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critics, to whom the principles of the work were most offensive, that "if a book must be praised at all events for being well written, this ought to be praised." Dugald Stewart expressed it as his opinion of this work, that it was the finest specimen of English composition then in existence. Mr. Hall apologizes for the warmth of its expressions, by pronouncing it an eulogy on a dead friend.
The next appearance of Mr. Hall before the world as an author, gave him still greater distinction, and procured him the esteem of many illustrious characters in church and state. The alarming extent of sceptical principles at the close of the century, and their pernicious effects upon public manners and private conduct, greatly affected the mind of this zealous preacher, and led him to investigate the evil in its causes and consequences. The result of his inquiry appeared in a sermon printed in 1800, with this title; "Modern Infidelity considered with respect to its Influence on Society." In this profound discourse the metaphysical sophistry of the new school of scepticism is exposed in all its native deformity, and the total inefficiency of it to the production of any moral good, either for the benefit of society, or the improvement of the individual, is demonstrably established.
Mr. Hall, when he published this masterly sermon, promised to enter into a fuller and more particular examination of the infidel philosophy, both with respect to its speculative principles and its practical effects; its influence on society and the individual. Unfortunately, this pledge, though made near thirty years ago, has not yet been redeemed, and the work which, of all others, would be the best antidote to scepticism, remains a desideratum.
On the 19th of October, 1803, being the day set apart by authority for a solemn fast, Mr. Hall was at Bristol, where he preached before a crowded congregation, consisting chiefly of volunteers. The period was gloomy, and the immense preparations then going on in France for an invasion of Britain, were enough to impress the most inconsiderate with serious thoughts and apprehensions. Such was the state of the country, when this matchless preacher, collected in himself, and full of holy confidence, endeavored to impart the same spirit to his hearers. Concerning the peroration of this grand discourse, it was remarked by a contemporary, and by no means partial critic, that it was the noblest specimen of eloquence in any language.
Not long after this, the exquisitely toned mind of Mr. Hall again sustained so violent a shock, that his removal from Cambridge was the unavoidable consequence. He was placed under the care of the late Dr. Thomas Arnold, of Leicester, by whose judicious treatment a complete recovery was effected. On this occasion, one so much calculated to inspire the friends of the patient with gratitude, and sympathy too, the following letter was written to Mr. Hall, by his early friend, Sir James Mackintosh, then absent from his country, in an official capacity.
My dear Hall,
BOMBAY, SEPT. 21, 1805.
I believe that in the hurry of leaving England, I did not answer the letter which you wrote to me in Dec. 1803. I did not, however, forget your interesting young friend, from whom I have received one letter from Constantinople, and to whom I have written at Cairo, where he now is. No request of yours, could indeed be esteemed lightly by me.
It happened to me a few days ago, in drawing up (merely for my own use) a short sketch of my life, that I had occasion to give a faithful statement of my recollection of the circumstances of my first acquaintance with you. On the most impartial survey of my early life, I could see nothing which tended so much to excite and invigorate my understanding, to direct it towards high, though, perhaps, scarcely accesssible objects, as iny intimacy with you. Five and twenty years are now past since we first met, but hardly any thing has occurred since, which has made a deeper or a more agreeable impression on my mind.
I now remember the extraordinary union of brilliant fancy with acute intellect, which would have excited more admiration than it has done, if it had been dedicated to the amusement of the great and learned, instead of being consecrated to the far more noble office of consoling, instructing, and comforting the poor and the forgotten. It was then too early for me to discover that extreme purity, which, in a mind pre-occupied with the low realities of life, would have been no natural companion of so much activity and ardor, but which thoroughly detached you from the world, and made you the inhabitant of regions where alone it is possible to be always active without impurity, and where the ardor of your sensibility had unbounded scope, amid the inexhaustible combinations of beauty and excellence.
It is not given us to preserve an exact medium. Nothing is so difficult as to decide how much ideal models ought to be combined with experience; how much of the future ought to be let into the present, in the progress of the human mind, to ennoble and purify us without raising us above the sphere of our usefulness; to qualify us for what we ought to seek, without unfitting us for that to which we must submit. These are great and difficult problems, which can be but imperfectly solved. It is certain that the child may be too manly, not only for his present enjoyment, but for his future progress.
