« AnteriorContinuar »
have long struggled with various infirmities : my hearing is almost gone, and my general health seems enfeebled, and it is matter of wonder that I am spared so long. My turn will come soon: I want a stronger faith, a fuller reliance on the divine promises, to scatter all the clouds, and enable me to see clearly the heavenly land."
I make no comment on these extracts. They describe a state of mind in comparison with which the richest revenues, and highest literary honours, are insignificant.
His health had been for several months visibly declining, and he felt that the time of his departure was at hand. Not long before he died, he prayed with his class for the last time. It was a solemn season. He was drawn out in great fervency of spirit. He wrote a letter to his afflicted sister, from which a brief extract shall be given, as it shows the direction of his feelings in what were, comparatively, the last hours of his life :-“How happy are we when we can have full confidence in the Saviour! Let us think of that fine hymn: our father loved it much, and it was a great comfort to him :
Jesu, Lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the tempest still is high :
Till the storm of life be past;
O receive my soul at last !””. He was confined to his bed only a few days : during a part of the time he read from “ Owen on the Hebrews.” He was very happy, and on one occasion expressed himself thus :-“ Man has nothing to glory in. O the glorious majesty of the blessed God! I leave all with him. I want to receive yet more fully of the Holy Spirit.” Mrs. Hughes said, “ My dear, you hope to be with your Saviour ?” He rejoined, “O yes, and as one of his own creation ! The good Lord grant us his power and love! Blessed be God, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter !” In this manner he continued to speak, as his strength allowed, till he sank into a kind of stupor, from which he never recovered, but passed away quietly to be “ ever with the Lord.” This took place on the 15th of May, 1843.
Thus lived, and thus died, good John Hughes. For many years he possessed the friendship and confidence of Dr. Coke; and was, also, the personal friend and fellow-labourer of Owen Davies, with whom it may be truly said he wrought mightily in spreading the knowledge of Christ among the Welsh mountaineers. He was one of a noble band, few of whom now remain, who, more than forty years ago, carried the truth of Jesus, with saving power, into North Wales. The love of Christ constraining him, he went among ignorant and wicked men, preaching to them a present salvation by grace through faith. He deliberately declined a life of comparative ease and honour, for which his subsequent literary researches proved him to be well fitted : opposing the solicitations of his friends, and in obedience to his conscience, he chose the work of a Methodist Preacher, such as it was then, with all the toils and privations to which he knew he must submit, especially in the sphere in which Providence called him to spend the most vigorous days of his life. His great desire was to call sinners to repentance. And although in his pulpit ministrations he might not shine with the brilliancy of some of his more gifted brethren, yet was his a clear and steady light, by which many a poor wanderer was directed into “ the good and the right way.” The leading features of his religious character were kindness, liberality, simplicity, and integrity. He swerved not from his course, but steadily pursued the even tenor of his way. To him were strikingly applicable the words of St. Paul, “ Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not: but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but, by manifestation of the truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of
BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES. 9. DIED, at North Shields, December 18th, 1842, aged eighty, Mr. James Whitehead, who was born at Swall well, in the county of Durbam. Alexander, the father of James, was awakened to a sense of his lost condition, and directed to the Saviour, under the ministry of the Rev. Charles Wesley, on one of his visits to Newcastle and the neighbourhood. Mr. Wesley was announced to preach out of doors, at Burnhope-Field, eight miles from Newcastle ; and the proprietor of the colliery at which Alexander was a waggon-driver, desirous that all his servants might have an opportunity of hearing him, requested them to be present. The coal-waggons, as they arrived at the spot, were ordered to stop, and Alexander Whitehead, while sitting on his waggon, was smitten by conviction; the big tear rolled down his black face, and he anxiously inquired, “What must I do to be saved ?” He soon found consolation in Christ, joined the then recently-formed society, and walked, while he lived, as became the Gospel of Christ.
The effects of this change soon became apparent in his family. James, his son, was not permitted to mix with ungodly companions: he was restrained from outward sins, instructed in Christian truth, and conducted to the public worship of God. Although for a season he broke away from these restraints, and the seed appeared to have fallen on stony ground, it soon sprung up, and brought forth fruit. At the age of seventeen, he was powerfully awakened, resolved to be on the Lord's side, found mercy through the blood of the Lamb, and joined the small class of which his father was now the Leader. In those days the name of Methodist was a term of reproach; and James had to endure much personal abuse from his former companions, and from the persons who frequented the workshop in which he served his apprenticeship. But none of these things moved him; and he was so fully satisfied with the choice he had made, that he would have suffered martyrdom rather than renounce it.
