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of grace, poured out my soul to God, and spread my case before Him: and, whilst supplicating at the feet of my Lord for mercy, in a moment I had such a manifestation of the Holy Spirit to my heart as scattered all my doubts and fears, as chaff before the whirlwind. I rose from my knees a new creature, 'lost in wonder, love, and praise.' My heart leaped for joy, and the new language of my soul was, 'Is it possible that the blessed God can deal thus with His sinful creatures?' My heart immediately replied, "Yes! yes! the blessing is given. I have it-I have it!' O, the blessedness of that happy hour! Then was fulfilled in me the word of Scripture, If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ.' I retired to rest, and my sleep was sweet. When I arose in the morning, all things around me seemed to wear a new and sweet aspect. I was, as it were, in a new world; and all was delightful."
The joyful news soon spread to Sunderland, Hartlepool, and other places where different friends of the family resided; and sacred congratulations poured in from all sides.
One letter from Sunderland, dated March, 1796," commences thus:
"MY DEAR, MY VERY DEAR BROTHER,-Where shall I begin? What shall I say? God be praised! Glory be to Him that sitteth in the highest heavens for ever! Let me ascribe praise to Him for His unbounded loving-kindness to me, and those who are as my own soul. Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name' for ever!-My dear brother, join your praise to mine, and let the odour rise to heaven, a sacrifice well pleasing to our heavenly Father. My heart is full of God. I hardly know what to say but Glory-Glory! Praise and adoration to Him who hath redeemed us by His precious blood! O my brother, my dear brother, GOD IS LOVE. I had a letter a few minutes ago from dear Sam, [another brother,] which gave me the joyful news of your being adopted into the family of heaven......Devote yourself to His service; give up your all into His hand; be willing to be moulded and fashioned as He may see fit; and say in all things, Thy will be done.' Always, and with all your might, act up to that portion of grace and faith given unto you. He will increase it."....
This beautiful letter, which is very long, contains much excellent advice in regard to the reading of the Scriptures, resistance of temptation, and the way to meet doubts and fears which may arise in contemplation of Divine Providence, or of misunderstood passages of the sacred word. In another communication, dated "Sunderland, April, 1796," and abounding in holy texts selected with a view to suit the case of the young convert, (who was most affectionately beloved by the entire family,) and full of mingled cautions and congratulations, there is a passage indicative of the writer's own
experience, which he evidently hopes will be instrumental in strengthening his brother :
"I THINK I awoke this morning with as much joy in my heart as it could contain. I was ready to cry out, 'This is the very gate of heaven: this is a blessed foretaste of those joys I shall shortly experience.' I would not part with what I at this moment feel, for twice ten thousand worlds. Nothing but an ETERNITY of happiness can satisfy my panting soul.".
In an interesting letter from his father, dated "Hartlepool, June 6th, 1788," Mr. Middleton is congratulated on the favour in which he is held by his principals, and reminded how "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." After some intelligence of a domestic kind, there occurs the following interesting notice :-" Mr. Wesley intends preaching at Yarm on Wednesday next, when thy mother and I purpose to meet him, and where we shall see many of thy friends." Accordingly, turning to Mr. Wesley's Journal, we find, under date of June 11th, 1788, a reference to this visit: "About noon I preached at Stockton, but the house would not contain the congregation; nor, indeed, at Yarm in the evening."
