« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Cecil gave me, one day, the following remarkable illustration of this subject, in his own case: "It is a nice question in casuistry-How far a man may feel complacency in the exercise of talent. A hawk exults on his wing: he skims and sails, delighting in the consciousness of his powers. I know
I nothing of this feeling. DISSATISFACTION accompanies me, in the study and in the pulpit. I never made a sermon with which I felt satisfied. I never preached a sermon, with which I felt satisfied. I have always present to my mind such a conception of what might be done, I sometimes hear the thing so done, that what I do falls very far beneath what it seems to me it should be.
Some sermons which I have heard have made me sick of my own for a month afterwards. Many ministers have no conception of any thing beyond their own world: they compare themselves only with themselves; and, perhaps, they must do so: if I could give them my views of their ministry, without changing the men, they would be ruined; while now they are eminent instruments in God's hands. But some too much beyond themselves for their own comfort. Perhaps complacency in the exercise of talent, be it what it may, is hardly to be separated, in such a wretched heart as man's, from pride. It seems to me that this dissatisfaction with myself, is the messenger sent to buffet me and keep me down.
In other men, the separation between complacency and pride may be possible; but I scarcely think it is so in
men see ACKNOW
* Mr. Churton has a remark, on Dr. Johnson, somewhat of a similar nature to this of Mr. C. on himself. He thinks that Johnson's morbid melancholy and constitutional infirmities were intended by Providence, like St. Paul's thorn in the flesh, to check intellectual conceit and arrogance; which the consciousness of his extraordinary talents, awake as he was to the voice of praise might otherwise have generated in a very culpable degree.”, Boswell's Life of Johnson, 2d Edit. 8vo, vol. III. p. 564.
I have alluded to Mr. Cecil's READY LEDGMENT OF THE WORTH OF OTHERS; and I must add, that he cultivated that discrimination of excellence, which leads a man to discover and esteem it in the midst of imperfections. He had an unfeigned regard to real worth, wherever it was found. The powers of the understanding have often fascinated men of inferior wisdom, and lessened the odiousness of an immoral state of heart too plainly seen in others; but, if the excellencies of the head and the heart must be disjoined, he never failed to value that which is most truly valuable. He would say—“Such a friend of ours is what many men look down on, as a weak man; but I honour his wisdom and his devotedness. He throws himself out, and all the powers which God hath given him, into the service of his Master, in all those ways which seem to him best; and, though perhaps he and I should for ever differ on the best way, and though I see in him many peculiarities and weaknesses, yet I honour and love the man: I revere his simplicity and his piety. He is what God has made him; and all that he is he puts into action for God.” If Mr. Cecil was at any time severe in his remarks on others, his severity was chiefly directed against that ignorant vanity and affectation, which push a man forward where great men would retire, and which make him dogmatical where wise men would speak with humility and candour.
Closely allied with his humility, was that OPENNESS TO CONVICTION, which Mr. Cecil possessed in an unusual degree. He had dived so deeply into his own heart, and had read man so accurately--his short sightedness, his scanty span, his pride, and his passions—that he was, more than most men, superior to that little feeling which makes us quit the scholar's form. Many men speak of themselves, and of all around them, as in a state of pupilage and childhood,
but I never approached a man, on whose mind this conviction had a more real and practical influence,
DISINTERESTEDNESS was a pre-eminent characteristic of Mr. Cecil, as a Christian. His whole spiri and conduct spoke one language:-“Let me andt mine be nothing, so that thy kingdom may come !?? His disinterestedness was grounded on his conviction of the absolute nothingness of all earthly good, compared with the glory of Christ and the interests of his kingdom. In all pecuniary transactions, of a private or public nature, he was governed by this principle; and made a free and cheerful sacrifice of what he might have lawfully obtained, if he thought his receiving it would impede his usefulness.
