William Jones of Derryanvil (1750-1823)

All that is known of this man to date derives from an obituary for William Jones of Derryanvil, son of Thomas Jones whose will was proved in 1808. The obituary has a very religious tone, which is not surprising when it is learnt that the Rev. Adam Averell (1754–1847), Methodist minister, was the author. The obituary was published by the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Church in what appears to have been the inaugural edition of its journal entitled, Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Magazine and Miscellany in 1823, pp. 359–62. Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2013-12-09. Please cite your sources.

Transcriber’s note: Please see the genealogical notes after the transcription.

OBITUARY.
To the Editor of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Magazine.
   MR. EDITOR,——If the Holy Ghost has pronounced a blessing upon the dead who die in the Lord, it is truly profitable to the Church of Christ to rescue the memory of such from oblivion, as the savour of their happy experience may encourage sincere sojourners in this vale of tears, to bear up in the various trials of their faith against the multifarious enemies they have to contend with, so as to finish their course also with joy. I have lately received a few documents respecting the life and death of a most valuable member of our Connexion, from Brother Edward Bowes, on the Tanderagee Circuit, by the insertion of which in your excellent Magazine, you will much oblige your’s most sincerely,
   A[dam] AVERELL. 

WILLIAM JONES, of Derryanville, Co. Armagh, was born March the 17th, 1750, of respectable parents, who, being in easy circumstances, gave their children a good education, suitable to all the necessities of a country life; but as profane swearing and blasphemy were in general practice in the country around him, he was too easily led into the habit of them by the corruption of his nature, and the example of all with whom he conversed. Such was the state of the country when a gracious Providence sent Mr. Wesley, the honoured founder of Methodism, to his father’s house, with a message from heaven, which the Divine Spirit disposed his respected parents, Thomas Jones and his pious partner, to receive as from God himself. So eminent was this venerable old man for a close walk with God according to the principles of Methodism, that I have heard him say, in the midst of his family, at a very advanced period of his life, that for thirty-four years he never had been unconscious of the favour of God, save about two hours one day, when by a sudden and powerful temptation, he gave way to anger, and brought such horror on his mind, as occasioned him to fall down on the floor of his house in an agony of distress and penitential sorrow, in which he continued to cry aloud for mercy, nor would he be comforted until the gracious Being whom he had offended sealed his forgiveness by the direct witness of his Spirit; and from that time till the time of his death, at a very advanced age, he continued, as did his aged partner, in uninterrupted communion with the Holy Trinity, and they finished their pilgrimage in the glorious triumph of faith.

It is not surprising that the eldest son of such parents, having so impressive an example ever before his eyes, should reap great advantage from the mighty change which had taken place in the family, and particularly from the worship of God which had now been set up in it. He was soon convinced of the evil life he led, which he often resolved to change; but the corruption of his nature betrayed him again into the practices he resolved against. He continued thus privately to struggle against sin for a considerable time, without making much progress against his subtle enemy, and he as frequently broke through his pious resolutions as he formed them. At length, however, he was convinced that it was his duty and his interest to become a member of the Methodist Society, in order to profit by the advice and the prayers of experienced Christians in his spiritual conflicts. At the age of seventeen years, he accordingly joined the Society, and found great advantage in so doing. In class meeting he was convinced of the necessity of a change of heart, while in all his former exertions he aimed at change of practice only; for this, Jacob—-like, he wrestled earnestly, and was opposed as strenuously by the enemy, who frequently injected horrible suggestions into his mind, even against the being of a God; a temptation with which he was harassed about six days, when in the travail of the new birth; but from the advantage he enjoyed of conversing with experienced Christians, he knew that this was from the enemy of his soul, and, therefore, redoubled the exertions of faith and prayer for what he knew was the privilege of a Christian believer, and his labour was not in vain; the Lord graciously heard and answered the ardent breathings of his soul, by sealing pardon upon his heart for the sake of the Son of his love, and filling hint with peace, and joy, and love, in believing. His faithfulness to the grace of adoption, and his steady adherence to all the requisitions of the Gospel from this time, induced both preachers and people to enrol his name among the leaders, an honour which he proved himself not only worthy of, but continued all his long life to be blessing in, to the circuit to which he belonged. He burned with zeal to promote the spread of the Gospel, and to be instrumental in bringing sinners to the knowledge of the truth; He therefore soon began to expound the Word of God, and to call sinners to repentance, though with much fear and trembling, which only could be overcome by a sense of duty springing from the love of God and of souls. He persevered in this most useful employment in at local capacity for forty-five years, to the comfort and blessing of many.

