Графични страници
PDF файл

to which the advantages of travelling abroad induced him readily to yield. While on this tour, he cultivated those lighter accomplishments which give a grace and charm to the man of letters, particularly the arts of music and dancing, in both of which he excelled. After being thus employed for two years, he returned home, and went to reside at Lanlivery, in Cornwall, as curate to his friend Mr. Nicolas Kendall, canon of Exeter, and archdeacon of Totness. On the death of the archdeacon in the spring of 1740, Mr. Walker was presented to the vicarage of his parish, to hold during the minority of a nephew of Walter Kendall, Esq. patron of the living.-P. 4.

His conduct at Lanlivery has been already noticed in Mr. Sidney's own words. We now come to another incident.

While under a severe sickness in the year 1744, he dictated a letter, to be sent in case he should not recover, as his dying remonstrance to certain of his parishioners, whose names he desired to be taken down. These persons had been the most inattentive to his admonitions, and he thus manifested a sincere interest in their welfare. Could he have seen an outward decency in these individuals, he would have died content, and discovered the defects of his ministry in another world; but it pleased a gracious Providence to raise him from the bed of sickness, and to show bim the insufficiency of all virtue that does not spring from a heart made acquainted with its natural enmity against God and holiness, reconciled to him through the death of Christ, and purified by the holy, and therefore necessarily reforming operations of the divine Spirit.-Þ. 5.

Notwithstanding Mr. Sidney's assumption, we cannot believe that a zealous christian minister, writing what he believed to be his dying address to his parishioners, could possibly have been contented with outward decency; though with outward evidence he must be content, as long as

“ Heaven's Sovereign spares all beings but himself

The horrid sight-a naked human heart." In the summer of 1746, Mr. Walker removed to Truro. Fond of social intercourse and amusement, he eagerly embraced the offer of a curacy where he was sure to meet with much agreeable society. Here, however, he imbibed those views of religion which led him to renounce such relaxation as unscriptural and unlawful. His "conversion,” for so Mr. Sidney speaks of it, was effected by Mr. Conon, master of the Grammar School at Truro.

It was a singular incident which led to this good man's intimacy with bis minister. Mr. Walker received a letter containing a sum of money, which the writer requested him to pay at the custom-house, as justly due to the revenue, for duty on some French wines he had used for his health. He had been unsuccessful in his attempts, in that age of smuggling on the coast, to obtain any on which custom had been paid, but the virtuous conscience of the spiritual Christian remembered his Master's divine command. The letter contained an apology for troubling Mr. Walker, but stated that his high character would prevent all suspicion of a want of straightforward honesty in the transaction. Curious to know whether the same happy conscientiousness was manifest in all bis doings, Mr. Walker sought his acquaintance, and the result was a respect approaching to veneration, for one who exhibited in his daily habits all the true influence of religion on a Christian's heart and actions. The attractions of his conversation and the purity of his life at length ripened intercourse into intimacy, and the result was the conversion of the minister, through the wise and prudent instrumentality of his pious friend.-Pp. 8, 9.

Mr. Conon, Mr. Sidney tells us, was hated without cause, and

persecuted for no other reason than his piety. The world has always been too ready to persecute true Christians, and the state of the public mind at that time, in regard to religion, and religious education, was any thing but healthy. Still it seems unlikely that, in a great town like Truro, a good scholar should be deprived of his pupils and his stipend for no other reason than that he was a good Christian. However this might be, Mr. Conon made a proselyte of Mr. Walker, who acknowledged that he had been entirely wrong. Mr. Sidney insinuates that Mr. Walker had rested his hopes on human merit, and taught his congregation to do the like. This we can never believe—at least without the production of the sermons which contain the proof; and it is quite contrary to the spirit of Mr. Sidney's narrative. The change wrought on Mr. Walker does not appear so much to have referred to opinion as to ministerial policy. Mr. Conon's searching scrutiny convinced Walker that “ he had been actuated by two hidden principles, as contrary to God as darkness is to light-a desire of reputation and a love of pleasure :" in other words, that these baser motives had alloyed the purer; for to suppose that they had been the motives of his exertions, would be to charge him with an hypocrisy contradicted by the whole character of his mind, and tenour of his ministry ; not to mention that “ a desire of reputation and a love of pleasure” are the last things to influence men in a dying hour, and Walker believed himself dying when he penned the address to his contumacious parishioners. The principal alteration in Walker, except that of demeanour, was his more frequent inculcation of the fallen state of man. At least we cannot discover any other from the account his biographer gives of what he would call his "conversion.” At the same time it is scarcely possible to doubt that his doctrine must have undergone some alteration, from the emphatic distinction which he himself drew between his earlier and later systems.

