1872 - Turner, J. G. The Pioneer Missionary - CHAPTER XXII. CONCLUSION, p 329-335 [Australia]

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  1872 - Turner, J. G. The Pioneer Missionary - CHAPTER XXII. CONCLUSION, p 329-335 [Australia]
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A FIRST interview with a stranger would reveal Mr. Turner's true nature, and it was but little modified by circumstances at any period of his life. Of a vigorous and wiry constitution, an ardent temperament, and a tender and affectionate spirit, his look, voice, and manner would at once show the man. General good-will came to him by the right of nature; yet, through life, he was helped by decision of character and high-spiritedness.

His mental endowments, if not of the highest order, were considerable, and, as the result of their faithful employment showed, were eminently suited to the sphere and service of his life. Having clearly perceived and vigorously grasped truth, he held it firmly. He avoided mere speculations on religious subjects, but had fixed and comprehensive views of Christian experience and duty. Though he entered upon his public work without that degree of mental culture he could have desired, his diligence in study early secured him honourable and gratifying recognition in the pulpit, on the platform, and in the social circle.

The grace of God exhibited its beauty and power in his life of love and blessing. His personal conversion was a demonstrated fact. Comparative loneliness in his early religious life had led him to strive with God in prayer, and his Church anxieties and exercises had served to mature his piety. He made the cross of Christ his home. There his affections were kindled and his powers exalted. He

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cherished the love of the Spirit, and daily walked in Hi light.

Mr. Turner firmly trusted in the Providence of God, for he had been its child: and he never forgot that in the early struggles by which he had acquired a power for usefulness he had been Divinely aided. Experience suggested faith as well as thought; and when public responsibilities or family cares pressed, he found both the will and power to "commit his way unto the Lord." In personal peril or affliction, or when the life or interest of a child was threatened, or in any other exigency, he was accustomed to say, "The Lord will provide." In this respect, his counsel as a friend, or his correspondence as a father, was but the voice of his own life.

His trust in God was more than habit. It was an ever-repeated act in prayer, and, like all life with him, was real though unobtrusive. In his house no apology was offered or needed for religious exercises. None of his family, and but few, if any, of their occasional visitors, can forget the tones of intercession they overheard from his retired room, his garden path, or his way-side walk. He knew the way to God, and in the tranquil light and beauty of his course, day by day, illustrated the duty and its corresponding promise: "Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds by Christ Jesus." Though he felt that Providence was both rich and gracious, he had a keen sense of moral responsibility, and enjoyed in peace the fruit of righteousness. He sought to adjust all claims upon him by the prayer he daily offered.

"When I have lived to Thee alone,
Pronounce the welcome word, 'Well done!'
And let me take my place above."

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Mr. Turner's was a young life. No man was more cheerful, and it was an unusual thing for him to be depressed. His habits of early rising, and of out-door activity, in his garden, or pastoral visitation, or when travelling, served to develop this genial quality; which, especially during his later years, was a comfort to his family, and a joy among his friends.

The harmony of his character shone in his family and social relations. In all matters of parental duty he was anxiously careful, and in no other respects did the intensely realizing quality of his nature show itself more. To influence aright the hearts and habits of his children was made his daily care. His circumstances were limited; and often when surrounding influences were unfriendly to family training and advantage, his spirits were weighted with fear. Sacrifices were made again and again to afford his children the best education he could secure them; and he had few pleasures greater than in watching the result. A fond but faithful father, he was the head of his family, and maintained authority and administered discipline in a serious spirit. He interested himself personally in the mental progress and religious welfare of every child, influencing in the study of Holy Scripture, in the selection of companions, and, with especial care, in the observance of the Sabbath. And though the best sermon he ever preached to his children was his own example at home, they can never forget with what tearful earnestness he wrestled and watched, worked and waited, for their conversion.

Mr. Turner was a good type of "the old school" of Methodist preachers. Reconciliation with God, and the holiness and privileges of believers, were his favourite themes. When he had selected a subject, he well thought it out, and prepared an ample outline. It was his custom to study, walking; and, when convenient, to think aloud. Some Ministers practise preaching before the empty pews of their churches. He preferred his garden, and a congre-

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gation of plants and flowers. His pulpit delivery of the truth was loving, but bold; direct, but careful. If any one quality of his nature dominated there, it was his tenderness. His voice, which could thunder on occasions, was the expressive medium of sympathy or of assurance. A believer in "present salvation," he preached for results, and had them. Why? Primarily, because the Holy Spirit accompanied the word. But also from another cause, very important, though secondary:-- his loving pastoral toil, in season and out of season, and the weight of his personal and ministerial character, had affected the moral conscience of the community. It was this which secured him large congregations in the towns in which he regularly ministered. His animated preaching had a telling effect upon all classes of hearers, for he found his oratory in their hearts.

