This book is an overview of revivals of England Ireland, Wales and Scotland from the earliest days to the 1830's.
It is a very rare book which concentrates on British revivals many of which re-date the first great awakening of the 1730's and 40's..
It includes the ministries of Venn, Walker, Berridge, Grimshaw, Wesley and Whitefield in England; Owen, Harris Jones, Williams, Rowlands and Charles of Bala in Wales; Blair, Bedell and others in Ireland; Wishart, Cooper, Welsh, Kennedy, Stewart, Bruce, Davidson etc in Scotland.
We have included 4 of the 25 chapters.
This and the three following chapters contain each an account of a work of grace in parts of England remote in situation, yet taking place within a few years of each other, and some of them going on at the same date. It does not appear that any of the excellent pastors who were the honoured instruments in promoting the work, were acquainted with the operations of the rest, or that their own religious impressions had commenced or been nurtured during their academic course. Nay, it is remarkable, that Walker, Berridge, and Grimshaw preached for years without knowing the true plan of salvation, and their own minds were disfranchised from the trammels of error and prejudice, only after periods of hard conflict. Venn and Berridge became attached friends late in life, and were both made instrumental in leading the minds of some members of the University of Cambridge to embrace evangelical truth. The fruit which sprung of this happy combination, in the characters of Simeon and others, remains to this day, and has furnished faithful guides to many English parishes, which were previously in a desolate condition. Walker was the friend of Romain, and through him, of several other good men of his day, and united with them in seeking to influence the minds of clergymen in various parts of the kingdom. Grimshaw seems to have stood alone in the energy of his eccentric faithfulness; and till he was sought out by.
Whitefield, and through that circumstance shared his name of Methodist, he seems scarcely to have found a clerical friend who understood him. There arose soon after him, however, a band of holy men, who appreciated his worth; and his life by John Newton, written thirty years after he had ceased from his labours, is a pleasing evidence that his work has left a long trace behind it.
REVIVAL UNDER VENN AT HUDDERSFIELD. [1759.]
THE Rev. H. Venn removed from Clapham, where he had not experienced the success which he hoped, and settled at Huddersfield, in Yorkshire. As soon as he began to preach there, the church became crowded to such an extent that many were not able to procure admission. Numbers became deeply impressed with concern about their immortal souls, and persons flocked from the distant hamlets, enquiring what they must do to be saved. He found them in general utterly ignorant of their state by nature, and of the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. His heart yearned over his flock, and he was never satisfied with his labours among them, though they were continued to a degree ruinous to his health. He often addressed the congregation from the desk, explaining and enforcing the Psalms and the lessons. He would often begin the service with a solemn and most impressive address, exhorting them to consider themselves as in the presence of the great God of Heaven, whose eye was in a particular manner upon them whilst they drew nigh to him in his own house. His whole soul was engaged in preaching; and as at this time he only used short notes in the pulpit, ample room was left to indulge the feelings of compassion, of tenderness, and of love, with which his heart overflowed towards his people. In the week, he statedly visited the different hamlets in his extensive parish, and collecting the inhabitants at a private house, he addressed them with a kindness and earnestness which moved every heart. Opposition, however, followed him here. He was assailed with the old and slanderous insinuation, that while he preached the doctrine of justification by faith alone, he undervalued moral worth, and neglected to enforce works, though his whole life was a practical confutation of such a falsehood, and the lives of those who received the doctrines he preached became so strict and exemplary, that they were immediately accused of the opposite extreme of carrying holiness to an unnecessary length.
A club, chiefly composed of Socinians, in a neighbouring market-town, having heard much censure and ridicule bestowed on his preaching, sent two of their body, whom they considered the ablest to detect absurdity, and the most witty to expose it, to hear this strange preacher, and to furnish matter of merriment for the next meeting. They accordingly went; but could not but be struck, when they entered the church, to see the multitude that was assembled together, and to observe the devotion of their behaviour. When Mr. Venn ascended the reading desk, he addressed his flock as usual, with a solemnity and dignity which showed him to be deeply interested in the work in which he was engaged. The earnestness of his preaching, and the solemn appeals he made to conscience, deeply impressed them, so that one of them observed as they left the church, “Surely God is in this place I—there is no matter for laughter here! “This gentleman immediately called upon Mr. Venn, told him who he was, and the purpose for which he had come, and earnestly begged his forgiveness and his prayers. He requested Mr. Venn to visit him without delay, and left the Socinian congregation, and from that time, to the hour of his death, became one of Mr. Venn’s most faithful and affectionate friends.
The deep impression made by his preaching upon all ranks of the people was indeed very striking. A gentle, man, highly respectable for character, talents, and piety, the late William Hay of Leeds, who frequently went to Huddersfield to hear him preach, assured the writer of his memoirs, that once on returning home with an intimate friend, they neither of them opened their lips to each other till they came within a mile of Leeds, a distance of about fifteen miles; so deeply were they impressed by the very important truths which they had heard from the pulpit, and the very impressive manner in which they had been delivered.
At the distance of fifty years, the author of the life of Venn went to Huddersfield, to ascertain how far the recollection of his labours had survived the lapse of nearly two generations. We present a portion of the result of his enquiries, which marks how solemn and lively a work of the Spirit was carried on under his ministry in that place; and also proves that it was not a mere transient excitement, but a solid operation of the power of divine grace, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness in old age.
Mr. Brook of Longwood states, that there was a meeting every Saturday night of the most pious people at Thomas Hanson’s, sometimes near twenty, who sang and prayed together. “I was first,” said he, “led to go to Huddersfield church by listening with an uncle of mine, Mr. Mellor, at the door of the house in which this meeting was held. We thought there must be something uncommon to make people so earnest. My uncle was about nineteen—I was sixteen—so we went together to the church one Thursday evening. There was a great crowd within the church, all silent, many weeping. The text was “Thou art weighed in the balance, and found wanting.” Mr. Mellor was deeply attentive, and, when we came out of church, we did not say a word to each other till we got some way into the fields. Then Mr. M. stopped, leaned his back against a wall, and burst into tears, saying, ‘I can’t stand this!’ His convictions of sin were from that time most powerful, and he became quite a changed character—a most exemplary person, as you will hear from the old people, even if they did not like his religion: he died some years after. I was not so much affected at that time, but I could not after that sermon be easy in sin, and I began to pray regularly, and so by degrees I was brought to know myself, and to seek salvation in earnest. The people used to go from Longwood in droves to Huddersfield church, three miles off—scores of them came out of church together whose ways home were in this direction, and they used to stop at the First End, about a mile off, and talk over for some time what they had heard before they separated to go to their homes. Oh! that place has been to me like a little heaven below. I never heard a minister like him. He was most powerful in unfolding the law. When doing so, he had a stern look that would make you tremble—then he would turn off to the offers of grace, and begin to smile, and go on entreating till his eyes filled with tears.”
George Crow, aged eighty-two, when asked if ever he thought of old times, replied, “Ah I yes, and shall do to the last. I thought when Mr. Venn went I should be like Rachael for the rest of my days, weeping, and refusing to be comforted. I was abidingly impressed the first time I heard him, at an early period of his ministry. He was such a preacher as I never heard before nor since —he struck upon the passions like no other man. Nobody could help being affected—the most wicked and ill-conditioned men went to hear him, and fell, like slaked lime, in a moment, even though they were not converted. I could have heard him preach all night through.
There were many used to go from Lockwood every Sunday and Thursday—we had a meeting of the most pious at Mrs. Scholefield’s, about twenty of us, where a subject given out one time was discussed the nest—one of us was the leader, and opened with prayer—afterwards he asked all round their opinions, and concluded with prayer. It is kept up to this day, though now but a few of us. The meeting at Longwood had more than ours. There was another at Berrybrow; and one, a kind of general one, at the town.
“I was one of those who went to Mr. Venn with a large body of people, just before he left Huddersfield, to persuade him to stay. There were more than two rooms could hold. After Mr. Venn left, the people were all squandered away from the church, so some of us determined to begin a subscription for a chapel. I was one of the first who put their names down. I had only £5, and gave that; and I query whether I have ever had so much in my pocket since.
“I knew Mr. Riland well (Mr Venn’s curate)—he was an excellent man; he used to visit much among the poor—he often came to me whilst I was at work, and sat down upon the block, or any thing, and would say, ‘Well, George, how are you? Either ask me some-thing or tell me something. Be quick! for I have much to do and little time.’“
The religion of this poor man was of a very advanced and mature character. He quoted passages from Swedenborgh’s writings, which, he said, he had read a great deal of; but though there were some good things, “it was chiefly random stuff.”
Sally P—, aged seventy-four, spoke of my grandfather (Mr Venn), with great reverence, but with deep emotion. I asked her, whether she often thought about him? She replied, “Ah sir, I have often thought about him, and the pains he took with us; but it was all lost upon some of us. He had a most piercing tone, and things that he said have ever since stuck to my mind.” “I remember, that just before he went, he told us all, that he had broken up our fallow ground, and sown good seed, but that if we did not watch over it, and it did not become fruitful, it would be so much the worse for us; and so it has been with me. It is very sorrowful to think of these things; and sometimes it makes me very low.”
