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Full text of "William Dawson: The Yorkshire Farmer and Eloquent Preacher"

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AMMJVEBIlAnVARII I.IBKARV 



AH SklkbX 



Harvard Depository 
Brittle Boole 





DOVER-mRl'ARP 

raEOLoGiamERABY 



WILLIAM DAWSON. 




MR. WILLIAM DAWSON. 



WILLIAM DAWSON: 

^hc 'Yorkshire Jarmcr' anb 
€luquettt preacher. 



BY 



ANNE E. I^ELING, 

Author of ^ John Nelson^ Mason and Missionary^' ^ Eminent Methodist 
Women^' etc,^ etc. 




4^> 



CHARLES H. KELLY, 2, Castle St., City Rd., E.C. ; 

AND 66, PATERNOSTER ROW, E.C. 
1894. 



f^3 







.4' \^i 

HE HELD HIMSELF A LITTLE ALOOF FROM HIS TRAVELLING COMPANIONS.—/*. 7$. 



CONTENTS. 



CHAP. 

I. EARLY YEARS 



II. THE BEGINNINGS OF USEFULNESS 

III. THE TIME OF DECISION . 

IV. UNION WITH METHODISM . 

V. PULPIT, PLATFORM, AND HOME 
VI. SOWING AND REAPING 
VII. PREACHER AND PHILANTHROPIST 
VIII. DARK DAYS AND BRIGHT DAYS . 
IX. THE LAST YEARS OF SERVICE . 



I 
14 
30 
41 

59 

74 

89 

102 

126 



WILLIAM DAWSON 



THE YORKSHIRE FARMER AND 
ELOQUENT PREACHER. 

■ ■I i j O c I 



CHAPTER L 



EARLY YEARS 







H 



E was never 
called Bt'/fy 
at home, and I 
cannot conceive 
why he should 
be so distin- 
guished abroad,' 
said the widowed 
mother of William 
Dawson, who fan- 
cied there was 
something of con- 
tempt in the fami- 
liar nickname by 
which her faithful, 
devoted son was 
most widely known. 
But the name had 
no such meaning 
on the lips of 
many good old 
Methodists, who 
could remember 
Dawson in his prime, whose eyes would sparkle and their 
speech grow eloquent, while they recalled ' Billy's ' appear- 



HE WAS STANDING MUSING BY THE HEDGE-SIDE IN 
UTTER WTKIiTCHEDNESS.— /. 11. 



2 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

ance and conversation and impressive pulpit ministrations. 
For them it was a title of affectionate and not of con- 
temptuous familiarity, and its homeliness was but a tribute 
to the sturdy simplicity which delighted them in this famous 
Local Preacher. 

The number of these veterans is daily growing fewer, 
and their stores of racy reminiscences are being lost to 
the new generation; it seems well, then, that some fresh 
effort should be made to fix, before its colours can vanish, 
the image that glowed so vividly in their memories and in 
their talk — the image of a man perilously gifted and 
popular, whose lowliness of heart was proof against the 
temptations to which the successful preacher is all the more 
exposed when, like Dawson, he is self-taught and self-made; 
and who could quietly renounce, at the bidding of home 
duties and affections, the seemingly higher career to which 
both his tastes, his powers, and his influential friends all 
invited him ; being content to work with head and hands 
to support widowed mother and helpless brother, while 
devoting every moment of rightful leisure to that work of 
publishing the glorious Gospel, on which he would gladly 
have spent the whole of his time and ability, had it 
seemed to him that he was free so to consecrate himself. 
Such a character, such a life, are surely, well worth our 
study. 

William Dawson was born on the 30th of March, 1773, 
* at Garforth, a small parish town, three miles from Aber- 
ford, and seven from Leeds, in the county of York.'* His 
father, Luke Dawson, acted as colliery agent to Sir Thomas 
Gascoigne, of Gawthorpe, from whom he rented a farm. A 
similar position of trust had been held by William's grand- 
father, colliery agent to Lord Irvine, of Temple Newsome, 

• Everett's Life of Williatn Dawson, 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER^ 3 

and by one of his granduncles, land and colliery agent to 
Sir Rowland Winn, of Nostell Priory. In social standing, 
therefore, Dawson's family was probably a grade higher than 
that of John Nelson, the Birstall stone-mason expert in his 
father's craft; yet the same character of uprightness and 
efficiency, the same faithful thoroughness in service, seem 
to have been common to both. 

Luke Dawson stands before us in faint but clear out- 
line, a man of strong sense though feeble constitution, single- 
hearted, steadfast, content to do good work for small pay. 

'Neither my father nor myself,' said William in later 
life, * were equally remunerated for our time and pains as 
agents of Sir Thomas Gascoigne. My father never had 
more than twelve shillings per week, and coals and candles 
allowed. I had twelve shillings per week till 1793, when 
the wages of the colliers were raised, and then I had fifteen 
shillings. The colliers struck again, about a year or two 
after this, when another advance took place, and my wages 
were raised to eighteen shillings per week. Thus, my 
father and myself served the Gascoigne family for a period 
of nearly forty years, for what I have stated.' 

It would be small matter for wonder that the colliers 
'struck,' if their earnings were as small in proportion to 
their work as those of the agent. Luke Dawson, however, 
did not * strike,' and apparently did not complain, retaining 
his poorly-paid office to his Hfe's end, and so discharging 
it as to earn the entire confidence of his employer. 

* I shall not decide till I have first seen Luke Dawson, 
and consulted him on the subject,' Sir Thomas Gascoigne 
is reported to have said, when appealed to about matters 
on which he himself was quite competent to pronounce 
finally ; and the words are eloquent as to the proved value 
of the agent. We have to remind ourselves that the com- 



4 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

parative worth and purchasing power of money was much 
higher in that day than in our own, before we can reconcile 
ourselves to this employer for the poor recompense he 
thought sufficient for the services of such a man. 

Luke Dawson died about the year 1791, having lived 
fifty years, of which twenty-one had been spent in the 
employ of Sir Thomas Gascoigne. Anne, his wife, whose 
maiden name was Pease, long outlived him, dying in 1824, 
when in the seventy-sixth year of her age. Her influence on 
her son William, the eldest of her ten children, was great 
and salutary. She joined deep, true piety to unusual force 
of character, and would seem to have been one of those 
grand old English matrons who are not the least among 
the glories of our family chronicles in this land. Her 
great shrewdness in business matters was reinforced by 
the rarer gift of intuition ; she could catch and interpret the 
subtle shifting meanings of brow and eye and lip, and read 
therein the hidden matters of the heart ; she could gather 
true impressions from the slightest indications of fact, and 
was weatherwise in the signs of coming changes in human 
affairs. Something of this special faculty she may have 
transmitted to her son, who, however imperfectly trained in 
the learning of the schools, knew well the hearts of men, and 
could play on them as on a familiar instrument. 

The high, unbending integrity, the deep, reverent religion, 
which were hers as they had been her husband's, were a 
yet more precious heritage to William from both his parents 

A delicate, sickly, fretful infant was little * Willy* 
Dawson ; no one, in the first six months of his life, would 
have prophesied the stalwart manhood of his prime; and 
not a member of the household, save one only, but was 
weary of the wailing baby ; even his father would say that 
it would be well if heaven released the child from its 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 5 

suffering existence. But the mother, whose rest was broken 
every night by the piteous whimperings and cries of her 
first-born, could never join in the wish ; and it was to her 
patient love that he owed the care which preserved him for 
long years of hallowed usefulness. Here, then, we have 
another proof of the unwisdom and shortsightedness of 
that ancient Spartan legislation, which modern Socialism fain 
would imitate, that condemned to extinction every baby 
existence deficient in the promise of vigorous future health. 

Dawson himself, with some humour, would attribute to 
the continual crying of his babyhood the remarkable lung- 
power he developed in after years. 

Before his feeble little son could walk, Luke Dawson 
removed from Garforth to Barnbow — no great distance — 
where a house was in process of erection for him. Baby 
William's health was not to be risked in a new half-finished 
dwelling, therefore he was consigned to the care of his 
grandfather Dawson at Whitkirle ; and here he spent five 
happy years, finding a playground quite to his mind in the 
parish churchyard that adjoined old Mr. Dawson's house. 
Here, among the rank churchyard grass, and the *cold 
Hie facets of the dead,' gray tombs and humbler half-worn 
gravestones, he played with a beloved little comrade called 
William Arthur. Did they read the epitaphs and wonder 
* where all the bad people were buried ' ? Little Dawson 
had been well enough taught for such studyings and won- 
derings, as an anecdote of this time witnesses. The two 
playfellows strayed into the church one day, the sexton 
having left the door open awhile j and there, it would seem, 
they were found, having * a game at parson and clerk ' ; 
little Dawson occupying the pulpit, little Arthur the reading- 
desk, while the former read aloud * a chapter,' in the proper 
clerical style, with sonorous voice and suitable emphasis ; 



6 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

struggling bravely with the ponderous covers of the parish 
Bible, almost too heavy for him to open, and contriving, by 
the help of a friendly hassock, to make himself tall enough 
to be visible over the pulpit cushion, and to keep an eye on 
his admiring * clerk.' How dear such impersonations are to 
church- and chapel-going little people, many a mother well 
knows ; it was only Dawson's subsequent eminence that 
made his mother dwell fondly on the little scene, and say, 
* He was bom a preacher.' 

That the child was of a very loving nature, and, when 
love bade, very resolute, appears touchingly in another 
anecdote of this period. Little William Arthur sickened of 
the dreaded small-pox, and his playfellow, as was right, was 
strictly kept away from him. But Willy Dawson contrived 
to escape unobserved from his own home, to steal un- 
observed into his friend's, and went soft-footed up the stair 
to the darkened sick-chamber where the sufferer lay, fevered 
and wretched, and, as it chanced, alone. Here the two 
were found, clasped in each other's arms, the one who was 
whole comforting the one that was sick with every device of 
childish affection at his command. He was carried back to 
his grandfather's, to sicken and suffer in his turn, as the 
penalty of his disobedient lovingness. Happily the disease 
was of no very malignant type ; both the boys recovered in 
due course, and could play together as before, healthy and 
unblemished ; and what might have been a pathetic child- 
tragedy is only remembered as a significant incident in the 
life of a noted Christian evangelist, whose * yearning pity ' for 
the souls of men was nobly accompanied by * piety at home.* 

Nearly five years were passed under the kind grand- 
father's roof, and those years of wholesome rustic freedom 
developed the feeble infant into a sturdy boy, full of life and 
vigour, who thoroughly enjoyed existence. * Child, thou 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: 7 

hast a crop for all kinds of com/ his grandmother was Wont 
to say with blunt fondness. She spoke more truly than 
she knew. It was an eager enquiring spirit, with strong 
intellectual appetites, that looked out of the sparkling eyes 
of the rosy boy she loved. 

Old Mr. Dawson died before his grandson had fulfilled 
his seventh year ; and then the child was returned to the 
care of his own parents, and came fully under the strong 
religious influence of his mother. There were now other 
little ones in the home at Barnbow, and there were to be 
more. Altogether, ten boys and girls were bom to Luke 
Dawson and his wife ; four of these died in infancy, but six 
lived to be men and women. But amid all the busy cares 
tha^ beset the hard-working mother of this little flock, she 
was daily and hourly mindful of their spiritual welfare ; she 
always found time to pray with them, and to read to them 
from her Bible, and from the old-fashioned books that 
formed her theological library, especially from the Practice 
of Piety, Could this book be identical with that which 
John Bunyan's first wife brought to him as part of her 
humble dowry ? It is not quite impossible, but the likeli- 
hood is for some later work under the much-esteemed old 
title. Drelincourt On Death, Flavel On the Soul, and 
some obscurer volume solemnly enforcing the paramount 
importance of religious decision, were among the books in 
Mrs. Dawson's possession that her son studied under her 
direction, and that had a distinct effect upon him. But it 
was the mother's teaching, much more than that of her 
favourite authors — it was her fervour in dwelling on the 
truths they set forth, which gave those truths their early 
power on the mind of William Dawson. * I owe much to my 
mother ! ' he would repeat with intense eijiphasis in later 
life ; and heartily would he have subscribed to the saying : 



8 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

* Mighty is the force of motherhood ! ' 

The mother's teaching had more power in its simplicity 
than that of the good clergyman, Miles Atkinson, whose 
Evangelical ministry the Dawsons preferred to attend, 
though three miles lay between their home at Bambow and 
his church at Kippax. Willy Dawson listened uncompre- 
hendingly during four years to this pious man's discourses, 
and, for lack of understanding their phraseology, derived 
no benefit at all. It was otherwise when Mr. Atkinson was 
succeeded by the Rev. W. Richardson, who would seem to 
have preached with something of the directness, the quaint- 
ness, the boldness of a Latimer, and thus caught the ear 
and the fancy of the boy, now approaching his tenth year. 
He adopted as his own one of Mr. Richardson's peculiar 
terms, and would in his later pulpit ministrations speak of 

* one-eyed Christians ' — meaning thereby such as had * the 
single eye ' — an expression more noticeable for oddity than 
aptness. It is said, however, that Mr. Dawson succeeded 
in using it with good effect, not rarely. 

William Dawson was less fortunate in the instructors to 
whom the secular part of his education was intrusted. His 
first schoolmaster, who held sway in a house close to 
Barwick churchyard, is described as incompetent, but 
amusingly pedantic — ^a worthy rival of the neighbouring 
pedagogue of Scoles, who, said Dawson, conscientiously 
read his Leeds newspaper daily, from end to end, without 
the omission of a word, and preferred to say that unknown 
facts would be 'developed,' instead of being merely 

* brought to light.' From the word-monger of Barwick 
school William was transferred to the care of a reverend 
gentleman who took pupils in the same neighbourhood, but 
whose conduct was not such as suited his profession ; and - 
the boy's anxious parents found a second removal necessary. 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 9 

This time he fell into good hands ; and under the 
tuition of * Mr. Ephraim Sanderson of Aberford/ who con- 
ducted a large day and boarding-school there, the youth made 
rapid progress, completing at this school the brief term of 
education which was thought necessary for one of his social 
standing in those days. Mr. Sanderson earned and kept 
the respect of his pupil by a happy union of ability, integrity, 
and good judgment ; the lively lad, with his perilously quick 
sense of humour, his keen eye for inconsistency, found 
nothing in him to ridicule or to contemn. 

William was strongly influenced for good, when nearing 
his thirteenth year, by the Rev. Thomas Dikes, afterwards 
of Hull, but then curate of Barwick-in-Elmet. This gentle- 
man took much notice of him, talked to him, wrote to him, 
and lent him useful books. None impressed him so much 
as Doddridge^s I^ise and Progress of Religion in the SouL 
Over this book he would sit solitary in his father's barn, 
anxiously studying its pages in hopes to find some blissful 
solution of the dark, distressful questionings as to * eternal 
things ' which now harassed his spirit both night and day. 

He had not been able to conceal his mental trouble 
from his parents ; but, pious as they were, they could not 
understand his melancholy mood, and fancied it boded ill 
for his sanity. So it befel one day that John Batty, a farm 
lad in Mr. Dawson's service, having passed through the 
barn and noticed William at his sorrowful studies, was 
anxiously questioned by the parents as to where he had 
seen their son, and how he was engaged ; and being in- 
formed, they proposed to remove the book from his keeping 
if they could. The two boys, different in position, were 
close allies in thought and feeling, so that John quickly 
apprised William of what had just passed. 

* I was obliged to speak the truth,' he pleaded. 



lo WILLIAM DAWSON: 

' You did right,' answered his friend ; but he took care 
to find a hiding-place for Doddridge in the * wall-plate ' of 
the granary ; and thither he now betook hiipself for his 
secret readings. It was not very long before light began to 
dawn upon his spirit — a twilight glimmer at first, but still 
the true herald of the day. He had made his life-choice — 
had * solemnly surrendered himself to Almighty God,' and 
his voluntary offering was accepted, and his steps were 
guided into the path of peace. A curious document, dated 
July 25, 1790, comprising a carefully written extract from 
Doddridge of the form for the * Solemn Surrender,' and the 
appended words * solemnly performed this day,' remained 
among William Dawson's papers, in proof of his endeavour 
to bind himself by lasting pledges, and put fences about his 
resolves to be God's liegeman, even at this very early period 
of his life. He never did go back from the position thus 
assumed. 

Dreams and visions helped him. In his sleep he saw 
the Broad and the Narrow Ways lying outstretched before 
him ; the first crowded with joyous throngs who danced 
along it in mirth and jollity, revelling in the fruits and 
flowers that enriched it ; the second not only narrow and 
arduous, but almost deserted. Many there were who urged 
the dreamer to enter the smooth, broad, pleasant path, but 
he refused ; and seeing at his side his friend, John Batty, he 
said to him : 

* We'll take the narrow path, John ; it will do for us ; 
we shall be less incommoded in it.' And in fancy he had 
already travelled some distance on it, with this congenial 
companion, when he awoke ; and behold, it was a dream. 
But the dream had great power on his waking thoughts 
through many a year ; and it was still vividly in his memory 
when, only a short time before his death, he met again the 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: ii 

boy-friend who had appeared in it. Batty had become a 
prosperous farmer, but prosperity had not diminished his 
religious earnestness and faithfulness; he was a zealous 
Class-leader, while Dawson was a widely popular preacher. 
* Bless God, friend Batty, we are in the narrow way yet ! * 
was Dawson's impulsive greeting of his boyhood's friend ; 
and the allusion was well understood and cordially received. 

A second friend now became very serviceable to Dawson ; 
a young man named Samuel Settle, working for the corn- 
miller of Hillam Mill, was able to comfort the enquirer by 
telling him that it was possible to know one's sins forgiven, 
possible to be assured of the favour of God ; for he himself 
lived in the enjoyment of such an assurance. To attain a 
similar blessing now became William Dawson's fixed desire, 
sometimes his half-despairing desire ; but the time was not 
far remote when it should be granted. 

* His convictions of sin were deep ; . . . the foun- 
dation of his religion was laid in deep humility. . . . 
I shall never forget the marked attention he paid to the 
discourses from the pulpit,' is the testimony of his pastor of 
this period, the Rev. Thomas Dikes. This gentleman, on 
his removal to Hull, was succeeded in the curacy of Barwick- 
in-Elmet by the Rev. John Graham, of York, who in his 
turn became much interested in young Dawson, and helped 
him with counsel and friendship. 

Happily for himself, the young man was keenly alive to 
the loveliness of the fair world, and often took pleasure in 
wandering about the fields. But, on one day of full summer 
splendour, his solitary stroll only made him more aware of 
the darkness of his conscience-stricken spirit. He was 
standing musing by the hedge-side in utter wretchedness, 
when his attention was drawn by the lively note of * a little 
helpless, innocent bird,' no sweet singer, only some brown- 



12 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

clad sparrow or wren, that hopped and chirped among the 
bushes. * Cheer up — cheer up — cheer up,* he fancied was 
the burden of its humble song. * The little bird is happy ! ' 
ran his thoughts; *andl — blessed so far beyond it — I, "with 
higher thought endued" — I, an immortal spirit, bom for 
heaven — cared for by an Almighty Father — fed, sheltered, 
protected, redeemed, with salvation within reach, and the 
very heaven I was born for, offered — I am unhappy ! ' The 
dark mood passed away, and a gentle, trustful peace of soul 
replaced it. To him the little bird had been heaven's 
messenger. Nor was it long before a fuller joy was granted. 

He had, long ere this, ventured to approach the Table 
of the Lord, though in much fear because of his un- 
worthiness. Some time in the year 1791, he was again 
kneeling before the Communion Table, while Mr. Graham 
was officiating, and listened as that true pastor uttered the 
comfortable words, *The Body of our Ix)rd Jesus Christ, 
which was given for ^Aee, preserve thy body and soul to 
everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that 
Christ died for fAee, and feed on Him in thy heart by faith 
with thanksgiving ! ' 

With these words a flood of light came into his soul. 
How was it he had not long since appropriated the blessing, 
here directly given to himself? He saiv the love of God in 
Christ Jesus, and it was enough ; the love of God entered 
into his own soul by the Holy Ghost given to him. He was 
born a new man in Christ. 

It was well that this spiritual crisis passed so early. He 
was not yet nineteen. In the same year the good Luke 
Dawson was called away to his reward, and William found 
himself called on to assume all his father's responsibilities. 

He has left us a touching picture of his heart-sick sus- 
pense in those days of threatening bereavement, when it was 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 13 

doubtful how the struggle for life would go, and he watched 
his mother's face, as she came out in the morning from his 
father's chamber, to see if it spoke hope or despair. * Some- 
times after a comfortable night there was a sunshine on the 
countenance ; sometimes after a restless night I could see a 
cloud and gloom upon it.' The eldest of six ^ William, had 
reason more than common for the anxiety with which he 
longed for a favourable issue ; the mother, sitting at the bed- 
head, might well sigh, * Spare my husband 1 ' the children 
might well wonder, with aching dread, who would now be 
their protector ? who would provide for their needs ? So it 
is that Dawson has depicted a family in circumstances like 
those he so vividly remembered, when *the Rider on the 
Pale Horse had got his commission,' and must needs 
serve it even on the father and the husband. * But there is 
one thing which may be said,' he adds, remembering the 
happier side of his own affliction. * If He take the father. He 
will not leave the children fatherless ; if He take the father, 
He will not leave the widow without a husband. God is a 
Father of the fatherless, and a Judge to the widows.* The 
youth of eighteen was actually able to take up the work of 
the man of fifty. He succeeded to the stewardship of Sir 
Thomas Gascoigne's collieries, to the management of the 
farm connected with it, and to the headship of the bereaved 
family ; and though his younger brother could do something 
on the farm under William's supervision, the diary of the 
latter shows that he was constantly busy in the field as well 
as in the mine. Was it not well that he had attended to the 
* Great Concern' before his leisure was invaded by the 
countless harassing details of this life's concerns, that 
furnish the crowded yet scanty records of his first months of 
manly responsibility ? 



CHAPTER 11. 

THE BEGINNINGS OF USEFULNESS. 

THE spiritual guides to whom William Dawson was 
chiefly indebted during his boyhood were, as 
we have seen, clergymen of the Establishment; men 
whose ability, zeal, and high character strengthened the 
youth's natural love for the Church of his fathers. Its 
seemly rites and customs were, from long association, so 
dear to him that at this time the idea of an ordained 
minister preaching without a gown was odious to him. Yet 
he did not hold aloof from the informal gatherings preferred 
by his Wesleyan friends and neighbours ; he often chose to 
listen to the untaught eloquence of a local preacher, and 
was often present at a prayer-meeting. Something of this 
freedom from prejudice may be traced to the fact that his 
own beloved pastor, Mr. Graham, had the good sense to 
work on lines like those of the Methodists. Not content 
with preaching both morning and afternoon of every Sunday, 
he gave masterly expositions of Scripture at night, to all who 
would come and hear him, in the schoolroom ; and he held 
a * select meeting ' — half class meeting, half Bible reading — 
on the Thursday evening in a private house, encouraging 
and stimulating the members to speak, to. expound, to 
engage in prayer. Here it was that William Dawson made 
his first essays at public speaking, and here he sometimes 
ventured to pray, using a printed form of prayer. In Mr. 
Graham's absence he sometimes conducted the meeting, 
and gave, in his turn, expositions of Scripture ; after a time 



WILLIAM DAWSON. 15 

he b^an to write these out, and some specimens have been 
preserved. M9re imaginative and fervid than thoughtful, 
declamatory in style, and loosely constructed, they still are 
full of promise, and indicate what would be the excellences 
as well as the defects of his ripened eloquence. 

From some of his Wesleyan friends he often heard the 
praises of that remarkable pulpit orator, the Rev. Samuel 
Bradbum, and his interest was sufficiently excited to make 
him take the opportunity that was afforded, at the Conference 
of 1793, of hearing Bradburn preach at Leeds, in the chapel 
where the Rev. E. Parsons usually officiated. The striking 
appearance of the majestic old man, his lofty stature set off 
by the flowing gown that he wore in compliance with the 
use and wont of the place, surprised Dawson into more 
admiration than he had expected to feel ; it was heightened 
greatly as he listened to Mr. Bradburn's discourse. Expa- 
tiating on the * kingly office of Christ,' and on the 
harmonious order and working of the kingdom of God 
which He inaugurated, and over which He rules with 
resistless sway, the orator, by his skilful use of figures and 
illustrations drawn from the government of our own land, 
strongly enlisted the sympathy of the loyal and devout 
young Churchman, who also began to understand, from 
this example, how great is the power of direct, plain, 
heartfelt oratory, how great is the dignity of simplicity in 
speech. 

Bradbum chose himself to give out two verses of the 
concluding hymn, setting aside the precentor; and these 
verses, from an unfamiliar hymn of Dr. Watts, remained 
ever after impressed on William Dawson's memory — whether 
from the striking delivery of them by the preacher, or from 
the mingling of solemn triumph and childlike quaintness 
in the lines themselves — 



i6 WILLIAM DAWSON i 



* The government of earth and seas 



lego 

Upon His shoulders shall be laid ; 
His wide dominions shall increase, 
And honours to His name be paid. 

* Jesus, the holy child, shall sit 

High on His father David*s throne ; 
Shall crush Hb foes beneath His feet. 
And reign to ages yet unknown.' 

Dawson came away from the chapel with a much nobler 
opinion of the Wesleyan itinerant ministry than he had 
previously entertained. In his rural seclusion he had prob- 
ably formed his ideas of what a Methodist preacher might 
be from the excellent, but blunt and unlettered, class-leaders 
and local preachers he met around his own home. One of 
the former had much affronted him on a certain Sunday 
afternoon (when the preacher appointed failed to appear), 
by calling on him as * Willy,' and bidding him *go to 
prayer.' William Dawson promptly refused, with a feeling 
of anger that he should be asked to pray in a meeting uncon- 
nected with his own Church. His conscience, however, 
had pricked him, and reflection whispered that either pride 
or shame of an unbecoming sort had dictated the refusal. 
Not long after he had heard Mr. Bradbum, the same old 
class-leader again called on him at a prayer-meeting, pushing 
a hymn-book into his hand, and requiring him to * give out 
a hymn, and go to prayer.* This time he complied, with 
diffidence and humility quite equal to his pride on the 
former occasion ; but the ice was broken ; and his career as 
a lay evangelist among Methodists was now really beginning. 

