Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

As the bishop was zealous in promoting the religious education of the poor, so he was strongly impressed with the idea that the most important encroachments might be made upon the kingdom of darkness by the constant practice of catechising young persons; and he established it as the general usage in the churches, after the afternoon service instead of a sermon. He says, that he considers it 6 of more use to the souls both of the learned and ignorant, than the very best sermon from the pulpit;" and once, being applied to for permission to substitute a sermon, he on these grounds refused to grant it. In a charge delivered in his eighty-fifth year, he states his opinion, that “this is a truth not to be questioned, that the plainest sermon from the pulpit will not be understood by nor profit any who has not been well instructed in the principles of christianity contained in the Church Catechism. So that our preaching is in vain to all such, --which I fear is often the case of a great part of our hearers.

“ The most unlearned know by nature the things contained in the law as soon as they hear it read; but these are the things which they want to be particularly and often made sensible of; namely, the extreme danger a sinner is in while he is under the displeasure of a holy and just God, who can destroy both body and soul in hell :- how a sinner, made sensible and awakened with the danger he is in, may be restored to God's favour ;of the blessing and comfort of a Redeemer;— what that blessed Redeemer has done and suffered to restore us to the favour of God; — what means of grace he has appointed as absolutely necessary to preserve us in the favour of God and in the way of salvation.

“ Christians too often want to be set right, and very particularly to be instructed, in the nature of repentance,

6

of that repentance to which God has promised mercy and pardon, and of faith which is saving, and accompanied with good works and an holy and christian life.

“ These are foundation principles, and such as every pastor of souls is obliged to explain, as he hopes ever to do good by his other labours and sermons.

“ We say to explain, not only in set discourses from the pulpit, but in a plain familiar manner from the desk, where questions may be asked, and things explained, so as both old and young may be edified.

Preaching will always be our duty, but of little use to those who understand not the meaning of the words we make use of in our sermons, as, God knows too many must be supposed not to do, for want of their being instructed in their younger years."

The public ministrations of the day being over,prayer, preaching, catechising, -how shall we describe the good bishop's departure from amongst the village congregation better than in the words of Goldsmith

The service past, around the pious man
With steady zeal the honest rustics ran;
Ev'n children follow'd with endearing wile,
And pluck'd bis gown to share the good man's smile;
His ready smile a parent's warmth express’d,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distress'd ;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven!

Deserted Village. CHAPTER V.

IN HIS CLOSET.

0! happy hours of heavenward thought !

How richly crown'd! how well improved !
In musing o'er the law he taught,
In waiting for the Lord he loved !

Christian Year.

True religion, while it leads us to reverence the outward observances of christianity, and teaches us to reverence them as appointed sources of edification, persuades us also of the necessity of the more secret exercises of devotion, and thereby kindles the light which shines in the world. And so bishop Wilson felt; he looked upon communion with God and his own heart in his chamber, as indispensable means, under God's blessing, of sanctifying the soul which desires to be happy in heaven, and of forming an approved and successful minister of Jesus Christ. He repeated with much satisfaction the saying attributed by Dr. Lightfoot to some learned man, that “ he got more knowledge by his prayers than by all his studies;" and has recorded it as his own opinion, that

a man may have the skill to give christian truths a turn agreeable to the hearers, without affecting their hearts. Human learning will enable him to do this. It is prayer `only that can enable him so to speak as to convert the heart.”

It is no small privilege to be admitted into the closet of such a person, and to be present at the devotional exercises of one whose life bears evidence that he continually resorted to this fountain for refreshment. Every purpose of his heart, every event which occurred, brought him to the throne of grace. His writings, many of them as we believe never intended, and certainly not written, for the public eye, show that on all occasions, whether he received blessings or endured afflictions, he hastened to communion with his God, as a child to his affectionate parent. When the bounty of God was enlarged to him, he seemed overwhelmed with a sense of his unworthiness of such favours, and the guilt he should incur by ungrateful conduct; when sorrow came, he confessed that mercy was in the chastening of the Lord, he looked back to discover the purposes of the Almighty in correcting him, and then set himself to press forward more sedulously in his preparation for that world where there is no sorrow. Like the Psalmist, he could say, “ Whom have I in heaven but Thee ? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee! My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!"

In his private meditations he studiously turned spiritual things to some practical account, always making such personal application of Scripture as might conduce most to his growth in grace, and taking it as a lamp to his feet and a light to his paths, in his daily walk through life.

His well-known and heavenly book of private meditations, devotions, and prayers, entitled Sacra Privata, is divided into fourteen daily portions, and presents to us, in great part, the subjects of his thoughts and petitions during that portion of each day of his life, in which he “ entered into his closet and shut to the door,” and conversed with his Father who " seeth in secret.And none can follow his footsteps into that retirement, and muse upon the holy things upon which he employed his own heart and mind, without being in some degree warmed with a kindred fervour, and feeling the truth of his remark that “frequent prayer, as it is an exercise of holy thoughts, is a most natural remedy against the power of sin.” It is a holy and beautiful book, and often has it soothed the anguish of a spirit tried by bodily suffering, often has it aided and enlivened the devotions of the dying christian, and caused him to forget for a while the sorrows of this present life. The good bishop, though dead, still speaketh ; his voice is still heard in accents of counsel and of comfort; he humbles the readers to the dust with a sense of sin, makes them feel their need of a Saviour, and gladdens them with the tidings that God has amply provided for that need; he leads them on from strength to strength, renewing their humble confidence in Christ, and giving fresh fervour to their prayers

for such a measure of God's grace as may prepare them, before they go hence, for the glorious company of the redeemed, by changing them into the image of Christ. It becomes those who have seen its fruits thus to tell its praises.

It is frequently the business of a biographer to gather, from various and distant quarters, the remarks and fragments of the conversations of the wise and good. In the little book of which we are now speaking, the golden sayings of bishop Wilson are written with his own hand; and perhaps, after all, those pages contain his best biography, since, in placing him before us as a christian man and christian minister, they do but repeat those very remarks and opinions which one of his clergy declared that he had often heard from his own lips, in the ordinary intercourse of life. *

* The writer of these pages cannot help expressing his regret that the Sacra Privata should now be usually printed without the obser

Q

« AnteriorContinuar »