Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

lowing paragraph fully explains his views:- For my own part I think it would not be right to conceal, indeed I am anxious openly to express my almost firm and undoubting conviction, that were we, as a church, to pursue such a line of conduct as has 'here been sketched, in proportion as we did so, we should be taught from above to discern and appreciate the plain marks of divine wisdom and authority in the Roman church--to repent, ' in sorrow and bitterness of heart, our great sin in deserting her ' communion, and to sue humbly at her feet for pardon and res'toration.(P. 473.) Yet, in the same paragraph, he tells us with a simplicity truly admirable--" If it be granted that the aim'ing at such objects, as I have ventured to put forward as de'sirable, implies of itself no set purpose of Romanizing our 'church, I must beg leave to doubt whether any single one of 'her members entertains any such purpose.' We quite agree with him; if he can get any one to concede so modest a postulate, he may well expect a cordial admission of the inference.

Mr Ward elsewhere contends for his liberty of private judgment in the following terms:- Let Mr Williams, if he so 'please, still publish his opinion that human support and human comfort were needful to St Mary after our Lord's as'cension. Let Dr Hook continue to call Roman Catholics 'Mariolaters; but let others have equal liberty, and with no greater remonstrance, to honour St Mary as the highest and 'purest of creatures, to regard the Roman church with affection and reverence, and to hold a Pope's dogmatic decree as at least exempt from our criticism and comment. It is impossible for our opinions to pain them, more than theirs pain us.'' That ' a sustained and vigorous attack on the principles of the Re'formation is the only course by which this object can be obtained, is my deep and certain conviction. I mean an humble and religious carrying out of those great principles which the Reformation denied obedience and faith.'-(P. 100–588.)

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

His work is full of pious sentiments on the duties of obedience and faith and both, in his case, are of an unparalleled character. His faith is such, that he can swear assent to Articles in a 'non-natural sense;' and his obedience is such, that he will yield allegiance neither to that church to which he has actually

but a very little consideration will show that no one is at all committed by this Article to so painfully presumptuous a sentiment.' He then gives his interpretation, and adds If this appears the solemn annunciation of a mere truism, I quite admit that it is so.'-P. 100.

6

bees. Reviewless, Clapham had scarcely been known beyond her own common. Youthless, her memory had never descended to the present age. At once wrapped into future times, and thoughtful of her own, she addressed the world on the first day of each successive month through the columns of the Christian Observer;' and employed the pen of him on whom her hopes most fondly rested, to confer splendour and celebrity on pages not otherwise very alluring. To Mr Macaulay was assigned the arduous post of Editor. He and his chief contributors enjoyed the advantage, permitted, alas! to how few of their tribe, of living in the same village, and meeting daily in the same walks or at the same table, and lightning, by common counsel, the cares of that feudal sovereignty. The most assiduous in doing suit and science to the Suzerain, was Henry Thornton. But he whose homage was most highly valued, and whose fealty was attested by the richest offerings, was the young, the much loved, and the much lamented John Bowdler.

He was the scion of a house singularly happy in the virtues and talents of its members; and was hailed by the unanimous acclamation of the whole of that circle of which Mr Wilberforce was the centre, as a man of genius, piety, and learning, who, in the generation by which they were to be succeeded, would prosecute their own designs with powers far superior to theirs. A zeal too ardent to be entirely discreet, which gave to the world two posthumous volumes of his essays in verse and prose, has, unintentionally, refuted such traditions as had assigned to him a place among philosophers, or poets, or divines. And yet so rare were the component parts of his character, and so just their combination, that, but for his premature death, the bright auguries of his early days could hardly have failed of their accomplishment. His course of life was, indeed, uneventful. A school education, followed by the usual training for the bar-a brilliant, though brief success, closed by an untimely death, complete a biography which has been that of multitudes. But the interior life of John Bowdler, if it could be faithfully written, would be a record which none could read without reverence, and few without self-reproach.

.

To those who lived in habitual intercourse with him, it was evident that there dwelt on his mind a sense of self-dedication to some high and remote object; and that the pursuits, which are as ultimate ends to other men, were but as subservient means to him. So intent was he on this design, as to appear incapable of fatigue, frail as were his bodily powers; and as to be unassailable by the spirit of levity, though fertile and copious in discourse almost to a fault. It is the testimony

