John Robert Broome (1931-2013) – Part 2
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. The first part of this obituary by his son can be found here.
During this time, our father was exercised about marrying. He had to give up one girl, of whom he was very fond, but he was blessed through it. He writes, ‘I had a piano in my room at 28 Hilperton Road. I turned to play it as I often did from ear. I found myself playing the tune of the hymn to the words “Peace, perfect peace . . .” I got the book out and found the hymn and came to the verse:
Peace, perfect peace, with thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.
Immediately I saw that I had chosen my own way and asked the Lord to bless it, but had never asked Him what His way for me was. I got down on my knees at once and asked Him to show me His way, and immediately Mary Beadle was laid on my mind.’
He hesitated through fear, but eventually wrote and asked her if she had been exercised about him. He continued: ‘She replied immediately to say that she had been exercised about me for five years. She had heard the Lord’s servant Mr. C. Durbridge . . . preaching in The Halve five years previously from the text, “And the Lord remembered her” (1 Sam. 1:19), and the exercise had been laid in her heart that night that we would marry.’ And so the courtship developed and they were married on July 19th, 1969.
In his writings, he then returned to the subject of the ministry: ‘In April 1969, I had attended the General Meetings [of the Gospel Standard Societies] at Gower Street Chapel, London. In the afternoon Mr. Frank Gosden addressed the meeting from Isaiah 6 and spoke especially from verses 8 and 9. I was in the gallery, and when he came to the words, “And he said, Go . . .”, the word came with great power into my soul and I knew it was the command to go into the ministry for which I had waited so long . . . But now, like Moses at the burning bush, I felt unready and unfit to go. In 1963 1 had longed to go, now I drew back.’ He said nothing to his own father, but suddenly in October 1969, his father said to him, ‘The time has come, and I am calling a church meeting for you to give your exercises regarding the ministry.’ He was duly sent out to preach by the church at Bethesda, Southampton. He continued: ‘My first Sunday in the ministry was at Studley, when I preached from the words in Isaiah 42:16.’ Preaching again some Sundays later in Studley pulpit, the words dropped into my heart with sweetness and power, “I am Thy servant” (Psa. 116:16).’
In May 1970, he had to go into hospital for a hernia operation. He had great fears beforehand, but the Lord gave him a great peace as he lay waiting to go down to theatre. He wrote: ‘I felt a sweet peace come over me; all fear was taken away. I knew only the Lord could have given me such a peace.’ On the following Lord’s day morning, he went to the Anglican service in the hospital chapel and he was greatly blessed in the singing of one of James Montgomery’s hymns, particularly the following lines:
Though dust and ashes in Thy sight,
We may, we must draw near . . .
Faith in the only sacrifice
That did for sin atone;
To cast our hopes, to fix our eyes,
On CHRIST, on CHRIST alone.
He wrote: ‘I felt to be “dust and ashes in His sight” such a poor fearful, tempted unbeliever and yet such sweetness in having that blessed “faith in the only sacrifice that did for sin atone,” and grace given in that trial “to cast my hopes, to fix my eyes, on Christ on Christ alone,” which I believe I was enabled to do prior to the operation and in that morning service.’
In the spring of 1971, he suffered another deep trial, when my mother suffered severe complications prior to my birth. He was greatly blessed at this time with three lines of Cowper’s famous hymn, ‘God moves in a mysterious way’:
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break,
In blessing on your head.
He said, ‘I felt persuaded that all would be well . . . My heart was kept in peace.’ And indeed it was so. He said in later years that he had lived to see this promise fulfilled in three ways.
My mother suffered with her health for most of their married life, and he struggled to balance his responsibilities at home, at work and in the ministry. They moved house in September 1975 to a bungalow, but her condition progressively deteriorated, until just two weeks before her end advanced cancer was diagnosed.
