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The volume now presented to the public, owes its origin to one of those mysterious events in Providence, which seem commissioned, at distant intervals to alarm and admonish the church of Gud. A loss so sudden, so awful, so universally deplored as that of Mr. Spencer, demanded improvement. Many impressive discourses were delivered on the sad occasion, severai of which have issued from the press. But his life was not less instructive than his death; and the more it was contemplated by his friends, the more deeply they felt the importance of rescuing from oblivion those traits of his character, and circumstances of his history, by which their own private circles had been interested. Upon my acceptance of the soleron office from which he was so unexpectedly removed, his bereaved people, anxious to see some authorized memoirs of their beloved pastor embodied and preserved, committed the mournful duty to my hands. My respect for the honored dead, and attachment to the living, induced me to accept the charge: how I have executed the important trust rep. sed in me, I must now leave it with a candid public to decide.
Various causes have contributed to create the delay which has attended the publication of the book. It was with considerable difficulty that I collected the materials necessary for my purpose. I had imagined, from the general impression which prevailed, at least among Mr. Spencer's friends, of the propriety of such a publication, that information would have been spontanevusly offered from every quarter whence it might be furnished. But in this I was disappointed; and it was some considerable time from the annunciation of my design, before I was sufficiently supplied to commence, with any degree of prudence, the composition of the volume.
In addition to this, the laborious duties of a new and most extensive charge, conspired often to suspend the prosecution of the work, for the appearance of which I knew many to be anxious, but none more so than myself.
Had I at first anticipated the extent of these Memoirs, I should most probably have shrunk from the undertaking. But the volume has grown almost imperceptibly beneath my band. What I have recorded of the dear departed is strictly true, so far as the veracity of the most er. cellent men can warrant the assertion; and whatever opportunity the narrative has afforded of administering instruction I have gladly seized, and conscientiously improved, leaving the issue to a higher agent.
I have at length completed the work; and now, with the deepest humility and diffidence, I resign it to the blessing of God-the consideration of friendship--and the candor of the public. If to those who knew and loved him, it shall sometimes recall, with grateful emotions, the image and the excellencies of their departed friend; if it shall induce any to emulate the bright example of his manly virtues, and his Christian graces; or if but one, anticipating or commencing the laborious duties of the Christian ministry, shall derive from the contemplation of Spencer's character, instruction, caution, or encouragement-I am amply recompensed—I have not labored in vain!
THOMAS RAFFLES. February 15, 1813.
SELDOM has a task so painfully arduous fallen toner he recalls the impression which at that early the lot of a biographer, as that which, in the mys- period this melancholy circumstance produced upon terious providence of God, has unexpectedly devolv- his tender mind. “When the funeral sermon was ed on me. The recollection of departed excellence, preached I could not help noticing the grief which which a long series of years had developed and ma- seemed to pervade every person present. Deeply tured, is mingled with a melancholy feeling, and not affected myself, I recollect, that after the service, as unfrequently excites the tribute of a tear: but the I was walking about our little garden with my disindividual who erects a monument to friendship, consolate father, I said to him, Father, what is the genius, usefulness, and piety, prematurely wrapt in reason that so many people cried at the ineeting this the oblivion or the grave, must necessarily prosecute afternoon.'-He, adapting bis language to my comhis mournful work with trembling hands, and with prehension, said, 'They cried to see little children a bleeding heart. And yet the mind is soothed by like you without a mother.'”