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rant Methodist Preacher; and for four successive years was appointed to labour with his father, without the smallest interference on our part, except a continual imploring of the Divine direction and disposal.”
In addition to the preceding records from the pens of his honoured parents, Mr. Burgess himself, in taking a retrospect of his early days, observes that he then used to feel much pleasure in singing hymns, in reading the Bible and other good books, par. ticularly Kempis's “ Christian Pattern,” and in frequenting the public ordinances of God's house. These means were doubtless rendered conducive to the illumination of his mind, and, from the measure of religious peace and comfort he then enjoyed, there is good reason to believe that he was not only a subject of the Holy Spirit's operations, but even in a state of acceptance with God through the merits of the Redeemer.
In the year 1796 some shocks of an earthquake were felt in the city of Gloucester, where his father was then stationed ; which produced very serious and solemn thoughts in his youthful mind; and these were further deepened by a dream about the same time, of which he gives the following account:-“One night I dreamed that I was in a place of extraordinary light and glory, where were great numbers of people, all very happy. Having stayed amongst them some time with great comfort and delight, I perceived, at one end of the room, some steps leading downwards.
Through curiosity I descended, but, when near the bottom, found myself in a place of misery and torment. In the centre was a large fire, and around it a crowd of devils and unhappy spirits. Seeing me on the steps they immediately rushed towards me, caught hold of me, and endeavoured to drag me to the flames; but I struggled with all my might to escape from them, and reascend the steps. While engaged in this struggle I awoke. This so strongly impressed me that, in the morning, I committed the particulars to writing."
Some persons may regard a child's dream as too trivial an affair to place on record, and as admitting of an easy exposition from natural laws. Perhaps so. Yet, in tracing the history of a life, how often we have occasion to mark the influence which an event, apparently unimportant, exerts in giving a direction, bias, aim, and purpose to the sequel of that life. Further, we have the authority of the Divine oracles for believing that the Omniscient does at times condescend to seal instruction on the ever-active immortal Boul of man, even when the organs of sense are dormant. Mr. Burgess's comment on this circumstance, expressed in his own words, is, “I was fully persuaded that this had been sent as an emblematical representation of heaven and hell.”
These promising indications of early and decided piety were fol. lowed, as is too frequently the case, by declension from the good and the right way. Though more studious and fond of learning than the generality of boys, he began to associate with immoral companions, and addict himself to their idle sports. Almost insensibly he was acquiring bad habits; and the enemy of souls was not remiss in his efforts to prevent the good seed from bear. ing fruit to perfection. These evils were partly checked by his removal to school.
On the 14th of August, 1799, in company with several other Preachers' sons, William commenced his curriculum in what is now designated Old Kingswood school; and this event may well be regarded as one of the landmarks in his journey through life. The establishment was at that time under the governorship of the Rev. Joseph Bradford, whose régime was acknowledged to be too rigorous and severe, more calculated to paralyze through fear than to secure willing obedience from the principle of love. Yet Mr. Burgess, from the stand-point of mature life, and with that regard for truth and justice which always characterized him, bears the following honourable testimony to his former governor. « For fidelity and integrity in executing the important trusts confided to him, and for the most rigid economy in the expenditure of public money, he has been rarely equalled, and perhaps never excelled."
As illustrative of the system then adopted, it may here be stated, that when young Burgess visited his parents at Burslem, in the year 1801, at the particular request of his father, it was believed to be the first instance that had been known of a preacher's son having such a liberty allowed him; hence it appears that instances occurred in which boys had not a single interview with either father or mother for the whole space of six years. The confinement of the boys also was at that time exces. sive, each being required to spend ten hours every day in school tasks, for the greater part of the year. They rose at five o'clock in summer, and at six in winter; and in the latter season, though the cold were ever so intense, and the ground covered with snow, they had to parade the play ground for some time, before breakfast, being regularly disciplined like a regiment of soldiers. The plans adopted for teaching were likewise defective; yet, having a thirst for knowledge, a love of learning, and possessing energy, application, diligence, and perseverance, William made a tolerable proficiency, especially in the Latin classics. He speedily rose to successively higher positions, until, for more than a year before leaving school, he maintained the rank of First Boy in every department.
Although Mr. Bradford kept a strict watch over the boys, and
was very severe in reproving and punishing sin; and although all the forms of godliness were invariably maintained throughout the establishment, it does not appear that there was one boy in the school at that time decidedly religious. The removal of one, who died after a short illness, produced a beneficial influence for a short time, but like “ the morning cloud” and the "early dew" it soon passed away. In the beginning of the year 1803, a son of the Rev. Simon Day came to Kingswood, in a consumption, and died there. This event excited among the boys generally a concern for their spiritual welfare ; and Mrs. Stevens, a very pious and zealous woman, wife of the Rev. William Stevens, a Supernumerary, observing their serious demeanour, invited several of them to meet in her class. This invitation was accepted, among some others, by young Burgess, who for the first time attended a classmeeting on Monday, 20th of June, 1803. While Mrs. Stevens was engaged in prayer, in which exercise she was uncommonly fervent, some of these lads became much affected, began to mourn under a sense of their sinful and dangerous state, and to cry earnestly for mercy from God. This soon became known to the rest of the scholars, amongst whom the flame spread, until nearly all professed to be seekers of salvation. Many meetings for prayer and for Christian conversation were held, and several of those who had been in deep distress of mind expressed their conviction that they had found peace with God, and knew their sins forgiven through the merits of the Saviour. By the home-circle this period was regarded as the time of his conversion; but in after life Mr. Burgess expressed some doubt whether his then extremely imperfect views of the Scriptural plan of salvation were compatible with a state of justification. Certain it is, however, that he enjoyed religious exercises and associations; was more cautious and circumspect in his conduct; and felt increasingly the value of all the appointed means of grace.
