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JONATHAN, son of Allan and Sarah Edmondson, was born at Keighley, in the county of York, March 24th, 1767. He was baptized at his father's house in Keighley, by the Rev., Joseph Edmondson.
My paternal ancestors, he writes, were Nonconformists, and suffered the loss of all things, except pure and undefiled religion, in that righteous cause. This has often been matter of comfort and encouragement to me. My paternal grandfather was one of the early Methodists. My father also was a member of the Methodist Society more than half a century, and died in peace. I have known many worthy professors of religion, but not one who was more uniformly pious and holy than he was. He departed this life at Keighley, March 19th, 1813, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. The Rev. Miles Martindale, who attended him in his last illness, says, “May my death be like Allan Edmondson's !”
My mother was the daughter of Jonatban Catlow, a farmer at Twolands, in the parish of Keighley. Her brother was an Itinerant Preacher, under the direction of the Rev. John Wesley, in the early days of Methodism; but he withdrew from the Methodists a short time before his death, on account of some difference of opinion between him and Mr. Wesley on the subject of Sin in Believers. My uncle lived and died a holy man. Mr. Wesley used to call him “ honest Jonathan Catlow." His sons, James and Samuel, were educated after his death at Kingswood-School. James died at Keighley in 1786, just as he was about to enter into holy orders in the Church of England. He had been inclined to infidelity ; but his last words were, “Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Samuel studied five years at an academy under Mr. Belsham, where he imbibed Socinian principles, and he afterwards became a Socinian minister. He was a fine scholar, and an accomplished man, but was deficient both in prudence and piety. He was my first tutor, and to him I owe an early taste for literary pursuits ; but his religious opinions, often urged by plausible arguments, exposed me to some struggles in early life.
My mother, when yet young, was a member of a religious society in Craven under the direction of the Rev. Benjamin Ingham,—who
VOL. VI.-POURTH SERIES.
was a student at Oxford when John Wesley and his companions were first called “Methodists” on account of their regular and orderly conduct. But, Mr. Ingham having joined the Moravians, his society was broken up; and then my mother joined the Methodists, with whom she lived and died. She was an affectionate mother, and generally beloved by rich and poor ; of an amiable temper, and greatly influenced by scriptural piety. Just before her death, she repeated the following lines,
“My God is reconciled,
His pardoning voice I hear,
I can no longer fear;
The first religious impressions that I can remember, were made on my mind under a sermon preached in the Methodist Chapel at Keighley, by Mr. James Sugden, a Local Preacher of strong intellectual powers and of deep piety. His text was Matthew iv. 1. How long these impressions continued, or what particular effects they produced, I cannot say; but I recollect distinctly that I soon returned to my old ways and doings.
Little things sometimes produce great events. The following occurrence will illustrate this observation :-One winter's evening in the year 1776, my father and mother, with my uncle and aunt, went to a meeting, and left the children of both families at my uncle's house. We amused ourselves for a long time with various kinds of childish play. At length, wearied with everything, we became dull and drowsy. Perceiving this, I called my cousin Allan into another room, and proposed to return and exchange our play for religion. The thing was new, and pleased the whole party. We then began to sing hymns, to repeat prayers, and to address each other on solemn subjects. What began in play ended in deep seriousness, and in a sincere desire to be saved. Every heart was deeply affected with religious feelings, and all began to seek the Lord in good earnest. Before our parents returned we appointed another meeting, and agreed to invite our play-fellows to join us. When all met, most of them were affected as we had been before, and resolved to serve the Lord. Other meetings were appointed, when our numbers increased, and the Divine blessing was upon us.
