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TO THE READER. Our number for this month commences another Annual Volume, the ninety-sixth, of the Wesleyan-Methodist Magazine. Its eleven hundred and fifty-two pages will contain many valuable articles which their several accomplished authors have already placed at the disposal of the Editor; as well as several, on attractive subjects, which are in course of preparation. To these will be added others, on such occasional topics as public affairs may from time to time render prominent. No pains will be spared to make the contents of the Volume for 1873 edifying, instructive, and varied.
On the ground that the influence of the evangelically religious press at the present time needs greatly strengthening, an earnest appeal to the habitual readers of this Magazire might justly be made. There is, however, not space to urge such an appeal here. But let us, in a word, ask our friends to help us in promoting the circulation of a work, not only from which is every trace of the pen of the novelist excluded, but in which the interests of our holy religion are not, to say the least, imperilled by doubtful attractions, owing what value they do possess to partial associations with it.
That “perilous times” are passing over us, one may assert without risk of being regarded as an "alarmist;" a proof is at hand in every department of human thought. Of the State we will not speak; and of the Church will only now again say that her particular danger is always from within. Her open foes are often indeed troublesome, but not one of them is of necessity fatal; the panoply furnished by our Divine Head cannot fail any in the hour of need: but the wearer of it may fail-has failed again and again. We shall welcome to our pages whatever tends to combat the subtile forms of error with which the cause of God is in our day incessantly assailed. A many-sided infidelity, eager to ally itself with every falterer or careless one, in hope that he will become avowedly recreant to revelation and Divine truth, can only be successfully resisted by Christian men fully awake to its aggressions, and both competent and resolved to grapple with them.
London : December 6th, 1872.
BY HIS SON-IN-LAW, THE REV. JOHN HUGILL. “The memory of the just is blessed." This declaration of Scripture was impressed upon the mind of the writer more vividly than usual on the last Sunday in 1871. On the evening of that day, the Wesleyan chapel at Tiverton was crowded by an attentive audience assembled for the purpose of reviewing the life, and improving the death, of the subject of this sketch ; who had lived in the town, and worshipped in that house of prayer, for more than half a century. The following pages contain the substance of a paper which was prepared for that occasion.
MR. JOHN SNELL was the second son of Mr. William Snell, farmer and landowner in the parish of Lapford, Devon, and was born in that somewhat picturesque village on the 22nd of July, 1792. He was only about twelve years old when it seemed good to God to remove the head of the family by death; and he has been frequently heard to speak of the solemn moment when his father, as he lay on his death-bed, said to him, “ Farewell." The family afterwards removed to South-Moulton, and John, with his brothers, was sent to Tiverton, to be educated at Mr. Gloyn's academy, at that time of considerable local note. His school-days ended, he returned to South-Moulton, and there learned a business; thence removing to London, and some other places, for improvement before commencing on his own account. He was distinguished by persevering industry from the beginning of his career : rising early in the morning, when quite a youth, to earn money by which to purchase books to satisfy his earnest craving for knowledge. A goodly array of handsomely-bound volumes, obtained in that way and at that time, long continued to adorn his library.
His parents were members of the Established Church. But in his youthful days little was known of vital godliness in the north of Devon ; most of the people, indeed, seemed to have no idea of its nature or necessity. He was trained, therefore, to live as regardless of religion as were his neighbours, and he freely participated in worldly amusements, such as dancing and card-playing. He was in other respects strictly moral, conscientiously scrupulous in his adherence to his principles, amiable and generous in disposition ; yet he was conscious of some sad lack-he felt, in fact, a void within which the world could never fill. On one occasion, while residing at Bideford, having gone to bathe in the river, a strong current carried him onward to the sea, to the great peril of his life. With much difficulty he succeeded in swimming back to the shore, where a number of people had assembled to watch him, supposing that he must be drowned. It would appear that this occurrence had a great effect upon his mind; and he always considered his preservation to have been due to an interposition of Providence.
