Imágenes de páginas

absent; and all the light is attributed to access gained by its teachers to the books of Moses. The writer adduces the contradictory opinions of the philosophers, instancing those of Plato and Aristotle ; and directs attention to the Hebrew prophets as the only fountain at whose waters men might quench their thirst for religious knowledge.

To continue a discussion on the writings of Justin would carry this paper to an undue length. Suffice it to say, that a treatise on the Resurrection is attributed to him, of which no mention is made by the ancient chroniclers. The fact that it was unknown until published in the eighth century by John of Damascus, involves it in the greatest suspicion, though Semisch labours resolutely in its behalf. other compositions bear the same name ; but critics agree to pronounce them spurious. We may all the more regret that most of the works which confessedly flowed from his facile pen have perished.

(To be concluded.)


BY HIS SON, THE REV. T: BOWMAN STEPHENSON, B.A. Tas Memoirs of great men are supposed to have a stimulating and inspiring influence upon those who read them. But, not unfrequently, the very greatness of the subject prevents this effect, by producing an utter despair of any successful rivalry. The racer is excited to most vigorous exertion when his competitor is only a little ahead of him : he would be ready to abandon the contest as hopeless, if the distance between them were very great. Hence the value of memorials of men who are taken from the ranks. The practical influence of a life like theirs, wbich we are conscious we can imitate, may be greater than that of a history which we can only admire. I do not claim greatness for my father. He bad no considerable reputation beyond the bounds of his own church : be bad high character, rather than extensive popularity, within it. But his abilities, though not of a showy order, were above the average ; and in some departments of work his powers were remarkable. He was a man of unswerving righteousness; be lived near to God; and for forty years, in various parts of the world, was a faithful Methodist preacher. Such men are the muscle and sinew of the church of Christ, and are worthy to be had in everlasting remembrance.

The late Rev. JOHN STEPHENSON was born at Darlington, on the 23d of July, 1799. His parents, members of the Wesleyan Society, sought to train him for God. His was a strong nature, even in infancy ; be was passionate and obstinate, until the grace of God obtained masterful sway over him. He was early sent to the Sundayschool ; and he derived from his attendance there, not only much personal advantage, but an affection for schools and scholars, which bore rich fruit in his later life. An attempt appears to have been made, in

the Darlington school, to fill up the hiatus often so painfully manifest between the school and the church. A pumber of the more serious scholars were gathered into a kind of preparatory class. To my father this meeting was highly beneficial : he was led to seek Christ's salvation, and he first tasted the joys of forgiving love when about nine years of age. The temptations of school-life, however, proved too powerful for his unsettled piety; and he passed through various alternations of feeling and experience, until he was powerfully moved to personal consecration by means of a sermon preached, at the opening of the Thirsk chapel, by the late Rev. John Storry, on New-Year's day, 1817. On the following Sanday evening, while the late Rev. Jobu Kershaw was conducting the Covenant-service in the Darlington chapel, John Stephenson gave himself solemnly to God, and received the seal of the Spirit to the engagement then made. Here ended the initiatory period of his religious life. From this time he “looked not back."

The genius of Methodism, which makes every one of its members work, soon laid its hand upon my father. He became a prayer-leader ; then an exhorter ; and, at last, took a text, —Isaiah liji. 6—12,—and preached his first sermon to a little company of villagers. That text is of such commanding power and beauty, that it could scarcely fail to suggest some thoughts of value to the mind of even a young and untrained thinker. At any rate, the people liked the tyro's attempt ; and soon afterwards Mr. Stephenson became an accredited Local preacher.

In 1818 he visited Leeds during the sittings of the Conference. I fancy the meeting of Conference must have been uncommonly attractive in those days : for, though railway travelling was unknown, ove constantly meets in the journals and memoirs of the period with notices of long journeys taken, often on foot, to the assembly of the tribes. I dare say, however, that, if the railway system were abolished, they would not be wanting who would walk forty miles if they had the chance (which my father enjoyed) of hearing Joseph Benson preach on 1 John ii. 24, 25. The event must have produced deep impression on his mind : for he added the text to the record in his journal long afterwards ; the journal being written in the flowing band of a youthful penman, while the addition is made in the stiff strong band of

My father now gave himself, with intense diligence, to acquire knowledge. At this time he held a responsible position in a large mill

, where his presence was required at six o'clock in the morning. Yet he generally contrived to gain two hours for study before he went to his work. The theological researches of that race of Methodist preachers were for the most part conducted in the sweet air of summer mornings, when only the lark was singing, or with the aid of the solitary candle, on cold black winter mornings, when the only sounds the student heard were the rustling of the leaf as he turned it, and the dignified ticking of the old clock in the corner. It was soon thought by the officials of the church, that my father ought to be devoted to the work of the ministry. Their opinion coincided with his own convictions.

recent years.

