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· ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN's
MAGAZINE AND REVIEW;
For SEPTEMBER, 1803.
RELIGIOUS DIVIsions have produced much Mischief in the World, and are likely to
produce much more : But Submission to an EstABLISHMENT, where the essential Parts of Religion are secured, can produce none at all ; or none but what is infinitely outweighed by the beneficial Consequences of PUBLIC Order, and PUBLIC PEACE.
TO THE EDITORS OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
AS you have in your Review, Vol. IV. p. 369, spoken respectfully of
Mr. Clapham's selection of sermons, and praised most deservedly Skelton's discourses, which are unquestionably the best in his selection, if not in the English language, I send you herewith an abstract of Skelton's life by Burdy. It will, I doubt not, be both entertaining and edi. fying to your numerous readers. ?
Burdy says, that Skelton preferred the additional volume of sermons to the others, as his understanding was more mature when he wrote them. His * sermon on these words, continues Burdy, The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light, I have always admired for its just observations on mankind.
I am, gentlemen,
A. M. Philip Skelton was born in the parish of Derriaghg, near Lisburn, in Feb. 1706-7. His father, Richard Skelton, was a decent honest countryman, who held under Lord Conway, a large farm at a cheap rent. Philip, when he was about ten years old, was sent to Lisburn Latin.. school, which was then kept by the Rev. Mr. Clarke, a man of emi., nence in his profession. · His father, though he lived within two miles of the town, placed him at lodgings there, that he might enjoy every opportunity of improvement. Sensible of its importance, he did not
* It may be hoped that Mr. Clapham will gratify his . readers by inserting this sermon in his second volume for the 9th Şunday after Trinity.
Vol. V. Churchm. Mag. Sept. 1803..
spare expence to give his children education. He was a man of understanding, and the gentlemen of fortune had such a high opinion of him, that they used to invite him frequently to their houses, for the sake of his conversation. Before he died, which was soon after Philip went to school, he called to him his ten children to give them a charge. He desired Philip to study physic, who complied with his dying command, but hised on divinity for his profession, to which he believed himself called by a voice more than human. Thus did he lose in his tender years an excellent father, a man of admirable sense, a strict observer of religion, and a careful instructor of his children. He retained everafter a grateful remembrance of his worth. He used to say with Horace, that if he were appointed to chuse a father out of all the men in the world, he would take the one he had.
His mother was left with ten children. She had indeed the benefit of the family farm, but land at that time was comparatively, of little va: lue; of consequence her means of support for such a family were not over-abundant. Philip, however, still continued to go to the Latin school; and when he was at a loss for candles to read by at night, which frequently happened, he made use of furze, which he gathered for the purpose, and then throwing them piece by piece upon the fire, read by the glimmering light. He and some of his school-fellows often met together in the fields, and examined each other most strictly for half-pence. He that missed the answer of the question proposed, gave a half-penny to the boy who examined him ; which made them, as he remarked, prepare themselves with great care, for halfpence were then very scarce.
On leaving school, he entered a sizear in the university of Dublin, in lune 1724. His tutor was the famous Dr. Delany, who, by his conduct, proved himself his real friend ever after. He applied there with diligence to the useful studies enjoined by that noble seminary, and soon acquired the reputation of a scholar.
After he had taken the degree of B. A. he was ordained by Dr. Sterne, Bishop of Clogher, in the year 1729, to the curacy of Newtown-Butler ; previous to his ordination, he fasted and prayed two days. He left the curacy of Newtown-Butler, in 1732, and was appointed to the cure of Monaghan in the same diocese. He entered upon his cure with that zeal for the salvation of souls, which a warm sense of duty only could inspire. Well assured that he must be accountable hereafter for his discharge of the awful trust committed to his care, he resolved to act as became one, whose hopes and fears were placed beyond the grave. Having now got rid of a troublesome tuition--for he was private tutor to the children of his late rector-which before had obstructed bim in his pious exertions, he gave up all his thoughts and time to the instruction of his people. Their welfare, spiritual and temporal, was the sole object of his care. He laboured hard in his ministry; he visited them from house to house without distinction of sect; he conversed with them freely, mingling entertainment with his instruction. The children he catechized every Sunday evening in the church; and when they be came thoroughly acquainted with the original catechism, as in the prayerbook, made them learn the proof catechism, which confirms and illustrates the doctrines of the other by texts of scripture. On a particulat
evening evening in the week which he appointed, he invited people of every age to his lodgings, that he might instruct them in religion. And thus, by his means, they obtained a knowledge of their duty: .,' W.
