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VIEW OF THE CHARACTER
REV. RICHARD CECIL.
In depicting the PERSONAL and MINISTERIAI, character of my departed friend, while I shall communicate occasionally the impressions made by him on my own mind, most of which were recorded at the time they were made, I shall endeavor to render him, as much as possible the pourtrayer of his own character, by detailing those descriptions of his views and feelings which I gathered from him.
NATURE, EDUCATION, and GRACE combine to form and model the PERSONAL CHARACTER of every Christian. God gives to his reasonable creature such physical and intellectual constitution as he pleases: education and circumstances hide or unfold, restrain or mature this constitution; and grace, while it regulates and sanctifies the powers of the man, varies its own appearances according to the varieties of those powers. And it is by the endless modifications and counteractions of these principles that the Personal Character of a Christian is formed.
It might have been expected from Mr. Cecil's earliest displays of character, that he was formed to be an instruinent of extensive evil or of eminent good. There was a DECISION-ADARINGan UNTAMEABLENESS in the structure of his mind even when a boy, combined with a tone of authority and command, and a talent in the exercise of these qualities, to which the minds of his associates yielded an implicit subjection. Fear of consequences never entered into his view. Opposition, especially if accompanied by any thing like severity or oppression, awakened unrelenting resistance.
Yet this bold and untameable spirit was allied to a NOBLE and GENEROUS disposition. There was a magnificence in his mind. While he was scrupulously delicate, perhaps even to some excess, on subjects entrusted to his secrecy, and on affairs in progress; yet he would never lend himself in his own concerns, or in those of other persons, to any thing that bordered on artifice and maneuvre; for he had a native and thorough contempt of whatever was mean, little, and equivocating. That “honesty is the best policy” may be a strong, or the preyailing motive for uprightness with men of a lower tone of character, but I question if it at all entered into calculation with ny great friend. His mind was too noble, to have recourse to other means or to aim at other ends, than those which he avowed; and too intrepid not to avow those which he did entertain, so far as might be required or expedient.
His temptations were to the sins of the spirit, rather than to those of the flesh: and he possessed, all his life long, a superiority to the pleasures of mere sense not often seen. He was, indeed, FEMPERATE in all things-holding his bodily appetites in entire subjection.
SYMPATHY WITH SUFFERING was an eminent characteristic of Mr. Cecil's minda sympathy which sprung less from that softness and sensibility which are the ornament of the female, than from the generosity of his disposition. He would have had all men happy. It gratified his generous nature to ease the burdens of suffering man. If any were afflicted by the visitations of God, he taught them
to bow with submission, while he pitied and relieved: if the affliction were the natural and evident fruit of crimes, he admonished while he sympathized; if the sufferings of man or brute arose from the voluntary inflictions of others, he was indignant against the oppressor.
Such was the intrepid and noble, yet humane mind, which was trained by Divine Grace, under a long course of moral discipline, for eminent usefulness in the Church of God. Mr. Cecil's intellectual endowments will be spoken of hereafter. At present, I shall trace the rise and the advances of his Christian character.
He had early religious impressions. These were first received from Janeway's “Token for Children," which his mother gave him when he was about six years of age. "I was much affected by this book,'' said he, and recollect that I wept, and got into a corner, where I prayed that I also might have an interest in Christ,' like one of the children there mentioned, though I did not then know what the expression meant."
Those impressions of his childhood wore away, He fell into the follies and vices of youth; and, by degrees, began to listen to infidel principles, till he avowed himself openly an unbeliever. He has alluded frequently in his writings to this criminal part of his history: but I shall add some paragraphs on this point partly in his own words.
He was suffered to proceed to awful lengths in infidelity. The natural daring of his mind allowed him to do nothing by halves. Into whatever society he enlisted himself, he was its leader. He became even an apostle of infidelity-anxious to banish the scruples of more cautious minds, and to carry them all lengths with his own. And he was too successful. In after-life he has met more than one of these converts, who have laughed at all his affectionate and earnest attempts to pull down the fabric erected too much by his own hands.
Yet he was never wholly sincere in his infidelity. He has left a most impressive and encouraging tes. timony to the power of Parental Influence in preserving his mind, under the grace of God, from entirely believing his own lie.* He gave me a farther instance of the power of conscience in this re. spect:
"When I was sunk in the depths of infidelity, I was afraid to read any author who treated Christianity in a dispassionate, wise, and searching manner. He made me uneasy. Conscience would gather strength. I found it more difficult to stifle her remonstrances. He would recal early instructions and impressions, while my happiness could only consist with their obliteration."
Yet he appears to have taken no small pains to rid himself of his scruples:"I have read," said he "all the most acute and learned and serious infidel writers, and have been really surprised at their poverty. The process of my mind has been such on the subject of Revelation, that I have often thought Satan has done more for me than for the best of them; for I have had, and could have produced, arguments, that appeared to me far more weighty that any I ever found in them against Revelation."
He did not proceed in this career of sin without occasional checks of conscience. Take the following instance:
"My father had a religious servant. I frequently cursed and reviled him. He would only smile on me. That went to my heart. I felt that he looked on me as å deluded creature. I felt that he thought he had something which I knew not how to value, and that he was therefore greatly my superior. I felt there was a real dignity in his conduct. It made
in See remains: on the Influence of the Parental Char. acter,
me appear little even in my own eyes. If he had condescended to argue with me, I could have cut some figure; at least by comparison, wretched as it would have been. He drew me once to hear Mr. W hitfield. I was 17 or 18 years old. It had no sort of religious effect on me, nor had the preaching of any man in my unconverted state. My religion began in contemplation. Yet I conceived a high reverence for Mr. Whitfield. I no longer, thought of him as the Dr. Squintum we were accustomed to buffoon at school, I saw a commanding and irresistible effect, and he made me feel my own insignificance."
For this daring offender, however, God had mercy in reserve! He was the child of many tears, instructions, admonitions, and prayers; and, though now a prodigal, he was to be recovered from his wickedness!
While under the control of bad principles, he gave into every species of licentiousness-saving that, even then, the native nobleness of his mind made him despise whatever he thought mean and dishonorable. * Into this state of slavery he was brought by his sin; but here the mercy of God taught him some most important lessons, which influenced his views and governed his ministry through after-life; and the same mercy then rescued him from the slavery to which he had submitted. The penetration and grandeur of his mind, with his natural superiority to sensual pleasures, made him feel the littleness of every object which engages the ambition and the desires of the carnal man: insomuch that God had given him, in this unusual way of bringing him to himself, a thorough disgust of the world before he had gained any hold of higher objects and better pleasures.
It was thus that God prepared him for further communications of mercy.' And here he felt the advantage of having been connected with sincere