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each other, and could not forbear wishing himself like them,
, undone sinner, without the mercy
This distress of mind continued for more than three years, so that his parents and friends became alarmed for him, lest he should carry matters too far, and become righteous overmuch; lest he should injure his health, and destroy his peace and comfort. They reasoned with him, that he was so young, that he had been so moral that there was no need of all this. He, in reply, endeavoured, with all modesty and respect, to shew them that it was equally necessary for them, as for himself
, to seek the Lord in good earnest for the salvation of their souls. And here he obtained what may be termed an earnest of his future success in winning souls to Christ; for he persuaded his parents and others of the family to go and hear for themselves; and his mother and her sister soon joined the society, and lived and died in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ.
During these three years of darkness, he persevered in all the means of grace, seeking the Lord with all diligence. He regularly attended the Church and the Sacrament, and it was there he at length obtained deliverance from his burthen. His own words are, “I regularly attended the Sacrament at the Old Church, and these were softening, humbling, and refreshing times to my soul; but on that memorable day, the first of August, 1762, being in deep distress, I poured out my heart unto the Lord in fervent prayer, saying, Lord, if I perish, it shall be at thy feet; if I am damned it shall be for believing. Thus I went to the table, believing and relying on the merits of Jesus, and pleading his death and sufferings; yet I returned from the table in deep distress, and continued praying for a sense of pardon till the service was ended, when the Lord, in a moment, removed all my burden and distress, and filled my soul with love, joy, and praise. The change was so great it was visible in
my countenance, so that my friends observed that my sorrow was turned into joy."
The struggle however was not yet finished. In a few days he was strongly tempted to give up his confidence. It was suggested to hiin, that he had deceived himself, that his faith was Dut of the operation of God, that his sins were not forgiven, that no text of Scripture had been directly applied to his mind, when he received comfort. Thus he was again brought into doubts and distress: this drove him afresh unto the Lord in earnest prayer; and taking his Bible, he prayed that God, by his Spirit, would direct him to some portion of his word applicable to his state of mind. He opened on this text, “ Every one that loveth is born of God, and kr.oweth God." Upon which he thus reasoned with himself, “I know, I feel, that I love God: then I am born of God, and know God; then my sins are forgiven, and I am justified frecly, and have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” From this time, all his doubts fled away, and his confidence daily increased whilst he went on rejoicing, and determined by grace to devote hiinself to the service of that God who had done such great things for him.
Before he was brought to enjoy a sense of the favour of God, it was strongly impressed on his mind, " That he must preach the Gospel.” This he thought was a temptation; and prayed to be delivered from il. This suggestion was now again bronght strongly to his mind, but he still rejected the idea. Looking at bis own weakness and ignorance, he believed it quite impossible for him to perform so great a work.,
In this respect, as in many others, the deceased judged modestly of his own abilities; for he was better qualified to instruct others than many who undertake the office. He had received a good education at a country school; and had regularly attended the worship of God at the church, had read a variety of books on religious subjects, and for three years had made the Scriptures his stu ly night and day: and especially he had learned how to sympathize with, and to comfort others, by his owu experience. Besides, he possessed a good understanding, and a penetrating judgment; an aptness to speak, and a most pleasiog address. The zeal which he now began to feel for the cause of God, prompted him to great exertions in order to promote its success. His first efforts were made in conjunction with Mr. John Morris,* a friend from Manchester, by establishing weekly prayer meetings at Davyhulme, Dukinfield, Ashton, and other places. In these meetings, when numbers of persons attended who were ignorant of the things of God, they exhorted them to flee from the wrath to come. At Davybulme, these two young friends
• A Memoir of whose life is inserted in the Armigian Magazine for Jan. 1802.
met every Sunday for some time, and in a few weeks about 60 persons were added to the society there, most of whom were brought in at these meetings. It is believed that this was the commencement of that popular means of grace among the Methodists, Public Prayer Meetings; which had not been previously established in this part of the country: but by this experiment, they were found to be very favourable opportunities of exercising the talents of young men in exhortation and prayer, and in training them for public usefulness; this was so strikingly the case in the present instance, that similar meetings were soon established in different parts of the kingdom. Those abovenamed were held at the houses of John Heywood and James Wood. The brother of the former was made a convert to the truth, and soon afterwards became a travelling preacher. James Wood became a useful local preacher, till he was called to rest from his labours; and his son, Mr. Thomas Wood, is a preacher in the London East Circuit at the present time. Thus did God crown with success the zealous efforts of his young servants. These meetings frequently continued four or five hours; and it was not unusual for six or seven persons to be brought into the liberty of the children of God in one meeting: yet there does not appear to have been any thing of that irregularity and wildness which have disgraced some modern meetings of this kind. Such was the uniform testimony of the deceased; and no person could be more averse than he was, to any thing that appeared forced or unnatural. It is clear, however, that these young converts were pretty loud and fervent in their devotions, as the following anecdote may serve to shew. One Sabbath, at Mr. James Wood's, the power of God seemed to be very present; many were in great distress, and these two young men were nearly exhausted by praying with the people, when Mr. Robert Costerdine, then a local preacher, and not very friendly to these meetings, came in. Mr. C. was desired to pray; he began in his usual way, when Mr. Morris standing behind him, whispered in his ear, exhorting and urging him to pray more fervently: he did so, and the people were much blessed, and from that time, he became a zealous preacher, and afterwards travelled many years.
The labours of the deceased were remarkably successful in bringing the different members of his own family to be branches of the true and living vine. His brother and sister-in-law, at that time, lived at Dukinfield Hall. Thither he went to point out to them their need of redemption in the blood of Christ, the forgiveness of their sins. There was a small society, not exceeding six or seven members, meeting at Higham-fold, a place a little beyond Ashton, where the travelling preachers from Manchester, called to preach at noon once a fortnight, in their way
to Glossop. The sister-in-law of the deceased consented, on condition of his going to meet that class, that she would accompany him. He therefore came over every Wednesday, for eight or ten weeks, and they went together to this place. Many of the Deighbours came in to hear what this young stranger had to say; and when he had spoken personally to the members of the class, he used to give an exhortation to the others. Here the Lord was pleased to own bis labours, so that several were deeply awakened, and others enabled to rejoice in God their Saviour; and this little society, in these few weeks, was increased to near twenty members. Among the new converts was one John Whitehead, then a poor weaver; who soon afterwards became a preacher, and by his diligence and perseverance, rose to be an able defender of Methodism, and the learned biographer of its founder, Mr. John Wesley.
After some time, at Ridge Hill, a place a little beyond Ashton, the deceased, at the particular request of his friends, ventured to preach, taking for his first text, “ Ye have sold yourselves for nought, but ye shall be redeemed without price." This was early in the year 1763.
In the month of June, 1763, Mr. Wesley paid his first visit to Portwood, in his way to Birmingham. At this time, there cominenced an intimacy between them, which was uninterrupted till Mr. Wesley's death. His house was Mr. Wesley's home whenever he came that way. He entertained for him the highest veneration, and considered him as a spiritual father, and a sin. cere friend. And the respect was mutual: for Mr. Wesley invited our young preacher to travel with him, and to meet him at different places whenever he could be spared from home. He always received bim into the Annual Conferences as a confidential friend; and on many occasions consulted him upon the affairs of individuals and societies in this neighbourhood.
On this occasion, Mr. Wesley being alone, invited his young friend to accompany him to Birmingham. His parents were consulted, and gave their consent. They rode on horseback to Burslem the first night, where Mr. Wesley preached. On the next day they rode to Birmingham, where Mr. Wesley preached on that and the following evening. At this latter time, as they were going to the preaching-house, (which had been a playhouse) Mr. Wesley accosted his young companion, saying, “Brother Mayer, you must preach in the morning at five o'clock." He strongly objected, saying, “Sir, I cannot - I have never preached but in small honses. I fear I should not be able to speak to the people at all.” Mr.Wesley, in his laconic style, replied, “ Fear not; the Lord will help you. I must be off in in the morning before five o'clock, and take brother Newall with me: and I desire you will take his circuit for a week. You must write home, and say to your parents that I desired you to stay." Without further ceremony Mr. Wesley published for him to preach at five o'clock in the morning. He returned to his lodgings, but he remarks, “ O! what did I feel that night! my sleep departed from me—the thought of Mr. Wesley and the other preacher being gone, however, gave me some little relief." He went, with trembling, at the appointed hour, when many people were come to hear the young man. From hence he went to Wednesbury, Darleston, and Dudley, and returned to Birmingham to preach on the Saturday night and Sunday. On this occasion, he remarks as follows: “ This was a day of the Son of Man with power : the Lord was pleased to bless the word to inany souls. How graciously has the Lord dealt with me! Although I had a degree of liberty while preaching, when I had done I did not know how to find another text to speak from, yet I kept the circuit a weck, preaching night and morning; and the Lord blessed my feeble labours in a wonderful manner, so that in this week, there were more than twenty persons who professed to be brought into the liberty of the children of God, and many more wlio were truly awakened to a knowledge of themselves, and their need of a Saviour.” Before this, he had doubted much of his call to preach the gospel, and had prayed that if he were called to the work, he might see the fruit of his labour. From this time, he doubted no more, for he observes, “ Now I see clearly that it is my duty to lay myself out as much as possible to bring poor sinners to God." ;
This was the commencement of his success in preaching the gospel ; which was very great. He, however, never considered himself as a regular minister. His calling was to preach the gospel to the poor. The particular line of duty which he thought Providence pointed out to him, was that of carrying the glad tidings of salvation to towns and villages, where the people had not heard the joyful sound. He thought himself called to break up barren ground, and prepare it for the cultivation of other Jabourers. In this way, for 20 years, he went about doing good whenever he was invited, and wherever there appeared an open door for the reception of the truth. For this labour he was peculiarly fitted by the respectability of his character, which always went before him, by the zeal and energy of his mind and body; by his prepossessing appearance and manners; and by his undaunted courage and persevering exertions. During this time he was confined to no regular plans of proceeding, but he generally preached twice, and frequently three times on the Lord's day, in places at a distance; and two or three times in the week nearer home. It was not uncommon with him to take his horse on a Saturday evening, and ride as far as Sheffield, Burslem, Chester, or places equally distant, to preach early on the Sunday