Biographical Sketch On The Life Of Timothy Coop
On one of the walls of the very creditable chapel at Southport, England, there is a memorial tablet which reads--
In loving memory of TIMOTHY
He took a deep interest in the cause of God, and contributed bountifully to its support.
The one who is thus remembered was born into a workingman's family, near Bolton, in Lancashire, on May 28, 1817, and so he had almost completed his seventieth year when he passed to his reward.
It was intended that his name should be Robert, but when he was taken to be christened his grandfather acted as godfather, and when he was asked, "What is the name of the child?" he called out Timothy. The mother protested, but the protest was too late, and so Timothy became the baby's name. The mother wept over this all the way home, and it was quite a time before she became reconciled to it.
The father was a devout Wesleyan, and was anxious that his children should be under religious influences, and so early in life Timothy was taken to the meetings of that denomination. The father was equally anxious that his children should get as much education as possible, and so Timothy was sent to school at six years of age, and continued there until he was twelve.
On May 28, 1831, he was apprenticed to a Mr. John Ackroyd, a cloth-dealer of Wigan. For his services during the seven years of his apprenticeship he was to receive "good and wholesome food, all necessary apparel, washing, and comfortable lodgings in the dwelling-house" of his employer.
He joined the Wesleyan body when quite a young fellow, but had a struggle to "find peace." This, however, he appeared to obtain through what was, perhaps, the more emotional ministry of the Primitive Methodists. But as it was a matter of feeling, he experienced alternating periods of joy and doubt. How sad that so many people have been taught to depend upon their feelings instead of upon God's promises as an evidence of pardon!
During one of his periods of doubt a commercial traveler named William Haigh called at the shop of which Coop was now the manager. The traveller began talking on religious matters, and during the conversation put the question--"Mr. Coop,--how do you know that your sins are forgiven?" The reply was, "From my experience. At the time of my conversion I was conscious of a decided change in my desires and feelings." Mr. Haigh pointed out that a change of heart is one thing and the forgiveness of sins another. The result of the conversation was that Mr. Coop commenced a thorough search of the scriptures, and among other things, came to the conclusion that the Baptists were right on the action and subjects of baptism, and that the Wesleyans were right concerning its purpose.
One Lord's day he went over to Bolton in order to hear his friend Haigh preach: At the evening service the preacher told the people how they could be saved, according to the New Testament. At the close Mr. Coop said that he believed in the Christ, and asked to be baptised. They walked a mile and a half to a canal, and the baptism took place. That was one of the most sacred and significant acts of the life of Timothy Coop, so he afterwards declared. After that night he pointed not to his feelings or experiences, but to the clear promise in the Word as an evidence of his pardon.
Starting a Church.
It was the custom of Mr. Coop to devote time to the distribution of tracts, and on one of his rounds he came across a backslider. He was invited to Mr. Coop's house for the following Lord's day afternoon so that they might read the scriptures together. The invitation was accepted. On the next Lord's day not only that man but several others were present. At the close of the second Lord's day afternoon the man who had been a backslider said, "I want to be baptised, and obey the Saviour--what hinders me?" This startled Mr. Coop, for he had never thought of baptising anybody, and wondered whether he had a scriptural right to do so. The scriptures were searched on the matter, and the conclusion was reached that it was the privilege and duty of any disciple to baptise. And so the man was duly baptised, the ordinance being administered in the waters of the Douglas River.
In August the first meeting to break bread was held, when four disciples assembled in Mr. Coop's kitchen for the purpose. It was decided that the apostolic custom was to observe the supper on each first day of the week, and so this little group agreed to adhere to the practice of weekly communion. Thus was commenced a church which has become large and influential--the present Rodney-st. church in Wigan.
In his efforts for the kingdom of God Timothy Coop did much open-air work, but efforts were made to stop him. On one occasion a policeman pulled his coat and said that he had orders to stop him. The reply was, "Do your duty; I am trying to do mine. I have a commission from very high authority to speak to these people, and it is your duty to protect me, and I hope you will do it." The policeman remained to the close, but no further effort was made to stop Mr. Coop preaching.
In 1845 he became acquainted with Mr. James Wallis, of Nottingham, who was then editing "The Christian Messenger." They became lifelong friends. Through that magazine he obtained a more intimate knowledge of similar congregations to the one he had called together in Wigan.
Law and Grace.
