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Seldom has a task so painfully arduous fallen to the lot of a biographer, as that which, in the mysterious providence of God, has unexpectedly devolved on me. The recollection of departed ex. cellence, which a long series of years had developed and matured, is mingled with a melancholy feeling, and not unfrequently excites the tribute of a tear : but the individual who erects a monument to friendship, genius, usefulness and piety, prematurely wrapt in the oblivion of the grave, must necessarily prosecute his mournful work with trembling hands, and with a bleeding heart. And yet the mind is soothed by the communication of its sorrow; the bosom is relieved of an oppressive burthen while it tells the virtues of the friend it mourns; and the best feel. ings of the heart are satisfied with the consciousness, that instead of indulging in solitude the luxury of unavailing grief, it has employed its powers to pourtray, in lively colours, for the improvement of the living, the excellencies of the
beloved and pious dead. For myself, with mournful pleasure, I hasten to sketch the rude outline of one of the loveliest and most finished characters the present age has known ;-pausing only to express my deep regret, that one so ripe for heaven, and yet so eminently useful upon earth, should be called from the important sphere he occupied, so soon; and that to hands so feeble should be committed, together with the solemn trust which he resigned in death, the painful duty of erecting this monument to his worth.
The REVEREND Thomas SPENCER, was born at Hertford, January 21, 1791. He occupied the third place out of four who surrounded his father's table, but shared equally with them in the tender and affectionate solicitude of parents, who, placed in the middle sphere of human life, were respectable for their piety, and highly esteemed in the circle in which a wise Providence had allotted them to move. It cannot be expected that any thing peculiarly interesting should mark the early childhood of a youth, retired from the observation of the world, and far removed from the presence of any of those circumstances which might be considered as favourable to the excitation of latent talent or the display of early genius. And yet the years of his infancy and childhood were not undistinguished by some intimations of a superior mind, from which a thoughtful observer might have been induced to augur something of his future eminence, and which his amiable father it appears did with silence wateh. He himself observes, in a hasty sketch of his life, which now lies before me." As far back as I can recollect, my memory was complimented by many as being very retentive, and my progress in knowledge was more considerable than that of my school-fellows; a natural curiosity and desire of knowledge, I think I may say, without vanity, distinguished even the period of my infancy. I now remember questions that I asked when about four years old, which were rather singular, and which were confined chiefly to biblical subjects. No child could be more attached to places of Worship, or could be more inquisitive about their concerns than myself; and I may add, more given to imitate the actions of the minister and clerk."*
When he had completed his fifth year, he suffered the severest earthly privation a child can know, in the loss of an affectionate mother. Though then too young correctly to appreciate a parent's worth, he deeply felt the stroke; and in the liveliest manner he recalls the impression which at that early period this melancholy circumstance produced upon his tender mind. 66 When the funeral sermon was preached I could not help noticing the grief which seemed to pervade every person present. Deeply affected myself, I recollect, that after the service, as I was walking about our little garden with my disconsolate father, I said to him, Father, what is the reason that so many people cried at the meeting this afternoon.'--He, adapting his language to my comprehension, said, "They cried to see little children like you without a mother.”+ This event, which shed so deep a gloom upon his family, seems to have excited emotions of a serious nature in his mind never totally effaced.
* M. S. Memoirs.
From this time he applied himself with diligence and delight to the business of his school. There was at this early age something amiable and en.. gaging in his manners; and this combined with his attention to his learning, soon secured the esteem and approbation of his respective teachers, and gained him, together with the first place and highest honours of his school, the character of “ a good boy." It is pleasing to mark the early combination of superior talent and sweetness of disposition in this extraordinary young man; and it would be well, did the patrons of early genius more deeply ponder the reflection, that the graces of a meek and quiet spirit are far more estimable than the rare qualities of a prematurely vigorous mind; and that the talents they cultivate with such anxious care, if unassociated with real excellence of soul, may render the idols of their fond adulation sources of anguish to themselves and incalculable mischief to mankind.
Whilst a school boy, he became passionately fond of novels, histories, adventures, &c. which he devoured with the greatest eagerness in numbers truly astonishing. The perusal of these he always preferred to play and other amusements adapted to his years. He delighted much in solitude; nor did he know a happiness superior to that of being alone, with one of his favourite books. He took no delight in the games of his companions, nor did he ever mingle in their little feuds, His natural levity,
however, was excessive; and his wit, fed by the publications he so ardently perused, would often display itself in impurity of language to the laughter and amusement of his fellows. Yet he was not without his moments of serious reflection, and that of a very deep and dreadful kind.—He was often overwhelmed with religious considerations, and the solemn sermons he sometimes heard, filled him with terror and alarm. So intolerable at one period were the horrors of his mind, that in an agony of despair, he was tempted, as many have been before him, to destroy himself.—Thus at an early age he became intimately acquainted with the depravity of his nature, and from the deep waters of spiritual distress through which he was called to pass, his soul imbibed an air of humility and a habit of watchfulness, which enabled him to meet with firmness the dangers of popularity, and to maintain a steady, course, notwithstanding the press of sail he carried.
To these deep convictions of his early years may perhaps be traced the peculiarly pressing and empassioned manner of his address, when he strove to arouse the slumbering conscience, or direct the weary wanderer to the cross of Christ. The sacred poems and the passages of holy writ, which most he loved, were those of a cast similar to that of his own fervent mind; and I have heard many tell, with tears, of the animation and rapture with which he would often repeat from that beautiful hymn of Henry Kirke White, his favourite author, whom in many shades of character he much resembled, and alas! too much in his early and lamented fateam