Christianity invariably leads to the cultivation of the mind, and the acquirement of useful knowledge. James had to labour at the anvil from five in the morning till seven in the evening; yet he found time for reading, as well as the means of procuring suitable books. His master allowed him tenpence an hour for over-hours; and with the fruit of this extra labour, he purchased Mr. Wesley's Tracts, many volumes of the Christian Library, the Wesleyan Magazine, and other useful publications.
At the age of twenty-two he married, and for a few years suffered much from poverty, family affliction, and the hatred of his neighbours. In a very brief period, he saw four children sicken and die; and last of all the wife of his youth, broken down by disease, died also. These afflictions, however, were sanctified to the survivor. During this season of painful visitation, though he wept, yet he prayed, and meekly bowed his head to the chastenings of his heavenly Father, looking forward to “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
From the beginning of his Christian course, James was favoured with the company of the Ministers of Christ, who were entertained, in their periodical visits to the place, first by his father, and then by himself. The names of Cownley, Thompson, Jaco, Hopper, and others, who were stationed in the Newcastle and Sunderland Circuits, in these early days, fell like music on his ears in after-life; and he has been often heard to express the pleasure and profit he derived from their visits to his humble residence.
In 1808, James removed to Dunstan, where darkness rested on the minds of the people, and wickedness was uncontrolled. There was no place of worship, no teacher of the way of life. James carried his religion with him for his own comfort, and for the benefit of others. James soon procured a waggon-shade as a place for preaching, and invited the Sunderland Ministers to visit him. The invitation was accepted ; and Satan's kingdom was assailed with all the energy of faith. A society was soon raised up, and regular services established. Two years afterwards a chapel was erected chiefly by the efforts and liberality of James. The keelmen were appealed to, and they readily consented to carry the material free of cost. Labouring men gave their service cheerfully; and pecuniary aid was requested from all to whom access could be obtained. In 1810, this place of worship was opened by the late Rev. D. Isaac ; a Sabbath-school was soon after established, the duties of which fell principally on James; and in this work he continued to nearly the close of life. Singing was wanted for assisting in the worship of God, in the new chapel ; and he formed a singing class, and taught any that would come to tune their voices to heavenly praises. Hymn-books were needed : the money was not at hand to purchase; but love is never at a loss for means to accomplish its ends. James bought the books, and allowed his singing friends to pay for them by instalments of a penny per week. There, also, the Preachers, both Itinerant and Local, found a home in his house, and contributed to make his life holy and happy.
“Honour thy father and thy mother, is the first commandment with promise ;” and James Whitehead enjoyed the blessing it sécures. When his father was no longer able to labour, he found a comfortable home in the house of his son, who was permitted to close his eyes, and receive his dying benediction. Much of the grace he received from God, he attributed to the influence of parental faith and prayer, which took hold on the promise in Christ to the seed of the faithful. In the year 1820, James removed to Colliery Dykes, where he found a Christian cause already established; but here also he found work to do, and he actively engaged in it. He became Class-Leader and Sabbathschool Teacher, and received the Preachers into his hospitable dwelling. His last removal was to North Shields in 1830, where he held on his peaceful, humble, and useful course; teaching in the Sabbath-school, and helping on the good cause in every way in which opportunity was afforded. Here, also, he was appointed to the office of Class-Leader, and to its duties he diligently devoted himself.
James took a deep interest in the Wesleyan Missions : monthly he purchased the Notices, and read them with tears and many prayers ; and always contributed, likewise, according to his means. About a year before he died, he called on the Superintendent of the Circuit, and, after a flood of tears, said, “I and my wife sat up most of the last night reading the Missionary Notices, and we are distressed to find that the Committee cannot do all the good they wish for want of funds. The Missionaries in the West Indies are dying with excessive labour, and the people are left as sheep without a shepherd. What can be done? My wife and I have resolved to give half a sovereign extra.” Laying down the money, he begged it might be sent to the Committee, saying, “ The Missionaries must not die.” This was at a time when they were subsisting on an annuity of ten shillings per week. Thus, “in a great trial of affliction, the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded to the riches of their liberality."
