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CHARACTER OF ALFRED KING OF ENGLAND.
THE merit of this prince, both in private and public life, may, with advantage, be set in opposition to that of any monarch or citizen, which the annals of any age or any nation can present to us. He seems, indeed, to be the complete model of that perfect character, which, under the denomi. nation of a sage or wise man, the philosophers have been fond of delineating, rather as a fiction of their imagination, than in hopes of ever seeing it reduced to practice; so happily were all his virtues tempered together; so justly were they blended; and so powerfully did each prevent the other from exceeding its proper bounds.
He knew how to conciliate the most enterprising spirit with the coolest moderation; the most obstinate perseverance, with the easiest flexibility; the most severe justice, with the greatest lenity: the greatest rigour in command, with the greatest affability of deportment; the highest capacity and inclination for science, with the most shining talents for action.
Nature also, as if desirous that so bright a production of her skill should be set in the fairest light, had bestowed on him all bodily accomplishments ; vigour of limbs, dignity of shape and air, and a pleasant, engaging, and open countenance. By living in that barbarous age he was deprived of historians worthy to transmit his fame to posterity; and we wish to see him delineated in more lively colours, and with more particular strokes, that we might at least perceive some of those small specks and blemishes, from which, as a man, it was impossible he should be entirely exempted.--Hume.
ALFRED'S THIRST FOR KNOWLEDGE.
In the meantime, the king, during the frequent wars and other trammels of this present life, the invasions of the Pagans, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to carry on the government, and to exercise hunting in all its branches; to teach his workers in gold, and artificers of all kinds, his falconers, hawkers and dog-keepers ; to build houses, majestic and good, beyond all the precedents of his ancestors, by his new mechanical inventions; to recite the Saxon books, and especially to learn by heart the Saxon poems, and to make others learn them; and he alone never desisted from studying, most diligently, to the best of his ability. He attended the Eucharist, and other daily services of religion; he was frequent in psalm-singing and prayer, at the hours both of the day and the night. He also went to the Churches, as we have already said, in the night-time to pray, secretly, and unknown to his cour. tiers; he bestowed alms and largesses on both natives and foreigners of all countries; he was affable and pleasant to all, and curiously eager to investigate things unknown. Many Franks, Frisons, Gauls, Pagans, Britons, Scots, and Armoricans, noble and ignoble, submitted voluntarily to his dominion; and all of them, according to their nation and deserving, were ruled, loved, honoured, and enriched with money and power. Moreover, the king was in the habit of hearing the divine scriptures read by his own countrymen, or, if by any chance it so happened, in company with foreigners, and he attended to it with sedulity and solicitude. His bishops, too, and all ecclesiastics, his earls and nobles, ministers and friends, were loved by him with wonderful affection, and their sons, who were bred up in the royal household, were no less dear to him than his own; he had them instructed in all kinds of good morals, and among other things, never ceased to teach them letters night and day ; but as if he had no consolation in all these things, and suffered no other annoyance either from within or without, yet he was harassed by daily and nightly affliction, that he complained to God, and to all who were admitted to his familiar love, that Almighty God had made him ignorant of divine wisdom, and of the liberal arts; in this emulating the pious, the wise, and wealthy Solomon, king of the Hebrews, who at first, despising all present glory and riches, asked wisdom of God, and found both, namely, wisdom and worldly glory; as it is written, “ Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” But God, who is always the inspector of the thoughts of the mind within, and the instigator of all good intentions, and a most plentiful aider, that good desires may be formed, for he would not in. stigate a man to good intentions, unless he also amply supplied that which the man justly and properly wishes to have,-instigated the king's mind within; as it is written, “I will hearken what the Lord God will say concerning me.” He would avail himself of every opportunity to procure coadjutors in his good designs, to aid him in his strivings after wisdom, that he might attain to what he aimed at; and, like a prudent bird, which rising in summer with the early morning from her beloved nest, steers her rapid flight through the uncertain tracks of ether, and descends on the manifold and varied flowers of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, essaying that which pleases most, that she may bear it to her home, so did he direct his eyes afar, and seek without, that which he had not within, namely, in his own kingdom.- Asser.
