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THE LATE REV. JOSEPH WILKINS, senior Pastor of the Congregation of Protestant Dissentera,
doing the goodarly instruci mind."
Tue subject of ihis biographical sketch, was the son of Thomas Wilkins, and Elizabeth his wife. He was born at Uley, in Gloucestershire, in the year 1730. Mr. T. Wilkins and his wife, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, “ were both righteo ous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” Personal religion insured domestic instruction. They were solicitous to “ bring him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord :" nor were their la. bours of love in vain ; for their son Joseph “ feared the Lord from his youth," and " served the God of his father with a perfect heart and a willing mind." - Let parents learn the ima portance of early instruction in" the things of God." If they sow the good seed, will they not reap of the fruits of their doings? When evangelical truth is incorporated in the heart, its importance is soon ascertained ; and an experience of the value and efficacy of the gospel, creates a desire to impart the discoveries we have made unto others. Thus young Me. lancthon (afterwards an eminent reformer) when first converted to Jesus Christ, instantly felt a desire to coinmence a preacher of the gospel. Such were the sentiments and wishes of young Wilkins. An evangelized heart is the dwellingplace, not only of pious, but benevolent affections, and froin such an heart only can genuine benevolence flow.
As Mr. Joseph Wilkins felt such a prevailing desire to enter into the sacred office, so his parents and religious friends readily concurred with his wishes. In the nineteenth year of his age, he left his father's house, removed to Plasterers' Hall, London; and entered a student in that seininary, then under the tuition of the Rev. Drs. Walker and Marriou. Under such
ment de , the Soc Devon.Cam
able instructors he enjoyed great advantages, and made no small progress in the paths of knowledge.
After he had been at Plasterers' Hiall about three years, the supporters of this institution determined, that, besides this academy for training young men for the Christian ministry, they would establish another in the west of England. After many enquiries for a proper person to fill the important office of tutor, the Society was directed to the Rov. J. Lavington, of Ottery, St. Mary, Devon. Mr. Lavington accepting this appointment, the Society, with a view to facilitate the establishment of the seininary, selected four students from Plasterers' Hall, and sent ihein to Ottery. The four students were Mess. Wilkins, Putaeld, Cross, and Bishop. In the new institution, Mr. Wilkins continued and closed his studies preparatory to the great work before him. . .
A short stiine before he left Ottery, he had a very remarkable dreann, which he carefully preserved in writing, and which may properly be inserted in this place: -" One night, soon after I was in bed, I fell asleep, and dreamed I was going to London. I thought it would not be much out of my way to so through Gloucestershire, and call upon my friends there. Accordingly I set out; but remembered nothing that Irappened by the way, till I came to my father's house ; when I went to our front-door, and tried to open it; but found it fast: then I went to our back-door, wbici I opened, and went in; but finding all the family were in bed, I went across the rooms only, went up stairs, and entered the chamber where my father and mother were in bed. As I went by the side of the bed on which my father lay, I found him asleep, or thought he was so: then I went to the other side, and as I just turned the foot of the bed, I found my mother awake; to whom I said these words: • Mother, I ain going a long journey; and am come to bid you good bye :' upon which she answered me in a fright,“ O dear son, thon art dead!" With this I aoke, and took no notice of it, more than a common dream ; only it apo peared to me very perfect, as some dreams will. "But in a few days after, as soon as a letter could reach me, I received one, by post, from my father ; upon the receipt of which I was a little surprized, and concluded something extraordinary must have happened, as it was but a little before I had a letter from *my friends, and all were well. But, upon opening it, I was more surprized still, for my father addressed me as though I *wảs dead; desiring me, if alive, or 'whosoever's hands the letter might fall into, to write immediately. But if the letter should find me living, they concluded I should not live long; and gave this as the reason of their fears ; - That such a might, naiing it, after they were in bed, my father asleep and my nother awake, she heard somebody try to open the front door ; but finding it fast, he went to the back-door, which he opened, and came in, and came directly through the rooms up stairs ; and she perfectly knew it to be my step; came to her bed-side, and spoke to her these words:'Mother, I am going a long journey; and am come to bid you good-bye :' upon which she answered nie in a fright, “ O dear son, thou . art dead!" Which were the very circumstances and words of my dream ; but she heard nothing inore, she saw nothing; neither did I in any dream, as it was quite dark. Upon this. she awoke, and told my father what had passed; but he en-, deavoured to appease her, persuading her it was only a dream : but she insisted on it, it was no dream ; for that she was as perfectly awake as ever; and had not the least inclination to sleep since she had been in bed : - from which I am apt to think, it was the very same instant with my dream, though the distance between us was about 100 miles ; but of this I cannot speak positively. This occurred whilst I was at the acadeiny, Ottery, Devon, in the year 1754; and, at this distance, every circumstance is fresh upon my mind. I have since had frea quent opportunities of talking over the affair with my mother; and the whole was as fresh upon her mind as it was upon mine; and I have often thought, that her sensations, as to this matter, were stronger than mine. What some may think strange, I cannot remember any thing remarkable happened hereupon. This is only a plain simple narrative of a matter of fact."
