« VorigeDoorgaan »
ON the death of an individual so admired and revered as MR. HALL, nothing was more natural than that a desire to possess a complete collection of his Works should be extensively felt, and almost as extensively expressed; the admirable genius and excellent spirit which pervade his compositions, as well as the singularly beautiful language in which his sentiments are generally conveyed, giving to them a very unusual fitness to instruct and impress the minds of men.
After a few conversations of a select number of Mr. Hall's intimate friends, it was resolved that a complete edition should be prepared as soon as possible; partly as a proper mark of respect for so distinguished a writer; partly, as conducive to the comfort of his family; and, partly, with a view to meet the desire so strongly felt and declared, as well as to give the utmost possible universality and permanency to the benefits which were likely to accrue from a correct and uniform edition.
The intimate friendship which had very long subsisted between Mr. Hall and myself, and the unreserved frankness with which it was well known he often spoke to me of some of his productions, and the plans which he had formed as to the orderly republication of the chief of them, led his family and many of his friends to express a most earnest wish that I would undertake the superintendence of the proposed Work. And although an almost entire want of leisure from heavy official and other engagements strongly induced me to decline the undertaking, yet the matter was so urgently pressed upon me, and every argument employed received so powerful an accession from my sincere veneration and affection for Mr. Hall, and my cordial esteem and regard for his excellent widow, that I could not withhold my assent.
My reluctance was greatly diminished on finding that, in the preparation and arrangement of the volumes, I could, in every case where such aid seemed expedient, avail myself of the valuable judgment of Mr. Foster, and of another friend, the
Rev. W. Anderson. This I have done throughout, with only two important exceptions: the one, that of a Letter on the Serampore Mission, in vol. ii. ; the other, that of the very imperfect biographical memoir which appears in the present volume, and which, from want of time, could not be subjected to their judgment.
With regard to such of Mr. Hall's writings as had been previously published, either under his own name or anonymously, it was at once found that no principle of selection could be satisfactorily adopted, and that, indeed, nothing could be omitted without making ourselves responsible for all that should be retained. Besides, "if the works of departed genius are to be submitted to the censorship of a timid discretion, or the mistaken delicacy of friendship," and some suppressed, some mutilated, some softened down, who can say how far their influence may be impaired? If, for example, Mr. Hall's political writings had been suppressed, out of deference to those whose opinions were different from his; must we not, upon the same principle of omission, have suppressed his fine defence of Catholic communion, out of deference to the strict-communion Baptists; his defence of the Puritans, or of the evangelical clergy, out of deference to those who dislike both those classes of excellent men? And if so, why should we not have also suppressed his admirable arguments in support of orthodox Christianity, out of deference to those who maintain heterodox sentiments; and all his noble declamation, his bold invective, his spirited irony, his strong reprehension of wickedness and folly, out of deference to those who think "strong language always unbecoming," and would wish the public instructer to take off the edge of his well-meant reproof by some carefully studied, unmeaning attenuation? as though the ardent phraseology of one who thought intensely, and therefore expressed himself strongly, upon every subject which he deemed worthy of occupying his time and attention, would, by cooling it down, to meet the taste of men of lower temperament, make a deeper impression, or be productive of more lasting good. The editors of the works of Mr. Burke, or Bishop Horsley, have not ventured to trifle with the reputation of those extraordinary men, by the interspersion of such lacunæ, to meet the variable tastes of their readers; nor have we: for thus might the works of our inimitable friend have been reduced to a mere pamphlet, and a future age have derived no more benefit from an intellect so richly endowed, so admirably directed as his to the best and highest purposes, than if it had never existed.
Finding, therefore, no ground for any reasonable, practicable rule of selection, none has been adopted. The only article
omitted is a letter published by Mr. Hall in a newspaper nearly forty years since; and that, because, on his subsequent reconciliation to the individual addressed, both parties agreed, in the presence of their mutual friends, that all should be cast into oblivion that had been previously said or written by either in reference to the points of controversy.
In selecting from Mr. Hall's manuscripts, we have not referred to his morbid sensitiveness with regard to appearing before the world, as the rule of action. But, while we have kept his high reputation in mind, we have also had in view the religious instruction of the general reader.
The following is a summary of the contents and distribution of these Works.
VOL. I. SERMONS, CHARGES, and CIRCULAR LETTERS, including a sermon on Isaiah liii. 8, not before published, TRACTS on TERMS of COMMUNION, and JOHN'S BAPTISM.
VOL. II.-TRACTS, Political and Miscellaneous, including an unpublished Fragment of a Defence of Village Preaching, REVIEWS, and MISCELLANEOUS PIECES, including several not before published.
VOL. III.-NOTES of SERMONS from the Author's own Manuscripts, with a Selection from his Letters, the originals of which have been kindly transmitted by various friends, and TWENTYONE SERMONS, preached by Mr. Hall, on various occasions, and communicated by friends who were in the habit of taking down his discourses. These are preceded by a brief Memoir of MR. HALL'S LIFE by the Editor; and Observations on his Character as a Preacher, by MR. FOSTER.
