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“ July 15, 1745. A most sad dear year, even as hard with the poor as 1741; for though there is corn enough, (at a very dear rate,) yet the people have no monies. We are perfectly drained. I have bought already near one hundred bushels, and shall make it up that quantity before new corn comes in, besides my own growth. No prospect of a fishery. A fine crop upon the ground, except the mountains and the Curragh."*
But Bishop Wilson's charity did not confine itself to the relief of temporal necessities. Besides private exertions in his master's cause, which none who have read his thoughts on that subject can doubt, he contributed towards the general improvement of these unlettered islanders, with a liberality which we can hardly tell how his means supplied. He must often have exceeded the contents of his “poor's box,” and must always have administered his little funds with a singular prudence and discretion. He caused parts of the Scripturest and several good books to be translated and printed in the Manks language; he took part in founding and supplying parochial libraries; he distributed bibles and testaments; put the schools in his diocese on such a footing as to render them seminaries of strict morals and sound learning; and built, or assisted in building and endowing, several churches and chapels.
* The Curragh is a large tract of land running the breadth of the island between Ballaugh and Ramsea. It was formerly a bog, which, being drained, proved one of the richest parts of the island. Bishop Wilson's History of the Isle of Man.
+ A translation of the Scriptures into the Manks language was commenced under the superintendence and at the cost of bishop Wilson. The Gospel of St. Matthew was printed before his death, and the other Evangelists and the Acts were at that time ready for the press. It is related that bishop Hildesley, Wilson's successor, entered with great interest and zeal upon the completion of this arduous and valuable undertaking, and that he often said, “ He only wished to live to see it finished, and then he should be content to die.” Through the liberal assistance of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, this great work was completed. On Saturday November 22, 1772, he received the last part of the Bible, and sang, that evening, the song of Simeon (Luke ii. 29), with much feeling, in the presence of his family. On Sunday he addressed his family after evening prayers on the uncertainty of life, next day he was
Nor were his clergy omitted from his schemes of benevolence. He used great exertions to recover some losses, which without such assistance they could never have obtained; he increased, as far as he was able, their incomes, and repaired their houses ; and established a fund for their widows and orphans, contributing largely to it himself. His own account of the clergy, given in the History of the Isle of Man, shows that they stood in much need of such kindness as he extended to them.
“ The clergy are generally natives; and indeed it cannot well be otherwise, none else being qualified to preach and administer the sacraments in the Manks language ; for the English is not understood by two-thirds at least of the island, though there is an English school in every parish; so hard is it to change the language of a whole country.
“ The livings are generally small: the two parsonages are, indeed, worth near sixty pounds a-year ; but the vicarages, the royal bounty* included, are not worth above twenty-five pounds, with which, notwithstanding, the deprived of his senses by a paralytic seizure, and in a week he was no more. Agreeably to his own desire, he was buried by the side of bishop Wilson, wishing to be united in death with a man whose example he had endeavoured to imitate through life.
This was the sum of 1001. per annum granted in the reign of king Charles the Second, payable out of the excise for ever, for the better maintenance of poor, vicars and schoolmasters, “ that, through the poverty of the place, the church might never want fit persons to perform divine offices, and to instruct the people in necessary truths and duties.”
frugal clergy have maintained themselves and pretty numerous families very decently: of late, indeed, the great resort of strangers has made provisions of all sorts as dear again as formerly.”
When we consider all the benevolent acts of this warmhearted man, he seems to have looked upon the whole population of the island as his family, and to have sought out every opportunity of doing them good. George Herbert, whose well-known book, entitled The Country Parson, he always loved and recommended, in describing the parson's charity presents a true picture of bishop Wilson. “ All his works relish of charity. When he riseth in the morning, he bethinketh himself what good deeds he can do that day, and presently doeth them, counting that day lost in which he hath not exercised his charity. He first considers his own parish," (with the bishop it was his diocese] 6 and takes care that there be not a beggar or idle person in his parish, but that all be in a competent way of getting their living.”
Yet, with all this, the Isle of Man'contained not within its borders a more humble mind than his. The language in which he speaks of the charities of his uncle, Dr. Sherlock, expresses what he thought of the good which was done by his own hand. “ If he gave alms to the poor, and denied himself many satisfactions which he could easily have purchased, he did not, however, pretend to merit by these exercises of piety any more than a steward pretends to merit by being faithful, or a sick man by being orderly."
And, in an account-book, in which he entered the sums employed from time to time for pious uses, these words were found written; “A very small page will serve for the number of our good works, when vast volumes will not contain our evil deeds.”
HIS OLD AGE, AND LATTER DAYS.
Adieu most worthy prelate, now released
Lines on the Death of Bishop Wilson,
by Dr. Cooper of Chester.
The name of bishop Wilson is so little connected with other names or incidents of note, that we have not seen any necessity for adhering to the order of time in this little narrative; and we rather thought that to take a distinct sketch of his character in different points of view would convey a more correct idea of what he really was, and ure to him that affection and reverence, to obtain which he only requires to be known. But our memoir, few as its details have been, is now drawing to its close, and we purpose to gather up the fragments which remain relative to that period of his life when he might fairly be termed an old man; and these we shall arrange in the order of their occurrence.
Here then we have to contemplate the aged christian bishop, still proceeding in his wonted course of usefulness, and not retiring from the duties of a minister of Christ while health and life were spared to him.
In the year 1735, at the age of seventy-two, he made his last visit to England, and, while in London, he did not omit the opportunity of being presented to king George the Second, and his consort, queen Caroline. He came into the drawing-room in his usual simple dress, having a small black cap on the top of his head, with his hair flow. ing and silvery, and his shoes fastened with leathern thongs instead of buckles. His appearance excited some surprise, and, joined with his well-known piety and virtues, awakened feelings of the deepest veneration. It is related, that as soon as he entered the presence-chamber, the king, stepping out of the circle of his courtiers, and advancing towards the bishop, took him by the hand and said—“My lord, I beg your prayers."
Nor was the queen less impressed with reverence for his character; she wished to keep him in England, and with that view offered him translation. One day when she was conversing with him, she turned round to her levee and said " See here, my lords, is a bishop who does not come for translation ?”
“ No, and please your majesty," was his remark, “ I will not in my old age leave my wife because she is poor !”
Nothing could have been more distressing to bishop Wilson than to observe the growing corruption of manners and principles in that “ little quiet nation,” as he once could term it. He found it poor, indeed, and unlettered,