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NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
MEMOIR OF MRS. SARAH COOPER,
SARAH, the wife of Mr. C. Cooper, of Stafford, was born in the year 1811, in the Hamlet of Wood Bank, near Penkridge, Staffordshire. Her parents, though poor, were honest and industrious, and to the extent of their ability they attended to the education of their children. In early life our sister gave symptoms of a weak and delicate constitution, and her friends saw the necessity of exercising the greatest care in her training, lest in the flower of youth disease should lay his hand upon her, and take her from those whom she so much loved, and by whom she was equally loved and admired. She was naturally endowed with good intellectual powers, to the cultivation of which she paid diligent and persevering attention, reading almost every book that came within her reach, which had a tendency to improve her mind, increase her stock of information, and qualify her for the duties of life.
She was a regular worshipper at the parish church of her native village up to the year 1824, when she removed to Wolverhampton, to reside with a pious and devoted relative. While there she attended on the Wesleyan ministry, and through the plain and heart-searching sermons to which she listened, her young mind was opened; she more clearly saw her condition as a sinner before God, and her inability to make expiation for her guilt. She felt distressed in her mind, and in this state anxiously sought advice from the friend with whom she resided. The great atonement which Christ had made for sin by his death on the cross was set before her, and she was exhorted to rely upon Him by faith that she might obtain the forgiveness of sin. She began now more carefully to read the Bible for herself, often upon her knees in secret, and thereby she more clearly understood the important truths which had previously been mentioned to her, and was enabled by faith to cast her guilty soul upon the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. She obtained the forgiveness of her sins, and could adopt the language of the apostle, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
No sooner had this important change been effected in her soul than she united in church fellowship with the people of God. She mani fested an ardent desire for communion with the Saviour, highly prized the means of grace, and especially prayer meetings and class meetings,
and though often prevented from attending upon them, she never to the day of her death lost her relish for those means of grace.
In the latter end of 1825, being then in the fifteenth year of her age, Sister Cooper returned to her native place, and though greatly attached to the house of her father, there now appeared to her mind a dark and dreary void. She had been accustomed to bow at the family altar, and the flame of the morning and evening sacrifice had burnt brightly thereon; but here no such altar was erected, for although her parents were moral in their conduct, they were living without hope and without God in the world. Her first anxiety, therefore, was to bring them to a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. "And could we," remarks an intimate friend, "but have known her feelings when the first Methodist preacher from this town sat down in her father's house, after publishing the glad tidings of salvation to her guilty neighbours and friends, it would have a tendency to stimulate us to greater exertion and zeal in the cause of our heavenly Master." She lived to see her father and mother, and the last branch of her family, savingly converted to God. Truly, "how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" Little did that pious friend think when she conducted our departed sister to the family altar and the house of God, that she would be successful in bringing the whole family to the enjoyment of salvation through Jesus Christ. What encouragement is here given to sow the seed of Divine truth beside all waters; to pay proper attention to the young of our congre gations, and to be constant and fervent in performing the duties of family devotion!
In a short time after this she removed to the service of a pious family residing in the town of Stafford, where she had every opportunity for the cultivation and improvement of all her Christian graces. As her privileges in this situation were numerous, it is pleasing to learn that she duly appreciated them, and that there was a corresponding advancement in the life of holiness and exertion in the cause of God. She felt a strong affection for the master of that family, as a proof of which, she requested a short time before she died that her remains might be laid as near to his as possible.