John Starkey, aged eighty, as I conversed with him, seemed gradually to wake up, till his countenance glistened with joy. His faculties are still perfect, and his recollection ready and distinct. There was in him an uncommon warmth of affection and benevolence. He said, “I esteemed Mr. Venn too much for a man; I almost forgot that he was only a creature, and an instrument. His going away went nearer to my heart than any thing since. I was very wild and careless when a lad, and would not go to church; so Mr. Whitaker promised me sixpence if I would go three times, but 1 don’t know whether I earned it, I was so careless about every thing; however, soon after, I heard one sermon which made me begin to think. The text was, ‘God is no respecter of persons;’ and he showed that it was neither money nor learning, nor any thing else of the kind which could make us happy; but that without holiness we were under God’s frown and curse. I then saw something of my real state; and from that time I did not want hiring to hear him. I do not think any thing would have kept me from him. He was a wonderful preacher. When he got warm with his subject, he looked as if he would jump out of the pulpit. He made many weep. I have often wept at his sermons. I could have stood to hear him till morning. When he came up to the church, he used to go round the churchyard and drive us all in before him. About seven or eight of us who lived at Cawcliff used to meet at each other’s houses once a-week, for reading the Scriptures and prayer, but all my companions are now gone; and I often think I am left alone, as David says, like a sparrow upon the house-top. It is a grief to me that I have now no one to talk with about spiritual things, but then I think, I am almost turned eighty, and God has helped me hitherto—blessed be his name! I cannot he much longer here, and I must not faint at last. That text has often cheered my spirits,—’Be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’ These words gave me comfort, for He has not forsaken me; and then there is another,—’With loving kindness have I drawn thee.’—Oh blessed, blessed be His name, for His great loving-kindness! I often think time is too short to praise him. Eternity alone will be long enough. I have found it to be as the Scripture says,—’ We must through great tribulation enter the kingdom of Heaven.’ I have been tried in many ways.” (Life of Venn, p. 49.)
[1771.] Mr Venn’s bodily strength failed under his ceaseless exertions. The gospel treasure retained its precious savour, but the earthen vessel was well nigh broken. He had a cough, and brought up blood, and was able only to preach once in a fortnight, and even that exertion rendered him incapable of rising for several days. He was, therefore, induced to accept the rectory of Yelling, though his feelings were deeply wounded by leaving a flock, amongst whom he had laboured with so much success. The last two or three months of his residence were peculiarly affecting. At an early hour the church was crowded when he preached, so that vast numbers were compelled to go away. Many came from a considerable distance to take leave of him, and to express how much they owed to him for benefits received under his ministry, of which he had not been aware. Mothers held up their children, saying, “There is the man who has been our most faithful minister, and our best friend! “The whole parish was deeply moved, and when he preached his farewell sermon, neither could he himself speak without the strongest emotion, nor the congregation hear him without marks of the deepest interest and affection. Nor did the impression soon wear away: twenty years after, a stranger passing through that place, and enquiring about their former pastor, heard blessings showered down upon him and his family with deeply affected hearts, whilst they deplored their own loss.
[1746.] AT the time when the Rev. Samuel Walker entered upon the curacy of the populous town of Truro, he was not himself acquainted with the doctrine of the complete depravity of man, and with justification by faith alone, but, like Mr. Berridge, Mr. Grimshaw, and many other successful preachers in England, and like Dr. Stewart, and Dr. Chalmers, in Scotland, he bad preached for several years before he perceived distinctly that the object of his work was the conversion of men. He was, from the first, highly esteemed for the decency and regularity of his conduct, as well as for his learning and gentlemanly manners; but it was not till a year of his ministrations in Truro had elapsed, that he discovered the necessity of “putting off the old man and putting on the new.” Being in company with some friends, the subject of whose conversation turned on justification by faith, he became sensible, as he freely owned afterwards, that he was totally unacquainted with that faith which had been the topic of the discourse, and also convinced that he was destitute of something which was of the greatest importance to his own salvation, as well as the salvation of the people committed to his charge. He said nothing at the time of the concern he was brought under to any of the company, but was ever afterwards, as opportunity offered, ready to enter upon the subject. He began to discover that he had hitherto been ignorant of the nature of gospel salvation, inattentive to the spiritual state of his own soul and the souls of others, and governed in all his conduct, not by the Christian motives of love to God and man, but purely by such as were wholly sensual and selfish; he found that he was a slave to the desire of man’s esteem, and, in short, as he himself expressed it, that all had been wrong, both within and without.
Upon this discovery, he applied himself with diligence and fervent prayer to the study of the Holy Scriptures, and having by these means gained a farther insight into the nature of man’s spiritual disorder, and of the remedy afforded in the gospel, this necessarily led him to make a considerable alteration in his preaching, &c. &c, A meditation written about this time, when he returned from a meeting of neighbouring clergymen, expresses the state of his mind in a way that must interest a Christian reader.
“For my own part, I lived many years in entire ignorance of a corrupted nature, although I had learnt to reason in a speculative and historical way upon man’s ‘degeneracy. Since it hath pleased God in some measure to enlighten the eyes of my understanding, I look back upon those days of blindness, and plainly see, that while I kept to an external customary decency, and in some sense regularity, I was influenced and acted upon by two hidden principles, as contrary to God as darkness is to light. The one a prevailing desire and reputation of being esteemed, which went through all I did, followed me into all companies, dictated all I said, led me to compliance often in direct opposition to conscience, made me above all things fearful of being thought little of, directed all my sermons, both in writing and in speaking them, and, in short, swayed my whole life, till, I hope, the latter years of it. The other, a desire of pleasure which rendered me slothful, indolent, and restless out of company, eager after amusement, &c.; but this was so subordinate to the other, that I was always best delighted with such entertainments as gave me opportunity of setting off any excellence I might seem to have, such as music and dancing. By these two the strong man kept the palace of my heart, and all was peace; and that in so strange a manner, that I do not recollect the least suspicion of my being out of the way, for I had learnt to rest upon my freedom from the grossest vice; and keeping a sort of strictness in attending upon the forms of my ministry, and especially is engaging others to attend them. Were I to say with how many heartfelt pangs of fear and disquietude I have been brought, during these latter years, to any reasonable measure of indifference about the esteem of the world, I should describe the passages which have moat engrossed my mind. The love of pleasure decayed first; but yet, I could only part with it by degrees; and many things of that sort I continued in when I had no pleasure in them, because I was ashamed to leave them.”
It need be no matter of surprise if many of the gay and worldly follow their unsatisfactory pastimes long after they cease to find theist gratifying, the slaves alike of their own evil habits and fear of “the world’s dread laugh,” when a minister of the everlasting gospel confesses himself so completely the bondsman of the opinions of lookers on. No power, short of that which convinces that it will profit us nothing to gain the whole world and lose our own souls, can overcome the reluctance, the supineness, the timidity, which, each in succession, present themselves as obstacles to our changing our ways, and seeking new delights.
[1758.] Mr Walker published a letter to a clergyman concerning the first question in the office for the ordaining of deacons, in which he says of himself.
“As I was ignorant of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, and of my want of him in all his offices, so I had not taken the least notice of the spiritual state of others. It was to me as a thing I had no concern with, that sins of the grossest kind were committed on every side of me. And after I was ordained, I had no sight or thought of the condition my parishioners were in, though I had some desire that they should come to church and sacrament, and not drink, swear, and the like.” Again he says, “It was at least a year after the kind providence of God brought me hither, ere I fell under considerable suspicions or uneasiness about myself and my manner of preaching; when, by the frequent conversation of a Christian friend (verily the first person I had met with truly possessed of the mind of Christ), I became sensible all was wrong within and without. My uneasiness was rather abiding than violent, possibly because my life had been free of gross sins, having in a good measure been used to follow the direction of my conscience, and the change wrought upon me was slow, till, under a variety of means, I was brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.”
In speaking of his motives for undertaking the curacy of Truro, Mr Walker often accused himself of the most unworthy views. He confessed that he was not actuated by the least measure of a ministerial spirit; but that his only motive for going to live in that populous town, in preference to any other place in the country, was the greater resort of company, and that he might take his pleasure at the assemblies, particularly in dancing. He proceeds—”As this work was going forward in myself, the people were made partakers of the effects of it;—by and by I began to deal with them as lost sinners, to beat down formality and self-righteousness, and to preach Christ. The fruit of this, by the mighty working of the spirit, quickly appeared. It was a new way to them. They were surprised and grew angry, not without an evident fear resting upon them, and an interesting curiosity to hear me again of this matter. I have reason to judge that almost all of them have been one time or other awakened more or less, although I fear many of them have rejected the counsel of God against themselves. But, in the mean time, some more sensibly pricked in their hearts, came to me enquiring what they must do? The number of these continually increasing, I thought my utmost diligence was needful towards them. They were universally ignorant in the grossest degree. I was glad to give them as many evenings in the week as I could spare, appointing them to attend me after their work was over at my house. As there was no knowledge of divine things among them, and, in consequence thereof, they were incapable of instructing each other, and withal, as they were marked out by reproach, and had every art tried upon them to draw them away, they needed from me both instruction and cautions, which I was obliged, for these reasons, to give them, either singly or by two or three together. This I have continued to do to the present time, with no other variation but that of using the help of those who had made any progress to watch over beginners. I had, from the first, engaged them frequently to converse together, and pray with one another, as I could put them together; and though the far greater part of them fell away from their awakenings, yet when a number of them seemed to be somewhat confirmed, they of their own accord met together in large bodies in their own houses to read God’s word, pray, sing psalms, &c. This became pretty much practiced about two years ago, and herein I have left them to themselves, only giving them directions as need required.
