Friday 4 November 1774: In the afternoon, John Downes (who had preached with us many years) was saying, ‘I feel such a love to the people at West Street that I could be content to die with them. I do not find myself very well; but I must be with them this evening.’ He went thither and began preaching on ‘Come unto me, ye that are weary and heavy laden.’ After speaking ten or twelve minutes, he sunk down and spake no more till his spirit returned to God.
I suppose he was by nature full as great a genius as Sir Isaac Newton. I will mention but two or three instances of it. When he was at school, learning algebra, he came one day to his master and said, ‘Sir, I can prove this proposition a better way than it is proved in the book.’ His master thought it could not be but, upon trial, acknowledged it to be so. Sometime after, his father sent him to
with a clock which was to be mended. He observed the clock-maker’s tools and the manner how he took it in pieces and put it together again. And when he came home, first made himself tools and then made a clock, which went as true as any in the town. I suppose such strength of genius as this has scarce been known in Newcastle Europe before.
Another proof of it was this. Thirty years ago, while I was shaving, he was whittling the top of a stick. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ He answered, ‘I am taking your face, which I intend to engrave on a copper plate.’ Accordingly, without any instruction, he first made himself tools and then engraved the plate. The second picture which he engraved was that which was prefixed to the Notes upon the New Testament. Such another instance, I suppose, not all
England, or perhaps Europe, can produce.
For several months past, he had far deeper communion with God than ever he had had in his life. And for some days, he had been frequently saying, ‘I am so happy that I scarce know how to live; I enjoy such fellowship with God as I thought could not be had on this side heaven.’ And having now finished his course of fifty-two years, after a long conflict with pain, sickness, and poverty, he gloriously rested from his labours and entered into the joy of his Lord.