About this time also his mental powers appeared more rapidly to develop themselves, and he evinced both a disposition and a capacity to pursue learning with avidity and success. To the study of the Greek and Latin classics, mathematics, and some of the living languages, he now added that of music, for which he had manifested an early genius, and in which he subsequently became a considerable proficient. In July, 1805, he left Kingswood school, with the reputation for scholarship far above his years, and with the respect and esteem of all who knew him.
The writer, whose personal experiences of Old Kingswood extend from July, 1807, to July, 1813, feels much pleasure in stating that New Kingswood presents, in every aspect, a happy contrast. Whether we regard the system of teaching, of moral and religious
to leave notre we now find all the food, clothing
training, and of discipline; or the food, clothing, and domestic arrangements; we now find all to be so judiciously conducted, as to leave no reasonable requirement on the part of parents and friends unfulfilled.
The Rey. Joseph Burgess was now stationed at Redruth, in Cornwall, and as travelling by coach was in those days very expensive, his son embarked at Bristol, in a sailing vessel, bound for Portreath, a small sea-port, four miles distant from Redruth. Adverse winds drove the vessel into Swansea Bay, and on landing at the Mumbles, the youth walked to Swansea, where he met with a kind reception from the Rev. James Radcliffe, a personal friend of his father's. The captain of the vessel appears to have been dilatory in his movements, and neglectful of his charge. At the end of three weeks he summoned the lad, one morning early, to follow him immediately, as the wind was favourable. This call was obeyed with alacrity; but before the youth reached the Mumbles, a distance of four miles, the unfeeling captain had put to sea, and his vessel was nearly out of sight. After hope had already been so long deferred, this disappointment was felt bitterly, and must have proved no mean test of the lad's fortitude. He, however, had been taught that, “ The eye of the Lord is upon them that fear Him, upon them that hope in His mercy.” That “ mercy" he sought, and, while seeking, obtained. Another captain, of a widely different character, met him as he was walking about the quay, and, hearing his case, said, “If I had a son left in a strange place as you are, I should like for some one to take care of him, and bring him home; and I will act towards others as I should wish others to act towards me. I am bound for Hayle, which is within eight miles of Redruth ; I expect to sail to-morrow, and will take you with me, free of all expense.” This captain's name was Leigh, and his vessel was called “ The Pellew." His generous conduct affords a beautiful illustration of the application of "the golden rule," and was always gratefully remembered by his young protégé ; who, landing at Hayle on the 13th of August, rose early on the following morning, and walked to Redruth, where he joined the family-circle twenty-seven days after he had left Bristol.
He now commenced a diligent course of private study, including Hebrew, which he had not previously cultivated. At this time also he began to acquire some farther experience of the power of Divine grace : he heard the Word preached, with more attention and profit; his judgment was better informed, and his heart more affected. A sermon preached by his honoured father from Eccles. i. 14, made a deep impression on his mind, and led to a more marked establishment of religious character.
Before he had remained three months with his parents, he received a proposal from Mr. Pocock, principal of a flourishing classical and mathematical school in Bristol, to engage as classical teacher in his academy, which offer, after some negotiation, he accepted. This office had been ably filled, for some time previously, by Mr. Benson, son of the Rev. Joseph Benson: in consequence, however, of that gentleman's leaving Mr. Pocock's establishment sooner than was expected, having to keep terms at Oxford, the whole weight of the department was laid on young Mr. Burgess, who had not then completed his fifteenth year.
The writer, at this point, ventures to suggest that this responsibility thrown on one so young, and who was constitutionally shy and reserved, had a tendency to induce a somewhat magisterial bearing, and dogmatic style, which never wholly forsook him; and which led casual observers, sometimes, to misapprehend his real disposition and character.
On becoming a résident in Bristol, he and his young friend, Mr. Woolf, joined the class of Mr. Henry Roberts, and regularly attended our ministry at Portland Street chapel. These means of grace were much blessed to his soul; he listened to sermons with greater pleasure and profit than ever; his understanding became more and more enlightened, and the mysteries of Redemption more fully unfolded to him. It was not long before Mr. Pocock, the ministers of the Circuit, and other leading friends, urged him to engage in public labours, and devote himself to the work of the ministry, but to this he strongly objected; for, notwithstanding some “ faint desires to be an ambassador for Christ,” he felt 60 conscious of an utter want of qualifications for the work, that he did not see the smallest probability of his entering upon the sacred office.
During the summer vacation of 1806, Mr Pocock paid a visit to his native town, Hungerford, in Berkshire. This place was noto. rious for ignorance, wickedness, and bigotry; Sabbath-breaking and other crimes were universally prevalent; and there were scarcely any in the town that retained even a form of godliness. After considerable exertions Mr. Pocock succeeded in introducing the Gospel, as preached by the Methodists, into Hungerford. On this occasion, Mr. Burgess accompanied him, and, as he himself expressed it, “ had the pleasure of witnessing the first sowing of the good seed in that benighted land.” Principally through the zeal and benevolence of Mr. Pocock, a Society was raised, a chapel erected, and Hungerford subsequently became the head of a Circuit. Mr. Burgess was, about this time, deeply affected by the death of Mr. Samuel Griffith, an esteemed friend and fellow-assistant. This excellent young man had been truly converted in early life,