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THE LIFE

OF

BISHOP WILSON,

1663–1755.

CHAPTER I.

INTRODUCTION-HIS EARLY LIFE.

Amongst the most delightful associations connected with the world of spirits, is that idea which originates in our belief in the communion of saints, and which represents to us the children of God, who have lived upon earth at various periods of time, as forming one fold under the one great shepherd.

The Scriptures countenance and warrant this interesting notion, for in them we find our blessed Saviour himself holding out to his followers the prospect of being in Abraham's bosom, and of sitting down in the company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and encouraging his disciples, both by the tenor of his prayers and his promises, to expect that after death they should be assembled together, and thus, once more united, should be with Him, and behold his glory and partake of his joy for ever.

Of those who, in humbly pursuing the paths of faith and holiness, are looking forward to be introduced to this company of the redeemed,—there are few who have not fixed upon a chosen circle of just men made perfect, from whose society they expect more particular pleasure. The

M

idea is so natural, so intimately blended with all our better feelings, and really forms so beautiful and strong a tie to the invisible world, that it is one which it cannot be wrong to entertain.

This chosen circle, doubtless, consists in the first place of those, whom having seen, we have known and loved. Kindred and friends who have died in the Lord attach us to the citizens of heaven, and cause us to remember Zion with a more vivid interest.

6 'Tis sweet, as year by year we lose

Friends out of sight, by faith to muse
How grows in Paradise our store.”

Christian Year.

But it includes others also, belonging to distant countries or times, whose hands we have never clasped, whose voices we have never heard, whose bodily presence we have never seen, but with whose minds and characters we have become intimately acquainted and strongly attached. The simple-minded christians of primitive times—the confessors who, being faithful unto death, went to receive a crown of life, the staunch defenders of the faith, especially when their conscientious firmness and boldness in their Lord's behalf was associated with gentleness of spirit—these claim and possess the affection of the sincere christian; they are even admired and revered by those who have no very deeply-rooted sentiments of religion. But still that company comprises others, perhaps even more beloved than these, whose lives may not have been distinguished by any very remarkable incidents, yet to whom we are linked in the closest union. They are those to whom we owe the thoughts and impressions from which we derive the greatest satisfaction ; -those who, in bequeathing to us wholesome counsel, have inscribed in their holy pages a picture of their own minds; and concerning whom we are thus able to gather incidentally that they must have been wise and amiable companions, who did good in their generation by a holy life and conversation. We think that it must have been a great privilege to have taken sweet counsel with them during their sojourn on earth, and we contemplate with peculiar pleasure the prospect of commencing an uninterrupted intercourse with them, in the better world whither they are gone.

Such feelings are particularly connected with the name of him who is best known as “the good Bishop Wilson.” We are wont to fancy that a purer, gentler spirit has seldom inhabited an earthly tabernacle; and multitudes of persons

who may never have read or heard one incident of his life, love and venerate the name of one whose Private Thoughts, and Preparation for the Lord's Supper, and the little volumes of whose simple Sermons, have been their familiar closet companions, and who has thus bound them to himself by helping them forward in the right way, through the influence of the same feelings and convictions which confirmed his own faith, and animated his own piety.

Thomas Wilson was born in the village of Burton, in the county palatine of Chester, on the 20th of December, 1663. We are not informed what occupation his parents followed, but they apparently moved in humble life, since in one of his papers he speaks of his education raising him above his father's house; and says, that though honesty and industry secured the family from poverty, yet it was far from being rich. In the subject of this memoir, therefore, we have one of those instances which are happily of such frequent occurrence in this countr of the elevation of a person who had none of the advantages of wealth or high connexion, to a high and important situation. But if his parents were not great, they were good; and he confessed that he owed much to them. In his diary he mentions them with gratitude as “ honest parents, fearing God;" and in a prayer which he composed and used in their behalf, and which throughout betokens a conviction that they merited the warmest filial affection, he makes an express acknowledgment, on the part of his brothers and sisters as well as himself, that they could never be sufficiently thankful, either to God or their parents, for the care taken of them by the latter, and for all their godly instructions.

It is difficult to estimate how large a portion of the evil and the good which exist in the world flows from the early management of children; but, as we know that the most important consequences are dependent upon it, we cannot but feel regret that there are no means of introducing us to the domestic circle in the little parlour at Burton, where we might have observed the planting, the watering, and the growth of the good seed in the heart of him, who was there led from a child to know the Holy Scriptures, which made him wise unto salvation, through faith, which is in Christ Jesus.

His classical education was entrusted to Mr. Harpur, an eminent school-master at Chester; and at a proper age he was sent to the University of Dublin, with an allowance of twenty pounds a year; a sum which, however small it may be thought, was in those days sufficient, we are told, “for a sober student, in so cheap a country as Ireland.”

The medical profession was that towards which his thoughts and studies were at first directed. But occurrences, apparently trifling, are often appointed by Divine Providence to alter the current of our plans. While at college, young Wilson became acquainted with the Rev. Michael Hewetson, one of the prebendaries of St. Patrick's cathedral, and archdeacon of Kildare; the acquaintance ripened into intimacy, and the archdeacon, judging that his friend possessed a disposition and talents which might be employed advantageously in the work of the ministry, persuaded him to turn his thoughts towards the sacred office of a minister of Christ.

“During his residence in Dublin, he conducted himself,” says his first biographer, “with the utmost regularity and decorum ; and by his diligent application made a great proficiency in academical learning. He continued at college till the year, 1686, when, on St. Peter's day, the 29th of June, he was, at the immediate instance and desire of his friend Mr. Hewetson, ordained a deacon by Dr. Moreton, bishop of Kildare," in the cathedral church of that diocese, which was consecrated on the same day. On that occasion, he and the archdeacon jointly presented a small silver paten for the service of the communion table, on the inside of which was engraved this inscription :

DEO ET ALTARI ECCLESIÆ CATHEDRALIS S'TÆ BRIDGIDÆ DARENSIS SACRUM; with IH S in the middle ; - and on the reverse, Ex unitis Devotionibus maxime Amicorum Mich. Hewetson et Tho. Wilson : Ille Presbyter, et Prebendarius Ecclesiæ Cathedralis S’ti Patricij, Dubl: Hic ad sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem solemniter admissus die Consecrationis hujus Ecclesiæ, viz. Festo S'ti Petri 1686.” *

* The following is a translation of these words :- Dedicated to God, and for the use of the altar of the cathedral church of St. Bridget of Kildare, by the united devotion of two dear friends, Michael Hewetson and Thomas Wilson: The former a Presbyter, and Prebendary of the Cathedral Church of St. Patrick, in Dublin ; the latter, solemnly admitted to the holy order of Deacons on the day of the consecration of this Church, viz. on St. Peter's day, 1686.

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