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he made considerable progress in Latin and Greek; and after passing some time at home, in the study of divinity and some collateral subjects, under the immediate guidance of his father, was, in Oct. 1778. placed at the Bristol academy, with a view to his being prepared for the ministerial office among the Baptists, being then in his fifteenth year. In that institution, as in others of a similar nature, the divinity students are appointed in turn to deliver an address or discourse upon subjects selected by the president. Mr. Hall's first essay in this exercise proved an humiliating failure, which, if avocations so unlike may be compared, reminds us of young Nelson's failure of courage in the first engagement. 'After proceeding for a short time, much to 'the gratification of his auditory, he suddenly paused, covered 'his face with his hands, exclaiming, "Oh! I have lost all my • ideas", and sat down, his hands still hiding his face.' A second attempt, in the following week, was attended by a similar failure of self-possession or recollection, still more painful to witness, and still more humiliating. The effect upon his own mind seems to have been that of salutary mortification, while his tutors appreciated his talents too justly, to entertain any doubt of his ability and future success. Not long after, he delivered a discourse in a village pulpit, in the presence of several ministers, which excited the deepest interest.
The summer vacation of 1780 was passed by young Hall under his father's roof, who, having now become fully satisfied of his son's genuine piety, as well as of his qualifications for the office to which his paternal hopes had always devoted him *, expressed to many friends, a desire that he should be ' set apart to the 'sacred work'. Agreeably to his views of popular ordination, he resolved that the church of which he was pastor, should judge
* The writer of the Article in the Christian Observer, 'can scarcely • understand how this could comport with the sentiments of an Anti'paxlo-lmptist minister'; and asks, in a note, • Can Dr. Gregory tell 'us when, where, or how Robert Hull was baptized?' We may venture to answer this inquiry, without any specific knowledge of the circumstances: by immersion, probably at Arnsby, and certainlv prior to his being admitted as a communicant by ' the church ' whicn subsequently recognised its youthful member as fit to discharge the function of a public teacher. It is strange that this Writer should be so unacquainted with the sentiments of Anti-paedo-baptists as not to know, that baptism is universally regarded as a pre-requisite to partaking of the Lord's Supper, and that it is administered to the adult on his public confession of faith. In what respect this view of the baptismal ordinance could interfere with the pious father's wishes respecting his son, and his resolution to educate him for the ministry, we can ' scarcely understand'.
of his son's fitness for the sacred function, and recognise their conviction by a solemn act.
'"Accordingly ", as the following extract from the Church-book testifies, on the 13th of August, 1780, "he was examined by his father before the church, respecting his inclination, motives, and end in reference to the ministry, and wns likewise desired to make a declaration of his religious sentiments. All which being done to the entire satisfaction of the church, they therefore set him apart, by lifting np their right hands, and by solemn prayer. His father then delivered a discourse to him, from 2 Tim. ii. 1. Thou, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Being thus sent forth, he preached in the afternoon from 2 Thes. i. 7, 8. May the Lord bless him, and grant him great success!" p. 9.
