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generous ardour in behalf of whatever is noble and true, his scorn of all meanness, of all false pretences and conventional beliefs, softened as it was by compassion for the victims of those besetting sins of a cultivated age,
his never Hagging impetuosity in pushing onward to some unattained point of duty or of knowledge, along with his gentle, almost reverential, affectionateness towards his former tutor, rendered my intercourse with him an unspeakable blessing; and time after time has it seemed to me that his visit had been like a shower of rain, bringing down freshness and brightness on a dusty road-side hedge. By him, too, the recollection of these our daily meetings was cherished till the last. In a letter to his eldest boy, who was at school, and to whom he used to write daily, about two months before his death, after speaking of various flowers in his garden, especially of some gumcistuses, he says, “I think I like them chiefly because I remember a large bush of the kind, close to the greenhouse through which one passed into Mr. Hare's Library. The ground used to be all white with the fallen flowers. I have so often stood near it, talking to him, and looking away over the Pevensey Level to the huge old Roman Castle, and the sea, and Beachy Head beyond. The thought of the happy hours I have so spent in talking with him is and always will be very pleasant. It is long since I saw him. I have been too ill, and have too much besides upon me, to keep up latterly almost any correspondence. But I know that if we met to-morrow, or to-morrow come a hundred years, it would be as of old, like brothers. Happy, is it not, my boy, that there are in human life such ties of affection and mutual faith as no lapse of time can weaken !'”
By far the happiest season of Sterling's checkered course, was that in which he was engaged in the active duties of the Christian ministry at Herstmonceux. He designates it the one sabbath of his life. He loved his work, and was blessed in discharging it. The tendency of his mind was to bold and searching speculation. But whilst fulfilling the various obligations of his pastoral office, his time and thoughts were wholly engrossed with practical labours, in the performance of which he found a mental as well as spiritual repose and peace which he never afterwards enjoyed. We believe it was Dr. Arnold who used to say, it was his habit when he felt that his studies were attended with depressing effects, to seek relief in visiting the sick and the poor in their affliction, and that he always found it followed by a cheering and bracing influence. And to Sterling, the “moral effort and self-sacrifice” which were required of him in his parish, gave a healthy tone to his mind, and called off his attention from questions of mere religious knowledge, or of mere opinion, to which under other circumstances he was inclined, perhaps, beyond all profitable measure. We do not wonder at the affectionate interest with which the Archdeacon dwells on this part of his accomplished friend's history. Humanly speaking, we regret that it was so brief, for we cannot but think that if he had been favoured with health and strength to work out his own ideal of what a clergyman should do and be, it would have conduced largely to his own comfort and to the benefit of others. His natural eloquence, his rational views, his Christian spirit, his earnest desire to be useful to his fellow-creatures, and especially to the ignorant and degraded and neglected portion of them, admirably qualified him for the ministry, and must have made him an instrument of great good, had he been permitted to continue in it. His bodily strength, however, was not equal to the exertion which was needed in such a sphere. And, after about six months, he was compelled, though with much sorrow of heart, in the year 1835, to withdraw from his pastoral labours. But though his physician forbade all
public exertion, Sterling was a man of too much energy of character, and of too much intellectual vigour, to remain idle. And we are informed that he now busied himself in studying philosophy and theology, especially the best German writers; in commencing, and to a considerable extent executing, works of his own on cognate subjects; in writing poetry, and in devising schemes for the education and spiritual enlightenment of the masses of our population. “I am half out of patience,” he says in a letter on this latter point, “ with societies for converting Jews, Turks and New Zealanders, while half the people in our great cities have never heard of a God, except to blaspheme by." But all his plans were again interrupted. The pulmonary symptoms became more alarming in March, 1836. And though he lived several years after, he was never able to apply himself continuously to any thing that called for laborious thought or study. But though he could not com. plete the various important essays and dissertations on ethical and bi. blical questions which he had contemplated, his mind continued ever active, and he was constantly occupied in reading and thinking and writing, amidst all his weaknesses and interruptions, to an extent which many a man in health would have deemed laborious. He was no inattentive observer of the moral, political or religious state of his country, and his letters abound with wise and beautiful observations on what he conceived to be the duties of the ruling and educated classes towards those who are less favourably circumstanced.
