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Archbishop Secker died in 1768. Dr. Porteus, actuated by grateful remembrance of a person who had proved to him the kindest and the best of friends, and in discharge of a trust reposed in him by will, revised and edited his sermons, lectures, and other writings. To these he prefixed a review of the Archbishop's life and character, written with elegance and judgment. If he employed the language of panegyric, it was the panegyric in which thepartiality of grateful friendship inight well be indulged, and which the opinion of an admiring public acknowledged to be not much overcharged. On one or two subsequent occasions, he stepped zealously forward to defend the memory of his respected patron.
After the death of Archbishop Secker, Dr. Porteus divided his residence between Lambeth and another living which he held in Kent, and performed with exemplary diligence the duties of a parish priest. He was promoted in 1776 to the bishopric of Chester. This preferment, Mr. Hodgson tells us, was perfectly unsolicited, and wholly unexpected, till a short time before it took place. The lay-member of Merton College' informs us that his promotion was owing to the Queen, who obtained much popularity by contributing to elevate so deserving a character. Having performed the duties of diocesan of Chester for eleven years, he was promoted in 1787 to the bishopric of London. He is said to have left his former diocese with reluctance, having attached himself to it by much intercourse of civility amongst the clergy and other inhabitants, and projected several plans of improvement which he was unwilling to break off. His appointment to the diocese of London is referred by the member of Merton College to the same illustrious patronage which had befriended him before. It appears, by Mr. Hodgson's account however, to have been owing to the express recommendation of Mr. Pitt, who considered him to possess the best qualifications for the situation. Subjoined to a copy of Mr. Pitt's letter, informing him of his appointment, the following words were found written with the Bishop's own hand: 'I acknowledge the goodness of a kind Providence, and am sensible that nothing but this could have placed me in a situation so infinitely transcending my expectations and deserts.'
He was now placed in an exalted station, the duties of which were arduous, and required great zeal and activity, combined with judgment and temper. We will take under separate consideration the different parts of his conduct, in the more immediate exercise of his functions as a diocesan, in his exertions to check the growth of immorality and irreligion at home, and in his more public and comprehensive plans of promoting the great cause of civilization and humanity abroad.
In attending to the immediate business of his dioceses his dilia gence was unwearied. The charge which he delivered to the clergy at his first visitation in the diocese of Chester, is priuted amongst his tracts. In this he enlarges with earnestness on the studies and habits most suited to the clerical character, enforces particularly the advantages of personal residence, and recommends an attention to decorum as to dress and appearance, no less than to matters of more essential importance. The personal residence of the clergy indeed was at all times a primary object of his consideration. By keeping this constantly in view during the long period of his presiding over the diocese of London, he effected an important change in this respect; insomuch that at the time of his decease, where accidental circumstances did not interpose, an adequate accommodation was provided in every parish, and the proper minister was actually resident. In his primary charge to the diocese of London, which is also printed, he recommended, besides this momentous object of parochial residence, an increase of salary to the curates employed; and he also wished to direct the attention of the clergy to an improvement in church psalmody, as he well knew that the dissenters make great use of music to allure congregations. Another subject which he was always earnest in recommending, was the instruction of the poorer classes : as a means of effecting this, he promoted the establishment of Sunday schools; and, while he was bishop of Chester, addressed a letter to his clergy, forcibly pointing out the advantages of such institutions, and the good effects to be expected from their more extensive adoption. The Bishop felt a considerable share of that anxiety which all friends to the Established Church must feel at the present time, at the increase of separation from our communion, and the spreading taint of sectarian fanaticism; and as the most efficacious means of counteracting this growing evil, enforced upon his clergy the necessity of attending with
increased zeal to the regular and conscientious discharge of their ministerial duties.
• It is a fact,' he says, in his last charge, that when the itinerant preacher goes out upon his mission, he commonly looks out for those parishes where the shepherd has deserted his flock, or is so indolent, so lukewarm, so indifferent to its welfare, as to make it an easy prey to every invader. In general, he prudeutly keeps aloof from those parishes where he sees a resident minister watching over his people with unremitting care, grounding them early in the rudiments of sound religion, guarding them carefully against the false glosses of dangerous delusions of illiterate and unauthorized teachers, bringing them to a constant attendance on divine worship in their parish churches, and manifesting the same zeal, activity and earnestness, to retain his people in the ch of England, which he sees others exert to seduce them from it.'-Hodgson's Life, p. 173.
That attention, however, to the calls of duty which Bishop Porteus was so earnest in enforcing upon others, he was most forward to pay himself. In particular, for the purpose of checking indifference to religious duties and dissipation of manners, which appeared to him to be fixing themselves by firmer roots in our national character, he determined to deliver, at St. James's church, his course of lectures on St. Matthew's gospel. The success which attended them exceeded his expectations : the church was always crowded; the audience not only listened to him with attention, but appeared to feel what he said, and went away gratified and improved. He ever after expressed great satisfaction at the effect which these lectures appeared to have on the public.*
In counteracting the growing depravity of the times, to which he seems to have been invariably impelled, not by a forward love of meddling and reform, but by an heartfelt desire of doing good, he had many difficulties to encounter. To interfere with effect in such matters requires not only zeal and earnestness, but good sense and well-tempered discretion. The world, it must be remembered, always has been, and probably always will be unwilling to be reformed. The public are immediately disposed to raise against those who attempt any correction of their morals, the
cry of puritanism :—they misrepresent their motives-accuse them of an overfondness for meddling with other people's conçerns, or of a moroseness of disposition which is unwilling to tolerate the most harmless indulgence. Bishop Porteus made himself obnoxious to these charges; but while it is allowed on all hands that his views were the purest and best, it does not appear that he was overforward, or that he even verged on puritanical strictness in the measures which he attempted.
