Raymond Oakley, esteemed former pastor of the church at Hope Chapel, Arcal Street, Sedgley (1980-2007), and an acceptable supply minister for many years, passed to his eternal rest on December 3rd, 2011, aged 84 years.
Our friend was a faithful minister of the gospel for sixty-two years and served the churches as a supply minister for many years before taking the pastorate at Hope, Arcal Street, where the Lord was pleased to bless his ministry over a number of years.
The following are extracts from his writings:
In the order of the Lord’s kind providence, when I was six years old my family moved to live near a chapel called The Strict Baptist Mission Hall, Cradley Heath, Worcestershire, and accordingly I was sent to the Sunday School. On reflection I did not derive any benefit from this Sunday School, except to be taught how to behave oneself externally in a place of worship. In fact it was not until I was sixteen or seventeen years of age that I was brought to know the spiritual authority of the Word of God.
The occasion was on December 25th when I was moved to go to chapel and for the first time came under the ministry of one, Joseph Banks, on his first visit to this place. I cannot recall the portion of God’s Word from which he spoke, but realised in an inexplicable way that there was a great difference in the teaching from that previously heard, with the result that this was the beginning of much concern of soul and spiritual conflict. Up to this time the conscience being dead, I had pursued a worldly career, having hardly a thought of God or the consequences of sin. However I was compelled to attend this preaching every time the house of God was opened, and I became a gazing-stock to many, including my own family, who could not understand the change; but then neither could I at that time. The law came and sin revived and whereas I had been dead in trespasses and sins, now was made miserable, ‘having no hope and without God in the world.’ I recall the intense rebellion of the flesh, however, and endeavoured by religious pursuits to ease conscience and the feeling of the dread of God which I felt. I endeavoured to strive against sin’s power, but as the time went on, it was shown to me that all the legal workings of my flesh availed nothing. Still such was my proud nature, I fought against the Word of the living God and yet at times by supplication endeavoured to make my case known to Him. I desired no worldly company, and in fact when I tried to explain to my family that God knew my inmost thoughts and every action, they could not understand. However, sin became exceedingly sinful to me.
I was in this condition for many months and sought out the company of a number of elderly, godly people, and I perceived that they had the blessing of the Lord which I so much desired. Their conversation together with the preached Word was at times a help.
Deliverance came one morning as I was walking to work, when the Lord brought the lines of the hymn to mind:
Water from salvation’s wells,
Thirsty sinner, come and draw;
Grace in Jesus’ fulness dwells,
More than men or angels know.
There was set before me the fulness of the water of life in Christ which encouraged me to plead on for the Lord’s mercy. This was the first time that I had received a little intimation of forgiving love and pardoning grace.
After some weeks, the Lord appeared again in answer to my frequent petitions at the throne of grace with the words, ‘Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee’ (Jer. 31. 3). It was a time of love, sweetness, pardon and a felt sense of my utter unworthiness. I walked in a mourning frame with the Man of sorrows and yet rejoiced in His salvation. Still I feared to presume to walk in His ordinances until the time the Lord was pleased to confirm the Word. I am glad to be able to say that I was never coerced or persuaded by men, but knew the portion of Ruth who desired to live and die with the people of God.
During a sermon preached in 2006, when reviewing the Lord’s dealings with him, Raymond stated that the words of Henry Fowler had been very precious and a blessing to him since he was brought into liberty of soul.
My son, give me thy heart;
Let Me thy sorrows bear;
‘Tis not thy caution, power or art
Can save thee from despair.
In due course, after going before the church at the Strict Baptist Mission Hall, Cradley Heath, and after studying and assenting to the Articles of Faith of the Gospel Standard Societies, a copy of which was given me, I was baptized by Mr. Joseph Banks.
Not long after this, because of the war, I had to join the navy, and was away from home for nearly three years, cut off for the most part from people of our own faith and order. During that time my reading was from works of such as John Owen, J. C. Philpot and J. Gill, etc., from which I was spiritually fed.
