Rev. Joshua Vaughan was one of that small, but venerable and noble company of ministers among the Baptist churches of Pennsylvania, who, through evil and through good report, toiled early and late, in season and out of season, to preach the gospel, and establish its institutions among men, in a day when strict fidelity to Christ's ordinances tried men’s bodies and souls.
This venerable servant of Christ was born near the Yellow Springs, in Chester County, Pa., in 1749. His parents were John, and Ruth Vaughan, of Welch extraction, both of whom died while their youngest child, Joshua, was an infant, whom they left to the care of his pious grandmother, Emma Vaughan. Her house being destroyed by fire when he was yet a child, and with it the records of the family, deprived him of the means of ascertaining the precise day of his birth.
During his boyhood, he learned the trade of blacksmithing, a business he some time prosecuted in the neighborhood of Red Lion, in his native country. His wife was Jane Taggart, a native of Ireland.
Mr. Vaughan was a man of enquiring and vigorous mind. He employed much of his time in reading, and improving upon his early education. which was confined to English Grammar, writing, Mathematics, History, and Geography. Being a highly respectable and popular man, known extensively in the county of his nativity, his fellow citizens elected him to the office of Sheriff when Chester; and Delaware Counties were united. This office imposed upon him the responsible and unpleasant duty of keeper of the Jail, which was located at Chester, on the Delaware River, fifteen miles below Philadelphia.
During Mr. Vaughan’s residence in Chester, as Sheriff and Jailor, he frequently attended worship under the ministry of the Rev. Philip Hughs. His naturally, strong mind grasped the masterly truths, of Revelation, and his heart received powerful conviction. From those who were intimate with him, we learn that his sense of depravity and need of atonement for sin, were so pungent and distressing, that he was sometimes on the borders of despair. At length he believed in Jesus Christ as the author of salvation, and hoped he was forgiven; peace of mind ensued, and he was baptized by the Rev. Philip Hughs, in 1780. While on his way to the scene of his baptism, in reply to a friend's enquiries of his destination, he replied, "We are Philip and the Jailor."
Mr. Vaughan discharged faithfully his official duties to the county as its chief officer, and was a firm friend and supporter of the institutions of religion; there being no church near his residence, his membership was held in the First Church, Philadelphia.
Robert Frame, Esq., clerk of the Brandywine Church, says: "Concerning Joshua Vaughan, the former beloved pastor of this church, I have found a letter dismissing him to its membership, under the care of the Rev. Abel Griffiths, its then pastor, from the First Church in Philadelphia, dated and signed by Rev. Wm. Rogers, ,D,. D., pastor. Our minutes, dated Dec. 9, l787, say: 'At our meeting, Joshua Vaughan was received into membership of this church by letter.' 'On finding him to be a man of particular gifts, at our church meeting, August 9, 1788, we gave him a call to improve his gifts in the ministry; which he accepted. December 17, we gave our brother, Joshua Vaughan, a letter of recommendation to travel.'
"In 1789, it was proposed by our pastor, Abel Griffiths; to set apart our brother, Joshua Vaughan, by solemn ordination to the work of the ministry; which was referred to the consideration of the next meeting, and all the members were desired to attend. A meeting for prayer was held, when nearly all the church was present, and it was again proposed to ordain Bro. Vaughan. It was unanimously agreed to, all the members voting by standing up." "The time was appointed, and calling to our assistance the Rev. Eliphales Daisey, on the 12th of December, we proceeded to the ordination. Our pastor preached a sermon, laying on hands with Mr. Daisey in prayer, who next gave a solemn charge to the candidate."
My Vaughan, from this time, appears to have devoted himself almost exclusively to the work of the ministry. As churches were small, and not in the habit of doing much towards supporting those who labored among them in the gospel, and he having a growing family, piously resolved to provide a competence for their worldly wants. He purchased a farm soon after he retired from public office, and arranged soon to pay for it; having thus provided for those of his own household, he henceforth employed his energies in spreading the knowledge of salvation among the destitute in our then large and growing population.
