THE LATE BISHOP OF EXETER.
This able correspondent who writes "My London Letter" for the 'Liverpool
Journal', on Saturday last heads his communication to that paper "My Letter,
but NOT from London", from which we extract the following - Henry
Philpotts, Bishop of Exeter, is dead. His body is enclosed in a leaden
coffin, and before your paper can be published he will be buried; and within
a month from the closing of his time he will be by all, except the few who
made money by him, forgotten.
For this man, though he once made a great stir in the world, and for a
time kept his church boiling like a caldron over a fire, has left nothing
behind him as a memorial. He wrote pamphlets by the hundred, and a volume
or two of controversy; but in this mass of writing, the catalogue of which
occupies many pages, there is literally nothing that the world will care to
preserve. In the political world all that he opposed so fiercely has been
carried, and all his dire prophecies of woe have been confuted by facts.
The truth is, that this was no great man who is about to be consigned to the
tomb. He was not a profound but a very shallow thinker. He was not a sound
reasoner, for time has confuted all his logic. His was not a mind of great
capacity, but very narrow. He was, in short, a poor, narrow, sand-blind,
intolerant ecclesiastical bigot.
He was, though, exceedingly ambitious; and if he had lived in more
favourable times, he would have ruled his church with a rod of iron, for he
was restrained by no kindly, charitable feelings. To the full extent of his
power, he persecuted all who opposed him. He would have expelled Gorham
from the Church for believing in "prevenient grace" before baptism. He
pursued this gentleman through every court, and when at last the case was
settled, he refused to obey the law and induct Mr. Gorham into his living;
and when, according to law in such case provided, the Archbishop of
Canterbury performed the ceremony, he (Exeter) turned round upon the Metropo
litan, anathematized him, and filled the air with his shriekings.
In the case of Shore, who preached in unconsecrated places, him the
bishop did ruin, and got him into gaol for costs. How can any man call this
bishop a great man? He was a very small, small man. Fancy all that row
about "prevenient grace" which the bishop stirred up. How small the thing
looks now, and yet the bishop blew the Church to a white-heat about it. And
then the question, whether a clergyman may preach in a building not
consecrated by a bishop - a curious question this - a clergyman may preach
out of doors, on that mountain side before me, for instance; but if I were
to enclose a bit of that mountain with stone or other walls, and roof it in,
and a clergyman were to preach in it, unless a bishop had previously
muttered a prayer in it, he (the clergyman) might be ruined, as poor Mr.
Shore actually was by the late bishop.
No, we cannot call such a man great. On the contrary, he appears to me
a very small purblind mortal. But what was it then that lifted him out of
the crowd, and gave him such notoriety, if not fame, for the time? Well,
notwithstanding all his affected sanctity and zeal, he was a very adroit
climber. No man ever climbed the greased pole of promotion more cleverly
than he did.
At the age of 27 he married Miss Surtees, a niece of Lady Eldon, wife of
the famous Lord Chancellor, and straightway he began to rise swiftly, as, so
connected, he would be sure to do. By the time he was 36 years old he had,
the 'Times' tells us, five livings and two prebendal stalls - one of which
was very rich. Ane here let us stop for moment to point a moral. Of
course, he could not perform duties of these livings, &c.; but the sin of
taking money for the performance of duties which he could not by any
possibility perform never disturbed his conscience for a moment. But when a
clergyman professed to believe in "prevenient grace", and another preached
in an unconsecrated building, then his conscience sounded the alarm as with
a trumpet, and his zeal for the Lord flamed up and became a consuming fire.
to be continued....................