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"I know that ye sometimes need such evident proofs, when one how or other, ye are in doubt and sadness. Keep this by you then, as a sure ground of confidence, that while ye do so choose God as to prefer him to all things, refusing them all in comparison of him, ye cannot but be his. This would be one of the most common, and also of the safest and most profitable evidences of a good state. It is common, ye may always have recourse to it; it is safe, it cannot deceive you; it is profitable, because it will always keep you on your guard where you are most in danger, and put you upon a still greater mortification of the law of sin you have in your members." This sentiment Mr. Walker reduced to the most scrupulous practice, he daily trimmed his lamp, and proved the purity of his sacred oil, by the unclouded brightness of its burning. A quaint farmer once observed to a gifted and eloquent, but not very exemplary divine, “Sir, you light a good candle on a Sunday, and put it out all the week;" but the lustre Mr. Walker shed upon his weekly path, was even more luminous than the brilliancy of his sabbath exhortations. In every sense of the expression, he was a "burning and a shining light."
His holiness of life was the fruit of constant and deeply spiritual communion with God. He was emphatically a man of prayer, and reaped the rich fruits of that prevailing exercise. He once mentioned to a friend who pressed the question earnestly, that he was sometimes favoured in prayer with such rapturous views of the excellency of divine things, that he almost enjoyed a foretaste of heaven. He
added, however, with singular wisdom, "I never mentioned this for three reasons. First, it might have held out to my people a false standard of religion, causing them to substitute feeling for holiness; secondly, it might have discouraged some pious and humble persons, who from various causes are destitute of such enjoyments; and thirdly, it might have encouraged those presumptuous enthusiasts, whose arrogant pretensions I am always aiming to expose." Thus did this vigilant pastor weigh the probable effect of every word he uttered, desiring to serve God and edify his people, by laborious diligence, watchful prudence, and uncompromising self-denial. The discipline of his flock will be described in the next chapter.
RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES, LAY AND CLERICAL.
Formation of the society at Truro.
THE natural powers of Mr. Walker's mind, would have rendered him singularly qualified to contrive, and carry into effect, a due discipline over those, of whom he might, in any circumstances, have been constituted the leader. He possessed both the gift of penetration into character, and the spell of influence over the human mind, and brought these rare qualities into admirable exercise in the spiritual management of his people. By the signal blessing of God upon his life and ministry, the number of awakened persons in Truro became augmented, beyond what it was possible for him to bring within the limited circle of private advice and personal attention. He accordingly, in the year 1754, conceived the idea of forming his converts into a religious society, of which he gives the following account, in a letter to his "dear and much respected" friend, Mr. Adam, of Wintringham. "It was in the year forty-six that I first came to this town, bringing with me those princples,
1 Vid. Christian Observer for 1802.
(if so I may call them) with which I left the university ten years before. Here God had provided better and quite different things for me, than those which engaged me to come hither. Nothing was further from my thoughts, than that I must oppose those very pleasures and engagements of life, the prospect of which led me to Truro. It was in about a year, that principally by the means of a pious Christian friend, whom I found here, I was brought to the knowledge of the ways of God. By and by, I began to deal with the people as lost sinners-my discourses were levelled at self-righteousness and formality, and Christ was preached unto them. From that time God hath done great things for us, and is doing. The number of those who have made particular application to me, inquiring what they must do to be saved, cannot have been less than eight hundred, of whom, though far the greater part have drawn back, yet I have the pleasure of seeing a very considerable number about me, who, I trust, are sincerely seeking God. The beginning of this year, it was found proper to form a religious society, the members of which, being persons who have given some proof of their faith, are about eighty.2 I will delay further particulars, till I hear it would be agreeable to you to be informed of them. Only, in general the eyes of the county are upon us; and the influence of what God has done here, has reached unto many places near, and at some distance. However, Sir, it may be needful you should be especially informed of one circumstance, relating to my
2 They were afterwards greatly augmented.
manner of proceeding with those who have been brought under impressions, and have made application to me. From the beginning, I have not been content with giving them advice; but have required them to come frequently to me, singly at first, and since their number hath been larger, two or three together, that I might be informed of their progress and difficulties, and assist them with suitable directions. This personal communication hath been greatly blessed; and I have reason to believe nothing hath contributed so much to our success as this."
The society here mentioned was formed with consummate prudence, and care to avoid those obvious evils, which have been so blindly overlooked by others in the classification of their converts. Mr. Walker first inquired into the religious state of the members with great attention, and then made two divisions of them; one, composed entirely of men, into which no female was admitted; the other, of married men, their wives, and unmarried women, from which all single men were excluded. The objects of their association, and the necessity of a suitable demeanour, were ably laid before them in the following paper,3 read at their first assembly.
3 This paper I have taken, not from the short and interesting memoir prefixed to Mr. Walker's fifty-two sermons, but from an original MS. for which I am indebted to the kindness of J. B. Wilson, Esq. of Clapham. This will account for a difference of expression in the two documents; in substance they are much alike.