J. C. (John Charles) Ryle.

The Christian leaders of the last century; or, England a hundred years ago online

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and within three weeks no less than a hundred of them came to
Walker's house, asking what they must do to be saved. He
himself says to a correspondent : " The effects of the soldiers'
sermon have been very striking. You would have seen their
countenances changing, tears often bursting from their eyes, and
confessions of their exceeding sinfulness and danger breaking
from their mouths. I have scarcely heard such a thing as self-
excusing from any of them j while the desire to be instructed,
and uncommon thankfulness for any pains for them used by any
of us, have been very remarkable."

His biographer says : " Mr. Walker's exertions in the regi-
ment at first met with great opposition. The commander
publicly forbade his men to go to him for private instruction,
though, at last, no less than two hundred and fifty of them
sought the persevering servant of Christ for that purpose.
Those also wdiom religion had separated from the sinful habits
and company of their unawakened comrades, were much
derided ; but grace enabled them to stand. A great alteration,
however, soon took place. Punishment diminished, and order
prevailed in the regiment, to a degree never before witnessed \


and at length the commander discovered the excellent cause of
this salutary change. Genuine zeal had now its full triumph
and rich reward. The officers waited on Mr. Walker in a
body, to acknowledge the good effects of his wise and sedulous
exertions, and to thank him for the reformation he had pro-
duced in their ranks."

" These interesting men left Truro after nine weeks' stay.
The parting scene was indescribably affecting. They assembled
the last evening in the society-room, to hear their beloved
minister's farewell prayer and exhortation. ' Had you,' said
Walker to a friend, ' but seen their countenances, what thank-
fulness, love, sorrow, and joy sat upon them ! They hoped
they might bring forth some fruit ; they hoped to meet us again
at the right hand of Jesus at the great day.' It was an hour of
mingled distress and comfort ; the hearts of many were so full,
that they clasped the hand of the beloved instrument of their
conversion, and turned away without a word. They began
their morning march praising God for having brought them
under the sound of the gospel ; and as they slowly passed
along, turned round to catch occasional glimpses of the town,
as it gradually receded from their sight, exclaiming, ' God bless
Truro !' They saw their spiritual leader no more upon earth,
but were consoled by the hope of a triumphant meeting
amongst the armies of heaven."

One grand peculiarity of Walker's ministry^ at Truro was the
system of private meetings for mutual edification among the
spiritual members of his congregation, which he succeeded in
instituting. He seems to have been deeply impressed with the
necessity of following up the work done in the pulpit, and with
the desirableness of stirring up real Christians to be useful to
one another. There can be no doubt that he was right. ' Edify
one another,' is an apostolic principle far too much overlooked
(i Thess. V. ii). Most Christians are far too ready to leave
everything to be done by their minister, and forget that a


minister has only one body and one tongue, and cannot be
everywhere, and do everything. Above all, most Christians
forget that the mutual conference of believers is a valuable
means of grace, and that in trying to water others we are likely
to be watered ourselves. But the best and wisest manner of
conducting these meetings for mutual edification is a subject
of vast difficulty, and one on which good men differ widely.
Scores of excellent ministers have attempted to do something
in this direction, and have completely failed. It was precisely
here that Walker seems to have been eminently gifted, and to
have obtained extraordinary success.

My limited space makes it quite impossible to give a full
account of all the plans and arrangements that Walker made
for the conduct of these religious societies. Those who wish
to know more about them will find them fully described in
Sidney's " Life of Walker." One leading feature of his system
deserves, however, to be specially noticed : I mean his careful
classification of the members of his societies. He always
formed them into two divisions, one composed entirely of
men, into which no female was admitted ; the other of mar-
ried men, their wives, and unmarried women, from which all
single men were excluded. The wisdom and good sense of
this classification will be obvious to eveiy reflecting Christian.
It is the very neglect of it, however simple it may appear,
which has been the ruin of many similar private movements
among religious people. The rules drawn up for the manage-
ment of meetings are marked throughout by like soundness of
judgment. The objects to be kept steadily in view — the admis-
sion of members, the hours to be kept, the mode of proceeding,
the things to be habitually avoided by members — are all most
carefully defined, and give one a most favourable idea of
Walker's rare Christian good sense. I have only room to quote
two rules, which are a good specimen of the tone and spirit
running through all the regulations.


