Thomas Jackson.

Christian biography .. online

. (page 1 of 18)
Online LibraryThomas JacksonChristian biography .. → online text (page 1 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





















Matthew Hale was bom at Alderley in
Gloucestershire, November 1st, 1609. His
grandfather was Robert Hale, an eminent clo-
thier in Wotton-under-Edge, in that county,
where he and his ancestors had lived for many
descents ; and they had given several parcels
of land for the use of the poor, which are en-
joyed by them to this day. This Robert ac-
quired an estate of ten thousand pounds, which
he divided almost equally among his five sons,
besides the portions he gave his daughters, from
whom a numerous posterity has sprung. His
second son was Robert Hale, a barrister of
Lincoln's Inn : he married Joan, the daughter
of Matthew Poyntz, of Alderley, Esquire, who
was descended from that noble family of the
Poyntz's of Acton. Of this marriage there was
no other issue but this one son. His grandfa-
ther by his mother was his godfather, and gave
him his own name at his baptism. His father
was a man of that strictness of conscience, that
he gave over the practice of the law, because


he could not understand the reason of giving
colour in pleadings, which as he thought was
to tell a lie ; and that, with some other things
commonly practised, seemed to him contrary to
that exactness of truth and justice which became
a Christian ; so that he withdrew himself from
the inns of court, to live on his estate in the
country. Of this I was informed by an ancient
gentleman that lived in a friendship with his
son for fifty years ; and he heard Judge Jones,
who was Mr. Hale's contemporary, declare this
in the King's Bench. But as the care he had
to save his soul made him abandon a profession
in which he might have raised his family much
higher, so his charity to his poor neighbours
made him not only deal his alms largely among
them while he lived, but at his death he left
(out of his small estate, which was one hundred
pounds a year) twenty pounds a year to the
poor of Wotton, which his son confirmed to
them with some addition, and with this regula-
tion, that it should be distributed among such
poor housekeepers as did not receive the alms
of the parish ; for to give it to those was only,
as he used to say, to save so much money to
the rich, who by law were bound to relie^'e the
poor of the parish.

Thus he was descended rather from a good
than a noble family ; and yet what was wanting
in the insignificant titles of high birth and noble
blood was more than made up in the true worth
of his ancestors. But he was soon deprived of
the happiness of his father's care and instruo


tion ; for as be lost his mother before he was
three years old, so bis father died before he was
five ; so early was he cast on the providence
of God. But that iinhappiness w^as, in a great
measure, made up to him ; for after some oppo-
sition made by Mr. Thomas Poyntz, his uncle
by bis mother, he was committed to the care
of Anthony Kingscot, of Kingscot, Esquire,
who was his next kinsman, after his uncles, by
his mother.

Great care was taken of his education, and
his guardian intended to breed him to be a di-
vine ; and, being inclined to the way of those
then called Puritans, put him to some schools
that were taught by those of that party, and in
the seventeenth year of his age sent him to
Magdalen Hall, in Oxford, where Obadiah Sedg-
wick was his tutor. He was an extraordinary
proficient at school, and for some time at Ox-
ford ; but the stage players coming thither, he
was so much corrupted by seeing many plays,
that he almost wholly forsook his studies. By
this he not only lost much time, but found that
his head came to be thereby filled with such
vain images of things, that they were at best
unprofitable, if not hurtful to him ; and being
afterward sensible of the mischief of this, he
resolved, upon his coming to London, (where
he knew the opportunities of such sights would
be more frequent and inviting,) never to see a
play again ; to which he constantly adhered.

