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NEW CONNEXION MAGAZINE.
MEMOIR OF MR. JOSEPH GRAHAM, OF NORTH SHIELDS.
BY HIS SON, JOHN GRAHAM.* RELIGIOUS periodicals are valuable as the depositories of what is worthy of record in the character and experience of those whose place in the Church and influence for good have endeared their memory beyond the immediate sphere of the family most nearly and painfully impressed by their removal from time. But for the facilities which they afford, many precious memorials would be lost and much edification and encouragement would be wanting to numbers who have no means of access to more costly and elaborate biographies. Moreover, what is thus gathered, especially of the short and simple annals” of the pious poor, could in no other form or way be so easily obtained. By our periodicals they are cheaply preserved and spread over the length and breadth of the religious community to which those periodicals belong; thus presenting before our readers constantly-accumulating evidence and illustration of the power of divine truth and grace to form the character and sustain it in a patient continuance in well-doing, till the individuals have received the end of their faith, the salvation of their souls.
Though there are many points of uniformity, yet there is much diversity in the character, attainments and usefulness of those persons who, from time to time, form the material of which the Church militant is composed. The timid and courageous, the quiescent and the active, the man of two talents and the owner of ten, “fitly framed together" give that beautiful variety to the “Holy Temple” which it exhibits. The same individual, indeed, at progressive stages of his spiritual career, often presents to view an altered and improving character, thus giving pleasing indication of growth in wisdom, patience and purity, and acquiring a stability, firmness of principle and conduct, which invite the confidence and excite the emulation of his compeers.
It is judged that there is much in the character and conduct of the late Mr. Joseph Graham that may conduce to the instruction and edification of those into whose hands this memoir
fall. * Mr. W. G. Tate, an intimate and highly-esteemed friend of Mr. Graham, had engaged to prepare a memoir of him ; but indisposition compelled him to abandon the task. To him the writer of this memoir is indebted for the larger portion of the material embodied in this sketch,
When the Low Chapel, situated at the east end of North Shields, was opened by the Methodist New Connexion, Mr. Graham was in London. There, by frequenting the same place of business and occupying the same lodgings, he became acquainted with Mr. W. Service, a young man from Sunderland, whose amiable disposition and intelligent conversation won on the susceptible mind of Mr. Graham. induced to spend his Sabbaths in attending religious ordinances, which, combined with the pious deportment, literary tastes and studious habits of his new acquaintance, awakened in his soul a desire to wait at the posts of Wisdom's doors and familiarize himself with that literature which purifies, elevates and expands the mind. This acquaintanceship, which seems, in its first influence, to have laid the foundation of what followed, ripened into a life-lasting friendship.
On Mr. Graham's return home he attended, by invitation, the Sabbathevening service at the Low Chapel, when the late Mr. W. Thompson improved the death of the Rev. John Grundell, who preached his last sermon at the opening services of that chapel.* Invited by somo of his musical acquaintances, he joined them in the singers' pew, where he occupied a place as long as our Church and congregation worshipped there, and afterwards in Salem Chapel, to which they removed. Thus he was introduced to our services, which he continued to attend with such apparents benefit that he was shortly after invited to unite in fellowship with the infant Church just formed. This invitation he accepted, stating afterwards that the impressions made on his mind by the ministry of the late Rev. James Dunkerly induced him to take that important and decisive step, and that the same minister was the instrument of leading him into the enjoyment of religion.
At the commencement of his Christian career he was called to acts of decision and self-denial. He had been associated, almost from infancy, with the most prominent gaieties of life. One department of his father's business had connected Mr. Graham with the theatre, and familiarized him with the green-room and the stage. His father, as “perruquier" to the company, had an annual benefit-night, when the house was always crowded ; and his son, while a boy, appeared in character, danced a sailor's hornpipe” and sang a sea-song.
Coming home at the height of the theatrical season, Mr. Graham was called to the immediate sacrifice of that connexion, which he unhesitatingly made. The manager, anxious to retain his services, employed all his powers of argument, entreaty, wit, banter and ridicule in vain. But his greatest struggle was to rescue his entire Sabbath from secular pursuits. Some of his best supporters had been waited on in the morning of that day; but finding him decided, they consented that he should wait on them late on the Saturday evening. This test, a triumph of principle, gave proof of a genuine work of grace, to which even his opposers at length paid homage.
His mother united with the Church at the same time, and also his brother George, who had lately returned from the French prison, where he had been brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. These took sweet counsel together and strengthened each other's hands in the Lord. That brother so lately restored to his country and friends, after having
* See Jubilee Volume, pp. 320, 321.
been a prisoner of war for thirteen years, and possessing all that could endear him to hearts like his own renewed by divine grace, was early summoned to the better world. Crossing the Atlantic in a vessel which he commanded, a portion of the rigging aloft gave way during a terrific hurricane. His crew and mate refused to attempt the hazardous task of repairing it. With characteristic courage he sprang aloft and repaired the damage; buť ere he could descend or make sure his hold a heavy sea struck the vessel, threw him from the mast, and he perished.
About this time Mr. Graham entered into business on his own account, soon after which he married, and, as years revolved, became the father of a numerous family, all of whom, except one who died in infancy, with his widowed partner survive him.
Always diffident, and extremely guarded in speaking of himself, his religious attainments were to be estimated by his temper, disposition, habits and pursuits rather than the expressions of his lips. Happily, the former were of a character that demonstrated that he was habitually under the influence and control of religious principle.
The first sphere of usefulness he entered was the Sabbath-school, where for many years he found employment congenial to his tastes, till he was persuaded that there was greater need for his services in another department of usefulness, the visitation of the sick and dying. But he retained through life a strong partiality for children, which he manifested by sympathizing with them in their little sorrows, and endeavouring, as occasion offered, to impress their minds with Seripture truths. He had the happy wart of securing their attention, ingratiating himself into their favour, and winning their confidence. His mode of communicating religious instruction so interested them, that his “ Bible stories” and “pretty anecdotes” were sure to be called for by the juveniles in those families into which either his own business or that of the Church led him. The distress of children strongly excited him. However employed, if the cry of a child in the street caught his ear, he rushed out of the shop to ascertain the cause and apply a suitable remedy. If a bigger lad were beating a less, he was seized by the collar, well shaken, told he was a cowardly fellow,” and, when he had promised amendment, sent off with a suitable admonition. Then the sufferer was conducted into the shop, and if found to have given occasion for offence, received a gentle reprimand; and when the coast was clear for a safe retreat, he was dismissed.
His active habits in the general business of the Church were conspicuous from an early period. The strength of his memory, the soundness of his judgment, and the equanimity of his temper, made him a valuable member of Church-meetings. Nothing of interest and importance connected with the Church was ever forgotten by him; an evidence how devoted were heart and mind to Zion's weal. Not easily provoked, his temper was scarcely ever ruffled in business meetings. He lived in strict adherence to the principle of never giving or taking offence. As much as in him lay, he lived in peace with all men. If, as was sometimes the case, men would take offence because he had the temerity to differ in opinion from them, he used, as he phrased it, to “go on the even tenor of his way.” There was no perceptible alteration in his mode of treating them; and it was curious and edifying to see how the stiffened shoulder would gradually relax, and the averted eye return its wonted kindly glance, after his hearty salute, “ Well, brother, how do