Cosens, Mary (nee Burnett) (1797-1831)

Transcription of obituary published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by George Cosens

MEMOIR OF MARY COSENS,

Late Wife of Geo. Cosens, Prim. Methodist Travelling Preacher.

DEAR BROTHER,

Should you think the following remarks, upon the character of departed excellence, worthy of a place in the Magazine, at any opportunity which may be most convenient, by inserting them you will favour many of the friends of the deceased; and none more so than,        Dear Brother, your’s in Christ,

GEORGE COSENS.

___________________________

“Now, see the saint immortal; her, I mean,
Who liv’d as such—whose heart, fall bent on heaven,
Lean’d all that way, her bias to the skies.
Observe the awful portrait, and admire;
Nor stop at wonder; imitate and live!”

Mary Cosens, the daughter of Michael and Margaret Burnett, was born Dec. 18, 1797, at Birtley, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It was her privilege to be blessed with parents who feared God, whose wholesome admonitions and Christian example restrained her in a great measure from those vanities, so prevalent among young persons, and so particularly agreeable to her own natural disposition. Yet, notwithstanding the advantages resulting from such privileges, she continued a stranger to the depravity of her nature, and the danger of her unconverted state, until the year 1816. Previously to this time, she left her father’s house, and resided at Southwick, where she usually attended the ministry of the Wesleyan Methodists. On one occasion, while hearing a sermon delivered by a local preacher, she was powerfully awakened to a sense of her danger, and her distress increased as the congregation engaged in singing the following lines:—

“I must for faith incessant cry,
And wrestle, Lord, with thee;
I must be born again—or die
To all eternity.”

She was then led to think seriously about the great question. “What must I do to be saved?” The sin of her heart pressed her sore; and she was weary and heavy laden with a sense of her guilt as an offending creature. In the language of genuine penitence, she exclaimed, “Thou writest bitter things against me, and makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth. O, when wilt thou comfort me? When shall I be clean?—When shall it once be?” In this state of distress and disquietude she remained along time, using all the means that were likely to further the much-wished-for  deliverance. At length, after a long and a hard struggle, “The Lord whom she sought came to his temple.” She “obtained redemption through the blood of Christ, even the forgiveness of all her sins.” Then, in the spirit of evangelical confidence, she could utter the language of the Apostle, “We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry ‘Abba, Father.’ ” Her language now was, “O Lord, I will praise thee, for though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away and thou comfortedst me.”

She now began to see it her duty and privilege to be united with the people of God; and accordingly offered herself to the notice of the church, and was admitted a member on trial into the Methodist Society, about the latter end of 1816, or beginning of 1817. From this period she was enabled, through grace, steadily and unweariedly to persevere in her Christian journey, setting her affections on things above, and striving in ail things to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour. Firmly built on the Rock of Ages, she was not moved by the opposition she met with from her carnal friends and companions, or from the malignant and unwearied attacks of her spiritual foes. Feeling herself laid under peculiar obligations to God, who had saved her soul from falling into hell, she gave herself unreservedly to his service, and to his people according to his will; for she considered it an honour and a privilege to enjoy fellowship with the people of God, whom she esteemed as the excellent of the earth. After having remained a while in Southwick, she came to reside at Newcastle, where she again united with the people of God. While united with this portion of his Church, she evidenced the possession of a lively and purifying faith, and her profiting appeared unto all. She was very punctual in her attendance on the means of grace, never suffering circumstances of a trivial nature to prevent her from being at the house of prayer; but, on the contrary, she gave earnest heed to the exhortation of the Apostle, “Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.”

She remained with the Wesleyan connexion until about the year 1824; at which time she removed from Newcastle to Preston, near North Shields. Shortly after this, a camp meeting was held in the neighbourhood of North Shields, attended by Brothers Gilbert, Taylor, and others; at which she attended, and not in vain. In the evening a lovefeast was held in the North Shields chapel, and there God revealed himself as the God of salvation; the glory descended, she felt the influence, and, out of the abundance of her heart, exclaimed “Master, it is good to be here.” From that period she felt a particular attachment to the Primitive Methodist connexion, and thought of uniting with it: but, not willing to do things rashly, she made it the subject of serious thought and fervent prayer. At length, she came to the conclusion of doing so; which union took place about the middle of 1824. This she did not with a design to strengthen a party, but from a full conviction of its being her duty. From the fullness of her heart she could say, “This people shall be my people, and their God my God.” Nor did she ever repent of what she had done.

Some time after this, she came to reside at Dunston, near Newcastle; here she was appointed to the important charge of a class, and although to her the cross was a heavy one, yet in taking it up she experienced a particular increase of piety in her own soul, and was made an instrument of good to many. She was particularly exemplary in her visitation of the sick, in the punctuality of her attendance on the means of grace, in the seriousness and sanctity of her deportment, and in the universal fidelity with which she discharged, for several years, the duties of a class leader. Asa leader, she was simple, lively, and faithful. She walked for a considerable time in the enjoyment of perfect love; and her conversation and spirit gave edifying evidence of the crucifixion even unto death of every contrary and carnal principle.

I became acquainted with her in 1828, while labouring in the Winlaton circuit, of which Dunston was a part. I had frequent interviews with her, and I never left her company without feeling the conviction, that she was a woman of “another spirit, and one that followed the Lord fully.”

It was about two months after my coming into that circuit that we formed our acquaintance, which continued until June 24th, 1830, when we formed that union which only death has been able to dissolve; and the dissolution of which I am now left to deplore.

