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Mr. Joseph WEBB was born at Waltham Dean, in the parish of Bishop's Waltham, in the month of July, 1735. It is probable, but by no means certain, that he was a descendant of the Rev. Robert Webb, a good scholar and an eminent preacher, who, immediately after the Restoration, was thrust out of the rectory of Droxford, by the former incumbent, in a rough and violent manner; but who found a comfortable asylum in the bouse of Richard Cromwell, Esq. and a kind friend in S. Dunch, Esq. who not only took care of him while he lived, but left him, at his death, an annuity of 10l. per annum.
The parents of Mr. Joseph Webb were poor, but honest, industrious, and respectable. They died when he was young: bis father, when he was about five years old ; and his mother, when he was about fourteen. Suffering this loss at so early an age, he was obliged, by his own exertions, to gain a livelihood ; and, consequently, entered a variety of services, till he arrived at the age of twenty-one. In every situation he bore a good character, and, at every removal, his temporal circumstances were improved ; which shews that he was industrious and frugal in the days of his
About that time he first began to feel religious impressions ; and was fully awakened, some time after, to a sense of his sinful and dangerous state, under a sermon preached at Fareham, by Mr. John Furze, one of the first race of Methodist preachers,
Anxious now, that his brothers and sisters should partake of the same blessedness, he prevailed on one of them, by earnest entreaties, to accompany him the next evening, to hear the same preacher, when he also was awakened to a sense of his danger ; and, subsequently, four others of the family were induced, through the instrumentality of Mr. Webb, to seek the salvation of their souls. Such was his zeal, that he endeavoured to persuade all, over whom he had any influence, to attend the ministry of the word, and to devote themselves to the service of God.
Eight months after Mr. Webb was convinced of sin, he obtained mercy, and was brought into the liberty of the children of God, under a sermon preached by Mr. Paul Greenwood, a man of singular piety and zeal. The text was, 1 John i. 9, “ He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” So deep were the awakenings of men, under the word, in those days, that they could not rest without a knowledge of salvation by the remission of their sins; and, while this continues to be the case, the glory of the Lord will not depart from the people called Methodists; but, should a multitude of persons join them, who never were awakened, and who, in that state, have no particalar desire to enjoy a clear sense of pardon and peace, awful consequences will follow.
It is worthy of remark, that as soon as he began to experience
the benefit of religion, he was solicitous to further its interests, and eagerly inquired, “How are these men supported ?" And although his ability, at that time, was small, he cheerfully contributed to the extent of his power, deeming it an important duty to provide food and raiment for the ministers of his Lord.
Mr. Webb regularly attended the preaching at Fareham, and such was his love of the means of grace, that he frequently walked fifteen or sixteen miles to hear a sermon in other places, and to join in the sweet solemnities of Divine worship. On one of those occasions, being desirous that a man who happened to be walking on the same road, should partake of the happiness which he enjoyed, he intreated him to accompany him to Portsmouth, where Mr. Wesley was expected to preach. The man being unwilling to lose his time, refused; on which Mr. Webl immediately offered to refund him the amount of his earnings. This offer was accepted; he heard the word, and became truly pious.
About five years after his conversion to God, Mr. Webb took out a license as a local preacher, the duties of which office he occasionally discharged, as circumscances required, during thirtyfive years. As a preacher, he was made useful to many; and he endured persecution in that blessed work, with Christian patience and meekness. At one time, when he was preaching at Hambledon, he and the congregation were assaulted by a mob; but he felt nothing but love for the poor misguided creatures, and was heard to say that he could have willingly thrown himself under their feet, if, by that means, he could have benefitted their souls.
But it appears that the country was not his particular sphere of usefulness. lle seems to have been designed, by Divine Providence, to support the cause of Methodism in Portsmouth; to which place he removed in the year 1767. It is true, Methodism had been previously introduced there; for Mr. Wesley and some of his preachers had visited the place, and formed a class, but, after some years, it dwindled away. Mr. Webb was particularly desirous to re-introduce it, and to this end, he and another friend hired a room in Warblington-street, the rert of which they paid for three years. This proving too small to contain the numbers that were disposed to attend, and the Green Rails in Oyster-street being on sale, and considered as an eligible situation for a chapel, a subscription was proposed with a view to purchase the premises, on the faith of which Mr. Webb bought, and converted them into a comfortable and respectable place of worship. The subscriptions, however, were never collected. The chapel, consequently, was left on his hands, and was his private property. From some erroneous opinions which were entertained, at that time, by the society in Portsea, and the preachers then stationed on the circuit, they refused to supply
* 5 1 2 *
Mr. Wenn part of himbers of hood, some
left the moved himces. Thescard, and out
the chapel with preaching, on which Mr. Webb provided and supported a preacher at his own expense.
But as the Lord prospered his work abundantly, in the new chapel, and as many persons were brought to God, some of whom to this day are useful and active members of the society, it became the interest of the other part of the circuit to reunite itself to Portsmouth. Mr. Webb, at first, consented to let the chapel to the connexion, and, subsequently, settled it upon trustees, on the Conference plan. The work gradually prospered till this chapel became too small to contain the hearers, when, in the year 1811, the present large and commodious chapel in Green-Row, was erected in its stead.
Mr. Webb having once put his hand to the plough, never looked back. It is not to be expected, that, in filling the several offices of class-leader, steward, and trustee, he never met with painful occurrences. These he frequently experienced; but they never moved him from his steadfastness in the Lord. When others left the society, on some supposed injury received, and urged him to leave, he replied, “No: let them leave who are in fault. Religion is the same.” At an early period of his life be made choice of the Methodists as his people; was a steady member of their society sixty-two years ; and, full of days and of good works, died in close union with his old friends.
