Page images
PDF
EPUB

FOR JUNE, 1840.

BIOGRAPHY.

222,"iso born at Bees dificult to be ab

MEMOIR OF THE REV. JOSEPH JENNINGS:

BY THE REV. JOHN FARRAR. The compiler of this memoir is indebted to the correspondence of Mr. Jennings, as well as to a journal of his religious experience, for the various particulars which are subjoined. It may be necessary to remark, that the journal was not commenced till about the time when he entered upon his public ministry ; that, being designed for his personal benefit merely, it is written with great brevity, and partly in short-hand, which has rendered it difficult to be deciphered.

Mr. Jennings was born at Beestonley-lane, near Halifax, in Yorkshire, May 22d, 1803. His parents were not decidedly pious; but yet, so important in their estimation did a strict attention to morality appear, that any outbreakings of vice were sure to incur their displeasure, and secure severe chastisement. In boyhood, he was frequently visited with solemn thoughts about death and eternity, and with fears that God would send him to hell for his wickedness; and such were the gracious restraints under which he was placed by these visitations, that when he saw sin in others, his surprise and displeasure were excited. At the age of eight or nine years he was prompted by the good Spirit of God to commence the duty of prayer, and began to take delight in the society of the people of God, and in a regular attendance where the Gospel was preached.

Before he was fully able to appreciate the loss, he was deprived by death of both his parents, and cast an orphan on the wide world. The Lord took him up, by putting it into the heart of a kind and affectionate aunt to become his guardian, who manifested the deepest interest both in his temporal and spiritual welfare. He was soon sent to school to Meanwood-hall, where he lost those gracious impressions of which he had been previously a subject; prayer was given up, and there was a ready indulgence in various sinful courses.

Some time after this he began to encounter the world. He was bound apprentice to a clothier at Gomersal. His master, being a member of the Methodist society, brought him under the ministry of the word. He soon found that he could not listen to the plain, pointed, heart-searching preaching of the Methodist Ministers in the quiet retention of his sins. The word, quick and powerful, alarmed his fears, and aroused conscience; the Spirit of God strove powerfully Vol. XIX. Third Series. JUNE, 1840.

2 K

ne period of his much the business which he wants

with him, and there was some disposition to yield to his expostulations. He sat down to count the cost; heaven spread before him all its attractions; he felt the claims of God to his heart to be undeniable; those claims were enforced with an urgency which seemed all but irresistible ; but, alas! the inquiry was made, “What will the world think of me?" and, for fear of being called a Methodist, and becoming an object at which scorn might point, he denied the rising interest which religion had in his heart, and endeavoured to stifle his convictions. His residence at Gomersal was abruptly terminated by the bankruptcy of his master, when he was compelled to return to the care of his guardians. After considerable delay, another situation was found for him at Pontefract; he was sent there to a woollen-draper; but he confessed that he spent six weeks in such misery, that life was scarcely endurable. He returned home, and was then placed in a situation in Cheshire ; but, either through dissipation of mind, or a want of adaptation to his taste in the business which he was required to learn, the period of his youth was misemployed, and his time so wasted, that he became very imperfectly acquainted with trade, for which he certainly had no very strong predilections.

The most deep and abiding conviction of sin to which his journal adverts, prior to that which resulted in his obtaining the blessing of peace with God, was produced through the instrumentality of a dream. He seemed, during sleep, to have a premonition of his early removal from the world. The scene present to his mind in the dream was the affliction of a relative. His anxiety led him to ask the Physician's opinion, who, instead of replying to his inquiry, turned round, and, with a searching look, said, “ You will not live long." In consequence of this, the thought of dying for several months affected him greatly; and while it rendered him thoughtful and serious, preserved him from the commission of presumptuous sins.

