Page images
PDF
EPUB

the living form of undiffembled goodness arrest the attention of the gay, the diffipated, the pleasurable, and they will, for the time, revere it : furely, a very unexceptionable testimony in its fa-vour. After all, whatever Declaimers may suggest of times and manners, they are not yet so degenerate, as that true wisdom need Mun all the resorts of men, or fear an ill' reception. Of this our friend was a remarkable instance; whose modest únafo? suming worth attracted the efteem of persons of rank, and figure in life ; a distinction which did no less honour to those who conferred, than to him who received it. How is it then, that those who should stand foremost in the train of virtue, are so much banished from the commerce of the fashionable world? On the one hand, grimace, and an illiberal forbidding mannet, has belied the fair form of virtue : on the other, levity, and an un-) resisting fuppleness, which may be molded into any shape, is an extreme, perhaps, of worfe consequence to religion ; as it approaches to libertinism, is more expoled to view; and in cha racters fet up as examples to others. Be both these extremes avoided; let virtue aflume her own native form, her easy grace ful dignity of manner; and all will be well, But of this, perhaps, something too much; as it may not be thought a text fit for lay-handling.

" It is in itself, and to my purpose, far more agreeable to contemplate our late friend, as a fair pattern of the golden mean above-mentioned. And I shall be much plealed to find you, and other judges in this moral painting, who knew the original, recognizing the resemblance, though but imperfect, bem tween it and this unfinished sketch.-How sweetly united in him, the soft, the gentle, the fympathetic; with the firin, the grave, and the manly ? and sure it is no mean point of wisdom, tó harmonize these often jarring elements. To win one's way to the heart, for honeft purpoles, by mild address, and the arts of persuasion, hiding the authority of the Adviser, in the kind remonstrances of the friend, was eminently his talent. Indeed, his natural modefty and relerve, perhaps to an excess, feldom affumed the severity of rebuke, unless extorted in vindication of truth and right; when he never failed to exert'bimself-Virtutis veræ etslos vigilafque Satelles; incapable, from cowardise, or mean views, to desert the post of virtue; or, where the still voice of reason could be heard, of adding even the sanction of filcnce to what he thought was wrong.

The Letter-writer goes on to observe, that particular characters appear eminently distinguished, by particular virtues and talents; that natural complexion, habit, education, profession, many complicated circumitances, bring out, with various de grees of strength, the various powers of head and heart; that

through through all these, the original cast of genius will predominate, and the ruling principle itrongly mark the general character. Now, it is the seizing this characteristic distinctive mark, we are told, and producing it to light, which reflects the true image of the individual; if this is omitted, or unskilfully taken off, the particular man is loft, in the vague resemblance of the fpecies at large. However, this individuating principle itself, is not always obvious: it may not be called out by any corresponding scene of action ; it may go on to operate uniformly through a still recurring sameness of life; like an equable motion proceeding from the same continued impulse. This is often the case in a private station; where the same offices proceed in the same tenour; and yesterday, to-day, and to-morrow, are of the same colour. The whole piece may be excellent: the character so fituated, may exemplify the most useful, the most amiable virtues; the virtues of the good Citizen, of the faithful Friend, of the eminently pious, diligent, and skilful Teacher of religion.

• How applicable is all this, continues the Letter-writer, to the Author of the following Discourses? How entirely devoted his life to the zealous discharge of the duties of his profeffion, thofe who knew him best can witness - The whole man, his foul, his heart, was in his business as a Minister of the Chriftian religion ! Warm and unbiased in his attachment to the cause of truth and liberty; to promote these, was devoted a spirit of research, manly and liberal; and which, no very common appearance perhaps grew with his growing years. He was

utierly averse from that imperious, narrow, bigotted spirit, which has wrought such mighty mischief in the Christian world, to the reproach of religion itself, and which one knows not whether it has more debased the understanding, or corrupted the principles and affections of the human heart. It was from a deep conviction of the great truths of religion, a conviction the result of most impartial enquiry, from the powers of Christianity ftrongly felt, from a heart penetrated with a sense of duty in discharging the offices of the sacred function, and the honour of approving his zeal and fidelity to his Lord and Master.From there was his conduct animated to such unwearied diligence; hence was he instant in season, out of season, fervent in spirit, serving his God.

• Indeed, an indefatigable industry appears to have been a peculiar distinction of this excellent man; and a most important distinction it is! For it will be found, that in the various of fices of life, we fall short, not so much for want of talents, as from indolence and want of activity. We readily seem ta yield the pre-eminence, in point of ability, to the person who far excels us in moral and religious attainments; little, perhaps, ful

pecting, pecting, that our sloth and want of exertion are then obliquely making their own apology. You know it was an essential article in the character of an eminent Roman, that he was vir induftrius, an industrious man: and I am persuaded it will be found, that superior eminence is oftener the fruit of this plain virtue, than of superior abilities. However, successful induftry supposes the powers and energy of mind properly pointed to the course of life, as well as unbiassed, and unobstructed, by the counterworking of opposite forces.--Hence the apoftolic precept, of laying aside every weight, and the fin that most easily belets us.

