« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
Here we get the facts, bit by bit, but strikingly fitting each other. In the paper referred to in our Volume for 1832, Colonel Pownall is spoken of as writing to Storry, giving an account of Winstanley's being mentioned to Dr. Johnson; his sending for him; his nervously declining to go; and his being urged by his friend Pownall. We have also a copy of his letter; an account of Johnson's conversation with Hawkins upon it; a statement that Winstanley wrote a second time; and a reference to conversations with Latrobe; and mention is made of the repose which, through God's blessing, Johnson obtained by the scriptural doctrine set forth by Winstanley and Latrobe as suited to his afflicting case. In the letter found in H. More's cabinet we find Sangar, a friend and neighbour of Storry's, repeating from Storry's statement the same facts, with minute coincidences, and without one single discrepancy. The name of Pownall is not mentioned by Storry as his informer; but Storry's son attests that Pownall was a correspondent of his father's, and frequently mentioned Winstanley's name; and that he had himself seen a copy of Sangar's letter as long back as 1823. We may also add that Mr. Wilberforce, in writing to the Editor of the Christian Observer in 1828 (see his letter in our Vol. for 1837), says: "I wish to ask you whether you have not heard that the poor Doctor did before his death receive the visits of a truly enlightened minister, to whom, having heard a high character of him, he sent, begging to receive his visits. The minister, a man of true modesty, shrunk at first (so goes the story) from the supposed presumption of undertaking to administer counsel to a man of such acknowledged superiority of intellect; but he was overcome by Dr. J.'s importunity; did visit him, and pray with him, and give him that good counsel which suited his patient's circumstances, and had the satisfaction of seeing Dr. J. enabled to repose on the mercies of a reconciled Father through Christ Jesus." Mr. Wilberforce adds, that perhaps the story may be confused with Mr. Latrobe's visits; which is clearly the case; but the references to Winstanley's nervous feelings shew that he also is alluded to. And there is yet another incidental confirmation. Winstanley's letter, as inserted in our Volume for 1832, though identical in sense with Sangar's version in H. More's copy, differs here and there in a word or expression; but Sangar avowedly gave it only as "repeated," not read, to him by Storry, so that the slight variations of phrase add to the proofs of its authenticity. The chief wonder is that Mr. Storry could have related so correctly; but here again we have the testimony of the still surviving William Gray, of York, who, in writing to Mr. Roberts, speaks of Storry's "peculiar veracity and talent for narrative;" adding, " In his oral communications, and his narratives especially, Mr. Richardson and I used to admire his memory and precision; his correctness we never had the least reason to question. He was the very person to collect and detail the particulars relating to Dr. Johnson and Mr. Winstanley which you give in your work." H. More also used to speak of the document as being of great interest and importance. Mr. Winstanley lived till 1789; and it is likely enough that his friends, in consequence of his nervousness, did not publish the account of his being sent for by Dr. Johnson, and his writing to him; and after his death, the facts, not being recent, were likely enough to sleep in memory, or in private letters, till some circumstance happened to revive the recollection. We might mention as an illustration of this, that when the Essay of 1817 was passing through the hands of the late Mr. Bensley, the printer, of Bolt Court, who had been Dr. Johnson's near neighbour, and used to hear much about him, he expressed to the writer that the account there given was true, and remained in oral tradition, though the Doctor's biographers had not done justice to the facts.
Yet notwithstanding these and other testimonies, the Quarterly Reviewer was pleased to assert :
"Mr. Croker's annihilation of the Christian Observer's edition of the romance about Mr. Latrobe, is complete and perfect; and as to the story of Mr. Winstanley, it is enough to say that no such person is named, either by Sir John Hawkins, or in any other of the accounts of Johnson's life hitherto published. The whole of this circumstantial narrative is, therefore, a dream, a blunder, or more probably a bungling piece of quackery-a 'pious fraud.' In any view, this attempt to persuade us that Dr. Johnson's mind was not made up as to the great fundamental doctrine of the Christian religion, until it was enforced on him in extremis by sectarian or Methodistical zeal, cannot redound to the credit of Mr. Roberts's understanding."
