Page images

was he esteemed, that he had acted as secretary to the Rev. Matthew Wilks, writing letters for him as the chief labourer in constructing that important movement. Thus introduced to public service, if he may not rank as one of the "Fathers," he was one of the "Founders" of the London Missionary Society.

Collison, then exercising his ministry at Walthamstow. "He was appointed at Midsummer, 1797," says Mr. Joshua Wilson, "and filled that office with very great efficiency till the spring of 1801, when he resigned, and the Committee acknowledged his valuable services." He was publicly ordained to the pastoral office over the Independent church at Walthamstow, September 14, 1797. The ministers engaged in that service were, the Rev. Messrs. Stollery, Clayton, Brooksbank, Simpson, Goode, Maurice, Ford, and Buck, of London; but Mr. Collison survived all these venerable men of God.

In a manuscript "Narrative of Marshstreet Chapel, Walthamstow," the history of these events is thus given by Mr. Collison himself:-"In 1795, the Rev. Mr. Lake, who had exercised the ministerial office from 1787, accepted an invitation to a church at Kensington, and the pulpit was occupied occasionally by Mr. Collison and other students of the Hoxton and Homerton Colleges. In March, 1797, Mr. Collison was unanimously invited to the pastoral office, and his ordination took place in September the same year. A month or two prior to this the Committee of Hoxton College had, by their chairman, invited Mr. Collison to take a part with the Rev. Dr. Simpson in the tuition of the students of that valuable institution. Having submitted this to friends belonging to the church and congregation, and considering at that time that these two were not incompatible with each other, with the mutual consent of both parties, Mr. Collison accepted the invitation to the pastoral office. In 1801, in consequence of ill health, Mr. Collison was obliged to relinquish his engagements at Hoxton, and he went to reside at Walthamstow."

Zeal for the gospel was thus awakened in the minds of pious persons throughout Britain; and the Societas Evangelica, formed in 1776, was now renovated in February, 1796, for "the conversion of the heathen at home," especially to aid country associations, several of which were now originated. The same year was formed the "London Itinerant Society for Preaching the Gospel in the villages around London." And soon after, "The Village Itinerancy, or Evangelical Association for spreading the Gospel in England." This Society originated with the Rev. John Eyre, M.A., of the Church of England, the Rev. Mr. Wilks, and several other Dissenters in London. Movements of a similar kind were made in Scotland; and "Robert Haldane, Esq., sold the estate of Airthrey, near Stirling, a seat which a Scotch nobleman pronounced to be a perfect heaven upon earth; and afterward lived in a comparatively recluse style, laying out thousands every year for the propagation of the gospel in Scotland and Ireland."

Mr. Collison became connected with several of these movements, as his superior character was observed by Thomas Wilson, Esq.; who had been chosen in 1794, to succeed his father as Treasurer of Hoxton College. For Mr. Joshua Wilson, in the "Memoir" of his father, thus mentions him: "Of this gentleman my father speaks in terms of high commendation in a letter, dated October 18, 1796, to my maternal grandfather, announcing his being appointed to supply Mosley-street chapel, Manchester."

Hoxton Academy had prospered since Mr. Wilson, the Treasurer, had retired from business, devoting himself to its interest; and an additional tutor being required, the committee fixed on Mr.

Ever ready to forward the cause of Christ, Mr. Collison took part in the formation of the Religious Tract Society, and he was a member of its first Committee, elected May 9, 1799. He could not remain in private in his retired village pastorate. Many eyes were upon


him, as qualified and designed to fill some important station in extending the kingdom of Christ. Mr. Haldane was carrying forward his noble plans with great success in Scotland; and Mr. Eyre was labouring to enlarge the " Village Itinerancy" in England; and both parties sought to obtain the services of Mr. Collison but he was led to decide for Hackney. The circumstances of that event will, however, appear best in his own narrative, which he presented to the Committee of the "Hackney Theological Seminary," January 6, 1845. He says:

"It was in the month of August, 1802, your present Theological Tutor visited Edinburgh, in consequence of an invitation from the late Robert Haldane, Esq. During the six weeks that he domiciled with Mr. Haldane, and especially towards the close of his visit, Mr. Haldane freely conversed about the classes of young men, about thirty, which he then supported and instructed, with a view to the Christian ministry in the dark parts of Scotland. Mr. Haldane stated his plans, and in the end frankly acknowledged that he wished your Theological Tutor to give up his pastoral charge at Walthamstow, and to reside at Edinburgh, and discharge the duties of Theological Tutor to this Institution.

