Page images
PDF
EPUB

matter, without any thing either of disparagement or discouragement to the wise and great. And, in my poor judgement, the more retired and private condition is the better and safer, the more easy and innocent, and consequently the more desirable of the two.

· Those, who are fitted and contented to serve mankind in the management and government of public affairs, are called · Benefactors,' and if they govern (well] deserve to be called so, and to be so accounted, for denying themselves in their own ease to do good to many.

. Not that it is perfection to go out of the world, and to be perfectly useless. Our Lord by his own example has taught us, that we can never serve God better, than when doing good to men: and that a perpetual retirement from the world, and shunning the conversation of men, is not the most religious life; but living amongst them, and doing good to them. The life of our Saviour is a pattern both of the contemplative and the active life, and shows us how to mix devotion and doing good to the greatest advantage. He would neither go out of the world, nor yet immerse himself in the cares and troubles, in the pleasures and plentiful enjoyments, much less in the pomp and splendor of it. He did not place religion (as too many have done since) in a total retirement from the world, and shunning the conversation of men, and taking care to be out of all condition and capacity of doing good to any body. He did not run away from the conversation of men, nor live in a wilderness, nor shut himself up in a pen. He lived in the world with great freedom, and with great innocency; hereby teaching us, that charity to men is a duty no less necessary than devotion toward God. He the world without leaving it. We read, indeed, that he was carried into the wilderness to be tempted: but we no where read, that he chose to live in a wilderness to avoid temptation.

• The capacity and opportunity of doing greater good is the specious pretence, under which ambition is wont to cover the eager desire of power and greatness.

* If it be said (which is the most spiteful thing, that can be said) that some ambition is necessary to vindicate a man from being a fool;' to this I think it may be fairly answered, and without offence, that there may perhaps be as much ambition in declining greatness, as in courting it: only it is of a more unusual kind, and the example of it less dangerous, because it is not like to be contagious.'

In all the representations which he laid before their Majesties he was so exactly correct, that he never either raised the character of his friends, or sunk that of those who from their own hostility alone could be called his enemies. His truth and candor were perceptible in whatever he said or did, his looks and manner concurring to put down all suspicion : he thought nothing, indeed, in this world worthy of being won by intrigue.

In 1693, he published four incomparable sermons on · The Divinity and Incarnation of our Blessed Saviour ;' induced (as he himself observes, in a short advertisement prefixed to them) “ not by that which is commonly alleged for printing books, the importunity of friends, but the importunate clamors and calumnies of others, whom the author heartily prays God to forgive.”

He did not long survive his advancement; for on Sunday November 17, 1694, while he was at the chapel in Whitehall, he was seized with a sudden illness. Though his countenance, however, showed that he was much indisposed, he thought it not decent to interrupt the service. The fit soon turned to a dead palsy. The oppression of his distemper rendered it at last uneasy to him to speak; but his understanding, it appeared, was still clear, though others could not have the advantage of it. He continued serene and calm, and in broken words "thanked God that he was quiet within, and had nothing then to do but to wait the will of Heaven.

He was attended, during the two last nights of his illness, by his friend Mr. Robert Nelson, author of · The Fasts and Festivals of the Church of England;' in whose arms he expired, on the fifth day of his illness, in the sixty fifth year of his age.

He was a person, says one of his grateful pupils, of unblemished conversation, not to be charged with any either intemperance or covetousness, or any other vice whatsoever; which, as they are spots even in a layman's life, so they appear much more foul in a clergyman.

His more grave discourses were very weighty: he spoke apophthegms; and was very serious in giving good counsels, resolving doubts, and recommending religion and virtue.

As a preacher, he was practical. His discourses generally aimed, either to excite in men an aweful sense of God, and to enkindle devotion toward him, or to stir up to a holy and virtuous conversation.

There were few remarkable texts of Scripture indeed, either of the Old or the New Testament, or rather few heads of practical divinity, which he did not handle at one time or the other in the course of his pulpit-labours. Hence he was by some, in the tone of censure, called a moral preacher,' as if he preached moral virtue rather than grace. And he assuredly forbore treating upon the inexplicable operations of grace, as some have taken upon them to do; teaching men in many instances to dispute, rather than to live, and too often (it is to be feared) possessing their minds with a kind of semi-enthusiasm, and by leading them to discover the marks of election in themselves encouraging in them too fond an estimate of their own pretensions, and too arrogant a contempt of those of others, to the neglect of the indispensable duties of love, charity, and justice. Dr. Tillotson however, upon proper occasions, magnified divine grace, and taught men to pray and labour for those divine assistances which the Almighty offers to their infirmities. But then he also knew, that Christians are obliged to lead good lives in all respects, both toward God, and men, and themselves.

Bishop Burnet preached his funeral sermon, from 2 Tim. iv. 7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.'

The death of the Archbishop was lamented by Mr. Locke in a letter to Professor Limborch, not only as a considerable loss to himself of a zealous and candid inquirer after truth whom he had consulted freely upon all doubts in theological subjects, and of a friend whose sincerity he had experienced for many years ; but, likewise, as a very important one to the English nation, and the whole body of the Reformed Churches.' And it affected both their Majesties with the deepest concern. The Queen for many days spoke of him in the tenderest manner, and not without tears : as his own death prevented him from feeling the terrible shock, which, if he had lived about five weeks longer, he must have received from that of her Majesty, of whose virtues and accomplishments he had the highest admiration, and to whom her consort bore this testimony, that he could never see any thing in her which he could call a fault." The King, likewise, never mentioned him but with some testimony of his singular esteem for his memory, and often used to declare to his son-in-law Mr. Chadwick, that he was the best man whom he ever knew, and the best friend whom he ever had. And this seems thoroughly to confute a common traditional story, that his Majesty had represented himself as disappointed in our Archbishop and his successor Tennison in opposite respects, having received much less service from the abilities of the former in business than from the latter, of whom he had not before conceived so high an expectation.'

The King's regard for the Archbishop extended to his widow. For his Grace's charity and generosity, with the expense of coming into the see and the repairs and improvements of his palace, had so exhausted his fortune, that if his, First-fruits had not been forgiven him by the King, his debts could not have been paid; and he left nothing to his family but the copy of his Posthumous Sermons, which was afterward sold for 2,500 guineas. His Majesty therefore granted to Mrs. Tillotson, in 1695, an annuity of 4001. during her natural life, and in 1698, 2001. a year more; both which were continued till her death on January 20, 1700. For the regular

« PreviousContinue »