Page images
PDF

about thirty feet in width and nearly a hundred in height at each end, in order to admit as much light as possible, but it slopes away to the centre, where it is not more than eighteen feet. It is nearly a mile in length; and at the entrance, when you look through the other aperture, appears diminished almost to a point, like the effect produced in looking through an inverted telescope. As the rays of light, admitted at the extremities, would not reach the middle of the passage, about one third the distance is seen by an opening, inclining upwards about thirty feet above the entrance, through which a fresh supply of light is admitte to the centre. Carriages generally go provided with torches, but it is difficult to drive, as the distant light dazzles the sight, and makes it impossible to see any object, when in the middle of the grotto. The first time I passed thro' it I was in a chair with a friend, who fortunately held the reins ; for I could have paid no attention to the horse. My admiration was excited by the romantick appearance of the entrance. The light, admitted

at the other extremity, so effectually dazzled my eyes, that I could not see the carriages witch were driving rapidly by us, much less

the peasants on foot, whose hal

looings were blended with the reverberated noise of the wheels on the pavements. I had passed through the obscurity of the grotto and emerged again into the open air, before I could arrange my sensations. In warm weather the coolness, which is felt in mediately on entering, is refresling, and the passage through the grotto becomes very pieasing. There are many openings on each side, closed with gates, which lead into extensive caverns, formed by cutting stones used in building. In one of these openings,towards the centre of the grotto, a hermit has his gloomy cell, and there passes his life, contemplating in silence a skull, by the feeble light of a lamp. The peasants bestow their charity, and receive his blessing ; the luxurious man of the world is driven by his hermitage with velocity, while the noise of the wheels does not disturb his meditations,

CHARACTER or REV. D.R.

THE distinguishing feature of Dr. Howard’s character was good sense. He thought with accuracy, and reasoned with clearness. This was the style of his publick discourses, which were always solid and judicious. As he was not gifted by nature with a mellow and harmonious voice, as there was no frenzy in his eye, no enthusiasm either in his heart or head, and as he had no proud confidence in his own elocution, he did not acquire the reputation of a popular

For THE ANTHology,

HO WARD.

preacher. But there was not any thing offensive in his delivery, artificial and disgusting in histones; his emphasis, though not forcible, was just ; and there was such perspicuity in his language, so much novelty or importance in his ideas, that he seldom failed to command the attention of an auditory. Is not such a mode of preaching, on the whole, the most useful ? The admirers of eloquence, who go to a church as to a theatre, for the sake of having their passions

moved, and who think that a sermon is not good, unless it inspires them either with pity or terrour, will condemn the discourses of Dr. Howard as cold and unaffecting. But when it is considered of what materials christian congregations are composed, this censure will appear unjust. Those who attend publick worship are commonly the most decent and virtuous part of the community. They are pa. rents, who lead to the house of God their children, whom they have trained up in the habits of order and decorum. It is the duo ty of a minister to confirm such persons in the good practices, which they have already learned, to exhort them to persevere in them, and daily to make new improvements in virtue ; to instruct the young in the obligations, with which, from their want of years and experience, they are not yet acquainted, and to point out to them the danger of yielding to temptation ; to fill the minds of the hearers in general with adoration and gratitude to God, the author of every perfect gift, and with respect and affection to Jesus, through whom we receive the christian religion ; and to warn all to prepare for death, to avoid the punishments, and to qualify themselves for the happiness, of a future world. These are important and interesting themes; but to display them with advantage it is not necessary to have recourse to the language of passion, or vehement gesticulation. A different sentiment, it is confessed, prevails among many, both preachers and hearers. The former deal in bold figures and *:::::::: descriptions. They address a congregar tion of sober christians, as if they were an assembly of heathens, or a band of thieves and murderers.

