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musings that kindled my passions, were on plans for abandoning it. My heart felt a sickening vulgarity before my knowledge could make comparisons. My involuntary, unreflecting perceptions of the mental character of my very few acquaintance was probably just, as to their being qualified to reciprocate my sentiments and fancies.' Thus, full of restless thoughts, wishes, and passions, on subjects that interested none of his acquaintance, it can excite no surprise that his weaving was often performed very indifferently, and that the mastermanufacturer by whom he was employed, was continually resolving that he would take no more of it. When Foster brought his piece into the 'taking-in-room,' as it is commonly called, he would turn his head aside, and submit with unequivocal repugnance to the ordeal of inspection.'—vol., i. pp. 6, 7.
Foster was not more than fourteen when he first allowed a second mind to share the secret of his religious solicitudes, and just after the completion of his seventeenth year he joined the Baptist church at Hebdenbridge, of which the estimable Dr. Fawcett was the pastor. Urged by him and others to devote himself to the ministry, he soon approved their counsel, and became an inmate at Brearley Hall, where the doctor, in addition to the labours of a school, superintended the studies of a few theological candidates. The zeal with which he is stated to have applied himself at this period to the acquisition of knowledge, was vehement, displaying itself sometimes in the occupation of the entire night in reading and meditation. His lessons were not easily learned, inferior minds surpassing him in the facility with which they performed the prescribed tasks. 'One method which he adopted for improving himself in composition, was that of taking paragraphs from different writers, and trying to remodel them, sentence by sentence, into as many forms of expression as he possibly could. His posture on these occasions was to sit with a hand on each knee, and, moving his body to and fro, he would remain silent for a considerable time, till his invention in shaping his materials had exhausted itself. This process he used to call pumping. He had a great aversion to certain forms of expression which were much in vogue among some. religious people, and declared that if possible, he would expunge them from every book by act of parliament, and often said, 'We want to put a new face upon things.'
In his twenty-first year, he entered the Baptist college, Bristol, of which institution the Rev. Joseph Hughes, the founder and secretary of the British and Foreign Bible Society, was classical tutor, a man of superior and well-cultivated mind, with whom, there being but little difference of age, and much congeniality of mind, Foster soon formed a deep and permanent friendship, from which it is easy to perceive that he derived con. siderable advantage in the way of check and stimulus. It is impossible to estimate the worth of such a friendship to one possessing the constitution and temperament that belonged to Foster. Next to the presence and presidence of a sincere religious principle, there was nothing tbat operated so powerfully in promoting his mental healthfulness and activity. Hughes entertained towards him a high but not undistinguishing respect, and, able to detect defects, he had the courage to expose them. The intercourse between these gifted minds seems to have been conducted in a style and temper of singular manliness, the affection which bound them together being proof against injury from shocks of fidelity that would have shivered to pieces a weaker and less honest love.
On leaving the college at the close of the first year, he preached for a time at Newcastle and Dublin, without receiving any invitation to the pastorate. This, as the editor observes, 'will not appear surprising to the readers of the correspondence, in which he lays open his character and views with so much ingenuousness. His recluse habits, his peculiar style of preaching, less adapted, probably, than at any subsequent period to popular or useful effect, and especially the fluctuating, unconfirmed state of his own mind,--all these circumstances would conspire, with his latitudinarian opinion respecting churches, to render it unlikely that, though he would always secure the admiration and attachment of a select few, the general suffrage would be in his favour; or if it were, that he would accede to its decision. It is obvious that Foster was ill-adapted to the ministry, according to its general indispensable conditions among orthodox dissenters. He had not the requisite endowments for a proper denominational man. Various intimations, express and incidental, are found in these volumes of his inherent and essential inability to take the requisite interest in ecclesiastical and institutional religion. While holding accurately the leading points of the Calvinistic faith,' he could not but contemn the circle and the spell of any denomination as a party of systematics professing a monopoly of truth. It was with him an 'old opinion, that churches are useless and mischievous institutions, and that the sooner they are dissolved the better.'* While strongly opposed to pædobaptism, he never administered; nor even witnessed in mature life, fit is believed,) the ordinance of baptism, and was known to entertain doubts respecting its perpetuity. Even as late as the year 1828, he wrote, I have long felt an' utter loathing of what bears the general denomination of the church, with all its parties, contests, disgraces, or honours. My wish would be little less than the dissolution of all church institutions, of all orders and shapes ; that religion might be set free, as a grand spiritual and moral element, no longer clogged, perverted, and prostituted, by corporation forms and principles. With these opinions 'we shall not be supposed to sympathise. Very considerable modificationis must they undergo before we could regard them with combplacency. Yet are 9 we o far from sunconditionally rejecting them. It is unquestionable that many minds are tending towards them, and that not a few have arrived at them, of a kind and order that may well suggest the desirableness of a careful consideration of the whole question of elurches. The conditions of membership that are frequently insisted on, in ignorance or forgetfulness of its design not to be a test of spiritual maturity, but a means of spiritual growth; the modes sometimes adopted to ascertain the existence of those conditionis; the grounds upon which church-fellowship is not seldom based, and the arguments by which it is urged; the Judaic spirit in which Christian institutions are often observed and enforced ; the bigotry and uncharitableness of which they are made the matter and the instruments; these and other such things may go far to ace count for a state of feeling like that of Foster's, respecting ecclesiastical organizations, without impeaching their essential principles.
* Very forcibly did Mr. Hughes resist the conclusion of his friend.—To be sure, if there were no churches, there would be no ecclesiastical squabbles; and it may be added, if there were no states, there would be no civil broils; and if there were no vegetable productions, there would be no deadly night-shade; and if there were no water, no one would be drowned; and if there were no fire, no one would be consumed ; and if there were no victuals, no one would be choked. Church-framers may egregiously err; but when you scout the whole tribe, and all their works, tell us how we ought to proceed; make out a strong case, and say at least that the way you would substitute would be free from the objections that cling to the old ways, and would secure greater advantages.'
