« AnteriorContinuar »
population at large,-as under the vicarial influence and oversight of the lamented Crosse. It is matter of regret, that a spirit diametrically opposite has too frequently been manifested by the Clergy and supporters of the established Church. The followers of Methodism have, in numberless instances, been branded as schismatics, and its Ministers as intruders into the sacred office; petty, persecuting annoyances have been resorted to, and insults offered both to the living and the dead. Hitherto, however, the Wesleyan societies, actuated by high religious principles, and rising superior to every manifestation of bigoted, intolerant zeal, have steadily pursued their way, aiming only at the extension of that "kingdom" which is "not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost." Never, in this respect, may their glorying depart!
The subject of this memoir was born in the parish of Islington, in the year 1739. He was the eldest of four sons; his father, Hammond Crosse, Esq., being one of the Magistrates for the county of Middlesex. At a very early age he appears to have been the subject of religious impressions; rising superior to the unfavourable circumstances under which his youthful days were passed, and giving indication of that firm, uncompromising devotedness to God which characterized his riper years. Under the ministry of the Rev. William, afterwards Dr., Dodd, then officiating as Curate at West-Ham, in the county of Essex, his heart was deeply imbued with divine fear; and, under the restraining grace of God, he was preserved from the fascinations and follies to which youth especially stands exposed.
Mr. Crosse, at the age of nineteen, is spoken of as a young man of polished manners, of handsome exterior, and of a blooming countenance, which, indeed, he carried down to hoary age; diligently observing the outward ordinances of religion, yet destitute of that spiritual, renovating change which a "death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness," implied; separate from which, on the authority of holy writ, we are warranted to regard all external advantages, and every observance of religious duty, as spiritually profitless. "Marvel not," declares the Saviour, "that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.” By an instrumentality unexpected, and in those days especially lightly esteemed, Mr. Crosse was given to experience that, in the language of the eleventh Article of his own Church, the truth, "that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort;" and, in the phraseology of Wesleyan Methodism, was "truly converted to God."
About the period to which we now refer, Mr. Alexander Coates, one of the early Methodist Preachers, of whose Christian integrity Mr. Wesley thought so highly, that he was accustomed to designate him "Honest Sander," was stationed in the London Circuit. Coates had been a poor Scotch "laddie," destitute of trade, but fond of books. His Minister encouraged the intense desire of the youth for the acqui
sition of languages; and, by the assistance thus rendered, he soon became enabled to speak in the Gaelic tongue, and to read with fluency the Scriptures in Danish and Dutch. He also made some progress in
the attainment of the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. Travelling southward for better bread,* Coates fell into the arms of Methodism; and, realizing "the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe," was shortly after employed in testifying to others "the grace of our Lord Jesus," trusting in God for food and raiment.† Preaching one Sabbath in town, a friend observed to Mr. Crosse, "There is a man going to preach this evening who understands seven languages: let us go and hear him." They went; and under the sermon, whilst the man of God was proclaiming "Christ crucified" as the only medium of the sinner's approach to God, the heart of Crosse, as in the case of the Founder of the Wesleyan societies, was "strangely warmed;" "the love of God" was "shed abroad" in his heart "by the Holy Ghost given" unto him; he felt that "Christ had taken away his sins, even his, and saved him from the law of sin and death."
The ensuing Sabbath, Mr. Crosse was found a hearer at the Weststreet chapel, Seven-Dials. The seriousness of the congregation, together with their earnest, yet devotional, responses during the liturgical service, pleasingly accorded with the warm and hallowed aspirations of the young convert. An elderly lady, who sat near him, observing his devout deportment, and that he seemed to linger when the congregation was dismissed, kindly addressed him: "Young man, I perceive you are a stranger." "Yes, Madam," was the reply: "I am from Islington." She added, "There is service here at such an hour: if you will accompany me in the carriage, and take a Sunday dinner, I will bring you again." Mr. Crosse complied; and the aged matron proved to him a Priscilla, "expounding" to the young Apollos "the way of God more perfectly." In the course of the week young Crosse was introduced to Mr. Wesley, who rejoiced over him with pastoral solicitude and care. He was directed to a suitable class, and cheerfully cast in his lot with the then despised and persecuted society of Methodists. With the head of that body a friendship at once intimate
For this, as well as several other interesting incidents, more or less intimately connected with the personal history of Mr. Crosse, I am indebted to the kindness of the Rev. Joseph Sutcliffe, A. M., now in the decline of his highly-honoured ministerial career; who for many years enjoyed the friendship of the deceased, and received from his own lips the above narrative.
