« ZurückWeiter »
the church. He prepares us by several hints to expect the ultimate occurrence of this solemn event; noticing, in the course of the history, several periods of his life at which he felt, in a certain degree, the promptings of “ divine grace” to enter into “the service of Christ.” But the fascinations of literature and the world had still withheld him, till summoned by this last decisive and irresistible call, which occurred in his forty-sixth year. The church was, of course, most ready to receive him; and there is a delectable account of divers solemn deliberations and consultations held some time before concerning the change of his dress, as preparatory to his induction. He had previously taken another preparatory step, but short of becoming a down-right priest. From this previous step he was enabled, by favour of the pope, to leap at once into the very midst of the church.
It is but melancholy, to be sure, thus to see a man return from making the circuit of universal learning, as desperately befooled with superstition as the most degraded boor that could not spell the title-pages of his learned writings. So profound a scholar, however, being so excellent a catholic, had been worth more that loads of gold to the church, if he had really been zealous for its interests; but he was not, as appears from his taking so slight a polemic share in its defence. And as to the grand object for which every established church professes to be instituted, the instruction of the people, he seems really never to have recollected any thing of the kind. There are various indications of the utmost contempt of the vulgar; and we observed one remarkable passage in which he deplores, in the following terms, the fate of a person who had been expected to obtain honourable distinction by producing a “copious commentary on the Periegesis of Dionysius ;”
“But it was his fortune to be banished to a rustic and ignoble retirement, for the purpose of instructing the inhabitants in religion, where he grew old without fulfilling any of the expectations which he had excited.” Vol. I. p. 247.
Our author was first made abbot of Aulnai, and after
ward nominated bishop of Soissons, which see he exchanged with the bishop of Avranches. But after holding the episcopal station some time, he became so intolerably tired of its routine, and of its troublesome duties relative to the vindication and disposition of ecclesiastical property, that he abdicated the bishopric, well content with the abbacy of Fontenai, as a pecuniary succedaneum.
In whatever station or residence, his ardour in literary pursuits continued unabated to the very evening of his life, which closed at Paris, in 1721, at the age of ninetyone.- Dr. Aikin has added “a catalogue of his works, extended to the limits of a brief analysis.
The Work of Faith, the Labour of Lode, and the Patience of Hope,
illustrated ; in the Life and Death of the Reo. Andrew Fuller, late Pastor of the Baptist Church at Kettering, and Secretary to the Baptist Missionary Society, from its Commencement, in 1792. Second Edition, with Corrections and Additions. Chiefly extracted from his own Papers, by John RYLAND, D.D. 8vo.
The very strong and, we trust, salutary interest, with which we have read this highly valuable publication is of such a nature as to have much indisposed us to resume the volume for the purposes of ordinary criticism. It is not that subjects for criticism are not presented in plenty and variety ; but the predominant feeling with which it seems to claim to be perused, is nearly identical with that with which we should wish to read a book of devotions. We should hope that, in the case of a large proportion of its readers, something like this will have been, and will be the prevailing state of mind; and we must confess we should think no little commiseration due in any instance where a very considerable measure of such a sentiment had not accompanied the perusal, whether the preventing cause were religious insensibility, or the prejudices of party and opinion.
Most readers of the book, we think, will be satisfied that the present biographer was the proper person, and probably the only person, for the office which, nevertheless, he would gladly have consigned to any other competent and consenting writer ; “while he would willingly have subserved the undertaking, without being known to have had a share in the compilation.” The work has remained in the right hands. Dr. Ryland was nearly coeval with Mr. Fuller ; became acquainted with him very early in the Christian course and public labours of both ; communicated with him on the theological perplexities
which exercised and embarrassed his judgment in the first years of his ministry ; co-operated with him in public services; witnessed the unfolding of his talents and zeal; gradually grew into a friendship which continued through life, confirmed and perpetually augmented by a kindred zealous interest for the best cause, by agreement of religious opinions, and by progressive mutual proofs of solid excellence of character; was consulted by him respecting his publications ; entered with him into the spirit, and shared with him in the long and increasing labours, of the missionary enterprise; received from him numberless confidential communications, relative to this and many other concerns, of both a public and personal nature ; and finally has had whatever advantage could be afforded by the discretionary use of all the manuscript papers left at his death, even the most private records of his exercises of piety, speculation, or sorrow.
All this, indeed, is obviously telling how decidedly and deeply in the spirit of friendship the biographer must have delineated his subject. And it were useless to deny that had it been possible for any man, of judgment and honesty equal to those of the excellent author of this volume, to have possessed, without any personal friendship of Mr. Fuller, all that knowledge of his character and proceedings which it was so much through the medium of friendship that Dr. Ryland acquired, he must, as being a more cool and rigorous, have been a somewhat more accurate, estimator of the man. But it is plain that, on the one hand, it is impossible that any one but a friend could have acquired that intimate knowledge, that vivid idea of the character, under the influence of which the present biographer writes; and that, on the other, no man that should become an intimate friend of Fuller, could have failed to receive so strong an impression of his powers and his principles, as to reduce in the estimate, his imperfections to a diminutive amount of deduction from so much excellence: they would not have appeared in any proportion authorizing the name of contrast.
For ourselves, we are most willing to receive the delineation from the hand of conscientious and judicious friendship,-epithets, we believe, never more applicable than in the instance before us. If there be any who are much more solicitous for a severe and punctilious justice, than for the benefit to be derived from contemplating a high Christian character, and a life of extraordinary and memorable usefulness, they doubtless may with due industry come at the means of detecting whatever spots there were on so bright an object.
object. We may, however, be permitted to question, whether an earnest industry is ever exerted for such a purpose without some promptings from a disposition which will be willing to magnify those spots when descried,
These remarks, however, are by no means to be mistaken as implying that Fuller's oldest and most intimate friend has in this memoir attempted an exhibition of a perfect character. It is acknowledged in the work, repeatedly, that this eminent and most genuine servant of Christ and religion, had in his temperament some share of that moral condition which all the servants of Christ deem it is well worth dying to escape from ; while yet it is shown, with the most ample evidence, that if his character was marked by a certain rigour, by an excessive pertinacity of the importance of whatever he held as truth, by a too little qualified tone of condemnatory judgment, by some deficiency of what may justly be denominated liberality, as well of feeling as of opinion, and by a want of the conciliatory manner, the suaviter in modo, which is compatible with the greatest firmness of principle and purpose, --he was at the same time in all things solicitously conscientious, was beyond comparison a more rigid judge and censor of himself than of his fellow-mortals, and was habitually and profoundly abased in the presence of the Divine Judge.
It may well be supposed that his present biographer had less personal cause to be made sensible of such defects, than most other men that came within Fuller's acquaintance, while his own exemplary candour would also make the greatest allowance for them. But with