For rather more than two years, Mr. Foster preached to a General Baptist church at Chichester. A walk in the vicinity of the town is still known by his name; but his most favourite resort for meditation was the chapel, where the well-worn bricks of the aisles still exhibit the vestiges of his solitary pacings to and fro by moonlight. His labours in this place had no effect in preventing the decline of the church. I think,' said he, the society is hastening to dissolution with a progress that no revival is likely to retard. Fate has fixed her seal. So it was proved, not long after his departure, by the extinction of the interest. After a residence of a few months with his friend Mr. Hughes, at Battersea, during which his preaching powers were frequently exercised, and he was introduced to a new circle of acquaintance, he removed to Downend, a village near Bristol, where he preached regularly at a small chapel erected by Dr. Caleb Evans. In 1804, he was invited to become the minister of a congregation meeting in Sheppard's Barton, Frome, through the introduction of Mr. Robert Hall, who described our preacher as 'a young VOL. XX.
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man of the most original and extraordinary genius, of unexcepa tionable character, of most amiable temper. In less than two years and a half, he was compelled to resign the charge by'a chronic disorder of the bronchial glands,' which threatened to destroy all his prospects as a preacher. Here he first appeared as an author, publishing his celebrated Essays, and contributing in right earnest to this Journal—the articles from his pen, between 1806 and 1820, amounting to not less than one hundred and seventyeight. On his marriage, May 1808, with Miss Maria Snooke, (the 'friend' to whom he had addressed his Essays), he went to live at Bourton-on-the-Water, and for nine years united the the characters of reviewer and evangelist. Towards the close of 1817, he returned to Downend, where he had officiated several years before, 'the deciding point' being his desire to make the experiment, how far he could adapt his sermons to his rustic auditory—' sermons made on a plan of combining perfect simplicity and intelligibleness, even a degree of obviousness, with what shall have as much as possible of novelty or originality in the way of illustration. The "failure,' however, he confessed to have been complete. It cannot be honestly denied," he wrote, in resigning the charge, that by the application of a great deal of time and effort, a more obvious and attractive mode of exhibiting religious subjects would be attainable, (that is, as a habitual strain, for some of my sermons I should perhaps consider as in this respect nearly as much adapted as I could well make them), but I cannot feel the duty of making a laborious effort to change my manner, for the sake of attracting persons, to whom, after all, it would be less attractive than the very crudest exhibitions at the Methodist meeting-persons who are no longer in the way for being attracted, and who will, for the most part, never come again in the way ;-I cannot feel the duty, unless it were impossible for me to be in any place to which I should be more adapted, and unless I felt it a compulsory duty at all events to preach.' On abandoning this engagement, Mr. Foster retired to the quiet village of Stapleton, where he continued till death, suffering severe afflictions in the loss of his only son and beloved wife, and for a considerable period before his decease being incapacitated for literary exertion.
During the whole course of bis illness, he showed the greatest consideration for the servants and all about him, and was anxious to give them as little trouble as possible. He never allowed any one to sit up, even for part of the night; be would not listen to such a proposal, and when urged, would say that it would so annoy him as to prevent his sleeping.
Speaking of his weakness to one of his two servants, who had both lived with him for about thirty years, he mentioned some things which he had not strength to perform; and then added, “But I can pray, and that is a glorious thing.' On another occasion, he said to bis attendant, Trust in Christ-trust in Christ. At another time, the servant heard him repeating to himself the words, O death, where is thy sting ? O grave, where is thy victory ? Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.'.
On October 3rd he wrote to Sir J. Easthope, and stated that he had no expectation of surviving more than a very few nonths; but though he felt unequal to the exertion of a personal interview, he 'would not yet say farewell. Two days later, however, his debility bad increased so rapidly, that he limited his expectations of pro. longed life to only a few days, and ended his last letter to the same friend with the words, “I commend you to the God of mercy, and very affectionately bid you-farewell.'
His family were much struck by the perfect dignity and composure with which, as soon as he relinquished all hope of even a. partial recovery, he resigned himself to the divine appointment.
"On Saturday, October 14th, the day before his death, he complained of feeling some confusedness in his head, and was much oppressed in his breathing; he was therefore obliged to desist that day from his usual practice of hearing some one read to him; and finding it very difficult to converse, he requested to be left quite alone during the afternoon and evening. This desire was complied with; some of his family going occasionally into his room, but so as not to disturb him, till the usual hour of retiring to rest; they then particularly requested that some one might be allowed to sit up with him through the night. This, however, he steadily refused, though, in consequence of a long-continued fit of coughing he was in a state of greater exhaustion than usual. The kind old servant who attended upon him, from an apprehension lest she should disturb him, did not go at all into his room in the course of that night, as she had been in the habit of doing every night for the past fortnight. But towards four o'clock she went to the door of his room to listen, and being satisfied from the sound she heard that he was sleeping, returned without going in. At about six o'clock she went again to the door, and this time hearing no sound she went in, and found that he had expired. His arins were gently extended, and his countenance was as tranquil as that of a person in a peaceful sleep. Death had taken place but a very short time, for only the forehead was cold.
On the following Saturday his remains were laid in the grave, which just seventeen years before had been opened to receive those of his son, in the burial-ground belonging to the chapel at Downend, where he formerly preached.'--vol. ii. pp 356-359.
It is very far from our intention to attempt an analysis of Mr. Foster's mental and moral character. The time has scarcely arrived for more than has been already attempted in this journal. Seldom do we meet with a mind demanding more delicate discrimination in its treatment. Certain features