Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

dence on their bounty. A large part of this capital he is supposed to bave devoted to the exigencies of the Sierra Leone enterprise. At length, in 1787, the death of his worthy friend, Mrs. Oglethorpe, put him unexpectedly into possession of independence and affluence by the bequest of the manor of Fairsted in Essex. This bequest was accompanied with the recommendation, that Mr. Sharp should in his life time settle its appropriation to charitable uses after bis death; but unexpected difficulties arising out of the law of Mortmain, defeated several of the plans lie adopted with the view of fulfilling the intention of the testatrix, and it does not appear how the reversion was finally determined.

In May 1787, the ever memorable association of twelve individuals was formed, which afterwards assumed the designation of The Committee for effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Granville Sharp was, as the father of the cause in England, constituted perpetual chairman; and this part of bis life becomes henceforth identified with the proceedings of that illustrious body, of which Mr. Clarkson has presented us so ample a detail. The formation of a similar society in Paris under the auspices of the Marquis de la Fayette, Condorcet, and the Duke de la Rochefoucauld, led to communications between Mr. Sharp and some of the most virtuous members of the National Assembly. Mr. Hoare states, that he held a continued correspondence with Bris• sot, La Fayette, and Roland on the most important concerns,

expressing his opinions with his usual sincerity and benevolence,

and taking a deep interest in their success. We pass over the well known transactions which preceded the triumph of the Abolition cause. The following anecdote of the subject of our memoir, is, however, too characteristic to be omitted. When the title of the Society was under discussion, of the ten persons present, Granville stood up singly for including the abolition of sluvery in its designation.

“ As slavery,” he asserted, “ was as much a crime against the Divine laws as the Slave Trade, it became the Committee to exert themselves equally against the continuance of both; and he did not hesitate to pronounce all present guilty before God, for shutting those who were then slaves all the world over, out of the pale of their approaching labours.” He delivered this his protest against their proceedings in the energetic manner usual to him when roused on the subject,—with a loud voice, a powerful emphasis, and both hands lifted up towards Heaven. I'inding, however, that he could not produce any alteration in the views of the Committee, he shewed no further disposition to differ from it. Unable to effect the whole of his wishes, (which he relinquished with regret, and but for a while,) he felt satisfied that he had* delivered his testimony against the proceedings which circumscribed them, and from that hour proved himself thoroughly desirous to aid, to his utmost ability, the part which he

found could be undertaken with greater and more general consent. So strongly again, in this instance, was marked bis distinctive character ; extensive in his ideas, enthusiastic in his conceptions, vehemeot in his efforts ; temperale, prudent, earnest in his performances.'

A memorandum' with no date, but which should seem to have been drawn up about the year 1797, adverts to this difference of sentiment, if such it can be called, between bimself and the Society. He there speaks of his having carefully main• tained the principles and orders of that Society,' in every transaction in which he had been concerned as a member of it, ever since its formation, and declares limself to have always strictly

limited' bis official endeavours to the single declared object of ' the institution ;' but he goes on to declare his fixed detestation of sluvery itself in whatever form it is favoured ;' asserts, ' that no authority on earth can ever render such enormous ini. quities legal,' and that the Divine retribution will inevitably

pursue every government or legislature that shall even tolerate

such abominable injustice. I should,' he adds, forfeit all ' title to true loyalty as an Englishman, did I not continue the same fixed detestation of slavery wbich I have publicly avowed

for about thirty years past.' On being chosen Chairman of the Committee, he told the members that it would be impossible for him to undertake any additional trouble : they replied, that they would only desire the (se of his name and signature, and would undertake to write all the letters, if he would sign them ; a duty wbich he regularly discharged, but he never could be prevailed upon to take the chair at the meetings, though, when in town, he regularly attended them, always seating himself at the end of the room.

