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MEMOIR OF MR. GEORGE SEVERS,
BY THE REV. JAMES HARRIS. “A good name,” says the wise man, “is better than precious ointment.” The calm, unwavering, catholic piety of the late Mr. George Severs has imparted to his name a delightful fragrance; and, until the present generation depart to their fathers, it will call forth grateful recollections among the faithful of various denominations in the city of Ripon, as well as in the body of the Methodists throughout the Circuit. To perpetuate the memory of this excellent man, and to stimulate others to follow his good example, are the objects of this memoir.
George Severs was born in Ripon, on the 2d day of June, 1811. His parents “were both righteous before God;" and, as they lived uprightly, so their ends were peaceful. Mrs. Severs died in the Lord, November 6th, 1836 : Mr. Severs exchanged mortality for life on November 24th, 1839. A short memoir of this good man, drawn up by his son, may be found in the Wesleyan Magazine for 1842, pp. 453, et seq., and to it the reader is referred for the religious history of this “old disciple.” The eldest brother and the sister of George terminated “the days of the years of their pilgrimage," "in sure and certain hope of a joyful resurrection unto eternal life,” before his removal; and his surviving brothers are at this present rejoicing “in the hope of the Gospel,” and striving to follow “them who through faith and patience inherit the promises :" so that in the whole family is afforded a happy illustration of the influence of prayerful parental culture; as, likewise, of the faithfulness of the Most High to His gracious word, “Train up a child in the way he should
go; and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Mr. Severs never enjoyed robust health. In childhood he was the subject of frequent affliction; and subsequently, till the termination of his earthly course, he was burdened with a feeble constitution. To this circumstance, perhaps, is partly to be attributed a sobriety of disposition and demeanour, for which he was always remarkable. At the age of eleven years he was sent to a respectable school, where he received a plain and substantial education, which he continued in after-years diligently to improve. During his boyhood he experienced several remarkable providential deliverances, for which he was long
VOL. VII. — FOURTH SERIES.
and fervently grateful to the Preserver of men. lle left school when he had attained the age of fourteen years, and was sent to business. In his new situation he was subjected to considerable annoyance, arising from the conduct of immoral fellow-apprentices. The upholy association exercised a baneful influence; for, although Mr. Severs was graciously preserved from the “excess of riot," and enabled to maintain an outward morality, yet his inward corruptions were strengthened ; and he was drawn away, by the enticement of sinners, into the perpetration of offences against God which he bitterly bewailed in following years. His conduct was, however, in all respects, acceptable to his master, who evinced his satisfaction by retaining Mr. Severs's services during eighteen months as an assistant, notwithstanding his delicate health. On leaving, in the early part of the year 1832, he commenced business on his own account; and, by the blessing of God on his industry and uprightness, he continued to prosper more and more till the time of his removal to a better world.
It was during the year 1832, when he had recently ventured on the anxieties of business, that he was brought seriously to consider his state in relation to God and eternity. From his youth, indeed, as we have seen, he had been under parental influence, and had regularly attended the ordinances of religion ; but his heart was unsubdued, and his conscience had never been thoroughly aroused
His own testimony as to his life up to this period is the following :-"I was never guilty of glaring enormities; yet once I was spiritually blind. I had no love for the Lord my Maker and Redeemer; no love for His word, or for His people. Though from my infant days, and throughout 'the slippery paths of youth,' I was led to the house of God, I had no relish for the means of grace.' Spiritual light first broke in upon his mind while he occasionally attended the ministry of the Rev. R. L. Sykes, the Incumbent of the new church in Ripon. He was thereby induced to seek to enter in at the strait gate, but as yet he did not strive. In the autumn of the year, under the first sermon he heard from the late Rev. Samuel Thompson, at the commencement of his ministry in the Ripon Circuit, he was given to feel the necessity of being in earnest. He now “conferred no longer with the flesh;" but, being resolved to “flee from the wrath to come,” immediately joined himself to the people of God. His religious awakening, though thorough and permanent, was not attended, in any remarkable degree, with awful disquietude of soul, or terrible forebodings of eternal damnation. He saw and felt that “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint;" that "the carnal mind is enmity against God;" that, under its influence, he had prostituted all his energies in the service of sin ; that he was fearfully guilty; and that, unless his guilt were removed, and he were “transformed by the renewing of his mind,” he must perish for evermore. But from his childhood he had sat under a clear and explicit Gospel ministry; and he knew that “with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption." He
tespived to avail himself of the Divine provision; and, even in his penitential sorrow, hope predominated over fear.
