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Rev. John Botheras

IF ever a man had a genius for being beloved it is the present Principal of Stafford College; and should the secret of such genius be sought, it would probably be found in an affectionate solicitude for the welfare of others, and a ready appreciation of all that is good and loveable in every one. No one loves the company of his brethren in the ministry more than he does, and with none is it a greater privilege for them to associate. The history of his pilgrimage from the place of his birth, near Penzance, in the year 1846, to the flourishing school over which he now pre­sides, is too full of incident to admit of more than the barest outline. Moreover, it is a history containing more glowing colours and deeper shades than fall to the lot of many. The human instru­ments of all that was good in his early life were chiefly the gracious influence and fervent prayers of his mother, as well as the winsome Christian life and persuasive appeals
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picture


of the sainted Henry Hosken, whose memory as an ideal class leader is sacredly treasured by a large number. He first essayed to preach in the little chapel at Tregarthen, in Cornwall, when a little over seventeen years of age; and though he entered the ministry when twenty-one, he had previously done useful work as Sunday school teacher and superintendent. From the first, his gracious, cultured personality and unusual gifts of eloquence made a deep impression on his listeners. When ordained at the Hicks Mill Con­ference, in 1871, he was recognised as a brother of distinction, and the following circuits in which he has travelled can provide hundreds who would gladly testify to the abundant fulfilment of the high promise of his youth, viz., Somerton, Bristol, Sheerness, Shanklin, Brighton, Devonport, Truro, Torrington, and Forest Hill.

Unhappily, as one thinks, the life so unusually endowed was fitted in a tabernacle too frail to endure the
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strain; and thus, besides what he has been, he himself, in spite of a cheerfulness well­nigh perennial, sometimes dwells wistfully on what might have been. As early as 1883 he was com­pelled to relinquish his work as General Sunday School Secretary through collapse of health. As a member both of the General Connexional and College Committees, however, he was able for many years to render valuable service, and to-day his presence is always welcomed at the meetings of the Book, Committee, of which he has been a member since 1897. His convictions, firmly and intelligently formed, have been always fearlessly expressed. Few men have exhibited a more per­fect illustration of the possibility of being both tender of heart and mighty in courage. Many readers of the Bible, Christian Magazine will recall his powerful indictments of the arrogance and priestly pretensions of High Churchmen. Articles from time to time appeared, bearing such titles as "Clerical Lawbreakers," and "The Encroachments of Sacerdotalism"; while in a controversy with Canon Carter and the Vicar of Hartland on ec­clesiastical assumptions, he easily vanquished his opponents by force of truth


deftly stated. Among other contributions to the same periodical mention might be made of "The Magi and the Babe," "The Christian Laws of Recreation," "The Preachers of Wild Wales," and "A Plea for Reverence in Modern Life." His tongue and pen have more than once eloquently illustrated the heroism and saintliness of such men as William Carey, Thomas Chalmers, and Christmas Evans.

Since the year 1874, the gracious partner of all his joy and sorrow has been a wife, than whom, he believes, no man ever had a better; and he has been known to point to Proverbs xxxi, 10-29, for her character sketch. Mrs. Botheras is the youngest sister of the late Mrs. Terrett, known to thousands for her enthusiastic and distinguished service in the cause of total abstinence. Two sons and a daughter generously and effectively support their parents in the conduct of the College; and of these Mr. Botheras recently wrote, "Three affectionate bairns, the joy of our hearts, long ago
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consecrated to Christian service."

The story of ill-health is never an easy one to write, and there are phases in the life of Mr. Botheras which are almost pathetic - only a firm belief in the guidance of a merciful Father saves it from being this. Just when his powers seemed ripe for many years of much needed service, and his brethren were eager to place him in the Presidential chair, it was seen that his health was unequal even to the strain of the ordinary ministry. A voyage to South Africa, and a later visit to Australia, where he was the honoured and happy guest of Sir Samuel Way, failed to restore sufficient strength. In 1897, there­fore, at the Exeter Conference, he was superan­nuated, and all then present will recall the keen regret felt by the Conference at so great a loss. It would be wrong, however, to suggest that the distinguished Head of Stafford College is a gloomy valetudinarian, for, though he still often fights the fight of faith in weakness and pain, he was divinely led in purchasing the school at Forest Hill, which ever since has gone on increasing in numbers and usefulness. The college is now a centre for the College of


Preceptors' Examinations, and is recog­nised by the board of Education as a secondary school, while in 1902 the Principal was elected an honorary Life Fellow of the Incorporated Society of Science, Letters, and Art (Lond.). One devoutly trusts that for many years he may be spared to enjoy his magnificent library of much­ loved and well-read books, and the true comrade­ship of a circle, ever widening "with the process of the suns."- (R. P.)
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[ Volume 1 pages  193 - 197 ]





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