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THE LATE REV. CHARLES BRIDGES.
The Rev. Charles Bridges was born at Northampton, on the 24th March, 1794. He belonged to a family in which, during two centuries, there have not been wanting many who lived for the glory of God and the best welfare of their fellow men.* His mother was an eminently pious woman, and gifted in no ordinary way. How much he and all her children were indebted to her careful training and unceasing prayers, "the day" alone will fully reveal. Under those and other holy influences he grew up; the seed sown developed itself slowly but surely, "first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the ear."
There is nothing remarkable to record concerning Charles Bridges' childhood. After leaving school, he was sent, at the usual age, to Queen's College, Cambridge. His imperfect health occasioned frequent interruptions to his College course, and eventually he took an agrotat degree. Queen's College, under the mastership of Dr. Isaac Milner, Dean of Carlisle, was at this time almost exclusively filled with the sons of religious families. Many of the associates of Mr. Bridges afterwards became, like himself, zealous parochial ministers, such as John King of Hull, Francis Cunningham of Lowestoft, Samuel Carr of Colchester, who were summoned before him to their eternal rest. Others still survive. "Charles Bridges," writes one of his surviving contemporaries, "was among us not like a companion, but like one who had been already engaged in the ministry of the Word. His conversation was serious, often upon the great topic of personal religion. When we re-assembled after a vacation, and recounted our tours or our reading parties, he had to speak of testimony to the truth borne in promiscuous society, of cottage lectures held in dark neighbourhoods, of sick beds visited, of the sight and conversation of eminent Christians."
The state of his health at this time was such as to cause great anxiety to his friends. At the end of the year 1815 he was ordered to Torquay for the winter, and supposed by many to be in a decline. It pleased God so far to restore him to health as to enable him to take holy orders in the year 1817. His first curacy was at Gosfield in Essex, where his ministry
• There is an interesting notioe in the Christian Observer of September, 1820, of Mrs. Cooke, the grandmother of the subject of this memoir, who was herself a Bridges, and a romarkable woman.
was remarkably blessed among the young. On his marriage, in 1821, to her who now survives him, and who ever rejoiced to be his fellow-helper in every good work, he removed to Wooburn in Buckinghamshire; here also the Lord gave large testimony to the power of the Gospel, through his instrumentality, and his name is still held in remembrance. In the year 1823, he was presented, by the Rev. J. T. Nottidge, to the living of Old Newton, in Suffolk, where he laboured for twentysix years. This was entirely new ground requiring to be broken up, and his ministry, both public and private, was signalized by abundant fruit to the praise and glory of God. Circumstances attending his first residence here gave birth to the work by which Mr. Bridges is best known, his exposition of the 119th Psalm, which has passed through twenty-five editions, and been translated into many languages. While the vicarage was building, Mr. and Mrs. Bridges lodged in the house of a Christian farmer, who begged permission for his household to join with them in Family Prayer. Mr. Bridges felt the opening too important to be declined, though, in order that all the members of the household might be included, the devotional exercise had to be carried on at half past six in the morning, and this during the winter months. As it was necessary to limit the duration of it to ten or fifteen minutes, the idea suggested itself of taking each day one verse of the 119th Psalm, and bringing out his thoughts upon it as concisely as possible. At the request of his excellent motherin-law, who was occasionally present, he wrote down afterwards what had been said, but without the remotest view to publication, to which he was eventually urged by some near relations. Mr. Bridges' life at Old Newton was not much diversified in its character, but he kept up a large correspondence with the clergy and others, and his advice was much in request and was freely given to many who were in doubt or difficulty. Were a record to be kept of those who derived guidance, help, encouragement, and consolation in their varied circumstances from his wise and thoughtful judgment, it would fill many a volume. It was during the first few years of his ministry at Old Newton that Mr. Bridges wrote his very instructive and useful work on the "Christian Ministry," which was so completely recognized as one of the most valuable treatises on the subject, that at least one of the bishops of our Church was constantly in the habit of giving it away to his candidates for ordination. Here also he afterwards produced his justly esteemed exposition on the "Proverbs," and other works.
This valuable treatise, as Mr. Bridges observed in his Preface, grew out of several excellent papers inserted in the Christian Observer for the years 1828 and 1829; it is therefore with no ordinary interest that, as another instance of the incidental services which our pages have rendered to the cause of Evangelical truth, we recall the f;ict that the germ of the "Christian Ministry" is to be found in them. Its chief value consists in the union of practical good sense and deep spiritual views of the Gospel of Christ: it is equally suited to instruct the man of action in the secrets of ministerial success, and the man of high spiritual attainments in the necessary accompaniments of a successful ministry. Every topic is touched lightly but impressively. There is not a tedious page in the book; it is enlivened throughout by a profusion of literary anecdotes and of quotations from valuable writers in all ages of the world.
