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FOR JULY, 1832.
MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. JAMES DOBSON,
OF CHISSHILL, ESSEX.
The subject of the present brief ordinances. Few men have reand hasty narrative was, with his ceived a more heavenly bias in parents, moving in respectable cir- childhood, or exhibited a more cumstances in Lancashire, until, willing obedience in riper youth. by the hand of Providence, they When the period arrived at were led to fix their abode in the which he should personally enter metropolis of this kingdom. Shortly upon the labours of life, he comafter this, both father and mother menced a secular employment of were called to their rest; and their the most important and extensive orphan, while yet a child, was left description. As a proof that relito the exclusive care and protection gion does not unfit a man for lawful of Heaven.
worldly pursuits, we may mention, Notwithstanding this heavy be- that, so attentive and remarkable reavement, it was fully apparent was he, even in temporal business, that, in early youth, his whole that he might have obtained a mark mental character had become wed- of approbation from that monarch ded to objects of a sublime and toward whom his unbiassed loyalty celestial kind. Instead of being was ever cherished, and often eviseduced by the bewitching smiles denced in verbal declaration and of those pleasures to which his actual fact. This public tribute orphan state left him exposed, he was offered to him while in conever displayed an entire separation nexion with the extensive brewery from those indulgences, which, over part of which the new London however fair to the eye, invariably Docks have since been erected. lead to disappointment and pain. While thus occupied, his soul was In him, an attachment to the ho- not immersed in earthly things. liest of causes, a fervour of charac- He has often been heard to say, ter, and an unwearied zeal of effort, that he never called a dependent were the bud of promise as to future to labour on the Sabbath ; and on unremitting and well-rewarded la- a Saturday evening he has often bours in the vineyard of gospel laid aside his own clothes, and VOL. X.
laboured in the hottest and most before the church of which he was unpleasant part of his occupation, a member, was founded upon these so that nothing should be left to be words :-“ How shall they hear done on the day of God. During without a preacher ?” When this the whole of his youth he displayed was concluded, his spiritual father a watchful pre-eminence in his re- immediately required him to pregard to the Sabbath, and, without pare a second from the words that ceasing, endeavoured to diffuse follow :-“ How shall they preach around him the same reverence for except they be sent ?” Though to the institutions of religion. Thus a spirit zealous as his this advice he evinced that the spirit of bene- had for a moment a discouraging volence which the Saviour embo- influence, yet, in after life, he fredied was taking the lead in his own quently expressed his thankfulness heart. But, while the duties and that he had been thus led care. obligations of business were met fully to examine what are the pre. with becoming diligence, it was requisites and qualifications for clearly seen that the string most that holy office which so nearly responsive to the appeal of all-en- connects itself with the destinies grossing labour had not been left of men. untouched, and that his heart was This soldier of the cross had not fully resolved to enter upon the long buckled on his armour before exhausting, responsible, but glo- the field of labour opened before rious office of an ambassador of him. With unwearied fidelity, Christ. When the duties of the though in the midst of many trials, day were finished, he was often he ministered for God at Newport, found in the cottages of the poor, in Essex; until Providence guided breaking unto them the bread of his feet to that department of the life, and pointing the erring feet of Christian church where he lived, mortals into that path which leads and laboured, and died. His first to happiness and God.
visit to Chisshill was paid on April About this period he was united 24th, 1795, and, after waiting for in holy bonds with the church of the finger of God to point out his Christ assembling in the New way, he was set apart to the office Road Chapel, under the pastoral of pastor on May 19, 1796. care of the Rev. Mr. Bryson. This On his arrival, the church, was a step which, in the retrospect, though venerable through age, had furnished matter for sincere grati. fallen into a condition of the most tude and joy. He was a striking alarming decline. The sanctuary proof that decision in religion, du- was almost deserted, and the church ring the period of youth, is the composed of at most but three surest safeguard from evil, and the members. richest source of comfort while Amidst these depressing circumlife continues.
stances, faith and hope were the After this public avowal of his anchor of his soul. At the close of love to the Saviour, it became his the account of his ordination, he hourly wish and prayer that his carried his immortal and now haplife and energies might be all con- py spirit to the Ebenezer which be secrated to the work of winning so devoutly reared; and the prayer souls. Under the fostering care of and hope with which he closed the his pastor's affection and experi report in the church-book are in ence, he commenced a course of these words :-“ Thus has God, study with this object directly in for more than a century, maintained view. His first discourse, delivered his own cause, May he long con
tinue to shine upon his people he would be carried toward the here, and, as long as time shall table of communion, that he might last, continue his candlestick and a once more preside at the feast of light among them. Amen.”