On one occasion of this nature, he explained the noble principle on which he acted :-"A Christian is called to refrain from some things, which, though actually right, yet will not bear a good appearance to all men. I once judged it my duty to refuse a considerable sum of money, which I might lawfully and fairly have received, because I considered that my account of the matter could not be stated to some, to whom a different representation would be made. A man who intends to stand immaculate, and, like Samuel, to come forward and say-Whose ox or whose ass have I taken? must count the cost. I knew that
character was worth more to me than this sum of money. By probity, a man honours himself. It is the part of a wise man, to wave the present good for the future increase. A merchant suffers a large quantity of goods to go out of the kingdom to a foreign land, but he has his object in doing so: he knows, by calculation, that he shall make so much more advantage by them. A Christian is made a wise man by counting the cost. The best picture I know of the exercise of this virtue, drawn by the hand of man, is that by
John Bunyan, in the characters of Passion and Patience.99*
Associated with this disinterestedness of spirit, was a singular PRACTICAL RELIANCE ON PROVIDENCE in all
* I cannot but add here a conversation reported to me by a friend. which he had with Mr. Cecil on the subject of his tythes at Chobham. and which most strikingly illustrate his disinterested character :
My tythes produce only so much”“Why do you not increase them?”
“We fixed on a sum, and, as it appeared something like satisfactory to the landholders, I determined not to raise them, though they were at their own price.”
Sir, you are not doing even conscientious justice to your family. I am persuaded, from my experience in tythes, that your parish, from its extent, would yield much more per year, in tythe only-exclusively of your glebe,” &c.
“So I have understood. But, my dear friend, tythes are an obnoxious property; and every increase creates bitterness of spirit. Why, sir, though my parishioners had them on their own terms, one of them the first year came to me and said he could not pay, pleading some loss with which my tythes were not in the least degree connected." “But, sir, why not appoint your friend, Mr.
to receive for you?”
" That would be doing by deputy a thing disagreeable to myself.”
“ Admitting all the motives clearly implied by your answers, yet, sir, how do you divest yourself of the force of the argument derived from that law, which declares a man censurable, who does not to the utmost of his power take care of those of his own household ?"
“ I was permitted to go to Chobham to preach the Gospel. Whatever as their Minister I could receive, without heart-burnings, was all well; but, to raise an income by compulsion, (whatever I might do with one already raised) I could not. I therefore told them, that, if they would attend to the knowledge of the truth, I would never quarrel about their tythes. If I thought I should make one man step back one pace in his way to the attainment of the truth, through a suspicion that I sought my interest more than their eternal happiness. I would not receive one guinea of them. My dear friend, I have again and again considered this subject, and I am to be content with what is sent me. It will not do for a Minister of the Gospel of Peace to be raising the revenue of the Church and driving the people from it. We have too much of this at this day. If, in the spirit of peace, more was designed for me I should have it. My people-seem content, and things must remain as they are with regard to what they pay me. If they will now but hear and receive the truth, it is all I shall ever ask of them.”
the most minute and seemingly indifferent affairs of his life. He was emphatically, to use his own expression, “a pupil of signs” --waiting for and following the leadings and openings of Divine Providence in his affairs. I once consulted him throughout a very delicate and perplexing affair. In one stage of it, he said to me." You have not done this thing exactly as I should have felt my mind led to do it. I feel myself in such cases like a child in the middle of an intricate and perplexed wood. Two considerations weigh with me. First-If I could see all the involutions, and relations, and bearings, and consequences of the affair, then I might feel myself able to move forward: but, Secondly-I know not one of them, not even the shadow of one, nay, hardly the probability of such and such issues. Then I am driven to simple reliance. I have never found God fail me in such cases. When I am utterly lost and confounded, I look for openings, clear and evident to my own conviction. I have a warrant for all this. Our grand danger with reference to Providence is, that we should walk as men:
ye not carnal, and walk as men?"
On another occasion he said." We make too little of the subject of Providence. My mind is by nature so intrepid and sanguine, and it has so often led me to anticipate God in his guidings to my severe loss, that perhaps I am now too suspicious and dilatory in following him. However, this is a maxim with me that, when I am waiting with a simple, child-like spirit for openings and guidings, and imagine I perceive them, God would either prevent the semblance of them from rising up before me if these were not his leadings in reality, or he would preserve me from deeming them such; and therefore I always follow what appears to be my duty without hesitation.”
But the spring of all these Christian virtues, and the master-grace of his mind was FAITH, His whole