John Robert Broome (1931-2013) – Part 1
John Robert Broome, a faithful minister in the ‘Gospel Standard’ churches for many years, member of the church at Trowbridge, died on February 14th, 2013, aged 81.
Our dear father was born in Bournemouth on December 6th, 1931, the second of three children of godly parents, Leonard and Helen Broome. His mother called him John as she was persuaded that he would preach. His life was spared several times during his childhood, and he related his first answer to prayer at the age of fourteen, when the Lord spared the life of Mr. Jim Woodford, deacon at Downton Chapel. The family moved to Southampton in April 1945, after his father had taken the pastorate at Bethesda Strict Baptist Chapel in 1940.
At the age of sixteen, the Lord began a work of grace. Of this occasion he wrote: ‘I heard Mr. Eben Clark preach at Manningford with great power from Acts 14:22: “Confirming the souls of the disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.” For the first time in my life I heard with profit . . . I felt that night that he could have gone on preaching until midnight; my ear was truly bored to the door post, and I came out in a solemn frame of mind, with a hope that one day I should reach the heavenly kingdom, little realising what was involved in the words, “Through much tribulation.”’
In September 1951, he left Southampton to go to Leicester University. Of his first year there he wrote: ‘While keeping to chapel on Sundays, I became deeply involved in the world.’ Within two months, he was involved in a serious motorcycle accident, and then was taken with a mysterious illness and was admitted to hospital. On both occasions his life was spared and he often spoke of these events as the Lord’s first two calls (1 Sam. 3:4-6). But he went back into the world, then failed his exams and in great rebellion said to a friend, ‘I do not care what happens.’ He wrote: ‘Then the Lord moved. Just before I returned to university at the end of September (1952), I was lying in bed one night before I went to sleep when the Lord spoke with power and authority in my heart. I have often said in preaching that I know what Elijah experienced in the cave when the Lord spoke to him with the still small voice of God. The words were these: “Come out from among them, be ye separate, touch not the unclean thing.” It was repeated three times and I never had to ask the Lord what I had to leave; it was the world and the worldly company in which I had been for so long.’ When preaching, he often said of this experience, ‘And the Lord called Samuel again the third time’ (1 Sam. 3:8).
He then described ‘praying my way along’ and subsequently passed all his exams, receiving much blessing in depending upon the Lord, especially one morning while reading Jeremiah 17:7 – ‘Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.’ Whilst at Leicester, he often went to Coventry to hear Mr. John Green preach and he said these occasions ‘left many precious memories.’ During 1953-54, when in great darkness, he was greatly blessed in hymn 132 verse 2 (Gadsby’s):
When most we need His helping hand,
This Friend is always near.
and also one Lord’s day evening from, ‘For I will surely deliver thee, and thou shalt not fall by the sword, but thy life shall be for a prey unto thee: because thou hast put thy trust in me, saith the Lord’ (Jer. 39:18), concerning which he said, ‘My heart was filled with His love and I wept myself to sleep that night . . .’
During this period the burden of the ministry was laid upon him suddenly as he walked home one night. He spoke of ‘hearing times’ concerning the ministry during this period, including when his father preached from, ‘And the angel said unto him, Gird thyself, and bind on thy sandals. And so he did. And he saith unto him, Cast thy garment about thee, and follow me’ (Acts 12:8), at Coventry Anniversary on Whit Monday 1954. Of this, he said, ‘Little did I then realise that fifteen years lay ahead of me in the “backside of the desert” before the Lord would open the door.’ He took his final exams in June 1955 and returned home to Southampton.
He joined the 5th Regiment Royal Horse Artillery in August 1955 to do his National Service, initially going to the Regiment’s Basic Training Camp at Oswestry in Shropshire. He wrote: ‘I was put in a billet with about sixty men, none of whom I knew. I had with me a little pocket Bible, which fitted into the breast pocket of my uniform, and I knew that if I never got down by my bedside and prayed that night, I would never do it in the next two years. With much fear and trembling I got down on my knees by my bedside to pray and read. At the time there was a great noise of conversation in the room. I expected an army boot or something to be thrown at me. Instead, much to my amazement a great hush descended on the room and there was absolute silence. I got into bed, and we were told to put our watches and all our valuables under our pillows and sleep on them as there was often much theft in the night. During the days that followed five soldiers spoke to me and told me that they prayed secretly every night before they went to sleep.’