Mr. Jennings had now arrived at that period of life, when it became necessary for him to employ his talents to obtain a livelihood. The providence of God directed him to Bradford, in Yorkshire, whither he went to commence the worsted trade, but where God was designing to teach him the more important lesson, that he was a sinner deserving of hell, and that if he would escape that doom, it was high time to arouse himself to call upon God. It was during the time that the Rev. David Stoner was exercising his ministry in Bradford that Mr. Jennings became a resident in that town. The career of that holy man was brief; but few in the course of their ministry have been more signally owned of God. His preaching was exciting at the time great attention, and large crowds were attracted to hear him. The reader scarcely needs to be reminded that an excellent memoir of this devoted Minister was some time ago written by Dr. Hannah, in which his character and labours are with great beauty and simplicity portrayed. In that memoir, it is said respecting his labours in Bradford, “ In connexion with his excellent colleagues, he laboured assiduously in every part of his work; witnessed an uncommon manifestation of divine grace ; and, at the close of his term, in addition to other evidences of prosperity, could rejoice over a clear increase to the societies of more than one thousand souls !Mr. Jennings went, amidst the crowds of hearers, to listen to this man of God. His subject was Joshua's address to the Israelites. (Joshua xxiv. 15.) The word was with power; there was no way of escape; his convictions during the service were deep; he left the house of God a sincere penitent, mourning for God; and, being soon taught the way of simple faith in the Saviour, he at once embraced Christ, renouncing all self-righteousness, and clearly received the joyous witness of adoption which God imparts to all his children. As far as the writer has been able to ascertain, he was at this time introduced to Mr. Stoner, who took a deep interest in his spiritual welfare, became his monitor and guide, and favoured him with his advice on all occasions when it was sought. There was then formed a friendship betwixt the two, which was maintained by frequent interviews and by correspondence, up to the time of the lamented death of Mr. Stoner.

Henceforth the mind of Mr. Jennings was fixed. There was ne halting, no hesitancy. He knew whom he had trusted. His heart was given up to God, and his talents sacredly consecrated to the service of his Master. He was soon appointed to the office of a Leader, the responsibilities of which were deeply and painfully felt, and prompted him to seek those baptisms of the Holy Ghost, which should effectually qualify him for this station. The frequent exhortations from the pulpit to seek the entire sanctification of his soul, induced him to apply to his spiritual adviser, and to propose to him a few questions, which may serve to show how his mind was affected towards this important scriptural doctrine. “]. Does entire sanctification cause as great a change in the mind as justification does in the conduct? 2. After the reception of perfect love, is there a constant evenness of mind, or is the soul liable to doubtfulness, oppression, and sorrow? 3. Is not our own will the greatest of all obstacles to the renewing of the soul in righteousness ? 4. Does the enjoyment of entire sanctification enable us to pray, believe, and rejoice every moment, even in the presence of the greatest trials? 5. Does it enable us to seek only the glory of God, and are our wills at all times lost in his will ?" To these inquiries, his spiritual monitor returned judicious and suitable answers, closing his advice by saying, “ Do not set the mark too high. It is nothing but love. It is a very simple thing. Plead for it. Wrestle, agonize for it. Believe for it. Believe just now. If it is to be had by faith, it is to be had just now.” This advice was not thrown away; for, although the religious experience of Mr. Jennings was subject to various fluctuations, he resolved that, by the grace of God, he would persist in seeking till the Lord had cleansed his heart from all unrighteousness.”

His first effort to preach the Gospel was of a very encouraging kind. One individual was led to seek the Lord with all his heart; and another, who had long been halting, immediately joined the Methodist society. Notwithstanding, he became the subject of sore and grievous temptations. An extract from his journal will show the mental distress he endured :“Since my last entry, I have endured trouble of mind I cannot express. I cannot rest content without I persist in saying something in public by way of warning sinners to flee from the wrath to come. My friends tell me they think I am called to preach; and occasionally I conclude it must be so, or they would never urge this subject on me with such earnestness, nor would they employ so many arguments to deter me from neglecting it; but then I conclude, were I called, I should have a direct testimony from God, I should enjoy the blessing of a sound judgment, a clearness of understanding, connected with a general liberty in preaching."

