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faction, sought, again and again, in the Holy Scriptures, for the “one pearl of great price.” His mind possessed humility proportioned to its elevation : he was not less patient than quick-sighted. If he saw, intuitively, land that is afar off,” and caught at a first truth conjecturally, he travelled (as he says of himself) “at a snail's pace,” to his conclusions, nor ever rested till his hand held firmly what his keen eye had from a distance descried : and his perseverance was rewarded through every stage ; how deep soever he sounded, he never failed to find that there was something still unfathomed below; however high he soared, he obtained clearer views into the infinite extent which interposed between him and the summit of inaccessible brightness.
I have wished, in these volumes, to bring the mind of Mr. Knox before the world in the biography of his intellectual character: therefore I have not scrupled to unfold it as engaged in some of those speculations which he himself deemed rather questionable matter of inquiry, than subjects on which he could yet pronounce. There are papers which he certainly would not, in their present state, have published as his conclusions; for he had, in himself, the means of verifying them; and, till he had verified them to his satisfaction, he would not have delivered his opinions as truths. But here, again, an Editor has no choice: a speculation must be published, or the truths which it involves must be lost for ever; and this would be an injury. Though they be then but as hints, they may yet be indications of solid realities, whose existence (like the new hemisphere, at first conjecturally anticipated) waits but the future efforts of more perfect discovery, to be established as the continent of another world; of one, whose theory was based on the proof of what was known before; one, of whose existence reason was convinced, because, without it, that which was evident was incomplete; because it balanced the preponderant side, and “made the round world sure,” by filling up every mutilated proportion. It is the faculty of superior minds to seize, by anticipation, such realities as these; and thus they point the way for
actual possession, to those who, following in the track which they have laid down, at length cross safely that intermediate ocean of truth, which at once disunites and joins the new and the old Continent.
I regard much of the thoughts of Mr. Knox as eminently valuable in this light: and, influenced by these considerations, I am not very scrupulous of giving what, in every instance, is unfinished, and, in some, may be vaguely conjectural, to those who are qualified to think and to discriminate, to adopt or reject, to elaborate and to improve.
I have said enough (perhaps too much) on the character of that which is strictly theological in these volumes. But there is much of another character; and, on that, there is something which I must say. The last volume contains matter which is designed, in some measure, to supply the want of a biographical memoir of Mr. Knox. To complete such a memoir was beyond my means of information; and, to make it interesting, in its scantiness, I felt to be out of the power of my abilities. But a desire had been expressed to know what could be told of Mr. Knox personally: and it was a desire which his friends were disposed to gratify, so far as they possessed the means. To indulge a natural, and perhaps a laudable, curiosity, it was resolved to publish such of Mr. Knox's letters as seemed best fitted at once to sketch his biography, and to delineate the features of his heart and mind. This would have been done with reserve, and in the exercise of a somewhat rigid discretion. His life had very little of any interest that was, strictly speaking, public; and his character contained much that, constitutionally, was matter of delicacy, and that opened a field for easy or ill-natured mistake. His opinions, too, (which, habitually, were thrown out with great freedom, and which, in conversation, or familiar correspondence, he was not accustomed to guard sufficiently with qualifying expressions,) were not only liable to misinterpretation, but had, even honestly, been misconstrued ; and the authority of his sentiments was proportionably impaired. Had a free choice been left me, Mr. Knox would, therefore, have been made known (though with no such reserves as should involve
deceit, yet) in that way of guarded disclosure which I judged best calculated to make a favourable impression. Such choice has not been left me. I am forced on such a display as is unreservedly open, in order to remove erroneous estimates by the disclosure of the whole truth. The world will now see him (so far as his own language, in the very depths of his closet retirements, can declare him) exactly as I have access to him, and as he believed himself to be. The result will not be unfavourable. On the contrary, I am convinced I have been forced upon a step, which (though freely I could not have taken it) will, of all others, tend most to shew Mr. Knox, personally, in his most engaging aspect, and under the purest light. He will be seen as one whom “ the Lord chastened and corrected ;" but whom He "gave not over unto death;" as one who, “ from his youth up, suffered” God's “terrors with a troubled mind;" yet as one who had always a refuge to fly to. In the lowest depths he was enabled substantially to possess the Christian's hope along with the Christian's suffering. “Always bearing about, in the body, the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be manifest in his body;" always believing that the utmost he could be called to endure was only for his real good—was the work of God's mercy for the furtherance of his purposes of grace, and that all would ultimately “redound to the glory of God,” and the establishment of his own consummate happiness : " for which cause he fainted not;" but, in the midst of mental distress, “ whilst the corruptible body” was “pressing down the incorruptible soul,” he “put his trust in God, the God of his strength ;” and, though he “ went beavily while the enemy oppressed him," he never, for a moment, murmured against the wisdom of the Divine dispensation, nor lost the comfort of that sustaining prayer, “O send out thy light and thy truth, that they may lead me, and bring me into thy holy hill, and to thy dwelling!”
