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frugal clergy have maintained themselves and pretty numerous families very decently: of late, indeed, the great resort of strangers has made provisions of all sorts as dear again as formerly."
When we consider all the benevolent acts of this warmhearted man, he seems to have looked upon the whole population of the island as his family, and to have sought out every opportunity of doing them good. George Herbert, whose well-known book, entitled The Country Parson, he always loved and recommended, in describing the parson's charity presents a true picture of bishop Wilson. "All his works relish of charity. When he riseth in the morning, he bethinketh himself what good deeds he can do that day, and presently doeth them, counting that day lost in which he hath not exercised his charity. He first considers his own parish," [with the bishop it was his diocese] "and takes care that there be not a beggar or idle person in his parish, but that all be in a competent way of getting their living."
Yet, with all this, the Isle of Man 'contained not within its borders a more humble mind than his. The language in which he speaks of the charities of his uncle, Dr. Sherlock, expresses what he thought of the good which was done by his own hand. "If he gave alms to the poor, and denied himself many satisfactions which he could easily have purchased, he did not, however, pretend to merit by these exercises of piety any more than a steward pretends to merit by being faithful, or a sick man by being orderly."
And, in an account-book, in which he entered the sums employed from time to time for pious uses, these words were found written; "A very small page will serve for the number of our good works, when vast volumes will not contain our evil deeds."
HIS OLD AGE, AND LATTER DAYS.
Adieu most worthy prelate, now released
From mortal toils! Thou whom indulgent Heav'n
Lent us so long, (if long in life can be,)
Who well, attentive, faithfully hast watch'd
Thy little sea-girt see, contented there
Still to remain, devoted to thy charge.
Thy care the naked fed, the hungry clothed,
Reliev'd the friendless orphan in his want,
And caus'd the widow's heart to sing for joy.
The ear which heard thee bless'd thee, and the eye
That saw thee sparkled with all grateful beams.
Each day, each hour, still properly employ'd,
Shone with the merit of thy pious deeds.
Thy task's discharg'd, mature for heav'n, thou 'rt gone,
Ancient thyself, to the Ancient of all days;
There in a moment, glorious meed, thy staff
Episcopal, and rochet, are exchanged
For dazzling robes and a triumphal palm!
Lines on the Death of Bishop Wilson, hy Dr. Cooper of Chester.
The name of bishop Wilson is so little connected with other names or incidents of note, that we have not seen any necessity for adhering to the order of time in this little narrative; and we rather thought that to take a distinct sketch of his character in different points of view would convey a more correct idea of what he really was, and secure to him that affection and reverence, to obtain which he only requires to be known. But our memoir, few as its details have been, is now drawing to its close, and we purpose to gather up the fragments which remain relative to that period of his life when he might fairly be termed an old man; and these we shall arrange in the order of their occurrence.
Here then we have to contemplate the aged christian bishop, still proceeding in his wonted course of usefulness, and not retiring from the duties of a minister of Christ while health and life were spared to him.
In the year 1735, at the age of seventy-two, he made his last visit to England, and, while in London, he did not omit the opportunity of being presented to king George the Second, and his consort, queen Caroline. He came into the drawing-room in his usual simple dress, having a small black cap on the top of his head, with his hair flowing and silvery, and his shoes fastened with leathern thongs instead of buckles. His appearance excited some surprise, and, joined with his well-known piety and virtues, awakened feelings of the deepest veneration. It is related, that as soon as he entered the presence-chamber, the king, stepping out of the circle of his courtiers, and advancing towards the bishop, took him by the hand and said—« My lord, I beg your prayers."
Nor was the queen less impressed with reverence for his character; she wished to keep him in England, and with that view offered him translation. One day when she was conversing with him, she turned round to her levee and said—"See here, my lords, is a bishop who does not come for translation?" "No, and please your majesty," was his remark, " I will not in my old age leave my wife because she is poor!"
Nothing could have been more distressing to bishop Wilson than to observe the growing corruption of manners and principles in that " little quiet nation," as he once could term it. He found it poor, indeed, and unlettered,
but then it was free from the crimes with which the annals of most countries are stained; and anxiously did he use his best endeavours, by active personal exertions, by stimulating his clergy, by fervent prayer, and by precautionary measures, to preserve it from contamination. But as we have seen, notwithstanding all these exertions, wickedness and impiety established themselves in the soil, and gained continual strength; this he lamented in private and public, and he urged those in authority, as well as the spiritual guides of the people, to stem the torrent of evil which threatened to overwhelm the island. By this disappointment of the hopes he once entertained of building up Zion there as an honour and a praise in the earth, he was reminded that his reward as well as his rest were not to be looked for in this world.
During his absence in London, three unhappy persons had been tried for the crimes of burglary and robbery; and on his return he found them lying under sentence of death. How must he have mourned over the change since the time when the door of Bishop's-court needed no other fastening, by day or night, than a latch, and that merely to keep out the wind, and not from fear of any ruder aggressor.
On this occasion he addressed a circular letter to the clergy of the island, desiring them to pray for the criminals, and to warn their congregations of the wages of sin in this world and the next. And from the pulpit he himself addressed an impressive exhortation to the people, in which, in his own plain and touching manner, he spoke to them as to children, of the danger and the wickedness of such crimes as those which were then about to pay the penalty of death.
At a later period, in the year 1746, he pursued the same course, on the mournful occasion of the condemnation of a murderer. He wrote a circular letter to his "very dear brethren," in which he expressed a hope that none of them would omit that seasonable occasion of" speaking from the pulpit, and other ways," in such a manner as to awaken most lively impressions of the heinousness of that crime, and the great danger of advancing in wickedness from the smallest beginnings to the greatest enormities. "If people," he said, " will take themselves from under God's protection by leaving off to pray daily to God; if they fall into a careless and idle way of living, run into loose and wicked company, hear profane people make a mock at sin; — if they fall into a habit of profaning the Lord's day by idleness, sinful diversions, or neglecting the public worship of God; — these things will certainly grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by which alone we can be kept from the ways of sin and damnation.
"We have here, therefore, a good occasion of admonishing young people, whether men or women, to take care of the beginnings of sin. Nobody is exceeding wicked all at once; the devil is too cunning to startle men with temptations to great and frightful crimes at first; but if he can tempt them to leave off their prayers, to take God's name in vain, to drink, to swear, to hear filthy discourse, and to speak of the vices of others with pleasure, he will soon tempt them to crimes of a damning nature."
In 1739 he was engaged in extricating his poor clergy from some difficulties in which they were involved by the death of the earl of Derby. The lordship of the Isle of Man then passed into the hands of the duke of Athol, and certain papers relating to the ecclesiastical revenues were missing, by which a considerable portion of the small incomes of the clergy was endangered. And on