a

Their doctrine descends not like the dew, but like the rain in a storm ; their voice is not small and soft, but it rolls like thunder, or roars like a whirlwind. They paint the character of the vicious man with blacker strokes of depravity, than those with which Milton has drawn the character of Satan ; and they represent the Supreme Being, as hating the work of his own hands, as fired with anger, and armed with vengeance. The hearers listen with admiration of the wonderful ora. torical powers of the speaker, Though their bosoms are agitated almost to agony, yet they are at the same time charmed ; for there are many men, who are never so much delighted, as when objects of terrour are by luminous and expressive language rendered visible to their eyes. The effect of such . sometimes is, that the earers,their mental sight being accustomed to none but glowing colours,are too much inclined to consider the common and essential duties of life, which are best performed with calmness and moderation, as not sufficiently splendid to be of any value. Religion they suppose to be something more than humble reverence of God, love to Christ, justice, sineerity, and benevolence; and it is never so highly prized by them, as when it partakes the most largely of enthusiasm. To such an impassioned kind of eloquence the temperate Dr. Howard could not attain ; and from our knowledge of his sentiments we can say, he would not have attained it, if he could. But though he was never fervent, yet such was the goodness of his heart and his affection to his friends, that he was sometimes pathetick. We particularly recollect two occasions, in which the auditories

were much moved by the simple athos of his voice and language. One was at the funeral of Rev. Dr. Clarke, whose sodden death every one bewailed. The other was at a publick commencement, when his long-tried and faithful friend, the president of the university, lay dangerously sick. On both these occasions, though there were other performances, and by men who were commonly esteemed more eloquent than he, yet the tide of grief rose to its height, whilst he was praying. This effect was in part produced by the unaffected simplicity of his character. When Dr. Howard appeared to be moved, every person believed that he was really moved. Any event, which so Ood a man lamented, was a subject of lamentation to all good men : it was impossible therefore to resist being drawn with him into the same current of grief. Simplicity distinguished Dr. Howard on these, and on all other occasions, He never covered his mind with the varnish of art; he never pretended to more feeling, knowledge, or virtue, than he possessed ; but with manly plainness he exhibited his sentiments and character, such as they existed. This freedom from affectation was probably one of the causes of the taciturnity,which was regretted by his friends. The duke de la Rochefoucault observes, that no man ever opens his mouth, unless prompted by vanity; and though We do not entirely assent to the remark,...for Rochefoucault is the satirist of human nature, and disposed to exaggerate all its foibles and vices,...yet we are compelled to grant, that many of the speeches which we hear are dictated by Vanity and affectation. Of this Futh Dr. Howard was sensible;

and this led him often to be silent. He did not choose to speak of himself; he had no ambition to wound the feelings of his neighbour by a smart reply or a witty sarcasm; for flattery and compliments, either serious or sportive, he was totally unqualified by his sincerity ; his exemption from prejudice prevented him from railing against the opinions of others, because they differed from his own ; his civility rendered him unwilling, by needless contradiction, to offend those who were present ; and his prudence, his benevolence, his religion, forbade him to slander the absent. We have cut off so many of the usual topicks of conversation, that few are left for the candid Howard. The subjects, which he preferred, were science, literature, politicks, morality, and theology; and when he spoke on them, he was listened to with pleasure. But he was not always grave and scientifick; for he sometimes enlivened conversation with a sprightly sally ; and he frequently charmed the benevolent, by defending the reputation of a brother, when ungenerously attacked. He was silent, but never absentin company : he listened with attention to what others said ; and a pleasant smile often marked his approbation of the observations of his friends, particularly of the young, who required this encouragement. Of humility, the peculiar virtue of the christian, he was an eminent example. No grace of the mind is so often affected as humility. There are men, who, under the name of foibles, accuse themselves of feelings, which they secretly hope every one will regard as amiable weaknesses. There are others, who, that they may enjoy the satisfaction of speaking of themselves, even acknowledge

t

their vices. There are others, who humble themselves with so much stateliness, and condescend with so much dignity, that it is manifest that they think themselves superiour to those who are in their presence. In fine there are others, who write long journals of humility, to be read after their death, and which, though they are dictated by vanity and egotism, are designed to possess the minds of those who peruse them with an exalted idea of their sanctity ; for they confess in general terms, that they are the vilest of men ; whilst they are careful not to specify the particular acts of folly, meanness, and insincerity, which are known to their contemporaries. The humility of Dr. Howard was not of this spurious sort ; he never mentioned either his virtues or his faults ; but it was evident at the same time to all, who were intimately acquainted with him, that he had a humble sense of his own talents and moral attainments. His humility was sincere ; and sincerity was the soul of all his virtues. He did not join in senti. ment with those, who think that a good cause may sometimes be promoted by stratagems. A subterfuge and deceit, an equivocation and a lie, were in his view equally criminal. For the sake of obtaining the approbation of men, and promoting his worldly interest, he did not profess to esteem what he really despised. The sincerity and uprightness of his mind led him to inquire af. ter truth with diligence, and to pursue it with impartiality. The result of his careful investigation was, that he saw reason to reject the theological system of Calvin ; and though at the time, in which he entered on his ministerial life,

