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The New Zealand Evangelist

Biographical Sketches, No. III — Brief Memoir of Mr. James Lovell.

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Biographical Sketches, No. III.

Brief Memoir of Mr. James Lovell.

“No man dieth unto himself.” So says an inspired Apostle; and the sentiment was never more fully realized than in the case of the individual, of whose history a few memorials are here presented. Called away from earth during, and by means of, the heaviest temporal calamity that has ever evertaken the settlement of Wellington;—the only adult person in the Town that was so called; his death speaks powerfully to the entire community. The voice of the Lord cannot be mistaken in this instance. “Be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of man cometh.“—Matt. 24. 44.

James Hains Lovell, a very worthy member of the Wesleyan Methodist Society, among whom he laboured long and usefully as a Class Leader, and Local Preacher, was born in the year 1791; a year memorable for the death of the Rev. John Wesley the founder of Methodism.

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Of his early history we have no particulars, except that when quite a youth he entered the service of His Majesty, King George III, as a soldier in the 43d Regiment of Foot. He was present with that Regiment during the sanguinary struggles of the Peninsular War, and was several times severely wounded in the various engagements with the enemy; besides having other very providential escapes from death and destruction. It was well for him that he was thus spared, for at this time he was, according to his own confession, a stranger to religion, and consequently unfit to die and go to judgment. He usually prayed to God just before entering into action, but not feeling godly sorrow on account of his sins, nor taking any steps towards the abandonment of his wicked courses, his prayers were not accepted, and he was not saved. He was an excellent soldier in His Majesty's ranks, for he quickly rose to the highest position among the non-commissioned officers, that of Serjeant Major, but he was a rebel against his Divine Sovereign, an enemy to God by wicked works. This was his unhappy state until more than 20 years back, when with his Regiment, the 57th in Sydney, New South Wales. About this period, asleep upon his bed at midnight, he was alarmed with a very awful dream, and awoke in great distress of soul. With the Psalmist he “found trouble and sorrow,” and like him he “called upon the name of the Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul!” His sins started up in his remembrance, conscience was thoroughly aroused, the spirit of God strove mightily with him, the “sorrows of death compassed him about, and the pains of hell got hold upon him.” He was visited in his distress by the Rev. S. Leigh, the Superintendent Wesleyan Minister of Sydney: and “prayer was made without ceasing of the Church unto God for him.” At a meeting in Mr. Leigh's house, “where many were gathered together praying,” our brother was enabled by the Holy Spirit to cast himself on the atonement of Jesus Christ, and immediately “being justified by page 123 faith” he had “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” As had been his previous distress and anguish, was his subsequent joy and consolation. Very soon after his conversion he began to pray for his comrades in the Regiment, and to labour after their salvation. Though, from his position, he was prevented from preaching to them, he held prayer meetings in his quarters, read to them, and ceased not to warn them to “flee from the wrath to come.” The Lord so wonderfully owned his labours, that when the Regiment received the route for India, he had as many as thirty fellow soldiers of the cross associated with him, among the non-commissioned officers and privates. He continued his zealous and self-denying labours wherever he went, and his praise was in all the Churches, until 15 years ago, when he obtained his discharge from the service, and a pension; receiving at the same time a “good service” medal, which he had well deserved. He then became the Master of a Wesleyan Day School near Reading in Berkshire, and being freed from control, commenced to labour publicly in the Wesleyan Societies and Congregations as a Local Preacher. His first sermon was preached in the village of Swallow-fields, Berkshire, in the year 1834, and from that time to the present he has laboured zealously and successfully in this branch of his Master's service. After a stay of some two years in his native land he received an appointment from the Ordnance Department in 1836, as Barrack Serjeant, and was stationed in the Ionian Islands, in the Mediterranean. It is remarkable that whilst in the Island of Corfu, he had, by Divine Providence, a special deliverance from death by earthquake. On the occurrence of the shock, he had barely time to get away from under a wall, which fell immediately upon the spot which he had just left. But “the Lord preserved him, and kept him alive,” for a longer space and increased usefulness.

