IX. Selina, Countess of Huntingdon

[British Critic, Oct. 1840]

{387} LITTLE as we can be supposed to agree with the theological views of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, the well-known friend and patroness of Whitfield, we have risen from the perusal of her life, as lately published, with feelings of interest,—kind, though sad,—or rather the more sad because of the kindness which we feel towards so many of the persons and things recorded in it. We proposed no more on taking it up, nor do we propose more now, than to select some passages from it illustrative of the religious transactions with which Lady Huntingdon was connected; but a number of musings have arisen in us, while engaged on it, which it is difficult wholly to suppress, yet impossible duly to draw out. The history of Methodism is, we do not scruple to say, the history of a heresy; but never surely was a heresy so mixed up with what was good and true, with high feeling and honest exertion,—never a heresy which admitted of more specious colouring or more plausible excuse,—never a heresy in which partizan must be more carefully discriminated from partizan, persons from their tenets, their intentions from their conduct, their words from their meaning, what they held of truth from what they held of error, their beginnings from {388} their endings. Being nothing short of a formal heresy, ultimately good could not come of it, nor will good come of it. We have not yet seen its termination, and therefore as yet can but partially argue ab eventu, which in theological matters is an evidence so solemn, so conclusive. "Ye shall know them by their fruits," is our Lord's canon concerning all schemes of doctrine, however attractive or fair of promise, which come not of the Catholic Church. Already has one of the two branches of Methodism, and that the principal one, borne, in the person of its most learned divine, the bitter fruit of error in the most sacred doctrine of theology. We hope nothing, then, we fear everything, from a religious movement, which nevertheless in its rise excites our sympathy, and of which we do not deny, as of any event in the world, the incidental benefits. Yet interest, pity and admiration we do feel for many of the principal agents in it; and if the choice lay between them and the reformers of the sixteenth century (as we thankfully acknowledge it does not,) a serious inquirer would have greater reason for saying, "Sit anima mea cum Westleio," than "cum Luthero," or "cum Calvino," and "cum multis aliis," as the grammar has it, "quos nunc perscribere longum est."

What pleases us in the Volume before us is the sight of a person simply and unconditionally giving up this world for the next. This must be right, whoever does it, and whatever else is right or wrong. So far Lady Huntingdon gained a point, and sets Christians of all times an example. She devoted herself, her name, her means, her time, her thoughts, to the cause of Christ. She did not spend her money on herself; she did not allow the homage paid to her rank to remain with herself: she passed these on, and offered them up to Him {389} from whom her gifts came. She acted as one ought to act who considered this life a pilgrimage, not a home,—like some holy nun, or professed ascetic, who had neither hopes nor fears of anything but what was divine and unseen. And such she was in an age which particularly required a witness that such things could be, or that it was possible to love anything better than the goods of life,—an age of which Hoadly was the bishop and Walpole the minister, and Pope the poet, and Chesterfield the wit, and Tillotson the ruling doctor. She was the representative, in an evil day, of what was, then as now, lost to the Church,—of the rich becoming poor for Christ, of delicate women putting off their soft attire and wrapping themselves in sack-cloth for the kingdom of heaven's sake. And moreover, though she was a partizan, and party feeling has at first sight nothing attractive, at least in the eyes of this generation, yet after all,—whatever be its evils, whatever its inherent faults, whatever unintentional but real opposition in a given case to the will of God,—there is something very stirring and touching in the sight of a number of persons loving each other disinterestedly, and co-operating one with another, whoever they are; and that for no object of earth, but with a view of advancing His cause whose servants they profess to be. How far this high and pure motive existed among Lady Huntingdon's friends, we do not here decide; but as far as it was there, it arrests and subdues our feelings, though existing in the midst of what is in itself base and contemptible. When faith and love, or even their types and semblances, are in any measure met with in the history of religious error, they outweigh much of extravagance, much of absurdity, nay, of buffoonery, and even of unreality, which somewhere or other will be sure {390} to make its appearance in those who figure in it. However, we must pass on to the business which lies before us, and in doing so, we fear we must be laying aside in no small degree the amiable feelings in which we have been indulging. There is nothing in the Volume itself which has given rise to them to call for much of such sympathy; and though it is not worth while to make much of its faults, yet we must not seem to extend to it an expression of kindness which is due only to its subject.


Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, being the second daughter of Washington, Earl Ferrers, was noble both by birth and marriage; and it will not be the fault of her biographers, if posterity is not fully aware of this fact. Before opening the volume, we encounter her arms, with coronet, supporters, and motto, in gilt, upon the side of it. We open it, and are met with her portrait, with the coronet above it, and her arms below, not however as before, but according to a second device. Then comes the title-page, and here a third representation of her arms presents itself, and according to a third device; and we are informed, in addition, that the memoir which is to follow is the work of "a member of the noble houses of Huntingdon and Ferrers." This is but a specimen of the whole book. In the Preface, which succeeds, we are told, that in deference to Lady Huntingdon's wish, "all attempts at the publication of her correspondence hitherto have been resisted by her noble relatives," till the present compilation of documents and papers in their possession, which has been made by a "cadet of her illustrious family." An Introduction follows, which tells us that {391} "she had magnanimity enough to break the ranks of her order;" and then comes the "Life and Times," which, not content with giving a minute account of the ancestral peculiarities of the house of Shirley, of which the Countess was a member, as high as "Edward the Confessor," and as wide as "the Roman Empire," or rather as "Christendom," contains genealogical notes appended to the names of noble persons mentioned in the text, so copious that, put together, they would go far to make up a Lodge or Debrett.

This is instructive. The truth is, poor human nature cannot support itself without objects of honour and deference. Man is born to obey quite as much as to command. Remove the true objects, and you do not get rid of a natural propensity: he will make idols instead; remove heaven, and he will put up with earth, rather than honour nothing at all. The principle of respect is as much a part of us as the principle of religion. It is the boast of the section of Christians to which belong the "cadet of an illustrious family," and the "conductors," as they call themselves, of the work, not to mention "the reverend author of the Introduction," that it has discarded the authority of bishops; and therefore, as a natural consequence, it ever has bowed down, and does, and ever will, bow down to mere flesh and blood. Disbelieving the existence of a divine priesthood, it will ever gaze with awe and reverence at the high station or splendid connections or noble birth of the children of men. If its view of religion be true, this misfortune cannot be helped; but anyhow, that is a misfortune, and not a privilege, about which it is so proud. The following almost grotesque instance of this earthly view of things incidentally occurs in a later place in the Volume, in a notice of Dr. Haweis, of whom {392} by-and-by we shall have more to say. This gentleman, on being deprived of his curacy in Oxford by the bishop of the day, appealed, but fruitlessly, to Secker the primate. On which our biographer, protesting against the "abused authority of the bishop," observes—"In this way was Mr. Haweis deprived of his curacy without redress; yet he had influence, and was of a good family, long resident in Cornwall, and well known as Haweis of St. Coose. His mother, Miss Bridgman Willyams, was the only daughter of, etc. Her mother was a sister of the last Baron Sandys of the Vines, etc. etc., whose eldest sister, Hester, was granddaughter and heiress of, etc. etc. etc.—P. 414. It is quite clear that this "member of the noble houses of Huntingdon and Ferrers" has been taught by his own people, that whatever excuse may be made for a bishop's acting vigourously towards snobs or parvenus, none at all of any sort or kind can be made for his curbing the zeal of well-connected ranters or gentlemanlike heretics: the very idea of which argues a degree of presumption which need but be recorded to receive the deserved condemnation of an impartial posterity.