The secret of the consistency and strength of James's piety may be traced to the simplicity of his faith, the ardour of his devotion, and the constancy with which he attended the means of grace. He has been known to shut himself up in his workshop, and for a whole hour pour out his heart before God. On the Sabbath, at every service, on the week-day evenings, at the preaching, and at prayer-meetings, whoever was absent, James was present. His simple but affecting tale, at the lovefeasts, will long be remembered by those who were privileged to hear it.
Deep humility was his evident characteristic: there was no selfcomplacency, no boasting, no despising of others. Often he expressed a fear that his unworthiness would shut him out of the heavenly society; but ere he had proceeded far in the statement of his sorrows, faith triumphed, and he wept for joy. For some months before he died, he was prevented, by weakness, from attending the means of grace; but when visited, he was found calmly waiting for his expected change. His spirit was lowly and mild; but he was happy. A short time previous to his departure, his wife asked him if he were comfortable. He replied, “ O yes, I am comfortable, I am happy; for I am upon the Rock.” He thus died, as he long had lived, to the Lord.
10. Died, December 19th, at Stevenage, in the Biggleswade Circuit, Mr. George Mackiness. His parents were themselves pious, and endeavoured conscientiously to train him in the way he should go. From his childhood, his mind not only possessed true light, but he was in a measure influenced by it, so that as he grew up he was preserved from conduct directly criminal. But this was all. The carnal mind, which is enmity against God, so far prevailed, that his parents often sorrowed that all their efforts to bring him to personal godliness seemed to be in vain, and that he continued to live as not having the saving knowledge of God. In 1829, however, the change for which they long laboured and prayed, took place. He had continued to attend the ministry to which he had been accustomed from his very infancy; and under a sermon preached by the Rev. John Bell, then stationed at Biggleswade, he was thoroughly awakened, not only to a clear view of his conduct as a sinner, but to a painful consciousness of his guilt and danger. He remembered the advantages with which he had been favoured, and saw that he had not improved them. The gracious visitations which had so often impressed his mind, but which he had so long resisted, were recalled to his recollection. He felt that this greatly aggravated his guilt, that he had thus lived, sinning against light, and grieving the Holy Spirit. His convictions were very deep : he drank of the wormwood and the gall, and so regarded his past life as almost to despair of mercy. He felt, as it were, a hell within himself, and the awful temptation was suggested, that strangling would be better than life. But he resolved to struggle with these guilty fears, and earnestly to seek, if haply he might find, pardon and peace. He did not seek in vain. Praying in Christ's name, (for he well knew that of himself he deserved nothing but condemnation and wrath,) he was heard and answered ; so that being justified by faith, and adopted into the divine family, he had peace with God, and could cry, with humble confidence, “ Abba, Father ;” and thus he became a new creature.
The religion about which he had been worse than careless, was henceforth his glory and chief joy. His faith wrought by love, and purified his soul. No one who knew him could doubt but that with him religion was a blessed reality; and he was careful in seeking its preservation and increase. He had joined the Wesleyan society, and diligently attended all the means of grace which its arrangements secure to its members. He was truly a spiritually-minded man. Wherever he went, in the way of his ordinary calling, his Bible and Hymn-book were always his companions. Religion, in fact, was his chief and every-day business. He had a benevolent heart, and desired the welfare of all, to the very ends of the earth; but he especially cared for “them of his own house." For the salvation of his family he earnestly prayed, remembering the unceasing prayers which had been addressed to the throne of grace for himself. His strong love for souls inclined him to consent to be employed, as he said, “ as a humble Exhorter, seeking to persuade sinners to turn to God through the Lord Jesus Christ;” but he could not be persuaded to become a regular Local Preacher. With all his affection and zeal, he was truly humble. This was visible in his whole character, and all that he did. He seemed never to be thinking of himself, and was always ready to yield superiority to others. His disposition was amiable, and he was remarkable for the kindness and evenness of his temper. Occasionally he had to pass through painful trials; but he was a firm believer in divine Providence; and in all things, whatever the instrument might be, he acknowledged the hand of God. His last illness was short, and his death truly happy. He was much affected by the sudden death of a beloved son, and, while standing by the grave, was seized with the disorder which so soon proved fatal. He expressed himself as being in a calm frame, but wishing for yet stronger faith. The disease was violent, and produced frequent unconsciousness of surrounding objects. When this was not the case, it was evident that his inward peace was complete. After being thus, for a time, insensible, he suddenly revived, and, lifting up his hand, exclaimed thrice, very distinctly,' “ All is well. Happy, happy, happy!" He then almost immediately expired.