During these last few days, under deep distress, father had to take the prayer meeting one evening. He said he had no text and no hymns. He wrote, ‘I was hardly a few yards from the hospital on Combe Down, Bath, when suddenly the Lord spoke from hymn 720 (Gadsby’s) verses 1 and 2. I was utterly broken down by it, for my heart was broken with my sorrows and also I had a most solemn sense of “my dread crimes,” which only the Lord knew. But, “His dear heart was broken too,” and I knew that He was with me and I felt His peace in my heart. I stopped the car and found the hymn. I started up again but had driven only a few yards when the Lord broke into my heart with hymn 704 (Gadsby’s) verse 1. I was indeed in “deep distress” and needed that “almighty hand” to hold me up. Now I had His presence and two hymns for the prayer meeting. Then Psalm 72 was brought to me and especially verse 15: “And He shall live, and to Him shall be given of the gold of Sheba: prayer also shall be made for Him continually; and daily shall He be praised.” I could see that Mary was that gold which would be given to Him . . . The blessing of that evening was such that it carried me right through Mary’s death and the funeral and into the weeks that followed.’
My mother died on June 25th, 1976 at the age of 37. The funeral took place at Zion Chapel, Trowbridge (John Warburton’s old chapel) and was conducted by her former pastor, Mr. Clement Wood, with her father Mr. Charlie Beadle taking part. She was buried in Trowbridge cemetery.
After a very difficult period trying to balance the ministry, his school work and parental responsibilities alone, he became prayerfully exercised about re-marrying. He married his first wife’s widowed cousin, Jean Ashby, at The Dicker on April 5th, 1977. Thus the family expanded, to include her two fatherless children. We all soon moved to 50 Grasmere, Trowbridge, which was to be his home for the rest of his life. At the end of his life he wrote: ‘Looking back on it over these long years, I can see more and more the Lord’s good hand in it all, the ordering of our footsteps and the divine provision. My “thoughts have been established” and I have proved that “His ways are past finding out.”‘ They were blessed with a daughter on February 27th, 1978.
Family afflictions followed and on Wednesday, May 30th, 1979, he was admitted to hospital for the removal of his gall bladder and came safely through the operation. Under much concern, he wrote, ‘Hymn 7 (Gadsby’s) was very sweet to me.’ He continued: ‘On the Saturday after the operation, the words came sweetly to me, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you” (John 14:18), followed by the words, “His mercy endureth for ever” (Psa. 107:1). The following Monday morning I woke up early between 4-5 a.m.; when lying awake thinking of Jean and the children the Lord spoke to me in Rutherford’s lovely hymn:
And aye my murkiest storm-cloud
Was by a rainbow spanned,
Caught from the glory dwelling
In Immanuel’s land.
I lay and wept, as looking back over the past two-and-a-half years since June 1976, I had such a sight of the Lord’s goodness and could see that “murky storm-cloud” in the death of Mary and “the rainbow” in the gift of Jean. I lay there in peace and quietly wept with joy and gratitude to the Lord. I had had to go that way, apart, for a little while to feel the “good hand of my God upon me.”‘
For some years, life went on somewhat uneventfully, with our father exceptionally busy with his ministry, his teaching and family life, as well as writing for the Friendly Companion and his books; he records nothing of this period.
In 1985-6, he had a severe ulcer under his tongue and was advised to see a consultant. On February 26th, 1986, the consultant ordered an immediate biopsy. He wrote: ‘I drove home, and when I got in feeling very weak, I sat down in my armchair in the lounge. I was under a huge cloud and at once there began to come before me all the sins of a lifetime. I can never forget as I sat there how they passed before me and it went on and on. I felt like Hezekiah under a sentence of death and unready to die. As I waited in the next eight or nine days I spent most of my time on my knees in my study seeking the Lord. As I was on my knees one morning, opening my Bible, I lighted on John 13 and began to read how the Lord Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. When I came to verse 10, the Lord spoke with great power into my heart, “Ye are clean,” and it went on in the words of John 15:3, 4, “Ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me and I in you,” and then in verse 8, so shall “ye bear much fruit.” I was now at peace with God. All my sins, the sins of a lifetime, were pardoned in a moment, the guilt and condemnation were taken away and I walked in that peace for many days.’ When he saw the consultant, he was assured there was no cancer.