Mr. Whitfield was not exempt from the same weakness,—weakness, that is, in men who had so little pity for those who deferred to ecclesiastical authority. He speaks, to take one instance out of many, of Lady Huntingdon's "condescending letter;" he is "ashamed to think she will admit him under her roof," and is "quite astonished at her ladyship's condescension."—P. 91. Now was this the language of Elisha towards the Shunammite, who was "a great woman?" Did he talk of her condescension, or did she fall down and "catch him by the feet?" Yet what was Elisha's power of miracles to that which Whitfield claimed for himself as being a {393} minister of "the everlasting gospel"—the instrument, in the hands of its Author, of miraculous conversion to the souls of thousands? There is something painfully extravagant in the cast of the sentence, in which the words last quoted occur: He is "quite astonished at her ladyship's condescension, and the unmerited superabounding grace and goodness of Him who has loved me," etc. We do not wish to bear hard upon the words of a simple-hearted and grateful person, occurring in a note not intended for preservation; but seeing as we do in his school of religion a certain general leaning towards sycophancy, we may fairly take this casual instance of it as the result of a principle, not the less real because spontaneous.

One great deficiency in the work before us lies in the dates, which occur so scantily and irregularly, that were we ever so desirous, we should not be able to contemplate the Countess in herself, or determine what she was, and how she became such. As far as we can discover, she did not know nor had heard Mr. Whitfield for some years after what is called her conversion, which was mainly owing to her sister-in-law, Lady Margaret Hastings. She is described by her biographer, (whose account would have been more interesting had he given the authorities on which it is founded,) as possessing "a highly intelligent mind, an extraordinary quickness of apprehension, a brilliant fancy, a retentive memory, a strong clear understanding, and a sound judgment, much improved by reading, conversation, deep thought and observation. Her knowledge of mankind, even at an early age," he continues, "and her penetration into the character of those with whom she was acquainted, were admirable. Though not a regular beauty, she possessed a large portion of the charms of her sex; her person was noble, commanding {394} respect—her countenance was the living picture of her mind, and united in it, in a happy combination, both the great and the condescending."—Pp. 9, 10.

She had religious impressions from a very early age, and when she grew up she made it her prayer "that she might marry into a serious family. None," continues the Memoir, "kept up more of the ancient dignity and propriety than the House of Huntingdon; the family possessed a sort of decorum which she perhaps mistook for religion." Here then she found the solution of her pious anxiety, and was married, or, in our author's language, "united in love's inviolable bonds," in 1728, when she was of the age of 21, to Theophilus, ninth Earl of Huntingdon;—who, he accordingly tells us, "was descended in a direct line from Francis, etc. etc., who married Catherine, eldest daughter and coheiress to Henry Cole, Lord Montacute, son and heir to Sir Richard Cole, Knight of the Garter, and Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, daughter to George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, etc. etc. etc."—P. 8. Our biographer then proceeds in the following strain:—

"At a very early period of life, Lady Huntingdon discovered an elevated turn of mind: she was impressed with a deep sense of divine things, a feeling which had a wonderful influence on her conduct, in leading her to read the Word of God with great diligence. She manifested an extraordinary turn for religious meditation; and repeatedly felt the most awful convictions of the certainty and eternal duration of a future state.

"Her conversation was modest, and her whole conduct marked with a degree of rectitude, not usually to be found in early life. After her marriage, she manifested a particularly serious deportment; and though sometimes at Court, yet, in visiting the higher circles, she took no pleasure in the fashionable follies of the great.

"At Donnington Park, she was the Lady Bountiful among her neighbours and dependants, though, as she herself afterwards felt and declared, going about to establish her own righteousness, she {395} endeavoured, by prayer and fasting and alms-deeds, to commend herself to the favour of the Most High. For, notwithstanding the early appearance of piety in Lady Huntingdon, it is evident she continued for many years a perfect stranger to the true nature of that Gospel which is the power of God to every one that believes. She aspired after rectitude, and was anxious to possess every moral perfection—she counted much upon the dignity of human nature, and was ambitious to act in a manner becoming her exalted ideas of that dignity. And here her ladyship outstripped the multitude in an uncommon degree: she was rigidly just in her dealings, and inflexibly true to her word; she was a strict observer of her several duties in life; her sentiments were liberal, and her charity profuse; she was prudent in her conduct, and courteous in her deportment; she was a diligent inquirer after truth, and a strenuous advocate for virtue; she was frequent in her sacred meditations, and was a regular attendant at public worship. Possessed of so many moral accomplishments, while she was admired by the world, it is no wonder that she should cast a look of self-complacency upon her character, and consider herself, with respect to her attainments in virtue, abundantly superior to the common herd of mankind. But while the Countess was taken up in congratulating herself upon her own fancied eminence in piety, she was an absolute stranger to that inward and universal change of heart, wrought by the gracious operations of the Spirit of God, by which new principles are established in the mind, new inclinations are imparted, and new objects pursued."—Pp. 10, 11.

Now here we must stop and comment. It would be a great satisfaction to have been told the authority on which this rounded and effective description is given. Is it doctrinal or is it historical? is it founded on antecedent grounds or on evidence? is it what the biographer thinks must in its degree take place in every one, under Lady Huntingdon's circumstances, before conversion, and therefore did necessarily take place in her instance inclusively; or is it a statement of a plain matter of fact in the particular case, delivered to him on testimony, as it stands in his pages? If it is the latter, we have nothing to remark upon it, of course, except that {396} we are very sorry that it should be so. We are truly sorry and shocked to be told that a young person, such as Lady Huntingdon, engaged in a course of such excellent deeds, should have been imbued with what is neither more nor less than the Pelagian heresy. Far from doubting the possibility of such a state of mind, on the hypothesis of trustworthy testimony, and far from extenuating its guilt, we denounce it, we anathematize it. She was in that case, as we fully admit, a precocious young heretic, and was formally excluded from all Christian hope, while she so remained, except on the ground of invincible ignorance. However, what seems to us more probable is, that her biographer takes for granted the fact of her being what he describes her, on the ground, which he also takes for granted, and most unwarrantably, that all men will confess such to be in matter of fact the state of the soul of man before what he would denominate its conversion, however they may differ from each other, whether it is a praiseworthy state or not. We believe that he considers that theologians, for instance, who agree with ourselves, hold in express words just that doctrine, about their natural, moral integrity, which he attributes to Lady Huntingdon, only, of course, not allowing that it is unscriptural or Pelagian. We should say that he supposed us to hold, not only that it is right "to aspire after rectitude," and to be "anxious to possess every moral perfection,"—an opinion, to which we most humbly plead guilty,—but, that it is also right, as he proceeds, to "count much upon the dignity of human nature," and to be "ambitious to act in a manner becoming that dignity," a tenet which, understood, as it must be, of the mere nature in which we are born, is, as we have just said, sheer Pelagianism.

