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322 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM MASON.
least departures from the great laws of right. He could grasp the mightiest subjects; and by profound considerations, "justify the ways of God to man.” In this he sometimes travelled beyond the power of ordinary audiences to follow him; but he has left in his manuscript notes of sermons a mine of valuable and weighty thought. His discourses evince his character, which was preëminently that of a seeker for truth. Perhaps the memory of Mr. Mason will be associated in the recollections of many of his hearers rather with the idea of a great moral teacher than as an opener of the inner sanctuaries of the spiritual sense of the Word.
But the sphere of bis usefulness was widely extended beyond his pulpit ministrations. As an essayist and general contributor to the Intellectual Repository, few have equalled him, either in the number or excellence of his articles He contributed 1,370 pages to the Magazine. His first contribution commences the volume for 1814. Several of his articles have been separately published as essays, and expanded into tracts; and many of both the London and the Manchester series have been the productions of his pen. * He composed several and assisted in editing others of the Glasgow series. As a tract-writer, he was forcible, logical, and plain, although the lack of anything like the dramatic faculty in his mental character may render some of them deficient in interest. They have been widely read, however, and widely useful. Perhaps none of Mr. Mason's contributions to the Magazine were more esteemed or more excellent than his “Materials for Moral Culture.” Mr. Mason's general contributions to the Magazine prove him to be possessed of a most uncompromising loyalty to truth. If sometimes not sufficiently mindful of the fact that two minds may with equal conscientiousness adopt two different views of the same subject, yet his fealty was as honest as it was unswerving; and his writings present us with faithful representations of the genuine perceptions of a strong mind. In his integrity to truth he may often have been stern, but he ever was ingenuous. Mr. Mason was an ardent controversialist. He was acute in the detection of the fallacies of his opponents, and vigorous in the reply that seemed ever at hand. He appeared as though always clad in intellectual armour, with an ever-unsheathed sword, to do battle for his opinions. To strike at him was generally only to encounter his shield, and always to receive a blow in return.
have been the pro others of the although the baas render Bassisted in bile, logical, m.inmental
* It may be interesting to some to be able to recognise these productions. They form Nos. 3, 6, 11, 20, 24, 26, 27, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 37, and 38 of the London, and Nos. 17, 25, 34, 35, 36, 38, and 69 of the Manchester series of Tracts.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM MASON. 323
He also published four works on the subject of the Lord's Resurrection, which, while they eminently illustrate the foregoing conclusions, also prove him to have been an untiring reader of Swedenborg, as well as a close and diligent student of the Word. On this great subject he was fully a giant armed. As this whole subject forms a vexed question in the church, the writer will do no more here than intimate the worth and importance of Mr. Mason's essays on this subject, and commend their perusal. Equally controversial, though on a widely different theme, is “ Job Abbott," a work balancing and comparing the Scripture evidence in favour of the four views of the Lord Jesus held severally by Tri-personalists, the Arians, the Unitarians, and ourselves. This is a work which all who know it admire, and which those who are not yet acquainted with it, should obtain. Professor Bush speaks of it in terms of high commendation. He was also the editor of the new edition of Arbouin's “Dissertations on the Regenerate Life," and the author of the valuable notes it contains. A similar service he performed for Proud's “ Last Legacy,” to which the Rev. E. Madeley has added the life of Mr. Proud. Mr. Mason also assisted in the compilation of the Liturgy, the evening service of which is almost entirely his work.
Besides these he composed a series of moral lectures for youthful minds, which were published under the title of “Forty Moral Lectures for the Young,” and which received the express recommendation of the Government Council of Education. This is a work well adapted to introduce to young thinkers the important moral duties of life. Some time afterwards he published a book of Prayers, entitled “Help to Devotion.” The high estimation in which this work is held by many most valuable friends, formed for him a sweet consolation and a pleasing recompense. It is a work by far too little known in the Church. With this may be appropriately named the little work, “Manual of Piety for the Young," edited and condensed by Mr. Mason from the American work by the Rev. W. Hill, as well as “The Young Christian's Earliest Friend,” also edited by Mr. Mason. “The Duties and Obligations," the Church owes to the same untiring mind; he presented it to the Conference in 1829, when it was at once adopted, and its use has been ever since recommended.
