Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

a reserve and coldness in his manner, that threw a damp on conversation, and prevented strangers from being perfectly at their ease before him. This was by some imputed to pride. But in reality it arose from very different causes : sometimes from bodily pain, which he often felt when he did not own it; sometimes from his spirits being wasted or depressed by the fatigues of the morning; sometimes from accidental uneasiness arising in the course of business, which he could not immediately shake off his mind. To this should be added, that the natural loftiness of his figure, and the opinion generally and justly entertained of his learning and strictness of life, were of themselves apt to produce a kind of awe and constraint in his company, when he was far from wishing to inspire it.

It was remarkable that he chose always rather to talk of things than persons; was very sparing in giving his opinion of characters, very candid when he did. Of his own good deeds or great attainments he never spoke, nor loved to hear others speak. Compliments were very irksome to him. They visibly put him out of humour, and gave him actual pain; and he would sometimes express his dislike of them in such plain terms, as effectually prevented a repetition of them from the same person.

To his domestics he was a gentle and indulgent master. Many of them he suffered to continue with their families in his house after they were married. None of them were discharged on account of sickness or infirmity, but were assisted with the best advice that could be had at a great yearly expense. Those who had attended him in illness, or served him long and faithfully, he never failed to reward with an unsparing hand. Towards his other dependants, his behaviour was even and friendly. He expected

every one about him to do their duty, of which he himself first set them the example; and, provided they did so with any tolerable care, they were secure of his favour. Of slight faults he took no notice; of great ones he would express his sense at the time strongly; but never suffered them to dwell or rankle on his mind, or operate to the future prejudice of those whose general conduct was right. To his relations he was continually doing the best-natured, the handsomest, the most generous things; assisting them in difficulties, comforting them in affliction, promoting their interests, and improving their circumstances reasonably, not aggrandizing or enriching them invidiously.

The unaltered kindness he shewed to the two ladies that lived with him from the time of his marriage to that of his death, that is, for upwards of two-andforty years, was a remarkable instance of steady friendship; and shewed that his soul was no less formed for that rare union of virtuous minds, than for every other generous affection. The younger of those two ladies, Mrs. Catherine Talbot, (who, to the finest imagination and the most elegant accomplishments of her sex added the gentlest manners, and a disposition thoroughly benevolent and devout,) did not long survive the Archbishop. She died on the 9th of January, 1770, in the 49th year of her age.

Thus much it has been judged requisite to lay before the world in relation to Archbishop Secker; not with any view of exalting his character higher than it deserves, which is quite needless; but of making its real value more generally known, and of rescuing it from the misrepresentations of a few misinformed or malevolent men. To some, no doubt, the portrait here drawn of him will appear a very flattering one ;

but it will be much easier to call than to prove it such. Nothing has been advanced but what is founded on the most authentic evidence, nor has any circumstance been designedly strained beyond the truth. And if his Grace did really live and act in such a manner that the most faithful delineation of his conduct must necessarily have the air of a panegyric, the fault is not in the copy, but in the original.

After this plain representation of facts therefore, it cannot be thought necessary to enter here into a particular examination of the various falshoods which his Grace's enemies have so industriously circulated, in order to fix, if possible, some stain upon his reputation. It would be very unreasonable to expect that he of all others, so high in rank and so active in the discharge of his duty, should, amidst the present rage of defamation, escape without his full share of censure; and it would be very weak to apprehend the least ill consequences from it. There is so little doubt from what quarter those invectives come, and to what causes they are owing, that they do not appear to have made the slightest impression on any unprejudiced mind, and, for want of ground to support them, are sinking hourly into oblivion. If a life spent like Archbishop Secker's, and a spirit such as breathes through every page of his writings, are not a sufficient confutation of all such idle calumnies, it is in vain to think that any thing else can be so. All that his friends have to do, is to wait a little while with patience and temper. Time never fails to do ample justice to such characters as his; which, if left to themselves, will always rise by their own force above the utmost efforts made to depress them, and acquire fresh lustre every day in the eyes of all considerate and dispassionate men.

[blocks in formation]

Prove all things : hold fast that which is good : abstain

from all appearance of evil.

By the extensive word, all, the Apostle in this place evidently means no more, than all things which may be right or wrong in point of conscience. And by proving them he means, not that we should try them both by experience, which would be an absurd and pernicious direction : but that we should examine them by our faculty of judgment, which is a wise and useful exhortation. Accordingly Christianity recommends itself to us at first sight by this peculiar presumption of its being the true religion, that it makes application to men as reasonable creatures, and claims our assent on account of the proofs, which it offers. By these alone it prevailed originally: on these it still relies; and requires faith for the principle of our obedience, only because it produces evidence for the ground of our faith. Now such an institution surely is intitled to receive the fair treatment which it gives, when it asks of mankind no more than this; that they should first consider well the several obligations they are under; then adhere to whatever they find to be enjoined them, and lastly, avoid whatever they conceive to be forbidden : which momentous duties I shall endeavour to explain and enforce in three discourses on the text,

[blocks in formation]

That Beings, capable of thought, are obliged to think, is very obvious: that they should think with greatest care on subjects of the greatest importance, is equally so: and the question, what obligations we are under, is plainly of the utmost importance. For our behaviour, and consequently our happiness, depends on the determination of it. Therefore we are just as much bound to conduct our understandings well, as our tempers or outward actions. And the opportunities given us of shewing, either diligence in procuring information, and fairness in judging upon it, or the contrary, are trials, which God hath appointed, of every one's moral character; and perhaps the chief trials, which some have to go through. Every instance, greater or less, of willfully disregarding truth, instead of seeking and embracing it, argues a proportionable depravity of heart; whether the dislike be manifested in a studious opposition to it, or an indolent scorn of it.

There are some who openly profess an utter contempt of all inquiry ; despise such as are solicitous either about belief or practice, and even affect a thoughtlessness, which they find to be grown fashionable. Now really, if this be an accomplishment, it is one, that whoever will may easily be master of. But surely men ought to think seriously once for all, before they resolve for the rest of their days to think

There are strong appearances, that many things of great consequence are incumbent on us. No one can be sure, that these appearances are fallacious, till he hath examined into them. Many, who have, are fully persuaded of their truth. And if there be such things in the world as folly and guilt, it can never be either wise or innocent to disdain giving ourselves any trouble about the matter, and

no more.

« AnteriorContinuar »