However, all this is the mere illusion of persons who {397} will not inquire into facts. We do not believe that many persons, so exact as the Countess is described in the above passage, do habitually look with "self-complacency on their character, and congratulate themselves on their superiority to the common herd of mankind." We have never met with such, or heard of such on good evidence. In the first place, to go no further, it is not an everyday matter to find persons "modest in conversation,"—of "serious deportment,"—"Ladies Bountiful among their dependants,"—used to "prayer, fasting, and alms-deeds,"—"rigidly just,"—"inflexibly true,"—"strict observers of relative duties,"—"liberal in sentiment,"—"courteous in deportment,"—"diligent inquirers after truth,"—and "strenuous advocates for virtue." We should be curious to ascertain how many such persons our noble cadet himself has fallen in with; and next whether they were all, as he describes Lady Huntingdon, Pelagians; and further, whether they are sufficient to make so certain an induction of a general rule, that it is safe to pronounce, without special testimony to the point, which he will find difficult to give, that such Pelagianism deformed Lady Huntingdon. When persons who so speak are pressed on the subject, they sometimes proceed to tell us, that they themselves, before their conversion, are instances in point, having been at once thus endowed and thus inflated, and thus they reduce modest people to silence. Now, that they were at such a time of their life, as they say they were, self-conceited, arrogant, opinionative, and well satisfied with their religious prospects, we admit is very possible;—perhaps they are more or less so still. This is not our difficulty; but whether they were so wonderfully good, so angelically perfect, as they describe. We think the probability is, that they might be amiable, correct, benevolent, just, {398} praiseworthy in their social relations, diligent in their calling, observant of the forms of religion, in a certain way, but that they had a low standard of moral excellence, that they had no lively sense of the necessity of being reconciled to God, that they thought little about the next world, and had inadequate ideas of the corruption of their nature, that they were content to live as they were, and let religious matters take their chance.

This is very different from that perfection of virtue, on the one hand, and that extravagance of pride on the other, of which the writer before us conceives,—as if the better we were really, the better we always thought ourselves; and something like this probably, though on a higher scale of excellence, might be the Countess's state of mind in her first years. Probably she was, as afterwards, full of benevolent plans, and bent upon doing her duty, but with insufficient ideas of the nature and difficulty of Christian perfection, of her natural weakness, of the necessity of divine grace, of the imperfection and guilt adhering to her daily life, and of the great miracle of Divine Mercy in which the Gospel centres. She was shallow in her religion, as young people ever are and must be. She was neither so perfect nor so self-righteous as perhaps she afterwards painted herself in memory; exemplary indeed in conduct, yet ignorant of the depths of Christian truth and her own heart. However, we repeat, if her biographer's painting be correct, we say not a word in her defence. Were her excellence like an Archangel's, pride would utterly spoil it, or rather would prove that it was but hollow and counterfeit; we do not argue against doctrines or facts, when really such, we only are jealous of theories. {399}


Lady Huntingdon was far from being the only person of her own rank on whom, in that languid and dreary time, the freshness and earnestness of the Methodist movement exerted an influence. Many were permanently impressed by it, and more were affected; and she did her utmost to increase the number of its converts. She tried to persuade the celebrated Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, to go with her to hear Whitfield; but the Duchess had a "severe cold," which stood in the way. However, she observes to Lady Huntingdon, "God knows, we all need mending, and none more than myself. I have lived to see great changes in the world,—have acted a conspicuous part myself,—and now hope, in my old days, to obtain mercy from God, as I never expect any at the hands of my fellow-creatures. The Duchess of Ancaster, Lady Townshend, and Lady Cobham, were exceedingly pleased with many observations in Mr. Whitfield's sermon at St. Sepulchre's church, which has made me lament ever since that I did not hear it, as it might have been the means of doing me some good—for good, alas, I do want: but where, among the corrupt sons and daughters of Adam, am I to find it? Your ladyship must direct me. You are all goodness and kindness, and I often wish I had a portion of it."

The Duchess of Buckingham, who was said to be a daughter of James the Second, complied with a like invitation from the Countess, and took the Duchess of Queensberry with her; however, she candidly avows her unfavourable opinion of "the Methodist preachers. Their doctrines are most repulsive, and strongly tinctured with impertinence and disrespect towards their superiors, in perpetually endeavouring to level all ranks, {400} and do away with all distinctions. It is monstrous to be told that you have a heart as sinful as the common wretches that crawl on the earth. This is highly offensive and insulting; and I cannot but wonder that your ladyship should relish any sentiment so much at variance with high rank and good breeding."

At a time when the Church showed her tokens so faintly, the bold and energetic preaching of such men as Wesley and Whitfield, expending itself moreover on the inculcation of one or two neglected truths, spoke to the consciences of rich as well as poor, whether they were dissatisfied or sated with the carnal state in which their lives were passing away. They were preachers of repentance to those who needed repentance; when they failed to persuade the will, still they convinced the reason, and were admired and revered, even if not followed. Frederic, Prince of Wales, was among those of whom the Methodistic party had hopes. Various of his words and deeds, such as are commonly caught at and made much of in the case of princes, were adduced to prove that he favoured or even shared in the movement. When his difference with his father led him to keep his own Court, Lady Huntingdon attended it: her husband, Lord Ferrers, and other of her friends being the Prince's political supporters. One day the Prince inquired of Lady Charlotte Edwin, "where my Lady Huntingdon was, that she so seldom visited the circle?" On Lady Charlotte replying that probably she was "praying with the beggars;" the Prince, turning to her, said, "Lady Charlotte, when I am dying, I think I shall be happy to seize the skirt of Lady Huntingdon's mantle, to lift me up with her to Heaven."—P. 175. Such a speech in a royal mouth surely gives a favourable impression of the speaker; such is our judgment of it; but we marvel that {401} the Calvinistic biographer of Lady Huntingdon allows it to pass without a protest. Surely he must feel in his heart, that, under the language of Scripture, it savours of what he considers the leaven of Popery, that it interferes with the doctrine of justification by faith only, ascribes to Lady Huntingdon works of supererogation, tends to saint-worship, and encourages the notion that the intervention of one man can be of service to the soul of another. What indeed is the Prince's mode of speech but the "gathering us together under the feet of Thine elect," of the semi-popish Andrewes, or "his soul is with the saints, I trust," of an earlier period? We do not think it would have been passed without remark, had it been found in certain publications of this day which could be named.

Upon the Prince's death the Countess wrote to Mr. Lyttelton, who had been his principal secretary, to ascertain his feelings and sentiments at the close of life. Little could be ascertained about them, yet that little she considered satisfactory. "It is certain," she says, "that he was in the habit of reading Dr. Doddridge's works, which had been presented to the Princess, and has been heard to express his approbation of them in the highest terms. He had frequent arguments with my Lord Bolingbroke, who thought his Royal Highness fast verging towards Methodism, the doctrine of which he was very curious to ascertain."—P. 175. Lord Bolingbroke told her that he went more than once privately to hear Mr. Whitfield, with whom he said he was much pleased.

Lord Bolingbroke himself was practised upon by the zealous Countess, and happy would it have been for such as him, if the hopes she cherished of him had been fulfilled. She says of him and his wife, the Marchioness of Viletta,—"Of Lord Bolingbroke and the Marchioness {402} I sometimes have a hope; they attend with such regularity, and hear with such apparent attention." Whatever might be Lord Bolingbroke's opinion of the Countess's intellectual depth, which was perhaps not more respectful than her biographer's opinion of Lord Bolingbroke's, to judge by his mode of speaking of him, Bolingbroke doubtless was struck by what was better than all philosophy, her singleness of purpose in subjecting all matters of this world to the interests of the world unseen. Unbelievers and sceptics, living apart from the action, as it may be called, of the religious world, are so far in a condition to judge impartially of the conduct and principles of those who are in it, and consistency is just the very quality to which they give that praise, which really belongs, and which they cannot give, to truth. Hence they will often admire and defend extreme thinkers of whatever cast of opinion, while they despise those who move forward, or rather sideways or crossways, on two or three principles at once. This seems to be the secret of Lord Bolingbroke's respect for Lady Huntingdon, Mr. Whitfield, and others of their party, and, as the following story shows, for Calvin.