Among the primary objects towards which he directed his attention was that of procuring a more religious observance of the Sabbath. While he was Bishop of Chester he was mainly instrumental in procuring a law connected with this important object. It appears that about the year 1730, some houses of entertainment
Amongst other business connected with the care of the diocese of London, Mr. Hodgson mentions (p. 142) the bisbop having brought to a successful issue in 1800 a long contest with a clergyman, Mr. Bate Dudley, respecting the presentation to a living, This clergyman, animadverting in a recent pamphilet, on what Mr. Hodgson has here said, has publicly accused the bishop of having practised a deception on him, and has engaged to make the charge good by publishing all the letters and evidence which con. cern the business. We will not insult the memory of the bishop so much as to admonish the public that till such a charge be made good by clear and decisive proof, his high and unsullied character must be held to give it the fullest negative,
on the evenings of the Sabbath had been opened in the metropolis, and that debating societies for the discussion of religious topics had also been established. Bishop Porteus was struck, in common with many others, at the alarming evils which such in.stitutions might produce; he waited for some time to see whether any person better qualified than himself would take up the subject; but being disappointed in this, he determined to try what his own exertions could effect: accordingly he procured the assistance of a legal friend to draw up a bill, which he submitted to the judgment of several eminent persons before he introduced it into parhiament. It passed through both houses, with some opposition ; the bishop supported it himself in the House of Lords by an excellent speech. It proved effectual in preventing the evils against which it was directed.
At a subsequent period, when he was Bishop of London, he addressed a circular letter to his clergy earnestly recommending exertions for the purpose of procuring a more reverential observance of the Sabbath. And with the view of beginning the reformation in a quarter where it was but too much wanted, viz. amongst the higher ranks of society, he endeavoured to procure a declaration by the principal nobility and gentry in the metropolis, engaging to abstain from travelling and giving entertainments on the Lord's day. His success was partial. His views were misrepresented ; absurd reports were spread of the puritanical strictness which he wished to enforce, and of the measures which he had in contemplation to deprive the common people of the most harmless recreations. The bishop's reflections on this are thus expressed: “That men who wish to see not only the Lord's day, but the christian religion extinguished in this country, should raise such an outcry against a measure calculated to preserve both, is no wonder ; but that men of sense, and piety, and virtue, should adopt the same language, and join in the profane and senseless uproar, is perfectly astonishing.' On another occasion he observed with great concern, a prevailing custom in the fashionable world of holding Sunday concerts at private houses, at which professional performers were engaged to sing. He deemed it of such importance to check a practice of this iudecorous nature, that he wrote several letters to ladies of high rank, pointing out the evil tendency of it. He had the satisfaction of finding that his remonstrance was received with attention, and followed by the effect which he so anxiously wished. The last public act of his life was directed towards the same object. The account shall be given in his own words. • I had for some time past observed in several of the papers, an account of a meeting, chiefly of military gentlemen, at an hotel at the west end of the town, which was regularly announced as held every other Sunday during the winter season. This appeared to me, and to every friend of religion, a needless and wanton profanation of the christian Sabbath, which by the laws both of God and man was set apart for very different purposes; and the bishops and clergy were severally ceusyred for permitting such a glaring abuse of that sacred day to pass without notice or reproof. I determined that it should not, and therefore thought it best to go at once to the fountain head, to the person of the highest and principal influence in the meeting, the Prince of Wales. I accordingly requested the honour of an audience, and a personal conference with him on the subject. He very graciously granted it; and I had a conversation with him of more than half an hour. He entered immediately into my views, and confessed that he saw no reasons for holding the meeting on Sundays more than on other days of the week ; and he voluntarily proposed that the day should be changed from Sunday to Saturday, for which he said that he would give immediate orders.' -HODGSON'S LIFE, p. 249. In furtherance of the same views, the bishop as
soon as he was advanced to the diocese of London, took pains to extend a society recently established for enforcing the King's proclamation against immorality and profaneness. His idea was, to check the profligacy of the times by inducing persons of rank and character to associate for the purpose of putting the laws in force, and convicting offenders. Of this society, better known to the public by the name of the Society for the Suppression of Vice, he afterwards became president. The profligate and contemptible part of the world were, of course, the enemies of such a society, and assailed it with every weapon of low buffoonery and petulant abuse. The society has undoubtedly done much good by bringing to public justice some notorious offenders, by checking some indecorous practices, and by procuring some beneficial legislative enactments. That such an institution is perfectly lawful in its principle, can admit of no doubt; for its first and avowed purpose is to produce those effects which the legislature intended, by putting the laws in force: and it would be the vilest abuse of words to call it a society of informers, when its object is not private gain but public utility. It is true, that the end proposed may not be always pursued with discretion and moderation. The zeal of individuals is apt to deviate into excess, especially when directed towards schemes of reformation, however desirable. Add to this, that under the mask of detecting abuses, a prurient disposition to pry into the characters of others, and needlessly intermeddle with their concerns, may too easily be generated, and there will be a risk that persons may enter into the management of such a society, who will