Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and frequently produces strong effects, which afterwards subside. It was not so with him. I have known many young professors far more lively and ardent; but I never knew one more uniformly humble and persevering. His conversation on topics of experimental piety, and on the influence of divine truth over his own mind, was, even at the age of 17 or 18, judicious and edifying in a high degree. His whole behaviour was exemplary. A manly decision of characier, mingled with the most unassuming modesty and the most generous kindness, marked all that be did; and when he left the academy, the affectionate remembrance of William Humphryes retained a lasting place in the bosoms of his associates.)

On leaving Homerton, he was invited to preach to a small and decayed congregation at Haverbill, in Suffolk. His labours in the pulpit, his conversations in the social circle, and in the confidential interview, and the whole of his demeanour, soon awakened a consideral k degree of attention. The congregation increased ; and with fair prospects of increasing usefulness, he accepted an invitation to the pastoral office; and was ordained at Haverhill, Dec. 10, 1783.

The improvements which, during his residence in the comparative retirement of Haverhill, be made to his previous stock of knowledge on various subjects, were very considerable, He was there the devoted and exemplary pastor of a country congregation. His pulpit-labours were highly esteemed : his attention to the families and individuals of his flock was unremitting : his visits of consolation were full of tenderness and piety : bis reproofs were firm and faithful, though always softened by the most genuine compassion for offenders : his care of the young was such as left on the hearts of many of them important traces, which will never be reinoved. His constitution was even at that time greatly enfeebled; the course of his ministry suffered many interruptions; and at length, in the year 1791, he was induced, though with great reluctance, with a view to the preservation of health, and by the decided advice of medical friends, to resign his charge.

He then returned to London; where a temporary relaxation from the fatigues of the stated ministry was instrumental in restoring him to a greater degree of health than he ever expected to enjoy again; and feeling himself in vigorated, he ventured to appear occasionally in the pulpits of his friends.

It was in the spring of 1792, that Providence opened the door for his connection with this congregation. The morning-service of the Lord's Day alone was then vacant. Thi other duties of the situation were filled up by him who now addresses you. Mr. Humphryes had preached occasionally in this pulpit with considerable acceptance. It occurred to some of our friends, and to myself, that it would be an important acquisition, if we could persuade him to undertake the morning-service; which might be done without probable injury to his health. To this he received a very affectionate invitation; which, after very considerable hesitation, he accepted, though still considering it as an experi. ment ; for he doubted whether the state of his health would justify his continuance. When I thought it my duty to quit my connection with this society, the choice of a successor fell most sincerely and affectionately on Mr. H. ; and, endeared as he and many of the congregation were to cach other by frequent intercourse, he felt not much difficulty in acceding to their wishes. On Tuesday, March 22, 1796, he was publicly set apart to the office of pastor. From that period, he rose in the estimation of all who knew him; nor has there been, I believe, a single cloud of disaffection on the part of the pastor, or on that of the society, to interrupt friendship, or to hinder usefulness.

In other respects, he has been greatly afflicted. His labours have often been interrupted by returns of debility and disease. Three times these interruptions have been occasioned by the rupture of a blood vessel ; but these, though seasons of great distress, were also sources of instruction and advantage. He exem. plified the most devout resignation to his heavenly Father's will, contented either to live or die, as should be most for his glory and the eternal welfare of his own soul anil of his dear people. For their sake, more than for his own, he was desirous of life; and once and again his prayer was heard.

In his pastoral relation, his friends need not be told what he was. While memory lasts, the objects of his care can never cease to remember, with thankfulness to the divine Head of the church, the man who, like David, 'led them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skiltulness of his hands.'