In the pulpit he displayed that strong and manly eloquence, which arrests the attention of the hearers. He explained to them, in plain and powerful language, the threats and promises of the Gospel ; he de clared to them the indispensable conditions of salvation; he placed, like a faithful servant of the Lord, heaven and hell before their eyes. His large gigantic size, his strong expressive action, his clear distinct delivery, his power of changing the tone of his voice, and features of his face, and, above all, the sincerity of his heart, made an irresistible impression on his hearers.
His life was conformable to his preaching. It was à pattern of every virtue; it was decorated with piety, chastity, humility, and charity. For this last mentioned amiable quality, he was eminent perhaps above all others in Ireland. Being born, as he supposed, for the comfort of the poor, he exerted all his endeavours to mitigate their sorrows. A great part of his annual pittance he gave them, and often scarce allowed himself even the necessaries of life. His preaching was attended with the success he desired. The manners of his people were, in a short time, greatly improved, and vice and ignorance retreated before so powerful an opponent. • He was particularly attentive to the state of the prisoners in the jail, whose situation renders them so helpless. To quit the gay scenes of the world and plunge ourselves into sach gloomy cells to comfort the afflicted, is surely one of the most humane of all offices, , On examining the jail of Monaghan, he found that the poor prisoners were often cheated of their proper allowance of bread. But he took ,care soon to rectify this and every other abuse; so that the condition of the prisoners was in his time as comfortable as 'could be expected. To those who were condemned to die, he was à faithful instructor; affording such advice and consolation as were suitable to their melancholy state, ... . . . . .
. . . . , *) He was once very successful in his endeavours to save the life of a convict at Monaghan, of whose innocence he was well assured, that was condemned to be hanged in five days. He set off immediately for Dublin, and, travelling without delay, on his arrival there went to the Privy Council, which was fortunately sitting. He was admitted, pleaded eloquently before them the cause of the poor man, obtained his pardon, and, like a good angel, returned to Monaghan, with the happy news before the day of the execution arrived
at in il There was in his parish a notoriogs sioner, whose wicked life gave offence' to every sober Christian. Skelton went to him, and waming him of the danger of his evil ways, the man was so desperately wicked, . that he took a spit and ran at him to stick him. Skelton was forced then to make his escape. However, he had the courage to go back again, and, at last, after much danger and difficulty, by long persévérance, by his awful lectures, and the divine aid, brought him to a sense of reHizion. He produced indeed a sensible reformation in the manners of his people, thirty or forty of whom usually attended prayers on a week
day; which, if one may judge by his own experience, seeins almost incredible.
In 1736, he published a pamphlet, the title of which is, A Vindication of the Right Reverend the Lord Bishop of Winchester, &c. A book, entitled, A plain Account of the Nature and End of the Lord's Supper, was ascribed to his Lordship, in which he asserts, that consecration of the elements is without scriptural precept or example, and that this sacrament is intended merely to commemorate our Lord's death. Here he insinuates, that no previous preparation, or resolution of amendment of life, is necessary for receiving the sacrament worthily. · Skelton, under the pretence of defending his character, exposes him. “ It is very unjust,” he says, “to suspect a Right Reverend Prelate, who is more pious, judicious, orthodox, and learned, than any that ever was and ever will be, who has sworn and subscribed to all our articles, and has so tender a conscience, should be capable of writing so bad a book. It is a scandalous age, that ascribes such a work of darkness, to such an apostolical messenger of light.” Then he answers all the arguments produced by the author, in such a way as to satify any reasonable reader.