Later he was posted to Tonfanau, on the Welsh Coast, and the Lord remarkably brought him together with a young man who was a Strict Baptist. He wrote, ‘How remarkable it was, that in all that camp of two thousand troops, the Lord had brought us together!’ Soon they were in the senior group and it was their turn to take the NAAFI service on Sunday mornings, when they read sermons of Mr. Herbert Dawson (of Bethersden) to the troops. After eight weeks, our father left for Woolwich.
On December 23rd, 1955, he moved to Germany and arrived at Osnabruck on Christmas Eve, where he stayed until the regiment returned to the U.K. in February 1957. In this godless place, the Lord gave him a spiritual friend, and finding nowhere they could settle to worship, they started holding prayer meetings together one evening a week. Eventually the Lord provided a godly padre, of whom he wrote, ‘There was a sweet savour in his prayers and I grew to be very fond of him . . . I always shall remember the sweetness with which, one Saturday evening, he opened up the verse in the Song of Solomon 1:14: “My beloved is unto me as a cluster of camphire in the vineyards of En-gedi.”’
In January 1956, while serving in The Regimental Headquarters Troop, he was sent out on exercise for four days in very harsh weather. He recorded that ‘suddenly while marching with our eyes down because of the bright light from the snow, a big explosion occurred nearby and a lot of rocks and stones fell around us.’ This explosion was the means of preventing them from marching over the edge of the quarry, a drop of several hundred feet. He said, ‘As the years have passed I have looked back to that day and realised the mercy of God in sparing my life once more.’
He continued: ‘Returning to England that December (1956), I felt the barrenness of the past year as regards the fact that I had been cut off from the preaching of the gospel for so long. I felt also the deadening influence of army life in all its total godlessness. Landing at Harwich from the Hook of Holland, I resolved that before I went to Southampton, I would . . . go up to Gower Street Chapel and hear John Green preach. I remember going up to Charing Cross station that evening and feeling as the train passed through the back station at Waterloo that I could not even pray, I felt such hardness in my soul. I was a few minutes late reaching the chapel, and when I entered they were singing the first hymn, which the deacon, dear old Mr. Oxlade, had given out. I bowed my head and heard them singing the third verse of hymn 990 (Gadsby’s):
Daily I’d repent of sin,
Daily wash in Calvary’s blood,
Daily feel Thy peace within,
Daily I’d commune with God.
My heart was immediately softened under a sweet sense of the truth in the hymn as the expression of my desire. I felt the Lord’s presence in that chapel that night. John Green preached from the words of Jesus to the centurion in Matthew 8:13, “Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it unto thee.” It was a blessed time to my soul and I felt completely delivered from all my guilt and bondage and walked back to Charing Cross Station . . . with a sweet sense of peace in my heart.’
His regiment returned to Tidworth on Salisbury Plain in February 1957, where he stayed until the beginning of May. The regiment then moved to Crickhowell in Wales. He wrote: ‘Here I was again in a spiritually barren place . . . I stayed alone on Sundays and read sermons and prayed. I remember one Sunday when I felt a particular spirit of prayer and access to the Lord to pray for my loved ones. I came out of the army during the first week of August 1957, after two years, in which I felt the Lord did not leave me.’