Respectable cotemporaries, a few of whom only remain, say, "Mr. Vaughan was a great preacher in his way and day; he was both doctrinal and practical -- his labors were much blessed, and he was much beloved."
Several of the last years of his life he preached once a month for the Bethesda Church, a people to whom he was greatly attached, and they, with all in the vicinity, were as much attached to him. The congregations in the summer seasons were, often so large that he was obliged to leave the meetinghouse and resort to a grove near by and speak to the throng who gathered under his ministry. He frequently had the presence of those who through his means had been instructed in the way of salvation.
The last sermon he was permitted to preach, only two weeks before his death, was from John 5:25 -- "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live."
Mr. Vaughan, though a studious man when at home, and a deeply reflecting man at all times, necessarily an itinerant, wrote but little, and but few discourses and letters, and most of these have perished, or are unknown. He was a favorite nephew of Deacon Evan Evans, one of the renowned Fathers in Israel in these early times, and shared largely his counsels and correspondence. The following are extracts from a letter of his to that good old uncle and man of God:
"January 6, 1788.
"LOVING UNCLE, -- May the Lord keep you and aunt such a state of health and bodily ability as shall enable you to attend the preaching of his word -- may he continue to you the comfortable visitations of his blessed Spirit, and give fresh visitations of his blessed love to your souls -- may you draw fresh supplies of living water out of the wells of salvation, through faith in Jesus Christ! Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!
"I am sorry, dear uncle, for your afflictions; they are only grievous for the present. I hope you kiss the rod, and view the hand that sends it. Our pains are for sin, and should, when we feel them, put us in remembrance of Jesus’ sufferings for our sins. I doubt not but you are sensible it was for your sins, with the rest of God's chosen ones, that he suffered all those piercing pains and sorrows.
"Dear uncle, our blessed Lord tells us by his own mouth, and affirms it by a double asseveration, that in this life we shall have sorrow, but all shall work for good to them that love God. 'Verily I say unto you, ye shall weep and lament, and be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy!' O what comfort there is in these few words to God's children -- ‘shall be turned into joy!' When our Lord was sorrowful there was none to comfort him. Behold, and see if there is any sorrow like his! When we are afflicted, let us have recourse to the garden of Gethsemane, and there view our Lord on his bended knees, falling with his face down to the ground under the weight of our sin, sweating great drops of blood. Let us lift up our eyes from thence to Calvary, and there view him bleeding, groaning, dying a most shameful death; and when rightly considered, in effect, our light affliction, compared with his, will hardly be worth a thought; for if these things be done in a green tree, what will be done in a dry? Thanks be to God, his name was Jesus, to die for our sins! His nature was love. O! was ever love like this? I thank you, my dear uncle, for the good exhortations in your letter. Glad am I to find you s clear in the doctrines of grace, and especially the view you have of Christian experience -- flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you. So great is the work of God's Spirit in bringing the soul into union with Christ, that it hath not, nor can It enter into the heart of a natural man to conceive of it. The Christian himself hath enough to do to give account of it when he hath experienced it in his own soul. You warn me against a legal spirit. Dear uncle, I find, enough to do to grapple with it; oftentimes I am tempted, against my will, to think I can do something. But thanks be to God, he has, I hope, truly convinced me by experience, that I can do nothing; but when I strive to do good, evil is present with me. Long did I strive to do something to recommend myself to God, but I found it as impossible as Peter did to walk on the sea. I am often made to cry out with him, 'Lord, save or I perish!'
"I am convinced no one can make a Christian but he who made the world. My desire is to know nothing among men but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. In that incarnate mystery is contained all the rich treasure of divine wisdom. This is the mark towards which I still desire to press; this the cup of salvation of which I wish deeper to drink; this the grace in which I long to grow; this the hope of my religion, yea, the whole of my religion is Jesus Christ -- this the life of all my joys. Means and ordinances are to me only rich, when enriched with the blood of the Lamb; in comparison, all things else are but chaff and husk. They who seek salvation in any other way, pursue shadows, and mistake the great end of the law, and err from the way, the truth, and the life. 'He that eateth of this bread, shall live for ever; yea, though he were dead, yet shall he live.' 'There is, therefore, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.' O glorious -- O precious, precious is the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints, to the children of God; but how much is it spoken evil of in our day, by those who err from the right ways of the Lord! Shall we sin because grace doth abound! God forbid. Thanks be to God for his goodness to us at this and all other times!
