Pike, William (1773-1837)
MEMOIR OF WILLIAM PIKE,
William Pike was born at Down Hurstbourne, in the county of Hants, in the year 1773.
He was blest with pious parents; and to escape from the restraint of parental authority, he enlisted for a soldier; but by letters and prayers, the pious father followed his prodigal son. In one of the old man’s letters, he quoted the following scripture: “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes; but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment” Eccles. xi. 9. This two-edged sword entered the young soldier’s heart, and produced the desired effect.
In the season of his distress, he one day passed by a chapel, where the followers of Jesus were engaged in His service; and upon enquiring, he was informed that they were a ‘pack of Methodists.’ He resolved to enter, and soon, through his intercourse among these ‘despised and rejected of men’ obtained mercy.
His change was evident, and his character decisive. His comrades soon ‘took knowledge of him, that he had been with Jesus.’ Persecution from some, and favour from others, were the immediate consequences. His conversation and example soon produced effects. A prayer meeting was commenced in the regiment, and souls were brought to God.
Being a young man of fine person, sober habits, and promising endowments; and withal, religion spreading its charms by giving him an authority, stability, and influence, he was favoured, trusted, and promoted.
He now began to exhort in the prayer meetings, and was much encouraged by the fruit of his labours. He persevered, and became an acceptable, acknowledged, and useful preacher. A good work of God spread among his fellow soldiers. They regularly met for the purposes of worship. He was their preacher, and led their devotions. They all looked up to him as their spiritual guide; and many, as their father in the Lord. They met in the open air, and the stump of a large tree served for a pulpit.
When the regiment separated, many wept to part with him; and the numerous letters he received afterwards from those who had been benefited by his ministry, cost him for postage all the money he could command.
After spending thirteen years in the regiment, he was discharged, without a pension, in consequence of a deafness, brought on through the exposures of a military life.
While a soldier, he married Elizabeth Sutton, a native of Newcastle-under-Lyme, in Staffordshire. She acknowledges that through his prayers she was brought to God: and continues to witness the truth of her profession.
When he was discharged, he settled in his native village; and took his father’s place, as a thatcher and rough carpenter, in the employ of the Earl of Portsmouth.
Truth now compels me to employ my pen in depicting darker features in his character. Glad indeed should I be, was this necessity not laid upon me. But I consider that a faithful narrative of real character alone can answer the various and important ends of religious biography.
Being now settled for life, and entering upon a laborious employment, he considered it necessary to drink a portion of beer daily in his work. By degrees the love of strong drink stole upon him. He indulged it by little and little, until at length he became, awful to state, a drunkard! It was, however, by a slow progress; that he arrived at this daring and fearful stage in his backsliding career.
He was a local preacher among us; and was well received among the people, until the symptoms of his criminal indulgence began to appear. On Sundays, when out in his appointments, he would call at public inns to get beer. He was admonished, but persisted. He was then silenced; and some cases of intoxication being proved against him, he was put off the plan.
From this time up to that of his last affliction, he lived in the habitual indulgence of drink, except in two seasons of short but severe affliction; when, on each occasion, under the apprehension of speedy dissolution, he was deeply distressed, and obtained mercy. But, alas! painful to say, returning health found him returning like ‘the dog to his vomit, and as the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.’
In this guilty, miserable, and fearfully hazardous state, he spent the last two years of his life, with the above exceptions. In these awful circumstances, death found him, on Monday morning, August 28th, 1837; and seized him with an unrelenting and unyielding grasp. He had got up, and was gone to work as usual, when, before breakfast, he felt that God had sent, and death had served the last summons upon him. He threw himself upon a heap of straw, and after lying some time, with difficulty he returned home.
The matter was now come to an issue; and he felt it so. His fears were alarmed, and his distress was great. To his pious and (on his account), distressed wife, he observed, “I am not the man I ought to have been! Oh, what a man I might have been, had I been faithful! Oh, I am afraid I shall not be saved! Oh, mother, do pray for me! In this perilous state he remained the whole of the week, frequently exclaiming, “I am afraid I shall not be saved!”
The old man had two daughters and one son-in-law, who, with his wife, are members of our society; and serving the Lord sincerely. His conduct had been a perpetual source of sorrow to them; and now they were in agony of grief about his soul, and feared and dreaded the worst consequences. Their prayers were mighty; but no hope, no deliverance came. Meantime the disorder continued to make rapid progress; and every evidence sinking nature gave of its approaching dissolution, pierced, as a sword, deeper and deeper, the fountains of sorrow in their souls, and drew forth fresh gusts of agonizing distress.
Sunday, Sep. 3rd, he expressed some hope, but could not believe. Monday, 4, found him struggling for life, and groaning in his chains. The fatal and infallible symptoms of the speedy termination of his mortal existence now appeared, – without salvation! This was a crisis of fearful consequence. The distress of his pious relatives, and the misery of his own soul were indescribable. But now the boundless, nameless mercy of God appeared. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon: he shouted, “Mother, faith is springing in my soul. Glory to God! faith is sprung up in my soul!” Just after this a gentleman called to see him, and enquired the state of his soul; he replied, “Glory to God, I am going to heaven, Sir!”
His deliverance was clear and powerful, his testimony firm and satisfactory, and his triumph, to the last moment, complete. He died, singing the praises of his Deliverer, the same evening, (Monday, Sep. 4,) about ten o’clock, aged sixty-four years; and his soul delivered out of the hands and power of satan, only six hours before it must otherwise have been in the backslider’s hell!! “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
It may be remarked, that he possessed a good knowledge of the scriptures; and his views, which were clear and extensive, were purely methodistical.
His abilities for preaching were acceptable, and calculated for usefulness.
He had, in his best days, taken pains to give his children a thorough knowledge of religious matters; and his life, labours, prayers, and example were not lost upon them. Some were converted, and the rest were so far enlightened, that they reverenced religion in its consistent professors; but they were grieved on account of the backslidings of their aged father, knowing him to live in the indulgence of things irreconcilable to the enjoyments of religion. May the warning voice of this memoir savingly reach all whom it may concern. Amen.
(Approved by the Quarter-day board.)
Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1838. Pages 104-106.