department of Christian work, he was specially fitted. His deep and manifest interest in the young, his tender heart, his winning smile, his gentleness, combined with firmness and decision, endeared him to both teachers and scholars, and qualified him for the efficient and successful discharge of the duties of his office. His anxiety for the spiritual welfare of the young was often manifest in his preaching, frequently selecting subjects which had a special application to them; and whatever his subject was, he would generally find opportunity to address words of loving counsel and earnest entreaty to the youthful portion of his audience.

As a preacher, his abilities were above the average, and his pulpit services were much appreciated by our own and other communities. He was a workman that needed not to be ashamed; he had an intelligent acquaintance with Methodist theology, was a diligent student of the Holy Scriptures, and clung with vigorous tenacity to the cardinal truths of our holy religion. To those who rejoiced in the more benevolent and merciful aspects of truth, his ministry was specially grateful, for on such subjects as the love of God, the privileges and immunities of Christian citizenship, the prospects which animate, and the rewards promised to the believer, he greatly delighted to dwell. His last sermon was preached in Hereford new chapel, in the erection of which he had taken a deep interest; the text was quite characteristic, ‘Yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.’ Though broad and catholic in his sympathies, he was thoroughly loyal to his own church, and liberally supported its various institutions. 

He was a good business man, and being well acquainted with the polity and usages of the Connexion, and enjoying the confidence and esteem of his brethren, he was frequently chosen to represent his circuit in District Meetings. To the ministers of the Connexion he was a true friend: to share with them the hospitalities of his home, to smooth their path, and assist them in their work, was to him a joy indeed. Of the early preachers and early days of our Zion, he would frequently talk with evident enjoyment. Nothing could be more pleasant, at least to us, than to listen while he told us racy anecdotes, or related stirring and amusing incidents of the men and the times; or reminded us of the pulpit power, the mighty faith, and noble daring of such men as Bourne and Clowes, Flesher and Sanderson, Morton and Garner, with a host of others. And now he also has joined these friends of long ago, in that peaceful harbour,

‘Where all the ship’s company meet,
Who sailed with the Saviour below;’

while we are left to sigh for the touch of a ‘vanished hand, and the sound of a voice that is still.’

His religious experience was not of the demonstrative type. The grace of God that was in him manifested itself more in noble deeds than in rapturous expressions, in hallowed dispositions than in lofty pretensions. Not in the foaming cataract, with its whirl and noise, but in the calm flowing river, do we find the best emblem of his Christian life. Consistent and true in his relations with men, he was stedfast and immovable in his Christian course, holding fast the beginning of his confidence without wavering to the end. Letters of sympathy with the family in their deep sorrow and bereavement, have been received from a number of ministers and friends, all of whom unite in bearing testimony to the excellence and worth of the departed. 

The Rev. C.T. Harris, who had known him for the space of forty years, writes: ‘Through all the years of our acquaintance, I found him a true friend, a sincere Christian, a diligent and faithful worker; by his death the church has lost a valuable helper and liberal supporter, and now he is gone to his reward.’

The Rev. E. Ball, the present superintendent of the Hereford Circuit, says: ‘It has been my privilege, while superintendent of this station, to hear and witness the respect and esteem in which Mr. Calvert was held by all that knew him, and that could appreciate his worth. He was a good man; no one could listen to his prayers for himself and others, without coming to this conclusion. I shall not soon forget how beautifully and touchingly he prayed at the close of one of our Quarterly Meetings. He seemed to feel as though he would not be long for this world; and I remember very well that others noticed it as well as myself. But now he is gone and left us, his happy spirit. has mounted heavenward and Godward, his trials are ended, his labours done.

“His languishing head is at rest,
Its thinkings and achings are o’er.”

“Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” Much, however, as he was esteemed and respected by others, it was in the bosom of his own family, where he was best known, that he was most deeply loved. To them he was unspeakably precious. He was the light and joy of his home. In him there was nothing austere or morose; and except when bowed down by affliction, his conversation and society were most cheerful and enjoyable. Here, too, the light of his piety shone brightest, and the fragrance of his many virtues was most richly distilled. He was very fond of music and song, and often, especially on Sabbath evenings, after returning from the sanctuary, where all had been gladdened and blest, ‘the cheerful supper done,’ he would say, ‘Now, let us have a hymn;’ frequently starting the tune himself. A psalm or chapter from the Book Divine would follow, then—

‘Kneeling down to heaven’s Eternal King,
The saint, the father, and the husband prays;
That thus they all may meet in future days,
There ever bask in uncreated rays,
No more to sigh, or shed the bitter tear,
Together hymning their Creator’s praise,
In such society, yet still more dear
While circling time moves round in an eternal sphere.’ 

May his prayerful pleadings for the salvation of his family be fully answered, that at the coming of the Lord, they may meet an unbroken family in the land that ‘no enemy ever entered, and no friend ever left.’ The affliction (chronic bronchitis) which terminated his life, was protracted and painful; but he bore it with Christian fortitude and resignation. For some time prior to his decease, it was clear to those around him that the earthly house of his tabernacle was gradually, but surely, giving way. Still none of us thought we were to lose him so soon. Even a day or two before the last change came, the hope that he may yet rally was fondly indulged. Everything that tender affection could suggest, or loving care could do, was done, but of no avail. Towards the last he suffered much, and seemed too weak for utterance. His faithful and devoted wife,— who for thirty-eight years had been the sharer of his joys and sorrows, and who now so deeply mourns her loss—bending over him, repeated what was to him a favourite and oft-quoted verse : ‘In Thy presence is fulness of joy, at Thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.’ ‘Oh, yes! oh, yes! was the calm and confident reply. He now rapidly sank, and at about the time he generally retired to rest, the weary wheels of life stood still, and he entered the higher and eternal rest of the Father’s house.

Thus lived, and thus died, Thomas Calvert, whose name will long continue as ointment poured forth. To say that he had his weaknesses and defects, is simply to admit that he was human; but we can confidently say that we have rarely met with one in whom we saw more to admire, and so little to deplore, as in him. His life was one of moral beauty; and in harmony therewith, his death was peaceful and calm as a fading sunset. To us earth certainly seems poorer and more desolate without him: but heaven seems nearer, since he entered its fellowship and bliss. The funeral took place on Tuesday, November 29, After a brief but solemn service in St. Owen’s street Chapel, conducted by the Revs, E. Ball and T. Smith, in the presence of a large gathering of sorrowing friends, the funeral cortege wended its way to the Hereford Cemetery, where his mortal remains rest in peaceful solitude, until the resurrection of the just.

There were present the circuit ministers, Rev. C.T. Harris; and a large number of local preachers, office-bearers, and members of society, who testified their respect by following him to the grave. His funeral sermon was preached by Rev. E. Ball, on Sunday evening, December 4, to a very large and deeply interested audience. The service throughout was solemn and impressive, and at its close several precious souls professed faith in Christ.

Family

Thomas was born on 1 May 1815 near Skipton, Yorkshire.

After leaving the ministry Thomas became a cider merchant.

He married Sarah Watkins (abt1820-1888) in late 1843 at Hereford. Census returns identify seven children.

  • Thomas Watkins (abt1846-1919) – a bank manager (1901)
  • Sarah Ann (1850-1932) – married David Allen, a solicitor’s clerk (1881), in 1879
  • Elizabeth (1852-1901) – married Arthur Beaven, a PM minister, in 1876
  • Julia (b1854) – married Robert Roberts, a chemist & druggist (1901), in 1887
  • Louisa (1856-1900) – married George Haines, a road surveyor (1891), in 1883; emigrated to USA in 1899
  • Emily (b1858)
  • Alfred Ernest (1861-1932) – a PM minister

Thomas died on 24 November 1881 at Hereford.

Circuits

  • 1835 Burnley (6 mths)
  • 1835 Bolton (6 mths)
  • 1836 Mansfield
  • 1837 Fulbeck (6 mths)
  • 1837 Bottesford (18 mths)
  • 1839 Leicester
  • 1840 Cwm
  • 1842 Bromyard
  • 1843 Market Drayton
  • 1844 Prees
  • 1845 Much Wenlock
  • 1846 Darlaston
  • 1847 Kidderminster
  • 1848 Rudbury
  • 1849 retired ill to Hereford

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1884/50

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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