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JANUARY, 1827. [No. 1. Vol. XXVII,
For the Christian Observer. MEMOIR OF THE LATE BISHOP
WHILE preparing to lay before our readers a brief memoir of the beloved and lamented Bishop Heber, our eye rests upon the following impressive passage in a sermon preached by him a few months before his death, and which has just issued from the press of Bishop's College at Calcutta. The discourse is entitled "The Omnipresence of God," and was preached at the consecration of the church of Secrole, near Benares. What an affecting comment does the sudden bereavement which has afflicted so many hearts afford to the truth of the solemn reflections which we are about to quote!-reflections, however, which, solemn as they are, carry with them a sacred solace, since they shew that, violent as was the shock caused to others by the sudden departure of this valuable man, in the full tide of life and the zenith of his useful ness, to himself death could never arrive an unexpected stranger; it could never find him unprepared for that blessed world to which he has been -we will not say so prematurely summoned. The passage to which we allude is the following:
"Alas! have we forgotten how thin a screen that is which separates us from this glorious and awful spectacle of Jehovah's Majesty? Let but the word go forth from his mouth, let but one of his innumerable ministers cut the thread of our days, and set our spirit free from the curtains of this bodily tabernacle, and in a moment we should perCHRIST. OBSERV. No. 301.
haps be introduced to that very scene of which the thought is so dreadful to us. In a moment our soul would find itself introduced to the vast world of invisible beings; would behold, it may be, the angels of God ascending and descending as ministers of his will between heaven and earth; and our Maker himself in his boundless glory, and our Redeemer standing at his right hand. This moment, while I speak, this prospect is offered for the first time to many who, in the different nations of the world, are passing from life into eternity; this moment it may be offered to any of us who are here assembled. Surely the Lord is in this place, and we knew it not. How dreadful is this place! This place may to each of us become, according as we are prepared for the passage, the gate of hell or heaven!"
The Right Reverend Reginald the second son of the Reverend Reginald Heber, of Marton Hall, York, and of Hodnet Hall, Salop, was born in the year 1783 at Malpas, in Cheshire*. He was sent, in
There is some confusion of dates, which we have endeavoured to rectify, in the several accounts that have been published of Bishop Heber's life. One, for example, dates his birth in 1780, another in 1784; but neither, we believe, correctly. Again, the Asiatic Journal, the Gentleman's Magazine, and some other biographical sketches, remark, that he could not when he made his tour on the continent; have been much more than seventeen dating his journey during his undergra duateship, instead of in the year 1805. Again, Mr. Robinson, his lordship's chaplain, in a note to his funeral sermon, says, that he was chosen preacher at Lincoln's Inn in 1821: the right date appears to be May 1822.
1800, to Brasenose College, Oxford. In 1801, he gained the chancellor's prize at the university by his Carmen Seculare ;" and in 1803, in his twentieth year, his talents were displayed to still greater advantage in his celebrated prize-poem of "Palestine." This poem was not at first published separately; but having found its way into an annual volume of "fugitive poetry," we eagerly took up the casket for the sake of this gem, and held it up to the admiration of our readers (see our volume for 1805, p. 300), only expressing our regret, that a poem of such merit had not been given to the public unmixed with baser matter. This memorable era of Mr. Heber's academical life is alluded to as follows, by the chief justice of Calcutta, Sir Charles Grey, in his splendid address delivered at the public meeting at that presidency, for the erection of a monument to the Bishop's memory.
"It is just four and twenty years, this month, since I first became acquainted with him at the university, of which he was, beyond all question or comparison, the most distinguished student of his time. The name of Reginald Heber was in every mouth; his society was courted by young and old; he lived in an atmosphere of favour, admiration, and regard, from which I have never known any one but himself who would not have derived, and for life, an unsalutary influence. Towards the close of his academical career be crowned his previous honours by the production of his Palestine;' of which single work, the fancy, the elegance, and the grace, have secured him a place in the list of those who bear the proud title of English Poets. This, according to usage, was recited in public;-and when that scene of his early triumph comes upon my memory, that elevated rostrum from which he looked upon friendly and admiring faces; that decorated theatre; those grave forms of ecclesiastical dignitaries, mingling with a resplendent throng
of rank and beauty; those antique mansions of learning; those venerable groves, refreshing streams, and shaded walks; the vision is broken by another, in which the youthful and presiding genius of the former scene is lying in his distant grave, amongst the sands of Southern India,-believe me the contrast is striking, and the recollection most painful."
In 1805, Mr. Heber produced his prize-essay, on "The Sense of Ho nour;" and soon after set out on a tour to the eastern parts of the continent of Europe, in company with Mr. John Thornton, the present treasurer of the Bible and Church Missionary Societies. Dr. Clarke has given in his travels copious extracts from Mr. Heber's journal of his excursion in Russia, with a well deserved encomium on the writer.
