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NEW EVANGELICAL MAGAZINE,
MEMOIR OF THE LATE MR. ABRAŇAM AUSTIN.
BIOGRAPHY, which is a species was born at Sutton Coldfield, a of writing that rarely fails to small but pleasant town in War. interest us, when it is properly ex-wickshire, upon the road from ecuted; is perhaps never so use- Litchfield to Birmingham, at the fully employed as when it has for distance of about ten miles from its object to rescue modest merit the latter place, on the 25th of from oblivion; to bring forwards December, 1749. · His father and to public view, those characters in grand-father were timber mer. retired life which have eminently chants and farmers, in respectable exemplified the christian pattern ; circumstances; and the town and to enrol in the page of history being chartered, they had both of the names of men, whom the them discharged' the office of world overlooked, because their Magistrate in it. Abraham was lives were devoted to promote the the oldest of three brothers : at the interest of the best of causes--the age of six, it was his affecting lot cause of truth and righteousness. to lose his father who died of a Such a man was the late Mr. consumption, and about a year Austin, on the delineation of whose afterwards he lost his mother also! personal history, we are now about Reduced by these bereaving cir, to enter. The qualities that mark- cumstances to the condition of ed his character, and by which it orphans, the three brothers were was distinguished from the multi- | left to the care of their grandtude, whether in or out of the father, who with parental solici. church, were not calculated to tude watched over them as long make him popular. He was not as he lived. The amiable disremarkable for profound learning, position of the subject of this nor for splendid gifts ; nor indeed memoir so won upon the affections for any of those attainments that of his grandfather, that he conexcite the marvellous--the virtues ferred upon him all the advantages that adorned him, and that con. of educatiou which were calcuferred true nobility upon him, lated to qualify him for the miniswere of a very different descrip-terial office in the national estation. They were meekness, gen-blishment, and for which he intleness, goodness, fidelity-a heart tended him. The Rev. John overflowing with universal bene- Ryland was at this time the curate volence to man, and fervent piety of Sutton Coldfield--a person of to God.
Evangelical sentiments, who afterThis excellent minister of Christwards removed to Birmingham, VOL. III,
and became a very popular minis- and secluded situation kept him ter in that town. Mr. Austin's ignorant of it. Cudworth, who grandfather, consulted him upon was the pastor of an independent the subject of devoting young church, in Margaret street, CavenAbraham to the clerical profes- dish square, had greatly assisted sion: but finding him of an ex- Mr. Hervey in revising his “ Thetremely delicate constitution and ron and Aspasio," and when Mr. nervous habits, he advised his Sandeman made his tremendous being rather brought up to some attack upon this latter work, and trade, in consequence of which he almost overwhelmed its amiable, was articled as apprentice to Mr. and gentle author with dismay at Lutwyche, a respectable grocer in the weight of his Scotch artillery, Birmingham.
he found a most able advocate in Mr. Austin remembered to have Mr. Cudworth, who published “a been the subject of considerable defence of Theron and Aspasio,” religious impressions when he was against the Northern heretic. It eight years old; though he con- is somewhat foreign to the subject tinued from that time to the age of this Memoir to go into a detail of twenty, without any just and of this controversy, but we shall scriptural views of the way of sal- trespass so far upon the reader's vation, harrassed by the accusa- indulgence as to remark, that Cud. tions of a guilty conscience, but worth was a writer of no ordinary destitute of any saving knowledge talents, and had his life been proof the truth. His inflexible in- longed, he would have given the tegrity, and correct deportment, world ample proof of it. He approcured him the respect of his pears to have been the only writer master and of the family in which of his day, who was capable of his lot was then cast, but as they wielding the pen with Sandeman. possessed no serious piety, they The great point in dispute between treated his religious scruples and them was, whether appropriation attention to the concerns of his be essential to the nature of justi. soul, as an enthusiastic frenzy, fying faith--the affirmative of which rendered his situation at which Mr. Hervey had strenuously Birminghain far from enviable contended for, in his sixteenth
Quitting Birmingham in the Dialogue--but which his opponent twentieth year of his age, he re- had bent all his efforts to refute. turned to Sutton-Coldfield, where Here. Cudworth came in opporthe death of an Uncle, who had tunely to his aid; and though we occupied his father's farm from are not disposed to award him the period of his decease, rendered the palm of victory, it is but jushis presence necessary to settle tice to his memory to say, that his affairs. He was at this time Sandeman never had an opponent the subject of considerable mental who gravelled him so sensiblydistress, but without any religious Pike was a dwarf to him. What associates to whom he could un- we now affirm is not founded so bosom his difficulties, or from much on his published pieces, whom he could ask advice. He which nevertheless discover unhowever recollected a pious woman common shrewdness and dexterity whom he had formerly known in in the management of an arga. the town, and to her he now bad ment, as upon a manuscript cor. recourse. The controversy be- respondence which is still in existween Mr. Sandeman and Mr. tence, and in the possession of Mr. Hervey was at this instant the Cadworth's son, who obligingly popular topic with the religious favoured the writer of this with a public, but Mr. Austin's youth sight of it some years ago. It
