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and circumstance, if she could but have contemplated the probability of its appearance. We hold her memory in sufficient honour to believe that she would have laid a solemn interdict upon it, by an express clause in her last will and testament: and, if her spirit could now be cognizant of such matters, we are persuaded that she would cordially acquiesce in the sentiments even of a heathen moralist, when he exclaimed,
Malo Venusinam quam te, Cornelia, mater
In castris, et, cum totâ Carthagine, migra. But, be its value what it may, the fact is beyond dispute. Lady Selina Shirley was of very distinguished lineage, and entered into life with every imaginable worldly advantage. She was second of three daughters, and co-heiresses of Washington, second Earl of Ferrars. Her exterior, it seems, was noble and commanding, and her mental powers of a highly respectable order. In June 1728, being then in her 21st year, she was united with Theophilus, Earl of Huntingdon, an amiable and virtuous nobleman, to whom she was tenderly attached, and from whom she was separated by his death, in October 1746. It appears that her first religious impressions were traceable to her attendance at the funeral of a young person about her own age. She was then only nine years old; but the spectacle brought with it a lesson which was never forgotten. She often visited that same grave, and there renewed her recollection of the scene which first awakened her to serious meditation on the things of eternity. After her marriage, her habits were those of a person seriously impressed. Though moving unavoidably on the eminences of society, she manifested no passion for its follies and frivolities : her home at Donnington Park was the scene of her chief enjoyment; and there she appears to have been a blessing to all around her. She was the Lady Bountiful of the neighbourhood : she was exemplary in prayer, in fasting, and in alms-deeds.
She was rigidly just in her dealings, and inflexibly true to her word: she was a strict observer of her several duties in erery relation of life: her sentiments were liberal, and her charity profuse : she was prudent in her conduct, and courteous in her deportment: she was a diligent inquirer after truth, and a strenuous advocate for virtue : she was frequent in her sacred meditations, and was a regular attendant at public worship.-P. 10.
We have here a very engaging portraiture of a noble christian matron. Well would it be for this land of ours, if all its noble matrons were even such as she then was. And had she been removed, at that very time, “ from this troublesome world,” we know not what reasonable ground there could have been for presuming to question her acceptance with God. If the tree is to be known by its fruits, surely this tree must have been fit for something better than to be hewn down and cast into the fire, Our honourable historian, however, seems to think otherwise: he pronounces, without hesitation, that, at that period of her life, she was an absolute stranger to that inward and universal change of heart wrought by the gracious operations of the spirit of God, by which new principles are established in the mind, new inclinations are imparted, and new objects pur:ued.-P.11.
With this sort of dogmatism every one must be more or less familiar, who is but moderately versed in evangelical biography; and to us it really does appear to be neither more nor less than ultra-papal. The Pope is content to dogmatise on matters of faith. Matters of fact even he does not presume to meddle with more confidently than other men. But here we find an historian deciding on a matter of fact, in a tone of absolute infallibility; and this too, a matter of fact wbich scarcely can have fallen within human cognizance ; which can have been perfectly known to Him only who seeth in secret! The weight of evidence produced by the narrator bimself is directly in the teeth of his own decision. The only particle of proof in support of it is her ladyship's subsequent declaration, that, while she was showing forth the usual produce of a heart in communion with Christ, she was, in fact, only "going about to establish her own righteousness! And of this proof the value is, in our humble estimation, extremely questionable. We conceive it to be highly probable that, after the crisis of her conversion, she did look back upon the whole of her antecedent righteousness as a mere patchwork of tawdry rags: but this, if it proves any thing, can only prove that she had then fallen under the predominance of that rash theology which scruples not to “judge before the time," and which, nevertheless, vaunts itself as the only legitimate teacher of christian lowliness of heart. At all events, we respectfully submit that a much more cautious language would have been becoming in her biographer. He might, at least, have contented himself with modestly suggesting that the day-spring, which at first dawned but faintly in her heart, shone afterwards more and more unto the perfect day; instead of intimating that, at the moment of her change, she emerged at once from darkness into light.
