صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[ocr errors]

of Chester, and printed at the desire of Dr. Law, then bishop of that diocese, and now of Bath and Wells. The last literary performance of Mr. Heber was, a Memoir of the Life and Writings of the eloquent and eminently pious prelate, Jeremy Taylor, prefixed to a uniform edition of his works.

In the spring of 1822, the preachership of Lincoln's Inn became vacant, when the whole bench of that honourable society concurred in soliciting Mr. Heber to accept the situation; which had always been an object of distinction, and never was filled but by men of preeminent talents. The proposal was too flattering to be rejected; but within a few months after his appointment to this place, another of a higher and very different description was offered him, which put his mind in a painful state of suspense, whether he could prudently accept, or conscientiously refuse it.

At the close of the above year, the melancholy intelligence reached England of the sudden death of that excellent man, Dr. Middleton, the first protestant bishop in British India. The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, who were the principal means of procuring, what had long been wanting, the establishment of an episcopate in the East, immediately assembled upon this occasion, and, after paying proper respect to the memory of the deceased prelate, began to look out for a person qualified in every respect to be his successor. They were not long in consultation, but with one heart and one voice the venerable body fixed upon Mr. Heber as the man in whom were combined all the requisites that could be wished, for the arduous situation.

"Here," to use the language of a great writer on a similar occasion "were to be found diligence, patience, activity, candour, and integrity; here was religion without formality, liberality without ostentation, seriousness without moroseness, and cheerfulness without levity: here was gentleness to others, and self severity: here was useful learning, and a love of those who loved and pursued it; here was a contempt and dislike for detracting sycophants and fawning parasites here was affability to inferiors: here were other bright virtues and endearing accomplishments which need not be recounted; for there is already reason to fear that justice has not been done to the dignity of the subject."*

The Society having come to a resolution upon this important concern, immediately communicated it in the handsomest terms

* Dr. Jortin's Sermon at the Consecration of Bishop Pearce.

to Mr. Heber, who was much affected by the application. Ambition and emolument were here out of the question; for, as he was already at perfect ease in his circumstances, and happy in his connexions, with fair prospects of higher advancement in the church, if he should ever think of seeking it, the present offer, flattering as it might be, was one which, in a worldly point of view, had more to repel than to court desire. Young men, ardent for fame, or needy characters anxious to secure an independence, might be, and often are, ready enough to encounter the perils of the sea, and the dangers of an unhealthy climate, in order to gain honour and wealth. The motives by which such persons are actuated take from them the merit of making any sacrifice for the sake of knowledge, religion, humanity, or conscience. On the contrary, adventurers like these lose nothing in any case; for whether successful or not, they have their meet reward,-perishable riches and contempt, if they prosper; and an unlamented end, if they fall by a calenture or an apoplexy.

Mr. Heber could not be classed with such as these; for however highly he might estimate the episcopal station, it was not the title, but the office, which he contemplated. A mitre in his eyes was not so splendid an object, as to render him indifferent to the obligations which it imposed upon the wearer. The one now held out to him for his acceptance, was of a very peculiar kind, and appeared more like a crown of thorns, and an emblem of martyrdom, than of honourable distinction and enjoyment.

The only Englishman that ever sat in the pontifical chair, was Adrian the Fourth, who had been a poor brother of the monastery of St. Alban's. After his elevation to the summit of human dignity, he was visited by his learned countryman and friend, John of Salisbury; to whom he said, that so far from being an object of envy, he deserved to be pitied, and that all the scenes of his early life, though cross and disagreeable when they occurred, were pleasure and felicity, compared with the vexations which he had now to endure. He passionately regretted ever having left his dear native land, to thrust himself among briars which pierced him on all sides. "I have risen," concluded he, "from being a recluse canon, to the

papacy, and never did any one step in the gradation of preferment add to the happiness of my life. It is upon the anvil, and with heavy strokes of the hammer, that the Lord hath aggrandized me; so that now I have nothing to pray for but to be released from a burden which is become intolerable."

