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What I shall observe upon them, therefore, will be general and cursory.
The Sermons Mr. N. published at Liverpool, after being refused on his first application for orders, were intended to show what he would have preached, had he been admitted; they are highly creditable to his understanding and to his heart. The facility with which he attained so much of the learned languages seems partly accounted for, from his been able to acquire, so early, a neat and natural style in his own language, and that under such evident disadvantages. His Review of Ecclesiastical History, so far as it is proceeded, has been much esteemed; and, if it had done no more than excite the Rev. J. Milner (as that most valuable and instructive author informs us it did) to pursue Mr. N.'s idea more largely, it was sufficient success. Before this, the world seems to have lost sight of a history of real Christianity, and to have been content with what, for the most part, was but an account of the ambition and politics of secular men, assuming the Christian name.
It must be evident to any one, who observes the spirit of all his sermons, hymns, tracts, &c., that nothing is aimed at which should be met by critical investigation. In the preface to his Hymns, he remarks, "Though I would not offend readers of taste by a wilful coarseness and negligence, I do not write professedly for them. have simply declared my own views and feelings, as I migth have done if I had composed hymns in some of the newly-discovered islands in the South Sea, where no person had any knowledge of the name of Jesus but myself.
To dwell, therefore, with a critical eye on this part of his public character would be absurd and impertinent, and to erect a tribunal to which he seems not amenable. He appears to have paid no regard to a nice ear, or an accurate reviewer; but, preferring a style at once neat and perspicuous, to have laid out himself entirely for the service of the church of God, and more especially for the tried and experienced part of its members.
His chief excellence seemed to lie in the easy and natural style of his epistolary correspondence. His letters will be read while real religion exists; and they are the best draught of his own mind.
He had so largely communicated to his friends in this
way, that I have heard him say, "he thought, if his letters were collected, they would make several folios." He selected many of these for publication, and expressed a hope, that no other person would take that liberty with the rest, which were so widely spread abroad. In this, however, he was disappointed and grieved, as he once remarked to me; and for which reason I do not annex any letters that I received from him. He esteemed that collection published under the title of Cardiphonia as the most useful of his writings, and mentioned various instances of the benefits which he heard they had conveyed to many.
His Apologia, or defence of conformity, was writen on occasion of some reflections (perhaps only jocular) cast on him at that time. His Letters to a Wife, written during his three voyages to Africa, and published 1793, have been received with less satisfaction than most of his other writings. While, however, his advanced age and inordinate fondness may be pleaded for this publication, care should be taken lest men fall into a contrary extreme; and suppose that temper to be their wisdom, which leads them to avoid another, which they consider as his weakness. But his Messiah before mentioned, his Letters of the Rev. Mr. Vanlier, chaplain at the Cape, his Memoirs of the Rev. John Cowper (brother to the poet), and those of the Rev. Mr. Grimshaw of Yorkshire, together with his single sermons and tracts, have been well received, and will remain a public benefit.
I recollect reading a MS, which Mr. N. lent me, containing a correspondence, that had passed between himself and the Rev. Dr.Dixon, principal of St. Edmund Hall, Oxford; and another MS of a correspondence between him and the late Rev. Martin Madan. They would have been very interesting to the public, particularly the latter, and were striking evidences of Mr. N.'s humility, piety, and faithfulness; but reasons of delicacy led him to commit the whole to the flames.
To speak of his writings in the mass, they certainly possess what many have aimed at, but very few attained, namely, ORIGINALITY. They are the language of the heart; they show a deep experience of its religious feelings, a continual anxiety to sympathize with man in his wants, and to direct him to his only resources.
His CONVERSATION, and familiar habits with his friends,
were more peculiar, amusing, and instructive, than any I ever witnessed. It is difficult to convey a clear idea of them by description. I venture, therefore, to add a few pages of what I may call his table-talk, which I took down at different times, both in company and in private, from his lips. Such a collection of printed remarks will not have so much' point as when spoken in connection with the occasion that produced them: they must appear to considerable disadvantage thus detached, and candid allowance should be made by the reader on this account. They, however, who had the privilege of Mr. N.'s conversation when living, cannot but recognise the speaker in most of them, and derive both profit and pleasure from these remains of their late valuable friend; and such as had not, will (if I do not mistake) think them the most valuable part of this book.
MADE BY MR. NEWTON
IN FAMILIAR CONVERSATION.
WHILE the mariner uses the loadstone, the philosopher may attempt to investigate the cause; but after all, in steering through the ocean, he can make no other use of it than the mariner.
If an angel were sent to find the most perfect man, he would probably not find him composing a body of divinity, but perhaps a cripple in a poor-house, whom the parish wish dead, and humbled before God with far lower thoughts of himself than others think of him.
When a Christian goes into the world, because he sees it is his call, yet, while he feels it also his cross, it will not hurt him.
Satan will seldom come to a Christian with a gross temptation: a green log and a candle may be safely left together; but bring a few shavings, then some small sticks, and then larger, and you may soon bring the green log to ashes.
If two angels came down from Heaven to execute a divine command, and one was appointed to conduct an empire, and the other to sweep a street in it, they would feel no inclination to choose employments.
The post of honour in an army is not with the baggage, nor with the women.
What some call providential openings are often powerful temptations; the heart, in wandering, cries, Here is a way opened before me; but, perhaps, not to be trodden, but rejected.
Young people marry as others study navigation, by the
fire-side. If they marry unsuitably, they can scarcely bring things to rule, but, like sailors, they must sail as near the wind as they can. I feel myself like a traveller with his wife in his chaise and one; if the ground is smooth, and she keep the right pace, and is willing to deliver the reins when I ask for them, I am always willing to let her drive.
I should have thought mowers very idle people; but they work while they whet their scythes. Now devotedness to God, whether it mows or whets the scythe, still goes on with the work.
A Christian should never plead spirituality for being a sloven; if he be but a shoe-cleaner, he should be the best in the parish.
In choosing my text, I feel myself like a servant to whom a key has been given, which opens a particular drawer, but who has not the bunch of keys, which open all the drawers. I therefore expect to be helped to only one text at a time.
My course of study, like that of a surgeon, has principally consisted in walking the hospital.
In divinity, as well as in other professions, there are the little artists. A man may be able to execute the buttons of a statue very neatly, but I could not call him an able artist. There is an air, there is a taste, to which his narrow capacity cannot reach. Now in the church, there are your dextrous button-makers.
My principal method for defeating heresy, is by establishing truth. One proposes to fill a bushel with tares; now if I can fill it first with wheat, I shall defy his attempts.
When some people talk of religion, they mean they have heard so many sermons, and performed so many devotions, and thus mistake the means for the end. But true religion is an habitual recollection of God and intention to serve him, and this turns every thing into gold. We are apt to suppose that we need something splendid to evince our devotion, but true devotion equals thingswashing plates, and cleaning shoes, is a high office, if performed in a right spirit. If three angels were sent to earth, they would feel perfect indifference who should perform the part of prime-minister, parish-minister, or watchman.
When a ship goes to sea, among a vast variety of its articles and circumstances, there is but one object re