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The Rev. Joseph Milner was born in the neighbourhood of Leeds, in 1744. The circumstances of his rather were so injured in the rebellion of the following year, that he had little to spare, from the demands of his family, for the education of his children. Joseph's constitution had been impaired by the measles, and his bodily infirmities are said to have prevented him from mixing with his schoolfellows in their diversions. While they were acquiring strength by exercise, he was amusing himself in the closet with a book, and preparing for the lessons of his schoolmaster, the Rev. Air. Moore, then usher, and afterwards master, of the gramimir-school at Leeds. Milner soon discovered talents; and Moore cultivated them with success, in Greek and Latin. He now began to step out of obscurity, and became the favourite and boast of his master. It seems, that when he was about 15 years of age^ he was very seriously impressed with the importance of practical religion. He studied the Scriptures, meditated on their essential doctrines, and experienced much conflict of mind. His excellent mother at the same period was become very earnest in religious concerns; and was herself intelligent in the practical parts of religion. Mr. Milner,always ascribed his first religious emotisns, under the direction of Providence, to the example, exhortation, and admonition of his maternal parent. His father disapproved this. On the contrary, he was disposed to ridicule enthusiastic and over-religious persons, as he caiied them; and his great object at that time was to divert the attention of his son Joseph from subjects which he conceived might give a gloomy east to his mind, and injure his rising fame as a scholar. He had no great difficulty in carrying his point: Joseph's extreme seriousness was not of long duration. He continued sound and orthodox in the. faith: he xvui. 3 K
418 . MEMOIR OF J. MILNER.
read the Scriptures daily in their original language; and grew wise in all critical enquiries respecting them ; but he ceased to trouble himself with what he afterwards used to call Vital and Practical Religion. His heart was panting after literary fame; and this passion must have been afterwards fed to no small degree by his success. Mr. Moore had for s.ome years entertained hopes of sending his favourite scholar to the university; but the premature and sudden death of Milnex's father, seemed to blast every expectation of that kind. However, the ardour of friendship, when thoroughly in earnest, is not easily damped by untoward events. Milner was already well known in Leeds; and had begun to teach grown-up children of both sexes, in some opulent families, grammar,.and the art ef composition in the English language. This laudable employment procured him a good supply of ready money, while several parents, to whom he had given much satisfaction by his industry and his skill in teaching, sympathized exceedingly with the youth who had just lost his father, and with him, to all appearance, his prospect of a university education.
At this favourable moment, when the disposition to serve young Milner in any way that should be deemed practicable, was pretty general, — when the purses of the wealthy were ready to be opened in his favour, the tutor of Catherine Hall, Cambridge, an old acquaintance of Mr. Moore, wrote to hiiu, to say, —' The office of chapel-clerk with us will soon be vacant; and if you have aDy clever lad, who is not very rich, whom you wish to serve, send him to us.' Mr. Moore instantly «ommunicated this proposal to several of the liberal gentlemen above alluded to, who all cheerfully aoncurred in it.
At 18 years of age, bat, from ill health, in appearance a child, Milner entered the university; but from this period ;• the age of 22, the native vigour of his constitution showed itself, and he began to grow taller and stronger. Here he, was diligent and successful; for In taking his degree, he was the <hird senior of time.
The Chancellor of the University gives annually two gold medals to the best proficients in classical learning, provided they be found at degree-time among the senior of times for mathematical and philosophical knowledge. From the first moment that Milner heard of these honours, he secretly set his heart upon obtaining one of them; and accordingly read 'Fhucydides and Sophocles, Cicero and Horace, day and night. J)r. John Law, the present Lord bishop of Elphin, and Joseph Milner obtained the two medals.
Joseph Milner would now have gladly remained in the university, and increased his literary reputation; but there was no opportunity of electing him fellow at Catherine Hall, and he was already somewhat in debt. He had lost his affectionate schoolmaster; and the management of Milncr's slender finances was transferred from the economical hands of Mr. Moore to those of a careless and dissipated person. He was not old enough for deacon's orders; and it became absolutely necessary that he should look out for some employment.
