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FOR THE YEAR 1804.
THE LATE MR. JOHN WATSON,
OF KIDDERMINSTER, WORCESTERSHIRE.
BIOGRAPHY is a species of writing which unites the useful with the pleasing, perhaps, more than any other ; but that it may completely answer its design, it should take an extensive range, and comprehend many characters in a private as well as in a public station. When Memoirs are given of faithful and zealous ministers, some readers may be apt to say, “ These men, it is true, were eminent; but the nature of their profession accounts for it: they felt a stimulus to the cultivation of superior excellence, both intellectual and moral, which ordinary Christians cannot be expected to feel. The circumstances in which we are placed are so different, and so little adapted to promote high attainments in religion, that it is no wonder if we do not even aspire after them." But when distinguished piety in a privaté character is exhibited to public view, it is not subject to these remarks; and may, therefore, be presumed, while it attracts the notice, to excite the emulation of those whom Divine Providence hath destined to occupy the private walks of life. Few persons, in a similar situation, have been more useful or respected than the subject of the following Memoir.
Mr. John Watson was born at Bromsgrove, in Worcestershire, June 23, 1725. His parents were conspicuous for prudence and piety; and were zealously attached to the distinguishing doctrines of the gospel of Christ. Mrs. Watson was à sister of the celebrated Mr. Joseph Williams, who, though a tradesman, aimed, by pious conversation and letters, with singular diligence and success, at the conversion of precious souls; and whose Diary is so generally read and adıired by XII.
serious Christians. Through the blessing of God on the instructions, example, and prayers of his parents, Mr. Watson was early brought to a deep solicitude respecting the concerns of his soul.
About the age of fifteen he was placed as an apprentice with his good uncle Mr. Williams : Divine Providence thus introducing him into a situation eminently favourable to his fature mental and spiritual improrement. Christian parents, in placing out their children, do well to consider piety as the first recommendation of the families into which they determine to send them. During the early period of life the charaetei is usually formed. We have known some young persons, from graceless families, who, under God, owe their conversion to their introduction into families of another description ; and the children of professors, when onhappily settled in houses where God is not regarded, have, in many instances, been led, by ill example, to sacrifice their educational principles, to cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God.
The time of Mr. Watson's apprenticeship was spent much to his own credit and the satisfaction of Mr.Williams. At the expiration of it, he inade a public profession of his faith in Christ, and subjection to him, by joining in communion with the Independent charch in Kidderminster, then under the care of the Rev. Mr. Fawceit. Of this church he was a Men. ber fifty-seven years, and a Deacon nearly fifty.
After the years of servitude, Mr. Watson continued in con. nexion with his uncle; and was adınitted by him to a share in his business, as a stuff-manufacturer. In this line he travelled, many years, through the principal towns in the king. dom, particularly in the northern and western parts.
To many young men, travelling has proved a fatal snare : they have been taught, by gay companions, to think lighuy of the Sabbath, to profane the name of God, and to form other habits of the most injurious tendency; but Mr. Watson's principles were so firmly rooted, that he was enabled to withstand the temptations which presepted themselves. He has somne times mentioned to his friends, instances of persons, whom he had met with in company, who seemed determined, by insisting upon toasts without number, to plunge all their coinpanions into the vice of intoxication ; but, by an unshaken resolution, he bas preserved his own innocence, and disappointed the tempter.“ If men who profess religion,” said he, “ would act firmly, agreeably to their principles, they who triumph over the timorous and yielding would be confounded."
Travelling, while it exposes to temptations, affords, at the same time, many advantages for improvement; and these Mr. Watson was careful to attain. By this means, he acquired an extensive acqnaintance with inen and things; and was furnished with that variety of pleasing and instructive anecdotes, by the recital of which his companions and friends were entertained and edified.
It has been the lot of some good men to be unequally yoked ; but it was Mr. Watson's felicity to meet with a partner in life whose understanding and piety were of a superior kind. She was the daughter of a Mr.Wilkinson, of Kendal, in Westmoreland. Her mother died while she was young; and her father lamenting to Mr. Williams that his daughter, an only child, had not an evangelical ministry to attend upon, she was invited by the latter to reside in his family, which then consisted of himself, his three daughters, and his nephew, the subject of this Meinoir. Thus a way was opened in Providence for the uvion, which was afterwards to take place, between Mr. Watson and herself. .
This pious lady, who had had a very numerous family, and acquitted herself greatly to the honolir of her Christian profession, in every relation in life, died December 10, 1799. Her conversation was remarkably sensible and serious; her letters to her friends, replete with sentiments of piety, exhibit, at the same time, great elegance of diction ; and her Diary, if the delicacy of her friends would permit its pablication, would prove an acceptable present to the religious public.
But to return to Mr. Watson: - Kidderminster, in his early days, contained a number of excellent young persons, who have since acted an honourable part, as heads of families and members of gospel churches; and have been the means of transmitting a serious regard of divine things to many of their descendants. Mr. Watson took peculiar pleasure, as he advanced in life, in conversing with those who had been the companions of his youth ; and has often observed, " That it is wise in parents to encourage their children to associate with persons of their own age and standing, if they are well disposed, as it may be a mean of preserving them from other connexions which migbt prove injurious. Society, in the eyes of youth, has a peculiar charm; and in nothing is parental prudence more suitably exercised than in selecting, for their companions, such persons as, while they please, are not likely to ensnare them.”
For inany years Mr. Watson enjoyed an almost uninterrupted tide of prosperity. He was happy in his partner in life, and in their numerous offspring; his trade flourished ; and every thing smiled around him: his reputation for wisdon and piety, and the high respectability of his tainily, rendered his house the resort of persons of worth from all parts, who visited the town. In fact, his gravity, blended with cheerfulpess, bis well known good sense, — and the dignity of big
Christian character, rendered him the delight of all his ac. quaintance,
“ But though a man live many days, and see good, yet let him remember the days of darkness, for they shall be many.” “ Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth ; and scourgeth every son whom be receiveth.” – Having then viewed this good inan when (to use the words of Job) " the Almighty was yet with him; when his children were about him ; when he washed his steps with butter, and the rock poured out rivers of oil,” — we will now descend with him into the Valley of Adversity, and see how he conducted himself in the gloomy night of affliction. The first peculiarly severe trial which he seems to have met with, was the death of his eldest daughter, a young lady, who, to the charms peculiar to her sex, united a vigour of understanding and elevation of piety which few possess. She was on the point of marriage, amidst prospects of the most flattering kind; but God, whose ways are a great deep, called her to her heavenly home just before she was to have left her father's house, “What we know not now, we shall know hereafter !"
Some years after, Mr. Watson lost, in a decline, a son: a young man, whose amiable temper, pleasing manners, talents, and piety, charmed an extensive circle of connexions. These events were followed in quick succession by others no less trying : two daughters more being removed by death (the one married, the other single) who discovered the same excellent spirit with their previously departed sister. All these chil. dren gave pleasing evidences of being prepared by divine graçe for the mansions of glory; which, while it opened to tender and pious parents the richest source of consolation, at the same time rendered the loss of them more severe.
But there were trials of a different nature which this valuable man was called to endure. In the earlier part of life, his success in trade had been flowing like the tide; but, from a variety of circumstances, such as losses in business, and the failure of persons to whom he had lent considerable sums of money, - his property, which at one period was large, was considerably diminished. Amidst this reverse of circumstances, and under other trials of a more painful nature, still his natural fortitude and Christian resignation never forsook him. He had too strong a persuasion of the sovereignty of God as Lord of the Universe, and of his faithfulness to his people, not to believe that all these events in providence were right in themselves, and intended for his benefit.
Let us now accompany this servant of Christ in the last stage of his eartbly existence. Mr. Watson has often menrioned an observation of the Rev. G. Whitefield to Mr. Wile liams : -" That frequently he, who had glorified God by