Page images

ing, where a great part of this auditory have received their first cducation, and which confequently claims their highest regard.

The duty of BENEVOLENCE is fo obvious and self-evident, the reafons for it so strong, and the virtue itself fo amiable and praiseworthy, that to expatiate on fo copious a fubject, is like entering into a large and well cultivated garden, where the profpects around us are fo numerous and beautiful, that the fenfes are in a manner bewildered, with a variety of the most alluring objects. In whatever light we view this heavenly virtue, it fills the mind with the most agreeable ideas.-The Almighty has implanted in the heart of - man a tender and compaffionate regard for all his fellow-creatures : -how elfe fhould we be able to account for that pleafing fenfation, which we receive from the bare recital of a truly benevolent action? I appeal to the experience of every one here prefent, Whether he can refift the joy that arises in his mind on fuch an occafion ? And if a description can create fuch an exalted pleafure, what reaf fatisfaction must accrue to that perfon, whofe conscious heart, in a kind of tranfport, fhall fay to him,-THOU ART THE


As we have received benefit by those who went before us; have borrowed light from their light, and lived upon the effects of their benevolence; fo fhould the rifing generation feel the warmth of ours. In how miferable a state should we have come into the world, and how wretchedly should we have lived in it, had nothing been done for us, had we laid under no obligations to our predeceffors? If all arts and sciences, all the helps and conveniences of human life, were to be invented and begun with every age, how rude and unpolished, how mean and abject would the condition of it be? How heavily would it be preffed with the burthen of neceffity? How much more painful and laborious would this render the pilgrimage of man, which as it is, with all its advantages, has ftill its fufficient fhare of trouble and incumbrance? In what darkness had we


fat, in reference to the means of our most glorious redemption, had it not pleased the God of wisdom, through the hands of the christians of former centuries, to have delivered down to us those inestimable treasures, the facred fcriptures?

It well becomes us, therefore, to have a due fenfe of the benefits we have received from those who died long before we came into being, but who ftill live through their extensive benefactions, and gratefully to tranfmit their memories to lateft pofterity, particularly those who have founded public schools, and other nurseries of found and substantial learning; for it is by learning that the powers and capacities of our fouls are enlarged, and turned from little and low things, upon their greatest and noblest object, the divine nature; and employed in the discovery and admiration. of those various perfections that adorn it. We see what difference there is between man and man; fuch, in reality, as there is hardly greater between man and brute; and this proceeds principally from the different sphere which they act in, and the different objects they converse with; the mind is effentially the fame in the peasant and the prince; the forces of it are naturally equal in the most illiterate man, and the wifeft philofopher; but the time of the former is wholly taken up in the transaction of mean and groveling affairs, and contracted within a very narrow compass; whereas the latter is daily and hourly perhaps engaged in matters of the highest importance: and this it is, and this alone, that occafions the wide diftance that: appears between them. Noble objects are to the mind what funbeams are to a bud or flower: they open and unfold its leaves, put it upon exerting and fpreading itself every way; and call forth all thofe powers of nature that lie hid and locked up in the dark receffes of the foul. The benefits of learning are fo well known and felt, that there is fcarcely a perfon now to be met with, that has not, through the benevolence of those who lived before him, received, what in former times would have deemed a liberal educa


tion. There is as little neceffity, therefore, comparatively speaking, for reminding mankind of the importance of learning, as there is of thofe two common bleflings light and heat, which we all enjoy, and all of us, I hope, with hearts overflowing with gratitude.

Both reafon and Scripture loudly tell us, that good men, notwithstanding they are affured of an ample recompence for all their acts of benevolence hereafter, may have an eye to an honeft famé in this world, and the praises of generations yet to come; and I think it is highly probable, that the fouls of good men, long fince departed this life, may ftill have intelligence of what is now tranfacting here below.-Why then may we not indulge ourselves in the pleafing imagination, that our righteous founder is at this very intant looking down with pleasure and approbation on this our folemn affembly? I own I am pleased with the thought, and if you are animated with the fame conjecture, you will with pleasure attend whilst I take a brief furvey of the life of THAT RIGHTEOUS MAN, whose name both we and thousands yet unborn, fhall have ample reason to have in EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE.