It 'sadly baffles the notions' of persons accustomed to the mode and rules of episcopal ordination, to find a mere boy of sixteen thus brought forward as a public instructor, and then, almost immediately afterwards, sent as a pupil to college. To such persons, it seems better that the order of proceedings had been reversed. That is to say, they would deem it better, that a young man should complete his academical training, before the point is ascertained and certified, that he possesses the grand and most indispensable qualification for the sacred office—piety. We cannot say that such is our opinion. Without undertaking to decide, whether a pious boy of sixteen or an irreligious man of three and twenty is fitter to ascend the pulpit, we must think that it is the safer plan, to select a pious youth as a candidate for the ministry, and, after a certain measure of religious training and probation, to send him to college, than to bestow the college education first, and ascertain the moral fitness afterwards. We are very far from wishing to countenance boy-preachers; but we cannot help remarking, that if a lad of sixteen is deemed capable of intelligently subscribing the Thirty-nine Articles, it ought not to be thought so very preposterous, that he should be qualified to deliver a religious discourse as a probationary specimen of his attainments and piety. That young Hall was not, by this solemn recognition of his fitness for the sacred function, invested with the character of a public instructor, is evident from the circumstances of the case. He was still a student at the Bristol Academy, to which he returned at the close of the vacation; and in the autumn of 1781, he was sent to Aberdeen, to complete his theological education at Ring's College, on Dr. Ward's foundation. In fact, the object of the appeal to the church, and the bearing of its decision, related to the expediency of his prosecuting his studies with a view to his becoming a minister of the Gospel. Dr. Gregory does not employ the word ordination in mentioning this 'public designation' of Mr. Hall as a preacher; nor should we contend for the propriety of using that term in such a reference; since ordination is generally understood as an appointment to a specific charge. But, dismissing that word from consideration, with all the polemical associations that it suggests, we would ask, what was there in the proceeding here narrated, that could have any tendency to inflate the mind of a pious youth with self-importance, or that could be deemed, in any respect, offensive, injudicious, or ' perilous'?
Mr. Hall entered King's College in the beginning of November, 1781. His first year was spent principally, under the tuition of Professor Leslie, in the study of the Greek language; his second, third, and fourth years, under Professor Macleod, in the study of mathematics, natural philosophy, and moral philosophy. Here it was that he first became acquainted with his eminent friend Mackintosh; and some interesting particulars of their friendship and joint studies have been gathered by his Biographer from Sir James himself, of which we have in part availed ourselves in our last Number*. While he was still at Aberdeen, he received from the Baptist Church at Broadmead, Bristol, an invitation to become their assistant pastor; 'an invitation which 'he accepted with much doubt and diffidence', on the understanding that it should not interfere with the completion of his course of studies. He accordingly passed the interval between the college sessions of 1784 and 1785, at Bristol; and then returned to Aberdeen, where he took his degree of Master of Arts, March 80, 1785. On resuming his labours at Broadmead, in conjunction with Dr. Evans, his preaching excited unusual attention. 'The place of worship was often crowded to excess, and many of 'the most distinguished men in Bristol, including several clergy'men, were among his occasional auditors.' -f- In August of the same year, only three months after his quitting Aberdeen, he was appointed classical tutor in the Bristol Academy, on the resignation of the Rev. James Newton. This office he held for more than five years, discharging its duties with honourable zeal and activity.
At this period of his life, however, Mr. Hall appears to have been
* Eclectic Review, Feb. Art. Sir James Mackintosh, p. 98.
t We cannot refrain from expressing our surprise and regret, that the Reviewer in the Christian Observer should have taken occasion from this circumstance to introduce a homily against clergymen wandering after a popular (i. e. Dissenting) preacher. Does he mean to say, that clergymen did wrong in occasionally going to hear Mr. Hall preach? If so, we pity his contemptible bigotry. If not, his anecdote is at all events irrelevant and mal d prapos. 'is there no difference between venturing into a licensed chapel to hear such a man, and running after a mountebank?
in imminent danger of making shipwreck, if not of faith, of the spirit of piety. The free and daring speculations which he advanced in private, grieved and alarmed his judicious friends, although he never promulgated direct and positive error from the pulpit; and his conversational sallies were occasionally marked by a vehemence and extravagance of expression, a bitterness of sarcasm, and a characteristic imprudence, which made him many enemies. Admired as a preacher, courted as a companion, feared as a satirist, looked up to as a tutor, while scarcely one-andtwenty, the only cause for astonishment is, that, in the intoxication of intellectual pride, he never relaxed his hold of the main doctrines of the Gospel, nor was betrayed by youthful impetuosity into flagrant inconsistency. We may, perhaps, be justified in concluding, that the strength of his reasoning faculties and the solidity of his attainments, preserved him in some degree against the vague and shallow scepticism of the half-learned and the half-reasoning. But we must believe at the same time, that he was upheld, at this critical period, by a sovereign and almighty superintendence; and that the prayers of his aged friends were a more effectual means of his safety, than his own strength of mind or of principle. There is something at once touching and instructive in the brief and expressive remarks which Dr. Gregory has transcribed from the private diaries of two of his constant friends, in reference to this period of Mr. Hall's career. The first two are from Mr. Fuller's diary.
