Abbildungen der Seite

prise. In order to secure this, Dr. Coke was accustomed to wait personally on those persons of wealth and station, whom he thought likely to afford assistance to the cause which lay so near his heart. Mr. Newton frequently accompanied the pious Doctor in these begging excursions; and thus had the missionary fire which glowed in his heart fanned into flame by the labouring zeal and fervent spirit of that man of God, just as he stood on the threshold of his reward.

The next seat of Robert Newton's ministerial labour was Wakefield. Before he removed from London, the Ministers and friends in Leeds, believing the time had come for affording more systematic and efficient aid to the support of Christian Missions to the Heathen than Methodism had hitherto rendered, united in consultation, held a public meeting, and organized a Society for this purpose. The Districts of Halifax, York, Sheffield, Cornwall, and Newcastle soon followed this good example. On the meeting of the ensuing Conference, this important movement on behalf of Missions was carefully considered, and the measures which had been taken by these Districts were approved, and the whole Connexion strongly urged to pursue a similar course. When, therefore, Mr. Newton began his ministry at Wakefield, the Methodist body was just preparing to enter on that widely spread and energetic course of evangelical action on behalf of Missions to the Heathen, which has since diffused the knowledge of Christ to "the regions beyond," with a rapidity and power without a parallel since the apostolic age.

It is a singular circumstance that, at this time, Yorkshire contained three Ministers who were destined to do more than any others in the origination and advancement of this great work,Jabez Bunting of Leeds, Richard Watson of Hull, and Robert Newton of Wakefield. We have here only to speak of the latter, although it cannot but be observed that, in these three men, the great Head of the Church gave to the Mission cause a rare munificence of mind, a vast and comprehensive range of talent, such as has seldom been seen working in harmonious action in any one section of the Church of Christ. But, while Mr. Bunting originated, and to a great extent directed, this great movement, and Mr. Watson promoted it by the unwearied energy of his sublime and mighty mind, our author truly observes :—

"Yet Robert Newton was the man of the people. There was such a frankness in his tones and manner, that he no sooner began to speak in a Missionary Meeting, than every countenance was brightened with a smile, and the audience, as if by general agreement, surrendered themselves to him. He had the power, above almost every other man, of communicating to the multitude the sentiments and purposes of his own large and generous heart. He was therefore usually selected to deliver the speech just before the collection was

Extraordinary Labours.


made; and, while he appealed to the crowds around him, their hearty responses and entire demeanour forcibly reminded one of the tribes of Israel, when all the people answered to one another, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.'"-Page 88.

Mr. Newton removed from Wakefield at the Conference of 1817. And from this period we must regard him, not merely as a Wesleyan Minister, however distinguished, zealous, and useful, but also as occupying an extraordinary position in the Church. Thenceforward his labours in the regular ministry were confined to a more limited number of Circuits than usually, during so long a period, falls to the lot of a Methodist Preacher. Of the last thirty-five years of Mr. Newton's ministry, he was stationed in Stockport three years; Leeds, six years; Salford, six years; Manchester, nine years; and Liverpool, eleven years. But, whilst this statement would seem to circumscribe Mr. Newton's labours to a narrower sphere than that usually occupied by his brethren in the Itinerancy, he was, in fact, pursuing a much more extended circle of toil than any of them. For, while feeling deeply interested in the spiritual prosperity of his Circuit, and doing all in his power to promote it, every vacant hour was absorbed in compliance with urgent applications for his aid, in the pulpits, or on the platforms, of innumerable other places. On this point his biographer observes:

"He was scrupulously diligent in fulfilling his appointments in his own Circuit, and, at the same time, was always ready to serve his friends at a distance, when they applied for his aid. Many were the journeys that he took for this purpose. And great was the self-denial that he practised in leaving his family, and in travelling, by night and by day, to assist in the formation of Missionary Societies, to preach at the opening of chapels, and to plead the cause of local charities."-Page 95.

It is, indeed, scarcely possible to convey to the reader an adequate idea of the vast extent of these labours. In a letter, dated June 7th, 1823, Mr. Newton said,

"All my friends tell me that I am killing myself. I have attended thirty-eight Missionary Meetings, and travelled about two thousand three hundred miles, since the middle of March."—Page 105.

And this amount of labour and travel was exclusive of occasional sermons, and his regular Circuit work as a Wesleyan Minister! About three Missionary Meetings, and two hundred miles of journeying per week, for these twelve weeks in succession; and this before the introduction of railways, and in addition to his ordinary ministerial duty! Can we wonder that his friends said, he was "killing himself?"

We cannot but feel amazement that any human system could

[merged small][ocr errors]

for so long a time endure such an amount of incessant toil. Yet he seemed to bear it, not only without suffering, but with delight. After speaking, day after day, at a series of Missionary Anniversaries, when every one else would feel heavy and weary, on the following morning, Mr. Newton would be up early, humming a tune, as blithe as a lark, and as ready as ever to enter upon the severe labour of a new day, in the service of his Master. It is, however, still more astonishing how any mind could continue such a series of efforts. That his occasional sermons and platform-speeches were real intellectual efforts, is certain from the results which they produced, and the eagerness with which they were sought after. But some persons may suppose that in these extraordinary labours he spent his strength, and that in his usual Circuit duties he was a different person. Dr. Beecham, a very competent authority, proves that this supposition, however natural, is altogether unjust. On this very important question he speaks thus:

"The interest which Mr. Newton took in his Circuit and pastoral duties, was not exceeded by the zeal with which he sought to promote the cause of Christ by his more public labours. He endeavoured, when at home, to make up, as far as possible, the lack of service which resulted from his frequent absence. Immediately on his return from his long and arduous excursions, he threw himself into his Circuit work with a freshness which was surprising, and a zest which proved that he felt himself in his proper element; while he industriously redeemed the time, by a close application to his duties as a Christian Pastor."-Page 125.