In 1809, Mr. Heber published another poem entitled "Europe, Lines on the present War;" a review of which, with copious extracts, our readers will find in our volume for that year (p. 725). We there offer, as our opinion, that it was "always correct, ordinarily vigorous; where the author means it, pathetic ; and in several passages extremely glowing." The poem, being of a temporary kind, is not now generally known. Mr. Heber maintained in it, that England could, as was afterwards proved, have saved Europe by larger exertions, and that Europe was worthy of being saved. He supplicated his country to assist Spain, and concluded by affirming, that " Spain shall be free." We copy from our review, the following passage, as exhibiting the feelings of deep interest with which every Christian mind, even at that early period of his life, must have contem> plated this youthful aspirant after far better than poetic fame. “The only aspect in which his muse has hitherto presented herself to the public eye, [namely, in his Palestine,] is such as to conciliate the esteem of every critic who presumes to prefix the epithet Christian to
his name. She did not come tricked out in the gaudy or licentious habits of the age-a 'reeling goddess with a zoneless waist'-but invested in the pure garb of the sanctuary. The good have to thank Mr. Heber for a poem, which even they may read with improvement; for a poem, which they should rejoice to put in to the hands of their children; for the alliance of religion and taste in the same work; for a phraseology so richly imbued with scriptural language, as at once to sanctify the poera, and to dignify religion; for scenery calculated to endear to us that land so dear to God- the hill of Zion which he loved;' for a spirit of sacred chivalry, which warms us with the feelings of other days, and which, in our expedition with him to Palestine,' inspires us with all the zeal of crusaders, without any of their extravagance or profligacy."
In 1809, Mr. Heber also published his Palestine, to which he added a fragment entitled "The Passage of the Red Sea :" an extract from which our readers will find appended to our review just referred to, with an expression of our regret that so interesting a specimen of sacred poetry should have been but a frag
But it is time that we should introduce this excellent man to our readers in a yet higher capacity than that of a scholar or a poet. His literary acquirements had justly gained for him many exalted academical honours; which had been consummated by his election to a fellowship at All-Souls' College.Soon after his return from the continent in 1807, he had received Holy Orders; and was subsequently indacted into his patrimonial preferment, the rectory of Hodnet, in Shropshire. Another most auspicious event also occurred about this period of his life; we mean his union to the lady who has now the affliction to be his widow,-a daughter of the late Dr. Shipley, dean of St. Asaph. The exemplary manner in
which Mr. Heber discharged the duties of his sacred ministry while at Hodnet, shall be told in the words of Mr. Robinson, his chaplain :-"But his career of fame and human praise, whatever were its value, and whatever facilities were presented to him for its acquisition, had, for a mind like his, but a feeble and transient fascination. He had a higher and more noble ambition: the object of his pursuit was less splendid in the eyes of men; it was one of secret virtue and self-denying diligence; but if estimated(as we around his grave can now measure it) by the standard of eternity, it was the path of the purest happiness on earth, and terminating in certain and imperishable glory. His society was much courted by the world, and in the learned retirement of his college; and never surely was any one so formed to enjoy the society of those around him, or to win their admiration and affection by the varied and inexhaustible charms of his own delightful conversation. But he devoted himself to the humble duties of a parish priest in a retired village, and thought he had attained his highest happiness, and most honourable distinction, in becoming the friend, the pastor, the spiritual guide of the simple villagers around him; in consecrating his talents, his time, and his resources to the service of his God and Saviour. The more humble was the sphere of bis duty, the more did his heart rejoice in its performance. He laboured to accommodate his instructions to the comprehension of all; a labour by no means easy to a mind stored with classic elegance, and an imagination glowing with a thousand images of sublimity and beauty. He rejoiced so to form his manners, his habits, and his conversation, to those who were entrusted to his care, that he might gain the confidence and affection of even the poorest among his flock; so that he might the more surely win their souls to God, and finally, in the day of last account, present every man faultless
before his presence with exceeding or have had the happiness of listen
joy. He was, above all, singularly happy in his visitation of the sick, and in administering consolation to those that mourned; and his name will long be dear, and his memory most precious, in the cottages of the poor, by whose sick-beds he has often stood as a ministering angel."
In the year 1811 Mr. Heber was pleased to become a poetical contributor to our work; by favouring us, under the signature of D. R., with a considerable number of "Hymns appropriate to the Sundays and principal Holidays," and which appear in our volumes for 1811, p. 630 and p. 697, and 1812, p. 225 and p. 289. His intention in writing them is expressed in his preliminary remarks. The just celebrity which several of these compositions have acquired renders it unnecessary for us to descant upon their merits.