The Sermons published in this volume, although given in different degrees of fulness, may unquestionably be regarded as presenting a more exact idea of the usual manner and substance of Mr. Hall's preaching, than those which were laid before the world by himself. In all, the design, the argument, and the spirit have been admirably preserved; while in most the very language is so nearly caught, that it requires not a strong exercise of imagination to recall the tones, whether solemn and pathetic, or rapid and impressive, with which it was actually delivered. I know not whether Mrs. Hall or the public will be under the deepest obligation to the gentlemen who have thus richly contributed to the value of the Works.
I must now refer to that of which I should most gladly have been spared the necessity of speaking-the Biographical Memoir of Mr. Hall.
Immediately after the publication of the Works was decided upon, I suggested the expediency of soliciting Sir James Mackintosh, whose talents, judgment, taste, and delicacy, as well as
his known attachment to Mr. Hall, gave him a peculiar fitness for the task, to undertake a sketch of the literary and intellectual character of his deceased friend. The letter which I received in reply to my application will show how promptly and cordially he acceded to our wishes,
GREAT CUMBERLAND-STREET, 7th March, 1831.
MY DEAR SIR,
"A great man is fallen in Israel." I have reflected much on the subject of your letter, and will frankly tell you what seems to me to be right. I consider myself as speaking confidentially, in all that I say, to the friend of my ancient friend.
The only point on which I am likely to differ from you is respecting your own fitness to write a Memoir. I shall say no more than that, if I had the selection, I should certainly choose you.
I should be glad to see you here to breakfast on Monday next. In the mean time I may say that I approve of your plan of publishing Hall's Sermons, and, if possible, all his writings. If your want of leisure absolutely prevents you from undertaking the task, and if it be thought likely to promote the interests of Hall's family, I do not think myself at liberty to withhold the contribution of a preface to the editor chosen by the family. In that case I should require a few names and dates, and a perusal of his writings published or unpublished. I own to you that I prefer the old custom of prefixing such a modest preface by way of memoir, to the modern practice of writing huge narratives of lives in which there are no events; which seems to me a tasteless parade, and a sure way of transmitting nothing to posterity,
My paper would chiefly contain the recollections of my youth, and the result of such observations on Hall's writings as a careful perusal of them might naturally suggest.
I am, my dear sir, with real esteem,
After the interview proposed in this letter, and two or three others which shortly followed, Sir James, having matured his plan, agreed to devote about twenty pages to the purely biographical part of the Memoir, and perhaps forty more to the critical estimate of Mr. Hall's writings, of his literary attainments, and his intellectual powers. But the pressure of his constant attendance in Parliament during the progress of the Reform Bills, and of his heavy occupations as chairman of the Committee on East India Affairs, compelled him to postpone this labour from time to time, until his much-lamented death, in May last, terminated his intentions, and our hopes and expectations.
Proportioned to Sir James's remarkable qualifications for giving critical estimate of Mr. Hall's writings, and a philo
sophical view of the development of his intellectual character, must be the regret of the public that his purposes were not accomplished, and the reluctance of every considerate person to attempt a similar undertaking. Indeed, the high expectations which were so generally formed, of the delight and instruction that would be imparted by Sir James's delineation, rested upon the assurance of a combination of qualities in him which cannot be looked for elsewhere:-an early knowledge of the subject of the memoir; a close intimacy with him at the precise time when his faculties were most rapidly unfolding; incessant opportunities of watching the peculiarities of his intellectual constitution, and of measuring, by the application of power to power, the native and growing energy of his mind; a mind of nearly the same order, and possessing many of the same characteristics; a sincere affection for his friend, ripened into as sincere a veneration for his principles; and judgment, discrimination, and feeling most beautifully attempered, and exquisitely fitted, to trace, classify, and describe.
Since none, therefore, it was presumed, would follow the plan thus laid down, from an absolute despair of combining the adequate prerequisites, the idea of such a critical estimate was abandoned; and it was proposed that, instead of it, a concise Memoir, more strictly biographical, should be given.
Mr. Hall's family, and the friends immediately interested in the completion and success of these Works, strongly urged me to this additional undertaking; and though I for some weeks resisted all entreaty, and suggested applications to others, whom I sincerely thought much better qualified, yet, finding that the Works, regarded as literary property, were receiving injury from the delay, however inevitable, I at length consented to prepare the Memoir, modified, as it must be, by the necessities of the case. The reasons which so long prevented me from yielding to the wishes of these friends may now be adduced in apology for the imperfections with which I am persuaded the Memoir abounds. I have had incessantly to encounter difficulties arising from the nature of the undertaking, -from the contrast, which will assuredly force itself upon every reader, between my unfitness to prepare any memorial of Mr. Hall, and the peculiar fitness of the distinguished individual to whom the public had been looking, from the extraordinary character of the subject of the Memoir,-from the want of such incidents and events as give interest to biography, except, indeed, one or two, upon which no man of delicacy and feeling could dwell,--from an indifferent state of health, and such a total want of leisure as never allowed me to devote two successive days, and seldom indeed two successive hours, to the