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spirit which made them “burning and shining lights” in the Church on earth, and has prepared them for the highest seats of glory in the Church triumphant.**
But beyond this appeal to the spirit of a purer age, there was
a more conclusive argument, though one which it became not the author to urge. It was the language of his heart; of a heart which nature had made ardent, and grace had awakened to a deep sense of redeeming love; therefore it was, that it breathed forth its aspirations to heaven in a strain which to minds of a colder temperament appeared false or enthusiastic. To him may be applied in due measure the words of the holy Psalmist, “ My heart was hot within me; while I was musing, the fire burned, then spake I with my tongue.'
Such a work, and in such a spirit, was at the time greatly needed. The piety of Churchmen had certainly waxed cold; the spiritual tone of devotion was too often wanting in their writings, if not in their feelings; and nothing was more likely to effect a change than such a 'manual,' set forth by one so deservedly popular among them as was their young pastor.
How far the works of Mr. Hobart operated to produce this desirable end, it may not be
* Page 5.
easy to estimate. That the effect has been produced is unquestionable ; so that sentiments then condemned by Churchmen as enthusiastic will now be approved by them as evangelical. The following extract may be taken as a speci. men of what could then provoke the charge of extravagance. It is from the prayer for Wednes. day Evening
O most compassionate Father! hear and accept the sincere vows of duty which I offer at thy throne. Thee, O God, I desire to choose as my refuge and my portion. 'To thy glory and praise I resolve to devote all the powers of my soul: for that purity which will conform me to thy image I ardently pant; resolutely do I engage to fulfil all thy commands; cheerfully will I sustain all the sacrifices which thy service may require me to make; vigorously will I oppose the temptations and difficulties that would seduce or intimidate my allegiance to thee: to thy disposal I resign myself; patiently will I submit to all the chastenings of thy hand. Thou knowest the humble sincerity of my heart; thou knowest also, O God, its weakness and depravity. O save me from a presumptuous dependence on my own strength. Teach me evermore to rely on thee, and to implore the succors of thy Holy Spirit.' *
Again, from the devotions of Tuesday Evening :
* Holy Spirit, the source of quickening grace, whose sacred office it is to convince of sin, excite in my soul the conviction of my weakness and unworthiness. Blessed Guide and Comforter, lead my contrite spirit to repose its full trust in the merits of my Saviour. Almighty Father, whose just indignation I have incurred, cast me not off for ever; listen to the interceding calls of thy mercy, to the powerful pleading of my Saviour's blood, and turn from my guilty soul the severity of thy wrath. Recovered by thy mercy from the depths of guilt and misery, and restored by thy grace to health, purity, and peace, be all the glory of my redemption ascribed unto thee, FATHER, Son, and Holy Ghost, for ever and ever. Amen.'*
* Page 93.
Whatever fault nicer critics may find with such language, it is not to be denied that there is in it much of that which we admire in Jeremy Taylor, Andrews, and other of the older and more spiritual divines of the Church of England. It is the language of a heart not afraid to pray, not 'tongue-tied,' (to borrow a phrase of Coleridge,) but yielding itself up to its pious emotions with that entire, unsuspecting, unfearing, childlike profusion of feeling, which marks, and ought to mark, the address of an affectionate penitent toward a once offended but now reconciled Father,
It may be satisfactory to hear the opinion of a foreign critic on this point; one, moreover, not likely to prove partial, the Rey. S. C. Wilkes,
* Page 68.
the learned and pious editor of the London Christian Journal. In a letter to Mr. Hobart, some years after this, speaking of differences among Christians, he says, “It will be well if all learn from your devotional compositions that deep humility, that profound reverence toward God, that deep repentance, that implicit faith in the sacrifice of the Saviour for pardon and justification, and those earnest resolutions and endeavors after a devout and holy life which they breathe in every page.' And again, speaking of a devotional work Mr, Hobart was about editing, his correspondent adds, “The frequent perusal of your “Companion ” to the blessed eucharist convinces me it will gain much of unction from the required revision.'
After such a eulogium it may seem arrogant for his biographer to add, that, speaking for himself, he would freely admit, that in these earlier works of Mr. Hobart the style is not to his taste. He would prefer either for didactic or devotional ends one of a more chastened character, words chosen with more precision, arranged in more natural order, and with greater condensation of expression. Their fervid diffuseness cannot but be esteemed a fault, so far at least as rendering them inappropriate interpreters of the inward thoughts and feelings of minds of a calmer tenor. But this is not to condemn them for the use of others : some there are who love to see the religion of the heart clothed in the warm colors of the affections, who like not the sober garb with which nature in some, and age and sorrow in most, invest even the brightest hopes of the Christian. To such this manual of devotion will be found highly acceptable, for such too is its character.
But when such language is charged by Churchmen with extravagance of sentiment or doctrine, it augurs ill for the Church to which they belong. And such was the fact.
The censure of the work came rather from those who disliked what they undervalued—the tone it wore of deep personal religion. At that time there were many who were for keeping not only the Church to its forms, but its forms to a cold, or what they termed, a 'decent,' propriety. In this matter Mr. Hobart's course puzzled and dissatisfied them: he went beyond them in attachment to the one, and was at direct variance with them in the other.
They knew not, in short, whether to call him ‘High Churchman' or Methodist.”
This was a combination in which Mr. Hobart at that time stood singular, and gives the secret, it may be said, not only of his influence over the Church, but, in short, of his power through life over the minds of all who ap