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The ice gave way, and six of the boys were drowned, including two of his eldest brothers and a cousin, and he narrowly escaped the same fate.
His attachment to those amongst whom he had received the blessing of pardon, led him to leave the Church of England, and join the Methodists; and he became a member of a class meeting, and also a teacher in the Sabbath-school.
As usual on these occasions of change, he was assailed by all kinds of unpleasant remarks from his former companions, and suffered various modes of persecution from some of his relatives; but strong in religious principle, he stood unshaken by either entreaty or intimidation. His employer threatened to dismiss him, and his nearest relatives joined with his master in endeavouring to loosen his attachment to his new religious principles and associates, but without avail, and finding him firm, their persecutions were discontinued. He continued to adorn his religious profession by a holy life and conversation ; and in a few years was found worthy to become a class leader.
When he was twenty-seven years of age, he came to Manchester, and joined the Methodist Society, in Grosvenor Street Circuit, and connected himself with the Old school in London Road. Mr. John Greenhalgh was the first in Manchester to invite him to a class meeting ; but the one he joined was met by Mr. George Taylor, our late Chapel keeper, and he continued with him in the old body for about eight years. When first he presented himself to Mr. Taylor's class, he was a big strapping young man, and dressed in a great white top coat; and Mr. Taylor wondered what God had sent him ; but when he narrated his experience, they were enabled to rejoice together; and it proved to be one of their happiest meetings. His Leader always found him regular in his attendance ; and during a season of severe trial and difficulty, he was as punctual and regular as when in more prosperous circumstances.
In connection with the Old school, at London Road, he sometimes referred to his success in inducing a rough, wicked lad of that neighbourhood to come to school, and who soon became a converted character; and, strange to say, was almost immediately cut off. His success with this rough sinner, so immediately previous to his death, le considered a special providence.
He continued with the old connection till the year 1835, when his liberal views of Church Polity led him to join in the agitation which preceded the founding of our Churchthe Wesleyan Methodist Association. It is stated that he was one of a few who engaged the room at the old mill in Zara Street, for the purpose of religious worship in connection with tlic New body ; which place was afterwards superseded by the present commodious Chapel, in Grosvenor Street. It was in Zara Street that our school found temporary accommodation, after leaving David Street, from whence they came to the present room.
When London Road district school was built in 1836, he became one of their conductors, and remained with them till the March of 1841, when he joined ours. In connection with his duties as conductor, he also became a class leader, which offices he continued till ill health obliged him to give up.
His illness commenced about the Whitsuntide of 1850, and, his friends think, wils occasioned by a severe cold which he got whilst with the school at Tintwistle. Whilst the children were in the field a storm came on, and there being no place of shelter, the children were exposed to all its fury. Mr. Ashton having a large waterproof cape or cloak, he spread it out and formed a kind of small tent, and collected as many scholars as possible under it. He soon found, with the breath and steam from the throng of children around him, and under his cloak, that he became as thoroughly saturated with wet as though he had been exposed to the continued rain. The next day, whilst with the scholars at Adlington he was taken so ill as to be obliged to go home. His chest was affected from that time.
His disease was chiefly of the chest, and affected his breathing and specch, obliging him to relinquish his class meeting and other night duties; and also his pulpit labours in the school. This was a severe trial, but, he constantly struggled on in hope of soon being able to resume this work, in which he took so much delight.
His illness fluctuated very much ; now and then he was able to attend to business, and his mind would be elated with the hope of speedy recovery, but the next day be would be unable to leave his room. This state of health continued till a few months before his death, when his friends became seriously alarmed; he was, however, full of hope himself, approaching certainty, that he would re.over. Upon this point he was exceedingly anxious; and repeateilly referred to prayers of the Church and school friends, in which he had strong unwavering faith. It became almost a passion of the soul that he might be restored to liis wonted health and strength, not for worldly gain, but to become increasingly useful in the Church and school. On oue occasion, a short time before his death, he exclaimed to the writer, “O how useful I could be to the school, if I was only amongst them again ; aud' i believe I shall be." This expectation was not au unreasonable one ; for he was only fifty-two years
and of a hopeful dispositiou, willing to submit to any treatment, so as to recover health. But God in the mysterious arrangements of his providence had ordered it otherwise.
About two months before his death, he took a notion, that Southport would be beneficial; and í his journey he took against the advice of his medical adviser.
The first day he reached ibat place, he ventured to the sea-side in a carriaçe, but the air was too strong for him. : He took fresh cold, and became so ill as to be unable to have lis room. Whilst thus confined his legs began to swell
, giving his friends another indication of his approxching end. In a short time sympoms of dropsy appeared, and le gradually grew worse.
During the last few days of his stay in Sor,thport, the writer saw him almost daily, being on a visit to the same place. His chief conversation on these occasions was
about the Church, but the school more especially ; and he rejoiced when told anything pleasing, as a father over the ! prosperity of his own children.
He requested the prayers of the school for his recovery, and his frequent reference to its state and prosperity; and his evident impatience when other subjects were introduced, gave strong indication that the school's welfare lay very near his heart.
When the writer left him to return home, he expressed his determination to stay the whole winter at Southport, to give the change of air a fair chance of doing him good. His dear wife, however, was anxious to get him home; and upon his son visiting him it was arranged to return to Manchester, in which he reluctantly acquiesced. He reached home, but was so ill as to be unable to go up stairs. A bed was made in the sitting room where he remained for two or three nights; and on Sunday, the day before he died, having expressed a wish to be taken upstairs, his brothers carried him to his own bed. He was pleased with the change, but gradually became weaker. |
On Sunday afternoon, the day previous to his death, he appeared sensible of his approaching end. After a fit of 1 coughing he lifted his eyes towards heaven and exclaimed, “Glory, glorý be to God! come Lord Jesus, come quickly, and take me to thyself." His dear wife knowing him to be auxious about getting better, said, “ James, canst thou say * Thy will be done,'” and he answered emphatically, “Yes, yes." "About an hour before death, about two o'clock on Monday morning, he was conversing with his wife as they lay together, unable to sleep, without the slightest notion that death was so near, when she noticed a change in his countenance. She called the servant and sent her for his son, but when he arrived his father was unconscious. In a few moments more, his spirit had passeđ away from its clay tenement, to join the blessed throng around the throne of God, leaving upon the countenance a smile of serene happiness, as though the spirit at parting, bad caught a glimpse of the better country.
Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from
henceforth; yea, saith the spirit, that they may rest from their labours ; and their works do follow them.”
VERSES ADDRESSED TO A BELOVED SISTER.
Which lines prosaic never can convey ;
Where solemn truths require the solemn lay ;
Quick penetrating, can transfuse its light;
Inspirer of the work thou deign'st to approve !
To show the fulness, freeness of thy love ;
But from experience, point the path to peace.
Lately emerged, to feel the warmth divine,
Hast thou not deign’d to call that reptile thine,
My fetter'd spirit, rise and follow thee!
The Day of Judgment as a day of woe ?
God hath commanded, and it shall be so;