In August 1957, Mr. David Fountain, Pastor at Spring Road, Southampton, invited him to go on a group holiday to Branscombe in Devon. Of this he wrote: ‘David was taking about seventy young people from the Sholing area of Southampton under canvas in a field near the coast. Many were from very poor homes. Each night there was a service in the marquee. One night after the service, feeling exercised, I went out into the fields alone for a walk, when I felt a great spirit of prayer come upon me. I remember lying flat on the ground in the darkness. Here the Lord came and it was a Bethel to my soul. Never had I felt such liberty in prayer before. It seemed as though there was no barrier between my soul and the Lord. I felt if I was buried on that spot, I had a hope that it would be well. Carrying the exercise of the ministry, I felt led to ask the Lord to open the door. But I felt a distinct withholding of liberty in making this request. Yet all the time a sermon was flowing through my mind and it was as if I was addressing a congregation with great liberty.’
He spoke further concerning this time of preparation for the ministry: ‘Later that week, one evening after the service, I went in the darkness for a walk along the cliff edge with a group of young people. I was carrying with me the small Bible which I had in the army. I had a torch with me and we all stopped and sat down on the cliff top, listening to the waves lapping on the shore beneath us. Then I felt led to take out my Bible and read the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John to them. When I came to the ninth verse, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture,” my lips were opened to speak with great liberty. While I was speaking another group of young people joined us. Not one of their faces could I see in the darkness, but remembering the liberty and sweetness I felt that night, I have often wondered if any of the seed was sown in good ground.’
He continued: ‘On the first Sunday in September 1957, while watching the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper at Bethesda (Southampton), the Lord laid on my heart for the first time the ordinance of baptism, and I felt the command to follow the Lord in that humble, despised ordinance. But like Moses [going to Pharaoh — Exod. 3:11], I immediately shied from it in fear and felt utterly unfit. But from now on I knew I was walking in disobedience, and as much as I tried to disobey, the Lord followed me. Looking back I can now see the preparation for it, in a time of prayer, never to be forgotten, at Branscombe, when I felt I could die on that precious spot of ground . . . In November 1957, a young man was baptized by my father. I sat in the back of the chapel before the service, and opening my Gadsby’s hymnbook, my eyes lighted on 426 and the last two lines of the last verse:
Come, be baptized without delay,
In honour of your King.
They shook me, as I knew it was a voice from the Lord to one walking in disobedience. Twice I ventured to my father’s vestry after a service and said to him, “I think I will be baptized.” His response was, “No, this is not the right way to come.” I can see now how right he was. He could see there was no implicit obedience to the Lord’s command in my heart. And so the exercise went on, with my continued weakness of nerves, until early in 1958 my father preached from, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21). This touched my heart and I went straight to him in the vestry after the service and said, “Father, I will come.” His response was, “That is better.” I came before the church at Bethesda on January 18th, and was received and baptized on Sunday evening, January 26th, 1958. After an intense shudder of fear at the beginning of the service as I stood with my father at the steps of the pool waiting to go down into the waters, I experienced a great calm, and never forget the thought that crossed my mind: “Lord, if this is death, I desire no more.”’
The following week he attended the funeral service of Mr. Griffiths Vaughan at Boumemouth. He wrote: ‘I now saw what it was to be buried with Christ in baptism and during that funeral service it was forcefully laid on my mind, that “the mantle of Elijah had fallen on Elisha.” Sweetly and with great power I felt the words: “And Elisha saw it, and he cried, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof.'” This happened in February 1958 and there was to be another eleven years before that mantle eventually fell on my shoulders. I was received into the church at Bethesda by my father on the first Sunday in February and at the ordinance felt the words on my spirit, “Thou, O Christ, art all I want.”’
He continued: ‘I now had to look for a job, but at the same time my mind was exercised regarding the ministry. Forgetting the withholding I had felt at Branscombe on the subject, I still looked for the Lord to open the door soon and so decided not to take a job, but to study the Scriptures and read the works of good men . . . But I came into great darkness and temptation. Looking back now I can see that I was trying to force the Lord’s hand regarding the ministry and that while I was not walking in a path of His ordering, yet He overruled it for my profit . . . After a time . . . I got a job with Southampton Borough Corporation . . . to survey the River Itchen prior to the erection of a new road bridge.’
