« AnteriorContinuar »
theirs. The world, like a veteran gladiator, defied the young combatant with fierce terms of hate, and gazed upon him with tiger-like ferocity, determined to wash his hands in the intruder's blood; while the church quailed not in the presence of her savage opponent, but avowed her determination to make no terms with sin, and accept no trace with idolatry. They meant fighting, and they fought! A divine of the modern school is of opinion that the lines have faded considerably between what is known as the church and the world, arising from a mutual movement towards each other; we cannot look upon this fact with the complacency which he manifests, but we are compelled to observe and lament it. Many professors play at being Christians; they are not real in their church-membership, not in very deed separate from sinners, or devoted to the service of God; hence the world has no care to oppose them, and leaves them utterly ignorant of the very meaning of the word “persecution.” Of course, if we never rebuke the world's sin, nor bear witness against its follies, it will have no cause of offence, and will leave us unassailed. The apostles' blows were laid on with a will, and left their impress where they fell. Fussy officials they were not; pompous dignitaries they could not be; but real workmen of the Lord they evidently were; hence their power under God to move their age, and all succeeding ages.
The marks by which, according to the Scriptures, genuine believers are to be known, are very matter-of-fact tokens. “By their fruits shall ye know them,” is a pretty plain intimation that no amount of profession or religious talk can evidence godliness, if holy actions be absent. At the last great day, the blessed of the Father are not represented as having advocated the relief of the poor, but as having actually fed the hungry. No mention is made of writers upon the inspection of gaols, or the suppression of mendicity; but a hearty word of praise is given to those who visited the prisoner and gave drink to the thirsty. The main point seems to have been the real and actual doing of good; whatever went with it is cast into the scale without mention, as being comparatively insignificant. True faith proves itself not by its boastings, but by its effect upon the life of its possessor.
Here is the bone of contention which the earnest man will have with himself. We know what we ought to be, but are we all that? Our neighbours perish for lack of the gospel, but do we carry it to them ? The poor swarm around us, in what measure do we feed them ? They would be well enough off if good intentions and excellent suggestions could clothe and feed them, but as it is, they derive small benefit from us. To know how to do good, and to leave it undone, is no small sin. Accountability grows with the amount of information. Mountains of lead ought to press down consciences which now lie at ease in the bosoms of men of great powers, who have eloquently proclaimed duties which they do not touch with one of their fingers; nor much less should be the discomfort of those who have again and again resolved upon duties which they have never yet performed. They own their obligations to the poor, but no orphan is fed by their help: they lament the ignorance of the people, but no ministry is aided by their gifts; they long to see zealous evangelists sent forth, but no
student is succoured by their bounty. Alas! for the piety which ends in feelings and words! It is vain as the foam of the sea!
Everywhere the evil is the same. Saying over-rides doing. One of the most evident weaknesses of most religious societies is a lack of practical common sense. They are great in red tape, rich in committees, and positively gorgeous with presidents and vice-presidents, and secretaries, and honorary secretaries, and minute secretaries, etc., etc.; but what comes of it all? We behold a fine display of wooden cannon and pasteboard soldiery, but conquests there are none. There will be a sub-committee on Tuesday, and surely something will come of it; or, if not, the quarterly board-meeting will doubtless work wonders :-no, there will be cackling and cackling, but of eggs none-or addled. In many of our denominational conferences, resolutions are picked over word by word, as if every syllable might conceal a heresy ; amendments are moved, seconded, re-amended, fought for valourously, or withdrawn; hours are spent, and lung force without stint, and what comes of the parturition of the mountain ? Has the pitiful mouseling strength enough to crawl across the floor of the assembly? If any holy project needs putting out of the world in a legal fashion, so that no charge of wilful murder shall be laid against any one of its destroyers, consign it to a committee: it will have every care and loving attention, and the soothing syrup will be of the most excellent quality. If, perchance, the thing of beauty remain among us, it will be a joy for ever ; never viciously fanatical, or vehemently enthusiastic, but, clothed in a regalation strait-waistcoat, its life will be spent within those sacred bounds which officialism is inspired to prescribe. If it be asked to which or what society we refer, our reply must be, “Let every dog follow its own master:" to some more, and to some less, our strictures apply. In general, a society is a creature of the imagination, a group of shades impalpable, a collection of names without persons; if its business be well worked, the credit is due to one or two worthy men, who are, in fact, the society; if it be badly managed, it is because it is nobody's business, being generally understood to be everybody's. The fault does not lie in the principle of association—which is excellent —but in the everlasting overlaying of the hand by the jaw: the mistaking words for actions, speeches for service. A dozen or two General Grants, eloquently silent, would form a fine board of management; men who can give, and work, and pray, are worth a hundred times as much as those who can compose resolutions, cavil over expressions, move the previous question, discuss and re-discuss, till all is blue-moulded or green with verdigris. Not that we would kill off the talkers,--we are not intent upon signing our own death-warrant; but a little gentle choking of those who will neither be quiet nor practically helpful, we humbly venture to prescribe. The fact is, we don't get at the work before us. The drowning heathen lies at the bottom of the pond, and our drags do not touch the body, much less fetch it to shore. The ignorant masses around us glide from our fingers like slippery eels, we have not learned the nack of holding them. We seem to be bobbing after qur great objects like boys trying to bite at apples which swim in a tub of water. We are planning, suggesting, arranging ; but when are we going to begin ? For scores of years we have been tuning up: when
will the music commence ? So much time is spent in chopping the chaff, and bruising the oats, that poor Bucephalus is getting lean as Rosinante.
