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FOR FEBRUARY, 1840.
MEMOIR OF JAMES MAGORIAN,
Of Corbally, near Downpatrick :
BY THE REV. WILLIAM LUPTON. JAMES MAGORIAN was a native of the barony of Lecale, in the county of Down, and was born in the year 1772. His parents were members of the Church of Rome, in whose dogmas he was carefully educated; and was, at a suitable age, bound apprentice to the wheelwright business. His master, who was a Protestant in connexion with the Church of Scotland, thinking, that if the youth acquired a knowledge of letters, it would, probably, be of some advantage to him in after-life, considered it his duty to have him taught to read. During the time of his apprenticeship, a fellow-apprentice, who was the son of one of the earliest Wesleyan Methodists of that neighbourhood, perceiving that, at 'night when they retired to rest, each took a separate corner of the room in which to perform his devotional exercises, remarked that they were very unsocial in their prayers, and proposed that instead of their former practice they should, in future, pray together, and each alternately address the Almighty. To this Magorin consented, and requested his companion to commence the proceeding. But, while at prayer, he was so struck with the difference between the nature of the prayers presented by his fellow-worshipper and those presented by himself, that he was quite ashamed; and when, at their next meeting, it became his turn to call upon the Lord, he requested to be excused, and that his companion would pray in his stead ; afterwards assigning as his reason, that in the prayers which he used, there were no petitions suitable to their case; and that he could not, for shame, let a Protestant hear the kind of prayers which the members of his Church were accustomed to offer to the objects they respectively addressed. He, however, continued attached to the faith in which he had been educated. On the termination of his apprenticeship, he began business for himself; and was married to a person who was zealously attached to his own creed. At this period he was of unblemished character; and his devotional habits and practices were such as to render him an object of general esteem: he was, therefore, much observed by his superiors in the Church.
Not long before this time, the French Revolution had sent several Priests of the Church of Rome into exile; and many of them were
VOL. XIX. Third Series FebruaRY, 1810.
glad to find an asylum in England and Ireland. One of these, a Friar, had been received as domestic Chaplain to the family of a Roman Catholic gentleman, who resided near Magorian's habitation. This Priest, being zealous to promote what he conceived to be the interest of his Church, in his newly-adopted neighbourhood, endeavoured to establish a Society, denominated, “ The Order of the Holy Scapular.” Of this order Magorian was deemed eligible to become a member; and his initiation into it gave a new impulse to his religious efforts ; so that he became more than ordinarily devotional. About the same period, an aged female taught a Protestant school near the place where he resided : he frequently visited her school, and listened with great attention to the reading of the holy Scriptures. And as the general reading of that book was interdicted by his Church, he was much surprised by its contents; having previously thought, that a book whose indiscriminate circulation he had heard so strongly condemned, was very different in its character and tendency from what he now perceived it to be. The aged tutoress, seeing the interest with which he attended to what was read, promised to procure him a copy of the New Testament, provided he would engage to give it a careful perusal. The condition was readily accepted, and the book secured. As he had now received such a divine treasure, he thought it would be well, before consulting it, to address his prayers to that God by whose holy inspiration it was written, that his understanding might be enlightened to comprehend its import, and his spirit prepared to submit to its teaching. And He who has said, “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God,” (John vii. 17,) so answered his prayers as to direct him to open, in the first instance, upon the fourth chapter of the first Epistle to Timothy, where it is written, “ Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils ; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” He paused, felt alarmed, and became quite confounded. For he, at once, saw that, if this were true, the Church with which he was connected had, by “giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, departed from the faith ;" that she certainly did “speak lies in hypocrisy," when she said that God had forbidden any, much less all her professed spiritual Pastors, to marry; and that it was absolutely contrary to His will, that the members of his mystical body should be commanded to abstain from meats which he had created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” But of the truth of what he read there could be no question. He saw it was contained in the book which God had divinely inspired, and which must, therefore, be infallibly true in all its statements.
From this time forward he searched the Scriptures frequently; and was more and more convinced, not only that the creed of his Church was erroneous, but that his own heart and life were wrong, and that his soul was deeply guilty before God. But how to be made better he knew not. And though he freely resorted to the various expedients proposed to her devotees by apostate Rome, all was without any good effect; for, instead of attaining relief to his heavily-laden and greatly oppressed spirit, he became worse and worse, and found that, in every step he took, he was only sinking as “ in deep mire.”
He continued in this condition till some time in the year 1801 or 1802, when, on a market-day, he had occasion to go to Downpatrick. While there, his attention was arrested by a crowd of persons, who appeared to be deriving interest from some occurrence of a more than ordinary kind. This circumstance excited his curiosity; and, having joined the assembly, he observed a person in the garb of a Christian Minister apparently engaged in conducting divine service. This person was the Rev. James Bell, Wesleyan Minister ; whose custom was, in conformity with the plan adopted by many of his brethren in the ministry, to avail himself of the opportunity which the market afforded, to preach the Gospel of Christ to his benighted countrymen, who, in all probability, would never have heard it in any other place. To see a Christian Minister standing up to conduct the worship of God in the open air, during the busy activities of the assembled multitudes, who were brought together solely for purposes of pleasure, of gain, or of worldly convenience, was to him a very novel matter; and he determined to wait and hear what the Preacher had to say. Mr. Bell selected for his text Ephesians ii. 8, 9: “ For by grace are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves : it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” The mere reading of these words produced a powerful effect upon his spirit; and he felt as if he had been riveted to the place on which he stood. His anxious and inquiring mind instantly laid hold upon the words, “ Ye are saved by grace, through faith ; not of yourselves ; NOT OF WORKS;” and he thought, “Why, this is strange indeed! There is between this method of salvation, and that which obtains in our Church, a marvellous difference! Our way is by works, works, works! all works! nothing but works! But this way is by grace through faith ; and that not of ourselves : it is the gift of God, and not of works!" He resolved to remain till the conclusion of the service. And as the Preacher proceeded to illustrate and apply the text, his astonishment increased ; and he concluded, “If this way of salvation be right, ours must be wrong; for there is between them an essential, an irreconcilable difference.” He returned home with a heavy heart, and conscious that, if what he had heard were true, he had been walking in a forbidden path; and though, like the unbelieving Jews, he had long had “a zeal for God," it was “not according to knowledge ; for, being ignorant of God's righteousness,” his life had been spent in “ going about to establish his own righteousness," and he had “not submitted himself to the righteousness of God." He determined on a more careful examination of the New Testament; that he would compare what he read therein with what he had heard from the Preacher in the market-place; and if what he read corresponded with what he had heard there, he certainly would renounce his former creed, and seek the salvation of God “ by grace through faith ; and that not of himself;" that he would seek it as “the gift of God,” and not in anywise by his own“ works.” He read, and thought, and prayed.; and the burden of his prayer was, that God would open the eyes of his understanding, and clearly unfold.to him the meaning of his own word ; that he would direct him in the right way; that if the Church of Rome were in error, he would make a full discovery of it to him; and that if he had a true church upon earth, he would make him one of its living members.
Thus he went on for some months, the burden of his guilt still increas ing, and his mind being kept in the greatest suspense, as to the steps he should take in order to his relief. Having heard of a person called William Clarke, who was well reported of by all, as a good man, he went in quest of him one Sunday morning, and met him on the road, returning from his class-meeting. But as he had no personal knowledge of him, he inquired where such a person lived ; when, to his great surprise, he informed him that he was the person for whom he sought; at which he reached out his hand, and expressed the gladness he felt in thus unexpectedly meeting the man whom he so ardently desired to see. He farthwith accompanied Clarke to his house, and related all that was in his heart. Soon after they had entered the house, and while engaged in earnest conversation on the all-absorbing subject, “ salvation by grace, through faith, and not of works," Clarke presented to him a book, that he might himself perceive, by an appeal “ to the law and the testimony," that what he asserted was in perfect accordance with the word of God. He spent the greater part of the day in company with his new acquaintance, searching the Scriptures, and in religious conversation and prayer; and departed, promising that he would accompany. Clarke to the class-meeting on the following Sunday morning. This promise he faithfully kept. At that meeting the way of salvation by grace was “ expounded to him more perfectly;” and, sincerely believing that these were the people of God, he then and there adopted them as his own, saying, “ This people shall be my people, and their God my God." He did not seek long before he “ found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the Prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth,” who was in very deed “the end of the law for righteousness” to his believing soul. For, trusting, with all his keart, in Christ, he obtained “ redemption through his blood, even .the forgiveness of sins !" Then he felt that he was “free indeed.;"