[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
The following valuable piece was drawn up by the Rev. Philip Moore, the friend and beloved disciple of Bishop Hildesley ; and contains some very interesting particulars of his Lordships Life, which came too late for insertion in the course of the Memoirs. It was kindly communicated, with other papers, to the editor, by Edward Moore, Esq. of Douglas, in the Isle of Mann, nephew and heir of the ingenious writer, and formerly the Bishops agent there.
Of the Church of SODOR and MANN.
written about the year 1773.
That Christianity was very early planted in this isle, appears from a catalogue of our bishops. regularly deduced from the year of Christ to this time, in a succession of fifty-five bishops, from Germanus, our protobishop, to the Right Rev. Dr. Richmond, our present diocesan ; including a space of 1326 years to this time. And though the bishops of Mann be not lords of the British parliament, vet are they barons of the isle, in virtue of their demesne lands, and the baronies annexed to the see of Sodor and. Mann. But, whether it be better or worse for the real interest of religion, that they are not lords of parliament, is a point, which the writer of this memoir does not presume to determine, as adhuc sub judice lis est1. Whether it be owing to this circumstance, or rather to the good providence of GOD over this small part of the Christian fold, our island has been remarkably happy and fortunate in her bishops ; who have been, for the most part, men of excellent endowments, and well qualified for that important trust.
To go no farther back than to the episcopate of bishop BARROW, anno 1665 ; who, with benefactions raised in England, purchased lands in the island, founded a publick free-school, and established an academy for the education of young men , to serve the churches of his diocese; with an exhibition of, now, twelve pounds per annum, for three or four scholars on that foundation ; besides making provision for English petty schools in the seventeen parishes of the isle.
Equal to him in eminence and utility, though not next in succession, was that bright and splendid luminary of the Christian church, Dr. THOMAS WILSON ; than whom it may justly be said, that, since the days of the Apostles, there never was a better man, nor a more sincerely original primitive Christian ; learned, venerable, and pious ; a polite gentleman, and a found divine, as his writings testify. This great character filled the see of Sodor and Mann, with dignity and honour, for near fifty-eight years ; and was, when he died, at the age of ninety-three, the oldest prelate in the Christian world.
He was succeeded, and worthily fo, by Dr. MARK HILDESLEY, in 1755 ; who made it the great and invariable rule of his conduct, through his whole episcopate, to tread, as nearly as possible, in the steps of his excellent predecessor; and how well he did this, his conduct has amply shewn.
In his call and appointment to the bishoprick,. there was something uncommon and extraordinary, in this very refined age of " divers good causes and curious considerations thereunto inn-ving." For his grace, the late duke of Athol, very much to his honour, considering the weight and importance of his patronage, divesting himself of every partiality, and not willing to trust to his own judgement, wisely, and indeed piously, applied to that great and good man, Dr. SECKER, the late archbishop of Canterbury, and other eminent prelates, for their advice and assistance in the choice of a proper person to fill the vacant see. His exemplary behaviour, his indefatigable labours in the work of the ministry, and irreproachable character in his pastoral charges foon determined the choice in favour of the Rev. Mark Hildesley, vicar of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. He was accordingly presented by his noble patron to the king, and a royal mandate was immediately made out for his consecration : after which, he soon passed over into the island, and was installed in Peel-castle, amidst the old and vererable ruins of St. Germans Cathedral, August 6, 1755.
As he kept no chaplain, he constantly performed divine service, and preached every Sunday in his own chapel ; where, from his first coming to the Isle of Man untill his death, he had formed a small choir, of twenty poor children, viz. ten boys and ten girls, educated and clothed at his own expence. For these he built a schoolhouse, with a handsome stipend for a master and mistress to teach his children, whom he frequently condescended to examine and instruct in the principles of Christianity, in an easy familiar manner, peculiar to himself; and thus, by his own example, shewed his clergy a perfect model of the most exact and regular application to the discharge of their respective duties.
He applied himself with the utmost assiduity to learn something of our language 2 ; and so anxious was he to make himself understood by the native inhabitants,two thirds of whom know nothing, or very little, of English,that he never ceased till he had made himself master of the whole Office of Confirmation in the Manks tongue ; which he pronounced very intelligibly, though with an English Shibboleth, as a Frenchman would speak English , or vice vesa ; and administered the office in what some of the islanders called "very pretty Manks," with much pleasure to himself, and greatly to the satisfaction of the congregations. Some portions of the Manks liturgy also he pronounced distinctly and clearly, so as to be very well understood.
Indefatigable and attentive himself to every part of his duty, he inspessd, with a strict and careful eye, the manners and behaviour of his clergy : of whom, and the people in general, he gave this character, in a memorial to the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, if I mistake not 3 ;" That at his coming to the see, he found the clergy a very sensible, regular, decent set of men, and the natives, to a man, Of the established church ; orderly, devout, and compliant in their attendance on religious worship." He lamented much the confined scantiness of our churches, and had formed a plan for their enlargement ; having obtained the promise of considerable benefactions for the good purpose, from some of " Gods secret ones."
Another design which he had in view, and much at heart, was, to augment the stipends and livings of his clergy, which, in a general way, are not more than about thirty or forty pounds a year. Some of their poorer widows he had the address and influence to get on the establishment of the Welch widows ; but the execution and completion of these good works, it is to be hoped, will now devolve, with the office, on his right reverend successor ; of whom, from his general good character, we entertain the most favourable and pleasing hopes, that he may have the honour and the happiness to achieve and accomplish these noble and pious designs ; Quod faxit Deus, optimus, maxmus!