"The Rev. Martin Madan, in his Comments on the Thirty-nine Articles, relates the following curious anecdote of Lord Bolingbroke and Dr. Church, on the authority of Lady Huntingdon, to whom it was communicated by his lordship himself. Lord Bolingbroke was one day sitting in his house at Battersea, reading Calvin's Institutes, when he received a morning visit from Dr. Church. After the usual salutations, he asked the Doctor if he could guess what the book was, which then lay before him; 'and which,' says Lord Bolingbroke, 'I have been studying?' 'No, really, my lord, I cannot,' quoth the Doctor. 'It is Calvin's Institutes,' said Lord Bolingbroke; 'What do you think of these matters, Doctor?' 'Oh, my lord, we don't think about such antiquated stuff; we teach the plain doctrines of virtue and morality, and have long laid aside those abstruse points about grace.' 'Look you, Doctor,' said {403} Lord Bolingbroke, 'you know I don't believe the Bible to be a divine revelation; but they who do, can never defend it on any principles but the doctrine of grace. To say truth, I have at times been almost persuaded to believe it upon this view of things; and there is one argument which has gone very far with me in behalf of its authenticity, which is, that the belief in it exists upon earth, even when committed to the care of such as you, who pretend to believe it, and yet deny the principles on which it is defensible.'"—P. 179.

And he speaks thus of Mr. Whitfield, in a letter to Lady Huntingdon: "He is the most extraordinary man of our times. He has the most commanding eloquence I ever heard in any person—his abilities are very considerable—his zeal unquenchable, and his piety and excellence genuine, unquestionable. The bishops and inferior orders of the clergy are very angry with him, and endeavour to represent him as a hypocrite, an enthusiast; but this is not astonishing, there is so little real good or honesty among them. Your ladyship will be somewhat amused at hearing that the King has recommended to his Grace of Canterbury that Mr. Whitfield should be advanced to the bench, as the only means of putting an end to his preaching."—Pp. 179, 180.


It is no proof that the bishops or clergy of Whitfield's day were in an inactive state because a king like George II. or a peer like Bolingbroke chose to be witty upon them; but we fear there is abundant evidence, without going for it to the work before us, of the incapable, or (if we may use a strong word) the imbecile policy of the Establishment of the day, in dealing with this living and vigorous offspring, of which to its horror and perplexity it had been delivered. The Catholic Church, unfettered {404} by time or place, and embracing by her very profession all nations, all classes, all professions, and all modes of thought and feeling, ought never to be at a loss how to treat any possible occurrence, which meets her in her onward course. Her territory is the world physical and moral: and to profess or show ignorance would be to abdicate the throne. Hers is the universal science which assigns to each fact or doctrine its true position, and the universal rule which places each individual mind at its proper post. She offers to engage all comers, whether they come as knights of chivalry, or with the weapons of the schools. But at the period in question she was under eclipse, or at least behind a thick fog, in these our northern parts. She indeed herself was ever what she has been, for she is one; but the English Establishment, which is the aspect in which she looks and has looked upon us from her native heavens, sent out at that time a wan and feeble ray, and exerted a languid influence, and was as little able to warn and guide her children, as the moon is to cheer the shivering wayfarer, and to light him amid the perils of wilderness or morass. Wesley and Whitfield doubtless had their places in her economy, as truly as St. Francis, or St. Philip Neri, had there been minds able and free to solve the problem. Repentance and conversion have their place in the gospel and the Church; field preaching has its place; the poor have their place; and, if that place cannot be found in an existing system, which claims to be the Church, that system is, so far, but the figure of the narrow Jewish polity, not of that which overshadows the whole earth and penetrates into the recesses of the heart.

But such seems to have been, more or less, the English Church at that day. It saw that there was excellence in the Methodistic system, it saw there was evil;—it saw {405} there was strength, it saw there was weakness;—it praised the good, it censured the faulty;—it feared its strength, it ridiculed its weakness: and that was all. It had no one clear consistent view of Methodism as a phenomenon: it did not take it as a whole—it did not meet it,—it gave out no authoritative judgment on it—it formed no definition of it—it had no line of policy towards it—it could but speak of it negatively, as going too far, or vaguely, as wanting in discretion and temper; whereas it on the contrary, defective as it was, was a living, acting thing, which spoke and did, and made progress, amid the scattered, unconnected, and inconsistent notions of religion which feebly resisted it. The Volume under review affords us a number of instances of this want of precision and consistency in the conduct of the authorities of the Established Church, some of which shall be given in illustration of what has been said.

The amiable Bishop Benson of Gloucester had been Lady Huntingdon's tutor. On the Countess's adopting the sentiments of the two Reformers, her husband, says the author, (whose account, however, must of course be taken with allowance as that of an opponent,) "recommended her to converse" with the bishop, "and with this request she readily complied. The bishop was accordingly sent for," (we suppose as the Shunammite sent for Elisha,) "and he attempted to convince her ladyship of the unnecessary strictness of her sentiments and conduct. But she," continues the narrator, "pressed him so hard with Scripture, brought so many arguments from the Articles and Homilies, and so plainly and faithfully urged upon him the awful responsibility of his station, under the Great Head of the Church, that his temper was ruffled, and he rose up in haste to depart, bitterly lamenting that he had ever laid his hands upon George {406} Whitfield, to whom he attributed the change wrought in her ladyship. 'My Lord,' said the Countess, 'mark my words: when you are on your dying bed, that will be one of the few ordinations you will reflect upon with complacence.'"—P. 18. He goes on to say that the bishop's conduct at that solemn season verified her prediction; for when near his death, he sent ten guineas to Mr. Whitfield as a token of his regard and veneration, and begged to be remembered by him in his prayers.

Bishop Lavington of Exeter got into a difficulty which obliged him to send to Lady Huntingdon an apology, which was forthwith inserted in the papers, "for the harsh and unjust censures which he was led to pass on Messrs. Whitfield and Wesley from the supposition that they were in some measure concerned in, or had countenanced" an imposition, by which the Bishop had been made to seem favourable to their opinions; and he requested them to "accept his unfeigned regret at having unjustly wounded their feelings, and exposed them to the odium of the world."—P. 96. At another time, when Whitfield was preaching at Exeter, "the bishop and several of his clergy stood near him, and saw ten thousand people awe-struck by his appeals,"—p. 127: a type of the conduct of the Established Church during the whole movement.

On the other hand, no one can complain of Bishop Hurd, in the following anecdote, on the score of his not enunciating a broad principle, but how it consists with that other principle upon which he was Bishop of Worcester, does not appear.