He bad keen sympathy with the Missionary work, and would have liked to go to Ceylon ; but he felt unwilling to interfere with the action of the church in his case, and so held himself ready to go to any part of John Wesley's parish. He passed the various examinations through which alone candidates can enter the Methodist ministry ; was received as a probationer by the Conference of 1821; and, to his great astonishment, was appointed to assist the Rev. Thomas Galland in the Lincoln Circuit. The first letter of my father which has been found was written to his parents. It gives an account of bis walking to this Manchester Conference, which he accomplished in two days. He evidently bad a strong appetite for sermons. He says, “ I heard Mr. Leach on Friday evening, Mr. Prosser on Saturday morning, and Mr. Preston in the evening; Dr. Clarke, Mr. Bicknell, and Mr. George Marsden, on the Sunday, and Dr. M‘Allum on Monday morning.” With a touch of pardonable pride he adds, “When my name was announced, Mr. Robert Newton, who is Secretary, said, “I know this young man, and think he is very well qualified for the work.”” Dr. Newton's regard for “that young man," and Mr. Stephenson's reverence for such a friend, continued unbroken to the end of life ; and I doubt not that scene in the Conference of 1821 would recur to my father's mind, when in after years Dr. Newton received two of his children, by holy baptism, into connexion with the visible church of Christ.

A year's residence with a man of Mr. Galland's mark would be a great advantage at any time, but was so especially in those days, when Theological Institutions were not. Mr. Galland took much pains with his assistant ; and, under the influence of his superior society, my father's mental power developed still more rapidly than his store of knowledge increased. At the end of the year he was sent to the West Indies, after having been ordained at Battle-Bridge chapel, (King's Cross,) London, by Jabez Bunting, Joseph Taylor, and Richard Watson. He sailed from Bristol in company with the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, who still lives, in honourable retirement, and with the Rev. Thomas Murray, who, after faithful service to the church, died in 1857. The voyage was very different from a "run" to the West Indies in these days of steam-communication. They did not reach Barbadoes till the 20th of January, having been nearly six weeks on the ocean. The scenery of the islands impressed my father profoundly. To the last days of his life he was wont to talk with enthusiasm of their seas, sleeping beneath a most regal sun, or rippling in drowsy harmonies upon a shore gemmed with shells of exquisite colouring, or breaking in thunder on reefs and rocks. And I remember that in the Exhibition of 1851 he took all his children to the West-Indian Court, and pointed out to them with the utmost delight the gorgeous fruits there shown under glass-shades as curiosities, but which he had seen on trees bending beneath their luscious abundance. Yet, amid that garden of the world, Mr. Stephenson soon discovered sights and practices which turned all his joy to bitterness. Slavery, and its attendant horrors, awoke in his breast an unrelenting indignation. The majority of the planters were lording it in Europe, on revenues wrung from the sufferings of their

wretched slaves by overseers or managers who were too truly “ the very scum and offscouring of all things.” Even the owners who resided on their estates, and were leaders of the social and political life of the colony, were excessively jealous and suspicious of the influence of the Missionary. Their permission was necessary before the negroes could be taught either from the pulpit or in school; and that permission was frequently withdrawn on the most frivolous pretences. But the history of the difficulties and triumphs of our West-Indian Missions has been so frequently told, that a version from my hand is quite unnecessary. In these days, nevertheless, when political or commercial interests appear to be warping the judgments of men, and inducing them to apologize for what is still “ the execrable sum of all villanies," it is well to remember that every one of those candid and responsible men, who went to the West Indies disinterested spectators of the state of things there, were, by what they saw, inspired with a life-long batred of slavery and all its belongings. And it behoves us to consider that the essential wickedness of slavery does not consist in the fact, terrible as it is, that all crimes have been committed by its means.

