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Superintendent died. The care of the Circuit then devolved upon me; and I did all I could to keep it in good order, being assisted by the faithful counsel of Mr. Alexander Mather, who frequently visited us from the Sheffield Circuit. That year I made considerable improvement in knowledge I read good authors with care ; composed many sermons; and, I hope, was made useful in some degree to the societies and congregations. Yet, on the whole, I was but an unprofitable servant, and had great cause to be humbled before God.
My next appointment was Horncastle, with Mr. James Watson and Mr. John Townsend. By our united labours a few were turned from darkness to light, and many were built up in their most holy faith ; but the work suffered greatly from the vile conduct of H- Swho left us, and set up for himself.
This year I became acquainted with Robert Carr Brackenbury, Esq. He was a mau of sound learning, deep piety, and excellent gifts; but often deeply depressed in his spirits. We were entertained at his hospitable mansion, at Raithby, every time we went round the Circuit; and there I greatly improved by his instructive conversation, and by free access to a large and well-chosen library.
Our principal places were Horncastle, Alford, Wainfleet, Boston, Raithby, and Spilsby. We preached every evening in the year, sometimes in the middle of the day, and always three times on the Lord's day; and we travelled at least two hundred and fifty miles every time round, which was once in six weeks. Our fare was coarse, the roads were bad, and many of the beds were damp; but we were preserved by a good Providence by day and by night.
I was removed from Horncastle to Hull, and lived with Mr. Joseph Benson, the worthy assistant of Mr. Wesley. I went into the Circuit with great fear, considering Mr. Benson as the greatest man in the Connexion, and myself as the least. The congregations were large, the societies were highly respectable, and the cause of God and of truth prospered in every direction. I had to preach ten sermons in Hull, including those which were delivered at five o'clock in the morning, every fortnight; and this put me on a course of close study, as my stock was very low.
The plan which I adopted was useful to me then, and I have found it very useful ever since. At the commencement of every month I made a little book, containing about twenty pages, and selected ten texts which I wrote down, leaving two blank pages to be filled up.
preached from these in the country the fortnight I was out, writing my own thoughts on every passage, and the thoughts of the best
than in the sober statement of facts. These things gave great offence to the Conference, and much pain to some of Mr. Kilham's most godly friends. But he lived in difficult and troublous times ; which, in the judgment of all candid men, on a calm and dispassionate review, will form some apology for the belligerents on both sides. It is much to be lamented that the hostile feeling which accompanied the separation should have been perpetuated so long in both Connexions. Though divided in judgment on disciplinary matters as much as ever, they may surely love as brethren.“ Ephraim " needs not “envy Judah," nor “ Judah” “vex Ephraim.” authors I could meet with. When I returned to Hull, my materials were so well prepared and digested, that I found but little difficulty in my work.
At the next Conference I went to York, but left the Circuit after I had been there about two months. The reason was this : I married before the time of my probation expired, and Mr. Wesley suspended me till the ensuing Conference. The object of my choice was Miss Mary Gunnis, of Spilsby; with whom I had formed an acquaintance when I travelled in the Horncastle Circuit. She was deeply pious ; but the law was broken, and I suffered the penalty.* My time, during the remainder of the year, was principally employed in studying the Latin language under an able classical scholar. Mr. Wesley assured me, in several conversations I had with him, that I should go out again at the ensuing Conference; and that his only reason for suspending me was the difficulty he had in finding houses for married preachers.
Accordingly, I was stationed for the ensuing year at Bradford, Yorkshire, with Mr. John Allen, a sensible, upright, and affectionate man; but, before I could go to my appointment, my wife died, and left me a widower, with an infant daughter. My sufferings on that occasion were great; but the Lord, who is good and gracious in all the dispensations of His providence, gave me strength according to my day. She died as she had lived, truly happy in God, and rejoicing in hope of His glory. Mr. Wesley, to whom I communicated the melancholy tidings, sent me the following consolatory letter :
“DEAR JONATHAN,—You are now called to learn one of the most difficult lessons,—to say from the heart, “Not as I will, but as Thou wilt.'
“Many years ago, when I read in the second Lesson for the day these words, “Son of man, I take from thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke,' it was as if I was thrust through with a sword. Nevertheless, God caused all to work good. The same He will do for you. Trust Him, and you shall praise Him. “I am your affectionate brother,
“ John WESLEY.”
