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St. John's, Holloway, who lately published a volume containing the author's life and correspondence, has been consulted. By his advice the, fifth edition has been followed, as the standard one; and as he also kindly revised the proofs of the work, the present edition is presented to the public, with some confidence, as being a genuine and correct edition of a book which has long been regarded as one of the most popular and useful manuals of practical divinity.
The value of the present edition is also increased by a Memoir of the Author, taken from the volume to which allusion has already been made.
MEMOIR OF THE AUTHOR.
The author of this Treatise was a laborious and successful clergyman of the Church of England.
A brief sketch of his life * will be interesting to the readers of his book: more especially as it will show that the view of christian doctrines berein enforced, had not been embraced till after a long and diligent study of God's word, and after deep personal experience of the insufficiency of other views to give peace of mind or victory over sin. At the same time, it will show how fully the practice which he recommended to others was exemplified in his own life and conduct.
HENRY VENN was born at Barnes, in Surrey, on the 2nd March 1724. He was descended from ancestors who were clergymen of the Church of England, in an uninterrupted line from the period of the Reformation. The sufferings of one of them, Richard Venn, Vicar of Otterton, Devonshire, on account of his loyalty and attachment to the Church of England, are recorded in “ Walker's Sufferings of the Clergy." His father was the Rev. Richard Venn, rector of St. Antholin's, London, who was distinguished as an exemplary and learned minister, very zealous for the interests of the Church of England, and abounding in liberality to the poor in general, and more especially to distressed clergymen. He died when his son Henry was only fifteen years of age, but bequeathed to him the friendship and countenance of a large circle of friends, chiefly of that school of divinity which was then denominated the High Church Party.
Henry Venn discovered, from a child, such activity and energy of mind, such decision and zeal in whatever he undertook, that all who observed him expected he would one day become an extraordinary character. Hence, Dr. Gloucester Ridley, after attentively observing him, once said, “ This boy will go up Holborn, and either stop at Ely Place,” (the then palace of the Bishop of Ely,) " or go on to Tyburn."
Shortly after his father's death, he requested his mother to remove him from a school at which he had been placed in the neighbourhood of his home. The reason he gave for bis request indicated no common character in a boy of fifteen. He told his mother that, though he was treated with the highest degree of tenderness, yet the very indulgence which was shown to him and the rest of the boys, was an impediment to their improvement. He requested her therefore to send
* This sketch is taken chiefly from a Memoir drawn up by the Author's son—the late Rev. John Venn, M.A. Rector of Clapham, Surrey, published in “ The Life and Correspondence of the late Rev. Henry Venn." London, Hatchard & Son. Fifth edition, 1836.
bim to a school where the discipline was more strict, and where the chief stress was laid upon improvement in learning. Such a school was found at the Rev. Mr. Catcott's of Bristol, author of a Treatise on the Deluge and other Tracts. He was a man of remarkable strictness, and even sternness of discipline, imposing large tasks upon his pupils, and very sparing in his commendations. Henry Venn however gained his master's good opinion by great diligence, and by a steady desire of improvement, so that he never once suffered correction from bim, or incurred his displeasure. After continuing at this school about a year, he was placed at the Rev. Dr. Pitman's academy, Market Street, Hertfordshire, where he finished his school education. In 1742, be was admitted at St. John's College, Cambridge, where an elder brother had already resided some years. But having obtained a Rustat scholar. ship in Jesus' College, he removed, in September, to that Society, of which he continued a member for seven years.
Going to College with the advantage of an acquaintance already established with several respectable members of the university, who had been intimate friends of his father, and having also a brother who had been resident there upwards of five years, he was soon surrounded by a numerous circle of friends. These he increased by qualities which made his company much sought after; namely, a never-failing fund of high spirits, a natural hilarity and gaiety of manner, an engaging sweetness of temper, and a memory stored with anecdotes, which he related in a manner peculiarly interesting. Besides this, he captivated all whose good opinion he wished to gain, by a delicate attention, arising from a happy mixture of benevolence, modesty, and respect: there were therefore, perhaps, very few men in the university who were so generally esteemed and beloved. He was, however, very select in the choice of his society, never keeping company either with profligate men or with persons of mean talents. The rule he laid down was, to be acquainted only with those from whom he could gain improvement.
In the year 1745, he took the degree of B. A.: and in June, 1747, he was ordained Deacon, by the Bishop of London, (Dr. Gibson) without a title, from the respect which the Bishop bore to his father's memory. In 1749, he became M.A., previous to which he had been elected fellow of Queen's College ; no vacancy having occurred in his own college, during the time he was capable of holding that station. He continued Fellow of Queen’s till his marriage, in 1757.
