Frederic W. (Frederic William) Macdonald.

The life of William Morley Punshon, LL.D.250:: erd ed online

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with most of the younger great men, Waddy, Osborn, Vasey, etc,

" When are you thinking of coming home ? It is almost time
you revisited ' the glimpses of the moon ' in your own country.
We shall be very ready to lionize you, as Ave do every returned

" Your Kaffir war seems almost interminable. There is, I hope,
a better prospect of its termination now. We have just changed
our Ministry again. D'Israeli is brilliant, but a charlatan, and Lord

74 TV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. iv.

John Russell i]ic statesman of England. I fear our Protestant
interests will suffer from the introduction of so many tractarians
into the Cabinet. Gladstone & Co. are very indifferent in the
struggle between England and Rome."

To THE Rev. Thomas M'Cullagh.

" Thorncliffe, April Isf, 1853.

" A hearty, brotherly congratulation to you on your success at
Leeds : I have been greatly delighted to hear of your fame. I
followed on your heels in the Huddersfield circuit, and the whole
conversation of some folk I met there was M'Cullaghfied : ' These
'45 men,' as Mr. Walker said, ' there's something in them,' We
are going on ' prosily,' fifty- one increase on the quarter, twenty-
seven short on the year, Methley, W. Wilson, and myself invited.
A good work all over the circuit, save my poor Thorncliffe, where
all languishes.

'' You will have seen the April magazine, and will notify my
London work. ' I exceedingly fear and quake,' but the Lord will
give me strength in my day. I don't expect I shall have to speak
in Exeter Hall. If I have it will be a terrible affair."

He here refers to the invitation he had received from
the Missionary Committee in London to take part in the
services of the approaching anniversary. Such an invita-
tion to a minister of little more than seven years' standing
was more uncommon thirty years ago than it would be
to-day. It was an unusually early recognition of power
and promise in a young man. Mr. Punshon might well
be fluttered with hope and fear as he thought of the
possibility of having to address the great audience in
Exeter Hall, an audience that would include the most
distinguished ministers and laymen in the Connexion, and,
in particular, those great leaders of the Conference who
were, not unnaturally, regarded as the most formidable
of hearers and critics.

He could hardly be unaware that a style like his —
ornate, poetic, high-pitched — might not be altogether to
the liking of some of those potent seniors, who were
understood, rightly or not, to have little sympathy with
youthful oratory. But there was no escape. The rising
reputation that had made it necessary to invite the young
minister from the country to preach and speak in London,
required that the ordeal should be faced. The develop-

1853.] EXETER HALL. 75

ment of his life-work had reached a • stage when it must
enter upon a wider sphere, or fall back a failure and a

He did his best to prepare for the duty before him, and
went up to London trusting in God. The services of the
anniversary commenced with a sermon at Southwark
Chapel, by the Eev. Gr. T. Perks. On the next evening,
Wednesday, Mr. Rattenbury preached to a crowded con-
gregation at City Road. The following morning Dr.
Hannah was the preacher, and on Friday morning the
Rev. Norman Macleod. Mr. Punshon's work began on
the Sunday, when he preached at Spitalfields in the
morning, and Hinde Street in the evening. On Monday
the great meeting was held in Exeter Hall. Mr. James
Heald was in the chair. The report was read by JNIr.
Osborn, the financial statement by Mr. Hoole. The
meeting was addressed in succession by Dr. Hannah ; the
Rev. E. J. Robinson, then recently returned from Ceylon ;
the Rev. Gibson M'Millen, from Ireland ; the Right Hon.
Joseph Napier, Member for the University of Dublin, and
the Rev. John Rattenbury. Dr. Newton, now an old man,
within a year of the close of his blameless life and noble
ministry, and still the most popular man in the Methodist
ministry, was expected to speak before the meeting
closed ; and with this long array of speakers behind him,
and the veteran advocate of Missions to follow, Mr.
Punshon was called upon to address the meeting. He
spoke for some twenty minutes, and made happy and
effective allusion to the venerable men upon the platform.