[ocr errors]

"On his return to Walthamstow, Mr. Collison looked around him for a counsellor, eminent for his attachment to the Redeemer's kingdom, and otherwise competent to give him advice on so important an occasion. The Rev. John Eyre was selected for, although Mr. Eyre and himself held different opinions on the subject of national churches, he was known to be far above all party and personal considerations, when a question was submitted to him which belonged to the general interests of Christ's kingdom.

"Mr. Eyre listened patiently, and with deep interest, to the whole detail respecting Mr. Haldane's operations in Scotland. After the statement was closed, Mr. Eyre said, as nearly as I can recollect his words, 'It is a remarkable fact, without knowing Mr. Haldane's men


sures, that I have been thinking of an institution of a similar nature, on smaller scale, and have taken some preparatory steps. My friend, Mr. Charles Townsend and a few others have consented to assist me; and what will appear, perhaps, more remarkable, I had fixed on you as the tutor. But, my dear Sir, Mr. Haldane's plan is so grand, and its effects on Scotland are likely to be so important, that my opinion is, you must go; and you must help me to find a tutor for my own Institution.'

"I said, 'My dear Sir, I cannot take such an important step as leaving my people at Walthamstow and going to Edinburgh, hastily. Mr. Haldane has kindly allowed me a month for reflection, and I called to-day to lay before you my case, and to request that at the end of a fortnight you will allow me to see you again, to receive your calm and deliberate opinion.' To this Mr. Eyre consented.


"At the day and hour appointed, I called on Mr. Eyre for the purpose. Mr. Eyre said, in substance, I have thought often and long on our last conversation. I have talked with Mr. Townsend again on the business; and he says, "If, on mature consideration, Mr. Collison should be inclined to take the tutorship of our intended seminary, I will alter my present testamentary arrangement from 4,000l. to 10,000l. for the Institution."

"One thing,' said Mr. Eyre, 'strikes me: I know the mutual attachment which exists between you and your people at Walthamstow: if you think it right to stay and work with us, arrangements can easily be made for you to discharge the duties of tutor to our Institution, and yet retain your relation to Walthamstow, as when you were assistant tutor at Hoxton Academy.'

"I laid the matter before some of the friends at Walthamstow, and corresponded with Mr. Haldane; and the final result was, that Mr. Haldane's noble offer was respectfully declined, and I continued at Walthamstow.

"It is only requisite to add, on this part of the subject, active arrangements

were made by Mr. Eyre for the commencement of the seminary. He insisted on the lease of his own house being accepted for the purpose; his friends entered cordially into his measures; the time was arranged for the commencement; when, in January, February, and March of 1803, the Rev. John Eyre, and his devoted friends, Charles Townsend, Esq., and Edward Hanson, Esq., were all removed by death.

"Shortly after Mr. Eyre's funeral, the members of the little Institution met. The Rev. Matthew Wilks was chosen Secretary and Superintendent; Joseph Hardcastle, Esq., Treasurer; and the Institution commenced partially in the spring of 1803, and more fully after midsummer of that year."

many years, an important post in Paris, exerting a beneficial influence in promoting evangelical religion in France; four have settled as faithful ministers of Christ in British Colonies; two have gone as missionaries to the heathen; while the others have been usefully employed in the work of the Saviour in London and different parts of England. Some of them have been greatly honoured by their positions and labours in the church of the Redeemer. Every serious person will admit, therefore, that if this devoted servant of Christ had existed for no other purpose, his life and labours would have merited the respect and admiration of the whole Christian world.

