Page images
PDF
EPUB

V r. Walker may be justly described as a good, and, in his station and day, an eminent, man. His figure was robust, his countenance pleasing and benevolent; so that his presence was calculated both to awaken respect, and inspire confidence. He had a good voice, and delighted to use it in singing the praises of God. His understanding was vigorous, his judgment sound and clear, his knowledge of men and things accurate and extensive; so that he was well qualified both to give advice, and to reconcile differences. On several occasions he was successfully employed in composing strifes and animosities that had unhappily arisen ; and more than once usefully acted as a referee and umpire in the decision of difficult and litigated questions.

In his religious character he was distinguished by consistency and firmness. He had found the “ pearl of great price” by the instrumentality of the Wesleyan ministry ; and where he was called, there he continued to abide. No fear of loss, no prospect of apparent gain, could withdraw him from that section of the visible church with which he had believed it to be his duty to connect himself; and what he had chosen at the age of sixteen, that he loved, supported, and adorned at sixty-three. His piety was amiable. He delighted to meditate on the goodness of God; and these meditations occasioned a gratefulness and joy which imparted a pleasing cheerfulness to his whole behaviour. In fact, his entire character illustrated the declaration of our Saviour Christ, that his yoke is easy, and his burden light; and that they who come to him, and take it upon them, find rest to their souls.

The narrative of the last hours of Mr. Walker, though brief, is solemnly impressive. During the earlier months of the year 1842, his friends had noticed that he did not appear to be so well as usual : they nevertheless hoped that the indisposition would be only temporary. He was much nearer death than they imagined.

On Thursday, August 18th, he met his class as usual. It was his general practice to employ himself, for a few minutes before the meeting commenced, in finding such hymns as he judged suitable to be sung during the service. One of those which on this occasion he had selected was the 421st,

“I the good fight have fought,” &c. Showing it to Mrs. Walker, she suggested that another might be more appropriate. He said that he thanked God that he could sing it ; but in its place he chose the 2020,

“Arise, my soul, arise,” &c. He also added Cowper's well-known hymn,

“God moves in a mysterious way,” &c. On Friday, August 19th, as was his custom, he arose early, and conducted family worship. He prayed earnestly for the peace of the neighbourhood, riotous disturbances being at that time apprehended. He was also observed to pray particularly for preparation for death, whensoever and howsoever it might come. Having thus commended himself and his family to God, he went forth, in God's name, to pursue his daily labour, little thinking that he thus went forth for the last time. He walked to one of his fields, and made arrangements for its being reaped. While here, he was taken suddenly unwell, and returned home. When ascending the acclivity between the field and his house, he paused and rested several times. He called on his niece, said to her that he felt very ill, and prayed that God would support him. When he arrived at home, Mrs. Walker immediately proposed that medical assistance should be procured ; to which he offered no objection. When his medical attendant arrived, he found it necessary to bleed him ; after which he expressed himself as being relieved. He subsequently retired, and walked to his own room apparently without difficulty. Having undressed himself, he lay down on the bed, and requested Mrs. Walker to remove the outward covering; saying, that he thought it would be too heavy for him. She removed it on one side, and went to the other to do the same; but observed that in that brief space of time his eyes appeared to have become fixed. In great alarm, she called for assistance ; the medical friend, who had recently departed, was followed, and brought back, and the usual remedies in such cases were promptly adopted ; they were, however, ineffectual : he had suddenly expired in a fit of apoplexy, having recently completed his sixty-third year.

MEMOIR OF JOHN READ, ESQ.,

OF WILLENHALL, STAFFORDSHIRE :

BY THE REV. WILLIAM DAVIES, 2D. The design of this piece of religious biography is not to eulogize the dead, but to sketch, as accurately as possible, the features of moral worth as they were exhibited in the departed while living, that survivors inay be stimulated to seek the same mercy and grace, and to follow those who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises."

Mr. John Read was born at Willenhall, in 1775. He was the only son of his parents ; and though he had twelve sisters, all, except one, died before him.

His father was somewhat celebrated in his day as a hair-dresser, and wished to bring up his son to the same business. How long he continued under his father's instruction is not known; but he appears to have conducted himself, while a youth, with great propriety. His sober habits and constant industry attracted the notice of a wealthy gentleman in the town, on whom he attended when his services were required, who promised, for his encouragement, to bequeath to him the sum of £10. The house in which this gentleman resided was his own, and one of the largest and best in the place : it was often, indeed, called “the great house.” Many years afterwards it was sold, when Mr. Read was in circumstances to become the purchaser.

