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consecrated at the Savoy church by archbishop Sharp, assisted by the bishops of Chester and Norwich.
We have now arrived at a period in this good man's life when he begins to be better known. And as his name is in no way connected with the politics of the day, or with public events, we may be permitted, instead of following the order of dates, to bring together in each of the succeeding chapters such little notices as show his temper and spirit in some distinct point of view; and we hope that they will combine to present an eminent and engaging example of one who, in the direction of his life, endeavoured by prayer, watchfulness, and diligence, to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.
His discharge of the duties of the episcopal office may naturally claim our first attention.
HIS CONDUCT AS A BISHOP.
" A bishop is a pastor set over other pastors. They were to ordain
elders. They might receive an accusation against an elder. They were to charge them to preach such and such doctrines ; to stop the mouths of deceivers; to set in order the things that were wanting.”
BISHOP WIlson's Sacra Privata.
Such was bishop Wilson's opinion of the nature of that high office in the church of Christ with which he was now invested ; d, as far as we can judge from the memorials of his life which have been preserved, he endeavoured, by the grace of God, to discharge its duties faithfully to the end of his days. And happy indeed was that island in being the object of his paternal care. At the age of thirty-four he was enthroned in the cathedral of St. Germain, on the 11th of April 1698, six days after his landing in the island.
His devotional exercises on this occasion indicate a heart fully sensible of the goodness of God manifested in his elevation, and a desire that it might not be bestowed upon
him in vain. He confesses his unworthiness of the great favours he received; beseeches guidance and a blessing upon himself and his charge ; seeks protection from the temptations which may be peculiar to his new condition; and particularly asks, that if affliction be required for his correction, it may not be withheld.
A few months after, on the occasion of his laying the foundation-stone of a new chapel, to be built at his own expense, he writes in his memorandum-book the
following prayer, expressive of the same sense of the obligations that were upon him, and the same desire to fulfil them.
“ Bless, O Lord, thy holy church, and particularly this part of it, where Thou hast made me an overseer and guide. O, my great master, let me not satisfy myself in building and beautifying the places dedicated to thy honour, but assist me by thy Holy Spirit, that I may use my utmost endeavours to make every one of these people living temples of the living God, that they may believe in Thee, the chief corner-stone; and that by this faith, both they and I may at last come to worship Thee in heaven, and to give Thee praise and glory for all thy mercies bestowed upon us; for Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory, and honour, and power, for Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are, and were created.”
His official residence, Bishop's-court, was at this time in a very dilapidated state; owing, in part, to its having continued without an inhabitant for eight years; he was therefore obliged to rebuild the dwelling-house, and almost all the offices, from the ground. The expense of these and other necessary improvements amounted to fourteen hundred pounds; a heavy outlay, when we consider that the money-payments of his bishopric did not exceed three hundred pounds a-year. One only regret seems to have possessed his mind with regard to this large expenditure; “ It having pleased God,” he says, “ to bring me to the bishopric of Man, I find the house in ruins, which obliges me to interrupt my charity to the poor in some measure.”
It was also soon after his appointment that the earl of Derby again offered to him the living of Baddesworth, to hold in commendam. For this new proof of his noble patron's regard he was duly thankful, but as he still felt the propriety of the resolutions which he had made at an early period of his ministry, he declined accepting the offer. In this instance, as well as in his conduct on many other occasions, he presented a noble example of a strict adherence to the dictates of his conscience, and showed that he would not allow his worldly interests to give a fair appearance to what he really believed to
In order to our forming a right judgment of his conduct as a governor of the church, it is requisite that we should be acquainted with a few particulars relative to the scene of his exertions.
The Isle of Man is situated in the Irish sea, and nearly at an equal distance from the English and Irish coasts, in latitude between fifty-four and fifty-five degrees north, and longitude about five degrees west. It is about thirty miles in length, varies from eight to twelve miles in breadth, and is about eighty miles in circumference. We should form a very erroneous idea of the place and the people of whom bishop Wilson had the spiritual charge, if we were to judge by their present condition. The towns are handsome and extensive; large sums have been expended, (particularly since the commencement of the present century,) in erecting churches, chapels, a college, schools, places of public amusement, hotels and boarding-houses, markets, piers, and lighthouses. Elegant mansions and tasteful villas are scattered throughout the island, a considerable number of English families have settled there, and the society differs in no respect from that of our larger island. By the last census the population appears to be 41,000. Some soldiers of the British army are always quartered there. Manufactories of paper, cloth, linen, and other commodities, are in full work; and the number of ships belonging to the island in 1829, was 217, of the aggregate burden of 5714 tons.
In all these particulars the Isle of Man has undergone a remarkable change since the days of bishop Wilson. When he was appointed to the see, the population did not exceed 15,000. In the time of Bede, that is, in the eighth century, it had not amounted to more than 2,000. In the early part of the bishop's residence there, the island was frequented by very few strangers; the higher classes of the inhabitants consisted of those who held the soil under the lord of the island; the poor were employed in agriculture and fishing, living chiefly upon oat-cake. and salted herrings, and dwelling in cottages built of sods, often without a window, and with an aperture in the roof for the passage of the smoke. Indeed, habitations of this sort are still to be seen in the more retired parts of the island.
The social state of the people at that period was probably somewhat like the present condition of the Waldenses, or of the flock of Oberlin in the Ban de la Roche, both of which have recently been made so well known to us by numerous publications. Indeed, not only did the bishop exercise his ministry in a sphere similar to that of Oberlin, but he was also a man of the same spirit. Both were holy, zealous, disinterested; both were distinguished, for simplicity, integrity, and sweetness of temper ; both were ardently loved and highly revered; and both diligently helped forward a poor, simple, and unlettered people on their way to heaven.
The Manksmen are represented as being then contented and happy; and so honest that theft was known amongst them.
Their laws were for the most part nothing more than unwritten principles of equity,