I was the first who fell away. The occasion was this : One day, on my way to the meeting, I spent some time in sliding upon the ice. My companions saw me, condemned me, and would not allow me to meet with them. When I went to the door, it was shut against me; and the door-keeper said, “We will have no sliders here.” *
* The door-keeper appears to have thought that a slider and a backslider were in one category. They are not necessarily the same ; yet, in very young persons who are under religious influence, amusements in themselves the most innocent
This gave me great offence. I left them in anger, and once more returned to my childish folly. They continued to meet and to conduct themselves with great propriety, so as to be admired by all the neighbourhood. The preachers, on hearing of this good work, appointed a pious and intelligent young man to watch over them. Several of that little flock continued faithful unto death. A few, like myself, went astray ; but my cousin Allan, to whom I made the first proposal, has persevered to this hour, and is now, after the lapse of fifty-six years, a member of our society at Bingley. Afterwards I recollect many deep and painful convictions of sin, and many attempts at reformation ; but those impressions and efforts were transitory, and ended in shameful revoltings from God. Once I found peace with God, whilst singing these words,
“ Glory, honour, praise, and power,
Be unto the Lamb for ever!
Hallelujah! praise the LORD."
In the year 1783 I was deeply awakened, and often dreadfully alarmed, by the mighty working of the Holy Ghost, especially in the night. When I lay down to sleep, I was afraid of dying and lifting ap my eyes in hell ; but, when I awoke, my fears were gone, and new temptations led me on to new crimes. Thus I went on the greatest part of that summer ; but early in September, being greatly alarmed by a dreadful storm of thunder and lightning, I came to a final determination to seek the Lord with my whole heart.
On Wednesday, September 20th, I met in John Laycock's class, with my mother and several aged and deeply-experienced members; and on Sunday, the 24th, I received a Note on Trial from Mr. Benjamin Rhodes, Mr. Wesley's Assistant in the Keighley Circuit. Our class met on Wednesday evenings, and we had many times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. And such was my love to that meeting, that I was never absent but once, and that in an hour of tempta
often have a prejudicial effect : they dissipate the mind, and paralyse religious feel. ing. Nor are children the only persons in danger from what some professors account innocent entertainments. The dance, the song, the bagatelle, the billiardtable, and other kindred amusements, are, with them, all innocent. Such professors remove the ancient landmarks, and destroy the line of distinction between the world and the church. “How near the edge of a precipice,” said a gentleman to one who applied to him for the situation of coachman, “could you drive me?” “ Within an inch," was the reply. To another applicant he proposed the same question. His reply was, “ I would keep as far from it as I could.” “Then," said the gentleman, “ you shall be my coachman." Those who go within an inch of the preci. pice are in gieat danger of falling over it. The doctrine of the New Testament is NONCONFORMITY TO THE WORLD. It enjoins abstinence not only from "evil,” but even from its appearance,"_from everything which is not “of good report.” The amusements which seem to be tolerated in some professedly religious families, and which are stealthily creeping into the church, are decidedly of this character. They are the “ little foxes which spoil the vines,"
tion, until I was called out as an Itinerant Preacher. No one knows the pleasure I enjoyed in those valuable means of grace. I used to count the hours and minutes of approach, and was generally expecting a blessing.
In the year 1784 I “received the Spirit of adoption, whereby” I was enabled to “cry, Abba, Father ;” and “the Spirit itself bore witness with my spirit, that I was a child of God.” The particular day I have forgotten; but the circumstances attending that Divine interposition of grace and mercy I hope never to forget. I had waited upon the Lord in the means of grace more than a year, with joyful hope that He would pardon my sins and adopt me into His family: but, on the day of my deliverance, I fell into a state of painful despondency, and thought nothing remained for me but “a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation.” After dinner I took a walk into the fields, to read, pray, and meditate. On my way I gave up every hope of salvation, and considered myself as lost for ever. That moment a ray of heavenly light shone on my mind, which discovered to me the all-sufficiency of Jesus as a Saviour; and I received power to believe on Him “with the heart unto righteousness.” Instantly the heavy burden of my sins was removed : I cried aloud, with joy unspeakable, “ My Beloved is mine, and I am His.” Then the love of God was shed abroad in my heart by the Holy Ghost which was given to me ; and I was fully determined to walk in all the ways of the Lord to the end of my life. The following day some doubts arose in my mind as to the reality of my acceptance with God; but they were all removed at the class-meeting in the evening.
