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NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
MEMOIR OF REV. ROBERT WALKER.
The subject of this memoir was born in Temple Street, Newcastle. upon Tyne, Dec. 16th, 1838. He was the second child of John and Elizabeth Walker ; and, like Samuel, was dedicated by his mother to the Lord from his birth. She had promised that if the Lord gave her a son he should serve Him all the days of his life. As a pious mother, she faithfully observed her vow, and endeavoured to train her child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. The happy effects of parental influence, and the instructions imparted to him, were made manifest by the general steadiness of his conduct and his careful choice of companions, who were at least moral aud not likely to corrupt him by evil communications or vicious conduct. He was also sent to the Sunday school. His behaviour there may be inferred from the fact that he regularly took the best prizes for good conduct and regular attendance,
During his boyhood he seems for some time to have resided in Shields. There he gained the good opinion of his schoolmaster, as he stood well in his classes and made creditable proficiency in learning. He was urged to become a pupil-teacher, and for a short time was so engaged, displaying considerable aptitude for the work. But as the confinement proved injurious to his health, the plan of his life was changed.
From youth to manhood his career appears to have been uneventful. At least, there were only those incidents and experiences which are common to those who are engaged in business and are battling with life. In his secular calling he was conscientious, active, and courteous, giving satisfaction to his employers; whilst his moral conduct gave no uneasiness to his parents. He was a member of one of our congregations, a Sunday-school teacher, and also a tract distributor, feeling an interest in religious matters, and willingly
rendering service in the above capacities, without, however, having the assurance of pardon through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was one of those young men, of whom there are many, who seem to possess almost everything but the one thing needful, which has to sanctify and direct all talents and attainments to the glory of God. He was upright, intelligent, active, and obliging'; a dutiful son, a good servant, and an agreeable companion.
The Rev. Wm. Booth, when stationed in the Gateshead Circuit, in 1858, carried on a series of special services with extensive results. One Sunday evening our late brother, who had long been under gracious influences, presented himself along with some companions at the communion rail, and there gave his heart to the Lord. His conversion was not the result of a sudden impulse, but of a gradually formed conviction. He had already apprehended the truth, now he surrended himself to its power ; he had seen it was his duty to become a Christian, and now he became one. The change in his manner of life was not so marked as in some couverts ; but his motives and aims were now under higher influences, and he was the possessor of a Divine peace and a holy joy. He at once closely associated himself with the Church, and became an earnest worker in the vineyard. He joined a vigilant band, and took part in cottage and other prayer meetings. A new spirit pervaded his Sunday-school teaching, and this gave him boldness to stand up in public to speak on behalf of Christ. In a small memorandum-book
. containing a few entries of his early subjects—and in fact the only records he has left-he states that he delivered his first address in Salem Sunday school, Hood Street, on Sunday, May 1st, 1859 ; and delivered his first exhortation a fortnight later in High Street, Gateshead. Nor did he neglect reading and the improvement of his mind, as he, with other young men like-minded, constituted a class to cultivate their talents and acquire capabilities for further usefulness. As he evinced considerable readiness in public speaking,
. and was not ashamed to stand up in the streets and preach the truth, he was soon placed on the plan and employed as a local preacher in the Gateshead Circuit. His labours were acceptable and useful, both in the Newcastle and Gateshead Circuits; and after having passed the usual term of probation, he was received on full plan.
In the beginning of 1863 a supply was needed for the Dudley Circuit, and Mr. Walker being deemed suitable for the ministry, he was duly recommended by his own Circuit, and forthwith commenced his ministry in Dudley. There his labours commended themselves to the Churches, and he was regarded as a young man who would be likely to render good service to the Denomination. He was
accordingly recommended to the ensuing Conference, which cordially received him as a preacher on trial. He was appointed to the Barnsley Circuit, where he remained for two years. Here his labours gave great satisfaction, whilst the knowledge the people gained of his character secured for him a warm place in their hearts. His preaching was clear and lively, and manifestly attended with the Divine blessing. That Circuit is large, and, as in some of the more distan't parts, the minister is required to stay all night after conducting the week evening service, the families who provided accommodation for Mr. Walker were always rejoiced to see him. As a colleague he might be regarded as a model young man. He was punctual in fulfilling his appointments, thoughtful about the general interests of the Circuit, careful in attending to business matters entrusted to him, and while kindly to all with whom he was brought into contact, nevertheless manifesting that independence which enabled him to keep his place. He took great pains with the class of which he was the leader, and was rewarded by always having a good attendance, as well as seeing it considerably increased in the number of its members. On the eve of his departure to another sphere of labour, the friends presented him with a substantial testimonial in token of their appreciation of his ministerial character.
From Barnsley he removed to Stockton-on-Tees. While residing in the latter town his mind was considerably exercised with the question of entering the Foreign Mission field. Men were wanted for China. He was willing to go, and I believe desirous. Most young ministers have missionary aspirations.
