A short Biography of MRS. MARY PLASKETT.
Written and Published in 1833
By James Dredge
(Taken from the Book – The Biographical Record or Sketches of the Lives, Experience, and Happy Deaths of Members of The Wesleyan Society – In The Salisbury Circuit)
Mrs Mary Plaskett (nee: Bower) is my 6th x grt grandmother… she was the daughter of a Wiltshire Clock Maker ‘Peter Bower’. Her descendants were prominent London Clock, Watch and Chronometer Makers.
Mrs Mary Plaskett
“But it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.” Jehovah.
Mrs. Mary Plaskett was born in the parish of Downton, August 12th, 1739. Her father’s name was Peter Bower; he was by trade a clockmaker, and resided at Redlinch. There is good reason to believe, that, amidst abounding iniquity, he was, in some measure, careful of the morals of his children; at least, more so than was usual in those days. Being of the Established Church himself, he brought up his family in a regular observance of her forms, and in diligent attendance on her services, which, without doubt, laid the foundation of that undeviating morality which characterised his daughter Mary from the days of her childhood, to the time of her conversion to God.
Some time in the year 1762, or 63, she entered into the marriage-state with Reuben Plaskett, a plain, honest, labouring man, with whom she lived comfortably about the space of twenty years; when he was unexpectedly hurried away from her, by that scourge of mankind, the small-pox, which, at that time, was making sad havoc in the neighbourhood.
Being now a widow, and destitute, Mrs. Plaskett removed to her son’s residence at Gosport, where she remained about twelve months; but, not being quite so comfortable as she had expected, she returned again to her native town, though without a place where to lay her head. But He who hath promised to be the Husband of the widow, raised her up a friend when she most needed one: So true is that saying, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Thus it proved in the case of Mrs. Plaskett. William Musselwhite, an old neighbour of hers, and an acquaintance of her father, gave her a kind invitation to make his house her home, and partake of what his humble board afforded until she should hear of some other habitation.
During the period of Mrs. Plaskett’s residence at Gosport, her next-door neighbour at Downton, Mrs. Bishop, had also become a widow; who, hearing of her old friend’s destitute condition, sent for Mrs. Plaskett to live with her, as her companion.
Soon after, through the influence of Mrs. Eyre of New House, a vacancy in an alms-house in Salisbury was offered her; but the thought of leaving her kind friend, Mrs. Bishop, was more than she could endure. The late Rev. Mr. Lear, long the Vicar of the extensive parish of Downton, and a truly pious and evangelical Clergyman, knowing the affection which subsisted between these two widows, kindly exerted himself in procuring for Mrs. Plaskett the allowance of money, without her being obliged to become an inmate of the charitable institution. For this act of kindness to a poor destitute widow, the blessing of Him who binds up the broken in heart will, doubtless, rest upon this worthy Clergyman, in that day when every man shall receive his reward; and when benevolence to the amount only of a cup of cold water shall not be unrequited.
Thus graciously did the superintending providence of a merciful God provide for her, and bring her by a way which she had not known. It does not however appear that the trials which she was called to endure, or the mercies which she received, produced in her soul any sanctified effects. She avoided open sin, but she was not found seeking after gospel holiness, “without which no man can see the Lord.” A regular attendant, as she had ever been, on the services and sacraments of the Established Church, to which she was conscientiously attached, she did not imagine, that any thing more than this was necessary to carry her to heaven. A pious acquaintance sometimes used to say, ” Mrs. Plaskett, your regular attendance on divine ordinances will not justify you in the sight of God; something more than this is necessary.” Frequently, with tears she replied, ” If this will not do, what can I do more?” So ignorant was she of the plan of salvation ! and in this state she continued many years. The conversations of her friend had, however, produced some misgivings in her mind as to her fitness for a better world. She sank deeper into a state of bondage to fear; and how to perform that which was good she knew not.
Although at that time she heard the gospel preached in its purity in Downton Church, both by the venerable Vicar, and his pious and excellent Curate, the Rev. Mr Dashwood, it does not appear that she was ever stripped of her own righteousness. The drawings of the Spirit she did, doubtless, feel; as, in after days, she would sometimes speak of the comfort which she had more than once felt under the preaching of the Rev. Mr. Dashwood, but for want of Christian communion these comforts were of short continuance.
It was reserved for the Wesleyan Methodists, as instruments in the hands of God, to lead the enquiring mind of this truly humble woman out of the toils of self-righteousness, where she had been for seventy years wandering
” In endless mazes lost,”
by expounding to her the way of God more perfectly.
In the year 1814, the Methodists erected a new chapel in Downton, which was opened in the month of September. Soon afterwards, Mrs. Plaskett was induced, from mere curiosity, to attend the preaching; her mind being, at this time, considerably prejudiced against every mode but that of the Established worship. The time of love was, however, come; and He that opened Lydia’s heart, now opened hers to attend to the things which were spoken by his servants. Her prejudices gave way, and at the conclusion of the service she went home, saying it was so simple, beautiful, and heavenly, that she could gladly have staid the whole night. She embraced the first opportunity of taking a seat in the house of God, and from that time it was never vacant but when illness prevented her attendance, until she entered the temple above. Punctual in all her engagements, her seat-subscription was sure to be ready at the time it became due: Whoever might forget the time, it was never forgotten by Mrs. Plaskett.
From this hour she became a real worshipper, though she could not quite overcome her longstanding prejudices so as to join the Society, till the year 1819, in the summer of which, she received her first Society Ticket; and immediately became a decided Methodist. Indeed, from the time she first knew that people, she could not endure the speaking evil of them, but was ever ready to say, to foes, as well as to friends, ” These men are the servants of the most high God, who show unto us the way of salvation.”