writes again this both father and I am not wholly
"My desire and prayer to God for you is," exemplary father, though the letter is signed by mother, "that you may be everlastingly saved. ignorant of the snares and temptations to which you are, and may be, daily exposed. You ought, therefore, to be much in prayer to God, that He may direct and keep you in all your ways. Amidst all your temporal employments, take care you be not diverted from the more important things which are eternal. May the Lord by His blessed Spirit clearly convince you of your state and wants; and may you never rest satisfied till you experience faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, and be a living witness of the remission of all your past sins!" And yet again: "While all this [growing prosperity in the world] calls loudly for thankfulness, O consider well how little it would 'profit a man' could he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul.' Seek the true riches which perish not: O seek with your whole heart. Be careful to spend your Sabbath-days well; and may the Lord incline your heart to that which is good, and bless you with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus!" The following extract of a letter from Mr. Middleton's excellent mother, dated "MiddletonHouse, June 8th, 1796," (just eleven days after his conversion,) is so closely connected with the history of that deeply interesting event, that it calls for special observation :- When you first wrote to me about the distressed state of your mind, I found my soul engaged with God through Jesus Christ for your deliverance; and, glory be to His holy name, through faith in the blood of Jesus I had reason to believe you were set at liberty. I was enabled to praise God on your behalf. I told some of my friends that I had no doubt but in a
few days I should hear of your being made happy. And when I received your second letter, informing me how the Lord had manifested His pardoning love, with what transport did it fill my soul! How was I astonished at the loving-kindness of God to me, who am less than the least of all His servants!-that one, and another, and another of my children should be made partakers of that great salvation, purchased by the blood of Jesus.". ....Toward the end of her letter, the venerable mother adds: "I believe your dear father had a view of this before his death." What a meeting at length of parents and children, after a pilgrimage of nearly one hundred years!
The instance here recorded of immediate answer to prayer may well encourage Christians to be instant in importunate pleading for the salvation of their offspring. The Divine simplicity of faith is beautifully illustrated in the unadorned relation; adding another proof that the possessors of such faith, even when dead, yet continue to speak to succeeding generations.
To resume the narrative of Mr. Middleton's calm and happy course :-Referring to the time of his conversion, he observes: "I decided to commence family-prayer, having hitherto been negligent of that great duty. I therefore called my large family of domestics together, and informed them that from that time my house should be a house of prayer; that each succeeding morning and evening the Scriptures would be read, and thanks and supplications offered to God, our Creator and Preserver. The regulation being a new one in the family, (which consisted of eighteen persons,) I was apprehensive of some opposition: but my Lord, who has always been better to me than all my fears, graciously disposed their hearts to comply with my request. The daily performance of this delightful duty was continued so long as I was in the house; and, thanks to my heavenly Father, not without benefit to some."
Mr. Middleton was soon introduced to the Methodist Ministers then residing in London, and was by them directed to a class, in which he met for some time; till, the Leader removing, he was solicited to take the vacant office. With characteristic lowliness, he thought himself unsuited for so high and important a task; yet dared not refuse an engagement which might involve future usefulness to others, as well as reactionary benefit to himself. He was much encouraged by the members of the class, who affectionately urged him to accept the charge. On resigning it, after a long succession of years, (the occasion being that of his removal from London to Durham,) he with wonted humility thus expresses himself: "I pray my heavenly Father to forgive my short-comings in the important office in which I was placed." He adds, however, most truly, (as many others in like circumstances can testify,) that in London, where the members are so widely scattered, and most of them engaged in active labour, it is not an easy thing to discharge a Leader's duty, or secure due opportunity for religious conversation.
About this time, he appears to have become acquainted with the late Joseph Butterworth, Esq., Treasurer of the Wesleyan Missionary
Society, whose place of business was nearly opposite to that of Mr. Middleton in Fleet-street, between Chancery-Lane and Temple-Bar. With this truly honourable man he maintained a Christian friendship, for more than a quarter of a century; during a part of which time Mr. Butterworth was a Member of the British Parliament. The two had been awakened about the same time to a deep concern for salvation. "Neither my friend nor myself," says Mr. Middleton, "sought the Lord in vain. We experienced the truth of the encouraging words, Everyone that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth.' He who came to seek and to save the lost sheep had compassion on us, spoke to our hearts, and dispelled all our guilty fears. After a close Christian communion [of these kindred souls] for about twenty-five years, he [Mr. B.] was called to the society of saints in heaven, and the beatific vision of Him who was once a Man of sorrows,' but now enthroned in glory at the right hand of the eternal and blessed God.-My friend and brother had filled important offices in the Wesleyan body to the end of his pilgrimage. It is hardly needful to say, his removal from the Christian Society of which he was a member was deeply and extensively felt. The memory of the just is blessed."
The writer of the above lines next adverts to his long and happy union with his late amiable and excellent wife; of whom it is not too much to say, that she was everything that adorns the character of a Christian lady, attracting, by the sweetness of her manners, and the gentleness of her entire deportment, the lasting respect and affectionate esteem of those by whom she was surrounded. Mr. Middleton was united to Miss Ward, only daughter of John Ward, Esq., solicitor, of Durham, on the 7th of November, 1797; and that sacred and endeared bond continued till the 21st of April, 1845.—Mr. and Mrs. Middleton came from Durham to reside at Cheltenham, in the year 1830; and continued in the latter place to adorn their Christian profession in all things during more than a quarter of a century. All who at this time knew the subject of our record will readily call to mind the beautiful transparency of his character, and the dignified simplicity of his manners, as he moved in the circle of his religious friends, or "went about doing good," especially among the poor and needy followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
A comparatively uniform tenor of life, and the absence of striking incident, may be frankly acknowledged to leave little for the pen of the biographer beyond characteristic notices.
Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird
That flutters least is longest on the wing."*
Mr. Middleton's whole deportment was marked (as is well observed by his friend, Thomas Walker, Esq., of Cheltenham) by "calmness,
* Cowper's "Task," book vi.
serenity, and orderly habits, probably derived in some degree from the example of his father, who was a pattern of punctuality, industry, and redeeming of time." Mr. Walker observes, further, that, while residing at Cheltenham, he was not only most exemplary in attending all the means of grace usual among the Wesleyan Methodists, meeting his class regularly, visiting the members, (especially the sick and poor, to whom he was most liberal,) and attending the prayermeetings, in which he generally took a public part; but he had great delight also in attending the ministry of the Rev. John Brown, Trinity church, at the Friday morning service, from which he derived much spiritual profit. He was a lover and generous supporter of the Wesleyan Missionary Society, calling regularly, with his friend the late Thomas Jerram, Esq., on our Church-of-England subscribers for their annual benefactions.* He made a conscientious distribution of his property, giving away on principle one third of his income.
He was a deeply spiritual man. No one could be in his company for any length of time, without perceiving, and even feeling, in what atmosphere he breathed. His whole aim appeared to be, and doubtless was, to be constantly doing and receiving good. There is no doubt that he spent much time at the foot of the cross in prayer, and in the study of the sacred volume. It will not be surprising, if we add that he was uniformly cheerful. A great charm was thrown over his latter days by the gathering around him of beloved families of several of his early friends. It was, indeed, alike pleasing and impressive to see these disciples of the Lord Jesus together, walking to the house of God, or stimulating each other to love and good works. Mr. Middleton was the man to make friends, and certainly not less the man to keep them. Around him were drawn many of the good of all denominations. Of the beautiful chain which even visibly bound up the interests of Wesleyan Methodism in Cheltenham, several links are now broken by the hand of death. But the dead in Christ are not lost or forgotten: they are cherished in the thoughts of many survivers, and not least by those whose tender assiduities contributed to bless their declining years. In Mr. Middleton's case, it was the care and privilege of such to compensate, in some degree, the privations of blindness and solitude, even down to "the valley of the shadow of death.” After his great bereavement, in the spring of 1845, he was watched over by long-tried and faithful servants of his household, who loved him with almost filial affection.
A most pleasing account of his latter days is communicated by Mrs. Walker, of Cheltenham, in a letter to a friend :-" Attaining, as
*This example we beg to commend to gentlemen of position and influence. Many of these might render very great service to their Master's cause, by collecting for the Missions. All credit and thanks to those who are already engaged in this honourable toil: yet many walks of commercial and more public life are accessible only to a select class. In such walks the late Mr. Hall, of Bristol, was accustomed to collect annually a large amount; not less, in several instances, than £70 or £80. -EDITORS.