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FOR JANUARY, 1835.
MEMOIR OF THE LATE REV. THOMAS COOPER :
WRITTEN BY HIMSELF. I was born at Staincross, near Wakefield, in the year 1760. My parents were professed members of the established Church, but entire strangers to the power of godliness, living according to the course of this world, and supported by a groundless hope of being hereafter happy, without that necessary preparatory '
work of holiness. About this period, my father, learning that the Methodists were in Wakefield, and being informed of many remarkable things concerning them, went thither to hear them for himself. Little did he imagine what God had prepared for him under the first sermon, till the well-directed arrow pierced his heart. He immediately returned home, and sounded the alarm
his godly companions. He told them what was preached, and what he felt under the word; declared that he was resolved to go again ; and he entreated them to accompany him on the following Lord's day. They accordingly went with him, but never after-needed his invitation. Having tasted the good word, they became deeply affected with a compassionate concern for their perishing relations and neighbours. The husband began to plead with his wife, in the affectionate and inviting language of Moses, “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good; for the Lord hatb spoken good concerning Israel." Being athirst for their own salvation, and longing that their acquaintance might be made. partakers of the grace of God, they unanimously agreed to invite the Preachers to come and teach them the way of life. These indefatigable men of God gladly availed themselves of the opportunity; and their ministry was attended by a great awakening. Hell soon appeared in arms. Large mobs, consisting mostly of the basest sort that could be selected from among the heirs of perdition, went to every house where meetings were held, to prevent the people from assembling together. Persecution became so general, that it appeared dangerous for a Methodist to be publicly seen attending to his business. Yet all this time the work of God prospered. A society was soon formed at Staincross, which has continued to this day. The work was far from terminating here. It spread to many of the surrounding villages, and soon became established.
Among many others who were at this time brought to the adorable Jesus, was my mother; the memorable event of whose conversion took place only a few weeks before I was born. Upon this circumstance I have often reflected with thankfulness, and have cherished the thought that many prayers have been answered in my behalf, which were offered VOL. XIV. Third Series. JANUARY, 1835.
up, and enrolled in the book of eternal mercy, before I could distinguish between good and evil. Great are the advantages of those children who, in mature age, are able to improve themselves, and instruct others, from the precepts and example of their upright parents. I remember, with gratitude, that at the age of five years I had the fear of God before my eyes. I felt an inward satisfaction in the approbation of conscience, in studying to do what I believed was pleasing to God; but not being properly acquainted with the depravity of my own heart, I flattered myself with the hope of being able of myself to ensure the favour of God, and to make a kind of purchase of those blessings which I expected at his band. In a little time I found myself degenerating from this supposed rectitude, and perceived that my heart was far from being so good as I had fondly dreamed it was.
When I was about nine years of age, my soul was filled with unutterable distress, under a sermon preached by that faithful servant of God, Mr. John Scott. I was alarmed and nearly distracted, with a conviction of my dreadful state, being deeply convinced that if my heart were not renewed, I could never enter into rest, or be a partaker of the kingdom of heaven. I thought that less than a miracle of grace would not save me from the damnation of hell. I saw there was only one step between me and the miseries of eternal fire. It was only for God to cut the brittle thread of life, and I should sink in a moment into inevitable woe. I then felt, in a manner not to be described, the import of these solemn words,
“ Infinite joy, or endless woe,
" A point of time, a moment's space,
Or shuts me up in hell."
“ Anguish, and sin, and dread, and pain,
On every side I found.” A few days after this Mr. William Shent came to preach at Staincross. I shall never forget the effect his discourse bad upon my mind. From that day I resolved to seek God with my whole heart, and never to rest till I had found the pearl of great price. At first I felt it a great cross to meet in class ; but finding a great blessing therein, I continued from the first, and I know not that I ever willingly omitted that duty. I believe that ordinance has been one of the most effectual means of promoting vital godliness, and of establishing Christian fellowship and peace. I entered upon a pilgrimage, and continued some time before any one of my age would consent to accompany me. At last one of my young acquaintance was awakened; and I found him a comfortable and useful associate all the time that I remained in Yorkshire. Satan now discovered that it was in vain to attempt to draw me back from seeking God by the former ex
periments; but he endeavoured various ways to deaden my affections for the things of God, and to blind my conscience to the danger I had before my eyes. To accomplish his designs in my destruction, he projected a scheme the most severe; and long was the contest; but God brought me off victorious.
Having been a restless wanderer after rest, groaning under the burden of a guilty conscience for many months, without any relief, I began to despair of ever finding mercy; at the same time my sins seemed more sinful and my darkness more visible. Hell appeared just before me, and devils more ready to pull me in, than grace was to save me. Fain would I have wept; but my sorrows were too big for tears. I carried my load of misery into the fields, to seek relief. There I cried aloud to God for help. I led to the silent shades, to hide me from the sight of man; and there, in prostration, sought to pour my sad complaints into the ear of my Redeemer.
He heard my unutterable prayers. My heart began to melt at his approach ; the tears stood in my eyes ; my distress in part fled away; and I obtained infinitely more than I deserved. He gave me a distant hope that the welcome hour would come, when I should be able to call him my Lord and my God. Whatever I was now called to do, my heart was generally breathing its desires after God. I could not rejoice with those who had found what I would have given the whole world to possess. Sometimes I was in an agony of prayer to God, pleading the all-sufficient atonement of Jesus, and the promises made to penitents ; and struggling, as well as I could, by faith, to enter into rest. It has sometimes seemed as if the invaluable pearl was just within my grasp, when unbelief suggested that this was reserved for some other time, or that I must bave more sorrow before God would give me the longsought blessing. The moment I yielded to this suggestion, faith failed; and my hope, for the present, was cut off. I generally saw it my privilege to plead with God for a present salvation, though my expectation seemed weak. Without the knowledge of God's favour, the whole world was to me a dreary wilderness. It was empty of every thing I wanted to make me happy. My daily complaint was, I sought him, but found him not; only I had a hope which was often encouraged by the operation of his Spirit on my heart.
The word of God now became my companion. I often felt a thankful heart for the comfort and strength I derived from the information therein given. Being sensible of my ignorance of the sacred oracles, I retired into private, and, having opened the Bible, I fell on my knees before God, and begged to understand its truths, and to have them applied to my soul. I was often led to read the Scripture with prayer, that it might be made spirit and life to me. Here I saw the nature of my disease; the cure held forth ; faith as the condition of its application; the promises, to encourage me to lay hold; and the glorious effects which would follow. Afterwards I was seized
with horror of mind not to be expressed. In this sad plight I wandered about the common alone, and almost overcome with such apprehensions as a terrified imagination was then able to form.
Had I been able to disclose my wretched condition to my experienced father, I should have been strengthened in my resolution to forsake all for Christ, and should have reaped great advantage, by the instruction he would have given me; but shame prevailed with me to confine the knowledge of my state to my own breast.
It was not long before I began to stifle these convictions ; but the impression they had made could not easily be effaced. An association with my old play-fellows assisted me greatly in procuring freedom from those fearful thoughts and sorrows I had felt. The vivacity of my spirit again returned, and I soon became as expert in foolish sport as any of my companions. Innumerable were the checks in my conscience, which I experienced whilst in this declining condition. My pleasures were generally embittered by keen remorse; yet I still fought against God with all my might. I stretched out my hand, as far as I could, for many years, to grasp, if possible, every worldly delight ; and my heart was prepared to work wickedness with all greediness. During this time I was not more sensible of my existence, than that I was destroying my soul. Many times, when I have been in the practice of sin, my conscience was all the time smiting me severely, and I was terrified with the fear of being suddenly cut off, and sent to hell. Often at night, when I have sought that rest which nature required, my frighted soul prevented sleep from closing my eyes ; and I have trembled with the fear of being in everlasting burning before the morning. When sleep has insensibly overcome me, I have been plunged into new scenes of torment; for I was frightened with dreams, and terrified with visions. These tortures of mind, whether sleeping or waking, were generally followed with a degree of seriousness for a time, when I made resolutions to watch and pray, and never yield to folly more; but my strength was soon proved to be perfect weakness.
In the fifteenth year of my age my desires for salvation were excited by motives opposite to fear and terror. The drawings of the Father engaged my affections. Private prayer was food to my soul. My delight in the exercise of this duty was greater than ever. I immediately deserted the society, and avoided the presence, of those who were the most likely to tempt me again to forsake my God. I kept close to God in prayer; I watched and strove against sin, and endeavoured to maintain a becoming seriousness in every part of my conduct. I found both pleasure and profit in attending on the means of grace; and was often delighted with a hope of attaining a clear sense of my acceptance in the Beloved. Thus I continued for several weeks ; till one evening, I saw at a distance my old companions at play. While I stood gazing at them, I felt a strong inclination to take a nearer view, and in a few seconds I was among them. Lost to thought, unmindful of what I was about, I had the painful surprise of seeing myself a partaker of their sins. No sooner did I get home than my mind sank beneath its burden of guilt, made heavier by bitter reflections. The greatest satisfaction that the succeeding day brought me was, to find myself able to say,
“Men, and fiends, and angels, gaze;
I am, I am out of hell ! ” I had not till now so fully learned the amazing power of sin when once submitted to. From this time I was drawn by slow degrees to my former course of life.
Towards the eighteenth year of my age, I did not only feel a stronger bent to sin, but a greater boldness in the practice of it. I was now more wretched than ever. If I looked up to heaven, I saw offended justice, and deserved wrath; if I looked on earth, I saw my own disgrace; if I looked at myself, all was dark. Still I was more convioced of the need of constant watchfulness over all my words, thoughts, desires, and actions, as well as of frequent and fervent prayer, in order to preserve the most lively convictions of the want of salvation. After a remissness in any part of my duty, I have often been awakened to a sense of deep distress, by a view of the declining state of my mind; and I found, to my grief, how sin had crept in, my concern was deadened, and my desires were cooled. I suddenly rose from my couch of ease, and wrestled with God in the prevailing name of the great Mediator, to quicken my soul afresh, and never suffer me to loiter, but to lead me forward with a mighty hand, till I had by faith laid hold upon the hope set before me. The gracious Saviour, who pitied, while he heard me mourning, seldom delayed to show me the tokens of his compassion. While I was thus groaning for redemption, even the forgiveness of my sins, I was often cast down, by reasoning with the enemy of my soul. It appeared at these times as unlikely for me to be favoured with a manifestation of God's love, as for me to ascend to heaven in Elijah's chariot. At one time, in particular, I reasoned myself into despair. It was strongly suggested, that, if God bad ever designed to blot out my numberless transgressions, and to release my miserable and condemned soul by a sense of pardoning love, he would have fulfilled my earnest desire before that time; that he was completely happy in himself, and delighted in making all happy whom he designed for salvation ; and, therefore, as I continued miserable, when I knew that God was able to turn my hell to heaven in a moment, I began to draw the sad conclusion, that I was consigned over to eternal torment. The result of these painful thoughts was a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation, which would devour
I felt something of what damned spirits suffer. My thoughts became dreadful. The whole frame of nature was shaken, and began to sink beneath the burden, while my poor tormented soul was en