Memoir of the late Benjamin Sackett of Hythe, Kent, by his son Jabez
"A Good Man leaves an inheritance to his children's children", is an aphorism which is aptly illustrated in the life and labours of the departed saint whose history we here briefly relate.
Mr. Benjamin Sackett was born on 4th July, 1811, at St. Lawrence, Isle of Thanet, in the County of Kent. His mother dying at his birth, he was adopted by his grand-parents, Jeremiah and Hannah Sackett, who supplied all his temporal wants, and gave him a measure of education according to their circumstances and the times in which they lived. Although not decidedly pious, they lived good moral lives, and were in the daily habit of reading a portion of Holy Writ and a form of prayer; and they regularly attended the services at the parish church.
Thus he became in early life inclined with a sacred reverence for the Scriptures, and was taught the necessity of religion, as consisting in the fear and worship of God.
Here, too, he found a variety of good books; among other works of divinity, written by able men of various schools of thought. Being naturally fond of reading, he was able to store his mind with a fund of general knowledge, and became acquainted with the different tenets of theologians. This habit of reading followed him throughout his entire career, and was doubtless the secret of the readiness and aptness he manifested in the pulpit, and also on a great variety of platforms.
From his childhood he was conscious of the strivings of the Holy Spirit, who employed various means to enlighten his mind, and lead him to the consecration of himself to the service of God. When quite a youth he began to attend regularly the services held at the Wesleyan Chapel at St. Peter's, Isle of Thanet. He was invited to become a teacher in the Sunday-school, and he went for a time. The lessons he learnt there had a beneficial effect upon him; but after a while, feeling that he was not qualified as he ought to be, to "rear the tender thought, and teach the young idea how to shoot" in spiritual and divine things, he unwisely left the school. Being thus free from restraint, he, for a time, plunged into the world, and walked according to its maxims. Still the Holy Spirit followed him, and wooed him to turn and walk in the right way; and, continuing to attend the chapel, he felt a reverence for sacred things, and a regard for the people of God.
In the year 1829, he decided to seek salvation; and he has said that for a few weeks before he found mercy, he was richly endowed with a spirit of prayer. In the fields and by the wayside, he would pour out his heart in supplication, often quoting Wesley's hymns to give expression to his feelings. Although deeply convinced of sin and the need for pardon, he did not experience those awful terrors which some feel. There was rather a sense of pleasure in feeling that he was returning from the "far country" to his "Father's house"; and this feeling was intensified by the deep assurance he had that he would be welcomed and pardoned. He also had for a companion a young man who was in a similar state of mind. These two often conversed on spiritual things, and both were earnestly prayed for by the father of his companion, who was a good man, and deeply anxious for his son's spiritual welfare.
A weekly prayer meeting was held at Northwood, sustained by friends from Ramsgate and Margate. While thus under deep conviction, Mr. Sackett and his friend Mr. Thomas Packer attended one of these meetings, and there both of them found deliverance, and were enabled to realize the great joy of those who, like Philip, find the Messiah. Love to Christ was soon followed by love to all men. More especially was this feeling manifested towards his aged grandparents, with whom he still lived, although apprenticed as a miller to Mr. Henry Hudson.
A new epoch now commenced in his history. His mind having been previously stored with various kinds of knowledge, as soon as his heart became filled with love to God, he longed to proclaim to others the joyful tidings of salvation. During his walks, and while at work, appropriate passages of Scripture would recur to his mind, and their meaning open out before him. Thus he began to experience that "call of the Holy Spirit", to preach the glorious Gospel of the blessed God without which all preaching will be vain and profitless. At the same time the brethren began to see in him the necessary qualifications for active work. Hence, the "call of the Spirit" being backed by the "call of the Church", he preached his first sermon at St. Lawrence in an old chapel used as a day school, where he had been taught the rudiments of learning. The text chosen was, "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian"; and he never doubted that both text and sermon were inspired by the Holy Spirit. While he continued in that Circuit, he experienced very great pleasure and profit in the work allotted to him, and from the kind-hearted sympathy everywhere shown to him. Here also his mind was thoroughly instructed in the truths of Holy Scripture; and through close reading, and the frequent discussions on religious subjects which took place at the quarterly and other meetings, he was led to embrace those doctrines which are taught and expounded by the Wesleyan Methodists. This doubtless led to that intense love which, in riper years, he manifested for the Church of his choice. His broad sympathies led him to help, as far as opportunity allowed in other churches, especially the Baptists, Independents, and Bible Christians; but his noblest labours and warmest devotion were given to the people among whom he thus in early life cast in his lot.
