WHEN Mr. Keach was upon his death-bed he sent for his son-in-law, BENJAMIN STINTON, and solemnly charged him to care for the church which he was about to leave, and especially urged him to accept the pastoral office should it be offered to him by the brethren. Mr. Stinton had already for some years helped his father-in-law in many ways, and therefore he was no new and untried man. It is no small blessing when a church can find her pastors in her own midst; the rule is to look abroad, but perhaps if our home gifts were more encouraged the Holy Spirit would cause our teachers to come forth more frequently from among our own brethren. Still we cannot forget the proverb about a prophet in his own country. When the church gave Mr. Stinton a pressing invitation, he delayed a while, and gave himself space for serious consideration; but at length remembering the dying words of his father-in-law, and feeling himself directed by the Spirit of God, he gave himself up to the ministry, which he faithfully discharged for 14 years — namely, from 1704 to. 1718.
Mr. Stinton had great natural gifts, but felt in need of more education, and set himself to work to obtain it as soon as he was settled over the church.
Thoroughly to be furnished for the great work before him was his first endeavor. Crosby says of him: “He was a very painful and laborious minister of the gospel, and though he had not the advantage of an academical education, yet by his own industry, under the assistance of the famous Mr. Ainsworth (author of the Latin dictionary), after he had taken upon him the ministerial office, he acquired a good degree of knowledge in the languages, and other useful parts of literature, which added luster to those natural endowments which were very conspicuous in him.”
He will be best remembered for the zealous part which he took in movements for the general good. He was the originator with others of the Protestant Dissenters’ Charity School in Horselydown, at which conscientious dissenters were able to obtain an education for their children without their being compelled to attend the Established Church and learn the Catechism. To assist in the maintenance of this school, an evening lecture was established on the Lord’s-day at Mr. Stinton’s meeting-house, at which six ministers officiated in turns.
We find that Mr. Stinton and his church were largely interested in the repair and rebuilding of a Baptisterion in Horselydown, to which the various churches were able to bring their candidates for baptism, and administer the ordinance comfortably and decorously. Very few meetinghouses at that time possessed baptisteries of their own, and as these places were usually small it was not easy to provide proper vestries and robingrooms.
At the Common Baptistery every convenience could be provided for all the churches which chose to use it.
But the grand achievement of this pastorate was the establishmentOF THE BAPTIST FUND. Mr. Stinton was one of the chief originators if not the first mover in the establishment of this fund, which has been the means of untold benefit to the Baptist denomination. Its first object is to make due provision for the honorable maintenance of poor ministers, and to assist in training up others to succeed them in their office. How great a need there was in the matter of ministerial poverty is too char from a resolution of the managers of the fund that none were eligible to receive assistance who received more than £25 per annum from their congregations. What true devotion must have fired the breasts of men who could bear such penury for Christ’s sake! It was time that such extreme poverty should not be allowed to exist needlessly, and that sufferers should be generously assisted. To this end certain churches subscribed a capital sum to form the basis of the fund: Mr. Stinton’s church giving £150, and being therefore entitled to send the pastor and three delegates to vote upon the distribution of the moneys. The fund has now a large sum to expend annually, and thereby helps struggling pastors, gives grants of books to students, and spends an amount annually upon the education of young men for the ministry. The fund is called THE PARTICULAR BAPTIST FUND, as being intended to aid Calvinistic rather than Arminian Baptists. This was not at all to the mind of Stinton, who desired to have the fund established for the benefit of all Baptists who held the great fundamentals of the gospel.
Although himself a Calvinistic Baptist, he thought it unlovely to divide the body with a hard and fast line, and unwise to open doors for consonant dispute and disunion. Finding that his views were not endorsed by the other brethren, he entered his protest, and then proceeded to aid them to the utmost of his power in their more limited design. He was not impracticable, and in this he far surpassed certain pretentious Liberals of the present day, who will do nothing if they may not attempt everything.
In the later days of Mr. Stinton, as the lease of the meeting-house in Goat’s Yard was nearly run out, preparation was made for erecting a new place of worship in Unicorn Yard.
Spending himself in various works of usefulness, Mr. Stinton worked on till the 11th of February, 1718, when a sudden close was put to his labors and his life. He was taken suddenly ill, and saying to his wife, “I am going,” he laid himself down upon the bed, and expired in the forty-third year of his life. He smiled on death, for the Lord smiled on him. He was buried near his predecessor, in the Park, Southwark.