Page images


NOTE A.—[See page 51.]



I am perfectly well aware that no memoranda can convey an adequate idea of the vivacity, originality, and brilliancy, of Mr. Hall's conversational powers. It was usually easy to remember the sentiments which he expressed, and sometimes the images, whether sportive or tasteful, by which he illustrated them; but the beautiful language in which his remarks in conversation were clothed, could seldom be recalled, except when he fully communicated his meaning in a very short, but happily turned phrase.

This note, therefore, while it may serve to record some of his sentiments and opinions on interesting topics, must be understood as giving a very faint notion of his manner of expressing himself, except in those cases where the language, at once brief, clear, and characteristic, fixed itself indelibly upon

the memory.


The connected series, first presented, has been kindly transmitted by the Rev. Robert Balmer, of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and is selected from his recollections of the substance of three or four conversations which he had with Mr. Hall in the years 1819 and 1823.

In the course of some remarks on various theological writers of our own times, he said, “ Dr. Smith is the best Biblical critic with whom I am per“sonally acquainted; and I should think him one of the most learned theologians now alive.” On my asking, If he did not consider Archbishop Magee superior in ability, and equal in learning, to Dr. Smith ? he replied, with his usual decision, “ Not nearly equal in learning, Sir ; I do not suppose that Archbishop Magee knows any thing about the German critics, with whom Dr. Smith is intimately acquainted, and from whom, notwith* standing all their absurdity and impiety, much may unquestionably be " learned. There is one thing," he added, “ in Dr. Smith's work, much to be ** lamented; and that is, the tone of excessive lenity maintained towards his opponents. In consequence of this, his reasonings will not produce an effect proportioned to their intrinsic force; and his readers are tempted to regard the opinions which he refutes with far less horror than they deserve. The proper tone in theological controversy is, I imagine, somewhere “ between Bishop Horsley's intolerable arrogance and asperity, and Dr. " Smith's unwarrantable softness and urbanity.”



On informing him, that I had been perplexed with doubts as to the extent of the death of Christ, and expressing a wish to know his opinion, he replied, “ There, Sir, my sentiments give me the advantage of you ; “ for on that point I entertain no doubts whatever: I believe firmly in “ «general redemption ;' I often preach it, and I consider the fact that "Christ died for all men' as the only basis that can support the universal "offer of the Gospel." — But you admit the doctrine of election, which necessarily implies limitation. Do you not think that election and particular redemption are inseparably connected?' -—" I believe firmly,” he rejoined, “ in election, but I do not think it involves particular redemption; “ I consider the sacrifice of Christ as a remedy, not only adapted, but intended “ for all, and as placing all in a salvable state; as removing all barriers to “ their salvation, except such as arise from their own perversity and depravity. “ But God foresaw or knew that none would accept the remedy, merely of “themselves, and therefore, by what may be regarded as a separate arrange

ment, he resolved to glorify his mercy, by effectually applying salvation to “ a certain number of our race, through the agency of his Holy Spirit. I “ apprehend, then, that the limiting clause implied in election, refors not to “the purchase but to the application of redemption." This representation seemed to me, at the time, to be encumbered with considerable difficulties; and I was not sure that I correctly apprehended it. Not choosing, however, to request Mr. H. to repeat or elucidate his statements, I asked him if he could refer me to any book where I should find what he regarded as the scripture doctrine on the subject, stated and illustrated. He referred me to a book to which Dr. Smith, of Homerton, had, not many days before, referred me, in answer to a similar question: Bellamy's True Religion Delineated.”

the course of our conversation respecting the extent of Christ's death, Mr. Hall expatiated at considerable length on the number and variety of the Scripture expressions, in which it seems to be either explicitly asserted or necessarily implied, that it was intended not for the elect exclusively, but for mankind generally, such as “the world,” “all," "all men,” “

every man,” &c. He made some striking remarks on the danger of twisting such expressions from their natural and obvious import, and on the absurdity of the interpretations put on them by some of the advocates of particular redemption. He mentioned, especially, the absurdity of explaining “ the world,” John iii. 16, to signify the elect world, as the text would then teach that some of the elect may not believe. He noticed farther, that the doctrine of general redemption was not only asserted expressly in many texts, but presupposed in others, such as “Destroy not with thy meat,” &c. and “Denying the Lord that bought them;" and that it was incorporated with other parts of the Christian system, particularly with the universal offers and invitation of the Gospel.

On the question of church government, Mr. H.'s sentiments seemed to me undecided and somewhat inconsistent; and by many they would have been regarded as latitudinarian. He expressed his doubts whether any one form or model was delineated in the New Testament, as obligatory in all ages and in all circumstances; and said, that he was much disposed to adopt the maxim, “ Whatever is best administered is best.” In another conversation, when mention was made of a church, which, along with its minister, had been guilty

[ocr errors]

of a scandalous irregularity in a matter of discipline, I stated what would be done in such circumstances among Presbyterians, and put the question, Will the neighbouring churches and ministers not interfere? Mr. H. intimated that they ought to remonstrate and advise; but that any claim to jurisdiction would, in his apprehension, be altogether unwarrantable; adding that the independence of churches appeared to him a principle expressly sanctioned by the word of God.

