« AnteriorContinuar »
several months he read scarcely any other book; and he was heard to say, that had it not been for the knowledge of his profession, which his former diligence had enabled him to acquire, he could not have fulfilled his professional duties during this year. His natural temper was ardent, and his affections having now received a new bias, he sought the knowledge of spiritual things with the same eagerness with which he had hitherto pursued those of a temporal nature. He was frequent and earnest in prayer, and diligently used every appointed means of grace. How greatly God blessed him in the use of these, all who knew him can testify. He has frequently remarked to his friends that his knowledge of Divine truth was derived almost exclusively from the word of God; and that his subsequent perusal of the writings of Sibbes, Leighton, and other divines of that day, served rather to confirm the views he had previously acquired, than to form his opinions on the all-important subject of religion. To this circumstance it may not be improper to attribute the
richness and freshness of his views of Di
vine truth, which made his society peculiarly valuable to those friends with whom he could freely communicate on the subject now nearest his own heart. The natural effect of this change was soon apparent; he became anxious to devote all his powers to the honour of God and the good of his fellow-creatures. With this view he took an active part in a Sunday-school in the neighbourhood where he lived, bringing down, with admirable simplicity, the sublime truths of the Gospel to the capacities of his infant charge; he superintended a large district, as a visitor for the St John's, Bedford Row, Sick Society; and became also an active visitor for the Widows' Friend and Benevolent Society.
a member of the committees of the fol
lowing societies, viz., the Queen Square Bible Association (of which he was Secretary), the Bloomsbury and South Pancras Auxiliary Bible Society, the Newfoundland School Society, and the British Reformation Society.
"For nearly two years he generally devoted two hours, three times a-week, to visiting every house and floor and family, in succession, in some of the worst parts of the streets and lanes of St. Giles's; relieving both the spiritual and temporal wants of the poor and wretched inhabitants of that part of the metropolis. He read the Scriptures to them, and declared the glad tidings of redemption by Christ, frequently with great success. His zeal, on these occssions, led him to exert himself beyond his strength; and often has he been seen returning, wearied and exhausted from those labours of love, to his arduous professional engagements.
"He felt, in an extraordinary degree, the importance of intercourse among Christian friends (which our Church, with admirable
propriety, styles the communion of saints), and exerted himself to promote stated meetings of those who felt with him the paramount importance of living for eternity. Of these meetings he necessarily became, from his talents and acquirements, and above all from his extensive knowledge of Scripture, and the aptness with which he brought it to bear upon every subject, the conspicuous but unostentatious orna
"Nor was his zeal for the honour of Christ and the good of souls confined to his own country; he took a great interest in the labours of missionaries abroad, a pleasing instance of which is to be found in a long and most animated letter written by him, in his own name, and in that of a small company of Christian friends, to a missionary in Africa, whom they had known and esteemed when in this country." pp. 14-18.
Amidst this career of useful and honourable exertion it pleased God, last October, to afflict him with a fever, which soon terminated in his death. At the commencement of his illness, he spoke with confidence of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, though he had a deep sense of his own sinfulness; and prayed that God would manifest his Almighty power by taking away the heart of stone, and giving him a heart of flesh.
"What an awful
thing," said he, "is sin !"-"but in have discovered something so excelme it is doubly sinful, because I lent in the character of God." At a subsequent period of his short illness, he expressed great confidence in God and the most ardent love for his Redeemer. "The Saviour's heart," said he, "is all love. He has purchased to himself a glorious church out of this wicked world, from those that hated him, despised him, rebels; but he hath purified them unto himself, blessed be his Name for evermore." On one occasion, his expressions partook of so much apparent excitement that his memorialist has considered it right to add, that his friends and medical attendant thought him "perfectly collected;" but that, even "if those who are disposed to scoff should say it was the effect of delirium, still it shews what must have been the subject of his
thoughts and the bent of his mind during the season of health and vigour." We quite concur in this last remark; and it is chiefly in this respect that we would consider some remarkable exclamations of sick and dying persons, which we could not undertake to pronounce “ per
fectly collected." We are very far from being among those who are "disposed to scoff" on such subjects; they require great tenderness and consideration; but when our memorialist speaks of his departing friend as uttering a series of fervid exclamations in "an unearthly tone of voice, of which they who were present say they cannot give a description," we must remind him that his friend could speak only through bodily organs; and that, however elevated might be the immortal spirit, the mere human voice could not be "unearthly:" and, therefore, to describe it as such can lead only to false conceptions, which in the present instance may be of no ill consequence; but which in many other cases would tend greatly to propagate enthusiasm on the one hand, and scepticism on the other. We shall not undertake to say what might or might not, in the present or any other instance, be the effect of high physical excitement, amounting even to "delirium ;" but one thing is quite certain, that words, gestures, and tones of voice, whether affected by delirium or not, are at least corporeal; and we see no good that can, and much evil that may, result from confounding things so essentially different as matter and mind; the organs of physical utterance and the inward expression of the soul.