Perhaps, my good friend, you have fallen into this error of superior nature; from this error has arisen, I think, the calamity with which it has pleased Providence to chasten you; which, to a mind less fortified by reason and religion, I should not dare to mention, and which I really consider in you as little more than the indignant struggle of a pure mind with the base realities which surround it, the fervent aspirations after regions more congenial to it, and a momentary blindness produced by the fixed contemplation of objects too bright for human vision. I may say in this case, in a far grander sense than that in which the words were originally spoken by the great poet,
"And yet the light which led astray
Was light from Heaven."
On your return to us, you must surely have found consolation in the only terrestrial produce which is pure and truly exquisite; in the affections and attachments you have inspired, which you were most worthy to inspire, and which no human pollution can rob of their heavenly nature.
If I were to prosecute the reflections and indulge the feelings which at this moment fill my mind, I should venture to doubt whether, from a calamity derived from such a source and attended with such consolation, I should yield so far to the vain opinions of men, as to seek to condole with you. But I check myself, and I exhort you, my most worthy friend, to check your own best propensities, for the sake of obtaining their object.
You cannot live for men without being with them. Serve God by the active service of men; contemplate more the good you can do, than the evil you can only lament; allow yourself to see the great loveliness of human virtue amidst all its imperfections; and employ your moral imagination, not so much in bringing it into contact with the model of ideal perfection, as in gently blending some of the fainter colors of the latter with its brighter lines of real,
experienced excellence. Thus heightening the beauty, instead of broadening the shade which must surround us, till we awake from this dream in other spheres of existence.
My habits of life have not been favorable to this train of meditation. I have been too busy and too trifling; my nature would have been, perhaps, better consulted, if I had been placed in a quiet situation, where speculation might have been my business, and visions of the fair and good my chief recreation. When I approach you, I feel a powerful attraction towards this, which seems the natural destiny of my mind; but habit opposes, obstacles and duty call me off, and reason frowns on him who wastes that reflection on a destiny independent of him, which he ought to reserve for actions of which he is the master.
In another letter I may write to you on miscellaneous subjects; at present I cannot bring myself to speak of them. Let me hear from you soon and often. Farewell, my dear friend.
Yours, most faithfully,
On recovering from this most calamitous visitation of Providence, Mr. Hall was entreated to undertake the pastorship of the Baptist Church at Leicester; and he accepted the invitation much to the advantage of that society, which had fallen into a very low state. The chapel would then contain about three hundred at the most; the members were poor, few in number, and the congregation scanty. In a short space of time, however, the building was found to be too contracted to accommodate the crowds that attended, and in consequence three successive enlargements took place; so that at present it is capable of seating eleven hundred persons.
Shortly after Mr. Hall's settlement at Leicester, he formed an intimacy with that excellent man, Mr. Robinson, vicar of St. Mary's. Though attached to different communions, yet similar in their views of the great truths of Christianity, equally liberal in their sentiments, and both possessing talents of a superior order, it is not to be wondered that the acquaintance should have ripened into an attachment entirely free from all jealousy and sectarianism.— The eulogium which Mr. Hall passed, at a public meeting in Leicester, upon his deceased friend, is not only a masterly piece of eloquence in itself, but a faithful portraiture of departed worth, and such as brings to mind the noblest panegyrics of Gregory Nazianzen.
The death of Mr. Robinson occurred in 1813, previous to which Mr. Hall published two admirable sermons, one entitled "The Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes, preached for the benefit of a Sunday School;" and the other an ordination sermon, with the title of "The Discouragements and Supports of the Christian Minister."
On the death of the Princess Charlotte, a sermon was preached by Mr. Hall, suited to the affecting circumstances, and at the desire of his congregation he sent the discourse to the press. The subject was one well adapted to the great powers of the distinguished author, and he did it ample justice in elegance and pathos. About the same time he reprinted his tract on the Freedom of the Press, with additions and corrections. This republication, however, involved him in a controversy with an unknown opponent, who attacked him, on the ground of his politics, in the Christian Guardian.
These animadversions being industriously copied into the Leicester Journal, compelled Mr. Hall to vindicate his principles and conduct. This defence called forth a reply, and a rejoinder followed, till the dispute grew warm, and the antagonist of Mr. Hall quitted the field.
Here Mr. Hall, for nearly twenty years, exercised his talents for the good of an affectionate people, to whom his ministry was blessed in an uncommon degree. But in 1825, the church at Broadmead, Bristol, which had enjoyed his earliest labors, having lost their pastor, the venerable Dr. Ryland, President of the college, invited him to become their pastor. The distress of the congregation, which had so long enjoyed the benefit of his instructions, in the apprehension of losing a preacher so eminent for his talents, so endeared by his virtues, was proportioned to the greatness of their expected loss. The struggle appears not to have been confined to one party, as several months elapsed before Mr. Hall was prepared to give an absolute decision. On the occasion of his accepting the invitation to Bristol, a respectful and affectionate tribute to his genius and goodness was presented by a body of Dissenting ministers, of different denominations, held at Arnsby, which evinces the high estimation in which he was held by all who knew him.
