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PREPARATORY SCENES AND STUDIES.
As the subject of this memorial was intended, by the providence of God, to become pre-eminently distinguished as a divinity professor, it seems proper, in connexion with the commencement of his student-life, to advert to the history and character of those institutions in one of which he received his ministerial education. Seminaries for Dissenting students had not then attained the title of colleges, but were known by the humbler appellation of academies, and were, in fact, establishments of a different order from those which now adorn our denomination. Several of the ministers ejected from the Church of England on the black day of Bartholomew, were as distinguished by their erudition as by their piety. With attainments which would have fitted them for conspicuous posts in the republic of
learning, some of them were glad, for the sake of a subsistence, to descend to the drudgery of initiating boys into their Greek and Latin accidence. Ralph Button, Canon of Christ Church, and Orator of the University of Oxford, a man of illustrious scholarship, was obliged, in order to buy his daily bread, to open a little school, and that stealthily, for the sons of his friends, first at the town of Brentford, and then at the village of Islington; and the great Dr. Gale, the author of the “ Court of the Gentiles,” in like manner sought his livelihood by performing scholastic toils in a sequestered nook of the then rustic Newington Green.* Other men of classic taste and literary skill, less known to fame, such as Mr.
* The following was an interesting occurrence in the life of this learned worthy :-“The Restoration having stripped him of hisspreferments, he travelled with two sons of Lord Wharton. On his return to England, as he approached London, he was alarmed with the sight of the city in flames. Amidst sympathy for the sufferings of others, the fear of personal loss rushed into his mind. He had left his papers in the possession of a friend, whose house he soon found to be involved in the general calamity. But he was delighted with the grateful tidings, that his desk, containing the labours of many years, had been thrown into a cart as an article just sufficient to make up the load."—Bogue and Bennett's History of Dissenters, vol. i. p. 325.-There was the MS. of the “Court of the Gentiles,"—so near was that monument of learning to the ignoble fate which consumed so many other treasures.
Woodhouse, Mr. Warren, Mr. Morton, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Doolittle, Mr. Shuttlewood, and Mr. Veal, had their private establishments in different parts of the country, and thus blended their instructions in the learned languages with the higher teaching of Christian theology, shedding over the whole the soft and winning light of a holy life. They educated youths for secular employments; and at firstjust after the Restoration, in those troublous times when the walls of our free ecclesiastical city began to be built, and the prospects of Nonconformity were dark and forbiddingthis seems to have been their chief design. But as the Established Church showed no disposition to conciliate, as the cause of the conscientious dissentients grew in numbers and vigour,--as congregations, in spite of penal enactments, gathered around the earnestminded confessors of a doubly-reformed faith, the need was felt of a fresh race of ministers to hand down to another age the lighted torch of liberty and truth. The houses of these instructors gradually became schools of the prophets. Few, perhaps, at the time of entering under their roof, felt what we should recognize as a sufficient call to the Nonconformist ministry; but there, in the family of some godlike man, through the influence of that wisdom and piety which watched like guardian and inspiring angels over their opening minds, they were gently and graciously inclined to choose that vocation which, away from the paths of affluence and power, led them, through humble and sorrowful scenes, to the attainment of a Divine reward and immortal honours. Not originally, and by design, did these good men, in the first instance, constitute seminaries for the express purpose of educating men for the Christian ministry, but gradually the boys' school came to assume the more important character of a ministerial college. And for a long time, up to Doddridge's commencement as a tutor, and even afterwards, the Nonconformist academy was an affair resting entirely on the personal responsibilty of the minister who conducted it. There was no constituency, no regular subscribers, no council or committee, but the entire management devolved on the individual who chose to open his house for the reception of pupils. Payment was made by parents and friends. In
several cases, permanence was given to an establishment by a succession of tutors; in others, it ceased when the founder died. Nor were any inquiries instituted respecting the personal piety of the young men admitted to the academies, until the King's Head Society was formed in 1730. They laid down as a general principle, that a person ought to be a Christian before he was admitted to be a student in divinity. “Plain as this principle is, it will not be found in the voluminous pages of ecclesiastical history that it was ever acted on in any age, or in any part of the Christian church, till the King's Head Society made it the ground-work of their plan.”*
As Nonconformist ministers, before the Revolution, were constantly subject to the oppression of the government, it is no wonder that in their capacity as tutors they were liable to molestation. Button was sent to gaol for three months. Morton was harassed by ecclesiastical processes, and finally compelled to abandon his academy altogether. Even the accession of the Prince of Orange,
• Some further notice will be found of this Society in the Postscript.