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the father and mother of that burning and shining light, that they were both righteous, dc. (Luke i. 6). Though he never enjoyed a very firm health, but was inclined to aguish distempers from his infancy, yet his vigorous temper of mind overcame those indispositions of his body, so that he was noted for an active nimble youth, and graceful in all his motions. His genius at six years old began to discover itself much addicted to history, that of the Holy Bible especially, which he compassed in two or three years, and got all the Psalms without book. Then he fell upon the English chronicle and the Book of Martyrs, which, whilst his fellows were playing, he would be reading: and rather than not finish his story, which he seldom forgot, he used often to forget his meals and his sleep, as he was naturally moderate in them both.
2. Even at this time of day he fancied being a clergyman, and made his friends laugh heartily at a request he very solemnly made to his mother: that whatever his brothers wore, he might wear no lace, but only plain clean banns, for he was resolved to
1 “Little and plain, like those of Mr. Wotton, 'for I wish to be a preacher as he is.' Mr. Wotton was a learned divine and reader of divinity in Gresham College. He was frequently at Mr. Ferrar's, and always examined and exercised young Nicholas, being wonderfully delighted with his ingenuity.”—Peckard. This Antony Wotton was charged with Arianism by George Walker ; the question was referred to eight arbiters, amongst whom was Thomas Gataker. When the judges had absolved Wotton, Walker turned upon
be a clergyman; and he would take no denial, but all his clothes must be plain. Before he was eight years old it was high time to translate him to a greater school; and there was one in a good healthful air by Newbury in Berkshire, where one Mr. Brooks, an excellent man for discipline, had introduced so extraordinary a way of teaching and living, that I am apt to believe the thoughtful pious child did there receive the first impressions and dispositions to that regular and religious course of life he so many years after hightened and formed in his own family into a greater and nobler figure of the good old Christian discipline. This Mr. Brooks had lived and preached with much esteem in London, but following the example of Jo. Gerson, the famous chancellor of Paris', he forsook the noise of a great city to preside over children in a country retirement, believing his charitable pains abundantly rewarded by the prayers of such happy innocents. He procured able masters in their several kinds, a master of music, a writing master, and a choice one for grammar learning, reserving to himself a governing inspection over the scholars and over the tutors themselves. Above all, they had their times for conning and repeating the church catechism, the psalter, the epistles and gospels, for which this youth’s vast memory served him to good purpose and to his great consolation, when many years after he travelled and fell desperately sick among those who take it for a mark of heresy in a traveller to carry about him an English Bible. None of the scholars performed their tasks of this kind (neither indeed of any kind) so constantly carefully and easily, as he. Sometimes at those repetitions he would deliver observations of his own, that could not have been expected from his years (which yet, that it may not seem incredible, was no more than St. Augustine's Adeodatus would often do, whose prodigious wit, the father himself protests, amazed him to think of it'). He did so naturally comprehend and retain everything, that while he conquered the greatest difficulties, he neglected not the least parts of useful education. Short-hand he learnt exactly, and his masters were even proud of him, and gave him this commendation, that he could do what he pleased. Yet he had so little vanity' and took so little pleasure in hearing himself commended, that he would often weep and forsake his meals when they would applaud him, and so unawares expose himself to the envy of his schoolfellows; so that if his other virtues were gained by exercise, it looked as if his modesty and humility were born and bred with him.
them, and the controversy had not died away at the end of 30 years (1611-1642). See Gataker's Answer to Mr. George Walker's Vindication, &c. Lond. 1642, 4to, pp. 136 ; Ward's Gresham Professors, and Peck’s note from Fleming (ap. Peckard, 15, 16).
1 Jean Charlier, better known as Jean Gerson (Doctor Christianissimus), born at Gerson in the diocese of Rheims in 1363, became chancellor of the university of Paris in 1395, zealously asserted the liberties of the Church against the papacy at the councils of Pisa and of Constance ; in the year 1419 he retired into a cloister at Lyons, of which his brother was prior, and there devoted himself to instructing children. On the 11th of July, 1429, the day before his death, he took his pupils into church, and there bid them pray : God, my Creator, have mercy upon Thy poor servant, John Gerson (Schröckh, K. G. xxxiv, 6–33). See his Tractatus de parvulis trahendis ad Christum, Opp. iii. 278 sq. “Adeo jam indignum videtur apud multos, siquis ex Theologis aut famatus in litteris vel ecclesiastica dignitate præditus ad hoc se opus inclinaverit presertim circa parvulos, quod mihi (quia in talibus esse putor momenti alicujus) in fabulam et improperium cesserit.”—285.
1 Cf. SS ii ad fin. 13, 15, 36, 76. Compare Jerome's advice to the monk Rusticus: “Nunquam de manu et oculis tuis recedat liber, discatur Psalterium ad verbum.”—Epist. 125, § 11 (i. 939).
3. But while he was very young it pleased Almighty God (Who had designed to fit him for great encounters) to permit the devil, who it seems already dreaded him, to send him a very formidable trial, a violent temptation to atheism, or rather a perplexing habit of doubting, Whether there were a God? and if there was one, how to be worshiped
1 "Annorum erat ferme quindecim, et ingenio præveniebat multos graves et doctos viros ... Horrori mihi erat illud ingenium ; et quis præter Te talium miraculorum opifex ?”—Conf. ix. 6, § 14.
% I have supplied, without notice, many letters which have been lost in the margin of the MS. Of this word however no trace remains.
and served ? Such thoughts extremely afflicted his body and mind. Hereupon he rises from his bed one night, which was cold and frosty (for sleep he could not) and going down to the grass-plat in the garden, throws himself prostrate with his face on the ground, and with abundance of sighs and tears he prays earnestly with all his strength, and most humbly begs of God that He would put into his heart the true love and fear of His Divine Majesty; that this fear and love of God might never depart from his mind, and that he might know how to serve Him. After long weeping and praying he felt his heart much eased; the consolations which none can know but such as have experienced them, flowed into his soul; God made His face to shine upon him, and his scruples to vanish and pass away, as snow in warm weather. Two sweet and strong impressions were made that night within himo: one was, that God did graciously promise to be with
1 This clause (which none can know), I have supplied. In the original there is an asterisk here.
2 “Two things especially, in that night's holy exercise were so imprinted in the heart and mind of the child, that they came fresh into his memory every day of his life. (This he told me more than once, two or three years before his death.) The one was the joy and sweetness which he did in that watching night conceive and feel in his heart. The other was the gracious promise which God made to him, to bless and keep him all his whole life, so that he would constantly fear God and keep His commandments.”—John Worthington in Hearne's Caii Vind. 685.