There are illustrations recorded in my father's journals, and substantiated by his personal knowledge, of so disgusting a character that I dare not write them down here. But the wickedness of slavery does not depend on facts like those. The argument against it would be as sound, though not as telling, if every slave had been treated with the tenderness due to a long-tried servant, and if the sanctities of domestic life among them had never been violated. The crime of slavery is, that it makes legal provision for the perpetration of crimes against the slave ; that it delivers him, bound, to the will of his fellow-man, leaving him no guarantee of human rights, except such as may exist in the character of his master. The essential wickedness exists in the mildest forms, as in the most savage, of slavery. It is not that the crime is committed, but that the system says it may be.

Mr. Stephenson received three appointments in the West Indies ; namely, to Tobago, Trinidad, and Barbadoes. He then came back to England for his marriage, fully expecting to return to the scene of his remote labours. But the Mission to the Shetland Isles needed rein. forcements; and, in answer to an earnest appeal from Dr. Clarke, my father offered to go. I have called tbe work in those islands a Mission. It still deserves the name, but it does not realize the contentional idea of a Mission as vividly as it did thirty-five years ago. Then, in some of the houses, the only knife and fork were held sacred to the minister’s use, and in the intervals of his visits were kept in the mealtub, that they might not rust. The food of many of the people was oatcake, for bread; and potatoes and fish boiled together, and eaten by the whole family out of a common dish, with a noble independence of Sheffield ware. Of course I refer here to the poorer classes : there were a few families in wbich the style of living was on a level with such refinement as was common to the lairds of the period. The work was very hard and very dangerous. Long passages in open boats from island to island, and journeys over dangerous hills and treacherous

bands, were to my father rendered all the more dangerous from a liability to sudden seizures which rendered him for a time insensible. These seizures were referred by medical authorities to the sudden change from the torrid climate of Barbadoes to the sometimes Arctic temperature of Zetland. On one occasion he was found, after an anxious search, quite unconscious on the sands within high-water mark, while the tide was rising. But he loved his work, and the people lored their minister; and when, in later life, he visited the islands for several years successively, as a deputation from Conference, he found many who remembered with thankfulness his early labours, and acknowledged that he had sown the good seed which in their hearts had produced fruit unto everlasting life.

On bis return to England, Mr. Stephenson was appointed to Bradford, (Yorkshire,) tben not divided ; and from that time to the day of his death he did regular work as a Methodist preacher. This memoir vill quicken the recollection of friends in Beverley, Howden, Grimsby, Newcastle, Derby, Bedford, Dudley, Louth, Bramley, Whitby, Shields, and Manningtree; in all of which Circuits he travelled, and in all of which, save the first two and Bramley, he was Superintendent. For this office his methodical habits, his gravity of bearing, his sound judgment, and intimate acquaintance with the details of Methodist law, particularly qualified him. That these habits were recognised by bis bretbren was attested by his frequently occupying the position of Chairman or Secretary of a District.

In the year 1847 he was appointed Secretary of the Contingent Fund. I use a title which has already become almost obsolete ; because, when my fatber became Secretary, it was strictly the Contingent Fund. But the newly-appointed Secretary had long been of opinion that the operations of that Fund ought to be greatly enlarged. He felt deeply the spiritual necessities of the nation; he collected statistics, and gatbered facts, which sbowed that the agencies of Methodism needed to be greatly extended. But he knew also that nothing could be accomplished without the support of the Methodist people ; and so, 25 a first step in the right direction, he set bimself to the creation of a public opinion. This he endeavoured to accomplish by fuller and elearer statements in the printed appeals yearly made in the classes ; by letters to the “Watchman” newspaper; and especially by the introduction of a novelty in Methodism, which has now become a recognised institution. At the Conference of 1847, in connexion with his colleagues on the staff of the Fund, he secured the passing of a permissive law, wbich is entered in the “Minutes” for that year, under the head of “ Home Missions,” and which provided that " in Circuits where such a step may be considered to be practicable and expedient, the Superintendent and other ministers may very advantageously hold, once a year, a public meeting, for the purpose of laying before our congregations and friends the necessity and duty of further exertions to meet the spiritual exigencies which so largely exist, and to increase, by an enlargement and extension of our established and usual system, the


« AnteriorContinuar »