There is in such enterprises much to fascinate, especially adventurous spirits, and when, moreover, there is an impression on the mind that work of this kind is the work to which God calls, there is a readiness to enter whenever the door opens. A correspondence was carried on which did not end in anything so far as Mr. Walker was concerned. Other brethren were sent, and he settled down to the discharge of the duties of a minister at home. Those who knew him intimately were assured that he was well adapted for that kind of work, and that he would have made an excellent missionary.
His next appointment was in Liverpool, where he remained two years. The close of his first year's appointment likewise terminated his probation. He attended the Huddersfield Conference, when he witnessed a good confession before many brethren, and received ordination. Leaving Liverpool he was stationed two years in Birmingham, thus spending five years of his ministerial life on Home Mission stations. These appointments, designed to raise new churches, are generally trying, and involve much uphill work. In each place in which Mr. Walker lived his labours were productive of great good. Souls were converted to God, and the Churches were edified and strengthened, and led onward in their evangelical undertakings.
Concerning our late brother's views and aims as a minister we have to refer to his manner of life, and the way in which he sought to perform what he deemed to be the duties of his office. He evidently had formed a high idea of ministerial character, and deeply felt the responsibilities of ministerial position. He frequently read Baxter's “Reformed Pastor," and professed to derive much advantage from it. He lived as one who must give an account. He endeavoured to discipline and store his mind, that he might bring out of that treasury things new and old, to instruct and save his hearers. While he attended with systematic diligence to his pastoral duties, he gave attention to reading and study in order to prepare himself for the pulpit. He was somewhat fond of the Puritan divines, but he likewise kept himself acquainted with the religious thought of the day. He took up the study of Greek in order to read the New Testament in the original, and had made some progress in that language.
As to Mr. Walker's productions for the pulpit we have to form our judgment from a recollection of some of his efforts, and from the testimony of his hearers, as he has left no manuscripts behind, nor even the outline of a sermon. We are informed that he frequently wrote his sermons, but he sometimes first preached from a text and then wrote his discourse afterwards. Generally his preparations for the pulpit were very carefully made, in order that there might be freshness and force in his ministrations,
His last appointment involved his preaching regularly before one congregation for between three and four years, and his sermons, highly acceptable from the first, increased in their value to the end of his ministry. His pulpit efforts arrested attention and always interested his auditory. His sermons were thoughtful and robust, with a strong practical cast. He took care to preach Christ. An Alnwick friend writes : “ Christ and His salvation seemed his special theme. No sermon was complete in which the Saviour was not lifted up and His great love made known. His heart was on fire for Christ, and his wondrous earnestness could not fail to impress the most unimpassioned hearer." Anecdotes were sometimes em. ployed to illustrate, occasionally quaint phrases were thrown out in which some important truth was wrapped, and which would be likely to fix itself in the memory, whilst his appeals were very direct and powerful. His sermons were not of that colourless character, made up of platitudes or of carefully constructed sentences,
which when heard scarcely interest, and certainly make no impression, but they were composed of good thoughts carefully arranged and forcefully expressed. There was no attempt at ornamentation. Even allusions which might serve the double purpose of ornament and illustration were passed by, lest they should divert attention from his great purpose, and in clear, direct, and forcible language he cast his thoughts before the people.
Out of the pulpit he was active and industrious. He always had some work on hand to occupy his time. When something special was completed he began something else. He took little rest himself, nor did he give his people much.
As a pastor he visited his people to counsel and comfort them. He regarded this department of work as one which enabled him to do good to the people and strengthen the interests of the Church. It was, moreover, work which harmonised with his inclinations, hence it was to him a pleasure to call at the homes and see the families that composed his congregation. His disposition was genial and social. Hence he drew the sympathies of those with whom he was brought into contact towards himself and the object; he advocated. He was a welcome visitor, whilst his cheerfulness attracted children (no mean judges of character) to him. In company he was courteous, yet somewhat reticent with strangers; with those however with whom he was on terms of friendship he was free in his com. munication. He had a ready perception of the ludicrous, yet the humour, of which he was not deficient, was so balanced and restrained by other qualities that in him it was always without venom, and his cheerfulness never approached to lightness. His self-respect enabled him to maintain proper dignity of character, and as he took no liberties with others, none thought of taking liberties with him. In presenting the excellences and traits of his character it will not be supposed that he forgot he belonged to a frail and erring race. He was not perfect, nor was his career free from mistakes. We can only point to One perfect character, and after His likeness and example our departed brother sincerely and constantly aspired.
In 1870 he was appointed to our Alnwick Church, and entered on his labours with the approbation and good wishes of our people in that ancient town. A short time previously the congregation and church, after many struggles, had succeeded under the pastorate of the Rev. A. Hallam, a beloved brother, who has also gone to his rest, in providing for themselves a handsome chapel in Bondgate. A school-room, chapel-keeper's house, and organ were yet required to complete the establishment. Mr. Walker set himself to secure these, and by constant effort and the hearty co-operation of the people had