One rule is : " That every member of tliis Society do esteem
himself joeculiarly obliged to live in an inoffensive and orderly
manner, to the glory of God and the edification of his neigh-
bours ; that he study to advance, in himself and others, humility
and meekness, faith in Christ, love to God, gospel repentance,
and new obedience, in which things Christian edification con-
sists, and not in vain janglings. And that in all his conversa-
tion and articles of faith he stick close to the plain and divine
meaning of Holy Scripture, carefully avoiding all intricate niceties
and refinements upon it."

The other rule, or rather explanatory definition, is : " By a
disorderly carriage we mean not only the commission of gross
and scandalous sins, but also what are esteemed matters of
little moment in the eyes of the world, such as the light use of
the words, Lord^ God, Jesus, &c., in ordinary conversation, which
we cannot but interpret as an evidence of the want of God's
presence in the heart ; the buying and selling of goods which
have not paid custom ; the doing needless work on the Lord's
day ; the frequenting ale-houses or taverns without necessary
business. And considering the consequence of vain amuse-
ments so generally practised, we do, in charity to the souls of
others, as well as to avoid the danger of such things ourselves,
think ourselves obliged to use particular caution about many of
them, however innocent they may be in themselves, such as
cards, dancings, clubs for entertainments, play-houses, sports at
festivals and parish feasts, and as much as may be parish feasts
themselves, lest by joining therein we are a hindrance to our-
selves and others." This is sound speech that cannot be con-
demned. Regulations such as these need no comment. What-
ever objections may be made against private societies such as
AValker formed at Truro, as tending to create a church within a
church, one thing at least is sure — A system which produced
such a high standard of Ufe and practice in the members of the
Society, deserves serious consideration.


Walker's most useful career was brought to a termination in
the year 176 1. He died at the early age of forty-seven, of pul-
monary consumption, accelerated, if not brought on, by his
over-abundant labours in the cause of Christ at Truro. It is
impossible to wonder at his breaking down at a comparatively
early age, when we consider the immense amount of ministerial
labour which he regularly carried on, single-handed and unas-
sisted, for nearly fourteen years, in his large Cornish parish.
He says himself, in a letter dated 1755 : '' My stated business
(beside the Sunday duty, prayers Wednesdays and Fridays,
burials, baptisms, and attendance on the sick) is, on Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Fridays, to talk with such as apply to me in
private from six to ten in the evening ; Tuesday, to attend the
society; and Thursday, a lecture in church in the evening.
Saturday, and as much of Friday as I can give, is bestowed in
preparing the Sunday's sermons. To all this must be added
what I may well call the care of the church, that is, of above a
hundred people, who, on one account and another, continually
need my direction. You will not wonder if my strength proves
unequal to this labour, and I find myself debilitated, and under
necessity of making my time shorter by lying in bed longer
than formerly. In short, what I am going through seems evi-
dently to be hastening my end, though there be no immediate
danger." The plain truth is, that so far from wondering that
such a man died so soon, we should rather wonder that he
worked and lived so long.

He died at Blackheath, near London, after a long and suffer-
ing illness of more than a year's duration, in which he received
every attention that could be bestowed on his poor earthly
tabernacle from the kindness of Lord Dartmouth. He died in
the full enjoyment of the peace he had so faithfully preached
to others, and his death-bed was without a cloud. He had
never married, and, like Berridge, had neither brother, sister,
nor near relative to stand by him as he went down into the
(195; 21


river. But he had that whi'ch is far better than earthly relatives,
the strong consolation of a lively hope, and the presence of
that Saviour who " sticketh closer than a brother," and who has
said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."

The following letter, written on his death-bed to his beloved
friend Mr. Conon, only a fortnight before he died, gives a most
pleasing impression of Walker's happy frame of mind in the
prospect of eternity. He says : —

" My dearest, most faithful friend, — My disorder, though by
no means aftbrding the least prospect of recovery, yet seems to
affect me at present more with weakness than with that violent
heat which rendered me incapable of thought. I can now,
blessed be God, think a little ; and with what comfort do I
both receive your thoughts and communicate mine to you !
Oh, my dear friend, what do we owe to the Lord for one
another ! More than I could have conceived, had not God sent
me to die elsewhere. We shall have time to praise the Lord,
when we meet in the other world. I stand and look upon that
world with an established heart. I see the way prepared,
opened, and assured unto me in Jesus Christ. For ever blessed
be the name of God, that I can look upon death, that intro-
duces that glorious scene, without any kind of fear. I find my
grand duty still is submission, both as to time and circum-
stances. Why should I not say to you that I find nothing
come so near my heart, as the fear lest my will should thwart
God's will in any circumstances % Thus, I think, I am enabled
to watch and pray in some poor measure. Well, my dear
friend, I am but stepping a little before you. You will soon
also get your release, and then we shall triumph for ever in the
name, love, and power of the Lamb. Adieu ! Yours in the
Lord Jesus Christ for ever. Amen."

The above touching letter was prabably the last that Walker
wrote. One week later, Mr. Burnet, a dear and valued friend
both of Walker's and Venn's, gave the following account of him


in a letter to a friend. He says : " On Saturday, the nth July,
I reached Mr. Walker's lodging at Blackheath. There I saw
the dear man lying on his bed of sickness, pining away in the
last stage of consumption, burnt up with raging fever, and
wasted almost to a skeleton. He was perfectly sensible, and
so was able to express himself much to our satisfaction. The
first thing which struck me exceedingly was his patient submis-
sion under God's hand, and his thankful tender concern for all
those who were near to him. So little was his mind engaged
with things merely pertaining to himself, that in the smallest
things concerning my own convenience and comfort he behaved
as if I had been the sick person. He said he had been uneasy,
at the beginning of his sickness, at the want of sensible frames
of feeling, but was relieved by that Scripture, ' They that wor-
ship God must worship him in spirit,' with the noble powers of
the soul ; and that he now found experimentally the worship of
God's Spirit on his heart in a degree he had never before
experienced. ' I am now enabled,' he said, ' to see when it was
that the Lord Jesus first laid effectual hold of my heart, which
I was never able to discover before. I have a perfect satisfac-
tion in the principles I have preached, and the methods I have
generally taken. I have no doubt respecting my state in Christ,
or my future glory. Behold, I am going dowm to the gates of
the grave, and holy angels wait for me. Why do you trouble
yourselves, and weep? Cannot you rejoice with me? I am
going to heaven. Christ died : my Lord ! Oh, had I strength
to express myself, I could tell you enough to make your hearts
weep for joy. God is all love to me, and my trials are very-

On Tuesday, July the 14th, Walker dictated the followang
words to IMr. Conon : " My dearest Friend, — With great con-
fusion of thought, I have no doubts, great confidence, great
submission, no complaining. As to actual views of the joys
that are coming, I have none ; but a steadfast belief of them


in Christ." The same day, when one sitting by his bedside
observed that his soul was ripe for heaven and eternit)^, he
interrupted him by saying, " that the body of sin was not yet
done away, but that he should continue a sinner to the last
gasp, and desired that he would pray for him as such."

On Sunday, July the 19th, in the same happy and peaceful
frame of mind, the holy curate of Truro fell asleep in Christ,
and went home. " Let me die the death of the righteous, and
let my last end be like his."

Walker's literary remains are not many, but they deserve far
more attention than many writings of the period when he lived.
His " Lectures on the Church Catechism," his " Nine Sermons
on the Covenant of Grace," and his eleven sermons entitled
" The Christian," are all excellent books, and ought to be
better known and more read than they are in the present day.
His sermons give me a most favourable impression of his
powers as a preacher. For simplicity, directness, vivacity, and
home appeals to the heart and conscience, I am disposed to
assign them a very high rank among the sermons of a hundred
years ago. It is my deliberate impression, that if he had been
an itinerant like Whitefield, and had not confined himself to his
pulpit at Truro, he would probably have been reckoned one
of the best preachers of his day.

