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THE LATE REV. HENRY TANNER,
Mr. Tannkr, the subject of this brief Memoir, was born at Exeter, March 8, 1719 His parents, Henry and Dorothy Tanner, were persons possessed of the comforts, though not of the superfluities of life: they were moral in their conduct, but unacquainted with the distinguishing truths of the gospel. Henry being their only surviving child, his mother took peculiar care of his education; in which she found much encouragement, from the docility of his disposition. It pleased God to visit him, at the early age of eight years, with a severe fever, which threatened his life. During this affliction he first became sensible of religious impressions; his conscience was much alarmed; his convictions of sin were strong, and Death appeared to him " the King of Terrors." la this state of jaind, as is usual with peisons in similar circumstances, he made many solemn vows; but when health returned, he relapsed into a state of religious indifference: nevertheless, amidst all his youthful follies, occasional apprehensions of death and judgment forced themselves upon him, even till the time of his conversion to God.
At the age of thirteen, he obtained permission of his parents to accompany his uncle on a voyage to Oporto; in which he experienced a remarkable interposition of the providence of God ; for, being thrown overboard by the stroke of a rope, he was enabled to catch hold of it, and was thus preserved front being drowned. The same good providence kept him from destruction in his return to England, for the passage was remarkably dangerous; but he who has the winds and waves at his contioul, reserved the youth for eminent service in his church.
His mother, perceiving the sad degree of immorality that zm. 3 C
prevailed among the youth in the city of Exeter, was anxious to place him out apprentice in the country; which was accordingly done: but here also he found Sin reigning in all its power: he found also strong propensities to vice in his own nature; yet preserved by the restraining power of God from gross crimes, and, at times, pursued by strong and painful convictions of his danger as a sinner, inducing him to cry for mercy, and to fo/m strong, but unavailing, resolutions of amendment; and still looking forward to the close of his apprenticeship as a time when he was determined to become very religious. Presuming on his future goodness, he ventured'further into folly and vanity with his gay companions, expecting at the promised period to repay the Almighty by a more exact obedience.
When, however, out of his time, his mind began to be occupied with more anxious thoughts and schemes relating to the present world: though, for a short season, in consequence of living in the house of a Pharisee, he began to be externally devout. Determined to improve himself in his business, he removed to Bath, where he married his first wife: a connection which afterwards proved the source of many and grievous trials.
After this he returned to Exeter, entered into business, and (to use his own expression) " was swallowed up in the world and in the creature;" but, he adds, " My dear Lord, who, I trust, loved me from all eternity, was preparing a smart rod for me, because he would wean my heart from the world, call me from my father's house and family, and bring about his eternal purpose."
It was in the year 1743, after he had removed to Plymouth, to obtain employment as a ship-builder, that it pleased God to call him by his grace, under the ministry of that very eminent servant of Christ, the Rev. George Whitfield. Being at work, he heard from a considerable distance the voice of that zealous man of God, who was preaching in the street, or fields (probably between Plymouth Town and Dock): he immediately concluded that the preacher was a madman; and determined, with five or six more of his companions, to go and knock him off from the place on which he stood; and, for the
f>urpose of more effectually injuring the mad parson, they oaded their pockets with stones. When, however, Mr. Tanner drew near, and perceived Mr. Whitfield extending his arms, and in the most pathetic language inviting poor lo*t sinners to Christ, he was struck with amazement. His resolution failed him: he listened with astonishment, and was soon convinced that the preacher was not mad; but was indeed . speaking" the words of truth and soberness."' Mr. Whitfield Was then preaching from Acts xviLl9, <20, ". Muy we know
'whatthis new doctrine whereof thou speakest is?—for thou bringest certain strange things to our ears." He went home much impressed, anil determined to hear him again.the next evening. Pie attended. Mr. Whitfield was wonderfully fer•vent in prayer. His text was Luke xxiv. 47, " And that repentance and remission of sins should he preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." Aftef speaking of the heinous sin of the Jews and of the Roman s'oldiers, who were the instruments of perpetrating the cruel murder of the Loidof Life, Mr. Whitfield, turning from the spot where Mr. Tanner then stood, near his side, said," You .fire tcHecting now on the cruelty of these inhuman butchers, who imbrued their hands in his innocent blood," when, suddenly turning round, and looking intently at Mr. Tanner, he exclaimed, "Thou art the man!" These words, sharper than any two-edged sword, pierced him to the heart; he felt himself the sinner who, by his iniquities, had crucified the Son of God. His sins stared him in the face; he knew not how to stand; and in agony of soul he was forced to cry, " God be merciful to ine a sinner!" The preacher then, in melting language, proclaimed the free and super-abounding grace of God in Christ, which was commanded to be preached, first of all to Jerusalem-sinners,— the very people who had murdered the Prince of Life; ftom which a gleam of hope beamed into his heart. Under this sermon, many other persons were convinced of sin, and brought to God*. The next night Mr. Tanner heard Mr. Whitfield preach again: his subject was "Jacob's ladder." From this discourse he obtained such views of the person, character, and love of the great Mediator, as enabled him to lay hold on the hope set before him, and to rejoice in Christ Jesus.
Soon after this he joined the society at Plymouth; but a scene of trials ensued: his wife became his mo^l violent persecutor; and his faith was much tried, by severe afflictions, for the space of five years: but in this school of calamity he was taught to pray, and to exercise resignation to the holy will of
• This visit of Mr. Whitfield to Plymouth, was one of the most memorable and useful of his life. He was going to America, and had taken liis passage in a ship which was to sail trom Portsmouth; but being in. formed that the captain refused to take htm, for fear of his spoiling the sailors, he wis obliged to go as far as Plymouth. Here a serious attempt *as made to murder him in his bed; the report of which indured many thousands to come and hear him: w hile waiting for the convoy, he con. tinned there five weeks. "During this time," says Mr. Whitfield," hundreds were awakened and turned unto the Lord. At the Dock alio a glorious work was begun. Could the fields between Plymouth and the Dock speak, they could tell what blessed seasons were enjoyed there I"