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FOR FEBRUARY, 1838.
THE LATE REV. SOLOMON ASHTON,
It is conceived that the subject of the (which it is obvious he did not intend to following memoir well deserves a place publish, and which should be regarded in the biographical department of the accordingly,) he has left the following Evangelical Magazine. His long stand- account of himself :ing and great reputation in the church “Upon reviewing my past life, I of Christ, the respect which we owe to cannot recollect ever having those early virtue, and the obligation which we lie convictions of which many speak. It under to honour those to whom honour was in the year 1793, being then about is due, conspire to remind all who knew nineteen years of age, that I first found him, that he ought not to be passed over my mind inclined to embrace religion, in silence. A brief history, therefore, My first desires to know the truth were of the leading events and circumstances excited by reading several deistical pubof his life, interspersed with a few mis- lications. The arguments appeared new cellaneous remarks, will be the highest to me, and raised a degree of doubt coneulogium on his character, and the best cerning the authenticity of the Scripway of discharging the duty which it is tures. For some time my mind was thought the writer owes to the public. much perplexed, as I wished to know the
Solomon Ashton was born on the 22nd truth ; but not being acquainted with the of October, 1774, in the parish of Bury, evidences of Christianity, I struggled in Lancashire. During his infancy, his alternately with the sentiments acquired parents removed into Derbyshire, where by education, and the sophistical reasonhe was brought up. Being in easy cir- ings of Deism. Sometimes I strove to cumstances, and having but two child- expel all thoughts of this kind from my ren, they gave their younger son, who is mind, and at other times I thought mythe subject of this memoir, a suitable self blameable for not examining a mateducation to enable him to act with credit ter of such moment, in the manner in in the capacity of a cotton manufacturer ; which it demanded , for I concluded, that sending him for instruction into various if Christianity were true, the belief of its parts of the country, to learn the different doctrines, and the practice of its precepts, branches of the trade. But he who“ ought to be my chief concern; and that all rules all mortal things, and manages our other things which Divine Providence mean affairs," had sent him into the cast in my way should yield to it. About world for the accomplishment of nobler this time Newton's Dissertation on the objects than those contemplated by mere Prophecies, and several other works on earthly enterprise. In a manuscript, the evidences of Christianity, were providentially put into my hands. By read- happy by them; for I was now persuaded ing these books, I was convinced that that the Almighty had committed unto Christianity, as it is revealed in the me talents which I did not improve; yet Scriptures, would stand the test of such were my views of the greatness of examination, and that it had all the the work, and of my insufficiency for it, marks of a religion worthy of God. I that I was afraid lest I should run before then began to perceive, that many of God had sent me. Thus, labouring bethose who professed to be Christians, tween conviction and fear, I struggled were not such as the Scriptures describ- in this state for more than twelve months; ed, and that I, as one, was a stranger to when, by the importunity of some of my that change which appeared necessary religious acquaintances, I was prevailed before that high character could be truly upon to attempt to speak publicly in the applied to me. About this time, a sermon name of my Lord and Master." on the spirituality of the law made He preached his first sermon in the considerable impression on my mind; house of a friend, in Derbyshire, from and as light increased, convictions of my Matt. xi. 28. Having begun his relilost state increased, fears of death, and gious career among the Methodists, it the more dreadful consequences that was not surprising that he first began to must inevitably follow, if called into preach in connexion with their society. eternity in my then unhappy condition, He was introduced by the late Rev. Jos. deeply exercised my mind night and Benson, and itinerated along with a Mr. day. These views of my state I dis- Midgley, in the North of Yorkshire closed to a neighbour, who, being a and Lancashire, and the South of Westmember of the Methodist Society, took moreland. He continued among the me to a class, or experience meeting. Methodists for about two years, when The more I heard, read, and prayed, his views of Divine truth became in the more my mind was perplexed ; and accordance with those generally enternot receiving any answers by such ma- tained by the Independents, whom he nifestations as others spoke of, and soon joined, and continued with during which I expected, I conceived myself to the remainder of his life, with uniform be in a state of sin, such as was beyond consistency. the reach of mercy. Often did self- On the 15th of October, 1804, he examination take place, and being con- officiated for the first time, as a supply, scious in my own mind that I had given in the Old Chapel, at Stockport. His up every known sin, at the same time first sermon was from Hebrews iv. 9. using all the means that I conceived to In so low a state did he find the cause of be scriptural, yet finding no answer of God in this place, that when he had comfort, but still more distressing views preached for three successive Sabbaths, of my natural state, I began to despair. There were not more than thirty-two I was so much affected with these views, people. The chapel, however, soon bethat most persons who knew me thought came numerously attended under his