He is affectionately remembered as a Christian pastor. He understood that the value of a sermon was in its adaptation to the case of the hearers, and in the welcome with which it would be received. He therefore visited from house to house as systematically and frequently as other duties would permit; and thus was able to influence by the truth the inner life of every member. Where there were the sick and sinful for whom no one else seemed to care, he found time to talk and pray with them. His special addresses to the "members of Society" were frequent, and of the most faithful and profiting character. Few Ministers excelled him in leading prayer-meetings. Under an ordinarily prosperous state of the Church, these were lively seasons; for his spirit and faith, during the exercises, had a holy infection.

The children and youth of his congregation loved him as a father or friend. It was his custom, when circumstances would allow, to have an hour weekly, generally on a Saturday afternoon, with such of the elder children as could be got together, that he might talk and pray with them. His

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Bible classes in Tasmania and in Sydney were fruitful in developing the powers of young men for public usefulness. His systematic and kind attention to the young converts in different Circuits supplied several valuable workers. He did not believe in doing ministerial work by proxy, and in no relation to any part of the Church, if he could help it, would he commit to others the labour or responsibility properly his own. He was a true lover of progress, and sought to extend the work of God. Where doors of usefulness were not open, he would either find a key, or break them open. The regime under which he laboured as a Missionary afforded small scope for administration of Circuit affairs, as now known. The relations of the missionary brethren to each other, to their stations, and to the Home Committee, differed widely from those of their successors as Circuit Superintendents in Australia. In his Circuits, however, Mr. Turner maintained discipline in love.

He was not of that class who are sought and respected for what can be got out of them. His good name and friendship remained when in the feebleness of years he sought retirement. The Rev. William Curnow, the esteemed Minister of the Ipswich Circuit, near Brisbane, wrote of him: "Though a Supernumerary, his intense interest in the work of God struck me much. When his powers were enfeebled, he lost none of his zeal and fire. Instead of standing aside as a censor of the more active Ministers, he drew near as a sympathizer and fellow toiler, to the full measure of his strength. The thing that impressed me most in him was his unaffected interest in young men. He had no jealousy and no reserve with those who were greatly his juniors. He would counsel, or criticize, or encourage, with unfailing good nature and success. No one could say that he grew hard or crusty when he grew old. His childlike spirit, his gleeful face, and his singularly transparent manners, were a benediction to many."

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Mr. Turner's religious sympathies were truly catholic. Forms of Church government or shades of Christian doctrine did not veil from his view the manifold beauties of Christianity. A loyal Wesleyan Methodist, he was known and honoured as a lover of all godly men, and a helper of every good cause.

He was a good citizen. Suffering and want found relief at his hand to his utmost ability. He read the newspaper, and watched with patriotic interest every sign of civic progress or of social danger in the community. He was a true Briton, but cherished the high hopes of an intelligent Australian colonist.

Those who knew him had a true friend. Rich in charity which thinketh no evil, he hated suspicion and narrowness. Children are judges of men, and he was always a favourite with children. The little ones climbed his knees, and the older boys and girls delighted in his stories. In company he was cheerful, inquiring, and communicative; and in correspondence, free, spiritual, and affectionate.

Rewarded openly, his success was received with humility and gratitude. Whether in the morning of life breaking up new ground, or in its noonday strength establishing the churches, or in the hush of eventide awaiting the Master's voice, he ever sang, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, in every place."

It remains to be said that if God gave him honour everywhere, there was a secret in it. That secret was simply this, --he lived with God, and maintained his Christian simplicity to the last. His course was

"Like the aloe, green and well liking till the last best summer of its age, When it putteth forth its golden bells, and mingleth glory with corruption."

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An interesting incident, (which escaped insertion in its proper place in this volume,) the result of the Rev. N. Turner's ministry in New Zealand, was narrated by the Rev. George Scott, who was for many years outvalued Missionary in Sweden, at the Annual Meeting of the Society at Exeter Hall, in 1865, to the effect that a Swedish sailor was brought to God under a sermon preached by Mr. Turner on board his ship, when anchored off the coast of New Zealand. This worthy seaman was afterwards employed as a sailor colporteur in Sweden, and we doubt not did good service in the cause of his Redeemer. The bread thus cast upon the waters was found after many days.

*** On page 24, the Princes Street church property is described as the oldest in the Southern World held by the Wesleyan Connexion. The correct reading is, that this property is the oldest but one.





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