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FOR MARCH, 1824.
MEMOIR OF MR. JOHN GOULD, OF BARNSTAPLE:
BY MR. J. AVERY, The subject of this Memoir was one of those humble Christians who were never designed by Divine Providence to shine in the more splendid walks of life : but, placed in a more private, though not less useful sphere, like the modest violet he blossomed in the shade, and spread a gracious fragrancy around him.
Mr. John Gould was born in the parish of Charles, in the North of Devon. His youth was spent in the giddy rounds of thoughtlessness and folly; and, to use his own expression, he was nearly twenty years old before he “knew the Lord.” About that period, a small volume of sermons, by the celebrated Mr. WHITEFIELD, fell into his hands; by which, under the influence of the Holy SPIRIT, divine truth obtained access to his mind. He was led to compare his past life and conversation with the requisitions of God's Law; and he discovered that he had broken its righteous precepts, and that its dreadful curse rested on his soul. So deep were his convictions of his original depravity and actual transgressions, that he mourned bitterly before the LORD. Whilst he was thus contrite on account of sin in general, the recollection of one particular offence was peculiarly distressing to his mind. As he was one day occupied in driving his father's cattle from one part of the farm to another, his anger was provoked by the unusual trouble they gave him ; and he vented his passion in a dreadful oath. The remembrance of this now oppressed his conscience, and overwhelmed his soul with godly sorrow. For more than half a year, he laboured under this spiritual anguish ; during which, Satan also sorely tempted him,-suggesting that there remained no more happiness for him in this world, and that he could do nothing better than put a period to his wretched existence. He earnestly sought deliverance from this burden, by . prayer and supplication ; and anxiously looked round for some one
to take him by the hand, but could find none who cared for his soul. Like David he had to complain that his former “ lovers and · VOL. III. Third Series. MAROH, 1994..
friends" stood afar off; and he became the object of their derision. But God, who is the hope of the destitute and the Saviour of the lost, at length heard his prayers, and sent salvation. By the voice of his Spirit he “spoke peace” to his soul; and inwardly proclaimed to him the free pardon of his sins, through faith in Christ, whom he was enabled to receive as his all-sufficient SAvious. From that time, he finally abandoned those vain amusements in which he had once delighted; nor would he ever after indulge himself in “foolish talking, or jesting, which are not convenient.” And if he was, in any instance, overcome by the power of temptation, yet could he never rejoice in iniquity, but rejoiced only in the truth. The word of the Lord was precious in those days; and, in the place and neighbourhood where he then dwelt, there was no “open vision.” At North-Molton, a village about five miles from him, he heard of the people “every where spoken against.” There the pious and venerable MR. Roberts, of Tiverton, a Local Preacher in the Methodist Connexion, had erected the standard of the Cross ; and a goodly number had enlisted under its banners. Under his preaching, and that of his colleagues, MR. G. was instructed in the way of the Lord more perfectly. His union with this people, however, excited the displeasure of his family, and kindled against him the fire of persecution. The Clergyman of the parish was, at that time, decidedly hostile to evangelical truth. He endeavoured to turn aside his youthful parishioner from the faith; and persuaded his father to oppose, by paternal authority, his son's further connexion with the Methodists. But about this period, the Lord was pleased to awaken from the sleep of sin three of his neighbours and companions. These four young men resolved together to dedicate themselves to the service and glory of God. They separated themselves from the ungodly world; and strengthened each other's hands in the way of righteousness. For ten years they continued to form a part of the Society at North-Molton; where they generally attended on the Lond's day, and regularly once a fortnight on the weeknight, on foot, even in the darkest nights and most inclement seasons. In this first Methodist Society in the North of Devon, were many individuals who came from different parishes in the neighbourhood; attracted first, perhaps, by curiosity, and afterwards united by principle and by affection to the Lord and to his people. Amongst others was a young female of respectable family and connexions, who, in the midst of great opposition, and much personal privation and fatigue, was a member and ornament of the Society, and who afterwards became the wife of MR. Gould. After their marriage, being established in his native village of Charles, he opened his house for the preaching of the Gospel; and the word of life was there dispensed by the Methodist Ministers, whom he received as the messengers of God, esteeming them very highly for their work's sake, 2