The writer of this little narrative sums up the character of his excellent and endeared friend in several particulars, among which we find the following.
"The kindness and suavity of his manner was no less conspicuous than his humility. He however continually lamented the want of these qualities in himself, and frequently remarked, that Christians espe
cially ought to be distinguished for their kindness, forbearance, and sympathy.
"His habitual candour, openness, and plain dealing cannot be too highly commended in themselves, or recommended to the practice of Christians in general.
"His tenderness of conscience was re
markable, and extended to things which many would consider unimportant; but it was a maxim with him, that nothing was unimportant which was indicative of a principle of action, however trivial it might appear in itself.
"His anxiety for the interests of those whose concerns were committed to his care, has already been slightly noticed. His zeal for the glory of God, and the good of his fellow-creatures has been more fully dwelt upon. It was indeed unbounded; he considered no personal sacrifice too great to benefit the souls of men, even of those who were unknown to him. In his labours among the poor he bore insult and reproaches with perfect calmness, and returned week after week with unwearied kindness to renew his There was in his character a efforts. simple dependence on the word of God; whether he was determining his own mode of acting, or giving advice to his friends, that word was his guide: whatever was there pointed out he willingly adopted, without attempting to shape his course by maxims of worldly conformity." pp. 30-32.
The memorialist sums up the whole as follows:
"Should the reader inquire how one, who carried about with him the remains of a corrupt nature, could thus stem the current of natural inclination, and the example of a world lying in wickedness, and devote all his powers to the glory of God, the question is satisfactorily answered-he lived by faith in Christ." pp. 33, 34.
The writer of the narrative may think it a culpable omission if we neglect to state, that this excellent young man appears to have considerably altered his views since the date when he accounted "election, assurance, and final perseverance," not as parts, or at least essential parts, of Christian doctrine; but whatever may have been the minuter shades of his theological tenets, which probably were not fully matured, there is visible throughout his letters and his life an edifying spirit of faith and hope, of zeal and charity, of spiritual-mindedness, and of deadness to the world. The following is a summary of his feelings in his own words.
"The sacrifices must be great; we must be content to commit all to God, and henceforth to live by the faith of the Son of God; to be willing to be the least of
all, and servant of all, and become, even as Solomon himself became, in his own eyes, when before his God, a little child, in understanding; that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of men I am getting on wonderfully well in my profession, but I want to keep my heart out of it, so that if I were called away from it any day by death or otherwise, I should cast no longing look towards it, but wil lingly resign it, and enter into the joy of my Lord. Still there is a conflict in this as well as in all other stages of the Christian life." pp. 74, 75.
But if he had conflicts, he had enjoyments also; for, as he remarks in one of his letters,
"There is no sacrifice which we are called upon to make, and which may at first appear as necessarily tending to leave a void in the human heart, but there is something given infinitely more delightful and heart-cheering. If we are commanded
to forsake the broken cisterns of this
world's enjoyments, it is upon a free invitation to the Fountain of living waters." pp. 70, 71.
Thus living ever prepared for eternity, his loins girt and his lamp burning, death to him was no stranger; and if an enemy, an enemy vanquish ed and despoiled. It came to himfor it could not be said to surprise him-suddenly, inthe midst of health, manhood, and fair worldly prospects; but he had sought a better inheritance, and, through the infinite merits of his Saviour, has been early translated to the enjoyment of it.