"The Venerable Dr. Hurd, Bishop of Worcester, being in the habit of preaching frequently, had observed a poor man remarkably attentive, and made him some little presents. After a while he missed his humble auditor, and meeting him, said, 'John, how is it {407} I do not see you in the aisle as usual?' John, with some hesitation, replied, 'My lord, I hope you will not be offended, and I will tell you the truth,—I went the other day to hear the Methodists, and I understood their plain words so much better, that I have attended them ever since.' The Bishop put his hand into his pocket, and gave him a guinea, with words to this effect,—'God bless you, and go where you can receive the greatest profit to your soul."—Pp. 18, 19.

"An instance of episcopal candour," truly adds our biographer, "well worth recording."

On the other hand, the Bishop of Oxford withdraws Mr. Haweis's license, the Bishop of Rochester refuses to license him in Westminster, of which he also held the deanery; the Bishop of London silences Mr. Romaine in London, and refuses Mr. Fletcher leave to preach to the French prisoners at Tunbridge.

But again, the Bishop of Derry attends "the ministry of Mr. Whitfield, Mr. Romaine, and Mr. Fletcher," at Lady Huntingdon's chapel at Bath, and, on receiving Mr. Maxfield at Mr. Wesley's particular recommendation, says, "Sir, I ordain you to assist that good man, that he may not work himself to death."—P. 33.

Contrariwise, Dr. Drummond, Archbishop of York, says to Mr. Conyers on his visitation sermon, "Well, Conyers, you have given us a fine sermon." "I am glad," replies the doctor, "it meets the approbation of your grace." "Approbation! Approbation!" replied the archbishop, "if you go on preaching such stuff you will drive all your parish mad. Were you to inculcate the morality of Socrates, it would do more good than canting about the new birth."—P. 280.

Again: the churchwardens of St. George's, Hanover Square, not being able to deprive Mr. Romaine of the lectureship, refuse to light the Church, or to suffer it to be lighted; while the Bishop of Peterborough exerts his {408} influence in the diocese of London to put an end to this vexatious opposition.—P. 361.

Mr. Berridge's interview with the Bishop of Lincoln shall be given in his own words:—

"'Soon after I began to preach the Gospel at Everton,' says Mr. Berridge, 'the churches in the neighbourhood were deserted, and mine so over-crowded, that the squire, who did not like strangers, he said, and hated to be incommoded, joined with the offended parsons, and soon after, a complaint having been made against me, I was summoned before the bishop. 'Well, Berridge,' said his lordship, 'did I institute you at Eaton or Potten? Why did you go preaching out of your own parish?' 'My lord,' said I, 'I make no claims to the livings of those parishes; 'tis true, I was once at Eaton, and finding a few people assembled, I admonished them to repent of their sins, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls. At that very moment, my lord, there were five or six clergymen out of their own parishes, and enjoying themselves on the Eaton bowling-green.' 'I tell you,' retorted his lordship, 'that if you continue preaching where you have no right, you will very likely be sent to Huntingdon gaol.' 'I have no more regard, my lord, for gaol than other folks,' rejoined I, 'but I had rather go there with a good conscience, than be at liberty without one.' His lordship looked very hard at me, 'Poor fellow!' said he, 'you are beside yourself, in a few months you will either be better or worse.' 'Then my lord,' said I, 'you may make yourself quite happy in this business; for if I should be better, you suppose I shall desist of my own accord; if worse, you need not send me to Huntingdon gaol, for I shall be better accommodated in Bedlam."—P. 369.

Again: the excellent Archbishop Potter in his last moments sends an affectionate and touching note to Lady Huntingdon, who, nevertheless, should surely in the eyes of a bishop, and must surely in the eyes of a theologian, have been none other than a heretic and schismatic, whatever private feelings he might have entertained towards her. When Bishop of Oxford, he had an {409} opportunity of witnessing the rise of Methodism in the University; and afterwards ordained the Messrs. Wesley, Ingham, Hervey, Broughton, Clayton, Kinchin, etc., the first members of that Society. On one occasion he treated Mr. Charles Wesley with great severity; but towards the close of his life his sentiments respecting the Methodist preachers seem to have undergone a favourable change. After writing the letter to Lady Huntingdon above referred to, he was walking with it to his scrutoire, when (as his son Mr. Potter acquainted her) he was "seized with a sudden syncope, dropped upon the floor, and expired with the letter in his hand."—Pp. 446, 447.

Once more, we are told that

"The bigoted and intolerant Warburton took every occasion to rally her ladyship on her newly-adopted sentiments, and, with his characteristic rudeness, pronounced her an incurable enthusiast; for with him all personal experience of a divine witness by the Spirit of God in the heart was rank enthusiasm: and this Lady Huntingdon maintained as the essence of truth and Christianity. She pleaded for the application and enjoyment of divine truth in the conscience; Warburton for bishops, priests, and deacons, and the two sacraments of sacerdotal administration, as essential to the being of a Christian. Through life this singular man was strongly prejudiced against, and warmly opposed and censured, both the principles and people that Lady Huntingdon honoured and respected: and on numberless occasions manifested an undeviating opposition, contempt of, and endeavour to suppress, what he was pleased to style Methodism, but which her ladyship loved and vindicated."—Pp. 444, 445.


Now under such a variety of judgments from the Episcopal Bench, when York, London, Exeter, Gloucester, Oxford, Lincoln, and Rochester, stood in opposition to Worcester, Derry, and Peterborough,—and Canterbury {410} and an earlier Gloucester, beginning with a censure, softened towards the Methodists, as they grew towards schism,—what was the necessary consequence to the new Reformers themselves, as regards their work whether of proselytism or protest? This great advantage attached to them over their antagonists: they had a message to deliver, a position to defend, and that one and the same to all: the latter had none. Their opponents did not maintain any definite, or aggressive, or opposite doctrine, such as the sacramental power of the Church, or the catholic character of their own creed; they did not even agree together in opinion practically. Now the natural effect of this must ever be to create in the mind of assailants a great notion of their own superiority. They will consider their own view to be true because it is a view, and they will regard the opinions opposed to it, not as constituting one whole, but as random ideas, which mean nothing in themselves, and whose real place is only assignable according to their approximation to, or divergence from, their own. This is what we see before our eyes, or did till lately. Persons of what have been called evangelical sentiments have not deigned to contemplate or investigate the opinions of sounder Churchmen, except in relation to what they held themselves. They have condescended to applaud when others approached them in this or that point, and have called them "promising," or "interesting;" but they have not dwelt upon, so as to understand, or perhaps in charity they have dismissed from their minds, whatever was contrary to their own opinions. They have not thought it worth while to inquire whether such approach to themselves might not legitimately consist with an opposition to them in certain other points; they have not tried to enter into the system or frame of mind {411} of a High-Church opponent, but have thought that where he agreed with them in opinion, this was pro tanto a move towards themselves. In the same way Milner treats the early Fathers; a reader of his history would never dream that the said Fathers had aught of oneness and system in their teaching; he would think that they held a mass of disconnected notions, some good, some bad, as it might be; some Lutheran, others superstitious, some pagan, some Jewish, some philosophic; nothing of an integral creed which had to be mastered, nothing which could serve to set them on a level with himself, or impair his persuasion of his own right of criticising, selecting, and taking the lead.