The Word of God taught the young pioneer to distinguish between the economy of law and the economy of grace. And from this he quickly saw that no Israelitish law was binding upon the Christian unless re-promulgated by Christ and his apostles. And so Sunday was no longer regarded as the Sabbath but as the Lord's day.
At that time there were living in his house a number of young men who were in his employ. They had frequent discussions on religious matters, but Mr. Coop could not get them to see as he did on the matter of the Sabbath and the Lord's day. So one Saturday he announced that the next day would be rigidly observed as a Jewish Sabbath. And so on Sunday morning there was no fire, and a cold breakfast was served. At dinner time still no fire, and another cold meal. At tea time still no fire, and a cold tea; but a number of the young men had wisely gone out. At tea time Mr. Coop's little girl said that she didn't like Jewish Sabbaths, that she liked Lord's days better. Needless to say the young men entered into no further discussion on the sabbath question. It was a practical way of showing the fallacy of pretending to keep an old commandment if not kept in the way enjoined, and that is a lesson that some seventh-day advocates in these days need to learn.
Mr. Coop was married three times, and was very happy in each. On the second occasion he refused to have the usual wedding breakfast, but gave what he called a scriptural feast, to which the poor and lame and blind were invited. This was an action that helped to show his wonderful sympathy with the poor.
In 1858 he was made one of the elders or pastors of the church at Rodney-st., Wigan, in which year the Rodney-st. chapel was built. In 1863 he removed to Southport. He could only find one other family there in harmony with him on spiritual matters, but the two families set up the Lord's table, and later the chapel on Sussex-rd. was erected.
Association with American Churches.
Timothy Coop did not take the very strict view concerning the Lord's table which many of the British brethren took, at any rate in the middle period of their history. He recognised that the table was for all who by faith and baptism had come into Christ, but he was not prepared to interrogate strangers who came into the communion service, nor to withhold the emblems from those not known to be baptised. This and other matters led to a strong desire for American preachers to labor in England.
H. S. Earl, who afterwards did such a great work in Australia, had labored in England from 1861 to 1864. In 1875 Mr. Earl decided to return to Great Britain, and the Foreign Christian Missionary Society of our American churches decided to subsidise his work. He located in Southampton, and soon attracted large congregations. Later M. D. Todd was sent to England by the F.C.M.S., and he located at Chester. Mr. Coop, wisely or unwisely it matters not now, approved of this move, and in 1878 went to America to try to secure a supply of preachers from that land. He offered to give the F.C.M.S. £1000 for every £2000 expended in Great Britain. The first preacher to go under this arrangement was W. T. Moore, who located for a start in Southport. This move from America which seemed to flourish at first was not permanently successful, and unfortunately, a cleavage took place between the churches already in Great Britain and those thus founded. Some years ago, however, the breach was healed, and most of the churches now work through the one conference.
Mr. Coop was anxious that the plea should be heard on the Continent of Europe, and urged the F.C.M.S. to commence work in Rome. Unfortunately this was not done, but he was so interested in the work of evangelising among the Italians that he contributed largely to work being done there by others, as well as to an effort that was being made to build up a Church of Christ in Paris. Mr. Coop was right in wanting the European peoples to hear the plea we make; a work that is still largely waiting to be done, except in Poland, and perhaps Russia.
Tour of the World.
In 1880 Mr. Coop made a journey round the world, which included New Zealand and Australia. He had enjoyable fellowship with his brethren in these lands. His companion as far as Australia was Henry Exley, but there Bro. Exley stayed and for some years he labored there as an evangelist.
On his return home he was welcomed by his employees, when over 700 sat down to tea. He was presented by them with an illuminated address, and the employees who spoke stressed the happy relations that had always existed between them.
On August 14, 1886, he started to America for the last time. At Wichita, Kansas, the brethren were engaged in erecting University buildings in memory of Garfield, the martyred President, who had been a preacher among Churches of Christ, and whom Mr. Coop admired very much. He decided to stay there and help the project. In May, 1887, he was attacked by malarial fever, and passed away on the fifteenth of the month. His body was laid to rest in the Spring Grove Cemetery, Cincinnati, which is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world.
He was a faithful Christian, a sturdy pioneer of the plea for New Testament Christianity, a consecrated business man. He labored for the uplift of the people, for the promotion of righteousness, and for the spread of the gospel of the Christ He had, as a Christian should have, a cosmopolitan outlook, and found himself at home among almost every people.
–From Heralds Of Christian Unity, Being Brief Biographical Sketches Of Some Pioneers Of The Restoration Movement, by Thomas Hagger, pages 42-48