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MEMOIR OF THE RIGHT HON. AND MOST REV. WILLIAM HOWLEY, D.D.
BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,
PRIMATE OF ALL ENGLAND AND METROPOLITAN, ETC. ETC. The venerable patriarch who is the exalted subject of this
memoir, is the only son of the Rev. William Howley, D.D. Vicar of Bishop's Sutton and Ropley, near Alresford, Hampshire, and was born at the latter village on the 12th of July, in the year 1765. Intending him for the holy office of the ministry in the Church of Christ, the good Vicar sent his son, at an early age, to the celebrated school of Winchester, where, under the direction of that accomplished scholar and poet, the Rev. Joseph Warton, D.D., he laid the foundation of those high acquirements for which he has since been so pre-eminently distinguished.
In the year 1783, having completed his course of studies at Winchester, Mr. Howley proceeded to New College, Oxford; and having remained two years a scholar on the Wykeham foundation, he was admitted to a fellowship. He took the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1787, and that of Master of Arts in 1791. Three years afterwards he was elected Fellow of Winchester College ; and in 1804 he was appointed Canon of Christ's Church. In the year following he took the degrees of Bachelor and Doctor in Divinity; and on the promotion of Dr. Hall to the deanery of Christ Church, in 1809, he succeeded him as Regius Professor of Divinity. During the discharge of his official duties as principal tutor of New. College, his high reputation for profound learning, sanctified by sound piety and devotion, procured him the distinguished honour of being appointed tutor to the present King of the Netherlands, who, when Prince of Orange, was sent to the celebrated University of Oxford to complete his education. Dr. Howley fulfilled the duties of his high trust with such satisfaction, as to obtain the approbation of his own sovereign, as well as that of the royal family of the Netherlands.
In the eminent position which he now occupied, his extensive knowledge, urbanity, and unaffected piety shone so conspicuously, that on the vacancy in the See of London, occasioned by the death of Dr. Randolph in 1813, Dr. Howley was promoted from the divinity chair of Oxford to the very important Bishopric of the first city in the world.
The usual preliminaries having been arranged, the 4th of October, 1813, was appointed for the consecration of the Reverend and learned Professor to the high and holy office of a successor of the Apostles of Christ in the government of his holy Church. The occasion was rendered of more than ordinary interest, in consequence of an intimation given by Her Majesty, the consort of "the good old King," of her intention of being present at the solemnity, Her Majesty not having previously witnessed the consecration of a Christian Bishop to the
sacred office. Accordingly, on the morning of the day appointed, Her Most Gracious Majesty, accompanied by their Royal Highnesses the Princesses Augusta and Mary, proceeded to Lambeth Palace, where the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Manners Sutton, and his lady, received the royal party, and conducted them to the chapel of the Palace, where the solemn ceremony was about to take place. The officiating Bishops having taken their proper places, with the Bishop elect in his Doctor's robes, on the lowest seat at the right of the altar; the morning service was commenced by one of the Archbishop's chaplains. The Epistle was read by Dr. Huntingford, then Bishop of Gloucester, and the Gospel by Dr. Jackson, Bishop of Oxford. The sermon was preached by Dr. Goddard, Master of Winchester; and in addition to irrefragable proofs of the divine institution of the order of Bishops or Apostles, and of their continuance to the end of time, by succession from one to another, it embraced a general sketch of the state and circumstances of the Church in England, from the period of its glorious reformation from the errors and idolatrous superstitions introduced under the unchristian usurpation and influence of the Bishop of Rome, down to the then present time. The Archbishop of Canterbury commerced the Consecration Service at the altar, whither, after the reading of the Prince Regent's mandatė, the Bishop elect was led in his rochet by the Bishops of Gloucester and Oxford. The service having been further continued, Dr. Howley again withdrew, and having been invested with the episcopal robes in full, returned to the altar and was made a Bishop by the imposition of the hands of the officiating Archbishop and Bishops, after the manner of the first Apostles, and according to the constant custom of the whole Christian Church in all ages.
