« PreviousContinue »
look coldly on the class of beings whom the Saviour had taken in his arms and blessed; and when he looked down on the little ones, the sorrowful air, and the somewhat hard lines, vanished-it was like the light of the sun upon us.
I remember being particularly impressed with the genial kindness of Mr. Buxton, after one of these Sunday-morning services. I had heard the rain pattering on the windows, and I dare say our wet walk home was not pleasant in prospect. Well, we were standing, carefully tucking up our white frocks, in the porch, and preparing, as best we might, to set forth on our homeward walk, when the family vehicle of the Hall drove up. I think even in those days it was called an omnibus; at all events it was very like one, and used to convey the servants and children to and from church on wet days, like the present. Just at the gate, the master's eye rested on the little thinly-shod children, and no doubt on their anxious governess; so, gently, and with one of those silent smiles, were they lifted into the carriage by the good man, and he followed, looking along the road as he went for the least protected wayfarer, and taking up, if I remember right, more than one dripping villager with as much empressement as a conductor of a real 'bus looking out for fares might do, and with far more politeness. This is not much, you will say. No, it is not much, but it shows the spirit he was of-the warm, unselfish, all-benevolent spirit, which could be kind and good in little as well as in great things. Besides, did
you often know a great man, to say nothing of a baronet, stop and take you up in his carriage on a wes Sunday, coming from church or chapel? We used to look out for wet Sundays quite hopefully after this, and we were always sure of a ride home.
Fowell Buxton was doubtless one of the heroes of our youth. Most children have their heroes, and he was ours. We used to be quite laughed at for our worship, but we did not mind that. We would turn our donkeys' heads towards the Hall gate quite as a matter of course when the choice of a ride was left to us; and if the horse of the good man did but sweep past us, and we only got a glance, or a kind word, or a nod, it would send us home happy. We would watch on fine September mornings by our garden fence for an hour, rather than lose the chance of seeing Sir Fowell Buxton pass by on his shooting excursions, accompanied by his sons now and then, at that time little fair-haired boys, on trotting, long-tailed ponies; or his brother-in-law, Mr. Hoare, who, like himself, was a keen sportsman. But it was seldom that he thought too much of his companions present, or of his game in prospect, to give the smile or the nod to the children over the hedge. It is a pleasant dream, this child-dream of that good man. Little we thought, as we watched for him on the spring-day upon our primrose bank, or rode to meet him on our tiny steeds, that he, our hero, was the friend of the slave, the eloqnent member for Weymouth, the rich and powerful gentleman. We saw and knew nothing of all this in Fowell Buxton, but we were sensible of the beauty of his character, and we could see the noble, the good, and the great man in his mien, and hear it in the tones of his voice.
Then there were the Sunday-evening readings in the old Hall, held in the large dining-room, for the country people and visitors; and to these how dearly did we love to go! Besides the invited guests and his own household, there were the Overstrand fishermen, those rough, weather-beaten old men, with long, floating, reverend grey hair. There was the stout ploughman and the farm maiden assembled. It was a simple service as conducted by the master of the Hall; without formality, but with great solemnity; and, after the chapter in the Bible was read, his own well-digested, well-arranged, and homely remarks were made, so well adapted to his village hearers. He never, either in private or in public, as an orator in the House of Commons, or as the chaplain of his domestic service, left his auditors in doubt of his meaning. He spoke from his heart to the hearts of his hearers. He had a deep reverence for God's word himself. You felt sure of this whenever he opened or quoted one of its important truths.
