Imágenes de páginas

motherly, but is the like care taken with that excellent man, Mr. Ryle, who has not only delivered a great many political speeches, but has written pamphlets on the subject of Church and State? We trust our worthy brother has been nursed with much watchfulness, for he has the political disease very heavily upon him if we may judge from certain of his tracts. He is a fearful instance of a Political Churchman. We believe the High Church party consider him to be a Dissenter, and we rejoice to believe that they are pretty near the mark, judging the good man doctrinally; and if they are right in their views Mr. Ryle is a political Dissenter himself, only he is out of his proper place. Will some of his friends remind him of his danger ? And will they at the same time take note, that for every word upon politics spoken by us, pious churchmen can be found who have uttered ten or a hundred. In them it seems to be commendable, and in us censurable: how is this?

To the spiritual Churchman we would say :- Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics ; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher's mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject. The abstinence of the preacher from such themes would be eminently praiseworthy, if it were not possibly censurable ; for he may have neglected a distasteful duty.

The truth is that many of us are loath to touch politics at all, and would never do so if we were not driven to it. Our life-theme is the gospel, and to deal with the sins of the State is our "strange work,” which we only enter upon under the solemn constraints of duty. To see Popery made the national religion has aroused the gentlest among us. An evangelical church, imposed upon us by the State, was a grievance and a wrong, but to force a shamelessly Ritualistic Establishment upon us as the national religion is a tyranny which no Englishman ought to bear. Is an Anglican priest to swing his censer in our faces in the name of the nation? Are the idols and breaden deities of Ritualism to be held up before us, with this exclamation, “These be thy gods, 0 England !" The case is so, and we protest for we are Protestants—we will not tamely endure it for we worship the living God. We will go on with our spiritual duties quietly enough if those in power will deal out equal measure to all "religions. We shall be delighted to have no more grounds of appeal to public justice, and no more reasons for difference with our fellow Christians. If we are political, give us our rights and we shall be so no more. If our spirituality be precious to our antagonists, let them deliver us from the temptation which puts it in peril.

For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear. Till religion in England is entirely free from State patronage and control, till the Anglican Papacy ceases to be called the national religion, till every man of every faith shall be equal before the eye of the law as to his religious rights, we cannot, and dare not cease to be political. Because we fear God, and desire his glory, we must be political—it is a part of our piety to be so. When nearest to God in prayer, we pray that his church may neither oppress nor be oppressed ; when walking in holiest fellowship with Jesus, we long that he alone may be head of the church, and that she may no more defile herself with the kinge of the earth. Let not our opponents mistake us : we dare carry our cause before the throne of God, and habitually do so. Our protests before man are repeated in our prayers to God. Our deepest religious emotions are aroused by the struggle forced upon us. We will not say that Nonconformists who are not abused as political Dissenters are not pious, but we will say that, if we shirked the work which makes us political, we should prove ourselves traitors to the Lord our God. The curse of Meroz would fall upon us if we came not up to the help of the Lord in this the day of battle. The history of the nation, and the destiny of millions, may depend uponthe faithfulness of Nonconformists at this hour, and our persuasion is that the day will come when it shall be fame rather than dishonour to have been reckoned-A POLITICAL DISSENTER.

Rowland Hill.*

[ocr errors]

BY VERNON J. CHARLESWORTH. Ro POWLAND HILL, the sixth son of Sir Rowland Hill, was born at

Hawkstone, August 23rd, 1745, and, as a boy, was characterised by a remarkable vivacity which distinguished him through life. The frankness of his disposition and the transparency of his character endeared him to all who knew him. His ambition as a child was betrayed when, in answer to the question proposed by his father, "Well, Rowly, and what should you like to be ?” he frankly replied, •I should like to be a baronet, and sit in a great chair." He had probably thought as little about it as the boy who, when he was told he could not be a king said, " Then, father, I should like to be a beadle." The official paraphernalia of the ecclesiastical functionary was as attractive to the mind of the youthful aspirant as the insignia of royalty. The desire to “ sit in a great chair was only a momentary impulse which never after influenced his mind, until, feeble with the weight of years and wearied with the incessant toils of an active life, he awaited the summons to depart.

