Page images
[graphic][ocr errors]






MR. EDWIN JACKSON was the son of Mr. Jackson, linen and woollen draper, of Tadcaster; a man of great integrity and uprightness. Edwin was born June 13th, 1805. He (with the rest of the family) was taken, in early childhood, to attend the services at the parish church, the place of worship regularly frequented by his parents. This early discipline was, no doubt, attended with many advantages ; but it was in another communion that it pleased God to awaken and regenerate him to Himself. To say that Edwin experienced in very early life the visitations of the IIoly Spirit, would be to describe what is a common case. It would be very difficult to find an individual brought up from childhood in the use of religious ordinances, who, on being questioned respecting the thoughts and emotions of his early years, would confess that he never felt a heavenly influence moving within him, different from the usual tone and tenor of his affections ; that he never had sudden and startling convictions of the evil of sin, and of the beauty of holiness; and that he never had desires to escape the one, and attain to the other. This is a general and important fact. It is in proof of the infinite love of God towards young people ; and it bears especial testimony to the condescension and tenderness of the Holy Spirit, in endeavouring to allure unto the Saviour those whom habits of carnal-mindedness and sin have not yet confirmed in a downward course.

Edwin, at this early period, was, like Job, scared with dreams and visions of the night, even when at the age of five years ; for at that time he seems to have had something of the “conscience of sins," and to have felt the prevalence of that carnal mind which is enmity against God, together with that guilt with which it is always associated. When he was put to Barwick school, these alarms seem partially to have subsided, and he allowed himself to be carried away by those follies which a number of boys, when brought together, too often practise. During one part of the time, however, when a temporary arrangement was made for him to abide under the roof of a pious Methodist

Vol. XXIII. Third Series. DECEMBER, 1844. 3 Y

named Walton, and he was made to join in the devotional exercises of the family, he was powerfully affected, and frequently retired from these occasions of domestic worship, to plead, in his own room, for that

mercy, the need of which he thus was led so painfully to feel. Such was Edwin's spiritual state when the time arrived for him to enter upon

the active engagements of life. He had sufficient light to perceive the vanity of the world, and the malignity of sin ; but he had not the power by which alone these evils can be overcome, nor had he any true inclination to delight in God. He loved vain amusements, books of fiction, and youthful excitements; and was a stranger to the power of the Gospel. He was now placed in a respectable house in Manchester, to learn the business of a general draper. From the first, he appears to have conducted himself in this situation with diligence and propriety, and to have obtained the respect and confidence of the gentlemen of the firm. He was also approaching the great turningpoint of his life. He was cast by circumstances into the company of some pious young men, members of the Methodist society ; by whose solicitations he was induced to accompany them to the Methodist chapel. He was so much moved by the power of that truth which was here so impressively stated, and which immediately found an echo in his breast, that he became a regular hearer. His seriousness deepened; convictions of his own sinful and guilty estate, as viewed in relation to a holy and just God, took gradual hold upon his mind, and with a force which he had no disposition to resist; and, laying his works of fiction, and his carnal pursuits, aside, he entered a class-meeting, and became a member of the Methodist society; and, at the same time,for the two ought never to be separated,—a humble seeker of salvation.

Soon after this, in the year 1823, locally separated as he was from the friends of his earliest youth, he commenced a correspondence with a beloved sister, who was still at the paternal home; and sought to cherish the work of grace which had been commenced in his heart, by disclosing to her the feelings and struggles of his soul; thereby stirring up himself with greater diligence to lay hold on the promises of the

Scarcely a letter was sent, but it contained some expression of deep self-abasement and grief at successive discoveries of his inward corruption, and some earnest and anxious breathing for rest and peace in Christ. To his sister herself this correspondence was made a great blessing; and as Edwin advanced in spiritual life, his communications became no inconsiderable means of leading her onward to the enjoyment of that vital godliness which, happily, she, as well as he, eventually attained. These are some of his expressions :“May 29th, 1823. My dear M—you cannot think what anxiety I am in at times : my heart seems hard as the ground on which I tread. Why cannot I look unto Christ, and be healed? You may perceive that I am indeed without faith, (that is, saving faith,) who, alas !

divine mercy.

ought to have mighty faith, when I consider that the heavens and the earth shall pass away, but that God's word shall not pass away." “July 24th, 1823. When I approach a throne of grace, I am animated by the hope that the time is near when I shall serve Him with all my heart." From these and other sentiments expressed in the correspondence, it is very evident that it was not by an easy transition that Edwin Jackson passed from a state of “bondage unto fear," into a state of adoption and peace ; but rather by a painful and anxious one.

It is the privilege of the Methodists to have the way to Christ made as open, direct, and unencumbered as possible. Everything which would distract the attention, and confuse the thought, of the penitent and afflicted soul that applies to Him is, as far as the ministry of the word is concerned, carefully removed out of the way; and such an one is enjoined to look immediately and believingly to the great Atonement. Had Edwin's afflicted mind at that time been distracted with the confused and erroneous teaching of a more recent period, his guilty fears would never have subsided. Had he been directed to the church, the Minister, or the sacrament, as being, severally or together, the only medium of his appeal to Christ, he would doubtless, as thousands have done, have rested short of the blessing of pardon, by embracing the mere shadow instead of the substantial reality. Edwin found within his own nature abundantly-sufficient hinderances to the exercise of penitent affiance in the atonement of Christ, without the hinderances obtruded by an heretical theology. He felt that unbelief was part of the sin of his nature; that his soul cleaved to the dust; that his flesh complained to protract a struggle which required the most fervent prayer in private, and the most steady watchfulness of spirit continually. He had to say, with one in the Gospel, “Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief!”-a passionate expression of humble and hopeful reliance, though implying an intense desire of a trust more complete and self-abandoning. He did not thus cry in vain. It is matter of sincere regret, that he has left no detailed account of the circumstances under which he found peace with God; but so it often happens. The deepest thoughts and emotions of many persons are frequently those which pass unrecorded by them, though indelibly written within as matters, between them and their God, never to be forgotten. It is most probable that Edwin found peace in the closet; and as he referred, on an after-occasion, to the GoodFriday of this year, (1824,) as the day on which he received a special blessing from God, there is every reason to believe that the blessing in question was the forgiveness of his sins. That he did receive it, and that the Holy Spirit bore witness to his adoption, is evident from the filial peace which succeeded to his sense of guilt, and from the zeal and energy of his after-course, as well as from the following expressions in his correspondence with his sister :-“ April 27th, 1824. I can now say, that I can rejoice in God, though with fear and trembling,

« PreviousContinue »