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MEMOIR OF MRS. KIRSOP,
OF REDGATE HALL, WOLSINGHAM :
BY THE REV. RICHARD MARTIN.
Since the dawn of Christianity women have often been among the first to own the attraction of the cross. Appealing, as it does, to all the noblest instincts of woman's nature, and developing all her purest affections; consecrating to the Divine service her spirit of dependent submission; and securing to her a high and honourable place in society ; who can wonder if we find women among the most devoted disciples of Christianity! Their tender ministrations won the smile of the living Redeemer ; His dead body received at their hands the last rites of loving affection, and His resurrection their earliest welcome. Presenting the most striking variety of disposition culture, and social status, godly women have given to Christ their service and their supreme love; and the Church has, in all ages, afforded a place in her literature to records of their devotion. While disclaiming any desire to extol the subject of this Memoir, the writer hopes that the following sketch may be not found devoid of interest.
JANE MARGARET, the daughter of Cuthbert and Mary BAINBRIDGE, was born at Eastgate, Weardale, in the county of Durham, November 19th, 1813. Her ancestors belonged to old and well-known families long resident in Weardale, occupying the estate at Eastgate, which became the joint property of the Earl of Scarborough and the Bainbridge family. As a child, Jane Margaret is remembered to have been quick, intelligent, and high spirited. From her earliest years, according to her own statement, she often felt the strivings of the good Spirit of God, and her mind was drawn to meditate with increasing interest on the destinies which await us in a future life. Her greatest inward condemnation arose from a sense of ingratitude to God. The idea of the vast love of the Divine Father in giving His Son, invested the Holy One with such aspects of tender glory as to induce her to weep when alone at the very thought. The ministry and conversations of the Rev. Thomas Hickson, then stationed in the Wolsingham Circuit, were made a great blessing to her. Two elder sisters had
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found the peace which the consciousness of Divine forgiveness brings. Jane Margaret was then at school; and, feeling deep conviction of sin, longed to return, thinking she would find more speedily at home the comfort she desired. It was her intention not to disclose her inner state to any one, but to cherish her desires after Christ in the secrecy of her own heart. There were some things which she felt she must at once give up. One was reading works of fiction, which had become a fascination, and a snare to her soul.
In one of the cottages near to her father's house a poor woman lay on her death-bed, calmly waiting in hope for the Master's call. Here the godly neighbours often met to afford the consolation of their prayers, in prospect of the last trial. It was at one of the prayer-meetings in this cottage that Miss Bainbridge could first say,
“The opening heavens around me shine
With beams of sacred bliss,
And whispers I am His."
Instantly she became so filled with joy that she could not keep the happiness of her heart a hidden fact. On her way home she called to tell a humble friend, to whom she had often disclosed her feelings and her fears. On reaching home she announced to her parents that she had found rest in the Saviour.
All renewed minds have their spiritual affinities, and Miss Bainbridge now saw that her place would be in close association with the Church of God. She had been admitted to the visible kingdom of Christ in infancy by the appointed ordinance, and now she felt anxious to take upon herself the vows which personal consecration involves. With her this was an intelligent actvoluntary, hearty, and intended to be constant and final. Her ticket of membership with the Church was received from the Rev. Thomas Hickson. Thomas Stephenson was her first class-leader, of whose class she continued a member until the time of her marriage.
True Christian life is always active, and this new disciple of Jesus felt that she must now begin to work for her Lord. To her the Sunday-school seemed to offer a congenial sphere. This was a wise selection; for in this service, where Sunday-schools are what they ought to be, young people are brought into contact with the best minds in the Church. One event connected with her class in the Sunday-school is remembered as being helpful to her own faith, and as tending to create that desire for active usefulness in the Church which she cherished to the end of life. A scholar, of whom she had charge, died in the full assurance of Christian hope. Just before her death she sent for her teacher, to tell her of her happiness in prospect of entering into the city of God. The calm and triumphant departure of this Sunday-scholar proved a powerful stimulus to effort. Here was one lamb, for which she had felt a tender care, safely gathered by the great Shepherd into the sheltering fold above.
