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JOSEPH AND ISAAC MILNER.
tion was such, that few heard him without a very sensible emotion: I am sure I never did. His style was rather too fine; but there was a majesty and beauty in it that left so deep an impression, that I cannot yet forget the sermons I heard him preach thirty years ago : and yet with this he seemed to look on himself as so ordinary a preacher, that while he had a cure, he was ready to employ all others; and when he was a bishop, he chose to preach to small auditories, and would never give notice beforehand: he had, indeed, a very low voice, and so could not be heard by a great crowd.
The records of fraternal affection contain no example more beautiful and touching than the brotherly love of JOSEPH and ISAAC MILNER. Their father, who had once been a member of the Society of Friends, was a manufacturer in reduced circumstances in the town of Leeds. However, poor as he was, he strove to secure a good education for, at least, one of his
Joseph was sent to the grammar-school, and afterwards to Catherine Hall, Cambridge. There he acquitted himself so well that he soon was appointed master of the grammar-school at Hull, and found himself in circumstances to aid his younger brother. He knew Isaac's love of learning, and grieved that the studious lad should consume his days in weaving broad cloth. He asked his friend the Rev. Mr Miles Atkinson to visit him, and test his classical attainments. Mr Atkinson found him seated at the loom, with Tacitus and some Greek author lying beside him. Notwithstanding his long absence from school, the young apprentice acquitted himself so well that Mr Atkinson went to his master and purchased a release from his indentures. “ Isaac, lad, thou art off,” was the worthy manufacturer's laconic announcement of the fact to the joyful Isaac, who immediately repaired to Hull and commenced as usher
in his brother's crowded school. From thence, at the age of twenty, through the same brother's generosity he was transferred to Queen's College, Cambridge. There he studied to such purpose that on taking his degree the ex-weaver came out senior wrangler, with the epithet “Incomparabilis,” besides being first Smith's prizeman, and was soon after elected a fellow and tutor of his college, and commenced the career which ended in his being president of Queen's and Dean of Carlisle.
Joseph Milner was born Jan. 2, 1744. He died Vicar of Holy Trinity, Hull, Nov. 15, 1797.
Isaac Milner was born Jan. 11, 1750, and died April 1, 1820.
Before his death, Joseph had published three volumes of a History of the Church of Christ.” When he died he left some materials so far prepared, that the work was taken up and two volumes added by the surviving brother. That it has all the charms of a first-rate history, or that the portion which passed through Isaac's hands is altogether worthy of the fame of the mighty mathematician, it would be vain to assert; but it is not hazarding much to say that the work of the Milners is the best account of the Christian life of past ages which English readers yet possess, and that for the authenticity of its details, and the truthfulness of its representations, it far surpasses many of its more pretentious competitors.
That good men frequently appear to more advantage in private life than in public, is a remark which was perhaps never better exemplified-than in this prelate, of whom all that is known by the generality of readers is, that he was a strenuous supporter of the papal dominion in England. I can easily conceive that he might be influenced by the purest motives in
this part of his conduct, when I reflect on the shameless and profane manners of the Norman princes. But his private life was purely his own, originating more directly from the honest and good heart with which, through grace, he was eminently endowed. As a divine and a Christian, he was the first of characters in this century, and is, therefore, deserving of some attention.
