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there! Such was the approach to reality, that a considerable part of the congregation turned to the door, some rising on their feet, under the momentary impression that some one was entering the chapel in the state described. In the same sermon, paraphrasing the father's reply to the son that was angry and would not go in, he said : ‘Be not offended ; surely a calf may do for a prodigal, shoes for a prodigal, a ring and a robe for a prodigal, but ALL I have is THINE. As to the more striking part, when pointing to the door, similar effects were produced when referring to the Witch of Endor. His picturing took such hold on the imagination, that on exclaiming, 'Stand by-stand by! There she is ! some of the poor people inadvertently directed the eye downward, where his own eye was fixed, and the spot to which he was pointing, as if she were about to rise from beneath their feet, and become visible to the congregation."
The following story is narrated by Mr. West; there is no allusion to it in Mr. Everett's work:—"Perhaps somewhat apocryphal, yet generally received as true, is a story of his preaching at Pudsey, a village inhabited by woollen cloth weavers, some five or six miles from Leeds, from the history of David slaying Goliath. He was indulging freely in the pictorial representation, of which he was so perfect a master. Personating David, he had struck down the boasting Philistine, and stepping back in the pulpit, he cast his eye downward, and commenced a strain of irony, which had the two-fold effect of rebuking every one that exalted himself against the Lord, and of adding force to the graphic picture he had already given of the conflict. So powerfully did the speaker depict the conqueror's emotion, so rapidly and continuously did he heap taunt upon taunt on his prostrate foe, that the congregation seemed to lose sight of the actual state of things in the ideal, and waited in breathless suspense for the catastrophe. Some in the gallery, in the intensity of the excitement, leaned forward, as though they expected to see, upon the floor of the pulpit, the prostrate giant with the stripling's foot upon his breast ; and one person, unable longer to bear the suspense, gave vent to his feelings by exclaiming in the broad dialect of the county, 'Off with his head, Billy!' This interruption moved Mr. Dawson for a moment from his propriety, otherwise it would scarcely have been noticed by the congregation, so oblivious were they of outward things in their rapt attention to the preacher. I have no doubt of the truth of the anecdote, having myself seen and felt similar excitement under the same sermon; and have a strong impression also that Mr. Dawson acknowledged its truth in my hearing, coupled with the remark that he ever after refused application to preach at Pudsey for prudential reasons. He feared that his vivid fancy would recall the circumstance, with such concomitants as would disturb his gravity.”
On one of his visits to Sheffield, preaching in Carver Street Chapel, “the congregation was large, and the feeling intense. He exhorted his hearers, in the course of his sermon, to give their hearts to the Lord, and added, laying his hand upon his own, with a fine gush of feeling, and his eyes lifted up to heaven, “Here's mine,' when a voice from the gallery cried out, Here's mine too, Billy!' Nor was this the only audible token of the effect of his preaching, such exclamations as That's right!'— True,'—' Glory be to God!' etc., being frequently
repeated during the service. The effect of his ministry might have been embodied in a sentiment of his own :- If Methodism does not make men parsons, it certainly converts them into clerks, for they are responding "Amen!'-'Glory be to God!' wherever we go.'” In this connection his biographer remarks: “Anything like sober, sedate feeling, throngh the whole of even a solemn discourse, was very often out of the question; and in his more tempestuous moods he was dangerous as a model, and never to be imitated. He stood alone, and ought to remain alone ; but in that individual form, as in all unique cases, he was rather to be prized than diminished in value.”