Useful as Mr. Mason has thus been to the Church, perhaps that usefulness has been exhibited in no more generally appreciated form than by his labours in connection with the Hymn Book. He was the principal promoter of one general edition of Hymns being adopted and employed by all the societies, . He has left us a full statement of the history of our present edition, in “The New Churchman" for 1866.
324 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM MASON.
He was the secretary of the Committee, and it formed the occupation of all his leisure for four years. Fifty-six of our present edition are his original compositions,* and he informs us that out of the whole six hundred hymns, one-half are from New Church sources, and the other half consists of revisions and alterations of the compositions of others. For truth of sentiment, for their adaptability either to public or private devotion, for their unaffected piety, the deep-reaching suggestiveness of some and the simple beauty of others, and for the general respectability of their versification, our hymns form a compilation that none other can equal. In this, which was with Mr. Mason indeed a labour of love, he deserves the lasting and grateful remembrance of the Church. Although it has been occasionally severely critised, the Church has found it to be a provocative to devotion, a comfort and a use. From the residue of materials left on hand, together with some original compositions of various friends, Mr. Mason compiled a new series, which he entitled “Hymns of Spiritual Experience,” and which contains one hundred and twenty-six hymos, twenty-three of them being Mr. Mason's own composition. The last compositions of Mr. Mason are a valuable treatise on the Trinity, originally entitled “ Christianizing India," but now brought out by Mr. Pitman under the title—“The Trinity made Plain,” and a brief “ Summary of Christian Doctrine concerning the Redeemer and Redemption,” published by the London Tract Society. The writer especially commends this last-named most useful work as the best condensed view of the New Church upon the subject.
Mr. Mason, as a general writer, is persuasive and original. His style is elegant, seldom rising into lofty eloquence, never sinking below mediocrity. His extreme sense of order prevented both. The one would have seemed to him too inflated, and the other too despicable. There is no difficulty in knowing what he means, and his meaning is ever worthy attention. He possessed a vigorous rather than a large intellect, a concentrated rather than a comprehensive mind. But vigorous and concentrated, his works are worthy of the man, and have been and will yet be of great service to the Church. To enforce the True and inculcate the Good, were with him higher objects than to embellish with fine images or to adorn with beautiful illustrations. He shrank from the
• It may be interesting to know that Mr. Mason's hymns are the following :Hymn 1, 16, 17, 32, 33, 39, 40, 41, 45, 113, 114, 121, 123, 138, 179, 260, 261, 289, 290, 296, 346, 349, 350, 351, 354, 360, 362, 402, 431, 478, Parts III., IV., V., 480, 484, 487, 489, 492, 493, 506, 507, 508, 512, 513, 514, 515, 516, 517, 518, 522, 523, 830, 538, 543, 561, 584. Mr Noble wrote only one, 71; and Mr. J. 0. French, 286 and 469.
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM MASON. 325
starry-dust of brilliant but detached thoughts, and laboured rather to pile up massive reflections for the use of the reader. His style was partly original, and partly acquired from his long acquaintance with Swedenborg; though, perhaps, in bis strong anxiety for the beauty of sound thought, he became unconsciously insensible to the other and genuine beauty of apt and melodious expression Yet steady and evenflowing, his compositions are sterling testimonies to his genius, ability, and worth.
In his official connection with the Church, Mr. Mason was busy and useful; and in 1858, various friends subscribed the sum of £200., which was, with an address from the Conference then sitting at London, presented to him. The remuneration he had received from the societies for which he officiated had ever been most trifling. For many years he officiated gratuitously, and it was not until severe pecuniary losses rendered him to some extent dependent, that he accepted any pecuniary recompense. In the love of the Truth he had laboured for the spread of the Truth; and this testimonial was at once a grateful recognition of his services, as well as of assistance to his family. In 1849, by Minute 72, Mr. Mason was voted an Ordaining Minister; but the obligation to submit to the Consecration Service, to which he strongly objected, stood in the way of his accepting the appointment. Although this impediment was removed in 1851, by allowing ministers to use their option as to submitting or not to the ceremony, still he objected to the first question in the service, and the vote was thus never carried out. On this, as on many other subjects, he differed from many of his brethren in opinion, and it must be admitted that several of his objections have never been fully and candidly met.
Mr. Mason, as a man, hated more than anything else, hypocrisy. Anything that savoured of time-serving, or trimming, invariably aroused him. He was an altogether conscientious man. He never hesitated to differ from his best friend, when he thought that best friend wrong; and he never hesitated to express any such difference. With such a character we may not wonder that he often impinged upon others, nor that he was often in controversy. Deficiency of hopefulness and redundancy of order were his prevailing traits; and these, with his powerful conscientiousness, rendered him quick in the discernment and strong in the reprehension of anything uncandid and disingenuous. He often acknowledged to the writer that nothing but bis knowledge of the Heavenly Doctrines, his confidence in their truth, and the certainty he felt of their ultimate triumph, could at all reconcile him to the presence of the many deficiencies in the organization of the Church. 326
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF THE LATE REV. WILLIAM MASON.
But on the subject of the glorious truths of the New Dispensation be was full of a noble confidence, fired with a generous enthusiasm, and fixed in a genuine trust.
His disease acutely affected his respiratory and nervous systems, rendering him often morbidly sensitive to sounds and excitements. For several years it assumed occasional paroxysms, extremely painful to bear. During the last fortnight of his life, his disease assumed an acute form, and his existence was one of intense suffering. He was assiduously watched by his now mourning widow and several friends. Notwithstanding his pain, which sometimes seemed to threaten his consciousness, he entered upon a most grateful, patient, simple-minded state, very cheering to the many visitors who came to tender him their last adieux; and after a night of extreme agony, on the 19th May, at twenty minutes past four in the morning, he breathed his last. The author of this sketch was with him during the night, and had had, previously, many opportunities of knowing how full was his faith, and how calm was his trust in the Lord,-how deep his love for the heavenly doctrines, and how ready he felt to meet the unfoldings of the hereafter.
Nine days previous to his removal, Mr. Mason received the following communication from the Secretary of the Derby Society :
"Babington-lane Chapel, Derby.
“Quarterly Church Meeting, 10th May, 1863. “ This Society having heard with deep regret the severe affliction and suffering of their late minister and friend, the Rev. W. Mason, it was
“Resolved,—That we, the members of the Derby New Church Society in quarterly meeting assembled) desire to convey to Mr. Mason our affectionate sympathy in his severe affliction and suffering; and that, as he has finished his work on earth of labouring effectually and well in the Lord's vineyard, we sincerely and earnestly pray that he may have a peaceful end; and that his future reward for the great sacrifices he has made in the vindication of the Truth, and for his life of piety and use, may be an everlasting peace.
“We also tender our sincere condolence to Mrs. Mason, under this severe
“Signed on behalf of this Society,
“SAMUEL BARTON, Chairman.
WILLIAM DUESBURY, Secretary." · Funeral sermons have been preached in most of the principal places of worship used by the societies. A notice of his decease was printed in all the Derby newspapers. Letters of condolence have been received by his widow, whose chief consolation it is to know that He whose work this is, “ doeth all things well.” Our friend is gone, a stalwart soldier of Truth, from the fight to the triumph,—from the toil of the pilgrimage to the Canaan of recompense, –a man who for long has well