On his accession to this diocese, bishop Hildesley beheld us in a condition of the most unfortunate singularity, destitute of the Scriptures and Liturgy in our native language. For, although a design had been formed by his predecessor, of pious memory, the late most excellent bishop Wilson, for having the Scriptures of the New Testament in the Manks tongue, and although the four Gospels, with the Acts, had been already translated ; yet were they never printed, excepting only a few copies of St. Matthews Gospel, until his immediate successor resolutely undertook the arduous work.
Impressed with the deepest solicitude and concern for the spiritual welfare of the flock committed to his care, his lordship could have no rest in his spirit till he had made some effort to remedy this capital defect ; which he zealously undertook, and happily effected, by the Divine blessing upon his endeavours, and a successful application to the honourable " Society for promoting Christian Knowledge," together with the liberal aid of many other persons of eminence and distinction ; who, generally approving the pious zeal of our worthy diocesan, were pleased to enter into his views, to patronise the cause, and take it under their protection.
By these means his lordship was enabled to furnish his people with the New Testament entire, the Common Prayer, the Christian Monitor, Lewiss Catechism, and an Office or Form of Prayer for the herring-fishery ; all in the Gaelick or native Manks tongue : so that Divine Service is now performed in all our country parishes with as much order, uniformity and decency, as in the best regulated English congregations.
Animated with these successes, and benefactions coming in beyond the highest expectations of his zealous heart, the good bishop was encouraged to promote and set on foot a translation of the whole Old Testament ; which, with the assistance .of his faithful clergy., he has also happily accomplished : for they too, touched with the same ardent zeal for the glory of God, and the good of man,, which their diocesan had infused, soon caught the flame ; and, apportioning out the work among themselves, cheerf:ully gave their labours, till they had fairly finished this great undertaking ; conducted under the auspices of their beloved leader, the patronage of the Society, and the favour of the publick.
Of the translation itself, we say nothing more, than that it is formed on the model of some of the best authorities we could procure for a future English version 4.
This last and ultimate desire of his soul his lordship also saw completed ; rejoicing that it had pleased GOD to make him the happy instrument of conveying and perpetuating to his people a blessing so inestimable ; and which, though absolutely essential to the very existence of genuine Christianity, was yet but imperfectly enjoyed, for a series of acts, in this diocese : a diocese, too, so happily situate as we are, in the very centre of his majestys British dominions, and a suffragan see to the metropolitical jurisdiction of York. For, although we have never been without the English Scriptures since the Reformation took place in these nations, yet our people in general, like their neighbours, the antient Britons, still retain their veteran aboriginal language ; which is a dialect of the antient Celtick, and in a thousand words radically the same with the antient Cornavian ; as appears on a comparison with the Glossary at the end of the late Dr. Borlafes History of Cornwall.
This great original work was the summit of the good bishops ambition ; the pride and glory of his heart ; which he just lived long enough to see completed, and fairly closed in with the top key-stone of this spiritual structure ; the miniature model of that house not made with hands, prepared for him, eternal in the heavens : where those that be wise, or teachers, shall shine as the sun in the firmament ; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever. Intaminatis fulgentes honoribus !
P.S. When the plan for sending a bishop to the American colonies was in agitation 5, so high an opinion had the late archbishop Secker of bishop Hildesleys moderation, Christian temper, and great abilities, that he had pointed him out as a proper person to be proto-bishop of that mission ; On the subject of which several letters had passed between them, and conferences were held.
Elegant in his person, and polite in his manners, nothing gave him greater pleasure, and he was never happier, than when, at our annual convocations, in his own chapel, and at his hospitable board, he was surrounded by his clergy, all decently and canonically habited ; there to deliberate on the good government of the diocese, and such other ecclesiastical matters as were properly cognizable at those synodical meetings ; where an excellent charge was always delivered by his lordship, with pathos, energy, and affection. And to the last, so paffionately desirous was he of having all things done to edification, that he ordered the funeral office and sermon for himself to be in Manks, but with a positive prohibition of any eulogium:
Tanta fuit hominis modestia !"
" He was also, at the time of his death," says Mr. Moore, " a prebendary of Lincoln, and master of Sherburn Hospital." The circumstance of his Prebend was unknown to the editor, when drawing up his lordships memoirs.
1 Mr. Moore, in a note, observes, " We have a traditional account, that the bishops of Mann had antiently a right of courtesy to st in the British House of Peers, where they had a distinct inferior seat appropriate to themselves. The bishop of Mann is also said to be Prolocutor natus of the Lower House of Convocation, for the province of York"
2 Cicero, de Senectate, introduces Cato the Censor as having begun his acquaintance with the Greek writers, their language and philosophy, and passionately studied them, even toward the close of a long life. " Ut ego feci; qui Gaecas litteras fenex didici.: Quas quidem sic avidè arripui, quasi diuturnarn sitim explere cupiens ; Ut ea isfa mihi nota essent, quibus me nunc exmplis uti videtis." How apposite the words, to the motive of our worthy prelate!
3 Mr. Moore seems here to have meant, the bishops Representation of the State of the Church in the Diocese of Mann, addressed to Dr. Drummond, archbishop of York, in 1762, and inserted in the Appendix, No. XVII [sic XVIII].
4 Probably alluding to the learned Dr. Kennicotts elaborate edition of the Hebrew Bible from collated MSS. and his other well.known publications, illustrative of the Old Testament. See Mr Moores Letter to the Rev. Mr. Stuart, June, 1782, Appendix XVII [sic XCIII].
5 About the year 1763, or 1764. it had also been in contemplation early as 1759. See " Letter to the Right Hon. Horatio Walpole," written in July, 1751. by Dr. Secker, then bishop of Oxford ; published by Rivington, in 1769, and since inserted in his Graces works.