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REV. THOMAS COTTERILL.
The Rev. Thomas Cotterill was the second son of a respectable woolstapler at Cannock, in the county of Staf. ford, where he was born Dec. 1, 1779. From childhood he manifested a strong predilection for the ministerial office, and was remarkable as a boy for steadiness and diligence. The schools to which he was sent in early life afforded him no peculiar advantages; but he afterwards enjoyed the benefit of superior classical instruction at the grammar-school in Birmingham; and at the usual age was admitted a member of St. John's College, Cambridge, with very respectable qualifications. His chief companion at college, and his dearest friend, was Henry Martyn. Their friendship, which commenced before either of them showed any decided indications of a religious character, was firmly cemented, by their becoming, about the same time, the subjects of a change in their views and feelings, which had a controlling influence over the future lives of both. “ The name of Martyn,” Mr. Cotterill once said on a public occasion," is associated with the most eventful circumstances of my life. We took sweet counsel toge. ther, and walked unto the house of God in company.'
He had enjoyed in early life few opportunities of obtaining religious knowledge. His parents were respectable and amiable, and by many would have been accounted religious; but, sincere and upright as they were, according to the extent of their knowledge, and few persons were ever more so, they were at that period exceedingly defective in their views of Christian truth and their exhibition of Christian practice. They were, however, careful to impress upon the minds of their children whatever they themselves knew of religion, and rigidly enforced a consistency of moral conduct; but little more was expected, or desired, than attention to the outward
forms of religion, and to those things which are honourable and of good report in the estimation of the world. In these respects, Thomas, the subject of this memoir, was, at the time of his going to college, every thing his father could wish-(his mother had died some years be. fore.) He was strictly moral in his outward conduct, and was beloved in a remarkable degree by all who knew him. Indeed, he possessed from childhood a remarkable sweetness of disposition. But during his residence at college, that change commenced to which allusion has been already made, and which, however estimable the previous character may be, eventually makes all things new, either in their nature or their direction. Though it is not in any case needful that we should be able to trace up this renovation to some first strong impressions made upon the mind, the turning point in the journey of life, yet surely it is both allowable and useful io contemplate the means which God employs to bring men out of darkness into his marvellous light, and to guide their feet into the way of peace: and in the present case such a review will illustrate the line of distinction which separates the amiable and respectable worldly character, from the decided, the devoted Christian.
During the latter part of his residence at Cambridge, Mr. Cotterill would sometimes repair, with his friend Martyn, merely for idleness or amusement, to Trinity church; and though for a time, he scoffed and trifled, and remained unmoved, yet he could never sbake off from his mind the impressions made upon it by the discourses which he there heard. Either Mr. Simeon's ear. nestness was irrational, or his own religious system was extremely defective. This conviction led him to serious inquiry, and to prayer for divine direction, which issued in a thorough persuasion that the service of God is the great concern of man, and that he himself had most awfully neglected it. Under these first impressions of the supreme importance of religion, he wrote to the several members of his family, expressing the most affectionate interest in their welfare, and endeavouring to turn their thoughts to those subjects which were now of supreme, and almost exclusive importance in his estimation. It does not, however, appear, that previously to his departure from Cambridge he attained those correct and scrip. tural views of religious truth which he ultimately adopted, and to which, for more than twenty years, he steadily adhered.
For the sake of those of my readers who have not seri. ously turned their minds to religious inquiries, it may be desirable to be somewhat more explicit with regard to the nature of that change of mind which, even in its commencement, produced such important practical effects. In this case, as in many similar ones, there was probably very little addition of speculative knowledge. Had Mr. Cotterill been previously asked what was the moral condition of man, he would perhaps have replied, in the words of our Church Catechism,“ We are born in sin, and the children of wrath." If it had been further inquired of him, who was the Saviour of mankind, be could have felt no hesitation in giving the proper an.
And had he been questioned respecting any other leading doctrine or precept of Christianity, his opinions might have been found, in the main, scripturally correct. But though he had little of speculative truth to learn, he had much to learn of his own personal interest in doctrines which had hitherto remained dormant in his understanding. His views were new, therefore, in point of intensity.
There is another peculiarity in such cases, not unworthy of notice. Though little may be added to the amount of religious knowledge, there is a vast change in the relative importance attached to some of its different branches. All parts are equally unimportant to the man whose heart is unaffected by the orthodox confession of his lips.