Our father had suffered with angina since 1978, but it did not hinder his activities, provided he paced himself. However, partly due to this and partly due to the needs of the school, he retired from teaching at the end of the summer term 1986. He still had two dependent children and spoke of how the Lord wonderfully provided at this time.
He continued: ‘Now I was free from school my life began to change. I could undertake more preaching engagements in the week, and attend the meetings of the Gospel Standard Trust, as well as serving on the Gospel Standard Library Committee and the Home Committee of Studley Bethesda.’ Within weeks of his retirement, his own father passed into glory, which was a time of great sorrow, but also great spiritual joy. We well remember his words around the grave that afternoon in September 1986: ‘We have wept much, but we cannot weep now as we stand here in the knowledge of the certainty of the eternal safety of our dear father.’ (Nearly twenty-seven years later, we felt that same certainty and joy concerning him.) Two years later he published the book Surely Goodness and Mercy, which gives a beautiful account of his father’s life.
His writings contain much on his early years of retirement, for which there is not room here. However, freed from secular work, his life became totally dedicated to his Master. (‘Thy God, whom thou servest continually’ [Dan. 6:20] was mentioned at his funeral.) Through the wonderful chain of providence, he came into contact with Christian Ghurkha soldiers in the British army and maintained a loving interest in some of them until his end. Some stayed in our home, together with Kenyan soldiers. It is very evident that the Lord greatly used him for the spiritual growth of some of these men, perhaps even their conversion.
From the summer of 1988, again through a remarkable chain of providence, another of his life’s works began to take shape. For the first time that year, Dutch young people came to Trowbridge, and his love of Holland in his younger days was rekindled. These visits continued until his death, and still continue. Several who came here as students over the following twenty-five years can trace their spiritual beginnings to his ministry and his fatherly concern. As was evident in his final days and after his death, many in Holland counted him as a spiritual father — ‘Though we have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet . . . not many fathers’ (1 Cor. 4:15). In the years 1989 to 2011, he visited Holland every year except one, and regularly spoke in schools, universities and churches. He became a well-known and well-loved figure there, occasionally being asked to write for the Dutch Reformed daily newspaper.
Not only was he the means of blessing to others, but the Lord greatly blessed him in Holland in those years. He wrote: ‘There (Barneveld) in 1989, we heard an old Dutch minister, Ds. Haag, preach from Revelation 4:1: “After this I looked, and, behold, a door opened in heaven . . .” It was clear that the old man had seen that door open. There was a sweetness and unction that night in the church as he spoke of the rainbow around the throne and the red in it speaking of the blood of Christ, and said there was an open place before the throne which was for young and old. It was a time to be remembered . . . Later we heard Ds. De Leeuw when he was pastor at Barneveld preach with great power and sweetness from the first Sunday of the Heidelberg Catechism: “What is your only comfort in life and death?” and the answer: “The precious blood of Jesus Christ.” Again a time never to be forgotten . . .’
In November 1993, his life-long friend Mr. John Rayner passed to glory in blessed assurance. He wrote of the funeral: ‘That day the Lord spoke to me in Bethel Chapel, just prior to the funeral service, with the words, “Thine eyes shall see the King in His beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off” (Isa. 33:17).’
In 1996, he published a biography of John Warburton, called Servant of a Covenant God, having spent nearly forty years researching it. On October 9th, 1999, two of his grandchildren (twins) were born prematurely. When he realised the birth was imminent, the Lord spoke to his heart: ‘He Himself knew what He would do’ (John 6:6), and this was confirmed later as he stood looking at them. Also a few days later, the Lord applied the words in his heart, ‘As thy days, so shall thy strength be’ (Deut. 33:25).
On October 8th, 2001, just a few weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attack in New York, he flew with his wife and a friend to America amidst very tight security. He wrote: ‘I crossed the Atlantic in perfect peace. The Lord had spoken to me before I left, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). He preached at Choteau, Sheboygan and Grand Rapids. He continued: ‘It was a visit never to be forgotten, especially with the help I felt given me in the ministry and the union with so many godly people in the States.’
