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Author of “The Christian Year,” he would never draw back from any one who honestly wished to unfold his heart with real and earnest desire for pastoral guidance.
Being himself throughout life most faithful to the Church of England, there is no doubt that he hindered many from rashly joining the Church of Rome. The writer of this little memoir will never forget the strong terms in which Mr. KEBLE expressed the pain which he felt when a dear mutual friend, who had been a bright ornament to our Church, hastily abandoned it, and submitted to the Church of Rome. Mr. KEBLE did not shrink from speaking of that act as a grievous error, though it must have deeply pained him so to speak of one whom he had long known and loved. Now we trust that these two are at rest together
There was something in the manner in which Mr. KEBLE imparted religious instruction, which impressed that instruction upon the hearts of those whom he taught. There was a simplicity, earnestness, and reality in his mode of teaching, which made impression upon even the thoughtless and the careless, almost against their own will. Words spoken by him seemed to have a living force with those to whom he spoke them, and that living force continues with many whom he prepared for Confirmation and first Communion, and not only will continue to the end of their lives, but will doubtless bear fruit in future ages, and in generations yet unborn.
He spared no pains to reclaim those who went astray, and to guide those who needed guidance. In many a dark winter's night, after he had passed the usual span of man's life, he would walk alone, with a lantern in his hand, to some distant part of the widely-scattered parish of Hursley to prepare a few of his flock for Confirmation or Communion. He would have one or two at a time for instruction, that he might teach them more impressively than he could with many together, and he would never grudge hours spent in repeating the same things over and over again to those who were dull and unapt in learning.
If friends were staying with him whose society he wished to enjoy, still he cheerfully left them that he might attend to the poor lads who came to him for instruction.
The special care which he took of his candidates for Confirmation, both during the time of preparation and on the day of Confirmation, is well worthy of notice. He always endeavoured, as far as was practicable, to have his eye upon them during their walk to church for the Confirmation (when the holy rite was administered to them at Otterbourne instead of Hursley, as was occasionally the case), also during the time in which they were in church, and as they were returning from church. Deeply did he grieve for, and firmly, but gently, did he reprove anything like want of reverence which he might notice in any of them : as if he were thinking of his own beautiful words :
“O grief for Angels to behold
Within Christ's awful home!
Forgetting love and fear,
(Lyra Innocentium, p. 113.)
Yet while he was doing all these good works (his whole soul, mind, and body being given up to his Master's cause) his humility was such, that he would speak of his own parish work almost as if it were an utter failure, and would be beyond measure glad to hear of more showy signs of pastoral activity and success elsewhere.
The writer of this memoir has often heard Mr. KEBLE deeply lamenting his own imaginary want of ability as a parish priest, and that in a spirit of the truest humility. Humility was indeed personified in him.
The following anecdote, illustrative of the simple, hearty, and affectionate humility of the Poet, has been told to the writer by a highly respectable Winchester tradesman whom it concerned.
Mr. KEBLE had been for many months away from home, during one of his winter sojourns in the west of England. On the first occasion, after his return home, of his entering the shop of the tradesman alluded to, (whom Mr. KEBLE had known for many years, and who retains lively gratitude for many acts of kindness on the part of the Poet,) having exchanged a few friendly words with his old acquaintance, he did what he had to do at his shop, and went away.
Some time afterwards he returned to the shop, and addressed the worthy tradesman in words such as these : "Oh, Mr. — I have come to you again to ask you to pardon
—“ me for my neglect; I am so sorry that I forgot to shake hands with you, as I ought to have done upon meeting you for the first time after so long an absence, pray let me do so now." These kind words, and the simple, affectionate way in which they were spoken, have made a deep and lasting
a impression upon the honest tradesman to whom they were addressed.
By such means the holy man made himself beloved by those who
were below him in social rank. In such endearing ways, he day by day practically impressed the heavenly lesson, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
One whose honoured name has already been mentioned in connexion with Mr. KEBLE, and who knew him as a close and dear friend for more than half a century, has publicly testified of him in these words: “Looking back through an intimacy unbroken, unchilled for more than fifty-five years, he seems to me now to have been at once the simplest, humblest, and most loving-hearted man, and withal the holiest and most zealous Christian, I have ever known."
Mr. KEBLE was not what the world would call an eloquent man, but whenever he had to address his parishioners he spoke to them in most telling words. Whether the occasion of his speaking were a harvest home, a tithe dinner, or a missionary meeting, there was about him the same simple earnestness of manner; although for the social gathering his mode of speaking would be combined with more of sprightliness then when he spoke on strictly religious subjects. His discourse was at all times such as seemed to demand and to gain the attention of his hearers. He would say much in few words, and in an unaffected manner.
One remarkable point in his character was the trouble that he would take for his friends, whether it were about important matters or even about things of little moment b.
When he was consulted about recreations on the Lord's day, and about the propriety of various kinds of amusements on other days, he would not absolutely and sternly set his face against such a thing, for instance, as cricket for poor lads on the Sunday, under certain conditions, nor against dancing in either the higher or lower orders; but he would point out that in all these things the main point should be to take care that the heart is fixed on God, and that amusements should not draw it off from God.
b As an instance of the former should be mentioned the two journeys which he took in winter, by second class railway carriage, to stand by his friend the Bishop of Brechin in his troubles : the latter were matters of every-day occurrence.
The following extract from Mr. KEBLE's Commonplace-book on the subject of the Christian Sabbath has already appeared in print in the “Guardian” newspaper :-“Sabbath.—Practical rule for those who do not think the fourth commandment literally binding on Christians : So far as you turn other days into Sunday, so far, and no farther, have you a right to turn Sunday into other days. Eusebius iv. 26. Melito, Bishop of Sardis (A.D. 161 and seq.), wrote a treatise tepi tas kuplakns.”—(8vo. ed. of Eusebius, p. 132.)
Mr. KEBLE's views on this subject may be gathered from a little book published by his sanction, called “Devotions for Holy Communion," (Parker, 1865,) the fifty-first page of which contains self-examination upon the fourth commandment.
For his own part, so much did he live above the world,-looking unto heaven as his home, and to God as his Father,—he was not fond of society. The formality of morning calls was distasteful to him; dinner parties interfered too much with his parish work and his studies, he seldom went to them; and he did not think it desirable for his curates to enter much into the common routine of fashionable life, even if it might have been within their reach, lest they should be drawn off from