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OF THE REV. WILLIAM ROSS, LATE MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL AT SALEM CHAPEL, SHADWELL.
· Mr. WILLIAM Ross was born at South Shields, Aug. 2, 3777. His father was a seafaring man; and the son, at a proper age, was bound apprentice to a respectable ship-builder, at his native place. In this situation, his good conduct procured him the esteem and friendship of the worthy gentleman whom he served, which he retained through life. His mind was early impressed with the importance of religion, by attending the labours of the preachers in connection with the late Mr. Wesley; and he was admitted a regular member of their society before he attained his fifteenth year. At that early period, an aged friend, who was in the habit of visting the workhouses, to impart spiritual instruction to their neglected inhabitants, took "Mr. Ross with him on these errands of mercy, and persuaded him to engage in prayer. This led to other exercises of a like nature; and he was soon sent out as a local preacher. His labours, at this time, were numerous and acceptable. Though closely employed through the week, he usually preached on the Lord's Day at three places, several miles distant from each other, to which he constantly travelled on foot. He has frequently remarked to his friends, many years afterwards, how dear one of these places was to him, and what happy opportunities he enjoyed there, in conducting the worship of a number of pious pitmen.
He did not continue long in this connection. As his know, ledge of divine truth encreased, be began to view some of their sentiments as doubtful, and to search the Scriptures daily, whe, ther those things were so. In this enquiry after the right way, he received great assistance from the friendly conversation of the Rev. Mr. Nipes, of Newcastle. By degrees, he obtained clearer ideas of the doctrines of grace, and, leaving the friends XVIII,
of Mr. Wesley, he joined a small independent church at Soutlı Shields. This society being without a pastor, he was encouraged to preach among them; and his labours were eminently acceptable and owned of the Lord, to the good of many souls. A tall from the side of a ship, on which he was at work, however, obliged him to suspend his exertions for some time; but his confinement was greatly blessed to his spiritual improvement. On his resuming the work of the ministry, his friends, who admired his natural abilities and gifts, thought it desirable that some means of cultivation should be afforded him. The worthy gentleman to whom he was apprentice, kindly offered to use his interest to introduce him into one of the universities; but as he scrupled conformity to the Establishment, his master cheerfully gave up that part of his time which he had to serve, and furnished him with a warm recommendation to Lady Ann Erskine.
He therefore left his friends, accompanied by the unfeigned regret and sincere esteem of the church and congregation, and proceeded to the Countess of Huntington's College, at Cheshunt; where he arrived on May 2, 1798, and was well received by the worthy tutor. His application to the improvement of his mind at college was praiseworthy; and his occasional labours, as a preacher, were well received by the neighbouring congregations, especially at Enfield, where he regularly engaged when Mr. Nicholson could not attend. He left college in tlre spring of 1800; and, after experiencing many difficulties, determined to go abroad. He agreed with a captain, and actually embarked at Gravesend ; but the profane conduct of the crew was so distressing to his pious spirit, that he landed again the same day, and relinquished his design.
On his arrival in London, he found Mr. William Gregory, late Missionary to the South Seas, who had heard of Mr. R?'s character, and was desirous of a connection with him. They obtained possession of Salem Chapel, Shadwell, which had then been for some time shut up, and agreed to unite their exertions in preaching the gospel. The curiosity of the neighbours was excited, the attendance was encouraging, and the word was made effectual. A church was soon formed, and the labours of Mr. Ross were peculiarly useful. Circumstances, however, in a little time, induced Mr. Ross and his friends to leave Salem Chapel, and their connection with Mr. Gregory. Almost the whole congregation followed Mr. Ross to Mill-yard, where they worshipped till Mr. Gregory left the * country, when they returned again to Salem.
Here Mr. Ross continued his labours for several years with encreasing usefulness. Many were added to the church; and the number of regular members, at the close of 1808, ainounted to upwards of forty. He began to be better known to the professors of religion, and especially to neiglasbouring ininisters; and was by all more esteemed as he was better known His congregation and church receiving daily proofs of his disinterested regard to their tenporal and spiritual welfare, grew every day more gratefully and tenderly attached to him. He had projected plans of benevolence* among his hearers and connections, and rejoiced in the prospect of their success, when the Lord, whose ways are soinetimes in the great deep, saw it right to put an end to his services on earth. .
Towards the close of the year 1808, his mind appears to have been led in a peculiar manner to contemplate the short ness and uncertainty of human life. When celebrating the dying love of the Redeemer with his people for the last time, as it afterwards proved, he observed, that, probably, some of them might be called away before they met again on a similar occasion, and that perhaps it might be the speaker. A few days afterwards, observing to a friend that he felt his earthly house decaying, and being advised to omit the afternoon service, he replied, 'I can by no means indulge the thought: 1 am willing to die in my Master's service.'
