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IN HIS CLOSET.
O! happy hours of heavenward thought!
How richly crown'd! how well improved!
In waiting for the Lord he loved!
True religion, while it leads us to reverence the outward observances of christianity, and teaches us to reverence them as appointed sources of edification, persuades us also of the necessity of the more secret exercises of devotion, and thereby kindles the light which shines in the world. And so bishop Wilson felt; he looked upon communion with God and his own heart in his chamber, as indispensable means, under God's blessing, of sanctifying the soul which desires to be happy in heaven, and of forming an approved and successful minister of Jesus Christ. He repeated with much satisfaction the saying attributed by Dr. Lightfoot to some learned man, that "he got more knowledge by his prayers than by all his studies;" and has recorded it as his own opinion, that "a man may have the skill to give christian truths a turn agreeable to the hearers, without affecting their hearts. Human learning will enable him to do this. It is prayer only that can enable him so to speak as to convert the heart."
It is no small privilege to be admitted into the closet of such a person, and to be present at the devotional exercises of one whose life bears evidence that he continually resorted to this fountain for refreshment. Every purpose of his heart, every event which occurred, brought him to the throne of grace. His writings, many of them as we believe never intended, and certainly not written, for the public eye, show that on all occasions, whether he received blessings or endured afflictions, he hastened to communion with his God, as a child to his affectionate parent. When the bounty of God was enlarged to him, he seemed overwhelmed with a sense of his unworthiness of such favours, and the guilt he should incur by ungrateful conduct; when sorrow came, he confessed that mercy was in the chastening of the Lord, he looked back to discover the purposes of the Almighty in correcting him, and then set himself to press forward more sedulously in his preparation for that world where there is no sorrow. Like the Psalmist, he could say, "Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee I My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever I"
In his private meditations he studiously turned spiritual things to some practical account, always making such personal application of Scripture as might conduce most to his growth in grace, and taking it as a lamp to his feet and a light to his paths, in his daily walk through life.
His well-known and heavenly book of private meditations, devotions, and prayers, entitled Sacra Privata, is divided into fourteen daily portions, and presents to us, in great part, the subjects of his thoughts and petitions during that portion of each day of his life, in which he "entered into his closet and shut to the door," and conversed with his Father who "seeth in secret." And none can follow his footsteps into that retirement, and muse upon the holy things upon which he employed his own heart and mind, without being in some degree warmed with a kindred fervour, and feeling the truth of his remark that "frequent prayer, as it is an exercise of holy thoughts, is a most natural remedy against the power of sin." It is a holy and beautiful book, and often has it soothed the anguish of a spirit tried by bodily suffering, often has it aided and enlivened the devotions of the dying christian, and caused him to forget for a while the sorrows of this present life. The good bishop, though dead, still speaketh; his voice is still heard in accents of counsel and of comfort; he humbles the readers to the dust with a sense of sin, makes them feel their need of a Saviour, and gladdens them with the tidings that God has amply provided for that need; he leads them on from strength to strength, renewing their humble confidence in Christ, and giving fresh fervour to their prayers for such a measure of God's grace as may prepare them, before they go hence, for the glorious company of the redeemed, by changing them into the image of Christ. It becomes those who have seen its fruits thus to tell its praises.
It is frequently the business of a biographer to gather, from various and distant quarters, the remarks and fragments of the conversations of the wise and good. In the little book of which we are now speaking, the golden sayings of bishop Wilson are written with his own hand; and perhaps, after all, those pages contain his best biography, since, in placing him before us as a christian man and christian minister, they do but repeat those very remarks and opinions which one of his clergy declared that he had often heard from his own lips, in the ordinary intercourse of life.*
* The writer of these pages cannot help expressing his regret that the Sacra Privata should now be usually printed without the obser
The following heads of self-examination may give us some idea of his occupation in his secret chamber. They are suggested by the words in the Acts (vi. 4), We will give ourselves over continually to prayer, to the ministry of the word.
"Have I done so this day? Have I been mindful of the duties of my proper calling? Do I make it the great concern of my life to promote the eternal interests of my flock? Have I read the Holy Scriptures, in order to instruct my people and to preserve them from error? Do I call upon God for the true understanding of the Holy Scriptures? Do I deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, so as to be an example unto others? Have I endeavoured to keep up the discipline of this Church by correcting the criminous? Have I an eye to such as are in Holy Orders, and to such as are designed for the ministry? Have I been charitable and kind to poor and needy people? Do I make the Gospel the rule of my private life, and Jesus Christ my pattern? Do L endeavour after holiness? Do I live as in God's presence? Is my conversation unblameable? Do I give the praise of this to God through Jesus Christ?"
The honesty and strictness with which he prosecuted these enquiries and searched out his spirit, are manifest from the subjoined memorandum made so early as the year 1699, which gives a correct idea of the frequent
vations upon the clerical character. He ventures to think that good would result from their wider circulation amongst the ministers of Christ themselves, and that no harm can possibly arise from the people being led to expect quite as much from their spiritual instructors as is there set down. We have indeed the treasure in earthen vessels, but then our bishop has encouraged no expectations of any thing else; and what he represented to be the duty of others he scrupulously exacted of himself.
employment of his solitary hours: " Upon a serious review of my time past, I find that I have been too negligent of the duties of my calling; I do therefore resolve solemnly, (being heartily sorry for what is past,) that for the time to come I will rectify (by the grace of God) my ways in these following instances:—
"1st. More diligently follow my studies. 2ndly. Immediately regulate my devotions, and attend them constantly. 3rdly. Preach more constantly than I have done. 4thly. Compose prayers for the poor families in order to have them printed. 5thly. Endeavour with all my might to draw my heart from the things of the world.
"And that I may not forget these purposes, I resolve that this memorandum shall remain as a record against me, until I have thoroughly amended in these particulars. The God of Heaven give me grace to set about the work immediately, and give me strength to finish it! Amen, Amen."
Many publications were the fruits of his hours of retirement; some of these are mentioned incidentally in other parts of this memoir, the rest are as follows :—
1. A History of the Isle of Man.
2. A Life of his uncle, Dr. Sherlock.
3. The Principles and Duties of Christianity, published in Manks and English, in 1699 ; and afterwards printed in an altered form in 1740, and entitled The Knowledge and Practice of Christianity made easy to the meanest capacities; or an Essay towards an Instruction for ike Indians; which will likewise be of use to all such who are called Christians, but have not well considered the Meaning of the Religion they profess; or who profess to know God, but in works deny him. In twenty dialogues. Of this work he says, in a letter to his son, "I have the poorest opinion of my own abilities, and I can approve of little that I have done on