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An Account of the Life, Ministry, and Writings of the late Red. John
Faucett, D.D. ; who was Minister of the Gospel fifty-four years ; first at Wainsgate, and afterwards at Hebdenbridge, in the Parish of Halifax; comprehendiny many Particulars relative to the Revival and Progress of Religion in Yorkshire and Lancashire; and illustrated by copious Extracts from the Diary of the Deceased, from his extensice Correspondence, and other Documents. 8vo.
In looking at a biographical volume of moderate size, which records the general course and principal incidents of a pious, diligent, and useful life, protracted too beyond the ordinary length, it is highly gratifying to reflect how much more is implied than related. Exclusively of childhood and the earlier parts of youth, (in which stage also there might be a worthy preparation for what was to follow, it is the story of perhaps almost sixty years of unremitting exertion applied, day by day, to the most valuable purposes. But in such a course what a prodigious number there have been of distinct acts, involving the voluntary exercise of the understanding, and the different moral and physical powers, directed to objects prescribed by conscience, and performed and repeated with resolute perseverance from a regard to the Almighty! How many myriads of these distinct acts such a life will have included! What a multitude of them, to make up the intellectual and practical exertion of a month or even of a week! And yet, the biographical memoir can record all this only according to the scale of a paragraph of three or four sentences to the month, hardly a single line to a day; though each one of many thousands of these days has contained, in strenuous, well-intended, and for the most part well applied effort, in thought, speech, and practical occupation, a quantity of good agency of which the expression in written words would be enough to fill the greater part of a moderate volume. So much more good has there been in a good man's life than the most prolix biographer could ever tell!
Not that it is a thing to be regretted, that he should be confined to so small a proportion, and should describe generally and collectively, in a few words, that which has been laboriously acted in an almost infinite detail and succession of particulars. This extreme abridgment still forms a record large enough, and often too large, for the small proportion of time which can be well afforded for reading it, by those who come after the good men departed, and have their own close succession of duties to fulfil. But we repeat that it is very pleasing to consider, of how many thousands and tens of thousands of distinct acts and efforts of piety and conscience, and of bow many millions of serious thoughts and emotions, that life consisted, of which the whole written history is limited to a volume which may be read in one or two days. It is also pleasing and striking to reflect, that the Lord of whom these good men have been the faithful servants, retains in the infinite capacity of His memory the entire uncontracted record in all its particulars.
Ideas of this kind have been strongly suggested to us in the perusal of this volume. Though it may be somewhat too large, by that rule of proportion according to which the time and attention of living men can be given to the characters and histories of those who are dead, we have been again and again arrested by the reflection, what a large amount of Christian exertions we have in truth been reading of within the few hours in which we have passed over one ten years, and another ten years, of a life scarcely ever surpassed in the earnest improvement of time, in the exertion of every faculty to effect some good, especially in the service of religion.
It is not on the authority of the book merely, that we employ such strong expressions. Indeed we think that in respect to this great comprehensive virtue of invincible assiduity, the Author, aware of the tendency of his filial partiality, has been so cautious to avoid terms of excess, that he has but barely done justice to his venerable relative. We are certain it would be the concurrent testimony of all who were placed, during a considerable length of time, within near observation of Dr. Fawcett's course of life, that it is hardly within their power to imagine a more perfect example of virtuous industry. We are confident there cannot be one of his very nume. rous pupils, who, if he has had occasion to stimulate himself out of trifling and sluggishness into manly and Christian exertion, by recalling to his mind the examples he has beheld, did not recollect among the very first of them, that of his excellent preceptor. He has thus been, at great distances of time and place, a silent monitor to very many consciences. He was, in the full sense of the word, indefatigable. Even breathing seen
Even breathing seemed hardly more essential to his life, than application to one useful or important employment or another. Neither ill-health, when not in a severe degree, nor inclement seasons, nor the grievances of various kinds which are inevitably incident to a person involved in so many concerns, in short, nothing, literally, but oppressive pain, could suspend this
As a preacher, he had very few Sundays, excepting times of illness, in the whole half-century, exempted from public labours; and though his sermons were not prepared in an elaborate and punctilious manner, they generally cost him a considerable degree of attention ; and they were to be addressed, with very infrequent exception, to the same congregation all the year round. In a numerous seminary for youth, he took not only the general and unintermitted superintendence, but a large share of the toil, for so long a course of years, that by the time he withdrew from it, those of his earliest pupils who had survived so long, were at no great distance from old age.
