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perity of Sion is an evidence of genuine piety, that evidence was plainly visible in him through the whole course of his religious
He was now, however, advanced in years, and began to feel the infirmities of age, perhaps the more so on account of the manner in which the first portion of his life had been spent. When he turned to God, he devoted to Him all the energies of his nature, and his zeal continued even when his strength began to fail. Like many others in similar circumstances, he would often remark, that though he might be weary in the work, he was not in the least degree weary of it. Frequently did he say, when expressing the feelings of his heart, “By the blessing of God, I am determined to see what there is at the end of this journey.” This was his watchword for perseverance, and the note of encouragement with which he used to cheer his comrades in what was sometimes difficult in the way to the kingdom of God. His unblemished character, and diligent attendance on the ordinances of religion, as far as his strength permitted, evinced the honesty with which he purposed to press forward unto eternal life. His religious experience became more steady and mature. He glorified the grace by which, for so many years, he had been enabled to maintain his position and character as a member of the visible church of Christ; but on a review of the past, he acknowledged that he had lived too much below his privileges.
A few years before he died, an attack of illness brought him so low, that it was thought he could not recover. But this providential visitation was evidently connected with an especial visitation of heavenly influences, and had a blessed effect on his mind. His attention was turned more completely to Christ, and the fulness of his merit and grace. On one occasion, while engaged in prayer, he was so overwhelmed by the views which he had of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, as to forget for the time all sensation of bodily pain. From this period his religious experience was of a richer character than formerly. He seemed to walk with God, in constant communion, and more fully to enjoy those foretastes of heaven which were vouchsafed to his faith and hope. His latter days were calm and bright. In the morning of life, indeed, he had shown, to an awful extent, how corrupt is human nature, and of what excesses of wickedness it is capable. But he became a monument of the rich mercy of God, and where sin had abounded, grace did much more abound. Had he continued to live as in the beginning, it is not enough to say that his latter end would have been very different : humanly speaking, his excess of riot would soon have destroyed him; whereas, yielding to the power of divine grace, and living in sobriety and temperance, religion brought him “ length of days," so that in the evening of life he was seen a truly devoted man, beloved by his associates, venerated by the young, and himself rejoicing in an unclouded hope of the glory of God.
During his last affiction he requested that his class might meet in his own house, that to the last he might enjoy " the communion of saints.” The night before he died, two of the members called to see him, and conversed with him of his past experience and present state. He expressed almost all in saying, “Christ is now present with me, and very precious to me.” He endeavoured to repeat three well-known lines of a hymn; but though the condition they described was his own, he had not the power to accomplish it. He said,
but here his strength failed: what his tongue could not utter, his heart enjoyed. No cloud intervened to
“ Hide for a moment his Lord from his eyes.”
Just before he breathed his last, his strength seemed to revive, so that when his son asked him if he thought he were dying, he replied, “ Yes; I am dying: content and happy ; content and happy.” Shortly after he quietly breathed his last. He died February 24th, 1842, aged seventy-three years, thirty-eight of which he had been a useful member of the Wesleyan society.
MEMOIR OF MRS. BULL,
OF LEEK, STAFFORDSHIRE :
BY THE REV. JAMES CATTON. The religious experience of Christians, like the human countenance, furnishes to those who are enabled, by the possession of spiritual life, rightly to observe and understand it, an almost endless variety in developement and expression. In the memoir which is now presented to the readers of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine, this experience will be seen in its clearness and consistency, combined with great selfpossession and firmness; and will tend to show not only how individuals may build on the only sure, because only true, foundation, but how they may build thereon gold, and silver, and precious stones, with the right material, and according to the right rule.
Mrs. Bull, whose maiden-name was Catharine Oakden, was born at Bentley-Hall, in the Uttoxeter Circuit, in December, 1790. Her parents belonged to the established Church, and paid strict attention to the religious and moral training of their children, who were early instructed in the duty of filial obedience, and were taught from their childhood to “ remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy.” On that day, because it was God's day, they not only saw a cessation from worldly labour, and were forbidden to engage in their childish sports, but they were taken to the house of God; and the father, on another part of the day, was also wont to collect his numerous family, and read with them the word of God. The character of the mother, too, was exemplary. According to the light she had, she feared God; and being as she was of an affectionate disposition, she was greatly beloved by her husband and children; and having experienced the converting grace of God, she died in peace. Altogether, the family was considered one of the best regulated in the neighbourhood.