We have no written account of the experience and spiritual progress of Miss Bainbridge from the time of her conversion until 1831. Portions of a journal, written at intervals from that date, have been preserved. The following sentences are taken from the first entry
Wednesday, September 28th, 1831.—“I have this day felt the cleansing blood applied to my soul. I know and feel my soul is washed......yes, in the blood of our dear Emmanuel. Glory, glory be to God!" The next entry is the following:
November 7th.—"This evening was at a dinner party. Felt the need of Christian courage ; but in the strength of Divine grace resisted firmly the united efforts to get me to dance.”
These extracts are given, because they disclose two features of religious character which she maintained through her subsequent life-steadfast faith in the atoning merit of Jesus, and a strict nonconformity to the frivolities of the world.
During a visit to London in 1832, Miss Bainbridge profited greatly, both intellectually and spiritually, by the society of those to whom she was introduced, and by the social and public means of grace connected with City Road chapel. In her journal she makes repeated reference to sermons heard from the Revs. Theophilus Lessey, James Dixon, Joseph Taylor, and Mr. William Dawson, and to the Covenant and Communion services, which brought more than common blessings to her opened and waiting heart. Her spiritual state is described under date of November 7th, 1832:"Enjoyed sweet communion. O, how happily the hours glide along when all is clear upwards ! "
On her return to the North of England Miss Bainbridge began to move about actively among Christian workers in the Master's service, in Allandale, Newcastle-on-Tyne, and elsewhere. Special evangelistic services were being held in Brunswick Wesleyan chapel by a clergyman of the Church of England, of which services she wrote :
“Went to Newcastle, accompanied by my brother, to hear the Rev. R. Aitkin, a journey I shall never have to repent." We find in the journal, from 1834 to 1836, numerous records of
her private heart-searchings and efforts to attain a higher and holier life.
On the 11th of March, 1837, Miss Bainbridge was married to John Kirsop, Esq., of the firm of Morrison, Dillon, and Co., London. From this time she had close association with the Methodist people at City Road chapel. She greatly enjoyed the class-meeting fellowship as a private member, but was in a short time made a leader, being nominated by the Rev. Richard Pieece. For this work she was well qualified, being possessed of superior mental endowments, strong sympathies, and intense anxiety to promote the spiritual good of others. At that time her health was very precarious, but she engaged in numerous Christian activities, often remarking, “It will be better to wear out than to rust out.”
Mrs. Kirsop's happy association with the City Road Society was severed by Mr. Kirsop's removal from the city. During the later years spent in London their residence was at Oatland Villa, Streatham. At Brixton Hill chapel Mrs. Kirsop found a congenial place of worship, cultivated Christian society, and a suitable sphere for religious and benevolent work.
In the three classes of which she had charge, the Strangers' Friend Society, and a Mothers' Meeting, she had ample scope for doing good. Occasions of special gratitude were found in several cases of conversion and consecration to Christ among the young ladies in Miss Pipe's educational establishment. To this subject the subjoined entry in her journal probably refers :
December 23rd, 1855.—“I have had many blessed opportunities of speaking to seekers of salvation. Five young ladies have been brought into the liberty of God's dear children, and three young women besides have come to me for spiritual help.”
During her residence at Streatham, numerous references are made to the benefit she derived from the services at Brixton Hill chapel. Here she found a ministry profitably varied, and well adapted to her intellectual and spiritual tastes.
As in nature all things tend to their proper centre by the uniform operation of Divinely ordained law, so also in society moral forces impel kindred minds to seek communion. Prompted by true Christian instinct, Mrs. Kirsop was led to address a letter to Mrs. Palmer, of New York, of whose labours she had heard, and some of whose books she had read. From that time to the end of her life a close friendship was maintained between them by frequent correspondence. The first letter, dated November 4th, 1858, is devoted almost exclusively to the subject of Entire Sanctification. It contains a reference to Dr. Bunting's last sermon, which was on this subject : “ If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just