William Mason

The Life And Death Of William Mason

The Sower 1895:

This honoured name was, perhaps, better known to the past generation than the present, though many still know the value of the “Pilgrim’s Progress” with Mason’s notes; and though from Hawker and Philpot we have their daily portions and readings, they have not entirely superseded “Mason’s Spiritual Treasury.” Many fathers and mothers in Israel abide by these daily readings, and find them a source of spiritual blessing and strength; and it were well if our younger friends had a hunger for such solid and substantial realities. But we live in sad times. Our author was a proof of what may be accomplished by a private Christian, engaged in business, yet finding time to write many useful and spiritual works, which still live after the lapse of a century.

William Mason was born in the parish of Rotherhithe, Surrey, in 1719. His father was an honest, industrious man, by trade a clock maker; but his chief object was the world, and his only pursuit the things which are seen. Before William had served his apprenticeship he was called to succeed his father, and provide for his mother, a brother, and a sister. Though he had not enjoyed the advantages of a religious education, yet his mind seems to have been early impressed with the importance of divine things, as appears from his diary, wherein he says:—

“On a review of my past life, and a recollection of the blessings of the providence of the Lord, I am constrained to cry out, ‘Lord, what am I that Thou shouldest thus follow me with Thy blessings? Oh, my God, do Thou humble me under a due reflection of my ingratitude to Thee, and the unsuitable returns I have made to the God of my life, of whose only great and abounding mercy it is that I am not now lifting up mine eyes in torment, instead of being favoured with the gracious opportunity of hearing the glad tidings of the Gospel.’ It is matter of great praise and thanksgiving that the Lord kept me in my younger years, amidst the many evil examples I had before my eyes, the great temptations I was exposed to, joined to the strong solicitations of a corrupt heart (which, indeed, I was then .a stranger to). Oh, how have I been kept by an invisible power! Not unto me, not unto me, but unto Thy name, O my God, I desire to give all the glory.

“It will scarcely be believed when I observe that, as far back as childhood almost, I hardly know the time when I did not make it my constant practice, morning and evening, to pray unto the God of my life—to me an unknown God. Yea, further, I scarcely ever neglected to attend public worship at church. Oh that every young person went thus far! But all this while, what did I differ from many others who neglected this? I had the same unholy temper. I was, like them, proud, revengeful, self-willed, a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God.”

But it pleased the Lord to convince him of his sin. He expresses himself thus:—

“Now did the Lord lay open my state; the Word came quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. Alas! I now see myself a sinner before God. The foundation I had so long built on was suddenly taken from under me. I might now as soon attempt to swim by the help of a millstone as to rely on all my works or duties. I cannot describe the anguish of my soul at this time. I saw my misery; I felt my wants. Oh, my dear Saviour, let not this work of Thine come to nought, but bring unto my soul the fulness of Thy love.”

It was about this time that he attended at the chapel in Snow’s Fields. Here he heard John Wesley, Writing of this he says:—

“After nature had sufficiently, as it were, spent its strength for nought, I found I was only striving and struggling, by the use of ordinances, to render God merciful to me a sinner, not knowing I was without that faith in Christ Jesus which justifieth the ungodly. The Lord hath now, blessed be His holy name, showed me, by the ministry of His servant, my want of this faith. Oh, my dear Saviour, make me truly thankful to Thee for his message to my soul. Help me to love him as the instrument, but Thee above all, as the inexhaustible fountain of light and life.”

But at times he went to the Tabernacle in Moorfields, and with pleasure and profit heard Mr. George Whitefield, with whom he became intimately acquainted. In proportion as he attended Calvinistic preachers, he became less attached to the connection he had formed with Mr. Wesley, and at length wholly withdrew from that society. He soon began to meet with persecution. One swore at him, and many of his former acquaintances not only deserted him, but used their endeavours to injure him in his business. Several captains of ships, who before had given him large orders, now entirely withdrew their favours, and he had the very trying prospect of an increasing family with a decreasing trade. To this circumstance he alludes in his “Spiritual Treasury,” in the meditation from Luke 22:35, “Lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing!” He begins it:—

“Precious words to me! With tears of thankfulness I record the goodness of my Lord to the chief of sinners. Upwards of twenty years ago, when it pleased Him to call me by His grace, and make me happy in His love, my name was cast out as evil, friends became foes, they withdrew their favours from me and derided me. Under narrow circumstances, tender feelings for a large family, carnal reasonings of my corrupt nature, and strong temptations from the enemy, I was often sore distressed. But my Lord was gracious. Many and many a time did He bring this text to my mind, ‘Lackedst thou anything?’ I was constrained with gratitude to reply, ‘Nothing, Lord.’ Christ is a most precious Master to serve! l have proved it.”

About this time he became acquainted with Mr. Romaine, and formed that sincere and lasting friendship which was dissolved only by death. Being possessed of a lively imagination, quickness of thought, and a ready pen, he soon commenced as an author. Many of his productions met with general acceptance. He had been frequently solicited to exercise himself in public preaching, which he as often declined, under the impression of his not being called to glorify God in that service. Yet his talents were not laid up in a napkin; for after his death his family found among his papers letters from correspondents in England, Scotland, Ireland, and America, expressing the spiritual benefits they derived from his publications. Finding his writings valued, he was induced to begin his “Spiritual Treasury,” a work which occupied much of his time, but which time was chiefly taken from the hours of rest; even in the coldest days of winter he has arisen at four o’clock in the morning, and, without a fire, pursued his favourite task. He has often remarked that while thus employed he has enjoyed some of the happiest seasons he ever experienced. His mind was wholly absorbed in meditation, his heart rejoicing in a sense of pardoning love, and his soul breathing out its desires after God.

“The Believer’s Pocket Companion” was another of his works which met with a wide circulation. He was for some years the Editor of the Gospel Magazine, and in this publication first appeared his notes on Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.”

In the year 1783 he retired from business and became an acting magistrate. About four years previous to his death he first felt a slight stroke of palsy. His speech was for a few days interrupted, and the stroke in some degree impaired his faculties. About two years after, while performing the duty of a magistrate at Union Hall, in the Borough of Southwark, he suddenly fell from his chair, and was taken up speechless; from this shock he also recovered. He seemed as well as he had usually been for some time on the morning of his death, but about eleven o’clock, as he was walking in his own room, in a moment he was deprived of the use of his limbs on one side. A physician was immediately called in, but death had received his commission, and in a few hours, with recovering consciousness, he fell asleep, September 29th, 1791, in the seventy-third year of his age. His remains were interred in the church of St. Mary Magdalene, Bermondsey, in which parish he had resided sixty years, and where, for the last twelve years, he attended on the Evangelical ministry of his son, Henry Cox Mason, chaplain to the Earl of Onslow.


William Mason (1719-1791) was a High-Calvinist author. For many years he served as a Justice of the Peace, and in 1783 was appointed a Magistrate. He served as editor of the Gospel Magazine before and after the editorship of Augustus Toplady. He is best known for a morning and evening devotional entitled, “A Spiritual Treasury For The Children Of God.”