The corruption of a young man's mind in one
particular generally draws on a great many


more after it ; so he, being now taken off from
following his studies, and from the gravity of
his deportment, that was formerly eminent in
him far beyond his years, set himself to many
of the vanities incident to youth, but still pre-
served his purity, and a great probity of mind.
He loved fine clothes, and delighted much in
company ; and, being of a strong robust body,
he was a great master at all those exercises that
required much strength. He also learned to
fence and handle his weapons ; in which he
became so expert, that he worsted many of the
masters of those arts : but as he was exercising
of himself in them, an instance appeared, that
showed a good judgment, and gave some hopes
of better things. One of his masters told him
he could teach him no more, for he was now
better at his own trade than himself was. This
JNIr. Hale looked on as flattery : so, to make the
master discover himself, he promised him the
house he lived in, for he was his tenant, if he
could hit him a blow on the head ; and bade
him do his best, for he would be as good as his
word. So, after a little engagement, his mas-
ter being really superior to him, hit him on the
head, and he performed his promise ; for he
gave him the house freely, and was not unwill-
ing at that rate to learn so early to distinguish
flatter}' from plain and simple truth.

He nov/ was so taken up with martial mat-
ters, that, instead of going on in his design of
being a scholar, or a divine, he resolved to be a
soldier ; and his tutor Sedgwick going into the


Low Countries, chaplain to the renowned Lord
Vere, he resolved to go along with him, and to
trail a pike in the Prince of Orange's army.
But a happy stop was put to this resolution,
which might have proved so fatal to himself,
and have deprived the age of the great example
he gave, and the useful services he afterward
did his countr)-. He was engaged in a suit of
law with Sir William Whitmore, who laid claim
to some part of his estate ; and his guardian be-
ing a man of a retired temper, and not made for
business, he was forced to leave the university,
after he had been three years in it, and go to
London to solicit his own business. Being re-
commended to Sergeant Glanvil for his coun-
sellor, and he observing in him a clear appre-
hension of things, and a solid judgment, and a
great fitness for the study of the law, took pains
upon him to persuade him to forsake his thoughts
of being a soldier, and to apply himself to the
study of the law ; and this had so good an effect
on him, that on November 8th, 1629, when he
was past the twentieth year of his age, he was
admitted into Lincoln's Inn ; and being then
deeply sensible how much time he had lost,
and that idle and vain things had overrun and
almost corrupted his mind, he resolved to re-
deem the time he had lost, and followed his
studies with a diligence that could scarce be
believed, if the signal effects of it did not gain
it credit. He studied for many years at the
rate of sixteen hours a day : he threw aside all
fine clothes, and betook himself to a plain


fashion, which he continued to use in many
points to his dying day.

But since the honour of reclaiming him from
the idleness of his former course of life is due
to the memory of that eminent lawyer, Sergeant
Glanvil, and since my design in writing is to
propose a pattern of heroic virtue to the world,
I shall mention one passage of the sergeant,
'which ought ncA-er to be forgotten. His father
had a fair estate, which he intended to settle
on his elder brother ; but he being a vicious
young man, and there appearing no hopes of
his recovery, he settled it on him who was his
second son. Upon his death, his eldest son,
finding that what he had before looked on as
the threatenings of an angry father was now but
too certain, became melancholy ; and that by
degrees wrought so great a change on him,
that what his father could not prevail in while
he lived was now effected by the severity of
his last will ; so that it was now too late for
him to change in hopes of any estate that was
gone from him. But his brother, observing the
reality of the change, resolved within himself
what to do : so he called him with many of his
friends together to a feast ; and, after other
dishes had been served up to the dinner, he
ordered one that was covered to be set before
his brother, and desired him to uncover it,
which he doing, the company were surprised
to find it full of writings. So he told them, that
he was now to do what he was sure his father
would have done, if he had lived to see that


happy change which they now all saw in his
brother ; and, therefore, he freely restored to
him the whole estate. This is so great an in-
stance of a generous and just disposition, that I
hope the reader will easily pardon this digres-
sion ; and that the rather, since that worthy
sergeant was so instrumental in the happy
change that followed in the course of Mr.
Hale's life.

