“The memory of the just is blessed.” Men who have long lived among us, prayed with us in our homes, counselled us in our difficulties, opened the Word of God to us, and preached the gospel in our midst, should be remembered with esteem and affection. Such a man was William David Dunning, who was widely known over many years in the West of England, where it pleased God to bless so abundantly his evangelistic labours.
Born in Penton, Hampshire, the first 18 years of his life were spent “walking according to the course of this world.” But God had a purpose of grace for him; whilst under an overpowering sense of sin the scales suddenly dropped from his eyes, and for the first time he realized that the Christ who died to save sinners, died to save him. He was soon preaching the gospel that had so blessedly saved him. Some years later he entered the Baptist ministry, where he laboured for some years with great acceptance. It was during a pastorate at Ilminster, Somerset, that he came out of the Baptist denomination, the Spirit of God having explained the way of God more perfectly to him. For over 50 years our brother gave himself to the work of the gospel among the assemblies of the Lord’s people, and how many have reason to bless God for his consecrated labours! He loved to preach the gospel, and many were those he led to the Saviour; he seldom preached anywhere for any length of time without real conversions.
Soon after leaving the Baptist ministry, through his instrumentality and zeal, a company of believers gathered at Ilminster in the simple New Testament way. New Testament Church truth now had a prominent place in his ministry, and gave a new freshness and impetus to his labours. Our brother believed that the work of the evangelist involved not only preaching, but visiting the people in their homes. He did a great deal of this, and he was peculiarly successful in this work. Such was his tact and wisdom he seldom failed to make a good impression. Many were influenced to come to his meetings in this way. And what a comforter he was to tried and tested saints I He always knew what to say and how to say it, and how helpfully he would pray with them! Every member of the household, and all their problems, hopes and fears, would come under review in his petition; little that was pertinent to the particular case would be left out. No less wise was his counsel; when his advice was sought, out of a rich and varied experience it was freely given, and many can testify to having profited by it. He had a great deal of sanctified common-sense, and his judgment was always clear and sound.
For many years our brother never knew a day’s illness. His health was robust until an operation some five years ago. From that moment the deepening shadows of ever-increasing physical weakness were upon him. For one who had always been so active it was a sore trial, but it was a trial borne with great fortitude and courage.
The end of his pilgrimage came suddenly and peacefully on the morning of Nov. 25th on his 80th birthday. A birthday indeed! A birthday in heaven I We mourn his loss - his loss to his stricken family, to the Church, and to the Committee of this magazine. We shall miss his wise counsel, his confidence, and his unfailing helpfulness. We earnestly solicit the prayers of the Lord’s people for our brother’s wife and family. Mrs. Dunning especially is in much need of our prayers; for some time now she has been in very poor health. We commend her to that Good, that Great Shepherd of the sheep.