* This event, which the communication of its sorrow; the bosom is re- shed so deep a gloom upon his family, seems to lieved of an oppressive burthen, while it tells the have excited emotions of a serious nature in his virtues of the friend it mourns; and the best feel- mind never totally effaced. ings of the heart are satisfied with the conscious From this time he applied himself with diligence ness, that instead of indulging in solitude, the luxu- and delight to the business of his school. There ry of unavailing grief, it has employed its powers was at this early age something amiable and ento portray, in lively colors, for the improvement gaging in his manners; and this combined with his of the living, the excellencies of the beloved and attention to his learning, soon secured the esteem pious dead. For myself, with mournful pleasure, and approbation of his respective teachers, and I hasten to sketch the rúde outline of one of the gained him, together with the first ploce and highloveliest and most finished characters the present est honors of his school, the charzars of “a good age has known :-pausing only to express my deep boy.” It is pleasing to mark the carly, combination regret, that one so ripe for heaven, and yet so emi- of superior talent and sweetness of lisposition in nently useful upon earth, should be called from the this extraordinary young man; and it would be important sphere he occupied, so soon; and that to well, did the patrons of early genius more deeply hands so feeble should be committed-together with ponder the reflection, that the graces of a meek and the solemn trust which he resigned in death, the quiet spirit are far more estimable than the rare painful duty of erecting this monument to his worth. qualities of a prematurely vigorous mind; and that
THE REVEREND THOMAS SPENCER, was born at the talents they cultivate with such anxious care, if Hertford, January 21, 1791. He occupied the third unassociated with real excellence of soul, may renplace out of four who surrounded his father's table, der the idols of their fond adulation sources of anhnt shared equally with them in the tender and ar- guish to themselves and incalculable mischief to fectionate solicitude of parents, who, placed in the mankind. middle sphere of human life, were respectable for Whilst a school boy, he became passionately fond their piety, and highly esteemed in the circle in of novels, histories, adventures, &c. which he dewhich a wise Providence had allotted them to move. voured with the greatest eagerness in numbers truly It cannot be expected that any thing peculiarly inte- astonishing. The perusal of these he always preresting should mark the early childhood of a youth, ferred to play and other amusements adapted to his retired from the observation of the world, and far years. He delighted much in solitude; nor did he removed from the presence of any of those circum- know a happiness superior to that of being alone, stances which might be considered as favorable to with one of his favorite books. He took no delight the excitation of latent talent, or the display of early in the games of his companions, nor did he ever genius. And yet the years of his infancy and child mingle in their little feuds. His natural levity, hood were not undistinguished by some intimations however, was excessive; and his wit, fed by the of a superior mind, from which a thoughtful obser- publications he so ardently perused, would often ver might have been induced to augur something of display itself in impurity of language to the laughhis future eminence, and which his amiable father ier and amusement of his fellows. Yet he was not it appears did with silence wath. He himself ob- without his moments of serious reflection, and that serves, in a hasty sketch of his life, which now lies of a very deep and dreadful kind.-He was often before me-"As far back as I can recollect, my overwhelmed with religious considerations, and the memory was complimented by many as being very solemn sermons he sometimes heard, filled him with retentive, and my progress in knowledge was more terror and alarm. So intolerable at one period were considerable than that of my school-fellows; a natu- the horrors of his mind, that in an agony of despair, ral curiosity and desire of knowledge, I think I may he was tempted, as many have been before him, to say, without vanity, distinguished even the period destroy himself. Thus at an early age he became of my infancy. I now remember questions that I intimately acquainted with the depravity of his na. asked when abcut four years old, which were rather ture; and from the deep wa'ers of spiriinal distress singular, and which were confined chiefly to bibli- through which he was called to pass, his soul imcal subjects. No child could be more a tached 10 bibed an air of humility and a liabit of watchful. places of worship, or could be more inquisitive abont ness, which enabled him to meet wiih firmness the their concerns than myself; and I may add, more dangers of popularitv, and to main-ain a seady given to imitate the actions of the minister and course, notwithstanding the press of cail he carried.
To these deep convictions of his early years may When he had completed his fifth year, he suffer. perhaps be traced the reculiarly pressing and em. ed the severest earthly privation a child can know, passioned manner of his address, when he strove to in he loss of an affectionate mother. Thongh then arouse the slumbering conscience, or direct the too young correctly to appreciate a parent's worth, weary wanderer to the cross of Christ. The sacred he deeply felt the stroke; and in the liveliest man- poems and the passages of hoiy writ, which most
• MS. Memoirs.