Yet he did not at tirst break off from keeping
too much company with some vain people, till
a sad accident drove him from it ; for he, with
some other young students, being invited to be
merry out of town, one of the company called
for so much wine, that, notwithstanding all that
Mr. Hale could do to prevent it, he went on in
his excess till he fell down as dead before ihem ;
so that all that were present were not a little
affrighted at it, who did w^hat they could te
bring him to himself again. This did particu-
larly affect Mr. Hale, who thereupon went into
another room, and, shutting the door, fell on
his knees, and prayed earnestly to God, both for
his friend that he might be restored to life again,
and that himself might be forgiven for giving
such countenance to so much excess ; and he
vowed to God, that he would never again keep
company in that manner, nor drink a health
while he lived. His friend recovered, and he
most religiously observed his vow till his dying
day. And though he was afterward pressed to
drink healths, particularly the king's, which was
set up by too many as a distinguishing mark of


loyalty, and drew many into great excess, after

his majesty's happy restoration ; but he would
never dispense with his vow, though he was
sometimes roughly treated for this, which some
hot and indiscreet men called obstinacy.

This wrought an entire change on him : now
he forsook all vain company, and divided him-
self between the duties of religion and the stu-
dies of his profession. In the former he was
so regular, that for six and thirty year's time he
never once failed going to church on the Lord's
day. This observation he made when an ague
first interrupted that constant course ; and he
reflected on it, as an acknowledgment of God's
great goodness to him, in so long a continuance
of his health.

He took a strict account of his time, of which
the reader will best judge by the scheme he drew
for a diary, which I shall insert, copied from the
original ; but I am not certain when he made
it ; it is set down in the same simplicity in
which he wrote it for his own private use.


1. To lift up the heart to God in thankfulness
for renewing my life.

2. To renew my covenant with God in Christ,
(1.) By renewed acts of faith receiving Christ,
and rejoicing in the height of that relation.
(2.) Resolution of being one of his people, do-
ing him allegiance.

3. Adoration and prayer.

4. Setting a watch over my own infirmities


and passions, over the snares laid in our way.
Pcrimus Ileitis.

Day Employment.

There must be an employment, two kinds: —

1. Our ordinary calling, to serve God in it.
It is a service to Christ, though never so mean.
(Colossians iii.) Here faithfulness, diligence,
cheerfulness. Not to over-lay myself with more
business than I can bear.

2. Our spiritual employments ; mingle some-
what of God's immediate service in this day.


1. Meat and drink, moderation seasoned with
somewhat of God.

2. Recreations. (1.) Not our business. (2.)
Suitable. No games, if given to covetousness
or passion.

If alone.

1. Beware of wandering, vain, lustful
thoughts ; fly from thyself rather than entertain

2. Let thy solitary thoughts be profitable ;
view the evidences of thy salvation, the state
of thy soul, the coming of Christ, thy own mor-
tality ; it will make thee humble and watchful.


Do good to them. Use God's name reverent-
ly. Beware of leaving an ill impression of ill


example. Receive good from them if more


Cast up the accounts of the day. If aught
amiss, beg pardon. Gather resolution of more
vigilance. If well, bless the mercy and grace
of God that hath supported thee.

These notes have an imperfection in the
v.'ording of them, which shows they were only
intended for his privacies. No wonder a man
who set such rules to himself became quickly
very eminent and remarkable.

Noy, the attorney-general, being then one of
the greatest men of the profession, took early
notice of him, and called often for him, and di-
rected him in his study, and grew to have such
friendship for him that he came to be called
young Noy. He passing from the extreme of
vanity in his apparel, to that of neglecting him-
self too much, Avas once taken, when there was
a press for the king's service, as a fit person for
it ; for he was a strong and well-built man ; but
some that knew him coming by, and giving no-
tice who he was, the press-men let him go.
This made him return to more decency in his
clothes, but never to any superfluity or vanity
in them.

