« السابقةمتابعة »
a few of his parishioners, on the subject of justifying and saving faith, to which he was judiciously led by a pious and able individual. This was Mr. Conon, master of the grammar school at Truro, of whom his minister said that he was "verily the first person he had ever met with, truly possessed of the mind of Christ, and by whose means he became sensible that all was wrong within and without."
It was a singular incident which led to this good man's intimacy with his minister. Mr. Walker received a letter, containing a sum of money which the writer requested him to pay at the custom house, as justly due to the revenue, for duty on some French wines he had used for his health. He had been unsuccessful in his attempts, in that age of smuggling on the coast, to obtain any on which custom had been paid, but the virtuous conscience of the spiritual Christian remembered his Master's divine command.1 The letter contained an apology for troubling Mr. Walker, but stated that his high character would prevent all suspicion of straightforward honesty in the transaction. Curious to know whether the same happy conscientiousness was manifest in all his doings, Mr. Walker sought his acquaintance, and the result was a respect approaching to veneration, for one who exhibited in his daily habits, all the true effects of religion on a Christian's heart and actions. The attractions of his conversation and the purity of his life, at length ripened intercourse into intimacy, and the result was the conversion of the minister, through
1 Matt. xxii. 21.
the wise and prudent instrumentality of his pious friend.
Mr. Conon was one of those rare and devoted Christians, who in an age of darkness shone with a lustre little comprehended and greatly opposed; but he was content to be hated without a cause, and to suffer obloquy and shame for the Lord's sake.
Though threatened with the loss of stipend and scholars, a threat afterwards actually carried into effect, he persevered in his course, and like the glow-worm shone brightest, when the gathering of the dark nightclouds gave warning of an impending tempest. He was persecuted purely for the sake of his religion, being acknowledged on all hands to be an instructor of youth of extraordinary ability, to whose tuition almost all the gentlemen's sons in the middle and western part of Cornwall had been committed. But he was guilty of the unpardonable crime, in those days, of training up his pupils in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, an error far less venial in the eyes of their ignorant and prejudiced parents, than carelessness of their morals or neglect of discipline. For many years, he walked hand in hand with his pastor and convert, Mr. Walker, who never took any step of importance in the management of his parish without asking his advice. He bore all his trials with the truest Christian resignation, and carried himself with a dignity and mildness that would have disarmed the rancour of all enemies, but those who abhor the image of the Saviour wherever they may find it, and whose corrupt nature renders them irreconcilable to spirituality of mind and holiness of life. Speaking of his school
and the treatment he received, he says in a letter,2 written under the pressure of severe illness-" this has shaken my purposes in regard to the school. I am engaged in honour and conscience to do all I can for the good of it and the public, and have forgot, and most heartily forgiven all former bad treatment and even present unkindness." The severest blow he ever received was the death of his beloved minister and friend, an event which, coupled with other circumstances in after years, induced him to remove to Padstow, where he undertook the instruction of a select number of pupils. This occupation was his great delight, and he frequently expressed a wish, that if it pleased God, he might die while employed in his school, and that suddenly. His prayer was heard: one Saturday evening, after endeavouring to prepare the youthful minds of his scholars for the solemnities of the coming sabbath, he earnestly prayed for a blessing on his labours, when suddenly the stroke of death silenced his voice of supplication, and changed it for that of ceaseless thanksgiving in regions of eternal praise.
At first the conversation of Mr. Conon only excited in Mr. Walker's mind a suspicion of himself, but this was soon succeeded by the deepest convictions. He was a character of all others the most difficult to deal with, inasmuch as freedom from " gross sins" and a general conscientiousness had covered, with a specious bloom, the poison of a corrupt nature. The openly profligate will readily acknowledge, if they do not
2 Vid. Wills's Spiritual Register, vol. iii, p. 34, London, 1795.
quit their errors; but the most arduous portion of a minister's work is to divert into the true channel, those who imagine that they are being carried down the stream of the world in the frail bark of human merit, strait to the haven of their reward. Such, like Mr. Walker, may have "learnt to reason in a speculative and historical way upon man's degeneracy," and yet, as he did, live " many years in an entire ignorance of a corrupted nature, deceived by outward decency into the supposition that they have escaped its guile. At length, to use his own words, " it pleased God in some measure, to enlighten the eyes of his understanding," and then he reverted with feelings of amazement to his days of blindness, and was enabled to look into the secret recesses of his soul, and see that while he fancied he was serving the Lord, his heart was occupied by idols. He acknowledges that in the midst of all the decorum of his conduct, he was actuated by two" hidden principles, as contrary to God as darkness is to light"-" a desire of reputation and a love of pleasure;" yet before his mind became enlightened, he had not "the least suspicion that he was out of the way." He found also that while he sincerely desired that his people should come "to church and sacrament, and not drink and swear, and the like," yet he had never felt any interest in, nor "taken the least notice of, their spiritual state," because he was in total ignorance of the "effects of the fall," and therefore knew not how "to make a right use of the gospel." The change wrought upon him was slow; but in process of time, and by a variety of means, he was brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Christ
Jesus; and Truro, which he designed to be the arena of his gaiety and the source of his pleasures, became the scene of his unwearied labours of love, and the birth-place, under a faithful ministry, of many heirs of a blissful immortality.
It was not till some time after his first impressions, that Mr. Walker commenced the decided course which he subsequently pursued. He had many struggles with himself, and "was ashamed to leave" the resorts of pleasure he had once so much enjoyed, in a town notorious for its worldliness and frivolity. "The love of pleasure," he tell us, decayed first, but he "could only part with it by degrees," and it was long before he could bring himself to "any reasonable measure of indifference about the esteem of the world," and then only with "heartfelt pangs of fear and disquietude." When invited to participate in his former enjoyments he was reluctant to refuse, because there had been no species of what is called innocent festivity, of which he had not been the life. His first resolution to absent himself from company so uncongenial with the newly-awakened feeling of his mind, was intimated in a manner characteristic both of the man and of the age. The bells of a church near Truro had been recast, and their completion was celebrated by a merry peal, and a supper given by a wealthy gentleman of the neighbourhood to the ringers. The Squire, as he was called, not only provided the feast for these people, but gave an entertainment to his friends, and desired the company of Mr. Walker, to whom an acquaintance was sent with a message in unison with the habits and mode of expression of the