The value of the immortal soul, and the future state of existence, were subjects which now caused him much anxious thought. Knowing no human teacher, he began diligently to search the Scriptures, and with trembling turned the sacred pages, "fearing he had committed the unpardonable sin.” Being seized with lock-jaw, which issued in a low fever, his mother came to nurse him, and was deeply concerned to find her son so depressed in spirit. Not understanding herself whence true happiness flows, she hid away his Bible, locked up every book relating to religion, and took him to Ilfracombe for change of air and scene. As soon as he was able, she wished him “ to go into society," and invited young friends to her house, hoping that in the joke and dance he would throw off his serious thoughts and feelings. In this she for a time succeeded.
In the year 1816, Mr. Snell purchased a business in Tiverton, and went thither to reside. Two years afterwards, he was first led to attend the Wesleyan chapel, through a desire to gain the companionship of one to whom
he was attached. While affirming he would never “ make a profession of religion unless he enjoyed it," still, he would “go and hear for himself.” A short time after this, under a sermon by the late Rev. Joseph Saunders, he was again deeply convinced of sin. But with the conviction came a gleam of hope for him who had once before been brought to the verge of despair. What the water-brook is to the thirsty hart, was the newly-heard message of a Saviour's love to his parched and earnest soul. As one who seemed to hear it for the first time, (if it were not actually so,) he listened to the invitation to come, "just as he was,-unworthy, guilty, helpless, at the foot of the Cross,-to receive pardon, peace, and joy, through the Holy Spirit.” Although he could not testify as to the exact moment when he found the “ pearl of great price," he obtained power to say, with the prophet, “O Lord ! I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortedst me.” And truly he could add, “ Old things are passed away ; behold, all things are become new.” The thoroughness of the change was evidenced by a prompt sacrifice of everything unbecoming a professor of religion, and by a lofty aim to exemplify, in every respect, the Christian character.
On his conversion, he did not become “an ecclesiastical polyErmist,”- professing equal regard for all Churches, but giving
himself thoroughly and heartily to none,—as is too common in this age of affected Christian liberality, but really of unscriptural latitudinarianism. He joined the Wesleyan-Methodist Society, and ever showed his decided preference for it. He esteemed his own religious communion the best ; not as the only Church, but, in his estimation, the loveliest and most useful of many sisters. Still, he cherished sympathy with all who " love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." of this Christians of every name seemed to have no doubt ; for he received from them proofs of the utmost friendliness and confidence. Not only did the respected Congregational and Baptist ministers of the town visit him in his last illness, and were present at his funeral, but while one chapel was closed when the sermon above alluded to was preached, in the other his death was spoken of "as if he had been one of the deacons of the church.”
Such was Mr. Snell's Christian consistency, and such the indications of his stability of character, that he was made Societysteward within six months of his conversion to God. He also became a teacher in the Sunday-school ; afterwards secretary therein; and for twenty-five years he filled the office of superintendent. Indeed, from that time his offices swiftly multiplied ; and he devoted himself to his work with indefatigable industry, proving himself equal to each successive demand upon his time and ability. The Rev. W. J. Tweddle, who travelled three years in the Circuit, says, “He had very many good and gracious qualities of mind and heart; and the work he had given him to do was done well, sincerely, and uprightly.” For fifty years he was absent from only one Circuit Quarterly Meeting, being always in offices requiring his attendance, and for many years he was equally regular at the annual District Meeting, either as a member of the District Chapel Committee, or as Circuit-steward. During the lengthened period of his connection with Wesleyan-Methodism, his fidelity and affection were never known to waver, and were never so much as suspected. At different times, when a storm has burst upon it, as did the tempest upon the vessel which bore the "Pilot of Galilee" and His disciples; and when some of his companions, from fear or other motive, would desert their posts, or seek what seemed a better craft, he was calmly confident in his Pilot, ship, and crew,-kept to his duty, and waited patiently, yet prayerfully and actively, like Paul and his companions, for calmer and brighter days.
It is to be feared that many professors of religion shrink too much from their duties as citizens : some, doubtless, from the best of motives ; being afraid of coming in contact with the violence and unruly tempers of boisterous characters, who, while least capable, are frequently the most anxious to meddle in public