Still, though the instruction, as far as it went, was excellent, it was
defective. In after-life, Miss Oakden (in a letter to her cousin) thus referred to it :-“In our younger days we were not favoured with the clear preaching of the Gospel. We were taught the necessity of strict morality, but nothing more. However, when a child, I was often struck by portions of Scripture referring to other subjects ; for instance, the parable of the Pharisee and publican, and also the texts which speak of our Saviour's great love for sinners. I well remember, when a little girl at school, asking, with a sorrowful heart, if it were they who were always good that God loved ; and the answer was in the affirmative. We grew up, therefore, naturally building on our own righteousness.”
As her years multiplied, she became increasingly remarkable for meekness and gentleness. So tender was her spirit, that she always chose to suffer silently, rather than to resent any little case of injury or oppression that she might experience. She was influenced, also, by the fear of God, and was diligent in attendance at public worship. Indeed, though mistaken as to the scriptural way of acceptance with the Most High, she was evidently sincere, and God dealt with her in mercy; so that she had frequent visitations of heavenly influence, which, while they strengthened her in what was right, often produced dissatisfaction with herself, and a “feeling after” something that was better.
In 1812 she was providentially directed to Doddridge's treatise on the “ Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul.” This book she read carefully, and very much to her profit, especially in the destruction of her legal hope and self-confidence. She saw that, as judged by the holy law of God, she was a sinner, and that she needed a Saviour and his salvation. Often did she cry, “Save, Lord, or I perish !” and there is little doubt but that she would have found the peace she now so anxiously desired, had she enjoyed the advantages of a Gospel ministry.
In 1814 she went to reside at the Forest of Meedwood; and while there she had the opportunity of hearing the Rev. Humphrey Price, an evangelical Clergyman. Under a sermon preached by him on the new birth, her convictions of sin were revived and deepened. “I clearly saw," she says, “ that I was under the wrath of God, and in danger of eternal punishment. This led me to cry, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner!' It pleased him soon to hear and answer my prayer. His love was shed abroad in my heart, and I rejoiced in the assurance that I was reconciled to him through the Son of his love."
Soon after, she became acquainted with a person residing in the neighbourhood, who was a Wesleyan. To her she opened her mind, and with her she conversed freely on religious subjects, especially on those connected with conversion, which as yet she experienced better than she understood it. She was likewise invited to attend the Wesleyan chapel, and was thankful for the teaching which opened to her so clearly what she believed was the scriptural way of salvation. From that time her attendance on the Wesleyan ministry was regular.
She now became earnestly desirous of the salvation of the other members of her family. Occasionally three of her younger sisters resided with her at the Forest, and to them she endeavoured to communicate those views of truth which she had herself so happily received. Nor was she unsuccessful. Their opening and not unprepared minds thankfully embraced her instructions, and they were made partakers of the same grace. One of them, when only sixteen, died happy in the Lord : the other two are still walking in the heavenly road.
She returned to Bentley in 1816, and immediately joined the Wesleyan society, becoming the member of a class which met at Baylstone chapel, in the Uttoxeter Circuit. This at first occasioned a great trial of her faith and courage, as the other members of her family were much displeased with her, and for some time severely reproached her. The threat of even turning her out of doors was employed; but she was unmoved. Though mild and affectionate as ever, upon this point she was decided. “O how great a mercy it was," one of her sisters has since exclaimed, “that Catharine was so firm! Otherwise the whole family might have been lost.” It is one thing to be unintentionally ignorant of the truth, but a very different matter obstinately to resist it when it is presented. Miss Oakden took care to show that there was no self-will in her decision, and sought to conquer this painful opposition by consistency of conduct, by affectionate behaviour, and by earnest and unceasing prayer. She had the happiness of seeing the prejudices of those whom she loved so well gradually giving way; and not only did opposition cease, but different feelings were awakened. Her sisters were first brought under conviction of sin, and afterwards her father. He found peace with God; and, after walking to the close of life “in the fear of the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Ghost,” he died in peace.