• MS. Memoirs.
he loved, were those of a cast similar to that of his service to the memory of his departed friend, by own fervent mind; and I have heard many tell, occupying their place with extracis from his papers with tears, of the animation and rapture with which of a more solid and interesting kind. he would often repeat from that beautiful hyinn of These early displays of talent however introduced Henry Kirke White, his favorite author, whom in him to the notice and friendship of some individumany shades of character he much resembled, and als of wealth and consequence. This was doubtless alas! too much in his early and lamented fate considered by himself and his fond parent as no in
considerable circumstance in the history and prosOnce on the stormy seas I rode,
pects of a child, who, if he rose into eminence at The storm was loud, the night was dark; all, could have no facilities afforded him, by the The ocean yawn'd, and rudely blow'd
auspicious omens of his birth, or the rank of his The wind that toss'd my found'ring bark.
father's family. But alas! the fond anticipations
which from this quarter he cherished, and perhaps Deep horror then my vitals froze ;
with some degree of reason, were not all realized, Death struck, I ceas'd the tide to stem,
to the full extent to which his sanguine mind had When suddenly a star arose,
urged them. It was doubtless well for him, hov. It was the star of Bethlehem.
ever, that they were not. The disappointments of
childhood will give a sober cast to the else too glow: It was my guide, my light, my all,
ing pictures and too anxious hopes of youth; and It bade my dark forebodings cease ;
while they excite a caution in respect to the confiAnd thro' the storm of danger's thrall
dence we should place in the prospects that unfold It !ed me to the port of peace.
themselves before us, admirably prepare the mind
for the event, when the pledges of friendship lie
long unredeemed, and the fair blossoms of hope are Now safely moor’d-my perils o'er,
blasied and destroyed. I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
In the mean time he applied himself with surFor ever and for ever more,
prising diligence to the acquisition of knowledge. The star !-the star of Bethlehem. In his favorite pursuit he met with the must impor
tant aid, from the valuable friendship of the late The bias and inclination of his mind began at Rev. Ebenezer White, then the pastor of the Inde, this early period to be disclosed; preachers and pendent church, at Hertford. For this amiable and preaching seemed to occupy all his thoughts, and pious man, so early lost to the church of Christ," often he would exercise himself in addressing such Mr. Spencer ever cherished and expressed the domestic congregations as may be supposed to con est affection; whilst he survived but a few stitute the usual auditories of an infant. Thus in weeks the melancholy pleasure of paying the last his earliest childhood he displayed his fond attach- tribute of respect to his beloved remains, and giving ment to the Christian ministry, and the first efforts utterance to ihe warm and authorized feelings of of his infant mind were direcied to that sublime and his heart, in a most impressive oration at his grave
. dignified profession, in which the capacities of his From Mr. White he learned the rudiments of the maturer age were so brilliantly displayed. These La'in tongue; and though the early removal of that infantine compositions were not unfrequently en- gentleinan to Chester deprived him of his kind and tirely his own; and when they claimed not the me valuable assistance, yet his father, who had discernrit of originality, they were derived from hints col- ment to perceive, and wisdom to foster the unfoldlected from what he had heard or read. But his ing talents of his son, afforded him the means of Preaching exhibitions could not long be confined to more ample instruction, by sending him to the best the narrow circle and scanty congregation his fa- school his native town supplied. Approbation cima ther's house supplied ; tidings of his early pulpit not be expressed in language too unqualified of the talents soon circulated through the neighborhood; conduct, in this respeci, pursued by the parents of many were anxious to listen to the instructions of this amiable youth, who though surrounded by every this extraordinary child; and most regarded him, circumstance of a worldly nature to check its pra as he himself expresses it, "a parson in embryo." gress, yet nobly determined to afford every degree
At this age also he wrote verses. He seems how. of culture, which such sacrifices as they might be ever, to have had but a mean opinion of his talent able to make would yield to a mind
