Page images

Quixote or Gil. Blas; but it is nevertheless rich in folly and characteristic portrait; and were the two thick volumes, into which it has been translated, compressed into one fourth (or sixth) of the size, the book would really be very amusing. As it is, it is tedious enough-indeed more than enough. We do not desire to read long tirades against this folly or that—or long discussions on mythology—or on style or grammar (all these are here) in a book which professes to be a book of humour. They overpower the wit and spirit of ridicule, which glances here and there pleasantly enough, but which is, on the whole, lamentably disproportionate to the size of the history itself. Our excellent Father Isla should have given us a separate book on these points, or an appendix to be referred to (or not) at the pleasure of the reader. If Gerund had been thus left more to himself, he would have done better. There is certainly an excellent cluster of shaven heads in the volume, could they have been contemplated more apart; but they are surrounded by a sea of polemics, which occasionally hinders the reader altogether from enjoying a fair view of these professors of theology. The author does every thing too much at length; his arguments, his descriptions, his dialogues, his humour, would all be the better for-brevity.

We have no doubt, but that this book was useful in Spain. And had we (which is quite impossible) any flowery preachers here, such a one might be serviceable even in England. It is almost a pity, that the case is not so; for then we might perhaps have a “ history” of our own. Till that improveable period shall arrive, we must, perforce, be content with our Campanzan, who is, at once, neither too heavy to sink, nor too light to be cast away ; but, with a due mixture of the coxcomb and the blockhead, is ably poised, and looks well and exemplary upon the conspicuous place, to which the ingenuity of Father Isla and the sins of the Spanish clergy have raised him.

Art. III.- A Saint Indeed: or, The Great Work of a Christian,

opened and pressed, in a Treatise on Keeping the Heart. By John Flavel. 1667.

On a grave-stone, in part of the chancel of St. Saviour's, Dartmouth, we lately saw engraven, “Mr. John Flavel, 1691." And, underneath, the following inscription—" This stone also covers the remains of William B. Evans, of Ottery St. Mary, who, whilst on a visit to his friends at Dartmouth, was sud



e sous This is be easi parently

denly taken from them on the 12th of August, 1814. During his walk on earth of 75 years, his conduct was that of an humble Christian, and many were the hours in which, with a volume of his esteemed Flavel, he sought retirement from the world, and intercourse with heaven” This is followed by a long set of verses, so badly engraved as not to be easily made out, and, from the little we could collect of them, apparently not worth the pains of decyphering. The concluding line is,

“ And find their Flavel there!"

The singularity of the inscription, however, inspired us with a wish to judge for ourselves of the merits of an author, whom, notwithstanding the conspicuous place which his name occupies in Calamy's list of Ejected Ministers, we had been previously content to rank (hypothetically) among the many painful and laborious writers of controversial or speculative theology, whose works have been collected together, in two or more folio volumes, to be no longer read or thought of, than while the fashion of the age inclined men's hearts to those unprofitable and pernicious subjects of disputation. To have been capable, more than a century after his departure from his secular state, of still preaching peace and consolation to the soul of a devout follower, within the walls of the very town which, during his sojourn on earth, he had edified by his zealous labours, argues merit of a more solid foundation, and unchangeable nature; and the perusal of the little treatise, which is the subject of this article, has disposed us very heartily to concur in the estimate made by the worthy Mr. W B. Evans, of Ottery St. Mary, of the benefits to be derived from an intercourse with the works of the author...

We shall preface the extracts which we propose to furnish, by a short account of the writer, which we shall take from Calamy, not having at hand the collection of his works in two volumes folio, with his life prefixed, to refer to-but, as we are told by Calamy, that this prefixed life contains a portion of the diary kept by the author, that circumstance will certainly have weight with us to read the life itself, and, perhaps, on some future occasion, to give an account of it, and of the general contents of the volumes, to our readers.

Mr. John Flavel was the son of Mr. Richard Flavel, who was, also, a minister of the gospel, and ejected from his living of Willersby, in Wiltshire, by the same act of uniformity which deprived the son of that of Dartmouth, to which place he had removed, “ upon an unanimous call," from Deptford, which he first held, although “a much more profitable benefice.” The father was afterwards committed to Newgate (with “ sundry old

ced to to his people thong them as hact (in 166

officers and other nonconformists”) upon suspicion of a plot, during the great plague of 1665, of which he, and most of his fellow-prisoners, perished. Calamy says, that “neither in Mr. Flavel's .case, nor the case of others who suffered at that time and on that occasion, was there any thing like a proof of real guilt. He was a very good man, and an affectionate preacher.” The son, after the act had passed by which he was forced to relinquish his living of Dartmouth, “not thinking his relation to his people thereupon at an end, continued the exercise of his ministry among them as he had opportunity”—but upon the coming out of the Oxford act (in 1665), removed to Shapton, about five miles distant, where he preached twice every Lord's day, to such as would venture to be his auditors, and thence made private visits to his friends at Dartmouth. The accidents of his after-life appear to have been such as were common to him with most of the zealous nonconformists of those troubled times. Once he narrowly escaped shipwreck off the Island of Portland, on his passage to London, whither he was compelled to retire for a time, “from the malice of his enemies;" and Calamy rather more than insinuates, that his prayer to God, upon that occasion, worked the instantaneous deliverance of himself and the ship's crew. Afterwards, on his return home, he was for some time confined a prisoner to his own house. Upon King James's declaration, in 1687, he resumed the public exercise of his ministerial functions, and continued in the pious discharge of them until his death, at the time recorded upon his tomb-stone. “He was not only zealous in the pulpit, but a sincere lively Christian in his closet. He was an encourager of young men designed for the ministry, and had some few under his care, whom he instructed in academical learning, to whom he was peculiarly kind. He was generally respected; and yet, at some particular times, he had some experience of the rage of his enemies—but he was above it. Thus, in the year 1685, when some of the people of Dartmouth, accompanied by some of the magistrates, were actuated by such a spirit of madness, as to make up his effigies, and carry it through the streets in derision, with the covenant and bill of exclusion pinned to it, and burn it, he, in the mean time, retired, and offered up his most hearty prayers to God, for the town of Dartmouth, its magistrates and inhabitants. And when the passages of their mock shew were afterwards related to him, he made no other return, than in the words of our Saviour: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The treatise in question is introduced by an “ Epistle Dedicatory,” dated “ from my study at Ley, in Shapton, Oct. 7, 1667,” and thus addressed. “To my dearly beloved and longed for, the flock of Jesus Christ in Dartmouth, over whom

