George Barton Parsons of Laverton (1813-1840)

The following obituary is taken from The Bengal Obituary or A Record to Perpetuate the Memory of Departed Worth, being a compilations of tablets and monumental Inscriptions from various parts of Bengal and Agra Presidencies, to which is added Biographical Sketches and Memoirs of such as have pre-eminently distinguished themselves in the History of British India since the formation of the European Settlement to the Present Time.  Published in 1851 by Holmes & Co. of Calcutta and W. Thacker & Co of London & Calcutta.

The Scotch and Dissenters Burial Ground, Calcutta

REV. G. B. PARSONS— (Late Missionary at Monghyr.)

To those who have been nearly acquainted with eminently pious and useful labourers in the Church of Christ, it is a pleasing but mournful task to record the dealings of Divine Providence with them, and the work of divine grace in them for the information of others. Perhaps, where an available medium is at land it is even a duty. Biography has been extensively used by innate wisdom in Scripture both for our warning and encouragement, and can we do right to reject such an example?

The Rev. George Barton Parsons was born on January 23rd, 1813, at Laverton, a small village in the county of Somerset, England. His beloved and honored parents were both eminently pious, and truly exemplary in the management of their children, and to their example and early instructions must be attributed much that shown in the character of their son; at an early age, therefore, George was placed at a boarding school where he remained till his fourteenth year. He was afterwards placed with a respectable tradesman at Frome, Somerset. Here he enjoyed the advantages of a strict watchfulness over his whole conduct, and of a faithful gospel ministry.

Mr. Parsons had for some time felt a hope of being engaged in the Missionary work, yet his retiring disposition would not permit him to take the first step in introducing him. It was therefore wisely and kindly arranged by Divine Providence that one of the deacons pressed the matter closely upon him. This he considered a call from God, and he was quite willing to comply with it. He therefore consented to an examination before Dr. Collison, theological tutor of Hackney College, by whom he was highly recommended to the Committee of the Baptist Missionary Society, and accepted by them. At their request, he entered Bristol Academy in April 1834; during the three years of his residence there, he devoted himself to his studies with unwearied diligence, oftentimes closely engaged for successive days and weeks during sixteen hours in the twenty-four.

After the time of his leaving Bristol an application being made by the Church at Torrington, in Devonshire, for a person to supply them for three months, Mr. Parsons was recommended thither. He entered on his brief charge with great fidelity and ardour, and it pleased the Lord to use his efforts as the means of a great awakening and revival. In October 1837, lie entered, according to the arrangement of the Committee, on three classes at the London University, those of Hebrew, Mental philosophy, and Mathematics, in all which departments, but especially the first, he gained considerable honors.

In June 1838, he received intimation from the Committee through his revered uncle, Rev. John Dyer, to prepare to leave his native land, for India. His ordination took place at Frome on the 31st July 1838, during the period of the Missionary meetings. Respecting his own feelings at this time to leave a beloved widowed mother, and affectionate brothers and sisters was to him no small trial, but he had counted the cost; on the subject he thus writes:

When I see the tears starting into the eyes of my beloved, affectionate mother, though she is evidently trying to suppress them, the first thought at such a sight is, ought I to inflict such pain on one to whom I ought to be a solace? Yet to draw hack would be a deeper settled pang. It is only by bringing the light of eternity and the truths of the Bible to bear on the point that we can find relief. It is when we can realize a ruined world, a bleeding Saviour, a final judgment, to be intimately connected with us as Missionaries,—that it seems a matter of little importance where we spend our lives, and of all-absorbing interest how we spend them; that the pangs of parting, the tears of absent friends and the endearments of home seem a small sacrifice contrasted with the invaluable privilege of declaring among the Heathen the unsearchable riches of Christ.” On the 14th of August he was united in marriage to Sophia, eldest daughter of Mr. Joseph Rawlins, of London, and on the 22nd September embarked for Calcutta, with his beloved partner and several Missionary associates and Christian friends During the voyage, which was performed under peculiarly favourable circumstances, he applied himself to the Hindustani language, so that before reaching India he had attained a knowledge of its construction and could read and translate with facility.

Mr. Parsons arrived in India on the 22nd of February 1839. His ultimate destination was Monghyr, a spot rendered peculiarly attractive to him for having been the scene of the brief but devoted labours of an endeared relative, whose bright example had not a little stimulated his desires in early life for Missionary service. In accordance, however, with the wish of the Committee in England, that should Calcutta require his aid he would remain there for a few months. Finding the Mission in Calcutta weakened by the death of Mr. Penney and the removal of Mr. G. Pearce, he complied with the invitation of the brethren to share their labours until Mr. W. H. Pearce should arrive from England. With his characteristic ardour, and inspired with the high and holy motive which ever governed him, labouring whether present or absent to be accepted of God, he entered on his work in Calcutta, and although suffering from the unhealthy influence of the climate during the most unfavourable seasons of the year, his zeal knew no abatement. The arrival of the beloved and lamented Mr. Pearce and his Missionary associates in the month of September freed Mr. Parsons from his engagements in Calcutta, and he accordingly proceeded to Monghyr; with renewed strength from the voyage on the river he reached his long desired station on the 26th of November.