While residing with his father, as his time was not fully occupied, and his mind was vigorous, he directed his attention to the study of music, and soon acquired such a proficiency in both the art and science, as to become a leader of the Willenhall band. To his father's business, however, he could never bend his inclination : he therefore began to think of some other trade by which to obtain a livelihood; but as he was not able to give a premium to a regular tradesman, he ingeniously adopted another plan of adding to his stock of knowledge. Not far from his own dwelling there lived a shoemaker, with whom he was on friendly terms. To his neighbour's workshop he was in the habit of going frequently ; and, by carefully observing the processes which were conducted there, he acquired the rudiments of the knowledge that he sought, and then put himself under the tuition of a master, for whose perfecting instructions he could pay by the services which he was able to render him. In fact, he never allowed his mental activity to be dissipated in vague and fruitless speculations. He had an object in view, and to that object he perseveringly attended.

In due time he commenced business on his own account, and employed several journeymen ; and being steady and diligent, his trade increased, and he was enabled to accumulate money. As soon as he found that he had capital to spare, he devised plans for its profitable employment, still keeping in view the necessity of practical industry. He began to sell hats, hosiery, and hardware, and thus augmented his property.

He now thought that he might safely advance a step: he therefore purchased an inn, and soon after took a malt-kiln, and engaged in the additional business of a maltster. In all these somewhat singular movements he appears to have been remarkably successful. He experienced few of the losses and discouragements by which the prospects of many have been blighted. One reason of this may have been his carefulness. He had set his heart on prosperity, but he did not “ make haste to be rich." His mind was eminently of a practical character, and so habitually controlled, that he was generally enabled to avoid those bolder speculations which, while they appear for the time to promise much, are seldom productive of anything but disappointment, and often of ruin, to the speculator, and to those whom he has entangled in bis net.

All this while, though cautiously prudent and strictly moral, according to the conventional rules of society, Mr. Read was thoroughly a man of the world. He knew nothing of religion. His Bible was a constantly closed book. Of saving his soul he never thought. To prayer, and the Sabbaths, he paid no attention. He was living " without God in the world.” He had set his heart on one thing," and was determined, if possible, to seoure it. To obtain as much money as he could by all honest means, appeared entirely to engross his thoughts and his time. Every other consideration had either to give way to this, or to be made subservient to it. He did not, indeed, sacrifice to this any moral principle that he understood. He never said, “ At any rate, money." A more upright tradesman never lived. Strong, and even impetuous, as was his desire for the accumulation of wealth, and earnestly as he laboured for the attainment of his object, yet he avoided and abhorred everything mean and dishonourable, and all his dealings with others were marked by justice and integrity.

Many facts illustrative of his unswerving honesty might be mentioned, were we giving a history of his commercial transactions. Let one serve as a specimen. On a certain occasion, a traveller from Leicester called on him, and obtained an order for hosiery goods, which was regularly executed; but no demand was ever made for the payment of the money. He wrote several letters of inquiry; but could obtain no intelligence either of the traveller, or of those whom he had represented as his employers. In this unaccountable state the matter remained for twenty-five years; when, the Rev. Henry Powis, with whom Mr. Read had become acquainted, being appointed to the Leicester Circuit, he wrote to him, stating the circumstances, and requesting him to renew the hitherto unsuccessful search. Mr. Powis undertook the task, and at length obtained a clue which led him to the surviving relations of the manufacturer: Mr. Read gladly remitted the sum which was due to them, but of which they had never heard.