He was an insatiable reader, and with a freedom and variety of taste unusual, we believe, among that most worthy class of men of the middle and latter parts of the last century, to whom we should be inclined to give the denomination of modern puritans; men characterized by a seclusion almost ascetic from the general habits and gaieties of society, by a high and what was growing to be deemed a rigid standard of mo
rality, maintained both in principle and practice, by a seriousness somewhat approaching to austerity, and by faith formed much on the model of the Puritan divines. Many of these excellent persons we have understood, were considerably restricted as to the extent to which they judged it right, or felt any disposition, to go in the field of literature. Dr. Fawcett, on the contrary, while as fully in the possession of every conscientious perception as any of them, and in every respect one of the worthiest of their number, had a much more craving curiosity, a mind more adapted to receive gratification in many different ways, and comprehended better how all kinds of knowledge may be made to subserve religion. He took a free and ample range among books, and trained his pupils to do so.
His taste was fitted to almost every kind of reading that could in any sense be called good. He had a strong relish for writings of wit and satire, though distinguished by a quite extraordinary degree of gravity of feeling and manners.
But we were not intending to describe his character generally, but only to note the proofs and modes of his singular industry. And there is to be added to the account, a very considerable series of printed works, all composed with deliberate care, though not with protracted severity of study.
That all this should admit of his having the general direction of a considerable farm, and of his frequently employing himself in the operation of bookbinding, may well appear somewhat enigmatical to many good men who would nevertheless think it strange to be taxed with idleness. For the general illustration of the devout spirit and the conduct of this most excellent and useful man, we refer to the book. As to the one important and admirable quality of which we have made this brief exhibition, we were unwilling that so extraordinary an example of it should receive less than the due honour, in consequence of that measured language of eulogy which the biographer knew he could not exceed without being liable to the imputation or suspicion of indulging his
affection in terms of exaggeration,-imputation, we mean, from those who did not know Dr. Fawcett.
While so many vain and wicked beings are passing over the stage of mortality, worthless and useless, or worse, from the entrance to the departure, it is a cheering, and indeed quite a noble spectacle, to see a life distinguished by the full predominant character of religion from twelve years old to the close at near eighty. Nothing can be more delightful than the picture of this early piety, accompanied as it was by an earnest and unremitting passion for the instruction afforded by books. Some of the books are enumerated which aided this self-discipline, in which an elder brother was an associate, and which included an application to the Supreme Instructor. “ They often retired into the barn together for prayer, whither their pious mother, pleased with these early appearances of serious concern, sometimes secretly followed them to listen to their artless and devout aspirations."
Apprenticed at a very early age, in consequence of the death of his father, to a manual employment, the subject of the memoir remained unalterably under this consecration which had passed on him almost in his infancy. His daily task of service was rigorous, so that he had scarcely any time for reading but what was redeemed from sleep. But the Bible was his constant companion, both when he could look into it and when he could not.
“ Between the age of twelve and fourteen he had read it over repeatedly ; and he thought himself enriched for ever when he had obtained possession of a small pocket Bible. Perhaps it would scarcely be proper to relate the different plans he adopted to elude the notice of the family, who had no idea of the enjoyment he found in reading and retirement, and the means he employed to rescue from sleep a little time for these purposes. Happily for his turn of mind, he had a small lodging room to himself; a considerable part of his pocket-money was employed in the purchase of candles. The family retired at an early hour; he, among the rest, took his candle up stairs, and, to avoid suspicion, when he had been a little time in the room, hid the candle till he supposed the family were all asleep; when he betook himself to his delightful employment for a considerable part of the night. Sometimes he tied a weight to his foot, and at others fastened his hand to the bed