When a man, in the language of Scripture, has“ tasted the powers of the world to come;" has become impressed with the idea that he shall remove at no distant period to that unknown region of blessedness or wo, where he shall continue throughout eternity; his mind will dwell with great frequency and most intense interest on those parts of revealed truth which immediately affect his own future safety and happiness. His own moral state, as viewed by his Creator and Judge; the way of acceptance made known in the Gospel; the evidences of an accepted state ; the service which God requires at his hands, and the means afforded for enabling him to perform it: these are the subjects which are felt to be of vital importance, and to which all others are made subservient, by one who has learned to estimate the relative value of time and eternity. The peculiar doctrines which, after anxious and diligent examination, Mr. Cotterill was led to regard as the foundation of all right views and right conduct in religion, shall be stated in his own words : -" The entire
and radical corruption of human nature by the Fall; the consequent necessity of an entire and radical change by the agency of the Holy Ghost; justification, complete, from first to last, through the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, by faith, by faith only, to the utter exclusion of works; the indispensable necessity of holiness, of universal holiness, of heart and life, as constituting the grand evidence of a justifying faith, and the only qualification for heaven." These fundamental truths he studiously incorporated into all his ministerial instructions; firmly believing them to be in perfect agreement with Scripture, and with the formularies of the Established Church, and that on the cordial reception of these doctrines the salvation of the soul depends.
These were his matured sentiments, and they were thus expressed by him after he had been for some time in the ministry; but they had been in a course of formation froin the time he received his first religious impressions at Cambridge, and they soon came into active exercise. A conviction of their truth led him to embrace them, and experience of their value strengthened his attachment.
Mr. Cotterill was ordained to the curacy of Tutbury, in Staffordshire, about a year and a half after he left Cambridge, the intermediate time having been spent in contributing to the happiness and spiritual welfare of his own family. Several amongst them, who had utterly disregarded his expostulations and advice when he was at a distance, were unable, under the power of Divine grace, long to resist the influence of a consistent and lovely ex. hibition of Christian principles constantly before their eyes. His beloved friend, Mr. Price, who was intimately, acquainted with his feelings and pursuits at this period of his life, has given the following detail of them in a fune. ral sermon preached at Sheffield. “ It was in his early life,” remarks Mr. Price, " that I became acquainted with your late and now deeply lamented minister. At that time, though looking forward to the office of a clergyman in the Church of England, he had, it is probable, no idea of the peculiar responsibility and serious duties of a mi. nister of the Church of Christ. The general respectabi. lity of the clerical office, and its peculiar facilities of in. troduction to the graces of literature and the charms of superior society, most probably caught and detained his attention. But, through the mercy of God, his ultimate determination to the ministry which he subsequently • received in the Lord Jesus,' was not, as I well and tho
roughly know, without the most determined resolution, through the grace of God, ' to fulfil it.' Well do we remember the time when his understanding was opened to understand the Scriptures; well do we remember the time when his heart seemed ready to burst with of its former blindness and insensibility; when sin appeared' exceeding sinful;' when Christ appeared exceed. ing precious, 'the very chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely,' the one only Name under heaven gi. ven amongst men whereby we can be saved,-made of God unto us, wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption ;—when, with a consciousness of his own utter helplessness and insufficiency, the commu. nication of the Holy Spirit seemed of supreine moment, to instruct, to sanctify, to comfort, and to seal unto the day of redemption. Well do we remember the time when the office and duties of a Christian minister appeared awful, and yet beautiful, in his eyes; when his soul was ani. mated with vehement desire to undertake the office and perform the duties, and his tongue, touched as it were with a live coal from the altar, to proclaim unto his fellow sinners the glad tidings of that salvation of which he hoped himself to be a partaker with them.':-“ Well do we remember the time, when measures and plans, and lines of conduct began to be weighed, and pursued unceasingly for the good of others; when first the various wants of all within his reach, whether spiritual or temporal, were investigated and relieved to the utmost; when the larger portion of his time was occupied in exploring the haunts of disease and wretchedness, in kneeling by the bed of sickness, in carrying relief and consolation to the more retired recesses of want and sorrow, in satisfying himself (I speak that which I have known, and testify that which I have seen) with a meal of bread, that he might give his meal of meat to others.
Mr. Price particularly mentions his anxiety for the spi. ritual welfare of his relatives, and especially of his father. “ And what,” he asks, “was the result? The father of so many prayers and solicitudes was born again in his old age, and lived for years the delight and glory of his sons. Judge for yourselves, my brethren, the feelings with which your late minister must have contemplated such a father, when for years he had the opportunity of witnessing his meekness and quietness of spirit, his as. tonishing patience under occasionally great bodily suffering, his complete and entire deadness to those gainful