At the time of our marriage, I was stationed for the Sunderland circuit, and was appointed to reside at Durham. She accompanied me, and evinced to all that she was fully sensible of her high responsibility as the wife of a minister of the gospel; and therefore endeavoured to conduct herself blamelessly in the sight of God and man.

During our stay at Durham, she enjoyed much substantial peace, although, towards the latter part of the time, she was much detained from the means of grace on account of the state of her health; yet, even the consolations of God were not small with her; for that Jesus who made an apology for his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, by saying, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” knew this to be the case with her; and hence he granted her much of the hallowed tokens of his presence.

In May, 1831, in consequence of the sudden and mysterious removal of two of our brethren, (Messrs. Branfoot and Hewson,) we, by order of the Circuit Committee, removed to Sunderland, and were received by the friends in the most affectionate and Christian manner. She was then within a few weeks of her confinement. Prior to that time she had had frequent presentiments of her death, and, without any thing like terror, frequently conversed with me on the subject, expressing a desire to be fully resigned to the will of God,

On the 17th of July she was safely delivered of a daughter. She seemed particularly grateful, and was much engaged in ascribing thanksgivings to God, for the assistance he had afforded, and the great deliverance HE had wrought out for her. Her friends congratulated her, and all things seemed to promise a speedy restoration. But, alas! how precarious and uncertain are all things earthly. How mysterious the dispensations of Divine Providence ! God’s ways are past finding out. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord, for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” On Thursday following, an evident alteration took place for the worse. Still her confidence was unshaken. During the day she remained in a most peaceful and happy state of mind, and told me she felt as though she had received a new soul and a new body. Early on Friday morning she appeared very much altered, and about ten o’clock became alarmingly ill. At the time I was in the chapel vestry, in company with Brothers Aspinal, Petty, and others, I heard a great noise up stairs; I hastened to the room, and as soon as I entered she addressed me in words similar to the following:- “My dear, help me to praise God. Praise him for his goodness to your wife. Glory! Glory! Glory! O, how good the Lord is.”

This was a day ever to be remembered. Her exhortations to all of us, and especially to me, to be a faithful minister of the gospel, were very earnest and impressive. On the same day, she desired the rest of the people to leave the room, and none to remain but myself. After they were gone, she requested me to read the 14th and 17th chapters of St. John’s Gospel; I did so, and when I had done she exclaimed, “What a precious book the Bible is! The promises of the Bible can support in any condition;—Cannot they my dear?” I answered “Yes.” She then told me, with the utmost composure of mind, that it was her firm persuasion that she would, not recover; and added, “If there be any thing that could induce me to wish to live, it is you, the Church, and the child.”* But I have given all up, for I know I must die.”

This persuasion did not create any alarm in her breast, but rather increased her joy; the sting of death was taken away, its power broken; and, in the full. assurance of faith, she exclaimed, “All is right, I am going to heaven.”

On Saturday morning she appeared worse, and became very faint. About six o’clock she had a very severe attack of the hysteric fits. I thought these would prove the struggles of death; but, by the use of means, she recovered. She showed the greatest disappointment, and said, “O, my dear, you have brought me back again. I had almost escaped. The pearly gates were opened for my reception. Now I have to struggle again.”

Her brother-in-law coming in, she charged him to seek religion, and to prepare for dying. “O, get religion! Nothing else will do; but with it, how easy it is to die! Dying is no more to me than going into another room. O! the pain, the bliss of dying. O! pray, pray, pray.” 

To me she said, “Why do you weep, my dear? You should rejoice. I know you love me, and wish me to be happy. I am going to be happy. O, do not weep. His grace will be sufficient for you.”

On the day before her death, her views of the glory to be revealed were very animating and delightful. Throughout the day she dwelt much on the thought of soon being in heaven. She frequently repeated those enrapturing lines of the poet,

“There I shall bathe my weary soul,
In seas of heavenly rest—
And not a wave of trouble roll
Across my peaceful breast.”

After repeating them, she would frequently say, “My dear, is not this very delightful? O, praise him, praise him. Glory ! Glory! Glory be to God,”

In the course of the day, as I stood by her bedside, weeping, she addressed me in the following manner:— “Cosens, are you a man of God? Where is your faith? Try to say, ‘The will of the Lord be done;’ and strive to meet me in heaven. I am going to heaven. Preach my funeral sermon from ‘O, death, where is thy sting,’ ” &c.

A few hours before the scene finally closed, I asked her the state of her mind; she answered, “I am lost in the ocean—I am lost in the ocean of God.” After a short pause, she gave me a most earnest look, and again exclaimed, “My dear, I am not afraid to die. I shall soon be in the King’s palace.” And soon after fell asleep in Jesus. Thus departed my dear wife, July the 27th, 1831, aged 34 years. O that my latter end may belike hers. Her death was improved a month after, in Flag-lane chapel, Sunderland, to a crowded congregation, from 1 Cor. xv. 26.

I am, dear Brother, your’s in the Lord,

GEORGE COSENS.

(Approved by the quarter day board.)

* The child died a month after her interment.

Family

Mary was born on 18 December 1797 at Birtley, nr Newcastle upon Tyne, to parents Michael and Margaret.

She married George Cosens (1805-1881), a PM minister, on 24 June 1830.

Mary died on 27 July 1831 at Sunderland.

References

Primitive Methodist Magazine 1832/451

W Leary, Directory of Primitive Methodist Ministers and their Circuits, 1990

Census Returns and Births, Marriages & Deaths Registers

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