Gentle reader, has no self-accusing thought crossed your mind while trying to keep yourself awake over these lines ? No; you are really active, and by no means loquacious. It is well! All honour to you! But where do you live, and of what mother were you born, and what is your age next birthday? The writer enquires eagerly, and will be glad if you should turn out to be one of a numerous family. Our own confession tells no such flattering story. We have, by God's grace, done something, but how little! It is as nothing! Compared with high resolves, and day-dreams, and proposals, what are our achievements ? Tears are the fittest comments upon our life’s review. We long to begin to live. We have loitered long, like too many more, and work undone accuses and condemns us. Shall we write about it, or from the pulpit pour out a verbal plaint which will die away with its own echo ? No; but if God will help us we will try to glorify him, and publish his salvation. To lift op Christ is real work; to cry “Behold the Lamb !" is practical ministry. To teach the ignorant, to feed the hungry, to reclaim the lost, this is Christlike service. What is all else, if we serve not the Lord Christ ?
For the year 1873 we suggest the motto, “ACTA NON VERBA,"— Deeds not Words.
William Dawson, YORKSHIRE FARMER, AND “TRAVELLING LOCAL PREACHER.”
BY J. L. KEYS. F late years it has become the fashion to glorify the poets, dramatists, U musicians, and reformers of the past by centenary, bicentenary, or tercentenary celebrations of their birth; but this year '73 seems to be singularly unfortunate, despite its - odd numbers,” for the lovers of hero-worship. The proverbial “old almanacks” must have been at fault, as not a few weather-bound travellers in dull country inns, who are supposed to be shut up to such dry reading on wet days, must have had abundant opportunities during the incessant down-pour of the past months for poring over their pages, and thus finding out who was born a hundred years ago. If the world cannot find some worthy, whose memory it may especially delight to honour this year, the church needs never lack from among “ the number whom no man can number," some “ bright particular star," who on earth turned many to righteousness, and now shines in heaven, and “shall shine for ever and ever.” Such a servant of Christ was William Dawson, more commonly known as “ BILLY Dawson," a brief outline of whose life we now place before our readers on the centenary of his birth, from materials supplied by his biographer, the late Rev. J. Everett.*
* Memoirs of the Life, Character, and Ministry of William Dawson, late of Barnbow, near Leeds. By James EVERETT. 1842.
William Dawson was born March 30th, 1773, at Garforth, near Leeds, in Yorkshire. His father, Luke Dawson, was steward to Sir T. Gascoigne; his office was to superintend the colliery department; he also had a farm of about one hundred and fifty acres at Barnbow, whither the family went to reside when William, the eldest child, was yet an infant in arms. There were ten children in all, six of whom reached maturity, four dying in infancy. Concerning his father we have but very meagre information : that he was a decided Christian seems to be taken for granted by his biographer ; it is certain that he was of unblemished character, and had not only the respect but the fullest confidence of his employer, in whose service he was for a period of twenty-one years, when death put an end to his labours.