consists of about a dozen Letters gloomy shades retire on all in all, some of them of consider- hands. And so indeed many able length; and drawn up with others have found it by happy exextraordinary care and circum- perience, that while sitting in dark. spection. We cannot go into parness and under the shadow of ticulars in this place, further than death, perlaps labouring and to add, that in some things Cud-heavy laden, anxiously enquiring worth had a manifest advantage, “what shall I do to be saved ;" and has successfully shewn that or how shall I make my peace Mr. Sandeman, to avoid one ex. with God, the Sun of righteousness treme, had ran into its opposite. ( has risen upon their benighted
The good woman, to whoin Mr. souls with healing in his wings-a Austin had recourse for religious ray of celestial light lias darted instruction, lent bim Cudworth's into their minds, to the obtaining defence of Theron and Aspasio : of which all their laborious exerbut as his mind was not at that cises contributed nothing; but it time prepared to enter into the has led them to behold "the light controversy, he wisely had recourse of the knowledge of the glory of to Mr. Hervey's Volumes them. God in the face of Jesus Christ," selves, where he found food much and communicated peace and sal. better suited to his hungry appe. vation to their souls--thus verifytite than what was to be met with ing the ancient saying, "I am in the thorny road of controversy. | found of them that sought me not: He learnt from them, in some I am made manifest unto those happy measure, the way of a sin- | that asked not after me." ner's acceptance with God, through Mr. Austin, soon after this, be. faith in the blood of Christ; and, gan to exercise his talent in preachhaving tasted that the Lord is ing; but the account given in the gracious, his appetite was whetted Baptist Magazine of his being infor the sincere milk of the word. tended by an aunt (and he had He now read and studied the but one) to become a minister in scriptures for himself, receiv- the church of England, and of ing with meekness the engrafted means being taken by her to send word which he found to be to the him to Cambridge, must be wholly salvation of his soul; and though unfounded, for she had been dead his views were at this time neither some years before Mr. Austin reso distinct and clear, nor his doc- turned from Birmingham. It fol. trinal sentiments so accurately lows therefore that other particudigested as at a future period of lars nientioned in that account his life, he nevertheless had the relative to his decided adoption of answer of a good conscience the principles of dissent are at least towards God through the resur- very questionable. He attended rection of Jesus Christ from the the ministry of Mr. Ryland; there dead, and rejoiced in hope of the do not appear to have been any glory of God.
dissenters at Sutton Coldfield at this Adverting to the painful exer- time. Mr. R. was in the habit of cises of his mind at this period, preaching at stated times in a priand to the relief which he ob- vate house at Mare Pool, a village tained by a discovery of God as in the vicinity of Sutton, and Mr. reconciled unto sinners through the Austin commonly made one of his atonement, we have heard him hearers. Upon one of these occacompare his state to the rays of sions, the preacher being preventlight breaking through a darked from meeting them, Mr. Austin cloud, and diffusing serenity and was requested to supply his lack chearfulness around while the of service by engaging in prayer and reading a Sermon which was him rejoicing in hope of the glory put into his hands. He complied; of God. . These seals to his but not finding the doctrinal ministry must have been highly strain of the Sermon consonant to encouraging to him, and he often his own views, he ventured to sub-mentioned the subject in this point stitute his own remarks in place of of view among his friends, but the former which he continued to never without evincing his prohold in his hand; nor were his found gratitude to God who had hearers apprised of the cheat he thus made him the honoured inhad dexterously put upon them, strument of cominunicating to them till he himself some time after- the knowledge of salvation. wards explained it. Such was The propriety of baptizing inthe state of things about the year fants had probably never been a 1770, when, at the urgent solici- question with him during this tation of a few individuals who period. He had lived in an inhad been benefited by his conver- sulated state, as it regards all relisation, he consented to give them gious parties, mingling with none a discourse, and a house was ace of them; but an aged minister who cordingly taken, in which he com resided at Melbourne, in Derbymenced and statedly conducted shire, of the denomination of public worship.