But to return to Mr. Heber. On being apprised of the recommendation of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and the cheerful acquiescence of the East India Company and the Government, he hesitated, took time to deliberate, and then declined the appointment. This was not the effect of timidity, for on his own account he had no fear; but when he reflected upon the situation of his beloved partner and only child, he very naturally doubted whether the present invitation was such a call as superseded every other tie, whether of parochial or social relation. The matter then underwent a further consideration; counsel was held upon it; and his scruples being removed, Mr. Heber consented to take upon him the momentous charge.

Here we cannot avoid pausing for a moment, to express our surprise and regret, that the great civil and ecclesiastical authorities at home, did not, upon this occasion, turn their thoughts to the necessity of organizing an episcopal establishment for the vast continent of British India, and its insular dependencies, corresponding in some measure to the diocesan division in England and Ireland. A single glance at the map of Hindostan, must convince any one of the inability of an individual to superintend all the churches scattered over such an extent of territory; and those too, in many parts, separated widely from each other by tracts of country dangerous to travel over.

Dr. Middleton, the first bishop, was a man of strong constitution and powerful energies, yet even he fell under the weight of the burden, declaring with his last breath, that whoever came out to India with the same general commission would experience a similar fate. Notwithstanding this, the British government continued the narrow plan which had been originally adopted, and Mr. Heber, with the melancholy example and gloomy presage before him, received consecration at Lambeth, May 14th, 1823.

Previous to his departure from England in the month of June, the university of Oxford, conferred upon him the degree of doctor in divinity, by diploma, which is the highest mark of distinction in the power of that learned body to bestow.

On the 11th of October the bishop arrived at Calcutta, where he set himself diligently to the discharge of his pastoral office.

On the 27th of May, 1824, he entered upon his first visitation, comprising northern India, Bombay, and the island of Ceylon. Having completed this circuit, he returned to Calcutta, and at the beginning of the present year made preparations for his visitation to Madras. On Good Friday he preached at Combuconum, and

[ocr errors]

the next day he arrived at Tanjore, where on Easter Sunday divine service was performed at the mission church in the Little Fort. His lordship's chaplain, the reverend Thomas Robinson, the reverend J. Doran, and other ministers, assisted in reading the liturgy; after which the bishop preached an eloquent and impressive sermon on the Resurrection; concluding in the most feeling manner with an exhortation to brotherly love. The Lord's supper was then administered to eighty-seven communicants, and fiftyseven native Christians who understood the English language. In the evening divine service was performed at the same place in the Tamul language; the liturgy being read by the Rev. Mr. Barenbruck, assisted by a native minister, and a sermon preached by the Rev. Dr. Cammerer; on the conclusion of which, to the agreeable surprise of all present, the bishop pronounced the apostolic benediction in the Tamul language.

On Easter Monday his lordship held a Confirmation, when twelve English and fifty native youths received that ordinance. As only a part of the latter understood English, the service was repeated in the Tamul language by the Rev. Mr. Kohlhoff, who afterwards addressed the catechumens in an affecting exhortation. In the evening, Tamul divine service was performed in the chapel of the mission garden, when the Rev. Mr. Sperschneider preached to a crowded congregation. At the conclusion of the service the missionaries received an affectionate and animated address from the bishop, who observed, it was probably the last time that all present could expect to meet again in this world: on which account he recommended to them the example of the venerable Schwartz, near whose remains he was then standing. This address produced a powerful effect upon the hearers, by whom it will not soon be forgotten.

On the 28th of March, the bishop, attended by his chaplain and several missionaries of the district, paid a visit of ceremony to the rajah of Tanjore, under the customary honours; and the next day his highness returned the compliment, by waiting on the bishop. The two following days were taken up by his lordship in visiting and inspecting the mission schools and premises. The number of children in these seminaries, English and Tamulian, amounted to two hundred and seventy-five boys and girls. His lordship heard them read in both languages, and expressed himself highly gratified at the progress which had been made by the scholars.

On the 31st, the bishop left Tanjore, amidst the blessings of the people, and pro

ceeded to Trichinopoly, where he arrived apparently in good health and spirits, on Saturday the 1st of April. The next day he preached to a large audience, and the same evening confirmed forty young persons; to whom he also delivered a suitable address. On the following morning, at six o'clock, he went to the Fort church, where he confirmed eleven native Christians. In going and returning, he was most affectionate in his manner, talked freely on the glorious dispensations of God in Christ, and of the necessity of propagating the faith throughout India.

When he reached home, he went to visit Mr. Robinson, his chaplain, who was indisposed; after which he repaired to dress, and bathe. Having remained in the bath longer than usual, his servant entered the apartment, and found his master lying senseless in the water. Assistance was immediately procured, but every attempt to restore animation proved unsuccessful.

Upon examination, the vessels of the head were found much distended with blood, whence it was the opinion of the medical gentlemen, that the death of the bishop was

occasioned by apoplexy. His lordship had exhibited unusual symptoms of heaviness when called from his repose, and while undressing for the bath; which disposition was probably induced by previous exertion, and rendered fatal by a sudden immersion into cold water. "Thus," says a correspondent, who had been one of the bishop's auditors, the immortal inhabitant had forsaken its tenement of clay, doubtless to realize, before the throne of the Lamb, those blessings of which he yesterday spoke so emphatically and powerfully." The corpse was deposited, with every demonstration of respect and sorrow, on the north side of the altar of St. John's church, Trichinopoly.

The awful event was no sooner made known at the different seats of government, than it produced a general gloom, and every one, high and low, felt the loss as a personal concern. Meetings were held at the several presidencies, to consider of the best mode of paying a tribute of respect to the memory of the lamented prelate. From the excellent speeches which were delivered on these occasions, we shall select that of Sir Chas. Grey, the chief justice at Calcutta, as exhibiting an admirable portraiture of the good bishop, in his early days.

"It is, (said the learned judge,) with real agitation and embarrassment, that I find it my duty to mark out the grounds on which this meeting appears to me to have been called for. Assuredly, it is not that

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

there is any difficulty in finding those grounds; or that I have any apprehension that you will not attend to a statement of them with willingness and indulgence. But this is a very public occasion, and my feelings are not entirely of a public nature. Deep as my sense is of the loss which the community has sustained, yet, do what I will, the sensation which I find uppermost in my heart, is my own private sorrow, for one who was my friend in early life.

"It is just four-and-twenty years, this month, since I first became acquainted with him at the university, of which he was, beyond all question or comparison, the most distinguished student of his time. The name of Reginald Heber was in every mouth; his society was courted by young and old; he lived in an atmosphere of favour, admiration, and regard, from which I have never known any one but himself, who would not have derived, and for life, an unsalutary influence. Toward the close of his acadedemical career, he crowned his previous honours by the production of his "Palestine;' of which single work, the fancy, the elegance, and the grace, have secured him a place in the list of those who bear the proud title of English poets. This, according to usage, was recited in public; and when that scene of his early triumph comes upon my memory,—that elevated rostrum from which he looked upon friendly and admiring faces-that decorated theatre,those grave forms of ecclesiastical dignitaries, mingling with a resplendent throng of rank and beauty,-those antique mansions of learning, those venerable groves, those refreshing streams, and shaded walks,—the vision is broken by another, in which the youthful and presiding genius of the former scene is beheld lying in his distant grave, amongst the sands of Southern India !— Believe me, the contrast is striking, and the recollections are most painful!

"But you are not here to listen to details of private life. If I touch upon one or two other points, it will be for the purpose only of illustrating some features of his character. He passed some time in foreign travel, before he entered on the duties of his profession. The whole continent had not yet been re-opened to Englishmen by the swords of the noble Lord (Combermere) who is near me, and his companions in arms; but in the eastern part of it the bishop found a field, the more interesting, on account of its having been seldom trodden by our countrymen: he kept a valuable journal of his observations; and when you consider his youth, the applause he had already received, and how tempting, in the morning of life,

are the gratifications of literary success, you will consider it as a mark of the retiring and ingenuous modesty of his character, that he preferred to let the substance of his work appear in the humble form of notes to the volumes of another.

