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In 1768 he became, in an unusual degree, the subject of gracious impressions and awakenings; in reference to which he observes, “ Had I then been properly instructed I should have been brought to an experimental knowledge of the goodness of the Lord.” But his lot was amongst the sons of night, and his preconceived dislike to the Methodists prevented him from attending on their ministry; in consequence of which this promising work of grace proved as the morning cloud and early dew; his good resolutions were broken; he connected himself with wicked companions, and was, by their evil example and counsel, betrayed into many fashionable follies, and into some dangerous vices. He now felt himself so abandoned of all that was good, that if he had taken up a book in which he saw the name of God, he would instantly cast it down, and say, “ that is not fit for me.” Still the Spirit of God continued to strive with him, and he often found it a difficult matter to resist. Once a very ungodly man reproved him for singing a profane song, whilst he was covering the backs of a prayer-book; the words of this inconsistent reprover took deep effect; and from what he said Mr. C. had a clearer discovery of the plan of salvation than he had previously conceived. He afterwards learned that this man was a fallen Methodist, from the neighbourhood of Leeds.
In the year 1774, he removed to Wilton, near Pickering. The person with whom he lived feared God, and was a hearer of ihe Methodists. His seriousness operated on Mr. Crosby's mind, as a restraint, and he was preserved from falling into many great temptations, to which he was much exposed. In the spring of the following year he began, occasionally, to hear Mr. King, then the Rector of Middleton, and Mr. Robinson, the afternoon lecturer at Pickering. These Clergymen were reputed enlightened and evangelical, and their preaching caused much talk in the country. In the month of July or August, that year, the Lord effectually alarmed his conscience, under a sermon preached by Mr. Robinson, to young people, from those words of Solomon, “ Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee unto judgment.” Of this sermon, and his feeling whilst hearing it, Mr. C. has left the following short account:- In the former part of his discourse the minister spoke in pointed irony, and so grossly ignorant was I, as to think he really meant what he said. I began to take encouragement whilst he mentioned many vices, and ironically bade us walk in them; in proceeding he got hold of my favourite amusement, and besetting sin, which was dancing; and mightily pleased I was to hear him, as I thought, give us licence from the pulpit to go on, without restraint, in that fashionable folly of the age.
I now thought, when I get home I will tell my master what Mr. Robinson has said. This clergyman was greatly in favour with my master, who had often found fault with me for being so eager of dancing. By this time my attention was fixed, and I was all ear to what was to follow; and how was my expectation disappointed, when he came to enforce those solemn words, " But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment." Such an awful sense of that impartial and eternal Judge fastened on my mind as I have not yet shook off, and, I trust, never shall.”
He now broke off all his besetments at once, and began, in earnest, to seek the salvation of his soul. Having no acquaintance with experienced Christians, of any denomination, he was left in a great measure to himself; and, for eighteen months after he was awakened, he had none to act to him as a spiritual adviser. The Lord alone was his teacher, and by singular manifestations of the Spirit, he was soon more perfectly instructed in the way of salvation. One day, when at bis usual employment in the field, a flood of heavenly light descended into his soul. " It was shewn me in a moment,” says he, “that I was to believe in order to be saved, and not to be saved and then believe.” Immediately he improved this display of grace, lifted up his heart to God in fervent prayer, and was enabled, with his whole soul, to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, as his present and all-sufficient Saviour. God set his seal to the faith of his pardoned child, by giving him the knowledge of salvation through the remission of sins. The spirit of adoption, by which he could cry, Abba, Father, was now graciously communicated, and he never, from that time, forfeited this glorious privilege of believing, but continued his close and undeviating walk with God, to the end of his earthly pilgrimage.
Six months after his conversion he became acquainted with some members of the Methodist Society, and gladly availed himself of the opportunity of joining them, which he did, from a conviction that they were eminently the people of God. When he was about 24 years of age, he began to preach the everlasting gospel to his neighbours, who, he saw, were perishing for lack of knowledge. The way in which a gracious Providence led him into this great work was somewhat remarkable: He had removed from Wilton to the vicinity of Easingwould, and lived as manservant with a Mrs. Stillingfleet. One Sabbath evening, after returning from the church, Mrs. S. said to him, “ John, you must explain the Lord's Prayer in the family to-night." This surprised him, and he began to remonstrate ; but finding that was of no use, she continuing to insist upon it, he retired to his room, got his Bible, meditated on the selected portion, and earnestly implored Divine assistance. When the time came, he, in muck fear, made the attempt, and God followed it with extraordinary marks of his approbation. Mrs. Stillingfleet found peace with God whilst he was speaking, a son and daughter, and the servant maid, were convinced of sin. After prayer he withdrew to his room, not aware of the success which had attended his trembling effort. Mrs. S. and her son followed him; the son being in great distress, they engaged in prayer on his behalf, and in a short time God spoke peace to his soul. When they rose from their knees rejoicing, the little daughter, who had followed them unperceived, remained pleading with God for herself; they again engaged in prayer, and she obtained a sense of pardon. They then went down stairs, and found the servant maid in distress; again they pleaded with God till she received the same blessedness by believing. Several days after this interesting evening, the little girl, who had experienced the pardon of her sins, was found burning her play things; her mother told her not to burn them, for though she would use them no more, yet they might be sold, and so be the means of doing some good, to which the child made this striking answer, “ So Saul thought, when he spared the best of the sheep and oxen, to sacrifice to God; but you know, mother, that Samuel condemned him for not baving destroyed them all.”
