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then Christians, the lives of piety and
While the Third Edition of this work is passing through the press, the excellent person so often mentioned in it, and who attended the death-bed of Mr. Stevens, and administered the consolations of religious devotion to him at that awful hour, as far as a layman could administer them*, himself departed this life on the 30th of June, 1823, in the 79th year of his age, full of piety and good works. In contemplating the lives of these two very exemplary Christians, it is impossible not to trace in them the most exactly similar conduct-the same pursuits, the same course of studies, the same deep and unfeigned devotion and piety towards God, without the least tincture of fanaticism or enthusiasm, the same indefatigable zeal and labour, willingly, generally, and voluntarily undertaken, and cheerfully performed, in the service of their friends, and the same unbounded liberality and extensive chạrity, on the purest Christian motives, towards their fellow creatures in general. • Bred to the profession of the law, but disliking its practice and the exercise of it, Mr. Bowdler early quitted London, as the place of his residence, and retired to a small distance from the metropolis. But not to a life of sloth and inactivity; for no man was more actively alive to the promotion of every pious and charitable work, which could adyance the interests of the Church of England, the
* See ante, p. 126.
erated by Christ in that dethree weelity flower her
Episcopal Church of Scotland, or which could be. nefit either the souls or bodies of mankind.
To the Scottish Episcopal Church, and to her poor, but pure members, his liberality flowed in copious streams; and only three weeks before his death, his regard for that depressed portion of the Church of Christ was shewn in a beautiful paper, dictated by himself, in which he earnestly recommends her cause to those who can assist her by their bounty; and to those also who, having neither silver or gold to bestow, could still, by their influence, af. ford her their countenance and support.
His earnest and unwearied zeal for the Church of England was proved by his constant attendance upon her ministrations twice every Sunday, frequently at weekly prayers, never missing the Holy Sacrament; by his zeal in support of the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge; that for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts; and the National Society for the Education of the Poor, in the Principles of the Established Church. . .
But that object which had engaged his anxious and unwearied diligence for many years, which lay near his heart, and which, thank God, he lived to see accomplished, is that which I am about to mention. He was of opinion that the increase of sectarism was to be attributed greatly to the want of accommodation in our churches, both for rich and poor, but particularly for the latter; and he, and many of his friends, were satisfied that the attachment of the great body of the people of England to the Church was so great, that nothing but necessity drove them from it, into those places erected speedily, and at small cost, by the Dissenters.
Many meetings were accordingly held by Mr. Bowdier and his friends on this important subject; but when once a glimmering of light appeared, I need hardly say with what indefatigable industry
his pious soul pursued it, till he saw the Society formed for the Building and Enlargement of Churches and Chapels, to which he constantly devoted his time and money, till he lived to hear, that additional accommodation was already provided by its exertions, for above 80,000 persons, of whom above 60,000 were to be those indigent people who could not afford to pay any thing for their accommodation; and till he lived also to see one million of money granted by parliament for the same glorious purpose; and Churches erecting (many of which are already finished) not only in the metropolis, but all over the kingdom, in those places where necessity most required the assistance granted.
Of the estimation in which Mr. Bowdler was held for his important merits in this great concern, an opinion may be formed from the following document passed at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Building and Enlarging Churches and Chapels, on the 22d May, 1823, the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury in the chair, surrounded by a number of Prelates, and distinguished individuals, both of the. Clergy and Laity: “Resolved unanimously, that we deeply deplore the absence, in consequence of severe illness, of John Bowdler, Esq. one of our original and most valuable Members, whose constant attendance upon the Meetings of the Society, while health enabled him, evidenced the high sense he entertained of its great importance, in the promotion of the best interests of true Religion.” This resolution was ordered to be communicated to Mr. Bowdler, and his Grace the Lord Archbishop was requested to enclose it in a letter from himself; a request, with which his Grace most cheerfully complied.
In these last efforts of Mr. Bowdler, in the promotion of the religious welfare of his countrymen, Mr. Stevens could take no part; for none of them
existed in his time, otherwise we know how greedily he would have adopted and supported by his money and labour, any cause so likely (as I trust all these will) to promote the interests of his blessed Master on earth. But in every other work and labour of love, Mr. Stevens and Mr. Bowdler ever went hand in hand, provoking one another to Christian love and good works. .
Time and space will not allow me to enumerate the twentieth part of the Christian labours, and pious deeds, in which this lately departed, and faithful steward of the manifold gifts of God was engaged. But I hope this pleasing task will be soon performed by one well qualified to discharge it. To write the life of Mr. Bowdler without eulogy is impossible; nor is it fitting that it should; for the life of a good man is public property; they are doubtless sent by God into the world, as Mr. Steven's and Mr. Bowdler have been, as burning and shining lights, by the lustre of their bright example, both in devotion and charity, to turn many to righteousness, to strengthen the virtuous by their conduct, and to bring back the feet of the wanderer into the way of peace. We are all sent into the world, if we conduct ourselves in it as we ought, to let our light shine before men, not for our own glory, nor to puff ourselves with vanity, or a fond conceit of ourselves, but that mankind may, by the influence of our example, and by seeing our good works, be led to glorify our Father who is in heaven. Besides, I am one of those who think with Felltham, in the beautiful quotation from him, in the title page of this little work, that “he, who derires that the table of his life may be fair, will be careful to propose to himself the best examples; and will never be content till he equals or excels them."
The writer of these lines, who pays this small tribute to departed excellence, passed one hour in the
chamber of this dear friend, six weeks before his death, when, though nature was quite exhausted, the mind was as free, and all his kindly affections for the Church, his friends and the poor, as perfect as ever. An hour, more melancholy, in looking at all that was earthly in it, but more delightful in beholding all the ruling passion strong in death, I never expect to behold again. It is gone; but the fragrance and remembrance of it is sweet. Mr. Bowdler expressed great anxiety to explain to me, which he did as fully as his bodily strength would permit, all that he had contemplated respecting those objects of bounty nearest his heart : he recounted the great mercies of God towards him, in his fortune and family: his entire acquiescence and resignation to the will of God; his freedom from pain, though in a few days to depart; his perfect possession of his faculties, and the peace of mind with which it now pleased God to bless him. And he added, with much feeling and pathos, both in matter and manner, that though the change he was soon to undergo was awful, and one which he had once contemplated with horror, he blessed God that those horrors were considerably abated, and that he began to feel what it is reported the great and good Sir William Forbes said in his last moments, 156 that from his experience the bed of death had no terrors: that, in the hour when it was most wanted, there was mercy from the Most High, and that some change took place, which fitted the soul to meet its God."
I own, during the whole of my stay in this interesting chamber, which was the last time I was ever to see my friend, with whom I had been intimate for thirty years, many parts of that beautiful passage of Young, were frequently recalled to my mind, as most forcibly describing the situation and character of my dear and much valued Mr. Bowdler,