Page images

mention of it. A dark cloud was gathering around him, when an opportune death afforded him a peaceful retreat from the anxieties and the cares of a world, with which his infirmities and his age had disgusted him.


MR. W. CHILLINGWORTH. WHILE Charles the First governed England, and was himself governed by a Catholic queen, it cannot be denied that the missionaries of Rome laboured with impunity and success in the court, the country, and even the universities. One of the sheep,

– Whom the grim wolf, with privy paw,

Daily devours apace, and nothing said, is Mr. William Chillingworth, Master of Arts, and Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford ; who, at the ripe age of twenty-eight years, was persuaded to elope from Oxford, to the English seminary at Douay, in Flanders. Some disputes with Fisher, a subtle jesuit, might first awaken him from the prejudices of education ; but he yielded to his own victorious argument, “ that there must be somewhere an infallible judge; and that the church of Rome is the only Christian society which either does or can pretend to that character.” After a short trial of a few months, Mr. Chillingworth was again tormented by religious scruples : he returned home, resumed his studies, unravelled his mistakes, and delivered his mind from the yoke of authority and superstition. His new creed was built on the principle, that the Bible is our sole judge, and private reason our sole interpreter: and he ably maintains this principle in the Religion of a Protestant, a book which, after startling the doctors of Oxford, is still esteemed the most solid defence of the Reformation. The learning, the virtue, the recent merits of the author, entitled him to fair preferment: but the slave had now broken his fetters; and the more he weighed, the less was he disposed to subscribe to the thirty-nine articles of the church of England. In a private letter he declares, with all the energy of language, that he could not subscribe to them without subscribing his own damnation ; and that if ever he should depart from this immoveable resolution, he would allow his friends to think him a madman or an atheist. As the letter is without a date, we cannot ascertain the number of weeks or months that elapsed between this passionate abhorrence and the Salisbury Register, which is still extant. “ Ego Gulielmus Chillingworth, ..... omnibus hisce articulis, ..... et singulis in iisdem contentis, volens et ex animo subscribo, et consensum meum iisdem præbeo. 20 die Julii, 1638.” But, alas ! the chancellor and prebendary of Sarum soon deviated from his own subscription : as he more deeply scrutinized the article of the Trinity, neither Scripture nor the primitive fathers could long uphold his orthodox belief; and he could not but confess, “ that the doctrine of Arius is either a truth, or at least no damnable heresy.” Froin this middle region of the air, the descent of his reason would naturally rest on the firmer ground of the Socinians : and if we may credit a doubtful story, and the popular opinion, his anxious inquiries at last subsided in philosophic indifference. So conspicuous, however, were the candour of his nature and the innocence of his heart, that this apparent levity did not affect the reputation of Chillingworth. His frequent changes proceeded from too nice an inquisition into truth, His doubts grew out of himself; he assisted them with all the strength of his reason : he was then too hard for himself; but finding as little quiet and repose in those victories, he quickly recovered by a new appeal to his own judgment: so that in all his sallies and retreats, he was in fact his own convert.


THE HON. ALGERNON GREVILLE*. The whole life of this noble person was a more serious preparation for death than most men's dying thoughts.

He well knew that the nobility of his extraction would be no excuse to him from the peremptory summons of death ; neither did he make it any excuse to him from an industrious and strict preparation for it. This he testified by the series of his whole life; in which there evidently appeared such an awe of God, and a real sense of true piety and religion, as clearly evinced that he had strong and habituated meditations of that great leveling day, wherein the highest shall stand upon no higher ground than the meanest.

* He died young, in 1662.

[ocr errors]

He did not think religion any stain to his honour, nor minding heaven to be the employ. ment of those only who have nothing on earth.

Indeed, irreligion and atheism are now reckoned as a piece of good breeding among the great ones of the world ; it is now counted as a sign of a degenerous and low sunk spirit to acknowledge even God himself for their superior. Those are cried up as the wits of the time, who can daringly dispute it against whatsoever is sacred in Christi. anity; yea, against the being of God himself, It is now become an argument of a judicious and gallant mind, to call into question the most fundamental maxims of our faith; and the authority too of those holy oracles which confirm them. Reason alone is extolled as the best and most sufficient guide, both in matters of belief and of practice ; and they appeal to that for their judge which commonly, by their debauches and intem. perances, they either so corrupt that it will not discern the truth, or else so sot and stupify that it cannot. And, thus, as the moon shines brightest when it is at the greatest opposition to the sun, these think their reason then shines brightest, when it stands at the greatest opposition to God.

This noble person, whose reason had as fleet a wing, and could soar as high a pitch as any of theirs who pretend to nothing above it, yet saw it reason to give his faith the precedency, and always found more acquiescence in a Thus saith the Lord, than in the most critical researches, and positive conclusions of his reason. So reverend an esteem had he for those sacred dictates of Scripture, that, though his wit and parts shone

[ocr errors]

forth to admiration in whatsoever he pleased to employ them about, yet he never presumed to exercise them on that common-place of abusing divine verities: he was not ambitious to commence a wit by blasphemy ; nor did he pretend ingenuity by being impious. But, whereas too many use their wit in jesting at them, he showed his early wisdom in believing and obeying.. Other books he made the ornament of his mind: this, the guide of his life. He knew what others said, but did what God spake.

He was not made a Christian out of old heathens ; nor owed his virtues to the sage precepts of Plutarch or Epictetus : these are now become the penmen and evangelists of our young gentry : Seneca is with them preferred before St. Paul, though his chief credit be that he wrote so well that some have mistakingly thought him St. Paul's disciple. The virtue of this noble person acknowledge a more divine original ; being formed in him by the same spirit that gave him rules to act it. This taught him to outstrip, in true wisdom, temperance, and fortitude, not only whatsoever those starched moralists did, but whatsoever they wrote ; and, whereas they pre. scribed but the exercise of virtue, he sublimed it, and made it grace.

Next to his absolute subjection to God, was his obedience unto his honourable, and now disconsolate mother: wherein he was to such a degree punctual, that, as her wisdom commanded nothing but what was fit, so his duty disputed not the fitness of things beyond her command. His demeanour towards her was most submissive : and VOL. II.


« PreviousContinue »