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For NOVEMBER, 1802.
MEMOIR OF THE REV. THOMAS BURTON:
. [Concluded from our last.] ÎN June 1800, Mr. Burton completed his academical
course; and on the day of public examination, with which the session closed, the deep seriousness, gravity, and pathos with which he delivered an oration, “On the Divine Institution, the Importance and Excellency of the Christian Ministry,” made a strong and visible impression on the audience. The reason is plain ; the subject had greatly affected his own mind. Indeed, very soon after he had ena tered on preparatory studies, when contemplating the ministerial work, he had a very convincing sense of its great importance; and this impression, instead of being dimia nished, continued to increase to the last.
Before he complied with the solicitation of the church at Holmfirth, and indeed soon after he began to preach, the more serious congregations discovered a strong attachment to him. In the vacation of 1799, he went as a supply to the congregational church lately formed at Aberdeen, and to make exchanges with neighbouring ministers (the late Mr. Garie and others) in favour of that rising interest; and, to the serious part of professors especially, his labours were acceptable and refreshing. On this tour, and the visits he paid to the several parts of Scotland where he was called to labour, he has inserted in his diary some interesting and edifying reinarhs; but our limits will not admit of their insertion. Soon after his return from Scotland, he had an affectionate and repeated call to a destitute church at Kendal, in Westmoreland; but with this he could not see it his duty to comply. On this he remarks,“ During my stay at Kendal, the congregation increased considerably. I think there is a door of usefulness opening for some one there; but I believe it is not for me *: - there are essential defects in
• Soon after he sent them his final answer, his fellow-student of the same class, Mr.James Kay, had an invitation, which he accepted; and is accordingly settled there, with encouraging prospects of use. fulness. VOL. X
my qualifications for such a place. I could wish, if ever 1 engage in the ministerial work, to labour among a few ignorant people. However, the matter is in the hand of God, who will do all things well.”— About the same time, in consequence of a pitiable representation of the religious state of Ireland, and a pressing call from some there who have the cause of Zion much at heart, directed to his tutor, Mr. B.'s missionary zeal was rekindled. Concerning this affair, when writing to his parents, he says. “ The solicitations from Ireland are very pressing, and the Doctor still wishes me to go thither. My own inclination leads me to that, or the missionary work; but I am conscious that inclination is not the most proper rule of conduct; yet, if you should approve of the plan, and Providence favour it, I think Ireland will probably be the place of my engagement: but precipitation in an affair of such importance, would be unjustifiable to the last degree. Pray for me, that I may be directed and constantly assisted by Him who has all the treasures of wisdoin and knowledge, and who has said, “ My grace is sufficient for thee.”
The plain and affectionate importunity of the church and congregation at Holmfirth, however, prevailed with Mr. B. to relinquish every other object in their favour: He accordingly went there (June 28th) where he was welcomed by the people, and especially by Mr. Galland, with apostolical simplicity, in these words : “ Thou hast well done that thou art coine:” and he opened his commission there as a stated minister, June 30, 1800, by preaching from Eph. vi. 19. “ And for me, that utterance may be given unto ine, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel." * The same principle which made himn conscientiously diligent at his studies, inade him equally solicitous to discharge aright the work of the ministry. In a letter addressed about this time to a brother, he observes, “ You will perceive, from what I have written, that my frame of mind and engagements are in some measure altered. When I have called at Bramley on preceding occasions, my concern has been to get to Rotherham ; but now a more important engagement calls for me. “ They watch for yo' r souls as those that must give account.” “ Necessity is laid upon me, and woe unto me if I preach not the gospel." Better a mill-stone had been tied about my neck, and I cast into the depths of the sea, on the
day of my birth, than that this should be the case. But I krow him who hath said, “My grace is sufficient for thee."
The temper and habit of a mind may often be discovered by little things. “ Sitting by my desk this morning," says Mr. Burton, “ I saw a bee alight on the cherry-tree, at the window ; which, labouring on the leaves, taught me an useful lesson, viz. “ To labour for the welfare of my people, and endeavour to extract something for them from every thing with which I am conversant. But alas !” adds he,
it is one thing to learn an useful lesson, another to act correspondently." - This lesson, however, he reduced to practice, in a happy degree, during the short period of his labours. He studied closely, and taught not only in public, but also from house to house.-July 29th, “ Towards night, visited some of my hearers. Two poor women of my flock talked very experimentally and affectionately:-to be with such does me good. On the whole, since I came to Holmfirth, my religious concern has been much increased; I experience a greater flow of religious affections than formerly; in conversing on experimental subjects I am more in my element.”
As this Memoir stands closely connected with that of Mr. Galland, the following extract from Mr. Burton's diary may not appear unsuitable :- July 31. “ Had some conversation with Mr. Galland at and after dinner; he talked with much affection, and could scarcely refrain from tears. He observed, that the dealings of God towards all, especially himself, were perfectly right; that he had a steady composure of mind, had enjoyed pleasing prospects of heavenly glory ; that there was “ such" a fulness" in it, that people injured themselves by secking a warrant to believe in themselves; but, for his part, his warrant was the grant of God in the Gospel. His experience proves that, even to old age,“ the Lord is He.” May I trust in his God, and fill up his place with that respectability which has marked his steps !" Mr. Burton had a strong impression of the value of time, and laboured assiduously to im-. prove it. The following extract may serve as a specimen :« Aug. 8. I spent the greatest part of the day in sermonizing upon 2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16. Towards night, went to see a family, with whom I expected to have some religious conversation; but was considerably disappointed and distressed. A moment of a minister's time ought not to be lost, for he has none to spare. O! for ability to improve it all as I ought!” Again, Aug. 11, “O! that I may never
be guilty of murdering my time, and be a curse to my hearers by worldly conversation ! A minister has no time to spare.”
Though the people's invitation to Mr. Burton was una commonly unanimous, and he experienced, in general, a decided and strong attachment from them, yet, like most other ministers, he was not quite free from pain, on account of some disaffected persons; for thus he writes :-“ Sept. 30. l find that some of my dear people (for dear these are to me) are disaffected towards me. O! that I may be enabled to exemplify the humble Christian ! yet the fortitude of one who is conscious of having truth on his side, and the cause of God at heart, in all my conduct towards them! O! the excellencies, the incomparable excellencies of the Christian Spirit, enjoined Rom. xii. 17-21. and Tim. ii. 24-26.” Again,“ Oct. 15. I was considerably depressed with hearing some reflections on my conduct, and seeing a spirit of critical observance. I have endeavoured to lay it before God; but have not experienced that reliet of mind which is desirable. ( for preservation from a retaliating and angry spirit! How excellent the spirit and conduct of the Gospel, and the mind that was in Christ! - Oct. 18. To-night I have been favoured with a thirst after God, and enabled to taste his love, which is better than life. On some preceding days, and the preceding part of this day, I have been injured by a retaliating spirit towards some of my hearers, because they appear rather disaffected to me; but now, I think, it is gone; my heart pities them, and prays for them. May I have grace to conduct myself inoffensively, and in a truly Christian manner towards them ! If God be with ine in the visits of his love, I can do it; I feel I can.
u Love divine; how sweet thou art !
All taken up with thee?" If I have a sense of this love 10-inorrow, how pleasant will duties be! yet this is but little; sụccess is a far greater object than comfort. Lord, pour out thy Spirit on me and my flock!"-These passages are transcribed, in order to shew by what spirit this amiable young man was influenced under unexpected trials, and in which the real temper of the mind is most likely to reveal itself.
The following remark, as it reflects honour on the soundness of his judgment and spiritual' wisdom, deserves to be recorded for the sake of others. Speaking of a congrega
tion at some distance from his own, he observes, " There is a spirit of hearing among them ; but there appears to be very little knowledge of a proper kind. They are carried away with a mere flash in preaching, instead of being pleased with solid sense and true seriousness. An evident preference is given to a few young sparks of ministers before the aged; this is no favourable sign. However, we must not expect good fruit before the time; rather pray for prudence to be given them, which is profitable to direct; and use all lawful means for the maturing of their judgment. May the Lord be with them, with me, and my own dear flock, to give peace and long-continued prosperity !
About the beginning of November the state of Mr. Burton's health appeared somewhat alarming; on which he. writes," For some time of late, I have experienced some degree of bodily indisposition; in consequence of which I went to my apothecary: when in company with him, he told me that one of my symptoms was rather an unpleasant one, and advised me to prepare to meet my God.' Should speedy mortality be the termination of my present indisposition, I hope all will be well; yet to abide in the flesh may be more needful to the church. However, the Lord knows what is best, and he will do all things well. O for an earnest and incessant concern that Christ may be glorified ! To me, “ to live is Christ; to dic is gain.”- Nov.5. Have lately proposed a plan of catechizing on Sabbath evenings; my people appear to enter into it cordially. May the Lord's blessing attend the engagement!”—Thus, to the last, he meditated plans of usefulness among his beloved flock; while his mind was gradually prepared to bow with submission to the appointment of the Eternal Sovereign. “ Nov. 6. Read some accounts in the Magazine, part of which related to Mr. Cowper, lately deceased. What a surprizing and mysterious path he trod! Well may it be said, “ God moves in a mysterious way,” &c. yet happy are the favourites of Heaven, though they walk in darkness, &c. Then let me trust him where I cannot trace him; he will do all things well."
A little before his death, Mr. Burton finished a volume of his diary; on which he remarks: -“ Alas! with what black pages of sin is it disgraced! The blood of the cross ismy only defence. If I be found with this sprinkled on me, I shall stand accepted of God, notwithstanding all myblack rebellion, and innumerable imperfections of heart Vol. X.