* The law of celibacy, alluded to, has in a few instances been injurious to indi. viduals, and to the general interests of Methodism. It has not only occasioned the removal of some promising young men from its ministry, but it has also prevented some excellent married men, of useful ministerial gifts, from entering upon the great work. The law had not its origin in any objection to a married ministry. That “doctrine of devils,” like every other doctrine of antichrist, is abjured among us. But the Wesleyan coinmunity was unable or unwilling to provide competent pecuniary support for a very numerous married ministry. This is much to be regretted, and ought seriously to engage the attention of ministers and people.
It must, however, be admitted that, in the case of young preachers generally, it is a wise regulation ; for it will not be denied that it is exceedingly desirable that the early years of a minister should be exclusively devoted to those studies and labours which tend to prepare him for future usefulness, and which, with the Divine blessing, will make him “ a workman that needeth not to be ashamed.”
From Bradford I went once more to Horncastle, in the year 1791. I found the Circuit greatly extended. We slept in forty-five beds every time round, and travelled about three hundred miles, being at home only about three or four days in eight weeks. There I was twice in imminent danger, by crossing Foss-dyke Wash without a guide; but God in mercy delivered me. We saw the work prosper in many places, and had many gracious visits from the Lord; but I had to lament the frequent wanderings of my heart from God, and a great want of spirituality and heavenly-mindedness. My soul was often sweetly drawn out to God in prayer and praise; but I fell on some occasions into unwatchfulness, by a trifling conversation.
Wakefield was my next station, and Mr. James Wood was my Superintendent. He was a calm, judicious, and friendly man. It was a year of great peace and love, and good was done in many places by the ministry of the word. Our principal places in that Circuit were Wakefield, Horbury, Pontefract, and Barnsley. The French War commenced while I was there ; political disputes ran high, and I was too much engaged in those disputes. The less a minister meddles with politics, the better; as he is sure to offend one party or other, and thereby prevent his usefulness as a public man.*
* The late REV. ANDREW FULLER, who (during the political mania of that day) published a most valuable pamphlet entitled “ The Backslider,” considers the evil alluded to, not only an evil in Christian Ministers, but a sort of departure from God in all cases. After referring to many causes of backsliding, he says,—“There is another species of departure from God which it becomes me to notice, as many of the present age have fallen sacrifices to it. This is taking an eager and deep interest in political disputes. The state of things in the world has of late been such as to attract the attention, and employ the conversation, of all classes of people. As success has attended each of the contending parties, the minds of men, according to their views and attachments, have been affected, some with fear and dismay, lest their party interests should be ruined ; others with the most sanguine hopes, as if the world were shortly to be emancipated, war abolished, and all degrees of men rendered happy. This is one of those strong winds of temptation that occasionally arise in the troubled ocean of this world, against which those who are bound to a better had need to be on their guard ......... When a man's thoughts and affections are filled with such things as these, the scriptures become a kind of dead letter, while the speeches and writings of politicians are the lively oracles : spiritual conversation is unheard ; or, if introduced by others, considered as a flat and uninteresting topic; and leisure hours, whether sitting in the house or walking by the way, instead of being employed in talking and meditating on Divine subjects, are engrossed by things which do not profit. Such are the rocks amongst which many have made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience......... If a Christian be under the necessity of siding with a party, undoubtedly he ought to act in favour of that which appears to him the best; but, even in this case, it is not becoming him to enter with eager. ness into their disputes. Let worldly men, who thirst after preferment, busy themselves in contested elections: they have their reward. But let Christians, if called to appear, discharge their duty, and retire from the tumultuous scene......... By standing aloof from all parties as such, and approving themselves the friends of government and good order by whomsoever administered, Christians would acquire a character worthy of their profession ; would be respected by all, and possess greater
From Wakefield I removed to Birmingham, where I spent a year with Mr. James Rogers and Mr. Simon Day. We were greatly disturbed by disputes about the introduction of the Sacraments into our Societies. Many respectable friends, attached to the old plan, opposed it with all their might. About twelve leaders, with about sixty members, withdrew from us ; opened a cbapel which had been occupied by the Swedenborgians; and chose for their minister a man who had been expelled by the Conference, the preceding year, for gross immorality. Yet, upon the whole, it was a profitable year to me; and would have been more so, had I felt less interest in the great political affairs which agitated all Europe.
