Imágenes de páginas

a most serious and weighty charge-the sole responsibility, as resident clergyman, of two parishes. So far as information is required, I hope I have not laboured in van; so far as good resolution is concerned, I trust, I am not deficient as regards my success and future conduct in this important calling, I pray God's assistance to enable me to do my duty, and to become a worthy member of the Established Church; a church founded on the purest and most exalted principles of unsophisticated Christianity, as delivered by its divine Author himself, and confirmed and explained by his inspired successors. The character of a fashionable parson is my aversion; that of an ignorant or careless one, I see with pity and contempt; that of a dissipated one with shame; and that of an unbelieving one with horror. I wish you to read a little book lately published, intituled, ‘Dialogues on the Amusements of Clergymen.' You will be pleased with it, as will my mother also, I am certain. I am very busy preparing sermons for my future flock. It requires much practice to write with fluency and ease. Believe me to be, with every sentiment of regard and affection,-Your son,


"To Dr. Richmond, Grecian Coffee House, London."

Mr. Richmond was ordained deacon in the month of June, 1797, and took the degree of M. A., the beginning of July, in the same year. On the 22d of the same month, he was married to Mary, only daughter of James William Chambers, Esq., of the city of Bath; immediately after which, he proceeded to the Isle of Wight, and entered upon the curacies of the adjoining parishes of Brading and Yaverland, on the 24th of July. He was ordained priest in February, 1798.


His entrance on his professional duties-Remarkable change in his views and conduct, and the incident that occasioned it—Reflections on the foregoing event.

MR. RICHMOND appears to have entered on the ministry with the desire and aim of discharging its important duties in a conscientious manner; and he manifested such propriety of conduct in his moral deportment, and in the general duties of his new

charge, as to procure for him the character of a highly respectable and useful young clergyman. A few months after his residence at Brading, a most important revolution took place in his views and sentiments, which produced a striking and prominent change in the manner and matter of his preaching, as well as in the general tenor and conduct of his life. This change was not a conversion from immorality to morality; for he was strictly moral, in the usual acceptation of the term. Neither was it a conversion from heterodoxy to orthodoxy; but it was a conversion from orthodoxy in name and profession, to orthodoxy in its spirit, tendency, and influence. But before we indulge in any further remarks, it is necessary to record the particulars of the occurrence to which we have alluded. Shortly after he had entered on his curacies, one of his college friends was on the eve of taking holy orders, to whom a near relative had sent Mr. Wilberforce's "Practical Christianity." This thoughtless candidate for the momentous charge of the Christian ministry forwarded the book to Mr. Richmond, requesting him to give it a perusal, and to inform him what he must say respecting its contents. In compliance with this request, he began to read the book, and found himself so deeply interested in its contents, that the volume was not laid down before the perusal of it was completed. The night was spent in reading, and reflecting upon the important truths contained in this valuable and impressive work. In the course of his employment, the soul of the reader was penetrated to its inmost recesses; and the effect produced in innumerable instances, by the book of God, was in this case accomplished by means of a human composition. From that period his mind received a powerful impulse, and was no longer able to rest under its former impressions. A change was effected in his views of divine truth, as decided as it was influential. He was no longer satisfied with the creed of the speculatist he felt a conviction of his own state as a guilty and condemned sinner, and under that conviction, he sought mercy at the cross of the Saviour. There arose in his mind a solemn consciousness that, however outwardly moral and apparently irreproachable his conduct might appear to men; yet within, there was wanting that entire surrender of the heart, that ascen, dancy of God in the soul, and that devotedness of life and conduct, which distinguishes morality from holiness-an assent to divine truth, from its cordial reception into the heart; and the external profession of religion, from its inward and transforming power. The impressions awakened were therefore followed by a transfer of his time, his talents, and his affections, to the ser

vice of his God and Saviour, and to the spiritual welfare of the flock committed to his care. But while his mind was undergoing this inward process, it is necessary to state how laborious he was in his search after truth. The Bible became the frequent and earnest subject of his examination, prayer, and meditation. His object was fontes haurire sacros—to explore truth at its fountain head, or, in the emphatic language of Scripture, to "draw water out of the wells of salvation."-Isa. xii. 3. From the study of the Bible, he proceeded to a minute examination of the writings of the Reformers, which, by a singular coincidence, came into his possession shortly after this period; and having from these various sources acquired increasing certainty as to the correctness of his recent convictions, and stability in holding them, he found, what the sincere and conscientious inquirer will always find, the Truth; and his heart being interested, he learnt truth through the heart, and believed it, because he felt it.

