« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
the appointed time; and when I saw the nature of the meeting, it being a class-meeting, I thought it was the very thing I wanted, and readily joined the society.” Such was the commencement of his attendance at class,-a practice which he uniformly maintained for nearly half a century, and for the benefit of which he blessed God to the close of life.
In connexion with his church-membership, he diligently broke off all the outward sins to which he had been addicted ; and also commenced, according to the knowledge he had, a strict observance of the duties of religion, and the means of grace. A short time before his death he observes : “From my first connexion with the society until now, which is about forty-seven years, I have endeavoured to evince my sincerity by breaking off my sins. On the first Sabbath after deciding for God, I served my customers as usual; but told them, I would never serve them more on the Lord's day. Some said they would remove their dealing from me. I said, I was sorry for that; but I must abide by my decision. I began to pray in private ; then with my family, morning and evening; and to attend to all the means of grace; and, I believe, no one could lay any sin to my charge. Nor do I believe (I speak it with reverence) that God would have condemned me, but for unbelief, which sin has always followed me through life, even to this day. But speaking of refusing to serve my customers reminds me of severe combats I had with some of the most important of them. In this respect, however, I was not overcome. I will speak of one only, (if I can forbear mentioning more,) who, on the Sunday morning, called on me to do a certain repair ; and told me that he had yesterday engaged to meet a gentleman on business to-day. I said, “So many times as you have jeered me about my religion, do you think I have been trifling about it? You know what I have always said, and I mean what I say; and, therefore, I cannot do it.' He said, “Lend me what I want.' I said, 'I cannot do it: I cannot be a partaker in your
sins.' He said, 'If thine ox or thine ass fall into a pit on the Sabbath-day, ought you not to help him out ?' I said, 'Yes, Sir; but neither the ox por the ass agreed yesterday to fall into the pit to-day. By my refusal to assist him, he became greatly offended, and said, I was very ungrateful, and he would not employ me, and would use his influence to prevent others. I said, “My bread is in the hands of that God who, at the first, inclined you to employ me; and I should be more ungrateful to God than I am to you, if I were to help you. This person left me før a time, but subsequently returned, and treated me with great respect. Glory be to God! whose word still stands good : “Them that honour me will I honour;' and, 'In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.' In the battles I have had to fight in the way, God has never failed me; and, I believe, every man who forsook me for observing the Sabbath, afterward became a better customer." The above is not a solitary instance
of the kind: several might easily be adduced, in which the stern integrity which this sincere seeker of salvation maintained was seriously assailed. In more than one instance his reverence for the Sabbath, and his general habits of godliness, provoked the abuse of inconsistent professors of religion, even of immoral Clergymen, and deprived him, at least for a time, of their support.
It is, however, to be stated, that, though immediately on joining the society of the people of God, Mr. Wood thus displayed the reality of his decision by a total and unreserved abandonment of sin, and by a cheerful and conscientious performance of duty, so far as he had light, yet, for a gloomy period of four years, he remained destitute of “joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He possessed no clear and satisfactory views of the nature of a vital and uniting faith in Christ, and therefore wanted “the end of his believing, the salvation of his soul.” But while, of necessity, he had no proper conception of what justification is, because a stranger to the only means of its attainment, he was sensible, miserably sensible, of his need of something which he had not. The entries of his journal of this period evince the ardency of his desires after the secret of the Lord.” Through this legal term, there was, coincident with this reformation of manners, no sound conversion of the soul : that was not obtained until he realized the description of the poet,
“ Faded my virtuous show,
My form without the power ;
And blasted every flower :
Cover'd my guilty face :
And I was saved by grace.”
No longer able to bear a load which had long been causing and increasing his misery, he incidentally mentioned his case, and fully related its particulars, to two pious females, more experienced in the truth. They found him in a very unbelieving state, and addressed suitable remonstrances with affection. After much reasoning, they recommended him to pray at home for faith ; engaging that they would remember him at the throne of grace. For some days his agony of prayer was indescribable. Unable to attend to his business, or in any way divide his attention, almost every hour was spent in wrestling for “the gift of God.” On the third day, after a season of earnest supplication, he went down stairs, and was suddenly enabled to rejoice in the God of his salvation. His lips were ready for the song prepared by the Prophet: “O Lord, I will praise thee! though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me.”
In the early part of his religious course, Mr. Wood was greatly
aided by the society of the Rev. Francis B. Potts, who then resided with him. These young Christians were exposed to virulent persecution, especially in their profession as Wesleyan Methodists. Some Ministers of the town, affecting to observe the introduction of Methodism with considerable alarm, did not hesitate openly to impugn its followers, as well as its principles, from their respective pulpits. Mr. Wood thus refers to a method he and his friends adopted, in consequence of a sermon that had been delivered in one of the churches, designating the Wesleyan Ministers “ false prophets." “We were, at that time, so insignificant, that I was truly surprised that Mr. - should think us worthy his notice. It was when Mr. F. B. Potts (now a Minister in our Connexion) was living with me. We had but very
seldom a Preacher to plead our cause. So, thinking better of our cause than others did, we said, having no one to stand by us, “We must make Mr. Wesley, though dead, speak for us.' So I sent to London, for some tracts on the false prophets,' the new birth,' the Homilies of the Church,' &c.; and sent one of each, first, to the Clergyman, informing him of our reason for doing so; and then we distributed the rest amongst all the respectable families of the parish, writing on the margin of each, ‘Left on account of a sermon preached at the church, against the Preachers of this doctrine : read it, and judge ye.”” Wesley's tract“ on Christian Perfection” was, in the same way, presented to a Dissenting Minister, as an acknowledgment of certain unfounded and uncharitable strictures he bad thought well to publish on the Methodists. Thus did Mr. Wood soon become valiant for that system of scriptural doctrine and holy discipline, by honouring a profession of which he “served his generation according to the will of God.”
