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is now for ever silent, when there seemed every probability that it would continue to be heard, through many years to come, in which many of his hearers would be withdrawn from the congregation and from the living world, leaving him still in the exercise of his ministration ?
... Mr. Coles was insinuating me a half request to be there [Bourton] at this very day, for the missionary meeting. What an astounding thing it would have been had there been an inspired seer to say, 'Mr. Coles, you will, at that time, be in an assembly elsewhere.'"
In the summer of 1841 Mr. Foster spent several weeks with Mr. (now Sir John) Easthope and his family; part of the time was passed in the Isle of Wight.
In a letter dated July 17, he says, referring to his journey from Southampton, "A gentleman on the railway mentioned some remarkable antiquities dug up in cutting the road, and gave directions for them to be shown to me, and where I should find them. They are various pieces of ancient British pottery, some of them of forms not exactly, that I remember, described by Sir R. Hoare. They are chiefly basins and urns, large and small: a large urn containing human bones and a skull. The shape of some of them may be called elegant. They were found not very deep in the earth, and where there was no sign (tumulus or the like) on the surface. I am always interested by these primitive, or call them primeval antiquities."
This was the ast time that he visited London. He was there for many weeks in the spring and summer of 1836, at the house of the same friend; and after his return often spoke in grateful terms of the kindness which he met with from every member of the family. On both occasions he devoted much of his time to the various exhibitions and works of art in the British Museum and elsewhere. "I stayed," he says in one of his letters, "five or six hours
in the British Institution, wishing to have all the pleasure, and everything also that could be obtained by a very long and repeated look at the long array of fine things. . . . I suppose almost all fine; but there are some half dozen of the strongest captivation-one by Guercino,-one or two by Ruysdael,-one by Salvator,-one by Wilson. That by Guercino, a Magdalen, I could have looked at a whole hour. It is something much more, and of a higher character than merely beautiful. It is not exactly strictly its beauty that arrests and captivates. It has a refined grace, and what may almost be denominated sanctity. It is represented as totally abstracted, withdrawn from all around, and with a calm expression of sorrow. There is one unpleasant, almost mischievous effect, of seeing so many imposing or captivating ideal forms of humanity,-that it creates, or rather augments, a repulsion to human beings such as they are actually seen. To-day, for example, in seeing the numberless multitude, as they were passing backward and forward, or standing in ranks, one glanced at their countenances with a sort of recoil from each and almost all; not from the mere effect of their material cast, but also and very strongly from the apparent expression of character,—even of those who were evidently not of what we mean by the vulgar.
"In seeing such vast multitudes,* one is often struck
"Another cause of the little regard felt by individuals for the mass of humanity in a great city is, that number depreciates value. Human beings are made too vulgar and plentiful to be any thing worth. You can find them in muititudes any time, any where,-are common as swarms of flies on a summer's day, and reduced to nearly the same insignificance, by the marvellous excess of their number (one is inclined to say quantity), and by the trivial importance which each is felt to bear to the whole; which whole, as I have said before, you can bring within no feeling of friendly approximation. The whole is a world, and an individual is but an atom; the one is too vast for your benevolent regard, the other too small.
"It would be curious to make a scale of degrees of importance which human beings may bear to each other, according to the degrees of the
with the thought how each one is all-important to individual self, and, in most instances, considerably so to some other individuals; and yet how totally insignificant to all besides,whether, or how, they live or die. What a consideration it is, that since I came hither, as many at least as three thousand have died in this city-all unknown and indifferent to me."