It is not for us to prove a negative: but we can discern some reasons why such narrators as Hawkins, Windham, and Brocklesby, did not relate the above-mentioned facts. If they resembled the Quarterly Reviewer, they might have suppressed them in pure party spirit; for they would be indignant that the Doctor should be so anxious to see a clergyman of Mr. Winstanley's "Methodistical" sentiments; but be this as it may, they attest, to their own wonderment, the altered language and state of mind of Dr. Johnson; and whence, we would ask the Quarterly Reviewers, arose the change? Hawkins finds him in February 1784 expressing horror at the thought of death, and appearing in the presence of his Saviour; whereas in December following he speaks of "the loathing he had felt of sin and of himself," (which the Quarterly Review must consider very fanatical language, fit only for Latrobe or Winstanley) yet adds, "At these times I have had such rays of hope shot into my soul, as have almost persuaded me that I am in a state of reconciliation with God." His petitions were no longer for ability "to fulfil the conditions of salvation;" but he prays: "Grant, O Lord, that my whole hope and confidence may be in His merits and thy mercy."
We quoted in our Volume for 1835, the substance of Mr. Roberts's equally temperate and triumphant reply to the Quarterly Reviewer. He convincingly shewed that though Dr. Johnson had always believed in the propitiatory sacrifice of Christ, it had occupied a "low, false, and unscriptural place in his religious system;" and that "it is one thing to entertain a belief of the fact of the Atonement, and another to make that right application and self-appropriation of it, which constitutes real, saving, and sanctifying Christianity."
We now return to Mr. Winstanley, who was one of those clergymen whom the world was accustomed to stigmatise as "Methodistical," because he preached Scriptural doctrine, and was earnest for the salvation of the souls of men. He became Rector of St. Dunstan's in the East in January 1771, probably at no immature age; and Dr. Johnson did not die till December 1784; and yet the Quarterly Reviewer, in the true spirit of party, evidently knowing nothing about him, except that he must have been a fanatic, calls him in disparagement "a young clergyman."
It was in Crabbe's youthful days, in 1780, that having repaired to London as a "literary adventurer," and being in the greatest distress, obliged even to vend or pledge whatever would raise him a few shillings to pay for a wretched lodging, and to purchase bread to eat and paper to write upon, he attached himself to the ministry of Mr. Winstanley; whose earnest, affectionate, and evangelical discourses he speaks of with intense feeling. He describes him as "a good man, reverend in appearance, [four years before the Quarterly Reviewer's date of juvenility,] and with a hollow slow voice; a man who seems already half
way to heaven." He adds, "What can Mr. Lee Lewis (a celebrated comedian) find so entertaining to produce? &c." In an abstract of one of his sermons, which Crabbe sends to his beloved " Mira," upon the passage "For many are called, but few chosen," we find exactly such remarks as we might anticipate from his letter to Dr. Johnson. Thus he says: To what are we called? and who are those who obey the call? The last question is to us the most important. Those who accept the invitation are such as go like guests. Those who think themselves honoured in the summons will have on their wedding garment; they will put off the filthy robes of their own righteousness; and much more will they put aside the garments spotted with iniquity. They considered themselves as called to faith, to thanksgiving, to justification, to sanctification."
It was while suffering bitter affliction, yet instructed and consoled by the preaching of this pious clergyman, that Mr. Crabbe penned in his note-book those devout remarks to which our correspondent Melancthon refers in reply to Luther. We well recollect that, when in perusing the memoir of Mr. Crabbe, we read these remarks, we could have wept with grief at the contrast between them and the poet's future published writings, and we fear letters and sermons. Mr. Winstanley's preaching had touched his heart; but where throughout the remainder of the volume do we find any such strains of spiritual ardour as breathe in these youthful aspirations? We will copy only the first passage :
"O gracious Redeemer! fill me, I beseech thee, with Divine love; let me, O my Saviour! set my affections on thee and things above; take from me this overcarefulness and anxiety after the affairs of this mortal body, and deeply impress on my thoughts the care of my immortal soul. Let me love thee, blessed Lord! desire thee, and embrace thy cross when it is offered me. Set before me the value of eternal happiness, and the true worth of human expectations.
