1. By our late brother Gavin Simpson
James Butler Stoney was born in Portland, County Tipperary, on May 13, 1814, and when only 15, he entered Trinity College Dublin to study for the Bar. In 1831 during an outbreak of cholera, he was taken ill, and his first thought was “How can I meet a holy God?” Alone, he threw himself on his face and cried to the God he had heard of as a boy, who alone could receive the chief of sinners because the “Crucified One” was at His right hand. A long sleep restored him but he had been “born again.” “No more law for me,” he said, “I’ll be a witness to grace”—the grace that could only be revealed from glory for sinners. He joined the Divinity Class at the same College and completed his studies but was not ordained. During this period he spent time studying the Scriptures.
He married Mary Frances Elwood in Dublin in 1838. She was a daughter of Robert Elwood of Knockadoo County Roscommon in the West of Ireland. They spent their early married life in County Tipperary and County Mayo in Ireland and at Gooding Lodge, Pembrey (near Llanelli) Carmarthenshire. They had one daughter and four or five sons. The daughter, Anna, was the eldest child (1839 – 1932). By 1871 they had settled in London living at 23 Lonsdale Square, Islington. In 1901 they were at 106 Falsgrave Road, Scarborough.
Mr Stoney did not go abroad to serve God, as far as is known, as did J N Darby and others, such service being limited to Great Britain and Ireland, but for almost 60 years he served God actively and faithfully. Besides his oral ministry, he “contributed to a number of Christian periodicals”. For many years he edited and contributed to one called ‘A Voice to the Faithful.’
He served in a series of bible readings in Edinburgh in October 1895, and following these meetings he had a fall. He was indisposed until his death on 1st May 1897. His daughter wrote a diary of his closing days which is entitled “From Glory to Glory”. It covers the period of his life from his return from Edinburgh until his death. At one point she read to him the notes of the Bible reading at Edinburgh on the Priesthood of Christ, then contained in ‘A Voice to the Faithful’ (see JBS vol 6 p. 315.) and she was deeply touched to see how his own words, almost his last words in public, are being made true to himself now. He said at the end of the same reading “It is the time you spend with the Lord that is everything to you” (vol. 6.] p. 324.)
Mr Stoney continued to serve the Lord and his people even while indisposed. There is a section in Volume 3 of his letters giving details of his communications whether written, dictated or spoken during this period. He did so until two days before the day of his death. Details of his burial are not available except that he was buried in Manor Road Cemetery, Scarborough. His widow and Anna continued to live at Falsgrave Road until Mrs Stoney died on 30th April 1902.
In reading his ministry you feel that he had a distinct impression of the Lord’s greatness and that he was in the gain of what he ministered. On one occasion his daughter said to him that persons were saying servants have a special line or impression given by God. She asked him “What is yours?” he replied “Oh, I think Glory is my impression”.
Mr. Stoney said “I did not know Mr. Darby until after he was in Plymouth in 1833. After leaving the University, I went to stay with him at a brother’s house at Cork, where I was his constant companion; and just to give an idea of the truth that came out, I mention an attempt of mine to compose a hymn, entirely a new idea to me, as a divinity student, raw from the University, and before I was twenty. You may see from this how very clearly was brought out the fact that our place is heaven, and that Christ is our Head there.” The verse is quoted below so that those who read this may share the impress which prompted him to compose it.
HARK! happy saints! loud lift your voice,
Tell to the world how we rejoice –
Yon heaven is our home.
There lives our Head with glory crowned;
And we as for His kingdom bound,
All cry – Lord Jesus, come!
J.B. Stoney (1814-1897)
In 1865 he composed a poem entitled ‘REST’ . . . which shows how near he was to God.
Extracted from the preface to ‘Encouraging Words – Extracts from the Ministry of J B Stoney’, by Gavin Simpson, published 2006 by Stone Publishing Trust, Sevnoaks, Kent http://www.stonepublishingtrust.org.uk/index.html
2. From ‘Chief Men Among the Brethren’
JAMES BUTLER STONEY was born at Portland, Co. Tipperary, on 13th May, 1814. His father was a strict Puritan and his mother (nee Butler) equally strict from a different point of view. Her four sons remarkably answered to her culture in mind, in address, and in manner of life. They had private tutors, and lived in a country home, with only country pursuits and pleasures
J.B.S. entered Trinity College, Dublin, at fifteen, taking his place at 70 out of 92. At nineteen he was Senior Freshman and well up in Classics and Law. His first religious impression was as a boy, when the Rev. Baker Stoney, Rector of Castlebar, the friend and fellow-worker with Mr. Nagle of Achill, came to Portland. At family prayers he read Acts 9, and dwelt on the fact that God’s salvation was so great that He could send a “light out of Heaven” to arrest one soul, and in that light was seen a Saviour in the glory of God for a man on earth who was stamping out His Name from the earth. He saw that just One and heard the voice of His mouth (Acts 22 and 26).
The youthful mind is “wax to receive and marble to retain, ” and he never lost the sense of the revelation in Christ of the “kindness and love to man (philanthropy) of our Saviour God” (Titus 3. 4). But the ambitions and joys of youth left little room for serious thought. He was eagerly following his studies for the Bar; all his prospects in life depended on his success at the Bar.
In 1831 men were dying of cholera all around in Dublin. He was suddenly taken ill, and his first thought was, “How can I meet a holy God ?” The agony of his soul was worse than that of the body. He rang for his servant to go for the doctor. “Thomas, I am afraid I am dying. ” “Surely you are, sir, ” said Thomas. Alone he threw himself on his face, and cried to the God he had heard of as a boy, who could receive the chief of sinners because the “Crucified One” was at His right hand. When the doctor came he was exhausted and appeared dying, but quite calm he said: “Jesus will have me. Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
A long sleep restored him, and he was soon able to return to his studies. But he had been “born again,” born for a new world, new hopes, new life. “No more law for me,” he said. “I’ll be a witness to grace, ” the grace that could only be revealed from glory for sinners.
He joined the Divinity Class at Trinity College, Dublin, where there were really good men at that time, but he had to wait nearly four years. He could not be ordained until he was twenty-four years of age. His family were very angry; his uncle would have nothing more to do with him; as his fine talents and opportunities were being thrown away for a curate’s pay.
But during those four years he was studying the Scriptures with all the earnestness of a soul that had learned that unseen things are for eternity, the seen things of this life passing away. As he studied the Epistles he found that the “gifts” for ministry in the Church of God were given directly from the Ascended Man to each one, so that by Christ’s own appointment one became an evangelist or a teacher, etc. (Eph. 4). *He would not wait for a curacy; he would go out at once into the highways and hedges and invite sinners to come to God’s great salvation: “Come, for all things are ready. “
He wrote a little book called “Discipline in the School of God,” dealing with the Old Testament characters, and contributed to several periodicals. He spoke somewhere every day and travelled much. A fervent, impressive speaker, he anxiously avoided anything like eloquence, feeling that the Spirit of God was the only power for holy things.
J.B.S. died on 1st May, 1897, just before his eighty-second birthday. God was his exceeding joy to the end—while telling of Him he gently fell asleep. He rejoiced to say:
“‘Tis the treasure I found in His love
That has made me a pilgrim below.”
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“When I look at this place, He is not here; and when I look at myself naturally I am not fit for Him. How happy then to know that I belong to the place where He is; and that through grace I have been made suited to Him in that new position; so that I set my mind and affection there, as the place where my deepest joys are realised.”– J.B. Stoney