Here, if we mistake not, we see the meaning of the style of certain publications, to which the last seven years have given birth, and which have been accused, though more so at first than now, of intemperance and harshness, of repelling people, instead of attracting them. We suspect their writers thought that the very first point to be secured in the controversy, was the inflicting upon all readers that theirs was a whole positive consistent objective system, which had to be mastered, not one which men already partly held and partly not, and from which they might pick and choose as they pleased, but one which they had to approach, study, enter upon, and receive or reject, according to their best judgment. They wished it to be recognized as a creed, and to gain from others the attention due to one. This they desired in the case of all hearers, whether they were what has been called evangelical, or of the school of Bishop Marsh and Bishop Tomlin. They perhaps wished to inform the public, as a first piece of information, that the said public had something to learn. They knew that comprehension or compromise was simply beside the mark. {412} They felt that it was no gain, if they so explained away their own words, that the parties addressed could consider that after all they meant by them no more than those parties meant already. They knew that there was a difference between the one side and the other, and that the other must come over to the one, not to set asleep upon the notion that the one is the other. We have made this allusion, in illustration of what we would convey concerning the history of Methodism. Had it been met with a definite theology, with an analysis of its errors, and a precise discrimination of what was true in it from what was false, its supporters would have felt that the Church had a meaning in its words, and they would have been necessarily thrown on the defensive; but the vague, unsystematic mode in which they were encountered did but create in their minds an impression of their own superiority, as if their own view must unavoidably be taken by all who would be religious, for none other could be found.

The other more obvious evil resulting from the then condition of the Church in relation to Methodism, was her abandonment of authority in her dealings with them. As we have already said, man craves for an object of veneration: and if not supplied with those which God has appointed, he will take what offers. The office of ecclesiastical authorities is to lead and guide to their rightful issues the great movements of the human mind, which are ever characterized by passion and error, but ever based on some portion of truth. If these guides will not act, others will act for them. So it was in the case before us: the rulers of the Church did not understand her mission, and Lady Huntingdon became acting bishop instead of them. This unconscious assumption on her ladyship's part of an hierarchical position is confessed by Whitfield in so many words. "Good Lady Huntingdon," {413} he says in a letter to the Countess Delitz, "goes on acting the part of a mother in Israel more and more. For a day or two she has had five clergymen under her roof, which makes her ladyship look like a good archbishop, with his chaplains around him. Her house is a Bethel: to us in the ministry it looks like a college. We have the sacrament every morning, heavenly conversation all day, and preach at night. This is to live at court indeed!"—P. 163.

The following passage is to the same purpose, showing that what the Church will not do well, others will do ill instead:

"When the great leaders had once admitted the assistance of lay-preachers, volunteers in abundance offered their zealous services. If they had been disposed to be nice in their selection, it was not in their power. They had called up a spirit which they could not lay; but they were still able to control and direct it. They had taken no step in their whole progress so reluctantly as this. The measure was forced upon them by circumstances, and by the strong remonstrances of Lady Huntingdon, whose penetrating mind perceived that, if these men were not permitted to preach with the sanction of Mr. Whitfield and Mr. Wesley, they would not be withheld from exercising the power which they felt in themselves. Her ladyship had coolly and impartially considered the difficulties of the case; and upon the calmest view of it, notwithstanding her educational prejudices in favour of the Established Church, and her repugnance to the irregularity which was sanctioned by this step, she still thought that those who were called only of God, and not of man, had more right to preach."—Pp. 60, 61.

Another decision, conceptis verbis, is addressed to a clergyman of well-known and respected name, whose preaching did not quite please her. Thus she speaks ex cathedrā,—Selina Episcopa, dilecto filio Henrico Venn:

"Oh, my friend, we can make no atonement to a violated law—we have no inward holiness of our own. Cling not to such beggarly {414} elements—such filthy rags—mere cobwebs of Pharisaical pride, but look to Him who hath wrought out a perfect righteousness for His people … My dear friend, no longer let false doctrines disgrace your pulpit. Preach Christ crucified as the only foundation of the sinner's hope. Preach Him as the author and finisher, as well as the sole object, of faith ... May His gracious benediction rest upon your labours! and may you be blessed to the conversion of very many, who shall be your joy and crown of rejoicing in the great day, when the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall appear."—Pp. 225, 226.

In like manner she says of Cheltenham:

"I sincerely hope that I may be enabled to pay much attention to this interesting field of labour. There is certainly an incorrigible apathy prevalent among the gay who frequent this place … Nevertheless, not a few have given manifest proofs of the reality of their conversion ... Over such we do and will rejoice as the fruit of our humble efforts."—P. 434.

Again, about her students in the same place.—

"I wrote to (Shenstone) to order him to France, as having a more able one to employ while the company was there. But he sent him back, and said he would not go. I then repeated my orders to both to change … The wicked and most shameful confusion they have made in Wales must be no longer continued ... My own ministers must have the lead through all the work. Such reproach makes my heart ache, and often makes me, like him under the juniper tree, say, 'It is better for me to die,' but strength comes for the next day of trial."—P. 435.

Might not this be a translation from St. Basil, bating the proper names, or the allocution of some Pope, whose legates had been insulted?


She, as other persons, had many cares of office, from the misconduct or waywardness of those over whom she presided. One awkward matter concerned Dr. Haweis, {415} though we are not sure that we rightly apprehend her biographer's account of it. "In the number of those," he says, "who stood forth in the midst of abounding reproach and hostility, and bore a fearless and faithful testimony to the grace and atonement of the Redeemer, was the late venerable Dr. Haweis, who had entered the University as a gentleman-commoner of Christ Church, but afterwards removed to Magdalen Hall. Early in life he was awakened under the powerful ministry of that good man, Mr. Walter, of Truro."—P. 226. Eventually he had the living of Aldwinckle, in Northamptonshire, and Mr. Newton said that his preaching there "sounded like the report of a cannon through the country" (p. 420), and in consequence he attracted vast congregations to his church. One instance of its success is recorded by our biographer. There was an old innkeeper, who, having entered the church for the singing, closed his ears with his hands when the sermon was to begin: when, a fly stinging his nose, he suddenly removed them just in time to hear the text given out "in a voice that sounded like thunder." The words were, "He that hath ears," etc.; he listened, and he was converted in consequence. Such was the incumbent of Aldwinckle's powers. And now let us review the circumstances under which he found himself in this influential position.

The former incumbent, a Mr. Kimpton, had fallen into difficulties, and, becoming a prisoner in the King's Bench, proposed to sell the advowson, which it appears was his, in order, by the price it might fetch, to release himself from his painful situation. As he could not be dispensed from residence, he had no option but to sell the living at once; and, as delay occurred in finding a purchaser, he put in Dr. Haweis, at Mr. Madan's suggestion, to keep it meanwhile, lest the presentation should lapse to the {416} Bishop of the diocese. The circumstance of immediate possession increased of course its money value, and before many months had elapsed it was sold for a thousand guineas. The bargain, however, could not take effect without Dr. Haweis; and he, on being informed of it, refused to resign, and denied he had made any promise to do so. On this, he was asked at least to make some compensation to Mr. Kimpton, for the loss he would sustain, but he answered, rightly enough, that he could not be party to any such simoniacal proceeding; moreover, he had already laid out £300 on the parsonage. Then Mr. Kimpton turned to Mr. Madan, insisting that on the face of the matter he never could have intended to give so valuable a property out and out to Dr. Haweis, a stranger to him, and a young man, to the depreciation of its market value, which of course he needed to raise to the utmost; but Mr. Madan took a contrary view, and as there had been no third party in the transaction, who might have been a witness in the matter, Mr. Kimpton gained nothing by his appeal. Then Dr. Hawies gave him his coup de grace by laying the case before the Lord Chancellor, to whom Mr. Madan was chaplain, and who decided that Mr. Kimpton had no remedy in law. Indeed, no other decision was possible; and the poor man remained a prisoner in the King's Bench, with a son driven out of his mind, and his family nearly starving.

