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sickness come upon me; that I may not for the time to come do anything which may be an occasion of sad affliction to me at the hour of death. But in the hour of death and in the day of judgment let this be my support and comfort, that I have repented of all the errors of my life, and that I have brought forth fruits meet for repentance. Grant this, for Jesus Christ his sake, O gracious God. Amen.
Thomas, the only remaining child of bishop Wilson, who lived to a good old age, and survived his father, was born in 1703. He received his early education from his father, was afterwards sent to a school in Yorkshire, and entered college as a commoner of Christ-Church, Oxford, in the year 1721. His father's reputation disposed many persons of distinction to look kindly upon him. In 1738, he was presented by the lord chancellor to the living of St. Stephen, Walbrook, and was afterwards made chaplain and sub-almoner to king George the second, and prebendary of Westminster. A tablet in the chancel of St. Stephen's church records that he died on the 15th of April 1784, aged 80 years.
Bishop Wilson wrote a letter to his son, on his promotion to the stall in Westminster Abbey, from which the following is an extract.
"I am both surprised and pleased with
the unexpected favours conferred upon you, both by the king and the bishop of Salisbury. I hope in God you will answer the great ends of his providence in raising you such friends, and in putting into your hands suchunlooked-for talents, in order to improve them to his glory and your own salvation. For my own part, I have ever received such favours with fear, lest I should be tempted to dishonour God by his own gifts; and it shall be my daily prayer for you, that you may never do so. This was the case of the wisest and greatest of men, whose history and fall was part of this day's service of the church. [1 Kings, x, xi.]
"Enclosed you have a letter to his majesty. Perhaps you may not approve of the style his, instead of your majesty, but I know it to be more becoming, and will be better accepted by a foreigner, and therefore it shall so pass.
"I have also written to the bishop of Salisbury, to whom my most grateful service and thanks [are due]. According to my notion of writing to his majesty, I ought not to have subscribed my name; but I have done it lest you should have thought otherwise."
The letter to the king, here referred to, is as follows;—
"May it please the king's most sacred majesty! to receive the most grateful acknowledgments of the antient bishop of Man, for his majesty's great condescension, and late royal favour, to the son of a bishop, whose obscure diocese and remote situation might justly have forbade him all expectations of so high a nature from a royal hand. May both the father and the son ever act worthy of so distinguished a favour! And may the King of kings bless his majesty with all the graces and virtues which are necessary for his high station, and for his eternal happiness, — enable his majesty to overcome all the difficulties he shall meet with abroad,*—and bring him back to his kingdoms here in peace and safety, and finally to an everlasting kingdom hereafter,—which has been and shall be the sincere and constant prayer of his majesty's most grateful, dutiful, and faithful subject and servant, Tho. Sodor And Man."
"Isle of Man, May 3, 1743."
* The king was then at Hanover.
In proceeding to repeat the few particulars which have been transmitted to us, relative to the even tenour of bishop Wilson's daily life, we cannot but express our regret that the simple manners and devotional habits witnessed in his household are so seldom seen in our own days. Before the family entered upon the various occupations of the day, that is at six o'clock every summer morning, and at seven in the winter, the whole household including the workmen and domestic servants, assembled in the chapel, and prayer was offered up by himself, or by one of the students who were residing with him preparatory to holy orders. In the evening they met again for supplication and thanksgiving.
The bishop was deeply impressed with the necessity and usefulness of family worship. "Have you set up an altar in your house ?" was a question which he was wont to put to those who were just beginning to keep house. And publicly he took opportunities of recommending family religion as a wholesome preservative against degeneracy and profligacy; asking, "How should we expect that all sorts of vices should not abound in families where God is not owned nor his graces asked for?" And he declared his belief, that if those who could not read would but assemble their children and servants and offer up the Lord's Prayer, " it would plant the fear of God in their hearts; and they would be afraid of doing many things which they commit without any concern."
The day then passed in works of piety and usefulness, till the hour of dinner arrived, at which time he was as remarkable for exercising hospitality towards his clergy and others, as he was at all times for his liberality towards indigent persons. His table was abundantly but plainly furnished; it might be described in the very words of George Herbert: — " His fare is plain and common, but wholesome: what he hath is little, but very good; it consisteth most of mutton, beef, and veal; if he adds anything for a great day, or a stranger, his garden or orchard supplies it, or his barn and farm-yard: he goes no further for any entertainment, lest he go into the world, esteeming it absurd that he should exceed, who teacheth others temperance. But those which his home produceth he refuseth not, as coming cheap and easy, and arising from the improvement of things which otherwise would be lost. Wherein he admires and imitates the wonderful providence and thrift of the great Householder of the world." These were precisely the sentiments of bishop Wilson, and it is very likely that he was led to these views by this very passage, in a book which he admired and valued. He himself describes hospitality as not consisting "in making great entertainments, but in providing a sober and suitable refreshment for such as are in want, and for such as come to visit us."
Many persons of note, whom his fame had reached, desired to enjoy his conversation, amongst whom Dr. Pococke, after his return from his travels, went to see the aged bishop of Man in the year 1750, and sent him his works richly bound, to announce his arrival. The bishop received him with a graceful welcome, but told him that "he ought not to approach the poor bishop of Man with a present, as if he were an eastern prince."
His temper was composed and calm, and he was never excited to violent or unguarded language. In conversation he was remarkably cheerful and entertaining. He lived in a perpetual sunshine of happy spirits. He found, as Herbert says, "that pleasantness of disposition is a key to do good; not only because all men shun the company of perpetual severity, but also for that when they are in company, instructions seasoned with pleasantness both enter sooner and root deeper." Country Parson.
Mr. Moore, one of the clergymen of the island, who knew him well, describes him as being " of admirable simplicity of manners; of a most engaging behaviour, affability, and sweetness of temper. In his private conversation he was agreeable and entertaining; lively and facetious without levity; and always consistent with the dignity of his character; never at a loss for something pertinent and proper to embellish and illustrate his discourse; on these occasions nothing ever proceeded from his mouth but what was good to the use of edifying, and ministered not only grace but also pleasure and delight to the hearers." Mr. Corlet, another of his clergy, writes,* that he recognizes in the devotional works of bishop Wilson the frequent remarks of his daily conversation. "Often, and often again, did I recollect, as I read, that I had heard from his own lips the very sentiments then before me, and the heavenly smile wherewith he delivered them. But perhaps I tire you; better judges than I have said, and will yet say, more to the purpose, but not one, unless yourself, from a warmer heart, recollecting the blessed man as I saw and heard him!"
* Letter to the Rev. P. Moore, dated April 18, 1781, twenty-six years after the bishop's death.