With regard to the question of “ Terms of Communion,” we had repeated conversations. On this subject he spoke with uncommon interest and animation; and seemed surprised at the arguments of those who were opposed to his views. I recollect, in particular, the effect produced on him, when I stated that I had heard Dr. Lawson, of Selkirk, declare, that he would not admit a Roman Catholic, not even Fenelon or Pascal, to the table of the Lord : Mr. H., who had been previously reclining on three chairs, instantly raised himself on his elbow, and spoke without intermission and with great rapidity for nearly a quarter of an hour; expatiating on the amazing absurdity and presumption of rejecting those whom Christ receives, and of refusing to hold communion on earth with those with whom we hope to associate in heaven. During all this time his manner was exceedingly vehement, his other arm was in continual motion, and his eyes, naturally most piercing, were lighted up with unusual brilliancy.

It was interesting and amusing to observe how Mr. Hall's exquisite sensibility to literary beauty, intermingled with, and qualified the operation of his principles and leanings, both as a Christian and Dissenter. Of this, I recollect various instances; but shall give only one. While conversing respecting Archbishop Magee, his talents, sentiments, conduct, &c., I quoted, as a proof of his high church principles, a remark from a charge then newly published: it was to this effect: That the Roman Catholics have a church without a religion; the Dissenters have a religion without a church; but the Establishment has both a church and a religion. Mr. Hall had not heard the remark before, and was exceedingly struck with it. “ That, Sir,” he exclaimed, smiling, “is a beautiful saying. I have not heard so fine an " observation for a long time. It is admirable, Sir." You admire it, I presume, for its point, not for its truth. H.I admire it, Sir, for its plausibility " and cleverness. It is false, and yet it seems to contain a mass of truth. " It is an excellent stone for a churchman to pelt with.”

After speaking of Antinomians, of whom it appeared there were then several in the neighbourhood of Leicester : “ Pray, Sir," said he, “have you " got any Antinomians in Scotland ?" None, I replied, who avow themselves such. There are individuals in our congregations who have what I consider a morbid aversion to practical preaching, and to a minute enforcement of duty; but almost all our people who know and care any thing about religion, will tell you that, although the believer is delivered from the law as a covenant of works, he is subject to it as a rule of life. “ That," said Mr. H. “is pre* cisely what I expected. Your ministers and your people have too much “ information to be ensnared by such impieties. Antinomianism is a monster " which can live only in darkness; bring light on it and it expires."

The following opinions were expressed by Mr. H. respecting various writers in theology. I give them in the form of dialogue, inserting, of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

course, such questions and remarks of my own as led to his observations. Let it be remembered at the same time, that they are only fragments, as, in many instances, I do not now recollect more than a third or fourth part of what was said.

B. May I ask, Sir, what writers you would most recommend to a young minister. H.

Why, Sir, I feel very incompetent to give directions on that “ head; I can only say that I have learned far more from John Howe, than “ from any other author I ever read. There is an astonishing magnificence “ in his conceptions. He had not the same perception of the beautiful, as of “ the sublime; and hence his endless subdivisions." B. That was the fault of his age.

H. “In part, Sir; but he has more of it than many of the “ writers of that period, than Barrow, for example, who was somewhat " earlier. There was, I think, an innate inaptitude in Howe's mind for “ discerning minute graces and proprieties, and hence his sentences are “often long and cumbersome. Still he was unquestionably the greatest of “the puritan divines.”

After adverting to several of Howe's works, Mr. H. said, in reference to his · Blessedness of the Righteous :' “ Perhaps, Baxter's · Saint's Rest' is “* fitted to make a deeper impression on the majority of readers. Baxter en“ forces a particular idea with extraordinary clearness, force, and earnestness. “ His appeals to the conscience are irresistible. Howe, again, is distinguished

by calmness, self-possession, majesty and comprehensiveness; and for my own part, I decidedly prefer him to Baxter. I admire, exceedingly, his

Living Temple,' his sermon on the Redeemer's Tears,' &c.; but, in my opinion, the best thing he ever wrote, is his defence of the sincerity of the

Gospel offer. I refer to the treatise, called, the • Reconcilableness of God's “ Prescience of the Sins of Men, with his Counsels, Exhortations, and what

ever others Means he used to prevent them.' This I regard as the most “profound, the most philosophical, and the most valuable of all Howe's “ writings."

B. Do you think highly of Dr. Owen?' H. “No, Sir, by no means. “ Have you read much of Owen, Sir; do you admire him?B. 'I have read his Preliminary Exercitations to his great work on the Hebrews; his exposition of particular verses here and there; his book on church government; and some of his smaller treatises. I do not greatly admire him, nor have I learned much from him. H. You astonish me, Sir, by your " patience. You have accomplished a Herculean undertaking in reading “ Owen's Preliminary Exercitations. To me he is intolerably heavy and “prolix." B. 'I do think, Sir, there are many valuable ideas in his writings; but, as a reasoner, he seems to me singularly illogical; for he often takes for granted the thing to be proved.' H. I quite concur with the " latter part of your statement. As a reasoner, Dr. Owen is most illogical, “ for he almost always takes for granted what he ought to prove; while he " is always proving what he ought to take for granted; and, after a long

digression, he concludes very properly with, “This is not our concernment,' " and returns to enter on something still farther from the point.”

I remarked that Jonathan Edwards's theory was opposed to our consciousness and our indestructible feelings ; for, whenever we blamed ourselves for having acted wrong, we had an irresistible belief, not only that we could

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »