« AnteriorContinuar »
changed his object, retained a fondness and a taste for the art: he was once called to visit a sick lady, in whose room there was a paintiug which so strongly attracted his notice, that he found his attention diverted from the sick person, and absorbed by the painting: from that moment he formed the resolution of mortifying a taste, which he found so intrusive, and so obstructive to him in his pobler pursuits; and determined never afterward to frequent the Exhibition.
Nor was his INTREPID AND INFLEXIBLE FIRMNESS less conspicuous, whenever the interests of truth, and the honour of Christ were concerned. The world in arms would not have appalled him, while the glory of Christ was in his view. Nor do I believe that he would have hesitated for a moment, after he had given to nature her just tribute of feeling and of tears, to go forth from his family, and join the "noble army of martyrs” who expired in the flames in Smithfield, had the honour of his Master called him to this sacrifice: nor would his knees have trembled, nor his look changed.
Yet cannot I but add, that this firmness never degenerated into rudeness. He knew and observed all those decencies of life which render mutual intercourse agreeable; and he had that ease of manner, among all classes of society, which bespoke perfect self-possession and a thorough knowledge of the world. His address in meeting the manners and habits of thinking of persons of rank, either when they were enquiring into religion or under affliction, was perhaps scarcely to be equalled.
The associations in our friend's mind were often of a very humorous kind. He had a strong natural turn for associations of this nature, which threw a great vivacity and charm over his familiar conversation--employed as it was, in the main, like every faculty of his mind, for useful ends. He was fully aware, however, of the danger of possessing such a faculty, and the temptations to which it exposed him; prompted and supported as it was by a buoyancy of spirits, which even great and lengthened pain could scarcely subdue. I have looked at him, and listened to him, with astonishment---wben, meeting with a few
other young men occasionally at his house, we have found him dejected and worne out with pain---stretched on his sofa, and declining to join in our copversation---till he caught an interest in what was passing--when the question of an enquiring or burdened conscience has roused him to an exertion of his great mind---he has risen from his sofa---he has forgot his suffering--and bas left us nothing to do but to admire and treasure up most profound and impressive remarks on the Scripture, on the heart, and on the world!
The mention of his humour and his vivacity of spirits leads me to remark, that I am not writing a panegyric, but drawing a character. No character can be faithful, while the best original is such as he must be in the present state, if it carry no shades. I have no wish to conceal the shades of this extraordinary character. Steroness and Levity were the two constitutional evils which most severely exercised him. They seem to have been the necessary result, in an imperfect being, of the union of that masculine and original vigour with humour and an ardent fancy, which met in the structure of his mind. So far, indeed, had grace triumphed over these constitutional enemies, that the very opposite features were the most prominent in his character; and no one could approach him without feeling himself with a most TENDER and SERIOUS mind. I speak of those occasional ebullitions which tended to remind him, that, though he was invested with a new and triumphant nature, he was yet at home in the body, and subject to the recurrence of his constitutional infirmities.
Yet, though Mr. Cecil felt occasionally temptations to levity, through the buoyancy and spring of his animal spirits, his prevailing temper was of a quite opposite description. A sensibility of spirit, with his view of human nature and of the world, threw a cast of MELANCHOLY over his mind. He was far more disposed to weep over the guilt and misery of man, than to smile at his follies. “I have," said he, “a salient principle in me. My spirits never sink. Yet I have a strong dash of melancholy. It is a high and exquisite feeling. When I first wake in the
morning, I could often weep with pleasure. The holy calmthe silence the freshness-thrill through my soul. At such moments I should feel the presence of any person to be intrusion and impertinence, and common affairs nauseous. The stillness of an empty house is paradise to me. The man who has never felt thus, cannot be made to understand what I mean.
“Hooker's dying thought,” he added, "is congenial to my spirit. 'I am going to leave a world disordered, and a church disorganized, for a world and a church where every angel, and every rank of angel, stand before the throne in the very post God has assigned them. I am obliged habitually to turn my eye from the wretched disorders of the world and the church, to the beauty, harmony, meekness, and glory of the better world.”
