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tion. There is as little neceffity, therefore, comparatively speaking, for reminding mankind of the importance of learning, as there is of those two common bleflings light and heat, which we all enjoy, and all of us, I hope, with hearts overflowing with gratitude.
Both reafon and Scripture loudly tell us, that good men, notwithstanding they are affured of an ample recompence for all their acts of benevolence hereafter, may have an eye to an honeft famé in this world, and the praifes of generations yet to come; and I think it is highly probable, that the fouls of good men, long fince departed this life, may ftill have intelligence of what is now transacting here below.-Why then may we not indulge ourselves in the pleafing imagination, that our righteous founder is at this very intant looking down with pleafure and approbation on this our folemn affembly? I own I am pleased with the thought, and if you are animated with the fame conjecture, you will with pleasure attend whilst I take a brief furvey of the life of THAT RIGHTEOUS MAN, whose name both we and thousands yet unborn, fhall have ample reafon to have in EVERLASTING REMEMBRANCE.
Mr. JOHN COLET, was born of very worshipful parents, his much honoured father having been twice Lord-mayor of this city, and his mother a defcendant of a very rich and worthy family.They had no less than two and twenty children; all of whom, JOHN the eldeft, furvived, and thereby a very ample patrimony de volved upon him. Notwithstanding he had a careful and liberal education at home; yet this laudably ambitious man went to France and Italy for farther improvement. He made all his studies, however, fubfervient to his principal defign; namely, that of qualifying himself for holy orders; and on his return from Italy to his native country, his abilities were fo confpicuous, that king Henry VII. who took a pleasure in conferring unexpected and unfolicited favours, called him to the Deanery of St. Paul's; when by his accurate and laboured fermons, he arrived to the character of a moft ex
cellent preacher. At length, however, being weary of the world, he had entertained fome thoughts of quitting his ecclefiaftical preferments, and of retiring to a very handfome, though not over-pompous habitation of his own erecting at EAST SHEENE, but falling into a consumption in a short time, he died before he actually accomplished that intention. He was buried in his own church of St. Paul, in a very humble fepulchre, which he had contrived for him-· self in an obscure angle of the church, fome years before, with the inscription of his name only. However, notwithstanding this modeft, this righteous man, despised all funeral pomp and folemnity; yet his friends were ambitious of fhewing how much they revered him, by erecting to his memory a very elegant mo
As illuftrious examples are the most winning incitements to virtue; and as no one can poffibly come attended with such particular recommendations to the prefent affembly, as the pattern of that truly venerable perfon, to whose benevolence, in a great measure, we are indebted for all the literary bleffings which we enjoy, give me leave to expatiate still a little farther on those shining virtues that complete his character, as being the most natural application of our text, and the strongest motive that can be thought of to induce every member of this particular fociety to have his name in everlafting remembrance.
As to his perfon, he is defcribed by his intimate friend ERASMUS, to be both tall and graceful; and from a picture of him in the public library at Cambridge, it evidently appears, that his aspect had something in it peculiarly ftriking and delightful to the eye. He was a man, as to his natural difpofition, of an exceeding high fpirit; one apt to refent the leaft indignity or affront; one much addicted likewife to every fpecies of luxury; and had it not been for that more than common care which he took, to give a check to the violence of his paffions, he had been better qualified for any other
courfe of life than that of a student or divine. He gave incontestable evidence, therefore, that true virtue does not confift in an inability to do evil, or any abfolute and natural averfion to it; but in a voluntary restriction laid on the innate tendencies and strong efforts of flesh and blood to vice and immorality. He first conquered, then commanded himself; and, in short, fo far mortified his highfpirit, as to make it fubfervient to reafon. His natural propensity to luxury he restrained by the practice of inceffant abftinence, ftri&t sobriety, and a close application to his ftudies; and above all, by moral and religious converfations.