which promised for poetry. It certainly was not the art in which he to rise superior to the obscurity of its birth, and conmost excelled. Though an individual may have a secrate at some future period no common share of power of rhyming sufficient for throwing his feel- genius to the noblest and the best of causes. Nor ings into tolerable easy verse, yet something more must these expressions pass unmingled by regret than this is required in a production which, under that many important accessions are lost to the in the dignified title of a poem, is to meet the public terests of religion and literature by the neglect of and cultivated taste, have solicited the muses" aid in the one case have not the capacity to discover for purposes of private instruction and amusement, talent, or in the other a disposition, where their and the domestic and social circle have been privi- worldly circumstances are narrow and scanty, 10 leged to share in both, yet it is not necessary to the make any sacrifice of ease on their part, or especta perfection of the pulpit orator, that he should be an exquisite poet, nor is it at all a detraction from the Mr. White died Sunday, May 5th, 1811. An in; greatness of his character, that the world should teresting memoir of his life (together with his select hesitate to pronounce unqualified praise upon poe- remains) has been published by the Reverend Joseph tical effusions, on which the eye or the ear of friend- Fletcher, A. M. of Blackburn; with a recommendaship might linger with delight.
tory preface, by the Rev. Dr. Collyer, of London. Ta These observations will serve to account for the the melancholy but pleasing task of selecting these circumstance, that none of Mr. Spencer's poetica! papers for the press. Mr. Fletcher was productions are preserved in these pages. And ed by the subject of these memoirs :-but whilst Mr. while some partial friends, who saw with pleasure Spencer was ihus engaged in rearing a monumenten for the moment their entire exclusion here, his bio denly removed, and it devolved upon the hand of grapher hopes, that he shall render a more essential friendship to perform the same office for himsell.
ed emolument on that of the child, for its cultiva- | another. Ill does the mind adapt itself to the nartion
row rules of business, the drudgery of manual la
bor, or the habits of commerce, when panting after Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
study, devoted to the love of books, or eager to enThe dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear ; gage in the noblest work that can occupy the powers Full inany a flower is born to blush unseen, of man-the ministry of the gospel : impressed And waste its sweetness on the desert air. with a consciousness, that if it is the will of God
that the desire en kindled and cherished in the boAt about the age of twelve years, Mr. Spencer som should be fulfilled, some event will transpire to considers himself to have become the subject of se- afford facilities and point the way—but day after rious impressions of a deep and permanent kind, day expecting that event in vain, till hope deferred and to have felt something experimentally of the makes the heart sick, and all the visions with which power of religion. This most interesting circum- she has charmed, seem gradually yielding to the instance he simply states in the memoir of his life be- fluence of despair. Yet even here, religion has a fore referred to, but mentions no particulars re- power to sooth; she sheds the mild influence of respecting the mode in which these impressions were signation, when the glare of hope is gonewrought upon his mind, or in what way they opera
" Gives even affliction a grace, ted upon his character, his conduct, and his views. The general effect, however, he distinctly records
And reconciles man to his lot." to have been that of heightening his desire of the He continued working at his father's business and Christian ministry, for which, it was strongly im- in his father's house, for about a year and a half, pressed upon his mind, God had destined him; anxiously expecting some situation to present itself whilst it reconciled him to his present situation, more congenial to his wishes, but no circumstance which was most uncongenial to the bias of his mind, arose to interrupt the monotonous sameness of his and most unfriendly to the accomplishment of his every day's employ. It seems, however, that he ardent wishes; for the circumstances of his father's suill attended to the cultivation of his mind, and family were at that time of such a nature as to ren- never wholly lost sight of the Christian ministry. der his assistance necessary between the hours of Meanwhile business languished, and his father was school, and at length compelled his parent, how- desirous