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2. Nehemiah Building the Walls of Jerusalem ...
LIFE OF BISHOP HALL.
In a posthumous volume, entitled “ The Shaking of the Olive Tree," first appeared two autobiographical tracts, – the one, “ Observations of some Specialties of Divine Providence in the Life of Joseph Hall, Bishop of Norwich ;" the other, “ Hard Measure," setting forth the sufferings of his later years. With much good taste, these sketches have been frequently reprinted, where a more formal Life might have been expected ; and in the present instance, the same course might have been pursued with advantage. But as some passages in these fragments refer to subjects of trivial or temporary importance, and other sources of information are open, we have endea. voured, by omitting the one, to find place for the other.
Bishop Hall's object in leaving the chief events of his life on record, was worthy of the man. “ Not out of a vain affectation of my own glory, which I know how little it can avail me when I am gone hence, but out of a sincere desire to give glory to my God, whose wonderful providence I have noted in all my ways, have I recorded some remarkable passages of my fore-past life. What I have done is worthy of nothing but silence and forgetfulness; but what God hath done for me is worthy of everlasting and thankful memory."
Joseph Hall was born July 1, 1574, at Bristow Park, in the parish of Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. His parentage was “ honest and well-allowed.” His father held an office under the Earl of Huntingdon, which enabled him to procure a good education for his twelve children, and warranted his ambition that one of them should enter the ministry, at a time when a University was not the only avenue to the Church. But the instructions and impressions which Joseph received from his mother were a better qualification than the lessons of all his teachers; and the consciousness of their value in after days invested the memory of the gentle giver with an affection doubly filial. Winifred Bambridge was the Monica of Bishop Hall. A body always feeble, and often anguish-stricken, was the appropriate tenement of a spirit sorrowful and sorely exercised. But happily the clouds which at one time shaded the piety of this excellent woman, did not render it forbidding to the more genial temper of her son. He rejoiced in the light, when others would have complained of the halo, nor refused to be conducted to the kingdom by a guide whose countenance was sometimes sad. And he at last had the satisfaction of seeing her set free from these vexing thoughts, and deriving the joy of a religion of hope. “What with these trials, so had she profited in the school of Christ, that it was hard for any friend to come from her discourse no whit holier. How often have I blessed the memory of those divine passages of experimental divinity which I have heard from her mouth! What day did she pass without a large task of private devotion, whence she would still come forth with a countenance of undissembled mortification! Never any lips have read to me such feeling lectures of piety; neither have I known any soul that more accurately practised them than her own. Temptations, desertions, and spiritual comforts were her usual theme; shortly, for I can hardly take off my pen from so exemplary a subject, her life and death were saint-like."
It was at the public school of his native village that he received the elements of his education. After spending “ some years, not altogether indiligently, under the ferule of such masters as the place afforded, and attaining some competent ripeness for the University," as he was now fifteen years of age, it became a subject of much deliberation to his father, and anxious interest to himself, where he should next be sent. His father's fortune, not so large as his family, rendered the University almost unattain. able; and Joseph's schoolmaster, in his zeal for so meritorious a pupil, had privately negociated with Mr. Pelset, a clerical friend, famed for his talents and the eloquence with which he displayed them, to receive him into his house as his scholar; - Mr. Pelset undertaking, “ within one seven years, to send him forth, no less furnished with arts, languages, and grounds of theoretical divinity, than the carefullest tutor in the strictest college of either University.” The scheme, when unfolded to his father, so completely adapted itself to his circumstances and desires, that he speedily took the requisite steps for securing its advantages. “ There, and now were all my hopes of my future life upon blasting. The indentures were preparing, the time was set, my suits were addressed for the journey. What was the issue? O God I thy providence made and found it. Thou knowest how heartily and sincerely, in those my young years, I did cast myself upon thy hands; with what faithful resolution I did in this particular occasion resign myself over to thy disposition, earnestly begging of thee in my fervent prayers, to order all things to the best; and confidently waiting upon thy will for the event. Certainly, never did I in all my life more clearly roll myself upon the Divine Providence, than I did in this business; and it succeeded accordingly."
While these measures were in progress, his elder brother had occasion to visit Cambridge, and was kindly entertained by his townsman Nathaniel Gilby, a Fellow of Emanuel College. The majestic structures, the learned leisure, and the old renown of Cambridge, won this brother “ to a great love and reverence of an academical life," and powerfully enforced Mr. Gilby's earnest persuasions by all means to send his younger brother thither. Under these influences he returned to Ashby, and with Mr. Gilby's message reported in the most glowing terms his own impressions. On his knees he begged that his father would not drown the expectations of the youthful aspirant “ in a shallow country channel ;” and concluded by beseeching him, if the cost were the hindrance, to sell part of the land which should otherwise be his own inheritance. An appeal thus urged could not be resisted, and with an honest enthusiasm the governor of Ashby exclaimed, “ Cost what it will, to the University he shall go." The decision was opportunely made, for instantly a knock at the door announced a messenger from Mr. Pelset, to tell that he was waiting for his pupil, and would expect him on the morrow. Mr. Hall told the servant that he was some minutes too late, and informing him of his change of purpose, dismissed him with a courteous message to his master, whilst Joseph welcomed the change in his destination with tears of joy.
He had spent only two years in Emanuel College, when his father, “ whose not very large cistern was to feed many pipes besides his,” was prevailed on to recall him, that he might become the master of that school where he had shortly before been scholar. His extreme disappointment at this premature interruption of his studies was so evident as to move the pity of an uncle, by whose generosity he was enabled to resume his place at college, where he soon after obtained a scholarship. But, though other four years terminated his right to this maintenance, they had not abated his literary enthusiasm, and had only exalted into passion his love for the haunts of learning. There was only one capacity in which he could prolong his residence, and from that he was precluded by the statutes. These allowed of only a single fellow from any shire and the Leicestershire fellowship was preoccupied by his townsman and tutor Mr. Gilby. Here, not for the first time, he experienced the blessing of a faithful friend.