He then applied for a one year teacher training course at Southampton University and was accepted. He commenced in October 1958 and lived at home. In January 1959, he went to live with Mr. and Mrs. Ebb Lewis at Worthing and completed a ten week teaching practice at the Worthing Boys’ High School. The headmaster was a member of a Brethren Assembly, and when father attended his interview, he noticed a Bible on the desk; at the close of the interview the headmaster put his hand on the Bible and said, ‘What is your attitude to this Book?’ Father said to him, ‘I believe all of it,’ and thereafter, though he was taken on to teach history, he was also asked to take Scripture in the second form, using Gideons’ Authorised Version New Testaments.
In April 1959, he had an interview at the Boys’ High School in Trowbridge for a post teaching Latin and History and was offered the job; thus began his fifty-three year association with Trowbridge. He said, ‘Trowbridge, from September 1959 as regards the ministry, was to be for me, the “backside of the desert.”’ He could not initially find lodgings with any chapel people and so had to go into worldly lodgings, which he found spiritually deadening and which laid the foundations for his lifelong contention against television. He wrote, ‘I remember cycling to The Halve chapel one Sunday moming, and as I passed up Back Street, my heart uttered that prayer, “Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,” I felt so filthy.’
He suffered with his nerves in these years, but received much of the Lord’s strengthening through it. He wrote: ‘One Friday evening I went to the Trowbridge Station and felt so sick with my nerves and dreaded travelling. Never can I forget in the entrance to the platform, the Lord spoke with power in my heart,
Jesus, our eternal Lover,
Says His words shall never fail.
(Gadsby’s 769, verse 2).
All fear was taken away and I travelled that evening in total peace.’
Others noticed that the Lord was preparing him for the ministry. Mr. Walter Croft’s widow, who lived in Bradford-on-Avon, asked him, ‘Does the young man who reads the sermons at The Halve ever feel like preaching?’ He wrote: ‘I was taken aback and totally evaded her question, but felt sorry for it afterwards. By this time, as there were few ministers at the time, I had been asked to read sermons at The Halve Chapel . . . Then old Mrs. Gumey asked me in her home whether I was exercised about the ministry, and I had to tell her that I was. I asked her how she could tell, and she said that she could tell by my prayers at the prayer meeting.’
At school, the headmaster asked him if he would take Scripture lessons, to which he agreed on condition that he would use the Bible only. Later it was agreed for him to hold Bible studies in the library on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Small groups of pupils attended and he started another Bible study in his room on Sunday afternoons. He wrote: ‘I went through all the Gospels (extempore), about ten verses at a time, and opened up the truths contained in them. Later I went on to other parts of the Bible such as the Prophecy of Isaiah and the Book of Job.’
Other opportunities were afforded him in the school when he became Careers Adviser. He said, ‘This gave an opportunity to ask students if they had ever prayed about their future. Some responded with a measure of scorn, but others confessed to having done so. Often I asked the Lord to give me an opening to speak a word in His name, and was sometimes surprised how, without thinking about the matter, an opening occurred. I remember driving into the town one day soon after I came to Trowbridge, and as I passed the fire station in Hilperton Road, the desire came to my heart forcibly:
If one soul from Trowbridge
Be found at God’s right hand,
My heaven will be two heavens
In Immanuel’s land.
We have cause to believe that this prayer was heard and answered. He saw some of the spiritual fruits of his labours in the school — one of those he was enabled to guide and instruct in those days is now a Gospel Standard minister. We heard him speak of a hope concerning several others — the great day will reveal it. He had a truly evangelical heart and a great concern for souls.
In the summer of 1961, he went to Holland to stay with Mr. Segers, a deacon at the Gereformeerde Gemeente in Lisse. He wrote: ‘The best
memory of that holiday was on the Sunday afternoon, sitting alone in the lounge . . . when the Lord blessed me in my soul with the hymn 596 verse
Redeemed, with Jesus’ blood redeemed,
His beauties called to trace,
No angel can be more esteemed
Than sinners saved by grace.
Then my soul was filled with a great sense of peace which lasted all afternoon and gave me such a sweet hope it was well with my soul. Holland was to be a place where more than once the Lord was to favour my soul with His presence.’
