This is a continuation (part four) of the Fielding Legacy story.
In my last post we discovered the three Fielding tombstones in Colmworth graveyard. This article looks at the fourth tomb of the Reverend Timothy Matthews.
Rev Annette Reed, the current vicar of nearly Little and Great Paxton records,..
Timothy was a very tall man, an imposing figure, but he was troubled, constantly searching for God’s will. He had a conversion experience in church one day and ” there fell as it were from his eyes scales of darkness and doubt” . It is said he became a new man – and he felt it was his duty to minister not just to his own people but to ” sinners perishing in the neglected parishes around him” Henceforth, this large character was to be found preaching around the countryside of Bedford. At the Zion chapel in Ravensden is preserved his bugle – many of his sermons and letters are recorded. He became Chaplain to the House of Industry in Bedford.
The bugle mentioned was used to summon his congregation to church! Colmworth History Society summarised his life:
“The Reverend Timothy Richard Matthews was born in 1795 at Long Sutton, Lincolnshire and died at Bedford in 1845. He was curate of Bolnhurst between 1818 and 1825 and of Colmworth between 1818 and 1830. He was chaplain to the House of Industry in Bedford from 1825 until 1832 and pastor of Christ Church, Bromham Road, Bedford from 1832 until his death. He was a great evangelist.
To quote from the introduction to a collection of letters to and from Timothy Matthews’ bishop published in 1978:
“The Reverend Timothy Matthews was in his lifetime, and still is, a controversial figure. He is unknown to the ‘Dictionary of National Biography’, but was the subject of a laudatory biography published nearly a hundred years after his death (namely “The Life of T.R.Mathews”, Thomas Wright 1934)… He has been more recently referred to in Miss Godber’s ‘History of Bedfordshire’. To Thomas Wright, his biographer, Matthews was ‘this truly great and noble minded man,’ whom he would include in succession with Wyclif, Latimer, Whitfield and Wesley! Miss Godber writes of a new spirit of expansion among all denominations induced by the growth of population and a wider view being taken of their responsibilities. She refers to Timothy Matthews as ‘the most unconventional figure of the time… a law unto himself.’…” Colmworth and Neighbours History Society
The main side of his tomb is engraved with the following:
The Rev. Timothy Richard Matthews, B.A. For 25 years a Minister of the Gospel, Twelve of which Curate of this Church. Born July 26th 1795. Died September 4th 1845. He was an eminent Minister of the Lord Jesus Christ. By his unwearied labours and self-denying love a multitude of believers was added to the Church. Like his divine Master he went about doing good. He sought to proclaim to every creature whom he could reach the Glorious Gospel of the Blessed God. Not only in the Chapel which his affectionate people built. But in the open streets of Bedford in numerous villages of the county, and in many other villages and towns of England he preached Salvation to perishing sinners by the blood of the Lamb.
On the reverse side the tomb is this tribute from his congregation:
As a husband and a father he was inexpressibly dear to his family by his meek and gentle virtues. These made him an example to the believers amongst whom he ministered. He died from exhaustion and sickness brought on by his labours. The last scripture from which he taught his Church beautifully sets forth his past conflict and his present bliss. “To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” In adoration of that Saviour who made him what he was and in token of affection to their beloved pastor’s memory his flock have raised this tomb. ‘Dear? Lord of the Heaven we pray Thee send forth many such labourers into Thy Harvest.’
The Fielding Connection
And on one end of the tomb we discover the Fielding connection as it pays tribute to his wife Ann Matthews (15 April 1799 to 16 Nov 1884) who was sibling to Joseph, Mary and Mercy Fielding. Ann and Timothy were married in this Colmworth church on 12 January 1821.
The bio references to Rev. Matthews mention him being “troubled” and a “controversial figure” – what is hidden behind those labels is that he almost became a Mormon! In the next post of this Fielding Legacy series we see how the Reverend Matthews accepts and then rejects the restored gospel message.