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REV. JAMES HERVEY, A. N.
A REGARD to eminent writings, which display genius, learning, orthodoxy, and piety, naturally excites a desire to be acquainted with the writer; and this desire is the stronger, when these writings are not only truly excellent in themselves, but are universally admired, eagerly read by good people of all denominations, and calculated to promote the best interests of mankind. Hence one is fond to know the author in private life, how he spent his time, how he sustained his character as a public teacher of religion, what influence the doctrines of grace, which he so warmly inculcated on others, had on his own heart and conversation; and finally, how he closed the last scene. Abundant satisfaction as to all those particulars will be obtained from the following account.
Mr. James Hervey was born on Friday the 26th of February, 1713-14, at Hardingstone, a country village, one mile from Northampton, his father being then minister of the parish of Collingtree, within two miles of Hardingstone. His first instruction was from his mother, who taught him his letters, and to read. Under her tuition he continued till he was seven years of age, when he was sent as a day-scholar, to the free grammar-school at Northampton, of which the Rev. Mr. Clarke, vicar of St. Sepulchre's in the said town, was at that time master..
At this school he remained till he was seventeen years old, and learned the Latin and Greek languages; in which luis genius and memory would have enabled him to have mada a much earlier progress, if it had not been prevented by his
schoolmaster, who would not suffer him, or any other of his scholars, to learn faster than his own son. Whilst Mr. Hervey was at school, though he showed a remarkable dexterity at all the innocent games usual among children, yet he had a perfect indifference for the acquisitions he made by his skill in these games, which he practised only for exercise and amusement.
In the year 1731, at the age of seventeen, he was sent by his father to the university of Oxford, and entered of Lincoln college there, under the tuition of the Rev. Mr. Hutchins, now Doctor, and rector of that college. He resided in the university seven years, and took the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The first two or three years were spent by him with some degree of indolence, or rather less application to his studies than he afterwards used. But in 1733, about his nineteenth year, becoming acquainted with some persons, who began to distinguish themselves by their serious impressions of religion, and their zeal for the promotion of it, he was engaged by their influence, in a stricter attachment both to piety and learning. He made himself master of Dr. James Keill's Anatomy, Dr. Derham's Physico-theology and Astrotheology, the Spectacle de la Nature [Nature Displayed] as translated by Mr. Humphreys; which last work he read with a peculiar satisfaction. Nor was he less delighted by the Essay on Pope's Odyssey, written by the Rev. Mr. Spence, now prebendary of Durham; to which elegant and judicious discourse Mr. Hervey often acknowledged that he owed more of his improvement in style and composition, than to any other which he had ever read.
In 1734, at the persuasion of a much valued friend, he began to learn the Hebrew language without any teacher, by the Westminster grammar itself, but soon found that grammar too concise and difficult for the instruction of a learner; and therefore then despaired of ever attaining a competent knowledge in the Hebrew, though he afterwards made himself so thorough a master of that sacred language.
It appears from his letters to his sister in 1733 and 1734, that though he then shewed a pious and serious turn'; yet these letters either speak a language different from free grace, for which we find he was afterwards so powerful an advocate; or at least they treat very confusedly of it. The şruth is, he was then a stranger to, and had strong prepos
sessions against the doctrine of justification by faith in im-
In the year 1740, he undertook the curacy of Biddeford, fourteen miles from Stoke-Abbey, where he lived greatly beloved by his people. His congregation was large, though his stipend was small: his friends, therefore, made a collection yearly for him, which raised his income to £60 per ab
num, so highly did they esteem him. At Biddeford, he was curate about two years and a half, and remained so until there was a new rector of that church, who dismissed Mr. Hervey from his curacy, against the united requests of his parishioners, who offered to maintain him at their own expense. During the time that Mr. Hervey lived in the West, viz. from 1739, till the latter end of 1743, his family heard very little of him, by reason of the great distance he was from them; though he laboured diligently in the service of his master. Here it was that he planned his Meditations, and probably wrote some part of them. He says, in his first volume of Meditations, that it was on a ride to Kilkhampton, in Cornwall, that he went into the church, where he lays the scene of his Meditations among the Tombs.
In August 1743, or thereabouts, he returned from Biddeford to Weston-Favel, leaving behind him many disconsolate friends, and officiated as curate to his father. Here he paid the greatest attention to his duty, and faithfully preached the gospel of Christ.
The first of his writings, which raised the attention of the public, was his Meditations among the Tombs, Reflections on a Flower-garden, and A Descant upon Creation, published in Feb. 1745-6. Of this kind of writing, we had before an example from no less a man than the great philosopher Mr. Boyle,* in his Occasional Reflections on several Subjects, written in his younger years.
Mr. Hervey's performance was so well received by the public, that it has already passed through about twenty editions in London, besides many surreptitious ones in Scotland and Ireland. A second volume, containing Contemplations on the Night and Starry Heavens, and A WinterPiece, was published in December 1747.4
* See Boyle's Life, by the late Dr. Birch.
+ There are few books in the English language, which, in so short a time, have ever passed through such numerous and very large editions as Mr. Hervey's Meditations, which not only please but improve us; and were writen with a view of famili. arizing to our minds those sublinie objects, which will be the STUDY and DELIGHT of a glorious ETERNITY. How many have they transportingly entertained in their retirements and lonely walks ; and how often elevated them to those lofty heights, from whence they could look down on all things below