the religious opinions that he adopted were much more unpopular than they are at present ; yet he was not deterred by this consideration from openly declaring what he believed. The creed which he thus early embraced, he

saw no cause afterwards to change,

but he persevered in it to the last, We presume not to say that he had discovered the truth ; but of this we have not any doubt, that, blessed by his Maker with a clear understanding, he exerted himself to obtain it, with industry and par tience, humility and devotion. To those who are disposed to appeal to the authority of intelligent and virtuous men, in support of their opinions, the authority of Dr, Howard might with force be urged. But on this species of argument, which is seldom brought forward, except by those who cannot produce any better proof, no stress ought to be laid ; because experience shows,....though, before we become acquainted with the actual state of human life, we are ready to suspect the contrary, ...that wise and good men are not confined to any particular system of religious faith. The candour of Dr. Howard equalled his love of truth. He was not only indulgent in his thoughts, and tolerant in his conduct, toward those who differed from him in opinion, but he also treated them with respect and kindness. The religious sentiments of christians, however erroneous they might be, and their ceremonies and modes of worship, however superstitious they might appear, he maintained ought always to be treated with decency ; and he neither allowed in himself, nor did he approve in others, a sarcastick and irreverent way of speaking, of objects, which any sincere believer might deem

sacred. For this catholicism he was entitled to great praise ; because the temptations to an opposite practice are very powerful ; and nothing is more common than to hear christians, especially those who esteem themselves wiser or more holy than their neighbours, charge each other with absurdity, superstition, fanaticism, or her. esy. . The spirit of Dr. Howard rendered him averse to such uncharitable thoughts ; for mildness reigned in his heart. Gentle by nature, by habit, and by religion, he could not express severity, which he never felt ; gall could not flow from his tongue, for there was none in lis constitution. His temper was sweet and amiable ; and his good sense forbade him to embitter it with bigoted and malignant invectives. His soul was ... calm ; and what motive had he to disturb its tranquillity with the furious storms of uncharitable zeal 2 This well regulated temper inspired him with constant cheerfulness. Though reserved, he was not solemn ; though serious, not loomy. The peace, which dwelt in his heart, appeared in his countenance, in traits which no art can counterfeit. That such a man was dear to his friends will readily be believed ; and he was so friendly in his disposition and behaviour, that many were bound to him by this affectionate tie. His parishioners lowed him as a brother, or honoured him as a father : for they knew, that he had engaged in the ministry from pure, disinterested, and pious motives; that he discharged all its duties with diligence and fidelity : that he rejoiced with them, when they rejoiced, and

wept with them, when they wept. The affection, which they felt for him, never suffered any interruption ; but as old age approached, and he advanced toward heaven, he became more deeply fixed in their hearts, like a tree, whose roots penetrate still farther into the earth, in proportion as its branches rise in the air. He was dear to his brethren in the ministry, who always welcomed him with smiles of complacence. He was dear to all his fellow-citizens, who admired his good sense, and venerated his patriotism, his integrity, his bevolence, and his sanctity. As a kind master, a tender husband, and a most indulgent parent, he was in particular dear to his family. That he was dear to God we have reason humbly to believe ; for the character, which he possessed, must have been formed by habitual devotion, by piety which filled his heart, and whence, as from a copious fountain, flowed all the virtues which he practised.

The reader will learn with pleasure, that this good man enjoyed as much felicity, as usually falls to the lot of mortals. His days were passed with usefulness, an approving conscience, and the blessing of heaven ; and though he was sometimes sick, and sometimes afflicted, yet the edge of bodily pain was blunted by patience, and the force of mental anguish was weakened by resignation. A constitution naturally delicate was preserved to old age by care and temperance ; and to a world of unmingled joy he at length passed, through the valley of death, without experiencing many of the horrours, which sometimes overshadow the dismal region.

« PreviousContinue »