Слике страница

Leighton's nephew; and its genuineness being ascertained, no question can arise about its authenticity. The composition of it is confused and disorderly: for the worthy writer has put down the memorable actions and sayings of his revered uncle, as they occurred to his memory; interspersing many pious and affectionate remarks, which are creditable to his disposition indeed, but prejudicial to the distinctness of his narration. It has been one principal business of the present biographer, to extract the jewels from this heap; and to arrange them in the order, that chronology seemed to prescribe, or that served best to reflect light on the Archbishop's character. One of the surest proofs of the genuineness of this document arises from copies of four letters subjoined to it, bearing Leighton's signature.

Besides drawing largely from this mine, into which no shaft had previously been sunk, I have endeavoured, by ransacking a variety of records for incidental notices of the subject, to enrich this memoir with new particulars, and to rectify former inaccuracies concerning facts and dates. To this end, the manuscripts in the Advocates' Library, and the Town Register of Edinburgh, have been carefully inspected; and nothing, I believe, has been over

looked, that would have contributed to our object, among the various papers in the College Library at Glasgow. Moreover, the “Memoranda of Dr. Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dumblain, by Bishop Kennet,” which are included in the Lansdown manuscripts, have been collated with the chapter in Wodrow's History which treats of the attempted Accommodation, and proves to be a transcript from the former, with a few inconsiderable additions. For some of these researches I have been indebted to Mr. Fleming, the Librarian of Glasgow College; and for some to Dr. M'Crie of Edinburgh, than whom, the public will unanimously allow, an abler auxiliary could not be desired in biographical investigations. The Rev. Mr. Grierson, also, the respectable minister of Dunblane, has been at pains, which I regret to add have proved unavailing, to detect any relics of the venerable saint, which had not yet mouldered away, nor been discovered and enshrined by any antecedent historian. Upon the whole, however, the success of our researches has gone beyond our anticipations; and scattered fragments have been recovered, which are found, when put together, of value sufficient to overpay the labour it has cost to gather them up. If not enough to fill up the chasms, by which the circumstances already known of the holy Prelate's life are widely severed, they yet shorten those blank intervals; they furnish links for connecting many incidents of his public career; and the glimpses we catch of him, though still lamentably “ few and far between," are no longer so few and so widely apart, as to exhibit him, in his successive re-appearances, like a friend returning to us after an absence so protracted, that we with difficulty recognise his features.

In the biographical relation, now presented to the world, the public conduct of Leighton is discussed in such detail, as may possibly be deemed an invasion of the province of history. But I felt it incumbent on me to treat this part of my subject with an almost historical minuteness; because, after balancing friendly against hostile representations, I became fully satisfied that those deeds of his life, which are sometimes thought to tarnish his fair fame, are the very deeds, which will be found, if truly represented, to set the seal on his reputation for purity of purpose and for religious devotedness. In delineating Leighton's personal character, it has been my stedfast aim, to avoid the insnaring fault of drawing a beautiful portrait, and naming it after the subject of the memoir, instead of copying with scrupulous exactness his real form and features. Accordingly, I have endeavoured, as far as was practicable, to let my readers see him act and hear him talk; and in executing this purpose, I have found the letter before adverted to incalculably useful. In many instances the words reported for the Archbishop's are transcribed : and where only his sentiment is given, conscientious, and I trust successful, pains have have been taken, to exhibit it pure and incorrupt.

, After attempting a general account of his merits as a writer, and of the characteristics of his mind and style, I thought it unadvisable to go to any length in reviewing his several works. To enumerate their excellencies would have been endless; and candour did not seem to require their blemishes to be pointed out, except in a solitary instance, inasmuch as those blemishes are few and unimportant; surprisingly few and unimportant, when it is considered how wide a range of science and learning his writings comprehend, and that none of them had been designed for publication.

It is greatly to be deplored, that some of his productions, which came into the hands of his earlier editors, are since irrecoverably lost. ticularly to his discourses on that masterly summary of christian doctrine and practice, composed for the

I allude par

Ephesians by St. Paul, on which the powers of Leighton's congenial mind could not fail of being happily exerted. In an advertisement prefixed to the first edition of the 2nd vol. of his Commentary on Peter, published in London in 1694, Dr. Fall says, that these discourses are in his possession, and he holds out a prospect of their being hereafter printed: and Mr. Wilson, in his preface to the edi. tion of 1748, speaks of trying to recover them. Mention is also made by Dr. Doddridge, in his preface to Wilson's edition, of a large collection of the Archbishop's letters, communicated by Dr. Lathain of Derby, and by the Rev. Mr. William Arthur of Newcastle, which were meant to be inserted in a future and more extended life. But the hopes thus raised have melted away, as the foam upon the water. Enough, however, remains of this extraordinary man, to establish his title to an illustrious place, as well in the goodly fellowship of divines as in the glorious company of saints. The hours, which the compiler of this memoir has spent, in contemplating its subject, have not he is sure been misemployed, as relates to his own improvement: nor will they have been wasted in respect to public utility, if body, colour, and distinctness have been added to the portrait of a christian, whose ideas of

« ПретходнаНастави »