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Church of England Magazine.
MEMOIR OF ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON.
THE interval between the commencement of the Great Rebellion and the expulsion of James the Second, comprizes the darkest period in the History of our Establishment since the Reformation, and its annals are pregnant with warning and instruction. The important lessons, however, which are there taught, are in numerous instances disregarded; while many, hastily adopting a narrow and partial view, are induced indiscriminately to applaud one party, and vehemently to censure the other; forgetting that neither Royalists nor Republicans, Churchmen nor Puritans can be entirely defended, and that very few individuals can be named on either side, during that whole period, on whom the mind can rest with unmingled satisfaction. The conduct of many, whom succeeding ages have characterized as at once good and great, exhibits strange anomalies, and the most zealous partizans have found their ingenuity severely exercised, while attempting to exculpate or commend a favoured individual. The theological productions of Baxter and of Owen are in every library, and are read with instruction and improvement by men of different denominations; but few are hardy enough on all occasions to vindicate their political
deficiency, the character of Leighton shines forth with uncommon splendor: while "in the world, he was not of the world; " and amidst all the trying scenes to which he was exposed, he evinced such stedfastness of purpose, and holiness of conversation, as to command the admiration of multitudes who were not themselves prepared to copy his example; and whose life and conduct, however scanty in incident, are every way deserving of serious contemplation.
Robert Leighton, the subject of our memoir, appears to have been born in Edinburgh in 1611,* and was the eldest son of Dr. Alexander Leighton, Professor of Moral Philosophy in the College of Edinburgh. Dr. Leighton was a Presbyterian Minister, descended from a family early distinguished in Scottish history, and was himself subjected, by the Star Chamber, in the reign of Charles the First, to very severe punishment, on account of a scurrilous and inflammatory publication. Robert was
his eldest son, and endeared himself exceedingly to his parents by his early piety and docility, and by an extraordinary exemption from childish faults and follies. It is
* See the very valuable Life of Archbishop
Leighton, by the Rev. J. N. Pearson, A. M. prefixed to an edition of the Archbishop's Commentary on Peter, lately published by Duncan.
not known where young Leighton received the rudiments of his education, though this was most probably at Edinburgh, under the superintendance of his father; but we are informed that his behaviour at College was so uniformly excellent as to attract the notice of his superiors, and that Dr. Leighton was subsequently congratulated on having a son, in whom Providence had abundantly compensated him for his sufferings.
After taking his degree, Leighton past several years in travel, and in the studies proper to qualify him for future usefulness. It was his mature opinion, that great advantages are to be reaped from a residence in foreign parts; inasmuch as a large acquaintance with the sentiments of strangers, and with the civil and religious institutions, the manners and usages of other countries, conduces to unshackle the mind of indigenous prejudices, to abate the self-sufficiency of partial knowledge, and to produce a sober and charitable estimate of opinions that differ from our own. Many years afterwards, he recommended a similar course to his nephew, alleging, that there is a very peculiar advantage in travel, not to be understood but by the trial of it; and that for himself he no-wise repented the time he had spent in that way.
During his stay abroad, Leighton was often at Douay, where some of his relations were settled. In this seminary he appears to have met with some religionists, whose lives were framed on the strictest model of primitive piety. Though keenly alive to the faults of popery, he did not consider the Romish church to be utterly antichristian; but thought he discerned in it beautiful fragments of the original temple, however disfigured with barbarous additions, and almost hid beneath the rampant growth of a baleful superstition. Having learnt from these better
portions of that corrupt establishment, that its constitutions were not altogether dross, he went on to discover that the frame of his own church was not entirely gold: nor did it escape him, that in the indiscriminate extermination, so clamorously demanded in Scotland, of all those offices of devotion which symbolized with the Roman Catholic services, there would be swept away some of the noblest formularies and most useful institutes of the primitive church. It was probably from this period that his veneration for the presbyterian platform began to abate.
'He was thirty years old before he took holy orders: and in postponing to so ripe an age his entrance on the ministry, as well as in retiring so early as he did from its more laborious province, he acted agreeably to his avowed opinion, that some men preach too soon, and some too long.' His judgment of what is most reverent towards God corresponded with those canons of the Levitical economy, which prescribe a mature age for engaging in the more arduous department of the sacerdotal office, and grant an honourable superannuation at that period of life, when the strength of mind and body commonly begins to decay. It was on the sixteenth day of December, A. D. 1641, that Leighton was ordained and admitted minister of Newbottle, in Midlothian, a parish in the presbytery of Dalkeith.'
No information is afforded of his early ministrations, but we are told that it was his aim not to win proselytes to a party, but converts to Jesus Christ; that he seldom attended the convocations of the presbyters, whose practice of descanting from the pulpit on the solemn league and covenant, he greatly disapproved, and that on one occasion being publicly reprimanded in a synod for not preaching up the times, he asked, Who
does preach up the times?' and when it was answered that all the brethren did it,' he rejoined, Then if you all preach up the times, you may surely allow one poor brother to preach up Christ Jesus and eternity.'
Although averse, both by temper and principle, from meddling with politics, yet there were certain conjunctures of perplexity and peril, in which he thought himself bound to set an example to his flock of intrepid loyalty. In the year 1648, he acceded to the Engagement for the King; a step which would have involved him in serious trouble with the republican government, but for the interposition of the Earl of Lothian, and the charm of his personal character. When the engagement expired, in the discomfiture of those enterprises to which it had given birth, he was placed in a very delicate predicament; in which, however, his behaviour was no less creditable to his political discretion, than to his christian boldness and integrity. Called upon in his official capacity to admonish some of his parishioners, after they had made a public profession of repentance for being actively concerned in that engagement to which he himself had subscribed, he directed their consciences to the many offences against morality and religion which they had committed in the course of their military service; and of these, without touching on the grounds of the expedition and the merits of their cause, he solemnly charged them to repent.'
Mr. Leighton had not been long minister of Newbottle, before he became acquainted by experience and observation with the defects of the presbyterian system, and engaged in correspondence with several of the episcopal clergy; at length after withdrawing himself for some time from the legislative assemblies, he determined on relinquishing the situation he occupied, though apparently very contrary to his secular
interests. During his whole life however, he invariably evinced the utmost indifference to moneyof this a very striking instance occurred while resident on his
'At his father's death, he came into possession of about a thousand pounds; which sum was in fact his whole property. This he placed, or suffered to remain, in the hands of a merchant without adequate security; notwithstanding the remonstrances of Mr. Lightmaker, his brother-in-law, who urged him to come up to London and vest it more safely. Leighton's reply to this good counsel is very characteristic.
Sir, I thank you for your letter. That you give me notice of I desire to consider as becomes a Christian, and to prepare to wait for my own removal. What business follows upon my father's may be well enough done without me, as I have writ more at large to Mr. E, and desired him to show you the letter when you meet. Any pittance belonging to me may possibly be useful and needful for my subsistence; but truly if something else draw me not, I shall never bestow so long a journey on that I account so mean a business. Remember my love to my sister your wife, and to my brother and sister Rathband, as you have opportunity. I am glad to hear of the welfare of you all, and above all things wish for myself and you all our daily increase in likeness to Jesus Christ, and growing heavenwards, where he is who is our treasure. To his grace I commend you.
'Before long, the event anticipated by Mr. Lightmaker took place. The merchant failed, and Leighton's patrimony was irretrievably lost. How he took this misfortune may be learnt from the following letter to his brother-inlaw.