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And now printed for the first time from the Verbatim Notes of one of his Hearers.
JUN !$ 79
The following brief sketch of Mr. JAY's career, which appeared in the Congregational Year Book for 1855, will be new and interesting to many of the present generation of preachers :
JAY, WILLIAM, Bath, was a native of Tisbury, Wiltshire. He was born May 8th, 1769. His father was a stone-cutter and mason, and intended his son to follow his steps, but God had otherwise designed. The lad was thoughtful, a lover of rural scenes, and industrious in his calling. He had few religious or educational advantages. A room was opened for preaching in his native village ; he was one of the first attendants, with his white jacket and his tucked-up leather apron. Cornelius Winter preached there one Sabbath, and was struck with the appearance of a shrewd, intelligentlooking mason's boy among the little flock. At his next visit he inquired for “Billy Jay,” and found him to be the lad he had formerly noticed. He proposed taking him to Marlborough for education, and to prepare him for the ministry. His consent was obtained, and the youthful mason soon became a popular preacher. The two names of Cornelius Winter and William Jay will ever be associated in the memory of the Church. Each was indebted to the other for his fame; without Winter's influence Jay would have been an obscure village mason; and without Jay the incomparable memoirs of Cornelius Winter would never have been written, and Winter's name would have been unknown beyond the limits of the narrow circle in which he moved.
The “boy preacher" was soon sought for in every direction. He settled for a year at Christian Malford, and then at the Hot Wells, Clifton, but was soon called to Bath, where he spent sixty-three years of his precious life in preaching the Gospel to successive generations of hearers, and to numbers of the noble and titled, who attended his chapel for the same reason that they went to see the other “lions” of the city. Numbers of these were, by the blessing of God, rescued from the illusions of folly and sin, and became decided followers of the Redeemer. Here, too, he penned his valuable and instructive writings, collected by himself in twelve volumes ; to which have been added one or two posthumous works. When living, he was one of the most useful of God's servants; and, now dead, he yet speaketh.
He was, while in his teens, introduced to Surrey Chapel as a supply, and attracted thousands to that noble sanctuary. He preached there, annually, through a long succession of years. His visits to London, and his position at Bath-the seat and centre of fashion during the earlier part of the present century-introduced him to many distinguished characters, and with many of whom he formed friendships which lasted through life. The names of Wilberforce and Hannah More, of John Newton and John Ryland, of Rowland Hill and Richard Cecil, of Robert Hall and John Foster, were embalmed in his memory, and are memorialised by him in his “Autobiography and Reminiscences,” just published, and from whence this notice is drawn.
His sun set in glory. He preached almost to the last ; his popularity never waned, either in his own sphere or beyond it. He went down to the grave, prepared to rise amid the unclouded splendours of eternity. His character,
his fame, his works, are so well known, and the notices, memoirs, funeral sermons, are so numerous—and, above all, his “ Autobiography and Reminiscences” are so completethat little further need be said, either for information or commendation.
His life is a study and a lesson for all who aspire to the ministry. His “Autobiography” is a reproduction of the sentiments, opinions, and advices he constantly repeated to such of his ministerial brethren as had the privilege of his acquaintance. His character was most estimable and lovely. Years neither made him sour nor garrulous. Though a patriarch among his brethren, he was kind, considerate, and encouraging. He sought to learn even from the youngest, as he was ever ready to instruct.
But death will come. “He died !” His sufferings were great at intervals, but patience did “her perfect work." He exclaimed, “The language of the publican did, does, and ever will befit me; and even down to my death must be my cry, God be merciful to me a sinner!' I do not murmur-allow me to groan; it seems to ease my pain. Objects most dear and attractive now fail to interest. O for a grateful heart ! I have made some little stir in life ; but now I am nothing. God seems to be saying, 'I can do without you.' ”
His last distinct utterance was “Oh! none of you know what it is to die !" He sank gradually into death, and ascended to life on the morning of Tuesday, December 27, 1853, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, having been a preacher of the word during the long period of sixty-seven years. He' rests from his labours, and “his works do follow him."