The next extract is part of a peroration of a sermon from Rev. vi. 7, 8, “And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see,” etc. ". Come and see,' then, the awful condition of an unsaved sinner. Open your eyes, sinner, and see it yourself. There he is in the broad road of ruin; every step he takes is deeper in sin ; every breath he draws feeds his corruption; every moment takes him farther from heaven and nearer hell. Onward, onward he is going—death and hell are after him-quickly, untiringly, they pursue him—with swift but noiseless hoof the pale horse and his pale rider are tracking the godless wretch. See ! See! they are getting nearer; they are overtaking him. “At this moment the stillness of the congregation was so complete that the ticking of the clock could be distinctly heard in every part of the chapel. Upon this, with a facility peculiarly his own, he promptly seized, and without seeining interruption. Leaning over the pulpit in the attitude of attention, and fixing his keen eye upon those who sat immediately before him, he continued in an almost supernatural whisper, “Hark! hark !-that swift rider is coming and judgment is following him. That is his untiring footstep! Hark!”-and then imitating, for a moment or two, the beat of the pendulum, he exclaimed in the highest pitch of his voice, “Lord, save the sinner! save him! Death is upon him, and hell follows! See, the bony arm is raised! The final dart is poised ! O my God! save him-save him—for if the rider overtakes that poor sinner, un pardoned and unsaved, and strikes his blow, down he falls, and backward he drops—hell behind him, and as he falls backward, he looks upward, and shrieks-Lost! lost ! lost! Time lost; Sabbaths lost; means lost; soul lost; heaven lost! ALL LOST, and lost for ever.' Backward he drops; all his sins seem to hang round his neck like so many millstones, as he plunges into the burning abyss. 'Come and see.' Lord save him! O my God, save bim ! Come and see.' Blessed be God! The rider has not overtaken him yet; there is time and space yet for that poor sinner : he may be saved yet—he has not dropped into hell. Come and see.' The horse and the rider have not overtaken you yet; there is, therefore, an'accepted time, there is a
day of salvation ! Come and see. There is God the Father inviting you; God the Father commanding you; God the Father swearing he has no pleasure in your death, but in your life. There is Jesus Christ come to seek you. He has travelled thirty years to save you. He is dying on the cross. With his outstretched arms he says, Come unto me, and I will give you rest.' He that believeth in me shall nerer die !'" The effect was so overwhelming, that two of the congregation
fainted, and it required all the preacher's tact and self-command to ride through the storm which his own vivid imagination had aroused.”
"Towards the close of a sermon on Ezekiel iii, 17, 19, he proposed the question with solemnity and deep feeling—'Why will you die ?' stating that he would sit down and give them time for deliberating upon an answer, taking his seat at the same time in the pulpit, in the midst of death-like silence. The effect would have been ludicrous had the people not been awed into stillness and sober thought by his previous reasonings and appeals to the conscience. After a short pause, he turned his scrutinising eye to one side of the gallery, and asked, “Why will you die?' next to the other, shifting the emphasis on different words,
Why will you die ?'-next to the front, 'Why will you die ? and lastly below, 'Why will you die?' With the sound of death still vibrating on the ear, he rose, and in a modulated tone said—What, not an answer! not one capable of assigning a reason for his conduct! Is silence your only reply ? Speechless here and speechless bereafter!' At that moment, for it had not occurred to him to employ it before, the fact of one of the judges having sentenced a poor wretch to be hanged in the city two days before, flashed into his mind; and with the same solemn feeling he imitated the judge while putting on the black cap,' one of his customary actions coming to his aid at the instant, of stroking down his wig on each side with both hands, pronouncing with firmness and vehemence that part of the text, “Thou shalt surely die. The whole was easy, natural, and contrary to what anyone can be supposed to conceive, except those who witnessed it-deeply impressive."
In the year 1836, some of his friends proposed a plan for rendering his labours still more generally available to the Missionary cause, by raising a fund for the purpose of enabling him to devote himself exclusively to the interests of the Wesleyan Connexion. The following extracts from two resolutions passed at the first public meeting at Leeds, held for this purpose, will show the high value set upon Mr. Dawson's services; and we would add, sotto voce, not a little shrewd. ness and business tact on the part of the promoters; this is the first resolution:-“That to promote the object contemplated by the friends of Mr. Dawson, it would be highly creditable to the Wesleyan Conrexion to raise by voluntary subscriptions not less than the sum of Four Thousand Guineas, to be invested with the General Treasurers of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, on condition that they allow to Mr. Dawson an annuity of Two Hundred Pounds during the term of his natural life; and at his decease, an annuity of Fifty Pounds to his brother, Thomas Dawson, should he be the survivor (who is fifty years of age, and from peculiar circumstances dependant on his brother), during the term of his natural life. The said sum of Four Thousand Guineas to be at the disposal of the said Treasurers for the time being, for the purchase or erection of suitable premises for a Mission House, Offices, etc., for the transaction of the general business of the Society, in London; or for the general purposes of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, as the Committee may deem expedient.” The second resolution was to the effect that no single subscription was to exceed one guinea. The plan only partially succeeded, as only about half the amount proposed was raised when the Committee, towards the end of
1837, decided to close the accounts. The Committee of the Missionary Society decided to secure to Mr. Dawson an annuity of one hundred and fifty pounds, and thirty pounds annually to his brother, in case the latter survived him. Mr. Dawson was not willing to be wholly under the direction of the Society as to his preaching engagements, as he wished still to have the opportunity of preaching in aid of Sunday Schools, and chapel building and enlargement operations. It was therefore arranged that he should "be considered under the direction of the Society for six months in the year, not continuous; and that for the remaining months he should be at liberty to gratify his friends and bis own kind heart by attending such other missionary, chapel, and school anniversaries, etc., as he might please.”
