Page images

ministry of the Methodists at times, yet during the whole of this period he never experienced a sense of the pardoning mercy of God; not that he willingly undervalued the benefit, or was too proud, too conceited, or too indolent to seek it. No, he rested short of it for lack of proper views of it, and of the only way in which it could be obtained. Well would it be for many professors of religion, and for many Methodists, if the same apology could be justly made for them while they remain strangers to the personal enjoyment of this Christian privilege ; but this I fear cannot be done. Now, however, be sought it with all his heart, and endeavoured to take the kingdom of heaven by sacred violence. A few short extracts from some memorandums of his religious feelings at this time will, I have no doubt, be very acceptable to the reader.

January, 1801. Reflecting on Isaiah xxxvii. 1, " Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live," he says, “ Were this sentence to be executed on me this day, where would my trembling spirit be? I fear in the regions of despair: O Lord, spare me a little, that I may by grace be brought to know my Saviour and Redeemer, before I go hence and be no more seen. A few days after, reflecting on Luke xviii. 13, “ God be merciful to me a sinner,” he says,

“ No one needs this prayer more than myself. 0, my God, fulfil this petition in me.” After hearing Mr. Joseph Meek preach on Malachi iïi. 16, he writes, “ I was much affected (meaning under the discourse) and encouraged to seek the blessing which God's people enjoy.” On February the 10th he says, “ My mind is much cast down. I fear the work of God has never been begun in me, and that at last all will end in misery.” February 15, after hearing Mr. Mawer, of Lincoln, preach, he says, “I dread living any longer an enemy to God, taking part with the devil and his angels against him; but alas ! I still remain as it were shut up in hardness of heart and unbelief. Owhen shall my deliverer come !"

A careful consideration of these extracts will prepare any person, sufficiently acquainted with the character, promises, and proceedings of Jehovah our God, to expect the speedy and signal deliverance of Mr. Dixon “from sin and fear, from guilt and shame.” Accordingly we find him, on February 17, saying, “ A day which I trust, with thankfulness to God, I shall remember to all eternity, in that he has given me to believe on the Son of his love; and, for his sake, has blotted out all my sins. O what a miracle of grace! I live as in a new world; all things around me conspire to praise their Creator. O, my God, keep me humble, and thirsting after grace and love." This language will not surprise any who have experienced deliverance from sin's bitterest anguish. Less still will this language surprise the reader, when I inform him, that on this very day Mrs. Dixon and one of their female servants were

also made partakers of that freedom which the Son of Man giveth. O for more such happy days in Methodist families !

Scarcely was Mr. Dixon translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son before it was judged proper to place him in an official situation in the cburch. A few persons having received profit under the ministry of the word, and being desirous of fleeing from the wrath to come, were formed into a class, and Mr. Dixon was made its leader. Some, doubtless, in reading this paragraph, will feel disposed to question the propriety of making one but newly found in Christ, a guardian of others. And so should I, had Mr. Dixon been a christian of an ordinary stamp; but how well he was qualified, from the soundness of his experience, to undertake this charge, let the statement already given declare

, And as to the doctrinal knowledge requisite for such an office

, the following statement, given in nearly his own words, will shew how far he was possessed of it. In answer to this question, What doctrines do I believe? He answers

1. Man's total fall from original righteousness, 2. In the vicarious and universal atonement of Jesus Christ. 3. In the justification of the signer by faith. 4. In the direct and abiding witness of the Spirit.

5. In Christian holiness, including the total destruction of the carnal mind, and the perfect renewal of the soul in the image of God.

6. In a future judgment. 7. In the eternal happiness of faithful persevering believers. 8. In the everlasting punishment of the wicked.

As far as zeal in the cause of God and souls can qualify a man for such a situation, I may boldly say he was duly qualified, for his was ardent and improving. Thus fitted for eminent services in the church of the living God, he entered on his labours, depending wholly on the blessing of heaven for success: and verily his God was with him. In the discharge of his office as a leader, he endeavoured to enter fully into the different states of those under his care, and to administer such instruction, advice

, reproof, exhortation, and consolation, as were necessary, fidelity and affection; and both by precept and example did he recommend those various graces, and enforce those several duties, which are so frequently and so forcibly enjoined in the Word of God. If to the afore-mentioned excellencies we add, that nothing gave him greater pleasure than to see the members of his class prospering in religion, and giving all diligence to make their calling and election sure, we shall form a tolerably correct view of him as a class-leader.

The generality of Christians have their brighter and their darker side; but John Dixon would bear examination in whatever light exhibited. For this pre-eminence he was indebted to his



great, growing, and 'inviolable attachment to the Word of his God as the rule of his life. To this perfect standard he was constantly bringing his sentiments, affections, tempers, motives, and actions, to see that they were right in the sight of God; and so much did he regard the law of the Lord, that he might with much truth be said to have meditated in it day and night. In short, he could experimentally say, “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More are they to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold. Sweeter also than honey and the honey comb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is great reward." And of whomsoever this honourable truth might be affirmed beside, of John Dixon it might be truly said, he was a Bible Christian.

