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MEMOIR OF JOHN BUTTERFIELD, ESQ.,
OF SOUTHPORT :
BY THE LATE REV. JOHN SMITH. MR. BUTTERFIELD was born at Keighley, in the West Riding of Yorkshire, August 27th, 1804. In his youth, he was sedate and well behaved ; but his opportunities for obtaining religious instruction were few, till he attained his fourteenth year. On the death of his father he was placed under the care of his aunt, at whose house, about the same time, a weekly meeting for prayer had been established. This he regularly attended. He was likewise brought under the ministry of the Wesleyan Methodists. It was soon evident that in listening to the truths which he then heard, he felt the influence of the grace with which they are usually found to be connected. His understanding was enlightened, his heart was affected, and he soon experienced a desire to flee from the wrath to come. Not only was he invited and warned by the outward ministry,—God's merciful message to fallen, but redeemed, man,-but the Spirit of God strove with him. Happily for himself, both in time and eternity, he was not disobedient to the heavenly calling which is not only the origin of all good in man, but, in order that its great object may be secured, requires the submissive and practical consent of those to whom it is addressed. Hence it is that while
many are called, few are chosen.” He did not resist the influences which thus moved upon his mind, nor obstinately check, as is too often the case, the awakenings which they caused. He began to seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and to assist him in so doing, as well as in accordance with what he perceived to be his duty, he immediately connected himself with the Wesleyan-Methodist society, and directed his earnest prayers to the attainment of that blessing which was to constitute, as he was taught by the ministry under which he sat, and which rested, as he fully believed, on the authorityof the word of God, the very first step in his Christian progress to the heavenly Zion. He saw that only they who kept the commandments of God could have right to enter through the gates into the city, and to eat of the tree of life; and he therefore strove to enter in at the strait gate, that so he might thenceforward walk in the narrow way, the way of holiness, God's own highway to heaven. And he sought till he found. One evening, his mind being more than usually distressed, feeling that he was weary and heavy laden, he gave
VOL. III._FOURTH SERIES.
earnestly to prayer. For two hours he continued pleading for power to come to Christ, that he might find rest to his soul. The more he prayed, the more intense became both his distress and his desire of deliverance. He felt that he had nothing to pay, and that forgiveness must be frankly bestowed through the merits of Christ, his only and his Almighty Saviour. His heart said, “I will not let thee go, unless thou bless me.” And when he was thus brought low, God helped him. He felt that God, for Christ's sake, had forgiven his sins. The new song was put into his mouth, even the new song of praise to a pardoning God. He was enabled to trust in Christ alone for salvation; and this beginning of his confidence he held fast even to the end.
Mr. Butterfield experienced the benefit of sitting under a ministry, and enjoying that fellowship of saints, which directed his attention to what, on searching the Scriptures, he believed to be the whole counsel and will of God in Christ Jesus concerning him. The increasing light of truth and grace led him to see the more latent evils of his heart; and in the rich provision of the Gospel he saw a fulness of blessing as suited to his wants, as it was desirable in itself. He saw more clearly the efficacy of the great atonement, and the plenitude and power of the influences of " that Holy Spirit of promise;" he saw, too, that
exceeding great and precious promises were given to us with this very design,
" that by them we might be partakers of the divine nature.” He sought, therefore, that deeper work of grace, of the necessity and attainableness of which he was convinced, praying that God would
“ Sink him to perfection's height,
The depth of humble love." His prayer was heard, and he was made a happy partaker of this great salvation. Nor did he allow himself in any negligence as to the preservation of this great gift. He lived by faith, walking humbly with God, watching and praying, both that he might not enter into temptation, and that God might keep his “whole spirit, soul, and body blameless, to the coming of the Lord Jesus.” And it is believed that the fire of perfect love which was, on this memorable occasion, enkindled in his heart, continued to burn, with increasing fervour, till grace brightened into glory. To
that he was free from weaknesses and defects, would be to say that he was more than man.
He claimed nothing of the kind himself
. He knew too well the purity and perfection of the divine law, and saw, more impressively than ever, “ Thy commandment is exceeding broad." He therefore prayed to be “cleansed from secret faults,” as well as to be “kept from presumptuous sins.” The blood of Christ was his only refuge and trust. It was the language of his heart,
“ Yet, when melted in the flame
Of love, this shall be all my plea :
But Jesus died for me.' Those who knew him well, both in the public and private walks of life, believed, from the evidence of his entire walk and conversation, that, whatever might be his merely human failings, he never wilfully violated that first and great commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart;” nor the second, which is like unto it, “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
When he was about nineteen years of age, he was made the Leader of a class; and a year subsequently, his name was inserted on the Circuit Plan as a Local Preacher. Both these important offices he fulfilled with fidelity and usefulness.
A somewhat singular occurrence marked his first attempt to preach. It was at Steeton, a village about three miles from Keighley. After he had announced his text, and spoken for about ten minutes, he hesitated, and, for two or three minutes, stood trembling and silent in the pulpit. But during this brief period, an extraordinary influence seemed to descend on the congregation ; and, instead of being confused by the Preacher's silence, an inward attention was excited, and several were pricked to the heart, who, from that time, sought till they found peace with God through Jesus Christ : they became, also, members of the Wesleyan society. He would have been a candidate for the Wesleyan ministry, had it not been for an affliction from which he suffered more or less throughout his life; but he endeavoured to serve his generation by being useful in his providential sphere.
During the last twenty years of his life, he had resided in different parts of the kingdom; but to be useful to others, at the same time maintaining his own piety, was both his business and happiness. In 1833, he fixed his abode at Southport, where his character secured him the esteem of Christians of all denominations; and many devout persons from Manchester and other neighbouring towns, in visiting that attractive watering-place, regarded attendance at his class as a privilege.
He was urgently requested to become a Magistrate for the district; but, for reasons which no doubt were satisfying to himself, he steadily declined.
That it may not be thought that an intimate and unbroken friendship of nearly a quarter of a century has caused the writer of this sketch to form too high an opinion of Mr. Butterfield's character, he will insert a brief extract or two from letters of condolence which were addressed to his widow. The Clergyman of the parish says, " What I knew of your excellent husband was sufficient to make me admire, and seek to imitate, his Christian example. The sweetness of his disposition, and the fervency of his devotion, will not be forgotten by any who had the pleasure of witnessing them. Yet it was not in these that he trusted, but only on Him who, by his all-sufficient grace,
made him both what he was, and what he now is.” A Wesleyan Minister who well knew him, thus writes :-“ His Christian character always engaged my admiration, and caused me earnestly to desire to be like him. Viewing him in all respects, I never knew him to be surpassed. His was the meekness and gentleness of Christ, richly blended with mental and spiritual endowments, and yet entirely free from ostentation. Humility was his garment, quietness of spirit his adorning, and Christian love his crown of glory. Like another Demetrius, he had a good report of all men, and of the truth itself.'”
About a fortnight before his death, he was appointed to be the Treasurer of the Bible Society for the North Meol's district; and thr last public affairs transacted by him, related to the extension of the plans of that noble institution in that particular neighbourhood.