"O! detach my heart from self-pleasing, from vanity, and all the busy passions that draw me from thee. Fix it on thy love; let it be my joy to contemplate thy condescension and thy kindness to man; may gratitude to my Redeemer wean me from inclination for his foes; may it draw me from the objects of the world, the dreams of the senses, and all the power and temptation of the Devil and his angels. "Remember me, Lord, at thy table; behold I desire to be with thee; O be thou with me! If thou art absent, I cannot receive comfort even there; if thou art with me, I cannot miss it. The treasures of eternal life are thine; O Lord! give me of those treasures; give me a foretaste of thy pleasures, that I may look more indifferently upon the earth and its enjoyments. Lord! where are thy old lovingkindnesses? Forgive me, most gracious Saviour; and restore me to thy favour. O give me the light of thy countenance, and I shall be whole. Amen!"
It is melancholy to contrast such passages as these with the afflicting extracts which we inserted in our Number for March, p. 176–178 ; where we find Mr. Crabbe in 1817, then an old man and an old clergyman, plunging into the giddy gaieties of the metropolis, frequenting the theatre, (had he forgotten his own youthful remark about Lewis the comedian ?) and breaking the Sabbath in the circles of literary fashion. He had long forsaken such "Gospel preaching" as that of Mr. Winstanley; and we fear would have characterised his own youthful effusions as sickly fanaticism. Melancthon did not well to force us to notice this mournful declension; which we had refrained during so many years from alluding to; though we noted it in the margin of our copy of the Memoir eight or nine years ago.
We wish we could say that our recollections of Mr. Crabbe's poems authorise us to write more cheerfully. But such is not the fact. In the "Village," for example, he depicts scenes of vice and wretchedness; but he does not bring forward the remedy for the sins and woes of mankind; which even a poet
might have done to relieve the dark shades of an awful picture; and which a Christian, and especially a clergyman, should have been forward to do, for the glory of God and the best interests of a fallen and sorrowful world. Sometimes his poems evince the coarse levity of a "rake's progress," which even the Edinburgh Reviewers felt it necessary to reprehend as unbecoming the pen of a clergyman. In his "Borough" we find satire where "godly sorrow" and hallowed reproof were more befitting. Even the curate, who is made favourably to contrast with the silly, fid-fad, “fiddling and fishing" rector, is not what a Gospel preacher' should be, if the Gospel be "the power of God unto salvation," and not a mere code of "virtuous action." But worse, Mr. Crabbe, in his satires upon religious sectaries, sometimes exposes religion itself to reproach and scorn. He depicts ridiculous and despicable persons as setting up for preachers, shewing much apparent zeal, referring to Scripture, speaking strongly of the agency of Satan and the influences of the Holy Spirit; and so manages the picture as to lead an unwary reader to blend earnest piety and true spiritual-mindedness with cant and hypocrisy. In all this we see nothing that enables us to adopt the estimate of Melancthon rather than Luther.
We should however, in justice to Mr. Crabbe, mention that his filial biographer states that " In a later period of his life, and more especially during the last ten years of it, he became more conscious of the importance of dwelling on the doctrines of Christianity, than he had been when he first took orders; and when a selection of his sermons is placed, as I hope ere long it will be, before the public, it will be seen that he had gradually approached, in substantial matters, though not exactly in certain peculiar ways of expression, to that respected body usually denominated Evangelical Christians of the Church of England; with whom nevertheless he was never classed by others, nor indeed by himself." We know not whether these sermons were ever published. The tone of the above passage is not strongly marked; but it speaks of improvement, and we are willing to hope it implies more than it expresses. We will transcribe the account of Mr. Crabbe's death-bed; which will shew how he thought and felt in his last hours.