One of the earliest fruits of Mr. Walker's altered views was the formation of a religious society. In this Mr. Sidney greatly commends his prudence ; and while we readily concede that, contrasted with Wesley, Whitfield, and other founders of similar institutions, he appears to great advantage, in this respect, we can by no means allow the prudence of a parochial minister taking the lead in such societies at all. In one point of view, indeed, he may be considered even less judicious than Wesley. Wesley, in the outset, instituted a society for the purpose of mutual edification, an object, undoubtedly, of the highest possible excellence; but an object which, when pursued by a parish priest, ought to make the society and the parishioners coextensive. It may be said that all the parishioners would not join such a society. It is true there are too many in every parish, who do not come to the church ; yet it would be strange indeed if a clergyman should, on that account,

close the doors of his church against those who had not before attended service. Mr. Walker's society was much upon such a principle : it consisted of his "converts ; " and except these, no parishioner could find admission to it, how much soever he might have been benefited by the attendance. The results to Mr. Walker, who had every reverence for discipline at least, however ill directed his judgment may appear, were not a little perplexing.

When the earlier followers of his counsel and ministry had arrived at a more advanced stage of religious progress, he sought their assistance in watching over beginners. He recommended them to converse and pray with each other, and at such times left them to themselves, only giving them directions as need required. This was a much wiser course than encouraging them to exercise their gifts in the presence of their pastor, making spiritual pride the unnatural foster-brother of professed christian humility. Mr. Walker's penetrating and judicious mind at once perceived and avoided the mistakes of his more celebrated, but not equally practical cotemporaries, in the classification of their numerous and scattered converts—evils which were felt at first, and still continue to be most injurious to the growth of genuine religion. That Christians should assemble in small parties for mutual edification, praise, and prayer, no minister can for an instant doubt; but long experience has confirmed the prudence of Mr. Walker in not remaining with them ou these occasions, staying only to give his advice and blessing. In allusion to the prayer meeting at Olney, Mr. Scott says, “ I soon found it needful or advisable to withdraw, and to leave the persons who conducted it to themselves.”—Pp. 20, 21.

Undoubtedly, if these people were to "exercise their gifts" at all, it was as well they should not do so in the presence of their minister, whom their presumption and conceit would soon have discovered to be much less “gifted” than themselves. But the error was in permitting any thing of the kind. Mr. Sidney says that Mr. Walker "assumed that due controul of the people which belongs to the minister, and prevented all improper trespass on his province, by reserving to himself the sole performance of the devotional exercises.” These were indeed sober, scriptural, and liturgical enough, as long as Mr. Walker was present: but his departure was the signal for something of a different kind. We are surprised to find Mr. Sidney disputing a fact of which his own book affords indubitable evidence. The following observations, in which we entirely concur, conclude with an assertion which is directly negatived by the rules drawn up by Walker himself :

Powerful objections have frequently been urged against such associations among the serious parishioners of clergymen, and it may be fairly argued, that without able management, their teudency is to produce a greater aggregate of evil than of good. Laymen officiating in the presence of their authorized minister, and endeavouring to rival or eclipse him in prayer ; women forgetting the modesty of their sex and the propriety of their situation, in the enthusiastic utterance of feelings real or imaginary; youths put forward because of a gift, to the destruction of all humility; ignorant and illiterate persons permitted to give vent to unintelligible rhapsodies, exhibit violations of decency and order, such as it is surprising that any leader of a sect should ever have permitted, much less encouraged. That some of the most devoted champions of religion could have looked, as undoubtedly they did, with complacency on such caricatures of its sublimities, only affords a melancholy proof of the tendency of party

spirit to distort the clearest vision. Mr. Walker foresaw and obviated these objectionable results, and so arranged bis regulations, that no motive but a desire to gain and do good could well operate with those who asked to be admitted into the Truro classes.—Pp. 67, 68.

The arrangement here claimed for Mr. Walker—the scheme whereby he precluded his classes from the indulgence of irregular devotion, was certainly never made by him ; for the following is the first of his “Hints for Prayer for the Society in their private meetings, by their director's order :

He who leads the rest need not be over solicitous about the manner of expression, but begging to be impressed with an awful and reverential sense of the presence of God, may in some measure endeavour to lose sight of his fellowworsbippers, that his desires may the more sincerely ascend unto God. Neither need he bind himself to the method of this, nor always to the whole matter, but after short recollection, take of it what God may be pleased to enable him.P. 72.

