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THE YEAR 1820 :
Continuation of the Arminian Magazine ;
FIRST PUBLISHED BY THE
REV. JOHN WESLEY, A. M.
THE SEVENTEENTH VOLUME OF THE NEW SERIES
PRINTED BY THOMAS CORDEUX;
WAY BE HAD OF ALL THE PREACHERS IN TOWN AND COUNTRY.
FOR JANUARY, 1820.
A BRIEF MEMOIR OF THE LATE MR. JAMES
NEEDHAM. In a Letter to the Editor of the Methodist Magazine. DEAR SIR, The following Memoir is humbly submitted to your inspection; and, if approved, an early insertion of it in your valuable Miscellany, will oblige one who is your's very affectionately,
A CONSTANT READER. The difficulty in writing Memoirs of deceased persons, of doing justice to their characters, has been long felt, but never obviated. This difficulty may arise from the feelings of the writer; his affection or dislike may give an undue colouring to a character, without a shadow of an intention to misrepresent any one trait of it, or it may arise from the disposition of the deceased. In some persons all their excellencies may be soon perceived, but not all their defects. There are others who readily discover their asperities, but conceal their bounty to the poor, and their feelings of Christian sympathy with the sorrowful and afflicted. These are so far from making any ostentatious shew of the religion they possess, that they are rather afraid others should think too highly of them, and therefore shrink from the honour which good men wish to put upon them.
The writer of the following Memoir is aware of this difficulty, in both these points of view. His affection for the deceased may possibly lead him astray, yet he is more apprehensive of danger from the extreme modesty of his departed friend.
Mr. NEEDHAM was born near Stockport, in Cheshire, Feb. 8, 1773. During his childhood and youth nothing remarkable occurred, at least nothing that has come to the knowledge of the writer. His natural disposition was gay and cheerful; and having a retentive memory and ready utterance, he became an interesting companion to his young associates. But being uncon. scious of his depravity by nature, and his guilt of sin before God,
he lived without any serious and abiding concern for the salvation of his precious soul.
About the year 1793, “ The Rights of Man," so called, became very popular in the neighbourhood of Stockport; and, not long after, - The Age of Reason,” by the same wretched author, was circulated with avidity, and became the subject of conversation, in almost every little group of persons, in their leisure hours. Infidelity and disloyalty spread with astonishing rapidity. The sacred ałtar was threatened, and the throne was almost shaken. Numbers of persons followed the specious baits, found in the above works, and many promising young men were in the most imminent danger of being completely ruined by the dreadfully pernicious notions of impracticable equality, and gross impious infidelity. Mr. Needham was not wholly restrained from the influence of these anti-christian principles, but for a season he was carried down the stream of dissipation, and narrowly escaped the vortex which ingulphed so many others. He was often assailed by new converts to deism, and not being at that time acquainted with the Holy Scriptures, nor those works which demonstratively prove their authenticity, he could not always readily discern the fallacy found in the arguments by those persons.
Mr. Needham's parents and himself had been occasional hearers at the Methodist chapel in Stockport, and under the ministry of the word there his mind had been seriously impressed at different times ; but his natural temper, the fallacious reasonings of infidels, the subtile temptations of the wicked one, and the strength of sin in his heart, had rendered these impressions transient as the morning cloud or the early dew.
In the year 1794, it pleased God to revive his work in Stockport, and many adjacent places. Numbers of persons were then awakened, and brought to a knowledge of the truth, some of whom have entered on their eternal rest, and others of thein are living in a growing meetness for it. From an account of Mr. Needham's conversion, transmitted to his widow by a relative of his, it appears that about that time he was induced more fre. quently to attend the Methodist chapel, and that serious impressions were made on his mind; but the reasonings of those who derided revelation, strengthened by the suggestions of satan, still rendered the impressions momentary, and kept his soul in bondage to sin. In this year it pleased God, under an occasional sermon, preached in Hillgate chapel, by Mr. James Wood, so to melt his heart by a clear view of the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the infinitely rich mercy and love of God, in sending his Son to be a propitiation for sin, that he was overwhelmed with a sense of Divine compassion, and tears of sorrow for past offences, and gratitude for the long-suffering goodness of God towards him, flowed in abundance; he loathed himself, and
repented as in dust and ashes. From this memorable season Mr. N. resolved, in the strength of grace, no longer to be the slave of vanity, no more to run with the multitude in doing evil; but to be on the Lord's side, and heartily to implore the forgiveness of all his past offences.
Mr. Needham's convictions were deep and permanent; he saw clearly that in him dwelt no good thing by nature, that the evils of his heart had led him astray from God, and that he was ex. posed to everlasting misery. The anguish of his soul was great ; he mourned, and prayed, and sought mercy with all his heart. The Lord was faithful to his promise, “ Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart." He joined the Methodist society, and not long after, while solemnly engaged in private prayer, the Lord proclaimed deliverance to this captive, and gave him a knowledge of salvation by the remission of his sins. His soul was filled with Divine consolation : his joy was unspeakable and full of glory.
From the time that Mr. Needham joined the Methodist society at Stockport, being fully persuaded that the salvation of his soul was of infinite importance, he made religion the main business of his life. Every secular concern was therefore made subservient to this one pursuit. He diligently attended the preaching of the word, class-meetings, prayer-meetings, and love-feasts, within a proper distance of his home; and when not engaged in these publick meetings, he gladly laid hold on every opportunity that offered for the improvement of his mind, by reading, meditation, and prayer. His piety and diligence soon attracted the notice of the preachers in the circuit; and he was by them, in concurrence with the leaders and stewards, appointed to re-gather the scattered members of a society which had formerly met at Barnage. In this work the Lord prospered his endeavours, and raised up a people there who have kept together, with others added to them, to the present day, a brother of his being now the leader of the same class.
After Mr. N. had faithfully discharged the duties of a classleader for some time, and had been very useful in this sphere, his soul thirsted after greater good, both for himself and others. He made an attempt to give a word of exhortation to a few people, which little beginning led to his greater usefulness in the church of Christ. His modesty prevented his mentioning this to his relatives and friends, but they heard of it from others, and embraced an opportunity of hearing him themselves ; one of whom says, “ I returned home rejoicing that to him also it was given to declare the unsearchable riches of Christ.” This was in March 1798, about which time a local preacher receding from the work in the Stockport circuit, Mr. N. was requested to take the plan and supply his places, which he did with fidelity