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He fed upon
"peace," with but few interruptions, flowed “as a river,” and his “
“righteousness was “as the waves of the sea.
“the finest of the wheat,” and was " satisfied with honey out of the rock.” One or two extracts from this part of his diary may
suffice. “Sun. Sept. 12, 1784.—Early this morning the Lord poured his spirit upon me wonderfully. I preached at Longsight at one o'clock from Isa. xliü. 1. I had not much liberty of speech; but I could bless God for it. At four, I preached at Levenshulme: the Lord gave me utterance. As I was returning home, O how the Lord manifested himself! Truly I experienced such fellowship with God as I never did before.
• Mon. 13.—I have felt the presence of God in a peculiar manner every moment this day, as my light, life, and all in all.
“ Tues. 14.—Though often very busy, yet amidst all, my mind was entirely stayed upon God, and my soul kept in perfect peace.
· Tues. 21.-I awoke this morning about a quarter before four o'clock, and went to hear Mr. Goodwin preach at five; he preached from these words :—"A vineyard of red wine. I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. It was truly profitable to me. The Lord watered my soul while his servant was speaking; and I think I can set to my seal that God is true ;—that he does water me every moment.
O dearest Lord, ever let thy presence be with me: let thy power protect me: let thy fulness feed me.
* 23rd.-On inquiring of the Lord, why it was that though I every moment had a divine sense of his presence, yet did not feel such a sinking down into God at some times as at others,—the Lord shewed me clearly, that I did not always look to him for light and help when speaking or meditating; that I should not speak until I had first lifted up my heart to him for direction ; and that in all my meditations I should look for immediate help from him. O God, may I witness this great salvation, and know and feel constantly, that thou dost teach me wisdom secretly.
Sun. Oct. 3, I preached at Mosley to near three hundred people, from Heb. ii. 3 ; and at Ashton from
Isa. Ixiii. 7; and oh! how the Lord did help me both times. Oh! what life and power do I feel spring up in my soul while I am declaring the lovingkindness of God to a ruined world. While I am endeavouring to water others, the Lord doth water me abundantly."
At the Conference of 1785, held in London, Mr. Wesley again appointed him to a circuit. His name appears in the printed Minutes, as one of the preachers for the Keighley Circuit.
This appointment, like that of the preceding year, was made without my father's concurrence, and indeed without his knowledge. But the reasons which prevented his acceptance of the appointment of 1784 still remaining in full force, and being deemed sufficient, Mr. Wesley excused him for this and the following year, and sent another preacher to Keighley in his stead.
In August, 1786, when a little above nineteen years of age, Mr. Wood appointed him to superintend his large manufactory,—the most extensive manufactory of linencloths, checks, &c. at that time in Manchester ;-a situation of great trust and responsibility, and entailing upon him a weight of care about temporal matters by no means favourable to his spiritual interests. He had to examine the work and pay the wages of at least five hundred persons; and amidst all this, seldom preached less than three or four times a-week.
At the same time, he was exposed to other injurious influences, by which the piety and usefulness of promising young men are not unfrequently endangered, and sometimes destroyed; he was much caressed and applauded in various places in which he preached, by injudicious friends, who for want of a better acquaintance with human nature and with Satan's devices, seemed to have no idea how apt praise is to insinuate itself into the heart, and to feed the unhallowed flame of pride ; than which nothing can be more displeasing to God and hurtful to the soul.
But he was aware of his danger, and stood on his guard. The Lord had showed him so much of his own heart, as tended effectually to keep him humble; and in the public exercise of his gifts, he was continually made to feel, that his sufficiency was of God. He was preserved from falling into pride and condemnation, and
was exemplary in his walk and conversation. Yet, in his diary, in which he faithfully recorded from time to time the state of his religious experience, he laments, that owing to his numerous temporal avocations, that intimate fellowship with God with which he had been so graciously favoured, had been occasionally, in some degree interrupted; though still he was enabled to keep up constant communion with him, and to realize amidst the toils and cares of business the sufficiency of his grace to keep his soul in peace.