All this shocked Lady Huntingdon; and, as it was a money matter, she had both a plea and a meaning when she interfered. She purchased of Mr. Kimpton for £1000 what she could not take away from Dr. Haweis; and thus gained a claim for exercising her ecclesiastical functions, and giving both him and his friend, her views of the transaction. She addressed herself to Mr. Madan, "On {417} having your representation read over," she says in it, "my sentiment on that point I most freely gave, and thought, as the matter stood, I could not see how Mr. Haweis, as an honest man, could continue to hold that living." Then, after relating how she had herself purchased the advowson, and released Mr. Kimpton from confinement, she continues, "It remains now only for me to pray God to enable both you and Mr. Haweis to make every proper and public concession to the world for any conscious infirmity, weakness, temptation, or mistaken step, through this transaction. May you stand by the cross of Christ in this humbling and trying instance," etc.—P. 418. Mr. Madan, however, was equal to the occasion. He wrote back, "As to the concessions your ladyship is pleased to mention, as we do not conceive we have any to make so we may assure you that none can ever be made."

Such was the issue of an affair, in which, whatever we think of Mr. Madan, Dr. Haweis does not particularly shine; but, if faith, such as he was considered to have, blots out all, even the most enormous sins, it is not wonderful if Lady Huntingdon and her friends considered it a sovereign prophylactic against any prospective mischief happening to his soul from mere peccadillos against the law whether of charity, generosity, equity, or honour. Accordingly our biographer gently observes,—supposing Dr. Haweis "to have erred in this, let the mistakes of such men be beacons for our admonition and warning, while their fidelity and devotedness inspire us with the zeal of imitation and arouse us to exertion."—P. 421. He tells us too that "Mr. Romaine, Mr. Venn, as well as Mr. Newton, visited him in his living; the friendship of such men is unequivocal testimony to the piety of Dr. Haweis." Nay, even as regards Lady Huntingdon herself, we are struck to find that "however {418} severe might be her ladyship's opinion of this transaction at the moment, she had always entertained a high opinion of the piety and moral worth of Mr. Haweis; he became one of her preachers, then her chaplain, and he was appointed by her will one of the chief managers of her chapel."—P. 414.

A word must be added about Mr. Madan on his own score, who was Dr. Haweis's associate in the foregoing transaction. He was "a friend and intimate of Lady Huntingdon," who, as the noble cadet informs us, "had been well acquainted with his mother-in-law, Lady Hale, relict of Sir Bernard Hale, etc., the friend, etc., of her ladyship's grandfather, Sir Richard Levinge, etc., and uncle to a lady who married Sir E. Dering, Bart., Lady Huntingdon's cousin, and grandson to Lady Anne Shirley." He was originally bred to the bar, but being sent by some gay companions to hear Wesley, by way of affording them amusement, he was converted on the spot by that wonderful preacher, and when his friends asked him, on his return, whether "he had taken off the old Methodist," he answered, "No, gentlemen, but he has taken me off." Mr. Madan was the founder and first chaplain of the Lock Hospital. Our author's eloquence rises almost to the sublime in his description of this well-connected divine:

"The lawyer turning divine was novel—curiosity prevailed among the million of the metropolis. The manly eloquence of the preacher drew general attention and excited applause. The poor heard the Gospel with gladness, and the rich were not sent empty away. Many were filled with wonder. The croaking cry of prejudice was silenced—her raven voice sunk amidst the loud acclaims of the friends of religion, who heard the doctrines of the Reformation nobly defended by an able advocate, whose knowledge was equal to his zeal. Like Boanerges, a son of thunder, he proclaimed the law from the flaming mountain; and from the summit of Zion's {419} hill, he appeared a Barnabas, a son of consolation. Mr. Madan was rather tall in stature, and of a robust constitution; his countenance was majestic, open, and engaging, and his looks commanding veneration; his delivery is said to have been peculiarly graceful. He preached without notes; his voice was musical, well-modulated, full, and powerful; his language plain, nervous, pleasing, and memorable; and his arguments strong, bold, rational, and conclusive; his doctrines were drawn from the sacred fountain; he was mighty in the Scriptures—a workman that needed not to be ashamed of his labours, rightly dividing the word of truth."—Pp. 166, 167.

After a time he itinerated in Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, and Nottinghamshire, and he and another are spoken of by Mr. Ryland as being "like men baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, fervent in spirit, and setting their faces as a flint."—P.431. An account of a sermon is also given us, in which "he showed what regeneration was not, but more especially what it was," with great power.—P. 432. And he himself speaks, in a letter to Wesley, of Lord and Lady Darmouth, as "breathing after inward holiness, as the hart panteth after the waterbrooks."—P. 433. At a later date, this gentleman, thus paralleled to St. John and St. Barnabas, baptized with fire and enlightened in the nature of regeneration, actually wrote a book, called "Thelyphthora, or a Treatise on Female Ruin," in which he advocates polygamy, as an expedient for setting things straight.

If Luther found his representative in Mr. Madan as regards a point of Christian morality, he had a disciple as regards a far more conspicuous peculiarity of his mind in a better man, Mr. Berridge, of Everton. This gentleman, of whom an anecdote has already been told, amid many good points of character, was totally destitute of reverence, and can hardly rebut the severe censure of {420} Mr. Southey, that he was "buffoon as well as fanatic." The author of the work before us maintains that he was neither, on the following grounds, first, because "Lady Huntingdon invited him repeatedly to meet at her house the eloquent and the courtly;" secondly, because "Mr. Whitfield called him an Angel of the Church, and employed him as his substitute at Tottenham Court Chapel, and the Tabernacle;" thirdly, because Mr. Simeon "preached his funeral sermon;" fourthly, because Clare Hall "presented him to the vicarage of Everton;" and fifthly, because he served the "office of moderator."—P. 367. However, he allows that Mr. Berridge "often caused a smile that he might create a tear;" we do not fully enter into the antithesis; "a hazardous," he continues, "if not an unwarrantable experiment in the pulpit;" but he excuses it on the ground that "his perfect scholarship as a classic enabled him to give point to piquant thoughts," and that "there will be some buffoonery wherever Aristophanic Greek is understood;" that is, we suppose, among all distinguished scholars in both Universities. We are told that he was inferior in learning to very few of the most celebrated men of literature and science in the University, and "that from his entrance to Clare Hall to his being vicar of Everton, he regularly studied fifteen hours a day."

"His stature was tall, but not awkward—his make was lusty, but not corpulent; his voice deep, but not hoarse,—strong, but not noisy; his pronunciation was distinct, but not broad. In his countenance there was gravity without grimace. His address was solemn, but not sour—easy, but not careless—deliberate, but not drawling—pointed, but not personal—affectionate, but not fawning. He would often weep, but never whine. His sentences were short, but not ambiguous; his ideas were collected, but not crowded. Upon the whole, his manner and person were agreeable and majestic. {421}

"For twenty-four years he continued to ride nearly one hundred miles and to preach some ten or twelve sermons every week. At home, for his hearers who came from a distance, his table was served, and his stables open for their horses; and abroad, houses and barns were rented, lay preachers supplied, and his own expenses paid out of his own pocket. His ear was ever attentive to the tale of woe; his eye was keen to observe the miseries of the poor; the law of kindness was written upon his heart, and his hand was always ready to administer relief. The gains of his vicarage, of his fellowship, and of his patrimonial income (for his father died very rich), and even his family plate, were appropriated to support his liberality. He was also a favourite with Lady Huntingdon. To her he was indebted for much spiritual light, and her liberality in other matters was felt and acknowledged by him."—Pp. 368, 369.

