網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

true and undefiled religion, are, at an early period, fowni, by the care which in every school is employed to instruct the teachable mind in the Assembly's Catechism. Hence the capacity to read, and acquaintance with the fundamental principles of the Christian faith, are, in the Lowlands ef. pecially, almost universal. The writer of this paper, who ipent the first thirty years of his life among the people of whom he speaks, can with confidence affirm, that, from Tweedfide to the banks of the Dee, he never met with man or woman who could not read the Bible, and but with few men who could not write. The influence of this instruction is, what might be expected, namely, that the working classes of the people, especially in the country, are, perhaps, the best informed, the most induftrious, and regular in their station, in the world. On the Lord's day you see the whole village in their best apparel, clean and whole, devoutly attending the worship of God; and employing the evenings in instructing their children, which is classed with the customary exercise of family devotion. To loiter at home on the Sabbath, to dig in their gardens, to be found in an ale. house, to meet in companies for cocking or cricket, are indecencies scarcely known in the country; disorders that would entail disgrace on the offender, and make him shunned by all his neighbours. So convinced was the late Legislature in Ireland, of the usefulness of these schools to enlighten and civilize the people ; to enable them duly to appreciate the privileges of the constitution, and form the mind to babits of lubordination to regular government; that, at the close of the rebellion, leave was readily given to bring in a bill for establishing parochial schools, all over the country, similar to those in North Britain.

It was by the early instruction afforded him in one of these little seminaries, that Mr. Bell's mind was first opened to the entrance of knowledge and the feelings of true religion. The rashness inseparable from inexperience, and the risings of a depraved heart, by which we are led astray from the womb, were in him, at an early period, cliecked by the unwearied care of a mother of singular piety and prudence. Long after her death (for both his parents died while he was voung) and, indeed, to the clole of his own life, he used to 1peak of his fingular obligations to the care and corrections of his mother. Her chattisements were deliberate and folemn; they were sometimes preceded by prayer to God, and always accompanied with grave and heart-felt expostu. lations with her ton. The bleiling of God so powerfully

attended

attended them, that, as he expressed it to a brother minifter, “ he never needed to be twice corrected for the same fault." The good man, indeed, seems to have thought, that while his young mind was thus passing under the maternal rod, God was bringing bim under the bond of the covenant: for he gave many pleasing evidences of true religion even at that time of day.

After the death of his mother, he supported himself, child only as he was, by teaching, sometimes in a private family, and sometimes in a public school. While thus employed in a farmer's house, near Hexhain, he, with the farmer and others, was carried out of the house by, and forced to join, the rioters in the noted opposition which was made in that town to the enrolling of the militia. Here he was exposed to imminent danger from the fire of the military. He found means, however, to break away from the mob, and take Thelter in a friend's house, till after several having fallen and more being wounded, the people were difperted, and be reached his home in safety.

Having attained, by much industry, the knowledge of the Latin tongue, and some acquaintance with the Creek, he entered himself a student in the University of Edinburgh, and attended the course of education customary with those who mean to devote themselves to the ministry of the Gofpel. The knowledge of the original languages in which the oracles of God were first given to men, he highly valued, and deemed it indeed almost indispensably necessary in every Chriftian .divine. By close application, accordingly, while at College, and through the whole of his subsequent life, he arrived at great proficiency in both ; but especially in the Hebrew. Its peculiar structure he well understood. Its fimplicity, energy, and majeitic boldness, he exquisitely reliihed. He wrote a very full grammar of the language for his own private use.

After due enquiry, by the Associate Presbytery of Edinburgh, into his natural capacity, his classical attainments, and the testimonials of personal religion, brought from the church of which he was a member, he was admitted to the ftudy of divinity, under the care of the Rev. John Brown, of Haddington. There, for the space of five years, he bent his unwearied attention to the mystery of godliness, and stored his mind with large measures of theological truth. At the close of this period he underwent, according to the laudable regulations of the Scottish Church, a second exam mination into his views of divine truth, his apiness to teach,

- and

OF THE REV. MR. BELL. and the power of religion on his own heart; and was licensed to preach the Gospel, and give to the churches evidence of the gifts and fitness to be called to the pastoral office. Few young men, on their first appearance, ever discovered greater diffidence; but the hearers, whose penetrating minds go beneath the surface, foon discerned in him a treature of good sense and intimate acquaintance with the Gospel. Many hearers of this capacity were found in the infant and rising congregation at Wooler. The people there united accordingly, a thort time after his licence, in harmoniously and affectionately calling him, through the medium of the Presbytery, to be their minifter. The congre. gation was small, and the stipend which they engaged to give, very moderate. But the people thirsted for the water of life; their love to him was great, for his work's fake ; they were of an humble and teachable spirit; the retired situation suited his love of study; the plainness of their manners accorded with the guileless simplicity of his own heart; and as he fought not great things for himself, he cordially acquiesced in the invitation, and had growing reasons every year to be well satisfied with his choice.

His sermons were truly evangelical. Christ crucified, the.. foundation of the finner's hope ; Christ on the throne, the lawgiver of the redeemed; Christ by his word and Spirit in the heart, the believer's life; Christ in glory, the elevating objeéts of the saint's expectation and desire—these, and the fubjects connected with them, in the plan of redemption, were his loved and chosen themes. His manner of preaching was impressive and interesting ; for he firmly believed the truth and felt the importance of the sentiments he pub. lished ; and their close connexion with a life of piety and probity here, and with that high state of action and enjoyment to which, by the Gospel, we are called. But artlefs fimplicity was what chiefly diftinguished him. In fimplicity and godly fincerity, 10t with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, he had his conversation. He spoke the word of God in found speech that could not be condemned. Of fin- cerity, as of God, in the fight of God, fpake he in Chrift. His hearers often could not see the preacher for his sermon. He was the peacemaker of the village-tlie candour and liberality of his mind were exemplary. He loved the diligent and faithful ministers of Christ, to whatever division in the great family of the visible church they belonged. He lived in habits of social and useful friendship with all his neighbours, the Roman Catholics not excepted. When a

number

nd godly he had his Chat could no God, Ipake for his se

igent appHis library at his preachingers, after

number of refugees, of that denomination, came, fome few years ago, to reside in Wooler, he solemnly charged his people, from the pulpit, to behave to them with civility and kindness, and to abstain from every thing that might be construed to harshness and severity. This generous conduct was the more honourable to him, as he was in danger of greatly displeasing the people by it ; so strong for a while was the popular odium against the new comers. But he put his peace and reputation in his hand, or rather left them with God; and calmly followed the notices which his mind, enlightened and mellowed by the spirit of Christianity, gave him of his duty. As the natural effect of such candour he enjoyed the favour and friendship of the discerning and the good, equally in the Establishment and among Dilsenters.

By diligent application, he ftored his mind with much use. ful knowledge. His library, at his death, consisted of 720 well chofen volumes. But in his preaching there was no oftentatious display of his erudition. Strangers, after hearing him, would go away, saying, “ That man knows nothing but Chrift, and him crucified.”

Knowing the advantages of a well cultivated mind, he was greatly concerned to promote general, and especially reli-, gious knowledge, among his people. He entered fully into the views of the humane Dr. Charters, who, in his excellent sermon before the Society for propagating Christian knowledge in Scotland, speaking of the various methods of giving alms, says, “ A little money inay be usefully laid out on well chosen books for lending to the poor. The poor have leisure hours ; they can read, and some of them love reading ; but they cannot purchase books, and may fall on improper ones. By being properly supplied they escape the temptation to idleness, and vain thoughts, and foolish talking; their minds are improved, and their conversation furnished. A minister of religion might in this way follow out the ministry of advice, and reproof, and comfort. Parith libra. ries would be an useful institution. Reading forms the mind. The influence of books at the Reformation was mighty, and is at all times great. In the dawn of knowledge, it was an object with Leighton and others, to furnishi the clergy with books. By private and circulating libraries the middle ranks are now furnished. By a parish library, knowledge would defcend. Under a minister's direction poisonous books would be excluded and good ones chosen, suited to the young, the thoughtless, the busy, the sick, the mourner, the melancholy, the aged. An appetite for conVOL. IX.

troversy

troversy will subside when better food is provided. The ex+ pence of such a plan, if properly explained and recommend.. ed, would perhaps be furnished in some parishes by heritors, or well disposed individuals. Religious ladies who minister kindly and liberally to the bodily wants and diseases of the poor, would minifter with equal kindness and liberality to the wants and diseases of their souls. Ministers and others might thence be excited to write practical treatises fuited to the times. The Puritans who excel in this kind of writing, new modelled antiquated books, and adapted religious instruction to their own day. Since they wrote a century has elapsed. Knowledge is increased. Language and taste, and manners, and circumstances, both private and national, have, undergone a change. By adapting religious instruction, in sermons and books, to actual circumstances, mankind are prepared for the reign of Christ.” Following up these solid and liberal thoughts, Mr. Bell formed a public library at Wooler, of well chofen books, the growing good effects of which he lived to see, and was niuch gratified with. In his will he has left a certain proportion of his own books to this library.

When the proposal of forining the Missionary Society for sending the Gospel to the Heathen, was published, he entered into it with all his heart. He was twice cholen in the Direction, and employed his counsels, prayers and contributions, in promoting its pious and interesting object. About the same time he published in this Magazine an ingenious essay " on the Downfal of Antichrift,"'* a subject for which his mind was well fitted, having for many years made the prophecics both of the Old and New Testament his particular study.

The tenderness of his conscience was exquisite. When a young man, he laad once, through a snare laid for him, been overcome by trong drink. This lav fo heavy on his mind, that years afierwards he mourned over it with tears, to a Chistian liiend, under a sense of the dishonour therehy done to God, and apprehension of its becoming a ftumbling block in the way of others.

As he had lived lo he died; manifesting the same childlike fimplicity ; having a good hope through grace ; calmly and placidly acquiefcing in the divine will, with no appearance of being in the le: it thaken in mind. He had, indeed, been long prepared for the change, and knew too well the grace and power of Him in whom he believed, to be much * Magazine for February and March, 1796.

moved.

« 上一頁繼續 »