Wednesday, March 27, 2013
The Methodist work in Ireland
APRIL 2 1762. I rode to Parkgate, and found several ships; but the wind was contrary. I preached at five in the small House they have just built; and the hearers were remarkably serious. I gave notice of preaching at five in the morning. But at half-hour after four one brought us word that the wind was come fair, and Captain Jordan would sail in less than an hour. We were soon in the ship, wherein we found about threescore passengers. The sun shone bright, the wind was moderate, the sea smooth, and we wanted nothing but room to stir ourselves; the cabin being filled with hops, so that we could not get into it but by climbing over them on our hands and knees. In the afternoon we were abreast of Holyhead. But the scene was quickly changed: The wind rose higher and higher, and by seven o’clock blew a storm. The sea broke over us continually, and sometimes covered the ship, which both pitched and rolled in an uncommon manner. So I was informed; for, being a little sick, I lay down at six, and slept, with little intermission, till near six in the morning. We were then near Dublin Bay, where we went into a boat, which carried us to Dunleary. There we met with a chaise just ready, in which we went to Dublin.
I found much liberty of spirit in the evening while I was enforcing, "Now is the day of salvation." The congregation was uncommonly large in the morning, and seemed to be much alive. Many children, I find, are "brought to the birth:" And shall there not be strength to bring forth?
It was at this time that Mr. Grimshaw fell asleep. He was born September 3, 1708, at Brindle, six miles south of Preston, in Lancashire, and educated at the schools of Blackburn and Heskin, in the same county. Even then the thoughts of death and judgment made some impression upon him. At eighteen he was admitted at Christ's College, in Cambridge. Here bad example so carried him away, that for more than two years he seemed utterly to have lost all sense of seriousness; which did not revive till the day he was ordained Deacon, in the year 1731. On that day he was much affected with the sense of the importance of the ministerial office; and this was increased by his conversing with some at Rochdale, who met once a week to read, and sing, and pray. But on his removal to Todmorden soon after, he quite dropped his pious acquaintance, conformed to the world, followed all its diversions, and contented himself with "doing his duty" on Sundays.
But about the year 1734, he began to think seriously again. He left off all his diversions; he began to catechise the young people, to preach the absolute necessity of a devout life, and to visit his people, not in order to be merry with them as before, but to press them to seek the salvation of their souls.
At this period also he began himself to pray in secret four times a day; and the God of all grace, who prepared his heart to pray, soon gave the answer to his prayer; not, indeed, as he expected: Not in joy or peace; but by bringing upon him very strong and painful convictions of his own guilt, and helplessness, and misery; by discovering to him what he did not suspect before, that his heart was deceitful and desperately wicked; and, what was more afflicting still, that all his duties and labours could not procure him pardon, or gain him a title to eternal life. In this trouble he continued more than three years, not acquainting any one with the distress he suffered, till one day, (in 1742,) being in the utmost agony of mind, there was clearly represented to him, Jesus Christ pleading for him with God the Father, and gaining a free pardon for him. In that moment all his fears vanished away, and he was filled with joy unspeakable. "I was now," says he, "willing to renounce myself, and to embrace Christ for my all in all. O what light and comfort did I enjoy in my own soul, and what a taste of the pardoning love of God!"
All this time he was an entire stranger to the people called Methodists, whom afterwards he thought it his duty to countenance, and to labour with them in his neighbourhood. He was an entire stranger also to all their writings, till he came to Haworth, May 26, of this year. And the good effects of his preaching soon became visible: Many of his flock were brought into deep concern for salvation, were in a little time after filled with peace and joy through believing; and (as in ancient times) the whole congregation have been often seen in tears on account of their provocations against God, and under a sense of his goodness in yet sparing them.
His lively manner of representing the truths of God could not fail of being much talked of, and bringing many hundreds out of curiosity to Haworth church; who received so much benefit by what they heard, that, when the novelty was long over, the church continued to be full of people, many of whom came from far, and this for twenty years together.
