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I have often heard him express his anxiety for several of you, both as to your temporal and spiritual welfare. Some of you may have been apt to consider him as an enviable character, on account of his wealth; but, be assured, he was much more enviable on account of his piety; you need not wish so much to live like him as a gentleman, as to live and die like him as a Christian.
But, I suppose, it will be expected that I should say something more particularly of the deceased himself. I have commonly declined saying much on this head; and I still think, that, generally speaking, it is right to do so; because the generality of characters even of good men, have nothing in them very remarkable or worthy of being held up for our imitation. But, for this very reason, I think, in some cases it would be wrong to omit it. Perhaps no human writings have had a better effect than the lives of eminently holy men. When, therefore, any such characters appear among us, I think it is right to collect as much information respecting them as we can, that the remembrance of them may be of general use.
So far as education and parental example could influence, our deceased friend might be said to have known the holy scriptures from a child. His family, for generations past, have walked in the ways of piety. His great grandfather, Mr, William Wallis, was the founder, and first minister of the church of which you and I are members. He founded it in 1696. His grandfather, Mr. Thomas Wallis, succeeded in the same office. It was in his time that the late Dr. Gill, and the late Mr. Brine, were both called to the ministry. He died in 1726, and his funeral sermon is said, as in the present instance, to have been preached in this place,* on account of the number of people who attended it. His father, Mr. William Wallis, though not a minister, as his predecessors had been, was a very respectable member of the same
* From a respect to Mr. Wallis's memory, a greater number of people attended his funeral than Mr. Fuller's meeting could contain; and the use of the Independent meeting house having been respectfully offered, this discourse was delivered there. This circumstance accounts for some little variaton of phraseology, which an attentive reader may observe in what relates to the church.
community. When he died, which was in 1757, his son, our deceased friend, was but twenty-two years of age. From his earliest years he was under strong convictions of the truth and importance of religion; but the most remarkable impression of this sort was made at the death of his father. It was then, as he said, that he went and prayed to God, and thought within himself, "O that I had but an interest in Christ; and felt all the world and all its enjoyments, to be mere vanity without it!"
At the time of his father's death, he had a brother, Mr. Joseph Wallis, about twelve years of age. The amiable piety of that young man is said to have appeared at an early period; but, to the great grief of his friends, especially of his brother, he was removed by the small-pox, in the nineteenth year of his age.
In the year 1763, at the age of twenty-eight, Mr. Wallis became a member of the same Christian community in which his predecessors had lived and died. About five years after, he was chosen to the office of a deacon; an office which he has filled with honour and satisfaction for twenty-four years. It was a great blessing to the church, especially when, for the space of five years, they were destitute of a minister, that he was invested with this office, and was then in the prime of life and usefulness. It will long be remembered, with what meekness of wisdom he presided in the church, during that uncomfortable interval; and how, notwithstanding all the disadvantages of such a situation, they were not only preserved in peace, but gradually increased, till a minister was settled among them.
God endued him with a sound understanding and a solid judgment. His knowledge was extensive, and his observation ons men and things, ripened by long experience, were just and accurate. He had a quick sense of right and wrong, of propriety and impropriety, which rendered his counsel of great esteem in cases of difficulty.
To this was added a spirit of activity. Though during the greater part of his life, he was out of trade; yet his head and hands were always full with the concerns of others, either those of private individuals, with which he was entrusted, or matters of public utility. He would rise by five in the morning, in summer, and be as
diligent all the day as if he had had to obtain his bread by the sweat of the brow.
But, perhaps, one of the most prominent features of his character was sincerity, or integrity of heart. This was a temper of mind that ran through all his concerns. In a cause of righteousness, he possessed a severity which rendered it almost impossible for treachery to stand before him. He was prudent, but his prudence never degenerated into low policy, or any thing that deserved the name of subtilty. If motives of mere prudence were proposed to him, he would hesitate, nor would he accede till he had thought whether the measure was right. If he could but satisfy himself on that head, he would be regardless of consequences, or of popular opinion. Even in his contributions, one might perceive his love of righteousness. Though an economist from principle, he had nothing of the niggard: only convince him that a cause was right, (and that was easily done, if it was so,) and he would engage in it with all his heart, nor think much of any expense. "I wish to do what is right," he would say, "and leave consequences." He was a standing example of the falsehood of that system which teaches that "flattery is essential to politeness." If to behave in such a manner as to gain the esteem of all descriptions of men, be politeness, he was polite; yet he hated flattery. He would neither flatter, nor be flattered by others. The true secret by which he obtained esteem was, an unaffected modesty, mingled with kindness and goodness.
He possessed a peculiar decision of character. His judgment was generally formed with slow deliberation; but having once made up his mind, it was not easily altered. He was decisive in the principles he embraced. He held nothing with a loose hand. He observed to me, a few weeks before he died, when mentioning what he conceived to have been his great defect in religion, that it was not a wavering disposition. "I have not," said he, "been tossed about with every wind of doctrine." He has sometimes ingenuously confessed, that he thought himself more in danger of erring, by a prejudiced attachment to receiving principles, than by the contrary. He was equally decisive in matters of practice. He scarcely ever engaged in any thing with indifference. What his VOL. VII.
hand found him to do, he did it with his might. Having formed his judgment that such a matter was right, he would pursue it with indefatigable industry, patience, and perseverance; he would wade through difficulties that would have discouraged most men ; nor was he ever satisfied till he had accomplished his end.
There are few men that have possessed a greater degree of genuine humility. It is often seen, waere persons of affluence unite with a Christian community, they consider themselves as doing great honour to it, and expect great homage in return. But this every one that knew him can bear witness was not his spirit, It was not natural to him to assume the airs of a Diotrephes, or to avail himself of the influence which his circumstances and situation afforded him, to lord it over God's heritage. He was sometimes warm and sanguine; but that was not frequent, and never but when he considered himself as engaged in the cause of truth and righteousness.
To this may be added, there was a vein of serious godliness that ran through his life. It is true, he was often dejected in his own mind, lest he should be found wanting at last; so much so, as to give considerable pain to his friends. "There is something in religion," he would say. "with which I fear I have been all my life unacquainted." This dejection I attribute, in a great degree, to constitution. There are few characters that have discovered a greater fear of God, a greater acquiescence in the way of salvation through a crucified Saviour, or a greater concern to spend his life in doing good. That which would have hurt the pride of many a rich man, namely, to unite with the poor and illiterate as his brethren, was no mortification to him; on the contrary, he lately said, "I reckon it the greatest honour of my life, to have been employed in promoting the interest of Christ."
There is one circumstance more, which I cannot omit. About a week before he died, he requested that a few of his Christian friends might come and see him, and pray with him. Five of us went. When there, he told us, he did not wish us to pray for his life; he considered it as the will of God that he should die; and he added, "His will be done! But pray," said he, "that if there are any sins of which I have been guilty, and have
not yet repented; any sins for which God has any controversy with me, that he would give me a proper sense of them before I die. Or, if not, that I might enjoy the light of his countenance in death." We were all exceedingly affected. After praying with him about an hour, he gathered up what little strength he had, and addressed himself to us with a kind of solemn farewell. He reminded us of the difficulties we had been brought through as a church, expressed his satisfaction in leaving us in so comfortable a situation, recommended us to love one another, and solemnly commended us to the blessing of God! Surely I shall never forget this tender parting! But I have done. He would have invited others of his friends, whom he equally loved, but his strength began to fail him; and, in a few days, after a long series of afflic tions, which he bore with great patience, calmness and resignation to God, he fell asleep.