It was while he was engaged as an innkeeper and a maltster, rising rapidly in the world, that a circumstance occurred which proved, under God, the turning-point in his life, and awakened in him a new class of thoughts and desires,-thoughts and desires to which hitherto he had been entirely a stranger. Mrs. Read was visited with an affliction which terminated in her death. When apparently near her end, the prospect of eternity so impressed her, that she said to her husband, “ Read, pray for me.” This request, coming from one to whom he was attached by the strongest of all earthly ties, and urged at the time when they were about to be finally broken, went to his heart, and produced emotions he had never known before, and reflections which, if ever they had presented themselves, had never been cherished. “Pray for her? How can I, when I do not know how to pray for myself?” Conviction seized his mind, and the impression was permanent. He saw that he had lived in total forgetfulness of the Creator, while he had been eagerly pursuing the creature. He felt that he was guilty before God; that he had broken all the divine commandments in principle, and many of them in outward practice, by his utter regardlessness of the first and great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” Thus deeply convinced of his sin and danger, he began to think seriously on the subject of religion, as implying an unreserved and personal devotion to the service of God, and as requiring a great change both in his state and character. The remembrance of his sins became grievous to him, and the burden was intolerable. He saw plainly that he could not save himself, and that he needed both salvation and a Saviour.

The Clergyman who at this period was Rector of Darlaston, (only a mile and a half from Willenhall,) was the Rev. John Waltham, noted in the neighbourhood as an “evangelical Preacher ;” and Mr. Read became one of his hearers. Under his powerful appeals to the conscience, and his earnest addresses to sinners, whom he warned of their danger, and besought to flee from the wrath to come, his convictions were deepened ; the light of divine truth discovered to him still more clearly bis guilt and sinfulness, increasing his inward distress, and exciting him to seek to be reconciled to God.

But a conflict which he had not anticipated now commenced, although, happily, the issue was not long doubtful; and the decision to which he came clearly proved both the sincerity and the strength of his desire for the great mercy of the Gospel. It has been already stated that he had set his heart on the accumulation of worldly wealth, and also, that hitherto he had been successful even beyond his expectations. He was now established in a lucrative business; his character, as an upright man, was unsullied ; he was surrounded by companions and friends who greatly esteemed him : altogether, his worldly prospects were more than ordinarily flattering. The law of God had, however, been applied to his conscience in spiritual light and with power; and he saw distinctly what was his real character and condition. He felt that he was a sinner, and that, as a sinner, he was in danger of perishing everlastingly. He could not laugh at these subjects as the dreams of enthusiasm. He saw in them the undeniable truths of the Bible. And hence arose the conflict. Heretofore he had loved money: he now desired salvation; and the question was, whether, with his present views of truth and duty, he could continue in the pursuits by which he had hitherto been occupied. The struggle was severe ; but grace made him a conqueror. He resolved to leave the inn, and to give up his malting business, because he felt that he could not serve God, and save his soul, unless he did 80. The way of duty appeared too plain to be mistaken ; and his purpose was now fixed, that, by the help of God, whatever he gained, or whatever he lost, he would save his soul.

The step which he thus took, he never regretted. Alluding to it, in after-life, he has been heard to say, “I was, at the time, getting money very fast; but I clearly saw that I could not serve God and Mammon. I gave up the malting business because it led me into company that was not suitable for me, and obliged me to frequent public-houses. In a worldly point of view, it was a great sacrifice, especially as I had all my life been bent on obtaining money, haying only one object in view,—to realize an ample fortune. I considered that it would avail me nothing to gain the world, and lose my soul. I was convinced that it was necessary for me to leave the pursuits in which I was then engaged ; and I therefore left them, that I might save my soul.”

After the death of Mrs. Read, and when he had given up his inn and his malt-kiln, he directed his attention to making varnish for locks and what is called Japan-ware. Here, also, he was successful, and soon established an extensive and profitable business. He was at the same time earnestly seeking to obtain that peace to which, as yet, he had been a stranger. He read the Scriptures that he might learn the will of God, and be shown what he must do to be saved. That every brief period of leisure which occurred to him might be duly improved, he kept a small Bible in his shop ; but being under the influence of the spirit of bondage unto fear, if he heard approaching footsteps, his book was immediately put out of sight. The Bible was, indeed, as yet, only a sealed book to him. He desired the salvation of his soul; but neither had he as yet obtained it, nor had he seen clearly the way of its attainment. Outwardly, his conduct was moral ; but he had no true power over sin. Occasionally, provocation would excite violent passion, and in his rage he would swear profanely and bitterly. He was sincere ; but he was miserable.

At this time there were but few truly pious persons in the place, and the tone of moral and religious feeling was awfully low. Trade was good, and wages were high; and this only tended to the increase of wickedness. Bull-baiting, cock-fighting, and similar sports were the favourite and common recreations; and drunkenness, gambling, quarrelling, and fighting prevailed to no ordinary degree. Even he

« PreviousContinue »