“By the grace of God, the number of those whose conduct seemed to express a lively faith began now to be something considerable, for which reason, about the latter end of last summer, it was thought advisable to form them into a religious society, which, after some delays, was effected in the beginning of February. The number of members is now upwards of seventy.”
The editor adds, it was afterwards considerably increased.
“While I was deliberating about this society, which was to consist of such only as gave hope of an edifying example, it was thought proper to call together as many others as were willing in my house once a-week as a sort of nursery for the principal society, and, by talking and praying with them, we seem to have found some establishment among those who are weaker.
This hath been the progress of the work among ourselves wherein I have reason to believe we have been much forwarded by the blessing of the Spirit upon a free and practical exposition of the Church Catechism, which I have, after my poor measure, read by word of mouth, the Sunday evenings of half the year, an hour after service.
“I have to add farther, which I doubt not will give you pleasure, that, not long after the commencement of this work at Truro, several clergymen of us in the neighbourhood associated ourselves, under the name of the Parsons’ Club, for mutual consultation and direction, in order to promote the great end of our ministry.”
In the formation of his societies Mr Walker followed the plan laid down by the Rev. Dr Josiah Woodward in his treatise published in the reign of Queen Anne, entitled, “An Account of the Rise and Progress of the Religious Societies in and about London, and of their endeavours for the Reformation of Manners.”
For his parochial society and clerical club he formed most judicious rules, some of which indicate his knowledge of the deceitful devices by which the conceit of self-applause, and the deceit of hypocrisy; are both aide to mar a work which in itself seems simply edifying. He arranged also forms of prayer for their use, selected from Scripture, the Liturgy, the Whole Duty of Man, and Jenk’s Devotions.
Mr Walker also delivered many occasional sermons and week-day lectures, which he thought produced the effect of casting an awe over the minds of the most hardened of the people, so that cock-fightings, stage-plays, &c., against which he bore an open testimony, were prevented. “But his heart was most set on the much neglected duty of catechizing, in which he passed the Sabbath evenings of several months in the year to a very numerous congregation. It pleased God that in the last two years of his ministry a considerable number of young people were awakened, on which occasion he set up a private lecture to them in his own room twice a-week in the evening. This meeting was so crowded and so hot that his friends evidently saw that his strength was much impaired, and that his life would be shortened by it; yet the undertaking was so charitable a design for the good of young souls, and he was so intent upon it, that they did not care to press him to desist from it. Indeed his compassion to the souls of perishing sinners seemed to be his shining grace, insomuch that when in conversation any hard and impenitent sinner was mentioned, he seemed to express an inward pungent distress of soul. His room for private advice was daily frequented, except on Saturdays, which he always reserved for himself to prepare for the Sunday, so that from first to last he thought about a thousand of the inhabitants of the town, besides strangers from the adjacent parts, had been with him for private advice regarding the state of their souls. After he became so much engaged; he had little leisure for studying the works of others—the Bible was then almost the only book he applied himself to—from this sacred fountain he drew that deep and practical knowledge which his charitable heart was always ready to communicate to others. After it had pleased God to bless his ministrations at Truro is so remarkable a manner that the number of people in whom an appearance of a real change of heart and life was visible became considerable, he felt that a new and spiritual relation commenced between him and his flock, and accordingly it became his settled judgment that he ought not, on any worldly consideration, to leave them, unless Providence should open to him a more extensive field of usefulness to the church of Christ, or he should be removed by superior authority. This may account for his giving up the vicarage of Falland, to which he was presented in 1747. Having the Bishop’s leave for absence he held this vicarage for a time, till, growing disatisfied in his conscience concerning the justifiableness of non-residence, he resigned it, and could never afterwards be induced to accept of another living, though he had the offer of four. Yet he went not about this affair with a precipitate zeal, but with his usual calmness of judgment and deliberation, and after consulting some able divines on the subject of pluralities and non-residence.
“This circumstance, though often talked of between him and his friends, was never mentioned without his expressing at the same time how great a burden he found himself delivered from when he gave up a charge of souls whom he had it not in his power to inspect. After this he was not only content, but even satisfied in his low circumstances, though they became reduced beyond what might have been reasonably expected; and when he was no longer able to support the expense of house-keeping, he went into poor lodgings, where, though his board and habitation were of the most ordinary kind, yet as his mind was wholly intent upon spreading the saving knowledge of the gospel, he lived in peace and calmness.”
“In the beginning of November, 1756, three companies of General Anstruther’s regiment of soldiers were sent into winter-quarters in Truro. The zeal of our pious minister engaged him to set to work to promote the knowledge and practice of religion among them, and it pleased God to give a peculiar blessing to his labours exerted on this occasion”
Mr Walker wrote on this subject thus:-
It is my way, in writing to my friends, to speak what is most nearly on my heart, and especially if it be any thing which I may hope will excite their praises, and engage their intercessions on my behalf. Such is the circumstance I have to communicate respecting the success of the Gospel among the soldiers quartered in this town. I endeavoured to lose no time with them from their first arrival, but without delay preached a sermon-extraordinary on their account on Sunday afternoon, called by the people here the Soldiers’ Sermon. There was at first great difficulty to get their attendance to hear it, for though they were ordered to be at church in the morning, and brought thither by their officers, yet they used to turn off at the door. In this point I was helped by the zeal of my dear people of the society, who made it their business to speak to these poor creatures, giving them proper advice, and prevailing on a few of them to be at church as was wished. They soon became a larger number; and our labours were so blessed to them and us, that in less than three weeks a full hundred of them came to my house, asking what they must do?’ This was what I aimed at, an opportunity of personal and free conversation. The effects have been very striking. One or two of the whole only excepted, you would have seen their countenances changing, tears often bursting from their eyes, and confessions of their exceeding sinfulness and danger breaking from their months. I have scarcely heard such a thing as self-excusing from one of them; while their desire to be instructed, and uncommon thankfulness for the least pains used upon them by any of us, have been very remarkable. Such promising symptoms gave me great confidence it would come to something, and more so when I found that many of them were greatly stirred up to pray. Many of them, as was to be expected, soon went back. Nevertheless, thus far, both they and the others who never came near me in private are plainly influenced, so that a certain fear has restrained them from swearing and cursing, which, when they came hither, was universally the practice; has engaged them to attend public worship, and at least so far biassed their conduct, that military punishments are grown much less frequent among them. There are about twenty who have kept close to the means of grace, and concerning whom I have encouraging hope that a good work is begun in them. Indeed, conviction of sin appears to have gone deep with them, and they are crying after Christ with such marks of godly sorrow, as make me hope it is indeed a sorrow which worketh repentance unto salvation.
“These I intend shall be united together when they leave us, under the name of the Soldiers’ Society, having already drawn up regulations for the purpose. While they are here they make a part of our society, by the exercises of which, as well as by meetings I particularly appoint for their use, they seem to be much established. What such a society of soldiers may produce amongst that body of men, God only knows; yet I would comfort myself with the hope it may please the Lord it shall go farther. It may be observed, that some of these, namely, six Scotchmen and one English dissenter, have enjoyed the benefit of religious knowledge in their youth; the rest, excepting two, I find totally ignorant of every thing relating to Christ; and this their total ignorance has made me lament the superficial use or entire neglect of catechising among the English clergy, by which, more than by any other thing, I am persuaded the kingdom of darkness and sin is established in England.”
The officers of these men waited on Mr Walker to return thanks for the great obligations he had laid on them, by taking so much pains with the men, and working such a reformation among them.
In August 1760, Mr Walker preached what, unexpectedly to himself and his people, proved his last sermon. The solemn transactions of the day of judgment formed his subject, and had he been aware that their next meeting must be at the awful judgment-seat, his address could not have been more solemn and appropriate. The reader may be glad to see one little specimen of that preaching which was employed as the instrument of arousing so many souls from the sleep of sin:-
“Well; we shall appear before the judgment-seat of Christ together. There the controversy between me, calling upon you by the terrors of the Lord, and you, determined to abide in your sins, will be decided. There it will appear whether your blood will be upon your own heads for your obstinate impenitency, or upon mine for not giving you warning. Christ will certainly either acquit or condemn me on this behalf; and if I should be acquitted herein, what would become of you? I tremble to think how so many words of mine will be brought up against you on that day. What will you say—what will you answer—how will you excuse yourselves? O sirs, if you will not be prevailed upon, you will eternally curse the day that you knew me, or heard one word from my mouth. Why—why will you die with so aggravated a destruction? O think of the judgment—think of it, and you will not be able to hold it out against your own souls. May the Lord incline you to do so; may he cause this work to sink deep into your hearts; may he show you all your danger; and with an outstretched arm bring you out of the hands of the Devil, and translate you into the glorious kingdom of his dear Son, to his own glory and your unspeakable happiness., in the day of the appearance of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Even so, most mighty God, and most merciful Father, for the same Jesus Christ’s sake.” These were the concluding words of the ministry of this faithful minister of Christ.
The state of his health occasioned his being removed to Bristol for a time, and by and by to the neighbourhood of London, where he expired in July, 1761. His removals brought him within reach of many pious persons, both of the clergy and laity, who resorted to him during his protracted illness, to whom his conversations were blessed in a very singular manner; so that, when bodily weakness prevented him from preaching, he was instrumental in promoting the glory of God, and the good of many souls, by his remarkable talent in experimental and holy conversation.
His hours of languor and death were not marked by lively joy, but by a quiet and firm confidence in that Redeemer to whom he had invited so many souls. Here, of course, his memoir and his work break off together, and the compiler is left without means of further tracing the work of God in the souls at Truro. It is very affecting to observe that the good shepherd is so frequently removed, not to make room for another his equal in gracious attainments, but as a judgment on the flock. We do not know if it was so in this case, or if the Spirit of God still continued to be poured out upon that people; but this we know, that those of them who, under Mr Walker’s ministry, had joined themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenant, shall never be cast out.
This brief narrative is extracted from a memoir prefixed to an early edition of Mr Walker’s sermons.
[1754.] THE Rev. John Berridge, who was born at Kingston in 1716, had reached his 39th year before he came to entertain any clear views of the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel. He had “lived proudly on faith and works for salvation,” as he himself stated in the quaint and characteristic inscription which he prepared for his own tombstone, till the year 1754; and preached, as might be expected, with no visible effect, at Stapleford, near Cambridge, for several years. It was not, however, till three years after his first awakening, that his heart was fully interested in divine truth. He had then been for a full year Vicar of Everton, where he began to preach repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ with fear and trembling. After he had preached for some time in his new way, he began to pause and consider whether he was right, not having seen any particular effects from his discourses. While ruminating on this subject, however, one of his parishioners came to enquire for him. When she was introduced, “Well, Sarah,” said he: she replied, “ Well I—not so well, I fear.”—”Why, what is the matter, Sarah?”—“I do not know what is the matter; but by those new sermons, I find we are all to be lost now. I can neither eat, drink, or sleep—I do not know what is to become of me.”Here is an interesting era in the life of a bearer of good tidings. The first token of awakening among his hearers from the death of trespasses and sins—the first consciousness of want or of holy fear. With what anxiety must the faithful pastor, who looks for the work of the Spirit, watch for such a token of quickening into life. With what fresh courage and zeal must he go on to repeat his offers of salvation—how much more frequent and hopeful will be his prayers!
Mr Berridge was surrounded by those who were not taught as he was, and from the peculiarity of his opinions and experience, he might have questioned his understanding of Scripture. But in the same week with poor Sarah came two or three more, on a like errand, which so confirmed him in the truth, that he resolved from that time to know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. Having changed his principles and manner of preaching, he destroyed his old sermons. All things became new to him. He was led soon afterwards, by a casual circumstance, to venture for the first time to preach extempore. His stock of new compositions being small, when he was asked to preach what was termed a club sermon (A sermon before a meeting of the clergy.) in his neighbourhood, and finding that several of his own people would follow him there, before whom he was reluctant to repeat a recent discourse, he was drawn to adventure this unwonted achievement in the presence of many of the clergy. After struggling with embarrassment in the beginning, he was enabled to overcome it, and spoke with so much freedom that he was greatly encouraged; and from that time felt a liberty and readiness in preaching which proved of the greatest service to his ministrations in after life. He was surrounded by a wide district, in which he perceived that the gospel, as he had now received it, was neither preached nor understood. He pitied the darkness which so universally prevailed, and felt constrained to devote himself to the service of his Divine Master in a wider field than the bounds of his own parish presented. He was well aware, not only of the bodily labour which the functions of an itinerating preacher would entail on him, but also of the obloquy and persecution which would attend a practice so contrary to the rules of the Established Church. But he was impelled by a sense of duty too powerful to be controlled by worldly motives; and, having counted. the cost, he took his resolution piously, strenuously, and perseveringly. Wherever he found an opportunity for spreading the light of the Gospel, he did not hesitate to present himself; and where churches were not accessible to him, he addressed his hearers in dwelling-houses, in barns, or in the open air.
The counties of Cambridge, Essex, Hertford, Bedford, and Huntingdon, were the principal scenes of his labours, and in this circuit he preached, on an average, from ten to twelve sermons a-week, and not infrequently rode on horseback a hundred miles. He rented places for worship, maintained lay preachers, and travelled at his own expense, --charges which his fortune inherited from his father, and his income from his preferment, enabled him to bear. He spent his ample fortune, indeed, in the service of religion; and his resources were so exhausted in his old age, that his friend Mr Romaine preached a sermon in his behalf, in which he interceded “for the support of two preachers and their horses, and several local preachers, and for the rents of several barns in which they preached.” Those among whom he scattered the seed of the word where chiefly a poor population of husbandmen, who lived truly by the sweat of their brow. This may serve to explain why they were unable to do much in supporting the gospel among themselves.
This was a method of conveying religions truth which had been rendered at that period common by the success of Whitefield and Wesley. It was peculiarly appropriate to the necessities of England at the time, the parishes being occupied by beneficed clergymen, many of them pluralists, who were strangers to evangelical truth. Mr Venn seems to have been, for a long time, the only enlightened pastor within the acquaintance of Berridge, if we except Mr Hicks of Wrestlingworth, his neighbour, who was among the first fruits of his itinerating labours, and became a very useful man, and a companion with him in his religious travels. It was not till the year after he began to itinerate, that Mr Berridge was led to preach in the open air. He says in a letter, -: “On Monday se’ennight Mr Hicks accompanied me to Meldred. On the way we called at a farm-home. After dinner I went into the yard, and seeing near a hundred and fifty people, I called for a table, and preached for the first time in the open air. We then went to Meldred, where I preached in a field to about four thousand people. In the morning at five, Mr Hicks preached in the same field to about one thousand. Here the presence of the Lord was wonderfully among us; and I trust, beside many that were slightly wounded, near thirty received heartfelt conviction.”
It is evident that there must have been a great excitement in the country, when four thousand people were so easily assembled on the evening of a working day in a not very populous campaign district, and one thousand so early as five in the morning. His numerous itinerants went out from him with such apostolic instructions as these,—”Never preach in working hours, that would raise a clamour. Where you preach at night, preach also in the morning; but be not longer than an hour in the whole morning service, and conclude before six. Morning preaching will show whether the evening took effect, by raising them up early to hear.
“Expect plain fare and plain lodging where you preach, yet perhaps better than your Master had. Suffer no treats to be made for you, but live as your host usually lives, else he may grow weary of entertaining you; and go not from house to house. If you dare to be zealous for the Lord of Hosts, expect persecution and threats; but heed them not. Bind the Lord’s word to your heart. The promise is doubled for your encouragement. The chief blocks in your way will be the prudent Peters, who will beg, entreat, and beseech you to avoid irregularity. Give them the same answer that Christ gave Peter, ‘they savour of the things which be of men.’—Heed them not.
“When you preach at night, go to bed as soon as possible, that the family be not kept up, and that you may rise early. When breakfast and morning family prayers are over, go away directly, that the house may be at liberty. If you would do work for the Lord, as you seem designed, you must venture for the Lord. The Christian’s motto is—Trust and go forward, though the sea is before you. Do then as Paul did, give up thyself to the Lord; work, and confer not with flesh and blood, and the Lord be with thee.”
These instructions, which are copied from a letter to one of his subordinates, were to regulate their manners; and with regard to the matter of their preachings, we find such as the following:-
When you state your commission, begin with laying open the innumerable corruptions of the hearts of your audience; Moses will lend you a knife which may be often whetted at his grindstone. Lay open the universal sinfulness of nature —the darkness of the mind,—the frowardness of the Will,—the fretfulness of the temper, and the earthliness and sensuality of the affections. Speak of the evil of sin in its nature—its rebellion against God as our sovereign—ingratitude to God as our benefactor—and contempt both of his authority and love. Declare the evil of sin in its effects—bringing on all our sickness, pains, and sorrows—all the evils we feel, and all the evils we fear—all inundations, and fires, and famines, and pestilences—all brawls, and quarrels, and fightings, and wars, with death to close these present sorrows, and hell afterwards to receive all that die in sin.
