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Once on the stormy seas I rode,
The storm was loud, the night was dark;
The wind that toss'd my found'ring bark.
Deep horror then my vitals froze;
Death struck, I ceas'd the tide to stem,
It was the star of Bethlehem.
It was my guide, my light, my all,
It bade my dark forebodings cease ;
It led me to the port of peace.
Now safely moor'd-my perils o'er,
I'll sing, first in night's diadem,
The star !--the star of Bethlehem.
The bias and inclination of his mind began at this early period to be disclosed; preachers and preaching seemed to occupy all his thoughts, and often he would exercise himself in addressing such domestic congregations as may be supposed to constitute the usual auditories of an infant. Thus in his earliest childhood he displayed his fond attachment to the Christian Ministry, and the first efforts of his infant mind were directed to that sublime and dignified profession, in which the capacities of his maturer age were so brilliantly displayed. These infantine compositions were not infrequently entirely his own; and when they claimed not the merit of originality, they were derived from hints collected from what he had heard or read. But his preaching exhibitions could not long be confined to the narrow circle and scanty congregation his father's house supplied ; tidings of his early pulpit talents soon circulated through the neighbourhood; many were anxious to listen to the instructions of this extraordinary child; and most regarded him, as he himself expresses it, "a parson in embryo."
At this age also he wrote verses. He seems however to have had but a mean opinion of his talent for poetry. It certainly was not the art in which he most excelled. Though an individual may have a power of rhyming sufficient for throwing his feelings into tolerably easy verse, yet something more than this is required in a production which, under the dignified title of a poem, is to meet the public eye. And while most men of an enlightened mind and cultivated taste, have solicited the muses’ aid for purposes of private instruction and amusement, and the domestic and social circle have been privileged to share in both, yet it is not necessary to the perfection of the pulpit orator, that he should be an exquisite poet, nor is it at all a detraction from the greatness of his character, that the world should hesitate to pronounce unqualified praise upon poetical effusions, on which the eye or the ear of friendship might linger with delight.
These observations will serve to account for the circumstance, that none of Mr. Spencer's poetical productions are preserved in these pages. And while some partial friends, who saw with pleasure the pieces which circulated in private, may regret for the moment their entire exclusion here, his biog rapher hopes, that he shall render a more essential service to the memory of his departed friend, by occupying their place, with extracts from his papers of a more solid and interesting kind.
These early displays of talent however introduced him to the notice and friendship of some individuals of wealth and consequence. This was doubtless considered by himself and his fond parent as no inconsiderable circumstance in the history and prospects of a child, who, if he rose into eminence at all, could have no facilities afforded him, by the auspicious omens of his birth, or the rank of his father's family. But alas! the fond anticipations which from this quarter he cherished, and perhaps with some degree of reason, were not all realized, to the full extent to which his sanguine mind had urged them. It was doubtless well for him, however, that they were not. The disappointments of childhood will give a sober cast to the else too glowing pictures and too anxious hopes of youth; and while they excite a caution iu respect to the confidence we should place in the prospects that unfold themselves before us, admirably prepare the mind for the event, when the pledges of friendship lie long unredeemed, and the fair blossoms of hope are blasted and destroyed.
In the mean time he applied himself with surprising diligence to the acquisition of knowledge. In his favourite pursuit he met with the most impor, tant aid, from the valuable friendship of the late Rev. Ebenezer White, then the pastor of the Independent Church at Hertford.For this amiable and pious man, so early lost to the church of Christ,* Mr. Spencer ever cherished and expressed
* Mr. White died Sunday, May 5th, 1811. An interesting memoir of his life (together with his select remains) has been published by the Rev. Joseph Fletcher, A. M. of Blackthe warmest affection ; whilst he survived but a few weeks the melancholy pleasure of paying the last tribute of respect to his beloved remains, and giving utterance to the warm and authorized feelings of his heart, in a most impressive oration at his grave. From Mr. White he learned the rudiments of the Latin tongue; and though the early removal of that gentleman to Chester deprived him of his kind and valuable assistance, yet his father, who had discernment to perceive, and wisdom to foster the unfolding talents of his son, afforded him the means of more ample instruction, by sending him to the best school his native town supplied. Approbation cannot be expressed in language too unqualified of the conduct, in this respect, pursued by the pitrents of this amiable youth, who though surrounded by every circumstance of a worldly nature to check its progress, yet nobly determined to afford every degree of culture, which such sacrifices as they might be able to make would yield to a mind which promised to rise superior to the obscurity of its birth, and consecrate at some future period no common share of genius to the noblest and the best of
Nor must these expressions pass unmingled by regret, that many important accessions are lost to
burn ; with a recommendatory preface, by the Rev. Dr. Collyer, of London. In the melancholy but pleasing task of selecting these papers for the press, Mr. Fletcher was original. ly joined by the subject of these memoirs :--but whilst Mr. Spencer was thus engaged in rearing a monument to the me. mory of his departed frit:d-he too was suddenly removed, and it devolved upon the hand of friendship to perform the Aame ofbce for himself.
the interests of religion and literature by the neglect of ignorant, or the reluctance of sordid parents, who in the one case have not the capacity to diseover talent, or in the other a disposition, where their worldly circumstances are narrow and scanty, to make any sacrifice of ease on their part, or expected emolument on that of the child, for its cultivation.
Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear;
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
At about the age of twelve years, Mr. Spencer considers himself to have become the subject of serious impressions of a deep and permanent kind, and to have felt something experimentally of the power of religion. This most interesting circumstance he simply states in the memoir of his life before referred to, but mentions no particulars respecting the mode in which these impressions were wrought upon his mind, or in what way they operated upon his character, his conduct, and his views. The general effect, however, he distinctly records to have been that of heightening his desire of the Christian ministry, for which, it was strongly impressed upon his mind, God had destined him; whilst it reconeiled him to his present situation, which was most uncongenial to the biąs of his mind, and most unfriendly to the accomplishment of his ardent wishes; for the circumstances of his father's family were at that time of such a nature as to render his assistance necessary between the hours of school, and at length