We have been more anxious to note this passage than many may, perhaps, think needful. We confess, however, that, in our judgment, no protest can well be too urgent, or too often repeated, against this cool and familiar assumption of a prerogative which can never belong to man “ whose breuth is in his nostrils." It is one of the most repulsive features of that peculiar school whose history we have before us. But to proceed: when it was that the mighty and gracious change came upon her ladyship, we are not very distinctly informed; it would appear, however, to have been brought on by a dangerous illness which happened to her not long after her marriage ; and, when the crisis actually came, " from that moment the disorder took a favourable turn; she was restored,” we are assured,“ to perfect health, and, what was better, to newness of life.”—P. 15. Then followed the “ torrents of reproach," which are always ready to burst upon the head of a deserter from the ranks of ordinary practice and established opinion; and which, most undoubtedly, are a disgrace to human nature. It is infinitely to the honour of the Earl of Huntingdon, that he rejected the counsel which would have impelled him to tyrannize over the conscience of his wife. He could not himself adopt her new religious principles; but, instead of attempting a forcible extinction of her sentiments, he wisely and generously recommended her to converse with Bishop Benson, his former tutor. The advice was accepted, and, if we may credit the statement of the noble cadet, "the Bishop accordingly was sent for ! - precisely, we presume, as the doctor was sent for on the breaking-out of the Countess's recent corporeal malady. But the conference with the spiritual physician was anything but satisfactory. The patient was inflexible, and the bishop became irritated. He lamented that he had ever laid his hands upon George Whitefield, and she retorted with this memorable sentence: "My Lord, mark my words—when you are on your dying bed, that will be one of the few ordinations you will reflect upon with complacence." The scene is one which it is quite impossible to contemplate without painful feelings. We certainly cannot say that the bishop did well to be angry; neither did the high priest well when he ordered Paul to be smitten on the mouth. But then, on the other hand, her ladyship assuredly did not well, under much smaller provocation than that which tried the. spirit of Paul, to assail a father of the Church to his face, and to intimate that he had often done his office rashly and unfaithfully; for, is it not written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people? But, notwithstanding the utter failure of this considerate expedient, the difference of religious opinion-again be it spoken to the credit of the Earl-was attended with no abatement whatever of his confidence and affection towards his lady. “At his demise, he left her the entire management of his children and their fortunes;" and she could never think of him without tears. And here we may remark, how awful and mysterious was the dispensation, that one of those children turned out a confirmed and bitter infidel!
From the period of her change, and of her connexion with the two great Reformers of the 18th century, Lady Huntingdon became quite an historical character. Her name, assuredly, can never perish while those of John Wesley and George Whitefield are remembered; and their names must be remembered so long as any thing, or any person on this earth, escapes oblivion. The Lady Bountiful of Donnington now becomes the Lady Bountiful of a religious world, partly of her own creation. Estimated in current coin, the amount of her munificence, from first to last, has been rated, we believe, at some hundred thousand pounds; a grand and noble offering unquestionably, which at least might be safely imitated by those who are most clamorous for what they hold to be a truer and a better cause than that to which her bounty was devoted. But, besides the prodigal dedication of her substance, she gave up her whole self,—her mind and body, as well as her estate,- to the furtherance of that which she believed to be the only truth. And in all this, there is something that must and will command the veneration of mankind. It may be true, that she gradually swelled out into something like pontifical supremacy and predominance; and sat in a little Vatican of her own, surrounded at times with her conclave of cardinals ; far other indeed than the scarlet men of the Seven Hills ; but not wholly unlike them in their stern intolerance; and occasionally very much like them in the trouble and disquiet inflicted by them on the visible head of their communion. All this may be true : but still there will remain the indestructible fact, that she acted out her own convictions with heart, and soul, and strength. She served the Lord, after her manner, with all the resources which the Lord had placed at her disposal. She felt, or she imagined, that she had a vocation to do certain things, and she did them with all her might. And they who do thus are, after all, the persons who leave an impress of themselves, more or less deep, on the generations that come after them. It is to no purpose to deal with characters such VOL. XXII. NO. XI.
as these by calling hard names, and crying out upon enthusiasm or fanaticism! There is a cant of conservatisın, as well as a cant of radicalism, in religion as well as in politics; but this is a voice which wastes itself in vain. It is idle to scold at the fire, or the strong wind, or the earthquake. If a force is abroad which breaks the rocks in pieces, it will not pause at the rebuke of them that clench their fists at it, and pursue it with maledictions.
A question, indeed, has arisen, and is still not unfrequently agitated, whether or not the Lord was truly in the fire, and the wind, and the earthquake. According to some, the mission of Wesley and Whitefield was clearly (if we may venture on such a phrase) a sort of by-dispensation--an auxiliary and supplemental economy-ordained, in mercy, to act in subservience to the main designs of God, and to work them out to their completion ; and this, too, by means apparently anomalous, and at seeming variance with the general tenor of the Divine purposes. In other words, the agency in question is often accounted of, as if it were an unpromised and uncovenanted interference; in default of whichthrough man's infirmity and unfaithfulness—the gracious counsels of God might be frustrated, or, at the least, most fearfully retarded. The mission of Luther, we apprehend, has been, tacitly, so estimated and so regarded; nay, has been openly so spoken of by some. A rather audacious speculation; a double-edged two-handed weapon, too heavy and too dangerous, as we conceive, to be uplifted, or safely wielded, by any mortal hand. The hypothesis must be left, we think, to them who have more than ordinary confidence in the strength and clearness of their own insight, and in the might of their own right arm. For our part we hardly dare to meddle with it.
