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An anxious desire to beguile Mr. Cecil's hours of depression, while at Bath and Clifton, in the winter of 1808, gave rise to the following facts being collected together. These facts he read, authenticated, and approved, as a foundation of what is now presented to the public. Some of them had been noted down as they occasionally dropped from his lips, in the course of familiar and domestic conversation. I have endeavoured to place them in the order in which they occurred. Mr. Cecil was born in Chiswell Street, London, on
1748. His Father and Grandfather were Scarlet Dyers to the East India Company. His Mother was the only child of Mr. Grovesnor, a merchant in London, and brother to the Rev. Dr. Grovesnor, the well known author of the Mourner. To some excellent traits of her character mentioned in Mr. C's works, may be added, that of her benevolence to the poor. In order to enlarge her resources, she employed herself in working fine-work, according to the fashion of the day, which she sold for their benefit. Mr. C. was born after his mother was fifty years old, and after an interval of ten years had elapsed since the birth of her preceding child. It is worthy of remark, that during her travail with this child of her old age, her heart was overwhelmed with sorrow. Her years, and other circumstances not necessary to be here mentioned, raised in her mind the most terrific apprehensions. Yet this child was the comfort and the honour of her latter days !
Mr. Cecil's father inherited a large tract of ground, on which were his dwelling-house, dyehouse, and garden. During the early part of Mr. C's life, this tract of ground was the spot of his pastime, in the interval of school hours. His life was here endangered by several adventures. The following was remarkable :- His father had in this ground several large backs of water, one of which was sunk into the earth, and in winter was frequently covered with ice. A hole was made in the ice, for the purpose of supplying the horses with water. At this hole Mr. C. was playing with a stick, till he suddenly plunged under the ice. The men had received particular orders over-night, to go to work in a part of the dye-house, from which this piece of water was not visible; but it is remarkable, that, for reasons which could not be assigned, they went to work at an opposite part, where it was directly before their eyes. One of the men thought he saw a scarlet cloak appear at the hole broken in the ice, and resolved to go and see what it was : in attempting to take it out, he discovered it to be the scarlet coat of his young master. He was taken out apparently dead; but after long effort, was recovered.
About the same time Mr. C. was caught by his coat in a mill-wheel, and must have been crushed in a few moments, had he not, with wonderful presence of mind, thrust his foot against the horse's face, by which the mill was stopped, and he disentangled. Several other extraordinary deliverances occurred about this time; but all, as I have often heard him lament, during his thoughtless days, were passed over without improvement. Beyond the period of his juvenile years, I might mention many instances of the preservation of his invaluable
life-“Immortal till his work was done”—but they would lengthen this Memoir beyond the intended bound. Within the recollection of many friends was that of his horse falling, and throwing him before a loaded cart; the wheel of which went over his hat, pushing his head from beneath it, and only bruising his shoulder.* The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long. Deut. xxxiii, 12.
* This deliverance was so remarkable, that some of the circumstances deserve to be recorded. It took place on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 1803. He had rode over the stones the day before toward Bond Street; but finding them slippery in consequence of a frost, he determined (as he had occasion to go again on this day) to be particularly cautious. In order, therefore, to avoid riding over the stones, he went round by the New Road: but, in turning into Oxford Street, his horse's legs flew from under him, in consequence of his stepping on some ice, and Mr. C. was thrown off upon his face, at the moment that a heavily loaded cart was passing. His shoulder was in the track of the cart wheel, and he distinctly felt it go over him, and bear against his head. The crown of his hat was considerably pressed in by the wheel against his temples. Had he been thrown a few inches farther, it must have gone directly over his head. He was immediately carried into a shop, where he received kind attention; and was thence brought home in a hackney coach. On examination it was found, though his arm was much bruised and discoloured, that no serious injury had been received. He attributed this, under the mercy of God, to his shoulder not having borne the whole weight of the wheel, which being broad, was, at the moment it was going over, eased, as he supposed, from his shoulder, by the inner part of it being raised by a stone rather more elevated in the pavement than the rest. In this situation of danger he was mercifully preserved from broken bones, or instant death. He hung up his hat in his study (with the indentation and dirt) as a memento. He said that he had learnt three lessons from this providence :
First, that, while we are called on to use all proper means and precautions of safety, God will sometimes show us our absolute and immediate dependance on Him, by making the very means which we employ the occasion of bringing us to the very borders of the grave. He thought it his duty to avoid the stones as much as possible, and yet here danger met him.
A second lesson, gathered from this event, was, the comparative triflingness of the cases which occupy and harass the mind. He had been much exercised and depressed by some circumstances of domestic trial. They had almost wholly occupied his thoughts, and appeared of deep interest and importance. But he compared them
After these instances of preservation, both in Mr. Cecil's earlier and latter years, I return to the days of his youth. His father, being a member of the established Church, took his son with him on a Sunday to his Parish Church. His mother was a Dissenter, and a woman of real piety. Her family, for generations back, were pious characters. One of them, a Mr. Cope, used to send money and other support to the Nonconformists in prison; which his daughter, the grandmother of Mr. Cecil, took to them. It was a special mercy to Mr. C. that his mother was a partaker of the same grace with her ancestors. She laboured early to impress his mind, both by precept and by example: she bought him Janeway's “ Token for Children,” which greatly affected him, and made him retire into a corner to pray; but his serious beginnings wore off; and he at length made such progress in sin, that he gloried in his shame.
Mr. C's father, intending him for business, placed him in a considerable House in the City : from this he was removed to another, where he staid longer; but returned home through illness. He felt wholly averse to trade, but was devoted to literature and the arts. At a very early age he wrote pieces, which he sent on hazard to the editors of the penow with that far heavier trial which his family was so near encountering, of seeing him brought home a corpse, and he then felt them to be comparatively trifles, and to be treated as trifles.
A third lesson, he said, was very obvious, but it was now brought home with peculiar force to him, and that was—to be always ready. “ I went out yesterday, and I came in again with safety. I am going out to-day, and I shall return when my business is finished”—“No!" the Lord may say concerning me," you shall return no more. Your time is come. My messenger waits for you with a summons !"
He attended divine service on the following Sunday, though he did not think it prudent to preach. Thanks were publicly returned by him in the congregation, and the psalms sung in the course of the service bore such an allusion to his deliverance, and were so admirably selected for this purpose, that the congregation was evidently much affected by the service.
riodical publications, who thought them worthy of insertion. His father, a man of extensive reading, and who had himself received a classical education, accidentally met with a poetical piece which he greatly admired : his son affirmed himself the author of it; but his father thought it incredible, till his son, taking another subject given him by his father, and retiring a short time, produced a poem which satisfied his father that he was the author of the one in question.
Mr. Cecil had a marvellous power and flexibility of mind, which would have rendered him distinguished, in whatever he had pursued. He had an affection for all the arts, but his predominant passion was for painting. This he pursued insatiably. He attended all picture sales, and practised at home; and was so intent on his point, that he set out, unknown to his parents, on a ramble to France, from a desire to see the paintings of the greatest Masters, and would have proceeded to Rome, had not the means of travelling failed. He returned home, and continued to live with his father; who, perceiving his ardour for painting did not abate, at length proposed his going to Rome, (where he had an acquaintance) as an Artist. To this proposal Mr. C. agreed; but a circumstance took place whích prevented it, and he remained still under the roof of his father for some timesunk in the depths of sin, and hardening his conscience by reading books of infidelity, till he became a professed infidel himself. He endeavoured to instill the same principles into others : with some he awfully succeeded, whom he since endeavoured to reclaim, but vain.
While Mr. C. was proceeding in such a course of evil, it pleased God by his Spirit to rouse his mind to reflections, which gave a turn to his future life.