« AnteriorContinuar »
MEMOIR OF THE REV. WILLIAM LEACH :
BY ONE OF HIS DAUGHTERS. It is the declaration of holy Scripture, that “the memory of the just is blessed." These words may with propriety form the introduction to what is felt by the writer to be a very imperfect sketch of the life and labours of a faithful Minister of Jesus Christ.
Mr. Leach was born at Allerton, about three miles from Bradford, in Yorkshire, August 20th, 1777. Happily, our information is ample concerning his early years. From his own papers we learn that he experienced the strivings of God's Holy Spirit, and had frequent and serious impressions, when not more than seven years of age. As his parents at that time had not received converting grace, and as he had no one to direct him, these gracious desires were for a season lost. But God mercifully continued to follow him by his convincing Spirit, He was often powerfully affected under the ministry of the word ; and at such seasons he would diligently read his Bible, and form many good resolutions. But his own testimony is, “ Alas! my goodness was 'as the morning cloud, and as the early dew:' so it passed away. I was led aside by the power of temptation ; and when my companions have called upon me, I have often put away my serious thoughts, and, assuming an appearance of gaiety, have gone with them into the fields or lanes, on the evening of the Lord's day, after hearing the word of God, and feeling deeply under its divine truths.”
Thus neglecting to give his soul to God, for some years he walked in darkness; and, as he became less seriously disposed, he found him. self brought under the dominion of his unregenerate heart, grew impatient of contradiction, and could not bear reproof for his faults.
After a time his mind became more calm ; yet feeling no solid peace, he sought for comfort, where, by painful experience, he was at length convinced it was not to be found. Respecting this he writes : “ The last thing to which I had recourse, in my vain search for happiness, was an increase of human knowledge. But this failed, like all the rest of my schemes for finding satisfaction in the world; and, becoming truly miserable, I began to reflect more seriously on my awful condition as a guilty sinner. Those words of Scripture were VOL. IV.-FOURTA SERIES.
powerfully applied to my conscience, There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.'” His own unhappy feelings painfully responded to this statement; and he became alarmed, lest God should call him away while thus unprepared.
At this period he was between seventeen and eighteen years of age, and had hitherto indulged a very low opinion of the Wesleyan Methodists. They were “everywhere spoken against,” and he gave credit to general report. His resolution was, that if he became religious, he would connect himself with the Established Church, or one of the Dissenting congregations; thinking any denomination more respectable than the Methodists, and supposing that that must be the best form of religion, which was most approved of by the world.
Being led to a more careful perusal of the word of God, he saw the folly of this opinion. His prejudices gradually gave way ; his own sinfulness and danger became more clearly apparent to him ; and he was brought to exclaim, in the disquietude of his soul, “What must I do to be saved ?” In this state of mind, he was induced one Sabbath evening to attend a meeting for prayer, held by the Wesleyans in that neighbourhood. For some time he was kept from kneeling by a false shame. But, in his own language, “ The hand of the Lord was heavy upon me; I broke through all fear of what might be said of me, kneeled down before the Lord, and not only kneeled, but trembled. It seemed as if I were deprived of all bodily strength, and with difficulty avoided crying aloud.”
At this period, the Wesleyans had a small society near Allerton. It was but in its infancy, and the few who met in class were poor and despised. As soon, therefore, as Mr. Leach's father heard that his son had attended their meetings, he was highly incensed, threatening him with banishment from home, unless he gave up all connexion with this people. This was a severe trial to one who had but just begun to “ask the way to Zion.” He found, even at this early stage, that if he would be a disciple of Christ, he must “take up his cross and deny himself.” He felt in a strait. On the one hand, he saw plainly that his eternal interests were at stake ; on the other, that if he sought to secure these, in what to him appeared to be the right way, he must leave his father's house. In this season of perplexity, he earnestly prayed that God would make his way plain before him. And he did not pray in vain. He mentioned his case to his maternal uncle, who had formerly been a member of the Wesleyan society, and still attended their ministry. Though he had, unhappily, himself lost the comforts of religion, he sympathized with his nephew, and offered to receive him into his own family. In reference to this event, Mr. Leach writes : “I thankfully accepted this offer, and removed to his house. My father, however, opposed me in this; wishing me to remain at home, but not to attend the meetings.” He adds, with fidelity, “In this removal, I suffered spiritual loss; for I indulged a feeling of anger.” Finding also that his path was more easy, he became less diligent in attending the means of grace, and the duty of private prayer. But his mental distress returned, and soon became
stronger than ever, so that his health was seriously affected. At length he could no longer refrain from relating his feelings to a Christian friend, who kindly invited bim to attend a class-meeting. The Leader encouraged his good desires, and gave him suitable advice; while the members rejoiced over him, some of them even with tears. From this time he was enabled to overcome many temptations. His old companions were forsaken, though many snares were laid for him. But their efforts to draw him aside only made him more watchful, and he was enabled to persevere through evil as well as good report. His religious light continued to increase. The views he had of his own state were sometimes almost overwhelming. Then again he was tempted to abandon all thoughts of religion. However, he regularly attended the means of grace, and was encouraged to resolve not to rest short of the pardoning mercy of God in Christ Jesus.
Of his feelings at this season, he thus writes : “I now enjoyed the meetings for prayer and mutual conversation more than ever. The very sight of God's house was pleasant to me; my heart was softened, but I was not satisfied, and continued to pray for a knowledge of the remission of sins.” He adds, “I had now met in class more than three months, and the evening arrived on which the quarterly tickets were to be renewed. After the preaching, under a deep sense of my anworthiness, and with a trembling hand, I received my first ticket from the Rev. Michael Emmett. My union with the Methodist society was an event for which I believe I shall have cause to bless God for ever. Next to communion with Him, I have found fellowship with his people to be as profitable as it was delightful.”
His narrative of the circumstances connected with his finding that "peace of God which passeth all understanding,” shall be related in his own words. “After conversing one day with a friend, respecting my spiritual state, on leaving him, I felt strong desires to be delivered from the power of my unbelieving fears. I retired, and, opening my Bible, read these words : We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him. I felt my heart affected, and said, “Lord, give me to experience the truth of these words in my own soul; give me the assurance of thy favour! In a moment, divine light shone upon my mind : I was enabled to 'behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, and to rest on his atonement. My doubts and fears were removed; and I was filled with all joy and peace in believing. I felt that though the Lord had been angry, his anger was now turned away, and that he comforted me. I could say, 'I will trust, and not be afraid : for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song, he also is become my salvation. My cup ran over. My joy was unspeakable. Many gracious promises were applied to my mind; and I was disposed to say with the Psalmist, “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul. I loved the Lord Jesus Christ, because I now felt that he had loved me, and given himself for me.” This was on August 20th, 1795, the day on which he completed the