« PreviousContinue »
by his companions, lest he should incur the imputation of Methodism. But the glories he discovered in the doctrines of it, soon raised him above the fear of reproach, and inspired him with unshaken confidence and courage. In full assurance of the truth of the gospel, and of his personal acceptance with God, he soon becaine settled and happy in mind, and longed for the period when he should proclaim to others, the salvation he had obtained himself. His supreme affection for the Scriptures he had so criminally neglected, before he was renewed in the spirit of his inind, is strikingly displayed in the following abstract of a letter from him to one of his friends : “ If a book was professedly to come from God to teach mankind his will, what should we expect its contents to be? Should we expect to be told the nature and perfections of God? The nature and perfections of God are in the Bible alone made known. Should we expect to know how all things came into being at first? The Bible declares it. Should we wish to know what the Lord God requires of his creatures? This the Bible makes known-supreme love. Should we want to know the reward of obedience? The Bible points out eternal joys. Would curiosity lead us to inquire the reward of disobedience? The Bible reveals extreme, everlasting miscry. Should we inquire, what is our duty to each other? In the Bible it is written as with a sun-beam-love all men as yourselves. Would we know the original of those miseries and disorders we observe in the world; and how a merciful God can permit them? The Bible points to the cause, and proclaims death, and every evil, to be the wages of sin. Would we know, whence are those - strange disorders we each of us feel in our own natures? The
Bible informs us we are in a state of ruin-we are fallen creatures. Would we discover how sin may be pardoned, our natures restored, and God's perfections glorified? Though this was hid from ages and generations of the heathen, the Bible makes it clear as the sun-by the death of Christ, and the operations of the Spirit. What, then, could we require in a book from God, that is not to be found in the Bible? Secret things, indeed, are therein concealed; but essential and useful things are clearly revealed.
“ View the Bible in another light. Do we want history? The Bible is the most ancient, the most concise, the most entertaining, and the most instructive history in the world. Do we want poetry? The book of Job is an epic poem, not. inferior to Homer, Virgil, or Milton. Does the lyric muse. invite us? The Psalms of David stand foremost in the list of fame. Are we in a melancholy mood? Let us read David's lamentation over Saul, and Jeremiah's Lamentations. Do we want strains of oratory ? The Prophets, and Paul, arcı yet, amongst mortals,
unrivalled. In short, the Bible is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroug!ly furnished unto every good work.”
The studies of a young man, designed to minister in the Sanctuary of God, should be chosen and pursued with an immediate and uniform regard to that work. The Bible, the first book in importance, should, in his setting out, be made the first object of his veneration and love. Life is too short, time is too precious, to justify the sacrifice of years in laborious attention to literary objects, which, after all, will not make him a more able minister of that bock. All his learning, reading, observation, and experience are only valuable as they are calculated to aid him in the more effectual preaching of its glorious doctrines. Under lively impressions of these sentiments, Mr. Simpson changed his foriner course, and resolved upon such plans of study as he thought best adapted to glorify God, and to promote the eternal happiness of men. . No longer governed by the ambition of shining merely as a scholar, he relinquished, or paid less attention to some favourite studies, particularly the mathematics, and bent his attention to the science of Theology. Here he was in his own clement, enjoying and rejoicing in the inettable prospects around him, and anticipating the day, when in the fulness and blessing of the gospel, he should go and publish the glad tidings of it to the guilty and miserable children of men. He thought every week long, while he was detained from the pulpit; and, the divinity degree requiring a longer course of study, he carnestly requested his tutor for permission to take his degree in law, instead of divinity, that he might hasten to his delightful parpose. This request, however, was denied; and at length, in the ordinary course his wishes were gratified, and he went forth in the vineyard of his Lord and Master, “ determined to know nothing ainong men, save Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
He was ordained, on the title of the Rev. Mr. Unwin, to the curacy of Ramsden, in the county of Essex. There he remained two years, very happy in his connection with the vicar, who had been his senior fellow student, and in whom, from his first religious impressions, he had enjoyed a firm and valuable friend. His removal from this station was the subject of much concern among the people to whom he was useful, and of surprise to his friends in general. Mr. Simpson frankly owned, he could give Do proper reason for his conduct in this particular, and in the troubles which almost immediately followed, he, no doubt, saw that he had acted too precipitately for the subsequent satisfaction and peace of his mind.
It very seldom happens, that the watchmen of Zion quit their
posts uncalled, or without a proper reason, but they are made to feel the sad consequences of their folly and temerity, perhaps throughout their future lives. However, it is pleasing to reflect, that the most unadvised and hasty steps of men are often overruled by the Head of the Church, for purposes of incalculable good, both to themselves, and to the cause of religion :- To themselves, in the way of instruction and humiliation ;--and to the cause of religion, in thus qualifying them for, and making them more eminently subservient to the purposes of his glory. These remarks were affectingly exemplified in the instance now under review, and which, on this account, deserves particular notice in this memoir.