He had not long enjoyed the privilege of a believer when the enemy came with seven, if possible still more powerful than himself, to deprive him of it, by tempting him in every possible way; one time with the love of the world, again with inordinate carnal desire; one time with spiritual pride, again with a peevish, fretful temper; so that had he not been well informed of the devices of Satan by the experienced Christians he conversed with, he would have been deprived of the faith of the Gospel altogether; but feeling that a higher degree of grace was necessary than he then possessed, he continued with all zeal to wrestle for that influence of the blood of the blessed Redeemer that cleanseth from all unrighteousness. He simply believed the report that his Saviour came to destroy the works of the devil, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and by earnest waiting upon him, in all the means of grace, for the accomplishment of this purpose, he resolved to look in faith for a complete deliverance. With these feelings he attended a quarterly meeting in Charlemont, where he felt as if the glory of the Lord filled the house, and heaven was begun in his heart, of which he was enabled to make an entire surrender to his glorious Deliverer. He now attained to the full assurance of faith, possessing in his soul that peace that passeth all understanding, which filled him with joy and love in believing. He entered fully into that privilege which the Apostle enjoins on the Thessalonian believers——he could rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing, and in everything give thanks——he partook of the blessings of a bountiful Providence in the same pious frame of mind in which he partook of the sacrament, for he felt as if holiness to the Lord had been written on all his mercies. The blessing he received on this occasion he never forgot; for though he was variously tried in his after-life, he was graciously preserved from losing his confidence in this great salvation: he continually lived in the Divine presence and fear; and in all the transactions of his life, he was enabled to prove to those who observed him most closely, that patience in him had its perfect work. He made a conscience of reproving sin wherever prudence admitted his doing so, and of course he brought on himself the resentment of many, who felt indignation at his plain dealing, and frequently made him a rude return for his Christian kindness; but this moved him not: conscious of having done his duty in the sight of his Great Judge, he patiently and silently made his appeal to him only; but he ever persevered to minister plain truths in a loving spirit to the sinner, whenever he presented himself. A principal feature in his character was liberality to the cause of God, which exceeded what prudence would deem advisable to a person in his circumstances, but he truly denied himself what many would call the necessaries of life, to promote the cause of religion, and provide comfortably for the preachers of the Gospel, both at home and abroad.

On the late change which took place in Methodism, through the introduction of the administration of the sacraments by the preachers, and holding their meetings in church-hours, he felt uncommon distress of mind. He saw himself under the necessity of opposing the change, 1st, because in his mind it outraged all the principles on which he had at first joined himself to the Methodists; 2dly, because it was a contradiction to the professions which he had ever beard the preachers make of their attachment to the church establishment, from the beginning; and 3rdly, because he conceived it would weaken the Protestant cause in Ireland, by rendering the Methodists a separate sect. On this ground he determined to stand on his first plan, and signed the resolutions which the Association he belonged to had voted on the occasion, though it was the means of separating him from many friends whom he held exceedingly dear; but a good conscience was still more dear to him. He laboured incessantly for the maintenance of Methodism on its first principles, which, by Divine aid, he was enabled to see effected in his vicinity; by a kind Providence, be saw the house which he had contributed to build, preserved to primitive Methodism  and filled with truly zealous worshippers according to his own heart, happy in the love of God, and united to that church establishment in which he was brought up: this event exceedingly rejoiced his heart, and filled him with unspeakable gratitude to heaven’s King, whom he ceased not to praise, with streaming eyes, in the crowded congregations which have frequented that house ever since the Primitive Wesleyan preachers took possession of it.

Having felt so much opposition from what is called the Conference party in his neighbourhood, and apprehending they might, on some future day, gain ground so as to weaken the cause of Primitive Methodism, he bequeathed something for the maintenance of the preachers in that Society which was so dear to him. Next to the happiness of his own soul, there was nothing gave him so great delight as seeing his brethren dwelling together in unity and love: he had profited so much by living in uninterrupted communion with God, that the travail of his soul was to bring all with whom he held converse to the enjoyment of it: his heart overflowed with love to all mankind, which he expressed in constant prayer for them, particularly for those who had injured him, so that even the enemies of religion were constrained to acknowledge that William Jones was truly a good man——if there was one in the world.