Class-meetings were very highly prized by her. She did indeed delight in these opportunities of social conversation and humble prayer; frequently did she close her statement of Christian experience by saying, ” I want more of God’s Holy Spirit.” And, truly, that sacred Spirit, that hallowing, heaven-preparing influence she did enjoy more and more, day by day, till mortality was swallowed up of life.
Prayer-meetings too were very greatly esteemed by Mrs. Plaskett; in this respect she was patern to believers, being ever uniform in her attendance. When upwards of eighty-two years of age, she has frequently been first at the sabbath morning six o’ clock prayer-meeting, though she had a considerable distance to walk, and a steep hill to ascend, in order to reach the house of the Lord. And during the winter season, neither the coldness of the weather, nor the darkness, even when she was far advanced in her eighty-sixth year, prevented her from worshipping the Lord in his earthly courts.
It was a truly gratifying sight to witness, on one of these occasions, this mother in Israel bending beneath the weight of more than four-score years, leaning upon her friendly staff, while in the other hand she held her lantern, by the feeble light of which, casting its glimmering rays across her path, she was barely preserved from stumbling over the loosened pebbles, or from wandering aside into the mire, as she laboured up the hill to hold communion with Him whom her soul loved.
To minds less intent upon having an abundant entrance administered into the everlasting kingdom, these were pleas which might have been urged for staying at home. Her faculty of hearing had become impaired; and, in consequence of an affliction in one of her legs, every step occasioned pain; but so greatly did she long for communion with God, that all her infirmities and her pain were comparatively forgotten. It was no wonder that such a Christian, impelled by desires so ardent, and struggling to the house of mercy through such difficulties and so much pain, should be filled with the fullness of God. O! she could truly sing,
” Labour is rest, and pain is sweet,
If thou my God art here.”
While in the house of prayer her soul truly waited upon God, she fed upon the fatness of his promises, and his comforts delighted her soul. The ordinances were not as dry breasts to her, but she sucked the milk of the divine consolations, and was thereby strengthened to lay a firmer hold upon the skies ; and her faith sometimes carried her on in holy contemplation, far beyond death, and the gloomy caverns of the grave, and opened before her a delightful and glorious prospect of the happiness which, when safely conducted into the presence of the King Eternal, Immortal, and Invisible, should be her unfading portion.
A month or two before her death, this aged saint met with a fall, from the effects of which she never recovered. She was soon confined to her room, and shortly to her bed, where she lay rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing instant in prayer; till prayer was lost in praise. Her sufferings were very severe; painful swellings followed the blow on her hip, which broke out in large wounds, leaving her in a sad and distressing state; but her God was with her. More than once in the time of health, did she express a fear lest the enemy should be permitted fiercely to assail her in her last illness, or in the hour of dissolution; but this was not the case. O how groundless were her fears ! Consolations from on high, and the kind attention of Christian friends, smoothed her passage to the tomb, while her departure was
” Calm as the summer evening’s latest sigh
That shuts the rose.”
O ! ye timid followers of the Lamb, take courage, while in imagination you stand beside this dying pilgrim. Behold “the victory by her Saviour given;” and be assured that He who gives you grace to live to him day by day, will also give you ” dying grace in a dying hour.”
The peace of God ruled in the heart of Mrs. Plaskett, and sometimes rose to rapture. To a friend she said, ” 0 how I longed to see you, to tell you how happy I am ! Blessed be His merciful name! ” A few days before her death a neighbour called to see her and said, ” Mrs. Plaskett, you were always a good woman, you need not fear to die.” She said but little at the time, but afterwards she burst into tears and said, ” What! call me good, a poor vile worm like me good, a rebel all my life ?” Indeed it seemed as if she could not speak of herself in terms sufficiently humiliating; while she was equally at a loss for words in which to exalt the Redeemer. A friend was one day reading a favourite hymn from the Olney Collection, when the following verse greatly affected her, being as she thought strictly descriptive of her former state :—
” Some call him a Saviour in word,
But mix their own works with his plan ;
And hope he his help will afford,
When they have done all that they can:
If doings prove rather too light,
A tittle they own they may fail,
They purpose to make up full weight
By casting his name in the scale.”
The fourteenth Chapter of St. John’s Gospel was exceedingly sweet to her mind. The holy pleasure which beamed upon the countenance of this aged disciple while hearing those gracious words of her Saviour read, can never be forgotten by those who were present.
Sometimes her excruciating pains would cause an involuntary sigh ; but in a moment, her countenance would settle down in placid composure and calm attention. And she longed to stand in the presence of her Redeemer for ever: In the language of another favourite hymn she could say:—
” Absent, alas ! from God,
We in the body mourn ;
And pine to quit this mean abode,
And languish to return.
Jesus, regard our vows,
And change our faith to sight;
And clothe us with our nobler house
Of empyrean light! “
The morning of the day on which she died, she was heard to say several times, with great emphasis and evident pleasure, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!” During the greater part of the day, her lips were moving in prayer; her attendant heard her say, ” Lord, have mercy ! Lord Jesus, help me.” About an hour and a half before her departure, a friend said, ” Mrs. Plaskett, are you still happy ?” She feebly answered, ” Yes.” She laboured to say more, evidently expressive of her happiness, but could not; the powers of nature had failed.
” Yet on her dying countenance was seen
A smile, the index of a soul serene.”
At length, without a struggle or a sigh, her liberated spirit escaped from earth to heaven, Feb.. 27th, 1827, having sojourned here below four-score and six years.
May those who knew her on earth, meet her in the skies!
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