On Monday, December 11, his two children were seized with a fever; which, for some time, appeared to threaten a. fatal issue. Though his parental affections were strong, yet he could recognize an object still more wortoy of his regards. On the Wednesday evening, he delivered a discourse, which has been recollected by his friends with inuch pleasure, from Cal. iii. 2, ‘ Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth. This was his last sermon. On the Saturday fol. lowing he was seized with a violent complaint in his bowels; which encreased, in a few hours, to an alarming degree. In a short time, luiş disorder appeared to be very dangerous, and his pains were extremely acute; but he bore all his own sufferings, and beheld the sufferings of his dear children, with patience and resignation. As his end evidently approached, and all hopes vanished, his mind seemed to be more steadfastly, fixed on the Rock of Ages. To a minister, who called on him the day before he died, he observed,' My friends are running to procure me one thing and another; but we have all things in Christ.' To his partner in life, to whom he had been a inost affectionạte husband, he said, ' My dear, the Lord is about to remove me; but I ani perfectly resigned to his will! A short time before his departure, a sister asked him how he felt; and he
He established a Society among his friends for Visiting and Relieving Poor Lying in Women, and furnishing them with necessaries during their confinement, under the name of The Sympathizing Daughters of Salem. He attended the meetings of the benevolent females who conducted and supported it, addressing suitable encourageinent to them, and giving ap. propriate exhortations to the objects relieved, endeavouring that the teine poral assistance affyrded them might be made instrumental to their spirite Wal edification.
replied, “ Hanging on the Atonement. His mother remarking that much of his life had been spent in the ways of God, he interrupted her, by exclaiming, O mother, I have no dependence on that ! Singing had always been his delight, from his first setting out in religion ; and during the latter part of his illness, which lasted only seven days, he frequently repeated, and requested his attendants to sing hymns that were suited to his circumstances, and dwelt on his mind. These sweet songs of Zion afforded him great consolation, and were almost constantly on his lips during the last two or three days of his life."
A few hours before his departure, a medicine which he had taken caused a degree of delirium, which, however, soon subsided. He was perfectly sensible of his circumstances, and met the king of terrors with composite. His friends surrounding his bed, he took an affectionate and solemn leave of each of them; and desired to be remembered to an absent brother! He observed, 'I have lost my voice, and cannot now sing hallelujah ;' and then composing himself, a friend was requested to pray with them. His friend complied; and while he was engaged in this sacred exercise, Mr. Ross breathed his last, without a sigh or groan. He died December 23, 1808, aged 31 years, more than half of which had been employed in the ministry. A disconsolate widow and two young daughters were left to mourn the loss of a very affectionate and tender husband and father. The church and neighbours sympathized deeply with the afflicted relatives ; and several of his brethren in the ministry bore public testiinony of their respect'to his memory. The Rev. John Thomas, of Founders' Hall, at the desire of his friends, improved the affecting stroke at Salem Chapel, from Psalm xc. 12. The Rev. Mr. Vipond preached a sermon on the same occasion at Wandsworth, from 2 Cor. v. l; and Mr. Hornby paid the same tribute of respect to his inemory, at Milton, from Rev. xiv. 13..
In the discharge of social and relative duties, Mr. Ross was exemplary. As a husband, a father, a master, and in every other relation, his affection, prudence; and fidelity were å blessing to his connections and an honour to his profession. As a minister, he enjoyed the cordial esteem and friendship of his church and congregation, in a degree which, we fear, is not common. This regard to the memory of one who was made the instrument of forming the church at first, whose attention and care had' conducted them, from siñall beginnings, to a degree of order and stability, has been expressed in various ways,' and still continues. May his worthy suécessor deserve and obtain the like esteem! Press i on :
This respect for Mr. Ross's character was not confised to his own congregation. When he left college, Providence called him to labour occasionally at Wandsworth; and his ministry and conversation gained him the high regard of many in that
yillage. This regard was continued and increased by occasional visits to the end of his life; and his death was as sincerely lamented at Wandsworth aş at Salem Chapel. He had extended his ministerial excursions to Milton; and there likewise his character was held in high estimation. Mr. Hornby, minister at that place, and Mr. Ross, had agreed to exchange pulpits on Christmas Day, 1808; but we may better conceive than describe the sonsations of a congregration who valued him highly, and several of whom had come many miles in hopes of hearing him preacli, when, instead of seeing bim in the pulpit, a letter was read, announcing the unexpected and affecting tidings of his death. The effect was trily solemn and impressive; and will long live in the memories of those who were present. : Mr. Ross' was an instance of what may be done by a person stimulated to exertion by love to God and man. Though dependent on his industry for support, with a young and increas, ing family, he served the church over which he presided gratuitously. He knew that their circumstances enabled them to do little more than defray the unavoidable expences of conducting the worship of God; and thought it no disgrace to minister to his own wants. He carried on business as a stationer and bookseller, and was particularly connected with the shipping; yet in his secular engagements, he did not forget his great work. He seized every opportunity of promoting the spiritual as well as the temporal interests of that valuable part of the community, the officers and seamen belonging to trading vessels. · He dropt a word of exhortation in his shop, conveyed religious tracts on board their ships, – invited and encouraged them to attend the means of grace when on shore,
- and when circumstances warranted the freedoin, corresponded with them when abroad. With the same view, he pub. lished a small pamphlet, relating a singular instance of the interposition of Dirine Providence in preserving the crew of a' merchant vessel that was wrecked in the North Seas * His exertions for tlíe good of British seamen, produced correspondent sensations in their ingenuolis breasts. Many of them entertained sentiments of high esteem and gratitude towards himn; and his widow received proofs of their affectionate attachment to his memory from distant parts of the world. : Our deceased friend was in the habit of drawing spiritual reflection and instruction from the common occurrences of
* This pamphlet was called · Monuments of Sparing Mercy; or a Narralive of the Lis of the Brig Ann, of Newcastle, H. Potter, Masler, on a Voyage to Archangel, Juix 30, 1807, when he and tris Crew were most miraculously pres:rved, alter being al Sea in that Frozcu Clime 22 Days, in an opeo Bo...", Price 6:1. - He likewise published, in 1802, God's Won. ders in the Deep ;' containing the Lire, Experience, singular Deliverances, 200 grcat Allliclions of W. Graat, late Captain in the Merchanis' Service,'