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IT was observed by this excellent man, during his last affliction, that he never till then gained any personal instruction from our Lord's telling Peter by what death he should glorify God. To die by a consumption, had used to be an object of dread to him: But, "Oh my Lord," said he, "if by this death I can most GLORIFY THEE, I prefer it to all others." The lingering death of the cross, by which our Saviour himself expired, afforded him an opportunity of uttering some of the most affecting sentences which are left on sacred record: And to the lingering death of this his honoured servant, we are indebted for a considerable part of the materials which appear in these MEMOIRS. Had he been taken away suddenly, there had been no opportunity for him to have expressed his sentiments and feelings in the manner he has now done in let→ ters to his friends. While in health, his hands were full of labour, and consequently his letters were written mostly upon the spur of occasion; and related principally to business, or to things which would be less interesting to
Christians in general. It is true, even in them it was his manner to drop a few sentiments, towards the close, of an experimenta, kind; and many of these hints will be interspersed in this brief account of him: But it was during his affliction, when, being laid aside nearly a year, and obliged to desist from all public concerns, that he gave scope to the feelings of his heart, Here, standing, as on an eminence, he reviewed his life, re-examined the ground of his hope, and anticipated the crown which awaited him, with a joy truly unspeakable and full of glory.
Like Elijah, he has left the chariot of Israel, and asconded as in a chariot of fire; but not without having first communicated of his eminently Christian spirit. Oh that
a double portion of it may rest upon us
HIS PARENTAGE, CONVERSION, CALL TO THE MINISTRY, AND SETTLEMENT AT BIRMINGHAM,
MR. SAMUEL PEARCE was born at Ply mouth, on July 20th, 1766. His father who survives him, is a respectable silversmith, and has been many years a deacon of the Baptist church in that place.
When a child, he lived with his grandfather, who was very fond of him, and endeavoured to impress his mind with the principles of religion. At about eight or nine years of age he came home to his father with a view of learning his business. As he advanced in life, his evil propensities, as he has said, began to ripen; and forming connections with several vicious school-fellows, he became more and more corrupted. So greatly was his heart at this time set in him to do evil, that had it not been for the restraining goodness of God, which somehow, he knew not how, preserved him in most instances from carrying his wicked inclinations into practice, he supposed he should have been utterly ruined.
At times he was under strong convictions, which rendered him miserable; but at other times they subsided; and then he would return with eagerness to his sinful pursuits. When about fifteen
years old he was sent by his father to enquire after the welfare of a person in the neighbourhood, in dying circumstances, who (though before his departure he was in a happy state of mind, yet at that time was sinking into deep despair. While in the room of the dying man, he heard him cry out with inexpressible agony of spirit, "I an damned forever!" These awful words pierced his soul; and he felt a resolution at the time to serve the Lord: but the impression soon wore off, and he again returned to folly.
When about sixteen years of age, it pleased God effectually to turn him to himself. A sermon delivered by Mr. Birt, who was then co-pastor with Mr. Gibbs, of the Baptist church at Plymouth, was the first mean of impressing his heart with a sense of his lost condition, and of directing him to the gospel remedy. The change in him appears to have been sudden, but effectual; and the recollection of his former vicious propensities, though a source of bitterness, yet furnished a strong evidence of its being the work of God. "I believe," he says, "few conversions were more joyful. The change produced in my views, feelings and conduct, was so evident to myself, that I could no more doubt of its being from God, than of my existence. I had the witness in myself, and was filled with peace and joy unspeakable."
His feelings being naturally strong, and receiv ing a new direction, he entered into religion with all his heart; but not having known the devices of Satan, his soul was entangled by its own ardour, and he was thrown into great perplexity. Having read Doddridge's Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, he determined formally to dedicate himself to the Lord, in the manner recommended in the seventeenth chapter of that work. The form of a covenant, as there drawn up, he also adopted as his own; and that he might bind himself
in the most solemn and affecting manner, signed it with his blood. But afterwards failing in his engagements, he was plunged into dreadful perplexity, and almost into despair. On a review of his covenant, he seems to have accused himself of a kind of pharisaical reliance upon the strength of his own resolutions; and therefore taking the paper to the top of his father's house, he tore it into small pieces, and threw it from him to be scattered by the wind. He did not however consider his obligation to be the Lord's as hereby nullified; but feeling more suspicion of him. self, he depended upon the blood of the cross.
After this he was baptized, and became a member of the Baptist church at Plymouth, the ministers and members of which, in a few years, perceived in him talents for public work. Being solicited by both his pastors, he exercised as a probationer; and receiving a unanimous call from the church, entered on the work of the ministry in November, 1786. Soon after this he went to the academy at Bristol, then under the superin tendence of Dr. Caleb Evans.
Mr. Birt, now pastor of the Baptist church, in the square, Plymouth Dock, in a letter to the compiler of these memoirs, thus speaks of him: "Though he was, so far as I know, the very first fruits of my ministry, on my coming hither, and though our friendship and affection for each other were great and constant; yet previous to his going to Bristol I had but few opportunities of conversing with him, or of making particular observations on him. All who best knew him, however, will remember, and must te nderly speak of his loving deportment, and those who attended the conferences with him soon received the most impressive intimations of his future eminence as a minister of our Lord Jesus Christ."