Mr. Dawson gave up his farm and other secular engagements in 1838, and “ the people taking it for granted that he was more at liberty than he really was, petitions poured into the Mission House from different quarters, requesting a share of his public service.” His work now became excessive; so much so, that friends about him counselled some little consideration for his health and strength. “Uncle,” said his niece, who kept his house (he being a bachelor), “your labour is too oppressive ; you should contrive, in your arrangements, to secure two or three days occasionally for rest.” “Mary," he returned, "I shall rest in my grave. I must work while it is day; the night cometh when no man can work.”
His journeys in 1840, included an Evangelistic tour in Ireland, travelling from place to place, preaching and attending missionary meetings. Immediately on his return he continued his labours in the North of England, and although it was but too evident to all who saw him that his health and strength were rapidly declining—he was sixty-four years of age—he preached twenty-nine times within the space of eighteen days, travelling four hundred miles. When returning home, he called on the superintendent of the Leeds circuit, and making a low bow, pleasantly said, “I am a poor man, and have been out of work four days; will you be kind enough to give me a job ?” He never thought he could do enough for the sacred cause of his Lord and Master.
Although he continued for some months to fulfil all his engagements, it was with so much pain and difficulty that upon one of his journeys his kind host and hostess contrived, by a ruse, to take him to the house of a medical gentleman, who persuaded him to frankly state his symptoms; whereupon the good surgeon assured him that immediate cessation from work, at least for a time, was imperative, or fatal consequences would ensue. He paid little heed to this, but persisted in keeping all his appointments.
On Saturday, July 3rd, 1841, he rose early, and left Leeds, in company with his friend, Mr. Phillips, for Colne, where he was announced to preach on the morrow. In the evening he joined in singing several hymns, selected the hymns and tunes for the Lord's-day service, and then took a Bible and retired to his apartment for some time. On his return, after a light supper, he prayed with the family, and retired about eleven o'clock. At two o'clock in the morning he awoke his friend, Mr. Phillips, saying, “Edward, get up; I am very poorly." Several members of the family and a medical man were soon at his side, but all help was unavailing. While sitting in his chair, labouring for breath, he spoke a little to those around. The few sentences which fell from his lips attested that all was right within, and his last words were :
“Let us in life, in death,
Thy steadfast truth declare."
“And publish with our latest breath
Thy love and guardian care,” utterance failed; and in his inclined position, he crossed his hands upon his breast, as occasionally in the pulpit, and expired without a struggle, thus giving reality to poetic expression-hea ceased at once to work and live.”
We have no space to detail the many evidences of affectionate regard which were given at his funeral, and wherever the intelligence of his departure was made known, not only in Methodist circles, but among all sections of the church of Christ where he had been known and honoured in life for his works! sake.
Many who have heard of Mr. Dawson, associate his name and fame with one prominent idea ; namely, that his genius was of the “rough and ready” order, and that he was remarkable for the grotesque and humourous, or even comic, character of his sayings or representations. A very different opinion, however, would be the result of a careful study of his biography; for although there was a keen sense of humour in his composition, and his powers of sarcasm and irony were frequently conspicuous, he had the happy art of making these subservient to high and hely purposes; for he was always tender and regardful of the feelings of others. Some use their wit as the school-boy does his first pocket-knife, trying its edge upon everything that comes in the way; the mahogany table is notched and the favourite rose-tree is mutilated, on all alike he leaves his mark ; he cannot help it; he's so full of spirits, and what's the good of having a knife, if one must not nise it? But William Dawson knew that only children and fools play with edged tools ; and timed his wit so judiciously that, like the skilled surgeon's lancet, “anointed with balm," it wounded but to heal. The following is an instance of the manner in which he reproved and silenced a fault-finder whom he met in Leeds, the day after he had occupied one of the pulpits in that town:
Gentleman._“I had the pleasure of hearing you preach yesterday.” Mr. Dawson.-" I hope you not only heard, but profited ? ”
Gent.—“Yes, I did ; but I don't like those prayer-meetings at the close. They destroy all the good previously received."
Mr. D._“You should have united with the people in them.” Gent.—“I went into the gallery, where I hung over the front, and saw the whole ; but I could get no good ; I lost, indeed, all the benefit I had received under the sermon.” Mr. D.-" It is easy to account for that." Gent.--"How so?"