"I would humbly say to-day, if it may in any way clieer the
declining years of those whose every affection is bound up with
this great cause, that there is a goodly fellowship of us who have
sworn never to desert it. I have been thinking of what I could
say that might worthily occupy the few moments allotted to me.
I could not discover what it was that prompted my invitation
here except this, that it might be a mutual and glorious benefit, —
the young instructed by the experience and counsel of the aged,
and haply the aged cheered by the buoyancy and enthusiasm of
the young. As Whitefield said to Wesley, when there was a
rumour of Wesley's speedy departure, ' Nos seqiiamur non imssihus

76 W. MORLEY PUNS RON, [chap. iv.

cequis,'' ' We will follow ; but not with equal steps.' Equal steps
seem impossible ; but still we will follow. Depend upon it, we will
follow ! It is to me a matter of unfeigned rejoicing that our Sparta
hath many worthier sons than I who are ready to unite in the
advocacy of this cause, and who are prepared to do and to die in it,
till it finally triumph.''

The words of the young and eloquent speaker produced
a great impression. It was felt that another man had
arisen to stand among the foremost defenders and advo-
cates of Christian Missions. And from that hour it was
so. He had taken possession of Exeter Hall, to retain it
to his life's end. Of all who have trodden its historic
platform none have moved the eager thousands that pack
within its walls with completer mastery than he. The
promise of this was discerned by some at least of those
who heard his first speech. But in looking back upon
that meeting an interest attaches to it which time only
could bring to light. It was Kobert Newton's last ap-
pearance at the anniversary of the Wesleyan Missionary
Society, and Morley Punshon's first. For the first and
last time they stood together in the cause with which
their names must always be linked. The elder handed
the torch to the younger and passed away. That May
morning in 1853 divides the earlier from the later period
of Missionary advocacy. The name of Robert Newton
may stand for the one, the name of Morley Punshon for
the other.

On leaving London, Mr. Punshon hastened to Norwich
to fulfil the duties of a ^lissionary Deputation. From
thence he writes to Mr. M'Cullagh : —

" Norwich, ilia?/ 9th, 1853.
" It was a glorious meeting in the Hall. ... I hoped I should
escape until Rattenbury was speaking. I did not get my resolution
until then ; when Hoole stole along the platform and said, ' We
want you to second this resolution, — twenty minutes at most, and
as much less as you like.' This was at twenty-five minutes to
four, and there was Wade of Selby, and Dr. Newton, and the
collection to follow. ... I have forgotten to tell you the most
gratifying thing to me ; not the congregations, though Spitalfields
was full, and Hinde Street crowded ; nor the collections, though
the morning was £13 and the evening £11 more than last year;


nor the reception at the meeting, though it was warm ; but tliat
after the meeting the old doctor — the great Hon — the veritable
Jabez Bunting hobbled across the committee room for the
express purpose of shaking hands with me, and telling me that
it gave him pleasure to see and hear me there.

" Fancy the change from Exeter Hall to Peasenhall down in the
wilds of Suffolk, beyond the limits of the twopenny post, when
I began the missionary sermon \\\ih. four people, and the collection
at the meeting wasyjyg and Ucejity shillings ! "

After a year's residence at Thorncliffe jNIr. Punshon
removed to Sheffield. This arrangement was, in every
respect, a happy one for him. It removed certain difficul-
ties which he had experienced in his work, and it placed
him in the midst of congenial society. His genial nature
found its best relaxation from the strain of ever-increasing
labours in the hospitable homes of his people. There was
no fairer aspect of Methodism in Sheffield than the
home-life of its leading families, cheerful, intelligent, and
unaffectedly Christian. Among these he formed some of
his strongest and most abiding friendships. The ties that
bound him to Sheffield stood the test of time and distance.
Long years afterwards he said, " I prefer Sheffield-East to
almost any circuit I know."

The Conference of 1853 met in Bradford, under the
presidency of the Eev. John Lomas. Mr. Punshon and
Mr. M'Cullagh spent a short time there together. One
incident connected with it is recorded in a letter to a
friend : —

" We have just had a beautiful and impressive scene. After the
reading of an obituary by F. A. West, as by one consent all was
hushed for Dr. Bunting's remarks. He could not speak, and sat,
the majestic old man, with head down and frame quivering with
suppressed emotion for three or four minutes. At last he rose,
and calm, resigned, Christian, poured out his feelings. The feeling,
ih.Q passion of the Conference, was intense."

To THE Rev. T. M'Cullagh.

'^ Sheffield, Octohcr 6fh, 1853.

