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Aware of the evils to which the amusement led, I scarcely ever entered the room for exercise without praying that I might be kept from temptation ; and while my feet moved in unison with the music, my heart was often occupied in pleading that God would not be angry with me for ever.
For two years I sought the Lord sorrowing ; doing all I could to find rest to my weary soul; but having always a painful sense of shortcoming. A friend one day said to me, You want to do something to deserve the Divine favour; but Christ will not have that. He has bought you with His own blood; and, baving done all in redeeming you, He will have the entire glory of saving you.' This was a word spoken in season. She saw her error ; owned her utter helplessness ; and soon after her return from school she dedicated herself to God, and gave herself to His people. This act of consecration was speedily followed by her conscious admission into the liberty of the children of God, by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This great change was esperienced on the evening of the first Sabbath in June, 1836, whilst receiving the emblems of her Lord's broken body and shed blood, at the hands of the Rev. F. A. West; and she ever afterwards regarded the day as constituting a new and blissful era in her existence. Under the influence of grateful love, she began henceforth to exercise herself in every form of well-doing, by which she could bring glory to God, or do good to her fellow-creatures.
Having found the holy Scriptures a treasury of light and power to her own soul, she resolved to promote their circulation among the poor in her neighbourhood ; and, as a collector of the Bible Society, she succeeded in obtaining subscribers for the sacred volume beyond her most sanguine expectations. Not content with introducing the Bible into the cottages of the working classes, she talked to them about the due sanctification of the Sabbath, the duty of attending a place of worship, the importance of securing Sabbath-school instruction to their children, and their obligation to erect the altar of God in their own houses. One day, a man, probably annoyed with her importunity and eloquence on these topics, brought out a chair into the street, saying, “Come, Miss, get up, and give us a sermon.” But neither banter, por more serious forms of opposition, were permitted to interrupt her endeavours to bring the people into “the good and the right way.” Miss Fernley's activity as a collector subsequently induced the committee of the Stockport Ladies' Bible Society to appoint her their secretary, -11 office she efficiently filled until the time of her marriage. At one period, when the interests of the Society were low, she resolved to canvass the whole town for new subscriptions; and having solicited the assistance of a lady who was a member of the Church of England, she had the happiness of assisting the fund to the extent of fifty pounds. For this manifestation of youthful zeal in a noble cause, the treasurer presented her with a handsomely-bound quarto copy of the sacred volume, as : token of his admiration of her perseverance and self-denial.
As a Sunday-school teacher, Miss Fernley was punctual, painstaking, and prayerful. Ability to read, regular attendance, and respectful behaviour on the part of the children, did not satisfy her. Her con
stant endeavour was to bring them to the knowledge of themselves, as sinners, and into personal union with Jesus, their Saviour. To secure these high ends she prepared her lessons with earnest care, prayed for her scholars daily in her closet, and looked for the aid of the Holy Spirit while she had them around her. Not content with devoting her Sabbath hours to their instruction, she met them in a Bible-class on a week-evening. In all labour there is profit; and the culture bestowed on the hearts and intellects of the young is never wholly lost. Hers was amply repaid; for she had the happiness of seeing a goodly number of her scholars devote themselves to God, and unite with His
The distribution of religious tracts was another branch of holy service to which Miss Fernley attached great importance, and in which she was singularly useful. As a means of bringing the Divine blessing upon her labours, and of fostering the good impressions made by the reading of the tracts, she held a weekly meeting for prayer and religious conversation with the women in her district; and, as they showed “a desire to flee from the wrath to come,” they were drafted into one or other of the Society classes. The sick shared her pity, the poor ber bounty, the young her yearning solicitude; while the genial influence of her discriminating kindness was more or less felt and acknowledged by all. Her endeavours to induce them to devote themselves to God were unceasing.
Sowing thus “beside all waters,” affluent in the wisdom which winneth souls, and animated by an intense desire to glorify God, it is not surprising that those who were over her in the Lord judged her eligible for the office of class-leader. This appointment took place in 1845; and though she entered on its onerous duties with fear and trembling, the results were most encouraging. Her social position in life
, as well as her reputation for deep piety, gave her great influence with those who worshipped in the congregation of which she was a member; and, though esteeming herself " less than the least of all saints," sbe resolved to improve it for the benefit of the youthful portion of her own sex.