Our sister possessed a mild and amiable spirit and disposition. Nothing was more repugnant to her feelings and tended more to excite and displease her than harshness of temper, a disposition to unkindness, or a want of forbearance. It was her delight to do good, to relieve the distress of the poor and needy; and to administer to the comfort and happiness of others she has often been known to sacrifice comforts and enjoyments of her own. She enjoyed the inexpressible pleasure and delight which result from the performance of acts of kindness and benevolence. Possessing, as she did, a mild and forbearing spirit, willing to endure inconvenience herself rather than to promote uneasiness in the minds of others by dissatisfaction and complaint, it might be thought by some that in her general deportment she was not guided so much by sound principle and conscientious feeling as by a complacent and winning regard, and therefore she may have been imposed upon, and sometimes brought into circumstances of an unpleasant nature. Where people are guided more by the influence of feeling and passion than principle and judgment there is a danger of this. But this, we are glad to say, was not the case with our sister. Although calm in tem
perament and disposition, she was still a woman of principle; and so far from her judgment being under the control of her feelings, she brought the latter into subjection to the former, and invariably acted from a conscientious regard of right and wrong, of duty and pleasure. Hence when the circumstances of this world came in collision with her duty as a Christian, she endeavoured to make the former give way to the latter. If anything transpired to call forth a manifestation of Christian principle she never hesitated to show and abide by it, though it was always done in that spirit which the Gospel requires, and which could give offence to no right-minded and Christian man.
In leaving the situation to which allusion has just been made, and entering upon another, our sister had not the opportunity of attending upon the means of grace. Her mind was then in a holy and zealous state, and this occasioned her considerable anxiety and regret. She wished to act in conformity with the principles of the Gospel and to move in a providential way; she therefore made the matter a subject of prayer, and became fully convinced that it was her duty to resign her situation, and that Divine Providence would somewhere open a way for her; as subsequent events proved, her conduct was approved of God, and he interposed on her behalf. Soon another situation presented itself to her notice, where she could enjoy the privileges of the Gospel. She became settled in this, filled it honourably for eight years, and her integrity and piety were esteemed by the whole family and all who knew her.
From this time until the year 1835, she remained in union with the Wesleyan community, was regular in her attendance upon the ordinances of the sanctuary, gave to the support of the cause according to the ability God had given unto her, and by extracts from her letters and many instances we might mention, were it necessary, it is evident she lived in a high state of piety and zeal.
In this year, feeling herself somewhat aggrieved by certain regulations which were brought into operation, she left the Wesleyan Connexion and united with our own in Stafford. At the close of the year following, she united in marriage with our Brother Cooper, who mourns her early departure to the more genial clime of heaven. We pray that the bereavement may have a sanctified influence upon his mind, and that he may be prepared to rejoin her happy spirit in the realms of bliss. She received her first ticket from the Rev. J. Addyman, who was then travelling in this circuit, and for several years she continued to meet in class and make herself useful in connexion with the church. She never entirely withdrew herself from the people of God, but we regret to say, there was a period when she began to slacken in her attendance, and for some months absented herself from those means which were once so precious to her. No doubt this indifference to the means of grace would cause her to decline in spiritual vigour; and thus while we see the possibility of even the most zealous Christian falling away, we are presented with a powerful motive to watchfulness and prayer. But still, it is due to state, that in the soul of our sister the flame of piety was not entirely extinguished, and though she never attained that state of piety and zeal in which she formerly lived, she was restored to union with the church of Christ, and was often heard to mourn over her lukewarmness and indifference.
In entering the marriage life she was well prepared for the duties which would then devolve upon her, having had much experience in the management of household business. She looked well to the affairs of her household, endeavouring always to obey the apostolic injunction, "Diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord." By those best able to judge it has often been remarked, that in this respect she displayed superior ability, and by her economy, order, comfort, and fidelity, she soon gained the respect and confidence of all with whom she had to deal.
She entertained a high regard for the ministers of the Gospel, and consequently felt deeply interested in their comfort and happiness. Her house was at all times open for their reception, she delighted to hold spiritual conversation with them, and would make them welcome to such as she possessed. Her kindness made a deep impression upon the minds of many of our ministers who have travelled in the circuit and occasionally visited this town. Many letters of condolence have been addressed to her bereaved husband, containing expressions of her exalted character, piety, and zeal.