Numerous and weighty as were the public duties of Mr. Collison, by refraining from useless recreations and injurious self-indulgence, by his early rising, constant employment, habitual diligence, and wise economy of time, he was enabled to accomplish his various undertakings. Nor did he limit his services to these two departments of labour. He was a devoted servant of the kingdom of Christ in all its branches, especially of the Missionary Society, and one of its constantly present Directors. In 1810, he preached one of its Anniversary sermons. His heart was most deeply interested in the cause of the Redeemer throughout the world. In 1804 he was elected one of the Trustees of the Evangelical Magazine, the success of which he diligently laboured to promote. His vacations were generally filled with public engagements for the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Missionary Society, the Religious Tract Society, the Irish Evangelical Society, the Continental Society, the Home Missionary Society, and other of our great religious Institutions.

Mr. Collison was favoured with a robust frame, and he enjoyed a large measure of good health; but as age advanced, he began to feel its infirmities; these were increased by successive strokes, in the loss of three of his daughters by consumption. They had reached mature age; but his sorrows were alleviated by

Having thus entered upon his duties as Tutor, he fulfilled them with exemplary diligence and fidelity during the extended period of nearly forty-four years, to the evening preceding his death. For many years also, from 1825, Mr. Collison added to his ministerial labours of the morning and afternoon at Walthamstow, that of evening lecturer in the chapel at Wellstreet, Hackney; and his ministry was highly acceptable in both places. "His ministry in the pulpit," says one who knew him well, “especially about twenty years since, was exceedingly effective, and in the best sense popular. I retain the impression of many of his sermons, both at Walthamstow and, on Lord's day evenings, at Well-street, Hackney; they were remarkable for perspicuity and force, and rich in the application of scriptural truth. There was an energy and strength in his compositions and delivery seldom surpassed; and his exhibitions of Scripture incidents were unusually striking and appropriate. He was of a most ardent and affectionate disposition, and a kind and winning friend to the young."

Mr. Collison gave his whole heart to his students, to make them wise in the oracles of God; and he educated about one hundred and fifty, as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their stations in the service of their Lord have been various one of them has occupied, for

their being decided disciples of the Redeemer. His vigorous constitution was considerably shaken after entering his sixty-third year; and as he had obtained. assistance in the classics, by the services of the Rev. Samuel Ransom, one of his former students, that gentleman was engaged by the committee as Classical and Hebrew Tutor; in which service he has continued to their satisfaction.

Mr. Collison also contemplated, in the spring of 1834, seeking a colleague in his ministry, or retiring from Walthamstow; having relinquished his lectureship at Hackney, the church obtaining a settled minister. His views regarding this matter will be most clearly evident from the following, addressed to one of his deacons :

"My dear Friend,-For the last year, and especially during the winter, I felt incipient disease making inroads on my health and strength. My attention has, therefore, been anxiously directed to some efficient provision for the people of my charge. At the first I thought the better plan would be to obtain some approved and excellent young minister as an assistant, for a season; and then, if his ministry should be acceptable, to retire entirely from pastoral duties, and devote my remaining days, if God should preserve my faculties, to the duties of the Theological Seminary, and to other things of a public nature. But I have found it very difficult to execute this plan. A minister might please myself, who might not be equally acceptable to my people. On the whole, the easiest and best way, so far as my observation goes, in similar circumstances, is for the retiring minister to vacate the pulpit, and leave to the church and congregation the free choice of a


"As it was necessary for me to leave home for a few weeks, the Rev. Mr. having been recommended to me, I thought it best to engage him for my pulpit during my absence for three Lord's days; and after my return, if his ministry should be found acceptable, to lay the whole matter before my people, and if they

approved, Mr.

could then receive an invitation for a further period, as a candidate for the pastoral office. In case Mr. should decline such a proposal, I have no intention of deserting my people, but of filling the pulpit until a suitable person may be presented to our attention. This is the shortest view, my dear friend, I can present to you of the state of my mind on this, to me, important subject.

"It is now nearly forty years since I entered your father's hospitable house, as a supply to the then vacant pulpit. I have had monitory hints of a malady which may even suddenly terminate my life or my ministry. It would be criminal in me to disregard them. I am now running the sixth septennial course of that ministry; the seventh will, if life be spared, soon commence. I should like to spend that, if God permit, in exertions in the circle in which God has placed me, in connection with this Institution, and such other general operations for promoting the kingdom of Christ as Providence may present and allow me to perform while I am fully persuaded, that an approved young minister, resident at Walthamstow, may do far more extensive good in the village and in the vicinity than I am able to effect.