"I have much to say and to write. I hope o see you face to face, the Lord willing. I commit you into the hands of that Being who is able to keep you through life, till death, and afterwards raise you to glory. Desiring an interest in your prayers, I remain.
Your loving nephew, JOSHUA VAUGHAN
Mr. Vaughan's early habits and associations gave him a deep knowledge of the workings of the natural heart, and qualified him to adapt his instructions and conduct as a minister of God, with peculiar usefulness and success.
Baptism was much ridiculed, even by professors of religion, in his day, and men of the baser sort often originated strife and derision at the water side. Two such fellows, taking offence at his baptizing a friend of theirs on one occasion, swore that when he came down to the Brandywine to perform the ordinance, they would put him in its waters, and hold him under until he was disabled, or would desist from baptizing. Knowing this, and the men who threatening him, he came to his duty with a mind resolved what to do. Prayer and praise was offered, when he preached a powerful sermon, hoping to convict them of sin, but he saw a large number of men on whom it had no good effect; but they looked enraged and firm. By what signs he saw passing from the one to the other, he learned that they were leagued with his enemies, and prepared to execute their threats.
In closing his address, he said he knew what had been threatened, and who the leaders were, who meant to insult the audience and molest him; and instantly laying off his coat, and baring his arm, he stood out before them, with his broad chest distended, his countenance fixed on them, with significant gesture, said he was ready for the attack; but warned them, as they feared not God, to fear him, for he was determined to hurl the man that dared to interrupt him to the ground, and plunge him into the stream, and grind him under his heel upon its rocky bottom. Recollecting many of his feats of strength and agility when a sheriff and jailor, wherein he had taken and overcome several at a time of the most desperate and hardened outlaws, they hesitated, urged one another to the assault, and soon yielded and retired at a distance, each accusing the other for cowardice, and cursing their leaders for deserting them -- while this legate of the skies, calm and serene, in dignified solemnity, went forward and buried by baptism the happy convert who was the innocent occasion, in part, of such an outrage and unusual scene in connexion with the peaceable services of the religion of the Prince of Peace.
On another occasion, the husband of a lady about to be baptized, protested that Mr. Vaughan should not administer, and came to the water side, determined to resist him if he attempted it. He was a desperate fellow, well known for his brutal courage. The congregation were greatly alarmed at his fierce presence; his teeth were set firmly together, indicating furious rage; his fists were clenched, and he walked up close to where his wife and her pastor were standing.
Mr. Vaughan, as usual, read the Scriptures, prayed and sung one of Zion's songs -- not in the remotest sense alluding in his address to the opposition on the part of the man whose companion he now anticipated having the happiness to baptize into the fold of Jesus; closing, he stepped close and kindly to the enraged man, and in a respectable and mild manner handed him the Bible and hymn book which he had been using, and also his hat, asking him to be so obliging as to hold them for him while he should baptize his dear wife. The poor fellow's rage expired; he took the articles, looked fixedly on the solemn scene, wept, and receiving his companion as she came up out of the water, embraced her with great emotion. A few months after this, Mr. Vaughan and the people of his charge had the unspeakable pleasure of receiving that once lion-hearted man, as meek as a1amb, into the fold of Christ, by solemn baptism, which was performed at the same place that witnessed his opposition.
Of self-possession and courage, Mr. Vaughan was never destitute. In his manners he was exceedingly polite. He was regarded as one of the most truly genteel men of his time. By firmness always, and sometimes by great resoluteness and apparent severity, yet with constant meekness and suavity of spirit, he was ever adequate to the most trying emergency.
But the best of men, yea, all men must die: the most dauntless must yield to the decree of him in whose hands are all our ways; and the following obituary notice, taken from the Philadelphia United States Gazette of September 3, 1808, shows that our good soldier of Jesus Christ fell also asleep, and was gathered to his fathers.
