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He was a diligent student; his sermons were mostly written, but delivered without the manuscript; on the platform he was however as successful as in the pulpit, though his speeches were evidently extemporaneous. Their casual and local allusions were frequent and often most felicitious. His language was always so simple as to be intelligible to the rudest peasant, and 80 correct and pertinent as to delight the most fastidious. An indescribable natural grace marked both his thoughts and his manners. His self-possession was perfect, giving him complete command of his audience and his faculties. His hearers felt that his discourses were performances of perfect facility to himself, and yet inimitable by others.
Butterworth, the eminent Wesleyan layman, induced him to appear on the platform of the Bible Society in London. His ability for such addresses was at once declared, and thenceforward he was the representative Methodist orator on anniversary occasions throughout the nation. He co-operated with Coke in the West Indian missions, and caught the infection of that wonderful man's zeal. During the remainder of his life he was the greatest popular advocate of missions in the United Kingdom. He disclaimed any special talent for the details of business; he devolved these upon Bunting, Watson, and their colleagues, and reluctantly, though faithfully, sat in missionary and other committees; but abroad among the people he was without a ministerial competitor in the great cause. When he commenced his labors for it, there were but 50 Wesleyan missionaries, with about 17,000 communicants under their care; he saw them increased to more than 350 missionaries and 100,000 communicants.
The demand for his services at missionary anniversaries, at the opening of new chapels, and on other extraordinary occasions, became almost universal in England, Scotland, and Ireland. His election four times to the Conference presidency gave him facilities for such labors; but when he was appointed to circuits it became necessary to provide for him, from year to year till the end of his life, a young preacher who might fill his week-night appointments and attend to his pastoral work, relieving him to traverse the country. Perhaps no man of his day was better known to the drivers and guards of stagecoaches on the highways of England. During forty years he
FOURTH SERIES, VOL. XIII.—2
was as nearly ubiquitous in the United Kingdom as it was possible for a human being to be, and it has been estimated that he addressed from year to year a greater number of people than any other cotemporary man.
With the providential advent of such men as Watson, Bunting, and Newton in the connection about the period of its greatest trial, Methodism could not but assume a new attitude of strength and hope. In them, and similar men rising up around them, it was seen that the primitive spirit of the movement was to survive with new abilities for new adaptations, by which the great cause was to reach classes of the community to whom it hitherto had but little access, to take its stand not only in the midst, but in the front of the Protestantism of the country, and to project its power to the ends of the earth.
It is a noteworthy coincidence that while these eminent men were entering its itinerant ministry, introducing there a higher style of ministerial ability, three men of almost equal notoriety with them, but who were to represent it in its old style of lowly life, and to be especially active among the common people in behalf of its new missionary projects, appared in its local ministry.
The name of SAMUEL HICK, “The Village Blacksmith,” is known wherever the Methodist movement has extended. He knew nothing of learning beyond the arts of reading and writing, and these he acquired after his conversion; his use of his native Yorkshire dialect was hardly intelligible to the inhabitants of other districts; he was eminently holy notwithstanding an irrepressible natural humor, and was strong in common sense and native eloquence. “It is hardly possible," says a Methodist authority, “ to estimate the fruits of this man's labors and prayers. Nor was his usefulness confined to those of his own rank in life; gentlemen, country squires, members of parliament, even peers of the realm, often heard from his lips the truth of God delivered in a manner which, from the holy unction with which it was charged, roused in their minds serious thoughts of God and religion, and not unfrequently so as at once to awaken real respect for the truth and its zealous teacher.” (Smith's History of Methodism.)
Samuel Hick was early apprenticed to the blacksmith's craft; it made him a robust man in both nerve and muscle; his round, generous face; his athletic form, marred somewhat by a slight stoop and a disproportion of his shoulders, the effect of hard work at the anvil; his commanding voice; his aptness for practical illustrations of his subjects, drawn from common life; his simple language, the more acceptable for being in the rude dialect of his neighbors ; his tender feelings, often expressed in tears; his humor, seldom sarcastic, but rich in geniality and in surprising appositeness to his subjects; his courage, which the hardiest of the mob respected too much to challenge; his liberality, which was his greatest weakness, and often left his pockets empty; his overflowing religious cheerfulness, ever uttering itself in hymns or familiar benedictions; and above all, the real sanctity of his spirit, secured him a command over the popnlar sympathies which was rarely equaled by any other preacher of Methodism in his day, not excepting Newton.
