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From the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.
By the Rev. William Naylor. OUR Zion has, of late, been called to mourn the extinction of some of her brightest luminaries; and their tombs have been consecrated by the tears of the sincerest affection. But the duty of Christians, in reference to departed ministers, does not terminate in sorrowing for their removal. "The Holy Spirit has enjoined on believers in Christ an affectionate remembrance of those heralds of salvation * who have spoken unto them the word of God,' whose faith they are exhorted to follow. In complying with this Divine injunction, a record of the lives of faithful ministers has been found of great advantage; and by the perusal of such records, the memories of saints have been refreshed, their faith strengthened, and their diligence in working out their own salvation quickened. On this account, were there no other reason, it is desirable to preserve from the gulf of oblivion the memory of the just.' In rendering this service to the Church of God, no periodical has surpassed the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine. The biographical accounts of those who have adorned their Christian profession, and served their generation in the office of the ministry, inserted in its volumes, have been blessed to the consolation and edification of thousands; and by the memoir of the messenger of mercy now placed on its pages, many will be reminded of various times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord,' with which they have been favored under his personal ministry.
The Rev. John James was born at Liverpool, in the year 1786. His parents, Robert and Elizabeth James, were at that time living after the course of this world ; but shortly after his birth they were induced to attend the ministry of the Gospel in the Wesleyan chapel, and unite themselves with the Methodist society in that town, where Mrs. James, for several years, was the leader of a class; an office for which she was highly fitted by the possession of deep and genuine piety, fervent zeal, and gifts of a peculiarly useful order. most heavenly-minded woman, rich in faith, intent upon her own salvation, and diligently seeking to promote that of others. Mr. James's father, who was a sea-faring man, chiefly employed in the Greenland fishery, being of necessity long and frequently from home, the care of John's infant years devolved entirely on his mother, who manifested
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an anxious, prayerful solicitude for the spiritual welfare of her only child. By her he was early instructed in the principles of religion, admonished to fear God and eschew evil, taught to reverence the Scriptures as the book of God, to observe the Sabbath as the day of the Lord, and to attend regularly on public worship. When about ten years of age, under the care of this pious mother, the blossoms of early piety began to appear. She often supplicated the throne of grace on his behalf; and when she attended her weekly class, frequently took him with her to the same valuable ordinance. Of this period, the friend, who subsequently became his leader, observes : – His mother met in class with me, and his spiritual concerns lay near her heart; and at that early age, I believe, he had the fear of God before his eyes. I do not remember that I ever had to reprove him for associating with wicked boys. I saw a work of grace on his mind, which afterward ripened into a sound conversion.' Thus was the pious care of the mother rewarded ; another instance, among many, of the encouragement presented to parents to commence early the religious instruction of their children.
The period now arrived when the mother and the son were for a season to be separated. To complete that education which was deemed necessary to qualify him for a respectable station in life, it was thought advisable to send bim to a boarding school in the country. Public seminaries, unless judiciously conducted by those who are under the influence of real religion, are rarely favorable to youthful piety. That indiscriminate intercourse which boys of diversified dispositions, propensities, and habits, have with each other, is too frequently attended with a pernicious influence. The youth who has been taught, from infant days, to bow the knee in morning and even ing prayer, meets with others who have come from families where the worship of God was unknown, and where, it is probable, religion was seldom, if ever named, but with contumely and ridicule. With such associates, few have had courage to persevere in the practice of those duties of a serious character, to which they were trained in their father's house. Many promising young people have speedily lost all their pious impressions, have become fully as careless as those around them; and have returned to their parents, improved, indeed, in learning, but deprived of the truest wisdom. The many deplorable examples of this kind, which are constantly occurring, loudly call upon Christian parents to be very careful in their selection of schools, and upon the governors of such institutions to keep a watchful eye over their important charge. To the boarding school where John was placed, the affectionate concern of his mother followed him. shown by her keeping up a regular correspondence with him, having for its principal subject his eternal interests. By this correspondence, and by occasional interviews, his convictions and good desires were preserved and strengthened ; and he ultimately returned home fixedly intent on the salvation of his soul. In the pursuit of this all-important work, he joined the Methodist society. Thus he became decided in his Christian character; a decision which he never regretted, but for which he found unceasing cause of grateful praise to God to the end of his life. From personal experience he could recommend to young persons a full consecration of themselves to God, and a union with his
people. Shortly afterward he was apprenticed to a respectable draper in Liverpool ; and in this situation it was his privilege to have, as fellow apprentices, two young men like minded with himself, exemplary members of the same religious community ; and who, after having adorned their Christian profession for several years, finished their course before him.
At this period Mr. James had not obtained a sense of pardon; and to increased diligence in the pursuit of this blessing he was prompted by the death of his master, and by the faithful ministry which he statedly attended. The powerful preaching of the Rev. W. Jenkins was especially made a great blessing to him. He appears to have been about fifteen years of age when he entered into the liberty of the people of God. Of the particulars of this interesting event no information can be obtained; but in the absence of circumstantial detail, which, if possessed, would doubtless interest and profit, we have indisputable evidence of the certainty of the fact in those fruits of converting grace, which could not proceed from any other causein newness of life and in the possession of Divine peace—and power to call God Father by the Holy Ghost as the Spirit of adoption. Many truly pious persons have attached great importance to the relation of the time and place, and other circumstances, connected with the first reception of converting grace. But the sound Scriptural assurance that the work has been wrought is much more to be esteemed and depended on than the most vivid descriptions of the supposed process of that work. It is possible to be deceived concerning the hour and the circumstances of conversion; but concerning the legitimate evidences of a state of grace, there can be no deception. Where they are found, no doubt can be entertained of the soul having passed from death unto life. For men do not gather grapes of thorns, nor figs of thistles ;' and a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.' One who was the intimate friend and religious associate of Mr. James, about this period, writes - When I first knew him, he had experienced a thorough conversion to God, and was walking in the light of his countenance. With the peculiar circumstances of that important event I have not charged my recollection; but if my memory does not deceive me, it was shortly after he returned from school that he obtained the peace of God which" passeth all understanding." A few months after this, I joined the class of which he was a member; and soon after, he, and I, and another young man, began to meet in private band together. We met weekly, and were favored with the presence of God in a very eminent manner. We adhered strictly to the rules of the band societies ; placed the most unbounded confidence in each other; and never abused that confidence. Our single aim was to promote each other's spiritual improvement; and we found no time for any conversation which did not contribute to that end. Mr. James acted a leading part in the duties of this little society ; and, at that early period, evinced a considerable degree of that power and fluency in prayer which characterized his maturer years. Another of his band mates, referring to the same ordinance, observes. It is impassible to advert to his early life, without calling to recollection those extraordinary seasons of comfort and joy with which we were