On the failure of Mr. Lovell's health he was transferred in 1838–9, to New South Wales, where he remained until his removal hither in December 1847.

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Immediately on his arrival he sought out the people of God, and united himself with them, joining heartily in all their efforts to Evangelize the community. Altho’ resident amongst us for a little more than nine months, such was his upright Christian character and conversation, his interest in the cause of God, his anxious wish to make all around him happy,—that he soon won for himself the good opinion of all. Few in the community were more respected and esteemed than himself. The section of the Church of Christ of which he was so faithful a member, loved him as a brother; that portion of the Church over which, as their class leader he had the oversight, regarded him as a father—the Evangelical Alliance in Wellington, of whose working Committee he was an active Member, held him in high estimation. Ready for every good work, he not only attended all his appointments as a Local Preacher with punctuality, but be might be relied on as a supply for any vacancy, if otherwise disengaged. The last time he occupied the pulpit was in Manners street Chapel, Wellington, on Sabbath afternoon the 8th October, 1848. His text was singularly appropriate, considering it was his last, and how soon afterwards he was removed to heaven:—the words are from John 17 chap. 4 verse. “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”

With the particulars of the accident by which our sainted brother met his death, we are all too sadly familiar. After the first shock of earthquake on Monday morning the 16th ult., he rose and dressed, and visited most of the families of his acquaintance, seeing how they did, and sympathizing with and helping those who were in trouble. In the evening he met his class as usual, and was if, possible, more faithful and affectionate than was his wont. On Tuesday, the 17th, as he was walking near the military stores of which he had the charge, two of his dear children playing about him, the second heavy shock was felt, the walls on both sides the street where he walked, came down with a tremendous page 125 crash, and in an instant he and his two little ones were buried in the ruins. One of them was quite dead, the other child lingered for a few hours and then expired. Our brother, sadly bruised about the body, and his left leg severely contused, was removed to the Military Hospital where he lingered for two or three days, and hopes were entertained of his recovery. On being visited soon after the accident, he said in answer to enquiries, he was on the “rock of ages,” he felt no doubt of his eternal safety, he rested solely on Jesus Christ. Though anxious about his family, he was quite resigned to the will of God. This was his constant unvarying testimony to those who visited him. Little did they think on the morning of Friday the 20th, the day of the general Fast, while talking and praying with him, that he was so near his end: that this was the last time they should hear his voice until the morning of the resurrection. But so it proved; soon after one in the afternoon of that day, while his beloved wife was at prayer by the side of his bed, he was heard to respond feebly “grant it Lord,” and his happy spirit gently breathed its last on earth, and entered into the rest which “remaineth for the people of God.” Before mortals could com mence the cry “a man is dead “Angels were already singing “a child is born.” “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”

His brethren and children in the Church, as well as his own immediate relations, sorrow and mourn now that he is taken from them, but they cannot murmur, for it is “Our Father who is in heaven” that has chastised them, and in the case of their friend and husband and father it would be sinful for them to wish him back again.

“Our loss is his infinite gain.”

“The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”

He was interred next day, the 21st, with full military honors. The greatest respect was paid to his remains. The Governor, the Commander of the Forces, and a large company civil and military, besides the page 126 members of the Society, followed him to the grave. All the Ministers of the Evangelical Alliance engaged in the services of the funeral, and a general seriousness pervaded the great numbers who were present.

His funeral sermon was preached in the Scotch Church, on Sunday Evening, 29th ult. by the writer of this. The text was taken from Luke 12. 37., “Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh shall find watching:” The Church was excessively crowded, and the feeling that prevailed was solemn and earnest. It is hoped that though our brother was very useful by his life, he will be still more so by his death; in which case our sorrow at his removal will be considerably mitigated; for by this shall be answered our first learnt, longest remembered, prayer, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven”!