That she felt interested in the cause of God we have already hinted, and of her exertions to promote its welfare, particularly in reference to the erection and opening of our new chapel, we cannot speak too highly. She greatly rejoiced when our friends here were in a position to erect a new sanctuary for the worship of God, and it is not too much to say that it is owing, in a great degree, to her indefatigable efforts that we are now so comfortably and favourably situated. It seemed to have a stimulating influence upon her mind, and her experience was something like that of David when he so pathetically exclaimed, How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God." Considering herself a steward of the manifold mercies of God, she gave to his cause, not grudgingly, but freely and to the utmost extent of her ability. But a short time before she died she expressed an ardent desire once more to see the beautiful place, as she termed it, which, however, was not granted her; and then as a last token of her affection for it and the friends belonging to it, she presented the trustees with a beautiful time-piece, which is placed in front of the gallery.
As before stated, she had 'a delicate constitution, and when she had arrived at the age of womanhood she was often the subject of extreme debility and painful affliction. Seldom, however, was any murmuring expression heard to proceed from her lips, and from even her nearest friends she often tried to conceal the pain of which she was the subject. These afflictions, we rejoice to know, were sanctified to her spiritual good; instead of leaving her morose and peevish, they gave her an increasing confidence in the wisdom and goodness of God, caused her more powerfully to enjoy the sanctifying and supporting influence of religion.
Her last affliction commenced in June, 1849. On the first appearance of disease medical aid was obtained, but the well-skilled physician expressed a doubt as to whether she would recover; and for sixteen weeks, notwithstanding all the attention and exertions of her friends, she was the subject of intense suffering and pain, and scarcely able to
move herself. During this affliction her mind was richly endued with Divine truth and grace, and though Satan often assailed and exerted all his hellish influence to create doubt and fear, and prevent her enjoying peace with God, she was enabled to place entire confidence in God, and through Jesus Christ she enjoyed a holy serenity and solid peace of mind. She more closely and faithfully examined her heart in the time of her affliction than she had been wont to do, whereby she discovered that many things existed in her which were not in full conformity with the will of God; and the only complaint that was known to escape her lips was, that she had been so unfaithful and unworthy. "O," she was often heard to exclaim with deep emphasis and feeling, "O that I had been more faithful, that I had laboured more for God and precious souls!" She was sometimes reminded of her weak and debilitated state, and requested not to look so much at her own imperfections, but to think more of the all-sufficiency of the Saviour; she would admit of no palliation; she promptly replied, "I might have done more than what I have. If the Lord shall see fit once more to raise me, I will be more faithful in his cause; I will do more for the young; I will go with you to the Sabbath school."
Our sister was not during any period of her affliction the subject of ecstatic joy. This may be partly accounted for by the intense pain she had to endure both day and night, but it is also very probable that she sometimes looked too much at herself, and yielded to the influence of a depressed feeling. She reflected upon her own sinfulness, unfaithfulness, and unworthiness, in doing which she did right; but she did not at the same time sufficiently consider the infinite fulness which is in Christ Jesus.
Throughout her affliction our sister seemed to be impressed with the idea that it was designed by God for the accomplishment of an important object. That object was to wean her affections from the world and things of a transitory nature, and more fully prepare her for his service on earth, or the enjoyment of his presence in glory; and hence while her friends were sometimes confused in their minds by reflecting upon the dispensation, and the way to account for it, she appeared to have a clear perception of the cause and design; and when she could not fully comprehend, she exclaimed with holy confidence, "What I know not now I shall know hereafter. My light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.'" In corroboration of the above, we need detail one instance only. When visiting her myself, on one occasion, I remarked that the dispensations of Divine Providence were often mysterious, and we were consequently unable to comprehend may things which bore a relation to ourselves; when she replied, "Yes, Mr. C., that is true; but I don't think there is anything mysterious in this affliction. I believe," she emphatically exclaimed, "that the Lord only designs to purify me; and when he has made me more like himself, and more fit for his presence and glory, he will deliver me, or give me strength and patience to endure all that he is disposed to lay upon me. Blessed be his name, he is too wise to err, and too good to be unkind.'” The effect produced upon my mind by such a reply has not yet passed away; and long shall I remember the feeling produced by further conversation with her. Truly it was good to be there. We could not refrain from think