Once as he was buying some cloth for a new
suit, the draper, with whom he differed about
the price, told him he should have it for nothing,
if he would promise him one hundred pounds


when he came to be lord chief justice of Eng-
land ; to which he answered, that he could not
with a good conscience wear any man's cloth,
unless lie paid for it ; so he satislied the draper,
and carried away the cloth. Yet the same
draper lived to see him advanced to that same

While he was thus improving himself in the
study of the law, he not only kept the hours of
the hall constantly in term time, but seldom put
himself out of commons in vacation time ; and
continued then to follow his studies with an un-
v.-earied diligence ; and not being satislied with
the books writ about it, or to take things upon
trust, was very diligent in searching all records.
Then did he make divers collections out of the
books he had read, and, mixing them with his
own observations, digested them into a common-
place book ; which he did with so much indus-
try and judgment, that an eminent judge of the
King's Bench borrowed it of him, when he was
lord chief baron. He unwillingly lent it, be-
cause it had been writ by him before he was
called to the bar, and had never been thorough-
ly revised by him since that time ; only what
alterations had been made in the law by sub-
sequent statutes and judgments, were added by
him as they had happened. But the judge
having perused it, said, that though it was com-
posed by him so early, he did not think any
lawyer in P^ngland could do it better, except
he himself would again set about it.

He was soon found out by that great and


learned antiquary, Mr. Selden, who, though
much superior to him in years, yet came to
have such a liking of him and of Mr. Vaughan,
who was afterward lord chief justice of the
common pleas, that as he continued in a close
friendship with them while he lived, so he left
them at his death two of his four executors.

It was this acquaintance that first set Mr.
Hale on a more enlarged pursuit of learning,
which he had before confined to his own pro-
fession ; but becoming as great a master in it as
ever any was very soon, he, who could never let
any of his time go away unprofitably, found
leisure to attain to as great a variety of know-
ledge, in as comprehensive a manner as most
men have done in any age.

He set himself much to the study of the Ro-
man law ; and though he liked the way of judi-
cature in England, by juries, much better than
that of the civil law, where so much was trusted
to the judge ; yet he often said that the true
grounds and reasons of law were so well de-
livered in the digests, that a man could never
understand law as a science so well as by seek-
ing it there ; and therefore lamented much that
it was so little studied in England.

He looked on readiness in arithmetic as a
thing which might be useful to him in his own
employment ; and acquired it to such a degree
that he would often on a sudden, and afterward
on the bench, resolve very hard questions,
which had puzzled the best accountants about
town. He rested not here ; but studied the


algebra, both speciosa and numcrosa, and went
through all the other mathematical sciences ;
and made a great collection of very excellent
instruments, sparing no cost to have them as
exact as art could make them. He was also
very conversant in philosophical learning, and
in all the curious experiments and rare discove-
ries of this age : and had the new books writ-
ten on those subjects sent him from all parts,
which he both read and examined so critically,
that if the principles and hypotheses which he
took first up did any way prepossess him, yet
those who have differed most from him ac-
knowledged, that in what he has written con-
cerning the Torricellian experiment, and of the
rarefaction and condensation of the air, he shows
as great an exactness, and as much subtlety in
the reasoning he builds on them, as these prin-
ciples, to which he adhered, could bear. But
indeed it will seem scarcely credible, that a
man so much employed, and of so severe a
temper of mind, could find leisure to read, ob-
serve, and write so much of these subjects as
he did. He called them his diversions ; for he
often said, when he was weary with the study of
the law or divinity, he used to recreate himself
with philosophy or the mathematics : to these
ho added great skill in physic, anatomy, and
chirurgcry ; and he used to say, no man could
be absolutely a master in any profession, with-
but having some skill in other sciences ; for
besides the satisfaction he had in the knowledge
of these things, he made use of them often in


his employments. In some examinations he
would put such questions to physicians or chi-
rurgeons, that they have professed the college
of physicians could not do it more exactly ; by
which he discovered great judgment, as well as
much knowledge in these things. And in his
sickness he used to argue with the doctors about
his distempers, and the methods they took with
them, like one of their own profession; which
one of them told me he understood as far as
speculation without practice could carry him.

To this he added great searches into ancient
history ; and particularly into the roughest and
least delightful part of it, chronology. He was
well acquainted with the ancient Greek philo-
sophers ; but want of occasion to use it wore
out his knowledge of the Greek tongue : and
though he never studied the Hebrew tongue,
yet, by his great conversation with Selden, he
understood the most curious things in the rab-
binical learning.

But above all these, he seemed to have made
the study of divinity the chief of all others ; to
•which he not only directed every thing else, but
also arrived at that pitch in it, that those who
have read what he has written on these subjects
will think they must have had most of his time
and thoughts. It may seem extravagant, and
almost incredible, that one man, in no great
compass of years, should have acquired such a
variety of knowledge, and that in sciences that
require much leisure and application. But as
his parts were quick, and his apprehension


lively ; his memory great, and his judgment
strong ; so his industry was almost indefatiga-
ble. He rose always betimes in the morning ;
was never idle ; scarcely ever held any dis-
course about news, except with some few, in
whom he confided entirely. He entered into
no correspondence by letters, except about ne-
cessary business, or matters of learning ; and
spent very little time in eating or drinking ; for
as he never went to public feasts, so he gave
no entertainments but to the poor ; for he fol-
lowed our Saviour's direction (of feasting none
but these) literally : and in eating and drinking
he observed not only great plainness and mo-
deration, but lived so philosophically, that he
always ended his meal with an appetite ; so
that he lost little time at it, (that being the only
portion which he grudged himself,) and was
disposed to any exercise of his mind, to which
he thought fit to apply himself, immediately
after he had dined. By these means he gained
much time, that is otherwise unprofitably wasted.
He had also an admirable equality in the
temper of his mind, which disposed him for
whatever studies he thought fit to turn himself
to ; and some very uneasy things which he lay
under for many years did rather engage him to,
than distract him from, his studies.



When he was called to the bar and began to
make a figure in the world, the late unhappy
wars broke out ; in which it was no easy thing
for a man to preserve his integrity, and to live
securely, free from great danger and trouble.
He had read the life of Pomponius Atticus,
M'ritten by Nepos ; and having observed that
he had passed through a time of as much dis-
traction as ever was in any age or state, from the
wars of Marius and Sylla, to the beginning of
Augustus's reign, without the least blemish on
his reputation, and free from any considerable
danger, being held in great esteem by all par-
ties, and courted and favoured by them ; he -set
him as a pattern to himself: and observing,
that besides those virtues which are necessary
to all men, and at all times, there were two
things that chiefly preserved Atticus ; the one
was his engaging in no faction, and meddling in
no public business ; the other was his constant
favouring and relieving those that were lowest ;
which was ascribed, by such as prevailed, to
the generosity of his temper, and procured him
much kindness from those on whom he had ex-
ercised his bounty, when it came to their turn
to govern ; he resolved to guide himself by
those rules as much as it was possible for him
to do.

He not only avoided all public employment,
but the very talking of news ; and was always


both favourable and charitable to those who
were depressed, and was sure never to provoke
any in particular, by censuring or reflecting on
their actions : for many that have conversed
much with him, have told me they never heard
him once speak ill of any person.

He was employed in his practice by all the
king's party : he was assigned counsel to the
Earl of Strafford, and Archbishop Laud, and
afterward to the blessed king himself, when
brought to the infamous pageantry of a mock
trial ; and offered to plead for him with all the
courage that so glorious a cause ou^ht to have
inspired him with ; but was not suffered to ap-
pear, because the king refusing, as he had good
reason, to submit to the court, it was pretended
none could be admitted to speak for him. He
was also counsel for the Duke of Hamilton, the
Earl of Holland, and the Lord Capcl. His
plea for the former of these I have published in
the memoirs of that duke's life. Afterward
also being counsel for the Lord Craven, he
pleaded with that force of argument, that the
then attorney- general threatened him for appear-
ing against government : to whom he answered,

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryThomas JacksonChristian biography .. → online text (page 1 of 18)