It was about the time of his entering into holy orders that his first religious impressions commenced. Hitherto religion had made no particular impression on his mind. He was moral and decent in his conduct, regular in his attendance on public worship, and had accus. tomed himself chiefly to read books of divinity, after he had taken his degree of B.A.; but he was a stranger to that influence of religion which gives it a predominancy in the mind over every thing besides, and to those views of the benefits and excellence of the christian dispensation which render the Saviour the object of the bighest affection and regard. He possessed, however, high ideas of clerical decorum, and scrupulous conscientiousness in doing faithfully whatever he was convinced to be right: and so highly did he rate a strict regard to conscience, in acting up to the light received, that he often used to say, in his own forcible way of expressing himself, that he owed the salvation of his soul to the resolute self-denial which he exercised, in following the dictates of conscience in a point which of itself seemed one only of small importance.
The case was this :—He was extremely fond of cricket, and reckoned one of the best players in the university. In the week before he was ordained, he played in a match between Surrey and All England: the match bad excited considerable interest, and was attended by a very numerous body of spectators. When the game terminated, in favour of the side on which he played, he threw down his bat, saying, “Whoever wants a bat, which has done me good service, may take that; as I have no further occasion for it.” His friends inquiring the reason, he replied, “ Because I am to be ordained on Sunday; and I will never have it said of me, 'Well struck, Parson! --and to this resolution, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his friends, and even of the Tutor and Fellows of his college, he strictly adhered: nay, though his health suffered by a sudden transition from a course of most violent exercise to a life of comparative inactivity, he could never be persuaded to play any more. Thus, being faithful in a little, more grace was imparted to him.
The first considerable religious impression made upon his mind arose from an expression in the Form of Prayer, which he had been daily accustomed to use, like the world in general, without paying much attention to it—" That I may live to the glory of Thy name!" The thought powerfully struck his mind:—“ What is it, to live to the glory of God? Do I live as I pray? What course of life ought I to pursue, to glorify God?” After much reflection on this subject, he came to this conclusion—That to live to the glory of God required that he should live a life of piety and religion, in a degree in which he was conscious he had not yet lived ;-that he ought to be more strict in prayer, more diligent in reading the scriptures and pious books, and more generally holy in his conduct:—and, seeing the reasonable. ness of such a course of life, his uprightness again discovered itself in immediately and steadily pursuing it. He set apart stated seasons for meditation and prayer, turning his reading chiefly into a religious channel, and kept a strict account of the manner in which he spent his time and regulated bis conduct. It was his custom at this period to walk almost every evening in the cloisters of Trinity College, during the time that the great bell of St. Mary's was tolling at nine o'clock; and, amidst the solemn tones and pauses of the bell, and the stillness and darkness of the night, he would indulge in impressive and awful reflections, on death and judgment, heaven and hell.
In this frame of mind, Law's “Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life," a book which has been the means of exciting many to a life of holiness, was particularly useful to him: he read it repeatedly, with peculiar interest and advantage; and immediately began, with great sincerity, to frame his life according to the christian model there delineated. He kept a diary of the state of bis mind; a practice from which he derived great benefit, though not exactly in the way he expected; for it chiefly made him better acquainted with his own deficiency. He also allotted the hours of the day, as far as was consisteñt with the necessary duties and employment of his station, to particular acts of meditation and devotion. He kept frequent fasts; and was accustomed often to take solitary walks, in which his soul was engaged in prayer and communion with God. “I have heard him mention,' says his son, that, in one of these retired walks, in the meadows be. hind Jesus' College, he had such a view of the goodness, mercy, and glory of God, as elevated his soul above the world, and made him aspire towards God, as his supreme good, with unutterable ardour and enjoyment.”
So great a change in his taste could not but produce a great alteration in his general mode of life. The sprightly Harry Venn, who was always in company, and himself the gayest of the circle, was now seldom to be met with in mixed parties. He was indeed so entirely engrossed by the things which are spiritual and eternal, that, when he found none of his companions inclined to converse with him on these subjects, he gradually withdrew from their company, and confined himself only to the ordinary intercourses of society. One person only, of all his former numerous friends, appeared willing to listen to his conversation on religious subjects.
For about six months after he was elected Fellow of Queen's, he served the curacy of Barton, near Cambridge; where he distributed Religious Tracts, and conversed with the poor in a manner that several of them affectionately remembered after an interval of above thirty years. He afterwards assisted different friends, by officiating for them, at Wadenhoe in Northamptonshire, Sible Hedingham in Essex, and other places; where, besides the regular duty on the Sunday, he used to instruct the people at his own house, in the week. In July 1750, he ceased to reside in college, and began to devote himself entirely to ministerial services; accepting the curacy of a Mr. Langley, who held the livings of St. Matthew, Friday Street, in London, and West Hors. ley, near Guildford, in Surrey. His duty was, to serve the church
in London, during part of the summer, and to reside the remainder of the year at Horsley; and in this employment he continued four years.
At Horsley he instructed many of the poor, during the week, at bis own house. His family prayer was often attended by thirty or forty of his poorer neighbours. The number of communicants was increased, while he was curate, from twelve to sixty. His activity and zeal, however, offended some of the neighbouring clergy, who took no pains in their parishes, and occasioned them to stigmatize him as an enthusiast and a methodist; though, in truth, he had no knowledge whatever