Page images

piety, that profound acquaintance with divine truth, and that eminent success in its proclamation, for which he was subsequently so celebrated.

Having remained in the University until he received his degree of Bachelor of Arts, he returned to his father's house, to await the indications of Providence in regard to his future sphere of labor. He continued to reside with his parents for about half a year, pursuing his studies, and preaching, as occasion offered, to the ignorant and destitute in the surrounding hamlets. At the expiration of this period, he received a unanimous invitation from the congregation of Coley Chapel, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, to become their pastor. After much doubt and hesitancy, and many days spent in earnest prayer and self-examination, he concluded to accept the invitation, and was, in due time, regularly ordained to the pastoral office, according to the Presbyterian form. In this field, he labored for several years with great energy, acceptance, and success. Under his ministrations believers were instructed, edified, and made more spiritual; and large numbers of the impenitent were awakened and converted,

But while he was thus actively engaged in this work, and witnessing many proofs of the Divine blessing, the Commonwealth came to an end, and Charles

author now became connected ; and to the doctrines and discipline of moderate Presbyterianism he continued to adhere during his life.

Not long after his public profession of religion, his mind began to be deeply exercised on the subject of preaching the Gospel. He felt such a strong and ir. repressible desire to proclaim the tidings of mercy to his perishing fellow men, that he was constrained to regard it as an inward call of the Spirit to this high and responsible service. Accordingly, with the advice and consent of his parents and friends, he resolved to devote himself to the sacred work of the ministry. With this view, having passed through the requisite preparatory studies, he entered Trinity College, Cambridge, July 9th, 1647, when he was about eighteen years of age. During his residence in the University, although he neglected none of the prescribed means of mental development, he was yet especially assiduous in the care of his heart, and the ultivation of practical godliness. He formed a close intimacy with several pious students, who, like himself, afterwards became distinguished for their ministerial usefulness, and often met with them for mutual edification in spiritual and experimental religion. In this manner, while acquiring a store of human knowedge, he laid the foundation of that deep personal

time distinguished for its Christian privileges, and for the number and zeal of those who professed the religion of Jesus. Speaking of his birth-place, he observes ; “It hath long been famous for glorious professors of the Gospel, and powerful preachers; and I take it as one of the great mercies of my life, that my nativity was in Goshen, under the star of Jacob's special influence.” The means of instruction, which he thus enjoyed, were made effectual, by the blessing of God, in bringing him to a saving knowledge of the truth. So early, indeed, was he the subject of serious impressions, that he was never able to recollect when they first commenced, or to determine the precise period when the work of the Spirit within him issued in vital conversion. At the age of fourteen years, however, his religious principles and feelings had become so confirmed, that he began to take part in the exercises of certain young Christians, who were accustomed to meet during the winter evenings for social conference and prayer ; and soon after, he publicly declared his faith in Christ, by receiving the Lord's Supper in the church at Bolton. This was in the days of the Commonwealth, when a large proportion of the churches in England were organized according to the Presbyterian model. Of this order was the church with which our II, ascended the throne of England. This was soon followed by the restoration of Episcopacy, and the passage of the act of Uniformity, by which all ministers were required to conform to the doctrines, ceremonies, and practices of the Established Church, on pain of expulsion from their charges. By this intolerant and tyrannical measure, more than two thousand of the best and most faithful ministers of England were ejected from their livings, and driven from their people, because they would not violate their consciences by complying with what they believed to be contrary to the word of God. In this noble band of Nonconformists Mr. Heywood was included. Refusing to yield to the arrogant demands of prelatical authority, he was deposed from his office, and commanded to preach no more. And because he still continued, in private houses, and wherever opportunity was afforded, to teach the neglected people who were left as sheep without a shepherd, he was cited before the Bishops' court, heavily fined, and publicly excommunicated. To the Act of Uniformity succeeded, in a short time, what was denominated the Five Mile Act, which prohibited Nonconformist ministers, except in passing upon the road, from coming within five miles of any parish where they had acted as ministers, or within five miles of any city, corporate town, or borough, under a penalty of forty pounds for every such offence. But all these efforts of arbitrary power could not silence this devoted servant of God. Wandering from place to place, among the mountains, in retired villages, in obscure and secluded neighborhoods, he persevered in proclaiming the message of his Master. His privations and sufferings were very great. Frequently he was so closely beset by the minions of the law, that he could visit his home only in the night. His goods were seized and carried off by the sheriff. Once he was arrested, and confined as a close prisoner in York Castle for twelve months. His means of subsistence were cut off, and he was often on the verge of extreme want. But Providence constantly interposed in his behalf, and raised up friends to succor him in every emergency. The houses of the pious were every where open for his reception and entertainment. Wherever he went he preached, and wherever he preached multitudes flocked to hear him. Thus, notwithstanding the severity of the legal prohibitions, and notwithstanding the vigilance of his persecutors, who hunted him from village to village with sleepless pertinacity, he continued, for more than twenty years, to publish the word of life among the destitute population around him. In no

« PreviousContinue »