• 1784, May 7- Heard Mr. Robert Hall, jun. from " He that increased! knowledge increaseth sorrow." Felt very solemn in hearing some parts. The Lord keep that young man!'
'1785. June 14. Taken up with the company of Mr. Robert Hall, jun.:—feel much pain for him. The Lord, in mercy to him and His churches in this country, keep him in the path of truth and righteousness!'
The following are found in Dr. Ryland's journal.
'June 8, 1785. Robert Hall, jun. preached wonderfully from Rom. viii. 18. I admire many things in this young man exceedingly, though there are others that make me fear for him. O that the Lord may keep him humble and make him prudent!
'June 15. Rode to Clipston to attend the ministers' meeting. R. Hall, jun. preached a glorious sermon on the immutability of God, from James i. 17
'1786, June 13. Sent off a letter to Robert Hall, jun., which I wrote chiefly in answer to one of his some months ago, wherein he replied to mine concerning some disagreeable reports from Birmingham: added some new hints respecting another matter lately reported. O that God may keep that young man in the way of truth and holiness!'
In 1790, Mr. Hall received an invitation from the Baptist congregation at Cambridge, recently deprived of their pastor by the sudden death of Mr. Robinson, to preach to them fin. a month; and in July of the following year, he was invited to assume the pastoral charge, which he accepted. Circumstances had occurred at Bristol, which rendered his longer continuance there alike unpleasant and undesirable. Nothing could be more flattering to a young pulpit orator, than to be deemed a fit successor to the most fascinating preacher of the day, whom he had at one time resolved to make his model, but had now, perhaps, been led to regard as a beacon. The post, however, which he was called to occupy, was difficult and perilous. His unhappy predecessor had thickly sown the church with the seeds of heresy and irreligion, although the poorer members still maintained their attachment to the fundamental doctrines of Revelation. Mr. Hall was indebted to his very moderate orthodoxy, for the invitation he received; and it might have been feared, that he was more likely to suffer a deterioration of his own religious feelings, than to reclaim his auditory from laxity of sentiment and levity of conduct . He has himself forcibly described, in his Memoir of Mr. Toller, the perils of so unfavourable a position. 'If,' he remarks, 'in a lengthened ministerial course, the people are 'usually formed by their pastor, in the first stage it is the re'verse: it is the people who form the minister. The reciprocal 'influence of a minister and a congregation on each other is so in'cessant and so powerful, that I would earnestly dissuade an in'experienced youth from connecting himself with a people whose 'doctrine is erroneous, or whose piety is doubtful, lest he should 'be tempted to consult his ease, by choosing to yield to a current 'he would find it difficult to resist.'* In Mr. Hall's case, the result exhibited the genuine force of his character and the decision of his principles, as well as illustrated that providential guidance which had hitherto kept him from falling. The death of his father, in March 1791, had greatly tended to bring his mind to the state of serious thought with which he entered upon the pastoral office.
'Meditating with the deepest veneration upon the nnusual excellencies of a parent now for ever lost to him, he was led to investigate with renewed earnestness, the truth as well as value of those high and sacred principles from which his eminent piety and admirable consistency so evidently flowed. He called to mind, too, several occasions on which his fether, partly by the force of reason, partry by that of tender expostulation, had exhorted him to abandon the vague and dangerous speculations to which he was prone. Some important changes in Mr. Hall's sentiments, resulted from an inquiry conducted under such solemn impressions; and among these may be mentioned his rc
* Works. Vol. IV. p. 310.