There is nothing of narrative in this slight volume, beyond the few fragments we have given, nor any remarkable incident or adventure; unless a young man under his circumstances, devoting his heart to God, and his leisure to visiting the sick and the poor, be considered so but we doubt not the compiler hoped that, by the blessing of God, the account might interest and benefit the reader; especially, perhaps, some members of the learned profession to which the lamented subject of his narrative belonged; and we trust that his expectations will not be disappointed. The whole, however, would occupy but about
a sheet of a closely-printed tract or magazine, and should not have been made a half-crown publication.
A Letter to my Children, on the Subject of my Conversion from the Romish Church, in which I was born, to the Protestant, in which I hope to die. By PETER BAYSSIERE (Saddler): translated from the French. (Paris, 2d edition.) Price 8d. London. 1829.
A LITTLE pamphlet has recently been produced in France, by an obscure and imperfectly educated mechanic, which has attracted more attention, and is likely to produce more effect in the conversion of Catholics to the Protestant faith, than many of those elaborate and learned dissertations in which it was the fashion of former times to engage. A saddler, of the name of Bayssiere, is its author; a member of the Romish Church by birth, who had received no religious education, and continued till his thirtysecond year in profession a Catholic, but in reality aDeist. Still he attended the Catholic services; and though he would not communicate, he once consented to make confession, as a necessary preliminary to being married; and he looked upon Protestants as heretics: but he neither read nor believed the Bible. At this time his wife died; and partly from a desire to shew honour to her memory, partly from a suspicion that the prayers of the church might alleviate the sufferings of the dead, he determined to procure nine masses to be said for the repose of her soul. The priest to whom he applied promised, but failed, to perform them. Month after month he repeated his application, but in vain, the priest complaining that he had not time; and his tenderness for his wife made him very indignant at this supposed protraction of her sufferings in purgatory. At length it was suggested to him, that if he
paid the priest in advance, he would probably be more successful: he tried the experiment, and it succeeded; the money was accepted, and the masses were said; nay, the good priest, who had no time to perform three, now benevolently wished to perform six, rather than return the change out of a six-franc piece which the poor man had presented. Such an instance of cupidity startled Bayssiere, and led him to inquire whence the lucrative doctrine of purgatory was derived. He was not himself a believer in the Bible; but as he knew that the priests asserted that all their doctrines and ceremonies were founded on that book, he felt a curiosity to know what the Bible said upon the subject. While these reflexions were passing in his mind, he suddenly recollected that he possessed a copy of the New Testament, in which he had learned to read, but which he had never opened after he was ten years of age. He eagerly seized it; and with that vigour and warmth of temperament of which his book furnishes several examples, never stopped, he says, till he had read it from the beginning to the end. His only business was with the doctrine of purgatory; and he disregarded every thing which did not bear upon that single point. He gives, with much artless simplicity, the result of his studies: he found nothing which made for, but much which made against, that doctrine; and he arose convinced, that if the Bible was to be the standard of appeal, there was nothing to be found in it in favour of that fabled intermediate state of departed souls.
It then occurred to him, that the pope must have invented this lucrative doctrine; and he in consequence felt resolved to know who the pope was. He had heard that he was the successor of St. Peter; that St. Peter was the head of the church; and that consequently the rights and prerogatives of St. Peter had devolved upon succeeding pontiffs. This he had heard in con
versation and from the pulpit; but he was now desirous of understanding what the Scriptures said on the subject. With the same ardour, therefore, and the same singleness of purpose as before, he sat down to the perusal of the New Testament; and reading, without intermission, from the first page to the last, he discovered that St. Peter had never preached at Rome; and had never, during his life-time, been recognized as the head of the church;-in short, that the whole system was an artful fiction, invented and maintained to procure gain or power to its authors.
