Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

Having stated my wishes, that in a few, I mean a very few, instances, Mr. Hall had been a little more wary in pushing his principles to consequences, which they may not quite warrant, I will give my general opinion of him in the words that were employed to describe a prelate, whose writings, I believe, are familiar to him, and whom he strongly resembles, not perhaps in variety of learning, but in fertility of imagination, in vigour of thinking, in rectitude of intention, and holiness of life. Yes, Mr. Hall, like Bishop Taylor, “ has the eloquence of an orator, the fancy of a poet, the acuteness of a schoolman, the profoundness of a philosopher, and the piety of a saint."

Sincere as my attachment is to Protestantism, I confess that I have been pained by some outrageous invectives that have been lately thrown out against the Church of Rome; and at the present crisis, I must further confess, that they appear to me not only unjust, but indiscreet, and even inhuman. Let me remind the accusers of Mr. Hall, that, in the estimation of Lord Bacon, a divisions in religion, if they be many, introduce Atheism ;” _“ that there is a superstition in avoiding superstition, when men think they do best by going farthest from what they think the superstition formerly received; and, therefore, care should be had that the good be not taken away sith the bad, which commonly is done when the people is the reformer.” Among those who censure Mr. Hall, there may be thoughtless and injudicious persons, who often repeat the witty and decisive answer of Sir Henry Wotton to the priest, who asked, “Where was your religion to be found before Luther?” Let me then recall to their memory the advice which Sir Henry gare to one, whose earnestness exceeded his knowledge, and who was perpetually railing against the Papists : “ Pray, Sir, forbear, till you have studied the points better; for the wise Italians have this proverb, He that undersandeth amiss concludes worse ;' and take heed of thinking, the farther you go from the Church of Rome, the nearer you are to God.” To men of sounder judgment and more candid dispositions, I would recommend the serious perusal of “Cassandri Consultatio,” of Grotius’s notes upon it, and his three replies to Rivetus. When they read the “Syllabus Librorum et Epistolarum doctorum aliquot et priorum virorum,” in the third volume of Grotius's Forks, they may cease to think Mr. Hall singular, when he remarks, in his preface, " How trivial, for the most part, are the controversies of Christians * with each other!” They may be disposed to join him in his prayer, that * Ephraim may no longer vex Judah, nor Judah Ephraim ;” and they may be converted to the wise and salutary opinion of Grotius, “Quam non sit difficilis in Religione Conciliatio, si controvertendi studium vitetur!"

NOTE C.-[See Page 85.] CHARACTER OF MR. HALL AS A PREACHER, From the London Magazine, No. XIV. Feb. 1, 1821. Written by the

Editor, Mr. John Scott, Author of Visits to Paris, fc. Some of them (the dissenting ministers) are, at the present day, exhibiting no ordinary gifts and energies ; and to the most distinguished of these, we propose to direct the attention of our readers.

Mr. Hall, though, perhaps, the most distinguished ornament of the Calvinistico dissenters, does not afford the best opportunity for criticism. His excellence does not consist in the predominance of one of his powers, but in the exquisite proportion and harmony of all. The richness, variety, and extent of his knowledge, are not so remarkable as his absolute mastery over it. He moves about in the loftiest sphere of contemplation, as though he were “native and endued to its element." He uses the finest classical allusions, the noblest images, and the most exquisite words, as though they were those which came first to his mind, and which formed his natural dialect. There is not the least appearance of straining after greatness in his most magnificent excursions, but he rises to the loftiest heights with a childlike ease. His style is one of the clearest and simplest—the least encumbered with its own beauty—of any which ever has been written. It is bright and lucid as a mirror, and its most highly-wrought and sparkling embellishments are like ornaments of crystal, which, even in their brilliant inequalities of surface, give back to the eye little pieces of the true imagery set before them.