How highly must Bassingham have been favoured by enjoying the benefit of one such light and benefactor! Solomon observes, “ One sinner destroyeth much good ;” and but too often are we called to be the melancholy witnesses of the truth of this obser. vation. But, on the other hand, does not one saint, more especially such a saint as Mr. Dixon, promote much good? Undoubtedly; for the liberal person deviseth liberal things; and by liberal things he standeth. Unto very few could this Christian characteristic be more happily applied than to Mr. Dixon. He had done much for the inhabitants of Bassingham: he had brought the gospel to them, and had provided a place to preach in; and that becoming too small he had fitted up his barn; and when that became too strait to hold the attendants on the Word, he at length built a commodious little chapel on his own ground, and at his own expense, and gave it to the Methodists. These liberal proceedings did not procure him the esteem of all; for with David, he could have said of some of his neighbours, “ For my love they are mine adversaries.” Some of them were very bitter, nay exceedingly mad against him; and for no other reason than because they stood reproved by the excellency of his example, and were not permitted to go to hell quietly. O how blind is man to his best interests, and to his friends unkind! Had many professors been in his circumstances, they would have retaliated his disingenuous conduct; but the Royal Pslamist was John Dixon's model: “ For my love (said David) they are mine adveraries; but I give myself unto prayer." So said John Dixon. He blessed those that cursed him, and prayed for all those who lespitefully used and persecuted him. "Nay, with this he could lot be contented. The more his neighbours spurned the Word


of Life and put it from them, the more tenderly did he pity them, and long the more earnestly for their conversion. So that at length, as Jeremiah expresses himself, the Word of God was in his heart, as a burning fire shut up in his bones; he became weary with forbearing, and could no longer stay from lifting up his voice like a trumpet, and shewing his neighbours their sins. Nor was a mind like his, embracing, by the expansive force of Divine love, the whole human race, to be confined within the narrow limits of a single parish. His discerning eye perceived the deplorable condition of the neighbouring towns and villages, and his benevolent heart commisserated them. Hence, though he truly felt preaching to be a cross, yet he determined to take up this cross, and carry the glad tidings of salvation to them. Such was his call to the ministry. His talents and his circumstances raised him considerably above the ordinary level of local preachers. His preaching talents were popular: for to an understanding naturally strong, he united a correct judgment, a peculiarly happy method of arranging his subjects, and an elocution that was pointed, proper, and forcible. These excellencies were under the government of a heart sanctified to God, and a zeal that resembled a burning flame. Nor was he wanting in honourable and exalted views of the work of the ministry. The first qualification of a gospel minister, in his opinion, was a personal sense of the Divine favour. Hence, whenever he was led to examine his own call to this blessed and glorious work, this was the first thing unto which is attention was invariably directed. The following instance of an examination of this kind, in his own language, will, I hope, be acceptable to the reader. In January, 1807, he asks

1. Do I enjoy the favour of God? To which he replies, I do love God, and desire to do his will; and for the most part feel a strong persuasion that I am his child.

2. Do I believe that I am called to preach ? Ans. I am not so clear in this point as I could wish to be; but I think I have (1) a love to souls, and an earnest desire for their conversion. (2) From this love I have a desire to be useful to them. (3) When employed (he means in preaching) I take those measures which I judge most likely to be conducive to their eternal good. (4) I trust I have seen some fruit of my labour. Many sinners have professed to be awakened under my ministry that I know of; and from the observation of some years, I have reason to believe they are safely brought to God. Some mourners have found pardon and peace under my ministry, while the people of God have frequently expressed themselves as having received good under me. And (5) I also feel many happy seasons in my work; my soul is most alive to God when most employed. And yet, when I view myself, I seem to have so little piety and fitnesa


for the work, and in many places seem to labour so much in vain, that I am ready to conclude I have missed my way. The Lord clear up my doubts !”

This extract will (unless I am much mistaken) answer a double purpose. First, It will serve to shew that he had honourable and scriptural views of a gospel minister and his work. Secondly, it will demonstrate that he was actuated by proper motives in the exercise of his ministry. I mention this latter particular, because some who professed themselves to be his brethren were so free as to call their purity in question, and so imprudent as openly to express their doubts. Whether these suspicions and detractive speeches originated in a godly jealousy, or in envy of his popularity, the Lord will shortly judge. For popular he was as a minister, and deservedly so. No man was ever more ready, at the call of existing circumstances, to lay himself out in every way he could for the extension of the work of God. He was particularly attentive to the best interests of young people, and had a singular talent for this branch of ministerial duty. Nor is there any way in which a minister of righteousness is called to serve his God and his generation, in which he did not strive to excel, and in a good degree succeed. He read much, thought more, and for the most part retained the information he acquired. He had a ready invention, which enabled him to bring out of his treasury a wonderful variety of edifying things, in the most interesting and seasonable manner : indeed he was an ornament either to the parlour or the pulpit. I had the honour and happiness of an intimate acquaintance with him from the time of my appointment to the Newark circuit, until his departure to a better country; and truth obliges me to say, that I found him one of the most faithful, affectionate, worthy, and valuable of men. But the best testimony to his worth will be found in the gratification which his friends derived from his company and intercourse, and the great acceptance which his labours generally met with from the public. There was one trait in his character which those who knew him best could not but observe, viz. that his ardent soul, like a sword, was too keen for its scabbard. His zeal to do good far exceeded his bodily strength; and it is unto this circumstance principally, that his early death may be attributed.

(To be concluded in the next.)


To the Editor of the Methodist Magazine. If the following sermon, lately received from America, where it was preached and published, should be thought worthy a VOL. XL. AUGUST, 1817.

« PreviousContinue »