I was in a deep decline. Here I would ministry; and, having received an unaobserve, how necessary it is that those nimous call from the church and conwho conduct experience meetings should gregation, he was set apart to the pasendeavour to do it on Gospel principles ; toral office over them, June 19, 1806. for had the doctrine of the atonement, On the 22nd of April, 1805, he became and redemption thereby, been explained a student in the Academy, to me, I am inclined to think that I ter, over which the late Rev. William should not have given way to such hard Roby presided, as Divinity Tutor: an thoughts of God as I then did. But institution chiefly, if not entirely, owing God, who is rich in mercy, saw my its existence and support to the piety ignorance; and though my views were and affluence of the late Robert Spear, very confused, he graciously manifested Esq. Here he prosecuted his studies to himself in such a manner that no fear the end of the period prescribed, mainor doubt of my acceptance remained. taining himself at his own expense ; and This was in September, 1794. A strong going on the last day of every week to desire to spread the truths of the Gos- Stockport, to preach to the people of his pel accompanied this manifestation of charge on the following Sabbath ; reGod's love to me; these desires increased turning again to Manchester on Monday, daily, and in a few months became so The chapel having become crowded with strong, that I was rendered quite un- hearers, and dilapidated with age, (hav
ing then stood more than a hundred He was a man of unbending resoluyears,) Divine service was performed in tion. He was a perfect stranger to fear it for the last time, March 22nd, 1807 ; in delivering the message of the Lord ; after which it was taken down, and the what he thought that he said, and what he Tabernacle built on its site ; which was said he would by no means retract, even entered into and used as a place of wor- if it involved the sacrifice of his worldly ship, on the 23rd of the succeeding interest. It was his constant aim to August
. Here he laboured even unto preach the truth, the whole truth, and death.
nothing but the truth; and how sucAfter his decease, the following reso- cessfully he laboured for this end, many lutions were found, in his own hand- experienced and enlightened Christians writing, in a desk to which no one had can testify. access but himself, and which, it is ob- He was a Calvinist from principle ; vious, were intended for no eye but his and, convinced of the importance of the own. “I resolve, through the help of sentiments called by that name, he God, to keep the following resolutions : boldly came forward to bis own congre
1. “I resolve that secret prayer, by gation, and to any other which he occamyself alone, shall be performed every sionally addressed, declaring salvation to morning, before any other work be un- be entirely of grace, and the unmerited dertaken ; and that family prayer shall gift of God. But he was by no means be performed constantly, and seasonably, an Antinomian; he hated the doctrine, at most convenient times.
and denounced it in the most positive 2. “I resolve to speak evil of no manner. He was always solicitous that man; but if any be angry and insolent, the trumpet of the Gospel, at his mouth, to answer them with meekness and gen- should give a certain sound, that every tleness.
one might prepare himself for the battle, 3. “I resolve, if I go into company, He would never cast its "pearls before not to speak much ; and to endeavour to swine, nor give the children's bread unto divert vain discourse to useful subjects. dogs;" but he hesitated not to proclaim
4. “I resolve to be charitable accord- the acceptable year of the Lord, liberty ing to my ability, and to watch for op- to the captives, and the opening of the portunities to do good.
prison to them that were bound; and a 5. “I resolve to be cautious of pro- full, free, and everlasting salvation to mising ; and when I have promised, to every one that believed. He believed that keep strictly to my word.
in the Gospel feast there was a suffi6. “I resolve to have innocent con- ciency for all who would partake of it versation, mixed with profitable dis- by faith, and in his exhortations to sincourse, at my table.
ners he never betrayed any fear lest one 7. "I resolve to spend some time more than the elect should be saved ; he every day in the week, in fruitful medi- was a stranger to such a miserable feeltations. Subjects: death, judgment, ing. His style was plain and simple, hell, heaven, God's mercies, Christ's much resembling the graver and happassion, &c.
pier composition of Dean Swift, and like 8. "I resolve every day to entertain his, also, in being occasionally somewhat humble thoughts of myself.
humorous. He seldom dealt in figura9. "I resolve to put a charitable con- tive language of any kind, and had none struction upon the actions of others. of that false and frivolous taste which
10. “I resolve to call myself to an seeks to overpower rather than persuade, account every night, how I have spent and to dazzle rather than convince. In
his sermons, he invariably made an im11. “I resolve to review every visit provement; to the saint he always gave and sermon, and to consider wherein
a portion of meat in due season ; to the they might have been improved."
impenitent sinner his remarks were To these resolutions he firmly ad- caustic: he was wont to insulate his hered.
hearers, and he never permitted any The distinguishing trait in his cha- individual to escape by losing himself in racter was sterling honesty. He was the crowd. There was a great evenness not a man who could - smile, and smile, in his discourses ; like his late reverend and be a villain.” He was honest in his tutor, (the late Rev. William Roby,) work for God; honest in his dealings he was never caught with
poor with men; and honest to himself.
If there was no brilliancy in