He was a man of great wisdom. On a variety of subjects his knowledge was considerable ; but his theological knowledge and his acquaintance with the Scriptures were pre-eminent. He was well acquainted too with the world, and with the human heart. Hence he was well qualified to be a judicions preacher. His discriminations were often peculiarly just and impressive. He openly avowed his religious sentiments, which, after minute and impartial enquiry, were those which are commonly called Calpinistic. There was a time, in the early part of his ministry, when some of his friends, who disbelieved most of the doctrines to which a reference has been made, used very strenuous efforts to lead his mind from what he regarded as the essential truths of the gospel; but the deep sense which he had of the evil of sin, and of the depravity of his own heart, led bin to see that none but a Saviour truly divine was adequate to the necessities of his soul; and that, in the righteousness and sacrifice of the adorable Emmanuel, there was a wonderful suitableness to his wants and to his danger, .

What he so highly estimated as a Christian, he openly proclaimed as a minister, Ye are witnesses that he was often employed in holding up, as the only ground of a sinner's hope,

JEHOVAH, onr Righteousness;' and that he preached no other way of salvation but that which is opened through the righteousness and sacrifice of the Son of God. At the same time, he was always concerned to vindicate the honour of the Holy Spirit; and preached regeneration and holiness, as well as pardon and justification. It was not a cold systematic theology which proceedel from his lips; -- nor was it the unpremeditated effusion of honest but mistaken zenl which he addressed to his auditory. Accuracy of sentiment and representation, formed the grand feature of his preaching, so far as it was doctrinal; bot mere accuracy would never content him. He always laboured to place divine truth in the most impressive, as well as the most aroljectionable point of view; and his preaching was directed to those great ends, without which“ knowledge puffeth up.'

He was a very experimental preacher. Who that observed with what minute attention he watched the influence of principle on his own niind, can be surprized that he should make it a great object of his public ministry to delineate the features of the hidden man of the heart, and to shew the influence of the gospel on all the affections of the rnind ?

He was also a very practical preacher. The doctrine of grace was never, in his hands, so incautiously stated as to lead to licentiousness; nor could the bitterest enemies of that doctrine, had they heard Mr. Humpliryes preach, have presumed to say That it was not a doctrine according to godliness.

It was not, however, merely in the pulpit that the wisdom of our friend was discovered. He was peculiarly qualified to give prudent counsel, both in secular and in spiritual affairs. It was often long before he formed a judgment on a doubtful case. He weighed it with the utmost impartiality before he decided ; but, when he had decided, he was firm and steadfast.

He was as faithful as he was wise. He knew his awful respon. sibility at the great tribunal, and watched for souls as one who must give account.' Whosoever might be displeased or of fended, it was his desire, in public, to keep back no part of the counsel of God; and, in private, his whole behaviour was as far removed from flattery on the one hand, as from unkind severity on the other. The faithfulness of his admonitions, many whom he ineffectually reproved must reluctantly own; while the peni. tent and restored backslider will for ever adore the mercy which sent such a shepherd to call back his wandering steps.

But fidelity was accompanied and softened by the tenderest affection. "The meekness and gentleness of Christ' were peculiarly conspicuous in the whole of his ministry and conduct, His pulpit-addresses were directed, not to the understanding only, but to the heart. He deeply felt the energy of divine truth, and laboured that his people might feel it too. Love to Christ and to the souls of men, was most conspicuous in all his public las

bours; yet it was not confined to them. The language of affection does not always proceed from the heart; but in him the expression was greatly below the reality. He was one of the most truly affectionate ministers with whom the church of God has been favoured. He entered, with a minuteness which was al. most peculiar to himself, into the concerns of those whom he wished to serve, placed himself in their stead, and, in the most engaging manner, strove as much in the private circle as in the public assembly, to be useful. In the chamber of sorrow he, who had himself known much of disappointment and affliction, was the sympathizing, consoling, instructive companion. To the poor and the destitute he was a most disinterested and generous benefactor ; - to the ignorant and the prejudiced, he stooped with the most laudable condescension, that he might be instrumental in opening their minds to the reception of divine truth ; - to the young, he was like a parent. · I am confident that there is not a young person living who knew our friend well, that feels not his loss like the loss of a parent. I greatly applaud his adoption of a plan for catechetical instruction in the princi. ples of religion, for which he was peculiarly qualified; but it was not merely in these exercises, it was on every occasion that the young found him a friend. He strove to please them by a thousand nameless accommodations, that he might win their affections, and be useful to their souls.

