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says, that " he seemed to have the lowest thoughts of himself possible, and to desire that all other persons should think as meanly of him as he did of himself; and he bore all sorts of ill usage and reproach, like a man that took pleasure in it.”
This character of his mind is finely displayed in the following passage from one of his letters.
And now I have begun, I would end just here ; for I have nothing to say, nothing of affairs (to be sure) private nor public; and to strike up to discourses of devotion, alas ! what is there to be said, but what you sufficiently know, and daily read, and daily think, and, I am confident, daily endeavour to do? And I am beaten back, if I had a great mind to speak of such things, by the sense of so great deficiency, in doing those things that the most ignorant among christians cannot choose but know. Instead of all fine notions, I fly to Kúpie ελέησον, Χριστέ ελέησον. I think them the great heroes and excellent persons of the world, that attain to high degrees of pure contemplation and divine love; but next to those, them that in aspiring to that and falling short of it, fall down into deep humility, and self-contempt, and a real desire to be despised and trampled on by all the world. And I believe that they that sink lowest into that depth, stand nearest to advancement to those other heights : for the great King, who is the fountain of that honour, hath given us this character of himself, that He resists the proud, and gives grace to the humble. Farewell, my dear friend, and be so charitable as sometimes in your addresses upwards, to remember a poor caitiff, who no day forgets you.
R. L. 13th December, 1676.
On the eve of taking a bishopric, when he perceived how many obstacles existed to his doing the good he wished to others, “ Yet one benefit at least,” said he, “ will arise from it; I shall break that little idol of estimation my friends have for me, and which I have been so long sick of.” Though he could not be ignorant of the value set on his pulpit discourses by the public for never was a wandering eye seen when he preached, but the whole congregation would often melt into tears before him,—yet the most urgent entreaties of his friends could never obtain from him the publication of a single sermon. Indeed, he looked upon him. self as so ordinary a preacher, and so little calculated to do good, that he was always for giving up his place to other ministers; and after he became a bishop, he preferred preaching to small congregations, and would never give notice beforehand when he was to occupy the pulpit. Of a piece with his rooted dislike to any thing that seemed to imply consequence in himself, was his strong objection to have his portrait drawn. When it was requested of him, he testified unusual displeasure and said, “ If you will have my picture, draw it with charcoal,” meaning, no doubt, that he was carbone notandus, as justly obnoxious to scorn and condemnation. His likeness was, however, clandestinely taken, when he was about the middle age; and as the engravings prefixed to this edition of his works are copied from it, it is gratifying to know from such good authority as his nephew's letter, that it greatly resembled him.
Leighton was never married, but a tradition exists of an amusing attempt that was made to deprive him of the meed of celibacy. One day, when pacing his shady walk, he was accosted by a lady, who, with some appearance of embarrassment, and many apologies for the intrusion, trusting that he would ascribe to an imperious sense of duty, and not to indelicate forwardness, the communication she was about to make, informed him that in a dream, which she was thoroughly satisfied came from heaven, he had been announced to her as her future husband. Of course it remained for his Lordship to exercise his own judgment on this extraordinary occurrence; but her conscience would not have acquitted her of disobedience to the heavenly admonition, had she suffered herself to be restrained from making the disclosure by female bashfulness, or the fear of reproach or ridicule. The Bishop listened with the utmost courteousness, and then, with his wonted suavity of manner, not unmixed with a little of that archness which agreeably tinctured his character, he assured her that he gave her full credit for conscientious motives. Still, since marriage was a very serious affair, and the dream she had related might possibly have less in it of inspiration than she imagined, it struck him that the best way of proceeding would be to wait a little, and see whether a similar communication were vouchsafed to him, in which case it must indeed be regarded as a divine command, demanding the most dutiful attention *.
But though he adhered to a single life, it is certain that nature had endowed him with a warm and affectionate disposition, which was not extinguished by his superlative love to God, though it was always kept in
* This anecdote, and that of the robbers, were communicated to me by the late excellent and reverend Mr. Legh Richmond, who obtained them at Dunblane, and considered them well authenticated.
due subordination. In his commentary on the epistle of Peter he remarks, that “our only safest way is to gird up our affections wholly ;” and he lived up to this principle. Accordingly, after avowing a strong predilection for the amiable character and fine accomplishments of a relation, he added, “nevertheless I can readily wean myself from him, if I cannot persuade him to become wise and good : Sine bonitate nulla majestas, nullus sapor.” To him, as to that Holy One, of whose spirit he largely partook, whoever did the will of his heavenly Father were more than natural kindred. Such, therefore, of his relations as were christians indeed had a double share of his tenderness; and to the strength of this two-fold bond, not less than to his heavenly-mindedness, we may ascribe his exclamation on returning from the grave in which his brother-in-law had been interred : “Fain would I have thrown myself in with him." An extract from a letter which he wrote to that gentleman on the death of a sweet and promising child is exquisitely touching, and discovers the genuine tenderness of his disposition.
I am glad of your health and recovery of your little ones; but indeed it was a sharp stroke of a pen, that told me your pretty Johnny was dead; and I felt it truly more than, to my remembrance, I did the death of any child in my lifetime. Sweet thing, and is he so quickly laid to sleep? Happy he ! Though we shall have no more the pleasure of his lisping and laughing, he shall have no more the pain of crying, nor of being sick, nor of dying ; and hath wholly escaped the trouble of schooling, and all other sufferings of boys, and the riper and deeper griefs of riper years, this poor life being all along
nothing but a linked chain of many sorrows and many deaths. Tell my
dear sister she is now so much more akin to the other world, and this will quickly be passed to us all. John is but gone an hour or two sooner to bed, as children use to do, and we are undressing to follow. And the more we put off the love of this present world and all things superfluous beforehand, we shall have the less to do when we lie down. It shall refresh me to hear from you at your leisure. Sir,
Your affectionate brother,
R. Leighton. Edinbro', Jan. 16th.
Leighton was a great admirer of rural scenery; and, in his rides upon the Sussex downs, he often descanted, with sublime fervour, on the marvellous works of the almighty architect. Adverting to the boundless varieties of creation, he remarked, that there is no wonder after a straw, omnipotence being as necessary to make the least things out of nothing as the greatest. But his lofty mind seemed especially to delight in soaring to the celestial firmament, and expatiating through those stupendous vaults, from which so many glorious lamps are hung out, on purpose, he believed, to attract our thoughts to the glory that excelleth ; and “we miss the chief benefit they are meant to render us, if we use them not to light us up to heaven.” was a long hand,” he would exclaim, " and a strong hand too, that stretched out this stately canopy above us; and to bim whose work it is, we may rightly ascribe most excellent majesty.” After some such expressions of devout astonishment, he would sink into silent and adoring contemplation.
To music, both vocal and instrumental, he was