In a month after his arrival in Monghyr, he was enabled to speak to the Natives in their own tongue, of the unsearchable riches of Christ, and this he continued until laid aside by that sickness which terminated his brief earthly career. Agreeably to the desire of friends in England, who had raised funds for the purpose, he had succeeded in gathering around him a little hand of native orphan children, in the full confidence that a blessing would follow careful training, faithful instruction and fervent prayer; and that so, under the Spirit of God, these little ones would become witnesses for the truth in this land of darkness. Two and often three hours of every day were spent with these children endeavouring to convey spiritual instruction to their minds in the most attractive form. With this view he commenced a series of Bible stories, which, by engaging the attention, afforded an opportunity daily of bringing home some weighty truth to the conscience. These exercises were truly delightful to him; he would often remark, “Whilst I endeavour to instruct them, I am myself taught; they are as texts to me for more public ministrations.” It will not be necessary to enter into a further narration of Mr. P’s engagements at Monghyr: it was not by great and mighty deeds that he expected to serve his Divine master in the Mission Field, so much as by a daily exemplification of the graces of a Christian character, but he was soon called by a discharge of active duties, by a protracted course of increasing weakness. On the 14th of July 1840, his disease, which eventually proved to be consumption, assumed a decidedly alarming character; for three weeks his bodily sufferings were acute, but his mind was kept in perfect peace, stayed on God. He remarked, ” though I am weak, it is my comfort to know that Christ is all; I can rest on him, though I cannot collect my thoughts to pray or meditate the promise, ‘ Ye are complete in Him, perfect in Him is my confidence; he answers all demands.’ “

On the 13th of August he removed to Bhaugulpore; about the latter end of October it became evident that disease was making rapid progress; the Medical men at Bhaugulpore gave their decided opinion that a voyage to Europe afforded the only hope of prolonging life. Such was the heavenly state of his mind, that he heard this decision with perfect composure, and replied, “The will of the Lord be done.” At another time he said, “I have much to be thankful for in the pleasure and assistance I enjoyed in preaching at Monghyr, all the glory be to God, and may nil the sins connected with it be forgiven for Jesus’ sake! О how my heart clung to Monghyr. I never expected to spend a happier period on earth then I spent there. ‘As the eagle stirred up her nest’—no, my nest was not stirred up, but God gently and tenderly took me out of it. He led me to the retirement of this place, and whilst my disease has been developing he has been bringing down my stubborn will, so that, with all my clinging of heart to that spot, I can now calmly yield it up, and having no will but God’s will, can say and feel, ‘ It is well,’ and as it regards the orphan children, I know it shall be well with them. God has greatly enlarged my heart in prayer for them and encouraged my confidence that He will be especially their guide and teacher now.”

Whilst on the river, moving towards Calcutta, he revived considerably, and his mind naturally adverted to the possibility of recovery, and he said, ” should a measure of health be again granted I am sure I would nut choose my field of labour ; I can say with sincerity,  or send me whither thou wilt to America, to New Zealand, to Africa, any where so that I may work for thee ; and yet if I have one desire above another it is to instruct the poor in my native village, and comfort the declining years of my beloved mother. His last earthly Sabbath was one of pre-eminent enjoyment, a foretaste of that eternal Sabbath which was so soon to open upon him in all its glory and blessedness. He was strengthened to engage with Mr. Moore in leading devotional exercises, and his pleadings for the different communities with which he had enjoyed Christian fellowship in India, were most humble and fervent. He also wrote a farewell letter to the Native Church at Monghyr.

Mr. Parsons reached Calcutta on the 12th of November 1810, and was removed to the house of Isaiah Biss, Esq. The following morning almost all the Mission circle came to see him. Towards evening, the Rev. Mr. Yates came; he was the only one absent in the morning; Mr. Yates read the 116th Psalm and then offered up a prayer, solemn as though kneeling beside the dying couch of his suffering brother. Mr. Parsons retired soon afterwards, referring to the prayer, he said, “How consolatory! How beautiful! How I enjoyed it! Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” He seemed to feel acutely the afflictions that had come upon the Mission. Though his words were few, they were in this spirit; “Gladly would I yield up my life, if so God might be honored and souls saved.” He then spent sometime in intensely fervent prayer ; when he ceased, though much exhausted his countenance was expressive of calm delight and heavenly repose on God, as though having cast all his care upon Him no cloud of anxiety could ever again overshadow his tranquil spirit. He prepared for rest. His sleep was unusually sweet and peaceful and a placid smile was on his features. This sleep continued for nearly two hours, when it was interrupted by the cough which came on with considerable violence and occasioned the rupture of a blood-vessel. Observing the anxiety of those around him, he said with uncommon energy, “I am not afraid.” His eyes instantly closed, and he spoke no more.

The following inscription is inscribed to his Memory:—
Sacred to the Memory of George Barton Parsons, Missionary,

Who was distinguished in life by his amiable temper, sterling piety, and devoted spirit; and in death by tranquil peace and triumphant hope. He was born Jan. 23d, 1813, arrived in India Feb. 22d, 1839, and died Nov. 13th, 1840.

He had this testimony that he pleased God.”—Heb. xi. 5.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”—Ps. cxvi. 15.

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