His strong aversion to occupy that place of distinction, gave way to the strong solicitation of his friends at the first general meeting for the formation of the British and Foreign Bible Society. Perhaps,' says Mr. Owen, it would not have been ' possible to find throughout the British dominions, a man in

whom the qualities requisite for the first Chairman of the Bri'tish and Foreign Bible Society were so completely united as

they were in this venerable philanthropist.' He presided again at the second general meeting on the 2nd of May 1804, when the constitution of the society was finally determined, and Lord Teignmouth elected president. A letter from the President in the first Report, acknowledges a present from Mr. Sharp to the society, consisting of a valuable collection of Bibles, Testaments, and Psalters in different languages.

On the formation of the African Institution, in April 1807, Grapville Sharp, then at the age of seventy-three, was chosen one of the Directors; and he is stated to have assisted regularly at every meeting, even to the last but one previous to his decease.

In the year 1813, the last year of his life, he accepted the call to the chair at the first meeting of the “ Protestant Union ;'' and be continued to attend all the meetings, displaying, says bis Biographer, "an unabated vigour of mind :' he inspected and revised all the Reports and other publications of the Society, besides corresponding with several eminent persons on the subject of the pending Bill. His exertions on this occasion, indeed, are supposed to have accelerated the period of his labours. Perhaps this was not quite the cause in which the last efforts of the venerable advocate of liberty could with the most perfect consistency and appropriateness have been spent; and yet it is evident, that, true to his great principles, it was the essential intolerance of the Papal system that excited him to take part in the defence, as he considered it to be, of the Protestant religion.

After the last meeting of the Protestant Union in 1813, his efforts were few and feeble ; his recollection began visibly to fail, and the symptoms of approaching dissolution exhibited theinselves in a rapid decay of both bis bodily strength and his intellectual energies. He seemed at first less aware than his friends of the change that was taking place, and he persisted in a strict attendance on the public meetings of the Bible Society and the African Institution, where he was always received with a respect bordering on veneration. Since the death of his brother William, he had resided principally with his widow at Fulbam. On the day preceding his death, he breakfasted as usual with the family, although bis weakness was much increased. On the 6th of July, 1813, he fell into a tranquil slumber about four o'clock in the afternoon, in which, withiont a struggle or a sigli, he breathed his last. His remains were deposited in the family vault at Fulham, the funeral being attended by a deputation of two vicepresidents and three directors, from the African Institution, besides other friends and the surviving relatives. The monument erected to his memory in Poet's corner, is by Chantrey: it exbibits in the centre, a medallion of Mr. Sharp; on one side, in low relief, a lion and a lamb lying down together ; on the other, an African in the act of supplication.

It only remains to notice a few characteristic traits which give the finish of amiableness to the moral portrait. There have been men who were philanthropists abroad, and tyrants or churls at home; Mr. Sharp's benevolence was connected with real kindness of heart. A sure proof of this was given in bis fondness for the company of young persons; and it is not unimportant to add, in his humanity to the brute creation.

In his house,' says Mr. Hoare, 'no part of his character was more remarkable than the even cheerfulness of his temper, and the

facility with which he at times consented to dismiss every thought · connected with business or study, in order to join in the amusements

of all ages, even of children. How eagerly did the little females of his brother's families watch the opening of his study door, as the signal of their mirth and play !'........ In fact, nothing in creation escaped his notice, his admiration, or his benevolence. But he more particularly applied the lesson which was the result of his observations on other animals, to a scrutiny of the human bosom. He perceived in the conduct of men toward the creatures destined to their use, an unsuspected test of moral character, by which he might safely ascertain the worth of every man's heart, and the grounds of his action towards his own species.'

The strength of his fraternal affection has already been adverted to, as well as bis disinterested liberality. He is stated never to have refused or neglected an application for his charitable aid ; and, in the latter part of his life, when age had impaired the power of discriminating the proper objects of bounty, without blunting his sensibilities towards the real or fictitious woes of his fellow creatures, he actually became a prey to the • entreaties, importunities, and sometimes almost menaces,' of hundreds, who besieged the door of his chambers in the Temple, or followed him, even during his last illness, to Fulham,' plead

ing resistless poverty as a species of right to every thing that • he possessed.

