Page images

sions: But I know not, at present, of any large work unpublished of this admirable Author.


HIS amiable Christian and excellent Minister was born on Friday the 26th of February 1713-14, at Hardingstone, a country village one mile from Northampton, his father being then minister of the parish of Collingtree, within two miles of Hardingstone. His first instruction was from his mother, who taught him his letters, and to read. Under her tuition he continued till he was seven years of age; when he was sent, as a day-scholar, to the free grammar school at Northampton, of which the Reverend Mr. Clarke, vicar of St. Sepulchre's in the said town, was at that time master.

At this school he remained till he was seventeen years old, and learned the Latin and Greek languages, in which his genius and memory would have enabled him to have made a much earlier progress, if it had not been prevented by his schoolmaster, who would not suffer him, or any other of his scholars, to learn faster than his own son. Whilst Mr. Hervey was at school, though he shewed a remarkable dexterity at all the innocent games usual among children, yet he had an indifference, uncommon among boys, for the acquisitions he made by them, which he pursued only for exercise and amusement.

In the year 1731, at the age of seventeen, he was sent by his father to Oxford, and was entered of Lincoln College, under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Hutchins. He resided in the university seven years, yet only took the degree of bachelor of arts. The first two or three years he spent with some degree of indolence, or rather less plication to his studies than he afterwards used. But in 1733, about his nineteenth year, becoming acquainted with some persons who began to distinguish themselves by their serious impressions

of religion, and their zeal for the promotion of it, he was engaged, by their influence, in a stricter attachment both to piety and learning; of the former there are conspicuous marks in his letters written to his sister in the years 1733, 1734, and 1735: And of the latter, in the course of his labours.

apHe made himself master of Dr. James Keill's Anatomy, Dr. Derham's Physico-theology and Astro-theology, the Spectacle de la Nature, as translated by Humphreys, which last work he read with a peculiar satisfaction. Nor was he less delighted by the Essay on Pope's Odyssey,' written by the Rev. Mr. Spence, prebendary of Durham; to which elegant and judicious discourse Mr. Hervey often acknowledged that he owed more of his improvement in style and composition, than to any other which he had ever read.

In 1734, at the persuasion of a much-valued friend, he began to learn the Hebrew language without any teacher,

, by the Westminster Grammar, but soon found that Grammar too concise and difficult for the instruction of a learner; and therefore he then despaired of ever attaining a tolerable knowledge of what he afterwards made himself a complete master.

It appears from his letters to his sister in 1733, 1734, and 1735, that though he then shewed a pious and serious turn, yet these letters speak a language very different from those truths, for which we find he was afterwards so powerful an advocate, or at most they treat very confusedly of them. The truth is, he was then a stranger to, and had strong prepossessions against the doctrine of justification by faith in the imputed righteousness of Christ. And he acknowledges, in a note on his “ Descant upon Creation,” that Mr. Jenks's excellent treatise, entitled, • Submission to the righteousness of God,' was the instrument of removing his prejudices, and reducing him to a better judgment.

He entered into holy orders as soon as his age and the canons of the church would allow. Whilst he was at Oxford, he had a small exhibition of about twenty pounds a-year; and when he was ordained, his father pressed him very much to take some curacy in or near Oxford, and to hold his exhibition; but this he would by no means comply with, it being in his opinion unjust to detain it, after he was in orders, from another person, who might more want the benefit of that provision than himself.

In 1736, he left Oxford, and became his father's curate. He afterwards went to London; and, after staying some time there, he accepted the curacy of Dummer in Hampshire. Here he continued about twelve months, when he was invited to Stoke Abbey, in Devonshire, the seat of his worthy friend the late Paul Orchard, Esq. who valued him much for his piety, and with whom he lived upwards of two years in great esteem and friendship. That gentleman shewed him the following remarkable proof of his regard: When his eldest son (to whom our Author dedicated the second volume of his " Meditations,”) was to be baptized, he insisted that Mr. Hervey should be one of his god-fathers, that he might have an eye to his Christian education; and this he did in preference to many gentlemen of large estates in the neighbourhood, who would have thought themselves honoured by the connection.


In 1740, he undertook the curacy of Biddeford, fourteen miles from Stoke Abbey, where he lived greatly beloved by the people; his congregation was large, though his stipend was small; his friends therefore made a collection yearly for him, which raised his income to sixty pounds a-year. At Biddeford he was curate about two years and an half, when the rector dying, he was dismissed by the new incumbent, insensible of pious or learned excellence, against the united request of the parishioners, who offered to maintain him at their own expence. During the time that Mr. Hervey lived in the west, namely, from 1738 to the latter end of 1743, his family heard very little of him, through the greatness of the distance. He laboured diligently here in the service of his Master; and here it was that he planned his “ Meditations," and probably wrote some part of them. He says in his first volume of “ Meditations,” that it was on a ride to Kilkhampton in Cornwall, and in that church, where he laid the scene of his “ Meditations among the Tombs.”

In 1743, he returned about August to Weston-Favel, and officiated as a curate to his father till Jupe 1750, at which time his health was much impaired by his great attention to study and duty; and his family and friends judging that the change of air might be of benefit to him, they formed a design, which they executed, of conveying him to London, under a pretence of his riding a few miles in the post-chaise of a friend who was going thither. Of this he pleasantly complains, in a letter to a friend, upon his arrival there, which begins thus :

My dear friend, “ If you chide, I must accuse. Pray where was your warrant, where your commission, to impress me into this journey? However, as a good Christian, I forgive you and your accomplices.” After commending several clergymen his friends, whom he saw on the road, he concludes thus: “ My animal nature is so very feeble, that I find no benefit from the change of air, nor from the enjoyment of the most pleasing society.”

He his

He staid in London till April or May 1752, during which time he was seized with a severe illness, which almost cost him his life; but he recovered: and

upon father's death, which happened in May this year, he returned to Weston, where he constantly resided during the remainder of his life. He took his master of arts' degree at Cambridge in 1752, when he entered at Clare Hall; and as he was of sufficient standing at Oxford, he staid only the few days required by the statutes to perform the university exercise.

It may be thought strange that he, who had refused to hold his exhibition at Oxford, along with a curacy, should, upon his father's death, accept of the two livings of Weston Favel and Collingtree, and hold them during his life. It was very far from being his choice, and it was what he had for a long time refused to do. He was determined against being a pluralist; and notwithstanding his father kept him at Oxford, with a design that he should take his degree of master of arts, and constantly urged him to do it, yet he could not be persuaded to yield to such a request, though he was of a sufficient standing, looking upon that step as a qualification intended for his future holding both his father's livings. When his father died, he remained determined to have Weston-Favel only: And this be frequently declared to his family and friends, and refused to aecept of Collingtree, or to qualify himself for the same; insomuch that it was in danger of lapsing to the bishop. But at length, through the earnest and constant intreaties of his family and friends, who, unknown to him, had sent to and procured from Oxford the necessary certificates of his being a bachelor of arts, in order to his taking his master's degree at Cambridge, he was, after much importunity, prevailed on to comply with their requests, hoping that he might be thereby enabled to do so much the more good. And when he waited upon Dr. Thomas, then Bishop of Peterborough, for institution to Collingtree, which was near six months after his induction into Weston, he said, “I suppose your Lordship will be surprised to see James Hervey come to desire your Lordship’s permission to be a pluralist; but, I assure you, I do it in obedience to the repeated solicitations of my mother and my sister, and not to please myself;" or to that effect.

His labours, both in his ministerial office and in his study, were pursued by him as long as possible, under the disadvantage of a weak constitution of body, which, together with the severity of his last illness, he supported not only

[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »