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FOR AUGUST, 1844.

BIOGRAPHY.

MEMOIR OF JOHN WOOD, ESQ.,

OF ST. ALBAN'S :

BY THE REV. JOHN GOSTICK.

WHEN those are removed by death from whom, while our contemporaries, we have often received edification, in hearing them “abundantly utter the memory of” God's "great goodness," it is much more than a mere duty imposed upon us,-it is a solemn and most elevating exercise,—to take from their silenced lips the rehearsal which they have left unfinished, which must remain unfinished, even when the last in this succession of the devout shall take his song from earth to heaven.

In the life, a brief account of which is now offered, in which there was no small share of the trials common to human experience, and of adequate, vietorious grace, is presented an example of the truth, that “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.” May its record, like its career and its close, conduce to the glory of God!

Mr. John Wood was born at Redbourn, a small village near St. Alban's, December 8th, 1766. Of his earliest years very little can now be ascertained, excepting that he was regularly conducted, by parental authority, to the ministry of the Baptists, chiefly at Luton. With reference to that period, he always expressed himself unable to remember any very powerful or peculiar operations of grace on his mind; certainly, whatever degree of divine influence he might possess in childhood, it is to be lamented that it was not retained,-his growth in years proving abundantly the natural enmity of his heart to the things of God."

About the age of fourteen he was placed at St. Alban's, in the care of a family with whom he attended a ministry similar to that under which he had been brought up, they being attached members of the Baptist church. During his apprenticeship he had frequent and memorable visitations of the Spirit of grace. Many were his resolves, and his attempts, to seek the Saviour ; but as numerous were his distressing relapses into sin. The failure of this important period of his life was constantly attributed to his want of spiritual watching and counsel; and, both in the earnest avowal of his lips, (not to be

Vol. XXIII. Third Series. August, 1844. 2 X

[graphic]

FOR AUGUST, 1844.

BIOGRAPHY.

MEMOIR OF JOHN WOOD, ESQ.,

OF ST. ALBAN'S :

BY THE REV. JOHN GOSTICK.

When those are removed by death from whom, while our contemporaries, we have often received edification, in hearing them “abundantly utter the memory of” God's “great goodness," it is much more than a mere duty imposed upon us,-it is a solemn and most elevating exercise,-to take from their silenced lips the rehearsal which they have left unfinished, which must remain unfinished, even when the last in this succession of the devout shall take his song from earth to heaven.

In the life, a brief account of which is now offered, in which there was no small share of the trials common to human experience, and of adequate, vietorious grace, is presented an example of the truth, that " the righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.” May its record, like its career and its close, conduce to the glory of God!

Mr. John Wood was born at Redbourn, a small village near St. Alban's, December 8th, 1766. Of his earliest years very little can now be ascertained, excepting that he was regularly conducted, by parental authority, to the ministry of the Baptists, chiefly at Luton. With reference to that period, he always expressed himself unable to remember any very powerful or peculiar operations of grace on his mind; certainly, whatever degree of divine influence he might possess in childhood, it is to be lamented that it was not retained,-his growth in years proving abundantly the natural enmity of his heart to “ the things of God. About the

age of fourteen he was placed at St. Alban's, in the care of a family with whom he attended a ministry similar to that under which he had been brought up, they being attached members of the Baptist church. During his apprenticeship he had frequent and memorable visitations of the Spirit of grace. Many were his resolves, and his attempts, to seek the Saviour ; but as numerous were his distressing relapses into sin. The failure of this important period of his life was constantly attributed to his want of spiritual watching and counsel ; and, both in the earnest avowal of his lips, (not to be VOL. XXIII. Third Series. August, 1844.

2 X

forgotten by those accustomed to converse with him,) and the solemn record of his preserved manuscripts, he has left a testimony to the fearful responsibility belonging, in all circumstances, but especially in such as his own, to the guardians of youth.

Under the hardening influence of procrastination, and common repulses of conscience, he completed the term of his stipulated residence in that situation ; but had only been absent a few months, when he returned to St. Alban’s, and took the business, under the former proprietor of which he had served. Even as a young tradesman, his circumstances were, for a time, more than ordinarily painful; and cheerfully would the writer testify, were it in his power, that those trials occasioned his prompt and decided reform. But, though his diligence to “provide things honestly in the sight of all men” was well known and exemplary,—and notwithstanding the success which was given by a merciful Providence to endeavours prosecuted in a general, if not total, forgetfulness of its sway and sanctions,—he continued with them to “ walk who mind earthly things.”

In the year 1790 he entered the marriage-state with a Miss Pedder, -a union destined to be of short continuance. From that time, to her decease, he attended the public services of the Presbyterians, his wife being a member of that community. The three years including the formation and severance of this union constitute a period, perhaps, the most gloomy which it devolves upon the biographer of Mr. Wood to relate. His outward life was marked by profligate excess, showing the temporary extinction of those feelings within, which once had promised better things. With no fear of God before his eyes,

the unholy and grovelling “ pleasures of sin” were seized with eagerness. The town-leaders in depravity, in his own class of society, were his nightly companions at the club-meetings of different public-houses, and almost constantly at scenes of dissipation and indulgence. He was left a widower in 1793, with two children ; and then arrived the great and blessed crisis in his history.

In those circumstances of fresh and peculiar relative duty, his longe lost convictions were restored with augmented force. A confounding discovery of his state was made to his awakened mind; and, upon beholding its extremity of rebellion, and its imminent and terrible exposure, his distress was so great, that, for some time, he was on the verge of despair. The eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel he has often mentioned as having been to him the source of special and most opportune consolation, while dreadfully sensible of the multitude and magnitude of his olences against God. This sudden direction of his whole mind to the importance of one question, “ What must I do to be saved ?" was not attributable to any distinct and obvious external means-such as a direct change of views produced by the word of God, in its ministry, or reading, or conversation, or reflection, or a creation of spiritual alarm, to be sensibly referred to some providential

visitation as its instrumental cause--but most manifestly of supernatural origin and character : it rose, independent of circumstantial provocation, and at first, without any outward expression,“ with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” It is evident, from his journal, that he experienced, in this state, an agony of mind which has rarely, if ever, been exceeded. It was a present affliction of soul under which he groaned; and that, apart from all foreboding apprehensions of his everlasting state, was intolerable. He first opened his mind to a young man who lived under the same roof; thus expressing the emotions of his heart: “What shall I do? for, with this distress of mind, I cannot attend to my business, and bring up these two children. What can I do? or to whom shall I tell my case, and get some advice, that I may know whether there is any hope or not? I must know my case, whatever it may be! Will you go somewhere for me, and invite some person to come and show me my state, and tell me what can be done for me?” After reference, in reply, had been made to two or three sections of the church, he asked, “ What is the principle of the little chapel on the bank, by Rome-land, where Copleston preaches ?”* and received an answer which determined him, if possible, to have an interview with Mr. Copleston. There were two difficulties, however, which immediately occurred to him; the first arising out of his own feelings, on the ground that Mr. Copleston's friends were a commonly-despised people; and the other, from the objection which, it was anticipated, that individual would make to visit one who had been associated with his persecutors. These scruples were overcome by the force of his feelings, as he remarked, “I cannot live as I am; I shall die if no hope can be given: so go to him,

and say,

I shall be glad if he will come and hear my case, and speak to me.” Mr. Copleston was found engaged, and promised to go as soon as convenient; but the young man had to return, begging his immediate attention. Two interviews, and the result, Mr. Wood describes : “ He then came, and we retired together, and I told him all my state ; but, at first, he appeared somewhat suspicious, fearing I was not sincere. I then said, “Can I be saved ?' He said, 'I have known some as bad as you saved ;' and afterwards he added, “ Are you

determined to break off your sins, and to serve God ?' I told him I was; when he encouraged me, and prayed with me, and appointed to see me again. On Mr. Copleston's next visit he said, “We have a private meeting on a Wednesday evening : will you come ?' I humbly said, “May I ?' · Yes,' he replied, “if you are determined to serve God.' So I went at

Mr. Copleston was the son of a Clergyman at Luton; and, having been converted under the ministry of the Rev. John Wesley, was a most zealous and useful Christian. By his instrumentality, Wesleyan Methodism was introduced into St. Alban's and the neighbourhood. Thus the life of Mr. Wood seems to unite the past successes and present influence of Methodism in this town, with that “day of small things” commenced by the labours of Mr. Copleston.

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