From this time Mr. Crosby's mind began to be exercised with thoughts of preaching; and one day, when he was at his ordinary occupation, and, as his manner was, praying with his heart whilst his hands were doing his work, those words of the apostle forcibly struck his mind, “ A dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me.” The impressive manner in which this portion of Divine truth was applied, caused him to retire, and to seek in prayer direction from above. He prayed, that, if it were the will of God he should engage in a work to which a consciousness of his own inability made him reluctant, he would condescend to direct him to some passage of Scripture which might satisfy him of his call; he then took out his pocket-bible, which was his constant companion, and opened on the very text which had, just before, been so powerfully applied to his mind. Providential circumstances concurring with these gracious intimations, he became a local preacher; and having acted in that capacity four years, Mr. Wesley appointed him to a circuit, at the Conference in the year 1783.
He laboured in the Lord's vineyard as an itinerant preacher 28 years, and maintained an unblemished and pious character, through the whole of his ministerial course. He travelled in the Epworth, Inverness, York, Sunderland, Thirsk, Whitehaven, Northampton, Stockton, Barnard-Castle, Rotherbam, Dewsbury, Blackburn, Barnsley, Halifax, Keighley, Stockport, Colne, and Bradford circuits, and was generally acceptable and useful; particularly to serious minds, for to them his preaching
was more peculiarly adapted; but in several instances, and one especially, he was eminently owned of God to the awakening of sinners.
I pass hastily over the years of his public life, he having left behind him no journal; two incidents, however, deserve to be recorded.
At the Conference in the year 1790, he was appointed to the Whitehaven circuit, where he remained three years. During his first year a good work was begun, and many souls were brought to God. In the early part of the year 1791, a remarkable event occurred. On account of a new drift in the coal-mines, the water, which had a long time lodged in the old works, was drawn uit, and the earth fell in; this occasioned a sinking of the ground, at the surface, to a considerable extent. It was calculated that about a hundred houses felt the consequent shock, and the families were frightened out of their habitations on a dark night. The preachers' house, in which Mr. Crosby and his family dwelt, and the chapel adjoining, were greatly damaged by the sinking, and rendered uninhabitable for many months. This was a very trying event; by it the preachers were deprived of a home, and the society and congregation of the place in which they worshipped God. But the Lord, whose ways are inscrutable, raised them up a kind and efficient friend, in a quarter from which they had not the least expectation James Hogarth, Esq. hearing that the preachers' house, and the chapel, were amongst the almost ruined dwellings, sent for Mr. Crosby, and generously offered him a commodious house, rent free; which he accepted, and occupied the remaining eighteen months of his stay at Whitehaven. This gentleman had built a church in that town, about a year and a half prior to the sinking, which he intended as a free place of worship, chiefly for the accommodation of his tenantry. Through the interference of Lord L-4, the Bishop had refused to consecrate the church, and it remained unoccupied at the time of the sinking. In this season of extremity, when the Methodists were as a flock of sheep without a fold, Mr. Hogarth gave them the use of his church, free of any charge; allowed the Stewards to let as many of the pews as they could, and gave them all the proceeds. Nor did his kindness end here: At the next Conference a second married preacher was appointed to Whitehaven; for him also 'he found a house and furnished it out of his own. Some time after the Methodists had taken possession of this church, the Esquire came to a love-feast, which was held in it; and having heard some of the people speak their experience, though he made no profession of experimental religion himself, yet he stood up, and to the astonishment of the preacher and society, he spoke to the following effect: “I am exceedingly pleased to see this place answering the end for which
I built it. I have lately been invited to dine with Lord In the course of conversation, his lordship said, “Hogarth, what did it cost you to build that charch?' 1600l. my lord. I will give you that for it, (said his lordship) but I will not promise that the Methodists shall have it. I replied, My lord, whilst the Methodists conduct themselves as they do, I will not sell the church for twice its value, and none shall dispossess them of it. Lord L- said, I have often wondered what could induce me to advise the bishop not to consecrate the place :' I answered, it was not you, my lord, that prevented the bishop, but a higher power, for a better purpose." Having related this conversation, Mr. H. concluded, by saying, “ You poor Methodists, that cannot pay your rents, come to me, and I will find shelter for thirty or forty of you.”
Thus, providentially, was that which appeared a mysterious disaster, and an almost cureless evil, over-ruled to the great advancement of the cause of God, at a time when it was likely, on human calculations, to sustain a serious injury.
In the years 1805 and 1806, Mr. Crosby was stationed at Keighley. In that circuit he had the happiness to witness such a revival and extension of the work of God, as does but rarely occur. In one year, he and his good colleagues, Messrs. G. Gibbon, and J. Muff, joined 800 members to the society; many of whom, I believe, are still found in the foll of Christ. Of this extraordinary work of God, Mr. C. has left a short account in the copy of a letter which he then wrote to Mr. Walter Griffith. It is as follows:
“ My Dear BROTHER, Keighley, April 19, 1806. « I am greatly obliged to you for your attention to the subject of my last. Though you did not succeed, your kindness was the same. With pleasure I give you some account of the good work, which our common Lord is carrying on in these parts. From our first coming into the circuit, the prospect was such as gave us good reason to hope there would be a revival, especially at Yeadon. Every successive time we went thither, our hope was increased. January 27, that hope was realized : small companies began to meet together for prayer, and several were brought into the liberty of the children of God. But their houses soon became too small to contain the numbers who ran at the sound of singing and prayer. The vestry was now made choice of, as more convenient; but that also being too small, they took possession of the chapel, where from three to four hundred people attended the prayer-meeting : many were in great distress, and I think near forty found peace that week. The work still went on, and increased. Numbers were struck with deep, convictions in their own houses, wbile at their ordi