the Holy Ghost hath made me an overseer; sound judgement, true zeal, and unstained purity, are heartily wished.”

The affectionate and earnest style of this discourse, free alike from canting professions and baneful enthusiasm, is such as to win the good will and attentive disposition of the persons addressed; and it speaks most eloquently in favour of the chastened and pious character of the apostle, that, dating from the place of his banishment, and so shortly after he had sustained the loss of a parent, from the persecution of those by whom he was himself deprived of the means of comfortable subsistence, he neither in this place, nor in the whole of the ensuing discourse, (though led by his subject, in speaking of “The Seasons in which the Heart must be especially kept," to treat of “The Season of Adversity,”—“of Trouble in the Church,”" of Danger”—“ Want”_" Injury”_" of Great Provocation” “ Temptation” — “ Spiritual Darkness” — and “Persecution,”) makes any allusion to the afflictions he has himself suffered, or the real or supposed guilt of the prevailing party who had been the instruments of inflicting them. This is, indeed, (to employ the title of another of Flavel's works by way of application to his individual character) a true “ Touchstone of Sincerity.” Time, the great remover of mere party distinctions, has taught us to look with utter indifference, as opposed to each other, on the sufferings of the “ Bartholomew Saints” and the “Sequester'd Clergy;" and we no longer stand in need of good Mr. Walker's assistance in calling to our minds the eight thousand Episcopalians “imprisoned, banished, and sent a starving,” by the Oliverian committees, to enable us to view, in the two thousand who were ejected by the act of uniformity, no more than a very small and inconsiderable detachment of the great army of martyrs,—an august assembly, which has gone on, through all ages of the world, continually augmenting, and which will for ever increase, so long as the good and evil principles of our nature are allowed to set themselves in array against each other, be the cause what it will, the provocation however unprovoked, and the voluntary resignation however unstained by the alloy of pride, obstinacy, or other baser mixtures. Let us, as much as we please, applaud the temper of the age we live in for its improvement in charitableness, or condemn it for its “self-seeking” spirit and want of public or religious principle, we may rest satisfied, that there will yet be no want either of opportunity or example, both of infliction and of endurance; but when the endurance is meek and unrepining, and when the injuries inflicted, instead of calling forth the bitter spirit of indignation, are treated only as the means (without reference to the instruments) employed by an invisible Providence for bettering the heart, and exalting and purifying the mental philosophy, it

is then that we acknowledge “the saint indeed,” and exult in our conviction of the perfectibility of human nature.

To judge from the tendency of this simple and affectionate address to the people of his flock, such was the character of the pastor of Dartmouth. But we will no longer withhold from our readers the inducements we mean to afford them for forming their own judgement of his merits as a writer.

The epistle dedicatory thus opens.

“My dear friends, there are three sad sights with which our eyes should continually affect our hearts. The first is, to behold in every place so many profane and dissolute ones, who bear the very image of Satan; the face of whose conversation plainly discovers what they are, and whither they are going. These look like themselves, the children of wrath. The second is, to see so many cursed hypocrites artificially disguising themselves, and, with marvellous dexterity, acting the parts of saints, so that even a judicious eye may, sometimes, mistake the workings of the spirit on them, for his saving workings on others. To hear such a person censuring, praying, bewailing his corruptions, and talking of his experience, would easily persuade a man to believe that he has the heart, as well as the face, of a sincere Christiansic oculos, sic ille manus, sic ora ferebat-so the people of God speak, so they pray, and even so they open their conditions. These look like saints, but are none. The third is, to see so many real saints, in whom the spirit of truth is, who yet, through the impetuous workings of their corruptions and neglecting the watch over their hearts, often fall into such scandalous practices, that they look like hypocrites, though they are not so. · These are three sad sights indeed, and “oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes fountains of tears,” that I might weep abundantly over them all! For the first I would mourn heartily, considering that they, so continuing, must be damned eternally. For the second I would both weep and tremble, considering that they, so abiding, must be damned doubly. And for the third I would weep no less than for any of the rest, because though they themselves may and shall be saved, yet their example makes fast the bonds of death on both the former.”

He desires "all such as harden themselves, and take up an opinion of their own deplorable condition, would soberly consider and answer these three queries— .

“1. Does religion in any way countenance or patronize the sinful practices of its professors ? or does it not rather impartially and severely condemn them? There is, indeed, a case wherein we may charge the evil practices of men upon their principles, but that is when their practices naturally flow from and necessarily follow their principles : as, for example, if I see a papist sin boldly, I may charge it upon his principles, for they set pardons to sale, and so make way for looseness; if I see an Arminian slight the grace of God, and proudly advance himself, I may cry shame upon his principles, which directly lead to it: but can I do

« PreviousContinue »