General Baptists, having occasion Mr. Austin now succeeded to about this time, to pass through the management of the farm which Sutton Coldfield in his way to from the period of his father's Birmingham, and stopping a night death, had been occupied by his there, enquired at a Hair-dresser's uncle, but which now became shop, if there were any dissenters vacant by the decease of the lat- in the place. The answer was ter. He had to settle his affairs, “ Yes, there is a Society of this and to provide for himself and his kind, who meet in such a place, two brothers, with a view to which and the preacher's name is Austin.” he determined to prosecute the “ Well," said the minister, “but malting business. His ministerial what sort of a man is he, and what labours proved very acceptable character does he bear?" “ Oh!" the congregation encreased the returned the barber, “he is as good house in which they assembled was a man as ever lived, but he is a insufficient to contain them- but kind of methodist." The result his love to the souls of men pre-was an interview between Mr. vailed over all personal consider. | Austin and the Baptist minister, ations, and that they might enjoy who put the former upon looking the advantages of hearing the into the scriptures respecting this word of God, he fitted up a place branch of duty, and it ended in of worship at his own individual his being baptized soon afterwards expence, where he continued to at Longford, in Warwickshire, by labour for five years amidst storms Mr. Hickling, a minister of the of opposition, and frequently at denomination of General Baptists, the risk of his life, without fee or on a profession of his repentance reward, except the testimony of towards God and faith in the Lord his own conscience, and the smiles Jesus Christ. In a little time, many of approving heaven.
of the congregation among whom Among the fruits of his ministry he laboured, adopted similar views at this time, Mr. Austin had the in- of the ordinance of baptism, and expressible satisfaction of number- Mr. Austin had the pleasure of ing his two brothers, who, like seeing fifteen of them baptized at himself, lived ornaments of the one time by Mr. Francis Smith, · glorious gospel, and died before pastor of the General Baptist church in Melbourne, who was prudence, fidelity and perseverance ordained to that office by the late in the discharge of their pastoral “ venerable Abraham Booth.” See duties; but we desist. the Memoir of Mr. Booth, prefixed When Mr. Austin was about to his Works, p. 21.
twenty-six years of age, he, in Mr. Austin and his friends now October 1775, married Miss Jane became associated with the General Spencer, daughter of Mr. Francis Baptists of the new connexion, in Spencer, a farmer at Measham in distinction from a class of them Derbyshire; and it is worthy of which had verged into Socinianism. | remark that she had been one of And here we cannot help remark- the pupils of the late Mr. Abraham ing a singular coincidence, namely, Booth, while he kept a school at that both Abraham Austin and Sutton Ashfield, previous to his Abraham Booth should have com removal to the metropolis. His menced their career among the connexion with this amiable female General Baptists, almost in the was a circumstance which Mr. same neighbourbood; should have Austin never could speak of withquitted that connection; settled out indicating that he numbered it in London; and ultimately adopt among the greatest privileges of ed views of divine truth more con- his life, and those who know her sonant to each other than can be and who knew him also, will affirmed of almost any other two readily account for this. Had he deceased ministers that we can re- searched the creation round, he collect. As writers, indeed, the would have found it no easy matparallel will not hold ; Mr. Austin's ter to select a second person, in nervous system utterly precluded every respect so adapted to be him from the frequent use of the “ an help-meet" for him. Often pen, and the world has much to has he said among his friends regret on that account; there was “ What a poor creature I should nevertheless a similarity of cir- have been without her!” But the cumstances between them in other time is not come to speak of this particulars, which must be mani- amiable woman as she deserves to fest to all who will take the trouble be spoken of, and therefore we of examining the subject. Each content ourselves with merely reof them was brought up in the cording the remark which we reprinciples of Pædo baptism-unit- member to have once heard made ed themselves with the General | by one whose age and long acBaptists-afterwards removed to quaintance with the family and the London and joined the particular church wellqualified him for making Baptist denomination and adopt- with propriety. “Mrs. Austin is ed, with very few exceptions, every thing that a minister's wife similar views of divine truth. On ought to be.” Of her domestic virall the leading doctrines of the tues we say nothing, but we will say gospel, their sentiments were the that her deportment in the church same; on the subject of faith, and has often struck us with admirathe immediate duty of all who I tion. Unlike the forward and hear the gospel to believe it, there ostentatious conduct of the genewas a shade of difference, in our rality of ministers' wives, if you opinion, greatly in favour of Mr. would see Mrs. A. at public worAustin. It were easy to pursue ship, 'twere ,needless to look for the parallel to a much greater ex- her except in the most retired tent-in their personal and domes- corner of the chapel: and though tic habits, the sanctity of their it were not impossible to find her lives, their humble and unassuming at the private meetings of the deportment, and the exemplary, church, it would be utterly in vain