He was religiously inclined from his childhood, but a sermon which he heard from Wesley got such hold upon his conscience that he could not rest. He suddenly jumped out of his bed one night and fell upon his knees to pray; his groans awakened his wife, wbo, supposing he had been seized with dangerous illness, arose to call her neighbors. He exclaimed: “I want Jesus Jesus to pardon my sins.” “My eyes,” he wrote years afterward, “were opened; I saw the sins I had committed through the whole course of my life; I was like the Psalmist; I cried out like the jailer.” He had a hard struggle there upon his knees, but before the dawn of day the light of life had dawned upon his soul.
Without neglecting his craft, (by which in later years he became independent enough to give up work and devote his whole time to religious labors,) he now “went about doing good." Soon some of his neighbors were converted; they induced the itinerants to supply them with preaching; a class-meeting was formed, and thus was Methodism introduced into Micklefield, where he resided. He preached at his anvil. “I had,” he says, “a good opportunity, as nearly the whole town came to my shop, and I was always at them."
A great revival in his neighborhood in 1794 called out his remarkable talents more fully; he became a “prayer leader," and finally a local preacher. His popularity was soon general, and wherever he went for nearly a half century crowds flocked to his artless but powerful ministrations. He founded Methodism in some places, and promoted the erection of chapels in others by, his peculiar success in begging money for them. He became a tireless evangelist and a favorite platform speaker at missionary meetings. In chapels, in the open air, in prayermeetings, in missionary assemblies, in the rural districts, and in the metropolis, Samuel Hick was always a chief attraction to the multitude, and always bore humbly his popularity. His spirit won all hearts, disarming often violent opposers. He seldom disputed with an opponent or with any person, but usually fell abruptly on his knees and conquered by prayer. A Yorkshireman threatened to knock him down for a word of exhortation which the blacksmith had uttered; the latter dropped upon his knees and began to pray; his opponent took to flight. He was pleading in vain with a rich miser for a donation to Coke's West Indian missions; he at last knelt down and began to pray. “I will give thee a guinea if thou wilt give over,” cried the covetous man. But Hick continued to pray for the miser, and for the heathen, for whose salvation a guinea would be so insignificant a pittance. “I tell thee to give over,” exclaimed the miser; “I will give thee two guineas if thou wilt only give it up." Rising suddenly, the blacksmith took the money and bore it away to a missionary meeting held in the neighborhood, where “he exhibited it with the high-wrought feelings of a man who had snatched a living child from the clutch of an eagle.”
Samuel Hick was one of the most effective agents of the missionary development of Wesleyan Methodism-one of the organs through which the higher minds of the denomination reached, for that purpose, the masses of the people and his services were hardly of less historical importance than those of his superior brethren.
WILLIAM DAWSON is a still more remarkable character, and is known throughout the Methodist world as much by his piety and usefulness as by his eccentricities. A Yorkshire farmer, a local preacher, a general missionary advocate, shrewd in natural discernment, intelligent without much education, apt at speech, a talent which was the more effective in popular assemblies for his native dialect; eccentric, but equally relevant in thought; given to allegory and the oddest illustrations of his subjects, to an irrepressible but kindly humor, which he lamented as his “besetment” and “plague," but which, if it was a fault, was apparently the worst one he had ; robust in his moral manhood, tender and gentle as womanhood, simple and confiding as childhood; apostolic in his faith and life; a poet-orator in rustic guise—such was the famous “Yorkshire Farmer.” “He displayed a force of genius and command of striking illustration such as I rarely ever heard,” says a good judge belonging to another communion, (Rev. John Angell James,) who also applies to him the remark of the poet, that “nature made him and then broke up the mould.” With his intellectual traits 'he combined not a few personal advantages; he was nearly six feet high and strongly framed; he had a noble forehead, an eye “keen and full of fire,” and features round, but expressive of " thought brilliant, active, and penetrating.”
Such was the power of his genius and the extent of his public services, that, though he was not a member of the Conference, and therefore not recorded in his obituary, that body honored him at his death in its Annual Address to its societies. “Few men," it said, “were ever more extensively known in the Wesleyan Connection, or more highly esteemed wherever known.” Such was the grateful and admiring regard of the common people for him that his funeral procession was like a triumphal march. Some of the factories of the town suspended their labors that their operatives might follow him to the grave. As he was borne through Leeds, the streets presented “for above a mile and a half one congregated mass of people." He was carried seven miles to his family burial-place; procession met procession, in the towns on the route; a hundred men on horseback, nearly a hundred carriages, with a vast multitude on foot, singing hymns on the highways as they bore him along. It was the spontaneous tribute of the grateful people who had for years been benefited by his rare talents and unblemished example. Their Methodist ancestors had borne brave John Nelson to the tomb in a similar manner in the early days of the denomination; the old battle field over which they bore Dawson was now waving with such a moral harvest as Methodism had produced nowhere else in the world.
He was converted in 1791 while kneeling at the sacramental altar, and was licensed as a local preacher in 1801. His singular