She was accustomed occasionally to express her religious feelings in writing. The following extracts from papers found after her death will show what those feelings generally were :
“How shall my wondering soul sufficiently extol and magnify the infinite mercy of God? What I am, I am by his grace. I do here deliberately, solemnly, and heartily consecrate to him all my future days, be they many or few. This, I know, is my reasonable service. I have a clear sense of my personal interest in Christ,--a calm, solid peace, and a good hope of a glorious immortality.” “I have latterly enjoyed constant peace, through believing that God is reconciled to me through the Son of his love. I can look up to him as a child to a parent. My soul hangs upon his mercy. I know that I am nothing; but Christ is all and in all.” She knew, indeed, that the life of the Christian was a warfare ; but she went on believing, loving, and obeying, and her path was made increasingly plain before her. Thus she says, “I find that I have many lessons to learn in the knowledge of God, myself, this ensnaring world, and the devices of Satan.” “My nervous frame has occasioned me much lowness of spirits, and with this some inward temptations have been connected. I endeavour to give myself unto prayer, and to-night I have found great help from it. In God my soul has its centre and rest.” At another time she writes : “ This has been a day of peace and comfort; but I would not be satisfied even with this :
Eager I ask, I pant for more.' I want to love thee, O my God, with greater fervour! This evening, while going to the house of prayer, I incautiously fell into worldly conversation. I felt that I had in consequence suffered loss. I did not enter the courts of the Lord with due reverence, and therefore no wonder that my mind was not fixed during the service.* Deeply do I feel myself to be · less than the least of all saints. Yet my acceptance with God is not of myself: I enjoy a full assurance that I am his, through our Lord Jesus, and ardently desire to please him in everything I do. How much heavenly wisdom do I need! In reading the Scriptures I was instructed and reproved."
In 1817 she was led to seek a richer experience of divine blessings than she had yet attained. She desired to be “ sanctified wholly," and through “the blood” which “ cleanseth from all sin ;" to be in “spirit, soul, and body preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” In looking for this, she was encouraged by those “exceeding great and precious promises” which are “ given to us" for this very object, “ that by them we might be partakers of the divine nature :” these promises she pleaded till she obtained that " per.. fect love” which“ casteth out fear.” This entire sanctification, it is believed, she held fast, with unwavering stability, to the end of her life. Some passages of her diary are given, which, while they illustrate the general character of her experience, refer more or less directly to this subject.
“I believe it is the privilege, and therefore the duty, of every believer to be so cleansed in the very thoughts of his heart by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as to love God supremely. It appears to me, that while the heart is not thus clean, and fully renewed after the image of God, its progress in the divine life must be comparatively slow, and exposed to impediments more numerous and powerful than would otherwise be the case. O that hourly, constantly, I might come to the fountain, to wash away whatever is contrary to the divine purity, and would hinder my growth in holiness! O my Saviour, I want to feel something of that love to poor lost sinners which thou didst feel !” “Nothing less than being filled with love can satisfy me. I feel that Christ is peculiarly precious, for he saves me from sin. By looking at the great atoning Sacrifice, I feel that all evil tempers are kept away, and that I enjoy a peace that I would not part with for a thousand worlds. While I look to Jesus, I feel that I am safe. I know that I can only continue in this state by exercising much watchfulness, self-denial, and faith. That I may always stand, I must stand in the whole armour of God.” “I still believe that thy blood cleanses me from all sin, though yet I am far from being all that I wish to be. I have been much blessed to-day in the means of grace, and have rejoiced in God my Saviour, who gives me such clear views of his sanctifying love. In my heart 'the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.' I only want more and still more of
* These observations deserve very serious attention. The pious writer evidently watched closely over her own heart ; and if she saw that all was not exactly right there, she seems to have regarded this, not so much as a primary disease, but as a symptom; and sought, therefore, to trace the effect to its cause, and seek amendment. As to the particular case to which she refers, her judgment was as correct as her conscience was tender. The thoughts that are allowed to wander till we come to the very place of worship, are not likely to remain quiet when there. We should restrain them earlier, if we would restrain them more completely.EDIT.