There is much in this account which raises respect for the subject of it: but to have a full view of his character, we should read the following strange letter to Lady Huntingdon, which seems to be a fair specimen of the author's style:

"My Lady,—Your letter just suited my case: it was a bleeding plaister for a bleeding heart. These many months I have done little else but mourn for myself and others, to see how we lie among the tombs, contented with a decent suit of grave-clothes. At times my heart has been refreshed with these words, 'On the land of my people is come up briars and thorns, until the Spirit be poured out upon them from on high;' but the comfort soon vanisheth, like gleams of a winter sun. I cannot wish for transports such as we once had, and which almost turned our heads; but I do long to see a spirit poured of triumphant faith, heavenly love, and steadfast cleaving to the Lord.

"Before I parted with honest Glasscott, I cautioned him much against petticoat snares. He has burnt his wings already. Sure he will not imitate a foolish gnat, and hover again about the candle? If he should fall into a sleeping-nap, he will soon need a flannel night-cap, and a rusty chain to fix him down, like a church Bible to the reading-desk. No trap so mischievous to the field preacher as wedlock, and it is laid for him at every hedge corner. Matrimony has quite maimed poor Charles [Wesley], and might have spoiled {422} John [Wesley] and George [Whitfield], if a wise Master had not graciously sent them a pair of ferrets. Dear George has now got his liberty again, and he will 'scape well if he is not caught by another tenter-hook.

"Eight or nine years ago, having been grievously tormented with housekeepers, I truly had thoughts about looking out for a Jezebel myself. But it seemed highly needful to ask advice of the Lord. So falling down on my knees before a table, with a Bible between my hands, I besought the Lord to give me a direction. Then letting the Bible fall open of itself, I fixed my eyes immediately on these words, 'When my son was entered into his wedding chamber, he fell down and died.'—2 Esdras x. 1. This frightened me heartily, you may easily think; but Satan, who stood peeping at my elbow, not liking the heavenly caution, presently suggested a scruple that the book was apocryphal, and the words not to be heeded. Well, after a short pause, I fell on my knees again, and prayed the Lord not to be angry with me, whilst, like Gideon, I requested a second sign, and from the canonical scripture. Then letting my Bible fall open as before, I fixed my eyes directly on this passage, 'Thou shalt not take thee a wife, neither shalt thou have sons or daughters in this place.'—Jer. xvi. 2. I was now completely satisfied; and being thus made acquainted with my Lord's mind, I make it one part of my prayers. And I can look on these words not only as a rule of direction, but as a promise of security: 'Thou shalt not take a wife;' that is, 'I will keep thee from taking one.'

"This method of procuring divine intelligence is much flouted by flimsy professors who walk at large, and desire not that sweet and secret access to the mercy-seat which babes of the kingdom do find. During the last twelve years I have had occasion to consult the oracle three or four times on matters that seemed important and dubious, and have received answers full and plain."—Pp. 388, 389.

What Lady Huntingdon thought of this singular style does not appear; but we have to thank her biographer for a very striking and friendly remonstrance, addressed to the same person by Mr. Thornton; which, though too long to quote, shows us that not all, who agreed in religious sentiments with Mr. Berridge, agreed with him in his peculiar mode of enforcing them.{423}


It is sometimes urged that our Church is much indebted to Whitfield and Wesley; and that if we will not praise them, we must either be ungrateful to good men, or paradoxically deny their instrumentality in bringing about the present seriousness and activity which exists within its pale. Now we fully grant that they have been instruments in the hands of Providence of raising the standard and extending the influence of religion in the land, and yet we do not see that the Church should be called their debtor at all. In the view indeed of their followers, the Church is indebted to them of course; for what is the Church, as they would say, but an earthly and voluntary society, and what were they but immediately commissioned ministers of grace acting upon it? But though their conclusion is clear enough upon their principles, it does not follow that it is clear upon ours; on the contrary, that it is plainly illogical and unsound a very little consideration will show. For churchmen would maintain, as a first principle in the question, that whatever spiritual gift Whitfield and Wesley possessed, it came, as from the Most High, so through His Church. By the Church they were baptized, by the Church they were ordained; from the Church they received the creed, whatever portion of it they preserved inviolate: they have nothing to boast of, nothing which they did not receive through her, who was providentially made their greatest of earthly benefactors. As well may a son have a claim on a parent, or a servant attempt works of supererogation towards his master, as ministers of the Church become her patrons. What Scripture says of meritorious works of a servant towards his master, applies to the relation {424} of these great preachers towards her whose Sons and ministers they were. "Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not." She gave them the grace of baptism, in order that they might show forth their light, or rather her light in them; she ordained them, in order that they might preach repentance and gather souls into her bosom. As far as they did this, they only did what they had vowed to do; as far as they did something else, they did not benefit her, but were unnatural children and false priests. They had devoted themselves to her service for God's sake: whatever natural gifts they might possess were made over to her, who had made these gifts (what by nature they were not) gracious.

All this of course will not be granted for an instant by those who do not allow that the Church can forgive sins or convey grace; but, because they refuse to accept our doctrinal principles, it is very hard that they should think it incumbent upon us to acquiesce in theirs. Now we are persuaded that the Church is a living body; it will ever have life unto the end; any branch of it that does not show life is no real part of it. The English Church could not but have had a revival, if it be a branch of the true Church; that Wesley and Whitfield were the instruments of that revival (as far as they were such), was what may be called an accident of Providence, but that the Church should revive is an inspired promise from the beginning. The Church Established, if so be, may not be a true branch; the English people, if so be, may have forfeited the gift; and surely we are all most unworthy of it, and have abundant cause for thankfulness, so far as we have reason to suppose that we still have it. But, taking for granted, what we all {425} maintain, that she is a true branch, then it is no strange accident, no unusual Providence, no deed of Wesley's or Whitfield's that has roused her from her lethargy, but a consequence of the great, ordinary, and universal law of the Gospel, that "all her children shall be taught of the Lord," and that "their ears shall hear a word behind them, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it," and that "His words in her mouth shall not depart out of her mouth for ever."

In a word, these men either spoke truth or falsehood; if and as far as they spoke falsehood, they have nothing to boast of; if and as far as they spoke truth, they did but receive from the Church a gift, and they did but fulfil for the Church a prophecy. What they did ill was their own, what they did well was hers. They were honoured, not she benefited. With this suggestion to those whom it may concern, we lay down this copious and not uninteresting, but ill-digested and ill-arranged Volume.

October, 1840.

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Note on Essay IX

The "France" mentioned in p. 414 supr. seems to have denoted the Independent Meeting in the late Mr. Thomas Keble's Parish in Gloucestershire near Chalford, which, he once wrote to tell me, "was certainly built about Lady Huntingdon's time, and was always in his time called by the people "France."

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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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