Mr. Newton continued this course of labour, until the Conference of 1833, perceiving that, notwithstanding his almost superhuman strength of body and energy of mind, he could not possibly supply the continued demand made on him by the Connexion, and at the same time do justice to his own Circuit, very wisely appointed a young man to do his week-day and pastoral work; leaving him thus at liberty to travel during the week-days with more freedom, and, if possible, with more frequency, for the benefit of the Connexion at large. The amount of journeying, preaching, and speaking, which he performed during the ensuing nineteen years, cannot be told; and, if it could, the statement would appear incredible. In every part of the United Kingdom his voice was heard pleading the cause of his Divine Master, the wants of suffering humanity, and the extension of the Church of Christ. And every where he was received with rapture, and multitudes hung on his lips, as though they had never heard him before. Never, it is believed, in the whole history of the world, did any other man travel so many miles, preach so many sermons, deliver so many speeches, or collect so much money for purposes directly religious, as did Robert Newton. And we think it may be safely

His Talents and Popularity.


added,―never did any man secure, and maintain during so long a period, so extensive and intense a popularity as he.

Nor was it within the Wesleyan circle or in the British Isles alone, that he received such marked and universal homage. On his visit to America, the Clergy, the people, the Congress, all crowded to hear him; and all listened with wonder and delight to the oratory of the English Divine, and celebrated his praises in unmeasured terms.

But, after all, the most singular feature in the popularity of this great man was its universality. Some men are prodigies at home, and mediocre abroad. Others are popular where they are least known, and less esteemed in their own locality. We have said that Mr. Newton was "the man of the people." He was so, in the most emphatic sense. In the Wesleyan Connexion we have found men obtain a measure of this honour, who have not been very highly esteemed among their brethren in the Ministry. It was not so in this instance. There was no man more loved and honoured by Wesleyan Ministers than he. Four times was he placed in the Chair of the Conference, and nineteen times was he elected Secretary to that body. This is an amount of official honour never given to any other man in the whole history of the Wesleyan body. Indeed, so high did this eminent man stand in the estimation of his brethren, that for any Wesleyan minister to doubt or distrust the high Christian principle, brotherly feeling, unsullied honour, or unswerving integrity of Robert Newton, was quite sufficient to place himself in a very equivocal position.

It is not, however, for the purpose of eulogizing the dead, that we make these statements. We have, in the volume before us, a narrative of facts, affording the most abundant proof of Mr. Newton's greatness. And if any of our readers entertain any scepticism on this point, we will fully allow them to distrust our judgment, if they will refer to the book itself, and judge of the man from the detailed account of his career which it so fully supplies. We freely confess, that we have seen enough to assure our mind, that we have before us a character of surpassing grandeur, beauty, and usefulness. The genius and power, the life and labours, of Robert Newton, present to our view a phenomenon which, considered either in respect of philosophy or religion, in regard of his own happiness, or in the results of his labours in the Church and the world, is of the deepest interest as a subject of study, as well as a model of ministerial character.

Let us, then, take a brief survey of this specimen of greatness, and its peculiar manifestations.

Before proceeding to this, however, the reader should be informed that in the year 1843 the University of Middletown, in the United States, conferred on Mr. Newton the well-merited

degree of Doctor of Divinity. From this time, therefore, we have to speak of the subject of this biography as Dr. Newton.

It may be admitted, in limine, that his character and usefulness did not result from the outbursting of a mighty genius, which came on the world flashing like a meteor with instant maturity and power. We find in him nothing like what the political world saw in the precocious maturity of Pitt, whose eloquence knew no growth, but commenced at zenith altitude. It was not so with Dr. Newton. He was, it is true, favoured with an exceedingly strong and robust physical system, and an equally vigorous and energetic mind. In both respects he was endowed with powers far beyond the ordinary lot of humanity. In fact, his bodily and intellectual nature seemed to require, for healthy exercise, an amount of exertion sufficient to break down an ordinary man. When placed in a shop in his youth, and shut up to the usual indoor work, his health and strength declined so manifestly, that his master gave up his indentures, and thus enabled him to pursue a more active life. And it is a well-known fact, that his mind required constant and laborious exercise quite as much as his body.

The eminent celebrity attained by Dr. Newton appears to have arisen, not so much from the possession of one or more commanding attributes of mind, as from the constant and intense consecration of all the powers of a clear, strong, energetic intellect, and large heart, to the service of his Redeemer. No sooner was he converted than he began to work for God. And when introduced into the Ministry, he seems to have taken for his motto, "Instant in season, out of season." Not only was every duty attended to, but opportunities for further usefulness were sought out. Nothing pertaining to his ministerial vocation was, in his estimation, little or unimportant. His mind was carefully cultivated, all his powers were developed, and, before the pressure of public duties absorbed all his time, he had availed himself of every opportunity of storing his memory with valuable and varied information, and especially with sterling theology. By these means it was that, perhaps beyond almost any other public man, Dr. Newton's excellencies were alloyed with very, very few defects.

That, however, which in our judgment contributed, more than any thing else, to place this man on the pinnacle of fame, was his steady and prominent adherence to the great objects, agencies, and truths of the Gospel, in their simple and practical influence on those who heard him. We fully recognise the magnitude and power of his natural abilities. Under no circumstances could he have been an ordinary man. His vigorous intellect, his almost intuitive perception, his ability to grasp almost any subject, and, by his peculiar naturaluess and graphic manner of presenting it to his audience, to

« ZurückWeiter »