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THE LATE REV. ERASMUS M1DDLET0X, B. D.
RECTOR OF TUftVEY, IN BEi>F01WSilIRE»
By a near relative of Mr. Middleton we are informed, that, in the early part of his life, he was suffered to wander under the influence of original depravity, far from God and from happiness. In the appointed time, however, he was sought out and brought back by the compassionate Shepherd and Bishop of Souls. Happy for eiring man that there is no moral distance so great, to which the arm of Jesus cannot reach ! — no -irregularities so aggravated, but his grace can forgive them! — and no propensities to sin, so powerful and obdurate, which his Spirit cannot subdue! The saving change of his heart did not take place till about the twenty-second year of his age; and the lateness of the period furnished him, through life, with materials of bitter regret, that the prime of youth should have been blighted by roily and Sin. He had occasion often to s;iy with St. Paul, of several of his brethren, That they were not only men " of note in the churches of the saints but, which liiled him with the deepest concern, that " they also were in Christ before him." After his conversion he gave himself, like the primitive believers, to the Lord and to the church, by the will of God. It was to a society of Christians at Horncastle, in Lincolnshire, the place of his nativity, in the fellowship of the late Uev. J. Westley, that he first joined himself as a church-member. With them he walked; and, for a few years, occasionally exhorted among them. Feeling his mind inclining him powerfully to the ministry of the word, he wished to consecrate himself to the work of the Lord in the communion of the Established church. With this view he accepted the friendly invitation of the Rev. Mr. Townsend, of Pewsey; and under his affectionate tuition, regained and considerably improved his xiw. L u
classical learning; which, during the time of his apprentice ship, had, in a great measure, been lost. Through the generous aid' of this worthy minister, he afterwards entered* a student at Edmund-Hall, Oxford, where he pursued his academical studies with avidity and exemplary steadiness. It was here? that he became acquainted with five young men, who were distinguished by personal religion and correspondent regularity of manners. It seems, die}' were in the practice of associating together, in a private house, for the purpose of prayer, reading, expounding the Scriptures, and singing hymns. They were charged also with holding tenets called Mcthodisticul, which, in fact, were no other than the distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel, of the Reformation, and of the Church of England. Their meeting together for extempore prayer, singing hymns, &c. was judged tin irregularity of such importance, as, it" permitted, might produce dangerous consequences*} and, in order to deter others, it was thought expedient, by the ViceChancellor and heads of houses, in March. )76'S, to expel them from the university-fv Mr. Middleton had already incurred his father's displeasure by his connection with the Methodists; and now found himself cast upon the wide
* However criminal the singing hymns inf an University might be deemed, the same practice in a Camp was not thought reprehensible by a noble General. The late Duke of Cumberland, who, when in Germany, happened one evening to hear the sound of voices from a cave, at a little distance, asked the centinel, What noise it was ?—he was answered, That rt was some devout soldiers, who were singing hymns. Instead of citing them to- appear before their officers, ordering them to the hatberts to be whipped,- or commanding them to be drummed out of the regiment, he pleasantly said, " Are they so? Let them go on then, and be as merry as tltey can." In this he acted wisely; for he knew, and found by repeated experience, as did other commanding officers, that singing and praying, in these private societies, did not hinder, but rather fitted and animated these pious soldiers to fight their country's battles in the field; and it may be presumed, that if these students had not been expelled for singing hymns, &c. they certainly would not have been less, but, in air probability, much better prepared for handling the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and fighting therewith, either from the press or the pulpit, the battles of the Lord of Hosts. — See Mr. Whitfield's Letter to Dr. Dure!!, IVbrks, vol. iv309,.
f This event occasioned a long and unpleasant controversy, in which Dr. Nowell and Sir Richard Hill were principal combatants. The apology ort'i r*d by the friends of the expulsion was, that tlve young men had broken 1 he statutes of the university, which would have been pleaded with a better grace, had the same real for discipline appeared in the expulsion of- a few young men for swearing, gaming, and intoxication, which were cert linly not less irregularities than extemporary praying, sinking1 hymns, and expounding the Scriptures. It seems, one of the Heads otf hou'es observed upon this occasion, that "as these six gentlemen were expelled for having too much religion, it would be very proper to enq lire into the conduct of some who had too little but his motion was overruled for obvious reasons; and the issue exposed the university to a great deal ot ridicule, particularly in the " Shaver's Sermon," which »*as writ-» ten by the late Mr. Macgowan; and was not only very popular at the* time, but ha> beea repeatedly reprinted.
world, without human protection or support, and, in the judgment of the university, disgraced : but never could a man more justly accommodate to himself the words of Da. vid than our friend, at this season of darkness and dereJiction : -" When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up." His exalted Saviour, at whose girdle hangs the key that opens human hearts, graciously opened the hearts and doors of several benevolent and hospitable friends for him and his fellow-sufferers. Among these, the late William Fuller, Esq. banker, “ whose private acts of generosity,” to use Mr. Middleton's own words, “ were much more numerous than the world were acquainted with," made him an unsolicited offer of support, in the further prosecution of his studies. This liberal ofler, liberal both in respect of its amount, and of its being made by a regular and conscientions Dissenter to an Episcopalian, be very thankfully accepted ; and, in 1769, entered King's College, Cambridge, where he finished liis academical career, and was admitted to the degree of Bachelor of Divinity.
Finding it difficult, on account of the odium of the expulsion, to obtain ordination in England, he went over, by the advice of his friends, with suitable letters of introduction to the Right Rev. Dr. Trail, Bishop of Downe, in Ireland, bry whom he was adınitted to holy orders. Soon afterwards, he accepted the pastoral charge of a small Episcopal congregiltion, at Dalkeith, in Scotland ; where he lived in babits of close intimacy with evangelical ministers in the Establishment and in the Secession ; particularly with the late pions and affectionate Mr. Linderleath, then minister in Dalkeith ; of whose paternal counsels and instructions' be ever spake with inuch gratitude and warmth. By the care of what good man and able divine, our friend's views of the plan of redemption, through the atonement and obedience ut the Son of God, became more scriptural, simple, and clear. The rubbish was re
inoved ; and his entire confidence for remission of sin, aird · the future grandeur and felicity of his nature, was placed on
the foundation which God's wisdom, and not man's arrogance, hath laid in Zion.
While at Dalkeitli, he married the daugliter of the late Sir Gilbert, and sister of the present Sir Robt. Grierson, Bart. in Mrs. Middleton, her husband found a treasure: pious, modest, humble, affectionate; she was, as Solomon expresses it,"a crown to her husband." Though a woman of an ancient arri respectable family, and of some fortune, possessing also a fine person and good understanding, she reconciled, her mind to the dependent and precarions condition of'a curate's wife; and by then who knew her best, was never heard to repent of her choice, or repine at her circunscribed estate. ller solicitude
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