صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

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 pour 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 makes 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

educated among them. Then again, on examining his writings a little further, he seems to betray that true English grace, no where else to be found except in a genuine Englishman, deeply learned at his own university. The fact, however, determines that this Englishman was indeed from Aberdeen; and it is hazarding nothing to affirm, that the great excellencies of the two nations are in him most happily united-the highest passion for philosophy with all the decorum of law-the speculations of learning with the majesty of common sense. Great Britain has furnished but one man besides, in whom this united character (to the same extent) is likely to be found-the late Dugald Stewart. To him, probably, Mr. Hall bears a greater literary likeness than to any other man of the present age.

The piety of Robert Hall will never be questioned. There appears in all his writings, a devout spirit, a constant and humble reliance on God. His zeal in defence of the truth is surely not less fervent than that of his brethren of any persuasion. Still, the mantle of his charity is as broad as the earth. Considering the circumstances of the man, such an entire freedom from bigotry is next to a miracle. It cannot be otherwise, than that the brethren of the same honorable communion with himself should be very dear to him, especially those noble and philanthropic compeers in his ministry, the Rylands, the Fullers, the Fosters; but to these he gives no undue preference. Though himself a Baptist and of Baptist descent, he has shown that he was never born for that sect nor for any other sect. He pronounces eulogies on the departed clergy of the Establishment, and in praise of their liturgy we see him an enthusiast. And in all this he is not ambitious of a return of their favor; for at the same time he cheers every Dissenter and bids him God speed; preaches himself at the ordination of Independents, and shields with his arm all that unprotected multitude, both from diocesan jealousies and from civil power. By every party he is equally esteemed; and it should not be matter of surprise to us, that he receives his full measure of applause from the Establishment. This is virtuous applause, founded on merit. It is no paradox to say of Mr. Hall, that he is the greatest Bishop in England-his diocese is limited only by Christendom. But it is that spirit of Christian harmony, which has gone forth, unmindful of every distinction but that of the friends and foes of the Redeemer's Kingdom, forming Union Associations, National Societies throughout Europe and America, which must testify of this man, at some future time. He seems to have been raised up for the special purpose of effecting the union of Christians in the promotion of a common cause, and the merging of minor differences in the cultivation of great principles, and the pursuit of great objects.

The springs of political government, too, have felt the touch of his unobtrusive but mighty hand. There is not, perhaps, a man now living, of whom the English politicians stand so much in awe, as of Robert Hall. He explains to them the British Constitution, points

them to the path of duty, arraigns them before the tribunal of the public, sifts all their proceedings, and dares even to speak against Mr. Pitt. All this however, as every act of this man, appears to be in the strictest subserviency to the cause of virtue and of heaven. But, alas! he is an old man, and verging to the grave. Who can refrain from exclaiming in the language of his learned friend, Dr. Olinthus Gregory

"Oh! why will the most captivating, energetic, and profound preacher, and religious writer, now living, rest satisfied with giving to the world scarcely any but fugitive publications of temporary interest, the whole of which it is already difficult to collect, when all who know him, or are able to appreciate the value of his efforts, are anxiously anticipating the period when he will favor the public with some work of respectable magnitude and permanent interest, which shall enlighten and instruct its successive readers for ages to come.”






« السابقةمتابعة »