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OF POOLE, DORSETSHIRE.
The Rev. E. Ashburner was born at Olney, Backinghamshire, October, 1794. His parents, whom he believed to be truly pious, were members of the Independent church in the above town, of which the Rev. Mr. John Drake was then pastor, and on whom Mr. Ashburner attended with his parents. lir. Ashburner, sen. was à grazier; and brought up his son to some agricultural business.
Prior to his conversion, Mr. Ashburner pursued sin with eagerness, against the dictates of a religious education, and the expostulations of an enlightened conscience. The first abiding impressions of a serious nature that his mind received, were occasioned by hearing the Rev. W. Walker, the Baptist minister at Olney, deliver an address at the grave; and on whose ministry he attended for some time. He also found considerable benefit from the ministry of the Rev. James Hervey. Though he travelled on foot eleven miles to hear him, and almost without food, he obtained so much instruction from his preaching, as amply to compensate all his toils. When it canie to be known that he attended Mr. Hervey, his father from whom it had been concealed, was much displeased; being prejudiced against that clergyman, because he was what the world called a Methodist ; - a most odious nick-name at that time! The good old man was afterward brought to think very respectfully of the Rector of Weston Flavel, in conse. · quence of reading his excellent Dialogues. Mr. A. being, however, brought up a Dissenter, at length joined the church under the pastoral care of the Rev. Mr. Grant, of Wellinga: borough, under whose ministry he enjoyed so much pleasure, a's to induce him to walk, regularly, not less than eleven miles, in all kinds of weather, to hear him. Once he related to a friend, that after hearing Mr. Grant on a particular suba ject, and musing on it, in the intervals of worship, in the macete * XiT..
hower the pasto whose
ing-house, such was the metal refreshment experienced by him, that he would not but have been there, to use his own expression, for his hat-full of guineas.
While he lived at Olney, at one season, being much digo tressed in mind, be retired to a solitary walk; and, diawing near a particular spot, where there was a small well oi water, he was led to pour forth his heart before God: there it pleased the Lord, in a most remarkable inanner, to manifest himself to his soul. His doubts were dissipated, and he was enabled to sing of the loving kindness of the Lord. To this beloved spot be used constantly to repair whenever he visited Olney, tracing by the stream the way up to the well, which has since been inclosed; and here, doubtless, he remembered, like Jacob, where he had “ wept and made supplication, and the Bethel where the Lord spake unto him."
At the age of twenty-six, having long entertained a desire to engage in the work of the ministry, he was introduced into the academy at Mile-End, then under the care of the Rev. Drs. Conder, Gibbons, and Walker. Here, at tirst, he met with great difficulty, having been acquainted with no other language than his own; and was nearly on the point of relinquishing his studies. But it was so ordered, by Him who does all things well, that, at this critical season, a young student, who had been educated from his earliest years in public schools, became intimate with hiin. His young friend encouraged him to persevere with resolution, assuring him the difficulties which lay in his way would soon be surmounted. The youth, it should be observed, at that time laboured under much oppression of mind, on account of his own sinful and wretched condition ; for, though he knew the doctrines of the gospel, yet he could not obtain the relief besighed after:- he wanted a spiritual friend, who could afford him counsel resulta ing froin experience. Such a friend he found in Mr. Ashburner, who was even then an adept in doctrinal, polemical, and experimental divinity; and who, in return for the spiritual consolation he was instrumental in affording, received considerable assistance from his young companion, in the commencement of his classical studies. Thus, while the letterlearned youth was imparting his literary knowledge, he was obtaining instruction in the most important of all sciences, the humbling knowledge of the human heart, and the consolatory knowledge of Jesus Christ the Lord.
Strengthened by divine assistance, and persevering with unwearied labour and patience, at length he went through most of the Latin and Greek authors used in public schools, and also read through the whole of the Old Testament, in Hebrew and Chaldee, three times; and the New Testament in Greek as oiten; and afterwards those books 'became almost as familiar s his English Bible. The learned Dr.J. Walker, who was eonsidered as one of the greatest linguists of this age, was so much attached to him, on account of his assiduity and progress, that he used to invite him to spend the long vacations at his house, that our student might converse with him on literary topics, in which the doctor enjoyed much pleasure.