His own account of the effect produced on his mind by the perusal of Mr. Wilberforce's book, will excite the interest of the reader. Speaking of his son Wilberforce, he remarks :—

"He was baptized by the name of Wilberforce, in consequence of my personal friendship with that individual, whose name long has been, and ever will be, allied to all that is able, amiable, and truly Christian. That gentleman had already accepted the office of sponsor to one of my daughters; but the subsequent birth of this boy, afforded me the additional satisfaction of more familiarly associating his name with that of my family. But it was not the tie of ordinary friendship, nor the veneration which, in common with multitudes, I felt for the name of Wilberforce, which induced me to give that name to my child: there had, for many years past, subsisted a tie between myself and that much-loved friend, of a higher and more sacred character than any other which earth can afford. I feel it to be a debt of gratitude, which I owe to God and to man, to take this affecting opportunity of stating, that to the unsought and unexpected introduction of Mr. Wilberforce's book on 'Practical Christianity,' I owe, through God's mercy, the first sacred impression which I ever received, as to the spiritual nature of the Gospel system, the vital character of personal religion, the corruption of the human heart, and the way of salvation by Jesus Christ. As a young minister, recently ordained, and just entrusted with the charge of two parishes in the Isle of Wight, I had commenced my labours too much in the spirit of the world, and founded my public instructions on the erroneous notions which prevailed amongst my academical and literary associates.

The scriptural principles stated in the Practical View,' convinced me of my error; led me to the study of the Scriptures with an earnestness to which I had hitherto been a stranger; humbled my heart, and brought me to seek the love and blessing of that Saviour, who alone can afford a peace which the world cannot give. Through the study of this book, I was induced to examine the writings of the British and Fore Reformers. I saw the coincidence of their doctrines with those of the Scriptures, and those which the word of God taught me to be essential to the welfare of myself and my flock. I know too well what has passed within my heart, for now a long period of time, not to feel and to confess, that to this incident I was indebted, originally, for those solid views of Christianity, on which I rest my hope for time and eternity. May I not, then, call the honoured author of that book my spiritual father? And if my spiritual father, therefore my best earthly friend? The wish to connect his name with my own, was natural and justifiable. It was a lasting memorial of the most important transaction of my life it still lives amidst the tenderness of present emotions, as a signal of endearment and gratitude; and I trust its character is imperishable."


Though Mr. Richmond's mind and heart were experiencing \ the remarkable change that has been recorded, it is necessary to state that the regularity and decorum with which he was previously discharging his duties, far exceeded those of many other ministers. If then, notwithstanding these exertions, he was still conscious how much he fell short of the standard of ministerial faithfulness and zeal, and the requirements of personal holiness; may we not ask, what ought to be the convictions of those who evince a far less degree of earnestness, where the claims are precisely the same, and the obligations to fulfil them are equally binding? If he felt the need within, of a more operative principle of divine grace, as the only genuine source of inward and external holiness; what must be their state who, with greater deficiencies, experience no conflict of the mind, no secret misgivings of the conscience? If, in his ardent inquiry after truth, he meditated over the sacred page, and explored the voluminous writings of the Reformers; what is their responsibility who rest in a system, without an endeavour to ascertain its correctness ; who give to the world the hours sacred to prayer and study; or who appropriate their time to objects, which, however praiseworthy in themselves, are not sufficiently identified with their profession, nor calculated to promote their advancement in grace and holiness?

But we would pursue this subject farther, and demand, if conversion, or a change of heart and life, be necessary in all men, because all naturally partake of the principle of inward corruption, how much more is it necessary to him who officiates in holy things; and who, by the titles that designate his character and office, is supposed to contract engagements of the highest and most sacred import?

And yet the very nature and necessity of conversion is questioned by some, in opposition to the most express declarations of Holy Writ; thus proving their own need, at least, of that conversion, the possibility of which they so heedlessly dispute. A distinguished and excellent prelate, in our own day,† has merited well of the Christian public, for inviting attention to this subject. In the diocese of St. David's, a prize was offered for the best Essay on the signs of conversion and unconversion in ministers of the Established Church.

This was at once recognizing the doctrine, as well as the necessity of conversion. It drew the line of demarcation between true piety, and that which bears only the external garb. It admitted the conversion of some, it doubted the conversion of all; and, by instituting an inquiry into the signs and evidences by which the distinction is to be known, it held out a beacon to discriminate the true and faithful pastor from the bold and unauthorised intruder. Let it be remembered too, that this doctrine is avowedly maintained, and the belief and experience of its truth no less avowedly professed, by every candidate, in the form and ceremony prescribed by our own church for ordination-that on this occasion he is solemnly asked, whether he trusts that he is inwardly moved by the Holy Ghost, to take upon himself the sacred office? To which he deliberately answers, "I trust so." And that, if terms be significant of things, and professions mean what they are supposed to imply, this call of the Holy Spirit denotes a series of qualifications, of which the real conversion of the heart is the primary and most indispensable. It is on the authority of this declaration, and the supposed sincerity of its avowal, that he is permitted to officiate at her altars, and that the dispensation of the Gospel is committed to his hands; and therefore, the absence of this qualification is not merely a fraud, and an act of perjury, aggravated by the solemnity of the occasion, and by the bold profanation of holy things;

*See Matt. xviii. 3; John iii. 5; Acts iii. 19; Eph. iv. 24.

The present Bishop of Salisbury, formerly Bishop of St. David's
See Wilks' Prize Essay on the above subject,

« AnteriorContinuar »