His conversion in early life was attributable, in a great measure, to the influence of his elder brother Richard and his sister Jane, wbo

Although the subject is by no means new, our friend has produced a very interesting paper. It is opportune now that the new Surrey Chapel is about to be commenced, -Ed.

wrote to him, when at Eton, and urged him to decide for Christ. Mr. Sidney writes : “ The opening flowers of his mind were consecrated to God ; and his conceptions of the truths of religion, at this early age, were so luminous and distinct, that he never saw occasion to alter his first views in any essential particular." Having found the Lord himself, he sought the salvation of his school-fellows, and had the joy of knowing he had been made the means of blessing to many: These youthful converts incorporated themselves into a religious society, that they might be fellow-helpers of each other's joy and growth in grace.

From Eton young Hill was sent to St. John's, Cambridge, to qualify himself for one or other of the six livings in Norfolk, which were in the gift of the Hill family, and which were restricted to the fellows of St. John's College. Evangelical Christianity was at a discount at the University, but Rowland Hill was prepared to stand to his colours at all hazards. The new scenes and associates of college life were not allowed to divert him from his simple aim as a devout believer and a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. His godly life was an eloquent rebuke of the wordly dissipations of his fellow-students, who made him the butt of their ridicule, and the object of their affected contempt. “The old shoe-black at the gate was the only person,” he says, “who gave him a cordial smile.” There is a sublimity in the heroism of a youth who, in fidelity to the claims of conscience, dares to stand alone in defiance of the storm of abuse which a godly life provokes. Our national colleges, instead of being a nursery for the soul, have too often proved rocks and quicksands, on which many a young Christian has made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience; and little hope of improvement can be cherished till Christianity shall again subdue the learning of the age to the authority of Christ.

Good John Berridge, of Everton, on hearing of the young Christian at St. John's, addressed him a letter in which he desired his acquaintance. The house of this saintly man proved an oasis to Rowland Hill in the spiritual desert of college life, and the society to which he was there introduced, was a source of comfort and strength to him in pursuing his studies and witnessing to the truth.

While anxiously seeking to promote the holy growth of his own soul he, at the same time, endeavoured to win his fellow students to Christ, and commenced preaching in the villages around the town of Cambridge. He sought out the sick at their houses, and visited the prisoners in the gaol. In these holy exercises he found a stimulus for his own piety, and gained by his early experiences much of the wisdom which characterised the labours of maturer years. His exertions in preaching the gospel being regarded by the authorities as irregular, he was threatened with various punishments, but this decided him the more to pursue the course he had taken. Having sought the advice of his prototype, George Whitefield addressed him a characteristic letter, dated London, December 27, 1769, in which he says—" Visiting the sick and imprisoned, and instructing the ignorant, are the very vitals of true and undefiled religion. If threatened, denied degree, or expelled for this, it will be the best degree you can take.”

In July of the following year Rowland Hill returned home for the long vacation, where he met with no encouragement from his parents.


Their opposition, indeed, was a cross which he found it very hard to bear. His brother Richard and his sister Jane, however, to whom he owed so much for their pious letters, earnest prayers, and gracious counsels, received him cordially and wished him God speed. While at home he received another letter from Whitefield, who manifested great interest in his welfare. Nothing daunted, he spoke of the Saviour to the various members of his family, the servants in the house, and also to his father's tenantry. Such a light as his could not be hidden under the bushel of prudential reserve, or quenched by a time-serving expediency. How was his heart gladdened when he could write to his beloved counsellor, and tell him that his brother Brian had also decided for Christ!

