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NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
MEMOIR OF THE REV. JOHN HARRISON.
THE Rev. John Harrison was born June the 22nd, 1772, being the only child of Abraham and Hannah Harrison, of Crosland Edge, in the parish of Almondbury, Yorkshire. His father's family had occupied a leasehold farm, under the Beaumonts, for several centuries. His mother, whose maiden name was Sandifirth, was the daughter of Mr. John Sandifirth, of Huddersfield. The father of Mr. Harrison was a
clothier, and he was brought up to the same business.
In boyhood and early youth, Mr. H. attended religious worship, along with his parents, at the Church of England chapel, Meltham. His mother became a hearer, and a member of the select class, of the eminent Rev. Henry Veun, vicar of Huddersfield; whose labours were made so extensive a blessing, in connection with the revival of evangelical religion, in that part of the country. For some time in his youth Mr. H. was an attendant on the ministry of the Rev. Mr. Wilson, of Slaithwaite, one of the preachers of the late celebrated Countess of Huntingdon, and a clergyman of the Church of England; and it was under a sermon by that gentleman he was first brought to an affecting and alarming sense of his awful and dangerous condition, as a guilty, depraved, and ruined sinner. The preacher's text, on the occasion, was Daniel v. 27; "Thou art weighed in the balance and art found wanting." About this time Mr. H. formed an intimacy with a young man who attended the same place of worship, and was like-minded with himself. This was the late Mr. John Dyson, so long and so honourably connected with Methodism in Huddersfield and its neighbourhood. It was the practice of the two friends, when the weather permitted, to spend the interval between the morning and afternoon services, in some secluded spot on the banks of the river, in reading the word of God, and in pious converse. After a considerable period of anxious inquiry, Mr. H. found rest to his troubled soul, through faith in the crucified Redeemer. This took place while attending the customary watch-night service, at the close of the year 1792, at the old Methodist Bank chapel, Huddersfield, and under a discourse by Mr. John Blackburn, grandfather of Mrs. Addyman, the wife of our esteemed minister of that name. The discourse was founded on the words, "Examine yourselves." (2 Cor. xiii. 5.) With what altered emotions did Mr. H. cross the bleak and dreary moors to his home-a distance of four miles-when the midnight service had ended! What a contrast would be presented, as well between
the aspect of nature at such a season, as the previous darkness and tempest within, and the new-born joys of his now pardoned and happy soul!
The Bank chapel, to which reference has just been made, stood where now is placed the Buxton Road chapel. Many of the readers of this account will be aware, that in the early days of Methodism, it was not the practice of the Methodists to have religious worship in church hours; so that persons could attend the church and the Methodist meeting on the same day; and the Methodists were also accustomed regularly to attend the services of the church. The time of public worship was so arranged at the Bank chapel, as to commence immediately after the service at the church had concluded. This was done that the people on passing from the church might be induced to enter the chapel; and it had the effect of procuring for the place the nickname-"Catch'em chapel; while the brow on which it stood was called, Catch'em hill." Mr. Harrison received his first ticket of membership in the Methodist society from Mr. Gibbon, at Mr. John Dyson's, at the Stone quarry, Netherton; and, at the same time, was put in charge of the Crosland class, as assistant to Mr. John Bradley.
The first time Mr. H. stood up to preach, was in a private house at Marsden, when he took for his text, Isaiah lv. 7, Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." His second attempt of the kind was at the house of John Bradley; this was in his own neighbourhood, and, it having got abroad that he was going to preach, the house was filled. The first chapel he preached in was the then new chapel at Holmforth; it had just been erected, and was the fourth Methodist chapel in the vast district of country which the Huddersfield circuit at that time embraced. Mr. H. had been at Thong chapel in the early part of that day, hearing Mr. Barber, the superintendent of the circuit; at the close of the service he was requested to go into the vestry, where he found a person from Holmforth, seeking a supply for the evening, so he was sent, Mr. Barber saying, in reply to his objections, "John, thou must go; and woe unto thee if thou preach not the Gospel." In the spring of that year, 1793, he preached his trial sermon, in the house of Jonas Hobson, of Thong, a local preacher; and in the presence of Mr. Gibbon, who, at the conclusion, said, "Go on, John, and do all the good you can. Shortly after, the superintendent, on passing through Crosland Edge, told him he was putting him on the plan. Here it will be observed, how brief the period was between the time of his obtaining a knowledge of salvation by the remission of sins, and his taking the position of an accredited local preacher; this may serve to show, what comparatively rude materials were often called into active service, in connection with the work of God, in the early days of Methodism. Happily in the case of Mr. H. the work of conversion had been thorough, his ponderings had been deep, and his faith stood in the power of God. From this time, Mr. Harrison was much employed, along with other earnest and holy men, in holding meetings in the surrounding country, and in carrying the tidings of mercy into many a benighted locality; often travelling great distances in their benevolent efforts. Established religious interests now exist in many places, into which he and his asso
ciates first introduced the Methodist leaven. Their plan was to go out two and two, and wherever they found an open door there they preached the word.
The friends of the Saviour were few in those days; and fewer still were those into whose heart it entered to invite the messenger of peace to share in their hospitality; so that the suggestion of an old friend, to take some bread and cheese in his pockets, when he went forth on his preaching excursions, Mr. H. found not unworthy of attention. Nor is to be supposed that these labours were prosecuted without waking up the hostility of the haters of the Lord. Malignant passions were often roused, their assemblies were sometimes violently stormed, and various forms of annoyance were resorted to. Once or twice Mr. H. was taken before a magistrate, by an ill-minded opposer of religion, who imagined he had secured an occasion against the Methodists. In this case, the adversary was disappointed in his hopes, and had himself to bear the expenses of the prosecution.
In the year 1794, Mr. Harrison was united in marriage to Sarah, the youngest daughter of John and Hannah Haigh, of Netherton, near Huddersfield; at the time a pious and esteemed member of the Methodist society.
When the division in the Methodist community took place in 1797, Mr. H. took the side of religious freedom. He was present at some of the religious services of the Conference of that eventful year, but did not attend as a delegate. When the question was put to the friends at Crosland, whether they would remain with the Old or go with the New Itinerancy, Mr. H., as the leader, declared his own intention; when the preacher denounced him in no very temperate manner, and shook off the dust of his feet against him.
After the division, Mr. H. continued to fulfil the duties of class leader, and to labour as a local preacher. The circuit then embracing Leeds, Huddersfield, and Halifax, with many intervening and surrounding places, the labour, both in travelling and preaching, was often excessive. In this way he continued to serve the cause of Christ, until the Conference of 1805, when he became fully employed in the work of the ministry; having at the time a family of several children.
The first appointment of Mr. Harrison as a circuit preacher, was at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, in 1805; then Wigan, 1806; Sheffield, 1807-8; Ashton, 1809-10-11; Leeds, 1812-13; Hanley, 1814-15; Stockport, 1816-17; Chester, 1818-19; Hull, 1820-21; Halifax, 1822-23; Huddersfield, 1824-25; Macclesfield, 1826-27; Dudley, 1828-29; Barnsley, 1830; Bolton, 1831-32; Thorne, 1833-34; Sunderland, 1835-36. While stationed in Leeds, in 1812, Mr. Harrison had the affliction to be deprived of his partner, who had exemplified the varied excellences of the true Christian in her domestic relations, and in the church of God, so as to secure a large amount of esteem among the friends in the different circuits in which it had been her lot to be placed. A memoir of this exemplary woman may be found, written by her husband, in the Magazine for 1813. After remaining a widower till the year 1818, he married Mrs. Mitchell, the widow of Mr. James Mitchell, surgeon, of Stockport; and daughter of Mr. John Shepley, of Almondbury. Another painful bereavement was experienced in the loss of his second son, John,
who died at his father's, in Halifax, in the year 1823, at the age of twenty-four years. Again the parent's heart was made to bleed, by the removal to another world of his eldest daughter, Mrs. Dennis, of Halifax, who had long been a humble and devoted follower of the Lord Jesus. In both these cases, the father's sorrows were alleviated by the assurance that they had died in the Lord.
The ministry of my late venerable father-in-law, although possessing little of what may be called modern polish, was nevertheless rich in evangelical sentiment, and his discourses were well sustained by scripture quotations. It was not a scanty supply of spiritual food which he was accustomed to present; there was abundance, a Benjamin's portion invited the appetite of the attendant guest. An esteemed friend who had the pleasure of sitting under his ministry for three years, some forty years since, recently remarked to the writer, that she never sat under a minister whose preaching afforded more food for the soul. Constitutionally strong, and having a very powerful voice, his ministrations were in a high degree energetic, with frequent bursts of feeling. While he failed not to declare the terrors of the Lord against evil doers, he often dwelt largely on subjects which were melting, encouraging, and exciting in their character. To the praise of Jehovah's grace a Divine blessing attended his labours. A gooldy number still remain in our Church who were brought to God under his ministry; and many others still speak of the edification they were wont to receive from his discourses; and reference to the minutes of Conference will show a large increase of members in a number of circuits during the time he was stationed in them. As a minister and pastor, he was exceedingly punctual to his appointments and exemplary in his duties, plodding and exact in his habits, mindful of the peace and interests of the people, constant and soothing in his attentions to the suffering, fond of the devotional exercises of the church; he was also himself gifted and powerful in prayer-kind and obliging to his colleagues in the ministry; he is still spoken of by those who had been stationed along with him with affection and esteem. Nor was he less agreeable as a companion. His memory, which was remarkably good, and remained so to the last, being richly stored with facts and anecdotes of former times; his clear perceptions of human character, the aptness and force of many of his observations, with occasional sallies of pleasantry, rendered his conversation in no small degree attractive.
The following extract from a letter to the writer of this memoir, by an esteemed and honoured friend, the author of the Life of the Rev. A. Kilham, will be regarded by those who knew Mr. H. as discriminating and just "I have just received your note, intimating that another of my old friends, the Rev. John Harrison, your good father-in-law, has departed out of this life, for a better there can be no doubt. It was in the year 1812 that I first became acquainted with him, and I have ever since esteemed him as a sincere and devout Christian minister, who taught what he knew by his own experience, of the power of religion on his own heart, the sufficiency of the Gospel to make mankind holy and happy, both here and hereafter. He had a very steady mind, with hardly any opinions which could be called speculative, but derived his creed directly from the Scriptures, and lived and walked in the faith and fear of God day by day. I always regarded Mr. Harrison as a very sure-footed Christian, if I may so express myself, who never stumble d