"Departed this life, on Wednesday, the 30th ultimo, the Rev. Joshua Vaughan, pastor of the Baptist church of Brandywine, Chester county, Pennsylvania. The following day his remains were committed to the grave, on which solemn occasion a sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Johnson, of London Tract, and an address delivered by the Rev. H. G. Jones, of Roxborough. The subject of this memoir was a peculiar instance of the sovereignty of divine grace, and with his profession of religion became an example of uniform piety. As a minister of the New Testament, he was laborious, faithful, affectionate; and greatly beloved. His public discourses and private exhortations were abundantly owned by his Lord for the good of immortal souls. In, promoting the Redeemer’s cause, consisted his supreme delight. The death of an highly esteemed and valuable son, Dr. Vaughan, of Wilmington, in the year past, so sensibly affected him, that he may be said to have been ever since the prey of disease himself; for he had a heart formed for the pleasures and charities of domestic and social life.
Resigned to the will of his Heavenly Father, he saw the approach of the 'last enemy,' and finished his course with joy.
"A widow and several children are left to bemoan their loss, while he is numbered among those who 'sleep in Jesus.'"'No fancied God, a God indeed descends, To solve all knots, to strike the moral home, To throw full day on darkest scenes of time, To clear, commend, exalt and crown the whole.'"
On the marble which covers the remains of this man of God, which lie sleeping in the Brandywine church-yard, are the following tributary lines, prepared by his intimate friend and venerable surviver [sic], the Rev. H. G. Jones:
of a glorious resurrection,
all that was mortal of the
Rev. JOSHUA VAUGHAN,
A Christian Philarithropist:
He finished his labors
on the 31st of August, 1808.
As a minister of the gospel,
His exertions were unremitting,
and were abundantly
owned of God.
Death is the crown of life --
He wounds to cure; we fall, we rise, we reign;
Spring from our fetters, fasten in the skies,
Where blooming Eden withers m our sight.'"
The son of whom this obituary speaks, was also a licentiate preacher of the gospel. The following notice of him, as a man, a physician, a scholar, a friend, a parent, and a Christian, appeared in one of the Wilmington, (Delaware) papers, March 28, 1807:
"Died, on Wednesday evening last, of a nervous fever, Dr. John Vaughan, of this borough. His remains were yesterday afternoon borne to the Baptist church, attended by a great concourse of sorrowing friends, where an appropriate and pathetic discourse was delivered, by the Rev. Mr. Dodge, on the mournful occasion; and a solemn, affecting, and consolatory prayer, at the grave, by the Rev. Dr. Read.
"When we see the bud of infancy, just springing into life, nipt [nipped] by the frost of death, or behold youthful loveliness, in all its pride, sink into an early tomb, we cannot but experience a sentiment of mournful regret. But when meridian age, in the splendor of exalted goodness, and in the important duties of its station, is suddenly enveloped in the dark precincts of the grave, we not only sympathize with weeping relatives, but, in the true spirit of philanthropy, deplore the loss sustained by the great family of man. The grief of those connected to the deceased by the strongest ties of nature -- who knew him in the sweetest recesses of domestic life -- can only be felt by those whom the cold hand of death has bereaved of a dutiful son, a tender father, or an affectionate husband. The tears of the poor and friendless bedew his memory; for his bosom was the seat of humanity and feeling --kindness beamed in his countenance, and active benevolence warmed his heart.
"As a physician and chymist [chemist], Dr. Vaughan was justly eminent: though snatched off in the summer of life, he had traveled far in the walks of science. His mind was active, his memory tenacious, and, being a diligent student, at the age of 31 he had acquired a mass of medical knowledge and experience such as is rarely gained by one of his years. His manners, talents, and success, in very extensive practice, entitled him to the character of a great physician. We are doubtful whether he has left, in his profession, his superior in the United States. The doctrines of the blessed son of Mary he firmly believed, and we have reason to hope that he is now enjoying the glorious rewards which belong to the departed Christian." ============
[Taken from The Baptist Memorial and Monthly Record, September 1846, pp. 257-264. -- jrd]
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