The year 1795 saw him not only working hard in his 
vocations of colliery manager and farmer, but also sedulously 
cultivating his own mind ; and it is interesting to see, in his 
list of book purchases, the productions of the Methodist 
press, both prose and verse, and notably the Collection of 
Hymns for the use of the People called Methodists^ mingling 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 17 

with Doddridge's Family Expositor^ Watts's Hymns ^ and the 
Olney Hymns, The noble hymns of the Wesleys, which so 
grandly embody a triumphant and living faith, the singular 
and pathetic grace of Cowper's sacred lyrics, the devotional 
tenderness and sweetness of good Isaac Watts, were a 
literary revelation to the young man hitherto acquainted 
only with the archaic quaintness and baldness of Sternhold 
and Hopkins, and with the more pretentious insufficiency of 
Tate and Brady, in their metrical versions of the Psalms. 
Admiration bred emulation ; and Dawson began to try his 
own wings in short poetic flights, choosing always sacred 
subjects. 

He judged these early attempts very harshly afterwards ; 
but in the opinion of his biographer, Mr. Everett, who had 
access to them, they gave evidence of real though immature 
power, and were occasionally striking both in thought and 
expression, though the writer, lacking * the accomplishment 
of verse,' had succeeded but indifferently with the poetic 
form he tried to give to his imaginings. 

His studies were pursued not in the home at Barnbow, 
where too probably there was small chance of quiet seclu- 
sion, but in a sort of shed, since improved into a stable, 
which lay a mile away from the house, and which was sug- 
gestively called * Grime Cabin ' ; for here the colliery 
accounts were kept and the colliery business transacted. 
The dusky hut served many purposes ; it was William's 
office, his study, his oratory ; and hither, every Sunday 
morning at seven, he betook himself, * brushing with hasty 
foot the dew away,' to meet his faithful friend John Batty, 
that they might begin the holy day with praise and prayer, 
and take sweet counsel together. It was due to no diver- 
gence of faith that they did not afterwards walk to the 
house of God in company ; but though John had already 

3 



1 8 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

cast in his lot wholly with the people called Methodists, 
William still clung to the parish church, where, in //re 
breaking of breads his Saviour had been made known to him ; 
there, then, he went to worship, while his friend betook him- 
self to the humbler Wesleyan preaching-place at Garforth. 

The lines of demarcation between Churchmen and Wes- 
leyans had not yet been drawn so sharply and trenched so 
deeply as now ; it is clear, indeed, that at this time there 
was still clinging about the Anglican Church something of 
the spirit which had breathed its mightiest life into the 
Methodist movement — the vanishing day was not without a 
soft after-glow, for we find Dawson, the lay-exhorter, called 
on to take part in a very * irregular ' service, in which the 
glowing zeal of the Rev. R. Remington, Vicar of Thorpe- 
Arch, expressed itself. This pious man, honoured and 
loved through his forty-five years of ministry in that parish, 
was not content with the allotted routine of parochial duty ; 
he not only preached in the various churches, but would 
address congregations gathered together in barns and in 
private houses, and he did not disdain to call on William 
Dawson to engage in prayer, when his own sermon had 
been concluded, nor did Dawson, now well accustomed to 
pray * without book,' hesitate to comply. The little inci- 
dent is a sufficient evidence of the position that the young 
farmer was rapidly assuming, as an able, sincere, and ready 
advocate of the Gospel. He was probably not more than 
twenty-two years of age when he was thus distinguished. 

Dawson's early friend, Samuel Settle, the youth from 
Hillam corn-mill, had, in 1795, definitely abandoned the 
business in which he had been engaged, and had been 
entered at Magdalen College, Cambridge, where he was 
now studying for the Church. His letters to Dawson do 
not, in so many words, relate how he had been enabled to 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 19 

meet the necessary expenses, but many allusions make it 
certain that he was materially aided by what was known as 
the *Elland Society/ the members of which, benevolent 
clergymen, made it their aim to bring forward pious young 
men of good intellectual promise but scanty means, and 
help them to the University career that should fit them for 
taking Orders. The headquarters of this Society were at 
the picturesquely-situated little town of Elland, near Halifax, 
hence its title. 

Its character and operations are of some importance to 
us, for it was by means of this association that William 
Dawson's friend and pastor, Mr. Graham, was now planning 
to introduce his young fellow-worker into the Christian 
ministry. He had read and approved some of William/s 
essays in composition, he recognised how great were his 
natural gifts as an orator, and he felt convinced that he was 
destined for higher work than that by which he was now 
earning his bread. 

* I knew him intimately, and loved and valued him as a 
brother,' wrote Mr. Graham, when Dawson had passed away. 
* His natural vigour and originality of mind, his clear and 
comprehensive views of Scripture doctrines and duties, his 
experimental knowledge of Christ and His salvation, and his 
solid yet fervent piety, seemed only to require a more 
regular and extended education to make him, what indeed 
he became without it, " a burning and a shining light." ' 

Having such an opinion of Dawson, Mr. Graham felt 
justified in suggesting to the young man that he should try 
to qualify himself for Orders. 

* How would you like to change your drab coat for a 
black one?' he asked him playfully one day. William's 
answer made it clear that he would not shrink from 
such a change ; so Mr. Graham went on to say * he would 



20 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

recommend him to the " Elland Society," through the Rev. 
Miles Atkinson, of Leeds,' who was one of its members. 
The recommendation was duly given as far as Mr. Graham's 
power extended ; it was destined, however, to prove fruitless. 
The funds of the Society were low, and the length of time 
which elapsed while it remained altogether doubtful 
whether it could or would tender its assistance to Dawson 
daunted him, and ultimately led him to believe that here his 
divinely-appointed way was not to be found. 

To one of his ardent and decided character it 
was no small trial to be kept, day after day and 
week after week, in complete suspense as to what his 
future career ought to be ; many entries in his diary 
witness how painfully he felt it The 'strong inclina- 
tion to enter the Church,' which he records soon after Mr. 
Graham had opened the subject with him, was combated 
by ever-recurring 'reasonings' as to the propriety of his 
seeking that * longed-for employment.' The manner of 
Mr. Atkinson, who was cautious and prudent, and slow to 
commit himself by any pledges of support, chilled William's 
hopes just when they were beginning to glow. He had 
imparted his intentions to his mother, and evidently that 
excellent woman would interpose no hindrance, though her 
chief support would be withdrawn should he leave her for 
college. He had carefully enquired whether his brother 
would be allowed to fill his place at the colliery when he 
himself resigned it, and here too a favourable answer was 
returned ; but Mr. Atkinson's hesitating way of receiving 
his proposition hurt and repelled him. * My pride rose,' 
says he in self-rebuke ; and then he records * unbelief, fear, 
hope, and faith alternately rising in the soul ; sometimes 
thinking it the greatest folly to aspire after such an office, 
and at others cordially embracing. Jesus, guide me! 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 21 

After all, praised be God, I can say, "Thy will be 
done."' 

One incident that he sometimes related in after years, 
though it is scarcely indicated in the diary, must have had 
its share in inclining him to fall in with Mr. Graham's wishes, 
and to clothe himself with the recognised authority of the 
clerical office. He was in the habit, as we have seen, of 
conducting in Mr. Graham's absence the ' sort of cottage 
lecture ' which that gentleman had set on foot in the school- 
room ; and here, as the pastor witnesses, * his talents and 
gifts conspicuously displayed themselves.' Yet it was here 
that in the July of 1795 ^^ "^^^ ^^"^ some person more 
officious than discreet, a sort of check, not very courteous, 
and only too intelligible. 

On a certain Thursday evening Dawson had prepared 
and delivered a genuine sermon founded on a , chosen pas- 
sage of Scripture — Psalm Iv., verse 6 : * Oh that I had wings 
like a dove ! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.' 

His own life, in its ceaseless round of irksome, anxious 
duties, its premature responsibilities, conjoined with the 
insight into others' woes which he had gained while piously 
ministering to the needs of sick and suffering neighbours, 
had well fitted him to understand the heartsick yearning 
embodied in those words of immortal pathos, which had 
often come into his mind while he watched the airy flight, 
or listened to the sobbing cooings, of the birds that fluttered 
around the dovecote at Barnbow ; and without doubt this 
first 'sermon' had that charm of intense feeling and vivid 
expression which may be found, by those who care to seek 
it, in every one of Dawson's published discourses. But 
some one must have listened in grim disapprobation. What 
right had this mere layman, this farmer without episcopal 
ordination, to take a text and preach from it like his betters? 



22 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

Therefore, the next Thursday evening, Mr. Graham being 
again absent and Dawson to officiate as usual, the Bible was 
conspicuous by its absence. There should be no turning 
of its leaves and finding and giving forth of a text on this 
occasion ! The layman might, if he chose, exhort, as the 
minister had sanctioned his doing ; but there must be no 
more preaching ! 

The curious distinction, which was well understood in 
John Nelson's days, was understood as well in William 
Dawson's. He was deeply hurt, but refrained from ex- 
pressing his wounded feelings for many a year ; his diary 
even su^ests that he rebuked himself for the pain he 
experienced. 

* Spoke on Psalm Iv. 6. — Well may a Christian wish to 
be at rest. In all I do, there seems to be something of pride 
mixed up with it,' is his only traceable comment on the 
annoyances of this day. 

A difficulty for which he was by no means prepared met 
him when he essayed to begin the course of study proper 
for one who hoped to become a University man. Mr. 
Graham had advised him to get a Latin grammar, and try 
to master the language of old Rome ; and William dutifully 
set to work on Ruddiman's Rudiments^ devoting to painful 
study of its pages such leisure hours as he could find amid 
his multifarious occupations — the sowing and reaping, the 
leading and winnowing of com, the making and stacking 
of hay, the buying, washing, and clipping of sheep, the 
business journeys to this fair and that, which his journals 
show, mingled with his punctually observed religious duties, 
and with the daily toil at the colliery, where it was his 
ceaseless anxious care to hold the balance level between the 
owner and the colliers, and to see to it that the latter neither 
did nor suffered wrong in any transaction. But the just 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 23 

and quick perception that served him well in these business 
matters, the manly intelligence that found lifelong delight in 
poring over Baxter and Bunyan, AUeine and Goodwin, 
Manton, and Butler, Wesley and Clarke, and many a noble 
Puritan and Evangelical divine besides, seemed wholly to 
desert him when he tried to master the mysteries of Latin 
declensions and conjugations and idioms. With some- 
thing like despair, then, he went to tell Mr. Graham of his 
ill-success ; * he could make nothing of the Latin ; he feared 
it would crack his brain.' The clergyman encouraged him 
to persevere, notwithstanding this discouraging beginning ; 
telling him truly that the first steps were always the most 
difficult, whatever the subject attempted; and, somewhat 
encouraged, Dawson struggled on as best he could, doubt- 
less aided by advice and hints from the kind pastor, as well 
as from Settle at college, who wrote sympathisingly and 
hopefully, and helped the student to a I^tin dictionary. 
Some progress was made, as a specimen of translation from 
the Latin in Dawson's diary for 1797 witnesses; but the 
study would probably be relinquished simultaneously with 
the student's hopes of entering the Church. 

Indifferently as William Dawson succeeded in attaining 
the Latin scholarship held so essential for a clergyman, he 
was meanwhile quietly perfecting himself in qualifications at 
least as important for a shepherd of souls. 

* Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father 
is this. To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, 
and to keep himself unspotted from the world.' 

His diary in its open simplicity of statement shows him 
tremblingly alive to the need of keeping his raiment white 
. — alarmed at the first approach of sin, even in such insig- 
nificant commonplace forms as 'unsteadiness, peevishness, 
fretfulness, ingratitude,' and that levity which he deemed his 



24 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

bsseimenty though in another it would have passed unblamed 
by him as harmless gaiety, the overflowing of a cheerful 
nature. Meanwhile he was sedulously visiting William 
Smith, a needy dying saint, of whose long, useful, devoted 
career he afterwards wrote a short account ; and when, after 
great and patient suffering, the humble Christian departed 
to be for ever with his Lord, William Dawson still continued 
his care for the poor bereaved wife, Hannah Smith, to whom, 
without acquainting his family, he managed three days in the 
week to convey his own dinner that she might enjoy a com- 
fortable meal, while he, without her knowledge or consent, was 
fasting. This noble kind of self-denial was the more praise- 
worthy since Dawson, a stalwart, hardworking young man in 
the fulness of his strength, could not thus thwart his healthy 
appetite without real suffering. He did not offer to the 
Lord that which cost him nothing, when he thus, out of his 
own narrow means, ministered to the greater need of his 
sorrowing fellow-Christian. 

When the year 1797 opened, Barwick was just being 
deprived of its excellent curate, Mr. Graham, who then 
obtained the preferment he merited. He was succeeded by 
a young Mr. Atkinson, who was zealous, liberal-minded, and 
useful, and who seems quickly to have singled out Dawson 
as a friend and fellow-worker. He lacked, however, the 
special gifts that had made Mr. Graham's friendship so 
precious to the devout young farmer; and the secret 
attraction which was drawing Dawson towards Methodism 
had the less to counteract it ; while those hopes of entering 
the Church by the aid of the * Elland Society,' with which 
Mr. Graham had first inspired him, did not long outlive that 
gentleman's departure. There was no door open that way. 
Letters from Settle, who was hard at work at Cambridge, 
spoke of the studies of the place with a kind of melancholy 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 25 

scorn, and were not calculated to lead Dawson to regret his 
own disappointment very deeply, or to make him covet the 
life at college from which he was shut out. 

On the other hand, he came more and more under the 
spell of the great Methodist preachers of his day. Already, 
at Seacroft, he had heard Joseph Benson, who then and 
always produced on him an * overwhelming effect.* There 
was a power in the sermon and in its preacher that was 
wholly new in Dawson's experience, and that dissolved him 
in tears despite his struggles to preserve a becoming com- 
posure. * At length,' says he, * I said to myself, " Let it 
come " — laid my head on the front of the gallery, and let 
the tears hail their way to the bottom of the chapel.' Now 
he heard this impressive preacher again, and others scarcely 
inferior to him — men such as Pawson, Mather, and Myles — 
and their discourses pleased and delighted him, so that he 
would steal off to catch some words from them after taking 
his part in his beloved Thursday evening meeting, which 
the new curate, Mr. Atkinson, had been wise enough to 
keep up. 

But, accustomed all his life to the ' decency and order ' 
of worship according to the beautiful forms of the English 
Church, Dawson felt some fastidious dislike in these early 
days for many of the modes in which Methodist fervour 
would show itself. He scarcely knew how to reconcile him- 
self t^ ^^ loud, frequent, irregular outbursts of stormy 
-gsponses during praying or preaching, in which the strong 
feeli^S of those who heard found expression ; and little did 
ug anticipate the not very distant time when his own 
j^einent oratory would produce effects as startling. 
y^ jealous revivalist, W. E. Miller, came to Barwick and 
fipld 3- service ; William Dawson went to that meeting in no 
friendly spirit, but he knew not what to think of the 



26 WILL/AM DAWSON: 

tumultuous character of the proceedings, or of what seemed 
their confusion. The rising tide of excitement did not bear 
him away with it ; he stood, sat, knelt a spectator only, and 
a critical one, watching everything that passed with con- 
centrated, keen attention. His attitude could not pass 
unobserved. Doubtless there was something rather formid- 
able about this silent, stalwart, sunburnt young farmer, 
whose dark full eyes shone coldly watchful under his massive 
overhanging brow, and whose firm mouth was closely com- 
pressed as he surveyed the agitated crowd before him 
without giving any sign of sympathy with their emotion. 

Mr. Miller, while moving about at the close of the meet- 
ing among the kneeling groups, and addressing now one 
man, now another, noticed William Dawson with some 
appreciation and some displeasure. He had a blunt 
message for the powerful-looking but unsympathetic 
stranger, to whom he made his way, and, laying his hand on 
his head, said : 

* Thou wilt do a great deal of good in the Church, when 
thy heart is emptied of pride.' 

Dawson scarcely deserved the censure ; but the prophecy 
of his future usefulness showed some discernment on the 
part of the rough-spoken evangelist, whose words found 
fulfilment sooner than he probably expected. 

That year the Wesleyan Conference was held in Leeds, 
and Dawson found means to attend the public services held 
in connection with it, when men such as Pawson, Bradbum, 
and Coke were the preachers. The fervour and power of 
their discourses drew him strongly, and quietly won his 
heart for the Church which produced such sacred orators. 
Ere long we find him attending a Sunday afternoon preach- 
ing at Barwick, in the open air ; then, being struck with the 
great possibilities of good in such services, he ventures on 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 27 

out-door work himself; and, in conjunction with his boy- 
hood's friend, John Batty, he begins to hold a series of 
prayer-meetings in the neighbouring village of Scholes. 

At one of these meetings appeared that simple-hearted, 
fervent * Village Blacksmith,' Samuel Hick, who called on 
William Dawson to 'engage in prayer,' and was greatly 
pleased with the young man's ready compliance, and with 
the spirit oi the prayer he uttered. Ignorant that this was 
by no means the first time that Dawson had publicly joined 
in a Methodist prayer-meeting, equally ignorant that to 
Dawson was due the holding of these meetings at Scholes, 
the good Samuel always took credit to himself for having, 
on this occasion, * brought out ' the evangelist destined to 
prove so useful, and on having fixed his sphere of work 
among the Wesleyans. 

No one tried to disturb the fixed conviction of his mind, 
which gave him much innocent satisfaction, and for which 
he could have adduced what looked like good evidence, 
since within a very little time William Dawson was preaching 
his first * sermon ' in public at Scholes, and to its Methodist 
people. They had heard of his informal exhortations in that 
schoolroom at Barwick, where to * take a text ' and preach 
from it had been judged unfit for the laymen ; but of that 
nice rule the Methodists knew nothing, while they wished to 
benefit by the vigorous addresses which it was said Dawson 
could deliver. Being asked to preach to them he complied, 
and delivered a sermon, which he had carefully written out, 
on Prov. xxix. 25 — *The fear of man bringeth a snare' — a 
discourse which showed much knowledge of the foolish 
human heart, and which closed with impassioned appeals, to 
the young especially, not to be turned away from seeking 
their eternal good through fear of the human comrades and 
friends, who could render no help in the hour of death and 



28 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

in the day of judgment, to the sinner misled by fear of 
human opinion into neglecting his own best interests. 

A second sermon, composed about the same time, bears 
the stamp of greater power ; founded on Isaiah iii. lo, and 
referring plainly to the anger and alarm with which in that 
year, 1 797-8, the proceedings of wild, revolutionary France 
were viewed by Englishmen, who saw themselves threatened 
with invasion, this discourse dwelt emphatically on 
spiritual perils darker and deeper than any which could 
endanger man's body or estate through the warring of 
nations, pointed to brighter rewards than any conqueror 
could win, and alike in warning and encouragement was 
pervaded by a fire which clearly foreshowed the coming 
orator. 

These earliest * sermons ' of Dawson were eagerly heard 
at Scholes and at Colton, and soon came requests that he 
would preach again, not only at these, but at many other 
outlying villages and hamlets. He did not turn aw^ay from 
the doors that opened to him, but gave his unpaid labours 
freely, whenever his toils as farmer and mining-agent per- 
mitted. Sometimes, as first at Colton, he spoke to a little 
company gathered in a friendly house, but soon the growing 
congregations which gathered to hear him made it need- 
ful that he should preach in the open air ; and he had 
his experience of the bold freedoms of open-air hearers. 
* How do you know that ? ' was a question flung at him at 
Colton by a man standing on the outskirts of the crowd, 
as he spoke of the coming Judgment Day, and said sharp 
things of sinners ; and the unlooked-for interruption struck 
him dumb for a minute, till a friendlier voice loudly bade 
him *Go on, go on,* and he recovered himself and his 
habitual courage. 

Whitkirle, near Colton, was a frequent scene of his 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 29 

hallowed toils, though before he visited it as a preacher, it 
was not included among preaching stations ; and we find 
him at Swillington, at Preston, at Horton, at Garforth, at 
Aberford — sometimes speaking in barns and houses, some- 
times from the door-step of a friend ; crowding several ser- 
vices into the hours of one Sunday, and gathering with 
practice an energy and a power that showed themselves in a 
vehemence of delivery of which he was hardly conscious, 
and which he might not have approved in another. 

His mother, the good Churchwoman, heard him preach, 
and complained afterwards of his * shouting.' * It quite dis- 
tracts my head,* she said ; * I can do with anything but thy 
shouting.' Previously he had not suspected this in himself, 
and not long after he said to his mother, with some satisfac- 
tion, when his sermon was over : 

* Mother, I have not shouted much to-night.' 

* Shouted ! ' was her disconcerting answer. * Why, child, 
I never heard thee shout so much before.' 

And it became clear that the error, so wholly inadvertent, 
was not very likely to be soon cured. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE TIME OF DECISION. 

NOW that he was in the full stream of work for the 
benefit of others, William Dawson found his own 
spiritual life brightening fast. He no longer underwent the 
torture of mistaking a resisted temptation for a committed 
sin ; he could remember now that even his sinless Master 
* suffered, being tempted,' and in the fire of his active zeal 
whatever had been morbidly anxious in the character of his 
piety was burned away. 

Something of this happy change might be traced to the 
fuller fellowship with like-minded Christians into which he 
was now entering, being drawn more and more into the 
inner life of Methodism. He had been won to make one 
in * a little Christian fellowship ' at Barwick, when it was led 
by a Leeds minister, Mr. Blayborne ; he attended love-feast 
after love-feast as the year went on, and, unrepelled by the 
' irregularity* attending the services held by a female evan- 
gelist, he repeatedly listened, with great satisfaction and 
profit, to the popular and useful * Miss Mary Barritt'* when 
she spoke in public at Whitkirle, Kippax, Sturton, and other 
neighbouring places. 

Such new developments of his religious zeal were not 
wholly pleasing to his excellent mother. She had been 
willing to resign her claim on his filial assistance, when she 
could hope that her self-sacrifice would bring her the re- 
ward of seeing * her Willy ' numbered among the ordained 

* Afterwards Mrs. Taft. 
30 



WILLIAM DAWSON. 31 

ministers of that Established Church which she loved with 
exclusive affection. That dream was passing away, and it 
could not console her for its vanishing to perceive how the 
son, on whom she had built such high hopes, was being 
insensibly drawn away from the Church and towards 
Methodism ; for she saw more clearly than he did the 
inevitable tendency of his growing taste for love-feast and 
prayer-meeting and out-door preaching. She could not, 
then, always forbear giving him * a warm reception ' when 
he came home from attending such irregular services ; but 
happily he could meet her displeasure with a quiet sub- 
missiveness that disarmed it. 

He was not conscious of any heart-alienation from the 
Church of his childhood, for no such feeling, either then or 
afterwards, could find a lodgment in his breast ; and he was 
still over-conscious of some faults of taste into which his 
warm-hearted Methodist friends were now and then be- 
trayed. His enjoyment of * Miss Mary Barritt's ' discourse 
at Sturton was much impaired by the tumultuous after- 
meeting which followed the preaching ; and the eccentricities 
that marked the conduct of * Sammy Hick,' excellent 
good man though he knew the village blacksmith to be, 
were a trouble to him at this period. He blamed himself, 
however, more than anyone else would have blamed him, 
when in conversation he said hard things of the * noise ' 
at the prayer-meeting, or of the odd speeches in which 
Samuel Hick indulged himself at a Sunday afternoon 
service in Garforth. People took up his criticisms and 
repeated them, and he did not like them when they were 
thus echoed back to him, and resolved that he would speak 
no more in that vein. 

And his sense of fitness was even at this time far more 
deeply offended by the occasional presence of an unworthy 



33 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

clergyman as officiating minister in Barwick Church, than 
by the loud enthusiasm of some simple prayer leader, or the 
quaint rough sayings of some unlettered preacher, whose 
integrity and sincerity were beyond question. It was a pain 
to hear an occasional sermon from the curate who had once 
been his schoolmaster ; he knew the man too well * What 
a sad state should I have been in under such a minister ! ' 
he wrote, with grateful remembrance of those very different 
pastors, Mr. Dikes and Mr. Graham, who had helped to 
mould his Christian character. Their influence on him 
was still strong, but they were distant, and newer, nearer 
influences began to be stronger; while as he studied the 
works of the saintly Fletcher he learned to understand 
accurately what Methodist doctrine was, and from Benson's 
Defena of the Methodists he gathered just ideas of the 
discipline and the distinctive modes of worship among 
Wesleyans. He approved heartily what he read. 

He lived now in a busy round of Christian duties. In 
the home he pressed on relatives and friends the matters 
relating to their eternal peace ; in the daily intercourse of 
man and man he lost no chance of speaking a word for his 
Master ; he visited the sick and suffering among his fellow- 
Churchmen with kindly zeal, and when death entered their 
doors he was often invited, and never vainly, to pray and 
speak in the house of mourning and on the funeral day, for 
the comfort of the bereaved. 

The imaginative power which gave him his peculiar 
attraction as a preacher was now showing itself very plainly. 
In a sermon preached about this time at Scholes, there 
occurs a picture as vividly impressive as he ever drew of 
the perilous state of the sinner, whom he likened to a man 
blindfolded, walking on a bridge without battlements, and 
in his blindness swerving from the straight path towards 



THE 'YORKSHIRE farmer: 33 

the undefended verge, while ' crowds of diseases and acci- 
dents are pressing upon him, and may, the next moment, 
jostle him over into eternity ' — and as his audience hung 
spell-bound on the words that showed the sinner just 
trembling on the very edge of the bridge overhanging a 
raging torrent, the preacher cried out with startling energy : 

* Lord, save ! or he perishes in the roaring, bottomless 
ruin below ! ' 

Such strong word-painting is often more potent for 
good on the mind of the average hearer than reasoning of 
the clearest and the most cogent ; and here lay Dawson's 
peculiar strength. 

The active and successful evangelist could not escape 
some molestation in his work ; and the existence of mali- 
cious feeling against him now manifested itself in various 
ugly ways. Robbers entered his humble counting-house and 
carried off the small sum of money in his cash-drawer ; a 
calf belonging to him was wilfully shot dead ; a neighbour- 
ing gentleman, possessing much influence, forbade his 
dependents to hear Dawson preach, on pain of dismissal, 
and used injurious language to the preacher himself, who 
had a hard fight against the temptation to retort with equal 
bitterness, but was not much overcome by it, though appre- 
hensive, through tenderness of conscience, lest perchance he 
had * sinned with his lips.' 

This was not so great a trial, probably, as another which 
befel him, when various frauds, the authors of which 
remained unknown, were committed with reference to 
property for which Dawson was partly answerable to his 
employer. His own unblemished character, proved through 
long years of true service, was, however, his sufficient defence 
against the suspicion of complicity in these frauds. 

Sir Thomas Gascoigne, though he did justice to the 

4 



34 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

int^rity of his agent, took displeasure against him for 
matters relating to his sense of duty towards God. 