Mr. Wood now entered a second time into the marriage-state. The person chosen by him exemplified, in the qualities of her personal character, and in the truly Christian and successful discharge of relative duties, the truth of the words, that such a gift “ is from the Lord." As a sincere and established Christian, and also in well-principled attachment to the constitution and members of the Wesleyan church, Mrs. Wood was an inestimable blessing to her husband; and there is owing to the pious example and labours which resulted from their marriage, an incalculable amount of influence upon the character and history of the numerous remaining family, as well as upon those of their revered father. In honour to her memory, as suggesting a kind of useful exertion peculiarly belonging to her position, the fact may here be stated, that, for thirty years, the Wesleyan Ministers, who visited St. Alban's or the neighbourhood, were entertained at Mr. Wood's house solely ; while, after the task was divided between different parties of similar hospitality, to the close of life they abounded in the same demonstrations of love. Her life, which was always one of great suffering, came to a happy close, leaving Mr. Wood only
tirelve months to wait for their re-union where “ there is no more curse."
The subject of this memoir had accomplished but a short stage in his Christian career, when it was his lot to mourn over the absence of the grieved Comforter. It is to be regretted that the particular circumstances under which he lost the assurance of divine favour are not ascertained. His journal, however, testifies, in language of humiliation, that, after having been, for a short time, a happy Christian, “sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise," he walked, for four years, in much darkness. He did not utterly abandon the principles or society of God's children; but, wanting his evidence of acceptance with God, he had neither their security nor their peace. The occasion of his return to a happy state of mind was very peculiar. He had left home, on business, reluctantly, on account of the severe exercises of his mind. During the day he met with successive disappointments. He became, at last, strongly irritated; and, a fresh cause of vexation suddenly occurring, he was about to utter an oath ; but, subdued by the good Spirit, he exclaimed, from his heart, Lord, save me!" That moment he has always described as the time of his restoration to the liberty of the Gospel. His joy was again full. lle had been brought a second time from darkness to light,-from condemnation to peace. The misery of his needless transition from the adoption of God's people, to the thraldom of his designing foe, exceeded not the joy of his return to Christian blessings and immunities. There is no account of his ever having again lost his hope in the Saviour, though he often embraced the objects of faith with a trembling hand, being attacked by many temptations, and, at various seasons, by unsanctified nature, which sought for the mastery.
His attendance on the means of grace, not excepting the early prayer-meeting on the Sabbath-morning, and the numerous week-night services, was indefatigable. As his “ profiting appeared to all,” so did his estimation of religious ordinances assert his acquaintance with its causes,—with the truth that “even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall : but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up
with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”
With his late pious wife, Mr. Wood always manifested a deep concern for the spiritual welfare of his children and household. So far as judicious and Christian oversight could effect it, their "house" served the God of Joshua. His “work” did “appear unto” them, and his “ glory unto their children." Nearly the whole of the family is now found, not only walking in the ways of the Lord, but attached to the same Christian denomination which was honoured by the life and death of their sainted parents; and all cherish the recollection, and discover the fruits, of early religious culture.
The subject of this sketch, though deeply interested in the concerns of his household, was far from being indifferent to claims of distress or ignorance, when not so peculiarly pressed upon him. The Christian father and the Christian master were but confined aspects of his more general character and zeal as the Christian man. Only He “ who sceth in secret” knows all those expressions of sympathy with the wretched, and offerings of compassion to the destitute, which, in the life of Mr. Wood, he did not fail to “reward openly.” Several regular pensioners upon his bounty were retained, until his hand and heart were stayed by death. Widows, of creditable character, were objects of his especial commiseration. In this way of private benevolence, as well as by contributing to different funds for the poor and the sick, did he enjoy the recompence of him that “ lendeth unto the Lord.”
Mr. Wood's care for the physical and social comforts of his neighbours was properly subordinate to his higher motives relating to their souls. Amongst those who received his alms, he moved as the Christian philanthropist. They were not allowed to dwell only on the trials of this life, nor to be satisfied with appreciating the supply " which perisheth,” and honouring the earthly benefactor. In imitating, be sought to exhibit and glorify, his Master. It was his practice to have in continual possession a large number of tracts, which were regularly distributed by himself, or by others, who, willing to be his assistants in this “labour of love,” had always a supply readily afforded. He was an anxious and useful Class-Leader, but never became a Local Preacher ; though, on occasion of any disappointment, he would visit cottages deprived of their Preacher, and read to the assembled villagers the Scriptures, and one of Mr. Wesley's sermons. Many other ways might be mentioned, in which he went out, possessed of a home-Missionary spirit, as he had call and opportunity, “to seek the wandering souls of men.”
With regard to the financial support of institutions dear to his heart, Mr. Wood, from the early part of his Christian profession, according to his means, was ready for “every good word and work.” The various funds of Wesleyan Methodism-whether for its local or connexional, its home or foreign, purposes-he always liberally supported. The period arrived when Providence blessed him with considerable property; and, with increased wealth, his deeds of benevolence abounded. Remembering that “it is He that giveth power to get wealth,” he “consecrated his gain unto the Lord.” The St. Alban's Circuit was the principal sphere of his charitable operations. In several instances he generously came forward to purchase land for the erection of country chapels ; and in the town, after the debt upon the old chapel had been materially reduced by his contributions, he prominently supported the erection of a new one. God permitted him to see, as one of the last honours of his life, the superior edifice, of which he had laid the foundation-stone, and in which the Methodists of St.