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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.
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
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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, Mr. Hall says, " The richness, the unction, the simple majesty, which pervaded his address, produced a sensation I never felt before: it gare 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 preachet 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 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 tbc power of a preacher over his audience, the habitual, or even frequent, recurrence el 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
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back, but was so absorbed in his reading that he altogether forgot the purpose for which he had been sent. It was ultimately decided to train him to the legal profession; and, at the age of sixteen, he was articled to Mr. Fisher, a solicitor at St. Ives, it being expressly stipulated that his services should never be required on the Lord's day. When his indentures expired, Mr. Fisher proposed to take him into partnership in his profession; and an arrangement to that effect was almost concluded, when it was suddenly broken off through Mr. Barton's conscientious adherence to what he considered to be religious duty. Although he had never been required to engage in any professional service on the Sabbath, vet, in very urgent cases, his principal had allowed business to be transacted on that day; and Mr. Barton wished, if he became a partner, that this should be wholly discontinued. On this point the negotiation came to an end; and, doubtless, Mr. Barton often reflected, with gratitude to God, on the firmness which, at this critical juncture, he had been enabled to manifest. Had he done violence to his religious convictions, for the sake of securing the worldly advantages which invited his acceptance, he would, in all probability, never have entered the holy ministry, and never have reaped its blessed reward.
This proposal having failed, Mr. Barton accepted a situation as clerk in the office of Samuel Veasey, Esq., solicitor, of Baldock, Herts. The testimonial which he received from Mr. Fisher reflects the highest credit on his character and conduct during the years which he had spent with that gentleman. That testimonial is now before me: it affirms his character to be “ most unexceptionable," while it speaks of his "attention ” and “industry" in his profession, and recognises his abilities as “much superior to those of clerks in general.” His removal to the neat little town of Baldock appears to have been in April, 1824; and he at once united himself to the Wesleyan Society there, and engaged in active service in the Sunday-school, of which he was almost immediately appointed Secretary.
It was not long before Mr. Barton was requested to visit some of the neighbouring villages as an exhorter; and these efforts being very acceptable and useful, his name was placed upon “ the Plan" as 2 Local preacher. They who knew him in after-life can easily imagine that even his earliest pulpit-exercises were both instructive and impressive ; nor can it be wondered at that many who listened to him in Baldock and elsewhere urged him to devote himself to the work of the Christian ministry. This subject soon engaged his own serious and anxious thought. There was a manifest drawing of heart towards this great work, which the unsolicited testimonies again and again borne to the usefulness of his preaching tended to confirm; but he felt the importance and responsibility of the ministerial office, and with unaffected humility acknowledged his own insufficiency. The first intimation which he gave to his parents of the conflict which was
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passing in his mind, was in a letter dated August 25th, 1825. After mentioning the remarkable manner in which several persons of piety and experience had brought the subject before him, he thus describes his own sentiments and feelings :-“At present, I do not feel clearly, and perhaps I should say even strongly, that I am called to this great work. I want knowledge, and, above all, I want a very great deal more of the life of God in the soul. I feel no desire to go into the Methodist Conference, if God would not have me there; and yet, I hope I may say, I feel a desire to go, if He would. I do not think the Itinerancy at all favourable to earthly comfort: I am sure I should have to make a sacrifice. But that, I feel, is not the point: the question is, What is my duty ? At present, my dear father and mother, I only entreat your prayers. Pray that I may grow in grace and in knowledge; pray that I may be directed by Providence, and that the direction may be clear as the sun; and pray that no unholy, no unworthy, motives may ever influence me in any thing I may do, and especially in any thing connected with the cause of Christ, but that my eye may ever be single to the glory of God.”
The first feeling of Mr. Barton, sen., on receiving this communication, appears to have been one of disappointment: for he had spared no expense to qualify his son for the legal profession, and he saw that his prospects in that profession were bright and inviting. But he threw no obstacle in his son's path; and the important question was referred to, in their subsequent correspondence, in a manner which shows how fully the youthful preacher could confide in his father's affection and high Christian principle. For several months that conflict of feeling to which reference has been made continued. In a letter dated February 11th, 1826, Mr. Barton writes to his father :“I know you will feel anxious for me to say something about myself. I wish I could come to a decision ; but I fear to do so, lest I should miss my way in the most important step I ever took. I had, at the close of the last week, nearly made up my mind to decline travelling, at least for another year. But I have, during the present week, been unable to come to any such decision. My class-meeting on Monday evening was one of the most profitable I have attended for some time, and the week has been one in which I have spent more time in prayer than usual; and I cannot now come to the determination of giving up the idea. I have prayed to God every day, and often in the day, for His guidance; and I feel a confidence He will not suffer me to go astray, but still I feel unable to say I will go...... The Rev. J. Baker and I conversed about it on Wednesday afternoon; and he thinks it a duty incumbent upon me. As to my own feelings, I cannot deny that I have frequently had an impression on my mind that it is my duty; but I want an assurance that it is so. And on the other hand, I feel a need of so much more piety than I possess, as the groundwork and foundation of all other qualifications, that I hardly dare say I will go
Pray for me; and may He who has been my Friend and Guide so often be so now, and direct by His unerring Providence."
It is interesting and affecting, now that Mr. Barton's career has closed, to look back to this period of his history, and to mark the simplicity and earnestness of his religious feelings, the devotional habits which he maintained, and his solicitude to be guided aright in reference to the momentous question which was occupying his attention. It is not often that we are able to trace the inward struggles that have preceded the entrance of ministers upon their holy vocation. Here we can do so; and it is an instructive sight to behold a young man, evidently formed for public service, thoughtfully inquiring into the path of duty,—praying repeatedly and fervently for Divine direction,-and reminding himself, again and again, of the necessity of deeper piety and enlarged knowledge, in order to an efficient and successful exercise of the Christian ministry.
As the result of these deliberations, Mr. Barton was proposed as a candidate for the ministry, at the Quarterly Meeting of the Biggleswade Circuit, in March, 1826, and was cordially approved. He passed with credit through the usual examination, at the meeting of the Second London District, in which the Biggleswade Circuit was then comprehended ; and was received by the Conference, and placed on the President's list of reserve. In the course of the year he was sent to Lynn, in Norfolk ; and was subsequently appointed to that Circuit by the Conferences of 1827 and 1828. His Superintendent during these last two years was the Rev. John Shipman, for whom he ever cherished a high esteem ; and with whom, until his death, he maintained an affectionate correspondence. His labours in the Lynn Circuit were highly appreciated; but the climate proved unsuitable to him. The land, in many parts of the Circuit, was marshy, and was not, at that time, so well drained as it now is; and Mr. Barton was seized with ague, a complaint to which he was more or less subject during the remainder of his life. In 1829 he was appointed to Hammersmith, where he spent two years in happy and successful labour. The Hammersmith Circuit was then very wide ; and Mr. Barton had often to walk more than seventy miles during the week to attend to his appointments. But he was faithful and assiduous; and the recollections of his ministry in that Circuit, cherished by some who still sur. vive, are of the most pleasing character. It was during his appointment to Hammersmith that he was married to her who for so many years shared his joys and sorrows, and now mourns his loss. They resided at Isleworth; and an aged friend in that village, writing to Mrs. Barton, on the occasion of his decease, recalls the characteristics of his early ministry. He speaks of “the vigour of soul and intellect evinced in his public ministrations," and adds, “While his sermons were occasionally awfully impressive, the more strikingly distinctive phase of his preaching was its touchingly tender and consoling