Returning to college after the vacation, Rowland Hill was more determined than ever to devote himself to the work of the gospel, in spite of all opposition. He was heartily greeted by the few who were in sympathy with him, and especially by the people to whom he had ministered. The simple prayer with which he commenced the year 1768 was the spirit of every new year's prayer during the rest of his life~"Lord, grant us a deal of blessed preaching this next year.” About this time the authorities of Oxford resolved to stop those young men who, like Rowland Hill at Cambridge, were violating the proprieties of University etiquette by preaching in unconsecrated places. Accordingly six of the foremost of the young enthusiasts were summoned before the vice-chancellor, and the heads of houses, " for holding Methodistical tenets, and taking upon them to pray, read, and expound the Scriptures, and sing hymns in a private house.” Some of them, it was argued, Were of low origin, others were illiterate, and one had been a barber! Their principal, to his honour, be it said, defended their doctrines from the articles of the church, and bore unequivocal testimony to the purity of their lives; but failing in his plea, he observed that " as these gentlemen were expelled for having too much religion, it would be very proper to enquire into the conduct of some who had too little.” To what lengths will not bigotry go when inflamed by jealousy ! Did these grave professors never read the Saviour's anathema pronounced on those who offend one of his little ones? Had they never read the rebuke which he administered to their intolerant prototypes, “ He that is not against us is on our side” ? When men dig a channel in which the river of the water of life shall flow, they would rather dam it up at the spring-head than allow it to overflow the boundaries they have defined. As these young men were members of a society at Oxford, with some of whom Rowland Hill maintained a correspondence, he deplored their expulsion but was in no way discouraged from pursuing the same course he had ever done. While devoted in his attachment to the church, he would not profess absolute submission, and was therefore refused ordination by no less than six bishops! He could not compromise his conscience by mental reservation-a popular but pernicious expedient of modern days—but preferred to labour untrammelled, at the sacrifice of his social status and worldly prospects.

Prior to taking orders he returned home, and travelled from place to place as an evangelist. His father allowed him but a small sum annually, to discourage him in his course, but without avail. His friends at Bath purchased for him a saddle horse, upon which he rode to his preaching engagements. He was often without means to pay his night's lodging, but was never forsaken in his hour of need.

Sir Rowland Hill at length resolved to interfere and sent his son Richard to persuade Rowland to give up itinerant preaching and return home. He traced him to Kingswood, near Bristol, and found him surrounded by an immense multitude of colliers, to whom he Was preaching with great earnestness. The effect of the sermon was remarkable, and Mr. Richard Hill was much affected by the scene. Rowland guessed his brother's errand, and on concluding his sermon announced, “My brother Richard will preach here at this time to-morrow." Feeling it to be a call from the Lord, he resigned his commission in the army, and remained to preach.

In 1773 Rowland Hill was ordained by Dr. Willis, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, without any promise or condition whatever. He only received deacon's orders, not accepting those of priest, on the condition alone by which they were offered to him, namely, regularity, and so, as his drollery expressed it, he ran off with only one boot on.” The same year he was married to Miss Tudway, who was a most worthy woman, and who accompanied him on several of his preaching tours. The stories of his treatment of his wife are pure inventions. When told of the remark he was reported to have made of Mrs. Hill's dress, he exclaimed with indignation, “It is an abominable untruth, derogatory to my character as a Christian and a gentleman. They would make me out a bear.” Nothing was more calculated to provoke his indignation than the stories which were fabricated respecting him. Those who were most intimate with him bear unequivocal testimony to the manliness of his character, and the consistency of his conduct as a gentleman. In private life he was always characterised by his fidelity to the claims of conscience, but he never scrupled to violate the conventionalities of polite life if they interposed to prevent the realisation of his all-absorbing aims. Referring with indignation to some who had given currency to certain baseless stories respecting him he said, “I have humbled myself in following these gentry in language almost as low as their own; like eels, they are now at liberty to sink into their own mud and dirt as their safest place of refuge."

After his ordivation he was curate of the parish of Kingston, near Taunton, for twelve months, and then again entered upon a course of itinerancy, which he continued until he commenced his labours at Surrey Chapel and Wotton-under-Edge. He was a frequent preacher in the tabernacles of Moorfields and Tottenham Court Road, where he drew large audiences. His views being Calvinistic, he was in opposition to Wesley and Fletcher, and took a prominent part in the controversy then raging. That time and temper should have been lost by the good men whose whole energies were required to fight the common battle against sin caused him great pain, and he was a reluctant partisan in the strife between fellow-servants in the same good cause. W. Jay says of him that “his Calvinism never ran to seed.” In speaking of the doctrine of election he used to say—“I cannot fathom with my puny understanding the mystery of the divine decrees. I can only say, with St. Paul, 'Oh, the depth!' I know it is my duty to invite all to

« AnteriorContinuar »