Mr. Coates is placed by Mr. Myles, in his "Chronological History," amongst the first race of Methodist Preachers; having entered the itinerancy in 1741. After Jabouring in "word and doctrine" nearly five-and-twenty years, he received a contusion on one of his legs, which, ending in the mortification of the limb, occasioned his death. He is represented by those who knew him as "one of the best of men, and a most useful Preacher." His end was peace.
and cordial was quickly formed, which, as to its earthly reciprocations, was terminated only by death.
The religious movements of the son were for a time unknown to the father; and, when developed, became a source of much uneasiness. Young Crosse was menaced with poverty, with a school, or exile from the paternal roof. The principles he had imbibed, though severely tested, remained unshaken; till, by the friendly interference of a religious Physician, the prejudices of the father so far gave way, that Crosse, in reference to his subsequently entering holy orders, was sent to Oxford, unrestricted as to his religious associates or pursuits. Here he proceeded Bachelor and Master of Arts; being acknowledged, by all who knew him, as an accomplished scholar, and a Christian gentleman. The atmosphere and the engagements of College-life were, however, but triflingly conducive to the existence and growth of vital piety. On being asked, by the friend to whom he related the religious occurrences of his earlier days, how he managed to "keep his religion" at the University, Mr. Crosse replied, "I lost much of the comfort and power of religion; but the sentiment ever subsisted in my heart, and preserved me from all the gross immoralities of life. My companions also were few, and those young men of good reputation." On receiving ordination, the first scene of his ministerial labour was a curacy in Wiltshire. He was afterwards engaged, for a short time, in the clerical duties of the Lock chapel; from which, however, the party-spirit of the place induced him to retire.
The ensuing three years were spent abroad; Mr. Crosse, in company with John Thornton, Esq., cousin of the philanthropic Thornton, of Clapham, having entered on a continental tour in the month of September, 1765. A manuscript narrative of their travels, interspersed with many important practical observations on the people and customs of the countries through which they passed, is now in the possession of the Thornton family. From this, which occupies two large volumes, Mr. Morgan, in his "Parish Priest portrayed," has inserted several interesting extracts. At Halle, Mr. Crosse formed the friendship of Dr. Francke, son of the celebrated Professor Francke, founder of the Orphan-House, where nearly seven hundred persons, of all ages, then had their food every day. At Ferney, a village of France, on the frontiers of Switzerland, where Voltaire had purchased some extensive estates, Mr. Crosse received an invitation to dine with that celebrated but unhappy man; the French Chargé d'Affaires, a niece of Voltaire, and her husband, being also of the party. In the course of conversation, Mr. Crosse inquired of his host, if he thought God designed man
• See "The Parish Priest portrayed, in the Life, Character, and Ministry of the Rev. John Crosse, A. M., Vicar of Bradford, Yorkshire, and Chaplain to the Right Honourable the Earl De la Warr. By the Rev. William Morgan, B. D., Incumbent of Christ-Church, Bradford;" a work characterized by the candour of its spirit, and containing much interesting information.
for no higher happiness than that which this world is able to afford. Receiving in answer the acknowledgment, that such happiness as this world is able to impart could never yield to any one true satisfaction, he proceeded, from this unexpected admission, to argue on the certainty of future rewards and punishments, as brought to light in holy Scripture. Voltaire listened with polite attention; but his infidel principles, it is to be feared, remained unshaken.