Though he lived in thofe days when ignorance and fuperftition: prevailed, yet by the strength of his genius, and his unwearied application to his ftudies, he attained to such a share of learning, as is feldom to be met with in more enlightened ages. We find him, very young, like his bleffed Redeemer, among the learned doctors, not only asking them questions, but inftructing them likewife; for without the leaft confideration or reward whatever, he read public lectures in the University of Oxford, by way of expofition on the Epiftles of St. Paul; and though he was not, at that juncture, of an age capable of receiving any degree, yet there was not a doctor or abbot, or other dignitary in the church, but lent an attentive ear to the doctrines he advanced; but whether this particular encomium of him was in reality owing to the fame he had acquired, or to the ingenuity of his hearers, who, in more honourable degrees and years, were not ashamed to receive inftruction from one younger than themselves, and in other refpects their inferior, I shall not take upon me to determine; but though the novelty of these public exercises might poffibly at firft procure him a crowded audience, yet nothing could have kept the number up, but the more than common abilities of the performer. Notwithstanding he was a very able difputant, yet he was very candid and ingenuous; and would, with all the courtesy imaginable, entreat his
antagonist to hear what he had to offer without heat or impatience; for though like twe flints, he would frequently fay, we are ftriking one against another, yet when any spark of light flies out, let us both catch at it with equal eagerness; we feek not for our own opinion, but for the truth; which, in this mutual conflict, may perhaps be extorted, like fire out of fteel. He was fo fenfible of the important advantages arifing from all learning in general, that notwithstanding he lived in fo illiterate an age, that even at the universities nothing was known but the latin tongue, and that too in the moft depraved ftyle of the formal fchool-men; yet when WILLIAM LILLY, who was the first Englishman that ever publicly taught GREEK, made his first attempt thereat in St. Paul's School, our pious founder, confcious of the abfolute neceffity that there was of having fome tolerable fhare of knowledge in that language, towards the better proceeding in his theological studies, fpared no pains to encourage that judicious preceptor, nor thought himself too old to receive inftruction in that important branch of literature. Such inftances of his thirst for knowledge, even in the decline of life, will, I hope, be a strong and alluring incitement to these young gentlemen to aim at improvement, who now in their youth, whilft their memories are strong, and their fpirits active, have it in their power to take large draughts at that literary fountain, which with indefatigable industry, and at an immenfe charge, has been opened for their use.
When this OUR FOUNDER was arrived at a fufficient age to make choice of any particular profeffion, or to take up with the life of a gentleman, having a fufficient patrimony to fupport him, and a fair intereft to recommend him at court, which would doubtlefs have been the choice of SIR HENRY COLET, his father, who in many public offices had been used to gaiety and fplendor, and had gained a very particular intereft in the King, by being a faithful, and truly loyal as well as ferviceable fubject; yet this his A a 2
pious fon, prompted by a true fpirit of religion, was refolved to enter into holy orders, and to renounce the temptations his birth and fortune laid before him. Notwithstanding he was educated in all the reigning superstitions of the age he lived in, yet he foon faw through their abfurd and idolatrous proceedings, and for that reafon was determined, at all adventures, to ftem the torrent by frequent difputations; by expounding the fcriptures, and by recommending the study of them to his numerous auditors; and this method he practised with such fervency and fuccefs, that he raised himself fo many enemies amongst certain bigotted enthufiafts, that many attempts were made, not only to ruin him in regard to his fortune, but to bring him to an open recantation of what they called his heretical tenets, through the menaces of the fevereft perfecution.
His unaffected piety, purity of manners, and profound learning, endeared and recommended him to the favour and friendfhip of the most illuftrious perfonages of the age he lived in; but more particularly to the learned Lord-chancellor SIR THOMAS MOORE, and the celebrated ERASMUS; the former of whom always fpoke and wrote concerning him with the highest warmth of friendship: the latter with fuch an ardency of affection, as almoft bordered on enthufiafm. Nothing, fays "he, in one of his epiftles, can be more fweet, lovely and charming, than the temper and converfation of Mr. COLET; I could "be content, with fuch a truly valuable friend and companion, to "live in Scythia, or any of the most remote corners of the world.”
His benefactions were fo extenfive and boundless, that, notwithstanding his ample patrimony and large preferments, it was with the utmost difficulty that he raised a small fum requested of him from his moft intimate friend Erafmus; whofe very eloquent epiftle will best speak what I would be willing to fay concerning that particular act of benevolence, which is the immediate object of this our annual affembly.