He entered on his ministerial labours about the year 1766 or 1707 The church of Christ at Poole was at that lime destitute. On application being made to the Rev. Dr. Conder for a ninister, Mr. Ashburner supplied for three weeks; at the end of which time. he returned to London, without any idea of hearing from Poole : but the people so much approved of his services as to give him an unanimous invitation to become their pastor. In answer to many prayers offered by the church to God, he came and settled ainong them in July, 1767.
Soon after his settlement, the church and congregation greatly increased. The meeting-house in which they worshipped being 100 small to contain the numbers that wished to aliend bis p.eaching, was lengthened twelve feet. The congregation continuing to multiply, the enlarged place soon becaine insufficient for their comfortable accommodation : on which account, the present spacious building was erected, and opened in the year 1777; and it has always been well filled. To render it still more convenient and roomy, the porches and the stairs to the galleries were afterwards placed on the outside of the walls.
How be fulfilled his ministry, there are many living witnesses to attest; but still unore who have lefi our world. He gave much of his time to reading, that he inight fill up those stores of knowledge, which, by the frequency of his preaching, were continually exhausting. No genius, however fertile, - no pulpit talents, however popular for a season, will, for a series of years, supply such fresh and suitable matter as is necessary for keeping up the attention of the same auditory, without laborious cultivation. The soil, though originally rich, will be worn out without manure ; and, unless fresh secd be sown, an abundant harvest is not to be expected. Mr. Ashburner was not such a foolish husbandman as to think it would : he Jaid in his seed in proportion as he gave out his crop. He did not suffer his talents to be wrapped up in indolence. He constantly preached three times on the Lord's Day to his own congregation. On Weduesday evenings he delivered a lecture. On Thursday evenings, unless engaged in the villages, he met his young friends in the vestry for prayer and conversation ; “ for which,” says a correspondent," some in Heaven and on earth are praising God for the precious comforts they there received from him, as the instrument. — On Friday evenings he expounded; and these services were much blessed for the comfort and consolation of the tried, tempted, and weak belieyer,”
His itinerant excursions were very extensive and laborious in the villages round Poole: - Every Monday evening, for twenty years, he preached at Lytchett, five miles from liome. Lulworth, eighteen miles, he visited once a month : there his life was frequently threatened by the Roman Catholics, who form the majority of inhabitants in that place. Corfe Mullen, six miles, and Long Ham, five miles, he occasionally supplied. He used to preach at Spetisbury, ten miles distance, once in six weeks. In conjunction with another minister, he was the honoured instrument of introducing the gospel into Broad Chalk, Wilts; and here he laboured, though less frequently, it being twenty-four miles distant, yet with decisive proofs of success. At this latter place, a small neat ineeting - house has lately been erected. At Ripley, about fourteen miles, he preached very often. In these excursions he was frequently exposed to rain, snow, and frost ; but neither the dark nighis, nor the inclement weather of winter, could intimidate his heart, or cool his zeal, in attempting to do good to immortal souls.
Once in the year he visited London ; preached to very large congregations at the Tabernacle and Tottenham Court chapel : he also paid an annual visit to Bristol Tabernacle and Kingss wood. Many have acknowledged the spiritual benefits they received from his lips. In addition to his annual visit to London, he paid a stated one to Olney ; where, and in its neighbourhood, the scene of so many interestiug feelings and cir. cumstances in his younger years, he constantly spake the word of God; and, it is not to be doubted, with those emotions of spirit which the recollection of past days is apt to inspire.
Mr. Ashburner never cultivated elegance of composition, His prevailing taste was acquired in early life, not by perusing the writings of the politer moderns, but by reading the old puritan divines ; and his habits and modes of address being formed while lie lived among a serious but rustic people, le had too much good sense afterwards to affect that refinement of speech, and that polished manner, which would never have been easy to him. He seemed to have formed himself after the model of Luther, who somewhere says, “ He is the best preacher who speaks in plain and entertaining language, and in a manner most calculated to draw the attention of the young, and best adapted to the capacities of the commor people.” He was more of a rough Burgess than a glittering Bates, though a great admirer of the latter. He used what the celebrated George Whitefield called market - language.'. His vivacious and vigorous conceptions were conveyed in terms clear and strong, in bold metapbiors and abrupt sentences to the understandings and feelings of his hearers. But there was such an unction on his spirit, such a richness in bis matter, as made serious and spiritual hearers pass over what