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exercise to trace, as we may be able, the operations of that divine Spirit, who worketh all things “after the counsel of his own will,” in the awakening and conversion of the sinner, leading him to that humble submission to “ the righteousness which is of God by faith," which ascribes all the glory of man's salvation where alone it is due.
Mr. Bush's conversation with the Christian lady who so perseveringly employed herself to promote his spiritual welfare, accomplished, through the divine blessing, a very happy result, which he thus records: “I now began to think a little more favourably of the Methodists, and that, if in error, (as I verily thought them to be,) they were objects of pity, and to point out their error and recover them would be an act of kindness. I resolved, therefore, to try to do so.” In this state of mind, the young zealot inquired of a neighbour who belonged to the society, whether the Methodists published anything, and was informed that Mr. Wesley had published his “ Journals.” Upon receiving this information, he asked this neighbour if he could procure for him a sight of the volumes. Application being made to Mrs. Rooke for the loan of the Journals, she addressed a judicious and polite note to the young inquirer, in which she observed, that Mr. Wesley's “ Appeal” would be a very proper forerunner of his Journals; and that if he would peruse that, she would with pleasure furnish him with the publication he had asked for.
“I accordingly began," writes Mr. Bush, “to search the Appeal, to try to find out the errors of the Methodists, in order, if possible, to set some of them right. And herein I cannot but adore the good hand of God in leading me to this investigation ; for, while searching for the errors of the Methodists, it pleased him to show me that all my religion was but a form. The more I read, the more fully was I convinced of this.” Thorough religious awakening ever elicits the anxious inquiry, “What must I do to be saved ?” Young Elijah having discovered that, notwithstanding the strict propriety of his moral conduct, and his constant attendance upon the services of his church, he yet lacked “the root of the matter," earnestly longed to know “the way of God more perfectly.” The manuscript from which the foregoing extracts have been made thus proceeds: “I now felt a desire to hear the Methodist preaching. I went, and listened with the utmost attention. I compared what Mr. Wesley said in his 'Appeals' and what I now heard preached, with my Bible ; and saw that all were in perfect harmony with each other, and jointly convinced me that I was a fallen, condemned, helpless sinner. I was truly alarmed, and saw, that without an interest in Christ Jesus I must be lost." That good Spirit who had wrought these convictions in the mind of one who was sincerely seeking “the good and the right way,” and produced in him the broken and contrite heart, soon manifested his power as “the Spirit of faith” and “the Spirit of adoption.” “I was now led,” continues Mr. Bush, “to see the preciousness of the Saviour, and ardently to desire and earnestly to seek a comfortable assurance of my personal interest in his blood. I was chiefly drawn by what I have since seen to be the milder methods of grace, and was soon made happy in a clear sense of my acceptance in the Beloved.”
On his conversion, Mr. Bush immediately joined himself with the Methodists, whose teaching had, through the divine blessing, been the means of his present and personal salvation. This was in October, 1777. Mr. Bush's religion was soon put to a most severe test. He had allied himself to a “sect everywhere spoken against,” laden with reproach, and subjected to bitter persecution. The fact of his connexion with the followers of Wesley came to the ears of his father, in whose house he continued to reside after his appointment to the school at Norton, returning home in the evening, when he had discharged his professional duties. The prejudices of Mr. Bush, sen., against Methodism ran exceedingly high ; and he immediately informed his son that “he must leave the Methodists, or else leave his house.” The youthful Christian sought and received the promised “grace to help in time of need ;” and, in reply to this painful threat, remarked, “Father, I think myself happy to be under your roof, while you shall please to permit me to remain ; but if this be your determination, I must obey God rather than man." The father rejoined, “ It is of no use to multiply words," and repeated his former threatening; adding, “ Take away his things, or I will burn them.” Driven from under the parental roof, he took up his abode for a little while with one of his sisters. The father's heart, however, soon began to relent; and, expressing his disapproval of what he termed Elijah's stubbornness, he himself undertook to convey back the wardrobe of his conscientious son. It is gratifying to record, that Mr. Bush had soon the satisfaction to witness the conversion of several members of his family, including his mother; and ultimately the prejudices of his father gave way: he was awakened to a sense of his guilt and danger as a sinner, believed in Christ to the saving of his soul, and opened his house for preaching, and the other religious services of the Methodists. With the exception of a few small pieces of paper, relating to various incidents, Mr. Bush has left no memoranda by the aid of which we might have been able to trace his spiritual progress after his conversion.