He was also an useful pastor. It was not, indeed, in a sphere of very large extent he was called, or perhaps adapted to shine; but he was indulged with very eminent success in his attempts richly to cultivate this little spot; and the fruits of his ministry are of the most satisfactory kind. But his exertions, although they centered in his beloved flock, were not limited to them. Many, who were not attendants on his ministry, have reason to esteem him as a most beneficial friend. I believe I may say that, in the neighbourhood where he lived, he was universally beloved by members of the Established Church, and by every

eloved husion of Dissenters, and behold the emphatic words. Miles

• Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.' Never were these emphatic words more accurately fulfilled than in the closing scenes of his useful life. From the rupture of a blood-vessel in the beginning of Sept. 1807, he had rapidly and unexpectedly recovered, so as to be able to resume every part of his work, with a vigour which astonished all who beheld it To you, my friends of this congregation, the last four months of his ministry must ever appear peculiarly important. You will regard his sermons, his prayers, and his conversation, during this little interval, as his dying testimony to the truth and power of the gospel. May it not have been borne in vain!

On Lord's Day, the loth of July, he finished his public testimony in this place. In the morning he addressed his auditory

XVII.

[ocr errors]

from Ps. Ixxxiv. 10. For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.' In the afternoon, his discourse was founded on Job, ii. 10, · What! sball we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?' How important a preparation of the minds of his beloved hearers for the calamity, at the eve of which they had unconsciously arrived ! Having finished the work of the Sabbath, conversed cheerfully with several friends, and performed the devotional exercises of his family, he discovered symptoms, which convinced him of the third return of the former disorder, by another rupture of a blood-vessel. The attack was awfully severe: the loss of blood excessively great; and the danger of a rapid decline alarmingly obvious. From his extremne debility, however, he mercifully recovered so far, as to have various opportunities of bearing an unequivocal testimony to the power of the gospel over his mind, and of recommending it to the attention of others.

As soon as he was a little recovered, he was recommended to take a journey for change of air. His mind was at once directed to Canterbury, knowing that in the house of his intimate friend (the Rev. Mr. Gurteen) he would be as much at home as at Hammersmith. There he spent nearly five weeks. For the first fortnight he appeared to be mending; and his friends pleased themselves with the hope of his complete recovery. At that time, it is supposed he was led to entertain the same hope. But he appeared perfectly resigned to the divine will, and more than once remarked, that if he felt any desire to live, it was, that he might be useful. His conversation was remarkably pious and spiritual. Whenever he spoke of the Saviour, it was in the most exalted terms. Christ, in the glory of his Person, in the efficacy of his blood, and in the riches of his grace, was his delightful theme. Whenever he spoke of himself, it was with the greatest humility and self-abasemeat.

During the last fortnight which he spent at Canterbury, his health declined very rapidly. One morning, after having had. a very bad night, when asked how he felt himself, he replied, « Of late I have had many sleepless nights, but not one heavy hour; for in the multitude of my thoughts within me, his comforts delight my soul.' At another time he said, I have often made it matter of prayer, that if this sickness should be unto death, I may experience my mind more and more weaned from earthly objects, and that I may prefer Heaven to earth; and now 1 find, that my prayer is answered.' He embraced every oppor. tunity of saying something profitable to those about him. 10,' said he one day, that I may do good with my dying breath.' A ininister calling to see him, expressed a hope that his mind was comfortable; he replied, 'My mind is fixed upon Christ. Those parts of the word of God which speaks of Christ, whether prophetical or historical, are the most sweet and pre

« AnteriorContinuar »