Five Ways to Remember: Dedication – Peter Nathaniel

You Peter N, were named after Nathaniel, a god fearing great-great-grandfather of yours. Seeing as I am somewhat of a toss-pot like Nathaniel’s father Richard, I thought it well to remind you of my sins of the flesh by incorporating ineradicably in your name a reminder of righteous reaction against the wilfulness of self-indulgence.

Your forebear removed way back along the ladder to Adam, was a very notable character. So much so, that the Australian Dictionary of Biography asked me to do an itsy-bitsy piece about his life and works.

Knowing that you won’t read useful knowledge I will thunder out that he came to Sydney from County Wexford, Ireland and landed here in May 1841 with related family expatriates. Sixteen, including himself, had started off, but poor old Richard had not survived the voyage, and was buried at sea.

Now Nathaniel was not only a very strict Methodist and lay preacher, he was a damn good carpenter and did quite well in the Maitland district. About 1850, he really got with the sermons and in 1861 became ordained as an Independent Methodist minister, with a power to solemnize marriages.

If ever you get around to it, have a browse through his journal published in 1864. It is full of no-tom-foolery and is an example to the mods of what befalls those who do not behave. Now take this quote:

“If Satan ever appeared as an angel of light, and in the shape of a woman, it was in the person of Mrs. H.. So polished a hypocrite, I have never met. She was the wife of the master of a vessel, which sailed out of the harbour; had a fine personal appearance, and polished manners. She had been living with a man, who was not her husband. A pious woman found it out, and spoke to her, and brought her to the meetings, which I conducted. She left the man, and after some time her husband took her again, and they lived together. He often accompanied her to the chapels. She soon began to profess religion, and possessed a fine gift for prayer, and gained the esteem of many of God’s people; but a married man, who was brought to God in affliction, and who had been very wicked, fell a victim to her wiles. She spread a net for his feet, in which he became entangled. He first commenced to see her home from the meetings, and after a little, it was found out that there was something wrong between them, but it soon proved to be a certainty. When I challenged her about it, she dropped on her knees, and with uplifted hands and falling tears, in the presence of God declared her innocence. They were both turned out of society. She still continued to attend the chapels, and some believed she was hardly dealt with. One man of long standing in the church, and a public teacher was of the number, he visited at her house and kept her company, until he fell into the same deep ditch as the other. He too was expelled the church, and the cause of much scandal to religion: both these men were married; but this was not all. A minister of a Christian church was so infatuated with her, that he took her to be his house-keeper in the country, and soon after brought great scandal on the cause of God.

I have in the course of my experience, known great injury done to the work of God by company keeping, especially amongst young people. They get acquainted in the meetings, and then begin to escort each other home, until attachments are formed, and religion trifled away, if not great scandal brought on the Lord’s work, and the best of causes deeply injured by it. Young people who profess religion, should not keep company alone, until they see a suitable person, and a proper time, and then get married immediately. No devil does more harm in the church, than the courting devil. I have often heard people complain of their temptations, and blame the enemy of souls, whom we know is always ready enough to ruin the human family, when they themselves are to blame after sending an invitation to the devil to tempt them. What else can they expect but that it will be accepted? Those who wish to enjoy religion must take care and keep a tender conscience, which if well regulated, will always warn them of danger. If the light is in the smallest degree opposed and resisted, happiness departs and back-sliding begins. What I say unto one, I say unto all, watch.” [The Life, Religious Experience, and Journal of Nathaniel Pidgeon, 1864, pp51-52]

Old Nathaniel was good enough for his flock to build him a substantial church on a corner of Sussex and Liverpool Streets. It still exists but is without the sanctity of hosannas, alleluia’s and hallelujahs – it reverberates now only to the bangings and swearings which go with garages – ex churches.

[W.E. Pidgeon c.1970]

Note: Nathaniel’s church on the southeast corner of Sussex and Liverpool Streets, Sydney no longer exists today; replaced by a high-rise building containing commercial retail outlets and serviced apartments.

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