25 Sept 1767. I was desired to preach at Freshford, but the people durst not come to the house because of the smallpox, of which Joseph Allen, ‘an Israelite indeed’, had died the day before. So they placed a table near the churchyard. But I had no sooner begun to speak than the bells began to ring, by the procurement of a neighbouring gentleman. However, it was labour lost, for my voice prevailed, and the people heard me distinctly. Nay, a person extremely deaf, who had not been able to hear a sermon for several years, told his neighbours with great joy that he had ‘heard and understood all, from the beginning to the end’.
I preached at Bristol in the evening on 2 Cor. 4:17, a text which had been chosen by William New a little before God called him hence. He laboured under a deep asthma for several years and for seven or eight months was confined to his bed, where he was from time to time visited by a friend, who wrote the following account:
He was one of the first Methodists in Bristol and always walked as became the gospel. By the sweat of his brow he maintained a large family, leaving six children behind him. When he was no longer able to walk, he did not discontinue his labour; and after he kept his room, he used to cut out glass (being a glazier) to enable his eldest son, a child about fourteen, to do something toward the support of his family. Yea, when he kept his bed, he was not idle but still gave him what assistance he could.
He was formerly fond of company and diversions, but as soon as God called him, left them all—having a nobler diversion, visiting the sick and afflicted, in which he spent all his leisure hours. He was diligent in the use of all the means of grace, very rarely, during his health, missing the morning preaching at five, though he lived above a mile from the room.
About a year ago, he took his leave of the society, telling them that it was with great pleasure he had joined and continued with them; that it was in this despised place the Lord first manifested himself to his soul; that no tongue could tell what he had since enjoyed under that roof; that the same Jesus had enabled him to hold on thus far, and he hoped to be with him soon, adding, ‘I do not expect to see you any more here but have no doubt of meeting you in glory.’
During the last twenty days of his life, he took no other sustenance than now and then a teaspoonful of wine or of balm-tea. About fourteen days before his death, his tongue turned black, with large chops in it, through the heat of his stomach, and his lips were drawn two or three inches apart, so that it was difficult for him to speak. In this condition, he lay waiting for his discharge, saying sometimes, ‘I am, as it were, two persons. The body is in torturing pain; the soul is in sweet peace.’ He frequently said, ‘I long to be gone. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly.’ When I asked, ‘Do you desire to see such a person?’ he said, ‘I desire to see none but Jesus. To him I leave my dear wife and children. I have no care about them.’
The next day, Satan violently assaulted his faith. But instantly our Lord appeared in all his glory, and he was filled with love and joy unspeakable, and said, ‘Call my friend and let him see a dying Christian. Oh what do I feel? I see my Lord has overcome for me. I am his. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!’ He desired them that were present to sing, and began, ‘Jesu, lover of my soul.’ He then desired the text for his funeral sermon might be 1 Cor. 4:17.
The next time I saw him, having desired him to make signs rather than speak, which was painful to him, he said, ‘Here is a sign’ (pushing out his feet and holding up his hands), ‘a dying Christian, full of love and joy! A crown, a never-fading crown awaits me. I am going to everlasting habitations.’ He then desired us to sing, and quickly added, ‘He is come! He is come! I want to be gone; farewell to you all.’ When he could no longer speak, he continued smiling, clapping his hands, and discovering an ecstasy of joy in every motion.
After a while his speech returned, and he said: ‘Today is Friday; tomorrow I expect to go.’ One said, ‘Poor Mr. New!’ He said, ‘It is rich New: though poor in myself, I am rich in Christ.’
I saw him on Saturday in the same spirit, praising God with every breath. He appeared quite transported, pointing upwards and turning his fingers round his head, alluding to the crown prepared for him. I said, ‘Your Lord has kept the best wine unto the last.’ ‘Yes, yes,’ said he, ‘it is in my soul.’ When I took my leave he pressed my hand, pointed upward, and again clapped his hands. Afterward, he spoke little, till he cried out, ‘The chariot, the chariot of Israel,’ and died.