« PreviousContinue »
and ingenuous minds, that are willing to hear, and ready to obey according to their light; that it is impossible a pure, humbled, resigned, godlike soul should be kept out of heaven, whatever mistakes it might be subject to in this state of mortality; that the design of heaven is not to fill men's heads, and feed their curiosities, but to better their hearts, and mend their lives. Such considerations as these made him impartial in his disquisitions, and gave a due allowance to the reasons of his adversary, and contended for truth, and not for victory.
“ And now you will easily believe that an ordinary diligence would be able to make great improvements upon such a stock of parts and endowments. But to these advantages of nature, and excellency of his spirit, he added an indefatigable industry, and God gave a plentiful benediction ; for there were very few kinds of learning but he was a great master in them. He was a rare humanist, and hugely versed in all the polite parts of learning: and had thoroughly concocted all the ancient moralists, Greek and Roman, poets and orators; and was not unacquainted with the refined wits of the later ages, whether French or Italian.
“ But he had not only the accomplishments of a gentleman, but so universal were his parts, that they were proportioned to everything ; and though his spirit and humour were made up of smoothness and gentleness, yet he could bear with the harshness and roughness of the schools, and was not unseen in their subtleties and spinosities, and upon occasion could make them serve his purpose.
“ His skill was great, both in the civil and canon law, and casuistical divinity; and he was a rare conductor of souls, and knew how to counsel and to advise; to solve difficulties, and determine cases, and quiet consciences. He understood what the several parties in Christendom have to say for themselves, and could plead their cause to better advantage than any advocate of their tribe; and when he had done, he could confute them too; and show, that better arguments than ever they could produce for themselves, would afford no sufficient ground for their fond opinions.
“ It would be too great a task to pursue his accomplishments through the various kinds of literature: I shall content myself to add only his great acquaintance with the fathers and ecclesiastical writers, and the doctors of the first and purest ages both of the Greek and Latin church; which he has made use of against the Romanists, to vindicate the church of England from the challenge of innovation, and prove her to be truly ancient, catholic, and apostolical.
“ But religion and virtue is the crown of all other accomplishments; and it was the glory of this great man, to be thought a christian, and whatever you added to it, he looked upon as a term of diminution; and yet he was a zealous son of the church of England; but that was because he judged her (and with great reason) a church the most purely christian of any in the world. In his younger years he met with some assaults from popery; and the high pretensions of their religious orders were very accommodate to his devotional temper : but he was always so much master of himself, that he would never be governed by any thing but reason, and the evidence of truth, which engaged him in the study of those contro versies; and to how good purpose, the world is by this time a sufficient witness.
“ He was a person of great humility; and, notwithstanding his stupendous parts, and learning, and eminency of place, he had nothing in him of pride and humour, but was courteous and affable, and of easy access, and would lend a ready ear to the complaints, yea to the impertinencies, of the meanest persons. His humility was coupled with an extraordinary piety; and I believe, he spent the greatest part of his time in heaven; his solemn hours of prayer took up a considerable portion of his life ; and, we are not to doubt, but he had learned of St. Paul to pray continually; and that occasional ejaculations, and frequent aspirations and emigrations of his soul after God, made up the best part of his devotions. But he was not only a good man God-ward, but he was come to the top of St. Peter's gradation, and to all his other virtues added a large and diffusive charity; and whoever compares his plentiful incomes with the inconsiderable estate he left at his death, will be easily convinced that charity was steward for a great proportion of his revenue. But the hungry that he fed, and the naked that he clothed, and the distressed that he supplied, and the fatherless that he provided for; the poor children that he put to apprentice, and brought up at school, and maintained at the university, will now sound a trumpet to that charity which he dispersed with his right hand, but would not suffer his left hand to have any knowledge of it.”
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
The motives by which I was induced to publish these Selections are explained in the annexed Preface to the first edition of this work. It was prepared in the retirement of the University, as a relaxation from severe studies, and to cherish the taste and genius that blessed the sweet charities of private life by which I was then surrounded.
But pleasures are like poppies spread,
This second edition is published with the ardent hope that it may, in some sort, contribute to teach affliction how to direct its sorrows, and to turn its grief into virtues and advantages : that it may speak peace “when our eyelids are loosed with sickness, and our bread is dipped in tears, and all the daughters of music are brought low;"that, from the labours of these philosophers, prosperity may remember that “a man is what he knows; that of created beings the most excellent are those who are intelligent, and who steadily employ their gift of reason for the glory of the Creator and the relief of man's estate.”
PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.*
The first edition of these Selections was published in the year 1805; the second in 1807. They have been for some years out of print;—but my engagements during the last twenty years have been so incessant, that, with every anxiety to assist in extending to others the blessings with which the works of these holy men abound, I have only occasionally, and not without difficulty, been able to appropriate a few moments to this labour of love. I trust that it will not have been in vain. “ The delivery of knowledge is as of fair bodies of trees; if you mean to use the shoot, as the builder doth, it is no matter for the roots; but if you mean it to grow, as the planter doth, look you well that the slip has part of the root.”+ I please myself with thinking that some of these Selections cannot but give immediate delight: and often, in my solitary walks through this noble city, more quiet to me than the retirement of academic bowers, I shall indulge the hope that this volume may, perchance, be opened by some young man who, at his entrance into life, is meditating upon that “ suavissima vita indies sentire se fieri meliorein.' May this little spark of holy fire direct him to the place where the star appears, and point to the very house where the babe lies. In the works of these ancient writers, which as, so many lights shine before us, he will find what is better than rubies and gold, yea, than fine gold. He will learn not to be misled by the transient pleasures of life; but to seek for permanent happiness, where it can alone be found, in knowledge, in piety, and in charity.
* Published in 1829.
+ Lord Bacon.
Eye of Conscience