''I cannot come to Shildon. I am up to the chin. Listen : — 11th,

Grimsby ; 12th, 13th, and 14th, among the swamps of Norfolk

('relieving and extending') ; 17th, Boston ; 18th, Howden ; 23rd

and 2-4 th, Radnor Street, Manchester ; 31st, Lincoln ; 2nd, Silsden ;

78 TV. MO RLE Y PUNSHON. [chap. iv.

8th, York ; 21st and 22nd, Huddersfield ; 27th, Hinde Street,
London, besides all circuit work, considerably increased by my
removal to Sheffield ; and in the midst of all I have to finish a
sermon, write a memoir of my uncle for the magazine, and last,
not least, woe of woes ! to prepare a lecture for the Young Men's
Christian Association, Exeter Hall . I shrink, falter, tremble, repent.
" Our new men take well. Methley puts his hand on his breast,
— that enormous hand ! — and throws out some very sparkling and
clever and sensible things. Wilson is a pastor among a thousand ;
Sugden an active Revivalist. The Lord is with us, that's the best
of all. Souls are gathered in, and our main difficulty is with
sickened, but not penitent. Radicals, who are coming ' in their twos
and threes,' as the people say, and we hardly know how to deal
with them. We had a sweep the other day — illustrating the adage,
' Two of a trade can never agree ' — who, tired of the rival soot-bag
at the Reform Chapel, came to us to be whitewashed."

The invitation to lecture at Exeter Hall proved to be
one of the most important events in his life. It was the
summons to a new sphere of labour, and his response to it
influenced his whole after career. The vocation of the
popular lecturer was not a new one, but it was to receive
fresh interpretation at his hands. He broke away from
its traditions. He had conceived of new possibilities in
connection with it. Established canons of style and
delivery, and existing standards and precedents, were
disregarded. It was a new departure. It is the simple
truth to say there had been no such lectures before. This
is not to disparage the work of his predecessors and
contemporaries. Here w^as something different in kind
from what had hitherto gone by the name of lecture.

" In his hand the thing became a trumpet, whence he blew
Soul-animating strains."

Reserving for the present the history of his labours and
triumphs as a lecturer, together with the examination of
his method and style, it is sufficient here to say that
on the 17th of January, 1854, he delivered his lecture on
*' The Prophet of Horeb," in Exeter Hall, to nearly three
thousand people. He spoke for two hours with perfect
command of himself, his subject, and his audience.
Towards the close, says one who was present, there was
the stillness and solemnity of death — '-'' You might have


heard a feather fall in that vast assembly ; " and when
the last sentence had fallen from his lips, the whole
audience rose mi masse, and cheered till it could cheer no

A correspondent of The British Banner, commenting
upon a statement in that paper that " the lecture was of
such a character as not to admit of being reported, so
as to retain its peculiar excellences," comes to the defence
of the reporter in the following strain : —

" It was unreasonable and cruel to expect such a thing. The
ablest reporter, in your or any other corps, who could keep his eye
and his hand down upon his paper, while that lightning was flashing,
and that thunder Avas pealing above and around him, must have
been the veriest slave to his craft that ever, for love or lucre,
covenanted to fill so many columns of letterpress."

The lecture was re-delivered a few weeks later in
Norfolk Street Chapel, when the building was crowded
in every part, and the utmost enthusiasm manifested.

To Rev. Richard Ridgill.

" Sheffield, November 7th, 1854.

" My course in Sheffield has been a very happy one. The circuit
was low, and it has been raised by the blessing of God upon our
labours. We have added about three hundred members in the
course of the last year. For twelve months we have scarcely had
a Sabbath evening without witnessing conversions. Three of us
hold prayer-meetings after every service, save, of course, on sacra-
mental occasions, and the good resulting from this old-fashioned
plan is inestimable, I have agreeable colleagues. Mr. Methley
is a man of considerable genius, though his taste is not always
correct ; Mr. Wilson is a brilliant example of cheerful and con-
sistent piety ; Sugden, out at Thornclijffe, is a valuable man of the
revivalist school ; so that I don't think there is in the entire
Connexion an appointment equal to ours for variety and adaptation.
I am in my third year, and according to our inflexible itinerancy,
must budge, greatly to my sorrow, at Conference. It is possible
that I may remove to Leeds, if it should please God to continue me
health to work.