Dr. Howley entered upon the fulfilment of his episcopal duties with faithfulness and zeal, and in the following year made his primary visitation of the important diocese of London. The charge delivered on this occasion was afterwards published at the request of the clergy, and created some little excitement amongst the dissenters of the day, especially amongst the adherents of Socinianism, whom his Lordship justly described as " loving to question rather than learn." Mr. Thomas Belsham, one of the leading teachers of that awful heresy, put forth a letter in reply to his Lordship’s remarks, and, as is usual with the various sectaries, charged him with promulgating and enforcing doctrines more in unison with the slavish dogmas of Popery than with the free and inquiring spirit of protestantism, as defined by dissenters. The Bishop in reply made no apology, but reiterated his original charge against the Socinians as captious people, approaching "the oracles of Divine Truth without that humble docility, that prostration of the understanding and will, which are indispensable to proficiency in Christian instruction ; " and thus his Lordship took leave of the controversy.
In his primary charge, the Bishop spoke with just admiration of the soundness of principles, and firmness and consistency of the conduct of Dr. Randolph, his predecessor, in the following eloquent strain :-"From the period of his first entrance on the higher departments of the Church, he opposed a determined resistance to the spurious liberality which, in the vain desire of conciliation, increases division and multiplies heresy, by palliating the guilt of schism, or by diminishing the number, and undervaluing the importance, of doctrines essential to Christianity. The principal aim of all his labours was the maintenance of sound dactrine, and the security of the Established Church, which he justly considers as the bulwark of pure religion, the pillar of Divine Truth. To this conviction, deeply rooted in his mind, must we attribute his jealousy of innovation, however specious; his vigilance in exposing the tendency and checking the growth of opinions or practices which, even by remote con
sequence, might unsettle the faith of the inexperienced, or introduce confusion into the Church. His endeavour to replace ecclesiastical discipline on its ancient footing, to recover the rights, and assert the legitimate authority of the spiritual governor, originated in the same views. For he had been taught by the records of antiquity, no less than by deductions of reason, that the prosperity of our institutions depends on attention to the spirit of their laws; and that the vigour of discipline is relaxed, and its benefit lost, by weakening the hands and fettering the discretion of the ruling power. In pursuance of this wise policy he manifested an inflexibility, a firmness of spirit, which could neither be daunted by clamour nor discouraged by resistance, a perseverance in labour, which was never relaxed or interrupted by disgust or lassitude."
Comment upon these observations is unnecessary; their wisdom is evident;. and our present experience affords painful proof of the folly of not making such principles more prominent in our public discourses, that they might become the springs of our conduct and of that of our people in general.
The following quotation manifests that his Lordship clearly foresaw, from the troubles which were then beginning gradually to come upon the Church, the times in which we live. After stating that he did not dread a renewal of the excesses committed by the Donatists of old, or even of the troubles excited by the Puritans in later times, the Bishop says: "The evil to be reasonably apprehended is a gradual diminution of attachment to the National Church, which, in its immediate effects, would abridge the sphere of her beneficial influence, and might lead in its possible consequences to the subversion of an establishment, the firmest support and the noblest ornament of Christianity. That such is the ultimate object, I do not say of rational and sober dissenters of any denomination, but of that promiscuous multitude of confederated sectaries who have imbibed the spirit of malignant dissent, which in the prosecution of hostility against the Established faith, forgets its attachment to a particular creed, there is the strongest reason to believe. The views of this dangerous faction are unintentionally seconded by a far more respectable description of men, who, rightly conceiving that sound faith and sincere piety are the essentials of pure religion, entertain an indifference to ordinances and forms; overlooking the necessity of permanent fences for the protection of the flock; of regular channels for the distribution of living waters; and forgetting that a well constituted Establishment, though it necessarily partakes of human imperfection, affords the best security which can be devised by the wisdom of man against the vicissitudes of events, the alternations of zeal, and the fluctuations of opinion. If the preceding statements have any foundation in facts; if the joint machinations of infidels and sectaries, assisted by the indiscretion of short-sighted piety, are calculated to excite alarm; the means of resisting a torrent, enlarged by the union of waters which, issuing in different directions from different sources, have at length fallen into the same channel, deserve our most serious consideration."