In his perplexity of mind he resorted to prayer, and to his tried friend Mr. Stoner, who gave him, on this subject, very excellent advice. (See Stoner's Memoirs, pp. 46, 180, 3d edit.) Still wishful, if possible, to escape the responsibilities of a Minister of the Gospel, he thought of a settlement in life. He entered into business, and began seriously to think of entering into the marriage state. He says, “ If I get married and settled in life, I shall be for ever free from the idea of being a Travelling Preacher, and the circumstances in which I should be placed with the family would tend to facilitate my temporal and spiritual prosperity." He made an offer of marriage to a young lady, the only daughter of pious parents, but without success; and, in consequence, he felt "his faith much enfeebled, his mind darkened, and his religious comforts much diminished.” Summoning up, however, sufficient courage, and looking for grace to stand in this time of trial, he comes at length to this conclusion: “I must submit myself to the openings of Providence, and follow the track which God, in his infinite mercy, may mark out for me to pursue, under this encouraging consideration, that if I am sent by him, he will be with me to the end of the world.” He adds, subsequently: “Having in some degree given up my will, and surrendered myself to the dispensations of Providence, I have felt, during the last week, a release from those turbulent fears and doubts with which my mind was perplexed. I have felt my mind raised, my faith strengthened, and my happiness augmented. Yesterday I preached at Burkesland, from Psalm xci. 15, to a crowded congregation. I never addressed a more attentive audience, and my soul was drawn out much in the application.” A few days after, he adds, “ This day I have felt my mind greatly irritated and dejected. I feel exercised as to the will of God concerning me. O, what am I, that He should be in the least

pomenula s otce of Godshould be doubt their love story occup his obstinatstance fronpossessing h, and of the "I am

mindful of me, a poor, ignorant, helpless, hard-hearted, ungrateful being? Is it possible for me to enjoy an uninterrupted, open intercourse with Jesus, favoured as I have been with so many inducements to cleave close to God, and yet have greatly misimproved them ?" His religious experience was often of a gloomy character, and the record of it abounds with expressions of self-condemnation and self-loathing: he was frequently in danger of looking much more at himself than at his Saviour ; and this practice, connected with unprofitable reasonings as to his call to the Christian ministry, tended to produce a degree of doubt as to his personal piety. He says, “ March 7th, 1825. This evening I am indeed cast down. The thought of preaching the Gospel, and a sense of my great insufficiency, occupy my mind much ; and yet I think I feel a greater love to souls. I am sometimes tempted, and inclined to doubt the reality of my conversion, and have great fear lest I should be cast away.” “I am convinced of my great ignorance of God, of myself, and of the stratagems of the devil ; and, alas ! instead of possessing a heart established by grace, I am at a wretched distance from such enjoyments. I feel as if I were indifferent, obstinate, ungrateful to God, and guilty of the great sin of unbelief. Lord, forgive me! I have sometimes very gloomy conceptions of the Almighty, and of the goodness of Jesus Christ, being more apt to let my conceptions fix upon his justice than his mercy; and can hardly conceive that mercy can be freely and fully exercised to such a sinner as I am. The root of all this is unbelief. O what a heart, a wretched unbelieving heart, have I!".

On March 30th, 1825, he was approved by the Quarterly-Meeting as a proper person to be recommended for the Itinerant work; and, at the subsequent District-Meeting, of which the late Dr. Townley was the Chairman, passed his examination so much to the satisfaction of the District-Committee, that he was recommended to the Conference. His examination at the District-Meeting was a source of great anxiety and distress of mind. He says, “I passed my examination at the District-Meeting in Halifax, on May 26th ; Dr. Townley being Chairman. I got through, upon the whole, better than I expected. The preceding night I could do nothing but sob and sigh: my fears were somewhat abated in the morning before I went into the room in which I was examined. There were four candidates besides myself. We were recommended to the Conference as candidates for the ministry." In addition to the solemn view which he entertained of the insportance and responsibility of the Christian ministry, his mind was, during the examination, deeply impressed on the subject of the liinitation of his services to the work at home. When the nature of the offer of the candidates was inquired into, they all declined the Missionary work. The Rev. Theophilus Lessey, who was a leading member of that District-Committee, made some effective observations on this subject; and told the young men that, were he

« PreviousContinue »