“ The care,” he says, “ which my situation called for, hurt my soul frequently; no doubt, because I did not apply to God with sufficient frequency and earnestness for grace to do all to his glory.”
And yet, while such is the humble testimony which he bears to his own character at this time, those who were intimately acquainted with him admired his habitual gravity and circumspection, the wiform consistency of his conduct, his spirituality of mind, and the recollectedness and equanimity with which he went through the multifarious business which pressed upon him. Mr. Shelmerdine, who went out to travel two years after him, and at that time held another situation in the same establishment, and was on terms of intimacy with him, one day expressed his surprise at the mass of business he was enabled to dispose of, and the undisturbed composure with which he went through it; and asked him how he did it? "
William,” said he, “ I do one thing at once.” This was his rule through life,-calmly, in the strength of grace, to attend to the business of the present moment, and to leave the next with God.
His position at this time appears to have been exceedingly critical. Mr. Wesley had twice appointed him to a circuit, and the preachers and many of the friends still urged him to go. But the term of his apprenticeship would not expire until Feb. 1788. There was reason, indeed to believe, that Mr.Wood would release him if he requested it; but he knew that he wished him to remain, and he felt himself to be laid under such obligations by his kindness and generosity, that he scarcely knew how to ask it, or indeed how to bring his own mind to leave him. He had too in his present sphere of action, great opportunities of usefulness as a Local Preacher, fre
quently preaching six or seven times a-week, and seldom less than four: and, being generally well received by the people, many things seemed to court his stay at home. As an Itinerant Methodist Preacher, there was before him an awful responsibility, with a certainty of unceasing toil and much painful privation. As a Local Preacher, settled in business, there was a certainty, humanly speaking, of temporal comfort and respectability, with a by no means contracted sphere of religious usefulness. For although so young, and still in his apprenticeship, so high did he stand in the esteem of Mr. Wood, that he gave him at this time “a genteel salary;” and the person who succeeded him became a partner in the concern, and realized a considerable amount of property. Had not his eye been single, he might have committed a fatal error.
Just at this crisis He, whose over-ruling providence he habitually acknowledged, and whose counsel he sought at every step in life, graciously interposed. In the month of June, 1787, his health began to fail, and he became so feeble and reduced, that his friends feared he was in a decline. He went to Liverpool for the benefit of the sea air ; and after some time returned to Manchester with health restored. But in one week after his return to business, bis health failed. Mr. Wood, thinking his confinement in the warehouse to be the chief cause of his illness, now consented to give him up.
The Conference was at that very time holding its annual sittings in Manchester; and some of the preachers being entertained at Mr. Wood's house, informed Mr. Wesley of his willingness to release Mr. Entwisle at once from all further obligations. Mr. Wesley immediately appointed him to the Oxfordshire Circuit. The first announcement of this important event was made to him in the street. Happening to meet Mr. Wesley and Mr. W. Thompson not far from Oldham street Chapel, the latter informed him that he was appointed to the Oxfordshire Circuit. Still shrinking from a work, of the importance of which he had more affecting views than ever, he hesitated a little, when Mr. Wesley, laying his hand upon my father's shoulder, and fixing upon him his piercing eye, said, with his characteristic brevity and in a tone of authority, “ Joseph, you must go.” He went in the name of the Lord, deeply sensible of his own
insufficiency, and humbly depending upon divine aid. He often reflected with satisfaction on the energetic manner and piercing look with which “you must go was uttered by the venerable founder of the Methodist Society; and a recollection of the high human authority by which he was called to the ministry, combined with a persuasion of a divine call, often afforded him comfort in after life in seasons of trial and discouragement.
His name having been placed on the list of preachers received on trial, Mr. Wesley kindly gave him permission to attend the sittings of this Conference, whenever his engagements afforded the opportunity, — a favour which at the same time was extended to Mr. Reece. This he regarded as a high privilege, and its influence was most salutary. He had always felt great veneration for Mr. Wesley and his preachers; but what he saw and heard in the Conference raised them still higher in his estimation, and more deeply impressed his mind with the magnitude and importance of the work upon which he was about to enter.