Page images
[ocr errors]

enter into any subject proposed, with the warmest and liveliest interest.

Mr. BUCKMINSTER possessed all the characteristic features of a mind of the highest order. It was not marked by any of those eccentricities, which sometimes distinguish and disgrace men of brilliant genius; and which, I suppose, are usually to be ascribed, either to the deficiency, or the undue predominance of some one of the mental powers. His mind was a perfectly well balanced one.

There was a soberness, a rationality, a practicableness in all his views, which proved; that judgment—in a degree very rarely found united with such splendid gifts of fancy-presided over his other faculties and regulated their use. The most shining attribute of his mind was, undoubtedly, philosophic imagination. It was this, which gave him such unrivalled powers of delineation and illustration, and enabled him to impart novelty and lustre to every thing he touched. His conception of any subject, which engaged his mind, was strong and original ; and he could hold it in view, till it spread before him in all its parts, and unfolded all its connexions. When he was preparing to communicate bis thoughts, a thousand associated ideas sprang up and gathered round the subject; and imagination stood ready to furnish him with innumerable delightful resemblances, which would often carry with them the force of arguments from analogy, as well as shed light and beauty on his conceptions. Yet he did not abuse this exuberant faculty by too prodigal a display of it. The sermons of this volume—while they will prove, that I have not said too much of the richness and fertility of this power-will show, also, the taste and judgment with which he always controlled its exercise.

In his intellectual habits I do not remember to have remarked any singularity. He was a real student.

a He had

He posses

that first requisite of all true and durable greatness, the habit of patient and long continued attention. sed the genuine Quotrovace, the love of labour for itself. He could delight in the dryest and most minute researches, as well as in the lofty and ethereal visions of fancy. Like the majority of men of learning, he loved to read more than to think, and to think more than to write. He composed with rapidity, but with intellectual toil ; and his best efforts were not made without a high degree of mental excitement.

His acquisitions were, for his years, preeminently great. Besides the studies peculiar to theology, his reading was very extensive in metaphysics, morals, biography, and particularly literary history ; and whatever he had once read, his memory

made forever his own. If I were required to state, in one word, in what branch of knowledge his excellence was most conspicuous, I should say it was, philology—understanding by this word, the knowledge of language as an instrument of thought, in all its propriety and force, as well as all its shades and varieties of meaning, in its general theory, as well as in its modifications in different countries; and finally in all its grace and beauty, as it is fitted to invest truth in its richest and most attractive dress.

But it was the light, which philology pours on the records of our faith and hope, which gave it its chief value to the mind of Mr. BUCKMINSTER. It was the study of the scriptures in their original languages, which most powerfully seized and occupied his attention, and engaged him in a course of inquiries, which he never thought himself at liberty long to desert. His attainments in this department of knowledge would not have been thought lightly of, when compared with those of European critics. He was always of opinion, that the principles of christianity, in their original purity and simplicity, were to be preserved, where they are already held, and recalled, where they are lost or obscured, only by the study of the Bible, according to the maxims of a sound, and cautious, and enlightened criticism. One of his strongest passions was, the desire to diffuse a love of biblical studies; and the impulse among us, which has been lately given to inquiries on these subjects, is, in no slight degree, to be attributed to his exertions and example.

It cannot but be interesting to know, in what views of religion the inquiries of a mind so active, so candid, so enlightened, and so pious as that of Mr. BUCKMINSTER resulted. It will be apparent from the following sermons, that the foundation of all his opinions was laid in the belief, that the great design of the gospel is, to produce a moral influence on the human character—to raise it from the degradation and ruin of sin, and fit it for the pure and intellectual happiness of heaven. From this simple principle—so obvious, so undeniable, and yet so often forgotten-all his views of christianity took their character. It necessarily follows from it, that all the doctrines and views of the gospel-as far, at least, as they regard man--are to be considered in the light of motives and means; of no intrinsic value, except as they are auxiliary to this great end. Christian faith, therefore, derives none of its efficacy from the number merely, much less the mysticism and obscurity of the articles we believe. Its genuineness and its worth are to be determined by the energy and permanence of our practical persuasion of those truths, which supply the strongest and most affecting motives and encouragements to repentance and a holy life, These, in the view of Mr. BUCKMINSTER, were, the paternal character of God-his constant presence and overruling Providence-the connexion of his favour always and only with moral goodness—the pardon of sin to the penitent through Jesus Christ, his mission to enlighten and redeem mankind--the confirmation of our immortality by his resur:

rection from the dead—the impartation of all needed spiritual aids to assist our sincere exertions--the just and impartial retributions of eternity to all the human race, according to their deeds. These, surely, are views, which, every christian will acknowledge, enter largely into the grounds and support of his faith, and hope, and charity. They are, beyond all question, those, on which the writers on vital religion-who are most universally acknowledged to have caught the true spirit of the gospel-chiefly insist. And who will say, that any man, whose understanding acknowledges, and whose heart is imbued with these truths, will want any essential characteristick of a true disciple of his Saviour ?

It was the great object of the ministerial labours of Mr. Buckminister to produce, under the influence of these views, the practical religion of the heart and life, as it is explained in the teaching and illustrated in the example of our Savi

How near this purpose was to his heart, is very strikingly displayed in the closing passage of his sermon on the mutual influence of knowledge, piety and charity. . “It is the constant object of my wishes and prayers, and may it be the effect of my preaching, under the blessing of God, to contribute to the formation of that noblest of characters, the christian, whose love, as the apostle describes it, abounds more and more in knowledge and in all judgment, who approves the things which are excellent, and who remains sincere and without offence, till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” These are the words, with which he closed his earthly labours in the desk of instruction.* His people bear him witness now-and, I


* This sermon was delivered before the society for promoting christian“ knowl"edge, piety and charity," and afterwards altered and adapted to his own people, and preached on the d's day before he was seized with his last illness.

[ocr errors][merged small]

trust, will hereafter bear him witness before the throne of
God—that all his preaching justified this declaration, and
all his life harmonized with this prayer.

It is impossible, that a man, who entertained such views
of the nature of religion, should be exclusive or intolerant.
Mr. Buckminster was eminently charitable towards those,
who differed from him on speculative points. He felt,
with all wide observers of human character, that great
errours of the understanding, on almost every subject, are
consistent with uprightness of heart. How, indeed, can
any one fail to acknowledge, that this may be so in religion,
who remembers, that even the disciples of our Lord were
confessedly full of prejudice and misapprehension before
their Master's death ? Mr. Buckminster could extend
his affection towards good men of every sect and com-
munion. He could acknowledge in a Fenelon, with all his
zeal for transubstantiation and Papal infallibility, one of the
purest and most lovely exemplifications of the christian
character, which the world has seen, since the days of St.
Jobn. He did not, however, conceive, that any part of his
or any other man's goodness consisted in, or was necessa-
rily connected with his errours. He was, therefore, a
steady opposer of what he believed to be the corruptions
of christianity—not only because the gospel is rendered
incredible by them to so many intelligent men--but because
they lessen, in the minds of many good persons, that joy
and peace in believing, which the religion of Christ is fitted
and intended to impart.

Of what Mr. Buckminister was, and of what he did, these sermons are now to be the only permanent memorial. If the effect, which some of them produce, when read, might be anticipated from their effect, when delivered, it will not often be surpassed. The remark of Quinctilian, however, on the eloquence of Hortensius, is, in some degree, true of the compositions of every fine speaker. There is a

[ocr errors][ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »