« PredošláPokračovať »
knowledge of experimental religion; indeed, one of the ministers to whose preaching they listened was reputed to be an Arian—the other, a Socinian; and their sermons were generally nothing but "elegantly written moral essays." His childhood was marked by several narrow escapes from death, of which he afterwards wrote accounts in a memorandum book, significantly entitled “Providential Memorials.” We quote one or two of these :
“When about ten years of age, I narrowly escaped drowning on two occasions :-once in the river Irwell, and once in the Duke of Bridgewater's Canal. One of these times I was in imminent danger. I had one day bathed in the Irwell, which runs through Manchester, when the river was quite low. A few days after, I went again when the river was much higher; and without considering its increased depth, leaped in at the same place. It was too deep for me; and as I could not then swim, I must certainly have been drowned, had not some young men who were by the river-side, come in and brought
• Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits ! How great was the care which God at this time exercised over me! Had I been drowned, I should certainly have perished forever; for I was then sinning against much light, young as I was.”--Pp. 4, 5.
The record of the following case was made not long before his death:
“At the bottom of Byrom-street, near the Old Quay, Manchester, was a gentleman's house, having in front two flights of steps : at the bottom of one of these flights was an iron gate with sharp spikes at the top. One of my favourite amusements was to run up the steps on one side, and down the other, not considering the annoyance to the inmates of the house. On one of these occasions, being pursued by the master of the house, who was justly displeased with the intrusion, and finding the iron gate at the bottom locked, I attempted to leap over it; but the gate being high, my toes caught the sharp-pointed irons, and I fell head foremost. I was stunned with the fall, and a deep wound was made in my forehead, the marks of which remain to this day, though it must have been sixty-four years ago. I might have been killed on the spot. The same gate remained in August last, (1841.) Whenever, on my visits to Manchester, I pass that gate, I lift up my heart in gratitude to my gracious Preserver."-P. 5.
In 1781 he went into a large manufactory, the owner of which was a Methodist. His subsequent course of life was settled by this apparent accident. Out of respect to his master, he attended the Methodist preaching; and he was soon, in the fourteenth year of his age, converted. At sixteen he commenced preaching. His modesty and timidity were such that he scarcely ever opened his eyes during the sermon; and, indeed, for some time after, he usually preached with his eyes shut. His gifts and graces were clearly manifest to the Church; and, young as he was, his name was soon placed on the circuit plan. The “boy-preacher," was quite
a phenomenon, and many, led by curiosity to hear him, carried away deep and abiding impressions.
“One instance of this may interest the reader, and may afford relief to some who are subject to discouragement because they do not see that immediate fruit of their labours which they desire. During one of Mr. Entwisle's late visits to his native town, an elderly man whom he did not remember to have seen before, grasped his hand with much warmth of affection, and accosted him as his spiritual father. He found, upon inquiry, that the old man had been a member of society above fifty years: that when living in utter ignorance of God and of the plan of salvation, he heard that a boy was to preach in the Methodist preaching-house at Booth-Bank. Curiosity induced him to go and hear him, and under the boy preacher, as my father was then frequently called, it pleased the Lord to awaken him to a sense of his guilt and danger. He turned to God from that very hour. But the knowledge of the pleasing fact wasdoubtless for sufficient reasons--withheld from my father for above fifty years. · Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days.”—P.16.
For three years he continued to serve as a local preacher; and his diary affords abundant evidence that, during this period, his piety was daily becoming more and more mature. His name and character soon became known to Mr. Wesley, who called him into the itinerant work in 1784. The process of introduction into the itinerancy at that time was a very simple one. The “assistant” saw, perhaps, that a young man in his circuit had special qualifications; he recommended him to Mr. Wesley, and Mr. Wesley appointed him to a circuit, if he thought it best. So young Entwisle found himself appointed to Northampton circuit, before he knew that his name was before the conference. But his engagements to his employers (Messrs. Wood & Co.) held him a few years longer; and it was not until 1787 that he finally went out. The facts were characteristic of the times and the men :
66 The conference was at that very time holding its annual sittings in Manchester; and some of the preachers being entertained at Mr. Wood's house, informed Mr. Wesley of his willingness to release Mr. Entwisle at once from all further obligations. Mr. Wesley immediately appointed him to the Oxfordshire circuit. The first announcement of this important event was made to him in the street. Happening to meet Mr. Wesley and Mr. W. Thompson not far from Oldbam-street chapel, the latter informed him that he was appointed to the Oxfordshire circuit. Still shrinking from a work, of the importance of which he had more affecting views than ever, he hesitated a little, when Mr. Wesley, laying his hand upon my father's shoulder, and fixing upon him his piercing eye, said, with his characteristic brevity, and in a tone of authority, “ Joseph, you must go." He went in the name of the Lord, deeply sensible of his own insufficiency, and humbly depending upon Divine aid. He often reflected with satisfaction on the energetic manner and piercing look with which “ you must go" was uttered by the venerable founder of the Methodist Society; and a recollection of the high human authority by which he was called to the ministry, combined with a persuasion of a Divine call, often afforded him comfort in after life in seasons of trial and discourage ment.”—Pp. 27, 28.
His first appointment was the Oxfordshire circuit, which at that time included the greater part of four counties. As a specimen of the "comforts” provided for the preachers at that time, we are told that even in Oxford itself, the head of the circuit, the two single preachers lodged in the house of a journeyman shoemaker, in a garret, for which the society paid sixpence a week! The furniture consisted of a bed, chair, and table; and the bed was so short, that it had to be lengthened out by a box placed at the foot. But privations were trifles to the ardent zeal of Mr. Wesley's early preachers: Mr. Entwisle, especially, never suffered his personal happiness to lie at the mercy of circumstances. He soon formed habits of study, living, &c., suited to his position, and adhered to them pertinaciously. One of his rules, and its happy fruit, is stated in a letter to his son in 1835:-"I would advise you to act on your father's principle; namely, “Make as few things as possible necessary to your comfort.' In forty-six years I have been governed by this maxim, and it has been better to me than £10,000 per annum. He was in the habit also of redeeming all the time possible for study, choosing his books, and his course of study in general, with strict regard to the great end of his ministry. At an early period he was urged by a friend to take up the study of the dead languages, but he replied that he could not, without a teacher, find time for the study without trenching on more important pursuits. At a somewhat later date, however, he commenced the study of the Latin. The feeling with which he entered upon the pursuit appears from a letter to Mr. Reece, dated April 4, 1789 .
“ I have begun to learn the Latin tongue. Providence seemed to point out my way to it. A friend advised me to study it, made me a present of some books, and offered me all the help I need. Several others who understand the language have since made the same kind offer. I have gone through the declensions of nouns, and trust, through God's blessing, I shall in a few months be able to construe the Latin Testament. Yet I enter upon this work with fear and trembling. Many, when they have got a smattering of the languages, have immediately thought themselves wise and learned,' and have despised their brethren. O may I ever be little in my own eyes!"--Pp. 53, 54.
He afterwards took up Greek, and, in less than a twelvemonth, was able to translate any part of the Greek Testament. For many years he kept up a laborious course of study in spite of all the hindrances and difficulties of the itinerant life. His deep sense of the need of personal religion to the success of the minister, may be inferred from such paragraphs as the following, which abound in his diary and letters, even in the earliest years of his ministry:
“I have been deeply convinced for some time that I shall be of little use as a preacher, unless the people see the doctrines which they hear. Unless in my tempers and behaviour they see that humility, zeal, &c., which I recommend in the pulpit. I want to be distinguished from others, not merely by a black coat, but by superior wisdom and prudence, humility, meekness, &c. I want to enjoy constant fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. I would have my conversation with the people to be holy, spiritual, heavenly, and Divine, meet to minister grace unto the hearers. When this is the case with a preacher, he bears his great commission in his look.' Into whatsoever family he comes, he brings a blessing with him; and when he goes away, he leaves a blessing behind him. I want so to act and speak to the people, that when I leave them, I may be able to say, ' Ye yourselves are witnesses and God also, how holily, and justly, and unblamably we have behaved ourselves among you that believe.""P. 64.
So again, under date of 1790 :
“I am very defective as a minister. 1. I have not sufficiently felt the weight and importance of my great work. O! how often has my heart been cold and dead in speaking of the most serious and important things! 2. I have not been so diligent as I should have been in improving my time in reading, study, and prayer. Much precious time has been spent to very
little purpose. 3. Instead of studying, making observations on, and improving by, the various tempers, defects, virtues, &c.,
of men, I have suffered my thoughts to rove I know not where. How many precious hours have I lost by this folly! 4. But that which lies heaviest upon my conscience, is a conviction that I have not been so spiritual and profitable in my conversation in the families where I have been cast, as I ought to be. One thing I must write,-0 may it be written as with a pen of diamond upon my heart !While I was preaching this evening, I cast my eyes upon a person who has received the preachers into his house at his own expense for many years. I have gone frequently for nearly two years, and have received many tokens of his kindness. While I looked at him, I felt an uncommon love to him. It struck my mind, 'What have I done to promote his spiritual welfare? Why does he receive the ministers of Christ into his house ? Is it not because he expects to receive some spiritual profit by their ministry and conversation ? O how unkind, how ungrateful have I been to him! what little pains have I taken to profit him and his family in spiritual things ! I see I have great cause to lament and bewail my unfaithfulness and unfruitfulness both as a Christian and as a preacher. I desire to feel all my vileness, to abhor myself and repent before the Lord as in dust and ashes; and for the future, to be entirely consecrated to his service and the good of souls.”—Pp. 65, 66.
In the year 1792, Mr. Entwisle married Miss Mary Pawson, who was, for many long years, as he himself expressed it, "a true yokefellow” for him. His first appointment thereafter was to the Leeds circuit, and during the period of his stay there, not less than twelve hundred members were added to the society. Though still a young man, both his intellect and his heart had reached a rare maturity. An illustration of the broad and comprehensive views which he took of the work in which he was engaged, is furnished in the following extract of a letter dated Jan. 2, 1794, to a young candidate for the ministry in the Established Church, who had written to him for advice :
“ I view the office of a minister of Christ, as the most honourable that either man or angel can sustain. To be employed as an ambassador for God; to be instrumental in the salvation of immortal spirits ; to bring sinners to glory: in comparison of this, the glory of the greatest monarchs on their thrones, is less than nothing. These are the views we shall have a thousand ages hence.
“You are now a candidate for this high and important office; important to yourself
, and important, perhaps, to thousands. It appears to me, that your acceptableness before God, who searcheth the heart, and your usefulness among men, are nearly connected with the following particulars:namely, proper motives, right ends, and suitable qualifications. It is possible for men to undertake the best works from the basest motives. But this, I most sincerely believe, is far from being your case. Our reformers were deeply sensible of the necessity of good motives in candidates for the ministry, when they inserted the following awful query in the office of ordination :-Doyou trust you are inwardly moved of the Holy Ghost ?' &c. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of love; and, I think, a man may truly say, he is moved of the Holy Ghost, when the love of Christ and of souls powerfuly yet sweetly constrains him to call sinners to repentance. No motive inferior to this will be sufficiently strong. A man who desires and endeavours faithfully to discharge all the duties of his sacred office, will meet with much opposition from the men of the world, who will endeavour, sometimes by violent measures to drive, and at other times by carnal friendship to draw him from his duty. He may also expect Satan to use all his serpentine cunning, and all his power, to withstand him. Satan stood at the right hand of Joshua, the high-priest, to resist him. And the remaining corruptions of the heart, yea, and even the senses and appetites of the body, will frequently impede him in his course, without great watchfulness and much prayer. Let Divine love govern and actuate the soul, and it will answer the end of a thousand rules, and a thousand arguments ; it will show a man his duty, and compel him to perform it. See 2 Cor. v, 14, 15. O how often have I lost opportunities of usefulness for want of a greater degree of Divine love!
« The qualifications necessary for the ministry should be attended to. Languages, mathematics, &c., are by many judged sufficient. A critical knowledge of languages is, indeed, sufficient to qualify a man to teach the languages; an accurate knowledge of mathematics may qualify one to teach that department of science; and these, with other arts and sciences, may be ornamental and useful to a preacher, if kept in their proper place. But it appears to me, that the most essential qualifications are as follows :-1. A deep acquaintance with one's own heart, and the various workings of corrupt nature, &c. 2. A clear, distinct and experimental knowledge of the plan of salvation, through faith in Christ. 3. Extensive views of the glories of the Redeemer, in his person and offices, and of his suitableness to the state and wants of lost sinners. 4. Just and Scriptural ideas of the progress of gracious souls in the Divine life, from little children to young men and fathers; by which means we know how to give every man his portion. 5. An acquaintance with the devices of Satan. 6. A general knowledge of the world and human nature. You and I may expand our thoughts on these subjects, at our leisure. I assure you, while I am writing, I have such a sense of the awfulness of the work I have undertaken, as would sink my spirits, were it not for the promise of Divine help.
Supposing a sound conversion has taken place in the heart, which I trust is the case with you and me, we may, under the Divine blessing, acquire the necessary qualifications for the great work, by using such means as these : 1. Close application to the study of the Holy Scriptures. 2. Reading good commentaries, and treatises on divinity, with great attention and strict exami