Mr. JOHN COLET, was born of very worshipful parents, his much honoured father having been twice Lord-mayor of this city, and his mother a defcendant of a very rich and worthy family.They had no lefs than two and twenty children; all of whom, JOHN the eldest, furvived, and thereby a very ample patrimony devolved upon him. Notwithstanding he had a careful and liberal education at home; yet this laudably ambitious man went to France and Italy for farther improvement. He made all his studies, however, fubfervient to his principal defign; namely, that of qualifying himself for holy orders; and on his return from Italy to his native country, his abilities were fo confpicuous, that king Henry VII. who took a pleasure in conferring unexpected and unfolicited favours, called him to the Deanery of St. Paul's; when by his accurate and laboured fermons, he arrived to the character of a most excellent

cellent preacher. At length, however, being weary of the world, he had entertained fome thoughts of quitting his ecclefiaftical preferments, and of retiring to a very handsome, though not over-pompous habitation of his own erecting at EAST SHEENE, but falling into a consumption in a fhort time, he died before he actually accomplished that intention. He was buried in his own church of St. Paul, in a very humble fepulchre, which he had contrived for him-self in an obfcure angle of the church, fome years before, with the infcription of his name only. However, notwithstanding this modeft, this righteous man, defpifed all funeral pomp and folemnity; yet his friends were ambitious of fhewing how much they revered him, by erecting to his memory a very elegant mo


As illuftrious examples are the most winning incitements to virtue; and as no one can poffibly come attended with fuch particular recommendations to the prefent affembly, as the pattern of that truly venerable perfon, to whose benevolence, in a great measure, we are indebted for all the literary bleffings which we enjoy, give me leave to expatiate still a little farther on those shining virtues that complete his character, as being the moft natural application of our text, and the strongest motive that can be thought of to induce every member of this particular fociety to have his name in everlafting remembrance.

As to his perfon, he is defcribed by his intimate friend ERASMUS, to be both tall and graceful; and from a picture of him in the public library at Cambridge, it evidently appears, that his afpect had fomething in it peculiarly ftriking and delightful to the eye. He was a man, as to his natural difpofition, of an exceeding high fpirit; one apt to refent the leaft indignity or affront; one much addicted likewise to every fpecies of luxury; and had it not been for that more than common care which he took, to give a check to other the violence of his paffions, he had been better qualified for any VOL. III.

A a


courfe of life than that of a student or divine. He gave inconteftable evidence, therefore, that true virtue does not confift in an inability to do evil, or any abfolute and natural averfion to it; but in a voluntary restriction laid on the innate tendencies and ftrong ef¬ forts of flesh and blood to vice and immorality. He firft conquered, then commanded himself; and, in fhort, fo far mortified his highspirit, as to make it fubfervient to reafon. His natural propensity to luxury he restrained by the practice of inceffant abftinence, ftrict fobriety, and a clofe application to his ftudies; and above all, by moral and religious converfations.

Though he lived in those days when ignorance and fuperftition prevailed, yet by the strength of his genius, and his unwearied application to his ftudies, he attained to fuch a fhare of learning, as is feldom to be met with in more enlightened ages. We find him, very young, like his bleffed Redeemer, among the learned doctors, not only asking them queftions, but inftructing them likewife; for without the least confideration or reward whatever, he read public lectures in the University of Oxford, by way of expofition on the Epiftles of St. Paul; and though he was not, at that juncture, of an age capable of receiving any degree, yet there was not a doctor or abbot, or other dignitary in the church, but lent an attentive ear to the doctrines he advanced; but whether this particular encomium of him was in reality owing to the fame he had acquired, or to the ingenuity of his hearers, who, in more honourable degrees and years, were not afhamed to receive inftruction from one younger than themselves, and in other refpects their inferior, I shall not take upon me to determine; but though the novelty of these public exercises might poffibly at first procure him a crowded audience, yet nothing could have kept the number up, but the , more than common abilities of the performer. Notwithstanding he was a very able difputant, yet he was very candid and ingenuous; and would; with all the courtesy imaginable, entreat his


« PreviousContinue »