It was a time of great public uneasiness; the air was full 
of wars and rumours of wars ; Ireland was in a state of 
dangerous excitement; England was threatened with 
invasion from France. Dawson and his employer, like all 
good Englishmen, desired to do their part towards the 
national defence. Sir Thomas required that each of his 
tenants should find a man and horse for a troop of cavalry — 
a requirement met for the Dawson family by William's brother 
Richard, who himself entered the cavalry. In addition to 
this, the men employed at the colliery were to be enrolled 
as foot-soldiers; and *Mr. Porter, the head-steward,' 
appeared accordingly at Dawson's little office, and took 
down the names of all the colliers. One may fancy the 
scene — the excitement among the toil-begrimed workers, the 
busy importance of the man in higher office, the subdued 
agitation and earnest feeling of Dawson as he saw his 
humble associates chosen for work that might be as full of 
peril for the soul as for the body. 

The newly-enlisted men were soon after summoned to 
Garforth, whither Dawson accompanied them ; and it would 
seem that he took occasion to speak earnestly and plainly 
for his Master to the forced recruits gathered together at 
Garforth, which, we must remember, was one of his regular 
preaching places. He could not in his true-hearted zeal let 
slip this chance of uttering a word in season to the men 
who might never hear such a word again. But news of his 
doings were carried to Sir Thomas, and that gentleman did 
not hide his displeasure. 

William Dawson was troubled when the busy tongue of 
someone, who perhaps had reported Ais proceedings to his 
master, apprised him how unfavourably those proceedings 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 35 

were regarded. He rested, however, quietly conscious of his 
own right meaning. * What I did,' he wrote, *was, I believe, 
agreeable to the will of the Lord,' and he did not fear that 
injury would come to him in consequence of such obedience. 
Nor did it; whatever annoyance Sir Thomas felt and 
expressed, he knew very well the value of such a servant as 
he had in Dawson, whom he could not easily have replaced. 

It is very characteristic that the matter thus referred to 
is dismissed with a few lines of Dawson's diary, while page 
after page is filled with records of searchings of heart as to 
the purity of his own conduct and motives. Sorely he 
dreaded becoming the slave of * King Self,' and sacrificing 
the interests of others to his own. 

He had been paid for some piece of good work ; had he 
not been paid too highly? yet the price was such as he 
would gladly have given to another man. 

Unwittingly he had let *a bad shilling' pass through 
his hands. Had he been watchful enough ? 

He had smiled, when in a place of worship some odd 
expressions were uttered — he had spoken of some event as 

* fortunate ' rather than * providential ' — he had seemed 
asleep, when really awake, because the quiet rest of his bed 
was pleasant, and he did not wish to rise yet. Was not sin 
in all this ? So tender, so quick of sense, was his conscience ; 
yet there was little that was morbid in it. 

The months rolled by, and brought the spring of 1798. 
And now came up, to be decided finally the question 
whether William Dawson should enter the Established 
Church as one of its ordained ministers, by the aid of the 

* Elland Society.' It is very clear that Mr. Graham, and his 
successor Mr. Atkinson, were unwilling that such powers as 
William Dawson possessed should be lost to the Church 
which they loved. The influence of Settle, his intimate 



36 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

friend, rather tended in the other direction; for this 
excellent young man, having passed through his college 
course and attained the dignity of Orders, spoke of the path 
he had traversed as * long and dreary, and without a flower 
to regale the senses,' and of its end as bringing * poverty, 
contempt, and almost universal neglect ' — melancholy words, 
which at a later and happier period of his career he must 
have retracted. At this time, however, they had their 
influence on Dawson. 

' I have not told you,' wrote Settle, * to go and get into 
the pulpit, and preach among the Methodists ; but I have 
almost told you, to lay aside all thoughts of entering the 
Church. . . . You inform me, that you address a word now 
and then to the Methodists. Why is it only "now and 
then " ? why is it not as often as possible ? . . . You are 
ordered to Nineveh, but you seem resolved to go to Joppa. 
Apply this.' 

There was nothing very ambiguous in such words. 

Affectionately urged by Mr. Graham to visit him in 
York, William found time to repair thither on Saturday, 
July 27th, 1798. He filled the Sunday with devotional 
exercises, attending Church service twice, and hearing his 
beloved former pastor preach in the evening ; but in the 
morning he had worshipped at the Methodist chapel, and 
this is quite significant as to the preference which was 
declaring itself in him. * He had freer scope among the 
Wesleyans.' 

Difficult indeed it would be to picture the vehement, 
impassioned William Dawson — loud of voice, energetic in 
gesture, picturesquely vigorous in his style of oratory — 
subdued to the level of decorous propriety that might befit 
a clergyman. He had tried to tutor himself and tame him- 
self, he had striven for a well-bred calmness, whenever he 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 37 

took part in services conducted by the ministers of the 
Establishment ; but the restraint grew increasingly painful ; 
and more and more he leaned towards those very irregulari- 
ties in worship which had once displeased him. 

He returned from York, after conversing with Mr. 
Graham on his future plans, still much undecided ; but the 
day of decision was close at hand. On October nth he 
received an intimation from his good pastor, the Barwick 
curate, that Mr. Atkinson the elder * wanted to speak to 
him at Leeds about the EUand Society.' Five days later he 
found he could ride to Leeds and have this decisive inter- 
view. He was at the colliery that morning, and there too 
was his friend John Batty, waiting to receive a load of coal. 

* John/ said William, * this day is to decide whether I 
am to be a clergyman, or remain as I am ; ' and Batty, the 
fervent Methodist, at once proposed that they two should 
repair to * Grime Cabin,' and pray together that William 
might be directed rightly in his choice. As they went, 
Dawson's inward thoughts found utterance. He began by 
saying how the best hours of the day, his best time for 
working, lay between eleven a.m. and two p.m. — if he lost 
this he lost the most valuable part of his day. And such a 
precious working-time he felt lay just before him — his young 
life was drawing near its noon, without having reached it — 
he was but twenty-five, and his powers were in their blos- 
soming-time. * If I should go to college,' he went on, * I 
should be obliged to remain there three years — three years 
taken from the best part of my life ; and they would be a 
mere blank, as far as actual labour in God's Church is 
concerned.' 

With this thought strong on his mind, Dawson joined 
his friend in seeking God in song and in prayer. The 
strong, sweet young voices joined in the hymn. 



38 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

* Behold the servant of the Lord ! 
I wait Thy guiding eye to feel ; ' 

and in the spirit of that hymn they prayed. With a deep 
sense of nearness to a guiding heavenly Friend, they came 
forth, at last, from their dusky oratory ; and to John Batty's 
great joy, William exclaimed : 

* John, I believe I shall have to be a Methodist preacher 
yet/ 

Still impressed with this f)ersuasion, the young evangelist 
mounted his horse and rode off to meet Mr. Atkinson in 
I^eds ; and what he learned in his interview with that gentle- 
man only strengthened the impression. The good clergyman 
strongly wished to decide his young friend^s wavering prefer- 
ence in favour of the Church, and he dwelt eloquently on 
the superior claims of the Anglican Communion; but he 
could not show Dawson an open way to its ministry. The 
* Elland Society' was still too low in funds. to render him 
aid. Here then was the alternative : to linger on through 
years of unceitainty and comparative inactivity, working as 
an occasional lay assistant to such pious clergymen as might 
be willing to accept his help ; or to renounce the visionary 
hope of becoming himself a clergyman, and by allying him- 
self with the Wesleyans to find himself in full continual 
work as a preacher of Christ. As a layman, however 
eloquent and popular he might be, he might enter no pulpit 
belonging to the Establishment ; but every Methodist pulpit 
would be open to him, whose soul was on fire with the 
longing to plead with men for his Master, who felt that his 
commission to preach came direct from heaven, and that he 
would neglect it at his peril. 

Musing on these things, Dawson rode homeward, 
earnestly praying for heavenly direction. The next day he 
was summoned to an interview with his dear former pastor. 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 39 

Mr. Graham, who was at Woodhouse visiting his sister-in- 
law, and who seems to have taken alarm at the news he 
heard about Dawson. He requested a visit from him then, 
and earnestly pleaded against his uniting himself to the 
Wesleyan body. 

* They were increasing the number of Dissenters from 
the Church of England, little as they might intend it ; and 
look at the disputes and dissensions among themselves ! ' — 
for those were the days of Alexander Kilham — * how could 
any one of peace-loving, orderly spirit be at home among 
them ? ' 

The good clergyman grew warm and eager ; Dawson's 
own spirit took fire. * I felt I had gone too far to recede,' 
he said in after years, * and I employed a strong expression, 
which not only startled Mr. Graham's sister-in-law, but at 
which I afterwards trembled myself,' and little wonder. * I 
will risk my damnation on it ! ' he exclaimed, referring to 
the lawfulness of his work among the Methodists, and to 
his intense conviction that he was only following the guiding 
hand of heaven. 

Violent the expression was, and it must have sprung 
from violent agitation. * Gave Mr. Graham a denial of 
entering the Church,' was all the record of this decisive 
conversation that Dawson entered in his journal. But he 
felt the denial to be final, and he stood by it, notwithstand- 
ing the disapproval it aroused in many of his friends. Mr. 
Settle was now in the neighbourhood, and William re- 
peatedly heard him preach. In their interviews it appeared 
that the friend whose own hints had helped to fix his mind 
was not quite satisfied, now the choice was made ; nor did 
he stand alone. A little shaken, Mr. Dawson wrote for 
advice to the Rev. Joseph Benson, and received a kindly 
but curiously ambiguous answer, which left the matter 



40 WILLIAM DAWSON. 

* entirely to God and myself,' said the enquirer. And now 
Mr. Dikes wrote, with no doubtful intention : * Mr. Benson 
tells me the Methodists have more preachers than they want. 
Why should you be in such haste ? ... If your family do 
not require your attention, by all means accept the offer 
of the Elland Society — only, if you do accept it, you must 
comply with all their rules, and not preach among the 
Methodists.* 

It would almost seem as if a new prospect of attaining 
Orders had opened since Dawson's interview with Mr. 
Atkinson. But whether this were so or not, his decision 
remained unchanged. He had been long in reaching it, but 
having reached it he stood firm. He would not renounce 

* preaching among the Methodists.' 



CHAPTER IV. 

UNION WITH METHODISM. 

THE close of the year 1798, which had been so 
memorable to Dawson, saw him reading for the first 
time the Life of Wesley^ and distressing himself, something 
more than he needed, as to his own lack of the * witness of 
pardon ' which the great Evangelist held to be all-important 
for one who should preach the Gospel ; for no one who has 
studied the simple records of Dawson's spiritual life can 
doubt that he had long been living by faith on the Son of 
God. Now, however, that faith was to be his in greater 
fulness. Not only the well-chosen devotional works which 
furnished all his reading helped him, but his intercourse 
with living Christians ; not only the letters of Fletcher of 
Madeley, but the conversation of Mr. Thomas Stoner (father 
of the Rev. David Stoner), then resident in Barwick, led 
him on to see that he must not despise such light and hope 
as he had, but must press on to attain more. 

He was soon to part acquaintance with that Little Faith 
which he himself has quaintly described, in its feeble, puny, 
purblind case, oppressed even by the small portion of light 
it could receive, as * a little lad, sitting in the corner, with a 
bloodshot eye, and a green shade over it.' 

* Preach faith till you have it,' said Peter Bohler to 
Wesley, * and then, because you have it, you will preach it.' 
No one gave this counsel to Dawson ; yet unconsciously he 
acted in its spirit, and found the same reward as Wesley. 

Evidence is abundant as to his growing popularity 



42 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

during the year 1799. Seventy-five regular preaching 
services stand recorded in his diary for that twelvemonth, 
and forty written sermons, bearing the same date, remained 
among his papers to witness how hard this busy yeoman 
toiled with brain and pen to meet the increasing demand 
for his public ministrations, which were rendered freely 
in mere love to God and man, and were valued as much by 
Churchmen as by VVesleyans. The preacher^s own position 
was still undefined ; * he fought for his own hand ' in his 
Master's battle, being the accredited agent of no special 
denomination. This did not interfere with the general 
admiration for his zeal and ability ; but there were one or 
two good men who disapproved of this hard-fighting free- 
lance. 

* He shall not preach in my house till he is united to the 
Wesleyans ' ! pronounced Mr. Wade, of Sturton Grange ; 
and in a fashion still more severe the old Methodist 
preacher, Mr. Suter, expressed himself, when *the friends 
at Seacroft ' asked him to announce at the morning service 
that * Mr. Dawson would preach in the evening.' 

* Who is this Mr. Dawson ? He is not regularly among 
us ; we know nothing of him,' said the old man with some 
acrimony. Without doubt these things were reported to 
Dawson. A man of smaller soul might have been hurt and 
disheartened, or might have taken lasting offence, especially 
when he recalled how at Seacroft itself a congregation, dis- 
appointed of hearing the admirable Vicar of Thorpe-Arch, 
Mr. Hemington, had gladly accepted William Dawson as 
his substitute. The only effect such rebuffs produced, 
however, was to make their object anxious to define his 
position clearly, and take away any stumbling-block which 
good men found in his conduct. So, slowly, hesitatingly, 
yet certainly, he drew nearer to the communion in which he 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 43 

could be most widely useful ; made himself acquainted with 
the class-meeting, attending it frequently ; and at last, in the 
summer of 1800, he joined himself to the Society. It was 
not, however, till eight months later that he was received, as 
an accredited local preacher, by Messrs. Pawson and Barber, 
then stationed in Leeds. 

And it would seem that these gentlemen accepted him 
with an amount of caution, not to say coolness, which re- 
flected something of his own long hesitation as to the decisive 
step. * They gave me three appointments,' he said, * and 
left it -to myself whether to supply them or not.' Probably 
the knowledge of Dawson's lifelong attachment to the 
Establishment was the motive for this lukewarm reception 
of a very powerful and popular lay-preacher, whom his new 
patrons never dreamed of asking to deliver the usual * trial- 
sermon.' 

Mr. Pawson, it is noted, had had reason to speak very 
sharply of certain clergymen and their hostility to the name 
of * Methodist ' ; the controversy had been public and 
recent, and its impression might well operate to William 
Dawson's disadvantage. He was not, however, either re- 
pelled or discouraged, but entered with a valiant heart on 
his new career, and found abundant success in it. 

If we look a little more closely at his homely life during 
those years of hesitancy, we shall find it not devoid of 
picturesque variety. Sometimes in the coal-blackened garb 
of a miner he is seen descending the shaft of the colliery, to 
inspect the workings and see that all is safe and well ; and 
that duty over, he is hailed by one rough, hearty voice after 
another with the cry : * Come, give us a word ! There 
are some of your children here, and they want a bit of 
bread ! ' and responsive to the call he stands up and breaks 
the Bread of Life to the hearers that cluster around — swarthy 



44 



WILLIAM DAWSON: 



faces lit by gleaming eyes that sparkle out of the coal-black 
gloom, in the feeble glimmer of two or three tallow candles, 
which shine most strongly on the massive shape and head 
of the preacher, on his glittering eyes and glowing features 
eloquent with earnestness. 




IN THE FEEBLE GLIMMER OF TWO OR THREE TALLOW CANDLES.—/. 44. 

Sometimes, in the different darkness of a stormy night, 
he is making his way towards a place where he should 
preach, and amid rain and wind and thunder loses himself 
on a great moor, and must trust to his good horse's better 
instinct to find the way. It is December, yet a sudden 
vivid flash of lightning strikes, or seems to strike, the head 
of his stout stick ; flash on flash follows, so rapidly that he 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 45 

can see the face of the country and tell which way he must 
turn. 

He comes to Barwick, where his waiting congregation is 
just at point to disperse. He addresses them straightway, 
telling them of the adventures of the road, and with prompt 
dexterity spiritualises the incident, so as to supply the lack 
of a sermon. Easy to guess how he could speak of one lost 




* PUT IT IN . . . COVER IT UP ! '- -/. 46. 

in the world^s wilderness — lost, despairing, in peril — till what 
seems a chance yet more perilous proves his salvation, show- 
ing him the way of escape — some sudden stroke of bereave- 
ment, maybe, some alarming sickness, some unfavourable turn 
of fortune, and as by a lightning flash the lost wanderer sees 
his imminent spiritual danger, and sees, too, the way of 
escape. And without doubt such an * improvement ' of the 
incident of the night would prove an efficient substitute for 
the sermon he had designed to preach. 



46 WILL/AM DAWSON: 

Contrasting with such a scene we have some quaint 
glimpses of the stiff opinions on 'minor morals' held by 
some of our spiritual ancestors. William Dawson ' gloried 
in the character of an English yeoman/ and was wont at 
this time to dress as beseemed that character — in good sub- 
stantial drab cloth, with top-boots, and on Sundays a ruffled 
shirt. So habited, he was passing through a wood on his 
way home from preaching, when he was met by an old man, 
something of * a character,* who laid a significant finger on 
the ruffle adorning Dawson's breast, and bade him * Put it 
in, put it in, and cover it up ; it was a worldly adornment 
that did not beseem one who was publishing the Gospel ! * 

An eye-witness in later days describes Dawson, *the 
Yorkshire farmer,' as entering the pulpit in a composite sort 
of garb — orthodox clerical black and white neckcloth above, 
yeomanly drab and top-boots below. But even so he would 
not have escaped all criticism. John Batty recalled a walk 
with him towards Garforth, where William was to preach, 
and as they went along the field-path Batty saw with surprise 
his friend unwind the neckcloth that propped his chin 
according to the fashion of the day, take out the 'stiffener' 
that kept it rigid and upright, and replace the limp neck- 
cloth. 

'What are you doing?' asked Batty. 

* Nothing particular — only becoming weak to the weak,' 
said Dawson drily. * Mrs. W. sent me word I am not to 
appear at Garforth again with a stiffener in my neckcloth.' 

One may fear that the lady warred against the fashion 
simply because it was the fashion, not from any sense of its 
uncouth absurdity. The little incident has its value in 
showing how superior the fervent preacher was to those 
vanities of dress, which to his fair critic seemed so very 
important. It reveals the man as truly manly, in * bearing 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 47 

with the infirmities of those who are weak/ instead of resent- 
ing them. 

His unusual sensitiveness, even to the shadow of wrong, 
is seen in another matter befalling at his period. A neigh- 
bour had made, under Dawson's auspices as Sir Thomas's 
agent, what seemed not unlikely to prove a hard bargain for 
himself about the taking of a limekiln. True, the man had 
been fully and fairly warned, and entered into the engage- 
ment of free will ; but that even so he should perhaps suffer 
wrong in the matter was intolerable to Dawson, through 
whom the business was conducted. 

There were other troubles during those few decisive 
years ; troubles with the farm, when, through the unfavour- 
able weather, the wheat sprouted in the sheaf ; troubles in 
the home, when the brother who had undertaken to meet 
the family responsibility, in providing a * man and horse ' to 
serve in the * Barleston Ash Volunteers ' for the country's 
defence, withdrew himself from that corps, and brought 
his kinsfolk in danger of their employer's displeasure. 
Richard Dawson had good reasons for his withdrawal ; but 
the step was felt distressfully by his hardworking elder 
brother and his mother. But outward annoyances like these 
passed over and were gone ; no lasting harm came to the 
faithful household and its self-denying head. 

Stories were afloat, too, that William Dawson's mind 
was turning towards marriage, and doubtless his * young 
man's fancy ' had its wistful, wandering dreams of wedded 
love and a wedded home, in these years of his prime. 

He had no touch of self-torturing asceticism in his 
mood, to make him deem that earthly bliss was essentially 
and of necessity a sin. But * that which he considered per- 
fectly lawful in itself, he concluded to be imprudent in him, 
because* of his temporal affairs, and more especially the 



48 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

position in which he stood in reference to his mother, and 
the younger branches of the family.' 

For such reasons he put stem restraint on every errant 
imagination, and would bring no young bride to the house, 
where he could just maintain his excellent mother in rightful 
comfort. Mrs. Dawson's life was prolonged till William's 
habits had become fixed ; and when she passed away, he 
still had to think of a brother, Thomas, too much his 
inferior in energy of mind and character to dispense with 
his fostering care ; while his own abundant labours as an 
evangelist, which had brought him wide popularity, had 
brought him no money advantage, rather the reverse ; and 
he resolved to contract no such new responsibilities as he 
might prove unable to meet. So he lived and died, the head 
of the family, with all the cares of headship, but with com- 
paratively few of its joys ; and he counted that prosperity to 
be well lost which might have been his, had he thrown into 
some well-paid business the zeal and energy with which he 
had proclaimed the Gospel of Christ. 

His many published letters include not a few addressed 
to women, both young and old ; they are written with the 
transparent sincerity of a spiritual father, anxious only for 
the well-being of an interesting child * in the Lord,' but there 
is a chivalrous tone about them which suggests what his 
courteous manner to his female friends might be^ and one 
can understand easily how he became the subject of not 
unfrequent banter as to his supposed matrimonial designs. 
In such word-play, however, he could give as well as 
take, and the jester who attacked him had not always the 
best of it. 

'What, I am told you have been disappointed in a 
love affair ! ' said an elderly friend, himself unmarried. 

*That, according to report, is only one,* answered 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: 49 

Dawson with a quick, sparkling glance ; * but I am informed 
your disappointments have reached the teens ! ' and there 
was enough of truth in the retort to make it bite, and turn 
the friend's joke against himself. Let us hope he could 
laugh at it with a good grace. 

The year 1800 had opened somewhat sadly for the 
Dawson household, several of its members suffering from a 
fever, which touched William himself twice ; but the ensuing 
months seemed to brighten as they passed. The number of 
places that Dawson visited as a preacher increased rapidly. 
Sturton, where Mr. Wade had stiffly objected to him, now 
gladly received him; and his- recognised and accredited 
position as a member of Society and a local preacher 
brought him new duties, new interests, new associations, full 
of quickening power, which well replaced the grace, order- 
liness, and picturesqueness that he loved in the services of the 
Establishment from which he was being insensibly weaned. 

It was on July i8th, 1800, that William Dawson first 
appeared as a preacher in Leeds, in *the old chapel,' and 
during the ensuing Conference there befel him an undesired 
experience which showed the rapid increase of his popu- 
larity. At Tadcaster he was called on to take a service in 
the stead of a 'travelling preacher' who had been announced, 
but did not appear in time. No sooner was Dawson fairly 
committed to the service than he saw two itinerant ministers, 
faultless in clerical garb, enter discreetly and take their place 
as hearers. They had delayed their entrance designedly, 
intending to hear the lay-preacher rather than to officiate 
themselves. Dawson was naturally disturbed by this, but 
his embarrassment was soon banished by the thought of 
the message he had to deliver ; and the unwelcome hearers 
enjoyed as they had designed the full tide of his ready 
eloquence. 

S 



50 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

It was at this Conference that Dawson heard Bradburn 
preach * for the last time ' in Mr. Parsons's chapel. Brad- 
burn, whose occasional eccentricity was at least as lemark- 
able as that ascribed, not quite justly, to the 'Yorkshire 
farmer,' showed it unpleasantly on this occasion, when he 
chose to rid himself of the encumbering clerical gown in 
which he had preached so as to destroy it before the dis- 
persing congregation — 'doubling his elbows by his side, 
clenching his hands before his breast, having taken a portion 
of the gown in each, suddenly sending forwards his elbows 
and shooting out his back, so as to rend the gown from the 
shoulders downward' — the garment fell in ruins about him, 
and with it fell every wish on the part of the spectators to 
listen again to the admirable preacher whose humorous 
impulse had so overmastered his sense of what was due to 
the feelings of others. The grotesque spectacle would not 
be lost on Dawson ; himself humorous and impulsive, no 
such mistake is recorded of him. An innate sense of 
propriety always kept him from buffoonery, and however 
homely might be the illustrations he chose to use, they were 
made to convey an impression of awe. * It was a solemn 
responsibility to listen to such sermons,' said a frequent 
hearer when questioned as to the effect of his preaching ; 
* its intense earnestness was so unmistakable.' 

It was a rough every-day simile which he used to reprove 
the sin of drunkenness ; but how powerful ! 

* Suppose yourself to be a servant, and your master were 
to come in the morning and bid you make a strong chain ; 
on the following morning he came again, and urged you to 
get on with it, and then day by day you were ordered to do 
the same job. 

'Suppose that while you were working a person came 
and asked you if you knew what the chain was for, and you 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 51 

answered, " No ; as long as you got your wages you did not 
care " ! " But," says he, "it is your master's intention to 
bind you with this chain in everlasting bondage" — would 
you add another link to it ? ' 

* No ! ' said the drunkard thus addressed, * all the money 
in the world would not hire me to do it.' 

^ Well then,' resumed Dawson, * drunkenness is the devil's 
chain with which he binds sinners in perpetual bondage ; and 
whether you know it or not, every drunken frolic is a link 
added to the chain, and Satan will wrap it round you red- 
hot ! ' a suggestion which startled the hearer, and which did 
not pass away with the moment. 

* I am adding another link to the chain ! ' was the 
thought that troubled him when he had been tempted to 
another and yet another * cheerful glass ' too much. At last 
it became unbearable, and he broke the * devil's chain ' — 
not too late. The convert published the facts himself, call- 
ing his story * The Tale of a Reformed Drunkard.' 

The same simile was employed with terrific effect in the 
pulpit, in reference to the whole course of an erring life ; the 
sinner, despite every warning, taking pleasure in forging the 
chain for his own bondage, which, at the Day of Judgment, 
white-hot from hellish flame, should be drawn forth and 
coiled 'round, and round, and round ^ the writhing victim, 
who, by its weight, should sink * under the surface of the 
burning lake for ever ! ' No thought of the ludicrous was 
suggested as the preacher heightened his voice till it rang 
like a trumpet peal with every turn of the chain ; his intense 
earnestness, his impassioned conviction redeemed his utter- 
ance from any suspicion of vulgar exaggeration. His 
simplicity of language and graphic force are apparent in all 
the few printed discourses from his pen now accessible ; the 
testimony of eye and ear witnesses helps us to judge how 



52 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

much his solemn and impressive though dramatic delivery 
added to the power of those plain-spoken addresses. 

He now came under the immediate influence of the 
saintly Bramwell, who was appointed to the Leeds Circuit at 
the Conference just mentioned. Dawson so admired Mr. 
BramwelFs style that it greatly influenced his own. *I 
thought the fire of his genius never blazed so brightly as 
when he was addressing T/ie Sinner,* he says, and speaks 
of Bramweirs * natural talent for poetry,' and his speaking 

* in a sort of blank verse for twenty or thirty lines together,' 
when denouncing the wrath of God on the children of 
disobedience in strains of appalling grandeur. These utter- 
ances impressed Dawson more deeply than the softer, 
sweeter tones of invitation with which they alternated ; yet 
both found their reflection in his own favourite efforts. 

His growing acceptability as a preacher made him think 
seriously that it would be his duty to devote his whole 
energy to the one great work for which he was fitted in 
every way, and this feeling is mirrored in his diary. It is 
at this time chiefly a record of anxious heart-searchings. 

