« PreviousContinue »
year. Whilst ability of body was afforded, he continued in the practice of visiting the neighbouring meetings, as he felt himself drawn thereto by his Divine Master.
He was frequently invited to attend marriages and burials at a distance. At such times, he was careful to seek for Divine counsel, that he might be preserved from complying with, or declining such invitations in his own will. He has sometimes mentioned, to his intimate frinds, his regret at what appeared to him an over earnestness, manifested by some, for the company of ministers on such occasions.
His powers of expression were strong and persuasive, and these being made subservient to his great Master's cause, he became, through the power of Divine love, eminently qualified affectionately to entreat others to come to that Fountain of Mercy and saving help, by which he had been often refreshed and strengthened.
To those who, in their Christian pilgrimage, had to go mourning on their way, whose hands were often ready to hang down, he was many times a "son of consolation," encouraging them, in an animating manner, to keep hold of faith and patience, and still to hope that He, who had been their morning light, would be their evening song. But the subject that formed the most prominent and frequent exercise in his gospel labours, was closely to recommend to all, an
earnest, serious, and impartial examination into the state of their own hearts, to see how their accounts stood with God; and to set forth, how great and irreparable will be the loss to those who unwisely neglect the opportunity afforded, of embracing the all-sufficient means appointed of God for their redemption.
He was often concerned, in his public communications, to turn the attention of his hearers from himself to the subject; and to direct them to look to God, instead of the instruments, for instruction and help, for want of which he believed that many suffer much loss. He was very exemplary in his movements in the ministry, and frequently, especially when at home, sat meetings in silence.
He spent much time in retirement, a practice which he recommended to all religiously disposed persons. It was his practice, during a great part of his life, to take a walk, mostly alone, in the fore part of the day, generally into the fields. These walks, taken with much regularity, there is reason to believe, often proved seasons of religious exercise and devotion; and some, who have casually met with him, have been struck with the solemnity of his countenance.
His reading had been extensive and various, and was to him a source of much satisfaction. In the former part of his life more especially, he read, with close attention, the writings of early
Friends, and carefully informed himself of the creeds of the various religious professors; bat the writings which he read most frequently, (next to the Holy Scriptures, which he greatly preferred to all other books,) were those, by whomsoever written, which treated of religion, as being an individual, experimental work, consisting in obedience, and not in speculative knowledge or in mere profession. Yet, notwithstanding the satisfaction that reading afforded him, he was fully sensible, and often remarked, how little all the knowledge that can be obtained, even from the best of books, will avail those who neglect a reverent attention to the Divine law written in their own hearts. During the closing years of his life, he confined himself very much to the New Testament, and to a work well known amongst the Society of Friends, entitled "Piety Promoted."
He mixed but little with general society, and to strangers there was probably in his appearance something like reserve; yet he had much pleasure in the company of his friends. In conversation, he united innocent cheerfulness with Christian gravity. Possessing a retentive memory, and a mind well stored with useful information; and having a peculiarly strong, clear, and apt mode of expressing his sentiments, his company was very interesting. He had a particular enjoyment in the society of such as he believed to be his
fellow-pilgrims in seeking a better country. With many of these, (and his view was very far from confining the number of them to the religious Society of which he was a member,) he maintained an intercouse, of which there are living witnesses who can testify, that it was to them a source of blessing.
He frequently visited, as in a casual way, many of the Friends of his own meeting and of other meetings in the neighbourhood. To these visits he appears to have been often drawn by the influence of Divine love, as in many of them, he was enabled, pertinently and impressively, to commuicate much instructive counsel.
He was favoured with an excellent constitution of body, and with uninterrupted health, which continued, with but little alteration, until the autumn of 1815, when he was visited with a slight attack, apparently of the paralytic kind, which, in some degree, impaired his powers of body and mind; yet his understanding remained clear to the last, and he continued to attend his own meeting as usual. He was able to walk about, and visit his friends, and his mind appeared to dwell in Divine love.
The last time he appeared in the ministry was in 1816, at a funeral which was attended by a considerable concourse of people. On this occasion he was, in a very feeling manner, enabled to call the attention of those present to the
uncertainty of life, and the necessity of being prepared for death. At the grave side, he addressed the widow, who was left with a numerous young family, in the language of the prophet: "Leave thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive, and let thy widows trust in me."
In the 9th Month, 1816, his beloved friend Richard Reynolds, of Bristol, departed this life, in the eighty-first year of his age. Of this distinguished philanthropist, the character is generally known; but as all may possibly not be acquainted with it, a short account of him may serve to elucidate some passages of those letters, in the following collection, which were addressed to him.
RICHARD REYNOLDS was, for many years, extensively engaged in the Iron trade, by which he very considerably increased his wealth. Under the influence of religious principle, he was sensible of his responsibility to Him, to whom belongeth "the earth, and the fulness thereof;" and his heart being enlarged in love to God, and good-will to men, it is believed that, after taking from his large income sufficient only for his own moderate establishment, he devoted the whole of the remainder to charitable purposes. His beneficence was guided by great wisdom, which rendered the benefit still more extensive. His benevolence raised the admiration of all who knew him; yet he was far from being elated by this circumstance, or by the possession of wealth;