Looking round, she found a number of these waiting by the posts of Wisdom's doors, wishful, but afraid to enter ; and she bent ber prayerful endeavours to promote their salvation. Having won their confidence by loving attentions, and convinced their judgment by judicious instruction, she placed her hand in theirs, and led them, timid, but docile, to the Saviour's feet, and into the fellowship of saints. The solicitude with which she watched over these young converts, and the pains she took to train them in the way they should go, were unremitting. Her diary shows that she prayed for them constantly ; while week by week she urged them not to live without a clear sense of acceptance in the Beloved, and to give all diligence to obtain full salvation. By example, as well as precept, she taught them to redeem time, to prize public ordinances, to be regular in the discharge of closet duties, and resolute in attending the social means of grace. Christ was faithfully set before them as the “ Alpha and Omega" of their salvation; and with Him, and for His sake, they
were encouraged to hope for grace here and glory hereafter. She warned them against misleading books, ensnaring pleasures, and worldly companionships ; and taught them to regard sympathy with the sick
, benevolence to the poor, obedience to parents, loving-kindness to their brothers and sisters, and courtesy to all, as among the things that are "pure, lovely, and of good report." As might be expected from such teaching, many were converted through her instrumentality; several of her members became leaders of classes, and others are still distinguished by their steadfastness “in doing and suffering the will of their Lord.”
Her sister Elizabeth, who upon her marriage succeeded her as leader, says, “I have been much pleased by the grateful testimony borne by many of the members to ber kind and persevering endeavours in first enlisting them as soldiers of the cross. They greatly loved her, and still tenderly cherish her memory. As a counsellor, she was wise, judicious, faithful. As an elder sister, she was condescending, considerate, anxious for the conversion of the whole family, and knew well how to speak to each a word in season. She deeply felt and greatly mourned over the sudden death of my much beloved and highly honoured brother, John Dyson Fernley, in 1846. But instead of mourning as one without hope, she endeavoured to moderate her grief by meditating on the bliss into which he had entered, and by throwing her energies with increased vigour into the service of Christ, wbo, from this time especially, cheered her with His presence, and crowned her efforts with His blessing; so that in a few years she succeeded in raising two additional classes. Though each day brought its routine of church engagements, she did not neglect home duties; but was diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.' To her domestics she tempered authority with kindness, and took pains to instruct them in the things belonging to their peace; and from among these, also, some will be her crown of rejoicing in that day.' Her visits to the sick at their homes, and in the wards of the Infirmary, were frequent and eminently useful. Whilst on one of these errands of mercy, she caught the small-pox, by which terrible disease she was brought to the gates of death. Months of extreme debility followed this attack; but as soon as returning health permitted, she resumed her walks of usefulness among the poor, the sick, and the dying, administering relief to both their temporal and spiritual necessities."
In June, 1855, Miss Fernley was married to Mr. Joseph Thackray, of Leeds. This step she felt at the time to be a turning point in her life. It was preceded by a renewed dedication of herself to God, and by much prayer that He would qualify her for the responsibilities of her new station. “God setteth the solitary in families ;" and she gratefully acknowledged to her dying day that it was His guiding hand which led her into this happy relationship. She had left loved friends in Stockport, from whom it was a trial to part, but she found many of “the excellent of the earth” in Leeds, ready to welcome her to their hearths, and to the hallowed amenities of Christian friendsbip. Entering at once on the cares of a family, some of whom were grown
up, she proved the advantages of having had such intimate and prolonged intercourse with the young in her maiden state. To others, as well as herself, it appeared as if, through the whole of her previous life, she had been in training for the duties of her new sphere. Her husband's comfort and honour, her children's health and spiritual interests, the prosperity of the church, and the salvation of her servants, were to her subjects of constant solicitude. As a wife, a mother, and a neighbour, her tender sympathy, patient love, varied intelligence, and wise discrimination, were exhibited in beautiful and consistent manifestation from day to day.