I must assign the reason why I have been forced into a course, not precisely within the limits which I had prescribed ; and, in doing this, I must make some mention (it shall be as little as possible) of myself. I shall be borne with to the extent of any such egotism as I
cannot escape from : into more than such I cannot, I hope, fall.
The history of the case is this :- In the month of August, 1836, an article appeared in the Christian Observer, the object of which was, to inform the public, on the authority of one of Mr. Knox's friends, that, previous to Mr. Knox’s death, an important change had occurred in his “views,” which, he“ began to suspect, had not” heretofore “ been sufficiently evangelical ;” and that “to that cause he was disposed to trace the" then existing “ depression of his mind." “ The employment of the term evangelical shewed " his friend, “ at once, that a very interesting change had taken place in ” Mr. Knox's “mind, relating to the points on which” he and that friend “had been, from time to time, conversing.” That friend considered that “ the expression, 'sufficiently evangelical,' coming from Mr. Knox, under the circumstances of the case, imported much more, and was intended to do so, than the strict interpretation of the words would have warranted. I considered it” (says his friend) “as intended to impart to me the fact, that his mind had undergone a change, on the subjects on which we had formerly differed ; that his former principles were not able to sustain him in a nearer prospect of death and eternity; and that it was to more evangelical views he was now disposed to look for effectual support, when the great trial of his faith should come.
His friend states, that “ subsequent conversation proved, to his entire satisfaction, that his interpretation of Mr. Knox's words was a just one.” And he adds, that “ had he still entertained any doubt on the subject, that doubt must have been removed by an interesting circumstance, which occurred before the conclusion of their interview.” “ Before you go,” said Mr. Knox, "you must offer up a prayer for me.” The prayer was offered up, “ in conformity” (says his friend) “ with the principles which sustained my own mind” (that is, of course, with such as he deemed strictly evangelical principles). After the prayer was finished, Mr. Knox is stated to have, once and again, cordially expressed his thanks.
“The inference," which Mr. Knox's friend considers himself entitled to “draw from these facts,” is, Mr. Knox had found his theories, however ingenious, to fail him in time of need; and that he had seen it necessary to become a little child, and, in all simplicity, to embrace the testimony of the Gospel, as to the necessity and the sufficiency of Christ's vicarious work, to relieve the conscience, and support the sinner in the near prospect of death and eternity.”
I have endeavoured to give a fair and correct, though a succinct, statement of the transaction, as it was first published. If, by abridging it, I have, in any respect, mutilated its form, or changed the tone of its colouring, such effect is far from my intention. And, to rectify any misconceptions into which my extracts may lead the reader, I refer him to the article, in the Christian Observer for August, 1836, which is headed, The Rev. T. Kelly on the last days of Mr. Knox.
Mr. Knox's friend, then, was Mr. Kelly. To all who know Mr. Kelly, I need only announce his name, to assure them that the statement which he has put forth contains not a word which he does not conscientiously believe to be a correct representation of the facts. As little need I tell them, that his impulse, in making this statement, has been a desire to promote what he deems the cause of religious truth; and that, in the inferences which he draws, he has been influenced by no preconceived design to distort or colour the truth, but by the persuasion, which he thought he had reason to entertain, that (though no “ formal retractation of Mr. Knox's former views" had been made) “a change in those views had really taken place. He was, I doubt not, additionally influenced by Christian joy, in being “ able to thank God for the blessing thus imparted to one whom he had always loved ; and who, from the state in which he found him at that period, both as to mind and body, had become to him an object of greatly increased interest."
Personally, I do not know Mr. Kelly; but, by the testimony of those on whom I can most rely, I know him to