Foster, Robert (1800-1853)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by Robert Foster

Robert Foster, local preacher and class leader, Newcastle-upon-Tyne circuit. The subject of this sketch was born at Byker Bar, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in the year 1800. Little is known of his early history; but his parents were devoid of religion, and, as a consequence, their son was reared in ignorance of God and of the best interests of his soul. Like the majority of the youths with whom he associated, he minded only earthly things, although he never sank to the lower depths of sensuality. But the death of his mother, when he was only seventeen years of age, awakened him to reflection; he was invited to attend the preaching of God’s word by the Wesleyan Methodists, and was deeply convinced of sin. He began to seek the Lord, and happily found him, to the joy of his soul. In his diary, he writes: “Oh, the auspicious morn, when the Sun of Righteousness arose, with healing in his wings—when the moral night was chased away from my soul, and I beheld light in His light! Created anew in Christ Jesus, I felt as if in the suburbs of heaven; I had joy unspeakable, and full of glory.” 

But not having rightly estimated the number and force of his spiritual enemies, he became a prey to temptation and lost the ardour of his “first love.” It pleased God, however, to send the Primitive Methodists to the North of England; he listened to the announcement of the gospel, from the lips of J. Nelson, and his young heart was won to Christ. At once he entered into the spirit of the mission, and vowed, “this people shall be my people, and their God my God;” and in 1821 he united with the society. His love for the cause was evinced by his esteem for the services of the sanctuary. Although residing at a distance of five miles from the town, he left his home two or three nights in the week, to attend the ministrations of the word of God. In the year 1822 he became a local preacher, and in 1825 he was taken out as an itinerant preacher. After labouring in the town of Newcastle for a short time, he was stationed at Ripon, in Yorkshire. His continuance in the itinerancy was, however, but short; his constitution not being sufficient for its laborious work. He returned to Newcastle, identified himself as before with the society, and laboured to promote its interests.

The first cup of deep and pungent sorrow he was called to drink, was the death of his wife; but his loss was her gain, having left indubitable testimony that she had gone to be with Christ, which is far better. About a year afterwards he entered the marriage state a second time. From that period it may be said that he entered the arena of active life. Often was he called to battle with adverse circumstances; but these were met cheerfully with the spirit of a man and of a Christian. Never was he known to utter a murmuring word against the providence of God. Sent out by the Lord of the harvest, he laboured for the conversion of souls, and not a few will constitute the crown of his rejoicing in the day of the Lord Jesus. His path was like that of the morning light, shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day. He was beloved by every member of his family; in the church he enjoyed the respect and esteem of his brethren; and in the world, where he was known, his name was as ointment poured forth, yielding a fragrant perfume. Some weeks previous to his death, his family were impressed with his unusual buoyancy of spirit; though naturally of a cheerful, loving disposition, yet all were struck with the outgushings of that well-spring of joy and peace that dwelt within him.

The Sabbath previous to my dear father’s decease, I accompanied him to a camp-meeting held at Gateshead—he being appointed to take part in the services; and who that heard the words that fell from his lips can forget the earnestness, the affection, and the manifest humility that characterized his delivery of the message of mercy. Had it been made known to him that his days on earth were numbered, and that the next Sabbath would be spent amidst. the blood-washed throng in heaven, he could not have spoken in accents more thrilling or befitting a man standing on the margin of the invisible world. The night previous to his death he was at the preaching-service connected with the opening of the new Baptist chapel; and when he came home he, as usual, gave his family the outlines of the discourse. After family worship he went to rest; but the mortal shaft had already flown. At three in the morning he was seized with what was thought to be his usual complaint—diarrhoea, but which by his medical attendant was declared to be Asiatic cholera in its worst form.

Prostrated by deadly sickness, and suffering severely from cramp, there was no “convenient season” afforded of making his peace with God, if that had been delayed till now. For a few moments there was a suspension of his sufferings, and he was seen to be engaged in fervent supplication. As his hands were locked in those of his dear wife and mine, he was heard in feebleness to say, “For thy sake, Jesus, my Saviour, my Redeemer.” For some hours previous to his death he was scarcely able to articulate his requests; but when asked by his weeping wife if Christ was precious? he exclaimed vehemently, “Yes! yes!”

At three o’clock in the afternoon, after an illness of twelve hours, and at the age of fifty-two years, the silver cord was loosened, the weary wheels of life stood still, and the exulting spirit passed from the church militant to the church triumphant—in that land—

“Where seraphs gather immortality,
On life’s fair tree, fast by the throne of God;
Where golden joys ambrosial clustering grow
In His full beam, and ripen for the just;
Where momentary ages are no more;
Where time, and pain, and chance, and death expire.”

Without claiming anything like infallibility or perfection for the character of him who has gone from our midst, it may be beneficial to bring into view two or three of the most prominent traits of his character; and in so doing we would place in the foreground his humility. In him it was a genuine fruit of the Holy Ghost. Never was he known to boast of his attainments, or claim superiority over his brethren ; his aspirations were not for the uppermost seats in the synagogue; he was content if his Divine Master smiled approvingly upon his endeavours. In exalting the cross, he was anxious that Christ might have the glory due to his name.

Not less conspicuous was the fervent yet unobtrusive nature of his piety, Though not gifted with a far-reaching intellect, that comprehends at a glance the relations and connections of spiritual truth, his delight was in the law of the Lord. But his was not a religion of feeling only, but one of principle, rooted and grounded in love; he was ever the same—in calm or storm, in sunshine or in thick clouds. He loved his God sincerely, and as a consequence, his love for man was as catholic as the gospel itself. Never was he known to offer up a prayer in which was not couched a petition to be delivered from an earthly, selfish spirit—from conformity to the fashions, customs, and habits of the world. He was truly a pilgrim and sojourner on earth.

Two or three Sabbaths previous to his death, he came home at night worn out with his Sabbath day’s labours. His wife, observing his physical strength to be exhausted, told him that he was injuring his body. In reply, he smiled, and quoted the lines of a well-known hymn:

“My body with my charge lay down,
And cease at once to work and live.”

His piety was as unobtrusive as it was fervent; he never shrank from a confession of Christ, yet spoke more loudly by his example. Within the social circle, by the way side, amongst his fellow-workmen, he preached the doctrines of the cross by holy living, by kind words and kinder deeds, by gentle reproof, by just and upright dealing, by a habitual cheerfulness that imparted a beauty and lustre to his character. He was, indeed, an embodiment of that “charity that thinketh no evil; that believeth all things, that hopeth all things, that endureth all things.”

Let this suffice. If we have failed even to sketch the outlines of his real character, we console ourselves with the thought, that we shall not always see through a glass darkly; that amidst the clearer light of eternity we shall know him, even as he is known. May we follow him as he followed Christ!


Robert was born in 1800 at Byker Bar, nr Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland.

Census returns identify the following occupations for Robert.

  • 1841 cartoon
  • 1851 cart proprietor

Robert married Jane Pattison on 12 August 1827 at St. John, Newcastle upon Tyne.

Robert’s second wife was Hannah Pattison (b abt1812). Census returns identify seven children.

  • Robert (1831-1911) – a mechanical draughtsman (1861)
  • Elizabeth (b1835)
  • Thomas (b abt1840)
  • Jane (b1841)
  • Joseph (b abt1845) – assistant to ship broker (1861)
  • Ralph (abt1847-1861) – assistant to ship broker (1861)
  • Mary Ann (b1850)

Robert died in the spring of 1853 at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland..


  • 1826 Ripon


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1854/8

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

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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