« PreviousContinue »
tensive, that it contained no less than fourteen villages, But this he looked on as an ample field, opened for exercising his faculties and talents in the duties of a parishpriest; and he fulfilled them all. Upon taking possession, he found the parsonage-house gone so entirely to decay, that he could not reside in it; repairing of this was therefore his first business; part of it was fitted up as soon as possible for his reception; and he continued improving and enlarging it, till it became suitable to the hospitality he was resolved to keep in it. His house, (says bishop Carleton) was like a bishop's palace ; superior, indeed, to most bishops' houses, with respect both to the largeness of the building, and the elegance of the situation. In this house, his hospitable manner of living soon became the admiration of the whole country. He spent in his family every fortnight forty bushels of corn, twenty bushels of malt, and a whole ox; besides a proportionable quantity of other kinds of provision. Every Thursday throughout the year, a very large quantity of meat was dressed wholly for the poor ; and every day they had what quantity of broth they wanted. Twenty-four of the poorest were his constant pensioners. Four times in the year a dinner was provided for them, when they received from his steward a certain quantity of corn, and a sum of money : And at Christmas they had always an ox divided among them. Every Sunday from Michaelmas till Easter was a sort of public day with him. During this season, he expected to see all his parishioners and their families. For their reception he had three tables well covered; the first was for gentlemen, the second for husbandmen and farmers, and the third for day-labourers. This piece of hospitality he never omitted, even when losses, or a scarcity of provision, made its continuance rather difficult to Irim. Even when he was absent, no alteration was made in his family expences; the poor were fed, and his neighbours entertained as usual. Strangers and travellers found a chearsul reception; all were welconie that came; and even their beasts had so much care taken of them, that it was humorously said, if a horse was turned loose in any part of the country, it would immediately make its way to the rector of Houghton's.
To any one who knows that hospitality was the boast of the Romish clergy before the Reformation; the prudence of this part of our Author's conduct will appear its proper light. And the rest was of a piece with this. He set out with making it his endeavour to gain the affec
tion of his parishioners. To succeed in it, however, he used no servile compliances. His behaviour was free without levity, obliging without meanness, insinuating without art. To this humanity and courtesy, he added an unwearied application to the immediate duties of his function. Not satisfied with the advice he gave in public, he used to instruct privately, and brought his pa• rishioners to come to him with their doubts and difficulties; he laid himself out in forming the youth to godliness, suffering none to grow up in ignorance of their duty. He was very assiduous in preventing all law-suits, and his hall is said to have been often thronged with people, who came on that account; he shewed such a hearty concern for all under affliction, that he was considered as a good angel by all such.
He used to interpose, likewise, in all acts of oppression; and his authority was such, that it generally put a stop to them: For instance, after the rebellion raised by the earls of Westmoreland and Northumberland was quelled, though the rebels had forced him to withdraw, and in his absence had ravaged and plundered his house and grounds at Houghton; yet, when he saw too much severity used against them by the marshal, Sir George Bowes, he interceeded for them so earnestly, that, either persuaded by what he said, or paying a deference to his character, the marshal grew more mild, and shewed many instances of mercy not expected from him.
The bishop once requiring him, upon his canonical obedience, to preach a visitation sermon, he found himself obliged to comply; though without any previous notice, and after the clergy were assembled. This prelate was a well meaning, but a weak man, and wholly in the hands of his chancellor. Mr Gilpin thought this no unfavourable opportunity to open his lordship's eyes, and induce him to exert himself, where there was so great reason for it; private information had often been given him without success, Mr Gilpin was now resolved, therefore, to venture upon a public application. In this spirit, before he concluded his sermon, turning towards the bishop, he thus addressed him : " My discourse now, reve“ rend father, must be directed to you. GOD hath « exalted you to be bishop of this diocese, and requireth
an account of your government thereof. A reformaés tion of all those matters, which are amiss in the church, « is expected at your hands. And now, lest perhaps, & while it is apparent, that so many enormities are com* mitted every where, your lordship should make answer, « that you had no notice of them given you, and that « these things never came to your knowledge,” [for this, it seems, was the bishop's common apology to all complainants]; “behold, I bring these things to your know“ ledge this day. Say not then, that these crimes have s been committed by the fault of others, without your « knowledge ; for whatever either yourself should do in « person, or suffer by your connivance to be done of « others, is wholly your own. Therefore, in the preo sence of GOD, his angels, and men, I pronounce
you to be the author of all these evils: yea, and in " that strict day of the general account, I will be a wit“ ness to testify against you, that all these things have “ come to your knowledge by my means; and all these « men shall bear witness thereof, who have heard me « speak unto you this day.” This freedom alarmed every one; the bishop, they said, had now got that advantage over him, that had been long sought for. But when our Preacher, before he went home, went to pay his compliments to his lordship, “Sir, (said the bishop), I purpose « to wait upon you home myself.' This he accordingly did; and as soon as Mr Gilpin had carried him into a parlour, the bishop turned suddenly round, and seizing him eagerly by the hand, Father Gilpin, (says he), I ( acknowledge you are fitter to be bishop of Durham, « then I am to be parson of this church of yours.--I ask
forgiveness for past injuries.--Forgive me, father.-I • know you have enemies, but while I live bishop of Dur
ham, be secure; none of them shall cause you any far<ther trouble.'