About three years subsequently to his joining the Methodists, he was appointed to be the Leader of the class with which he had connected himself. Previously to this he had been introduced to Mr. Wesley. In the anticipation of an interview with that great and good man, he expected to receive valuable instruction and advice. Nor was he disappointed. Mr. Wesley's counsel was comprised in one short sentence ; but it was full of meaning, and his young friend never forgot it. “Brother Bush,” said he, “make the most of life.” Those who knew Mr. Bush testify that he most diligently acted upon this sage advice. Soon after this interview, our friend contemplated marriage. To this projected alliance his parents strongly objected. The circumstance coming to the knowledge of Mr. Wesley, he wrote to him the following note :
“ Coleford, September 11th, 1781. “MY DEAR BROTHER,—I was much concerned yesterday, when I heard you were likely to marry a woman against the consent of your parents. I have dever, in an observation of fifty years, known such a marriage attended with a blessing. I know not how it should be, since it is flatly contrary to the fifth commandment. I told my own mother, pressing me to marry, 'I dare not allow you a positive voice herein : I dare not marry a person because you bid me. But I must allow you a negative voice : I will marry no person if you forbid. I know it would be a sin against God.' Take care what you do. Mr.
- is not a proper judge : he hopes to separate you from the Methodists; and I expect, if you take this step, that will be the end.
“ JOHN WESLEY."
The marriage never took place, and was probably prevented by this letter.
The progress of Methodism has been to many a matter of surprise. It will not, however, be wondered at, when it is remembered that the system admits of, and at the same time invites, the activity of every member of the communion in some or other sphere of usefulness. In every instance of conversion and addition to the church, there is the creation of another centre of influence operating to advance the cause of the Redeemer. The real convert has a heart moving with compassion towards the souls of perishing men ; and in connexion with Methodism, that compassion has every opportunity for its fullest exercise.
Our community is especially indebted to those parts of the system which provide for the regular meeting of small portions of the society in weekly class, and for the supply of village preaching by laymen of piety and Christian intelligence. In the body of Leaders and Local Preachers Methodism has a vast array of strength auxiliary to the regular Christian pastorate of our church, whilst it forms too an initiatory school of preparation and source of supply for that pastorate year by year
Mr. Bush, we have seen, was, in the course of three years after his joining the people of his conscientious choice, intrusted with a small class, comprising what was at that time the whole of the society in Midsomer-Norton. It was his happiness to see this little church increase in number, intelligence, and piety. In 1783, he and his brethren were gladdened with a season of special prosperity. This revival commenced under a sermon preached in the parish church, by the Rev. Mr. Symes, a Clergyman who had received ordination in the Establishment, after having been educated in the Countess of Huntingdon's College at Trevecka, under the presidency of the Rev. John Fletcher, of Madeley. Whilst Mr. Symes was enforcing the necessity of the new birth, a woman cried out aloud in the church, “What must I do to be saved ?” On the Tuesday following, she bent her steps to
the Methodist class, and, during the offering of prayer by Mr. Bush, found deliverance and peace. This was the beginning of a time of peculiar “refreshing from the presence of the Lord,” during which the small society was more than doubled. Another happy result, also, attended this revival. For some time, in the absence of a Preacher, the subject of this Memoir had been accustomed to read a sermon to the congregation attending the preaching-house. During the progress of this season of special influence from on high, Mr. Bush “laid aside his book, and with fear and trembling tried to deliver an exhortation ;” “my kind hearers,” he writes, “bearing with my great weakness; and the Lord blessed my soul in the attempt.” In this work of preaching the Gospel on the Sabbath, and not unfrequently on the week-day evenings, this excellent man continued most acceptably, and with great success, to employ himself for more than sixty years. Into not a few of the surrounding villages he had the honour of introducing Methodism, and many souls were given to him for his hire. “God,” he writes, "owned my weak though well-meant endeavours, souls were converted, united together, Methodism introduced, societies formed, and in many places a decent chapel built, where there was nothing of the kind known before."