He had suffered from angina over twenty years, and on March 1st, 2002, he had to go for an angiogram. The tests showed that his arteries were severely blocked, so he was kept in Bath hospital and a bypass operation was speedily arranged. He wrote: ‘One morning early in that waiting period, as I woke up, the Lord spoke to me with great sweetness from a line of a hymn blessed to me in 1960-61 at Trowbridge Station,
Jesus, our eternal Lover,
Says His word shall never fail
(Gadsby’s 769, verse 2).
And after it came the words, “If we believe not, yet He abideth faithful: He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). Now I was at peace and this blessing was to carry me through the whole of my heart operation.’
On March 11th, he was transferred to the Bristol Royal Infirmary and operated on the following morning. It would appear that he suffered a heart attack immediately before the operation, but (naturally speaking) due to the swift action of the medical staff, there was no damage to his heart and a successful quadruple bypass operation was carried out, from which he felt much benefit in the remaining years of his life. He wrote: ‘Back on the intensive care ward, I came round in the evening to find my wife and son standing beside me. They told me afterwards that I looked very ill and wondered if I would pull through. But I was at peace; the blessing before the operation was carrying me through.’ We well remember that evening — coming away it seemed that that ward was the ‘house of God and the very gate of heaven,’ such was his blessed state of peace and rejoicing that evening.
For some days after the operation, he was very unwell and sick. He wrote that amidst this bitter experience, ‘the Lord spoke in my heart, “They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall” (Matt. 27:34). I was broken under a sweet realisation of having a tiny measure of fellowship with Him in His sufferings.’ He continued: ‘One night as I lay awake, without realising it, I was quietly praying aloud in the night. I was saying, “Lord, Lord,” and from across the ward the words were coming back to me, “Why callest thou Me Lord, and doest not the things that I say?”‘ Father suffered persecution from a godless man on that ward, but he said, ‘The Lord spoke in my heart, “They hated Him without a cause” (John 15:25). I lay quietly and wept as I felt it such a favour to walk in the steps of my Master. In this hospital I experienced a little of fellowship with Christ in His sufferings.’
He did not preach again for ten weeks, when he recommenced with a prayer meeting at The Halve in May, taking for his text Matthew 27:34: ‘They gave Him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when He had tasted thereof, He would not drink.’ We remember the great savour and sweetness as he spoke of the Lord’s great blessings and gentle chastenings. This affliction had a profoundly-sanctifying effect upon him which was evident in his later life and ministry.
Now he was in good health for the next nine years and was enabled to carry out a very extensive preaching itinerary. From 2003 until his end, he served on the Gospel Standard Committee. In 2007, he published a book on the hymnwriter Anne Steele, entitled A Bruised Reed, again the fruit of over forty years’ research. In 2008, he went to the United States to preach again, first to Sheboygan and then to Grand Rapids, and met many old friends; he recorded that it was a time of great blessing.
In the following two years, he greatly rejoiced to baptize two dear friends of whom he says, ‘I had walked with each in their sorrows and afflictions and had lived to see the fruit of sanctified affliction in their lives.’
He had always had a great interest in teenagers and university students, and in 2009 he became the first Editor of the Perception magazine. He continued as Editor until his death, with the last edition he edited being published posthumously in March 2013.
His fruitful life was now drawing towards its close. In the late spring of 2011, he started suffering with back pain, and after a persistent chest infection, the doctor ordered a chest X-ray. He wrote: ‘When called to the surgery by our G.P. after the initial X-ray, I was told at once by her in no uncertain terms that as far as she was concerned I had cancer until anything different was proved. This came as a great shock. But as I left the surgery and got in my car these words dropped quietly into my heart: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (Psa. 118:17).’ Eventually, multiple myeloma was diagnosed and he began six months’ chemotherapy treatment. He also required radiotherapy and blood transfusions and he became very weak; under this affliction he was kept very quiet. He stopped preaching in September 2011, but was supported by the words he had received (Psa. 118:17) and in May 2012 was enabled to commence preaching again.