"During the days that preceded his departure, we had not one painful feeling arising from the state of his mind. That was more firm than I ever remembered under any circumstances. He knew there was no chance of his recovery, and yet he talked at intervals of his death, and of certain consequent arrangements, with a strong complacent voice; and bade us all adieu without the least faltering of the tongue, or moisture of the eye. The awfulness of death, apprehended by his capacious mind, must have had a tendency to absorb other feelings; yet was he calm and unappalled ;-and intervals of oblivion, under the appearance of sleep, softened his sufferings and administered an opiate to his faculties. One of his characteristics, -exuberance of thought, seemed sometimes, even when pleased, as if it oppressed him; and in this last illness, when he was awake, his mind worked with astonishing rapidity. It was not delirium; for on our recalling his attention to present objects, he would speak with perfect rationality; but, when uninterrupted, the greater portion of his waking hours were passed in rapid soliloquies on a variety of subjects, the chain of which from his imperfect utterance (when he did not exert himself) we were unable to follow. We seldom interrupted the course that nature was taking, or brought him to the effort of connected discourse, except to learn how we could assist or relieve him. But as in no instance (except in a final lapse of memory) did we discover the least irrationality-so there was no despondency; on the contrary, the cheerful expressions which he had been accustomed to use, were heard from time to time; nay, even that elevation of the inner side of the eyebrows, which occasionally accompanied some humorous observation in the days of his health, occurred once or twice after every hope of life was over. But, if we were thankful for his firmness of mind, we had to lament the strength of his constitution. I was CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 65. 2 P
not aware how powerful it was till tried by this disease. I said, 'It is your great strength which causes this suffering.' He replied, 'But it is a great price to pay for it.'
"On one essential subject it would be wrong to be silent. I have stated that the most important of all considerations had had an increasing influence over his mind. The growth had been ripening with his age, and was especially perceptible in his later years. With regard to the ordinances of religion, he was always manifestly pained if, when absent from home on a Sunday, he had been induced to neglect either the morning or evening services in his private devotions, as his household can testify, he was most exemplary and earnest up to the period of this attack; yet at that time, when fear often causes the first real prayer to be uttered, then did he, as it were, confine himself to the inward workings of his pious and resigned spirit, occasionally, however, betrayed by aspirations most applicable to his circumstances. Among the intelligible fragments that can never be forgotten, were frequent exclamations of, My time is short; it is well to be prepared for death.' 'Lucy,'-this was the affectionate servant that attended along with his sons,-'dear Lucy, be earnest in prayer! May you see your children's children.' From time to time he expressed great fear that we were all over-exerting ourselves in sitting up at night with him; but the last night he said, 'Have patience with me--it will soon be over. -Stay with me, Lucy, till I am dead, and then let others take care of me.' This night was most distressing. The changes of posture sometimes necessary, gave him extreme pain, and he said, 'This is shocking.' Then again he became exhausted, or his mind wandered in a troubled sleep. Awaking a little refreshed, he held out his hand to us, saying-as if he felt it might be the last opportunity, God bless you-be good, and come to me!' Even then, though we were all overpowered, and lost all self-command, he continued firm. His countenance now began to vary and alter. Once, however, we had the satisfaction of seeing it lighted up with an indescribable expression of joy, as he appeared to be looking at something before him, and uttered these words, That blessed book!'
After another considerable interval of apparent insensibility, he awoke, and said, in a tone so melancholy, that it rang in my ears for weeks after, I thought it had been all over,' with such an emphasis on the all! Afterwards he said, I cannot see you now.' When I said, 'We shall soon follow;' he answered, 'Yes, yes!' I mentioned his exemplary fortitude; but he appeared unwilling to have any good ascribed to himself.
"When the incessant presents and inquiries of his friends in the town were mentioned, he said, 'What a trouble I am to them all!' And in the course of the night, these most consolatory words were distinctly heard, All is well at last! Soon after, he said, imperfectly, 'You must make an entertainment;' meaning for his kind Trowbridge friends after his departure. These were the last intelligible words I heard. Lucy, who could scarcely be persuaded to leave him, day or night, and was close by him when he died, says that the last words he uttered were, God bless you--God bless you!"
THE BISHOP OF CHESTER IN REPLY TO REMARKS ON A PASSAGE IN HIS EXPOSITION.
To the Editor of the Christian Observer.
London, April 19, 1843. DEAR SIR,-Like yourself, I am always pleased to observe a godly jealousy in questions which concern the fundamental principles of the Gospel. I therefore request you to grant me the use of one of your pages, that I may assure your correspondent Incertus that in the sentence which he has quoted from my Prefatory Remarks, I had no intention of touching upon the profound and inscrutable subject to which he alludes. Why one man is made to differ from another, we may know hereafter: but now it is hid from our eyes.
But Incertus must have heard it objected to the doctrine of Justification by Faith, that a man is declared to be justified because he believes, who afterwards shows that he has neither part nor lot in the