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THE LATE REV. THOMAS WILSON,
PERPETUAL CURATE OF SLAIGHWAITE, NEAR liLDDERSFIELD,
who died July 2, aged 64.
Mr. Wilson was possessed of strong faith in the divinf word, a fervent love of God and Christ, and a lively sense of the vast worth of mens' souls. During his whole ministry he was a most diligent preacher, uncommonly zealous in .his manner, arid remarkably plain and pointed in his addresses to mens' consciences. His praise, not as a scholar indeed, but as a good minister of Jesus Christ, will long continue to be heard through a large and populous district. His simplicity and godly sincerity were admitted and admired by great numbers, who could not be prevailed upon, by his tears and entreaties, to forsake their sinful courses;—nevertheless, he has left behind him many seals of his ministry; and many, it is believed, converted by his means, died before him, in faith, and most joyfully received his spirit into the heavenly habitations. He lived down prejudice and slander in a very uncommon degree: his rule and his practice were, To overcome evil by doing good. He was eminently a man of peace: he loved it in his heart, — he sought it earnestly; — but this divine and amiable disposition did not damp his zeal for the cause of God, and his concern to save mens' souls. He boldly rebuked sin; he shewed his abhorrence, particularly, to that destructive vice of drunkenness, so prevalent in manufacturing places, which robs so many of the lower orders, not only of their comforts, but of the necessaries of life. He kept a watchful eye over pu lie-houses; —i he felt and frequently expressed the deepest sorrow (and his regrets were not always unavailing) at the irregularities and excesses which occurred in those places, and especially on Sunday evenings. Many nights of broken rest did he pass, occupied with reflections on the depravity, blindness, and madness of sinners, who were treasuring up to theniXviii. B
2 MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. T. WILSON.
selves wrath against the day of wrath, while they despised or neglected all his warnings, — his warm, vehement, affectionate appeals to their consciences!
The love and attachment of Mr. Wilson to the Established Church was unquestionable: he loved its order, its doctrines, and its services. The unity, peace, and concord of all good men were also most devoutly desired by him; for the attainment of which he seemed ready to make any sacrifice short of vilifying the church to which he belonged.
As Mr .Wilson loved the doctrines and, the order of the church, of which he was a minister, so he was uniformly and exemplarily zealous in supporting the state, of which he was a subject. He had well weighed and appreciated the advantages of our civil constitution. Thankful, in the highest degree, for such privileges as those which each British subject is heir to, and which have been so invariably maintained under the mild and equitable government of our present Sovereign, he abhorred from his soul all the attempts which have been made, of late years, to render the people dissatisfied and disaffected. He saw it his duty frequently to preach the scriptural doctrine of obedience to rulers; and wondered how any man, professing to fear God, could withhold honour from the king.
All his doctrine, and the regulation of his practice, he derived from the Bible, in which he meditated day and night. To constant meditation on the Scriptures, he added much prayer; indeed, he was most eminently a man of prayer. He carried all his wants, his diffirulties, his doubts, his fears, his distresses, to the throne of grace, reiving on the merits and intercession of his Redeemer. He knew the value of this privilege, and seemed to be lifting up his heart to Heaven all the dav long. In this frame he passed through the long and arduous trial of his patience, with which it pleased God to visit him. 'He was dumb, and opened not his mouth,' because it „was His doing.
Much might be said of his affection to hi* people, and his kindness and iiberaiity to the poor and necessitous; suffice it to »ay, his people were his flock. Few, I apprehend, have done more in his circumstances, at any time, to relieve J.he distressed; and yet, not indiscriminately, or On great occasions only, but discveetlv and gradually, both bv counsel and by money. Tho' he loved order and neatness, and she.ved that he was not destitute even of a taste for elegance, yet it plainly appeared that tho wants of tke poor occupied his thoughts more than his own accommodation. Uc was always ready, after the example of his beloved Master, to deny himself for their sakes 5 and$ for His sake indeed, it not unfrequentlv happened that he was Coixp •trained, bv sights of distress, or the importunities of those who had experienced his liberality, to give the last piece of silver he had ; — he, however, was wont to sav, it was not the duty of ministers who had families, to do as he did. To such persons
he recommended their making a due provision for J
behind him a new and spacious edifice for divine worship, .. »
at his solicitation, and on which he bestowed much care, time, and labour; and, adjoining to it, a neat and convenient parsonage-house, erectedjat his own expence, for the better accommodation of his successors.
Mr. Wilson was somewhat advanced in life when he first turned his thoughts towards the ministry; and he had not had the advantage of a regular classical education. A clergyman of Leeds, of a kindred spirit, beheld in his fervent piety the dawning of singular usefulness^ and put him in the way of obtaining holy orders. He applied himself to the study of the languages, and was ordained to a curacy near Wetherby, Yorkshire. There his ardent spirit laboured diligently; and much concern about religion appeared in many of his congregation. Some things there were, however, disagreeable to him in that situation; and, on the removal of the late Mr. Powley to Dewsbury, Mr. Wilson, thro' his means, became curate of Slaighwaite. Here he found a numerous congregation, a plain people, who were not offended at his plain preaching; and among tliera he determined to 'spend and be spent.'
A short time after he settled at this place, he married a widour lady, possessed of a moderate fortune, who resided in the neighbourhood.- While her virtues made his home agreeable, her fortune enabled him to be charitable in his daily visits among his people. This union, however, did not continue long: in the course of a few years he was left a widower, and so remained to hJ3 death, a pattern of unblameable purity and sobriety.
In his deportment, Mr. Wilson was grave without affectation or moroseness, and cheerful without levity. His freedom of manner, openness of heart, and good humour, rendered him a welcome visitor to the houses of his acquaint-trices, rich and poor, learned and unlearned. His conversation was diversified by pleasant anecdote, and rendered edifying by profitable remarks, happily introduced. 'This truly excellent man or God (added the gentleman to whom we are indebted for this article) was mv counsellor and most intimate friend during 20 years. I call to remembrance, with comfort and gratitude to God, that I was ordained to his curacy, which opened the way to a friendship which has never been interrupted. I have fully known, therefore, his doctrine, his manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, chanty, patience, afflictions. I believe, indeed, he had, in common with all the servants of God, the corruption and infirmities of our nature. lie acknowledged to me, in the strongest terms, on the Sunday preceding his death, his sinfulness and un,worthiness. He fought a good fight, and :iow has finished his course. The tears of numerous spectators, as well as those whq
MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. T. WILSON.
carried him to the grave, testified the love and veneration they had for him : all seemed to say (men, women, and children, individually) ' Let me die the death of this righteous" man, and let my end be like his!'
EPITAPH 0\ HIS TOMB-STOX.E,
IN THE BURIAL-GROUND OF SI.AIGH.WAITE-CIIAPE!..
Sacred to the Memory of
the late Rev. Thomas Wilson,
32 years Perpetual Curate of Slaijhwaite-Chapel,
faithfully discharging the Irusi committed to him by his Lord.
He died July 2, 1809, aged 64 years.
'Go feed my lamhs,' the heav'nly Shepherd cry'd;
DEVOTIONAL REFLECTIONS ON PSALM XXXIX. 4.
Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days % what''1 is, that I may know how frail J am f
On the commencement of the year, snch a praver as this is particularly suitable for every traveller on the road to the eternal world. It is not by the exercise of reason merely, that we can form a proper estimate of human life; but if to this we are enabled to add the influence of faith and the spirit of devotion, we shall have those affecting view.- of our lives which will lead to that improvement of what remains of them, which their brevity and uncertainty require.
It is not the intention of this paper to clear up any difficulties in the connection of these words, except to observe, That the paragraph probably begins with the foregoing verse; and that David, by intensely musing on the brevity of life and the vanity of rn-n, at length speaks with his tongue, and utters this and 6fh'er devout sentimests contained in the psalm.
The petition now under notice embraces three objects; and th«se respect the close, the duration, and the frailly of life. These objects are always important, and yet too much neglected by us all. At the present season especially, when the plans, the duties, and the prospects of the' opening year tlra before us, how rational, how wise is it to consider ourlatter end!
'Lord, make me to know mine end!' Does not this petition imply the natural and extreme unwillingness of the minds of men, even of very good men, to think deeply and profitably of the .closing period of their mortal career? How strange, how thoughtless, how criminal this aversion from the most interesting, most awful period of life! Lord, subdue this aversion, and .' make me to. know mine end!' The supplicant feels the unpleasantness, the evil of this aversion, and therefore implores the assistance, the grace of God. With solemn ardour of soul he prays, * Lord, direct my thoughts, dispose me, .make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is!' Observe, he reflects that* the end of all things is at hand.' He pauses, and thinks that the end of his probation and trial, his duty and exertion, his pursuits and enjoyments, as they bind him to this world, is fast approaching. He is convinced that this is a fact; and yet he does not feel so serious, so happy, so resigned as he ought to be. Hence, notice further, he prays that he may know, or attentively consider the end of his course. He does not curiously. wish to know the time and manner of his departure j but his desire is, that he may, by previous knowledge of the certainty and rapid approach of the event, staiid prepared. He is often admonished by the heavenly whisper, ' Be ye also ready.' His prayer and hope is, under these impressions, to be found in Christ) to be found clothed with the whole armour of God; to be found willing to put off the earthly house of this tabernacle; to be, in a word, willing to 'depart and to be with Christ, which is far better.' Such are the sanctified views and feelings of a man who wisely considers his latter end!
Another object of the petition most probably refers to the duration of life. The Psalmist prays that he. might know the measure of his days. This measure, this short d\ir iuon, he seems to allude to in the following verse : — e Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth, and mine age is as nothing "before thee!' It becomes us often to consider how near we are to the end of life. The measure of our davs is determined by the counsel of God, and that measure is but short. Our days will soon be numbered and finished! Who can contradict the Solemn and affecting assertions of Job ?' Man that is bom of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble-: he comcth forthi like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not: his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee: thou hast appointed his bounds, that h£