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UNTIL Merle D'Aubigné shewed how possible it is to fill it with a living interest, the dreariest department of literature was Church History. The annals of Baronius, the Madgeburg Centuriators, the long and laborious compilations of Tillemont, Fleury, and Du Pin, of Venema and Spanheim, as well as the compendiums of Jablonski and Mosheim, must often be consulted by the student in quest of information; but to a reader in search of fine thoughts or picturesque characters, of great principles ably developed, or affecting incidents suitably described, they will prove an absolute Sahara—a mere land of emptiness. Our own country is in this respect not worse off than its neighbours; for, if nothing can be more dull than the tedious pages of Strype and the one-sided pages of Collier, there is much amusement in Fuller, and to the unadorned martyrology of Foxe we are riveted by the painful fascination of its affecting narrative. And, in our own time, the labours of M‘Crie, Marsden, and Vaughan, awaken the hope of histories which will be Christian rather than Ecclesiastical, and from the perusal of which we may come away without feeling as adust and arid as if we had spent a day in Doctors' Commons.
It is by a sort of anachronism—inevitable in a book like this—that we here introduce the honest and heartily Protestant Bishop of Salisbury; for the greater part of his “ History of the Reformation” was published in the century preceding. But perhaps we shall entitle ourselves to the use of his name in this connexion, by quoting from his “Life and Times,"
which, of course, was published after his death, and which is certainly one of the most entertaining books of the period.
Burnet was born at Edinburgh, September 18, 1643. He died, March 17, 1715. Besides his histories, he wrote excellent biographies of Sir Matthew Hale, of Bishop Bedell, and of the Earl of Rochester, and an exposition of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which, in common with his “Pastoral Care,” still retain an honourable rank in theological literature,
Character and Death of Archbishop Leighton.
I writ so earnestly to Leighton, that he came to London [1684.] Upon his coming to me [in London), I was amazed to see him, at above seventy, look still so fresh and well, that age seemed as if it were to stand still with him. His hair was still black, and all his motions were lively. He had the same quickness of thought, and strength of memory, but, above all, the same heat and life of devotion, that I had ever seen in him. When I took notice to him upon my first seeing him how well he looked, he told me he was very near his end for all that, and his work and journey both were now almost done. This at that time made no great impression on me. He was the next day taken with an oppression, and, as it seemed, with a cold and with stitches, which was indeed a pleurisy.
The next day Leighton sunk so, that both speech and sense went away of a sudden. And he continued panting about twelve hours, and then died without pangs or convulsions. I was by him all the while. Thus I lost him who had been for so many years the chief guide of my whole life. He had lived ten years in Sussex, in great privacy, dividing his time wholly between study and retirement, and the doing of good; for, in the parish where he lived, and in the parishes round about, he was always employed in preaching, and in reading prayers.
He distributed all he had in charities, choosing rather to have it go through other people's hands than his own; for I was his almoner in London. He had gathered a well-chosen library of curious as well as useful books, which he left to the diocese of Dumblane for the use of the clergy there, that country being ill provided with books. He lamented oft to me the stupidity that he observed among the commons of England, who seemed to be much more insensible in the matters of religion than the commons of Scotland were. tained still a peculiar inclination to Scotland; and if he had seen any prospect of doing good there, he would have gone and lived and died among them. In the short time that the affairs of Scotland were in the Duke of Monmouth's hands, that duke had been possessed with such an opinion of him, that he moved the king to write to him, to go and at least live in Scotland, if he would not engage in a bishopric there. But that fell with that duke's credit. He was in his last years turned to a greater severity against Popery than I had imagined a man of his temper and of his largeness in point of opinion was capable of. He spoke of the corruptions, of the secular spirit, and of the cruelty that appeared in that Church, with an extraordinary concern; and lamented the shameful advances that we seemed to be making towards Popery. He did this with a tenderness and an edge that I did not expect from so recluse and mortified a man. He looked on the state the Church of England was in with very melancholy reflections, and was very uneasy at an expression then much used, that it was the best constituted Church in the world. He thought it was truly so with relation to the doctrine, the worship, and the main part of our government; but as to the administration, both with relation to the ecclesiastical courts and the pastoral care, he looked on it as one of the most corrupt he had ever seen. He thought we looked like a fair carcase of a
THE DEATH OF LEIGHTON.
body without a spirit, without that zeal, that strictness of life, and that laboriousness in the clergy, that became us.
There were two remarkable circumstances in his death. He used often to say, that if he were to choose a place to die in, it should be an inn; it looking like a pilgrim's going home, to whom this world was all as an inn, and who was weary of the noise and confusion in it. He added, that the officious tenderness and care of friends was an entanglement to a dying man; and that the unconcerned attendance of those that could be procured in such a place would give less disturbance. And he obtained what he desired, for he died at the Bell Inn in Warwick Lane. Another circumstance was, that while he was bishop in Scotland, he took what his tenants were pleased to pay him : so that there was a great arrear due, which was raised slowly by one whom he left in trust with his affairs there. And the last payment that he could expect from thence was returned
to him about six weeks before his death. So that his provision and journey failed both at once.
[In an earlier portion of his work, Burnet gives the following account of the saintliest name in the annals of Scottish Episcopacy] :
He had great quickness of parts, a lively apprehension, with a charming vivacity of thought and expression. He had the greatest command of the purest Latin that ever I knew in any man.
He was a master both of Greek and Hebrew, and of the whole compass of theological learning, chiefly in the study of the Scriptures. But that which excelled all the rest was, he was possessed with the highest and noblest sense of divine things that I ever saw in any man.
He had no regard to his person, unless it was to mortify it by a constant low diet, that was like a perpetual fast. He had a contempt both of wealth and reputation. He seemed to have the lowest thoughts of himself possible, and to desire that all other per
sons should think as meanly of him as he did himself. He bore all sorts of ill-usage and reproach like a man that took pleasure in it. He had so subdued the natural heat of his temper, that in a great variety of accidents, and in a course of twenty-two years' intimate conversation with him, I never observed the least sign of passion but upon one single occasion. He brought himself into so composed a gravity, that I never saw him laugh, and but seldom smile. And he kept himself in such a constant recollection, that I do not remember that ever I heard him say one idle word. There was a visible tendency in all he said to raise his own mind, and those he conversed with, to serious reflections. He seemed to be in a perpetual meditation. And though the whole course of his life was strict and ascetical, yet he had nothing of the sourness of temper that generally possesses men of that sort. He was the freest from superstition, of censuring others, or of imposing his own methods on them, possible; so that he did not so much as recommend them to others. He said there was a diversity of tempers, and every man was to watch over his own, and to turn it in the best manner he could. His thoughts were lively, oft out of the way, and surprising, yet just and genuine. And he had laid together in his memory the greatest treasure of the best and wisest of all the ancient sayings of the heathens as well as Christians, that I have ever known any man master of; and he used them in the aptest manner possible. He had been bred up with the greatest aversion imaginable to the whole frame of the Church of England. From Scotland, his father sent him to travel. He spent some years in France, and spoke that language like one born there. He came afterwards and settled in Scotland, and had Presbyterian ordination; but he quickly broke through the prejudices of his education. His preaching had a sublimity both of thought and expression in it. The grace and gravity of his pronuncia