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DR THOMAS FULLER.
THOMAS FULLER was the son of a clergyman, and he was born in the parish of Aldwinckle, Northamptonshire, in 1608. He was educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, where he took his Master's degree in the twentieth year of his age, and where he was for a short time incumbent of St Benet's. Soon afterwards he obtained the living of Broad Windsor, in Dorsetshire, but for his adherence to the royal cause he was sequestered, during the civil wars, by the Parliamentary Commissioners, and, like too many of his brethren, experienced a variety of hardships, including the scholar's most bitter bereavement, the loss of his library. But his kindly and inoffensive spirit, the reputation of his wit and learning, and his substantial orthodoxy, found for him a measure of favour even in the days of Cromwell. He was allowed to preach, and in 1658 was presented by Lord Berkeley to the rectory of Cranford, in Middlesex. Immediately after the restoration of Charles II., he was reinstated in a prebend which he had formerly held at Salisbury, and was appointed chaplain-extraordinary to the king. But he did not long enjoy his better fortune. On Sunday the 12th of August 1661, being in London, he had engaged to preach a marriage sermon for a relative, whose wedding was to take place on the following day. Complaining of a dizziness in his head, his son urged him to forbear from preaching and go to bed. But he replied, that he had often gone into the pulpit sick, but had always come down well again, and insisted on fulfilling his promise. In the pulpit, however, he became more conscious of his danger, and before commencing said, “I find myself very ill, but I am resolved, by the grace of God, to
preach this sermon to you here, though it should be my last." With great difficulty he got through, and was carried home in a sedan to his lodging in Covent Garden, where he expired on the following Thursday, the 16th of August.
Some remarkable feats of memory are ascribed to Fuller. For instance, it is said that he could recite, verbatim, another man's sermon after hearing it once, and that he could do the same with as many as five hundred words in an unknown language, after hearing them twice. One day he undertook to walk from Temple Bar to the farthest end of Cheapside, and to repeat, on his return, every sign on either side of the way, in the order of their occurrence, -a feat which he easily accomplished. But, as his earliest biographer relates, “ That which was most strange and very rare in him, was his way of writing, which, something like the Chineses, was from the top of the page to the bottom—the manner thus :-He would write near the margin the first word of every line, down to the foot of the paper; then would, by beginning at the hcad again, fill up every one of these lines, which, without any interlineations or spaces, but with the full and equal length, would so adjust the sense and matter, and so aptly connect and conjoin the ends and beginnings of the said lines, that he could not do it better, as he hath said, if he had writ all out in a continuation.”* That he may occasionally have exhibited this feat for the amusement of his friends is very likely, and as an instance of literary legerdemain it is abundantly curious ; but that he can have pursued a method so whimsical as his ordinary “way of writing," is utterly inconceivable.
But much rarer and more remarkable than his memory was his inexhaustible fund of wit and humour. In this respect, he has no rival amongst our Christian classics. Samuel Shaw and Bishop Horne were humorists; but, in the “Farewell to Life,"
* The Life of that Reverend Divine and Learned Historian, Dr Thomas Fuller, London, 1661. Page 77.
no one could suspect writer of comedies, nor in the “Commentary on the Psalms,” the author of "A Letter to Adam Smith, Esq., by one of the people called Christians." Even Sidney Smith was seldom jocular in the pulpit, and, although South often jested, he was often and for a long continuance grave. But Fuller overflowed with fun, and no presence, nor any circumstances, could restrain his mirthful propensity. Even the tenderness of his heart, and the genuineness of his piety, could not quench it, but he would be drolling at a funeral, and punning in his prayers, and, with the tear in his eye, the jeux d'esprit kept leaping from his tongue. No doubt, this tendency to see every thing through a ludicrous medium was an infirmity, and with less facetiousness he might have done more service as a Christian moralist; for his theology was essentially sound, his heart was right, and, amongst all his coevals, few maintained a spirit so fair and a temper so calm. It is only justice to add, that his wit was as inoffensive as it appears to have been irrepressible. Like the lamp of the fire-fly, it gleamed the instant his mind was in motion, but, like that beautiful light, it never was known to kindle a conflagration.
With their frank and familiar style, their curious fancies, their amusing incidents, and their odd way of narrating graver matters, Fuller's larger works are the most readable folios of the seventeenth century; viz., “The Holy War," "The Holy and Profane State," "A Pisgah Sight of Palestine," "A Church History of Britain," and "The History of the Worthies of England.” Of our brief extracts, the first four are from “A Comment on Ruth," and the remainder from "Good Thoughts in Bad Times, and Mixt Contemplations in Better Times.”
The Book of Ruth.[Fuller's was a long-winded generation, but his eminently practical mind was impatient of barren disquisition, and his sententious writings may be regarded as a quiet protest against prolixity. In commencing a course of lectures on Ruth, it would have been natural enough to dedicate a discourse to the usual preliminary topics ; but of all these our author disposes in the following business-like introduction.] Before we enter into these words, something must be premised concerning the name, matter, end, author of this book. It hath the name from Ruth, the most remarkable person in it, to whom God vouchsafed His grace, not only to write her name in the Book of Life in Heaven, but also to prefix her name before a book of life in earth.
The matter may be divided into these two parts: The first chapter sheweth, that “many are the troubles of the righteous," and the three last do shew that “God delivereth them out of all.” One of the ends is to shew the pedigree of our Saviour, otherwise genealogers had been at a loss for four or five descents in the deducing thereof; another end is, under the conversion of Ruth the Moabitess, to typify the calling of the Gentiles, that as He took of the blood of a Gentile into His body, so He should shed the blood out of His body for the Gentiles, that there might be one Shepherd and one sheepfold. The author's name (probably Samuel) is concealed, neither is it needful it should be known; for, even as a man that hath a piece of gold that he knows to be weight, and sees it stamped with the king's image, careth not to know the name of that man who minted or coined it; so we, seeing this book to have the superscription of Cæsar, the stamp of the Holy Spirit, need not to be curious to know who was the penman thereof. And now to the words.
Man's Way.-In prosperity, we are commonly like hogs feeding on the mast, not minding his hand that shaketh it down; in adversity, like dogs biting the stone, not marking the hand that threw it.
Good Company in the Grave.--"And there will I be buried."
As it is good to enjoy the company of the godly while they are living, so it is not amiss, if it will stand with conveniency, to be buried with them after death. The old prophet's bones escaped a burning by being buried with the other prophets ; and the man who was tumbled into the grave of Elisha was revived by the virtue of his bones, And we read in “The Acts and Monuments," that the body of Peter Martyr's wife was buried in a dunghill, but afterwards, being taken up in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was honourably buried in Oxford, in the grave of one Frideswic, a Popish she saint: to this end, that if Popery (which God forbid) should over-spread our kingdom again, and if the Papists should go about to untomb Peter Martyr's wife's bones, they should be puzzled to distinguish betwixt this woman's body and the relics of their saint.
Purgatory.—No wonder if the Papists fight for purgatory. 'Tis said of Sicily and Egypt, that they were anciently the barns and granaries of the city of Rome; but, now-a-days, purgatory is the barn of the Romish court-yea, the kitchen, hall, parlour, larder, cellar, chamber, every room of Rome. When Adonijah sued for Abishag the Shunammite, Solomon said to his mother, “Ask for him the kingdom also.” But if once the Protestants could wring from the Papists their purgatory—nay, then would they say, Ask the triple crown, crosskeys, St Angelo, Peter's patrimony, and all. In a word, were purgatory taken away, the Pope himself would be in purgatory, as not knowing which way to maintain his expensiveness.
A Child's Fancy.—When a child, I loved to look on the pictures in the Book of Martyrs. I thought that there the martyrs at the stake seemed like the three children in the fiery furnace; ever since I had known them there, not one hair more of their head was burnt, nor any smell of the fire singeing of their clothes. This made me think martyrdom was nothing. But oh, though the lion be painted fiercer than he is, the fire