« AnteriorContinuar »
Hough, he very generously endeavoured, without Dr. Secker's knowledge, to obtain for him the see of Worcester. It was in the course of the same year that his Lordship received a letter from Dr. Wishart, Provost of Edinburgh college, recommending to him his brother and Mr. Wallace, deputies from the established clergy of Scotland, to promote a bill in Parliament for providing a maintenance for their widows and children, which many of them imagined the Bishops would oppose. Dr. Secker paid them all the civility, and did them all the service he could. None of the Bench opposed their bill either publicly or privately, and it was moved for by a Bishop at each of its three readings in the House of Lords.
About the middle of October, in the following year, died Sarah, Duchess dowager of Marlborough. She was buried at Blenheim, by Bishop Secker, whom she had appointed one of her executors. For this choice she could have no other reason than the high opinion she entertained, in common with the rest of the world, of his understanding and integrity; for he never paid the least court to her, either by private adulation, or by accommodating his public conduct to her Grace's political sentiments. On his being made Bishop of Oxford, she paid him some common civilities of neighbourhood, and desired, by Lord Cornbury, to see him. When he had visited her a few times, she requested him to be one of her executors, and read to him the clause in her will relating to them, in which she had given each of them £2,000, and indemnified them from any mistakes which they might honestly make. Before he gave his consent, he consulted Lord Chancellor Hardwicke upon it, who advised him to accept the trust. After this he visited her Grace occasionally every winter. She never
asked him any questions, nor gave him any hints, about the past or future disposal of his vote in Parliament. He always spoke his mind to her very freely, how much soever it differed from hers, and she bore it for the most part, patiently. He blamed her for leaving so much of her estate to persons not related to her, and particularly for giving any thing to himself, who, he told her, was as rich as her Grace. These remonstrances she did not seem to take well, and never said any thing more to him about her will. He therefore concluded that she had struck him out from being one of her executors, but it proved otherwise. She gave each of them an additional £500. None of her money ever came into his Lordship’s hands to be disposed of by him in her life-time. But he had good reason to think that she gave away large sums in charity, to the amount of several thousands every year.
Some time before this, the nation began to be alarmed with the appearances of a rebellion. About the middle of February, 1743-4, the King sent a Message to both Houses of Parliament, acquainting them, that the Pretender's son was meditating an invasion of this kingdom from the coast of France. The Bishop of Oxford took the earliest opportunity, after this declaration, of signalizing his affection to the government, and exciting that of others, by composing a Sermon on the occasion, which he preached at St. James's church the 26th of the same month. A motion was soon after made in the House of Lords to attaint the Pretender's son. It met with some opposition, but was strenuously supported by the friends of the constitution, and amongst others by Bishop Secker, who made a spirited extempore speech in its favour. When the rebellion actually broke out
in September, 1745, he sent immediately a circular letter upon it to his clergy, and drew up and promoted an address from them to the King. On his return to London in October, he preached the abovementioned sermon again at his church and both his chapels, with some alterations and improvements, and leaving it to be printed, went down to a county meeting at Oxford, and back again in a few days to St. James's, when he presented his sermon to the King. It was much read and admired, and has been ranked by the best judges, amongst the first of the many excellent ones which were published on that occasion
In the spring of the year 1748, Mrs. Secker died of the gout in her stomach. She was a woman of great sense and merit, but of a very weak and sickly constitution. They had been married upwards of twenty years, during the greatest part of which time, her extreme bad state of health and spirits had put his affection to the severest trials; by which instead of being lessened, it seemed to become stronger every day. He attended her in all her long illnesses with the greatest care and tenderness, and was always ready to break off any engagement, any study, provided his company could procure her a moment's ease or chearfulness.
Not long after this a bill came into the House of Lords, and afterwards passed into an act, by which all Letters of Orders to Scotch episcopal ministers, not granted by a Bishop of the Church of England or Ireland, were disallowed from Michaelmas, 1748, whether dated before that time or after. This the bishop of Oxford thought a great hardship, and spoke
* It is now in the volume of Sermons printed by himself when Bishop of Oxford, in 1758.
largely against it in the House. He was answered, but with much civility and respect, by Lord Chancellor Hardwicke, who favoured the bill. In the committee however the majority were against it, of which all the Bishops present made part. Bishop Thomas of Lincoln, also spoke against it upon the report. But there they were outvoted. Dr. Wishart, the Provost of Edinburgh college, told his Lordship afterwards that he thought the bill was too hard on the episcopal ministers, and that the Bishops had done right.
The part which Dr. Secker took in this affair did him not the least disservice with his friend the Lord Chancellor, whose sentiments he opposed; and who a little before had made a proposal to him, that if the Deanery of St. Paul's became vacant, he should take it in exchange for the Rectory of St. James's, and the Prebend of Durham. The Bishop accepted the offer, but told his Lordship he should not remind him of it, which he never did. Notwithstanding that, about two years afterwards, on the nomination of Dr. Butler, Dean of St. Paul's, to the see of Durham, Lord Hardwicke immediately wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, who was then at Hanover with the King, recommending the Bishop of Oxford for the Deanery. His Majesty consented, and he was installed in December, 1750.
It was no wonder that after presiding over so extensive and populous a parish for upwards of seventeen years, Bishop Secker should willingly consent to be released from a burden, which began now to grow too great for his strength. Some of his parishioners too had requited him but ill for the pains he sincerely took to serve them in all respects. But far the largest and most creditable part of them were
duly sensible of what they owed to him: and most deeply regretted the loss of a pastor, whose character they reverenced, and by whose labours and instructions they had so greatly profited. When he preached his farewell sermon, the whole audience melted into tears. He was followed with the
prayers and good wishes of those whom every honest man would be most ambitious to please; and there are numbers still living, who retain a strong and grateful remembrance of his incessant and tender solicitude for their welfare.
Having now more leisure both to prosecute his own studies, and to encourage those of others, he gave Dr. Church considerable assistance, in his first and second “ Vindication of the miraculous Powers, &c.” against Dr. Middleton, which were published in the years 1750 and 1751; and he was of equal use to him in his “ Analysis of Lord Bolingbroke's Works,” which appeared a few years afterwards. About the same time began the late Archdeacon Sharp's controversy with the followers of Mr. Hutchinson, which was carried on to the end of the year 1755. The subjects of it were, the meaning of the words Elohim and Berith, the antiquity of the Hebrew language and character, the exposition of the word Cherubim. These pieces made together three volumes in octavo. Bishop Secker read over all Dr. Sharpe's papers before they went to press, and corrected and improved them throughout.
But the ease which this late change of situation gave him was very soon disturbed by a heavy and unexpected stroke, the loss of his three friends, Bishops Butler, Benson, and Berkeley, who were all cut off within the space of one year. Of these eminent men who were thus joined in death, as they had been throughout life, and with whom Bishop Secker was