“Lay open the spirituality of the law, and its extent, reaching to every thought, word, and action, and declaring every transgression (whether of omission or commission) deserving of death. Declare man’s utter helplessness to change his nature, or to make his peace. Pardon and holiness must come from the Saviour. Acquaint them with the searching eye of God, watching us continually, spying out every thought, word, and action, noting them down in the book of his remembrance, and bringing every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil.
“When your hearers are deeply affected with these things (which is seen by the hanging down of their heads), preach Christ. Lay open the Saviour’s almighty power to soften the hard heart, and give it repentance-- to bring pardon to the broken heart, a spirit of prayer to the prayerless heart, holiness to the filthy heart, and faith to the unbelieving heart. Let them know that all the treasures of grace are lodged in Jesus Christ, for the use of the poor needy sinner, and that he is full of love as well as power—turns no beggar from his gate, but receives all comers kindly—loves to bless them, and bestows all his blessings tithe-free. Farmers and country people chop at that. Here you must wave the Gospel flag, and magnify the Saviour supremely. Speak it, ore rotundo, that his blood can wash away the foulest sins, and his grace subdue the stoutest corruptions. Exhort the people to ‘seek his grace, to seek it directly, seek it diligently, seek it confidently; and acquaint them, that all who thus seek shall assuredly find the salvation of God.” Of his own preaching, it has been said, that “When he explained the nature, end, and use of the law, he was very awful and affecting.” “And now” (to adopt his own words) “I dealt with my hearers in a very different manner from what I used to do. I told them very plainly, that they were the children of wrath, and under the curse of God, though they knew it not, and that none but Jesus Christ could deliver them from that curse. I told them, if they had ever broken the law of God once in thought, word, or deed, no future good behaviour could make any atonement for past miscarriages. For, if I keep all God’s laws to-day, this is no amends for breaking them yesterday; if I behave peaceably to my neighbour this day, it is no satisfaction for having broken his head yesterday. So that, if once a sinner, nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse me from sin.”
Jesus was a name on which he dwelt with peculiar emphasis and delight. With what melting affection would he extol the bleeding Lamb! How would his eyes stream when he pointed to His agonizing sufferings! How would they sparkle when he displayed the exceeding riches of His grace! And what a reverential grandeur marked his countenance, when he anticipated His glorious appearing!
“Nor was he less attentive to the gracious influence of the Holy Spirit in the application of redemption. No minister could with more judgment detect the human heart in all its subtle machinations, or with greater accuracy describe progressive religion in the soul. Communion with God was what he much enforced in the latter stages of his ministry. It was, indeed, his own meat and drink, and the banquet from which he never appeared to rise.”
We have taken pains to collect these short notices, which are all that can be now obtained of his method of preaching, that those who desire like precious fruits may go and do likewise.
“As to his usefulness, we learn from more sources of information than one that he was in the first year visited by a thousand persons under serious impressions; and it has been computed that, under his own and the joint ministry of Mr Hicks, about four thousand were awakened to a concern for their souls in the space of twelve months. Incredible as this history of his success may appear, it comes authenticated through a channel so highly respectable, that to refuse our belief would be unpardonably illiberal.”
“This work was at first accompanied with bodily convulsions and other external effects on some of the hearers very unaccountable to us; a circumstance, however, not altogether unusual when God begins to sound a general alarm in the consciences of men, as appears from what took place in New England, Scotland, North Wales, and other countries. But those effects soon subsided, as did these, and the interests of religion were promoted more quietly and gradually.
“As his labours were prosperous, so they were opposed. It could not be grateful to the prince of darkness to behold his kingdom so warmly attacked, and his subjects in such numbers deserting his standard. Hence he stirred up all his strength, and a furious persecution ensued. No opposition was too violent—no names were too opprobrious—no treatment was too barbarous. Some of his followers were roughly handled, and their property destroyed. Gentry, clergy, and magistrates became one band, and employed every engine to check his progress, and to prevent him from preaching. The old devil was
the only name by which he was distinguished among them between twenty and thirty years. But none of these things moved him; he had counted the cost. The clamours of the multitude had no more effect upon his mind, in the regular discharge of his duty, than the barking of the cur has on the moon in her imperial revolutions. Vengeance was not his. The only revenge he sought was their salvation; and when they needed any good office, his hand was the first to render it.” (Life of Berridge. Evan. Mag. Vol. I.
“He loved the world that hated him; the tear
He dropt upon his Bible was sincere.
Assailed by scandal, and the tongue of strife,
His only answer was a blameless life.
And he that forged, and he that threw the dart.
Had each a brother’s interest in his heart.”—Cowper.
He was indeed a man of extraordinary benevolence—his ear, his heart, his purse were ever open to hear the tale of pity, to sympathize, and to relieve. On the Sabbath his congregation was collected from various parishes, and considerable distances. He had always a stable or field for their horses, and a cold collation for strangers. In itinerating, so far from being a burden to the poor, they were generally gainers by his visits in a pecuniary way. Besides the expenditure of all his income, even his family plate was melted to support itinerant preaching.
Above all his other virtues, he wore the garment of humility, and his language was remarkable for simplicity and spirituality, accompanied with a natural vein of wit and pleasantry. He was himself what he called his friend Rowland Hill, a “Comet.” In an extensive and eccentric orbit he was found shining and producing a lively sensation, then passing away, yet returning again at his appointed time, with the same brilliancy and the same impression as before.
To his Bishop it is not wonderful that he should have been an object of displeasure and annoyance; for though his character, both as a man and a Christian, might have borne the strictest scrutiny, his breach of Church order, and his encroachment, as it was accounted, on the departments of his brethren, excited the hostility of those whose indolence and unfaithfulness he thus silently reproved; and notwithstanding the prudence with which he conducted himself, could scarcely escape the censure of his ecclesiastical superior. The Reverend Mr Sutcliffe of Olney has recorded a remarkable and characteristic conversation with Mr Berridge, which turned on this subject, and which we feel induced to transcribe without abridgement.
“AN INTERVIEW WITH THE LATE REV. MR BERRIDGE, RELATED BY THE REV. MR SUTCLIFFE OF OLNEY.
“About two years ago (This was first printed in the year 1794) a friend of mine wishing to enjoy an hour or two of Mr. B’s company, rode over to
Everton for that purpose. He was introduced by a dissenting minister in the neighbourhood, with whom Mr B. lived in terms of friendship. When seated, my friend requested Mr B., if agreeable, to favour them with a few outlines of his life. The venerable old man began and related several things as narrated in the first number of the Evangelical Magazine. But as some are there unnoticed, I select the following, which I think will not be uninteresting:-
“’Soon after I began,’ he said, ‘to preach the Gospel of Christ at Everton, the church was filled from the villages around us, and the neighbouring clergy felt themselves hurt at their churches being deserted. The squire of my own parish was likewise much offended. He did not like to see so many strangers, and to be so incommoded. Between them both, it was resolved, if possible, to turn me out of my living. For this purpose they complained of me to the bishop of the diocese that I had preached out of my own parish. I was soon after sent for by the bishop; I did not much like my errand, but I went.
“’When I arrived, the bishop accosted me in a very abrupt manner : “Well, Berridge, they tell me you go aboat preaching out of your own parish. Did I institute you to the livings of A---y, or E—n, or P—n?” “No, my lord,” said I, “ neither do I claim any of those livings; the clergymen enjoy them undisturbed by me.” “Well, but you go and preach there, which you have no right to do.” “It is true, my lord, I was one day at E—n, and there were a few poor people assembled together, and I admonished them to repent of their sins, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls; and I remember seeing five or six clergymen that day, my lord, all out of their own parishes, upon E—n bowling green.” “Poh !” said his lordship, “I tell you’, you have no right to preach out of your own parish; and if you do not desist from it, you will very likely be sent to Huntingdon gaol.” “As to that, my lord,” said I, “I have no greater liking to Huntingdon gaol than other people, but I had rather go there with a good conscience, than live at liberty without it.”
Here his lordship looked very hard at me, and very gravely assured me that I was beside myself, and that in a few months time I should be either better or worse. “Then,” said I, “my lord, you may make yourself quite happy in this business; for if I should be better, you suppose I shall desist from this practice of my own accord, and if worse, you need not send me to Huntingdon gaol, as I shall be provided with an accommodation in bedlam.”
“His lordship now changed his mode of attack. Instead of threatening, he began to entreat. “Berridge,” said he, “ you know I have been your friend, and I would wish to be so still. I am continually teased with the complaints of the clergymen around you. Only assure me that you will keep to your own parish; you may do as you please there. I have but little time to live; do not bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave.” At this instant two gentlemen were announced, who desired to speak with his lordship. “Berridge,” said he, “go to your inn, and come again at such an hour and dine with me.” I went, and on entering a private room fell immediately upon my knees. I could bear threatening, but knew not how to withstand entreaty, especially the entreaty of a respectable old man. At the appointed time I returned. At dinner I was treated with great respect. The two gentlemen also dined with us. I found they had been informed who I was, as they sometimes cast their eyes upon me in some such a manner as one would glance at a monster. After dinner, his lordship took me into his garden. “Well, Berridge,” said he, “have you considered my request?” “I have, my lord,” said I, “and have been on my knees concerning it.” “Well; and will you promise that you will preach no more out of your own parish?” “It would afford me great pleasure,” said I, “to comply with your lordship’s request, if I could do it with a good conscience. I am satisfied the Lord has blessed my labours of this kind, and I dare not desist.” “A good conscience!” said his lordship; “do you not know that it is contrary to the canons of the Church?” “ There is one canon, my lord,” replied I, “which says, Go preach the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE.” “But why should you wish to interfere with the charges of other men? One man cannot preach the Gospel to all men.” “If they would preach the Gospel themselves,” said I, “there would be no need for my preaching to their people; but as they do not, I cannot desist.” His lordship then parted with me in some displeasure. I returned home, not knowing what was to befal me, but thankful to God that I had preserved a conscience void of offence.
I took no measures for my own safety, but Divine Providence wrought for me in a way that I never expected. When I was at Clare-hall I was particularly acquainted with a Fellow of that college, and we were both on intimate terms with Mr Pitt, the late Lord Chatham, who was at that time also at the University.
“This Fellow of Clare-hall, when I began to preach the Gospel, became my enemy, and did me some injury in some ecclesiastical privileges which beforetime I had enjoyed. At length, however, when he heard that I was likely to come into trouble, and to be turned out of my ‘wing at Everton, his heart relented. He began to think, it seems, within himself, we shall ruin this poor fellow among us. This was just about the time that I was sent for by the bishop. Of his own accord he writes a letter to Mr Pitt, saying nothing about my Methodism, but to this effect:—”Our old friend Berridge has got a living in Bedfordshire, and I understand he has a squire in his parish who gives him a deal of trouble; has accused him to the bishop of the diocese, and it is said will turn him out of the living; I wish you could contrive to put a stop to these proceedings.” Mr Pitt was at that time a young man, and not choosing to apply to the bishop himself, spoke to a certain nobleman, to whom the bishop was indebted for his promotion. This nobleman, within a few days, made it his business to see the bishop, who was then in London. “My lord,” said he, “I am informed you have a very honest fellow, one Berridge, in your diocese, and that he has been ill-treated by a litigious squire who lives in his parish. He has accused him, I am told, to your lordship, and wants to turn him out of his living. You would oblige me, my lord, if you would take no notice of that squire, and not suffer the honest man to be interrupted in his living.” The bishop was astonished, and could not imagine in what manner things could have thus got round. It would not do, however, to object; he was obliged to bow compliance, and so I continued ever after in my sphere of action.’
“After this interesting narration was ended, which had alternately drawn smiles and tears from my friend and his companion, they requested him to pray with them one five minutes before they departed. ‘No,’ said the good.old man to my friend, ‘you shall pray with me.’ ‘Well; but if I begin, perhaps you will conclude.’ He consented; after my friend had ended, he, without rising from his knees, took up his petitions; and with such sweet solemnity, such holy familiarity with God, and such ardent love to Christ, poured out his soul, that the like was seldom seen. They parted; and my friend thinks he will never forget the favour of the interview to his dying day.”
It is impossible not to regret that so little has been left on record of the life and successful ministrations of this holy man; and this regret is increased by the recent publication of the life of the Reverend Henry. Venn, in which we find some detached notices of his character, at once interesting in themselves, and indicative of the spiritual intercourse and pious sentiments of these worthy individuals. It is but a passing glimpse which we thus receive of a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with which it would be both delightful and edifying to be made familiar. With what we have been able to glean from the work alluded to, this account must close.
[Nov. 11, 1771.] “Last Wednesday Mr Berridge was here, and gave us a most excellent sermon. He is a blessed man—a true Calvinist; not hot in doctrine, nor wise above what is written, but practical and experimental. Summer differs not more from winter than this dear man from what he was ten years ago; he is now broken in heart, though fervent in spirit.”
Again, he says—
[1773, Dec.] “ Dear Mr Berridge preaches for me every month. Happy am I in having such a loving fervent minister of Christ.”
[1776.] “Mr Berridge is in London. He laboured for three months above his strength; he had the largest congregations that were ever known for a constancy; and greatly was his word owned of the Lord. He is as affectionate as a father to my son, and gives him many valuable books. He is often telling me he is sick of all he does, and loathes himself for the inexpressible corruption he feels within; yet is his life a pattern to us all, and an incitement to love and serve the Lord with all our strength. Thus did my affectionate brother resemble that burning and shining light, who cried out, ‘I have need to be baptized of thee!’ Thus I find it with him. Twenty-five years ago, I was certain I should be able to reconcile the word of God with all its parts, and be able to pray without distraction. Now I wait for the light of eternity, and the perfection of holiness, in order that I may know any thing as I ought to know.”
[1783.] We find the same excellent man rejoicing in Christian fellowship with his brethren, and give a brief extract, to show what are the enjoyments of those who possess the Revival spirit. “I wished for your presence with us on New-years day. Princes have no such fare to feast on! Mr Robinson, from Leicester, was in the pulpit in the evening; and in a manner, masterly, solemn and affectionate to the last degree, he exhorted young men and maidens, old men and children, believers and unbelievers, to awake out of sleep, for it was high time. Many attended, and great was the seriousness of one and all. Mr Simeon, and Mr Farish from Cambridge, were here; and we all set out for Everton the next morning. The venerable father Berridge received us, though unlooked for, with open arms; and his prayer, and Mr Robinson’s, were again most edifying and animating. We parted in fervent love, looking upward and forward, till we shall meet to dwell together in love for ever. Such is our present honour, to be with the excellent of the earth, educating together for glory iii the highest heavens.”
[1788.] Five years after, we find these faithful men meeting, and comparing the Lord’s dealings with them when they are old and grey-headed.
“The Sunday before last, I preached in the afternoon at Everton; my brother Berridge in the morning. Four years have passed since we heard each other. We both perceived how our voices are weakened; but had a sweet interview while we talked of the pity and tender love of our adorable Master towards all his aged ministers when they are almost past the service of their office. He told me he could pray little out of his own mind; but the method he used was to read his Bible, and as he read, to turn the word into prayer for himself”
[1792.] We present another glimpse of the sunset of that glorious soul.
“I lately visited my dear brother Berridge. His sight is very dim, his ears can scarcely hear, and his faculties are fast decaying, so that if he continues any time, he may outlive the use of them. But in this ruin of his earthly tabernacle, it is surprising to see the joy of his countenance, and the lively hope with which he looks for the day of his dissolution. In his prayer with me and my children (for two of them accompanied me), we were much affected by his commending himself to the Lord, as quite alone, not able to read, or hear, or do any thing, But if I have, Lord, ’said he, ‘thy presence and love, that snfficeth!‘ “
[ 1793.] In January we hear from Mr Venn :—”My dear brother Berridge is dying, as a letter received last night informs me; and, at the same time, how supremely happy he is in his God and Saviour. He goes a little before us—we shall very soon follow after.” February 14, Mr Venn writes to his family:—”I gladly embrace an opportunity to send you an account of the last days of my dear brother at Everton, who was most affectionate towards all my dear children; and his regard for me was very great indeed. His departure is to me a loss unspeakable, and not to be repaired. The country will appear very dreary, now I have no friend there to whom I can unbosom my soul, as he was wont to do to me. You know that I had promised to preach his funeral sermon. My weakness of body and of mind prevent me fulfilling that promise and I was, much against my inclination, obliged to refuse the application from Everton, to perform the last office for this eminent man of God. After increasing weakness, he was, on the 12th of January, seized with a violent asthma, in which his friends thought he would have died. He recovered, however, and lived ten days, unspeakably favoured with the presence and love of his adorable Redeemer, often expressing his full assurance of being with him for ever. Mr and Mrs Whittingham, Mr Ellard, and Mr Hewitt, were with him when he departed without a struggle or a groan. His funeral was very solemn. Six clergymen bore the pall. Mr Simeon preached from the very words I wished him to do; and showed how truly Mr Berridge might say with Paul, ii. Tim. 7, 8, 4 ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; hence, forth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing.’ The church could not contain more than half the multitude who came to the burial of their beloved pastor. Nor is it easy to conceive what tears and sighs were to be seen and heard from those who had been called to Christ through the word of the dear deceased. He is gone a very little before me. May I patiently wait till I meet him above!—an event which I hope is not far off!”
As Berridge was never married, he left no widow to deplore his removal, nor children to perpetuate his memory; but his bright example, and wise instructions, will for ever live in the affections of thousands who derived blessings through his ministry.
The earthly remains of
Late Vicar of Everton,
And an itinerant Servant of Jesus Christ,
Who loved his Master and his Work;
And, after running on his errands many years,
Was caught up to wait on him above.
Art thou born again?
No salvation without a new birth.
I was born in sin, February, 1716;
Remained ignorant of my fallen state till 1790;
Lived proudly on faith and works for
salvation, till 1764;
Admitted to Everton vicarage 1755;
Fled to Jesus alone for refuge 1756;
Fell asleep in Christ, January 22d, 1793.