and labouring to promote their personal comfort during the time in which they sojourned under his roof. This was an additional cause of offence to the Clergyman of the parish ; and he manifested his displeasure by all those petty acts of annoyance and vexation which his official situation put within his power. He was, however, shortly arrested by the hand of affliction; and being awakened to a sense of his sin and misery, he sent for those very Methodists, against whom he had evinced so much opposition, and, in a state of horror and despair which rendered his death-bed almost unapproachable, besought them to intercede with God for mercy on his soul. Meanwhile, MR. Gould, continuing to walk in the fear of the Load, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost, was edified and established; and had the happiness of seeing some of his neighbours embrace that Gospel which he had proved to be the power of God unto salvation. Through his earthly pilgrimage, he experienced the truth of the saying, that “through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.” By excessive exertion in his early days, he contracted a disorder which occasioned much bodily pain through all his future life;—and his other trials were neither few nor small. Like Esau, he was deprived of his birthright; like Job, he was robbed of his cattle; like the Israelites in Egypt, he was oppressed and suffered wrong from another Pharaoh. But his heaviest calamity was the loss of his beloved wife, after an union of about twenty-six years, during the whole of which she continued a steady, zealous, and useful member of the Methodist Society, to whose doctrines and discipline she was conscientiously attached, and of whose members and ministers she was the constant and active friend. A venerable Preacher, at that time stationed in the Collumpton Circuit, of which the Society at Charles was a part, remarked, “We have many sisters, but few mothers; but in Mrs. Gould we have lost a mother in Israel.” As her life had been uniform and exemplary, so her end was “quietness and assurance for ever.” For several years, Mr. G. lived in the daily expectation of the summons which would reunite him to his heart's best earthly treasure; but, contrary to his anticipations, he was called to sustain a widowhood of twenty-two years. In his intercourse with the christian world, he was not without his trials. The inconsistent deportment of some professors of religion was such as might have turned aside from the faith a mind less established in grace than his ; but he knew in whom he had believed, and was convinced that the Gospel is not accountable for the inconsistencies of its professors. In the midst of all his afflictions he committed the keeping of his soul into the hands of God, of whose favour he never lost his confidence, and whose glory he invariably aimed at promoting. In a few years after the death of his wife, he contracted his business, and removed to a smaller farm in the parish of Loxhore; and, like the Patriarchs, whose first concern in their various migrations was to raise an altar to the Lord, he set up the worship of God, and again opened his house for the preaching of the Gospel; and greatly did he rejoice in the prospect of usefulness which followed. After residing there for about seven years, his children being all settled, and feeling the infirmities of old age approach, he totally relinquished business; and, with a view to a more frequent enjoyment of the means of grace, he removed to Barnstaple, where he passed the remainder of his exemplary life, uninterruptedly devoted to the exercise of piety and benevolence— It often happens that religious people, under the bias of a strong personal affection towards those who have been made the instruments of their conversion, are led to view divine truths through the same particular medium with them. Thus it was with Mr. Gould. Under God, he acknowledged Mr. Whitefield for his spiritual father; and the doctrines which were taught by him he received with all readiness of mind. Hence he communicated with the Independent Church in Barnstaple; and possessed the affectionate regards of its excellent Pastor, and of the Church in general. But notwithstanding his difference from the Wesleyan Methodists on some doctrinal subjects, so much was he attached to their society, and so highly did he value their peculiar discipline and privileges, that he remained in the closest connexion with them to the last; and his Leader can testify that no member was more constant at the Class-meeting than he was, as long as his health permitted. And whilst he thus lived in christian union with both parties, he contended with neither; but, by precept and example, he instructed both to pray for larger measures of love and holiness-His disengagement from secular pursuits afforded him much opportunity for what he esteemed the delightful work of visiting the indigent and distressed, to whose wants he administered, and whose spirits he consoled by directing them to the truths and promises of the Gospel. Nor would he ever close his visit without commending them, by fervent prayer, to the grace of God in Christ Jesus. The sick, the aged, and the infirm, engaged his tenderest commiseration; and not only whilst bending over their suffering pillow, but in his private devotions, at the family-altar, and in the public assemblies of the saints, he constantly remembered them before God. In these exercises, his own soul prospered like a watered garden; and he was daily ripened for the heavenly garner. The salvation of his children and relations lay near his heart; and he frequently occupied himself in writing letters, in which he earnestly exhorted them to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and directed them to the Lord Jesus Christ as the way, the truth, and the life, always adverting to his own blissful experience of the divine mercy. Though he kept no journal, he often wrote short sketches of his religious experience on detached pieces of paper; and one from among the *