While I was at Birmingham, some of our principal preachers met at Lichfield to form a new Plan of Discipline for our Connexion. They agreed to recommend the episcopal model ; and, the day after the meeting broke up, Dr. Coke opened the subject to me and Mr. Day in my study. We both opposed it.* I wrote to Mr. Kilham, and he opposed it with all his might; but I was not aware that he would proceed to other things of a dangerous tendency. At the Conference held in Bristol, in 1794, there was a grand debate on the question ; but the projected plan was thrown out by a decided majority.
My next appointment was London, with Mr. William Thompson. He was a man of uncommon intellectual powers, but rather arbitrary in his conduct to the young preachers. On one occasion I had cause to complain ; and I told him my whole mind without reserve. At first he said strong things, and then retired; but, thinking he had erred, he came to me, gave me a salute, and said, “ Brother Edmondson, forgive me." This almost broke my heart, and bound me to him by strong affection. But such instances are rarely found, except in great minds under the influence of real piety. I thought he showed greater dignity in that instance of condescension, than if he had conquered a city.
The London Circuit was then considered a compact little station ; but it included the whole of London, Deptford, Brentford, Dorking, Purfleet, Highgate, Chelsea, with several other places; and was supplied with six travelling preachers and two clergymen. The Rev. James Creighton, a learned and holy man, was the senior clergyman; and the Rev. Peard Dickenson, who assisted him, was also pious, learned, and zealous in the cause of God. Mr. Thomas Olivers, a
opportunities of doing good; while by a contrary conduct they render one part of the community their enemies, and the other, I fear, derive but little spiritual advantage from being their friends." (FULLER on BACKSLIDING.)
* The preachers who met at Lichfield were Dr. Coke, Henry Moore, Alexander Mather, John Pawson, Thomas Taylor, Adam Clarke, Samuel Bradburn, and James Rogers. They met in Lichfield, because in that city Methodism had no existence; but their hope of escaping public observation was disappointed,-a commercial traveller who knew them happening to go to the inn where they were met.
God of Abraham praise,” was with us; and I was often delighted with his instructive and cheerful conversation.
This year, the Connexion was all confusion. Party spirit ran high, and we had a gloomy prospect. The great subject of debate was—secession from the Church, by the introduction of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Mr. Thompson prepared a rough draft of the Plan of Pacification, which I copied for him and sent to many of our influential preachers. This was adopted, with a few alterations, at the ensuing Conference. It is not generally known that this Plan originated with that great man. I was his secretary all the year, as he suffered by the palsy, and could not write; but I copied it, from his dictation, as he paced to and fro in the room.
At the end of the year, having been five years a widower, I was married to Miss Ann Spurr, of Frieston ; and I have ever had reason to bless God for a faithful, affectionate wife, and a good mother to my children.
My next appointment was Colne, in Lancashire, with Mr. Joseph Entwisle. Mr. Entwisle was everything I could wish for in a friend and companion. He was an able preacher, an exemplary Christian, a good disciplinarian, and mild and gentle in all he said and did. We had been intimately acquainted; but then we formed a friendship which has had no interruption. We spent a comfortable year together, and were happy and prosperous ; for many sinners were truly awakened, and many were brought into the liberty of the sons of God.
It is the duty of preachers to prepare their sermons for the pulpit, that they may preach the word with clearness and success ; but on some rare occasions their plans are overruled, and the Spirit of God directs them to preach on some select passage which has not occurred to them in the study. This year I experienced a remarkable instance of this kind at Heptonstall, on the evening of a Lord's day. I read, and thought, and prayed, but could not find a text. I gave out a hymn and engaged in public prayer, but still could not think of a suitable passage. The second hymn was given out down to the last verse, when these words rushed into my mind like a flood,—"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” I instantly turned to 2 Tim. iii. 16, 17, and preached with
(* “ That noble ode, 'The God of Abraham praise,' &c., though the essay of an unlettered man, claims especial honour. There is not in our language a lyric of more majestic style, more elevated thought, or more glorious imagery. Its structure, indeed, is unattractive ; and, on account of the short lines, occasionally uncouth ; but, like a stately pile of architecture, severe and simple in design, it strikes less on the first view than after deliberate examination,—when its proportions become more graceful, its dimensions expand, and the mind itself grows greater in contemplating it.” Such is the judgment of a living Poet, whose “World BEFORE THE FLOOD,” “PELICAN ISLAND,” and other Pieces, many of our readers know how to admire.-Edits.)