His own writings end with the following: ‘The chemotherapy treatment eventually brought the myeloma under control in January 2012 and the treatment finally ceased in February. Now in September 2012, the myeloma has reappeared and I have had to return to the chemotherapy treatment, but the words of Psalm 118 still uphold me.’ The myeloma progressed rapidly in the following months. He was enabled to continue to fulfil most of his preaching engagements until late November, when he had pneumonia. He seemed to receive a peculiar anointing and unction in these closing months of his ministry — several people have testified of blessings received, including one who came forward for baptism.
We wondered if his ministry was finished, but on the morning of December 30th, 2012, he announced unexpectedly that he would preach at The Halve in the evening, which he did with great feeling from Matthew 28:20. We wondered if this was his farewell sermon, but he was able to preach the following Lord’s day morning at The Halve from Exodus 3:12, then to preach at Chippenham on January 9th, 2013, from Psalm 91:2 with great unction, when there was a blessed sense of the Lord’s presence. The following evening he took the prayer meeting at The Halve from the same text. Finally, he preached on the Lord’s day morning January 13th from Isaiah 42:16, remarkably, taking the same text as he had at Studley on his first public preaching engagement in October 1969.
On January 16th, he was admitted to hospital with symptoms of renal failure. On the following Lord’s day afternoon, we visited and he was full of the Lord’s goodness to him over his life — once again, it was the ‘house of God and the gate of heaven.’ However, in the following days, the devil seemed to harass him; he said, ‘We do not know how low we have to come to sink into those everlasting arms’ — but nevertheless, he felt to be resting in them. He was resting on the promises the Lord had given him in days past. A fellow minister visited him and spoke of the sweet savour of Christ that pervaded his conversation.
Remarkably he survived pneumonia again, but combined with renal failure and the collapse of his blood, he was severely weakened. He still clung to the Lord’s promise to him at the start of the illness in June 2011 (Psa. 118:17) and cherished thoughts of preaching again. However, during the following week, in communion with his Lord in the night, he was brought to see that his work on earth was done and he was given a peace that largely remained with him unto the end. He now longed to be with Christ, but spoke of death as ‘a great mountain.’
At this time, he spoke to several of the family saying, ‘We shall not be separated, I am just going on before.’ He quoted the hymn,
Though sundered far, by faith they meet,
around one common mercy seat.
On his final Lord’s day on earth, he spoke very freely and seemed happy. He mentioned (from Pilgrim ‘s Progress) Mr. Fearing’s passage across Jordan:
And here also I took notice of what was very remarkable; the water of that river was lower at this time than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last, not much above wetshod.
After several weeks in hospital, he was strengthened to make the journey to the Bethesda Home at Studley on Tuesday, February 12th. He was so thankful to get there, yet dreaded having to go back to Bristol three times a week for renal dialysis. However, as he was being prepared to go for the first time, he became very unwell and his redeemed soul departed the earthly tabernacle to enter its eternal rest at 7.50 a.m. on Thursday, February 14th, 2013. We saw such mercy in the Lord’s dealings — he did not have to make that journey, or suffer the long struggle with death that he had feared. We have reason to hope that it was as he had said of Mr. Fearing: ‘so he went over at last, not much above wetshod.’
And so was fulfilled what the Lord promised him in Manningford Chapel at the age of 16 in 1948: ‘That we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God’ (Acts 14:22).
The funeral service, taken by Mr. B .A. Ramsbottom, was held at The Dicker Chapel, Sussex, on February 28th, 2013. The hymns sung were all chosen by our father in his last days: ‘When peace, like a river, attendeth my way’; ‘There is a land of pure delight’; ‘When this passing world is done’; and at the grave, ‘The Saviour lives no more to die!’ Mr. G.D. Buss committed his mortal remains to the grave in The Dicker graveyard in sure and certain hope of a glorious resurrection. Many felt it to be a most sacred occasion. A memorial service was held at John Warburton’s chapel (Zion, Trowbridge) on March 2nd, 2013.
Taken with permission from The Gospel Standard, March 2014.
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