He now became assistant in a school, and afterwards in the care of his church, to a worthy clergyman, the Rev. Mr. Atkinson, of Thorp-Arch, near Tadcaster. la this new, and to him delightful situation, he was faithful to his engagements, and exemplary in the discharge of his duties, according to the knowledge he had of himself and of the Scriptures; but in fact, he was at that time, as he used afterwards to say, worldly-minded, and greedy of literary fame. He did not long remain here. While retaining deacon's orders, he happened to observe an advertisement in a provincial newspaper, for a head-master to the grammar-school of Hull. He instantly applied, and obtained it; and was soon afterwards chosen afternoon-lecturer to the principal church in that town. His easy success in these applications was owing, partly to the splendor of his character, and partly to the recommendation of his friends at Leeds. Under his auspices the school, which had dwindled almost to nothing, soon acquired a very considerable celebrity, which it retained for many years. With the increase of scholars the master's salary received proportional augmentation; and Mr. M.'s income now amounted to upwards of tS 200 per annum.
It is both useful and pleasing to observe how he acted on this great change of circumstances. His youngest brother Isaac, when a little boy of six years old, had begun to accompany his brother Joseph every day to the grammar-school; and at ten, could construe Ovid and Sallust. The premature death of the father before mentioned, had ruined all the prospects of Isaac's advancement in learning. His mother was obliged to abandon the prosecution of her husband's plan; and that her son Isaac might acquire a livelihood by honest industry, she wisely employed him in learning several branches, of the woollen-manufactory at Leeds.
'But the bowels of Joseph yearned upon his younger brother;' and as. soon as we find him in a situation to do him service, and to prosecute the excellent system of his father, he loses not a moment's time; but instantly releases him from his engagements at Leeds, and takes him under his own tuition at Hull. Those of our readers who are acquainted with the high literary character or Dr. Isaac Milner, and know that the dignified stations he fills and adorns as Dean of Carlisle, and Master of Queen's College, were bestowed on him without solicitation, and as the reward of superior merit, will be much gratified by the unaffected manner in which he acknowledges his obligations. To the kindness of iii*
420 MEMOIR OF J. MILNER.
brother, ' under Providence, he owes his present honourable and elevated situations, as Dean of Carlisle, Master of Queen's College, and Professor of Mathematics in the university of Cambridge. Indeed, lie owes all he has to the kindness ot this 3ame brother; and here willingly acknowledges the obligation, with tears of gratitude and affection. He made Isaac glad with his acts, and his memorial is blessed for ever!'
The dutiful and kind attentions of Joseph were not confined to his brother Isaac. His good and valuable mother Was growing old: she had gone througb a variety of hardships; and was living at Leeds, in very contracted circumstances. He sent for her to Hull to live with him, and to manage his house; which she did with great cheerfulness and activity for upwards of 20 years. He also sent for two indigent orphans, the children of his eldest brother, and took effectual care of their education.
Mr. Milner, from his first going into orders, was very earnest and zealous; but as he himself afterwards used to say, He preached himself, and not Jesus Christ. The first sermon he delivered at Hull gained him the hearts of the people; and is supposed to have contributed to his election to the school. Certain it is, that Mr. M. was a great favourite with his patrons, the Mayor and Aldermen of Hull, for the space of three years after his election; and it is equally certain, that a most important revolution took place in his sentiments and conduct about that time; which revolution, had it happened before his election, would, in all probability, have prevented his having a single vote for either of these situations. This revolution was neither partial, nor confined. Prom the year 1770 to the time of his death, he became entirely and sensibly a different man fromVsvhat he had been before. The inhabitants of Hull did not think any change in him to be either necessary or desirable: they were highly pleased with their diligent schoolmaster and popular preacher; they expected no improvement in him,— they wished for none; they respected his talents and attainmenis. His moral character was without spot. Regular, temperate, and decorous in his external conduct, orthodox in his religion, and loyal in his political sentiments, he was esteemed a model tor imitation. Some of the circumstances which accompanied his conversion in its progress are as follow : —
Mr. Milner began to suspect he had been building areligi.ous edifice on a sandy foundation. 'By their fruits ye shall know tliem.' He always considered the fruits as a touchsione of sound doctrine; and he observed, That hitherto, nek tlier in his own mind, nor in the conduct of his flock, were those fruits produced, which, in the word of God, are universally ascribed to the gospel, when clearly set forth,, and folly received into the heart. He began to be convinced that 'there