Notwithstanding all this painful industry, and the large scope it had in so extended a parish, our Pastor thought the sphere of his benevolence yet too confined : It grieved him extremely, to see every where in the parishes round him so much ignorance and superstition, occasioned by the very great neglect of the pastoral care in the clergy of those parts *. These bad consequences induced him to
* The following instance fhews how low preaching ran
at this time; Mr Tavernour of Water-Eatou in Oxfordshire, high-sheriff of the county, came, it is said, in pure charity, not out of oftentation, and gave the fchilars at Oxford a sermon in St Mary's church, with his gold chain about his neck, and his sword by his side, and accosted them thus : • Arriving • at the mount of St Mary, in the stony stage where I now stand, I have • brought you some fine biscuits baked in the oven of charity, and carefully * conferved for the chickens of the church, the sparrows of the spirit, and the sweet swallows of salvation.' Fuller's Church History.
supply as far as he could, what was wanting in others. For this purpose, every year he used regularly to visit the most neglected parishes in Northumberland, Yorkshire, Cheshire, Westmoreland, and Cumberland : And that his own parish in the mean time might not suffer, he was.at the expence of a constant assistant. And as he had all the warmth of an enthusiast, though under the direction of a very calm judgment, he never wanted an audience, even in the wildest parts; where he roused many to a sense of religion, who had contracted the most inveterate habits of inattention to every thing of a serious nature. Whereever he came, he used to visit all the jails, and places of confinement, few in the kingdom at that time having an appointed minister, and by his labours, and affectionate manner of behaving, he is said to have reformed many very abandoned persons in those places. He would employ his interest, likewise, for such criminats, whose cases he thought attended with any hard circumstances, and often procured pardons for them.
There is a tract of country upon the borders of Northumberland, called Reads-dale and Tine-dale, of all barbarous places in the North, at that time, the most barbarous. Before the union, this place was called the debateable land, as subject by turns to England and Scotland, and the common theatre where the two nations were continually acting their bloody scenes. It was inhabited by a kind of desperate banditti, rendered fierce and active by constant alarms; they lived by theft, used to plunder on both sides of the barrier, and what they plundered on one, they exposed to sale on the other ; by that means escaping justice. Such adepts were they in the art of thieving, that they could twist a cow's horn, or mark a horse, so as its owners could not know it, and so subtle, that no vigilance could guard against them. For these arts they were long afterwards famous. A person telling K. James I. a surprising story of a cow, that had been driven from the north of Scotland to the south of England, and, escaping from the herd, had found her way home : « The most surprising part of the story, replied • the king, you lay the least stress on, viz. that she passed ( unstolen through the debateable land.'
In this dreadful country, where no man would even travel that could help it *, Mr Gilpin never failed to spend
• Mr Camden, describing these places, writes thus : " Both these Dales • breed notable bog-trotters, and have fuch boggy-topped mountains, as
some part of every year : He generally chose the holidays of Christmas for this journey, because he found the people at that season most disengaged, and most easily assembled. He had set places for preaching, which were as regularly attended, as the assize town of a circuit. This was a very difficult and laborious employment on several accounts; the country was so poor, that what provision he could get, extremity only could make palatable; the badness of the weather, and the badness of the roads through a mountainous country, and at that season covered with snow, exposed him, likewise, very often to great hardships. The Saxon custom of deciding differ. ences by the sword prevailed here, Nay, these wild Northumbrians went beyond the ferocity of their ancestors ; they were not content with a duel: Each contending party used to muster what adherents he could, and commence à kind of petty war; so that a private grudge would often occasion much bloodshed.
It happened that a quarrel of this kind was on foot once when Mr Gilpin was at Rothbury, in those parts; during the two or three first days of his preaching, the disputants observed some decorum, and never appeared at church together ; at length, however, they met. One party had been early at church, and just as Mr Gilpin began his sermon, the other entered; they stood not long silent ; inflamed at the sight of each other, they began to clash their weapons, for they were all armed with javelins and swords, and mutually approach. Awed, however, by the sacredness of the place, the tumult in some degree ceased : Mr Gilpin proceeded ; when again, the combatants began to brandish their weapons, and draw towards each other. As a fray seemed near, he stepped from the pulpit, went between them, and addressing the leaders, put an end to the quarrel for the present, but could not effect an entire reconciliation. They promised him, however, that till the sermon was over, they would make no further disturb
He then went again into the pulpit, and spent the
are not to be crolled by ordinary horsemen. We wonder to see fo many " heip; of stones in them, which the neighbourhood believe to be thrown together in memory of some persons there flain. There are also in both of them, many ruins of old forts. The Umfranvilkes held Reads dale as Dooms-day book informs us, in fee and knight's ferwise, four guarding • the Dule from robberies. All over these wastes you fee, as it were, the • ancient Nomades, a martial people, who from April to August, lie in
little tools, which they call meals or sheallings, here and there difperfed among their flocks.' CAMDEN's Britannia.