of seeing him comfortably settled. Their ever reluctantly, entirely to remove him. His re- mutual anxiety increasing to impatience, and his moval from school, however, was not in conse- father reading on the cover of a magazine an adquence of his father's having abandoned the pros- vertisement for a situation which appeared to be pect of his one day entering on the work of the suitable, they set out for London, but upon an interministry, but an act dictated by prudence, which view with the advertiser they found insuperable afforded him an opportunity patiently to wait, and difficulties in the way, and returned, with disapcalmly to watch the leadings of Providence, and the pointment, to Hertford. occurrence of any circumstances which might tend Some weeks after this fruitless journey, Mr. Spento fix the future destiny of his son. These pruden- cer was recommended by a friend to place his son tial arrangements, however, were a source of keen with Messrs. Windwood and Thodey, respectable est anguish to the mind of 'Spencer. He bowed at glovers in the Poultry, who also introduced him to first with reluctance to the yoke of manual labor Mr. Thodey's notice. The first interview between when but partially imposed-rapidly performed the the parties was satisfactory; every, arrangement appointed task, and leaped with joy from toils so re was made preparatory to his being bound apprenpugnant to the elevated and ardent desires of his tice, and Thomas soon after entered, in a new casoul, to solitude and to books; and when compelled pacity, this worthy gentleman's house. The servientirely to leave his school and pursue from day to ces connected with his new situation, the better part day the twisting of worsted, which he calls the of which was far from grateful to the wishes of his worst part of his father's business, his grief was poig- heart, still panting for the ministry with unconqueranant and his regret severe. But religion in early ble attachment, were some of them such as his spirit, life, assumed in him her mildest and most amiable at first, but reluctantly submitted to perform; yet forms. Its characters were those of uncomplaining aware that then the providence of God pointed out acquiescence in the will of God, and cheerful resig- no other path, he cheerfully acquiesced and exnation to his earthly lot. If, indeed, with patiert changed, not without regret, the calm and tranquil submission to the arrangements of Providence he enjoyments of an endeared domestic circle, for the occasionally mingled a warm expression of desire, bosoin of strangers, the drudgery of a shop, and the and suffered his imagination to dwell upon the bustle of the Poultry. But here, as formerly at bright visions of better days, and the animating pro- school, his amiable manners—his modest behavior, mise of pursuits more congenial to the tone and in- and engaging appearance, soon won the affection clination of his mind, which hope would give, till, of the family, (which was large, whilst his fervent for a moment, it seemed reluctant to return ;-it piety and superior talents, excited emotions of a was natural ;-nor is it incompatible with the most higher order." An extract of a letter, obligingly adperfect resignation to the divine will thus to dwell dressed to me from Mr. Thodey himself, will best on scenes of promised pleasure with delight. Such record his manner of life, whilst under that gentlea combination of light and shade is beautiful in na- man's roof. ture; and not unfrequently in the history of a “His appearance, his genuine modesty, diligence, Christian's feelings does the sunshine of resigna- and integrity, created an interest in our hearts, so tion break in upon the tears of sorrow, and produce as it were almost 10 identify him as one of our own & commixture of indefinable feelings, which, like children; he shared our privileges ; united with us the bow of heaven, are a pledge not unredeemed, of in family devotion; and I occasionally, took the fairer scenery and happier days.
same opportunities of conversing with him on di. The writer, in thus recording the mingled feel vine things, which I had been accustomed to do ings of his friend, has participated too deeply in with all those under my care. I well recollect one circumstances and emotions similar to his, not to do Sabbath evening, being thus engaged with him it with the warmth of sympathy. He knows how alone, when from his pertinent replies to some ques. hard it is to give a cheerful and undivided attention tions I put to him about the concerns of his soul to one pursuit, though less repugnant than mechani- and the importance of an interest in the Saviour, I cal employ, when the heart is intently fixed upon perceived he possessed an uncommon share of ta