What his Lordship here foretold of a “promiscuous multitude of confederated sectaries," filled with "the spirit of malignant dissent,” attempting the subversion of the Church, he has lived to see partially accomplished; but it is hoped that "the joint machinations of infidels and sectaries," even if assisted by "the indiscretion of short-sighted piety,” will never succeed in effecting any essential injury to the ancient and venerable Church of our country. full and clear exposition of Christian truth," his Lordship well observed, "will operate as the surest preservative against the sophistry of infidels who would undermine the faith of your flocks, and the insidious practices of schismatics who endeavour to shake their allegiance to the Church and their attachment to their lawful pastor."
His Lordship’s remarks in reference to the establishment of schools in union with the "National Society for the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church,” which had then been recently incorporated, apply so forcibly to the present time, when so much is said about National Education, that we cannot forego the temptation to insert them, especially as they will fall under the eyes of so many of the clergy, who are so much interested in the great movement which the Church is now making in that important business. * It would be a fatal mistake to imagine,” his Lordship proceeded, " that even complete success in the establishment of schools would supersede all further necessity of vigilance and labour. The conduct of these institutions, so intimately connected with national welfare and the stability of our establishments, political, civil, and religious, requires the unremitted inspection of the wisdom which presided at their original formation. In abandoning the direction of a system which if neglected will cease to be useful, if perverted will be injurious to the community, but maintained in vigorous action on its true principles is pregnant with incalculable blessings, we should incur the just imputation of treachery to that sacred cause which the Clergy beyond any other description of men, by all the obligations of duty, by all the inducements of charity, are engaged to promote and cherish. To you indeed the public naturally looks, and never I trust will it look in vain, for the faithful discharge of a service appendant to your several professional relations as the spiritual fathers of the poor, the guardians of the Church, and the ministers of our holy religion. In proportion to the success of your attention to this important point, the course of your ministry will become smooth and easy. Your parishioners, from their infancy initiated in the principles, and inured to the practice of pure Christianity, will crowd with pious affection to the altars of their mother Church; and will learn to regard the pretences and artifices of corrupt or illiterate instructors with indifference or disdain. Your instructions and exhortations, received with humble docility as the oracles of God, by congregations who revere in your persons the dispensers of divine truth, will no longer be wasted on a barren soil; and you will find unspeakable consolation in contemplating the efficacy of your labours in the advancement and maintenance of those high interests which have been confided by your Redeemer, as a precious deposit, to your especial protection and care.
The power, the spirit, and eloquence of these beautiful passages, together with their striking applicability to present circumstances, will be ample excuse for their insertion,
On the appointment of a day, in January 1816, for a General Thanksgiving for the glorious victory obtained over our enemy at Waterloo, the Bishop of London preached an admirable sermon in the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, where the eagles captured from the enemy were then deposited. The following was the apposite text chosen for the occasion :--"Some trust in chariots and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen; but we are risen, and stand upright.” Ps. xx. 7, 8. His Royal Highness the Duke of York, the beloved friend of the soldiers, was one of the congregation, little thinking at the moment, that, within eleven years afterwards, the same learned and pious prelate, to whom he was then listening, would be summoned to minister to him in his last hours the consolations of religion. Of his Royal Highness's exemplary conversation with the Bishop at their repeated interviews during the illness which terminated in death, Sir Herbert Taylor makes honourable mention, in his affecting narrative of the last illness and death of the illustrious Duke. When His Royal Highness became conscious of the probable termination of his indisposition, he expressed a wish for the Bishop to wait on him, not with