But, in proof of our friend's most exemplary industry, a point highly deserving particular notice, as in a great measure imitable by ail, and productive of the best effects, let it be considered, that after a vigorous application in early youth, to fit himself for that reputable course of life he had chosen, and after having made honourable progress in it, acquitted himself of all its duties with most conscientious zeal - at the same time, by diligent study, and a singular patience of labour, which is a capital point, having laid up not only an uncommon stock of useful knowlege and learning, but, which is a more immediate necessary of theological life, of sermons also, one may fay, more thản sufficient to have equipped most modern Divines for life.Yet, all this, notwithstanding, on being chosen to succeed the late Mr. Abernethy, in the Protestant diffenting congregation of Wood-ftreet, Dublin, though now past the meridian of life, of a valetudinary habit of body, and in circumstances which, from change of place, might have tempted the love of ease to abate the ardour of application-He, on the contrary, began, as it were, his career anew, not availing himself of the rich treasure before laid up, in the way of writing, but forgetting, as St. Paul speaks, the things that were behind, he also pressed forward for the prize that awaits a patient continuance in welldoing; insomuch, that amidst daily avocations, during a course of twenty years which he survived' from his first settlement in Dublin, he composed and wrote Sermons to an amount almost 'beyond belief, perhaps scarcely to be paralelled; more, it appears on the best computation, than seven hundred. So striking an instance, so late in life, of renewed, one may fay, of obfinate labour, is surely worth recording. It will doubtless be matter of wonder to many, and to some, it is to be hoped, of generous emulation. His manner allo of composing Sermons deserves notice, perhaps the imitation of all not incapable of it, who would wish to strengthen memory by vigorous exercise, and to acquire a contemplative habit. By continued practice the Doctor had arrived at a facility of digesting, and laying up in his mind, the whole of a Discourse ; insomuch, that he not unfrequently transferred it upon paper, unless broke in upon, at one sitting, without hesitation, and with more than the rapidity of almost any mere Transcriber. His thoughtful turn of mind, and his parfimony of time, probably led him into this track: certain it is, he much, but modestly, recommended the practice from his own experience. Whether one is master of his time, or even otherwise, ftill a much greater portion of it daily runs to waste than can well be apprehended, without entering into a detail of particulars. These precious moments are generally dissipated without regret, in the supposed neceffary gratifications or amusements of life; not to reckon the greater facrifices of time made to indolence, or to impertinent activity ; for which, perhaps, we charge ourselves as criminal. The accustomed daily round which fills up life, at the time easily justifies itself, and it is only on bringing longer periods to a fair account, that we become properly sensible of the mighty blank spaces, and of the irreparable lofs incurred. Here, as in many other things, our friend's conduct was most worthy of imitation. It was his frugality of time, his redeeming every passing moment almost, which enabled him to crowd so much work into so short a period. Perhaps no man had less reason, in any sense, to say with the Roman Emperor, “ My friends, I have lost a day!”

• I just mentioned above, the Doctor's frequent avocations in the way of his profession. In truth, wherever the distressed, the disconfolate, the necessitous, the fick, demanded his presence, there was he. In such offices of mercy and humanity, he surely laboured more abundantly than you all. Beside the occafions of ministering relief, which his compassionate heart fought out, multitudes of all sorts, as well as those under his immediate care, applied to him; for, without partial regards himself, he was loved by all; and suffering of any sort, which he could any way alleviate, was to him an irresistible call Was any hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or fick, or in prison, and he did not minister relief, when in his power

? All this was in him the more meritorious, as it broke in upon his natural love of retirement, of reading, of writing, which he not only gave up to the social active duties of life, but, indeed, his eale, his health: he was much in the wretched habitations of poverty and disease. At all times regardless of the

inclemency of the season, and the obstruction of crowded streets, he went about doing good. No man ever reduced to practice more thoroughly the Philosopher's just decifion, that where the calls of public or private virtue clash with learned ease and retirement, the latter should be instantly abandoned : but how difficult this piece of self-denial, common practice abundantly thews !'

difficult

Such unwearied diligence in his vocation may well account, we are told, for so much work done in it; and should also be a powerful incentive to others, to ftir up every gift that is in them; the rather, as it does not appear that the Doctor's pre-eminence Bay in the possession of natural powers much beyond the common rate of men, so much as in the culture and application of them; and in the vigour they derived from the alliance of a good heart. Now, as these advantages are attainable by all who are not wanting to themfelves, by all who feel that best ambition, of being good Stewards of the manifold grace of God, this excellent man's character and conduct may, with great propriety, be set forth as a pattern of imitation to others; the only valuable end, indeed, of such exhibitions.

The Doctor's early education, we are told, was under the direction of an uncle, a venerable and learned man, as the times then were: his preparatory studies were greatly assisted by the wise counsels of a man now generally known, and justly admired, the late Reverend Mr. Abernethy; he afterwards finished his course of study at the university of Glasgow, which, in testimony of regard to his merit, conferred on him the degree of Doctor in Divinity. He resided at Cambridge during the space of ten or eleven years, not as a Disciple, but as the Pastor of a small congregation ; and during that time laid in an uncommon fund of useful knowlege.

His taste, in what is called polite learning, was correct and elegant: his skill in the languages of Greece and Rome, gave him easy access to their fineft Writers, whom he conversed with to the last, when the duties of his profeffion permitted, and entered, with the spirit of true criticism, into their numberless beauties.

As to the following Discourses, says the Letter-writer, they are almost taken at a venture, from the mighty mass above-mentioned; because such a vein of strong manly sense, and of rational piety, runs through the whole, as made it difficult to find any principle of selection. They are all the first Aow of thought, sometimes, as before observed, committed to paper at one fitting, and without any view to the press, or public at large. None of them appear to have been written a new, or at all revised by the Author, and, therefore, may be supposed very much alike, unless where a more interesting subject, or a more happy hour of composing, may have made a difference. Without doubt they had appeared to greater advantage in his own finishing; but bis fervent zeal to do good ; to keep awake by variety

the

« PreviousContinue »