In 1812 he published a small volume of poems and translations; and in 1815 he was chosen to deliver the Bampton Lectures before the University of Oxford. The lectures, conformably to the directions of the founder, were published the ensuing year, under the following title: "The Personality and Office of the Christian Comforter asserted and explained, in a Course of Sermons on John xvi. 7." The copious review of this learned and elegant work, in our volume for 1816, to which our readers may refer (p. 584), supersedes the necessity of our again dilating upon its merits, or pointing out what we considered to be its defects. Mr. Robinson says of it; "These lectures contain an admira. ble view of the doctrine of Divine influence, the most vital and essential article in the Christian system. The reality and importance of that influence is asserted and vindicated with great clearness of reasoning, and and with no less energy of impressive eloquence." Mr. Robinson adds; "Besides these, a few of his occasional sermons only have hitherto been given to the public; but all who are either acquainted with these,
ing to him from the pulpit, will join in the earnest hope that many of those papers which he has left behind may yet be permitted to see the light. The short career of his public life was spent in active and useful labour, not in establishing a literary fame, the materials of which were so largely within his reach."
In 1822 an edition of the works of Jeremy Taylor appeared, to which was prefixed a life of that prelate, written by Mr. Heber, and which has been separately published, accompanied by a critical examination of Bishop Taylor's writings. We pass by any notice of this work for the present, as we propose to ourselves to condense from it a memoir of that highly gifted prelate, the Shakspeare of the English Church, with some interesting notices from Bishop Heber's critiques on his writings. In 1822 Mr. Heber was chosen preacher at Lincoln's Inn; an appointment usually considered highly honourable, and which he eminently adorned by his talents and his piety.
Upon the death of Dr. Middleton, the bishopric of Calcutta was offered to Mr. Heber, who, although in possession of clerical preferment, it has been stated of nearly equal revenue to that of the see, and justified in indulging sanguine hopes of advancement in England, if ambition had been his object, consented to sacrifice his comforts and his expectations, in order to make his talents useful, for a toilsome life in a distant and unhealthy climate.He was appointed to the vacant see in May 1823, and arrived at Calcutta in the October following. The University of Oxford conferred upon him, on this occasion, the degree of D.D., by diploma. The confidence inspired by a knowledge of the new bishop's learning and talents, his piety and activity, caused this appointment to be hailed as a most auspicious event by the Christian world at large. His intention to devote himself wholly and fervently to the establish
ment of Christianity,by every suitable means, was explicitly declared in his addresses, previous to his departure, to the various societies in England engaged in the work of promoting Christianity among the heathen.The ardent hope which he expressed that he might be a useful instrument in the propagation of the Gospel of Christ, will not be forgotten; nor the zeal with which he declared he looked forward to "the time when he should be enabled to preach to the natives of India in their own language." Mr. Robinson has well described the spirit in which he undertook the duties of this momentous appointment.
"He left his native land with no common sacrifice of private interests, of individual affections, and of all the reasonable hopes and prospects of his family and admiring friends; for such had been his life, that they who were but his acquaintance loved him as a friend; his friends loved him as a brother; and his family cherished him as a part of their own existence. He left his native land (I speak from intimate knowledge and full conviction) with the devoted spirit of a true Christian bishop, with no selfish feeling, and no shrinking from the arduous and perilous duties which he well knew awaited him. He sought not the office; but felt, while he undertook it, the heavy burden which it imposed, and the awful responsibility of the charge. Indeed, if there was any thing in my honoured friend and master which I presumed to think a fault, it was that he thought too little of the external dignity which is annexed to his spiritual power; and, from a feeling of entire humility, and, from that modesty and gentleness which pervaded every word and every action, sought rather to escape from that homage and respect which it was equally our duty and our happiness to pay. He came to this country, accompanied by the prayers and blessings of thousands; and I speak only the language of many hearts in every distant province, when I say,
that he came to us, his immediate charge, and to the heathen nations among whom we dwell, in the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ."
Bishop Heber's whole conduct in his diocese was, if possible, even more admirable than his warmest friends and admirers had ventured to predict. We shall lay before our readers a few of the many testimonies to this effect which might be easily accumulated. Archdeacon Corrie, who knew him intimately, and whose judgment is of the highest value, says, respecting his doctrines and his diligence in preaching,
"It is known to you all, how assiduously he preached in one or other of the churches in this city, when present, every Sabbath-day-how he assisted in our weekly lectures→→→ how, in his journeys, whenever two or three could be collected, weekday or Sunday, he administered to them the word of God and the sacraments, consecrating every place, and diffusing a sacredness over it, by the fervour and holy earnestness with which he entered into every part of Divine service.
"It was the word of God which he administered. For man, fallen from God and far gone from original righteousness, he preached a full and free redemption by the blood of Christ-justification by faiththe need of the Holy Spirit's grace to incline and enable men to repeut, and to bring forth fruit meet for repentance; persuading men by the terrors of the Lord to flee from the wrath to come, and by the mercies of Christ to be reconciled unto God
the pleasantness of religious ways
the comfort attending the death of the righteous-the terrors of a judgment-day to the impenitent, and the rewards of the faithful servant-setting forth every Christian duty, in its relation to Christian principle, in his own peculiarly lively and impressive manner. How eloquently he pleaded the cause of the poor destitute, and advocated the claims to our Christian compas