Page images

disciple, through suffering, to enter into glory. " And whilst our hearts are troubled, methinks I “ hear him addressing us in the words of Christ to “ the disciples, when they were sorrowful, that he

was going to leave them : ‘if ye loved me, ye “ would rejoice ;' then let us not repine that he " is now numbered among the children of God, “ and that his lot is among the saints ; but let us rather endeavour that our afflictions may have “ the intended effect, weaning our hearts from the

world, and fixing them upon God, who can " abundantly supply all our deficiencies, and has

promised never to leave us nor forsake us, if we will put our trust in him. I doubt not, dear

Madam, that you have with thankfulness ex

perienced, and do every day acknowledge, that “ God in Christ is to you, instead of a father, " husband, brother, friend : and it is my earnest prayer that his comforts may abound in you

and I am of very little use in life ; 6 but if it is in my power to render you any ser“ vice, no one will do it more cheerfully, and you may freely command

" Your affectionate friend.



It is impossible to conceive any letter written upon such a subject, full of more genuine pathos, and of the best arguments for consolation to the


afflicted, with a ready application of the best texts of Scripture to such an occasion. How highly too is our admiration necessarily raised, when this letter is known to be the production of a young layman of thirty-three, and that layman a tradesman, whose general employment was so uncongenial to studies calculated to produce a letter of this nature, so full of Christian consolation to the afflicted lady to whom it was addressed. But having shewn that, from his earliest youth, his mind was deeply impressed with pure and unaffected feelings of devotion, undebased by gloom or fanaticism, I proceed to shew by a letter from Mr. Stevens to the daughter of Mrs. Randolph, that he was at the same time full of vivacity and playfulness. It seems he had been commissioned by the young lady to buy a share of a lottery ticket, and he thus gives an account how he had executed his commission.

" 6th Nov. 1753. “I have been particularly careful to execute your commands, and herewith you receive, all one as it were, a draft upon my banker for

£10,000; the damage, as we say, is £3 88. “and it is hardly to be expected but it will be £385. damage ; for this lottery, like Ben Jonson's

alchemyst, with a promise of increasiug the sum, " annihilates the whole. However, I wish you all

[merged small][ocr errors]

success ; and as your gold is now converted to paper, I wish you may meet with that philosopher's stone, that shall again transmute the

paper to gold. This is an excessive bad lottery, “ and a man need have great interest with the Commissioners to get a prize ; for you

know “there are eleven blanks to a prize: but if for “ three or four pounds one could come to any

degree of certainty, as to the £10,000, I should “ be tempted to have a ticket myself; else I can“ not afford it.”

Mr. Stevens, after this, continued to pursue his business with his usual activity for many years, with little alteration as to the circumstances of it. When Mr. Hookham died, his nephew, Mr. Paterson, succeeded, with whom, and Mr. Watlington, Mr. Stevens continued to conduct the business, as chief partner, till 1801, when he relinquished a great part of the profits, in order to be relieved from the drudgery of business, and to dedicate more of his time to the society of friends that he loved, and to those studies in which he delighted. About two years before his death he gave up the whole concern to Mr. Paterson, with whom, however, he continued to board till his death. His leisure hours, during the whole of his time, he dedicated to study, to intercourse with learned men, to the most

noble and disinterested acts of beneficence and charity, and to continued and regular devotion. Of his studies I have already given some account, as far as his knowledge of languages was concerned ; and I have said, but I proceed to prove, that he was a deep theologian. He was well read in the writings of the fathers of the church of the three first centuries, generally called the Apostolic Fathers : he had twice read through Dr. Thomas Jackson's Body of Divinity, in three large folios ; a divine, for whose writings Bishop Horne always expressed the highest respect, and which he has frequently resorted to, both as authority and example, in his own matchless writings. The works of Bishops Andrewes, Jeremy Taylor, and Dean Hickes, those fathers of our church, those masters in the great art of holy living, those giants in religious knowledge, as our most excellent sovereign has justly called them,* were quite familiar to Mr. Stevens : and there was hardly a writer of modern days, at all celebrated for orthodox opinions,

* The king, who was extremely well read on all these subjects, one day conversing with a young divine, asked if he was acquainted with the writings of Andrewes, Taylor, Hickes, and other divines of that age; the young man answered, he had employed himself in reading the divines of more modern times: his Majesty smartly answered, "there “were giants in those days."

soundness of principle, or purity of conduct, who was unknown to him. In history, particularly that of our own country, he was extremely well informed; and as the society in which he mingled, led him to hear much of literary controversy, and of the productions of the press, so he was not an inattentive hearer; but both profited by the discourse, and generally applied himself diligently to read the publications which had been the subject of discussion. Of the opinion which was entertained of him as a theologian, I cannot give a better proof than that declared by the very learned Dr. Douglas, late Bishop of Salisbury. When this learned prelate preached before the society for propagating the gospel in foreign parts, a meeting which Mr. Stevens constantly attended, and of which, in his later years, he was one of the auditors, when the other Bishops were thanking his Lordship for his discourse, Mr. Stevens humbly, but politely, offered his tribute of thanks; the Bishop expressed himself much gratified, and turning to the other prelates, said, "Here is a man, who, though “not a Bishop, yet would have been thought

worthy of that character in the first and purest

ages of the Christian Church.” And upon a similar occasion Bishop Horsley, who was not given to flattery, said, “ Mr. Stevens, a compli

« PreviousContinue »