Near the end of December he was attacked with bronchitis, "a visitation" which, he remarked, "came as a very strange one to a man who had not for fifty years been confined to bed a single day." He kept his room somewhere about two months. He manifested, throughout, the greatest patience; and his letters, written when he became convalescent, disclose how anxiously he sought to derive spiritual improvement from the affliction: "I hope," he says, * "this season of imprisonment has not been without a real advantage in respect to the highest concern. It has brought with it many grave, earnest, and painful reflections. The review of life has been solemnly condemnatory-such a sad deficiency of the vitality of religion, the devotional spirit, the love, the zeal, the fidelity of conscience. I have been really amazed to think how I could-I do not say, have been content with such a low and almost equivocal piety, for I never have been at all content-but, how I could have endured it, without my whole soul rising up against it, and calling vehemently on the Almighty Helper
facility of meeting with them. I would begin with Robinson Crusoe, to whom the appearance of a man was a circumstance of infinite interest; I would advance next to a thinly scattered population, like that of the back settlements of America, where the infrequent visit of a neighbour, who travels leagues for the interview, must be a welcome surprise; and so forward through the various stages of population till I come to London. What a difference between the feeling of the solitary islander at the sight of a human countenance, and that with which you meet or pass any one of the men or women in Fleet Street!"—Mr. Foster to Miss M. Snooke, March 14, 1803.
*To the Rev. Josiah Hill, February, 1842.
to come to my rescue, and never ceasing till the blessed experience was attained. And then the sad burden of accumulated guilt;-and the solemn future!—and life so near the end!—O what dark despair but for that blessed light that shines from the Prince of Life, the only and the all-sufficient Deliverer from the second death. I have prayed earnestly for a genuine penitential living faith on Him. Do you pray for me. Thus I hope this temporary experience of suspended health will have a salutary effect on the soul's health. I do not mean that these exercises of mind are a new thing, brought on by this visitation. They have grown upon me in this late declining stage of life. But for every thing that enforces and augments them I have cause to be thankful. There is much work yet to be done in this most unworthy soul; my sole reliance is on Divine assistance; and I do hope and earnestly trust (trust in that assistance itself) that every day I may yet have to stay on earth, will be employed as part of a period of persevering, and I almost say passionate, petitions for the Divine Mercy in Christ, and so continue to the last day and hour of life, if consciousness be then granted. . . . Often I am making humbling comparisons between my lot, and that of the many ten thousands who are suffering at this time all the miseries of hopeless destitution. Why am I so favoured, and millions so wretched ?".
Mr. Foster went to Bourton, for the last time, in the middle of September, 1842. He stayed about six weeks, and returned, looking rather stouter and apparently somewhat invigorated. He seemed to have enjoyed his visit very much,—to have been gratified by the cordial hospitality and kindness of his relations and old acquaintance, and to have felt much interest in wandering about his old haunts. In writing while there to one of his nephews, he thus
" he says,
adverts to the state of public affairs: "I suppose,' "you have the pestilent Chartists in your part of the country. They are a very stupid and pernicious set; some of their leaders great rogues; the whole tribe a sad nuisance. They have done what they could to frustrate the exertions for obtaining the only public benefit which there is the smallest chance of getting at present, or for a long time to come; that is an alteration or abrogation of the Corn Laws, a thing which would immediately be a most important reliet to that commercial interest on which so many tens of thousands are depending. And while they are doing this mischief they are brawling about universal suffrage, a thing as much out of reach, for a very long time to come, as any thing they could dream of. And yet, unless they can get this, they say, they will accept no other change for the amendment of their condition. What fools! And to judge of their recent proceedings they are themselves wholly unfit for such a suffrage. What a fine and valuable thing the suffrage would be to men whose chosen business it has been to go and disturb and break up with noise, and violence, and abuse, the important meetings for discussing the best expedients for alleviating the public distress!—No, no; they have yet a great deal to learn before they will be fit for a considerate and judicious voting for members of the legislature. I wish the people had the Universal Suffrage, provided they were better educated, more intelligent, more sober, more moral; but not in their present state of ignorance and rudeness. Their being so is, as to some of them, their own fault. But the main weight of the reproach falls on the Government and the Church, which have left the people in this deplorable state from generation to generation. There ought to have been, long since, a general national education, which would have made sure of all being To Mr. John Foster, September 22, 1842.