« PoprzedniaDalej »
ENGLISH WOMAN'S MAGAZINE
Christian Mother's Miscellany.
THE LATE REV. ROWLAND HILL, A.M.
RYDEN has observed of Biography, that though it be “in dignity inferior to history and annals, yet, that in pleasure and instruction it equals or even excels both of them.” As it respects the attractive character of
this species of writing, most persons will admit the truth of this observation. Various as are the tastes of readers, these pen-and-ink portraits are almost universally acceptable ; nor need we doubt their great utility; as the celebrated writer above-mentioned has beautifully said, “ There is nothing of the tyrant in example; it gently glides into us, is easy and pleasant in its passage ; it reduces to practice our speculative notions ; and allures rather than forces us to virtue.”
The eminent and excellent man whose personal history forms the subject of the following Sketch, lived during the memorable period which immediately followed the awakening of the Church of England, in the early part of the last century, from the long sleep into which she had fallen, and was one of the principal actors in the stirring scenes which then occurred. It should be borne in mind, that if from the combined influence of the ardour of his character and the singular nature of the circumstances in which he was placed, he was sometimes led into irregularities which a severe judgment might even then have con
NEW SERIES.-NO. XXXVII.
demned, he may, nevertheless, claim our gratitude as having been one of that band of faithful men, of blessed memory, to whom, under Providence, we owe the revival among us of the DOCTRINES OF THE REFORMATION.
The family of the Hills is both ancient and distinguished. Their original seat is believed to have been at Hulle, now called Hill Court, and picturesquely situated near Burford in Shropshire. Of the numerous existing historical notices of them, some bear date as early as the reign of Edward I.
The late Rev. Rowland Hill, the subject of this memoir, was the sixth, not, as has been generally supposed, the fourth son of Sir Rowland Hill, Baronet, of Hawkstone, in the parish of Hodnet, Shropshire ; and was born at Hawkstone on the twenty-third of August, in the memorable year 1745 ; his mother being the daughter of Sir Brian Broughton. His eldest brother, Richard, who, after the death of the father, became Sir Richard Hill, and who distinguished himself in the year 1768, as the author of Pietas Oxoniensis, was a man of great piety, and of singular firmness and energy. John, the second brother, who succeeded Richard as the possessor of the family title and estates, was the father of the late Lord Hill and his gallant brothers, who shared the hardships and dangers of the Peninsular war, “ survived with honour and distinction, though not without wounds, the carnage of Waterloo ; and whose names will ever be conspicuous in the annals of their country's military glory."* It was this Sir John Hill, whom, in his venerable age, and with these five sons around him, full of fame and honours, George the Fourth peculiarly gratified, by welcoming him with distinguished cordiality as “the father of so many brave sons."
Besides the brothers who have been mentioned, and others, the youngest of whom-Brian Hill—was a man of refined understanding, a scholar, and a poet, the late Rowland Hill had two sisters; one of whom Jane-remained unmarried, and was one of his most valuable friends and advisers ; and the other became the wife of Clement Tudway, Esq., many years member of parliament for Wells in Somersetsbire. Over all of them the grave has now closed; the venerable subject of this sketch having been the last survivor.
While a child in the midst of his family, little Rowland was remarkable for the vivacity of his manner, and for that redundant flow of spirits which, throughout his life, never forsook him. Nothing escaped his observation ; persons and things were alike the subjects of his droll
Vide Life of the Rev. Rowland Hill. By the Rev. Edwin Sidney, A.M.
and original remarks. He was naturally of a frank and open temper; of “a character perfectly transparent.” Everything like reserve was foreign to his nature ; and as his heart overflowed with benevolent affections, he was universally liked by his companions, and cordially beloved by all with whom he was more intimately connected.
It was during his school-days at Eton, that, through the instrumentality, humanly speaking, of his elder brother, Richard, the light of Divine truth first shone into the soul of Rowland Hill. The "one thing needful,” had long been, with Richard, the first and great object ; and very earnestly did he desire to win his younger brothers, Rowland and Robert, to choose the same “good part." His sister Jane was his able and judicious assistant in the efforts which he made with this view, and, by the blessing of God on their joint endeavours, the seed sown in young Rowland's heart sprang up and grew with rapid increase.
To become in due time a minister of the gospel, was a desire which seems to have been early excited in his mind. His brother Richard, who was intimately acquainted with his thoughts and wishes, sent to him for his perusal while at Eton, the works of Archbishop Leighton ; accompanying the books, which were signally useful to Rowland, by a letter which, after much excellent general advice, concluded thus :“And now, with my sincere prayers, that if it be the will of God ever to call you to the work of the ministry, you may be fitted and prepared by his grace and Holy Spirit for that most important office; and by your steady attachment to our most excellent church, in a season wherein there is so dreadful a departure from the doctrines of her Homilies, Articles, and Common Prayer, may prove yourself a faithful labourer in the vineyard of our blessed Lord, I conclude myself your most affectionate brother, both by nature and grace, Richard Hill.
This brief extract may suffice to show somewhat of the tone and character of the communications addressed by Richard Hill to his brothers at school; and great was the delight which he experienced on witnessing the unequivocal evidences afforded by Rowland's conduct, that the “plant of Divine grace ” had taken deep root in his soul. Sensible of the value of an acquaintance with literature, “ Rowley” pursued his classical studies with exemplary diligence ; and, unharmed by the evil example, and regardless of the sneers and ridicule to which he was exposed on all hands, he held fast and adorned his Christian profession, and, even at this early period, was made the instrument of the effectual conversion of some of his companions. His brother Richard and his sister Jane continued to watch over
Rowland, and to direct and cheer him by their Christian advice and sympathy, under the difficult circumstances in which, in consequence of his conscientious adherence to his religious principles, he found himself involved, on his final return from Eton ; nor were their earnest endeavours to promote his spiritual advantage interrupted or abated by his entrance, in October 1764, upon his residence at Cambridge. He entered St. John's as a pensioner, but subsequently became a fellow-commoner of that College. The species of persecution, however, which his religious views had already drawn upon him at school and at home, followed him to Cambridge ; insomuch, that, as he used afterwards to observe, nobody belonging to the college ever gave him a cordial smile, “ except the old shoe-black, who had the love of Christ in his heart.” He soon, however, found a friend and supporter in that somewhat singular but very excellent man, whom Whitefield used to call “ good old Berridge;" and attended his ministry regularly ; riding from Cambridge to Everton every Sunday, after morning chapel, and returning after the Everton services, in time for college evening prayers. With this truly excellent, but certainly rather eccentric clergyman, Rowland Hill also spent the Christmas of his first year at Cambridge; meeting at his house many celebrated men, who, if they were not all pre-eminently judicious, were unquestionably faithful and zealous; and the young fellow-commoner wrote to his sister in raptures respecting his enjoyment of their society. Jane sympathized in his delight; but prudently recommended caution. “ If," she observed, "you go too frequently to Mr. B. and if that be discovered, I need not tell you what a storm it would raise."
Those who are most strongly disposed to condemn the irregular and imprudent exertions by which, during his undergraduateship, Rowland Hill brought upon himself “the severest censure from his college," and insults innumerable from the populace of Cambridge, may well admire his exalted piety; his zeal, energy, and unflinching fidelity. Not content with addressing the most earnest exhortations to his fellow-students, and endeavouring to communicate to them some portion of his own ardour, he visited the gaol ; attended the sick and dying ; and preached publicly in the town of Cambridge and the adjacent villages. All this was certainly scarcely consistent with that submission to authority which he had promised, and which became him as an undergraduate ; but there were extenuating circumstances, to which, in these very different times, we may not perhaps always allow sufficient weight. That great revival of religion to which this country generally, and the Church of England in particular, owes so much, was now becoming mighty in its operation. Rowland Hill's temperament was singularly ardent. Deeply impressed by a sense of the worth of the human soul, and experimentally acquainted with the only way of salvation, all the energies of his mind were directed to the one object of preaching “ Christ and Him Crucified.” To preach Christ he was resolved; and not perceiving, that by his present neglect of the regulations of the University, he was throwing an obstacle in the way of his future usefulness, he was, by his natural disposition, altogether unapt to yield to opposition or to authoritative menaces. Father and mother, therefore, opposed his career in vain ; and in vain his superiors in the university condemned in the strongest terms his infringements of discipline, and hinted at refusal of College testimonials, and even of degree. The censures which were cast upon him appeared to his immature judgment as honours of the highest order; and expulsion, far from reducing him to silence and obscure repose, would only have driven him forth to other scenes of labour. Moreover, to all these considerations it is to be added, that at this very juncture George Whitefield, and Berridge of Everton, to say nothing of a host of others to whom the zealous undergraduate was an object of the warmest interest, were urging him to “go on-on.” What must have been the effect upon the mind of a youth of ardent piety, unflinching courage, and inflexible resolution, of letters containing passages like these which follow:
“Good Lady Huntingdon was present at one of our reviews ; thousands and thousands attended; her ladyship's aide-de-camp preached ; and Captain Scott, that glorious field-officer, fixed up his standard upon dear Mr. Fletcher's horseblock at Madeley. ... God willing, I intend fighting my way up to town. Soon after my arrival thither, I hope thousands and thousands of vollies of prayers, energetic, effectual, fervent, heaven-besieging, heaven-opening, heaven-taking prayers, shall be poured forth for you. . . Fear not to go without the camp ; keep open the correspondence between the two Universities. Remember the praying legions ; they were never known to yield. ... I would not have you give way; no, not for a moment. The storm is too great to hold long. Visiting the sick and imprisoned, and instructing the ignorant, are the very vitals of true religion. If you are threatened, denied degree, or expelled for this, it will be the best degree you can take. . . . A preaching, prison-preaching, field-preaching Esq. strikes more than all the black gowns and lawn sleeves in the world. This is the way, walk in it. . . Present opposition, I think,