* That frame when I feel nothing but my wan/ of feelingy 

* shame for my unprofitableness,' * my want of real vital 
godliness,' 'overcome with a fit of lightness* (one may 
venture to read instead : gaiety of spirit, natural to the 
man) — such entries follow one another with touching 
frequency. But amid them we find how on a bitter 
March day, when there fell a great snow, Dawson, unable 
to pursue his usual toils, * opened his mind to his family in 
some measure ' — with earnest prayer to be guided aright 
in the choice he was making, — on the subject that now filled 
his thoughts. 

It could be welcome to no one in the home circle : not 
to the aged mother, the decorous Churchwoman, who had 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 53 

been willing to surrender her best helper to the Churchy 
but could not so heartily approve his irregular ministrations ; 
not to the helpless brother Thomas, who all his life long 
had to lean on William, the stalwart head of the family ; not 
to the younger lads and lasses. One can fancy the serious, 
almost sad faces, that turned wist ul eyes on William Daw- 
son as he hesitated and half expressed the design so serious 
in its import for them, while the great snow, fleeing and 
whirling outside the window, shed its pale gleam into the 
room. Little, perhaps, was objected at the moment, but 
at night, perhaps, something was risked in the way of queru- 
lous remonstrance that wakened *a start of angry grief that 
made him groan ; and day after day there are hints of a 
temper not unallied to this on both sides, carefully veiled, 
but significant. He was more troubled about his own 
failures in slight matters of duty than about any deficiency 
of others. 

* Blamed myself for allowing a slight spirit of murmuring 
to arise in my breast,' *for not going to J. Barmiston's 
funerar (where some profitable word might have been 
spoken), * a friend came over, from whom I received no 
good,' * should have warned him more solemnly ' {some 
admonition clearly was given). 

It was an exquisitely sensitive conscience that lodged in 
the broad breast of the good yeoman, but not a morbidly 
sensitive one ; he was not always writing bitter things against 
himself by any means, and it was when he was engaged in 
preaching to the little scattered congregations of the country 
villages around his home that he found * a sense of nearness 
to God ' — while he was in secret prayer it was that * com- 
fortable verses' would suggest themselves to his fancy — 
while he was busy with devotional readings that he felt 
enabled to * surrender his all to God.' 



54 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

It is with interest we note that Wesley's Christian 
Library supplied him with such works as those of Dr. 
Goodwin, which delighted him extremely; that very 
catholic collection of devotional and narrative reading was 
in its day of not a little service to men such as William 
Dawson, of more intelligence than means, and thus well 
answered Wesley's aim in publishing the collection. 

The year 1802 opened on him in the full tide of his 
various occupations; there was no melancholy void in his 
outer life, and the inner world was exquisitely alive. The 
* piety, talent, and zeal,' which only became more apparent 
as time went on, were such as fully justified the action of 
the Rev. M. Barber, when at the March Quarterly Meeting 
in Leeds he proposed William Dawson * for the itinerant 
work.' The candidate, already so well-known as a voluntary 
itinerant, was unanimously accepted. 

More attention was inevitably drawn to him, and his 
ministrations now took a much wider range, while the large 
chapels in Leeds, then thronged with eager hearers, often 
claimed his services. He did not, therefore, intermit his 
home duties ; at farm, at market, at colliery, he was still the 
busy, competent, incorruptibly honest worker ; he was the 
same faithful visitor of the sick, the same cheerful lightener 
of gloomy hours for the poor downfallen inmates of the 
workhouse, the same in steady attendance at the classes ; 
and, in this a true Wesleyan Methodist, he was if anything 
more sedulous in the recognised duty of fasting at stated 
intervals. Studying the Directions to a Candidate for the 
Ministry^ which breathes the austerely Puritan spirit uttered 
through Cotton Mather, he tried conscientiously to shape his 
course thereby; and, more anxious than usual to order his life 
so as to avoid all that was unfitting a candidate for so high an 
office, he was not unnaturally more anxious, and more 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 55 

oppressed with doubt and dread, as to his own religious 
character than ever. 

* Let me die. Lord, rather than live to grieve Thee, or 
bring the slightest stain upon my soul ! ' * Afraid lest I 
should prove a castaway after all/ * Nearly in despair ' — 
such entries alternate with those that tell of his longing to 
see a chapel erected at Barwick — where, as so often in 
villages, it was hard to meet with a suitable piece of ground — 
and with the continual questionings of his mind * how far it 
is the will of God that I should be a travelling preacher.' 

Very touching is his prayer for direction, that the dark- 
ness of his understanding might be overruled and his way 
made p/ain before him ; he sought instruction and blessing 
through prayer and fasting; and what he sought was granted, 
although it was not wholly what he desired. 

The extreme distress of mind which agitated him at this 
time was a little soothed when studying Bunyan's Grace 
Abounding y he found his own experience mirrored in that 
of an illustrious servant of God. But for the light given by 
Dawson's Journal it would be hard to believe that he, so 
well - remembered as the picture of bodily and spiritual 
health, racy in speech and keen of wit, had been able to 
sympathise with sufferings like those of the great dreamer, 
and indeed he was never so nearly mastered by maddening 
suggestions of impossible sin as was Bunyan. It is a touch 
of vivid Bunyan-like feeling, however, which breaks out 
thus : — * God raise me up ! I would not sin against Thee. 
My heart seems to say — though I may not wish what is 
said — I would rather be in hell without sin, than be in 
heaven with it.' The outburst was dictated by broodings 
over a past life which to the outward view was more than 
blameless, while in the present the mourner was zealous in 
all good works. Amid all the agitations of his mind, 



56 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

Dawson succeeded in 'dismissing all his reasonings and 
committing the whole case to the Lord,' while the year ran 
on to the day of decision. 

The dear mother, seeing her son very busy in securing a 
site for a * preaching house ' at Barwick, where * Mr. Bean- 
land's barn ' was the best substitute, and the erection of a 
chapel in its stead was planned, felt a cheerful confidence 
that 'Willy' would not leave her yet, but must stay to 
superintend this scheme. He noticed the light of hope that 
shone in her looks, and was saddened ; for now he was 
giving * a cool consent ' to become an itinerant, and now 
seeking Sir Thomas Gascoigne * to obtain his acceptance of 
my brother Thomas in my place as steward of the collier)'.' 
Everything seemed settled ; he was accepted as a candidate 
by Conference, which met this year at Bristol, and it was 
indicated that his first appointment would be to Wetherby, 
near Leeds. 

And yet all was overturned. Going to Sir Thomas's 
head-steward to close his accounts, Dawson found that the 
verbal promise to bestow his situation on his brother 
Richard, and so to ensure the comfort of his family, was not 
going to be kept. * Oh, we can do without your brother's 
services,' said the steward coldly. Instantly it flashed into 
Dawson's mind that here was some underhand scheme which 
he would counteract. His dark eyes shot lightning. 

* Well, then, I'll remain ! ' said he, * and you may give 
me lower wages if you think proper ! ' 

The steward looked, and was, confounded. He had 
meant to bsstow the vacant situation on a relative of his own. 
Now it was not vacant. 

Dawson left the office with the unalterable determination 
to stand by his own people. To forsake his mother and her 
children, that never could be the will of God, since his 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 57 

departure would mean poverty for them. He wrote promptly 
to Mr. Barber, apprising him of every circumstance, and 
announcing that duty to others bade him renounce his long- 
eherished hope of itinerating ; and he remained henceforth, 
as he quaintly but quite truly said, *a Travelling Local 
Preacher.' 

It is quite possible that Sir Thomas never knew all the 
circumstances that led his under-steward to retain the post he 
had been wishful to resign. For some reason, however, that 
gentleman now added thirty acres of serviceable grass-land to 
the farm held in connection with the colliery, assuring Dawson 
at the same time that * he should have the additional land 
at a rent that would not hurt him,' a promise kept in the 
letter; if not quite in the spirit, it was probably not wholly 
Sir Thomas's fault. 

Not a year afterward, we find Dawson * at Aberford the 
whole of the day, waiting to take the farm at the advanced 
rent,' a farm sufficiently high-rented before, with the excep- 
tion of the grass-land aforesaid ; and the next item of 
business is that the colliery would be * set down,' in conse- 
quence of one of the strikes for wages that have been named, 
and the under-steward's services for a time in abeyance. 
Dawson might have said, * All these things are against me ! ' 
but was content to pray, *Lord, undertake for me and 
mine ! ' and his prayer of faith was not in vain. Yet another 
trouble was to befall him. Going to Kippax to preach, * the 
mare fell under him, and upon him,' crushing the rider's leg 
severely. 

* Bless the Lord, for His hand of love that was over me 
for good ! ' wrote the sufferer, knowing that matters might 
have been much worse. Undaunted, he went on to Little 
Preston, his next appointment ; but the injured knee resented 
such usage by swelling so much as to disable him for a time 



58 WILLIAM DAWSON. 

from all exertion. No murmur escaped him. And in the 
same gallant spirit he met the threatenings of adversity; 
sturdy industry, strict economy, and quiet trust helped him 
to conquer. He was never allowed really to suffer for the 
devotion to homely duty, which had made him renounce his 
most cherished desires. 



CHAPTER V. 

PULPIT, PLATFORM, AND HOME. 

AMID the pressure of personal cares, Dawson never lost 
sight of the interests of the cause he loved ; it would 
actually seem that these occupied a far larger space in his 
thoughts than his own concerns. The chapel at Barwick, 
the purchase of a proper site for it, the entire management 
of its erection, the collection of moneys for it, the ceremonies 
of its opening in 1804 by * Mr. Taylor' — these were the 
things on which he gladly expended his strength and his 
energy, and which filled him with joy when they pros- 
pered under his direction, as the entries in his diary witness. 
Without his presence and his tireless help the enterprise had 
never been carried through ; and here was apparent another 
reason why it was well that he had resolved *to dwell among 
his own people.' His beautifully-kept collecting-book, with 
its headings of Scripture passages, enforcing the great duty of 
Giving, on every page, showed with what energy and indus- 
try, and in what lofty spirit of piety, he had toiled at the 
trying work of gathering, in tiny sums often, the many sub- 
scriptions which made up a large total by the April of 1805. 
The foundations of that modest * preaching-house ' were laid 
in prayer and its gates set up in praise ; exulting in his 
success in this work, Dawson neglected to chronicle some 
matters that sharply touched himself; but he noticed with 
much distress the threatened severance of the saintly Bram- 
well from the Methodist communion, that holy man being 
alarmed at the supposed invasion of the Church he loved 



6o WILLIAM DAWSON: 

by * worldliness,' and being with some difficulty persuaded 
that his fears were groundless. 

With such entries, evidencing his intense pre-occupation 
with the matters of the Kingdom, Dawson's religious diary 
closes, and now we must consider the man as others saw 
him — not the anxious watcher over his own heart, but the 
impassioned, fervent preacher, whose dramatic, imaginative 
oratory secured for him every year a wider circle of admirers. 
His * parish' soon comprised a large section of the West 
Riding, and the crowds that gathered to hear him were often 
so large that no chapel would hold them, and he must preach 
in the open air. Let us listen in fancy to one of these 
attractive discourses. 

We are in the front rank of the throng, glad so to get 
standing room. Behind us is a man who leans on a short 
staff, and listens with glistening eyes and chuckling murmurs 
of applause. Dawson, preaching from *Thou art weighed 
in the balances and found wanting,' is trying one class of 
sinners after another by the test of * justice, mercy, and 
truth.' Formalist, hypocrite, open flagrant sinner — all are 
tried in his nicely-poised scales, all are set aside as * wanting,' 
and our neighbour chuckles gleefully, * Light weight ! short 
again !' But now the preacher speaks of those who make 
loud professions of piety, but shame their profession by 
using * false weights and false measures.' Ah! what ails 
our neighbour ? He is mute ; his face works strangely ! 
He is a travelling pedlar, and that well-worn staff of his is 
made to do duty as his yard wand still, though it is long 
since it measured a good yard ; yet his show of zeal for 
religion is great, and Dawson is his favourite preacher. His 
agitation is noted at once by the quick, glittering eye of 
the orator ; Dawson remembers his face — often has he seen 
it — remembers how the man has earned his nickname of 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: 



61 



* Short Measure/ but not therefore will he shrink from con- 
tinuing his discourse as he had designed. He presses on 
the description of such a sordid sinner — he places him in 
the scales, weighs him, finds him wanting ! There is a 







HE TOOK HIS CHEATING YARD-STICK, AND SNAPPED IT ACROSS HIS KNEE. 

— /. 61. 

sharp crash, a cry — the pedlar has taken his cheating yard- 
stick, has snapped it across his knee, has flung the fragments 
from him, saying, * Thou shalt do so no more !' eloquent 
testimony to the power of conscience, and to the very prac- 
tical power of Dawson's words. 



62 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

Some would rather dwell on sucb a result than on the 
fainting and the terror produced by the famous sermon, 
" Death on the Pale Horse," when the description of the 
grim rider steadily tracking his victim along the Broad Road 
had hushed the hearers into such silence that the ticking of 
the clock was clearly heard, and the preacher, catching the 
sound, cried, *Hark! there is his untiring footstep!' and 
pictured how those rapid hoof-beatings gained on the sinner, 
overtook him, the fatal blow was struck, and there was the 
dying shriek, * Lost ! lost ! lost ! Time lost ! Sabbaths lost ! 
means lost ! soul lost ! Heaven lost ! A// lost — and lost for 
ever!' It was terrible excitement that was produced by this 
appalling climax, and the preacher had some difficulty in 
tranquillising those whom his pictorial eloquence had 
startled into a sense of their imminent danger. But we 
may not dare to tax the orator with 'sensationalism.' From 
his own deep conviction he spoke, and the danger he de- 
picted was too real ; it was well that for once he made it 
manifest, and those who had thus been awakened did not 
relapse into their fatal indifference again. Very many were 
the 'spiritual children' of this fervid evangelist. 

There is a strong tradition of a far different effect pro- 
duced by him in a dramatic presentation of the story of 
David and Goliath, when he chanced to be preaching among 
the woollen-weavers of Pudsey village, near Leeds. These 
homespun folk were hanging entranced on his lips ; for, 
personating the boy-champion of Israel, he had struck down 
the vaunting Philistine, in whom he bade them see the type 
of all who exalt themselves against God ; and stepping 
back, and looking down as on a prostrate foe, he poured 
eloquent reproach and scorn on the fallen enemy of God and 
good, heaping taunt upon taunt, while the hearers waited 
breathless for the final fatal blow that he seemed preparing. 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 63 

* Off with his head, Billy ! ' shouted a rough voice. Its 
owner, thirsting for the enemy's blood, would bear suspense 
no longer. 

The sudden cry startled Mr. Dawson, and he had some 
trouble in going on after this quaint testimony to his powers ; 
otherwise, it is said, the interruption might have passed 
unnoticed, so rapt were the hearers. But the ludicrous 
incident made the preacher shun that pulpit in the future. 
* Levity,' he greatly feared, might overpower him should he 
revive such an association. 

With the vivid picturings of the doom of an unrepentant 
sinner, in which he excelled, there alternated the most 
exquisite descriptions of the unwearied compassion of the 
Saviour. Nothing could be more touching than an ex- 
position Dawson once gave of the lovely words, * He shall 
feed His flock like a shepherd,' when, drawing on his own 
experience, he made his hearers see the starlit frozen fields 
over which moved the dark, shadowy form of an anxious 
seeker, the shepherd, wandering in search of what at last he 
finds — a poor, benumbed, perishing lamb, voiceless and 
helpless, till, gathered into the shepherd's arms, warmed and 
cherished in his breast, it can faintly bleat ; type of the 
perishing soul, gone astray in the wilderness world, but 
sought, and found, and gathered into the Good Shepherd's 
breast, by His Spirit's power ; and then, then only, able to 
utter the faint, bleating cry, * Mercy ! mercy ! mercy ! ' a 
petition how quickly heard — how surely granted ! 

By such mingling of tenderness with terror, the preacher 
appealed to hearers of varied temperament — to the timid 
and apprehensive, to the stolid and the sturdy — these 
needing encouragement, as those required awakening. His 
published discourses show us, what we might not so 
readily gather from other sources, that the very sermons 



64 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

best remembered for their awe-inspiring character would end 
in sweet or glowing descriptions of the joy and peace 
promised to the penitent believer ; while others, beginning 
with the joyful proclamation of * Full and Free Salvation/ 
would terminate witK denunciations of the grievous sin 
incurred by rejecting that pardon, and of the heavy conse- 
quences such sin must entail. There is something even 
now in his words, coldly as they stand on the printed page, 
which can awaken both hope and fear, and can strongly 
agitate the reader ; so that we may measure in some small 
degree what their spoken power would be ; and we do not 
wonder that it is said : 

* His ministry was not so much remarkable for awaken- 
ing a general excitement, as for producing individual 
conviction,' an infinitely more valuable thing ; for we see 
that his appeal was always to the individual conscience, 
and was eminently practical. 

Hear him setting forth the evil of * sowing to the flesh.' 
He bids us look at a madman who, in his plot of good 
ground, industriously sows nettles, thistles, all noxious 
weeds ; week in and week out he is at the work. Is not 
that folly enough ? But there is something more. When 
the wicked weed-growth has come to its full and monstrous 
growth, it is to be gathered and heaped into a pile, in the 
midst of which the unhappy sower is to be burned to ashes. 
Is he not something more than mad thus to prepare his own 
doom ? * Never was such a madman in the world ! ' says the 
hearer. Behold your own conduct ! retorts the preacher. 
You are sowing to the flesh ; such a harvest you shall reap. 
If you persist in sowing sin what can come of it but 
destruction ? The madman's fate will be yours. The seed 
you are now sowing will furnish fuel to consume you at 
last! 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 65 

Passionately he pleads, * Awake to see the evil nature 
and the dreadful end of a life of sin ! ' and then, with his 
magical change to the most winning persuasion, he tells of 
that smving to the Spirit from which we may reap Eternal 
Life : dwells on the bliss, the glory of the Harvest-home of 
heaven. What is sowing to the Spirit ? It is Well-Doing, 
in which you are not to be weary ; * in due season — ^just 
when the harvest is ripe, just when it is the proper time — 
you shall reap. And what will be the harvest? Life 
Everlasting ! ' and in colours so softly bright does he paint 
the harvest-joy of the redeemed, the gladness that is theirs 
in the presence of the Lord of the Harvest, that indeed the 
whole passage might be used in reproof of those who would 
rank * Billy' Dawson with the coarser kind of untaught 
pulpit orators. 

Once more let us listen to him — he is uttering his 

* Warning to Youth,' Nothing more blunt, plain, fearlessly 
outspoken than his description of the perils that may assail 
young men and maidens if they do not keep clear of those 

* whose mouth speaketh vanity, and their right hand is a 
right hand of falsehood,' of the irretrievable betrayals that 
may follow on small guilty compliances — of the sophistries 
by which people cheat themselves into ruin. Penetrating 
and stinging, the discourse is like a rough sea-breeze dis- 

■ pelling unwholesome vapours. We read without surprise 
how men brought their * cases of conscience ' to be decided 
by this preacher, and got clear, plain counsel from him. 
Such an incident is quoted in this sermon, of a young man 
much distressed because, long since, he defrauded his 
employer of £1^', he had never been detected, now he 
earnestly wished to repay with compound interest, but how 
to do it rightly, the master being since insolvent, and his 
affairs in the hands of assignees ? Dawson's reply was quick 

6 



66 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

and clear : * Your master was no insolvent when you robbed 
him 'y your business is with him' But in this very * Warn- 
ing/ directed against sordid, commonplace evils too com- 
monly ignored, we find an exquisitely felt tribute to the 
beauty of Christian womanhood, to the hallowed power that 
the true mother-love of a Christ-like woman can exercise. 
' His picture of ugly sin in its deformity would have lacked 
some of its power, if he did not oppose to it this other 
portrait of lovely virtue ; and his homely language takes on 
a poetic charm as he dwells on the beloved ideal, in a 
manner that must have been very winning, and that evidences 
true refinement of feeling. 

It was no vulgar humorist who left us such discourses ; 
no mere sensationalist who understood so well that it was 
not enough to alarm because of threatening danger, but 
that you must point also to fair excellence that might be 
attained, if you wished to produce a lasting effect on the 
individual — hope being a nobler, stronger motive than 
despair. 

But excellent as Dawson's methods might be, he refused 
to boast of their success. What if numbers had received a 
sense of sin forgiven under his ministry ? The praise surely 
was not all his ; * he had reaped,' so he would have said, 
* where others had sown,' and sowing had been vain, reap- 
ing impossible, but for the Divine Spirit, working invisibly 
who could say how long ? So he would not number up his 
converts and proclaim their sum — it was too like David 
numbering the people; and he could utter sharp reproof 
when successful * revivalists ' seemed to arrogate any glory to 
themselves. * Never boast of "souls being born under you," 
that were prepared by others ! you only entered upon other 
men's labours ; they would have remained unborn for you,* 
he said sternly to such boasters on one occasion. This 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 67 

^ popular ' preacher would not suffer any depreciation of the 
quiet workers who won little praise. 

Such as we have tried to paint him — not only eloquent, 
fervent, self-devoted, but self-forgetful and lowly-hearted — 
Dawson was an advocate whose adhesion must greatly 
benefit any cause ; and well was it when in 181 3 his enthu- 
siastic support was enHsted for Christian Missions. He 
heard Andrew Fuller tell what had been done by such men as 
Carey and Marshman; and the grand idea of *the conversion 
of the world,' once suggested, became a dominant thought, 
and the strong conviction deepened that Methodists, spiritual 
children of him who claimed * the world as his parish ' 
must not be the last to engage in the great work. 
Dawson expressed this thought, with a wonderful homely 
vigour, in the speech he delivered in *the first public 
Wesleyan Missionary Meeting,' held in the Old Chapel, 
Leeds, on October 16, 181 3. The presence of many faithful 
honoured ministers gave point to his description of *our 
regular Ministry ' as being * truly of a Missionary kind.* 
Did not these men, he asked, sacrifice the comforts of a 
settled life, the pride of independence, the pleasures of 
social enjoyment, the dreams of wealth, the sweets of 
Christian friendship — for at the end of two years every tie 
must be broken, and they must move on — did they not 
leave father, mother, brothers, sisters, and embrace a 
wandering life, a humble, dependent station, arduous duties 
— ^and all that they might offer a * full, free, present salvation ' 
to the greatest possible number of their fellow sinners? 
Were not these the sacrifices, was not this the spirit, of the 
Missionary ? 

And could it be said these men had laboured in vain ? 
Had not widespread good resulted from their self-sacrificing 
toils in Great Britain, in the West Indies, in America ? But 



68 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

it needed not to go far afield ; close at hand was there not 
evidence how heaven could crown with blessing such 
* missionary * zeal ? * I look round on this congregation;' 
he went on passionately, indicating *the dear fathers and 
honoured brethren ' who sat near him — let us remember the 
presence of the noble, saintly Richard Watson, and many of 
his worthy compeers^—* I ask you, have these men laboured 
in vain ? ' And winning an instant cry of * No ! ' from hun- 
dreds of voices, he launched into a fervid appeal, urging on 
those who freely owned how richly they had profited by 
missionary effort in their own land, the duty of extending 
the same benefits to the distant heathen — bidding them not 
selfishly engross the riches of the Gospel to themselves. 

The effect of this address, coming as it did after the 
audience had already been stirred and roused by orators as 
earnest though less audacious, is said to have been electrical. 
Stern, strong men — like the chairman, Mr. Thompson — 
melted into tears under its pathetic power, which we can 
only faintly indicate. The speaker was soon in constant 
demand as a missionary advocate, and became closely 
associated with the cause, serving it perhaps more in his 
life than even Dr. Coke in his impressive devotion and 
death. One drawback only to Dawson's many successes 
in this new field may be lightly indicated : his quaintness 
of speech, his dramatic boldness of action — natural and 
appropriate in him — the vivid flashes of his native humour, 
all these found would-be emulators who caricatured his 
effects, and introduced something ludicrous into their treat- 
ment of awe-inspiring themes. Such is the t'cstimony of an 
admiring contemporary of this great untaught orator. He 
was too frankly original to be a safe model for commonplace 
men, and never less imitable than in his platform efforts on 
behalf of Missions. For then he dared much, delighting 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER.* 69 

to seize on topics of the day and turn them to spiritual 
account. Thus, when he was in his ripest maturity the 
rapid formation of railways was exciting general attention, 
and Dawson had his * Railway ' speech accordingly. * The 
track was the world, the train was the Gospel, Jesus Christ 
was the chief director' — and so on. It needed all the 
practised skill and the genuine fervour of the speaker to 
keep this perilous allegory within reverent bounds ; even so 
his handling of it did not escape criticism. 

He had too, at that time of wild political excitement 
when the Reform Bill had been thrown out by the House 
of Lords, a * Reform Bill ' speech, delivered at Bristol first — 
somewhat to the dismay of the dignified and prudent chair- 
man of that meeting, James Montgomery, the Sheffield poet, 
who supplied a humorous description of the scene. Time and 
place were full of hazard ; the city was yet wild after recent 
riots, men's minds were stormy as the sea, and all political 
allusions were deemed unwise ; but the daring Yorkshireman 
took for his subject, * the Bill, the whole Bill, nothing but 
the Bill,' and managed to go through it, clause by clause, 
imparting a distinctly religious meaning to every clause, and 
producing an effect almost overwhelming by his bold 
allegory ; yet doing all with a dexterity amid his seeming 
extravagance that never overstepped the limits of caution. 
It would have been impossible for any hearer to accuse the 
speaker of political bias. 

Almost as impossible would it have been for any imitator 
to follow him safely on such lines. 

The two famous speeches just cited belong to a much 
later period of Mr. Dawson's life than we have reached ; 
but already in 18 14 he had given proof enough of the 
peculiar faculty for extracting profit from unlikely material 
of which these addresses are the best remembered examples — 



70 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

proof enough of the gay fancy that was to sparkle in his 
* Clock ' speech, * in which every wheel and spring and 
screw was emblematical of some part of the missionary 
agency' — proof enough of the prophetic hopefulness that 
breathed through his * Telescope ' speech, when he would 
survey the world through a * perspective-glass ' imaged by 
his half-clenched hand, and find new encouragement in 
every new field of effort to which he turned — and proof 
enough too of the rich, hallowed imagination that surviving 
hearers long loved to dwell upon in his * Harvest Home/ 
All these later efforts of the farmer-preacher's genius 
had their foreshadowings in the animated addresses 
he gave at numerous meetings that followed close 
on that first memorable one at Leeds. His sphere 
of influence widened rapidly ; it was no longer limited to 
the West Riding or to Yorkshire; it took in Cheshire, 
Lancashire, Durham, Northumberland. We have a lively 
picture of certain gentlemen *from one of the principal 
towns in the kingdom,' coming post-haste to Leeds and 
Barnbow to secure his services in an emergency; one of 
their leading speakers on a missionary occasion has failed 
them suddenly, who so likely as Dawson to fill the vacant 
place at the shortest notice ? Their chaise is seen with 
wonder at Barnbow — such vehicles rarely tempt the mud 
of its lanes — they have to seek the master in his fields, and 
find him bent over his spade, hedging and ditching. Were 
they doubtful of their man, their doubts had vanished at 
the first glance of the keen kindly face he uplifted to them. 