In the year 1834, Mr. Sackett left his native place, and, through the influence of a friend, went to Hythe, in Kent, in search of work. This he obtained in Mr. Jesse Hudson's mill, where he stayed three months. He then engaged himself to Mr. Benjamin Horton, who died about twelve months after. With his son and grandsons (J. Horton & Sons) he remained till shortly before his death, and a deep and lasting friendship was formed between them.
In 1842, the first great trial of his life occurred in the death of his wife and infant daughter, leaving him with three sons, the eldest being only eight years of age. He deeply felt his loss, but obtained consolation from the knowledge that she died in the Lord. About two years afterwards he married again, and this second wife became a true helpmeet for him, and an excellent mother to his children. They lived happily together till 1868, when the hand of death took her from his side. She died as she lived, trusting in the merits of her Redeemer. On Christmas Day, 1871, he was married to his third wife, who is left in widowhood to mourn her loss. Mr. Sackett was pre-eminently a man of prayer. While many have gratefully acknowledged the benefit derived from those prayers, his sons have the greatest cause for exultation and gratitude. His desire for their spiritual welfare was intense, and each of them can recall instances in which they have heard him in secret pouring out his heart in ardent supplication for them, mentioning each particularly by name. It is with pleasure we record the fact that those prayers were heard and answered. All of them were in early life won over to the love and service of God, being drawn by the cords of love; and all following in their father's steps, are preaching the Gospel. After their conversion a great burden seemed to be lifted from his mind, and he literally wept for joy. Still his prayers for their welfare did not cease, but continued to the last. Towards the end of his life he loved to be alone in intercourse with God, and often his widow has gone out of the room that he might enjoy such solitary communings.
As a local preacher he was well received, and in Hythe, where he laboured for more than fifty years, he was always welcomed. His sermons were full of deep thought and close reasoning, and were eminently Scriptural; more remarkable for depth and earnestness than for eloquent delivery. Although quite extempore and delivered without the use of notes, there was a complete grasp of the subject, and freedom in the use of illustration, which doubtless resulted from the habit of close reading, practised all through his life.
Next to preaching, he laboured most assiduously and successfully in sick visiting. He had a special talent for this duty, and the great day of account will alone reveal the result of such labours. One peculiar characteristic, which often was painful to his friends, was his deep humility. This led him to avoid giving any trouble; and he would frequently walk home from his appointments without calling anywhere, through a dread of being burdensome. At intervals during his life, Providence interposed in a remarkable manner for his preservation. On one occasion his head was jammed in between the mill-sweep and the post of the head window, through some one moving it forward at the bottom. Presence of mind was given him to ask the person to move it back; and thus his head was preserved from being crushed. On Christmas Day, 1836, while returning from an appointment, he lost his way in the deep snow which blocked the roads. After wandering about for some time, he at last saw Saltwood Castle, having walked over a wood filled with snow. Thus, knowing where he was, he eventually reached home in safety. These and other direct interpositions of Providence made a lasting impression on his mind and he gratefully acknowledged the good hand of God upon him.
He often expressed a hope that his end might be sudden, and that he might "cease at once to work and live". This wish was gratified, although many years sooner than his wife and sons expected. They had hoped to have the benefit of His experience and prayers for several years longer; but God in his Providence ordered it otherwise. On Saturday, 17th May, he walked five miles to fulfil an appointment on the next day. During the night he was taken ill, and returned home on the following Wednesday. His liver and digestive organs ceased to act, and he quietly passed away in the early morning of 8th June, 1885. During the few days of his illness, his wife and two of his sons attended him, and many very pleasing reminiscences are engraven on their minds. On one occasion, when he had become exhausted with suffering, they quoted:-
For me my elder brethren stay;
And angels beckon me away.
when he forcefully finished the quotation, laying particular stress on the word me,
And Jesus bids me come.
The nature of the disease prevented much conversation; but he was frequently heard to articulate, "Heavenly Father", showing that the habit of his life was strong in the article of death; that even in Nature's weakness he was holding communion with his Father in heaven. A few minutes before he died he was asked if Jesus was with him, and he answered, "Yes"; and thus calmly fell asleep trusting fully in His infinite merits. Thus, released from the clay tenement, his happy spirit winged its flight to the realms of the blest; there to bask in the sunshine of the Redeemer's face, and to realize those visions of glory which he had often had when about his Master's work below.
The office-bearers of the Society carried him to his burial, followed by nearly 100 officials from various parts of the Circuit. Tea was provided for them in the school-room, and was followed by a meeting in which many warm and grateful sentiments were expressed in veneration and love. Truly a standard bearer has fallen in Israel. May the God of our father be our God, and enable us to follow his bright example and eventually meet —
Beyond the river,
Where the surges cease to roll,
and where God shall for ever wipe away all tears from all faces.
13th August, 1885, Jabez Sackett