THOMAS WILSON, Bishop of Sodor and Man, was born in Cheshire, in 1663, and educated at the University of Dublin, where he intended to practice medicine, but was persuaded by a pious archdeacon to undertake the sacred ministry. In 1686 he was ordained deacon, and appointed to a curacy in Lancashire; and in 1689 he was raised to the priesthood, on which solemn occasion he again dedicated himself to the service of his Lord and Master, and formed the most solemn resolutions of living more than ever to the glory of that Saviour, “who loved him, and gave himself for him.” In conformity with these resolutions, he discharged his sacred duties with indefatigable zeal; “holiness to the Lord” was inscribed on every part of his conduct. The lustre of such a character could not long be concealed ; and in 1692 he was selected by the Earl of Derby to be his chaplain and the preceptor of his son. After some time, observing with deep regret the embarrassed state of his patron's affairs, caused by habits of profusion and inattention to domestic economy, he felt it his duty to remonstrate with the earl on his conduct; and he so judiciously and wisely managed this delicate affair, that ere long he had the great satisfaction of seeing his noble friend relieved from his embarrassments, and a
train of distressed tradesmen and dependents effectually relieved.
The bishopric of Sodor and Man had been vacant from the year 1693, and Lord Derby, to whom the appointment belonged, as lord of the Isle of Man, offered it to his chaplain. He thankfully acknowledged the honour intended him, but declared himself unworthy of so high an office, and incapable of so arduous an undertaking; and it was only after the see had been vacant for four years, and the motropolitan had complained to the king on the subject, that Wilson was at last “forced into the see.” He was consecrated in 1697. Bishop Wilson now devoted himself most zealously to the duties of the episcopate. He felt that he had been called by Divine appointment to this arduous station, and was persuaded that every necessary help would be afforded him. He was frequent in prayer, and thence derived the skill and grace which appeared in his ministry. His life, indeed, was a life of prayer. By his frequent intercourse with heaven, he became heavenly in his temper, his views, and his whole conversation.
The temporal and spiritual state of his diocese called for most vigorous exertions. He was obliged to rebuild the episcopal mansion, which had fallen into decay, and to effect many other expensive repairs. He lamented that this forced him in some degree to intermit his charity to the poor. His attention was directed to whatever could in any degree promote the spiritual and temporal welfare of the country. He was seen in every quarter of his diocese, counselling, guiding, and directing. His charity was always most abundant. When he possessed, early in life, only 301. per annum, he devoted onetenth of this income to the poor. As his income gradu. ally increased, a greater share was distributed in alms. He always laid aside the proportion destined for the poor in a certain place. In this treasury, which he named “the poors' drawer," was deposited at first a tenth, then a fifth, afterwards a third, and at last half his income. Every deposit there was converted into an act both of charity and devotion ; prayers and alms were incessantly united. At his house every kind of distress found relief. Whether the hungry or the naked applied, their claims were certain to be duly considered and liberally answered.
In his barn was always a provision of corn and meal for the indigent; and the good bishop gave orders to his steward, when corn was measured to the poor, never to stroke it, as was usual, but to give heaped measure. His demesne contained several manufactories of different sorts, where artisans were engaged in preparing garments for the poor. The bishop attended even to the smallest circumstances which could benefit his people. He would purchase quantities of spectacles, and distribute them amongst the aged poor, that they might be enabled to read their Bibles.
Bishop Wilson was unwearied in his endeavours to improve the parochial schools. He was a constant and earnest preacher; and during the fifty-eight years of his episcopate he never failed every Sunday to preach or celebrate the holy rites of the Church, except when prevented by illness. Nothing could exceed his care and diligence in obtaining an effective and pious clergy. From the moment that any student declared his intention of entering the sacred ministry, the bishop formed a close connexion with him, watched over his conduct, and guided his studies and pursuits. After his entrance on the sacred ministry, the bishop made him reside with him for a whole year, that he might exercise a more minute inspection, and administer daily instruction and advice. He held many synods of the clergy, in which several wise constitutions and canons of discipline were made and enforced. He frequently addressed his clergy in pastoral letters full of piety and wisdom; and so great was the veneration in which they held him, that half a century after his decease, aged clergy have been heard to recount the virtues of Bishop Wilson, with tears of affection trembling in their eyes. Bishop Wilson acquired a knowledge of the Manks language, into which he translated several pious books, and procured the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles to be translated into that language.
Bishop Wilson was a man of prayer. He not only prayed every morning at six o'clock with his family, and also in the evening, but he retired three times every day to his private devotions. Even in the night he might be heard engaged in prayer. Sometimes the words of the Psalmist were indistinctly heard by his attendants. “I will arise at midnight, and give thanks unto thee. Praise