In September 1963, Mr. R. E. Mercer came to preach at The Halve. His text was regarding Elijah and Elisha. Father said, ‘What a sweet day it was to me! He went over all my exercises regarding the ministry and took them all up as though he knew them all. But he closed his sermon that evening with the words, “Stand still; and if you cannot stand still, sit still; and you if cannot sit still, be still,” and it was forcibly borne in upon my mind that as regarding the ministry, I should have to wait another six years; and so it proved to be.’
A time came when the headteacher asked for volunteers to take assembly. After holding back for two years, he wrote, ‘One morning on my knees, I vowed to the Lord that if ever he asked again I would offer. That very same evening at the staff meeting, the headmaster said, “Is there anyone here with sufficient courage to take assembly?” I went back home and telephoned the deputy headmaster . . . and agreed to take assembly. To me it was a fiery furnace, and I knew that only the Lord could help me, but I knew I must keep my vow. The Lord laid on my mind the subject “Fear.”’ He wrote of feeling greatly helped and continued: ‘Now the Lord laid on me the exercise to speak extempore before the school. I started a series of about eight addresses on the text in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” . . . Again it was a fiery furnace speaking.’ On another occasion he spoke from Mark 9:38-50, where it comes in three times, ‘Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.’ He wrote, ‘I spoke that morning of the worm of conscience and the fire of God’s wrath and remember walking down the steps of the platform with a clear conscience.’
Despite all this, he wrote, ‘Strangely, I was completely unaware that this was my training ground for the ministry, and for public speaking, and that here I was learning that blessed lesson of going with an “earthen vessel” in faith and waiting for the Lord to fill it . . . All the time since 1954 I had been longing to be sent into the ministry, and here was the Lord preparing me, and I did not realise what preparation I needed. Now looking back I can see all, and often feel I could have spent more time in “the backside of the desert,” such is the burden of the Word of the Lord.’
He was given blessings concerning the security of his own soul in these years, as well as preparation for the ministry. He wrote: ‘During these years, when at home at Southampton in my holidays from school, I remember two blessings at the prayer meeting at Bethesda. On the first occasion it was in singing hymn 1032 (Gadsby’s) verse 2:
Rebellious thou hast been,
And art rebellious still;
But since in love I took thee in,
My promise I’ll fulfil.
The verse came with sweetness to my heart and a real hope was raised up at that moment that it would be well at last. Not many weeks afterwards at the prayer meeting, the same hymn was given out and this time the third verse was applied with equal sweetness and blessedness.’
His mother died suddenly in July 1966. He wrote: ‘In great sadness and shock my father and I met that Monday morning and never can I forget the little bedroom at the front of the bungalow, where that morning I went down on my knees and the Lord drew near. I felt sweet access to Him and He spoke with power to my heart, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness have I drawn thee” (Jer. 31:3). At the same moment came the words, “Thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven you” (Luke 7:47). I do not know which I wept over most that week until the funeral on Thursday — whether in grief over our sad loss, or for the sweet sustaining influence of those words given to me.’
In the months following, he supported his father as much as possible, but found the travelling, his school work and taking the services at The Halve, a great strain. He wrote of one particular Lord’s day morning: ‘I felt utterly worn out as I got up in the morning and feared I was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. I got down by my bed in the middle bedroom at Nursling to pray, when the Lord broke in with great power in my soul with the words, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5).’ At the end of his life, he wrote, ‘In the last forty years I have had to plead it every time I have stood up to preach.’
He continued: ‘Also in these two years I had another great blessing. It was at the Lord’s supper at Bethesda at Southampton. Under a great cloud of condemnation and conviction I came to the ordinance, feeling that I came under that verse, “Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). I dreaded to sit down at the Lord’s table, fearing the Lord would cut me down. But as I sat down the words came with power and sweetness into my soul, “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Instantly I felt my guilt removed and I looked for my sins, but could not find them — all was peace.’[The second part of this obituary can be found here.]
Taken with permission from The Gospel Standard, February 2014.
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