On the other hand, there are many who look with unfeigned and almost unmitigated dismay on such phænomena; many, to whom the founders of Methodism appear to be no other than wandering stars, which " shot madly from their spheres," carrying with them little else than perplexity, and fear of ceaseless change; and the ultimate tendency of whose movements, whether they knew it or not, is towards "the blackness of darkness for ever.” Some salutary, though transient, influences, it is not denied, may have been shed by these wild luminaries in the course of their devious and eccentric trajectory; for God's overruling Providence is sleepless, and can at all times compel even the rashness and wilfulness of man to minister to the final accomplishment of His own designs. To speak plainly,—in the estimation of some, the originators of Methodism are neither more nor less than the leaders of a heresy; and heresy, even in its mildest type, is still a disease, which, though for a time it may partially divert or mitigate the malignity of other diseases, can have no natural tendency but towards fatal infirmity and decay. It is itself an unblest thing; we therefore can have no warrant for expecting that it will bring any permanent and substantial blessing with it. And, if the result should turn out, after all, to be less calamitous, than dutiful and faithful men may have been prompted to expect, the thanks will be due, not to the agency itself, but to the power and mercy by which its inherent evil is controlled.
These, it must be admitted, are grave and appalling questions ; but the time is hardly come for any conclusive and satisfactory solution of them. The men of this generation, at all events, are in no fit condition to estimate the whole net result of that paroxysmal operation which bears collectively the name of Methodism. We have yet long to wait for the judicial voice of experience, to determine these matters finally ; and it will be well for us if that should prove to be a still small voice. In the meantime, there seems to be one thing, respecting which most parties are agreed; namely, this,- that when these planetary lights broke away from their orbit, and went off into space upon a wild and lawless career, there was much at hand to account for the phænomenon. The central forces seemed to have waxed old and feeble, and to have lost something of their power to govern the movements of the system. And besides this, there were various disturbing agencies abroad, some of them of a positively repulsive nature ; so that, if confusion were the issue, it was nothing more than might be looked for by men who had any insight into the spirit of the times. And the retrospect to those times is, doubtless, in many respects, extremely painful. In spite of her experience of the preceding turbulent century, it is quite manifest that the Church was wholly unprepared for the eruption. It would seem as if the new wine of the Revolution had only smitten her with paralysis and lethargy. The trumpet of her authority rendered but a quavering and uncertain sound. The pastoral crook was held with a feeble grasp; though by some, like Warburton, it was occasionally used for a staff wherewith to beat unruly shepherds; whom, perhaps, a word of kindly admonition, or of grave and solemn protest, might have recalled to a sober estimate of their duty to the flock. But at length the Church was aroused, and this too by voices which first were heard in the depths of her own sanctuary, but which afterwards went forth, one might almost say, to the ends of the earth; often with no dutiful or filial utterance towards her, and occasionally with loud derision of her powers, or with unkind mockery of her supposed decrepitude. But, although it may be too much to say that the Church is deeply indebted to these her disobedient sons, and despisers of her discipline, it must ever remain true that she does stand indebted to God's gracious providence, for whatever incidental good may have been wrought upon her by the unbidden services of them that violated their allegiance to her rule.
We cannot, however, dismiss these volumes without remarking that considerable light has, not long since, been thrown upon the matters of which they treat, by a work which, we believe, has been widely circulated—“ The Life and Letters of Henry Venn;" a publication which tends to cast some disparagement on unauthorised and irregular religious ministrations, and moreover to render somewhat questionable the exclusive claim of Wesley and of Whitefield to the honour of the great religious revival of the eighteenth century. It appears that certain statements, or certain alleged omissions, in that work, have excited much displeasure in the honourable compiler of Lady Huntingdon's biography, and have impelled him to some severe strictures upon the authors of it. These strictures have called forth, in reply, the Letter whose title stands at the head of this notice, from one of those authors, the Rev. H. Venn, of Holloway, grandson to the Mr. Venn in question, From this Letter we learn, with some surprise, that the authors of this biography have met with no very courteous treatment from the compiler now before us. Mr. Venn shall tell his own story: