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THE REV. RICHARD DE COURCY, B. A. LATE VICAR OF ST. ALKMOND'S CHURCH, SHREWSBURY.
When devout men of old conveyed the remains of Sto Stephen to the grave, they “ made great lamentation :" and may not we also greatly lament the loss of so many faithful pleaders of the cause of Christ as have, within a few months past, been consigued to the regions of silence? We feel not, indeed, the anguish of weeping over the mangled bodies of martyrs, but we weep for the Church of Christ, and especially for the Church of England, bereft of so many bold and eloquent champions for evangelical truth. Of this description was the amiable man wbo is the subject of this Memoir.
The Rev. Richard De Courcy, B. A. was a native of Ireland, the descendant of an ancient and respectable family of that country, being distantly related to the family of the Earl of Kinsale. He had the privilege of being called by grace at an early period of life ; and having learned, by experience, to estimate the value of an immortal soui, le conceived a strong desire to become instrumental to the salvation of sinners, With a view, therefore, to the sacred ministry, he entered himself at Trinity College; Dublin, where, by assiduity, and the exercise of those quick and lively talents which he possessed, he soon acquired a considerable fund of useful knowledge.
At the age of twenty-three, he received deacon's orders, in the cathedral church of Clonfert; and entered upon the work of the sanctuary with becoming diffidence, accompanied with earnest desires of divine assistance. From his Diary, we find the following were the breathings of his heart; “O Lord, I cannot speak, for I am a babe! I hang upon thee for every spiritual endowment. Thou knowest my wants; O supply them all out of thine inexhaustible fulness! and since I have Ventured to put iny hand to tbe gospel-plough, O that I may lever turn back!”
Within a week of his ordination, we find him saying, “I gave myself to fasting and prayer, to consult the Lord's will relative to my preaching; - was much cast down with a sense of my ingratitude to a God of never-failing mercies! However, upon the advice of some friends, and with a reliance on that promise, “ I will never leave thee," I determined to deliver my message without notes; which I accordingly did, from . Cor. v. 20, on Sunday, Sept. 20, 1767. The Lord was all to me. The people's faces did not terrify me in the least. I pleaded in Jeremiah's language so earnestly with the Lord, that out of compassion to my infirmities, and for his gospel's sake, he made my brow as brass. O Lord, to thee be all the glory!"
At the commencement of his career, he met with a temptation common to young ministers: “I have been tempted," saith he, “ strongly to believe, that after I had preached a few sermons, my strength would be quite exhausted, and that I should preach no more :" but he soon obtained relief on this head; for he afterwards adds, “ With regard to my fears of being exhausted after a few sermons, the Lord has given me satisfaction in that particular; for he has discovered to me the super-excellency of that wondertul book, the Bible, above all other books; not only for its purity, but also for the va riety of its inatier. I find it a mine replete with the richest treasures; and that the deeper I penetrate into it by faith and prayer, the greater riches are still discoverable. This book he sbewed me, was to be the central point of all iny divinity : and to be searched with unwearied diligence, if I meant to be a good, householder, bringing out of my treasure things neix and old."
Possessing these views, together with popular talents, we are not surprized to find that our young preacher attracted the attention of large congregations, who adınired the fluency, eloquence, and zeal of his ministrations; and there is reason to believe that his labours in Dublin were crowned with success.
It is said, that by some means or other, he gave offence to the Bishops of Ireland, and could not there obtain priest's orders. It is certain, however, that he came over to England in the Summer of 1768, and immediately waited on the Rev. Geo. Whitfield, who was then in London, at the TabernacleHouse. By some peculiar accident, bis apparel not being brought to town with him, he was obliged for several days to appear in' his gown and cassock, which, together with his very juvenile appearance, excited no small attention as he walked along the streets. On being introduced to Mr. Whitfield, the latter took off his cap, and bending towards Mr. De Courcy, placed his hand ou a deep scar in his lead, saying, “Sir, this wound I got in your country for preaching Christ.”* Mr. De
• Mr. Whitfield probably referred to the following circumstance re: corded by.Dr. Gillies in his Life, p. 224..
City Sunday afternoon, July 3, after preaching in Oxmantour.Green.
Courcy has observed to a friend, that this circumstance much endeared this noble champion of the gospel to him. Mr. Cornelius Winter happening to come into the room, Mr. Whitfield committed the stranger to his attention, saying “ Take care of this gentleman.” From this period, an intimate friendship took place, which lasted till Mr. Whitfield's death. On the next day, which was Sunday, Mr. De Courcy preached at Tottenham Court Chapel, from Zech. xii. 7. "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd ; and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts :" &c. His youthfiul appearance and pleasing address fixed the attention of the numerous audience, and laid the foundation of his future popularity.