The works of this great preacher, are, in the highest sense of the term, imaginative, as distinguished not only from the didactic, but from the fanciful. He

possesses “the vision and faculty divine,” in as high a degree as any of our writers in prose. His noblest passages do but make truth visible in the form of beauty, and “clothe upon” abstract ideas, till they become palpable in exquisite shapes. The dullest writer would not convey the same meaning in so few words, as he has done in the most sublime of his illustrations. Imagination, when like his, of the purest water, is so far from being improperly employed on divine subjects, that it only finds its real objects in the true and the eternal. This power it is which disdains the scattered elements of beauty, as they appear distinctly in an imperfect world, and strives by accumulation, and by rejecting the alloy cast on all things, to embody to the mind that ideal beauty which shall be realized hereafter. This, by shedding a consecrating light on all it touches, and “bringing them into one,” anticipates the future harmony of creation. This already sees the “soul of goodness in things evil," which shall one day change the evil into its likeness. This already begins the triumph over the separating powers of death and time, and renders their victory doubtful, by making us feel the immortality of the affections. Such is the faculty which is employed by Mr. Hall to its noblest uses. There is no rhetorical flourish-no mere pomp of words—in his most eloquent discourses. With vast excursive power, indeed, he can range through all the glories of the Pagan world, and seizing those traits of beauty, which they derived from primeval revelation, restore them to the system of truth. But he is ever best when he is intensestwhen he unveils the mighty foundations of the rock of ages-or makes the hearts of his hearers vibrate with a strange joy, which they will recognize in more exalted stages of their being.

Mr. Hall has unfortunately committed but few of his discourses to the

* We use this epithet merely as that which will most distinctively characterize the extensive class to which it is applied, well aware that there are shades of difference among them, and that many of them would decline to call themselves after any name but that of Christ.

press. His sermon on the tendencies of Modern Infidelity, is one of the noblest specimens of his genius. Nothing can be more fearfully sublime than the picture which he gives of the desolate state, to which Atheism would reduce the world; or more beautiful and triumphant, than his vindication of the social affections. His Sermon on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, contains a philosophical and eloquent developement of the causes which make the sorrows of those who are encircled by the brightest appearances of happiness, peculiarly affecting; and gives an exquisite picture of the gentle victim adorned with sacrificial glories. His Discourses on Waron the Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister and on the Work of the Holy Spirit-are of great and various excellence. But, as our limits will allow only a single extract, we prefer giving the close of a Sermon preached in the prospect of the invasion of England by Napoleon, in which he blends the finest remembrance of the antique world—the dearest associations of British patriotism—and the pure spirit of the gospel — in a strain as noble as could be poured out by Tyrtæus.

[The passages quoted are from pp. 183—192, Vol. I.] There is nothing very remarkable in Mr. Hall's manner of delivering his

His simplicity, yet solemnity of deportment, engage the attention, but do not promise any of his most rapturous effusions. His voice is feeble, but distinct, and as he proceeds, trembles beneath his images, and conveys the idea that the spring of sublimity and beauty in his mind, is exhaustless, and would pour forth a more copious stream, if it had a wider channel than can be supplied by the bodily organs. The plainest, and least inspired of his discourses, are not without delicate gleams of imagery, and felicitous turns of expression. He expatiates on the prophecies with a kindred spirit, and affords awful glimpses into the valley of vision. He often seems to conduct his hearers to the top of the “Delectable Mountains," whence they can see from afar the glorious gates of the eternal city. He seems at home among the marvellous revelations of St. John; and while he expatiates on them, leads his hearers breathless, through ever-varying scenes of mystery, far more glorious and surprising than the wildest of oriental fables. He stops when they most desire that he should proceed—when he has just disclosed the dawnings of the inmost glory to their enraptured minds—and leaves them full of imaginations of things not made with hands,"—of joys too ravishing for smiles—and of impulses which wing their hearts “ along the line of limitless desires."

Sermons,

NOTE D.—[See page 114.]

AN EXTRACT OF A LETTER FROM DR. PRICHARD.

The following extract of a letter, from Dr. Prichard to Dr. Frederick Thackeray, of Cambridge, describing concisely the results of the post mortem examination, unfolds the cause of Mr. Hall's acute suffering for so many years.

"We found the heart diseased in substance, and the muscular structure soft, and looking like macerated cellular membrane ; the left ventricle was Note E.-(See page 114.]

judged to be one third larger than usual. The whole of the aorta was diseased; the internal membrane, in parts where it had not been in contact with blood, of a bright scarlet colour, which increased in deepness, and in the abdominal part of the artery was of a red purple hue. It contained, in several places, patches of bony matter about the size of a sixpence. This was the case particularly about the origin of the arteria innominata. The lungs were healthy. The kidney on the right side was entirely filled by a large, rough, pointed, calculus. There was also an exostosis on the body of the fourth dorsal vertebra, about the third of an inch in height and prominent. This was too high to be the cause of the long-continued pain, which must have arisen from the renal calculus.

“ The gall bladder was quite full of calculi, though he had never experienced any symptoms referring to the liver or biliary secretion.

“ Probably no man ever went through more physical suffering than Mr. Hall; he was a fine example of the triumph of the higher powers of mind exalted by religion, over the infirmities of the body. His loss will long be felt in this place, not only by persons of his own communion, but by all that have any esteem for what is truly great and good.”

SKETCHES OF Mr. Hall's CharactER, ESPECIALLY AS MANIFESTED IN

PRIVATE LIFE. *

Mr. Hall seemed to me † very remarkable for being always in earnest. He was a perfect contrast to Socrates, who, as you will recollect, was called the ironist, from his constant assumption of a character that did not belong to him. Mr. Hall did not practise the Socratic irony. He never said one thing and meant another. He was earnest even in his wit and humour. It was never his design to impose on any person, and he was entirely free from suspicion. He was artless as a child. A sort of infantine simplicity was conspicuous in many parts of his conduct. With his extraordinary capacity, and a propension for abstract and refined thinking, it was curious and remarkable to observe the interest that he took in the present object. He threw himself entirely into whatever might be the topic of conversation, and seemed altogether engrossed with what pressed on the sense, and solicited immediate attention. It was perhaps owing to this interest in the present object, together with an undecaying vivacity of feeling, that he appeared to enjoy with the keenest relish, whatever tended to innocent pleasure. Gratifications that usually give delight only in the earlier periods of life, he enjoyed to the very last, as if he had not advanced beyond boyhood.

The great accordance in some striking particulars, of these independent sketches of Mr. Hall, gives them, in those respects, almost the air of tautology. But I venture to retain the whole, to shew in how many essential points, every competent judge, formed necessarily the same estimate. † The Rev. William Anderson, Classical Tutor at the Baptist Education Society.

His powers of conversation were very extraordinary, and discovered quite as great abilities as appeared in his preaching, or writings. He seemed equally capable of talking clearly, forcibly, copiously, beautifully, on every subject, however common it might be, or however abstruse and remote from the course of general thought and conversation. He avoided, rather than invited, discourse on those subjects that might have been supposed to be most congenial with the cast and habit of his mind, and the current of his studies and speculations. He never usurped conversation, nor shewed any disposition to give it any particular direction. He laid hold of casual topics of every kind, apparently to beguile the time, rather than as the occasions of imparting his knowledge, diffusing his wisdom, or turning them to any serious, or practical purpose.

It was impossible to be often with Mr. Hall, and not be struck with the degree of nature that prevailed in all his words and actions, and in the whole of his bearing. Incidents, parts of conversations, that when separated from the circumstances in which they took place, have an air of eccentricity and affectation, seemed perfectly natural as they occurred. All easily and spontaneously arose from the structure and usual operation of his mind, and the surrounding circumstances. There was no aim on his part to be singular, no effort to excite surprise, or catch admiration.

A very prominent quality of his mind seemed to be benevolence. He sympathized most deeply with all forms of distress, and endeavoured to afford relief, by suitable suggestions, by the exertions of his talents, and by pecuniary aid, to the full extent of his means. It was easy to discern in him, a great concern and anxiety to render those that were about him as comfortable as possible, and a visible delight in the pleasure of his friends. Akin to his great benevolence was an unusual sensibility to kindness. Little services, offices of respect, and affection, small endeavours to promote his comfort, that would generally be considered as matters of course, even from those whose relation to him made the action a duty, would diffuse a gleam of benignity and satisfaction, and draw forth lively expressions of gratitude.

Perhaps the character of Mr. Hall's mind cannot be better described in a single word than by saying that it is perfectly balanced, and combines all the various powers in their highest perfection. If he possessed any one faculty in the same exuberance in which he possesses them all, and in respect to the others were not in the least distinguished, it would be enough to render him an extraordinary man. If he reasons, it is always with strict philosophical accuracy; with a keen, searching glance into the very mysteries of his subject, leaving the reader or hearer often at a loss whether most to admire the light, or the strength, or the depth of his argument; and generally leaving his antagonist to the alternative of quiet submission, or of

From the Rev. Dr. Sprague, of Albany, New York, author of a most interesting and instructive volume on “Revivals of Religion" in America. This gentleman, when in England in 1828, spent some time at Bristol. The account from which I select the above passage, was written before Mr. Hall's death.

« PreviousContinue »