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MEMOIR OF THE REV. WILLIAM PENINGTON
BY MR. T. M. TRUSCOTT.
(Concluded from page 492.) In the early part of the year 1814, a blessed revival of religion began in the neighbourhood of Redruth, which gradually extended almost all through the west of Cornwall, and which to the present day is referred to as "the great revival.” Much diversity of opinion arose as to the true character of this work; many persons contending that the noise and apparent disorder attending it sufficiently proved that it could not be the work of God. As many of the objections then raised have since been applied to religious awakenings in general, it may not be uninstructive to record Mr. Burgess's views on this subject, which were the result of personal observation, investigation, and reflection. It appears that in the month of February he paid a visit to Redruth, about a fortnight after the commencement of the revival, for the express purpose of judging for himself. “Arriving there,” he writes, " on the Saturday evening, I went to the chapel, which had not been shut, either day or night, for several days, and found a number of people there assembled. I stayed not many minutes, and, from what I witnessed that evening, was inclined to form no very favourable opinion of the work that was going on. The whole appeared to me disorder and confusion. I went home, however, to the friend's house where I lodged, resolving not to decide in too basty or peremptory a manner. On the Sunday morning I returned and spent two or three hours in the chapel, which had been occupied all night, and was at that time nearly full. On a cursory and general survey, I should have been led to the same conclusion as on the preceding night, but I began to examine matters more minutely and leisurely. In one corner I found a person in deep distress of mind ; on my inquiring, he gave a distinct and rational account of what he had felt, and what he was seeking. Around him was a little group, who were alternately engaged in directing, stimulating, and comforting him, and in fervent prayer for him. At a short distance was another group, comprehending one who had just been set at VOL. XIX.-FIFTH SERIES.
liberty, and was rejoicing in his Saviour: him they were endeavouring to establish and settle. In another part they were singing a hymn of praise for some captive soul just liberated ; and in another exhorting and entreating some poor backslider to return to the fold of Christ. Here might be seen an old professor, who had never enjoyed a sense of pardon, but was now determined not to rest without the blessing: in another part one who was earnestly seeking the destruction of indwelling sin.
“Thus I went from group to group, examining as accurately as I could into the particular state of each ; and on thus dividing the whole company into so many distinct parcels, I found each party knew their own business perfectly well; and every individual who was seeking for any special blessing, was engaged in pursuit of it as eagerly as possible. These little parties were wholly independent of the people in the other parts of the chapel ; and they were, to all practical purposes, as much private and sequestered as though they had been the only persons there. It appeared to me somewhat like a market or a fair, where, on a general and indiscriminate survey, one might be inclined to pronounce the whole a scene of confusion and disorder, yet after properly investigating matters, we should find every person aware of his own errands, and transacting his own business in a regu. lar and an efficient
I do not mean to be an advocate for noise and confusion, but only to state that when such things arise without improper influence from men, and where we have reason to suppose there is something more than mere human passion and sympathy, we should not be so prejudiced thereby, as to discredit the work of the Spirit on these extraordinary occasions.
“That the Spirit of God was at that time poured out in a very extraordinary manner, no reasonable doubt can be entertained. In proof of this assertion, no other argument is necessary than an appeal to matter of fact. That there was what some call • wild-fire' I would not deny; it is probable that some were wrought on by sympathy and natural feelings; but this proves nothing either for or against the genuineness of the work. Leaving all these cases out of the question, great numbers were power. fully convinced by the Spirit of Truth, and a genuine operation of grace commenced in their souls. Many, it is true, after some time fell away; but their apostasy does not, I apprehend, prove that there was no real work of God in them. It may be considered as decisive evidence of two points. First, that what was wrought was not deep ; for a work of grace may be genuine, though not deep : and, second, that they neglected to watch and pray, and therefore fell into temptation and sin. This is all, I think, that can be indubitably inferred from the falling away of people after great revivals : to pronounce peremptorily that there was no genuine work on them, and that of course all the appearances were insincere and hypocritical, is to assume a prerogative which belongs to God only, namely, that of searching the hearts and trying the reins of men."
We now return to the more immediate subject of this sketch. Having entered into the experience of the peace and joy of faith himself, Mr. Burgess soon felt an overpowering desire that all the world might receive the Gospel message, and partake the Gospel salvation. The grand declaration of our Divine Teacher, that “no man liveth to himself,” came with irresistible power on his enlightened conscience ; youthful apprehensions that he should be one day called to the Christian ministry now revived with increased strength; until, after a severe struggle with his constitutional diffidence and reserve, he dismissed all worldly considerations, and, in the spirit of self-sacrifice, deliberately and unreservedly laid himself on the altar of God's sanctuary.
It will excite no surprise in the minds of those who have perused the preceding notices of Mr. Burgess's early life and training, to learn that the office of the Christian ministry should be his choice. Gifted with superior intellectual endowments, possessing an insatiable thirst for knowledge, a love of learning, and untiring industry in its pursuit, his mind, at this period of his life, had become well cultivated and richly stored ; his judgment was sound and mature ; and he felt that a serious responsibility was attached to the bestowment of these talents for usefulness. A light, such as his was, could not be hidden “under a bushel :” the ministers, office-bearers, and elders of the Church, perceiving the grace of God that was in him, and recognizing his marked qualifications for more extended service in the vineyard of the Lord, ceased not to urge him till, believing it was the call of God, he consented to have his name inserted in the local preachers' plan. This step opened to him at once a sphere of usefulness congenial with his views of duty; and for about two years he exercised his gifts in this important department of evangelical labour, with benefit to others, and spiritual profit to himself. At the expiration of this time, having passed the ordeal of his District Meeting, and been recommended to the Conference as an eligible candidate for the itinerancy, we find his name, for the first time, as “ admitted on trial," in the Minutes of the year 1814, when he was appointed to the Liskeard Circuit, with his revered father as Superintendent, and the Rev. John Worden as second preacher. Here he soon gave “full proof of his ministry,” by doing “the work of an evangelist;" by studying to "show himself approyed unto God,
a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth." The eloquence, copiousness, earnestness, and fidelity of his ministrations, attracted large audiences, by whom his labours were highly appreciated, and from amongst whom many souls were given to him as his hire. So remarkable were the graceful flow of his oratory and the uncompromising boldness with which he proclaimed the doctrines and duties of our Divine religion, that cavillers, sceptics, and scoffers were, in many cases, compelled to acknowledge the power which accompanied his preaching
At the Conference of 1816 he was removed from Liskeard, and, with his father, appointed to the Plymouth Circuit. During the two years of his ministry there, a revival of religion occurred, the effects of which are felt to the present day. An extraordi. nary spirit of prayer was poured out on the office-bearers and elders of the Society. Prayer-meetings were held at five o'clock in the morning, and every evening the chapel was thronged with earnest seekers of salvation and devout worshippers. Into this pentecostal visitation Mr. Burgess threw all the energies of his soul and body. He was "instant in season, out of season," and great was his joy to behold the power of God so manifestly displayed in the conversion of many precious immortal souls. One important event resulting from this gracious outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and consequent addition of members to the Society, was the erection of the Ebenezer chapel at Plymouth,--a sangtuary, at that period, almost unrivalled in the West of England, on account of its size, its architectural style, and the appropriate beauty of its situation.
At the Conference of 1817 Mr. Burgess was appointed to Camelford, with his honoured father as Superintendent, : In this Circuit he laboured with zeal and success, being universally vespected and beloved throughout all its Societies, both for his pulpit talents, and for his exemplary life. It was here that he was introduced to Miss Elizabeth Pearse, a lady of great amiability of disposition, and of deep and devoted piety. Of Miss Pearse's father, the late Mr. Thomas Pearse, of Camelford, a wellwritten and instructive memoir was drawn up by his attached friend, the Rev. Francis Truscott, and inserted in the WesleyanMethodist Magazine for the months of May and June, 1816.
Mr. Pearse was a man and a Christian of no ordinary stamp. “ Full of faith and of the Holy Ghost,” his useful life was spent in devising and prosecuting schemes by which God might be glorified, and the temporal and spiritual wants and woes of his fellow-creatures relieved. A life so truly conformed to the spirit and precepts of the Gospel was suitably closed :
* His God sastain'd him in his final honr ;
His final hour brought glory to his God.” In his daughter Elizabeth Mr. Burgess found a congenial mind, and in the fear of the Lord they were united in marriage. Their union proved an eminently happy one, although destined to be of brief duration.
By the Conference of 1818 Mr. Burgess was removed to the Channel Islands, where he was appointed Superintendent of the Guernsey and Sark Circuit. Here, during two happy years, he made full proof of his ministry, being rendered the instrument; in God's hands, of awakening many individuals who were previously regardless of Dirine and eternal realities, bringing consolation to many mourners, and building up believers in their most holy faith. In the diligent discharge of his pastoral duties he was very efficiently aided by his excellent wife, who was never happier than when employed in acts of pious beneficence. From Guernsey Mr. Burgess was transferred to the Falmouth Circuit, (to reside at Penryn,) and subsequently to Truro, Penzance, and Exeter. In the last three Circuits mentioned, he had the happiness of being again associated in evangelistic labour with his father. During his residence in Exeter, Mrs. Burgess's health, which had for some time been in a delicate state, completely broke down, and pulmonary consumption speedily terminated fatally. But death to her had long been disarmed of all its terrors. With a firm reliance on that Saviour who has not only “overcome the sharpness of Death," but finally vanquished him, she met her last foe with calm confidence, adopting the triumphant sentiment of the great Apostle to the Gentiles ; " Thanks be to God, who giveth as the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
This bereavement was acutely felt by Mr. Burgess, and the more so, as it left him with the important charge of two dear little girls, both of whom were of too tender an age to be sensible of the irreparable loss which they had sustained. The following touching reference to this event, found amongst his memoranda, furnishes evidence that, deeply as his spirit was wounded, he was enabled, by the grace of God, to bow with resignation to the Divine will.
"Exeter, January 1st, 1828. Through the mercy of God, I am spared to see the commencement of another year : 1827 is gone, gone for ever. O what a memorable year to me! memorable for the death of my best and dearest earthly friend,-my precious and beloved Elizabeth. She is now a happy and glorified spirit, while I remain a little longer to toil and suffer in this vale of tears. The will of God be done! May I live more than ever to the glory of God!"