Mr. Wilkins having finished his academical studies in 1754, received several offers to settle over different congregations; but an invitation being sent from the congregation of Protestant Dissenters at Weymouth, to this he gave preference; and, after preaching among them as a probationer, and being approved, was regularly ordained over them in the Lord. In this situation Mr. Wilkins remained till the time of his death; includ. ing a period of more than forty-five years. His attentions during this period, were alternately directed to the discharge of pastoral duties and literary pursuits. He was particularly fond of natural philosophy; and, in the year 1777, his friend Dr. Cumm.ngs presented to the Royal Society some papers which Mr. Wilkins had drawn up; in which he proposed to that learned body three new-instruments in Hydrostatics. Anotlier branch of philosophy engaged still more of his attention, I mean Mechanics; and in tbis department of science he made several improvements. Mr. Wilkins likewise discovered much assiduity in collecting natural curiosities; and some of these wonderful productions of nature he had the honour of submitting to the inspection of their Majesties, in one of his interviews with the Royal Family, Their Majesties were pleased to declare themselves highly ratified, while Mr. Wil
kins felt himself greatly honoured by the condescending affability with which he was treated..
Though Mr. Wilkins experienced so much pleasure in philosophical researches, yet he saw the propriety of imposing some restraint in these studies, and of directing his mind to the serious investigation of subjects, which had a more immediate relation to his professional character.' Indeed, as a divine, be inanifested to all who knew him, that he had read his Bible with critical and serious attention. He was well acquainted with theological controversy in all its bearings, and accurately informed in all the leading events in Church-History. His sermons were well studied, and always contained inạch solid instruction : his thoughts were generally well arranged, yet never delivered with inuch eloquence. His conduct thro' life was so inoffensive, so humane, and so benevolent, that he was very generally and highly esteemed. Suitable to such a life were the manner and circumstances of his death. In his last sickness, though his pains were very acute, yet bis friends heard no complaints : all he said indicated entire resig. nation to the will of his God; and to him, death appeared without a sting, without any terror. “ Death,” said he to a friend, “ is no more to me than going out of one room into another; " I am ready to depart and be with Christ, which is far better than remaining in this sinful world.” And in the nearer approaches of eternity, when several of his church-members were standing by bis bed-side, he distinctly, and with animation, recited these lines of Dr. Watts:
" A guilty, weak, and helpless worni,
On thy kind arms I fall;
My Jesus and my all !" “ Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace!" Yes,“ the righteous hath hope in his death ;” and who would not say, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his?” Mr. Wilkins died November lá, 1800, in the seventieth year of his age, and forty-sixth of his ininistry.
Mr. Wilkins published nothing himself; but many papers, drawn up by him, were inseried in different periodical publications; and a circular letier“ On Proper Bebaviour in Public Worship,” addressed to be different churches and congrega. tions in the county of Dorset, was written by him. As Mr. Wilkinis left no children, he bequeathed the sum of 1501. to those Societies which defrayed the expences of his academical education, to be paid after the death of his widow: he also lett 508. to the Society for the Relief of the necessitous Widows and Children of Dissenting Ministers.