He was born at Aoust in Piedmont. From early life his religious cast of mind was so prevalent that, at the age of fifteen, he offered himself to a monastery, but was refused, lest his father should have been displeased. He afterwards became entangled in the vanities of the world; and to his death, he bewailed the sins of his youth. Becoming a scholar of Lanfranc, his predecessor in the See of Canterbury, at that time a monk at Bec, in Normandy, he commenced monk in the year 1060, at the age of twenty-seven. He afterwards became the prior of the monastery. His progress in religious knowledge was great; but mildness and charity seem to have predominated in all his views of piety. The book commonly called Augustine's Meditations, was chiefly abstracted from the writings of Anselm. At the age of forty-five he became abbot of Bec. Lanfranc dying in 1089, William Rufus usurped the revenues of the See of Canterbury, and treated the monks of the place in a barbarous manner. For several years
profane tyrant declared, that none should have the see while he lived; but a fit of sickness overawed his spirit; and conscience, the voice of God, which often speaks even in the proudest and the most insensible, severely reproved his wickedness; insomuch that he nominated Anselm to be the successor of Lanfranc. That Anselm should have accepted the office with much reluctance under such a prince, is by no means to be wondered at; and, the more upright and conscientious men are, the more wary and reluctant will they always be found in accepting offices of so sacred a nature; though it is natural
for men of a secular spirit to judge of others by themselves, and to suppose the “ nolo episcopari,” to be, without any exceptions, the language of hypocrisy.
Anselm pressed the king to allow the calling of councils, in order to institute an inquiry into crimes and abuses; and also
; to fill the vacant abbeys, the revenues of which William had reserved to himself with sacrilegious avarice. Nothing but the conviction of conscience, and the ascendency which real uprightness maintains over wickedness and profligacy, could have induced such a person as William Rufus, to promote Anselm to the see, though he must have foreseen how improbable it was, that the abbot would ever become the tame instrument of his tyranny and oppression. In fact, Anselm, finding the Church overborne by the iniquities of the tyrant, retired to the Continent with two monks, one of whom, named Eadmer, wrote his life.
Living a retired life in Calabria, he gave employment to his active mind in writing a treatise on the reasons why God should become man, and on the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation : a work at that time useful to the Church of Christ, as he refuted the sentiments of Roscelin, who had published erroneous views concerning the Trinity. For, after a sleep of many ages, the genius of Arianism or Socinianism, or both, had awaked, and taken advantage of the general ignorance, to corrupt the fundamental doctrines of Christianity. Anselm knew how to reason closely and systematically, after the manner of the famous Peter Lombard, master of the sentences, and Bishop of Paris; and he was properly the first of the scholastic divines. The method of ratiocination then used was, no doubt, tedious, verbose, and subtile, and, in process of time, grew more and more perplexed. It was,
however, preferable to the dissipation and inanity which, in many publications of our times, pretend to the honour of good sense and sound wisdom, though devoid of learning and industry.
Moreover, the furniture of the schools, in the hands of a fine genius like Anselm, adorned with solid piety, and under the control of a good understanding, stemmed the torrent of profane infidelity, and ably supported the cause of godliness in the world. Roscelin was confuted, and the common orthodox doctrine of the Trinity upheld itself in the Church. What were the precise views of Roscelin will be better understood, when we come to introduce one of his scholars, the famous Peter Abelard to the reader's notice.
Anselm, weary of an empty title of dignity, and seeing no probability of being enabled to serve the Church in the archbishopric, entreated the Pope to give him leave to resign it, but in vain. Nor does he seem to have been justly chargeable with the display of an "ostentatious humility,” when he had first refused the promotion.* The integrity, with which he had acted, ever since that promotion had taken place, ought to havo rescued him from the illiberal censure. “ Rufus had detained in prison several persons, whom he had ordered to be freed during the time of his penitence; he still preyed upon the ecclesiastical benefices; the sale of spiritual dignities continued as open as ever; and he kept possession of a considerable part of the revenues belonging to the See of Canterbury.” Was it a crime, or was it an instance of laudable integrity in Anselm, to remonstrate against such proceedings ? I suppose the candour and good sense of the author to whom I allude, would have inclined him to praise that upright conduct, for which Anselm was obliged to retire to the Continent, had not this same Anselm been a priest, and a priest too of sincere zeal and fervour. In justice to Anselm, it should, moreover, be observed, that one reason why he wished to resign his archbishopric was, that he believed he might be of more service to the souls of men in a merely clerical character, which was more obscure. And he was naturally led to assign this reason
* See Hume, vol. i., p. 302.