Though from this period much of her attention was necessarily devoted to domestic concerns, yet by diligently redeeming time, and resolutely improving brief opportunities of doing good, she found it possible to recommence in Leeds her labours as a class-leader, a visiter of the sick, and a distributer of tracts. Mrs. Thackray did nothing by halves; and finding that her tract district was inbabited by mechanics and others who were addicted to drunkenness, she, after conferring with Mr. Thackray, adopted the total abstinence principle, that she might with more effect prevail with them to renounce the enslaving practice which was ruining them and their families for time and eternity. About this time she read Mrs. Fry's Memoir; and while the perusal of this interesting biography led her to aspire intensely after all the mind which was in Christ, it also made her more determined than ever to deny herself in order to instruct and save them that were ignorant and out of the way. Thus impressed, she entered with ardour into the scheme, at that time new, of employing “Bible women” to visit the habitations of the poor, and never rested until an agency of the kind was set on foot in Leeds. Besides collecting subscriptions, and acting on the Committee, she also presided at “mothers' meetings” in neglected parts of the town. From the commencement of this movement she entertained high expectations of its beneficial results ; and the instances of the Society's usefulness, which came under her own observation, were most satisfactory.
Mrs. Thackray was emphatically a working Christian. She reckoned that “ to do good,” according to the extent of our ability, was not only a duty, but a privilege, an honour, a felicity. Wherever her influence extended, it was exerted for the glory of God. Constrained by the love of Christ, she watched for opportunities of usefulness. If during a visit to a friend, or a walk with an invalid, common topics of conversation were allowed to shut out all opportunity of speaking a word for her great Master, she felt as if time had been misspent and treasure lost. To work, speak, and think for the benefit of ber fellowcreatures, was the business of her life ; and were professing Christians in general equally faithful, multitudes more would, no doubt, be gathered out of the world. Her zeal was not a thing of times and seasons ; but a steady, consistent, and constant manifestation of an inward principle of love to God, producing love to man. Whether at home or abroad, in health or in sickness, she showed an updying inter
est in the prosperity of the church, and in the conversion of sinners. All who were favoured with her acquaintance must have been impressed with her sincerity and religious earnestness. From the time of her conversion to God she seems to have maintained the fervour of her first love. The fervency of her spirit was specially manifest in prayer, and when urging the importance and claims of religion on the young and the thoughtless. Though the tones of her voice in prayer were never loud, yet she often wrestled for the fulfilment of the promises in an agony of desire. Her habitual spirituality of mind and intelligent zeal, combined with her cheerful temper, frank address, and sympathetic spirit, qualified her equally for usefulness in the parlours of the rich and in the cottages of the poor. Her delight was to animate and encourage the timid disciple to duty, and to pour the balm of consolation into the weary and heavy-laden, by a judicious application of the Gospel invitations. Her qualifications for general useful. ness heightened the value and desirableness of her friendship. In this relation she was faithful and affectionate ; and those who were admitted to her confidence never can forget the loving, beaming smile, with which she always met them after a temporary absence, or how soou they felt at home and at ease in her society. She was vot, indeed, hasty in forming friendships; but, when they were formed, she was steadfast in maintaining them. Her love was without dissimulation; and to those about her she was tender, generous, and self-sacrificing. She seemed to augment her own happiness by soothing the griefs
, sharing the joys, and lightening the cares, of those she loved. The treasures of her experience, the counsels of her maternal wisdom, the hospitalities of her house, the books of her library, and her power with God at the throne of grace, were always at their command; and she felt herself honoured in proportion as they were called into requisition. Nor did she fail, when circumstances required, to administer those rarer proofs of friendship, --faithful warning and loving reproof. We know from her diary, that she performed these latter duties with much
prayer and self-diffidence; and under one date she confesses that her zeal in reproving had not been duly tempered with the “meekness of wisdom.”
Mrs. Thackray sought to qualify herself for these and all other Christian duties and exercises, by a daily searching of the holy Scriptures. She looked into “the perfect law of liberty," with earnest desire to know its deepest import; "and continued therein, not being a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work” it enjoins. The word of Christ dwelt in her richly; and it was by wisely adapting it to the states and circumstances of those she sought to benefit, that she was 80 successful in winning them to Christ. Whether her endeavour was to gather the lambs into the fold, or comfort the mourners in Sion, or cheer the widow, the orphan, and the afflicted, the words of the Holy Ghost's teaching were on her lips, and these she applied in humble dependence on Divine aid. In her diary, and in social worship
, she interweaved the text of the oracles of God, with heavenly art, with ber