MR GRIMSHAW was born at Brindle, near Preston, in Lancashire, on the 3d of September, 1708, and educated at the grammar-schools of Blackburn and Heflin’, in that county. He was admitted to Christ’s College, Cambridge, in his eighteenth year, where his intention was to study for the church; but the pursuits he followed, and the manners of those with whom he associated, were very unfavourable to such a design, and he soon became a proficient in wickedness. Mr Grimshaw was ordained deacon in the year 1731. Upon this occasion he was not without some serious thoughts concerning the weight of the ministerial office, but they were of short continuance, and produced little effect. He removed to Todmorden soon afterwards, from Rochdale, where he had for some time associated with a few religious persons. Being thus separated from them, his pious resolutions quickly passed away, and he retained just a sufficient regard for his character to restrain him from swearing and excess of drinking, when in company who disliked those practices. Thus he went on till the twenty-eighth year of his age (1734), when the spirit of God wrought a great change in him. He became alarmed for the salvation of his soul, and prayed much; but he waited long before he experienced that peace of mind which is the effect of lively faith in the Saviour. He was no longer a trifler. He had now neither time nor taste for amusements; he attended diligently to his duties, warned his people to flee from the wrath to come, and catechised their children. But, from the painful state of his own mind, it was some time before he felt himself able experimentally to invite the weary and heavy laden to apply to Jesus, that they might find rest for their souls. He laboured, he fasted, he prayed, he aimed at great strictness and regularity of conduct. Yet he was almost driven to despair by new discoveries of the evils of his heart, and by a torrent of wicked and blasphemous thoughts. The Lord often causes those whom he designs to honour with eminent usefulness in the ministry, to pass through deep waters of soul distress, that they may, through humility and watchfulness, acquire the ability to speak a word in season to the weary. He continued praying earnestly for some years in the midst of all his discouragements, and in due time his prayers were answered. His progress for a time was slow, till at length the sun of righteousness arose with healing under his beams.
Then he gladly renounced all dependence upon himself either for righteousness or strength. He believed and was made whole. As the season of his consolation approached, his preaching became more savoury, experimental, and successful. How remarkably is the power of the Holy Spirit of God shown in such a case as that of Mr Grimshaw, when the views and habits of life are changed at once, so that he who was vicious yesterday becomes serious and prayerful to-day, the outward circumstances remaining the same!
In the year 1742 he was removed to the perpetual curacy of Haworth, near Bradford, in Yorkshire, to preach to a people, who, when he first went among them, were very ignorant, brutish, and wicked. But very soon, by the blessing of God upon his ministry, this wilderness assumed the appearance of a fruitful field, and the desert rejoiced and blossomed like the rose.
Mr Williams of Kidderminster, who had learnt many particulars of the distressing part of his experience from himself, wrote a letter on the subject of his conversion, dated in 1745, which was afterwards published in the second volume of the Evangelical Magazine. In this letter, having stated that after Mr Grimshaw had been eleven years in the charge of souls, he for the first time came under terrifying convictions of his sinfulness and danger, he proceeds thus:—
“Hereupon, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, he went about to establish his own, reformed in every branch and in every relation, said many prayers (but all in his own strength), and resolving to leave nothing undone he could possibly do, he kept two diaries. In one of these, after daily self-examination, he recorded all the sins of every day; then confessed, renewed his repentance, begged pardon, resolved, watched, and prayed against them. Still be was conscious of many sins he had taken no cognizance of, was buffeted with most horrid temptations.
Fifteen months he groaned under the spirit of bondage, and found, notwithstanding all his laborious endeavours, he got no ground of his lusts or temptations. Life became a burden, and he was sometimes tempted to take it away. At last, the time of his deliverance came. He met with Owen on Justification in the house of a friend, borrowed, studied it, and thus was led into God’s method of justifying the ungodly. He had a new heart given him, and now behold he prayeth.”
Mr Williams goes on to relate some particulars of a very remarkable incident which occurred to Mr Grimshaw in 1744, and to which he himself alluded many years afterwards, in a solemn and renewed dedication of himself to the Lord’s service; (Mr Grimshaw made frequent dedications of himself to God. He wrote one on 4th December, 1752, which is that alluded to in the text, and on 5th June, 1760, he renewed it, and wrote upon it, “I purpose to renew this dedication with a quarterly fast.”) but as the judicious Mr Newton evidently discredits some of the circumstances mentioned by Mr Williams, we forbear to record them, and shall merely state that Mr Grimshaw himself speaks of it as “that wonderful manifestation “of the Lord to him, which took place at church, and in the clerk’s house; and Mr Newton refers to the testimony of an old servant who was present on the occasion, and who stated that her master had risen that morning before five o’clock, and had been much engaged in private prayer and in religious exercises with some of his people; that he had gone to church, as she believed, without breaking his fast; that, while reading the second lesson he fell down, and was carried into the clerk’s house, where he lay for some time seemingly insensible, with great coldness in his limbs; that when he came to himself he appeared to be in great rapture, and exclaimed, “I have had a glorious vision from the third heaven;” and that, having, while leaving the church, entreated the people not to dismiss, he entered the pulpit again at two o’clock in the afternoon; and continued the service so long that it was seven in the evening before he returned home.
Mr Newton adds, that although he was on terms of personal intimacy with Mr Grimshaw, and had long and interesting conversations with him, he never heard him mention the subject; and Mr Williams says that he did not divulge the circumstance to everybody, but only to those who, he thought, had ears to hear.
Mr Williams then continues: “Since that he has never lost sight of his evidences, has a flowing love to the Lord Jesus Christ, and his ministry has been attended with a wonderful success. He reckons, at least, one hundred and twenty souls savingly renewed, whom he has formed into little classes. Over each class presides one man, who has the gift of prayer, whose business it is to converse as well as pray with the others, and watch over them; and now and then he meets with these heads, who give him an account of the individuals. Such a diversity has there been in the manner of the spirit’s operation, that scarce any two of them all have been wrought upon in the same manner. Some have cried out in the church, under overwhelming fears and terrors; while others have been drawn with cords of love. Some have received a sense of pardon in a few days or weeks, while others have groaned several months under a spirit of bondage. He has about four hundred families in his parish, of which he visits ten or twelve every week in a ministerial way, at the same time that, with the help of an usher, he presides over a numerous school. He has generally one thousand or eleven hundred hearers. In summer about one hundred flock to his ministry from neighbouring parishes, and scarce a Sabbath in which one or another is not laid hold on.”
This letter was written about sixy (sic) years after Mr Grimshaw began to preach the gospel faithfully. He lived to reap a much more abundant harvest, as we shall see by returning to the narrative of Mr Newton.
The people of Haworth had not been used to faithful preaching before Mr Grimshaw’s time, and, as under such a privation is always the case, many had become careless about attending public worship at all. But the tenour and energy of Mr Grimshaw’s preaching soon attracted the attention of his hearers. His heart was engaged, he was pressed in spirit, he spoke with earnestness and authority, as one who was well assured of the truth and importance of his message. Nor did he long speak in vain. A power from on high applied to the heart what he could only declare to the ear. The effects were soon visible upon many of his hearers, who not only changed their views and sentiments, but their tempers and conduct. Many forsook sinful and vicious habits, and became sober, industrious, and prayerful. Mr Grimshaw was constantly labouring in his parish, going and declaring the gospel to those who either could not or would not come to him. He often exhorted in private houses, where people collected to hear him both from his own and neighbouring parishes; and being frequently requested to go beyond the limits of his own parish, and not daring to refuse, he gradually extended his range till he had established two circuits, one of which he went over every week. In the one week, which he used to call his idle week, he preached commonly twelve or fourteen times, and in his busy one he preached above twenty, and sometimes even thirty times. His church was crowded with hearers from distant places, who attended without regard to the weather. His sermons were very long, sometimes not less than two hours, but they were usually so animated, pertinent, and pathetic, that few persons who had spiritual discernment and the command of their time thought them too long. He preached with the impression that he was addressing perishing sinners who might never live to hear him again, and he knew not how to be explicit enough, or how to stop. His congregation often consisted of many thousands, especially when Mr Wesley or Mr Whitfield was with them; on these occasions his communicants were more than the church could hold.
While this zealous servant of God was preaching he riveted attention by the earnestness of his manner and the weight of his exhortations. All eyes were commonly fixed on him, and not unfrequently the whole congregation were in tears.
But it was not in his public ministrations alone that the power of his talents and piety was felt. Some remarkable proofs are recorded of the hold which he had obtained by the strength of his Christian character on the minds of his parishioners, and it has been said that his presence had more effect in maintaining order and decorum, and in suppressing vice, than could have been produced by a whole host of justices and civil officers. The manner in which he exercised the commanding influence he had acquired was characteristic and sometimes eccentric. It was his frequent custom to leave the church while the psalm before sermon was singing, to see if any were idling their time in the churchyard, the street, or the alehouses, and many of those whom he found he would drive into the church before him. Mr Newton mentions an amusing instance of the dread with which he inspired transgressors. “A friend of mine,” says he, “passing a public-house in Haworth, on a Lord’s Day morning, saw several persons making their escape out of it, some jumping out at the lower windows, and some over a low wall. He was at first alarmed, fearing the house was on fire; but on enquiring what was the cause of the commotion, he was told that they saw the parson coming. His reproofs were so authoritative, yet so mild and friendly, that the stoutest sinners could not stand before him.”