Dawson's mother was no ordinary person ; Solomon's portraiture of the “ virtuous woman” (Proverbs xxxi.) was in many of its particulars applicable to her; for she looked well to the ways of her household, and ate not the bread of idleness. Her children arose up and called her blessed; her husband also, and he praised her: her own works praised her in the gates.' The biographer of her son tells us that she was “not only religiously disposed, but admirably fitted for the momentous charge of the children, as to religion and morals; and as in the order of Providence she was destined to be left with them, while some of them were yet young, she acquired thereby a commanding influence through life, which was the more important as age advanced. In order deeply to impress William's mind, together with the hearts of the other children, she prayed with them, read the Holy Scriptures to them, and enforced many of her remarks by select portions from the “ Practice of Piety,' two paragraphs of the latter, William declared, late in life, fastened their contents upon his mind ; further stating, that he often wept and prayed over them,-adding, in his expressive way,– Many a time have I thumbed them since. When quite an infant, William was sent to Whitkirk, little more than two miles from Barnbow, to reside with his paternal grandfather, with whom he continued for nearly five years. We are told that, during the first half-year of his existence, he was feeble and sickly, and cried both night and day, “ so much so, that his father and all the domestics, with the exception of his mother, wished, for his own sake-supposing that his life would be one of debility and sufferingthat the Lord would call him hence. To this almost incessant crying, he afterwards attributed the strength of his lungs.” When we first read this, we thought, in our ignorance, that his biographer might have omitted so childish a matter. Forgive us, ye mothers, who have crying babies; and ye fathers, to whom wearisome nights of sleeplessness are appointed, murmur not, nor seek to hush these encouraging signs of growing power to “cry aloud ; ” rejoice the rather in the hope that each dear babe will one day be to many sinners a “son of thunder,” and therefore to yourself a “son of consolation.” That “the child is father to the man,” was, moreover, manifest in little · Billy's' case, for, when scarcely five years old, he strolled with a little playmate into the village church hard by his grandfather's house, and while the sexton's back was turned, “mounted the reading-desk, assigning to his companion the less dignified office of clerk, and opening the Bible, whose unwieldly size required all the physical energy he possessed to unfold its pages, announced the book, and with an audible voice read a chapter.” His mother used to remark, in afler life, “ He was born a preacher.” We may mention here that the village or township of Barnbow had, at that period, a population of less than three hundred, and the neighbouring villages had about the same number of inbabitants, so that educational advantages were very small. Two schools were tried, and William's progress not being satisfactory, a third was sought with better results, for the teacher appears to have been well qualified for his office, and his young pupil obtained what for his station in life, would then be considered a fair amount of learning. That he was a thoughtful, boy, one who had “an old head on young shoulders," seems clear from the character of the books he read in early life, if we may take as a iair specimen the two named, namely: Drelincourt on Death, and Flavel's “ Treatise on the Soul.” How many school boys have read these ? we asked ourselves: we fancy many youths of the present generation would pronounce them to be “awfully slow," and much prefer the pious fiction and religious story-telling of the day. Happy would young Dawson have accounted himself if he conld have had access to a tithe of the good and interesting works which are now within the reach of all ; but he made the best use of the few good old books at his command, and thereby became a workman that needed not to be ashamed.
His parents were regular and devout attendants at church, which term we use in its conventional sense. They were not satisfied with the form of godliness without its power, for they preferred the ministry of the clergyman at Kippax, to that of the parson of their own parish, though this preference necessitated a journey of six miles instead of only two. Their son did not, however, profit by the preaching, for the style of the preacher was not suitable to the comprehension of one so young. When William was nine years of age, a change took place; Mr. Atkinson was succeeded by a Mr. Richardson, whose sermons were more adapted to his youthful hearer's capacity ; “for dealing occasionally in strong expressions, not unfrequently spiced with the quaintness of the preceding age, he at once caught and fixed the attention of his young auditor.” The first intimation which we have of any direct spiritual profit from the ministry of the word, was received ander the ministry of Mr. Dikes, the curate of Barwick-in-Elmet, who took especial interest in the spiritual state of young Dawson, and put Doddridge's “Rise and Progress” into his hand, which was greatly blessed to him; not, indeed, in giving him peace of conscience, but in deepening his sense of sin, and increasing his anxiety for the light and liberty of the gospel. On one occasion, he wrote a long extract from it, headed, “ A Solemn Surrender to Almighty God,” to which he appended, opposite the date,--“solemnly performed this day :" he was then about seventeen years old. “His solicitude for deliverance from spiritual bondage increasing, he naturally sought for relief in the use of the ordinances of God ;* and it was agreed that he should receive the
• We highly disapprove of this. No one should come to the Lord's table unless he be already saved.-ED.