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From time to time, on the wide arena of Life's stormy battle-field, there arise, and have arisen in all ages, great and noble natures, who, not content with passing through the mêlée as quietly and creditably and safely as may be consistent with mere reputation, seek to prove themselves “good men and true;"—to quit themselves "like heroes in the strife” that rages so fiercely around us from the cradle to the grave;to fight bravely, unshrinkingly, and unselfishly, as real soldiers of the Heavenly King, for the interests, and for the extension, of Christ's Church militant here upon earth!
Fame keeps ever proudly, and as she ought to keep, the memory of those, who true to altar, throne, and hearth, have freely poured forth their life-blood for the dear sake of liberty and Fatherland; and she keeps too, quite as proudly, but far less righteously, the records of the conquerors of earth, who, sword in hand, mowed down opposing armies; and sweeping the land like angels of destruction, bowed nation after nation to the yoke, so building up for themselves a name enduring as history itself.
And if this be so, shall not they who wage a grander war.
fare—they who, at the cost of scorn and slander and misapprehension, have sought to make purer and better and wider the Church of Christ :-they who have opposed, often singlehanded, Satan, the world, and their alien armies of bigotry, shallowness, and ancient prejudice ;shall not they too have their meed, and shall not the glory of their names rouse others from their slothful rest and their supine neutrality, to work while it is called to-day, lest the night, in which no man can work, come suddenly upon them?
Surely the time spent in the delineation and contemplation of such characters is most profitably bestowed. To trace the history of such men, to watch their gradual advances to the highest truths, their progress of mind, their development of pure and lofty principles, the circumstances of their lot, their course of training, their discipline, and their mode of action, is to learn deeper and more abiding lessons than were ever conned from the pages of the essayist, the philosopher, or the theologian !
The impartial life of a good, great man, is the visible manifestation and application of those central truths, which sermons and lectures are intended to convey. Principles and ideas thus exemplified, and woven in, as it were, into the familiar sayings and doings and thinkings of common everyday life, acquire a depth of meaning, a power, and a reality, which may be perceived and appreciated by all; so that the force of comparison, the involuntary glance of introspection, and the obvious and frequent application which must ensue from the consideration of such a life, cannot fail to awaken some idle slumberer, some sentimental dreamer, who has never yet found, or sought, or cared to find his appointed task in the world's great field of labour; to rekindle the dying fires of some once warm and fervent spirit, who has grown cold and careless in the Master's service; or to cheer the drooping soul of some who are worn and weary, and discouraged at the very commencement of life's long troublous campaign!
Such a life is the one now before us ;-a life almost devoid of startling incidents, or thrilling romance : a sunny serene life, yet not cloudless or untouched by adverse breezes; crowned with many of God's richest and choicest blessings, yet crossed ever and anon by the sense of weakness and pain and care and mutability ; made up, in an exterior point of view, of very ordinary materials, but rendered grand and beautiful by the workings of the holy, stedfast, loving spirit within.
It was on the 13th of June, 1795, that a seventh child, and youngest son, was born to William and Martha Arnold, then resident at West Cowes, in the Isle of Wight. The Arnold family were not aborigines of the soil; they had been settled on the Medina Estuary for two generations only, and came originally from the neighbourhood of Lowestoft, in Suffolk.
This child received in baptism the name of Thomas, and became in process of time the Dr. Arnold of Rugby celebrity, His father died suddenly of spasm in the heart, March 3rd, 1801. His mother lived to see her only surviving son the Head Master of Rugby School; settled in that position, and pledged to that great work, for which he was remarkably qualified, and in which it was permitted him to accomplish so much good, not merely for the passing generation, but for all Time; nay, under the blessing of Almighty God, FOR ALL ETERNITY!
His maternal aunt, Miss Delafield, took charge of his childish studies; but at eight years of age he quitted home for Warminster School, in Wiltshire, then under the management of Dr. Griffiths. Here he read Dr. Priestley's Lectures on History, which he quoted from memory full thirty-eight years afterwards, when filling the chair of Regius Professor of Modern History in the University of Oxford.
Here, too, he formed his first boyish friendship. Among the many who in later years he delighted to call his friends, among those to whom his strong and loving heart beat with a true, unutterable attachment, the memory of George Evelyn always retained its sweetness and its interest ; although in 1806 they were parted, never again to meet on earth. Indeed, Arnold lost sight of Evelyn: for the currents of their lives