Such was the Brother——the Father in Israel, whose departure from the militant church it so much and so justly lamented by all his brethren and children in the vicinity which he has quitted. They are, indeed, like children who have been deprived of him who not only warned them against error in doctrine end discipline, but who fed them with wholesome food from the Word of God, that made them wise and holy. During the whole of his last severe and tedious illness, he never murmured, but patiently kissed the rod as laid on by a tender Father. His peace of mind seemed rather to encrease with life disorder, and every expression he dropped indicated the most perfect resignation and thankfulness to Him who thought well thus to try him. When he was informed that his complaint was of that nature that it was impossible be could recover, he most sincerely thanked God, and rejoiced in the prospect of so soon getting into his Father’s kingdom. A few days before his dissolution, a person visited him to whom be had been the instrument of shewing the way of life, and whom he warmly addressed as follows:——“John; live for God and speak for him; my soul has been drawn out in prayer for you, and I cannot tell why, but I feel as if you should have many enemies to encounter. However, fear them not: for your encouragement, I can tell you, that from the great truths of the Gospel which I have enforced on others, I now find effectual support in my own soul, and I have the full assurance of faith that they will not fail me in a blissful eternity.” He added, “John, make truth your own. I never held forth anything to the people that I did not first feel the power and efficacy of in my own heart. I am now a dying man, and I can tell you that for many years there was not a jarring string in my soul; God had all my heart.” To another friend he said, “Let the classes know, and let all the world know, that I die a witness for Jesus.” Every symptom of dissolution now appeared, but, though his pain seemed excessive, his patience and mental tranquillity were never disturbed, nor did his intellectual powers fail to the last. He desired that his three grand-children, who had been long before cast upon him for protection and maintenance, might be brought to him; and after he had in the most weighty and impressive manner exhorted them to give themselves to the Lord, and to follow him to glory, he lifted up his heart and his voice to God in prayer, that the blessing of the United Trinity might rest upon them, and then tenderly took his leave of them. Upon being particularly asked, by a preacher who had not been acquainted with him formerly, as to the state of his feelings, he replied that had God entrusted him with the management of the providences which had followed him all his days, matters would not have been as well with him as they then were. He could say God had done all things well for which he never could at any period say of himself. He called upon all the public friends who had visited him, to pray; among others, one of the Conference party, a dear friend with whom he had often taken sweet counsel: and to shew how far his happy soul soared above party spirit, he signified a desire that he should pray; at the close of which his happy soul departed, without a groan, on the 9th of March, 1823, within eight days of closing his seventy-third year.

Thus lived and thus died William Jones, whose amiable manners and engaging address had, for nearly sixty years, recommended the religious cause which he had espoused to those who were not otherwise acquainted with it, than by the life and conduct of its members, while the wisdom of his counsel and the fervor of his zeal had diffused the intrinsic blessings of the Gospel of Christ through an extensive circuit around his neighbourhood, where the sweet savour of his blessed example, and the precepts which they heard from him, are the only consolation which his friends have now to compensate them for his loss.

Source:  Averell, Rev. Adam. Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Magazine and Miscellany. Published by the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Church (1823), pp. 359–262. Transcribed by Alison Kilpatrick, 2013-12-09.

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Genealogical notes gleaned from the obituary:

  • Thomas Jones of Derryanvil and his wife were "respectable parents, who, being in easy circumstances, gave their children a good education, suitable to all the necessities of a country life.” Thomas died at a very advanced age, and reference was made to “his aged partner."
  • William Jones was born on the 17th March 1750. When he was near death, "He desired that his three grand-children, who had been long before cast upon him for protection and maintenance, might be brought to him.”
    ☛ The parish registers for the Church of the Ascension at Drumcree reveal those three children to have been those of William Jones, jun., and his wife, Ann: William, baptised 3rd May 1810; Thomas, 2nd October 1812; and Mary, 9th April 1815.
    Source: Church of Ireland. Parish registers for Drumcree. Copies on microfilm held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (Belfast). PRONI ref.  MIC/1/21,42-43. Extracts taken in January, 2012.
    ☛ Mary Jones, who was baptised in 1815, was our 2nd great grandmother.

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"The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there."—Lesley Poles Hartley (1895–1972), The Go-Between (1953).

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