" I am amazed, and ready to cry ' Oh, the depth ! ' when I look
back upon the last few years. That I should have achieved such
a position in the noblest ministry in the world, is to me a source of
deepest humbling, as well as of most fervent thankfulness. Last
year the highest honour of my life came to me in the shape of an

8o TV. MO R LEY FUNS HON. [chap. iv.

invitation to lecture to the Young Men's Christian Association in
Exeter Hall, along with Sir James Stephen, Dr. Gumming, Close
of Cheltenham, McNeile of Liverpool, Candlish of Edinburgh, and

" Perhaps some of the Doncastrians have sent you the Prophet of

" We have some splendid names in the Methodist Ministry now,
men of promise and of power. I am not speaking of the men whose
reputations are established, but of the alumni; such as Arthur
(though he is almost out of the catalogue, for his reputation is
becoming world-wide), and W. B. Pope, and Perks, and J, H.
James, and Wiseman, and Rigg, and Richard Roberts, and Gregory,
Coley, Tyerman, Gervase Smith, Vasey, Hartley, Cranswick, E. J.
Robinson, and M'Cullagh, last, not least. It is worth living to be
associated with such men in the great work of saving souls. I am
more and more persuaded of the high destiny of our beloved
Methodism. If she be but faithful to her original mission to
* spread scriptural holiness through the land,' she may be one of the
first to catch the significant fore-tokens of the Saviour's approach."

Two characteristics of the writer which only strength-
ened as time went on are observable in this letter, — his
loyalty to Methodism, and his admiring love for his
brethren in the ministry. Not that he was blind to the
defects and limitations of Methodism, but they were
as nothing to him compared with the glory that pertained
to it as an evangelical Church, sound in doctrine, practi-
cally efficient in discipline, and rich in spiritual life.
Happily free from the right-hand and left-hand errors
of sacerdotalism and rationalism, true in the main to its
great calling as the servant and witness of Christ, — he
regarded it as chosen and honoured among the Churches
of Christendom, alike in the work assigned to it by the
head of the Church, and in the blessing that crowned its
testimony. He knew its history, and was imbued with
its best traditions. He understood its genius, and was
in sympathy with its spirit and general tendencies. It
gave him adequate sphere for a life-service in the cause
of Christ, and thus satisfied him mentally and spiritually.
Notwithstanding the poetic vein in his nature, Mr. Pun-
shon's mind was essentially practical. Speculative
difficulties and sentimental objections went for very little
with him as against experience and practical proof.


Hence his devotion to Methodism was untroubled, and
he could speak and act in her behalf in a whole-hearted

His love for his brethren has rarely been equalled. As
he rose in public esteem, and was eagerly sought after
from many sides, his regard even for the obscurest men
in the ministry seemed to become only the more tender
and considerate. He remembered names and faces, he
knew where nearly every man was stationed, he had
something like personal acquaintance with each. He
delighted in the gifts, the accomplishments, the successes
of other men. He welcomed every sign of promise among
the younger ministers, and was ready, with swift apprecia-
tion, to recognise and encourage their progress in anything
that was good. His capacity of love and admiration was
that of a generous nature. If it was possible to think
well of a man, he did so. In any case, he spoke evil
of none.

The last year of his ministry in Sheffield was one
ceaseless activity. His list of engagements bears witness
to the varied claims that were now made upon his time
and strength. In addition to his ordinary ministerial
duties he greatly assisted Mr. Methley, his Superintendent,
in large financial and administrative schemes to relieve
the embarrassed chapel-trusts. These efforts culminated
in a bazaar, by which the sum of jt^l,270 was raised, —
an amount, in those days, unprecedented and all but
unhoped-for. Anniversary Services, Missionary Meetings,
Lectures, follow in quick succession. His journey ings,
though not yet on the scale of later years, were swift and
frequent. One week he is preaching in Sheffield on
Sunday and ^Monday, at Keighley on Tuesday, at Penrith
on Wednesday, at Carlisle on Thursday. Another week
sees him in Sheffield, Gloucester, Cardiff, Chepstow,
Stroud, and Bristol.

During the year he visited some fifty different towns
in England and Wales, and preached for the first time in
Ireland. With the exception of an attack of bronchitis
which laid him aside for a fortnight in the winter, his


82 TV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. iv.

health continued good, save for a certain nerve-strain of
which he began to be conscious.

In February 1855 he spoke at the Annual Meeting
of the Young Men's Christian Association in Exeter Hall.
The Hall was crammed. He writes to ]Mr. M'CuUagh : —

" I was introduced to the Hon. Arthur Kinnaird, Binney, George
Smith, and others. Lord Shaftesbury was pleased to characterise
my address as one of ' prodigious power,' but intimated that there
was just a danger lest, in seeking for the elegant phrase, I should
overlay the sturdy thought."

