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out interruption. Thus this excellent man at last found rest from an infuriate cabal, who endeavoured to justify their shameful conduct towards him by their pretended zeal for the safety and interests of the church. These circumstances, so dishonourable and dangerous to the church, appear to have made impressions upon his mind, that terminated in a resolution to dissent. He saw the spirit of error, impiety, and persecution in their clergy, preying upon her vitals, and hastening her dissolution; and was convinced, that those among her advocates were her worst adversaries, who were most voluble in boasting of her excellencies, while wilfully blind to all her defects and blemishes; and who, while lamenting the increase of dissenters, and Methodists, would banish and stigmatize the only men qualified to defend her outworks and promote her internal welfare. But his own words will best convey the truths which every faithful clergyman, and every good man in the established church, must seriously lament, and long to reverse.
We, of the English establishment too, says Mr. Simpson, have so long boasted of the excellence of our church; congratulated ourselves so frequently upon our happy condition ; paid ourselves so many fine compliments upon the unparalleled purity of our hierarchy; that a stranger would be led to conclude, to besure we must be the holiest, happiest, and most flourishing church upon the face of the earth: whereas, when you go into our most stately and magnificent cathedrals, and other sacred edifices, you find them almost empty and forsaken. At best all is deadness and lukewarmness both with priest and people. In various instances, there is little more appearance of devotion, than in a Jew's synagogue.
Go where you will through the kingdom, one or the other of these is very generally the case, except where the officiating Clergyman is strictly moral in his conduct, serious, earnest, and lively in his manner, and evangelical in his doctrines. Where this, however, happens to be so, the stigma of Methodism is almost universally affixed to his character, and his name is had for a proverb of reproach, in proportion to his zeal and usefulness, by the skeptics and infidels all around, in which they are frequently joined by the rich, the fashionable, and the gay, with the Bishop and the Clergy at their head.
In the above statement of facts there is no exaggeration. Mr. Simpson was an eye-witness of the evils he deplored, and a great personal sufferer by their prevalence. But whatever reason he had to complain of his hard usage from men who are the bane of every church, he had still more reason to be satisfied and happy in the infallible wisdom, and the overruling providence of God. For from the time he commenced his labours in his new church, a church built by persecution, his ministry was attended with one continued flow of success. A great congregation was collected, numbers were brought to the knowledge of salvation, and Chris
Memoir of the Late Rev. David SIMPSON, M. A. 51 tians were united and established in the faith and hope of the gospel. This was the brightest period of his life ; and he improved and enjoyed it as such. Every day he became more zealous and laborious, and was honoured with a proportionate increase of usefulness. Preaching, and writing, and visiting his people, kept him incessantly employed, and were pursued as his most delightful recreations.
Nor did he covet, what an inspired apostle denominates, “filthy lucre,” for with a small income he enjoyed abundance of happiness. Speaking of the enormous emoluments of many of the clergy, in his “ Plea for Religion,” he says, if I might be permitted to speak from my own feelings, I can truly say I never took more pains in the ministry, than when I had only sixty pounds a year. Since I have been married and had a family, my income from the church has never amounted to a hundred and twenty pounds a year. Notwithstanding this, I have been, thank God, not only content, but happy. I have laboured hard, studied hard, and, probably, have been as useful, and well satisfied with my condition, as the richest rector in all the diocese of Chester. If any person, in the mean time, had bestowed upon me a living of five hundred or thousand pounds a year, to besure I should have been under great obligation to such person, but I very much question whether I should have been made either a more happy man, or a more useful minister of the Gospel.
After his church was opened for public worship, he established a weekly lecture, which was continued for some time, and was afterwards succeeded by a course of lectures in his school-room, on the Pilgrim's Progress. On the fourteenth of September, 1777, as is related by one of his friends, who was a witness of the scene, a smart shock of an earthquake was felt at Macclesfield, which extended itself through a circuit of more than three hundred miles. This was during the time of divine service, about eleven o'clock. The steeple of the church, an uncommonly high tower, had been recently finished, and the alarm excited in the congregation, was universally connected with the notion that the tower was falling; in consequence of which, the people all fled to the doors opposite to that end of the building where they supposed the greatest danger.
The effect was awfully alarming; the entrances became instantly blocked up with persons thrown down, one upon another, so as to prevent any from getting out : this, added to the confused cries and panic fears of so great a number of persons, produced, for a time, a scene, which, for confusion and distress, may be more easily conceived than described. Mr. Simpson, alone, seemed to stand the shock with fortitude; he remained at the communion table, where he was when it first began, in calm possession of him. self, and continued there until it was nearly subsided. On this occasion, no life was lost, but considerable injury was sustained from fractures and contusions : the event was, however, attended
with some good effects; many were so alarmed with the awful circumstances of their situation, and so impressed by their deliverance from such imminent danger, that from that time a serious concern was produced for the salvation of their souls.
In the year 1778, he instituted a female friendly society, a thing without precedent at that time; this was a favourite object of his care ever after, and in its first establishment he engaged some respectable ladies to qualify themselves as honorary members. This society was succeeded by two other similar institutions. Many will long remember, with what zeal he watched over these concerns, and what pious pains he employed, upon the return of their anniversary sermons, in inculcating upon the members, a diligent regard to all those duties which more particularly adorn and elevate the female character, both in the higher and humbler walks of life.
The establishment of charity schools was one of his most early efforts. The children were collected for instruction on the weekday evenings; and on the Sabbath were accompanied to the church by their teachers. For several years he had the sole management of these schools himself; but afterwards, a design being proposed to make the institutions more general, he readily consented to give up his schools to a committee of Gentlemen of the town, only stipulating that they should be regularly taken to church every Sunday, and allowed to be instructed in writing. A sermon was afterwards preached at each church every year, for the support of the whole; about four or five hundred was the number instructed. It was in the year 1794, that the management of these schools appeared to him, in some respects, not so efficient as might be wished; a number of persons were then called in, to act as visitors, to inspect them every Lord's day, and to make their report once a month. . This in a short time prepared the way for a new establishment; and in 1796, a school was opened for the instruction of children on the Sabbath only, to be carried on solely by gratuitous teachers. This school still exists, and provides for the education of more than two thousand young people.
For several years he accepted of an invitation from the late Rev. Dr. Bayley, of St. James' Church, Manchester, to preach there on several days of the race-week. He was there received with much acceptance, and attended by overflowing congregations of attentive hearers, many of whom will have reason to bless God, in a future world, for the good effects of these occasional labours.
Abouy the year 1781, he opened a school for young people of both sexes, and took upon himself the principal share of the labour. He had at one time more than 160 scholars, and during the winter months they were at their books an hour or two in the morning by candle-light. He regretted, when speaking of this period of his life, that his early discipline was too severe. But his
method of illustration in the readings, which formed a part of his school exercises, was always so engaging, that they generally sat down to that exercise, as the most agreeable relaxation.
When the new Sunday school was established, he attended, as well as his curate, once a month, to catechise and instruct the elder scholars: this had not been long continued before considerable numbers of strangers wished to attend at the same time; and as he perceived that the throng was inconvenient, but yet regarding the eager disposition to hear as a favourable indication, and, no doubt, recollecting the success of his endeavours many years before, he proposed to give an explanation of the Pilgrim's Progress, every Wednesday evening, in the same place. This was accordingly undertaken; but was unhappily followed with a most severe and painful catastrophe. The room employed, which was an upper one, became so full at the end nearest the door, on the first evening, that one of the beams gave way, and precipitated a considerable number of the audience to the bottom : dreadful was the confusion, and most afflicting the consequences. One young woman survived only a few hours, and many others were miserably fractured. Every attention was paid to the sufferers, and a liberal subscription was made, which provided them with medical and other relief until their recovery. This, as may easily be supposed, was a most heavy affliction ; but, satisfied that his object was good, he determined to pursue it; and accordingly very soon re-commenced his labours on the ground floor, though more incommodious that the other, to very serious and crowded assemblies, for nine months, until a paralytic attack, more than ordinarily severe, put a final period to these labours, the year preceding his death.
That his reading was extensive, solid, and well applied, must be obvious to all who knew him, and to all who have become acquainted with his various publications. We have few instances of a minister of so numerous a congregation, with six or seven hundred monthly communicants, requiring, so much personal attention, and, added to all, a classical school of his own, writing and publishing so much as he did. His knowledge of physic and law, which he had taken great pains to acquire, was made subservient to the health and interests of his people ; and he most scrupulously guarded against every thing in each of these sciences, of which he could not unpresumptuously call himself master. In short, he was the oracle, friend, physician, lawyer, and patron of the poor, on all occasions : and what contributed most eminently to his usefulness among them, was the gentleness and urbanity of his manners, which rendered him accessible and interesting to all who approached him.
His catholicism embraced all denominations of Christians who love our Lord Jesus Christ. But with the adversaries of his deity and atonement, he formed no friendship; with them he would
hold no communion. The doctrine that sinks eternal Power and Godhead to a level with infirm humanity, he considered as subversive of the whole scheme of christianity, and as fraught with incalculable mischief to the general interest of religion and morality. He saw no medium between the blasphemy that treats the Deity as a creature, and the idolatry that worships the creature as a deity: and in contemplating these opposite and distant points, to which the advocates and the adversaries of the divinity and atonement of Christ uniformly diverged, he maintained the impossibility of their meeting each other as Christians. But while he was thus decided, from the deliberate reflection and deep convictions of his own mind, he was no persecuting bigot. It was an indubitable principle with him, as indeed it must be with every one, who impartially attends to the dictates of scripture and of reason,—that man is ainenable to none but God for his religious opinions ; that the assumed right to tolerate his opinions and worship, is inconsistent with the very nature of the gospel, and a presumptuous infringement upon the prerogatives of the Lord of conscience.
In discussing the subject of toleration, Mr. Simpson asks, “ Have not I as much right to control you in your religious concerns, as you have to control me? To talk of tolerating, implies an authority over me, where I ought to think and act for myself. Yet who but Christ, the Head of the church, has any such authority ? He is a tyrant, a very pope, .who pretends to any such thing. These matters will be better understood by and by. And it does not appear to many, that we ever can be a thoroughly united and happy people, till every good subject enjoys equal civil privileges, without any regard to religious sects and opinions. If a man is a peaceable, industrious, moral, and religious person, and an obedient subject to the civil government under which he lives, let his religious views of things be what they may, he seems to have a just claim to the enjoyment of every office, privilege, and emolument of that government. Equal and impartial liberty, equal privileges and emoluments, are, or should be, the birth-right of every member of civil society, and would be the glory of any government to bestow upon all its serious, religious, and morally acting citizens, without any regard to the sect or party to which they belong. This, it should seem, would make us a united and happy people.” May these manly and liberal sentiments ever accompany a profession of faith in him, who is revealed and exalted to be the Saviour and King of the Church!
(To be Continued.)