Swain, William (1779-1837)


(Class Leader and Local Preacher, Derby Circuit.)

William Swain died March 16, 1837, aged fifty-eight years.  He had been a traveller in the way to Zion about thirty years, and the nearer he approached his end, the better he seemed to run his race.

The circumstances that led to his conversion were peculiar.  Several young men suffered at Derby; one of whom happily found the pardoning mercy of God; and while conveyed through the town to the gallows, he gave out, and sang sweetly,

“Behold the Saviour of mankind,” &c.

Several were affected; and Bro. Swain so deeply that he sought retirement; and in an agony of soul cried to God, who had made the malefactor happy; and, after several days of sorrow and distress, found peace, and joined a religious society.

He united with the P. Methodists on their coming to Derby.  His abilities were not very great; but, as a leader and local preacher, he was useful in the cause of God.  He laboured as much as his strength would bear; and, no doubt, many will praise God in eternity that they ever heard him.

He appeared dead to the world, and dependant on Christ.  His faith was strong although on some occasions he, for a whole day or more, had scarcely a bit of bread in the house.  But though poverty and affliction were his lot, he repined not, “nor charged God foolishly.”  “As his day, so was his strength.”  The providence of God, he often said, had wrought out for him unforeseen deliverances, which melted him at times into gratitude and humility.

About eleven years before his death, he was deprived of her who was the partner of his life, and mother of his children; and he knew not how to obtain money to defray the expenses of her funeral.  But being in the way of dealing in second-hand clothes, a butler at a gentleman’s house, offered him a quantity.  But Bro. Swain frankly told him he was not able to give him the worth of them.  How much money have you? was the enquiry.  Why so much.  “Well take them for that.”  Bro. Swain did so, and the profits derived from them, released him out of his emergency.  And this he often mentioned as a striking providence.

During the latter part of his life, he endured great bodily affliction; which rendered it difficult for him to follow his ordinary employment; so that his trials seemed to multiply on every side.  But in his patience he possessed his soul.

Toward the close of life he was occasionally delirious; but would then be engaged about the welfare of his class.  And often would he break out in prayer for his members and for the cause in general.

Many witnessed his deep piety; and on his death, numbers of his fellow townsmen, not religious, said, “If a good man ever lived, William Swain was one.”

He had sufferings from pain and sickness, poverty and want, temptations and trials.  But out of all the Lord delivered him; and all his sufferings are for ever over.

His children lament their loss.  Oh! may the many admonitions he gave them, and the many prayers he offered up for them not be in vain.  But may they and all the friends meet him above, to be ever with the Lord.

W. Antliff


Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1838.  Page 227.


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