The following extract from the last sermon preached by
Walker at Truro is not only interesting in itself, but is also a
very fair specimen of his style of preaching. The subject was
the second coming of Christ to judge the quick and the dead.
He said at the conclusion : " Can I think of this day, sq
honourable to him whom my soul loveth, without longing and
wishing for its appearing % When I consider that his people
shall partake with him in the glories of that day, and hear him
say those ravishing words never to be recalled, ' Come, ye
blessed of my father,' can I do other than say, ' Come, Lord
Jesus, come quickly V Surely I should rejoice to see and be


for ever with the Lord ; to behold his beauty as the express
image of his fatlier's person ; to contemplate with endless and
insatiable transport the glory which the Father hath given him ;
to make my acknowledgment, amid the praises of heaven,
among the multitude which no man can number, as saved, for
ever saved, by his love and care, his power and grace. What !
when the least beam of his gl-ory let in upon my soul now turns
my earth into heaven, and makes me qvj out '^vith Peter, ' It is
good for us to be here,' can I wish to delay his coming % When,
remaining in this vale of misery, I groan under corruptions, and
am burdened with a corruptible body, can I say, ' This is better
than to be fashioned in soul and body like unto the Lord ?'
When I find here nothing but vanity and vexation of spirit,
shall I be averse to the Lord's coming to change my sorrows
into joy unspeakable and full of glory ? Here, beset as I am
with enemies, w^ould I not long for that blessed day when I
shall see them again no more for ever % And would I not be
glad to be taken from a world lying in wickedness, into that
new heaven and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness ? I know
that my redeemer liveth. I know that he shall stand at the
latter day upon the earth. I have a humble confidence that he
will own me among the children. And shall I, like those who
know no better joys than this world can afford them, are ignor-
ant of a Redeemer's righteousness, and lie under the uncon-
scious guilt of unnumbered and unpardoned sin — shall I, like
them, cleave to this base life as my all for happiness, and not
wait, and wish, and long for the day of my Master's glorious
appearing % No ! I will not abide in that low measure of faith,
which only begets a hope that I may be well when the Lord
comes, but knows not what it is to love the day of his appear-
ing. My endeavour shall be to be strong in the faith, and
abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost, always
fruitful in good works, and hasting unto the day of the Lord.
" As for you, my dear hearers, I am grieved at heart for


many, very many of you, to think how you will make your
appearance before Christ's judgment-seat. You have no works
to speak there for your belonging to Christ ; I can see none.
I see works of various kinds that prove you do not belong to
him. If a life of pleasure, idleness, indulgence, drunkenness,
pride, covetousness, would recommend you to the favour of the
Judge, few would be better received than numbers of you ! In
the name of God; my friends, when you know this moment in
your own consciences that if, as you have been and are, you
should be called to judgment, you would be surely cast into
hell, why will you live at such a rate? Well! we shall all
be soon before the judgment-seat of Christ. There the con-
troversy between me, persuading you by the terrors of the
Lord to repent, and you, determined to abide in your sins, will
be decided. There it will appear whether your blood will be
upon your own heads for your obstinate impenitences, or upon
mine for not giving you warning. Christ will certainly either
acquit or condemn me on this account ; and if I should be
acquitted, what will become of you % I tremble to think how
many words of mine will be brought up against you on that day.
What will you say, what will you answer, how will you excuse
yourselves % Oh, sirs, if you will not be prevailed upon, you
will, with eternal self-reproach, curse the day that you knew me,
or heard one word from my mouth. Why, why will ye die with
so aggravated a destruction? May the Lord incline you to
think ! May he cause this word to sink deep into your hearts !
May he show you all your dangers, and with an outstretched
arm bring you out of the hands of the devil, and translate you
into the kingdom of his dear Son."