Mr. Skelton had a ready turn at composition, having often, as he maid, composed a long sermon in twelve hours. To write a sermon well is possibly more difficult, than to compose equally well any other piece of prose of the same length. The biographer and historian have materials provided for them; their business then' is only to arrange with skill, and express with perspicuity. The sermon-writer, besides this, must find out materials for himself. He must therefore exercise his invention. While he is thus employed, he must also use his judgment, in choosing or rejecting amidst the wild variety his imagination presents.
In 1742, he accepted of the tuition of the late Earl of Charlemont, but quarrelling with Mr. Adderley, who had married Lady Charlemont, he soon gave up the care of his Lordship's education, and returned to his cure. His Rector had now been resident two years.
After having prepared his Deism revealed for the press, he thought it a work of too great importance to be published in Ireland, and therefore ' resolved to take it to London. Accordingly, hi. Rector having offered
to do duty for him in his absence, and pay him bis salary, he set out in · 1748, to dispose of it. By Deism revealed, he made about 2001. His
powerful pulpit-eloquence which he displayed in the Churches in the metropolis, brought him into notice. The citizens of London, to whom he afterwards dedicated. a volume of Sermons, were, he said, at that time, excellent men, and admirable judges of preaching .
He spent a great part of his time in going through the city, where he continued about half a year, purchasing books at a cheap rate, and laid out on these the most of the money he got by Deism revealed, which afforded a good library for a writer.
However, the time of his being promoted above the humble office of a curate at length arrived. In the year 1750, the Bishop of Clogher gave him the living of Poltigo, in a wild part of the county of Donnegal. When he got this living, he had been eighteen years curate of
Monaghan, Monaghan, and two of Newtown Butler. His parish was fifteen miles long, and ten broad, of this he had the whole tythes, and also a gebe of a hundred and fifty acres : yet strange as it may seem, the whole did not, on an average, produce more than 2001. per annum.
His parishioners were sunk in profound ignorance. One could hardly suppose, on viewing their manners, that they were born and bred in a Christian country. Yet many of them were nominally Protestants. Mr. Skelton declared, that they scarce knew more of the Gospel than the Indians of America; so that, he said, he was a missionary come to convert them to Christianity. To a benevolent Clergyman like him, it surely gave great concern to see them in this state of ignorance and error, He had a wide field for improvement before him, and began to work immediately. He visited them from house to house; he instructed them late and early; he told them of Jesus Christ who died for their sins, whose name some of them had scarcely heard of before. In his journies through the parish, he took down the childrens' names, desiring their parents to send them to church to be instructed in the catechism. During the summer, while he was thus employed, he explained the catechism on Sundays before all the people, which served to edify both old and young. At this lecture, or explanation, he spent an hour and an half every Sunday, the whole summer season. · * He gave the people this instead of a sermon, as it seemed to please them better, being delivered without notes, and also remarkably plain and instructive. He was thus, like Job, eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. In time, by his extraordinary care, he brought these uncultivated people to believe in a God who made them, and a Saviour who redeemed them,
(To be continued.)
TO THE EDITOR'S OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCHMAN'S MAGAZINE.
GENTLEMEN, VOUR Correspondent, “ A Soul-sleeper,” makes so forcible an
appeal to me that I cannot help snatching up my pen to answer his ingenious letter.
Taking this position for granted, viz. that “the intermediate State between Death and the Resurrection is a state of consciousness;” I am well aware, that it has been denied, and that, I am sorry to say, by men of superior talent and great learning : but I thought, “ good easy man,” with your Correspondent, Quæstor, (Vol. III. p. 275.) that " the Soul-sleeping controversy was itself gone to sleep.” Bishop Law and Archdeacon Blackburne's labours upon this subject, have, by no means, carried conviction with them, any more than Dr. Priestley's effort on the same side of the question, in his funeral sermon on Dr.