The system adopted by the great religious Societies, of sending deputations to advocate their claims throughout the country, opened out a new sphere of usefulness to many a retired country clergyman. It is scarcely more than fifty years since this system was commenced. Mr. Charles Bridges, for many years after his settlement in Suffolk, undertook such journeys for different Societies, especially for the Church Missionary Society. By the conductors of that great Society he was highly valued as an advocate for their claims, and was sent to their most important Associations; for his conciliatory spirit allayed opposition, while he never failed to urge the spiritual principles upon which the Missions are conducted, and the Evangelical motives upon which alone a missionary zeal can be sustained. Sermons or speeches at meetings were but a part of the benefits conferred by these visits. Many a country clergyman has borne testimony to the refreshing influence of his visits upon their ministry. For his private intercourse in the drawing-room or study was no less marked by a high tone of Christian feeling than his addresses in public. In later years the custom has sprung up of large gatherings of the clergy at such anniversary meetings, or in special conferences. As long as Mr. Bridges' health would permit, his addresses on such occasions were frequently sought, and much prized. In 1847, he was appointed by the Committee of the Church Missionary Society to preach their annual sermon, in May. He chose for his text that which was the motto of his own life, "To me to live is Christ."
Another service which he conferred upon the Society may be mentioned as illustrating the good which he was able to do by an extensive correspondence which he kept up with friends in all parts of the country. In the earlier years of his deputational visits for the Church Missionary Society, when the heads of the Church gave it only a cold sufferance, he had ofton to defend its principles as a true Church Society. At length,
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about 1837, lie drew up a statement of the chief objections he had met with, and appealed to a clerical friend who attended the Committee of the Society to furnish him with a vindication of the Ecclesiastical relations of the Society. Mr. Bridges was so well satisfied with this paper, that he urged the Committee to adopt it as an official document: as such it was printed as an Appendix to the 39th Report; and it became the basis on which, two years later, the Archbishops and a majority of the Bishops accorded their support to the Society.
In the year 1849, Mr. Bridges was offered the living of Melcombe Regis by the Rev. Edmund Hollond, which, though not bringing any substantial increase of income, entailed at the same time a large increase of labour, and much sacrifice of that retirement which was peculiarly attractive to him. He accepted this enlarged sphere of work, after taking counsel with some especial friends, and laboured in it for some years with equal faithfulness, and under many trials and discouragements of mind and overstrained physical powers.
To a large Bible class, which he held weekly at the Rectory, many have traced their first awakening to spiritual life, and still more their growth and maturity in it; and one well conversant with the facts has lately said that there was not a drawing-room in Weymouth into which he did not carry his Master's message. But it became evident that his health was unequal to the work, and he therefore, in the year 1855, gratefully accepted the kind offer of Lord Shaftesbury to fill the vacancy made by Mr. Bickersteth's removal from the retired living of Hinton Martell, in Dorsetshire. Here he spent, in comparative quiet, the last thirteen years of his life, which were characterized by the same devotedness and holy consistency; here also his Exposition on "Ecclesiastes" was written, a work full of useful and varied thought. But during the latter part of this period there was a gradual failure of his former powers; the tabernacle was being perceptibly taken down, and finally, on the 2nd April, 1869, he fell asleep in Jesus, having just completed his 75th year.
The day before his death had long been fixed for laying the foundation stone of the New Parish Church of Hinton Martell; in the re-building of which he had taken a warm interest, and the funds for which had been collected under his auspices, and with the efficient aid of his curate, who had become his son-inlaw, and to whom he had of late committed the ministerial duties of the parish, to his own entire satisfaction and that of his people. He was himself unable to assist at the ceremony; but, though confined to his room, he was not supposed to be in danger. At night, however, illness came rapidly on, and in a few hours he passed painlessly away.
Among the main and distinguishing characteristics of this excellent man, may be mentioned his very great unworldliness and spirituality of mind, his wise and sober judgment, and his deep aud accurate knowledge of Scripture. Until the closing period of his life, he possessed a remarkably full and retentive memory, out of which, as from a storehouse, he would bring forth, with singular aptitude, the seasonable remark or illustration, so that his words were often as " apples of gold in pictures of silver."
It was observed by one who spent a short time under his roof so lately as January last, when he was in a state of great feebleness, that even then " he shed out thoughts of beauty in his conversation, the beauty of holiness, the result of a mind steeped in Scripture and mellowed by Christian experience."
Then, again, we may notice the tenacity with which he ever watched for, and used, opportunities of speaking words of edification to those he met with; words which, in the eyes of some observers, were often considered as "out of season," but upon which, in numberless instances, God was pleased to stamp His own seal of approbation and blessing.
In the pulpit, Mr. Bridges was solemn, earnest, and impressive. Though not gifted with any special amount of what is commonly thought to be eloquence, his words and manner expressed that deep conviction of the truth and importance of his message which seldom fails of going home to the heart and conscience of a congregation.; his language was generally well chosen, and his bearing always sober and dignified. He had a very high view of the ministerial office and commission, and was from conviction a decided Churchman in matters of discipline, while essentially Protestant in all that pertains to doctrine. It is important further to remark how much in his latter years his heart expanded in Christian love towards those who differed from him; and how he always endeavoured to check in others intemperate and harsh expressions of condemnation, while at the same time allowing no compromise of the high standard he set before himself, and maintaining boldly every fundamental truth against the invasion of error.
NOTICES OF NEW BOOKS.
LHei Irce; The Judgment of the Great Day, viewed in the light of Scripture and Conscience. By R. B. Girdlestone, M.A. London: W. Hunt. 1869.—We have read this volume with deep interest, and have derived much satisfaction from the perusal of it. Its value is