of one who for nearly twelve months divided with him the same narrow study, that during the whole of that period he was never heard to utter an idle word, nor seen to pass an idle minute. He stood aloof from all common familiarities, yielding his affection to a very few, and, to the rest, a courtesy somewhat reserved and stately. His friends were not seldom reminded how awful goodness is, as they watched his severe self-discipline, and listened, not without some wandering wishes for a lighter strain, to colloquies, didactic rather than conversational, in which he was ever soaring to heights, and wrestling with problems inaccessible to themselves. But they felt and loved the moral sublimity of a devotion so pure, and so devout to purposes the most exempt from selfishness. They were exulting in prospects which it appeared irrational to distrust, and were hailing him as the future architect of plans, to be executed or conceived only by minds like his, when, from the darkness which shrouds the courisels of the Omniscient, went forth a decree, designed, as it might seem, at once to rebuke the presumption of mortal man, and to give him a new assurance of his immortality. It rent asunder ties as many and as dear as ever bound to this earth a soul ripe for translation to a higher sphere of duty; and was obeyed with an acquiescence as meek and cheerful as ever acknowledged the real presence of fatherly love under the severer forms of parental discipline. His profound conviction of the magnitude of the trust, and of the endowments confided to him, was really justified even when seemingly defeated by the event; for it showed that those powers had been destined for an early exercise in some field of service commensurate with the holy ardour by which he had been consumed. Of those who met round his grave, such as yet live are now in the wane of life; nor is it probable that, in their retrospect of many years, any one of them can recall a name more inseparably allied than that of John Bowdler to all that teaches the vanity of the hopes which terminate in this world, and the majesty of the hopes which extend beyond it.

And thus closes, though it be far from exhausted, our chronicle of the worthies of Clapham, of whom it may be said, as it was said of those of whom the world was not worthy, "These all died in faith.' With but very few exceptions, they had all partaken largely of those sorrows which probe the inmost heart, and exercise its fortitude to the utmost. But sweet, and not less wise than sweet, is the song in which George Herbert teaches, that when the Creator had bestowed every other gift on his new creature man, he reserved Rest to himself, that so the wearied heart in search of that last highest blessing, might cheerfully return to

of union workhouses, of emigrant ships, or of mechanics' institutes ---and Medievals, who promise the return of Astræa in the persons of Bede and Bernard redivivi—and Mr Carlyle, who offers most eloquent vows for the reappearance of the heroes who are to set all things right-and profound interpreters of the Apocalypse, who discover the woes impending over England in chastisement of the impiety which moved Lord Melbourne to introduce Mr Owen to the Queen of England.* In the midst of all these predictions, Exeter Hall also prophesies. As to the events which are coming upon us, she adopts the theory of her Claphamic progenitor. In reducing that theory to practice, she is almost as nuch a Socialist as Mr Owen himself. The moral regeneration which she foretells is to be brought about neither by church, by workhouse, by monk, by hero, nor by the purifying of St. James's. She believes in the continually decreasing power of individual, and the as constantly augmenting power of associated, minds. She looks on the age as characterized by a nearer approach than was ever known before to intellectual equality. But Exeter Hall is no croaker. Her temperament is as sanguine as her eloquence. Enumerate to her the long list of illustrious men who, while scarcely beyond their boyhood, had, at the commencement of this century, reached the highest eminence in every path to distinction; and point out to her the impossibility of selecting now, from those who have yet to complete their fortieth summer, any four names, the loss of which would be deplored by any art, or science, or calling in use amongst us; and, in despite of Oxford, and Young England, and Mr Carlyle, Exeter Hall makes answer - So much the • better. The sense of separate weakness is the secret of collec'tive strength. Ours is the age of societies. For the redress ' of every oppression that is done under the sun, there is a public meeting. For the cure of every sorrow by which our land or our race can be visited, there are patrons, vice-presidents, and secretaries. For the diffusion of every blessing of which man"kind can partake in common, there is a committee. That confederacy which, when pent up within the narrow limits of Clap

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* One of the strange blemishes in a work very lately published by the Rev. E. B. Elliott, under the title of Hora Apocalyptica-a book of profound learning, singular ingenuity, and almost bewitching interest. The last commendation is not less due to a similar, though antagonist work of the Rev. Mr Mylie, a Roman Catholic priest of Dublin, called Rome under Paganism and the Popes-a book of which no man ever read one page, and left any other page unread,

[ocr errors]

'ham, jocose men invidiously called a "Sect," is now spreading through the habitable globe. The day is not distant when it will assume the form, and be hailed by the glorious title, of The Universal Church.'

Happy and animating hopes! Who would destroy them if he could? Long may they warm many an honest bosom, and quicken into activity many an otherwise sluggish temper! The true Claphamite will know how to separate the pure ore of truth from the dross of nonsense to which the prophets of his time give utterance. He will find sympathy for most, and indulgence for all, of the schemes of benevolence which surround him. Like the founders of his sect, he will rejoice in the progress and prospects of their cause; nor will he abandon his creed, however unpopular it may be made by the presumption, or however ridiculous by the follies, of some of the weaker brethren by whom it has been adopted.

No. CLXII. will be published in October.

Edinburgh: Printed by Ballantyne and Hughes, Paul's Work.

« ZurückWeiter »