His piety in all respects answered to the Apostolic definition of pure and undefiled religion : it was the mainspring of all bis actions. He was constant in bis attendance upon Divine worship on the Sunday, conscientiously abstaining from travelling and all secular business. He was in the practice of fasting frequently, though few persons were aware of the strictness with which he observed it; for nothing could be further from his character than any thing ostentatious or obtrusive. Ilis religious sentiments on some minor points, were slightly tinged with the amiable enthusiasm of his character. In interpreting all passing events with a reference to Scripture prophecy, he sometimes wrote and published under impressions for which it is not easy satisfactorily to account. The near approach of the Millennium was a favourite idea with him ; and be cherished to the last the bope that bis protracted life would allow him to witness, with the feelings of Simeon, the dawn of that bright era. He once went so far as to declare his opinion of its probable commencement in the ensuing spring. “Mr. Hoare, in mentioning this anecdote, adds, that on Mr. Sharp's being asked if he did not speak of these ' things doubtingly,' he replied, Not at all, but as a positive • truth;' and that a Baptist minister present then exclaimed, • What would we give, Mr. Sbarp, for such a faith as yours ! The retailing of expressions used in private conversation, is not always judicious in itself, or just to the parties concerned But there can be no question that the strength of Mr. Sharp's faith in

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

reference to the events which he believed to be the matters of prophecy, proceeded from his habitual and implicit deference to the dictates of Revelation, joined to his steady contemplation of the revealed purposes of God. And it deserves remark, that in what might be termed the optical delusion which led to his imagining the latter days to be so near at hand, he fell into no worse mistake than the primitive Christians, who expected to be the living spectators of the coming of the Lord. The principle, then, in which Mr. Sharp's firmness of persuasion originated, was as honourable to his Christian character, as its influence on his own mind was consolatory. He was orthodox in the best and purest sense, inclining, however, it appears from some of his writings, to the Arminian philosophy. His belief in Divine and Satanic inspiration, to adopt his own terms, as principles of human action, was carried, some persons will be of opinion, to a great extent: he believed that all men are by Nature con

tinually liable to receive the inspiration of the Devil and his

angels as a principle of action, if they neglect the necessary • resistance commanded in the Scriptures ;' and that God has

lodged the power of permitting or resisting them, entirely in

the human breast.' In his “ Tract on the Law of Nature and “ Principles of Action in Man,” from which we have taken these expressions, he enters at large into the question of the Demoniacs in the Gospel, conformably to this view of human nature; and he goes on to argue, that Man took

upon

bimself the • knowledge of good and evil, contrary to the express com

mands of God; and therefore we have no right to murmur ' at the permission which God has granted to "the Devil and his " "angels,” to take possession of all unguarded souls which ' unbappily yield to their suggestions and temptations, without ' resistance or repentance.' And more especially,' he adds,

we have no right to murmur at this permission, if we consider • that God has given us fair warning of our continual danger and • warfare with the Principalities and Powers of darkness, as the • Holy Scriptures plainly inform us, that we are continually - liable to Satanical influence; and that the Devil will get an

advantage over us, if we do not resist him as we ought! In " this necessary resistance, and the objects of it, consist the

principal exercise of tbat assumed knowledge of Good and • Evil for which we are accountable ; viz. we know Evil from

Good, and consequently know when we ought to resist; but • if we do not resist, then we have chosen the Evil, and (in

whatsoever mode the Evil is manifest) have given advantage to the Devil, and submit ourselves to his bondage. The choice,

therefore, which is set before us amounts to this, Whether o we will choose the “ kingdom of God and his Righteousness, • and cheerfully assent (as the dignity of human nature re

« НазадПродовжити »