As his convictions were not accompanied with poignant distress, 80 neither was the remission of his sius marked, at the first, by the excitements of a rapturous joy. He saw-he felt-his personal guilt and danger; he saw likewise “the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." He was convinced of its adaptation to his case; of its freeness, fulness, sufliciency. He heartily embraced it; and, being "sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,” he felt a most blessed peace diffused through his soul. He continued steadfastly to believe, and the light of Divine consolation shone brighter and brighter. The God of hope filled him with all joy and peace in believing; and he abounded in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
“A good report of them which are without,” which he had won by the regularity of his early life, and the proof now given of religious sincerity, intelligence, and decision, soon suggested to the church Mr. Severs’s fitness for promoting the spiritual welfare of others. In the course of a few months, he was appointed to assist other brethren in conducting prayer-meetings in the villages adjacent to Ripon. He entered heartily into this work. In order to “stir up the gift of God that was in them," and to acquire better qualifications for usefulness, he and his companions met together twice a week for mutual exhortation and prayer. During the summer of 1833, he was induced, whilst attending his appointment as a PrayerLeader, to give a word of exhortation to the assembly; and at the ensuing Local Preachers' meeting it was resolved, if possible, to engage him in the occasional preaching of the word. He entered upon this holy and benevolent employ in the fear of God; and what his hand found to do, he did it with his might. His sermons were prepared with unusual care. He scorned to offer the Lord a sacrifice, or the people a portion, which cost him nothing. Ilis public duty was preceded by many hours of private, prayerful thoughtfulness and meditation on the word. He prepared beaten oil for the sanctuary : hence his addresses were lucid, weighty, and acceptable, as well as profitable to the people. He deeply felt his personal responsibility: he therefore never lightly missed an appointment; but was often at his post when physical infirmity might have appeared to make rest an imperative duty. He was not satisfied with preaching the word: he fervently desired to realise fruit of his labour, and to see the extension of his Redeemer's kingdom. His pulpit-efforts were frequently preceded, and likewise followed up, by numerous visits and private exhortations to the families of the people. A few extracts from his weekly register will afford a correct view of his painfulness, diligence, and delight in this department of the work of his Lord.
“February 13th, 1836.-At Burton-Leonard, yesterday afternoon and evening, I was favoured with a degree of liberty; but had not power to raise my voice as I would. O that I could lift up my voice like a trumpet, and show transgressors their ways! O that I had more of the spirit of prayer, more energy in declaring His truth, and
more of the Divine unction! O Lord, according to Thy word, send down the Comforter to dwell within me as my Guide, my Counsellor, my Witness.—As there was a long space of time between the two services, I went with Mr. Swale to many of the houses in the village, and found many, by far too many, living in circumstances the most pitiable : some, deplorably poor and needy; others, dark and ignorant; and others, old and hardened. I gave tracts and conversed freely with them. The Lord add His blessing to my weak efforts, and still endue me with power from on bigh!”
May 15th.—I am still pursuing 'the noiseless tenor of my way,' doing a little (by far too little) in the vineyard. I feel desirous still to 'lift up my voice like a trumpet, to show the people their transgressions ;' but I lack many things for doing this effectually.
I want an even, strong desire,
I want a calmly.fervent zeal.' I want much more of the life and power of religion. Souls are perishing, dying, under circumstances most grievous, of wounds which might have been healed. They need to be led to the heavenly Physician. They need to be pointed to the Lamb of God. And who is to do this? Every professor of religion must strive to spread the Gospel.
O let me live to preach Thy word,
And let me to Thy glory live." August 8th.-I am still found in the land of the living, and, though weary in the work, (not of it) pursuing; desirous to live to Him who has already done so much for me. Yesterday, at Rainton, I spent the time between the services in visiting about ten families, who were neglecting the great salvation. O the darkness in which thousands are living, careless, prayerless, Christless! After the latter service, I went out again with Mr. R., and we visited other five families. I find it no vain thing thus to serve the Lord, in endeavouring to profit my fellow-men. If the Lord continue to favour me with strength, I will do much more. Lord, appoint me my work, and help me to do it !”
“ August 7th, 1843.— I was highly favoured yesterday with health and strength. I left Ripon at eight o'clock, A.m., and proceeded on my way to Grafton. I overtook an old farmer, and found him trusting in his own works. I did my utmost to convince him of his error, and gave him a tract. After dinner, visited about twenty-five families in Marton. I preached at two o'clock, P.M. ; and, after tea, M. G. and I visited about twenty-five families in Grafton, to whom we gave tracts, and a few words by way of exhortation. I arrived at Boroughbridge in time for the evening service, and afterwards came on to Kirby-Hill, where a brother was waiting for me. We rode pleasantly together, and arrived at Ripon a little before nine o'clock in the evening. I was happy all the day. The sun shone brightly on the smiling fields; and all things around spoke loudly of the Divine wisdom, goodness, and power.
Better still, the Sun of