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Whose faith follow: W Dudgeon (1846-1921)

J G Hutchinson, Belfast

In the early years amongst assemblies in Ireland there were a number of brethren engaged in gospel and in ministry who were not only men of ability and spiritual greatness, but who came from large and wealthy families. One of these was Mr Dudgeon. He was born in Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, where his father, a godly man and a strict parent, held an important government position. His son often said in later years how much his father’s strict justice impressed him and how much he owed to his invalid sister, Rebecca.

William was sent to the best public schools available in the countries to which his father’s position took his family, such as the Royal School, Armagh, Clifton College etc. In 1864 he went to Trinity College, Dublin, to train for the medical profession and had completed two years when, during an illness, he was led to see his sinful condition before God. After several days of conviction he sat in Trinity College and threw his Bible across the room saying, "There is no light, no light! I will serve the Devil". Having thus acted he was horrified and went home that night to see his father, who had the joy there and then of leading his son to Christ.

He changed his course and decided to take the "church ministry". Upon graduation he was appointed to preach, but reading the Scriptures led to him finding a difficulty with the words he would have to use in the sprinkling of infants. Late one evening he visited a Baptist preacher and asked if he would baptise him as a believer. This man spent many hours with him that night expounding the Word of God and, as a result, on the next day Mr Dudgeon severed his links with the Established Church. The bishop asked for his reasons, and on receiving them replied that he could arrange for the baptism of infants to be carried out by another cleric on his behalf. Mr Dudgeon replied that he would "not sin myself nor by proxy".

Later, after an interview with Mr Spurgeon, he was appointed pastor at Melksham, Wiltshire. As he continued to read his Bible, God taught him further and a number of issues caused him anxiety. He would not allow public collections at gospel meetings; he refused to marry a believer to an unbeliever. He was much used of God in the salvation of many souls, but his scruples about certain matters brought him into conflict with the deacons at Melksham. Having heard of Mr Muller’s work at Bristol he arranged to have an interview with him to discuss the difficulty of what appeared to be his future pathway. Arriving early, he walked in front of one of the large Ashley Down Orphanages, praying as he did so. As he looked at the building and all that it represented, the power of faith was brought home to him. That was, henceforth, to be his rule of life. When he met Mr Muller he said, "I came to ask you many questions regarding my faith, and they have all been answered by your Orphanage. To each query God’s Spirit said, ‘By faith, by faith, by faith’".

He stepped out boldly to preach and teach, depending entirely upon God for support and for guidance. For years he preached all over the land, often five times a day, until, following an accident, he was unable to travel or preach. He was a man completely dedicated to the principles of the Bible, having paid a great price to gain them. Nevertheless, he was loving, gentle, and lived in the spirit of prayer. He saw hundreds saved, taught, and fed. On August 13th, 1921 he was called to higher service, leaving a family happy in the Lord with fragrant memories of a saintly life.

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