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MEMOIR OF MR. THOMAS WARHURST,
OF VALEHOUSE, IN THE GLOSSOP CIRCUIT:
AMONG the manifold proofs of the divinity of the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ, that which is furnished by its power over the hearts and lives of men is not inferior to any in its conclusiveness. St. Paul, in his Epistles to the Corinthians, employs the argument with great force : “ If I be not an Apostle unto others," he says, “yet doubtless I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.” He was an “ ambassador for Christ ;” and to the conversions which occurred under his ministry, he referred as his undeniable credentials.
Of the Wesleyan Ministers, no one who knows the effects produced by their instrumentality can deny that these heavenly credentials are likewise possessed by them. By mistaken men they may be reproached as though they had run without being sent; but this is their rejoicing, that in all parts of the world they are able to refer to numerous converts from sin to holiness, whom God has given them as the fruit of their labours and the seal of their ministry, and to say “ Ye are our epistle, known and read of all men.” Of this the following memoir is given as an illustration.
Thomas Warhurst was born in the village of Hadfield, near Glossop, Derbyshire, in the year 1769, and resided there till he was thirty-five years of age. There is reason to believe that he was not favoured in the earlier part of his life with any religious instruction or training, but that he was suffered to follow the devices and desires” of his own heart; so that in his youth he became addicted to all the sins to which he was prompted by a corrupt nature, and by the evil example of those who surrounded him. He especially indulged in the use of strong drink, and was often carried by it to a fearful extent of criminality. The natural consequences followed. He became coarse in his manners, far beyond those who pertained to the same situation in life. He was choleric and boisterous, impatient of restraint, and, while young, he was quarrelsome, hard-hearted, and cruel. His constitution was as strong as his temper was violent; and as he could not bear the least contradiction, and was quick in resenting whatever displeased him, he often engaged in personal contests, in which the combatants mutually inflicted and received the most painful VOL. I.--FOURTH SERIES.
bruises. He was known as “ Tom Warhurst, and a terror to the neighbourhood." The fame of his pugilistic feats went far and wide ; and that man must not only have been very bold and daring, but even careless of his own life, who could venture to meet him when stripped and ready for “the fight.” He went about the streets of Glossop, challenging all whom he met to engage with him, and appeared to be disappointed and enraged when his challenge was not responded to.
But while proceeding in his sinful career, though neglected, and at length dreaded, by man, he was not left without witness that God is merciful and gracious, and that he “ willeth not the death of a sinner.” In after-life he has frequently mentioned the powerful strivings of the Holy Spirit, the alarming convictions of the sinfulness and danger of his condition, with which he had to contend. When he was about sixteen years old, he had a dream which, though attended by no immediate consequences, made an impression on his mind so deep, that, to the day of his death, the recollection of it was never erased from his mind. He thought the day of judgment was come, and that he saw the tribunal arranged, and saints and sinners approaching from all parts of the earth. The vast concourse was divided, so that one portion stood on the right hand, and the other on the left, of the Judge. He imagined that he was placed among those who were on the left hand, and that he felt himself covered with guilt, and ready to be condemned to eternal punishment. He awoke in great terror; and for some time the remembrance of his dreadful feelings had the effect of restraining him from evil, and in some measure inclining him to good. After his conversion to God, adverting to these feelings, he said that he believed that had any one then spoken to him concerning the ways of truth, he should have hearkened and turned from his wickedness, and thus have been preserved from the guilt and misery of nineteen years of awful rebellion against his Maker and Lord. But he was a sheep without a shepherd; no one cared for his soul; and he went on, going astray and hardening his heart. Few thought that there were moments when this stout-hearted sinner trembled, from the anguish of soul which was occasioned by the keen convictions with which he was mercifully visited. Who knows the good which a word in season, addressed to him, might have effected? But that word was not spoken, and he proceeded in his evil course, resisting these impressions, till his heart was hardened, and he became what has been already described.