"There is another circumstance which I can add, and which is not so generally known: this journey, and the aspect of those vast regions, stimulating a mind which was stored with classical learning, had suggested to him a plan of collecting, arranging, and illustrating, all of ancient and of modern literature, which could unfold the history, and throw light on the present state of Scythia-that region of mystery and fablethat source, from whence, eleven times in the history of man, the living clouds of war have been breathed over all the nations of the south. I can hardly conceive any work for which the talents of the author were better adapted; hardly any which could have given the world more delight, himself more of glory. I know the interest which he took in it. But he had now entered into the service of the church; and finding that it interfered with his graver duties, he turned from his fascinating pursuit, and condemned to temporary oblivion, a work, which I trust may yet be given to the public.

"I mention this chiefly for the design of shewing how steady was the purpose, how serious the views, with which he entered on his calling. I am aware that there were inducements to it, which some minds will be disposed to regard as the only probable ones; but I look upon it, myself, to have been with him a sacrifice of no common sort. His early celebrity had given him incalculable advantages; and every path of literature was open to him; every road to the temple of fame, every honour which his country could afford, was in a clear prospect before him, when he turned to the humble duties of a country church, and buried in his heart those talents which would have ministered so largely to worldly vanity, that they might spring up in a more precious harvest. He passed many years in this situation, in the enjoyment of as much happiness as the condition of humanity is perhaps capable of; happy in the choice of his companion, the love of his friends, the fond admiration of his family,-happy in the discharge of his great duties, and the tranquillity of a satisfied conscience.

"It was not, however, from this station that he was called to India. By the voice, I am proud to say it, of a part of that profession to which I have the honour to belong, he had been invited to an office, which few have held for any length of time


without further advancement. His friends thought it, at that time, no presumption to hope that ere long he might wear the mitrė at home. But it would not have been like himself to chaffer for preferment; he freely and willingly accepted a call which led him to more important, though more dangerous-alas! I may now say, so fatal labours. What he was in India, why should I describe? You saw him: you bear testimony. He has already received, in a sister presidency, the encomiums of those from whom praise is most valuable. What sentiments were entertained of him in this metropolis of India, your presence testifies; and I feel authorized to say, that if the noble person (Lord Amherst) had been unfettered by usage, if he had consulted only his own inclinations, and his regard for the bishop, he would have been the foremost, upon this occasion, to manifest his participation in the feelings which are common to us all. When a stamp has been thus given to his character, it may seem only to be disturbing the impression, to renew, in any manner, your view of it: yet, if you will grant me your patience for a few moments, I shall have a melancholy pleasure in pointing out some features of it, which appear to me to have been the most remarkable.

"The first which I would notice, was that cheerfulness and alacrity of spirit, which, though it may seem to be a common quality, is, in some circumstances, of rare value. To this large assemblage, I fear I might appeal in vain, if I were to ask that He should step forward, who had never felt his spirit sink when he thought of his native home, and felt that a portion of his heart was in a distant land; who had never been irritated by the annoyance, or embittered by the disappointment, of India. I feel shame to say, that I am not the man who could answer the appeal. The bishop was the only one, whom I have ever known, who was entirely master of these feelings. Disappointment and annoyances came to him, as they come to all; but he met and overcame them with a smile; and when he has known a different effect produced on others, it was his usual wish, that they were but as happy as himself.'

"Connected with this alacrity of spirit, and in some degree springing out of it, was his activity. I apprehend that few persons, civil or military, have undergone as much labour, traversed as much country, seen and regulated so much as he had done in the small portion of time which had elapsed since he entered on his office; and if death had not broken his career, his friends know

that he contemplated no relaxation of exertions. But this was not a mere restless activity, or result of temperament: it was united with a fervent zeal, not fiery nor over ostentatious, but steady and composed; which none could appreciate, but those who intimately knew him. I was struck myself, upon the renewal of our acquaintance, by nothing so much as the observation, that though he talked with animation on all subjects, there was nothing upon which his intellect was bent, no prospect upon which his imagination dwelt, no thoughts which occupied habitually his vacant moments, but the furtherance of that great design of which he had been made the principal instrument in this country.

"Of the same unobtrusive character was the piety which filled his heart; it is seldom that of so much, there is so little ostentation. All here knew his good-natured and unpretending manner: but I have seen unequivocal testimonies, both before and since his death, that under that cheerful and gay aspect there were feelings of serious and unremitting devotion, of perfect resignation, of tender kindness for all mankind, which would have done honour to a saint. When to these qualities you add his desire to conciliate, which had every where won all hearts -his amiable demeanor, which invited a friendship that was confirmed by the innocence and purity of his manners, which bore the most scrutinizing and severe examination-you will readily admit, that there was in him a rare assemblage of all that deserves esteem and admiration."

It is with pleasure that we next give the speech of Dr. Bruce, the minister of the Scottish Presbyterian church at Calcutta, on this affecting occasion :

"The situation I hold in another church, having the promotion of the same great objects in view, as that of which bishop Heber was the distinguished Head, led me frequently into conversation with the late excellent prelate, on these objects; and never did I enjoy that pleasure and honour without admiring the truly Christian and Catholic spirit which distinguished all he said. Devoted zealously to the service and honour of his own church, Bishop Heber heard with a pleasure which it was not in his nature to conceal, of the exertions of other churches to carry into execution the great work of piety and charity, which every religious society at home has in view, in sending their ministers to India; and he proved himself, by the warm interest he took in every scheme to promote the gospel, not a bishop of the Church of England only, but a bishop of the Church of Christ.


"Encouraged by the kindness of the late bishop's manner, and the sincerity of his good will, I felt that any time I could seek his advice or his assistance, in every thing where the promotion of moral and religious instruction was the object; and at this moment I have, indeed, but too much reason to sympathize with my brother clergy of the church of England, in the loss they have particularly sustained :-It is one that will not soon be repaired. The death of Dr. Heber has left a blank in the church, that will not easily be supplied; and society at large, and the native population of these extensive regions yet sitting in darkness, have much to weep over, in the loss of this excellent and beloved bishop, as well as the church to which he did so much honour, and the ministers of other persuasions, who, like myself, were always welcome to the benefit of his advice and assistance. sure I am, that any one who had the happiness to know Dr. Heber, will agree with me, that never did a christian missionary come to the East with a spirit better fitted for the task of enlightening it in the great truths of the gospel, with a zeal more warm in the cause, yet tempered by knowledge the most extensive-or, in one word, with virtues and talents that, under Providence, gave so much assurance of success, as did those of Dr. Heber."


The meeting then came to the resolution of erecting a monument by subscription, in the cathedral of Calcutta, to the memory of the late bishop, and that what surplus should remain after defraying the expense, should be applied to the foundation of an additional scholarship in the bishop's college. The committee were also empowered to appropriate a portion of the subscription to the purchase of a piece of plate, to be preserved in the family of Bishop Heber. At Bombay, it was resolved to raise a fund for the endowment of one or more scholarships in the college. And at Madras, it was resolved to erect a monument to the bishop's memory in St. George's church.

On the 23d of April, a funeral sermon for the bishop was preached in the cathedral of St. John, in Calcutta, by archdeacon Corrie, on Hebrews xiii. 7, 8. From this discourse we shall here give a passage or two, as descriptive of the ministerial character of the departed prelate.

"It is known to you all," says the archdeacon, "how assiduously he preached in one or other of the churches in this city, when present, every Sabbath-day-how he assisted in our weekly lectures-how, in his journeys, whenever two or three could be

« السابقةمتابعة »