Here the narrative part of this memoir terminates; a few additional remarks are recorded, which may, perhaps, interest the admirers of our author.
The appearance of Mr. Hall is altogether extraordinary; such as would lead those who had never heard of him, to expect uncommon exhibitions of intellectual greatness. He is of about a medium height, has a bold and striking countenance, and an eye the most expressive and piercing.
Mr. Hall has been a sufferer from disease, during most of his life. The severe pain to which he has been subjected, must be his apology for appearing so seldom before the world as an author. Recent accounts speak of an increase of his malady, and a general state of declining health. It is sincerely hoped that these reports are unfounded, and that Mr. Hall will long remain the delight of his friends, the pride of literature, and the boast of Christianity.
Benevolence and humility are the prominent features in his character. In him, real courage for the cause of truth is blended with unaffected simplicity and modesty; of which it is often cited as a striking instance, that he declined to append the title of Doctor of Divinity to his name, though bestowed upon him some years since by the University of Aberdeen.
As a preacher, Mr. Hall stands almost unrivalled among his contemporaries, and yet it has been observed, that there is nothing very remarkable in his manner of delivery. He preaches without notes, esteeming writing a mere drudgery. If report is to be credited, his sermon on the death of Princess Charlotte was strictly speaking, an extemporaneous production; and, according to his own confession, his celebrated sermon on infidelity, which, perhaps, bears more evidence of
uniformity in execution, and elaborate finish, than any similar performance in our language, was never committed to writing, till it was imperiously demanded for the press; while the eloquent fast sermon before volunteers was pronounced, when the author was engaged on an exchange of services with the Rev. Mr. Lowell, of Bristol, and was never written till he returned. In all his unwritten discourses there is the same length of sentences, the same graceful and flowing style, the same majesty of conception, by which his printed sermons are so strikingly characterized. In the pulpit he engages the attention by solemnity of deportment, rather than by assumed earnestness. His voice is feeble but distinct, and as he proceeds it trembles beneath his energies, and conveys the idea, that the spring of sublimity and beauty, in his mind, is exhaustless, and would pcur forth a more copious stream, if it had a wider channel than can be supplied by the bodily organs.
His sermons are very perfect in plan. The author appears to see the end from the beginning in such things, and to believe as fully as the poet, that "Order is Heaven's first law." Divisions with him are few and simple, rarely marked numerically; and this numbering of heads beforehand he has fully discountenanced by precept, as well as practice. He forms his schemes on what is called the topical method; as on such subjects it is most natural that he should. In whatever pertains to writing, he is to be suspected of consulting Cicero more than he does the bishops. Though a theologian of the first order, he has nothing of their technicalities.
As to the nature of the proof which he brings to his subjects, we see him always full of philosophy and the nature of things, but he inakes a free use of history, and a wise use of Scripture. The reviewer of one of his occasional discourses in a foreign journal, has the following remarks on one very excellent feature in the style of Mr. Hall.
The copious use of scriptural language, so eminently appropriate to theological writings, bestows upon the style of this writer an awful sanctity. The uncouthness and vulgarity of some religious authors, who are driven to employ the very words and phrases of Scripture, from an ignorance of other words and phrases, and an incapacity to conceive and express a revealed truth in any form but that of the authorized version of the Bible, has co-operated with an irreligious spirit to bring this important resource of theological eloquence into great disrepute. The skilful manner in which it is employed by Mr. Hall may restore its credit. Quotations and allusions, when borrowed from profane literature, are much admired. There is nothing, we think, to render them less admirable when borrowed from Holy Writ. If properly selected, they possess the same merit of appositeness in one case as in the other. They may be at least equal in rhetorical beauty; and the character of holiness and mystery, which is peculiar to them, at once fills the imagination and warms the heart.
The mind of Mr. Hall has never been rigidly analyzed by the critics; its organization is too perfect to invite such labor. But it may be safely affirmed that strength is its predominant quality, and that it is most decidedly of a philosophic cast. It seems at first to be formed in the same mould with those of the modern Scotch; and one might be led naturally enough to inquire whether he was not