"I have thus committed my thoughts to you, that they may be communicated to others. Assuring my dear friend that I am incapable of deserting my affectionate people: they were my first, they will be my last charge. I pray for them: it is a pleasure to me to do so; that the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls, may bless and send them a pastor after His own heart. If I live to see this, it will refresh my declining days, and often shall I hope to enjoy Christian fellowship with him and them together."

Mr. Collison decided at length to resign his pastorate, though he continued his services occasionally until 1837; when he had the cordial satisfaction of seeing as his worthy successor, the Rev. Joseph John Freeman, after having returned from his dangerous labours as missionary at Madagascar.

Though retiring from the pastoral known, a special meeting of the College office, Mr. Collison did not relinquish Committee was called, and the following the gospel ministry. He generally en-resolutions passed :

gaged once or twice in preaching on the Lord's day. He delighted to serve his old pupils settled in London; and he took the oversight of the church of the Rev. Dr. Reed, while he performed his delegation to the churches of America, for the Congregational Union of England and Wales. He had the satisfaction of seeing, a few years before his death, the freehold of the seminary purchased, and the premises enlarged, nearly the whole rebuilt, about three years ago, at an expense of about 6,000l. And the Committee then prevailed on him to sit for his portrait; which is now to be seen in the Library, with those of the Rev. Mr. Eyre, Rev. Mr. Wilks, E. Hanson, Esq., and C. Townsend, Esq.

Desirous of expressing their respect for their venerated Tutor, the ministers who had been his students, made a subscription to present him with a handsome piece of plate: but, on hearing of this intention, he requested that they would refrain from carrying out their plan; fearing that some could ill spare a contribution. He consented, however, to accept a watch; and, therefore, a valuable gold watch, bearing a suitable inscription, and a gold chain and key, were presented to him, October 29, 1845, by a deputation from their brethren, consisting of the Rev. Dr. Reed, Rev. T. Timpson, Rev. A. Jones, and Rev. C. Bateman.

Mr. Collison was enabled to fulfil his duties as tutor, with but little intermission, up to the day of his death. His last acts with his students, after lecturing in the morning, were on Friday evening, giving them their final appointment for the next sabbath. He retired to bed as usual; but never rose: for on the next morning he was seized with spasms, which, within an hour, baffled all relief, and about half-past eight o'clock he breathed out his spirit into the hands of his God and Saviour!

"Resolved, 1. That the members of this Committee bow with devout and humble submission to the wise and holy dispensation of the Divine will, by which their revered friend, the Rev. George Collison, has been so suddenly removed from his labours to his rest.

"2. The Committee render glory to the God of all grace, who, in the youth of their departed friend, redeemed him from evil, and separated him to the gospel of his Son Jesus Christ; who enabled him, through an extended ministry, to commend the doctrine of the cross of Christ as the hope of fallen man, and to illustrate and enforce the doctrines which he preached by a holy and devoted life. The Committee cherish a devout thankfulness that his valuable life was spared to old age, and that his useful labours for the church of God were continued to his latest moments: they can never fail to hold his name in honour, and to cherish for his memory the warmest love and veneration.

"3. That the members of this Committee, being entrusted with the management of the Hackney Theological Seminary, feel impelled by a sense of justice, no less than of gratitude, to bear their willing testimony to the pre-eminent value and importance of the varied and disinterested labours rendered to this Institution by the Rev. George Collison for the extended period of forty-three years. They are gratified in recording, that, in the feebleness of its infancy, it was indebted to his fostering care; that to his last hour he laboured to promote its interests and efficiency; and that as its resident Tutor he was honoured by the Head of the church to prepare for the work of the ministry upwards of one hundred and fifty faithful pastors and evangelists, by whom he was alike respected and loved.

"4. That this Committee affectionately present to Miss Collison, the surviving

This melancholy event being made and attached daughter of their departed

« PreviousContinue »