While in this condition he married, and followed his business at Hadfield, as a hatter. But though forgetful of God, he was not forgotten by Him. In 1804 the Wesleyan chapel in the village was completed, and one of the “ opening sermons” was preached by the Rev. Lawrence Kane. It was with no small surprise that 66 Tom Warhurst, the terror of the place," was seen among the hearers; but he had felt an inclination to attend; and happy was it for him that he yielded to his feelings; for under the sermon he was deeply convinced of sin : he felt himself to be a most rebellious and hardened sinner, and that the wrath of a just and holy God, whose breath might have sunk him at once to the bottomless pit, rested upon him. The text which Mr. Kane had selected was, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall
be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” While he was unfolding and applying the solemn truths contained in these words, the hero in wickedness felt that they were all applicable to himself, his conscience was smitten, and he began to inquire after the way which leadeth unto life. He resolved, as he said afterwards, that he would become religious; but being ignorant of God's righteousness, he, in the first instance, “went about to establish his own righteousness, and did not submit to the righteousness of God.” In this way he proceeded for about nine months, diligently attending public worship at the place where he had received his first spiritual light; and towards the latter part of that period, he began to meet in class. He likewise regularly crossed the hill between Hadfield and Glossop, in order to make one of the congregation at Glossop church, and in these journeys often passed by the places in which he had exhibited his feats of wickedness, which were thus recalled to his memory, and assisted in strengthening the impressions which had been made on his mind, and his resolutions to lead a new life. He was a penitent sinner; but he did not understand the way of obtaining deliverance from the burden by which he was so heavily oppressed: the “strong man armed,” though no longer in peace, still had “possession of his goods.” Thomas thought he had strength enough to reduce his determination to practice; but mournful experience soon convinced him that something was yet wanting which he had not received. On one occasion he, in company with another person of the same trade, who was also making some profession of religion, but who, if ever he had experienced the power of godliness, had lost it, went to Ashton, on an affair of business. Drunkenness had been the besetting sin of his companion; and, on their return homewards in the evening, they yielded to the invitations held out by the sign-posts in their way, and when they reached Hadfield, they were both in a state of utter intoxication. This being known, his Class-Leader called upon him, but found him in a state which, painful as it was, he was glad to witness. Thomas did not attempt to conceal the fact : he acknowledged his offence, and bitterly deplored it. He had evidently been “overtaken in a fault," and they that were « spiritual” endeavoured “to restore him in the spirit of meekness." He was exhorted to be more watchful, and especially to seek for that gift of grace which should bring with it peace of conscience and power over sin. And this he did with all his heart. He now saw more clearly than ever his guilty and helpless condition; and, with many prayers, cried unto a sin-pardoning God for mercy. He felt that is was not sufficient for him to form resolutions against sin, however sincere, and to seem to be religious by an outward attendance on the means of grace, however regular: he understood the way of God more perfectly, and earnestly did he strive to enter in at the strait gate. The struggle continued for several weeks. Sometimes he was dispirited ; but he resolved to persevere, and to continue seeking till he found. The day of his deliverance was near. While engaged in prayer, he was enabled with the heart to believe unto righteousness, and thus to enter into the liberty of the Gospel. He obtained forgiveness of sins, and received inheritance among them that are sanctified. He was reconciled to God through Christ his Saviour, and being in Christ Jesus," he was “a new créature." He rejoiced in God who had become his salvation, and the joy of the Lord was his strength. It was to him, indeed, the beginning of a new life. He was enabled to lay aside every weight and the sin which had easily beset him; and from that time he ran with patience the race set before him, looking unto Jesus.
From the date of his conversion till his death, (a period of thirtyeight years,) Mr. Warhurst held fast his profession, and maintained a character consistent therewith. His conversion, indeed, attracted general attention. Those persons who knew the grace of God, glorified him for this display of its power: and even those who thought that “these Methodists carried their religion 'too far,” acknowledged that the complete reformation of such a man was both a wonderful event and a public benefit. They saw in him the drunkard made sober; the headstrong and violent man calm; the law of kindness sat on those lips which before had sometimes frightened even the irreligious by the awful imprecations which proceeded from them; the terrible fighter, of whom the strong young men of the village were afraid, was now “the friend of all, the enemy of none;" the man, coarse and low-lived in his habits and appearance, moved among them as a respectable and respected member of society. And religion had accomplished all this. He who had been, as it were, possessed by so many devils, and whom no man could tame, sat, clothed and in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus, giving him the glory of the change that had been wrought in him. To men like Thomas Warhurst may the language of the Apostle be justly applied : “ And such were some of you : but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God." They are “God's workmanship," through the instrumentality of his word, and the sign and the seal of a truly apostolic ministry.
Mr. Warhurst remained at Hadfield eleven years after his conversion, pursuing “the even tenor of his way," diligently attending the means of grace, and industriously applying himself to the duties of his temporal calling. He lost his wife soon after she had given birth to her fourth child, so that the charge of his infant family devolved entirely upon himself: it was, however, conscientiously fulfilled.
In 1815 he removed from Hadfield to Tintwisle, a village within the limits of the Glossop Circuit, but in which, when he went to reside there, no Methodist society had been formed. About the same time a man of the name of William Lockwood removed out of Yorkshire to that place. He, as well as Thomas Warhurst, was a Wesleyan; and as there were no others in the village, they resolved to employ their utmost efforts in procuring the extension of the cause with which they were mutually connected, to their present residence. They procured a house for occasional meetings for prayer, and, by application to the Wesleyan Ministers of Glossop, obtained eventually a regular supply of Ministers. By the blessing of God, this good work, though small in its beginning, continued to prosper, till at length Mr. Warhurst saw what he had long desired, the erection of a neat Wesleyan chapel for the greatly-enlarged congregation. It was opened for public worship in 1830: Mr. Warhurst rejoiced in the event, and gave “humble and hearty thanks” to Almighty God, as though it had promoted his own temporal and personal interests. So far as a strong and practical desire for the pros