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We have this treasurt, of the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in earthen vessels, “ that is,” says a certain great man, (who will not be suspected as a favourer of Methodism,) “ to persons of low birth, destitute of literature, and of every thing which could give them influence with mankind, and utterly unable, by their own power, to defend themselves against their enemies, on purpose that the excellence of the power by which the gospel was contrived, and the world was persuaded to embrace it, might plainly appear to belong to God, and not to them.” The same great man adds further, on the same subject, “ God chose not the learned, the mighty, and the noble ones of this world, to preach the gospel, but illiterate and weak men, and men of low birth; and, by making them successful in reforming mankind, he put to shame the legislators, statesmen, and philosophers among the heathens, and the learned scribes and doctors among the Jews, who never had done any thing to purpose in that matter."
These remarks seemed so pertinent and applicatory to the subject of this Memoir, that it is presumed they will not here be deemed impertinent.
From this time Mr. Nelson may be considered as commencing his itinerant career :- for some time, his labours were principally confined to his own neighbourhood, and there they were greatly owned of God. His sphere of usefulness was afterwards much enlarged, and he travelled under the direction of Mr. Wesley, to Newcastle-uponTyne, into Cornwall, and to most other parts of the land. The kingdom was not then, as now, divided into circuits, or districts, yet every preacher was appointed by Mr. Wesley to do that part of the work, and to labour in that place, which he judged proper ; and in every place, if not i bonds and imprisonments, yet insults, reproaches, and persecutions, in different forms, awaited them. Neither was there then any regular provision made for the preachers : Mr. Wesley himself, travelling through Cornwall with Mr. Nelson, informs us that in some places they had to sleep on boards, and to eat blackberries to satisfy their hunger.-Mr. Nelson, however, conquered these
difficulties, difficulties, and lived to see better days: he continued his itinerant labours for many years, in different parts of the kingdom, and was greatly owned of God wherever he went.
The stations of the preachers, or the annual Minutes of the Conference, were not printed till the year 1765, so that it is not easy to ascertain where he laboured prior to that time; but at that Conference he was stationed in the Leeds Circuit, with that faithful servant of God, Mr. Thos. Hanby. In 1766, he laboured in the city of Bristol, with Mr. Richard Henderson. In 1767, we find him labouring in the place that gave him birth (which circuit was at that time very extensive) with Mr. Daniel Bumsted, Mr. Thomas Briscoe, and Mr. Thomas Westall, all of whom are long since gone to their reward. In the year 1768, he laboured in, what was then called the Derbyshire Circuit, with Mr. Thomas Johnson, and Mr. William Darney. In 1769, we find him at Newcastle-upon-Tyne,with Mr.Joseph Cownley, Mr. John Murlin, Mr. T. Hanby, and Mr. James Oddie. In 1770, he travelled in the Yarum Circuit, with Mr. Thomas Johnson, and Mr. William Hunter. In 1771, at York, with Mr. Isaac Brown. In 1772, again at Birstal, his native place, with Mr. T. Taylor, and Mr. T. Mitchell. In 1773, which was his last station, he was appointed for Leeds, with Mr. P. Greenwood, and Mr. Isaac Walchon. At this Conference, the preachers who were present, among whom was the subject of this Memoir, agreed to, and signed the following paper: “ We whose names are underwritten, being thoroughly convinced of the necessity of a close union between those whom God is pleased to use as instruments in his glorious work, in order to preserve this union between ourselves, are resolved, God being our helper,
1. To devote ourselves entirely to God, denying ourselves, taking up our cross daily, steadily aiming at one thing, to save cür own souls, and them that hear us.
2. To preach the old Methodist doctrines, and no other, contained in the Minutes of the Conference. 3. To observe and enforce the whole Methodist discipline,
laid down in the said Minutes. This is signed by fortynine preachers, among whom stands the name of John Nelson. Only twelve out of the forty-nine are now living, and of these only three remain in the work, as itinerant preachers. This is a serious consideration! Thus one generation passeth away, and another cometh! May we be prepared for that world, where death will never enter to decrease or destroy the number of its inhabitants; and where these awful vicissitudes will be experienced no more!
In the month of July, 1774, this good man finished his earthly course at Leeds, in Yorkshire; after having spent about 32 years in the work of the ministry.! in which time he preached the gospel in almost every corner of this Island. He did the « work of an evangelist” faithfully, and « made full proof of his ministry." None of the hardshipa he: was called to endure moved him, neither 66 counted he his life dear unto himself, so that he might finish his course with joy, and the ministry which he had received of the Lord Jesus, testifying the gospel of the
His end was rather sudden and unexpected : he had been dining with a Mr. Jowat, a gentleman of respectability, who then resided in Leeds ; but afterwards removed to Camberwell, near London, where he died, at a very advanced age, happy in God, in the month of April, 1801. After dinner Mr. Nelson was seized with a violent complaint in his stomach and bowels, and was immediately conveyed home and put to bed. In a short time after he became insensible, and about half past four o'clock, in the afternoon, his spirit took its flight to the regions of bliss and glory. It is very pleasing, and, if it be the will of God, desirable, for a Christian to be able to bear a dying testimony to the love of Jesus; but especially for a minister of Christ to set his seal, when closing his life and labours, to those truths which he has recommended to the attention of others; but He with whom are the issues of life and death, has a right to resume the life he has given, not only at the time, but also in the manner, which he, in his infinite wisdom, sees
grace of God.”
meet : nor have we any right to ask respecting this, What doest thou ? This we are assured of, whatever circumstances may attend our latter end, they who live in the Lord will die in the Lord, and will live and reign with him for ever!
He died on the Monday, and on the Wednesday following his remains were carried in solemn procession to the place of his nativity, where he was interred among his ancestors : his funeral was attended by thousands, through the streets of Leeds, and on the way to Birstal, who lamented the fall of a great man in Israel, who had done and suffered much in those parts, for the honour of God, and the good of souls. He now rests from his labours, and his works do follow him !
A letter from Mrs. Fletcher, dated Nov. 28, 1807, gives the following account of the death of Mr. Nelson : « The last day of his valuable life he dined with a friend in Leeds, and felt a return of the gout in his stomach. When he came home to the preaching-house where he resided, he was seized with a loss of sight, and violent retching, which ended in an apoplexy, and removed
him to glory."
Printed by Nuttall, Fisher, and Dixon, Liverpool.