One of the villages in which he was the first to commence Wesleyan preaching, was that of Rastock, where there is now a large and respectable chapel, and a very considerable society. To this place the providence of God opened his way in a somewhat remarkable manner. His papers furnish the following entry relative to this event :-“I had felt my heart drawn out to pity the dark inhabitants of that place for some time, and felt a desire to go and speak to them; but not being willing to go before I was sent, I besought the Lord to make my way plain in this case : while I was retired and engaged in prayer for divine direction, a woman from the very place came knocking at the door, to request me to come to her house to preach there. I went, and afterwards others : souls were awakened, a society was formed, and a chapel subsequently built.” Mr. Bush's labours as a Local Preacher were spread over a very considerable extent of country. His journeys were frequently long, and generally over most wretched roads. To these excessive toils “the love of Christ constrained ” him. During several years he had for a companion as Local Preacher, the Paulton collier, Josiah Gregory, whose name is immortalized in the Commentary of Dr. Adam Clarke.
The learned Doctor, in his notes on the 13th chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians, thus introduces him : “I have quoted several passages from Heathens of most cultivated minds in Greece and Rome, to illustrate passages of the sacred writers. I shall now quote one from an illiterate collier of Paulton, in Somerset ; and as I have named Homer, Horace, Virgil, and others, I will quote Josiah Gregory, whose mind might be compared to a diamond of the first water, whose native splendour broke in various places through its incrustations, but whose brilliancy was not brought out for the want of the hand of the lapidary. Among various energetic sayings of this great unlettered man, I remember to have heard the following :— People of little religion are always noisy: he who has not the love of God and man filling his heart, is like an empty waggon coming violently down a hill; it makes a great noise, because there is nothing in it.” The worthy miner entered into rest many years before his younger friend Bush. One of his dying sayings is well known in this district, where his labours had been greatly owned of God. Being asked the state of his mind in the prospect of death, Josiah replied, “Not a leaf do wag." How strikingly expressive of the undisturbed calm of soul with which he was enabled to anticipate his departure !
Mr. Bush possessed by no means what may be termed shining abilities : he had, however, associated with great zeal and devotedness, solid and useful talents. These attracted the attention of Mr. Wesley, by whom he was solicited to devote himself wholly to the ministry ; or, if he preferred it, to take charge of the school at Kingswood. This solicitation Mr. Bush declined; but with the reasons he assigned for his refusal, the writer of this paper is unacquainted, no record of them being found in the documents with which he has been intrusted. On this circumstance an intelligent friend of Mr. Bush, to whom the biographer has been greatly indebted in the preparation of these notices, offers the following judicious observations :-"Divine providence seems wisely to have prevented either of these arrangements from being carried into effect. It is a question whether he was not more useful in the local situation in which God had placed him, than he was likely to be in any other; for neither in the retirement of Kingswood, nor in the changes of an itinerant life, could that uniform consistency of conduct, which formed the crowning feature of his character, have been so conspicuous, or so influential, as it was in his own immediate neighbourhood, where he was known and noticed from his cradle to his grave, and where that consistency commanded respect from all classes of society. That Elijah Bush was a good man, was acknowledged by professors of every creed, and profane of every grade.”
It is impossible to compute the amount of good which this excellent man was the means of accomplishing, as the Leader of a weekly class of Christians, meeting for mutual instruction, encouragement, and edification, and as a diligent and successful lay-Preacher. It was not, however, in those important walks of usefulness only that he was enabled to serve “his generation according to the will of God.” The services of this truly wise and holy man were in extensive requisition at the beds of the sick and the dying.
His Christian counsel and prayers were sought, not only by the afflicted poor, but also by persons of worldly respectability, who regarded him with high esteem. On Mr. Bush devolved also for many years the duties connected with those offices of the church to which he belonged, which from time to time he was called to fill. He was, at different periods, Chapel, Society, and Circuit Steward. Whilst thus so actively employed in connexion with the cause of Christ, he had to discharge for some years the onerous duties of his profession