They plead for the instant help of the ditcher. * Go and 
help them he must, they cannot do without him,' and * If it 
must be so, it shall be so,' he answers, after some modest 
hesitation. Promptly every arrangement is made, the 
master's shrill whistle calls his man to carry on the spade 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 



71 



work, exact directions are given for it, then the visitors must 
taste the farmhouse fare of Barnbow; and anon they are 
whirling away to Leeds, bearing with them their prize — a 
shirt-sleeved labourer no more, but a yeoman clad in seemly 
black, who * keeps them alive all the way to Leeds ' with 
his sparkling talk, and who gives them even better help than 
they looked for at their meeting in the far-distant town 




THEY HAVE TO SEEK THE MASTER IN HIS FIELDS.—/. 70. 

whither they were bound. There is something in the little 
incident quite typical of the position Dawson was long to 
keep. * Diligent in business,' even of the homeliest, ever 
ready to put it aside for the nobler work when that called 
for him, but not permitting the higher duty to mar the 
discharge of the lower. 

What the * important town ' of this story was we are not 
told ; but we find him in 1 817-18 at Selby, at Darlington, at 
Newcastle, at Sunderland, now touching with pathetic power 



72 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

on the recent death of the Princess Charlotte, and now 
winning the ear and heart of northern colliers as he 
expounds the text, * He brought me up out of the horrible 
pit,' spiritualising after his wont the circumstances of their 
calling. And now he is in company with Dr. Adam Clarke, 
sharing the cramped accommodation of a too full post- 
chaise on the way from Chester to Liverpool, and enabling 
his reverend companion to forget the miseries of the road 
in the vivid interest roused by his conversation. *Your 
friend, Mr. Dawson, and myself talked all the way to Liver- 
pool yesterday evening,' said Dr. Clarke to Robert Newton 
the next day ; * what an astonishing mind he has got ! ' and 
the tribute from the accomplished scholar to the self-taught 
genius was worth having. 

Dawson found no Boswell to report his talk at full 
length, but his biographer and others have preserved for us 
many a saying, showing as much shrewd insight as kind- 
liness, by which we may estimate what was his social 
attractiveness. He could criticise keenly without bitterness 
and reprove without offending. 

* You are one of the best takers of a likeness I ever met 
with,' he said to a brother preacher. * In drawing the 
character of a sinner you do it to the life ; but on holding 
the likeness up to the man, you invariably get him to laugh 
at himself,' a fault how lightly touched ! and the hint was 
not resented by the friend addressed. And that was a good 
reproof to the fault-finder who * could get no good ' from 
the prayer-meeting held after Mr. Dawson had finished 
preaching. * I went up into the gallery,' he complained, 
*and looked down on the people; the sight of so much 
disorder destroyed all the good previously received.' * Ah,' 
said Dawson, * you mounted to the top of the house, and 
on looking down your neighbour's chimney to see what sort 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 73 

of a fire he kept, you got your eyes filled with smoke. Had 
you "entered by the door" and mingled with the family 
round the hearth, you would have enjoyed the benefit of 
the fire as well as they. Sir, you have got the smoke in 
your eyes: 

People delighted to hear this competent judge of his 
own grand art pronounce on the merits of other public 
speakers, and sometimes pressed too much for his opinion, 
as in the case of a certain minister from whose sermons 
little could be carried away for home meditation. What 
did Mr. Dawson think of him ? 

* I eat what I can, but pocket nothing,' was the reply by 
which he escaped their importunity — a definition as neat 
and crisp, but not so biting, as his description of an over- 
impressive style as being *hot and heavy, like a tailor's 
goose.' 

A calm and classic speaker, on the other hand, w^as as 
clearly characterised ; his preaching * was like the building 
of Solomon's temple — without noise, not so much as the 
sound of a hammer was heard.' 



CHAPTER VI. 

SOWING AND REAPING. 

MR. DAWSON^S powers as a missionary advocate be- 
coming daily more widely known, his engagements 
multiplied fast ; and soon it was common for him to make 
not less than a hundred evangelistic journeys in the year. 
The * service of steam' was in its unpromising childhood, 
and could not as yet help him ; and since it was his wish to 
economise as much as possible in the travelling expenses, 
which were defrayed by those who sought his help, he 
travelled rarely by the mail, often by the * regular heavy 
coaches,' and though extremity of weather sometimes drove 
him to be an * inside' passenger, commonly he sat outside, 
in summer heat and winter cold, in frost and snow and 
wind. Not unfrequently one of these journeys would con- 
sume three days. But the time spent on the road was not 
wasted. He studied life and character here as elsewhere. 

Sometimes quaint experiences befel him as he sat, a 
sturdy, yeomanly figure, with nothing in dress or aspect to 
distinguish him from other laymen, among the fellow-pas- 
sengers who talked busily around him. We may call up 
his image, square-shouldered, well muffled to the chin, his 
wide-brimmed hat drawn low on his brows, his keen eyes 
shining observant in the shadow, while the 'Manchester 
coach,' on which his place is taken, rattles through Hud- 
dersfield streets, and a gentleman sitting by him says, 
* There's a name I am always seeing ! and I have heard a 

74 



WILL/AM DAWSON. 75 

great deal about the man. Do you know anything about 
him?' 

The question is not addressed to Dawson, who catches 
sight of his own name on some large posters that advertise 
the occasional sermons he preached a few days ago in 
Huddersfield. He hears another passenger answer : 

* I heard him once several years ago ; I am not likely to 
forget the sermon or the text. He is not a regular preacher 
among the Methodists, they tell me ; he is a thorough 
farmer, living at home with his mother. But he is an extra- 
ordinary man.' 

*Not so polished, I suppose, as the Rev. Robert Newton,' 
quoth the first speaker ; * but he may do very well for the 
lower classes.' And turning to the silent Dawson, h^ 
enquired : 

* You know Leeds and its neighbourhood, perhaps ? Ah, 
you do ! Have you heard the preacher we are speaking of? 
What do you think of him ?' 

*I have heard him — yes,' says Dawson rather drily; 
* but I must say I think him overrated by being styled an 
" extraordinary man." ' 

There was an instant outcry. * He may be unlearned ; 
he must ; but see how popular he is, what immense con- 
gregations he draws ! ' 

*Yes,' struck in the other; * if there were not extra- 
ordinary natural powers, and if he were not a good speaker 
also, how could an illiterate man such as he is produce such 
amazing effects ? ' 

Dawson listened in modest silence and inward amuse- 
ment. But now Huddersfield was left behind ; the ascent 
of Stanedge began, and the outside passengers alighted to 
make it on foot. He held himself a little aloof from his 
travelling companions as they climbed the slope, unwilling 



76 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

to be recognised by hifn who had once been a hearer of 
his own. 

* I am glad,' ran his musings, * that they think I can be 
useful to the poor ; they need help the most. Unlearned, 
illiterate ! they are right, it is what I am. But I have 
extraordinary gifts ! then God give me grace to use them to 
His glory. I hope the gentleman will not find out who I 
am ; it might make him uneasy. But I am stouter than I 
was, and not dressed for the pulpit ; I think he will not 
know me.* 

His hope was fulfilled. He mounted the coach again, 
heard himself discussed once more in free and friendly 
fashion, and parted from his fellow-travellers in Manchester 
without their finding out who had listened to their criticisms. 
He was armed too strong in humility for these to hurt him ; 
but they could profit him, showing whether he had attained 
or not to his own high ideal of the right style and aim of 
preaching. 

* Bring your sermons,* he wrote to a young beginner ; 
* and every sentence in them, to this touch-stone — " Will 
this glorify God, and, especially, edify the people ? Shall I 
leave my hearers admiring my Lord, and hating sin, and 
forgetting myself ?**... Gospel truth is a sovereign, and 
that of no common order ; and, I readily grant, preaching is 
the carriage in which he rides. I confess, too, that I do not 
like to see him ride in a common, paltry cart of bad 
grammar, low metaphor, and vulgar dialect. His majesty is 
worthy of a better vehicle than the head and heart and 
hands of men ever made. But still I should not like to 
see a preacher turning the attention of the crowd to the 
composition, the painting, and the gilding of the chariot so 
as to lose sight of the monarch who rides in it — or should 
ride in it.* 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 77 

The manly simplicity which he recommended marked 
his own style ; if the choice lay between a strong plain word 
and one more refined and more obscure, he never hesitated ; 
and it was this directness and vigour that gave him much of 
his power — the power to win souls for Christ, which alone 
he coveted. * He would have been spoiled by an academical 
education,' said the Rev. J. A. James ; and if we may ques- 
tion this, remembering that such an education did not 

* spoir the plain speech of Wesley, it is at least not doubtful 
that Dawson's assiduous self-culture stood him in good 
stead, for his long and intimate acquaintance with the old 
Puritans had imparted to his manner of expressing himself 
something of that quaint homeliness which is farthest from 
vulgarity. He was not unaware of this, and the charge of 

* illiteracy ' passed him by lightly, while the testimony to his 
soul-winning eloquence cheered him. 

Not always were his own powers the theme of the way- 
side talk from which he gathered useful hints. Making one 
of the * six insides' of a coach running between Leeds and 
Halifax, he heard a lady and gentleman discussing other 

* popular preachers,' and the fair critic pronouncing authori- 
tatively on the merits of this minister and that. Mr. Watson 
had the honour of her approval. * He never exhausts a 
figure ; I would go ten miles to hear him.' Edward Irving, 
then at the height of his fame, displeased by the ambitious 
novelty of his pulpit style; another preacher * never suggests 
a new thought,' and yet another was too fanciful. * His 
imagination is like a colt turned loose into a field.' Dawson 
listened and remembered. He well knew that he himself was 
sometimes in peril from the over-richness of his pictorial 
imagination ; but his was not the name that incurred the 
lady's scornful dispraise. Curiously it happened that not 
long after, in a large party, he met the gentleman in ques- 



78 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

tion, who was exercising his wit at the expense of his brethren 
in the ministry there present. * Your fancy runs away with 
you/ was the burden of his mocking criticism of one in par- 
ticular, and he included William Dawson in the jest. The 
temptation was irresistible ; Dawson must gravely reply 
that an unbridled fancy was indeed an evil, hurtful to a 
preacher's usefulness; and then he rehearsed some part of 
the conversation to which he had listened a few days before, 
giving due prominence to that too apt comparison of his 
critic's imagination to a colt wildly gambolling in a field- 
Silence, and a little confusion, fell on the incautious jester, 
and the other victim of his raillery said softly to Dawson : 
* This coU has trodden on both of us, but we shall not be 
hurt ; like most young horses turned out to grass, he is 
without shoes." 

Was this one of the occasions when Dawson's sensitive 
conscience rebuked him for indulgence in * levity'? 
Scarcely so ; the rebuke he had administered was needed, 
and it had been given in no unkindly spirit ; sharply though 
it was felt at the moment, we may believe it would be of 
profit. 

Yet another travelling adventure may for a moment 
arrest our attention. Taking his place outside a coach, 
Dawson finds beside him a youth in sailor's dress, who 
seems light-hearted and gay, full of song and jest and 
mirth-moving story ; open-handed he is, and in true sailor 
fashion flings his money to every passing beggar, and is 
anxious to treat his companions at every stopping-place. 
There is a sort of refinement about his look and speech ; 
very inoffensive are his witty sayings, however wild. Pre- 
sently it comes out that he has been college- bred, and can 
adorn his talk with scraps of Virgil's verse. Dawson's interest 
is awakened, and gently he tries to turn the conversation to 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 79 

matters of deeper moment ; he speaks of the work of man's 
redemption, of the need for a Saviour. 

*0h, there is no Redeemer mentioned in the Old 
Testament ! ' says the youth. 

* What ! not in the Book of Job ? ' asks Dawson. 

*Not certainfyy replies the sailor-lad; *the word you 
translate, Redeemer, in the famous passage : " I know that 
my Redeemer liveth," has another meaning also — it can 
mean " an avenger," * and having quoted the Hebrew term, 
he seems to think the whole great question of the atone- 
ment disposed of. 

* Will you have a song ? * he says, turning to the other 
passengers. He begins to chant a sort of ballad on a boating 
accident that happened some years befoie, on the river 
Ouse, below York ; but his clear voice grows husky as he 
reaches the verse that tells how the boat was swept over a 
lock, and how one of its boyish crew perished. The song 
ceases. 

* I was there myself,' he says-; * it was my friend who was 
drowned,' and it proved that he had been one of the 
scholars of a * Socinian Seminary ' in the ancient cathedral 
city when the disaster took place. His curious theological 
lore, so strange in a sailor, was accounted for. 

Poor boy ! he had lavished away all his money before 
the journey's end was reached, and though he refused to be 

* treated,' he was not unwilling to share Dawson's travelling 
provision, which was delicately offered him. Touched and 
softened, he said, as they drew near Birmingham : 

* My father's house is very near this place ; to-night I 
shall be either shut in or shut out. If shut in,' — he glanced 
from his own rough jacket to Dawson's seemly broadcloth — 

* well ! I may be as well clad as a Methodist parson. To- 
night will settle all' 



8o WILLI AM DAWSON: 

Have you broken your mother^s heart, poor youth ? have 
you been sent from home, have you fled from it ? and will 
the door open for you ? thought Dawson sadly. His way- 
ward fellow-passenger swung himself down from the coach 
and went his way ; but often the phrase ' sku^ in my father's 
house, or skuf out from it,' recurred to William Dawson's 
memory, and in preaching he would refer to the wanderer 
and to others as widely astray who yet might be shut into 
their Father's house above. *This night may settle all.' 
The incident became a powerful allegory in his hands, and 
once when he had made most touching use of it a lady 
awaited him after the service to say, * I know the young man 
you spoke of — I know his family. You will be glad to learn 
that he was not shut out that night — he was shut in.' 

The incident just cited shows us William Dawson ready 
to take any fitting opportunity of saying a word for his 
Master ; indeed, he was always on the alert, as one of his 
favourite authors has it, * to gather up every fragment, scrap, 
and shred of time,' and use it for the glory of God. As he 
rode to and from Leeds, he was not so absorbed in the 
business that took him there but that he could have a quick 
eye to the chances of serving some better end. Very often 
he met on his way a miller's man, well known to him as 
having once chosen the better part, and then fallen back 
into godless ways, in which he was wretched. 

* Have you joined the regiment again, John ? ' was the 
greeting this poor fellow would hear, as Dawson checked his 
horse to hail him ; and, well understanding what was meant, 
John would answer, * Nay, master, not yet.' 

Question and answer would be followed by some kind 
warning word ; but the backslider did not retrace his down- 
ward steps, until one day Dawson said a sharper thing. 
Fixing his penetrating glance on him, he demanded : ' Do 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 



8i 



you know what you are ? You are a deserter from God and 
truth. And as a deserter, you will have to be either whipt 
or shot! ' With that word he left him, but John remained 
persuaded that some very heavy punishment was in store 
for him. Was it bodily suffering? Was it endless 
misery ? He dared not face either prospect ; and it was not 
long before the glad news reached William Dawson that 




VERY OFTEN HE MET ON HIS WAY A MILLER's MAN.—/. 80. 



this wandering soul had found its way back to God and 
goodness, and was living in the light of forgiveness and 
peace. 

Tracts, those silent preachers, were always a part of 
Dawson^s travelling equipment ; but he would not scatter 
them indiscriminately, offering them only to wayfarers who 
seemed to need such teachers. One of his booklets fell 
into the hands of a man who could not read, and who, 

7 



82 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

turning over the printed paper with suspicion and fear, ran 
after the giver in breathless haste. * Is it a summons youVe 
served on me ? ' he panted out. * A summons ! ' repeated 
Dawson ; *ah, yes ! but not the sort you're thinking of. It 
is a summons to pay the debt you owe to God, not to man 
— and it is yourself you owe to Him, your life and soul and 
all you are;' and with his own surprising readiness he 
followed out the hint so strangely given, to the benefit of 
his astonished hearer, whom he urged also, on parting, to 
acquaint himself with the art of reading, which might save 
him from more damaging mistakes than that which he had 
just made. 

We might multiply indefinitely such instances of the 
prompt and forcible counsel he could give, fitted to all 
the varieties of character with which he now was made 
acquainted : a few must suffice. 

* I am poor ; I have few gifts ; what can my feeble 
efforts be worth ? ' complained some drooping Little-Faith 
in his presence, 

* Poor, are you, and can do nothing?' was the reply. 
*Nay, with the grace of God in your heart, you can do 
something ! Let us say you are no better than a farthing 
candle. Well, even a farthing candle can give light to a 
beggar. A farthing candle, and can do nothing ! Yes, you 
can set a town on fire — nay, you can set a world on fire ! 
Some of the first public speakers were probably lighted by 
the meanest taper.' There was hope and life in the ener- 
getic words. He had others, more biting, at the service of 
one who evidently thought only of this world. 

* Imagine yourself,' he would say, ' in a room that is 
strewed with money — old, worn copper coins, and new 
sovereigns. W^hat would you think of a man who is free to 
come in and help himself, and you see him anxiously picking 



THE YORKSHIRE FARMER.* 



83 



up the defaced and dirty farthings, loading himself with 
them, and the bright new coined gold, where you may see 
the image and superscription of the King, he scorns to 
gather it ! That is what a worldling does — he spends his 
whole time in picking up mere trifles ; he neglects the 
" gold tried in the fire." If he would but take the sovereigns 




'is it a summons you've served on me?'—/. 82. 

instead, he would have the farthings in the sovereigns. 
We have the Redeemer's word for it, that if we " seek first 
the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, , all these 
things shall be added unto us " that the men of this world 
are so eager about.' 

But his most stinging rebuke was reserved for those who 
presumed on his well-known love of humorous talk to speak 
with * light irreverence * on themes not fit for mirth. One 



84 WILLIAM DAWSON I 

who had no pretensions to piety, after listening to the 
conversation of some religious friends with Mr. Dawson, 
remarked : 

* I shall be turning serious, too, one of these days ; and 
then I will have a sale of my goods ; I'll sell off all my stock 
of sins by public auction.' 

*You will find no buyer for the stuff,' said Dawson, 
sternly. *The devil will give no price for it — it is his 
already ; God will have nothing to do with it — He hates it ; 
men need it not, for they will find they have enough of their 
own without it.' It was no sound jest, to his mind, when a 
fool made a mock of sin ; and the unseasonable jester was 
put to silence and to shame in his presence. 

Such, and so consistent in his bearing amid the larger 
society now open to him, was the William Dawson who was 
in ever-increasing request, and dangerously popular, from 
one end of England to the other. We may note one more 
famous sermon amid the many he delivered in the years 
from 1 817 to 1824 — his first at Sunderland, addressed to a 
congregation of sailors. Well experienced in ploughing the 
land, he had little practical knowledge of their ways and 
customs who plough the deep; but the kind host who 
entertained him spent some hours showing him the town, 
and exhibited in particular the life-boat, which fixed Mr. 
Dawson's attention. He had found his clue. Preaching 
in the evening, he set before his sailor hearers a vivid 
picture of a shipwreck as seen from the shore ; the wind 
raging thunderously, and the thunder of the waves answering 
as they rose in liquid mountains and sank in awful hollows, 
while the doomed ship is driven on to its fate. Wives, 
children, friends stand on the beach, helpless spectators ; 
*My brother is lost — my father is there,' cries one and 
another, despairing, as the vessel strikes, shivers, and is 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 85 

broken on the rocks. Still some survivors cling to the 
wreck that, beaten to pieces in the surf, is on the point of 
disappearing in the foaming, roaring chaos. * What is to be 
done now ? — all is going — going for ever ! * cries the 
preacher. *What is to be done?* comes an answering 
shout from a sailor in the midst of the congregation ; * why, 
launch the life-boat ! ' 

A dead hush followed that cry ; then a shudder of 
excitement ran through the assembly; and the preacher 
availed himself at once of the hint given. He painted man 
as lost in the general shipwreck of human nature — sure to 
plunge into the gulf of eternal destruction — sure to lose 
sight of pious father, mother, brother, and sister, who 
vainly stretch out their hands to him — if he rejects the one 
means of escape and salvation, the Life-Boat of heaven ! 
And what a sea of terrors is that which will then engulf 
him — what waves of fire raised to mountain height by the 
winds of eternity ! * Blessed be God ! ' he said, taking the 
Bible into his hands, * though there is no life-boat in hell, 
we have one here ! Come into the Life-Boat, and you shall 
not be destroyed with that everlasting destruction ; you 
shall not sink into the raging waves of sin ; you shall land 
safe on the shores of heaven ! ' Then with all the power of 
his touching eloquence he dwelt on the love and the 
almighty greatness of the Saviour, Himself the Author and 
the Way of life, and besought his hearers to come to Him 
who alone could save them. His words went straight 
home ; the seamen understood and answered to his appeals. 
Many a sailor that night was rescued from the gulfs of 
sin into which he had been sinking ; and for years after 
they loved to talk of what they called *The Life-Boat 
Sermon.' 

* If Methodism does not make men into parsons^ it 



86 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

certainly converts them into clerks ; for they are responding 
" Amen ! " " Glory be to God ! " wherever we go/ said 
William Dawson once, with cheerful satisfaction. Few 
preachers, even among his Methodist brethren, can have 
called out so many involuntary responses, like that which 
was wrung from the eager sailor — tributes to his rare power 
of acting a scene so as to make his hearers see what he saw. 
If he were dwelling on that parable of parables, the Prodigal 
Son, he would draw to the life the ragged, weary, footsore 
wretch limping slowly homeward, coming nearer and nearer 
till, looking towards the door, he exclaimed, * Yonder he 
comes, slip-shod ! make way— ^make way, there ! ' and many 
among the hearers started up and turned round, asking with 
eager eyes, * Where is he ?' so completely had the preacher's 
imagination imposed itself on them for reality. But little 
would he have prized successes like these if he had not been 
able to gain successes far more precious through them. If 
he called up the image of that trembling penitent, it was 
that he might win others, who had gone astray, to leave *the 
far country ' and its unsatisfying husks, fit only for swine, 
and to seek their Father's house and its leady welcome. If 
he painted in darker colours the weird haunt of the witch of 
Endor and its grim tenant till men started and looked down, 
expecting to see an awful shape arising in their midst, it was 
that he might with greater power warn those who heard 
against such godless despair as that of Saul. 

Sometimes he feared that he failed in this higher aim. 

* My heart sinks at times,' he wrote to a sympathising friend, 

* when I consider that I range about the country to such an 
extent, and get so little game ; that I traverse such an extent 
of ocean, and catch so little fish ! Oh, for wisdom to win 
souls ! ' But there were not wanting testimonies to the 
immediate good done by his preaching — such testimonies 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 87 

as greatly cheered him. One person would write and say, 
pleading for a second visit : 

* If Mr. Dawson will come again to this place, he will 
have the pleasure of seeing a very respectable man who was 
— till he heard him when last in the neighbourhood — a poor, 
degraded, drunken backslider, and had been such for years. 
He gladly confesses that Mr. Dawson was, in the I>ord's 
hand, the instrument of his conversion.' 

Another, addressing the preacher by letter, said, *I 
have heard you preach on the duty of Restitution. Help 
me to fulfil it ! In company with others, I stole a large 
sum years ago. The owners I cannot now find ; take 
the money I send, it represents my guilty gains. Spend 
it for me in the cause of God ! thus only I can make 
restitution.* 

And yet another would say : * You were preaching at 
Newcastle to an overflowing congregation ; the very doorway 
was crowded with listeners. Two colliers were passing, and 
one of them, a professed deist, said to the other, " Let us 
hear what this fellow is bawling about," and they stood still 
to hearken. Presently the other said, " Come, let us go." 
" Nay, I will hear him out," said the unbeliever. Soon he 
was touched to the heart ; he was convinced of his sin and 
his danger ; his professed scepticism vanished, and he sought 
and found pardon and peace — only just in time ! A 
fortnight after there was a fall of roof in the pit where 
he was working, and he was crushed to death. Happy 
for him that he had heard God speak to him through 
you !' 

Many such cases were brought to the preacher's know- 
ledge, but still better results of his work were noted by 
others. He came to a town, he preached, he went away ; 
but he left behind him a little army of workers who had 



88 WILLIAM DAWSON. 

caught the flame of his zeal and carried on the work he had 
begun. *He drew them to God, not only to himself; he 
left them with a relish for the ministry of others as well as 
his own,' so that his advent was often the signal for a true 
and lasting revival of religious activities in the places he 
visited. 



CHAPTER VII. 

PREACHER AND PHILANTHROPIST. 

THE year 1824 was made sadly memorable to Mr. 
Dawson. In its earliest months his venerable 
mother was suffering already from the complaint that proved 
fatal to her, and she lingered on, frail and feeble, only till 
July. For more than forty years the mother and son had 
housed together, loving and beloved ; and very bitterly was 
the separation felt. 

Mrs. Dawson had not been one who would hold back 
her * Willy ' from the work that God had given him. It was 
only when she was very feeble and broken down with sick- 
ness that he had to say, *I have been much from home 
lately, and my mother is timorous about my leaving again.' 
It seemed at first as if the freedom of his movements would 
suffer from her departure. Safely had his heart trusted in 
her, and in the dear sister who was trained up in her ways 
and who succeeded to her household cares. But this sister 
left his house for one of her own, and, doubly deprived, 
William Dawson began to fear he could not with prudence 
spend so much time in 'running about the country.' Would 
it be right to leave his brother and his home to the care 
of servants only ? must not such separations be very rare ? 

* Many say to me, " Take a wife," but those who have 
wives say, that if I had one she would never consent that I 
should neglect home as much as I have done ; so that a 
wife would, in this case, be a stone to my foot, and I could 
not fly to preach occasional sermons, to beg for Sunday- 

89 



90 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

schools, or to plead for missions/ So, with a half-humoious 
sadness, Dawson wrote when his loss was more than a year 
old. Judging marriage, however untruly, to be a very 
desperate remedy for his difficulty, he did not seek help 
that way, choosing to remain wedded to his work. In some 
fashion the apprehended hindrance to that work was set 
aside, and his public engagements multiplied instead of 
lessening. He found it needful to keep free the latter part 
of July, and the whole of August and of October in each 
year. Hay-harvest, corn-harvest, and seed-time must not 
be broken in upon by this * Yorkshire farmer,' but from 
January to July, and in the closing months of the year, his 
services were in constant request — so much so that it was 
necessary for his arrangements to be made twelve months in 
advance ; and with Sabbath duties in his own circuit, fully 
half his time was devoted to the work of the Kingdom, 
which was its own reward, but which imposed heavy toil in 
farm and field on him when he was at home. Freely he 
gave and nobly ; ready to count all things lost for Christ's 
sake, and to work incessantly, week in and week out, that 
he might proclaim Him ; and though for many a year his 
was little better than a hand-to-mouth existence, he was 
never allowed to suffer the loss of any good thing, however 
often that loss was threatened. 

Without pretending to the character of an author, 
Williapi Dawson yet contrived to find a little time for some 
modest efforts at composition, in short memoirs of various 
pious friends, that duly appeared in The Wesleyan Methodist 
Magazine; but the year 1826 brought him a task of this 
kind which he could not discharge alone. One whom he 
fondly called * my friend, my brother, nay, my child/ the 
Rev. David Stoner, son of a dear friend at Barwick, and an 
early convert of Dawson's own rtiinistry, was taken from a 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 91 

life of great usefulness in his early prime ; and his sorrowing 
friend rendered material help in compiling the Memoir 
which was prefixed to Stoner's Diary and Correspondence^ 
by Dr. (then Mr.) Hannah, and which was signed by both 
authors. Inexpert at such work, William Dawson found a 
more congenial way of witnessing to the excellences of his 
much-loved fellow worker, in preaching funeral discourses 
on the occasion of his death at many places where David 
Stoner was personally known. 

Those who heard long remembered the * overpowering 
eloquence' of one of these addresses. He spoke of the 
departed saint as a herald of the Gospel, now lying low in 
death, * the trumpet fallen from his hand,' which had given 
no uncertain sound, when with clarion-blast he summoned 
hundreds to rally round the Banner of the Cross, or pealed 
forth the joyful note announcing the Year of Jubilee. 

* Fain would I take up his fallen trumpet,' he cried, * and 
sound an alarm to the poor backslider once roused from 
lethargy by his voice, but now prostrate again. What 
meanest thou, O sleeper ? Start at once upon thy feet ! 
Let his death be thy life ; let his happy spirit hear in heaven 
that the prodigal, who has left his Fathei's house, is return- 
ing to it ! ' Then, dwelling on the short life of which two- 
thirds had been spent in God's service, he made passionate 
appeal to his younger hearers to emulate that devotion. 

* His day was short, but well filled up. His work is done, 
the trumpet has dropped from his hand. Is there no young 
man willing to take it up ? ' he asked with touching earnest- 
ness, when with dramatic action he had seemed to * sound 
an alarm,' with full, rich tones, the Gospel message that he 
pealed forth fading and dying away upon the ear in fainter 
accents till it ceased — for the trumpeter himself had fallen ! 
And one young man's heart answered to the call, and was 



92 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

moved to the resolve of undertaking the duty from which, in 
timid self-distrust, he had long been shrinking. 

*If Mr. Dawson/ said one who knew both men, *had 
wrought no other good effect than that of working decision 
in the mind of Samuel Entwisle, his labour had not been in 
vain in the Lord.* For it was a beautiful soul into which 
light and joy came with that clarion-call of the preacher who 
sometimes thought very meanly of his own power to do 
good. *Made perfect in a short time,' this young evangelist 
soon in his turn passed to a brighter world, but his brief 
life could never have left so inspiring a memory as it did 
had it not been for that inspiring sermon, which, said one 
who listened, * will be remembered to the latest hour of its 
last surviving hearer.* 

It was very characteristic of William Dawson thus to 
turn to holy use, and to the profit of the Church bereaved 
of a zealous worker, the death which was a great personal 
grief to himself. Some other distresses, in which the wide- 
ness of his sympathies involved him, could not be so utilised ; 
they seemed barren evils, and they troubled him the more. 
Such were the yet unforgotten dissensions which shook the 
Leeds Society during 1827-28, and caused the immediate 
loss of some hundreds of members, the matter in dispute 
being so trivial-seeming as the erection of an organ in 
Brunswick Chapel. *It has cost me more waking and 
aching hours than anything that ever happened to me,' 
wrote he, who, without being implicated in the contention, 
watched it most anxiously ; but soon his best hope was that 
* the breach might spread no further,' and that, through the 
wise action of Conference, ' the broken limb might become 
sounder and stronger than before the fracture.' Loving- 
hearted and loyal, he never willingly referred to the strife 
when it was ended, believing and hoping that many who 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 93 

had withdrawn themselves in hasty anger might yet be won 
back. 

Love of country was closely blended with zeal for God in 
William Dawson^s mind ; and only less than the grief which 
pierced him when he saw wrath and strife among Christians 
was that with which he regarded the many social wrongs that 
were rife in his dear England. There was great, and, as 
he believed, unnecessary commercial depression, which he 
traced to * the curse of England — unscriptural speculation,' 
a sin, in his judgment, calling for stronger denunciation than 
common betting and gambling. And, living in the midst 
of one great manufacturing district, and a frequent visitor to 
others, he saw and heard many things that convinced him 
of deep evils connected with the factory system of that day, 
with its long, exhausting hours and its employment of little 
children, * early wakened out of sleep in the morning — their 
ears stunned with the monotonous buzz, and their eyes con- 
founded with the incessant whirl of the wheels of the factory 
all the day — and then returning home weary and exhausted 
in the evening — and this for six days out of seven in the 
week ! ' So, in humble prose that recalls the glowing verse 
of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, he wrote of these child- 
martyrs, in a public letter, addressed to * his friend M. T. 
Sadler, Esq., M.P.,' who, in concert with many gentlemen and 
with not a few large-hearted mill-owners, was endeavouring 
to bring about that * shortening of the hours of labour in 
factories ' which the Ten Hours Bill finally accomplished. 
This letter, and another addressed to the chairman of a 
meeting at Halifax convoked in aid of the same object, are 
still worthy of study. Their writer takes his stand on high 
ground, choosing to dwell on the grievous moral injury 
inflicted on child and woman by the trade customs that 
required mill-work, beginning with very infancy, to be kept 



94 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

up during not less than eleven and a half hours of each 
working day, as the little one grew into the maturity when 
longer tasks would be exacted. What chance had these 
weary toilers of acquiring * divine or useful knowledge ' ? 
Only the Sunday-school stood in the gap ; and its zealous 
workers, withdrawing themselves from public worship, found 
five hours of every Sabbath too short for teaching mere 
reading and writing and a little Scripture truth to the dazed, 
exhausted scholars they could collect. The evil results of 
the system to such girl-workers as lived into womanhood 
were too apparent. Home-training there could hardly be ; 
fatherly and motherly lessons in piety, virtue, and thrift 
were all but impossible ; and the consequent degrading 
ignorance of those who should have become sweet and 
serviceable house-mothers led them too often into vices that 
destroyed happiness and usefulness and character. What 
then was the prospect for the next generation ? 

Was it said that any humane reform would destroy 
England's manufacturing greatness ? If our national pros- 
perity could only be bought by the physical, mental, moral 
degradation of our people, surely the doom prophesied for 
, Egypt would come on England ; * it shall be the basest of 
the nations ; . . . God will diminish it, and it shall no more 
rule among the nations.* 

But this Christian man believed in a happier solution of 
the problem. He would fain see employer and employed 
standing to each other as father and children, each desiring 
and promoting the welfare of the other, bound together by 
* the threefold cord of affection, obligation, and dependence.' 
Dare we say this could not be ? Nay, he will hope that 
English masters and English labourers will yet adopt the 
Cornish motto * One and all,' and dealing justly and lovingly 
with each other, will find that their interests need not and 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 95 

do not clash ! Dawson's political economy was that of * his 
Master, Jesus ' ; its principles were founded on the Great 
Commandments. Well assured he was that the man who 
loved God with heart and soul and mind, and his neighbour 
as himself, would not fail to do to all men whatsoever things 
he would that they should do to him ! * If masters and 
servants fully act on these principles, we shall not want legal 
enactments to oblige either party to do that which is lawful 
and right ' ; and not only one set of evils, but many, would 
pass away like mist. 

That special reform for which Dawson pleaded has long 
since been accomplished, without any of the predicted * ruin ' 
to the special industry concerned. But, could he live and 
speak in his England to-day, he would more emphatically 
re-affirm the grand principles on which he saw that the right 
relations between master and servant, capital and labour, 
should be founded; his arm would be nerved *to give 
another blow to the rivet of humanity, justice and truth — to 
clench more firmly the nail that binds society together, and 
that makes us helpers of each other's interests, from the 
sovereign to the meanest subject.* The words, spoken 
sixty years ago, are not out of date yet ; * legal enactments ' 
like that by which Dawson and his friends were fain to seek 
the amendment of the factory system, have been multiplied 
jto protect man against man ; and still thousands of our 
countrymen do not understand, as did this plain * Yorkshire 
farmer,' how the law of Christ is the perfect law of liberty, 
for nations as for individuals. 

The keen interest that William Dawson took in public 
questions such as these, was free from * party and poHtical 
feeling,' and never interfered with his usefulness as a 
preacher. How, indeed, could he better serve every class of 
his countrymen than by publishing among them the good 



96 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

news of salvation from sin, and teaching them love to God 
and love to man ? So we find him busier than ever in his 
special work during the troubled years that preceded and 
followed the accession of William IV. in 1830. They 
brought him his own share of sorrows in the loss of dear 
friends ; among these was Samuel Hick, * the Village Black- 
smith,' whose deathbed he visited and comforted, and whose 
temporal concerns he settled; his deep respect for that 
humble, quaint, fine-spirited Christian was shown in many 
ways; he attended his funeral, preached two memorial 
sermons on his death, and wrote a brief account of him for 
TAe Wesley an Methodist Magazine ; while he did not forget 
to care for Samuel's widow as long as she lived ; some of the 
profits of the larger memoir of her husband, by Mr. Everett, 
were set aside for her benefit by the author, and transmitted 
to her through Dawson's hands. 

We may note that this was only one of many instances 
in which the high opinion that people entertained of 
William Dawson's integrity and ability brought on him 
various trusteeships that made large demands on his time; 
but he never failed in any of these obligations, burdensome 
as they sometimes proved. 

His own affairs gave him some trouble; times and 
seasons were bad, his farm was poor and did not pay, three 
valuable horses died of distemper at one time ; and a 
generous friend offered him a better farm, near Newcastle, 
* at any rent you like to pay,' ran the proposal, which, how- 
ever, he would not accept. * I will not take advantage of 
your kindness while I have any hopes of improvement 
here,' said he ; /perhaps I should be leaving my providential 
place.* And years did bring improvement, so that he could 
say, * I am as comfortable in my farm as I need be.' 

One calamitous accident caused him deep distress. He 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 97 

was preaching occasional sermons at Heckmondwike in the 
April of 1829, and as usual the chapel was crowded to 
excess ; some person was pushed against a stove-pipe, which 
noisily gave way under his weight, and instantly a panic 
arose. * The chapel is falling,' shrieked some one ; there 
was a wild rush to the doors, cries, confusion ; five persons 
were either crushed or trampled to death, and another so 
injured as to die the next day. The spectacle of this 
frightful tumult, the knowledge of its fatal results, made the 
most painful impression on the preacher. He could not be 
induced to revisit Heckmondwike until more than eight 
years had elapsed. What had happened there once might 
happen again under similar circumstances. It is a little 
surprising, indeed, considering the crowds always attracted 
by his preaching, and the excitement it generally produced, 
that this fatality stands alone in his story. That quick and 
sparkling humour which often relieved the solemnity of his 
utterances was doubtless useful in many instances, lessening 
the almost painful tension of the nerves, that might have 
had like disastrous results ; no less serviceable would be the 
variety that he knew how to introduce by his use of hymns. 
He chose these with much care, and could draw great 
advantage from the old Methodist way of singing two lines 
at a time as they were given out from the pulpit. When 
the lines just sung had been — 

* True, 'tis a strait and thorny road, 
And mortal spirits tire and faint,' 

he paused to say, * Why do they tire ? Because the way is 
" strait and thorny"? Nay, — 

* " But they forget the mighty God, 

That feeds the strength of every saint," * 

thus impressing the true teaching of the hymn on the minds 

8 



98 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

of those who sang, yet avoiding any sense of interruption. 
Again, he had chosen the grand hymn beginning — 

* Jesu, Thy blood and righteousness 
My beauty are, my glorious dress,' 

and before giving out the last verse he said : * I have often 
been struck with the language of the minister in the Com- 
munion service, when he says, " Lift up your hearts," and 
the people respond, " We lift them up unto the Lord" ; 
the minister strikes in, " Let us give thanks unto our Lord 
God"; the people respond, " It is meet and right so to do," 
and the minister closes in with, " It is very meet, right, and 
our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all 
places, give thanks unto Thee, O Lord, holy Father, 
almighty and everlasting God!"* Then looking round the 
congregation, he lifted up his voice to say with fire, * " Lift 
up your hearts" — yea, let the whole congregation repeat, 
**We lift them up unto the Lord,"* and instantly an- 
nounced — 

* Thou God of power. Thou God of love, 

Let the whole world Thy mercy prove ! 

Now let Thy word o'er all prevail ; 

Now take the spoils of death and hell.* 

The power of sound increased at once fourfold — a grand 
burst of congregational singing filled the place, seeming to 
bear up every soul on wings of devotion ; and in the prayer 
that immediately followed the emphatic responses of the 
people showed how thoroughly they had been aroused to 
take their right interest in the service. 

In like manner he prefaced the words, * See all your sins 
on Jesus laid,* by pausing to read from the sixth chapter of 
the Apocalypse the invitation so often repeated to * Come 
and see* one mysterious terror after another. *But I do 
not now ask you,* he said, *to come and see the preacher, to 



THE ^YORKSHIRE FARMER: gy 

come and hear a voice of thunder — come and see yourselves, 
your sins, your Saviour ! " Come and see" — what?' And 
with sparkling eyes and eloquent expression he poured forth 
the words — 

* See all your sins on Jesus laid ! 
The Lamb of God was slain ; 
His soul was once an offering made 
For every soul of man ! ' 

words instantly taken up by the congregation with a fervour 
that showed how their mind's eye had indeed been fixed on 
their suffering Saviour. 

It was a quainter use that he made of a hymn-verse, 
when he chose to liken the enemy of souls to an idiot-lad 
who was found hard at work trying to *rub out the name' 
from a brass door-plate. * The poor boy did not know that 
the harder he rubbed the brighter it shone. So is it,' added 
Dawson, * with Satan ; he would fain obliteratet he word of 
God from the memory, the understanding, the heart. But 
his toil is vain ; 

' Engraved as in eternal brass 

The mighty promise shines ; 
Nor can the powers of darkness rase 

Those everlasting lines.' 

Then, as if he saw the fiend at his fruitless toil, he cried, 
* Rub ! yes, rub ! all is in vain ; the evidence only grows 
brighter for the attempt; because the Lord — yes, of Him it 
may be said— 

'His hand hath writ the sacred word 
With an immortal pen.' 

* There was great inequality in his preaching,' said one 
who knew and admired Mr. Dawson ; how indeed could it 
be otherwise with a man who did not calculate his effects 
beforehand, and whose eloquence was so much the sponta- 
neous expression of a rich, irregular genius, springing up 



loo WILLIAM DAWSON: 

like a fiery fountain from the depths of his glowing heart as 
hs strong pulse-play dictated ? So there would sometimes 
be hesitation and difficulty before he could find words that 
would best set forth a new-sprung thought, and sometimes 
there would be something strange and startling in the action 
by which he would illustrate it; but to those who can 
remember him he is, notwithstanding, *the prince of old 
preachers/ Shall we look on him as he appeared after very 
many years of hard toil had passed over his head? 
He is massive in form, he moves with the rolling gait 
of a true son of the soil ; all eyes are caught by 
his appearance as he mounts the pulpit stairs. Keen, glow- 
ing eyes shine under his overhanging eyebrows ; false hair, 
which he will often adjust with both hands as he speaks, 
half hides his broad, lofty, prominent forehead. This 
nervous trick of meddling with his ill-fitting wig is the sub- 
ject of some mirth for him and his friends, but that, and 
everything else remarkable in his aspect, is forgotten as he 
warms to his subject ; the interest of his words overpowers 
all. For now he is dwelling on the grand uniformity which 
marks the experience of all God's children. * They have all 
one tale to tell,' says he ; * let us call some of them up to tell 
it ! ' And first he utters the name of a famous minister, 
noted for his great learning, and well-known to him and his 
hearers. * Adam Clarke ! you who can speak sixteen lan- 
guages, tell us about your conversion.' And the great 
doctor, by the lips of the preacher, speaks of humble peni- 
tence, patient waiting on God, blissful forgiveness for 
Christ's sake. Then the call is : * Barnabas Shaw ! you 
are a Missionary ; some of your African converts can speak 
in a love-feast; what do they say?' In their broken 
English those converted savages stammer forth a tale 
just like the learned doctor's. * Now,' goes on the preacher, 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: loi 

* you have had a great revival here. One of you drunkards 
and swearers that were saved, tell us how it was with you: 
And the rough voice of the conquered English rebel tells in 
trembling tones how he, who seemed lost for ever, has been 
rescued by the Almighty Saviour — and still it is the same 
story ! * Now,' questions the preacher, * what does this king 
say ? "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He inclined 
unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the 
horrible pit." ' Ah, what pit more horrible than that where 
a sinner lies in the darkness of a guilty conscience ? The 
king knew what it was to lie in that pit, and for him there 
was no way of escape but the one way that all whom we 
have heard speak have taken. 

*See/ cries the speaker, pointing, *see the chain that 
hangs down into the black hopeless pit ! It reaches down 
very near to hell — and not only up to the gate of Heaven, 
but to the very Throne ! See the links of that chain — one is 
God's love, one His mercy, one His grace, one His truth — 
they are past counting ; but every link is strong with 
heaven's strength — the chain is long enough and strong 
enough ; there it hangs within thy very reach — seize it, poor 
despairing sinner, cling to it ; it will lift thee out of the 
pit. Do not fear to trust it ; see, above thee, all these saints 
of God who have risen, clinging to this chain ! But refuse 
to trust thyself to it, let it pass out of thy reach, and thou art 
lost for ever ! ' 

In all such bold impersonations and such vivid picturings 
there was risk ; they might sometimes come very near the 
line where the sublime merges into something very different, 
yet they never overpassed it ; so intense was the solemnity 
of the preacher's manner, so fervent his desire to deliver 
fully the message of salvation to perishing souls, that they 
might hear and live. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

DARK DAYS AND BRIGHT DAYS. 

THE years which saw William Dawson anxious to strike 
one blow on behalf of the victims of the factory 
system were dark with many other clouds threatening the 
welfare of England. Strange crimes were abroad in the 
land ; here, there, from this rick-yard and that, flames shot 
up fiercely in the dead of night, telling how the garnered 
grain and hay were burning in fires wilfully kindled, and the 
hopes of the farmer and the food of man and beast were 
crumbling into ashes together. Insane mischief, that could 
not profit its ignorant, half-starved perpetrators or feed their 
hunger ! and there were murders, too, of rare brutality, the 
victims being stupefied with drink and drugs, and then 
drowned while still unconscious. In his correspondence 
with that much-prized friend, the Rev. T. Galland, Dawson 
dwelt mournfully on these things ; he saw something fiend- 
like in them. * A spirit is let loose on the souls of men,' 
said he, *by which they commit acts of iniquity and mischief 
such as were never heard of or read of since the world stood.' 
At this very time, also, the cholera first spread its black 
wings over England and struck down its thousands. Daw- 
son, in pursuance of his sacred work, went to Newcastle 
and its neighbourhood, where the plague was busy ; he was 
appalled at its ravages, and, though fearless on his own 
account, was distressed to see that no religious awe was 
kindled by this new calamity among the godless, that thieves 



WILLIAM DAWSON, 103 

were busy as ever, even among the crowds at the door of 
the chapel where he preached ! 

The months ran on, and in August the grim pestilence 
walked abroad in Little Barwick; three-fourths of those who 
were stricken died, and the threatening weather made him 
sigh, * A dark appearance for harvest !* But fearing neither 
for life nor wealth, he went among the dying and the 
bereaved, *a guardian anger to those who escaped the pes- 
tilence, *an angel of mercy 'to the families that suffered, 
raising money for their relief, watching over them and 
ministering to them ; nor did he fail to point the moral of 
the visitation, preaching impressively from the words, * It is 
better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of 
feasting/ To one house of mourning his thoughts turned 
with especial tenderness — that which was darkened by the 
sudden yet peaceful removal of Dr. Adam Clarke, the most 
illustrious victim of the plague. 

Rumours of coming war helped to overshadow the *dark 
prospect' of 1832 ; they were discussed in a company where 
Dawson was present, an honoured, mucK admired guest as 
always. Said one, * Not such a bad thing if war did break 
out, after seventeen years of peace ; it will clear off the 
surplus stock of spciety ; so many needy young sprigs of 
nobility have shot up and are wanting employment, and 
there are so many lazy, drunken, profligate ne'er-do-weels 
among the poor — the scum of all classes will be swept off 
by the war.' 

*An awful way of skimming the pot!' was Dawson's 
abrupt comment, and it struck silence into him who had 
spoken too lightly. 

But earnestly as he dwelt on these matters, it was only 
that he might awaken such greater Christian energy as might 
avert the threatened judgments, by turning the sinners of 



I04 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

the land to repentance. No * croaker' was he, nor could 
any gloom long overcloud his sunny cheerfulness. Some 
quaint incidents belong to these very years ; that odd 
travelling adventure he could tell with such zest, when, his 
own conveyance breaking down, he and his friends were 
glad to be taken up into the jolting taxed cart of a farmer, 
who stood up to drive, despite their civil remonstrances, 
saying, 'Never mind me! This is how I always stands 
when I drives calves^ — all unconscious of what his words 
implied ; that biting reproof to the well-to-do money-lover, 
who, with modest reluctance to state how little his charitable 
givings amounted to, said in broadest Yorkshire, * What I 
gives is nought to onybody,' /. ^., is nobody's business ; but 
the reply came promptly, * Right, fiiend! I believe you do 
give nothing to anybody.' And it was in 1832 that the 
famous 'Reform Bill' speech, so daring in its fanciful 
spiritualising of an unspiritual and contentious subject, was 
delivered with humorous audacity, in despite of the prudent 
cautions of the poet-chairman, Montgomery. * He bowed 
with great respect to me and to the audience at beginning,' 
said that gentleman, who had deprecated any political allu- 
sion, 'and then took his place in the front of the platform, 
his broad shoulders so steadily before the chair that I never 
was able to see the tip of his nose, as if he shunned a rebuk- 
ing eye because of the line he had taken,' mischievously, 
and with a visible enjoyment, playing with the fears that he 
knew would prove groundless ; for sportive as his fancy 
might be, he always had it well in hand, and was justly sure 
of himself and of the effects he would produce. 

A fresh proof of the * saving common sense,' which in 
William Dawson was allied to a poetic imagination, is 
afforded by his attitude towards a question that, was much 
agitated at this time, when, as is well known, many Christian 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 



»o5 



minds saw in the threatening evils of the day — the appalling 
pestilence, the civil strife and social crime, the imminent 
famine and war — signs of the Second Advent of the Lord; and, 
giving way to daring speculations, became unbalanced and 
unfit for duty. * You ask my opinion of the Millennium ? ' 
said Dawson to a young relative ; * I really cannot give you 
one, as it is a subject that never occupies my attention — 




'this is how I ALWAYS STANDS WHEN I DRIVES '* CALVES."'— /. I04. 

not knowing any advantage that would accrue to my soul by 
studying it. . . . My eyesight is too weak to penetrate the 
clouds of prophecy that enshroud it. ... I shall wait in 
God's way, and wait His time, when every cloud will be dis- 
persed, and every prophecy fulfilled. " Secret things belong 
to God ; but the things that are revealed belong to us and 
to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of 
this law." ' 

To his sane and steadfast spirit it seemed best to work 



io6 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

for God in the present, instead of trying to read His purposes 
for the future ; and he was only impelled to greater efforts 
when the following year deprived the Church of many 
devoted men ; chief among whom was the grandly-gifted 
and widely-useful saint of God, Richard Watson. * Where 
can we find his equal ? ' he lamented ; but in hope and faith 
that others would yet follow in the footsteps of the mighty 
workers gone, he bent himself to do his own part with 
increased energy, as the demands for his help increased. 

Out of twenty-six Sundays only six were often passed at 
Barwick; week-day services were frequent at home and 
abroad. Having returned at midnight from York one day, 
he had to start for Manchester early next morning. He is 
at Sheffield this week, at Lynn in Norfolk that week ; he is 
in London, in Bristol ; and often he is persuaded to stay 
beyond his allotted time and give services to different 
places in the same neighbourhood. His iron consti- 
tution served him well in bearing such fatigues; and his 
numerous journeys, being performed chiefly in the open air, 
did no harm but good to his bodily health. * Travelled, 
by cross-roads, in nine days, upwards of two hundred 
miles, and exercised sixteen times,' is a record of hard, but 
not hurtful, work ; the cross-road travelling in the breezy 
country, past woodland and field, repaired the energy that 
he spent in those strenuous * exercises.' But few were his 
journeyings by rail ; it may be doubted if the rattle and 
rush and weather-fended imprisonment of a train would 
have braced his nerves as did his outside perch on a coach, 
or his place in a farmer's gig, or, better, the companionship 
of a good horse. The active farm-work which filled up 
every interval of mental or pious toil at home had its own 
use ; so had the cheerful variety of congenial society into 
which he was thrown. Despite its arduous character, his 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 107 

was an eminently healthy life ; and often did his full-hearted 
gratitude break forth when he returned from some * laborious 
week ' spent in serving man and God. * Adored be divine 
Providence for returning me home without the slightest in- 
jury ! As was my day, so was my strength. Praise the Lord !' 

*Make me a home Christian/ had been his earnest 
prayer years before, and widely as he wandered he did not 
neglect his own home and his own people. The society 
and the chapel at Barwick claimed, and had, very much of 
his care, even while his colliery agencies multiplied on his 
hands and caused a great press of business, which he never 
would either * mistime or neglect.' An exact and conscien- 
tious improvement of every waking hour, a spirit of self- 
denying industry, enabled him to meet every claim ; and the 
gentle, pious, helpful niece who managed his household, and 
repaid by her daughterly care his early devotion to mother, 
sisters, and brothers, found a father's considerate tenderness 
from him. 

