« PreviousContinue »
preparing for a still more mortifying defeat. If he comes into the region of taste or imagination, here also he is equally at home. With the saine apparent ease that his mind can frame a powerful argument, it will pour forth images of exquisite beauty and tenderness, as well as of overwhelming majesty and strength. In short, there is no part of the intellectual world in which he does not seem to breathe freely, as if it were his peculiar element. He is at home as far below the surface of things, as far down in the depths of metaphysical abstraction, as perhaps any mind ever penetrates. He is at home amidst the common-sense realities of life, judging of men and things with as much accuracy, as if the whole business of his life had been to watch and analyze the operations of the human heart. He is at home in the field of fancy, in worlds of his own creation : and he can find in the mountain and in the valley, in the ocean and the sky, in the storm and the lightning, in every thing in the kingdom of nature and providence, a field where his imagination may expatiate with unlimited power. His acquisitions correspond, in a good degree, to his original endowments. It were not to be expected, indeed, it were not possible, that he could have gone extensively into every department of science and learning, in which his great and versatile mind would have enabled him to become pre-eminent; we suppose his favourite studies to have been the science of morals and theology, though he has shewn himself deeply versed in political economy, and the various branches of polite literature. His knowledge of the ancient and modern classics is extensive and exact; and if we mistake not, they make part of his every-day reading, even at this advanced period of life.
We remember to have been equally delighted and astonished at hearing him converse for an hour upon the philosophy of language, in a style which discovered a degree of reflection and research, from which one might have supposed that it was not only a favourite topic, but that he had made it the study of his life.
It were naturally to be expected, an intellect of such uncommon strength should be associated with a corresponding strength of feeling. This is true, in respect to Mr. Hall; and it is no doubt to the power of his feelings, that the world is indebted for some of the most brilliant and useful of his efforts. A man of dull temperament, let his intellect be what it might, could never produce those fine strains of soul-stirring eloquence, in which it is the privilege of Mr. Hall to pour out even his common thoughts. But with all the strength of his feelings, his heart is full of kindness and affection. In all his intercourse he is noble and generous. His attachments are strong and enduring. He is open and honest in respect to every thing and every body. As no one can approach him without a deep feeling of respect, so no one can be admitted to the hospitality of his fireside and the privilege of his friendship, without finding that the sentiment of respect is fast ripening into that of cordial and affectionate attachment.
In private conversation Mr. Hall is the admiration and delight of every circle in which he mingles. He converses a great deal, partly because when his mind is excited it is not easy for him to be silent, and partly because there is so much in his conversation to interest and edify, that almost every one who is in his company regards it as a privilege to listen rather than talk, and acts accordingly. We have been struck with the fact, that, let the conversation turn upon whatever subject it may, even though it be a subject on which he might be expected to be least at home, he is equally ready, equally eloquent. He possesses, beyond any man we have known, the faculty of bringing facts and principles which are stored up in his mind, instantly to bear upon any given subject; throwing around it at once, to the mind of the hearer, the clear strong light in which it appears to his own. This must be owing, partly to the original power which he possesses, of discerning almost intuitively, even the most remote relations of things to each other, and partly to the perfect order with which all his intellectual acquisitions are arranged. In the midst of an involved discussion, he will bring to his aid insulated facts from the various departments of knowledge, without the least hesitation or effort, just as we have known some men who had a remarkable attachment to order, able to enter their library, and lay their hand on any book at pleasure in the dark. But, notwithstanding he converses so much, there is not the semblance of an obtrusive or ostentatious manner; nothing that seems to say that he is thinking of his own superiority; on the contrary, he seems to forget, and sometimes makes those around him forget, the greatness of the man, in the greatness which he throws around his subject. He has a strong passion for sarcasm, which often comes out in his conversation, and sometimes with prodigious effect. He is, however, by no means severe in the common estimate which he forms of character; so far from it, that he treats characters for the most part with unusual lenity, and sometimes seems delighted with exhibitions of intellect from others, which would have appeared to every one else, far below the most common-place efforts of his own mind.
In his converse, as well as in his ministrations, no one could avoid being struck by a certain naturalness and simplicity, peculiar to himself, and rendered the more remarkable and engaging by its union with such consummate intelligence and eloquence. His companion or hearer was alike surprised and charmed by the harmonious contrast of excellencies, so dissimilar, yet in him so perfectly combined.
In all that he uttered, whether in social or sacred discourse, there was a vivid freshness and raciness of thought and expression that marked it as the growth of his own mind, and gave an interest to his familiar remarks, as well as to the more elaborate productions of his mighty genius.
Possessod of art and refinement in the highest degree, he had the rare and strange felicity of retaining unimpaired the charm of native beauty.
Among the predominant qualities of his nature, one of the most obvious was his openness, his ingenuous unreserve, his social communicativeness. Conversation was not less his congenial element, than contemplation. He evidently delighted to disclose and impart the accumulated stores of his mind; while he seemed to luxuriate in that unequalled fluency of graceful or energetic language with which he was gifted. The warmth of his affec
proportioned to the strength of his intellect. His own mental opulence did not make him independent on the converse and friendship of
• Communicated by the Rev. Thomas Grinfield, A. M. of Clifton.
those who were poor in comparison with himself. He felt, in the language of Cicero, and as he has elegantly portrayed his feelings in the sermon on the death of Dr. Ryland, that, “Caritate et benevolentia sublata, omnis est è “ vita sublata jucunditas."
The benevolence of his capacious heart greatly contributed at once to inspire and increase his love of society and conversation ; while, in the social circle, and in the solemn assembly, he appeared as a distinguished representative, a most expressive organ of our nature, in all its more familiar sentiments, or in all its more sublime conceptions and aspirations. Hence he was regarded by the multitudes who sought his public or his private presence, as a kind of universal property, whom all parties had a right to enjoy, and none to monopolize: before him, all forgot their denominations, as he appeared to forget his own, in the comprehensive idea of the Church of Christ.
In recollecting the moral features of his character, it is impossible to forget the consummate truth and sincerity, which left its unequivocal stamp on all he said, of which a suspicion never occurred to any one, and which gave to his discourses a solidity and an impressiveness, which, otherwise, their argument and eloquence could never have commanded. Never has there been a stronger, a more universal confidence in the sacred orator, as one whose eloquence was kindled in his own heart; never were the testimony of faith, and the rapture of hope, exhibited in a more manifestly genuine, unaffected, and consequently in a more convincing form. His was truly the "generoso incoctum pectus Honesto.” This added to his ministry a singular and inestimable charm. Hence, more than any other advocate of evangelical principles, he was revered, even by the irreligious. His peculiar ascendancy over such was not acquired by any degree of compromise in his exhibition of spiritual religion ; it was the involuntary result of their conviction that his earnestness was as perfect as his eloquence. Never can there have been a preacher more strikingly characterized by a dignified simplicity, a majesty unalloyed by pomp: never was there a finer combination of the utmost manliness and grandeur with the utmost delicacy and pathos. No wonder that such qualities, combined in such perfection, should have produced so strong and so extensive an enchantment.
It must be acknowledged that the moral graces of his character derived a peculiar and accidental advantage from the intellectual power and splendour with which they were united; a remark, particularly applicable to that childlike simplicity by which he was distinguished, and to that delicate and refined modesty, which was the natural indication of an interior and inwrought humility. “Be clothed with Humility,” was the subject of his last lecture preparatory to the communion, the last entire address which I heard from his lips; (Jan. 1831) and, as I returned in company with some members of the Church of England, who privileged themselves with hearing him on these monthly opportunities, we were all impressed by the force which his pathetic exhortation acquired from his own conspicuous example of the grace he had recommended. His humility gave a charm to his character, and to his preaching, which all his more brilliant qualities, without it, could not have supplied; while it served as a dark back-ground, from which their brilliant contrast rose the morç impressive and sublime,
In thus slightly glancing at some of the more retired graces with which he was adorned, I cannot dismiss the hasty and unfinished sketch without referring to that sweet sunshine of serenity, cheerfulness, and bland good nature, which, unobscured by so much acute or wearing pain, habitually beamed in his noble aspect, and diffused its genial influence alike over his converse and his preaching. A friend, subject to constitutional depression of spirits, assured me that, on several occasions, he has found his sadness soothed by the balm of a visit or a sermon, for which he had resorted to Mr. Hall. Nothing morose, nothing gloomy, either in his natural temper, or in his religious views, impaired the fascination of his presence, or the benefit of his ministry.
The remembrance of such a man, especially as it is now embalmed and sanctified by death, (and his death was altogether in harmony with his character,) cannot leave any other than a beneficial influence, ennobling and elevating to the mind and the heart. The name of “Robert Hall" is rich in sacred, as well as splendid, associations; a memento of consecrated intellect and energy; an inspiring watch-word for the cultivation of christian graces and of heavenly affections; an antidote to all that is unworthy in principle or practice; an attraction to whatever, in the intellectual or moral system, bears the stamp of unaffected excellence; whatever qualifies for the fruition of spiritual and eternal blessings; whatever is allied to the love of Christ AND God.