Mr. Simpson removed from his peaceful curacy at Ramsden to Buckingham, where he soon found himself involved in difficulties and deep distress. He commenced his ministerial career, determined not to keep back or disguise any gospel truth, however unpalatable to the unbeliever, and plainly to preach the whole counsel of God, to whatever opposition he might thus expose himself. In that day, although a pleasing change had certainly taken place, there were still but few evangelical preachers in the Established Church. A clergyman preaching salvation by the grace of God, and doing this extempore, and with animation, was, in most country places, a novel character; and was sure to be viewed and watched, with a malignant eye, by his unregene rate and dissipated brethren, who not unfrequently employed their power, or their influence, to exclude such from their churches. Their appeals to their clerical regularity, and to the doctrinal articles of the church, were either not heard, or were answered with insulting charges of hypocrisy, and secret designs to subvert the foundations of the spiritual hierarchy. With the holy zeal which so eminently distinguished the character of our young divine, it was not probable he should long escape the operations of this malignant spirit. Who were the chief actors in the scenes of opposition, exhibited at Buckingham, is a ques. tion of no importance. That it was, however, of a very serious nature is certain, as it required the interposition of his Diocesan, and terininated in his removal; and it is equally certain, that the close of it was such, as left him in full possession of a pure conscience and a fair reputation; for the bishop, after hearing all the particulars of the case, is known to have made this observation, so highly honourable to both:-"Mr. Simpson, if you are determined to do your duty as a clergyman ought to do, you must every where expect to meet with opposition.
While at Cambridge, he formed a close intimacy with Mr. Robert Robinson, a celebrated dissenting minister of that place; a man of extraordinary genius, knowledge, and eloquence; but
who, after having maintained for many years a decided attachment to evangelical doctrines, and even after having published an excellent defence of the Redeemer's deity, became inflated with the pride of philosophical speculations, and is supposed to have died a Socinian. He preached his last sermon in Dr. Priestley's pulpit, at Birmingham; on which occasion, it was said, he uttered some expressions against his former sentiments, peculiarly decisive of the awful revolution that had taken place in his mind; and a few mornings afterwards he was found dead in his bed at the house of one of the doctor's friends, in the neighbourhood of that town. No man was better qualified than Mr. Robinson, or more pleased in his happier days, with opportunities to make bimself useful to young men of piety and promise, looking to the work of the ministry. Of this, it appears, Mr. Simpson was duly sensible, as he neglected not to avail hinself of the counsel and information his friend was always ready to communicate; and would afterwards speak of this friendship as the most valuable social advantage of his college life. After he left Cambridge, they kept up a correspondence for some time, probably as long as the former continued in the same faith and spirit as those, under the divine influence of which the latter lived and died. Mr. Simpson has often repeated among his friends, the first sentence of a letter he received from Mr. Robinson, immediately after his ordination. The sentence was this: “ Now, young man, you must cry a sale of character.” This sentiment, so enigmatically expressed, was, however, clearly explained to him by the trying events which occurred at Buckingham.
By the invitation of Charles Roe, Esq. on leaving Buckingham, he accepted a residence with that gentleman at Macclesfield; and soon after his arrival there, became curate of the Old Church, at that time the only church in the town. He had not been long in this situation, before he married Miss Waldy, of Yarm, a young lady of distinguished excellence and piety; but who was spared to him only for the short period of fifteen months. She died on the 14th of September, 1774, leaving a daughter, who afterwards became the wife of Mr. Lee, a respectable attorney, at Wem, in Shropshire, and who is still living. This bereavement was a heavy affliction; but, amidst all the ardour of the affection he cherished for the memory of Mrs. Simpson, he humbly submitted to the will of unerring wisdom and infinite love, and was supremely concerned, that the melancholy event might be sanctified to his own spiritual improvement and useful. ness in the church of God.
Mr. Simpson had not been long in his curacy, before that plainness and faithfulness in preaching, which had excited such VOL. XXXVI. JANUARY, 1813.
* B *
inveterate hostility against him in Buckinghamshire, produced the same spirit, and a repetition of the same trials, at Maceles field. His enemies there, were the enemies of the gospel, and enemies to him only on that account. Had his preaching accorded with their corrupt views of religion; had his preaching and practice proved congenial with their worldly character, a man of such talents, so amiable a man in temper and manners, must have been hailed by them as their favourite preacher and excellent friend. But despising and rejecting that way of salvation, which so illustriously displays the sovereignty and holiness of God, how could they receive and honour him, whose every sermon bore testimony against the pride of Pharisaism, and the licentiousness of the unregenerate heart? His adversaries were active, determined, united, and, as they thought, successful. They made application to the bishop of the diocese, (Chester) for his removal, and he was immediately silonced; his lordship being as determined as the applicants, to exert himself, as far as his jurisdiction extended, in crushing the hydra of Methodism in the national church.
In future years it will be considered as a most extraordinary circumstance in the annals of British Ecclesiastical history, that so many of the clergy should have encountered the bitterest opposition for no other crime, than that of preaching the doctrines of those very articles, without subscribing to which, er animo, they could not have been admitted to episcopal ordination ! This was the only crime for which Mr. Simpson had been persecuted from two curacios, and in the last instance, by the imperious mandate of metropolitan authority." But the things which happened unto him, terminated in the furtherance of the gospel." The machinations, and triumphs of his adversaries, were presently blasted, and, with extreme vexation, they beheld the object of their base and barbarous prejudices, raised by the over-ruling Providence of heaven, to one of the first stations of respectability and usefulness upon earth.
İHow long he remained under suspension, we are not inforıncd. However, we know he was not idle; that such was his zeal for the glory of God, and compassion for the souls of men, that he could find no rest but in his wonted ministerial labours. During that period, he made frequent excursions into the unenlightened parts of the neighbouring country; preaching in private houses, and wherever he saw the door of usefulness thrown open. This practice he continued occasionally afterwards as long as he was able, and it was attended with such evident effects, in the conversion of sinners from the error of their ways, that, to the end of his ministry, he considered these itinerant labours as the most successful of his whole life. When remarking upon this subject to a friend, that his health would no longer permit him to follow