His poor neighbours loved Sir Fowell Buxton, and respected him as not all country gentlemen are loved and respected. He did so many kind, thoughtful, little things for them; and, as a poor man once said to me, 'It was the way which he had with them that they liked.' It was a free, old English, genial way, not condescending, but sympathizing and true. It is related in his memoir that he would, when asked by a poor neighbour to buy a joint of his pork, buy two, one for himself and one for the seller. • It is so cruel a thing,' he would say, 'for the poor labourer to part with all his pig.'*
The wonderful activity and zeal which Sir Fowell Buxton always showed in case of danger to which the coast of Norfolk is so peculiarly liable from wrecks, was the great cause of his popularity with the fishermen. The last time I ever remember to have seen him, or certainly the last on which I heard his voice, was amidst the terrific howling of a fierce November tempest, on the beach between Cromer and Overstrand, a few years before his death. His impressive mode of speaking, his commanding figure, his cheerful words of encouragement when the life-boat was put off to a vessel in distress about noon, on that stormy day, I can well recall. He was past his vigour, but the sight of distress in any form aroused him; and never in days of my childish admiration did Sir Fowell appear greater or nobler. It seemed as if he had a brother or a sister on board ; and so he had, for his was a large and expansive heart, and to him all men were brothers. On one memorable storm, which I have so often heard described by eyewitnesses, that I seem to fancy that I have witnessed it myself, on the 31st of October, 1823, a collier brig ran on some very dangerous rocks, between Cromer light-house and Overstrand. The sea was so tremendous that not a fisherman would put off in the life-boat, notwithstanding that Mr. Buxton himself jumped in, and shouted to the men to follow. At length the ship went to pieces, and the waves were blackened with the cargo of coal. A moment's silence—when Fowell Buxton sprang forward. He had seen, as he thought, one of the crew borne on the top of a wave; and without waiting for a rope, dashed into the surf, and caught the mariner, and flinging himself heavily upon him, struggled against the force of the retiring billow, until they were both dragged back to shore in complete exhaustion. He said afterwards, that he felt the waves play with him, as he would play with an orange.'
* Life of Buxton, p. 171.
But we must hasten to the close of his life. The close of useful and happy Christians, if not triumphant, is usually peaceful. His was eminently so. Heart and flesh failed, but his faith was strong, even as an anchor to his soul, sure and stedfast. The days drew nigh in which he said, I have no pleasure in them. Even Africa was forgotten, for his memory failed; and day by day the powers of his great mind were less and less; but he could yet believe and pray. He might be said to have entered heaven by prayer.
The walls of his little dressing-room at Northrepps Hall, where the last summer of his life was spent, could bear witness to his earnest supplication; he did, to use his own expression, 'pray vehemently.' As he lay in bed, during the last winter of his life, he brightened up to see the women and children walking to their homes with steaming cans and pitchers of soup, which his own liberality had provided. Benevolence, the ruling passion, was strong in death with him, for as he had lived, so he died, breathing words of peace and love, humility and faith. It was on the 19th of February, 1844, that he fell asleep; and there, in the ruined chancel of the village church at Overstrand, was his simple grave made, a grave which needs no flattering epitaph, for behold his record is on high.'
And now will you, in your separate spheres, try and imitate Sir Fowell Buxton in energy, perseverance, but above all in piety? You may not, any of you, be called to fill the prominent situation in life to which his Maker appointed him ; but you may all use the talents you have to the utmost; you may all be persevering, stedfast, and in earnest; and, above all
, you may serve and love the Saviour that he followed. Let your Christianity, like his, be whole hearted; pray as he prayed, and success, in some manner or other, will assuredly be yours; for the same God that heard him in the green woods of Northrepps, on the threshold of the senate-house, or in the bustle of business, will hear you—the very youngest and meanest of you, for He is no respecter of persons.
1. B. G.
LINES WRITTEN AT WALMER, JULY 12, 1852.
Owing to an inadvertence, no proof of the following lines, incorrectly printed in our last number, was seen either by the writer or editor, before the work was put to press. They are, therefore, reprinted with corrections.
I sat upon the shingle strand,
And gazed upon the rippled sea,
As it toiled in its ceaseless ministry.
And shot, intense, his fiery beams ;
And feebly sped his parting beams.
That fell, outstretched, upon the sea ;
In evening's dusky drapery.
One bark received the solar ray ;
As she sped to a region far away.
When earthly scenes are wrapt in gloom,
To seek and find another home.
Ere from earth' he is wholly riven;
J. H, H.
Butires of Books.
