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MEMOIR OF ALDERMAN JOSEPH RICHARDSON,
OF LEEDS: BY HIS BROTHER, THE REV. THOMAS RICHARDSON. Tae subject of this brief memoir was a native of the ancient palatine town of Lancaster, which is by some called “the Gateway," or entrance of the Lake District. There he spent his earliest years, often strolling along pleasant suburban walks, and gazing on the enchanting scenery around. When about fourteen years old, he was apprenticed to his father, who was a respectable tradesman of the place, carrying on the business of cabinet-manufacturer ; in which art the son became erelong a proficient. His parents were members of the Church of England, and they required all their children to attend its public ordinances. At sixteen, Joseph became the subject of serious impressions, chiefly by means of the protracted affliction and death of bis good father, who during his mortal sickness was often visited by the Rev. Robert Housman, Incumbent of St. Ann's, an intimate friend of the late Rev. Charles Simeon, of Cambridge, and of the late Rev. Legh Richmond, both of whom occasionally visited Lancaster, and occupied his pulpit. It was while bearing the earnest prayers and attending the ministry of the Incumbent, and of his two distinguished friends, that the subject of our record was drawn gradually to seek Christ. About this time he became acquainted with several of the leading friends among the Methodists of the town, and resolved to identify himself with them. At one of their means of grace, he obtained peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; and henceforth he went on his way rejoicing. An ardent zeal, and love for the Saviour, now led him to desire to be useful. For this end he devoted much of bis spare time to the study of the Scriptures. He read a great part of the judicious “Commentary” of the Rev. Thomas Scott, as well as the “ Notes” of Mr. Wesley and others on the New Testament. At a later date he made it a point to read one of Mr. Wesley's Sermons every day. He also gave careful altention to the English tongue, and in some degree to the Latin. The result of all was, that, by the blessing of God, he early became a very useful and successful Local preacher.
When about twenty years old, he visited the metropolis, in order to get further knowledge of his business. While there, be several times preached in the open air, at seven o'clock on Sunday morning, in Moorfields and other parts. He afterwards lived for a short time in Colne ; and, during that period, he was requested to labour for a few VOL. X.-FIFTH SERIES.
months in the Middleham Circuit, in consequence of the sickness of the Superintendent minister, the Rev. John Wesley Barritt. There he found ample scope for zeal and energy ; but, his health failing in a winter of great severity, be returned home. In view of all circumstances, though he was urged to offer himself as a candidate for the ministry, he resolved to consecrate his leisure and talents to the promotion of the Saviour's cause in his own neighbourhood. A short time after this, he commenced business in Bacup; but, not finding scope there, shortly removed to Leeds. Here he was united in marriage with one who sympathized with him in all his enterprises, and brightened his home with constant affection. He had not been long resident in the town, when the organ question of 1827 was made the plea for a violent agitation, and the result was that nearly a thousand members were drawn away from the Wesleyan-Methodist Society. During that painful crisis he maintained his fidelity to the church of his choice, and laboured, with all his power, in conjunction with Mr. William Dawson, Mr. Scarth, Mr. Turkington, and other valuable Local preachers, to supply the places of those who had thought proper to withdraw. It was felt to be at once his duty and his joy to assist to the utmost the ministers who were then stationed in the two Leeds Circuits, and to bear a part in repairing the wastes of Zion.
Soon after this date he commenced business. The good providence of God so signally accompanied his efforts, that at the age of fortyfive he was enabled to retire in great comfort; so that henceforth he devoted all his time and energies to the public weal, in various departments of service. He now became a member of the corporation ; and, at the time of his death, he was one of the senior aldermen of the borough. In 1854 he was unanimously elected by the Town Council to the civic chair. Throughout his year of office he greatly exerted himself in promoting the welfare of the borough, especially by measures designed to suppress vice, and promote Christian morality. He required all shops to be closed on the Lord's day; and the public-houses were carefully watched. During his mayoralty, the Conference of 1855 was held in Leeds : an occasion this for manifesting the high regard he entertained for the ministers of the body, and his attachment to the United Societies which compose their great charge. He spoke at several of the Preparatory Committees; and, as opportunity served, gathered around him at his own home the President, the Ex-Presidents, and many other ministers, who honoured him with their friendly regard, and by their presence acknowledged his fidelity to the profession of a Christian and a Methodist. Although his labours as chief magistrate were great, yet be carefully and conscientiously kept all his appointments as a Local preacher, leader, &c.; and, in addition to these engagements, often presided at Missionary Meetings, both near home, and at a considerable distance ; besides advocating in public the claims of schools, chapels, &c.* - In the year 1858, when the Queen and the
While it is pleasant to make this record, and to give the full credit due, all must see that the course pursued was the only one open to a consistent man. He who,
late Prince-Consort visited Leeds, on occasion of opening the townhall, Mr. Richardson was one of the gentlemen selected by the Couucil to present an Address to the Royal pair.
Soon after be retired from business, he devoted much of his time to the writing of tracts and sermons. Two of the latter he published, both of wbich had been preached at Oxford-Place chapel; the first, on the · Redemption of the Soul;” founded on Psalm xlix. 8,—which passed tbrongh three editions. The second was on Isaiah lii. 7; entitled, “Good Tidings published from the Mountains.” The first tract he wrote was on the “New Birth.” This was so well received, that he had more than twenty-five thousand copies printed and circulated. In the opening paragraph he states the occasion of exercising his gists in this line :-"Many years ago the writer was incidentally called to the bedside of a dying man, who was receiving a visit from a spiritual adviser. The topic of conversation arrested his own attention : for it was a subject he had not heard explained before. It was the New Birth. The visiter told the dying man that he must be born again ;' that, unless he experienced that change, he could not enter into the kingdom of God. The subject was not understood by the afflicted person, who appeared to be so destitute of spiritual light as to be unable to comprehend its true meaning. At length, however, with great emotion and evident surprise, he exclaimed, How can I tell when I am born again ?' To this interrogative no satisfactory answer was returned. The writer, having become acquainted with the subject since that time, has ever regretted the circumstance; especially when he remembers the great anxiety of the sufferer to be set right on a matter so important to him, and at such a crisis.” When about to publish another edition, Mr. Richardson put the tract into the hands of his friend, the Rev. William Willan, (then stationed in the Leeds Second Circuit,) desiring him to suggest any verbal alteration he might think necessary. Just at that time the late Rev. Jonathan Crowther was on a visit at Mr. Willan's house. That eminent man, then near his end, had the whole read to him, and pronounced, "Well, it is one of the best little tracts, on that subject, I have ever met with.” Many letters came from other readers, testifying the good they had derived from its perusal.—The second tract he wrote was entitled, “Watchman! what of the Night?” This was published at a time when his
when called to any municipal or other public function, becomes the more willing to be absent from his place in the house of God, or from the fellowship of saints, or from any of his accustomed walks of Christian activity, sacrifices the greater to the less in a manner truly pitiable. He loses, moreover, a golden opportunity for confessing Christ; and his example, now more influential than before, and carrying a new responsibility, is an evil instead of a good. The result is incalculable hurt to his own soul also. Nor is this all. To copy the idiom of a too famous Continental statesman, he commits not only a sin, but a blunder. For, as he cannot go the lengths of worldly men, and cannot rival them on their own ground, he plainly forfeits respect on both sides, becoming very small in the eyes of his new friends, as well as in those of his old ones.--EDITOR.