« PreviousContinue »
MAGAZINE AND REVIEW,
FOR JANUARY, 1804.
That which is of God we defend to the uttermost of that which he hath given: that which is otherwise, let it wither even in the root from whence it hath sprung. HOOKER.
THE LIFE OF THE REV. PHILIP SKELTON.
(Continued from Vol. V. Page 407.)
EING often, in a vacancy, appointed sequestrator to a living, he always raised the Curate's salary from forty to fifty pounds.
To the poor curates indeed he was always a sincere friend, as also to all others, whose condition made them stand in need of his assistance. While he had Fintona, he went once to recommend to a certain eminent prelate, an old Curate, who was pre-eminently distinguished by his morals, learning and abilities. After some conversa tion, he told his Grace he had come to him on business. What business, his Grace quickly replied? I am come, he answered, to recommend to your Grace, Mr. Johnston an old curate of great merit in your diocese, who will soon die, and it is a shame he should die a curate. I beg therefore you would give him a small living. He is an odd sort of a man, his Grace said, and then gave him a refusal. On which Mr. Skelton spoke to him thus, I agree with your Grace, he is a very odd sort of a man, for he has more learning, and knows better how to apply it, than the whole diocese of
Vol. VI. Churchm. Mag. Jan. 1804.
Some dignified clergy at the Bishop of Clogher's, were remarking one day before dinner, that Skelton himself was an odd sort of a man, mentioning the oddity of his dress, and the like. Aye, aye, observed the old bishop, Mr. Skelton may wear a rusty gown, and a brown wig, but he is such an ornament, that we should overlook his little peculiarities.
The bishop of Clogher' wrote him once a letter to Fintona, to inform him, that the same eminent prelate, just now mentioned, would be at his house on such a day, and said he expected he would come and wait on his Grace. He immediately returned this answer, that if his Lordship desired him to go to him on the most frivolous occasion, he would obey; but as for the Archbishop, he was out of his books. Of this illustrious personage, he also remarked, that he was very careful to build churches, but did not care what sort of clergymen he put in them.
At Drogheda, he was once told, that the same eminent prelate would be there the next day. Upon which he hastened immediately out of the town, declaring he would not speak to him, nor see him, as he neglected his old curates.
The air of Fintona being now too keen for him in winter, he was at that season obliged to go to a place more suitable to his constitution. In 1775 he went to lodge in Dublin. As yet he returned to Fintona before Easter Sunday, when he began his lectures on the catechism, which continued sixteen weeks.
Even in his old age he preserved some remains of his juvenile strength. Two fellows were boxing in an inn at Fintona, and he happened to see them; on which he ran in between them to part them, which he accomplished with difficulty: this vexed him, and made him say, Oh,
if I were as strong as when I was young, I could easily master you both.
He was always angry at any one who shewed himself cowardly; and once gave a woman half a crown for beating a man who strove to take a child from her.
While he was at Dublin, he preached a sermon at St. Andrews, on Friday Dec. 13th, 1776, being the day appointed for a general fast and humiliation. Some time before, the rector of that parish waiting on him, requested him to preach on the ensuing fast; he pleaded his age and infirmities as his excuse, but was at length persuaded. His appearance on that day was suitable to the occasion. His wig was quite brown, it had not even the colour of powder in it; his gown was old and rusty; his face furrowed with wrinkles, and venerable by age; his person tall, though somewhat bent by years. In fine, he bore a resemblance to one in mourning commissioned to remind the world of the judgments of God brought on them for their sins. In the pulpit, old as he was, he displayed his usual vehemence; he spoke with abhorrence of the corruptions and infidelity of the age; he seemed to retain his wonted eloquence, and had an astonishing effect on his hearers.
The sermon at the desire of the parishioners, and many clergymen who were present, was published for the benefit of the charity schools of the parish. It is an animated composition, but as must naturally be expected, betrays evident marks of hurry. The regular series of events -conspicuous period of his life. trade or manufacture, but that of yarn, from the sale of which, and of some oatmeal, after a plentiful harvest, they derived the little money they had. Their mode of subsistence was therefore very precarious, of which the
conducts me to another
At Fintona there was no
poor in that place were made too sensible, about 1778, when they were in a very distressed state. The yarn for a year before had been remarkably cheap, and the provisions for three years constantly rising in price. Hence he perceived a famine must ensue, and was anxious to provide against this calamity. But he was scarce ever so ill prepared for it as then, for with difficulty he had scraped up, on account of the general distress, even a small part of his parochial income; all of which, except what barely afforded him subsistence, he had already given away to the poor, their necessities were so urgent. When his money was all gone, he stil saw their wants and the price of provisions encreasing daily to an alarming degree. This forced him about the beginning of spring, in compassion to their unhappy state, to borrow sixty-four pounds to buy oatmeal for them; which sum being sent to Drogheda for that purpose, produced but four ton of meal, including the expence of carriage; a supply that was sufficient for some months to relieve those poor that stood most in need of it. But in time this charitable donation began to fail, while the necessities and the number of the indigent were daily increasing. He was then obliged, as the last resource, to write a circular letter, setting forth their distresses, a copy of which he sent to each of those gentlemen who had landed property in the parish. He told them of the afflictions of the poor, by the cheapness of the yarn, and the growing price of provisions, which had now produced a famine; that this famine, which was in a manner general throughout Europe, was attended in his. pa rish by two epidemic distempers, the small-pox and a scarle fever, that raged with great violence; that from one or other of these scarcely a family was free; so that in many houses, out of seven or eight inhabitants, there