love. The last time that this priviHe who despises not the day of lege was granted, the flock of Christ small things was graciously pleased will never forget how his spirit apto hear his servant's prayer, and to peared to heave with intensity of answer it with a blessing so copi- holy joy, and how the fire of celesous that there was not room enough tial rapture once more beamed in to receive it. After a new erection, those eyes which are now so tranand several subsequent enlarge- quilly closed in death. All perments, the subject of this memoir ceived, while with a faltering beheld himself the honoured shep- voice he spoke of glory to come, herd, amidst a united and affection that, though his body was perishing, ate congregation of 800 souls. In his inner man was renewed day by his last hours he looked back upon day, and that not the very chill of the way in which God had led him, death could damp his ardour in the and bore this rare but honourable cause of God. testimony respecting his bereaved Naturally irritable, and keenly flock :-" I was never, during the susceptible of feeling while in period of nearly forty years, for a health, when the ravages of his last single hour made uneasy by my sickness commenced, it appeared church.” This his mourning family that his soul was visited by a power desire to write as in letters of brass, which produced a perfect tranand to lay it in the rock as a me- quillity, and so soothed his mind morial of them before the Lord for that not a wave of trouble was sufever and evermore. Oh, that every fered to roll across his peaceful minister had such a church, and breast. Every pain arrived and every church such a minister! was welcomed without a complain
The course of ministerial exer- ing thought. He was the image of tion, which was commenced in a peace and quiet, like that of the spirit of devotion, was carried on summer's eve, which left nothing with increasing vigour, until bodily to ruffle or agitate the calm surface maladies began to exert over men- of his mind. tal energies a damping and impair- By those best acquainted with ing influence. Still, however, this his peculiar cast of character, and beloved individual exhibited a reserve of disposition, it will not beautiful instance that a celestial be expected that those ecstacies inhabitant may tenant a frail taber which others have enjoyed, should nacle, which the wind has shaken, remain to be recorded as characand the storm made to tremble. terising his exit from the land of His heart was ever in his work; pilgrimage. Indeed, it was with and, the moment disease had a little marked reluctance that he received subsided, every particle of strength accounts of this nature respecting was laid on that altar where both others. He considered the placid the gift and the giver are sancti- resignation of a soul matured for fied. A cloud of witnesses remain heaven as far more becoming that who well know that the motto which chamber where the good man meets influenced him, both in the study his fate. Nor was it necessary that and the pulpit, was this:-“I seek in his case such a testimony should not yours, but you.” On several be given. His people knew his occasions, when his countenance heart, for his sermons were his exresembled the pale bue of death, perience, and the pulpit one of his
places of self-examination. From his theme. His words were, « Oh, many facts, it is known that he was that I could preach to-day on this fully aware that his stewardship subject : 'I will sing of mercy !'” was about to close ; but he felt no and immediately added, “but that alarm; and, while leaning upon the is a theme that will never end.” top of his staff, he showed that he To a relative he said, in the near had left nothing unfinished, but prospect of death, “I could wish that, instead of leaving the work of to live for my beloved family;" religion for a sick chamber alone, and then checking himself he addhe lived as he wished to die. In ed, “I desire to have no will of confirmation of this, a few instances my own--the Judge of all the earth may be recorded. Amidst the must do right!" severest attacks of disease he often Thus died this devoted servant said, “ The greatest part of my of the Lord, at the age of sixty-one affliction is my absence from my years, after being the pastor of the work.” To a long-tried friend he church in which God had made thus expressed all that piety could him an overseer thirty-eight years. prompt, or weeping relatives re- His happy spirit took its flight on quire :-“I know in whom I have the first hour of the Sabbath, May believed; I have one refuge, and 6th, as he was peacefully sitting in I desire no other.” On the morn- his chair. " Tell me, my soul, ing of the Sabbath he had no wish can this be death ? " Mark the for a renewal of strength, except perfect man, and behold the upthat he might recommence a sub- right, for the end of that man is ject which had been, and is still, peace !"
(To the Editor of the Evangelical Magazine.)
Sir,-Many ministers have their hearts desolated by the lamentable state of their prayer-meetings. There is not one out of ten of their hearers who frequent these invaluable ordinances. To what can this be attributable? Is it not to be feared that the low state of religion is the true cause? Were there a greater thirst after communion with God, might we not expect to see it evidenced by a spirit of social prayer? No wonder that we do not hear of more conversions, when churches, as such, wrestle so little with God for the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Is there not, moreover, a great want of spiritual endowment in many who frequent our prayer-meetings, and take part in conducting them ? How cold and formal are many of the prayers offered up to God on these occasions! How many vain repetitions abound in them! And how little do many of them breathe of the spirit of devotion and love! Ought it not to be understood, in every Christian church, that membership involves the
obligation of attending the prayer-meeting? And ought not punctuality in this matter to be regarded as essential to high reputation in the Christian life? In the church to which I belong, one-half of the members do not attend the prayer-meeting; and it is no unusual thing for some of the deacons themselves to be habitually absent. Yet the minister is so punctual in his attendance as scarcely ever to be away; and never allows a whole month to elapse without pressing the subject most affectionately upon the attention of his hearers. Upon inquiry, I find that many other churches are in no better condition than my own; so that I am really greatly alarmed for the interests of vital religion among us.
M ay I suggest the propriety of all our ministers and private Christians setting themselves with fresh vigour to repair the devotional spirit of our churches? Let faithful pastors preach on the subject again and again, till the attention of their hearers is roused, and till, by the effusion
of the Spirit of grace and supplication, all things in the church are found to
One word more, and I have done : let those who take the lead in our prayer meetings study those qualities which are fitted to make them attractive and edify ing. Let them study propriety, fervour, adaptation, and brevity. I think that
tedious and dull prayers tend much to discourage some valuable persong froin attending our prayer-meetings. I do not justify their culpable neglect ; but I do say to the individuals referred to, remove this stumbling-block out of the way of your brethren. May God bless this hint to the good of many!
MR. EDITOR, -As an aged minister permit me, through the medium of your pages, to express the very painful sense which I entertain of the bad taste which is evinced by many of my younger brethren in the present day. I do not charge them with the neglect of vital truth, nor do I believe them to be indifferent to the conversion of souls; but I do fear that they are in danger of cultivating an intricate and ornamental style of composition, too far removed from the associations of ordi.. nary minds.
Now I would venture to suggest to my beloved young friends, that such a course is not more inconsistent with the solemn demands of conscience, than it is with the dictates of sound taste, and the most approved models of pulpit eloquence. If my younger brethren will allow me to speak freely, I will make bold to tell them, that the labor verborum is too generally dissociated from genuine vigour of thought; and that the inost intricate preachers are, in general, the most uninteresting. It is quite common for a spruce young divine to hide the poverty of his thoughts in a heap of cramp words and involved sentences. A more excellent way would be to search for valuable
thoughts, and to allow them to fall into their own natural forms. I must say that the pious clergy of the Church of England are justly famed for the simplicity of their pulpit compositions; and that, if the young men who are leaving our Dissenting Academies do not imitate them in this particular, there is the utmost danger of the poor and unlettered being driven from our sanctuaries. It is a sad mistake for any minister to imagine that he will increase his acceptance or usefulness by a style elevated above the conceptions of the ordinary run of his hearers. It is absurd and wicked to preach to the few, when, by addressing ourselves to the many, we may preach to all. Conceit is one of the most unhappy qualities that can be chargeable upon a minister of the cross. I beseech my dear young friends to study simplicity of style and riches of thought. This will screen them from many painful censures, will augment the sphere of their usefulness, and will confer on them every desirable measure of popularity. I have laid these hints before them as the result of having heard many distressing remarks on the subject to which they refer.
HINTS IN REFERENCE TO THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND ;
OR, A CAVEAT AGAINST BIGOTRY.
SIR-I have been much concerned of late to perceive, among some highly respectable Protestant Dissenters, a growing spirit of opposition to the Church of England. In periodicals, tracts, and sermons, I think I have more than once marked this hostility; and I must say I anticipate but little benefit to the interests of evangelical truth from the prevalence
of such a habit, and still less to the cause of separation from the National Church. It may be pleaded, indeed, that some of the clergy are constantly employed in hurling their anathemas against the nonconformists, and that others are endeavouring to undermine their plans of usefulness; but allow me to say, that the example of such bigots ought not to be