Here we have a leader, who is to bind himself to no method, and no matter, but is to make a short (!) recollection, and then to come forth with somewhat of a divine afflatus to direct the devotions of his brethren. Such a system is wholly repugnant to every principle of our Church, and to all sound order and sobriety. It did not indeed afford the means of a competition in “gifts” between “the director”. and his disciples; but it opened wide the door to conceit, envy, and fanaticism; while it suggested that "the director" might possibly have withholden his sanction from such proceedings in his presence for no worse reason than a reluctance to match his “gifts” against those of the directed. Indeed this society was neither more nor less than a conventicle.

Very different from this was the “ Parson's Club," one of the earliest of those excellent institutions the clerical societies, as it is now the fashion to call them.

They generally assembled once a month at each other's houses, and their whole design was to “consult upon the business of their calling," which, the excellent founder of the society informs us, was “done all along with so much freedom, love, and unanimity," that he was “even astonished at the remembrance of it." With that propriety which always marked his conduct, he sought and received the sanction of his diocesan before they assembled, at least as " far as the words do not forbid you may be interpreted to go " They came together at the house appointed at ten, and separated at six, dining at two, with a stipulation that the fare provided should on no account exceed a couple of plain dishes of meat. The host was director for the day, and conducted the discussion of the subject proposed, preventing interruption, or the introduction of any new question, till the one under consideration had been fully settled. To guard against a superficial or hasty treatment of the principal topic before them, each member was required to bring his view of it drawn up in writing, in such a form as he considered would be most useful to his brethren. Thus with the advantage of the master spirit of Mr. Walker at their head, the society became a source of real benefit to its members.—Pp. 76, 77.

Two circumstances recorded by Mr. Sidney afford conclusive proof that Mr. Walker's religion was not the mere reverie of mysticism or

enthusiasm, but a practical principle of the highest order. Soon after he had entered on the curacy of Truro, he had been presented to the vicarage of Talland, and had obtained leave of non-residence from the Bishop.

The genuine character, however, of bis religion having engendered in him a great tenderness of conscience, he began to have serious scruples about the justifiableness of' deriving any emolument from a charge, the duties of which he was unable to perform. With his usual calmness and deliberation, he weighed in his own mind the question of non-residence and pluralities, consulting able writers on the subject; and after mature reflection, coupled with earnest prayer, he decided to resign his preferment. Although this resolution reduced his finances so as to bring him into exceedingly low circumstances, he did not hesitate for an instant to act upon it, and told his friends that a weighty burden had been removed from his conscience. He bore with cheerfulness all the inconveniences of bis diminished fortune, relinquished his accustomed comforts, and went into humble lodgings with accommodations of the plainest kind. While in this condition, he had four offers made him of preferment, but declined them all. He could not leave his devoted flock; and he would not receive from any portion of the vineyard where he laboured not.-Pp. 50, 51,

This instance of self-denial is decisive of Walker's character; but that which follows is in every way superior.

There resided in the neighbourhood of Truro a young lady of accomplished manners, beauty, fortune, and piety, whose religion attached her to bis ministry, while a superior education and good sense enabled her to appreciate his attainments. There was every reason to believe that she would have readily accepted an offer of his hand, and that their union would have been most happy. A friend anxious to see him relieved from his humble circumstances, by an alliance so suitable in every respect, ventured to advise him seriously to consider whether he ought not to avail himself of such an opportunity. He made no reply at the time, but a few days afterwards remarked—" you spoke to me lately about Miss I certainly never saw a woman whom I thought comparable to her, and I believe I should enjoy as much happiness in a union with her, as it is possible to enjoy in this world. I have reason also to think she would not reject my suit.” Here he paused, and added with great feeling and seriousness“ still it must never be what would the world say of me? Would not they imagine that the hope of obtaining such a prize influenced my profession of religion? It is easy, they would say, to preach self-denial, and heavenlymindedness; but has not the preacher taken care to get as much of this world's good as he could possibly obtain?” “Sir,” he again said, with emphasis," it must never be. I can never suffer any temporal happiness or advantage to be a bindrance to my usefulness.". Whether, in coming to this resolution, he exercised a sound discretion, or otherwise, it is impossible to determine, unless every circumstance of the case were before us. One thing is however certain, that he denied himself, took up his cross, and followed Christ."--Pp. 52, 53.

The probability, as it seems to us, is that this marriage would have proved conducive not only to the happiness of Walker, but actually to the benefit of his people, as it would have enlarged his means of beneficence, and afforded him those refreshments and comforts which it is the prerogative of conjugal affection to bestow, and which, in an arduous and toilsome office, are most needed and most useful. But there could be but one motive for his conduct--and a higher proof it

« ПредишнаНапред »