It does not appear that Sterling had ever been in entire sympathy with what are called orthodox views of Christianity. But after he left Herstmonceux, and began to think closely of the state and needs of theology in England, he soon found himself differing widely from the divines of the Church of England, both with respect to Church authority and to Christian doctrine. With his characteristic candour he observes,
“I cannot trace this tendency to any corrupt self-indulgence of my own, but find that the more I endeavour to draw near in heart, mind and life, to the Saviour, and the more earnestly I strive to know and do the will of God, the less I seem disposed to admit any thing like the claims of a hierarchy, venerable though it may be as a monument, and useful as an instrument, or to believe in any normal outward institution, by Christ or the apostles, of rulers and teachers in the Church. The divine authority of such seems to me merely identical with their evangelic value. I write these things because I know you would rather have the conclusions of a sincere mind than the compliances of a hypocritical one. I feel no pleasure, but great pain, in differing from so many of the wisest and holiest of my countrymen; but I dare not lie for God."
Again, in a letter from Madeira in 1837, he remarks,
“On many points I am not less sceptical, perhaps more, than ever ; but I have, on the whole, a lively and progressive confidence in Christian truth, and enjoy so much peace, elearness and activity, that all clouds appear to me, not portions of the sky, but obscurations of it, and therefore sure in time to vanish. I seem to see distinctly that the hour must come for the disclosure to England of a scientific theory of the Bible, which, however, will not, in my view, directly affect the faith of the multitude, but will certainly modify all our theology and theological no-education."
Again, on another occasion, he expresses his conviction that, as a class, the clerical guides of England have done their work intolerably ill, and much worse than those of any other Protestant country; and observes,
"I wish good-speed to every attempt at fulfilling any long-neglected ideal of goodness; but I am satisfied of nothing more entirely, than of the necessity for a great crisis in the belief of England, which will indeed destroy Socialism and Sectarianism, but will just as certainly shake off the Thirty-nine Articles. I write plainly to you; but pray believe that I am far from thinking it right to blaze up suddenly in the face of a nation's creed and customs. Nothing but reverence for Truth should exceed our reverence for all objects of men's living faith; and I am most anxious to be preserved from a spirit of intemperate blame or of mocking levity.”
His thoughts often dwelt with great anxiety on the sadly neglected condition of the industrial and lower classes in this country, and writing from Cornwall with reference to Strauss's Life of Jesus, he observes that its seemingly successful attack on much of the Scriptural narrative will make it a desperate engine among uncultivated minds for overthrowing the whole of Christianity.
“ They are now translating it for the poor; and in their dreadfully untaught state, the ruin of historical religion will appear to involve the fate of all moral obligation. The accounts I hear from very competent persons, of the utter absence of any religious feeling and any kind of thought among huge masses of the manufacturing poor, daily amaze me; and my own knowledge of the state of some of the peasantry, combined with this kind of information, goes far to satisfy me that all our institutions have been almost entirely worthless for humanizing the poor as a class. We never have had any form of religion since the Reformation efficient among the poor; and it seems probable that any fit for the purpose must assume a very different shape from that which the clergy generally are as yet prepared to acknowledge. It is said that Wesleyanism is now not at all progressive; and, so far as I can learn, no kind of fanaticism, providing any serious check on brutality, makes way in the large towns of the North. What will come of it all, who
dares prophesy, or almost guess ? ...
Here (in Cornwall) the real Church is Wesleyan ; but over threefourths of England there is, I fear, none.” IT, IT?
Painful as is this statement, we do not think it can be successfully controverted. It has been confirmed again and again by the Annual Reports of our Domestic Missionaries. And whatever may be the cause, it is very evident that the poor are not to be found on the Lord'sday in any large numbers, compared with the population of this country, in the churches or chapels of the land. How much better would it be if the different sects amongst us, instead of perpetually falling out respecting their creeds and articles of faith, would set to work in right earnest, and, in the spirit of him who went about doing good, endeavour to carry Christian light and influences to those who, though dwelling in the midst of them, are practically without God and without hope in the world! We wish that, in this respect, it could be said of our own religious body that all had been done by it that might have been accomplished. Tr. 161823.
The limits within which we must confine this article will prevent us from following Sterling in his travels, at home and abroad, with the hope that his broken health might be improved. He visited the South of France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy, as well as the milder coasts of his own country. The disease, however, under which he suffered vas incurable, though his mind was refreshed, and his life probably
prolonged, by these various changes. The winter he spent at Rome was especially delightful to him, and gave him more of deep and constant pleasure than he had even anticipated from it. But with the religious spirit of the place, the aspect of modern Rome, the churches, the ceremonies, and the Papal Court, he had no sympathy. The Pope, in all his pomp at St. Peter's, looked
a mere lie in livery.' And how any man, with clear head and honest heart, and capable of seeing realities and distinguishing them from scenic falsehoods, could, after living in a Romanist country, be inclined to side with Leo against Luther, he could not, he declared, understand. In the spring of 1842, he was advised to take a voyage for a couple of months about the Mediterranean. And, in the galleries of Naples and its buried cities, he laid up thoughts for “centuries of profitable remembrance." But sadder days than any he had yet known were approaching. At the beginning of 1843, he broke a blood-vessel by over-exerting himself in assisting a servant to carry a weight which he thought too heavy for her. And in a few months after, just as he was recovering strength from the illness which followed, he was called first to bear the loss of his mother, and then of his wife. To the former he was tenderly attached, and in a note written a few days before her death, he said, “When I think of my childhood, I feel that I can only cry. Gray might well say, I now feel that a man can have but one mother; and mine did a thousand times more for me than most women have head or heart to do for their sons." His wife, Archdeacon Hare observes, was “a woman of noble character, of great energy and self-control, with high intellectual endowments for which he had such respect, that whatever he wrote was submitted to her judgment."
“Her duties as a wife and mother were fulfilled with the devotion of all her faculties to them; her love for him was boundless as his for her. It might have been thought that this twofold blow, falling so suddenly and at once on one who was so much enfeebled, must have crushed him. But with Sterling the feeling of duty overcame every hindrance. He could not give himself up even to such sorrow, when his duty to his children commanded him to repress it. He called them round him, told them of their loss, and wrote down these words: The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord; and blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted,' which he desired them to copy out and learn. He told them that he must now try to be a mother as well as a father to them. On the evening after the funeral, feeling quite worn out, he said to them, as he bade them good night, “If I am taken from you, God will take care of you.””
Soon after this event, he removed, by the advice of his medical friends, from Falmouth, where it occurred, to Ventnor, in the Isle of Wight. His weakness increased, but still he read and thought much, and" with a lively interest." In a letter to his biographer and friend, not long before his departure, he observes,
“Much of the last three months has been spent in the recollection of my friends, and with more unmixed thankfulness than for any blessing of my life, except my marriage. The faces of the poor people at Herstmonceux have also recurred to me very often, especially of some whom I saw dying there. Though with so much less of outward comfort, their patience exceeded mine ; yet on any ground I have little to complain of. This world even now lies clear and bright before me, and, being good in itself, is the prelusive image of a still better one. It will be a most blessed release when I am called away;
for I cannot hope ever again to be of the smallest use in this world. * Farewell! You can never know the fondness with which I recall the minutest portion of our intercourse. We shall meet again, be well assured. Christianity is a great comfort and blessing to me, although I am quite unable to believe all its original documents. I am thankful for all things, and hope much." In one of his notes, written a few days only before he died, he said
had gained but little good from what he had heard or read of theology; but what gave him the greatest comfort were those words in the Lord's Prayer, Thy will be done. The particulars of the last hours of his life upon earth, are thus touchingly recorded by Archdeacon Hare:
2.“ In the conviction that his end was at hand, he said, “I thank the All-wise One.' His sister remarked the next day that he was unusually cheerful. He lay on the sofa quietly, telling her of little things that he wished her to do for him, and mforted out books to be sent to his friends. On the 18th,t he was
by letters from Mr. Trench and Mr. Mill, to he pleasure in scribbling some little verses of thanks. Then writing a few lines, in pencil, he gave them to his sister, saying, “This is for you ; you will care more for this! The lines were
« Could we but hear all Nature's voice,
From all men's hearts that live,–
And Thou my sins forgive !""151517 "These were the last words he wrote. He murmured over the last two lines to himself. He had been very quiet all that day, little inclined to read or speak, until the evening, when he talked a little to his sister. As it grew dusk, he appeared to be seeking for something, and on her asking what he wanted, said, Only the old Bible which I used so often at Herstmonceux in the cottages,' and which generally lay near him. A little later his brother arrived from London, with whom he conversed cheerfully for a few minutes. He was then left to settle for the night. But he soon grew worse; and the servant summoned the family to his room. He was no longer able to recognize them. The last struggle was short; and before eleven o'clock his spirit had departed. He was buried in the beautiful little churchyard of Bonchurch."
We have of course been able to give here only a faint outline of the life and death of Sterling. We hope those of our readers who can conveniently do so, will read the Memoir itself, and thus become more intimately acquainted with one whose singular powers and attractive qualities endeared him greatly to all who knew him, and who, had life and health been granted him, must have made his influence very ex
an*'• They also serve who only stand and wait,' or who patiently suffer. Sterling did not know what benefit might arise to others as well as to himself by his long and trying illness. It is so hard,' remarks one of his attached and gifted friends, in a letter penned the year before his death, 'for an active mind like his to reconcile itself to comparative idleness, and to what he considers as uselessness, only, however, from his inability to persuade himself of the good which his society, bis correspondence, and the very existence of such a man, diffuses through the world. If he did but or publishing any thing, he would think it quite worth
know moral and he living for, even if he were never to be capable of writing again.”
t Of September, 1844. VOL. IV.