The infidelity and superstition manifested by the higher ranks of society in France, deeply affected the benevolent mind of Crosse : nor was his spirit less moved on witnessing the mental, as well as moral, prostration of all classes of the people, before the debasing dogmas and superstitions of the Romish Church. In France, as well as Italy, he found Popery rampant, and mourned over its evils, then everywhere apparent. The idolatrous homage offered to the mother of the Saviour, seems constantly to have forced itself on his attention. "It would be well worth while," he remarks, "to compute how many different names this goddess of the Romish Church is honoured with. For you must observe, that, when I speak of the Virgin Mary, to which the Romanists pay this homage, I never understand that modest, pious woman made known to us in the Gospel by that name; but a new Diana of Ephesus, of their own setting up. The least knowledge of the fabulous histories attributed to this person will justify what I say, and evidence that there is not a great deal of difference between the Venus of ancient, and the Madonna of modern Rome." Whilst sojourning in this spiritual Babylon, Mr. Crosse was introduced to the court of His Holiness; and might, with others, have had the high honour of kissing the sacred toe: this he respectfully declined; but was grieved on witnessing an English nobleman stoop down and do it.
After carefully observing the system of Popery in the tawdry externalism of its worship, in its sad substitution of idolatrous reverence for the homage of the heart, and in the debasing tendency of its whole ritual and influence, he observes, "I much doubt if our blessed Lord had fared better in Rome than he did in Jerusalem; and, notwithstanding all this honouring of his images, relics, &c., but that he would have been answered by the whole body of the Romish Sanhedrim, 'Man! we know thee not!' Yet," continues he, "it is not our knowing the truths of Christianity better than the Papists that will profit us, unless we practise them. Protestants may laugh at and ridicule the extravagance and superstition of the Romanists; but very few think of examining their own concerns, to know on what foundation their hope of heaven is built. It is not opinions, but realities, that must decide this matter."
Our reference to the continental tour of Mr. Crosse and his party would be imperfect, were we not to place on record the interesting account given in his journal of their visit to Naples, and its adjacent
volcano; when, by an intrepidity too daring, the life of this excellent man was placed in imminent peril. "But what will not men undertake," observes he, "to satisfy the passion of desire? Yet how backward and indifferent to concerns of a much more important nature! Leaving Naples once more, we took the road to Vesuvius, and soon came to Resina, situate at the foot of the mountain, where we found ourselves surrounded by at least half the village, with their mules and asses. They all insisted on carrying us, and one of them actually clapped my companion on his little animal, and was driving away; but four stout fellows appearing, who had been hired by our guide for the purpose, rescued us from their importunity and violence. Matters being thus settled, we mounted our asses, and advanced about two miles to a place called Atrio del Cavallo, between rocks and large stones, which had been thrown out of the mountain at various times. As it was now impracticable to proceed further with our four-footed gentry, we dismounted, and began to climb the cinders, having two stout peasants before, with a strong leathern girdle fastened round their middle. I did not perceive any remarkable heat in those cinders, till we came to the new mountain. But as we ascended these we found them much deeper, and very hot. The smoke also, issuing from various apertures, became very troublesome. In about two hours from Atrio del Cavallo we arrived at the crater, an opening of an oval form, its greatest extent being from north to south. It goes shelving down for about sixty yards; yet not so steep but that, to appearance, you might keep your footing. However, I found the ground was so hot, and the smell of sulphur so strong, that, by the time I had descended twenty paces, life was in danger, and my guide would not follow me. While I was waiting here to see more clearly into the volcano, my ears were suddenly struck with a most dreadful noise, succeeded by an immediate volley of stones, and a vast cloud of sulphurated smoke. The stones, happily, missed me; but the effects of the smoke had like to have been fatal. My companion and guides gave me up as a lost man. The mountain was really in labour, and a general eruption was daily expected. Having escaped this extreme peril, we hasted to take a view of the other openings, occasioned by the eruption in 1761." To this providential escape Mr. Crosse, in after-life, frequently referred with an "agreeable mixture of pleasantry and thankfulness."
After an absence of little more than three years, Mr. Crosse returned to his native land. Abroad he had moved in the highest circles of society: his manners had thus received a courtly grace; whilst the amiable simplicity which had previously characterized his whole deportment still remained. But, what is of far greater importance, his personal experience of the power and comfort of divine truth, even
Morgan's "Parish Priest portrayed," pp. 33, 34.