On another occasion, he said "I have been long in the habit of viewing every thing around me as in a state of ALIENATION. I have no hold on my dearest comforts. My children must separate from me. One has his lot cast iu one place, and another elsewhere. It may be my particular leading, but I have never leaned toward any comforts without finding them give way. A sharp warning has met me—These are aliens, and as an alien live thou among them. We may use our comforts by the way, We may take up the pitcher to drink, but the moment we begin to admire, God will in love dash it to pieces. But I feel no such alienation from the Church. I am united to Christ and to all his glorified and living members by an indissoluble bond. Here my mind can centre and synrpathize, without suspicion
"I feel,” he would say, "a congeniality with the character of Jeremiah. I seem to understand him. I could approach him, and feel encouraged to familiarity. It is not sp with Elijah or Ezekiel. There is a rigour and severity about then wbich seem to repel me to a distance, and excite reverence rather than sympathy and love."
In a very interesting case on which I consulted him, he gave me a striking view of this feature in his character-" I should have fallen myself into au utterly different mode of conducting
the affair. But you have not the melancholy in your constitution which I have, and therefore to look for my mode of the thing in you, would be expecting what ought not to be expected. This is a strong alterative in your dispensation. Now I have long been in the habit of viewing every thing of that aspect rather in a melancholy light. You are standing on the justice, the reason, the truth of your cause, I should have heard God saying---Son of man follow me.' It would have led me into a speculative---mystical sort of way. I should have seen in it the flood that is sweeping over the earth---the utter bankruptcy of all human affairs. Most men, if they had stood by and compared our conduct, would bave commended yours as rational, but condemned mine as enthusiastic---as connecting things together which had no proper connection; but this is my way of viewing every alterative in my dispensation.”
“The heart, “said he, “must be divorced from its idols. Age does a great deal in curing the man of his frenzy; but, if God has a special work for a man, he takes a shorter and sharper course with him. Stand ready for it. I have been in both schools. Bleeding and cauterizing have done much for me, and age has done much also- Can I any longer taste what I eat or what I drink?"
Though the Memoir of Mr. Cecil's life, and the Letters which are subjoined, bear ample testimony to the TENDERNESS OF HIS RELATIVE AFFECTIONS, yet I cannot but add here what a friend wrote on visiting him, many years before his decease, at a time when he was expecting the death of Mrs. Cecil:-“Mrs. Cecil was ill. I called on Mr. Cecil. I found him in his study, sitting over his bible in great sorrow. His tears fell so fast, that he could utter only broken sentences. He said, 'Christians do well to speak of the grace, love and goodness of God; but we must remember that he is a holy and jealous God. Judgment must begin at the house of God. This severe stroke is but a farther call to me to arise and shake myself. My hope is still firm in God. He, who sends the stroke, will bear me up under it: and I have no doubt but if I saw the whole of his
design I should say, 'Let her be taken!' Yet, while there is life, I cannot help saying, “Spare her another year, that I may be a little prepared for her loss!' I know I have higher ground of comfort: but I shall deeply feel the taking away of the dying lamp. Her excellence as a wife and a mother, I am obliged to keep out of sight, or I should be overwhelmed. All I can do is, to go from text to text, as a bird from spray to spray.
Our Lord said to his disciples, Where is your Faith? God has given her to be my comfort these many years, and shall I not trust him for the future? This is only a farther and more expensive education for the work of the ministry: it is but saying more closely, Will you pay the price? If she should die, I shall request all my friends never once to mention her name to me. I can gather no help from what is called friendly condolence. Job's friends understood grief better, when they sat down and spake pot a word”,”
Our departed friend was, at once, a public and a RETIRED man. While his sacred office, exercised for many years in a conspicuous sphere, brought him much before the world, bis turn of mind was retired-he courted solitude—he held converse there with God, and his own great spirit mingled with the mighty dead: he had such a practical knowledge and deep impression of the nothingness of the whole world, compared with spiritual and eternal realities, and he had so deeply felt, and so thoroughly despised its lying pretensions to meet the wants and to satisfy the longings of the immortal soul, that it was no sacrifice to him to turn away from the shows and the pursuits of life, and to shut out all the splendour and seductions of the world,
Yet this retired spirit was not unsocial, morose, or repulsive. No one called him from his retirement to ask spiritual counsel, but he was met with tenderness and urbanity. No congenial mind encountered his without eliciting sparks both of benevolence and wisdom. Not a child in his family could carry its little complaints to him, but he would stop the career of his mind to listen and relieve.
His study was his favourite retreat. His station exposed him