"Thus," he says, "I discovered that these two primary doctrines of the Romish premacy of St. Peter and his successors, Church-namely, purgatory, and the suhad not at any rate been inculcated by the writers of the Gospel. Although, previous to this discovery, I had not been very zealous in the belief of these two points, yet I cannot tell you what interest I felt in the new ideas I had acquired. The New Testament, which I was still far from regarding as a Divine revelation, documents, in whose authority I then appeared to me a collection of precious began to feel some degree of confidence. Though I found this study novel and difficult to a poor uneducated artizan like
myself, it was at the same time so attinue my researches." pp. 25, 26.
tractive to me that I was induced to con
His next inquiries were directed to the doctrine of the real presence. His mind had always revolted at that essential article of Catholic belief of all the tenets of Popery this had tended the most to alienate him from the Christian religion, of which he had been taught to consider it an inseparable part, and to force him into infidelity. Occupied exclusively with this subject, he again read through the New Testament. For some time he saw nothing that seemed to countenance the doctrine; but at length, meeting with the passage in St. John, chap. vi., on which the Catholics lay so much stress; "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you;" he thought the proof decisive, and was on the point of abandoning with disgust
the record in which so palpable an absurdity seemed to be promulgated. Further search, however, threw light upon the passage; and in the sixty-third verse, he discovered what he calls the key of the chapter. He saw that the expressions eating and drinking were used figuratively; and that they really signified nothing but "knowing Christ, coming to him, and believing in him."
Having thus disposed of the three capital peculiarities of the Catholic faith; and having ascertained that whatever might be their origin, it was not in the Bible; he seems for a considerable time to have remain ed satisfied with his discoveries, and to have pursued the subject no further. Two years passed, in which he devoted himself to his usual occupation; maintaining his family by manual toil, without ever thinking of consulting the Scriptures. But his mind had undergone a change he had read the Bible, in order to gratify his curiosity; but unconsciously he had imbibed some of the impressions which the word of God is calculated to produce. After saying that he was not now without some idea of religion, and some little measure of its secret influence, he thus describes the doubts and the darkness which overshadowed his mind:
"I am bound to tell you, my children, what was the real state of my soul at that time. I was in so deplorable a condition of blindness and ignorance, that sometimes I thought there was no God, but that he was an imaginary Being; and sometimes confounding him with the works of his Almighty bands, I attributed divinity to
the material world. The fool hath said
in his heart, There is no God;' and I dare not deny that these words of David were for a long time, and even perhaps at the period of which I am speaking, applicable to me. But while I acknowledge that the natural corruption of my heart, and the bad books I had read, were in part the causes of the sad state I have described; I cannot help also attributing the greatest part of them to the abuses, the superstition, and the errors which disfigure Christianity in the Romish Church; and which had so disgusted me, that they had driven me into total infidelity.
"Such, then, being in fact my religious state, you may well believe, my children,
that I was not happy; for it is impossible to be so without trusting in God, who is the Source of supreme good and true peace. I was assiduous in my occupation; I frequented the society of my friends; but my heart, empty, and incessantly craving after something which I could not obtain, and agitated, could no where find an object was never content. My mind, restless to fix and satisfy it. Listlessness followed me every where, and seemed to increase much to be pitied are those who are, as I upon me. Oh how unhappy, and how
then was, without God, without Christ, without hope in the world!" pp. 38-40.
From this state of dejection it pleased God to raise him. Wandering about one star-light night, the reflexion burst upon him, that behind that scene of beauty, that work of harmony and magnificence, the great Architect of nature must reside. "My reason, and my feeling," he says, "combine to convince me of his existence." He adds,
"Some days after this, the examination
of a watch, its springs, its various wheels, and its motions, brought me afresh to the same conclusion; and for ever confirmed me in the belief of a God, the Creator of all things. If this watch,' I argued, 'could not make itself, and necessarily leads us to suppose an artist, who made each part, and so arranged the whole as to produce this movement, how much stronger reason have we for concluding, that the universe has a Contriver and Maker.' p. 41.
Convinced of the being of a God, a sense of his own unworthiness and sinfulness now affected him deeply; and these were followed by resolutions of amendment. But here it seems he was embarrassed; he endeavoured to recollect whatever rules of virtue and maxims of wisdom he had heard; at length the thought occurred to him, that he might find something to the purpose in the New Testament; and for the fourth time he commenced its perusal. its perusal. The following is his own animated language on the occasion.
"I wish it were in my power to recount to you, my dear children, all the effects that the eternal word of God produced upon my heart, for from that time I recognized it to be the revelation of Sovereign Wisdom; in the genuine expression of the Divine will, the message of a tender and compassionate Father, addressed to his ungrateful and rebellious children,