My call to the ministry was a little out of the common way. From a child, when I was under the influence of religious impressions, I thought I should have a call to preach the Gospel ; and, when I joined the Methodist Society, that thought returned with greater force than I had experienced on any former occasion. After my conversion to God and adoption into His family, I was moved, as I thought, by the Holy Ghost to preach the word; and I resolved, by the advice of my religious friends, to make the attempt. In that state of mind I began to exhort in public, in the year 1785. My first exhortation was delivered at Otley, a small village near Keighley : I spoke afterwards in several other places, and in every place with some success. I had not much learning, and my knowledge of men and things was limited within a narrow compass; but I endeavoured to improve myself by prayer, and reading, and meditation.
My first sermon was delivered at Steeton, on Sunday, January 1st, 1786. The text was Rev. vi. 17. It was a poor performance; but I did the best I could, and no one found fault with me.
In the month of February Mr. Greenwood, Mr. Wesley's Assistant, put me on the Local-Preachers' Plan. I had only preached a few weeks ; but he sent me into the circuit to supply his place.
About that time the Rev. Mr. Philips, a Dissenting Minister in Keighley of considerable ability, proposed to send me to an Academy,
friends, did of myself, consent. Mr. Wes the Rev. John
that I might acquire a little learning. To this my father would not consent. Afterwards the Rev. Mr. Richardson, a pious Clergyman who succeeded the Rev. William Grimshaw at Haworth, proposed my going into the Church of England. He was connected with a society of Clergymen at Elland, who raised funds to educate pious young men for that Church. His offer pleased my father; and, as I had no idea of being an Itinerant Preacher, it met with my entire approbation. While my affairs remained in this state, Mr. Greenwood went to the Bristol Conference, and recommended me to the Rev. John Wesley without my knowledge or consent. Mr. Wesley, thinking better of me than I did of myself, put me down for the Epworth Circuit. My friends, on viewing the subject on every side, thought I had a providential call to go out into the Itinerancy. I was then little more than nineteen years old, and very unfit for the great work ; but my heart was sincere, and I was firmly resolved to improve myself in learning, and to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." The friends in Epworth received me very kindly; but it was a long straggling Circuit, extending from Snaith in Yorkshire to Worksop in Nottinghamshire.
The Preachers with whom I was stationed having a quarrel which involved the whole Circuit in painful disputes, I wrote to Mr. Wesley, stating my determination not to attach myself to either party, and asked his advice. He sent me the following answer :
“Newark, Feb. 10th, 1787. “ DEAR JONATHAN,—Keep in the very same path you are now. Hear nothing of the disputes on the one side or the other. But earnestly exhort those on both to follow after peace and holiness, without which they cannot see the LORD.
“ I am your affectionate brother,
" JOHN WESLEY.” That the Circuit might be tranquillised, Mr. Wesley removed one of the Preachers to Gainsborough, and sent Mr. George Mowat to supply his place; and he directed Mr. Dufton, a peaceable and judicious man, to go once round the Circuit, while I supplied his place in the Gainsborough Circuit. Here I became intimately acquainted with Mr. Alexander Kilham, who at that time stood very high in the esteem of our principal friends, but who afterwards caused a great division in our Connexion.* Soon after my return to Epworth, my
* Mr. Kilham appears to have been a pious, laborious, and zealous Minister, who saw, or thought he saw, some serious defects in the Methodism of that day, which he earnestly desired to sce corrected. In this he was not alone. The Revds. Joseph Cownley, John Pawson, Thomas Hanby, Thomas Taylor, Samuel Bradburn, Jonathan Crowther, William Bramwell, and Jonathan Edmondson, with many others, approved of his early efforts, and encouraged him to proceed. But his zeal for reform led him much farther than, in their judgment and conscience, they could go. And, in addition to this, in some of his writings he published incorrect statements, on the mere report of others, to the injury of the reputation of several Minis. ters of irreproachable character; and dealt more in bitter irony and biting sarcasm