Mr Newton records another instance of a similar kind, which shows still more impressively the ascendency he had acquired over his parishioners, and the peculiar mannner in which he exercised it. There was a spot at some distance from the village to which many young people continued to resort on the Sabbath for their amusement. Having often reproved them in vain for this unhallowed practice, he at last disguised himself one evening, and appeared unexpectedly among them, when he took down their names with his pencil, and ordered them to attend him on a day and hour which he appointed. They punctually obeyed his summons, and after kneeling down with them, and praying for them with much earnestness, he dismissed them with a close and affecting lecture. He thus entirely broke the custom, which was never afterwards resumed.
Sometimes he had recourse to other and less dignified means of influencing the minds of his parishioners. Having an intimate knowledge of the spiritual state of almost all his flock, he was fertile in expedients for reaching their consciences. For example, to one professor, whose charity to the poor he had reason to doubt, he went disguised as a beggar, and, on asking for a night’s lodging, was driven away with abusive language—he cautiously approached another, an old half-blind woman, whose Christian temper he wished to try, and, placing himself behind her back, he continued touching her with his stick until she, supposing it was one of the children of the village, began to scold and swear. On such occasions he found an opportunity of addressing to them, with more than ordinary effect, those powerful and energetic exhortations which were so well calculated to reach their hearts. These may be regarded as eccentricities, and certainly cannot be proposed for imitation; but accompanied, as they were in him, with unaffected piety and a parental regard for the spiritual welfare of his people, they were not only tolerated, but even tended to increase his influence. Another proof is given of the extent of this influence in a slight incident which happened to a traveller, whose horse had happened to lose a shoe when passing through Haworth on a Sabbath day. He applied to a blacksmith, who positively refused to replace the shoe without the minister’s leave. Mr Grimshaw was therefore applied to, who finding on enquiry that the man was really on an errand of necessity, gave permission to the conscientious tradesman to do what was required of him.
The extraordinary energy and deep-rooted piety of Mr Grimshaw’s mind are further illustrated by referring to his daily habits. He had a meeting for prayer and exhortation every morning when he was at home, in summer at five o’clock, and in winter at six, choosing these early hours that the labours of the industrious might not be impeded. Night and day were the same to him when he was desired to visit the sick; he has been known to walk several miles in the night on this errand of piety in storms of snow, when few people would venture out of doors. The exertions, indeed, of the most industrious man in trade, for his own worldly profit, could not exceed his in promoting the cause of God, and the practice of Christian duty. In all the actions of common life, in his most familiar and common conversations, he intermingled the spirit of his Lord and Master; and, like this divine pattern, would instruct his friends and hearers, by improving the most ordinary incidents, and teaching them lessons for eternity from the sea, the earth, and the sky, from passing events in public and private life, from the beasts of the forest, the birds of the air, and the flowers of the field. His tender and anxious regard for the spiritual welfare of his flock was evinced on one occasion in a very striking manner. The late Mr Whitfield, in a sermon he preached at Haworth, having spoken severely of those professors who by their loose and evil conduct caused the ways of truth to be evil spoken of, intimated a hope that it was not necessary to enlarge on that topic to the congregation before him, who had so long enjoyed the benefit of an able and faithful preacher, and he was willing to believe that their profiting appeared unto all men. This roused Mr Grimshaw’s solicitude, and, notwithstanding his great regard for the preacher, he stood up and interrupted him, exclaiming with much emotion, “O sir, for God’s sake, do not speak so; I pray you do not flatter them. I fear the greater part of them are going to hell with their eyes open.”
It will not be known till the great day how many persons received their first religious impressions from casual interviews with this man of God, who embraced every opportunity of conversing on spiritual subjects with those whom he met on the road. If they were disposed to listen, he would alight from his horse, and address them with serious and pathetic exhortations, commend them to the blessing of the Lord by prayer, and then resume his journey.
It has already been remarked that Mr Grimshaw did not confine his ministerial duties to his own parish, and when we observe the minute attention he paid to his own particular charge, and his unremitted labours abroad, it seems astonishing that any one individual could accomplish so much. But he was exceedingly parsimonious of his time, and prudent in his arrangements. He had good health, a strong body, and a vigorous mind, and the severest weather made no alteration in his plans. He was sure to be where and at the time he was expected. He was so beloved, and so useful, that many people were not prevented from coming ten or twelve miles, when they heard he was to preach. He seldom staid longer in a place than to deliver his message; and, that he might not be burdensome to the house that received him, and to avoid loss of time, he frequently took some refreshment in his hand, and posted away to farther services.
Mr Grimshaw’s disposition was tried, and manifested by the defection of many of his people, who, though awakened under his ministry, withdrew from him, and became dissenters. The occasion of this does not distinctly appear. No memoir of Mr Grimshaw’s ministry having been written till thirty-five years after its close, few particulars have been preserved; but it is probable that the excitement produced by the itinerating labours of Whitfield and Wesley about that time unsettled and drew off many persons, who learned to estimate evangelical preaching by his instrumentality, and did not find it in their parish churches. However trying to his feelings their withdrawing from his ministry may be supposed to have been, yet if he had reason to believe that, though they departed from him, they “cleaved to the Lord with purpose of heart,” and walked in the path of truth and holiness, their change seemed not in the least to abate his regard for them. He saluted them with the same kindness when he met them, and received them at his house with the same cordiality as formerly. If good was done, he cared not who was the instrument, and his unaffected humility led him to hope that the ministers they preferred to him were more useful to them than he could himself have been.
Some idea of the extent of Mr Grimshaw’s usefulness may be conceived, from the account which Mr Newton mentions having received from that worthy and simple-hearted man of the change that had taken place in the moral and religious aspect of the country around him in the course of his ministry. One day when Mr Newton and he were standing together upon a hill near Haworth; and admiring the romantic prospect, Mr Grimshaw gave vent to the grateful emotions which swelled his heart in the following observations.
“When I first came into this country, if I had gone half a day’s journey on horseback towards the east, west, north, and south, I could not have met with one truly serious person; and now, through the blessing of God upon the poor services of one of the most unworthy of his ministers, besides a considerable number whom I have seen or known to have departed this life, like Simeon, rejoicing in the Lord’s salvation, and besides five dissenting churches or congregations, of which the ministers, and nearly every one of the members, were first awakened under my ministry, I have still at my sacraments, according to the weather, from three to five hundred communicants, of the far greater part of whom, so far as man, who cannot see the heart, and can therefore only determine by appearances, profession, and conduct, may judge, I can give almost as particular an account as I can of myself. I know the state of their progress in religion; by my frequent visits and converse with them I am acquainted with their several temptations, trials, and exercises, both personal and domestic, both spiritual and temporal, almost as intimately as if I had lived in their families.”
“A stranger,” adds Mr Newton, in giving this account, “who had stood upon the same spot, from whence he could see little but barren mountains and moors, would scarcely think this declaration credible. But I know the man well, and of all the men I ever knew, I can think of no one who was less to be suspected of boasting than Mr Grimshaw.”
This zealous and courageous servant of God was seized with fever, having, caught the infection in visiting some of his people While labouring under that disease. After several days of severe suffering in his body, during which his soul was so sustained that he fervently said, “Never have I had such a visit from God since I knew him,” he was admitted into the presence of the Lord whom he loved and trusted, in the month of August, 1763, in the 55th year of his age, and twenty-one years after his settlement at Haworth.
REVIVALS IN ENGLAND
I. Under Venn, at Huddersfield
II. Under Walker, at Truro, Cornwall
III. Under Berridge, at Everton
IV. Under Grimshaw, at Haworth, Yorkshire
VI. Under Wesley and Whitfield, at Kingswood, Bristol
REVIVALS IN WALES.
VII. Under Owen, Harris, Jones, Williams, and Rowlands
VIII. Under Charles of Bala
REVIVALS IN IRELAND.
X. Under Blair, Bedell, and Others
REVIVALS IN SCOTLAND.
XI. Under Wishart and Cooper
XII. Under Welsh, Kennedy, and Stewart
XIII. Under Bruce, under Davidson at Stewarton and Irvine under Dickson, &c
REVIVALS IN SCOTLAND.
XI V. Account of John Stevenson
X V. Under Guthrie, at Finwick
XVI. Under Livingston, at Kirk of Shotts
XVII. At Cambuslang
XVIII. At Cambuslang, continued
XX. At Kilsyth, Baldernock, Calder, St Ninians, Muthill, and other places
XXI Under Stewart, at Moulin
XXIII. In Breadalbane
XXIV. In Isle of Skye—General Remarks
XXV. In Isle of Lewis
In North of Ireland
In England under French Prophets
Prophets in Edinburgh