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mestest piedere held
thought, of talents, or by the exercise of what virtues, such height of excellence was attained.
One view, therefore, which the Author has in submitting this sketch of the life of Mr. Stevens to the world is to prove, and particularly to the young, how much every man has it in his power, even under very discouraging circumstances, by diligence, fidelity, and attention, to adyance himself, not only in worldly prosperity, but in learning and wisdom, in purity of life, and in moral and religious knowledge. He wishes also to convince mankind, by the lustre of the bright example here held out to them, that a life of the strictest piety and devotion to God, and of the warmest and most extensive benevolence to our fellow men, is strictly compatible with the utmost cheerfulness of disposition, with all rational pleasures, and with all the gaiety, which young persons naturally feel, but of whom many are deterred from the pursuits of piety and goodness, because they have been falsely taught that a life of virtue is not consistent with cheerfulness, and that the pursuits of religion are gloomy and enthusiastic. It is said by a learned writer, “ that a good God, and a good conscience, and the consciousness of being at peace with both, furnish a perpetual feast, and that it well becomes a wise man to be merry at it*." In no man was this truth more fully exemplified than in the subject of the following Memoir, whose uniform and habitual cheerfulness, whose lively but inoffensive wit, made the young and the gay delight in his society to the last week of his life; because his whole life and conversation proved that in him true and undefiled religion, undebased by superstition on the one hand, or fanaticism on the other, had had her perfect work.
From the perusal of this Memoir also, it will be
. * Bennet's Sacred Oratory,
learnt that this just, this excellent man, was so fåt from being puffed up with his own merits, or feeling any of those inward experiences or assurances, to which some enthusiasts pretend, that the whole tenor of his life will fully establish this truth, how humbly at all times he walked with his God: and that, although he had the fullest reliance upon the merits of his Saviour, still the fate of the unprofitable servant begot the strongest apprehensions, even in his rightly constituted mind. Whatever enthusiasts may boast, or fanatics dare to express, the great and good Dr. Horne, Bishop of Norwich, is a more sure and safe guide for us to follow upon this subject, a subject most interesting to all mankind : “the indolent man,” says that great prelate, “who is without apprehensions as to the close of life, has never yet considered the subject, as he ought. For one person, who fears death too much, there are a thousand who do not fear it enough, nor have thought in earnest about it.” That the Bishop's excellent cousin, Mr. Stevens, did think of it in the manner in which Dr. Horne conceives every true Christian ought, is apparent from a letter now lying before me, written by him to a lady, who had been his constant correspondent above thirty years, about five weeks before his death. “ As for your having been overwhelmed with the fears of death, it could not be on your own account, but for the sake of others. The love of life is natural, and I hope the fear of death not sinful: for if it is, I am in a woeful condition, I am haunted with it night and day, and though I have no comfort now in life, the approach of death appals me. I experience daily the kindness and attention of friends, and have to lament, which I unceasingly do, how unworthy I am of them.” .
- None but the enthusiast, who glories in selfrighteousness, will condemn these feelings; for every Christian knows, that to ensure to himself the blessings of Heaven, his repentance ought to be sincere, his faith stedfast, and his charity fervent; and he knows and feels, that till the last moment of life, while clogged with human infirmity, the exercise of these virtues requires constant exertion on the part of man, continual supplies of assistance from above. .
WILLIAM STEVENS was born in the parish of St. Saviour's, Southwark, on the second day of March, in the year 1732. His father was a tradesman, residing in that parish, and certainly much inferior in station to the mother of Mr. Stevens, who was the sister of the Rev. Samuel Horne, Rector of Otham, near Maidstone, in the county of Kent, and aunt of the amiable, pious, and exemplary Dr. George Horne, afterwards Lord Bishop of Norwich. The father of Mr. Stevens died when he and a sister, the only issue of the marriage, were infants: and the loss of a father, which, generally speaking, is the greatest earthly misfortune that can happen to a child, probably laid the foundation of that intimacy between the two cousins, Dr. Horne, and Mr. Stevens, which led to the most beneficial consequences in their future lives. For after the death of her husband, Mrs. Stevens removed with her children to Maidstone, in order to be near her brother's family. Nearly of the same age, Mr. Stevens not being quite a year and a half younger than his cousin, George Horne, they passed their early years at the same school, at Maidstone, under the Rev. Deodatus Bye, a gentleman reported to have been of good principles, and well learned in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, and there formed that strong attachment, which probably arose from a congeniality of temper and disposition, which ever. afterwards distinguished them, and which led to the same studies, though the walk of life, in which these eminent persons moved, was so extremely
different. In Mr. Jones's Life of Bishop Horne, it is related of Mr. Stevens, though his name be not mentioned, that Mr. Bye had said, that William Stevens never did any thing which he wished him not to have done. When the lad was told of this, he honestly observed upon it, that he had done many things which his master never heard of. This is a proof at once of the early report of Mr. Stevens's good character, and from him who was competent to make it; and of his integrity and archness, qualities which never forsook him. What attention he paid to his studies, or what his proficiency was at school, I am not able distinctly to relate : but from the anecdote I have just mentioned, I think it may fairly be inferred, that his attainments for his age were perfectly satisfactory to his master. When he was little more than fifteen, George Horne was sent to University Col. lege, Oxford, to prepare himself for entering into holy orders in that church, which he afterwards so faithfully served by his matchless writings, and adorned by his exemplary life: and Mr. Stevens was at the same period, being only fourteen, namely, in August, 1746, placed out as an apprentice with Mr. Hookham, No. 68, Old Broad-street, an. eminent wholesale hosier, and a most respectable man: and in that house, he from that time lived and died. Here it would naturally be thought, that separated in situation, from his excellent cousin, and having so few things in common, their minds would be estranged from each other. But the fact was quite otherwise; for the congeniality of their sentiments and opinions induced them to keep up a constant correspondence. Mr. Horne informed his friend of the studies in which he was engaged ; and Mr. Stevens spent all his leisure time in the acquisition, by his own labour and industry, of those stores, which his relation, the academician, was amassing under better auspices, and with
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the fruits of which he afterwards enriched the Christian world. By such means, Mr. Stevens acquired, as is well known to the writer of this account, and to many others now living, not only an intimate acquaintance with the French language, but also attained to a considerable knowledge of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew literature: and became one of the profoundest theologians of his time. Of the rapidity with which he acquired a knowledge of languages, I have the proof under his own hand; for in a letter to a young friend then at Oxford, now a barrister, dated February, 1789, he says, «. It is some time ago since I learnt French, about forty years," (this carries us back to the year 1794, when Mr. Stevens was only seventeen, and an apprentice to Mr. Hookham)" and I remember it was on the same terms you are to pay; so that article of expense is not risen'in proportion to many others. The master attended me for one twelvemonth, three days in the week, an hour each time, which was all the instruction I had from him." I have said that Mr. Stevens only employed his leisure hours in these pursuits; and in the attainment of all this knowledge. I repeat the assertion for the benefit of the rising generation; for the fact is so, however improbable and strange it may appear to the indolent and slothful; whose sole employment in the period of youth is to kill time, as they call it, by literally doing nothing; or by doing what is worse than nothing, indulging in criminal pleasures, which ruin the constitution both of body and mind. But so did not the excellent person, whose life we are now recording, spend his youth and strength : for from his earliest years he was, what he continued during his long life to be, an example of the strictest purity of life and sobriety of manners, patient industry and attention to business, and of incoruptible integrity. That his studies and the pursuits of