This popular favourite had never learnt to prefer his 
comfort to that of others, and would undergo much incon- 
venience before he would cause any. He was on a journey 
and lodged at the house of a friend, who provided for him 
a bed far too slight to bear his athletic weight ; it gave way 
as soon as he lay down. But he would disturb no one by 
asking for better accommodation ; he re-arranged pillows 
and mattress so as to make a sort of sloping couch from 
the ruins of the bedstead, and rested as best he could till 
morning. Again, he arrived, late one cold September even- 
ing, at Market Harborough ; the coach set him down at ' an 
inn, where he must await another coach which would start 
at half-past two in the morning. Should he require the 
weary servants to keep the house open and Ught and fire 
burning for him till that hour ? He thought of a way to 



io8 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

avoid it. Stepping forth with a cheerful * Good-night,' he 
left them to close the doors and retire to rest, under the 
impression that he was going to stay somewhere in the 
town ; but he went no farther than one of the stables, where 
he shared the shelter of the horses till the coach jingled 
into the yard and he could quietly take his place for home. 
Not always could he indulge himself in such consideration 
for others with impunity. Once, being in the Isle of Wight 
in winter, and coming from a crowded chapel, and much 
heated too with his exertions, he found prepared for him a 
bed with * not a winter but a summer covering. I should,' 
he owned, *have asked for more happing,^ but his strong 
dislike to giving trouble prevailed, and a severe, and indeed 
a dangerous, cold was the result. But this was at a later 
day, when his splendid strength was failing faster than he 
knew. 

It is not necessary to dwell here on the new disturbances 
which affected Wesleyan Methodism in 1834-35, except as 
they illustrate anew the character of William Dawson. The 
agitators, who began with an attack on the * Theological 
Institution,' established for the better training of Wesleyan 
students for the ministty, soon passed on to assail the 
Wesleyan Constitution at large, and would not desist until 
the decision of Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst placed that Con- 
stitution on a firm and well-defined legal footing. Dawson 
at first entertained a certain prejudice against the new 
educational scheme ; but, discerning the real drift of its 
assailants, he promptly put aside his theoretical objections 
as of no moment, took the field with a published letter 
against the contention of Dr. Warren, and sent a subscrip- 
tion of five pounds — large for one of his means — to the 
funds of the menaced institution. He was too loyal, too 
modest, too clear-sighted, to hold stiffly by his own opinion 



THE ' YORKSHIRE FARMER: 109 

on a matter not of vital importance, when such obstinacy 
would be injurious to the great Christian community to 
which he belonged, and where he had found such inestim- 
able opportunities of serving his Master. 

*I may consider myself in the decline of life,' he re- 
marked to a friend about this time ; the bright, piercing eye 
was beginning to need the aid of glasses, the strong, clear 
voice was very slightly affected by loss of teeth ; * my 
grindstones,' said he playfully, *do not fit each other.' 
There was, however, rather an increase of activity, and his 
intellectual faculties seemed stronger as his spiritual life 
grew brighter. Joyful and contented, whether his outlook 
was gloomy or promising as to this world, he seemed to 
gather new power to minister hope and comfort to others 
when any difficulties beset his own path. 

The quaint, striking way in which he would introduce 
consoling thoughts may be noticed, for it was not only 
characteristic of the man, but helped much to win accept- 
ance for his counsels. Here, for instance, he is at Colne in 
a time of great depression and commercial distress. * We 
shall have but poor collections,' people whispered. What 
then ? he can give a word of comfort to the desponding. So, 
before giving out the opening hymn at his first service, he 
began to tell the people how, as he went preaching from place 
to place, the various announcements he had been required 
to make would accumulate in his pockets, until he reached 
home. They became a useless burden. * Going into the 
fields, I take them out, and look at them. I read one — 
nothing worth keeping in it — I tear it into shreds that the 
breeze carries off; I look at a second, a third, a fourth — 
worthless all — I tear them and scatter them in the same 
way.' With rapid movements of hand and eye he imitated 
the action of reading, tearing, scattering, and to the eye of 



no WILLIAM DAWSON: 

fancy the shreds of paper drifted away like snowflakes. 
The hearers followed his actions and words with wonder ; 
what did this strange introduction mean ? 

*Now,' said he, * it is a time of great distress and appre- 
hension with you. Trade is in a bad state, and you are 
troubled with doubts and fears. Believe me, these fears 
are worth no more than my useless notes. Throw them to 
the winds ! There is an over-ruling Providence — there is 
a God and Father who cares for you, His children ; trust in 
Him, and you shall not be confounded,' and with more brave 
and cheering words he then glided into the hymn : 

* Give to the winds thy fears ; 
Hope and be undismayed : 
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears, 
God shall lift up thy head ; * 

which the congregation took up from his lips with enthusiasm 
answering to his own energy. The sermon that followed 
breathed courage ; and the effect he sought was produced ; 
many who had been full of doubt and dread took new hope, 
and waited cheerfully for the better times that came. 

Another incident relating to this time may be quoted, 
showing the kindly tact with which he could escape from 
a difficulty that his own impetuosity had created. He was 
addressing a missionary meeting gathered in a church of the 
Particular Baptists ; his subject was the favourite one of the 
* Sower,' whose * field is the world.' As with symbolic action 
he showed the Master scattering His seed, he quoted apposite 
Scripture passages; and when there leapt to his lips the 
beloved familiar words, * He is the propitiation for our sins, 
and not for ours only, but for the sins of — he stopped short, 
turned hesitatingly to the Baptist minister, who sat behind 
him, and with questioning, eager look, repeated * of — of — 
of ; then re-turning towards the congregation, who already 



THE ^YORKSHIRE FARMER: in 

were smiling at his hesitation, he added * of the whole 
world/ observing, with another half-humorous, apprehen- 
sive glance at the pastor, * It is there ; I cannot help it ; do 
with it what you like.' Questioned afterwards by a friend 
as to the motive of his conduct, he said : * I was full of my 
subject ; I forgot that I was not, as I am wont to be, in a 
gathering of my own people: I had already quoted half 
that passage, when I remembered where I was, and stopped 
— but it was too late to go back unperceived. Should I 
give up my own belief, like a coward ? Should I enter on a 
defence of it, and so appear as if I designed to insult the 
good people ? I would do neither, and I .am glad the plan 
I took seemed to give pleasure rather than pain/ 

This was but one of several instances where the services 
of the great Local Preacher were in request for Churches 
other than his own. Willingly he gave what he could ; but 
it seemed to some that his increasing toils must be too 
much for a man who had many secular concerns to attend 
to. And now once more, and for the last time, it was said, 
* Should not this gifted, zealous, successful Evangelist devote 
all his energies to the ministry of the Word ? ' 

It is the Christmas of the year 1835. There is a 
meeting gathered at Brunswick Chapel, Leeds, its object 
to do honour to William Dawson and offer some small 
acknowledgment of his helpful devotion to the cause of 
Missions. The Rev. Robert Nekton is the chairman; 
eloquently he speaks of Mr. Dawson's unremitting exertions 
for that sacred cause, and is heartily seconded by many 
other speakers; and the presentation of Dr. Clarke's 
Commentary to the earnest, eloquent Missionary advocate is 
well understood as a really * slight expression ' of the high 
regard in which his labours are held. Dawson is touched 
and pleased ; not for praise, not for honour, has he worked ; 



112 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

and he takes occasion to refer to the great advantages of 
early consecration, of steady following in the steps of pious 
parents. It is in connection with the Juvenile Missionary 
Society that Leeds has most cause to praise him ; he would 
encourage those young workers, and would not forget how 
much Ae owes to the teaching of Christian father and mother. 
Other presentations, from other appreciative friends, are 
poured in on him ; and in a kind of surprise that the lovers 
of Missions, in Bradford as in Leeds, should think him 
worthy of any reward, he says : * O my Lord ! Thou knowest I 
am an unprofitable servant. I would render all back to Thee.' 

But soon he has to listen to a new plan, by which it is 
intended to confer on him a more lasting benefit. It is un- 
folded to him by a Leeds friend. Alderman Scarth, who 
himself is a chief mover in it. 

* We have a scheme on foot,' he is told, ' to raise a fund 
by subscription, and to settle on you a life income which 
will set you free from care and toil for a living ; so that you 
can work for the Church and for Missions without any hin- 
drance. And your brother, who is dependent on you, who 
would lose his home if he lost you — he shall have a sufficient 
maintenance secured to him if he outlive you. What do you 
say? We hope to raise jC^oo a year for you. Don't think 
that anyone dreams that such a sum can ever reward you 
for all your work in the past, or pay for it in the future ! but 
will you let your Wesleyan friends provide for your comfort, 
and secure the continuance of your priceless services ? ' 

William Dawson listened with pleasure an^ with pain. 
He feared that he might do wrong if he refused such an 
offer ; but if he accepted it and the plan were carried out, 
how much must he give up ! With his farm would go his 
old home that he loved, his manly independence that he 
dearly prized. 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 113 

* It is a hard struggle/ he owned to a friend. • * This 
house my father built ; sixty years we have lived in it. My 
old neighbours, my classes to which I am strongly attached, 
I must give up these if I give up my farming ; I must no 
longer be my own master. But I only wish to know the 
will of God ; then I can make any sacrifice. In which 
position can I serve God most and honour Him best? 
That is the question ! ' 

He was assured that the sum subscribed — ;£4,ooo was 
hoped for — should ultimately be devoted to the Missionary 
cause ; and being persuaded that by a last self-sacrifice he 
would be of greater use, and would secure the future of his 
helpless relative, he gave way to the wishes and entreaties 
of his friends. They were free to make their appeal to the 
public. 

But there was a flaw in the scheme. It was said, * Let 
no one subscribe more than one guinea ; thus all Mr. 
Dawson's friends, rich and poor, may share in the tribute.' 
We are told, on high authority, that this proviso originated 
with Dawson himself. It is consonant with what we know 
of his independent character that he should prefer to 
benefit by a genuinely popular subscription rather than by 
the gifts of a few rich men. But this feeling, so natural 
in him, was not to be gratified in the way he might have 
wished. The restriction had to be withdrawn, the Mis- 
sionary Committee had to take the matter in hand, before 
a proper provision for the great preacher could be realised. 
A year and a half passed in rather trying uncertainty ; he 
could neither manage his farm to advantage, nor give legal 
notice to quit. Yet faithfully and patiently he worked 
and waited, though he was sometimes troubled at the 
thought that his difficult sacrifice might have been made in 
vain. * It was the benefit to the Missionary cause that 

9 



114 ; WILLIAM DA WSON : 

conquered my will/ said he; and he shrank from any 
suggestion that Missionary funds should be taxed for his 
support, that the deficient subscriptions should be made 
up from Missionary collections. Nor did he like it when a 
friend said jestingly: 

* You may have to sU down with ;^ioo a year/ 

* Nay, it is not for sitting down that I should have it, 
but for rising up^' was his quick reply. More work, not 
less, was what he designed to do. During this time of 
suspense he rather increased his exertions ; his extra 
journeys in one twelvemonth reached a hundred; eight 
days saw him in six places remote from each other, hold- 
ing thirteen services and covering 432 miles by the help of 
the * heavy coaches,' on which he was an outside passenger, 
often in * tremendous wet weather.' Yet he would return 
home with an air of such refreshment as if he had taken a 
pleasant morning walk, and, apparently unfatigued, would 
at once betake himself to the task next at hand — whether 
it was answering the accumulated letters from many different 
quarters which commonly awaited him, or setting off to 
fulfil some pious duty connected with his classes or his 
charities, or negotiating for ground whereon a new chapsl 
might be raised in a neighbouring village. Barwick had to 
thank his efforts for the Sunday-school which was opened 
there ; and now Saxton was indebted to his influence with 
the Gascoigne family for a proper site for the much-needed 
place of worship. 

Those who enjoyed his society saw no abatement in 
its lively attractiveness during this time of uncertainty, 
no trace of pre-occupation with his own concerns. His 
talk sparkled with its old lustre when he dwelt on 'fictitious' 
religious feeling. *It is easy to detect,' he said; 'God's 
fingers when they touch the soul, leave it shining — man's 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 115 

fingers leave a stain ; the soul is really blacker for the 
clumsy attempt to imitate the work of the Spirit. As well 
try to imitate the sun in the firmament ! ' And dwelling 
joyously on the heroes of faith who had * run in the race of 
eternal life,' and on the growing splendour of the prize that 
appeared far off to Abraham, a glimpse of the day of Christ, 
but had become to Paul * an eternal weight of glory,' to John 
* likeness ' to the I^rd Himself, he said gladly, * In an 
earthly race, men tire ; here, they renew their strength.' 

It was the secret of his own unwearied effort under 
every difficulty. 

He was setting off on a preaching tour to the north 
when the decisive letter from the Secretary of the Missionary 
Committee was put into his hand. * Father, Thy will be 
done ! ' he said when he had read it. His perplexities were 
solved, his doubts were past. He should have much of the 
freedom he loved ; for half the year he should preach where 
he would, to whom he would; only six months out of 
twelve should be devoted wholly to the Mission cause, * not 
continuously, but as the interests of the Missionary Society 
shall appear to require.' 

The proposal at first made, that all or nearly all his 
time should be given to that one object, had always repelled 
him. * I could not do it,' he had said when laying his case 
before the Committee by letter, after the matter had been 
duly discussed in the Conference of 1837 ; *I have neither 
mental variety nor yet physical energy for the employment ; 
I must, therefore, shrink from the task.' His plea was 
accepted ; the promptings of the kind heart that made him 
anxious to serve all his brethren who might need him were 
respected. An income that he deemed sufficient was to be 
secured to him, and a provision for his brother. He 
accepted all with serious, cheerful thankfulness. What 



Ii6 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

though the moderate anticipations of his friends had not 
been fulfilled, and his means would be more straitened than 
they had meant? still the yearly ;^i5o might supply all his 
needs. *Let me live to glorify my God, to publish the 
Gospel — what matters all besides?' was his steadfast 
thought. 

And now our * Yorkshire farmer * must leave his farm- 
stead at Bambow, his well-loved fields and flocks, and in 
his sixty-fifth year he becomes a town-dweller, taking a 
modest house in * Springfield Terrace, Burmantofts, Leeds,* 
where Mary Dawson, his loving, sensible, pious niece, 
continues her care for his comfort, and that of his brother. 
Did he miss the pleasant outlook from the house his father 
had built, over the fields and meadows he himself had tilled 
so long — ^and the singing of the larks that soared over all and 
rejoiced his poetic heart ? He did undoubtedly feel * the 
sacrifice of all his associations, connected with all the 
pleasures he had enjoyed in that obscure place, scarcely 
known in the world — Barnbow,' but so seldom was he at 
home in his own * hired house ' that there was little leisure 
for indulging in any regrets, even had he been one who was 
prone to such indulgence. Happily, it was his principle and 
practice to look backwards with thankfulness and forwards 
with hope ; and it appeared as if the step he had taken, with 
some small misgiving, was to be fully justified by the results; 
so wide a prospect of usefulness seemed opening to him. 
The demands for his services came thick and threefold, now 
that his admirers supposed him free to comply with them 
all. It became necessary for an official plan of his mis- 
sionary engagements to be drawn up, and he himself made 
careful arrangements to meet all claims upon him that 
could be met ; but did he go wherever he was called, he 
must compress two years* work into one. 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 117 

* Uncle,' said Mary Dawson at last, * your labour is too 
oppressive. You should contrive, in arranging your work, to 
secure two or three days now and then for rest/ 

* Mary,' he replied, * I shall rest in my grave. The night 
Cometh when no man can work.' 

He broke fresh ground when, in the autumn of 1838, he 
went into Wales to address the English-speaking inhabitants 
of many places in the south of the Principality ; Carmarthen 
saw him and heard him, Tenby and Haverfordwest, 
Milford Haven and Swansea. He noted with an eager 
intelligence all that was new and striking in the ways of 
the unfamiliar country, as he and his companions traversed 
it by mountainous road and sluggish coach and storm-tossed 
ferry-boat; the beauty of the scenery was what least 
interested him ; his eye, as he often lamented, had not been 
properly trained to appreciate the picturesque in nature or in 
art ; but to every point of human interest he was awake and 
alive. The musical speech of the people struck him, the 
simplicity and contentment of the peasantry, who fed cheer- 
fully on barley-bread, and went about stockingless and shoe- 
less very often ; the little lowly churches, the snow-white 
lime-washed cottages, the graveyards, where the curiously 
decorated graves 'appeared like white - painted coffins, 
filled with earth and set with flowers,' drew his attention 
by the sharp contrast they offered to the scenes he knew 
best; especially was he struck by the * simple, artless, honest' 
faces of the Welsh maidens, glowing with health under their 
broad-brimmed steeple-hats ; he thought sadly of the sallow 
cheeks and stunted shapes of the poor factory-girls in his 
own Yorkshire, who are still suffering from their cruelly long 
hours, not yet shortened by law. Hundreds of these bright- 
faced Welsh girls are gathered together for hiring as servants 
at * St. Clear's,' where the missionary speakers have to change 



Ii8 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

coach; it is said that four pounds a year is the highest wage 
they can look for. Are the more highly-paid town-dwellers 
as well off? 

Such thoughts mingled irresistibly with diviner musings, 
while Dawson passed along the rough Welsh roads of that 
day, rejoicing in the kindly welcome he met everywhere, 
and in the numerous signs of good effected in this land 
where he found himself * a sort of foreigner/ 

Very shortly after this Welsh tour was ended, the 
Evangelist was engaged in a journey by sea and land to 
London, and to Maidstone, Ramsgate, Margate, Chelsea, 
and Dover — troublesome, but willingly taken to oblige 
various friends who begged for his help. Thus it was not 
till the close of the year that he could take his share in 
the exciting scenes connected with the celebration of the 
* Centenary of Wesleyan Methodism.' Speaking in Decem- 
ber at the adjourned meeting held in Brunswick Chapel, 
Leeds, he dwelt with joy on the brotherly unity of feeling 
and purpose which now bound together all within those 
walls -7- a happy contrast with recent troublous scenes — 
and then gave a quaint, true description of his own career. 

* I was always a nondescript,' said he, * an itinerant local 
preacher — a sort of link between the travelling and local 
preachers — something like the Acts of the Apostles between 
the Gospels and the Epistles, uniting the two. A friend of 
mine said once, " When Matthew Henry died, he was in the 
Acts of the Apostles." " That," said I, " is where I would 
be when I die — in the Acts of the Apostles."' And he had 
his wish. Apostolic in his zeal, he only gave up his apostolic 
toils with his life. 

*I exercised a sort of preachment,^ he went on, 'some 
years before I became a decided Methodist, but I found it 
would not do to be halting between the Established Church 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 119 

and the Methodists, and gave myself to the latter, soul and 
body — head, heart, and hand.' It is possible that in dwell- 
ing on this whole-souled devotion, which was the only merit 
he claimed for himself, he had some thought of those 
whom he ranked as * skin-deep Methodists,' easily drawn 
aside by attractions other than spiritual to leave the com- 
munion he loved. Their example he deprecated, and would 
fain never see it followed more. 

The early part of 1839 was fully occupied with engage- 
ments already contracted, distinguished only by the success 
that now seemed always to attend the efforts of the widely- 
known preacher. As of yore, chapels often proved too 
small for the congregations that gathered to hear him, and 
he would be compelled to preach in the open air, perhaps in 
the close neighbourhood of a stack-yard, itself thronged with 
young and old, who found perches on walls and carts and 
stacks, whence they could see and hear the speaker round 
whom a dense mass of hearers clustered, hanging in breath- 
less attention on his lips while he spoke of that possession 
common to all, * a jewel called the soul — divine in its origin, 
astonishing in its properties, and, though fallen from its 
glory, inestimable in its value,' and denounced * the inde- 
scribable, inexpressible, inconceivable folly of the man that 
barters away this jewel, get what he will in exchange.' It 
was natural and easy for him, who willingly gave his all to 
the service of his fellow-creatures, to urge on them not oAly 
the wisdom but the joy of a like consecration of life, 
strength, and means to the grand work of arousing men to 
see the value of this mysterious possession, of persuading 
them not for any price the world could give to cheat them- 
selves out of an eternity of growing glory and bliss — to 
plead how there was no pleasure so great, no duty so 
binding on Christian men, as the pleasure and the duty of 



120 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

soul-saving. The response to his plea was immediate and 
great, not only in contributions to the missionary cause 
which he sought to serve, but in the quickened sense of duty 
and privilege that outlasted the occasion. It was the latter 
result which he most prized ; the ample sums which men 
would give under the compelling power of his eloquence 
pleased him indeed, but his pleasure was much dashed if he 
saw no clear evidence of the spiritual benefit that he yearned 
to confer. Was it not possible, he asked sometimes appre- 
hensively, that the * collection,' following the sermon, dissi- 
pated thought and deadened conviction ? But it hardly 
suited him better when, on some few occasions, an 
entrance-fee admitted privileged hearers to * reserved seats ' 
in places of worship where he ministered ; it was * present- 
ing so many silver daggers' at the people who came to 
hear what should be a free Gospel ; and perforce he had to 
remain content with the ordinary way of proceeding, as a 
lesser evil. 

Rapidly, amid a constant succession of services like the 
one described, the year ran on until July, when he began 
his six months' round of work under the orders of the Mis- 
sionary Committee. It was sufficiently arduous, covering 
very much of the Midlands and not a little of the south 
of England, and often requiring him to preach twice a day, 
and to attend missionary meetings also. In one month 
twenty-five sermons and fifteen addresses were delivered 
while travelling 886 miles — almost always, we must remem- 
ber, without help of steam, and sometimes in open 
conveyances, while *the rains descended and the floods 
came,' overwhelming the hopeful harvest of the farmer and 
imperilling his cattle. Passing through such scenes of dis- 
tress, William Dawson thought and said nothing of his own 
bodily discomfort, all his anxiety being for the agriculturist, 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 121 

and for the general misery that might result ; it was some- 
thing of a pity, certainly, that lanes, * knee-deep in water,' 
prevented many persons from attending public worship, 
while others were perforce engaged in rescuing their drown- 
ing beasts from the flood ; but no personal feeling intruded 
itself for a moment. 

The selflessness — if we may borrow a new-coined word 
— that shone out in circumstances which, like these, might 
have annoyed some men, intent on their own successes and 
pleasures, was evident also in the candid simplicity with 
which Dawson would refer to certain deficiencies in his own 
powers or their development. Returning from a six weeks' 
tour that had taken him through Windsor, he spoke with 
delight of the royal castle, of its * antiquity, grandeur, and 
majesty,' adding that he had seen in many of its rooms 
paintings that he supposed to be excellent— something in 
the colouring and the grouping pleased him ; but he knew 
not why. * I was grieved at myself,' he said ; he felt that 
his pleasure was ignorant and might be ill-founded. * If I 
have any taste, it belongs more immediately to the ear 
than to the eye,' he confessed ; and even in music, which 
delighted him, he would not have claimed to take anything 
but uninstructed pleasure. There are those who would 
more willingly own to grave wrong-doing than to such defects 
in perception ; but in Dawson's large composition there was 
no room for the small miseries of vanity and false shame. 
The work on which he was heart and soul intent was too 
great. 

To the moral picturesque our Yorkshire farmer was 
always keenly alive ; and with the eye of an accomplished 
critic he judged the lights and shades of the new scenes 
that opened on him when, in his sixty-seventh year, he 
crossed the sea to make his first visit to Ireland, taking that 



122 WILL/AM DAWSON: 

country also into his missionary journeyings. Ireland 
before the Famine stands vividly pictured in his correspon- 
dence — the Ireland of Father Mathew, whom the English 
visitor sees at his much-needed work, * going through the 
land lecturing on the teetotal system, and obtaining pledges 
to adopt it.' He is in Dublin when Dawson reaches it ; 
and we may, if we like, take our stand beside the two men, 
on the steps of a pubHc building, besieged by some three 
thousand persons ; a wall of defence between the speaker 
and the crowd is made by some scores of police and a few 
mounted soldiers, who keep a clear space in front of the 
steps, while Mathew, the interesting-looking man in middle 
life, speaks briefly, * not very fluently,* but earnestly, on the 
blessings of temperance. The surging masses of the people 
— ragged, dirty, poverty-stricken — listen as to an angel of 
God ; and, the address being over, they stream forward in 
their hundreds, fall on their knees upon the dirty steps at 
his feet, fix eyes of unutterable earnestness on him as he 
speaks, and with great devotion echo the words of the 
pledge as he repeats it ; then retiring, they make way for 
another human wave to flow forward in their place. And 
now Dawson and the friend who has brought him would 
withdraw ; the police open the way from the retiring crowd, 
but it is not easy to pass through the throngs of women, 
some pitiably diseased, some clasping sickly infants in their 
arms, all trying to get near the Father, and entreating that 
he will heal the sick — they think he can do it with a touch. 
He does not appear to enjoy it ; he keeps his hands behind 
him. Indeed, this mistaken, half-idolatrous homage was 
very painful to its object. * But I think,' says Dawson, ' he 
should have retired from their presence, and have said to 
those who fell on their knees before him, as Peter did to 
Cornelius, " Stand up ; I myself also am a man." Oh, that 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 



123 



one could have preached the pure Gospel to them, and 
secured thousands of heart-pledges for Jesus Christ ! but 
there was no allusion to the need of pardon for the past, a 
new heart, a new spirit, through faith in the blood of the 
Lamb. This is a very serious defect,' he adds, with true 
insight, as though he had foreseen how not a few of these 
temperance pledges, taken with such touching earnestness, 




HE WATCHED THE POOR PEASANTS AT THEIR MAKESHIFT AGRICULTURE.—/. 124. 

would be broken or evaded — kept in the letter, broken in 
the spirit — when the wild excitement of the hour was gone. 
Knowing the terrible strength of the * Devil's chain ' of 
drunkenness, he feared lest these poor slaves of habit, who 
were looking to man and not to God for deliverance, would 
not long remain free from their bondage. 

Help they sorely needed, and his heart yearned over 
them in their misery. Passing through the country he saw 
the wretched homes whence those thousands had poured to 



124 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

kneel at the feet of Mathew — cabins walled with mud mixed 
with straw, windowless, chimneyless, the smoke oozing 
through the thatch or pouring from the open doorway; 
hovels a shade less WTetched, since they boasted a chimney, 
advertising * very good beds for travellers/ He noted within 
some fifty English miles, * more spirit shops in the villages 
than we have beer-shops in England,' every poor alehouse 
sold spirits, so did almost every grocer. With a farmer's 
eye he watched the poor peasants at their makeshift agri- 
culture. *They get a little land and cultivate it by the 
spade, set their potatoes, and the rest of their time is not 
half employed.' As for those who could not obtain their 
acre or two, and a few potatoes to plant, their huts were in 
a state that the English poor would find incredible. In 
the open streets of the little market towns sat many busy 
cobblers, mending for the folk w^ho came long distances to 
market their much-worn shoes, * many of which, with us, 
would be thrown on the dunghill ' ; why was such pathetic 
effort at economy needed ? One reason w^as apparent in 
the swarming spirit-shops; another in the lack, through- 
out the southern districts, of any industry but inefficient 
agriculture. * There is more than twice the number of 
people to cultivate the land than is necessary.' But was 
this all ? 

There were bright patches of light amidst this gloom. 
Warm and glowing was the cordial Irish welcome that 
greeted the visitors everywhere ; blessing seemed to follow 
their words ; there was much worth, piety, zeal, among the 
*few Methodists of the south of Ireland,' whom Dawson 
rejoiced to serve, and whose appearance bore witness to 
wholesome, industrious, useful lives, while in their well- 
appointed homes the Missionary advocates were * treated 
like priests and kings.' All the more he mourned over the 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 125 

debased condition of their Romanist countrymen, sunk in 
superstition, and steeped in poverty that seemed hopeless, 
their chief solace and their chief snare the destructive habit 
of dram-drinking. It would be well if *the commanding 
influence of the priests ' could reach and check that one 
vice. But what had that mighty ascendency of the priest- 
hood accomplished for the richly-gifted race of men who 
had so long bowed to its sway, and now sat in apathetic 
misery at its feet ? 

For the first time William Dawson was addressing 
scanty congregations, to be counted in scores of decent, 
well-doing people, while all around were thousands of half- 
starved suffering creatures, their souls perishing for lack 
of knowledge; yet his voice could not reach them — they 
would not hear it. 

* Oh, to preach the pure Gospel to them ! ' 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE LAST YEARS OF SERVICE. 

SOME sad forebodings clouded William Dawson's 
thoughts when he left the Green Isle, over which the 
shadow of impending calamity seemed to brood. He was 
not to see the years of famine and pestilence that were near 
at hand, nor the following period of European revolution 
and upheaval ; but in the actual state of things there was 
much which filled him with apprehension of an approaching 
crisis, *when opposing elements, religious and political, 
would ignite and burst into ruinous conflagration.' He was 
distressed by the fraud and dishonesty that in the commer- 
cial world were producing widespread disaster and suffering ; 
he mourned over those who, * making haste to be rich,' had 
pierced themselves with many sorrows; nor could he be 
blind to the spread of strange opinions which seemed to 
him unscriptural, uncharitable, and fraught with danger in 
the religious world ; to the threatenings of discontent 
among the people of the land, who were seeking wild 
remedies for their poverty and misery. But, said he, * Our 
nation has often been in an awful state, and the Lord has 
undertaken for us and delivered us ; He reigns, as Head 
over all things, to His body the Church ' ; and cheering him- 
self with this thought, he eagerly resumed his busy toil 
among his own countrymen. We may trace him here and 
there through the year ; now he is preaching on the death 
of a beloved and most useful friend and follower, the father 
of David Stoner ; now he is describing himself as * a poor 
man, four days out of employment,' and anxious to obtain 

126 



WILLIAM DAWSON, 127 

it ; then he is opening chapels in one place, delivering mis- 
sionary addresses in another. If there is monotony in the 
story there was none in the style of the speaker. 

We may still see and hear him as he was at this time, 
for the eloquent pen of Dr. Gregory has described how 
he looked and spoke on the occasion of a memorable 
missionary meeting at Pontefract, where the Leeds District 
Committee was gathered. Dawson had doffed his farmer's 
garb — being now entirely set apart to the work of the Lord 
— and put on the ministerial black. And the change 
became him admirably. On the platform he drew himself 
up and seemed some inches taller than he really was. He 
was big-boned, sinewy, stalwart, farmer-limbed, and farmer- 
faced. His light-grey eyes became almost fiercely incan- 
descent as he kindled with his theme. * His face was 
embrowned by outdoor toil and travel.' The speech he 
gave on this occasion was * the most famous and effective 
of all Dawson's platform deliverances — his telescopic speech. 
Coiling up his resolution into the shape of a spy-glass, he 
described in the most animated, energetic, vivid style, char- 
acteristic scenes of existing heathenism, asking before each 
description, " What do I see ?" Then, turning in another 
direction, he demanded, " But what do I see in the distant 
prospect ?" He then depicted the most graphic scenes of 
millennial peace and love and glory. Of course his real 
telescope for " the distant prospect " was the mighty tube of 
prophecy. It was a great privilege to hear William Dawson 
at the very top of his oratorical powers. A famous London 
barrister, himself a powerful and popular speaker, said in 
my hearing, " I have heard all, or nearly all, the greatest 
orators of my time, but I never heard such overwhelming 
eloquence as that of William Dawson when he turned his 
resolution into a spy-glass, and described the present and 



128 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

the future of missionary enterprise. I have dwelt the more 
on this," says the witness, so admirably qualified to judge in 
the matter of sacred eloquence, " because, strange to say, his 
biographer, whilst doing the fullest justice to Dawson in the 
pulpit, passes over his at least equal power on the platform. 
We there saw both his physique and his intellectual stature 
at full length."' 

This vivid description, which shows with what freshness 
Dawson could invest an address already celebrated, makes 
manifest also with what unabated, glowing confidence he 
looked past the cloud and darkness of the present to the 
future glories of Christ's Kingdom in this world. Priceless 
was that gift of inspired imagination ! He knew well its 
value in another, and would not have it repressed ; and in 
his own quaint way he took the part of that young preacher 
of splendid promise, whose appreciative words we have just 
quoted, and who, he found, had been much too sharply 
checked for the * juvenile efflorescence' of a sermon, rich in 
fancy and feeling, preached under circumstances of singular 
difficulty, before this very District Meeting. 

* So I hear,' said Dawson to the two grave critics who 
had distinguished themselves by severity, *you have been 
falling foul of that imaginative young fellow. Ah, well, pare 
him down, and by the time he is as old as you are, he'll be 
about as dry as you are.' 

William Dawson did not stand alone in outspoken 
sympathy for the roughly handled probationer of genius ; 
but no one else would have expressed the feeling with such 
homely significant audacity. Happily the paring-down pro- 
cess he deprecated was not pushed further, and the conse- 
quent loss to Methodism, its pulpit, pastorate, and literature, 
did not ensue. 

No one who at this time looked on the farmer-evangelist 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 129 

in his manly strength, and listened to his impassioned 
eloquence, could have imagined that he was, as he said, ' on 
the decline ' ; but he had good reason for that opinion as 
respected his bodily health, and some warm friends of his 
persuaded him, with difficulty, to undergo a medical exami- 
nation. * There is water on the chest,' pronounced the 
doctor who was called in. * My mother died of that com- 
plaint,' said the patient very calmly ; he listened with mild 
composure to the warning that, if he did not relax in his 
public exertions, the coilsequences might be very iserious, 
but he did not see his way to obeying ; he had engagements 
to fulfil that seemed imperative, and his earnest desire to 

* work while it was day ' was still paramount. Amid inces- 
sant toil the year ran on to its close, when we find him in 
York. There, at the Missionary Meeting, he delivered his 
famous * Railway Speech,' so startling in its spiritualising of 
an unspiritual subject ; and so doing he drew on himself 
the censure of such a critic as he had once compared to * a 
horse-fly, choosing the sore part of a horse's back to revel on, 
to the neglect of the sound unbroken flesh.' 

The newspaper oracle admitted that * the speaker's mean- 
ing was good, that the speech produced a good impression,' 
but could not away with the errors of taste involved in such 
eccentricities of illustration. The lofty condemnation 
included Dawson's hearers as well as himself. A better 
judge on such matters, having remarked that * Mr. Dawson 
was in every respect a man sui generis, and must not be 
tried by the rules that applied toother speakers,' added that, 

* though the taste of some of his most splendid coruscations 
might be questioned, their power over a certain class of 
minds was irresistible,' and in its remarkable success, in the 
lasting good produced, may be found the sufficient justifica- 
tion of a style that ^ could not be imitated.' 

10 



130 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

Dawson, we know, was well content to be esteemed 
illiterate and unpolished, if he could benefit the multitudes 
who did not understand learned and polite eloquence. He 
was not troubled by the fastidious fault-finder who now 
attacked him ; other thoughts were paramount. * Farewell, 
John,' he said to a young friend in this December, *this is 
perhaps the last time I shall see you on earth. I have a 
presentiment that I shall go off suddenly, and you must 
not be surprised if you hear of me being found dead some- 
where ; * and with such a feeling strong in his mind he 
hastened on to fulfil the pledge he had given to friends in 
the Isle of Wight and London. * The night cometh when 
no man can work ' was ever in his thoughts. 

From that journey he returned with difficulty; the 
severe cold brought on by his comfortless lodging at one 
place was aggravated into pleurisy by his attempt to dis- 
regard his sufferings and continue his work. He reached 
home only just in time. Sharp and prompt medical treat- 
ment checked the malady, but the friendly doctor forbade 
all exertion for a fortnight at least. He was surrounded by 
faithful affection, he was tended with the most loving care ; 
and thankful for these comforts, and for * the best of all, 
sweet heart-cheering tokens of the Divine presence,' he sub- 
mitted patiently to that which was * quite a new cross — 
being shut out of pulpit-work and shut up in the parlour.' 

Yet it was a heavy cross. *My Master, Jesus, is so 
excellent, that I always feel my soul in its element when 
engaged in His service,' he wrote from his sick-room. 
*When actively employed in His work, I seem to move 
round Him as my centre, and find most delightful rest when 
I am in my orbit, moving in my circle. I would still move 
on without cessation in that orbit.' Assured of having 
all eternity to rest in, he was, perhaps, too ready to believe 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER.' 131 

himself sufficiently restored, and to resume the labours that 
he loved. He looked out from his enforced seclusion with 
wistful eye at the threatening evils, moral and social and 
spiritual, that surrounded him; they troubled him more 
than his own pain or weariness ever could, and he longed 
to be up and doing again — doing battle against the forces of 
sin, and for his Master. 

With amended health, he entered on the duties of the 
year 1841 ; but he soon was made aware that it was not 
with him as it had been in days gone by; his splendid 
strength was giving way fast. Not so his mental energy. 
Visiting Nottingham, he surprised his hearers with a richly 
imaginative discourse on the Church of Christ, personified 
as * the King's daughter, all glorious within, her clothing of 
wrought gold,* with 'raiment of needlework.' With his 
usual ingenuity, he caught the attention of his hearers by 
imagery borrowed from the beautiful art-industries of Not- 
tingham — its * lace-work and needle-work,* but lingered not 
long on these, * making everything tell on the conscience 
and understanding,* so that the sermon, connected with a 
very extraordinary spiritual influence on the people, became 
extensively useful. 

*No, it is not altogether new,* said the preacher to a 
friend. * I took it once at Manchester, in Oldham Street 
Chapel, on the evening of Dr. Warren's return from his 
Chancery trial in London, when the Society was balancing, 
and when it was unknown a short time before, whether 
or no I should be allowed to occupy the pulpit. Since 
then I have had her, in true Oriental style, though the 
daughter of a king, locked up, and have not once suffered 
her to go abroad till to-night.* Those who listened to 
this discourse found the * King's daughter * glorious indeed. 
The beauty of holiness that is her rightful bridal clothing was set 



132 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

forth in such attractive colours as to win every heart. But of 
this only twice-delivered sermon no adequate report remains. 

Ere long William Dawson was in Lincolnshire, preach- 
ing occasional sermons with his wonted fire and fervour, 
but with unwonted difficulty to himself ; and now at last he 
confessed to a friendly ear that he was unequal to his task. 
*I shall go on till July,' he said, *and then I shall state 
to the Committee that I must become a supernumerary.' 

Could he have brought himself to speak as openly to 
the Committee as to his friend, his labours would at once 
have been lightened and his health might have benefited. 
But to him such a step seemed a breach of good faith. Not 
only his keen delight in his work, but his sense that it was 

* a debt ' which he owed to the Church, forbade him to 
desist while it seemed humanly possible for him to fulfil the 
obligations he held sacred. 

In the March of 1841, the home of his married brother 
Richard, at Acaster, received him for three days — a longer 
time than he had spent with his own kinsfolk during many 
years. It was a little family festival, for they celebrated his 
birthday ; he was now sixty-eight. Well and deservedly he 
was beloved in that home, where the good old farmer-life 
of Barnbow was continued; and its sons and daughters were 
loved by him with a father's love. But the joy of the 
reunion was a little overcast by the evident feebleness and 
suffering of the guest. The difficult breathing and the 
cough which had long troubled him were visibly worse. 
His sister-in-law said some words of tender warning to him, 
and he answered composedly, * I believe I am sufiering 
from the complaint of which my mother died,' but his 
sunny cheerfulness and steady courage were not therefore 
impaired. To him there was no terror in the thought of 

* sudden death ' 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: 133 

*What is it but crossing the River of Death where it 
is narrowest, and being wafted over the stream in a few 
minutes ? ' 

So he had spoken when another faithful servant of his 
Master was called away to receive his reward at a few 
moments' notice ; he had said of William Bramwell that he 
was * unusually favoured ' in the fashion of his removal from 
this world — no lingering sickness, no long delaying on the 
stormy shore of that cold river ; and the summons he did 
not fear to meet was to come to William Dawson in like 
manner, as he would have desired. *The pins of my 
tabernacle must loosen, and the canvas must have its rents 
and holes. The leading wish of my heart is, as expressed 
in the hymn which I often say and sing, — 

* Let me in life, in death, 

Thy steadfast truth declare, 
And publish with my latest breath, 

Thy love and guardian care.* 

These touching words, which occur in a letter addressed to 
an anxious friend about this time, sufficiently describe the 
habitual feeling of their writer's mind, while, with no doubt- 
ful consciousness of peril to life and health, he went about 
the work of his appointed Missionary tour which began in 
April, and which was to take in, as before, many places in 
the Midlands, and some few north, west, and south. 

He can be traced at Dover and at Canterbury: his 
discerning host Mr. Geden, noted well the impressive power 
of his ministry at both places, the spirituality of his conver- 
sation, and the pathetic fervour of his address to the son of 
the house, then just entering on that ministerial career of 
distinguished usefulness which has not long been closed. 
As if he were bestowing a farewell blessing, Dawson laid 
his hand on the young man's head, and said : 



134 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

* Live when I am dead — live better than I have lived ! * 
words in which the presentiment of approaching departure 
is quite visible. 

The latter part of June found him in London, at Tun- 
bridge Wells, at Croydon, taking an active part in various 
public services, and neither speaking nor looking like one 
whose courage was chilled by the * shadow of death.' * No 
Christian need fear a shadow!' he had once said with 
healthy scorn. 

His last sermons were preached at Great Berkhampstead 
in the St. Albans Circuit ; for finding he had some days free 
for extra work, he had given these to the friends who were 
opening a new chapel in that tranquil Hertfordshire village, 
honoured as the birthplace of William Cowper. A large 
congregation, gathered from many surrounding places, 
listened to Dawson on the evening of the ist of July, while 
he dwelt on the text, * And now the ax is laid to the root 
of the tree ; therefore every tree which bringeth not forth 
good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.* He spoke 
as a good husbandman, who knew well how fruit-bearing 
trees must be dealt with, and gave many a homely striking 
illustration of those solemn words of the Baptist, whose 
sternly faithful warnings he enforced with all his old vigour. 
Then, referring to the doctrine of divine Providence, he 
spoke with earnest thankfulness of the guiding Hand that 
had directed his own doings and had protected him and 
his family. 

* I can " set to my seal that God is true " as it respects 
the faithfulness of our promise-making, promise-keeping 
God, in the fulfilment of His word to a fatherless family. 
In my own experience, and those of my brothers and sisters, 
I can bear witness to this truth — that as it regards the word 
spoken to the widow and the fatherless — " faithful is He 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 135 

that hath promised, who also will do it." I can lift up my 
voice, and say, "Blessed be the Lord who gave us rest 
according to all that He hath promised; there hath not 
failed one word of all His good promise that He promised," 
by His servants who wrote as they were " moved by the 
Holy Ghost."' 

Such, and yet more fervent, were the words of heart- 
cheering gratitude which Dawson addressed to the congre- 
gation who heard his last pulpit utterances. 

His friends recalled afterwards how he had said of 
this particular text : * I never feel my mind impressed to 
preach upon it, but it is almost invariably followed by a 
sudden death.* 

From Hertfordshire he came direct to Leeds ; and 
alighting from the train, he was going to take a cab for 
himself and his luggage. But a noisy dispute now arose 
between two cabmen as to the right of conveying him, and 
growing weary of their wrangling, Mr. Dawson dismissed 
them both with a flash of humorous vexation ; he would 
carry his portmanteau himself. 

How lightly the * Yorkshire farmer ' would have borne 
such a load in days gone by ! but now it was too much for 
him. Breathless and panting, he must stop at a friend's 
door, and leave his burden there, while he made his slow 
way home. 

Here was another warning; but when refreshed by a 
few hours' rest, he felt all himself again, and answered 
various pressing letters, making plans for further exertions ; 
then he betook himself to a friend's house, where with a 
numerous party he watched the quaint ceremony of * chair- 
ing ' the newly elected members of Parliament ; he had not 
lost any of his interest in public matters. But some one 
saying, *You do not look well,' he said, significantly 



136 WILL/AM DAWSON: 

touching his breast, * Not right here, — my work is too hard 
for me,* he added, half reluctantly. People urged on him 
to see a doctor, to stay at home awhile ; a minister present 
offered to take his next appointment, if he would but 
consent to rest. 

* No ; I am never so well as in the open air, and 
travelling. I trust the journey I have to take will do me 
good and not harm,' he replied. As he returned on foot to 
his own house, however, his kinswoman, Mrs. Phillips, who 
accompanied him, saw with alarm how the small exertion 
overtaxed him ; and again he was entreated to call in a 
medical man : to take a few days* rest. 

* My journey to-morrow will be the best medicine I can 
take,* he replied with cheerful persistence ; he thought that 
all his experience warranted this opinion. Fresh air and 
movement had always been his grand panacea. So, on the 
morning of the 3rd of July he set off to Colne in Lanca- 
shire to keep his engagement with the friends there, his 
relative, Mr. Phillips, accompanying him, and staying with 
him at the house of another member of that family. 

He was surrounded with affectionate friends, watchful 
over his health. Cheerfully as ever he greeted them, and 
happily he spent the evening hours among them, choosing 
the tunes that he wished to have sung in the chapel on the 
following day, joining in singing several hymns, and closing 
the day with earnest prayer to which all Ustened, well 
pleased that his fervent utterance seemed to show no abate- 
ment of strength. But there was some sign of past suffering 
in his looks. * He may be better now, but he has been 
unwell — he should have a light burhing in his room all 
night,* some one said ; and his travelling companion would 
fain have persuaded him to allow himself this small luxury. 

* O child, I am much better — there is no need of it — 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: I37 

blow it out/ he replied, with a cheery unwillingness to be 
treated as an invalid ; and he was left to his quiet rest. 

But in the gray twilight of the summer morning Mr. 
Phillips woke suddenly; a faint voice was in his ear, 
* Edward, get up — I am very poorly,* and springing up he 
saw that Mr. Dawson had risen, and stood there struggling 
for breath. To help him to a chair, to alarm the family, to 
send for a doctor, was the work of a few minutes. But 
little could be done. The attempt to open a vein and give 
some relief to the labouring chest proved futile. 

Leaning back in his chair, and feebly grasping his staff, 
William Dawson spoke a few farewell words to the loving 
friends who hung over him in distress — precious words, that 
showed how calm, clear, and bright burnt the flame of his 
spirit's life, of his Christian hope. 

* Let us in life, in death, 

Thy steadfast truth declare,' 

were the last syllables he could frame clearly. Trying to add 
the concluding lines of the verse — 

' And publish with our latest breath 
Thy love and guardian care,* 

utterance failed him. He crossed his hands over his breast, 
and without a struggle, without one lingering groan, * ceased 
at once to work and live.* 

Happy was William Dawson in his life; his cheerful, un- 
wearied activity in his Master's cause had the reward he 
most coveted, for many were the sinners who by his words 
were turned from darkness to light, from the power of Satan 
to God. 

Happy was he in his death ; no slowly wasting malady 
shut him out from his loved employment and made life a 
heavy burden ; not for a day did he outlive his usefulness. 



138 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

When the first sharp touch of pain warned him that his 
day's work might soon be done, his mind rested calmly on 
the promise, * Fear not, I am with thee ; be not dismayed, 
I am thy God' ; and the faithful human friends who were 
about him at the last saw with mingled grief and joy how 
the promise was fulfilled ; how the Presence kept bim 
from all fear or shrinking as, at * the narrowest place,* he 
forded the shadowy river. 

There was wide-spread grief when the news of that 
sudden departure spread abroad, and first the people in 
Colne, and then the thousands who had cause to bless the 
hour they saw the face of William Dawson, made haste to 
do honour to his memory. Very early on the Monday 
morning his sorrowing friends prepared to remove his 
remains to his own home ; but crowds were already astir, 
who reverently escorted the hearse on its way, singing the 
hymns he had loved, and other crowds met the mournful 
train at every town through which it passed towards Leeds, 
showing the same deep feeling. Again and again the verse 
was chanted which he had tried to repeat in his last moments, 
and which well summed up his life's work. 

Two days later his funeral procession passed through 
Leeds on its way to Barwick, where his kinsfolk wished to 
lay him beside his mother in the old churchyard ; and the 
streets and high-roads by which they went were packed and 
lined with masses of sympathising spectators, heedless of the 
heavy rain that fell on them and on the long lines of mourners 
who went before and followed after the hearse, on foot, on 
horseback, in carriages. There was a general anxiety on 
the part of the townsfolk to show all esteem for the single- 
hearted evangelist who had loved the souls of his fellow- 
creatures better than his own life ; but the most touching 
spectacle was witnessed at Barwick. Here had been 



THE 'YORKSHIRE FARMER: 139 

William Dawson's home, in that farmstead which from 
the brow of a hill looked down on the dark array of 
mourners, as they passed with songs of joy and sadness ; 
here he was known best and prized the most. Sorrowing 
friends of all ranks joined the funeral company, filled and 
overflowed the church, and stood weeping round the grave, 
while the solemn voice of the Rector pronounced : 

* " I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me. Write, 
from henceforth blessed are the dead which die in the 
Lord ; even so, saith the Spirit : for they rest from their 
labours." * 

* And their works follow them ! ' many a heart that heard 
would have responded. Here, where almost all his years 
had passed, there were few indeed who had not loved the 
departed in life, and on whom his ministry had not con- 
ferred benefits that would last for ever. 

No tribute of grateful affection that Methodists could 
bestow was withheld from him who had freely given him- 
self to Methodism, * body and soul — heart, head, and hand.' 
Memorial services were held, eloquent sermons were 
preached in his honour, biographies written and eagerly 
welcomed ; but perhaps nothing would so well have pleased 
him as the contributions to the Mission cause which many 
of his friends gave as the fittest thankoffering to God 
who had raised up William Dawson as an advocate for 
Missions. 

Far beyond his own time his power has been felt for 
good ; so long, so lovingly has he been remembered by 
those who once knew and heard him ; such delight have 
they taken in reproducing for a younger generation his 
quaint impressive words, his startling warnings, his irresis- 
tible appeals — so vividly have they set the very man be- 
fore us — that perhaps of no great preacher of his time 



I40 WILLIAM DAWSON: 

could it have been so tnily said, *He being dead, yet 
speaketh/ 

The reasons of this fond and faithful remembrance 
must not be sought only in the essentially popular character 
of Dawson's original genius, in that pictorial imagination 
and those flashes of irresistible humour and pathos which 
had lent to his oratory much of the varied charnci of a 
dramatic representation, but also in the rich humanity of 
the great preacher, who had been so pre-eminently *one 
who loved his fellow-men,' who delighted in their society, 
and delighted yet more in serving them. He was unwearied 
in doing kindnesses, and thought himself well repaid by the 
success of his well-meant efforts, and there was something 
very endearing in the homeliness of speech and the unpre- 
tending simplicity of character which in him were united 
to excellent, manly common sense and unselfish devo- 
tion. That, all his life long, he was a man of many warm 
and faithful friendships, that he watched with anxious, 
tender care over the young relatives on whom his strong 
domestic affections expended themselves, is evident in his 
correspondence ; we may draw attention in particular to a 
series of letters, remarkable for their kindly, practical 
wisdom, their judicious counsels, addressed to the nephew 
whom, with wistful delight, he saw preparing to give himself 
to the great work of the ministry. The heart of love in him 
did jiot thus satisfy itself; it overflowed, as we have seen, 
to all who were desolate and oppressed, to all who suffered 
from the tyranny of men or of Satan ; it yearned with 
unspeakable tenderness over the perishing and the degraded, 
it cherished with warmest kindliness all the true children 
of God. 

And love repaid him — ^a love which could take pleasure 
in the very roughnesses of his genius, the knots and excres 



THE * YORKSHIRE FARMER: 141 

cences of a character grandly rugged like a wide-spreading 
British oak, which found a sort of fascination in the home- 
spun plainness that shocked super-sensitive refinement, but 
that well beseemed this * son of the soil,' called, like Elisha, 
from his plough to speak the Word of God. The simple, 
unconscious heroism of his life, wholly ruled by loving, self- 
renouncing duty, was only made fully known after his death ; 
and the revelation endeared him the more to those who 
prized his worth. They learned without surprise how, when 
the quarterly instalments of his slender income were made 
over to him, he would say to the friend entrusted with the 
payment, * I want you to take ;^io of this for the missions, 
I have no use for the whole,' and how, the unconventional 
proposal being refused, he found other ways of devoting no 
small part of his modest savings to the cause he loved, as 
well as to funds which appealed to him because they bene- 
fited the ministers of the Church to which he had attached 
himself with full conviction. That he should give freely of 
his little worldly wealth was a small matter compared with 
the gift of his life and all its powers that he had made 
ungrudgingly ; but the one was in complete harmony with 
the other. 

The powerful voice has long been silent, and the number 
of those on whose ear its echoes lingered is lessening con- 
tinually ; we can only reproduce imperfectly some passages 
from the discourses, some snatches of the conversation, that 
once were instinct with such power ; but the consecrated 
life may still be studied, the example may yet be imitated, as 
the impassioned eloquence of the preacher never could be. 

May he have spoken yet once more in these pages by 
that noble example of Christ-like, unselfish devotion ; may the 
spectacle of his unfaltering faith rekindle dying faith ; may 
those lingering echoes of his pleading, winning, cheering 



142 WILLIAM DAWSON. 

accents reach some hearts that need a voice like his to 
awaken and encourage them ! 

For the Gospel which he lived to proclaim is ever new 
and ever true and ever needed ; and in his own life it may 
be seen fairly written — not * blotted and blurred with sin, 
but traced by the finger of God ; worthy to be read of all 
men — to be posted at the corner of every street — to be read 
in time, and in eternity/ 

With these simple, glowing words in which he spoke the 
praise of some other saints of God, we take our leave, for 
the moment, of William Dawson. 



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