Mr. Grimshaw was now too happy himself, in the knowledge of Christ, to rest satisfied without taking every method he thought likely to spread the knowledge of his God and Saviour. And as the very indigent constantly made their want of better clothes to appear in, an excuse for not going to church in the day-time, he contrived, for them chiefly, a lecture on Sunday evenings; though he had preached twice in the day before. God was pleased to give great success to these attempts, which animated him still more to spend and be spent for Christ. So the next year he began a method, which was continued by him for ever after, of preaching in each of the four hamlets he had under his care three times every month. By this means the old and infirm, who could not attend the church, had the truth of God brought to their houses; and many, who were so profane as to make the distance from the house of God a reason for scarce ever coming to it, were allured to hear. By this time the great labour with which he instructed his own people, the holiness of his conversation, and the benefit which very many from the neighbouring parishes had obtained by attending his ministry, concurred to bring upon him many earnest entreaties to come to their houses, who lived in neighbouring parishes, and expound the word of God to souls as ignorant as they had been themselves. This request he did not dare to refuse: So that while he provided abundantly for his own flock, he annually found opportunity of preaching near three hundred times to congregations in other parts.
And for a course of fifteen years, or upwards, he used to preach every week, fifteen, twenty, and sometimes thirty times, beside visiting the sick, and other occasional duties of his function. It is not easy to ascribe such unwearied diligence, chiefly among the poor, to any motive but the real one. He thought he would never keep silence, while he could speak to the honour of that God who had done so much for his soul. And while he saw sinners perishing for lack of knowledge, and no one breaking to them the bread of life, he was constrained, notwithstanding the reluctance he felt within, to give up his name to still greater reproach, as well as all his time and strength, to the work of the ministry.
During this intense application to what was the delight of his heart, God was exceeding favourable to him. In sixteen years he was only once suspended from his labour by sickness; though he dared all weathers, upon the bleak mountains, and used his body with less compassion than a merciful man would use his beast. His soul at various times enjoyed large manifestations of God’s love; and he drank deep into his Spirit. His cup ran over; and at some seasons his faith was so strong, and his hope so abundant, that higher degrees of spiritual delight would have overpowered his mortal frame.
In this manner Mr. Grimshaw employed all his powers and talents, even to his last illness; and his labours were not in vain in the Lord. He saw an effectual change take place in many of his flock; and a restraint from the commission of sin brought upon the parish in general. He saw the name of Jesus exalted, and many souls happy in the knowledge of him, and walking as became the Gospel. Happy he was himself, in being kept by the power of God, unblamable in his conversation: Happy in being beloved, in several of the last years of his life, by every one in his parish; who, whether they would be persuaded by him to forsake the evil of their ways, or no, had no doubt that Mr. Grimshaw was their cordial friend. Hence, at his departure a general concern was visible through his parish. Hence his body was interred with what is more ennobling than all the pomp of a royal funeral: For he was followed to the grave by a great multitiude, with affectionate sighs, and many tears; who cannot still hear his much-loved name, without weeping for the guide of their souls, to whom each of them was dear as children to their father.
His behaviour, throughout his last sickness, was of a piece with the last twenty years of his life: From the very first attack of his fever, he welcomed its approach. His intimate knowledge of Christ abolished all the reluctance nature feels to a dissolution; and, triumphing in Him, who is the resurrection and the life, he departed, April the 7th, in the fifty fifth year of his age, and the twenty-first of his eminent usefulness.
It may not be unacceptable to subjoin here one of his plain, rough letters, to the society in London:—
"Haworth, January 9, 1760.
"MY DEAR BRETHREN,
"GRACE, mercy, and peace, be to you from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus. It is well with four sorts of people, that you have had, or now have, to do with. It is well with those of you in Christ who are gone to God: It is well with those of you in Christ who are not gone to God: It is well with those who earnestly long to be in Christ, that they may go to God: It is well with those who neither desire to be in Christ, nor to go to God. And it is only bad with such who, being out of Christ, are gone to the devil. These it is best to let alone, and say no more about them.
"But, to be sure, it is well with the other four. It is well with those of you who, being in Christ, are gone to God. You Ministers and members of Christ have no more doubt or pain about them. They are now, and for ever, out of the reach of the world, flesh, and devil. They are gone 'where the wicked cease from troubling, and where the weary are at rest.’ They are sweetly reposed in Abraham's bosom. They dwell in His presence who hath redeemed them; where ’there is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.' They are waiting the joyful morning of the resurrection, when their vile bodies shall be made like unto his glorious body, shall be re-united to their souls, shall receive the joyful sentence, and inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world.