When Mr. Whitfield left Engiand, the last time, for Aine. rica, which was in October, 1709, he expected a steady assistance from Mr. De Courcy ; but by a series of events which we cannot particularly trace, this help was withdrawn in less zban a year. When he discontinued his labours at Tottenham Court Chapel, he preached for a short time in the chapels of Lady Huntingdon; but not quite satisfied with her plan, he accepted of an invitation from Lady Glenorchy; and preached at ber chapel, in Edinburgh, with great acceptance and usefulness. A more stated and regular inode of preaching, however, being preferred by himself and his friends, he was introduced in 1770, through the influence of the respectable families of Hill and Powis, to the curacy of Shawbury, near Hawkstone, in Shropshire, of which the Rev. Mi. Stillingteet was then Rector. Here he continued about four years; and obtained priest's orders,
place frequented by the Ormond and Liberty boys, as they call them, who often fight there) he narrowly escaped with his life it being war. time, he took occasion to exhort his hearers, as was his usual practice, not only to fear God, but to hunour the King; and prayed for success to the King of Prussia. In the time of sermon and prayer, a few stones were thrown at him, which did no hurt. But when he had done, and thought to return home the way he came, by the Barracks, to his great surprize, access was denied; and he was obliged to go near half a mile, froin one end of the Green to the other, through hundreds of Papists, &c. who finding him unattended (for a soldier and four preachers, who came with him, had fied) threw vollie: of stones upon him froin all quarters, and made him reel backwards and forwards, till he was almost breathless, and all over a gore of blood. At last, with great difficulty, he staggered to the door of a minister's house, lying next to ihe Green, which was kindly opened to him. For a while he continued speechless, and panting for breath; but his weeping friends having given him soine cordials, and washed his wounds, à coach was procured, in which, amidst the oaths, imprecations, and threatenings of the Popish rabble, he got safe home, and joiued in a hymn of thanksgiving with his friends. In a letter written to a friend, just after this event, he says, “I received many blows and wounds; one was particularly large, and near my temples. I thought of Stephen, and was in hopes, like him, to go off in this bloody triumpha to the immediate presence of my Master, - Letter mchXX.
In the month of January, 1774, he was presented by the Lord Chancellor to the vicarage of St. Alkmond, in the large and populous town of Shrewsbury, Z'bis situation he probably owed to the zealous friendship of the gentlernen before meno tioned, and the pious Earl of Dartmouth. His former connections, itinerant labours, and evangelical sirain of preaching having procured for him the invidious (thougb honourable) name of a Methodist, his settlement in this place occasioned no small stir; and produced a Satirical Poein, written by a gentleman of the parish, entitled, “ St. Alkmond's Ghost." But he was not discouraged, but steadily and affectionately preached the gospel of salvation to a numerous people, who were probably attracted in greater numbers by the opposition and reproach which he sustained. Being thus comfortably settled in a useful station, he married, in Jan. 1775, Jane, the only daughter of Thomas Dicken, Esq. of Wollerton, in the same county; by whom he had several children.
Mr. De Courcy continued in the exercise of his parochial duties for almost thirty years, - a steady and able advocate for the distinguishing doctrines of the glorious gospel! He was warmly attached to that system of truth contained in the Articles of the Church of England, with which his sermons always accordes. He was indeed a labourer in the Lord's vineyard ; preaching always twice, and of late years thrice, every Sunday, besides reading the regular service: he also preached a lecture in his church every Wednesday evening. His ser. mons were delivered without notes; but in good language. His style was elegant, and his manner graceful. He often embellished bis discourses with apposite allusions, and the graces of oratory ; but what rendered thein far more excellent was, that rich vein of gospel truth which ran through thein all. Salvation by free grace, through faith, in a crucified Redeemer, was bis constant theme. On this important subject, Christ crucified, he published, in 1791, two pocket volumes, being the substance of a series of discourses preached at Namptwich, in the pulpit of another evangelical clergyman, while he was on a visit to a much respected friend, and by whose solicitations he was induced to print thein. In his Preíace to this work, he observes, " That the remarks which it contains, in vindication of the doctrines of the Church of Eng and, and in quotations froin ber Liturgy and Articles, he considered as a tribute of respect due to so venerable an authority; and a decisive method of proving, that, whatever his sentiments are, they accord with those of the church of which he thinks it an honour to be a minister. He professes to belong to no particular party, distinct from the established church, and disavows every name that implies it; yet he is reads to give“ ibe right hand of fellowship” to all of every denomination under Heaven, who “ love our Lord Jesus Christ