At the Conference of 1855 his ministry in Sheffield
terminated. It had been an eminently happy and
successful one. There was an increase of more than two
hundred members in the Society. Debts had been paid
off, and difficulties of various kinds surmounted. It had
been proved to himself and to others that it was possible
to combine an effective ministry in his own circuit with a
kind of second ministry through the Connexion at large.
The applause that greeted him as a lecturer took nothing
from the eagerness with which the people flocked to hear
him preach the gospel. He met classes and held prayer-
meetings with earnestness and unction, and no joy with
which his prosperous course was crowned equalled the joy
that was given to him in the conversion of souls.

Before going to Conference he found time for a short
but " glorious " Highland trip, accompanied loy his wife.
He writes : —

" I never was more impressed with personal littleness than in the
midst of God's grandeur. ... I have just refused to lecture for
. the Young Men's Christian Association in their next course. I
cannot stand the havoc it plays with my nerves."

And then follows a tribute to the itinerant system,
which every Methodist minister will understand : —

•' I have begun to feel very unsettled, and shall be, I suppose,
till I change circuits."


LEEDS. Aged 31 to 34.

Leeds, Oxford-Place Circuit. — Lecture : Science and Literature in
Brlal'ion to Il'^Virjion. — Missionary xinniversary. — Begins a Journal.
— Anxieties and Labours. — Lecture : John Bunj/an. — His
]\Tctliod, Style, Delivery. — Yicws on Proposed Revision of the
English Bible.

Feom Sheffield Mr. Punslion removed to the Oxford-Place
Circuit, Leeds, another of the centres and strongholds of
Yorkshire Alethodism. If a certain restlessness had
preceded his removal, it was followed by at least a brief
spell of depression. The greetings with which " the new
minister " is welcomed often fall upon a heart that is sore
with the separation from old friends and old scenes. His
first letter written from Leeds to jMr. INPCullagh reveals
something of this. The latter had just removed to
Bpitalfields : —

"HoLBECK, Leeds, Septcmher bth, 1855.
" May a provincial brother aspire to address a metropolitan in
familiar phrase and style ? How did you feel in St. George's on
Sunday morning '? I hope comfortable. I started at Oxford-Place
and Hanover in very middling style. I am greatly discouraged,
and sustained only by the abiding conviction of duty. This Holbeck
location does not suit me. I seem quite out of the world. The
walk to Leeds is dismally dreary and long. The house is a good,
commodious, venerable alfair."

To THE Rev. T. M-Cullagh.

*' Leeds, January 12tJi, 185G.
" All hail ! and a happy new year to you and yours. May you be
crowned with every new covenant blessing. . . . The first draft is

84 TV. MORLEY PUNSHON. [chap. v.

pretty well completed for next year. It is rather odd that such
men as Macdonald, Illingworth, Rigg, Newstead, and others are not
engaged. I have done nothing towards the biography, and see no
prospect for some time. I shall have to give up this itinerancy-
run-mad if I am to turn author. I go to Newcastle on Monday,
Carlisle Tuesday, Penrith Wednesday, Hexham Thursday, and on
the 21st to Belfast.

" Loraine has gone to Blackburn, to supply for Nattrass, who is
ill. If you want a student at any time, ask for Cockillj and tell me
how he gets on. He promises well."

On 21st January Mr. Punshon crossed from Fleetwood
to Belfast, and the following evening he lectured in the
Victoria Hall. The lecture was entitled Science and
Literature in Relation to Religion. This is by far the
most ambitious title borne by any of his lectures. Not
unnaturally, it was his earliest. In its conception it
belongs to his boyish days, and in the actual form it
assumed it was the work of his first years in the ministry.
His idea was to show that there is no real antagonism
between science and religion, and that the connection
between religion and literature is one to which the latter
is deeply indebted. Under the former head it cannot be
said that he had anything new to bring forward. He had
no such acquaintance with science as to qualify him for
independent handling of his subject, or for a searching
criticism of scientific unbelief. To this he made no
pretence. But there were common misconceptions that
he could remove ; and if his replies to infidel objections
w^ere not very original, they were, to say the least, good
enough for the objections dealt with, and for the objectors
who catch them up so lightly, and pass them on with so
much confidence.

The Deluge, the six days of Creation, the Mosaic
chronology, the sun standing still upon Gibeon, were
some of the matters on which he gave a popular answer to
popular objections. Question and answer alike are now

Online LibraryFrederic W. (Frederic William) MacdonaldThe life of William Morley Punshon, LL.D.250:: erd ed → online text (page 8 of 47)