The letters which Mr. Sidney has collected in his biography
of Walker are all interesting, especially those addressed to the
two Wesleys, and to Mr. Adam of Winteringham, author of
*' Private Thoughts upon Religion." Indeed, the whole book is
valuable. I only regret that the author should have thought it

ins BIOGRAPHY. 327

necessary to elaborate so carefully his favourite idea, that Mr.
Walker was a sound Churchman and not a Dissenter. It may
be perfectly true, no doubt. But it is too often pressed and
thrust upon our notice. Walker lived in a day when the very
existence of Christianity in England was at stake, and when the
main business of true-hearted Christians was to preserve the
very foundations of revealed religion from being swept away.
To my eyes. Walker's thorough Christianity is a far more con-
spicuous object than his Churchman ship.

After all, I leave the subject of this chapter with a very deep
conviction that we know comparatively very little about Walker.
The half of his work, I suspect, has never yet been recorded.
He lived near the Land's End. He seldom left his own parish.
His life was never fully written till fifty or sixty years after he
was dead. What wonder, then, if we know but little of the
man ! Yet I venture the surmise that in the last day, when the
secrets of all ministries shall be disclosed, few will be found to
have done better work for Christ in their day and generation
than Walker of Truro.


Born near Northampton, 1713 — Educated at Lincoln College, Oxford — Intimacy with
John Wesley — Ordained, 1736 — Curate of Dummer, 1738; of Bideford, 1740; and of
Weston Favell, 1743 — Early Religious History — Correspondence with Whitefield —
Studious Habit at Weston Favell — Literai-y Remains Analyzed — Correspondence —
Humour — Private Life — Charity — Self-denial — Died, 1758 — Testimony of Romaine,
Venn, Cowper, Cecil, Bickersteth, and Daniel Wilson.

HERE is a striking chapter in the Book of Judges, in
which Deborah and Barak sing a triumphal hymn
after the defeat of the hosts of Sisera. In one part
of this hymn they recount the names of the tribes who came
forward most readily to do battle for the freedom of Israel.
Some of the tribes are mentioned in high praise. Others are
dismissed with expressions of reproach. None are so much
commended as Zebulun and Naphtali. They were " a people
who jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of
the field." But a sentence is used in the account of Zebulun,
which deserves special notice : " Out of Zebulun," it is said,
" came down they that handle the pen of the writer " (Judges
V. 14).

The expression is a strange one. It cannot be denied that
the meaning of it is involved in some obscurity. There is
some probability in the conjecture of those who think it signi-
fies scribes, who mustered the levies of Zebulun, and wrote
down the names of those who went to war (compare Jer.


lii. 25), But be the precise meaning what it may, one thing is
abundantly dear. The zeal of Zebulun in God's cause was
such that, among her warriors in the day of battle, there were
some who were more accustomed to wield the pen than the
sword. When God's work was to be done, the soldier and the
writer stood shoulder to shoulder, and side by side.

The expression has often recurred to my mind of late, in
studying the history of English religion a hundred years ago.
I am struck with the variety of instruments which God em-,
ployed in carrying on the great revival of Christianity which
then took place. I see some men who were mighty with the
tongue, and bowed the hearts of assemblies by their preaching,
as the trees of the wood are bowed by the wind. I see others
who were mighty in government, and skilful in organizing, direct-.
ing, methodizing, and administering. But, besides these, I see
others who were mighty with the pen, and did work for Christ as
real and lasting as any of their contemporaries. They made no
public show. They did not cry, or strive, or let their voice be
heard in the street. But they laboured in their way most
effectually for the advancement of pure evangelical religion.
They reached minds which were never brought under the in-
fluence of Whitefield, Wesley, or Romaine. They produced
results in many quarters which will never be fully known till
the judgment day. Foremost, perhaps, in this class of men in
the last century, was the subject of my present paper, James
Hervey of Weston Favell, the author of " Theron and Aspasio."

James Hervey was born on February 26, 17 13, at Harding-
stone, near Northampton. His father was rector of the neigh- .
bouring parishes of Collingtree and Weston Favell, but appears
for some reason to have resided out of his parish. About his
parents I can fintl no certain information, either as to their
religious opinions or their practice. The parishes of which his
father was rector are small rural places, very near the town of
Northampton, on the south-eastern side. The date of his birth


deserves notice on one account. It shows that he was one of

Online LibraryJ. C. (John Charles) RyleThe Christian leaders of the last century; or, England a hundred years ago → online text (page 27 of 36)