He was a man of plain and simple habits. Some persons, while in circumstances of comparative poverty, have been ornaments to religion ; but on a change of fortune, have become elated, haughty, imperious, captious, and vain. This was not the case with Mr. Webb. On few men have the bounties of Providence been showered down in greater abundance; yet, he was never elated, but maintained his primitive simplicity to the last: He made a due estimate of temporal blessings; but never lost sight of those which are eternal.
The natural disposition of Mr. Webb was benevolent and charitable; and this amiable temper was improved, and, in a degree, perfected by the grace of God. Much, however, need not be said on this subject. His geveral practice, in works of charity, has, for many years, been well known to the inhabitants of Portsmouth, Portsea, and vicinity. Suffice it to remark, that he seldom turned a deaf ear to the supplicant, and when remonstrated with, for having relieved undeserving objects, he would say, “ It is better to give to ninety-nine of these, than to suffer one necessitous case to go unassisted.” Of his charities, the author of this account has often been witness, and he has heard of many more which would almost fill a volume. One instance, among many, he feels it his duty to record. About Christmas time, for many years, he and his amiable sons, killed two fat bullocks, had them cut up, and gave the meat to the poor. On those oc
casions the applications were so numerous, that every one could not be supplied; but the apostolic old man, to remedy this, gave loaves of bread to all who were disappointed of meat. The agreeable and kind manner in which this was done, was peculiarly pleasing. While a little feast was provided for the poor and the maimed, the halt and the blind,” the eyes of the donor sparkled with joy, and they evidenced more satisfaction in giving than many did in receiving.
The cause of God always had a special claim on the regard of Mr. Webb, and which he uniformly supported, both by his influence and example; and it was frequently the case when the cause of Methodism was in its infant state, in the Portsmouth circuit, that he has made up deficiencies to the amount of several pounds, when the temporal affairs of the circuit have been balanced at the end of the quarter; on which occasions he has, in many instances, hospitably entertained, at' his own house, the preachers, stewards, and leaders, who were collccted from the different parts of the circuit, which at that time included the greatest part of Hampshire. The several publick charities also received his most liberal support.
His regular and constant attendance on the means of grace, was worthy of imitation; and it was only on very particular occasions that he was absent from his class, over which he watched with faithfulness, and parental solicitude. In this office he particularly excelled. When new members were introduced, he took especial care that they should not build their hopes of salvation on a wrong foundation; and in the various trials and exercises which they had to encounter, he was always ready to apply some appropriate passage, from the sacred volume, to their various cases, and enforced it with those observations which seldom failed of affording the required comfort and consolation. He continued to meet his class within a week of his death; when, being sensible that he should not meet them again, he requested them, as his last advice, to live wholly to God.
Mr. Webb was married three times. By his first marriage he had six children, who are all dead; by the last he had four children, three of whom are now living. As a husband he was truly affectionate, always kind, and ever faithful; and as a parent fond and indul. gent, tender and affectionate, yet prudent and circumspect. Hence he was honoured and beloved by his wives, and revered and obeyed by most of his children. I can bear witness, that no man was ever more bighly honoured than he was, by the children who survive him, and by their respective families. They viewed him as a venerable patriarch, listened to his voice with deep attention, and were ready, on all occasions, to render him their best services.
During the period of a very protracted life, he enjoyed the blessing of almost uninterrupted health, till within about six months of his death; when he experienced, at first, an inconvenienee in swallowing his food. His family, however, were in hopes that this would soon go off, and that his stomach would again recover its wonted tone; but in this they were painfully disappointed. The disorder increased, and it was with difficulty that he received still less nourishment, till, at last he became so much debilitated, that the little nourishment he took would not remain, and his constitution, which was naturally strong, was forced to yield to this harbinger of death; but that God, whom he faithfully served for so many years, did not forsake him in that awful hour. He thought, from the first attack of his complaint, that it would terminate in death; but always talked of his approaching dissolution with pious pleasure. It was well for him that he had not, like too many, religion to seek on a death-bed. Throughout his affliction, which he bore with great patience and resignation, he was enabled to say, “ If it be the blessed will of the Almighty, I am ready, at this moment, to commit my soul into his gracious hands." On one occasion, talking to a member of his family, on the state of his mind, he said, “I know that when the earthly house of my tabernacle is dissolved, I have a building of God, an house not made with hands, cternal in the heavens.” At another time he said, “ My Beloved is mine, and I am his." A few days before his death, he repeated these words, “As thy day is, so shall thy strength be.” On one of his family observing that he hoped he realized a fulfilment of that promise, he replied, “Bless God, I do.” It was much cause of thankfulness to his children and friends that he did not suffer much. This assuaged their grief on seeing him lie in so weak and helpless a state. He several times observed, in his affliction, that he slept well, was tolerably free from pain, and that, on the whole, he could not wish for a more comfortable death. At length he became so weak that he could not converse much without considerable difficulty ; but, then, the heavenly smile on his countenance indicated, and the few observations which he made confirmed, the solid happiness which he enjoyed. On seeing his family affected at the prospect of losing so affectionate a parent, he said, “ Give me up, give me up." On Thursday, May 21, 1818, he altered much for the worse, and it was evident to his afflicted family, that his end was drawing near. He continued, however, gradually to decline, till Sunday the 24th. In the course of that day, he several times felt his own pulse, and smiled. The last words he was heard to say, were, “ All is well.” Then, at 20 minutes past eight o'clock, in the evening, with all his children around him, and in the full possession of his mental powers, he sweetly breathed his last; and committed his soul to Jesus, his adorable Redeemer and Saviour!