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EDMOND, the son of Richard and Rachel Knaggs, Kilham-Field Farm, in the Bridlington Circuit, was from a child the subject of religious impressions. Powerful, at times, were the strivings of the Holy Spirit with his young and tender heart; which, although not at once entirely obeyed, served yet to restrain him from open immorality. In January, 1840, when he was about twenty years of age, a conviction of personal sin seized him with greater power ; the arrow sunk deeper ; the light shone more brightly on his inmost heart, so that its secret evils were more fully exposed to view, its guilt was felt more oppressive, and its depravity assumed a more appalling aspect than ever. This spiritual awakening was effected under a sermon preached at Kilham by the Rev. Charles North. For more than three weeks the penitent remained in bonds and bitterness, seeking the mercy of the Lord with many prayers and tears. On the hill-side, about a field's breadth from his father's bonse, stands a small plantation of fir-trees, overlooking the valley and village of Kilham. To that plantation he secretly repaired, with a wounded conscience and a burdened mind, on the 29th of January, 1840. Nature around, stripped by the blasts of winter of her glory and beauty, was a fit emblem of the utter desolation of heart which he at that time felt. But, with knees bended on the cold earth, and eyes uplifted to heaven, like another Jacob he wrestled, not in vain, with the Angel of the Covenant. By faith he now apprehended Him whom his soul desired. The Lord spake, and the message was pardon. The newborn soul rose with the occasion, and magnified God his Saviour. Of the reality of the change then experienced Mr. Kpaggs could never entertain a doubt. That shaded retreat became to him sacred. It was his Bethel, to which, in after-life, he oft repaired, to remind himself of the debt he owed to infinite mercy, to refresh bis spirit with recollections of “the gladness of that happy day,” and to renew his covenant-engagement with God who had wrought for him so great a deliverance.
Having given full proof of genuine personal religion, and of an earnest desire to benefit others, he was appointed a Local Preacher. In this capacity he soon gave evidence that the Great Head of the church designed him for a wide field of usefulness. It was discovered
VOL. III.-FIFTH SERIES.
that he possessed gifts which eminently fitted him for the office of the holy ministry. From this his natural modesty made him shrink; but, prompted by the Spirit within, and urged by friends without, he at length consented to obey the call both of God and the church.
HIS RESIDENCE AT DIDSBURY.
In September, 1843, he was admitted as a student into the Northern Branch of the Theological Institution, where he spent three happy years, and commanded the respect of the Governor and Tutors, as well as the affection of his fellow-students. Here he devoted himself, with unwearied zeal, to the various branches of study deemed necessary to fit him for the more efficient discharge of the work before him. Although slow in acquiring knowledge, yet was he sure in retaining what he had acquired. His plodding industry in this pursuit was not suffered to damage his spirituality. Personal religion was scrupulously held paramount. While appreciating learning as an element of power in the Christian ministry, yet did he act under the consciousness that no amount of knowledge, however valuable, would compensate for a low state of personal godliness. To have power with men, so as to move their hearts and consciences, he felt that, first of all, he must have power with God. Of bis unostentatious piety too much can hardly be said. In his secret devotions he was regular and earnest. Here he poured out his soul before the Lord. Often has he been heard from an adjoining study, (separated from his own by a thin partition,) pleading with uncommon energy for Divine manifestations. Accustomed daily to rise at five A.M., he devoted about two hours every morning to prayer, self-examination, and the devout reading of the holy Scriptures; after which, the weather permitting, he took half an hour's exercise in the college-grounds or adjoining fields. In these early walks he was often accompanied by his most intimate friend, to whom he freely expressed the holy joy and liberty he had experienced in his morning devotions. Occasionally, indeed, he complained of langnor, depression, and the want of life and power in these exercises, and then he deeply mourned; but oftener he exclaimed, with a beam of gladness lighting up his countenance, “0, what a blessed thing is prayer! How could we live without it?"
Of all branches of knowledge to be acquired by man, the most difficult is the knowledge of himself. The difficulty arises from an almost unconquerable reluctance to look within, or to commune with his own heart; and also, as sad experience testifies, from the deceitfulness of the heart itself. Self-examination—by which is here meant a thorough scrutiny, not merely of the life, but especially of the heart -invariably issues in self-humiliation. When thoroughly sifted, the inner man discloses evils which abase and mortify us ; and from such a discovery man turns with strong aversion. Pride rebels against that which tends to lower his estimation of self. This may partly account for the too general neglect, among professing Christians, of a duty which all admit to be of equal importance and difficulty. The duty in question Edmond Knaggs faithfully and regularly discharged.
On his knees, in the solitude of his academic study, with the light of God's truth shining upon him, did he dive into the depths of his own heart, and search out its secret evils. He felt that to enter into every department of his inner nature, and fully to scrutinize the whole, demanded vigour, courage, and perseverance ; but he did not shrink from the arduous task. In our class-meetings, conducted by the Rev. John Bowers, (which were seasons of spiritual profit and holy delight) Mr. Knaggs often surprised us by the severe reproaches he heaped upon himself, and the self-loathing which he strongly expressed, and yet more strongly indicated, when speaking of the corruptions of his heart. His religion was not merely beyond suspicion ; it was justly esteemed by all his associates as of more than ordinary depth and maturity. Yet the terms in which he spoke of himself were so bitterly condemnatory, that a stranger might have been led to suppose he was conversing with one of the chief of sinners.
Notwithstanding the severe judgment he pronounced on his own heart, he had seasons of holy joy, and even of ecstasy. When he spoke of his spiritual gladness, it was in an humble and chastened tone, and yet with a sweetness and unction which affected all who shared the privilege of his Christian fellowship. His inner life will be brought more clearly to view by a few extracts from his own pen than by anything we can say :
“January 4th, 1845.-Last night I united with the Tutors, the Governor, and many of the students, as well as with several more of God's dear people, in solemnly renewing the Covenant, and partaking the bread and wine, the emblems of the body and blood of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. May I be faithful to the grace of God, and to the vows which I have made ! Pardon, O God, my past sins ; and let this year be a happier and more successful one than was the last. I determine, by Divine grace, to be a better man, a more diligent student, and a more faithful Preacher. Help me to do Thy will, O Searcher of hearts !
January 11th.—Rom. viii. has been peculiarly sweet this evening. I trust nothing will be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.''
The day on which God had manifested His pardoning love to Mr. Knaggs, through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ, was held most memorable. Each anniversary of that happy event was celebrated by a renewed act of self-dedication :
“ January 29th.—It is five years this day since God first gave me the indubitable testimony of His Holy Spirit that He had pardoned my sins, and adopted me into His family. When I reflect on the manner in which I have spent these years, I feel ashamed before God, and confess my manifold sins and wickedness with a broken and contrite heart. How little I have done for God! How much He has done for me! How much I have done to dishonour His cause ! and yet how graciously has He forgiven me !
“O God, this evening, on the bended knees of my body, I vow, by Thy grace, to live a holier life, and to be more faithful and diligent in