When I returned home, I found that some of the ‘old stock’ of believers at the Mission Hall had died, and that Arminian tendencies of others had come to the fore, with the result that I could no longer continue with them, and I was led to separate myself from them and attend the chapel at Hawes Lane, Rowley Regis, where I had, prior to joining the navy, often attended and where there were, particularly at that time, some of the Lord’s dear people with whom I felt at home. The Lord was pleased to favour my soul at this time at Hawes Lane, and being a people who for the most part walked separately from others, we had communion one with another in the things of God, which sadly was not to last.
Whilst I was in the navy, solemn exercises regarding preaching the Word came at times upon my spirit, but knowing the deceitfulness of one’s deceitful heart, I made no mention to anybody of this solemn matter, as I knew of those who have run and not been sent. Little did I know at that time of the way which would be opened up when the Lord made a weighty exercise of the words: ‘For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake’ (Acts 9:16). After being settled with the church at Hawes Lane for some time, our deacon, Mr. Samuel Rushton, asked me if I had any exercise regarding the ministry as the church felt the Lord was preparing me for this work. I had to reply in the affirmative, but told him of my fears, and that I begged for a sure word, especially as I felt myself to be a babe in grace, and there were those amongst us who were ‘well-seasoned.’
I can honestly say that I did not put my hand to the matter, having seen in earlier years in my previous causes such lightness and sinful practices in the name of God. This caused me to cry to the Lord for the matter to be right.
I was grateful to certain of our company who took me to one side to show me, as helped, the way of God more perfectly. Ultimately in answer to my petitions, the Lord overcame my objections with the words, ‘Preach the preaching that I shall give thee.’ Shortly after this, feeling the weight of the Lord’s fear and the burden of the Word, I was asked to preach before the church, commenting at four prayer meetings, and then as helped before the church and congregation at Hawes Lane. The church unanimously decided to send me forth and prayed that the Lord would open doors amongst His people.
Raymond was 22 years old at this time.
Here Mr. Oakley makes mention of sore church troubles which broke out at Hawes Lane which resulted in the resignation and departure of Mr. Banks from amongst them. Mr. Oakley felt the Lord had bound him to the people of God that remained and for many years was the main supply minister at the chapel.
Over the years, trials in providence and afflictions have, I trust, been sanctified. Often I have been brought low and yet would justify the Lord in the way He has taken, for His way is perfect.
When the pastorate of the late Mr. Joseph Field ended at Hope Chapel, Raymond was unanimously asked to take the pastorate, which he did from 1980. In the later years of his ministry he had increasing infirmities which necessitated him laying down the pastorate in 2007. On the few occasions the writer was privileged to visit our friend in these last years, sweet fellowship in the gospel was enjoyed as he related many experiences of the Lord’s goodness to him. One occasion in particular stands out. Several years before, Raymond had been suddenly admitted to hospital having sustained a severe reaction to a certain medication. His whole body shook violently and his state of mind was of darkness and solemn foreboding, until the Lord spoke these words: ‘A merciful and faithful High Priest’ (Heb. 2:17). He said that in a moment his soul was at perfect peace and he felt ready to fall into the Lord’s arms whether it was for life or death.
At our last visit to him in the hospital, he said how the words, ‘Be still, and know that I am God’ (Psa. 46:10), had been his support. It was his desire to die at home, and in the mystery of God’s all-wise providence this was so, as he was brought home from the hospital on December 3rd, passing away just as he entered the front door of his home.
Our friend was deeply concerned for the welfare of our churches and remained a staunch supporter of the principles of the Gospel Standard to the end.
We believe we can say, ”Tis with the righteous well.’
Gerald Buss is Pastor of Chippenham Old Baptist Chapel, Wiltshire. This obituary is taken with permission from The Gospel Standard, March 2012.
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