Practical Suggestions for Reforming the Educational Institutions of Scotland. In
Two Letters to the Lord Viscount Melgund, M.P. By the Rev. R. J. Bryce,
LL.D., Principal of the Belfast Academy. Edinburgh : Oliphants. Pp. 32. Dr. BRYCE has done the cause of education some little service, by the publication of this pamphlet. Its object is to point out the mischiefs which result from the present sectarian and exclusive character of the universities and parochial schools of Scotland, and to lay down a “practical and practicable' plan for entirely desectarianizing them. Dr. Bryce need scarcely have told his readers that he is ' every whit a Scot.' The intense, and, sometimes, almost egotistic nationality (we beg our readers pardon), of his countrymen, peeps out on every page. No schools are to be compared with Scottish schools; no schoolmasters with the Scottish schoolmasters! In Dr. Bryce's own words,
"Scotland has, for her very lowest schools, men of high ideas, and men, if not possessing, capable, at least, of forming, refined habits ;' while our English schoolmasters, creatures of the type of the English pauper-pedagogue, he banishes to their own proper places, as hewers of wood and drawers of water for society.' We will not quarrel with the Doctor, however, for indulging his prejudices. Much that he says is undoubtedly true. As a rule, there can be no question that the schoolmasters of Scotland are superior, in the most essential qualifications, to the same class in England, and that their social rank and position is higher. Thanks to our Normal schools, however, and to a growing public appreciation of the importance of the schoolmaster's office, this difference is rapidly dwindling away, and we by no means despair of living to see the day when, other things being equal, the profession of schoolmaster will rank with that of the lawyer, the surgeon, or the preacher. Only one thing is necessary to this,--that the standard of qualification for the office be raised. Then, as water will always find its own level,' so will the schoolmaster his.
Our English readers may not be aware, that, “across the border' Government has still a dread of the • Pretender.' Previous to entering on the duties of his office, every teacher of a parochial school, as well as every professor in a university, is required to take three oaths--one of allegiance, one of assurance, and one of abjuration, all directed against the House of Stuart, notwithstanding that that House has not a representative living! Besides these tests, which very few now will be found to object to, the teacher is required to subscribe to the Confession of Faith of the Church of Scotland, and to a solemn promise of submission to the government and discipline of that Church. Against the whole of these tests, and particularly against the latter, Dr. Bryce has directed the power of an able and well-qualified pen. In the strongest terms he exposes and denounces their essential immorality and injustice, and the evils they inflict on the character of the education of the young. So far we agree with Dr. Bryce, but no farther.
His Practical Suggestions approve of every principle he has condemned. What do our readers think he would substitute for the four tests which he denounces? Simply three other tests, ensuring the doctrinal orthodoxy of candidates! He would have them to believe in the existence and governing providence of God; in the genuineness, inspiration, and authority of the Scriptures ; and in the doctrine of the fall of man. Dr. Bryce has evidently a suspicion that in proposing these he has upset all his own arguments, and sanctioned the principle which he condemns, for in reply to the possible objection, that he was only substituting one test for another, he urges that these are not tests, but
qualifications. The shift, however, is as palpable as it is dishonest. Loyalty to the Crown, and adherence to the Church of Scotland, were but qualifications' which the oath simply 'tested.' To propose theological qualifications instead, is not to relieve the body of a burden, but simply to shift the load to another shoulder.
In national establishments of education, if there must be such, any premium thus set upon 'orthodoxy' is but a recognition of the old principle of Church and State. The 'impracticability,' in the present state of public opinion, of doing without such recognition of religion, and safeguard for religious teaching in schools, should warn such as Dr. Bryce, himself a voluntary,' of the danger and injustice necessarily involved in any system of education patronized by Government. Desectarianize the schools of Scotland by all means, but with that, loose them for ever from State support and control.
Daily Bible Illustrations. By John Kitto, D.D., F.S.A. Evening Series,
Isaiah and the Prophets.' Edinburgh: W. Oliphant and Sons. This volume of Daily Bible Illustrations,' bringing down the work to the end of the Old Testament, is one of the most interesting and attractive of the series. The greater part of it is devoted to the illustration of the Prophecy of Isaiah, prefixed to which, we have a short dissertation on the nature of prophecy, and the character and functions of the prophet. Involving, as this subject does, a