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MEMOIR OF THE REV. WILLIAM BARTON:
BY THE REV. HENRY W. WILLIAMS. Too long a period has been suffered to elapse since the decease of tle eminent minister whose career it is now proposed to trace, without a memoir of him having been given to the readers of this Magazine. So great are the changes which the last eight years have witnessed in the Wesleyan ministry,—so many on whom public attention was fixed have, during that period, been called away,—that the mind of the Connexion dwells rather on recent losses than on that which it sustained when the Rev. WILLIAM BARTON was laid aside from active service, and ultimately taken to his heavenly rest. But there are many who still remember his powerful and edifying ministry, and to whom some record of his life and labours can scarcely fail to be interesting. Such a record, it was hoped until very recently, would have been furnished by a venerable minister, now retired from active service, whose knowledge of Mr. Barton, combined with his clear discrimination and correct taste, amply qualified him for this service. In the absence of such a memoir, it has now devolved on one whose intimate acquaintance with Mr. Barton commenced at a late period of his career, and that fraught with great anxiety,—the period of his appointment to the Hinde-street Circuit,--to render a brief tribute to his Christian and ministerial worth.
The Rev. William Barton was born at St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, on March 27th, 1803. His father, who was at that time a tradesman in the town, was for many years an active member of the WesleyanMethodist Society, and held, at different periods, almost every office which a Methodist layman can hold. His house was the ministers' home; and there is reason to believe that the godly bearing and affectionate counsels of many of the devoted men who were entertained there produced a deep impression on the mind of William while yet a child. His mother, too, was a thoughtful and earnest Christian. She was a native of Kettering, and in her youth had been accustomed to listen to the preaching of two of the most eminent ministers of the day,—the Rev. Andrew Fuller and the Rev. Thomas Toller.* After her removal to St. Ives, she attended the preaching of the Wesleyan ministers, who had then recently begun to visit that town, and she was one of the nine persons who constituted the first Methodist class established there. Among the earliest recollections of William were those of his going with his devoted mother to call up some of the other members of the Society to attend the five o'clock morning preaching, when the ministers came round to St. Ives, and of accompanying her also to the Sabbath morning prayer-meeting.
* The excellencies of the Rev. Andrew Fuller, and the high position which he cccupied in the Baptist denomination, are too well known to need any comment. A
3 Y VOL. XI.- FIFTHI SERIES.
Brought up amidst such influences, and being the subject of continued and fervent prayer, it is not to be wondered at that William was, even in childhood, led to the Saviour. If it is, as we believe it to be, the plan of Christ, that the little children of His people should be admitted to His visible church, and in this sense brought into "the kingdom of God,"—if it is His design, that they should grow up within the church, and that the whole course of their training should be regulated by that great fact,-surely we have every reason to expect that the grace of the Holy Spirit will be vouchsafed to them all through their early years; and it should become the rule, not the exception, for our children to stand forth, just as they are entering upon youth, to confess the Saviour, and seek the full privileges of church-membership. So it was in this case. When William was about twelve years of age, his religious convictions were deepened, and he expressed to his parents a wish to meet in class. At first, they
very interesting memoir of the Rev. Thomas Toller may be found in the Works of the Rev. Robert Hall, who regarded him with profound esteem, and placed the highest value on his ministerial services. Speaking of the first occasion on which he heard Mr. Toller preach, Nr. Hall says, " The richness, the unction, the simple majesty, which pervaded his address, produced a sensation I never felt before: it gave me a new view of the Christian ministry.” Mr. Hall then refers to the second occasion, when Mr. Toller preached at the half-yearly Association at Bedford, from 2 Peter i. 12-15. “ The effect of this discourse on the audience,” he writes," was such as I have never witnessed before or since. It was undoubtedly very much aided by the peculiar circumstances of the speaker, who was judged to be far advanced in a decline, and who seemed to speak under a strong impression of its being the last time he should address his brethren on such an occasion. The aspect of the preacher,-, pale, emaciated, standing apparently on the verge of eternity, the simplicity and majesty of his sentiments, the sepulchral solemnity of a voice which seemed to issue from the shades, combined with the intrinsic dignity of the subject, perfectly quelled the audience with tenderness and terror, and produced such a scene of audible weeping as was perhaps never surpassed. All other emotions were absorbed in devotional feeling : it seemed to us as though we were permitted for a short space to look into eternity, and every sublunary object vanished before the powers of the world to come. Yet there was no considerable exertion, no vehemence displayed by the speaker, no splendid imagery, no magnificent description : it was the simple domina. tion of truth, of truth, indeed, of infinite moment, borne in upon the heart by a mind intensely alive to its reality and grandeur ...... It will be always considered by those who witnessed it, as affording as high a specimen as can be easily conceived of the power of a preacher over his audience, the habitual, or even frequent, recurrence of which would create an epoch in the religious history of the world."
appear to have hesitated; but after consulting together, and showing him the responsibility that attached to full membership in the church of Christ, they cheerfully gave their consent. Some persons, indeed, considering that he was too young to be admitted into the Methodist Society, endeavoured to dissuade his mother from allowing him to attend the class-meeting; but she remained firm, and ever afterwards had reason to rejoice in the early decision of her son. He was, at this time, an earnest seeker of salvation, and derived great benefit from the instructions of his Class-leader, Mr. Jenner, of whom he ever cherished a most pleasing and grateful remembrance. It was on a Sabbath evening, in a prayer-meeting which followed the public preaching of the word, that he found peace with God. The minister had given out the first stanza of the beautiful hymn,
“How can a sinner know
His sins on earth forgiven ?
My name inscribed in heaven?
With confidence we tell;
The signs infallible.” These words fixed the attention of the anxious youth; and, whilo singing the second verse,
“ We who in Christ believe
That He for us hath died,
And feel His blood applied ;
Disburden'd of her load,
Of glory and of God,"he was enabled to commit himself to the Lord Jesus as his Saviour, and felt the peace which passeth understanding.
A love of learning was a leading feature of Mr. Barton's character during these early years. He was educated at St. Ives, principally at the schools of Mr. Gilead and the Rev. Mr. Wright, from both of whom he received high testimonials of diligence and perseverance, as well as of success in study. He mixed but little with the boys in the hours of recreation; and generally occupied his leisure in reading, -a fondness for which distinguished him throughout life.
It had been the design of his father to bring him up as a farmer; but his studious habits seemed to suggest a different course. An incident, trifling in itself, may be mentioned, as illustrating this statement. His father, who had himself taken a farm in the neighbourhood of St. Ives, sent William, on one occasion, to count some sheep; the youth took a book to read on the way, walked to the place and