A brief account of the life of Benjamin Porter of Sedgley, Staffordshire; one-time senior deacon at Moden Hill Strict Baptist Chapel.
Benjamin Porter was born on the 7th May, 1876, one of a family of five. He was married in 1900, celebrated his diamond wedding in 1960, and died on the 6th January, 1966.
His mother was a godly woman who was called by grace at 17 years of age, and was baptized at Robert Street Chapel, Lower Gornal. She died in 1938, aged 90.
His father was a worldly man who, unable to obtain work, eventually left them all to fend for themselves, and went to America for seven years. Life was hard during that fatherless period, and Benjamin’s mother could not afford threepence for his education. When his father returned from the U.S.A., ill health prevented his taking any employment, and he died at the age of 65.
Benjamin left school at 11 years of age, and when he was 13 began work down the pits, and remained a collier until retiring at 75. He had many escapes from death, and twice was almost buried alive by a roof fall.
He was a drunkard, and bad language was so often upon his lips that it would break out in his sleep; his wife was often the subject of his violence while he was under the influence, and his family lived in fear of him.
As a pigeon fancier who won a number of prizes in racing contests, Benjamin used the Lord’s day chiefly for this sport. He was a fighter, too, and considered the best way to settle a dispute was with his fists.
In the early years of his married life, his wage was a meagre 12/- per week, with which he had a wife and increasing family to support, and he used to sing sometimes, to try to forget the burden of his poverty. His dear mother offered many prayers for his salvation, for his way of life was a constant grief to her; however, the day in which “salvation was to come to his house” eventually arrived, when Benjamin was almost 40 years of age.
One Sunday morning he was taking his pigeons for training, and was passing a chapel in Swan Village, Staffordshire, when he heard a hymn being sung. He dropped the pigeon basket and remained rooted to the spot, until the conclusion of the hymn:
Behold what wondrous grace
The Father has bestowed
On sinners of a mortal race,
To call them sons of God. (Dr. Watts)
Disturbed and distressed, he continued his journey, but his heart and affections were fast removing from that way of life. He entered his usual public house, ordered his drink, but left the draught untouched. His old companions called, “Ben, give us a
song!”, but no song could he give them, and he left the place with the sentence of death in his soul.
A long and deep law-work followed, and poor Benjamin was like the dove out of the ark, who found no rest for the sole of her foot. He went from place to place seeking for the truth, until one Lord’s day his mother persuaded him to accompany her, and thus he entered his first Strict Baptist chapel.
The late Mr. Battersby was preaching, and Benjamin heard the minister describe his former life with such exactness that when they got home he asked his mother what she had told Mr. B. about him. When he realized that nothing had passed between his mother and the minister, he concluded that the man must be a fortune teller. His astonishment much resembled that of the woman of Samaria, who cried: “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did; is not this the Christ?”
After further gracious work of the Holy Spirit upon his heart, Benjamin, together with his wife, was baptized at Providence Chapel, Rowley Regis, on October 15th, 1933.
Separated now from his old companions, he found it a lonely pathway. His wife, who had suffered so much at his hands, found his change to be genuine and lasting; for during the remainder of their life together (nearly 50 years) he was a loving husband, a devoted father, a humble disciple of the Lamb, and a staunch, loyal deacon of the church. He walked by faith, and enjoyed communion and fellowship with his Saviour.
Husband and wife soon proved the truth of that word, that it is “through much tribulation” His people must enter the kingdom. Their first son was killed at the age of 9 years, being knocked down by a horse and cart; their second son dropped dead in a lorry he was loading, aged 34; their third son, returning from work, dropped dead in the garden, he was 44 years old; their daughter died of heart failure after a short illness, in 1958. Thus they knew the language of the psalmist: ‘Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord”.
One remarkable incident of his life was when another of their sons lay at the point of death. Benjamin begged of the Lord to give him this sign: a single bright star in the heavens, that his son would recover. Satan mocked him concerning this request, and the thought arose in his mind, “there are thousands of stars visible to the naked eye, which one could you prove to be the one you prayed for?” Nevertheless, late the same evening Benjamin went outside and surveyed the heavens and there, in the vast expanse, one bright star shone forth. He rushed back into the house to fetch his wife, and they both gazed and wondered at the loving-kindness of the Lord. In a short time the son was well again.
Benjamin held office as deacon and superintendent of the Sunday School for many years; the solemn manner in which he gave out the hymns impressed itself upon many, and his choice of hymns was often found to be most suitable and in accord with the
subject being dealt with by the minister. His conversation revealed a depth of gracious wisdom, his knowledge of the truth was profound, and the grace of God in him shone all the brighter against the dark background of human frailties and short-comings.
The road was to him a thorny one to his journey’s end, but very gently did the Lord take down his earthly tabernacle. Shortly before his departure he had a blessed assurance that all his sins were pardoned in the precious atoning blood of the Lamb. He was in prayer night and day before the end, and, “weary of earth, himself and sin,” he looked up, stretched out his arms, and cried, “Take me. Lord! Take me. Lord!” Shortly afterwards he entered heaven by prayer, aged 89.
“Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace”. (Psalm 37; 37).
He whose own works do speak, need not speak of his own works.