"It is well also with those of you who are in Christ, though not gone to God. You live next door to them. Heaven is begun with you too. The kingdom of God is within you. You feel it. This is a kingdom of righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. It is begun in grace, and shall terminate in glory. Yea, it is ’Christ within you, the hope of glory.' Christ the rock, the foundation, laid in your hearts. Hope in the middle, and glory at the top. Christ, hope, glory; Christ, hope, glory. You are washed in the blood of the Lamb, justified, sanctified, and shall shortly be glorified. Yea, your lives are already ’hid with Christ in God.' You have your conversation already in heaven. Already you ’sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' What heavenly sentences are these! What can come nearer Paradise? Bless the Lord, O ye happy souls, and let all that is within you bless his holy name. Sing unto the Lord so long as you live, and praise your God while you have your being. And how long will that be? Through the endless ages of a glorious eternity.
O my dear brothers and sisters, this is my hope, and this is my purpose. But to whom and to what are we indebted for all this, and infinitely more than all the tongues and hearts of men or angels can tell or conceive? To our Redeemer only, and to his merits. Christ within us is Jesus to us. We were poor, lost, helpless sinners, ’aliens from the commonwealth of Israel,' and ’children of wrath;' but Jesus lived, and Jesus died, the just for the unjust, to bring us to the enjoyment of it.
"And what does all this require at our hands? Why, infinitely more than we can render him to all eternity. However, let us praise and glorify God in the best manner, and with the best member that we have. Let us do it constantly, cordially, cheerfully, so long as we live; and then, no doubt, we shall do it in heaven for ever.
"Keep close, I beseech you, to every means of grace. Strive to walk in all the ordinances and commandments of God blameless, ’giving all diligence to make your calling and election sure: Add to your faith virtue; to virtue knowledge; to knowledge temperance; to temperance patience; to patience godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness; to brotherly kindness charity.'—For ’if these things,' says St. Peter, ’be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Thus you will give the best token of your thankfulness to him for what he hath done for your souls; and you shall, not long hence, in heaven sing his praise with your happy brethren, gone thither before you.
"It is well, likewise, with all those of you who do truly desire to be in Christ, that you may go to God. Surely he owns you; your desires are from him; you shall enjoy his favour. By and by you shall have peace with him through our Lord Jesus Christ. Go forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed ye by the Shepherd’s tents. Be constant in every means of grace. He will be found of them that diligently seek him. 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.’ Though your sins be never so many, never so monstrous, all shall be forgiven. He will have mercy upon you, and will abundantly pardon. For where sin hath abounded, grace doth much more abound. He who hath begun this good work in you will accomplish it to your eternal good, and his eternal glory. Therefore, doubt not, fear not. A broken and a contrite heart God will not despise. The deeper is your sorrow, the nearer is your joy. Your extremity is God's opportunity. It is usually darkest before day-break. You shall shortly find pardon, peace, and plenteous redemption, and at last rejoice in the common and glorious salvation of his saints.
"And, lastly, it is well for you, who neither truly desire to be in Christ, nor to go to God; for it is well for you that you are out of hell: It is well your day of grace is not utterly past. Behold, now is your accepted time; behold, now is the day of your salvation! O that you may employ the remainder of it in working out your salvation with fear and trembling! Now is faith to be had, saving faith; now you may be washed from all your sins in the Redeemer’s blood, justified, sanctified, and prepared for heaven. Take, I beseech you, the time while the time is: You have now the means of grace to use; the ordinances of God to enjoy; his word to read and hear; his Ministers to instruct you; and his members to converse with. You know not what a day may bring forth: You may die suddenly. As death leaves you, judgment will find you: And if you die as you are, out of Christ, void of true faith, unregenerate, unsanctified, snares, fire and brimstone, storm and tempest, God will rain upon you, (Psalm xi. 6,) as your eternal, intolerable portion to drink.
"Suffer me, therefore, thus far, one and all of you. God's glory and your everlasting welfare is all I aim at. What I look for in return from you is, I confess, much more than I deserve, your prayers. Pray for me, and I will pray for you, who am
Your affectionate brother,