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Robert Bolton

Robert Bolton, B. D.—This excellent divine was born at Blackburn in Lancashire, in the year 1572, and educated first in Lincoln college, then in Brazen-nose college, Oxford, . where he was chosen fellow. He made uncommon progress in logic, philosophy, and the learned languages. The means of his support being small, he borrowed books of his tutor and other persons; when, for his greater advantage, besides reading them with close attention, he preserved abridgments of them in bis common-place book. With a view to obtain a more perfect knowledge of the Greek, he transcribed with uncommon pains the whole of Homer, in a very fair character. He became famous for his lectures on natural and moral philosophy, and w;is learned in metaphysics, mathematics, and school divinity. Having so eminently displayed his learning and abilities in the public disputations of the schools, he was chosen by the vice-chancellor, when King James first visited the university, to be one of the public disputants before his majesty. Notwithstanding all his ornamental and useful accomplishments, he was still destitute of the one thing needful; he had no serious concern for his soul; but loved plays and cards, was a horrible swearer, sabbath-breaker, and familiar associate of the wicked. He hated all good men, especially those odiously stigmatized by the name of puriluns; and even denominated the celebrated Mr. William Perkins " a barren empty fellow, and a very mean scholar." His views, however, were afterwards changed. Having experienced the renewing influence of divine grace, he said that Mr. Perkins was as learned nnd godly a divine ns the church had enjoyed for many years.

During Mr. Bolton's residence at Oxford, he became intimately acquainted with one Anderton, formerly his school-fellow, but now a learned popish priest, who, taking an advantage of his mean circumstances, persuaded him into a reconciliation to the church of Rome, and to accompany him to one of the English seminaries in Flanders; where, said he, " you shall have gold enough." The time and place of embarking were accordingly appointed: but Anderton disappointing him, he renounced the object altogether, and returned to his college. Here, by the instructions of the excellent Mr. Thomas Peacock, he was brought under such deep conviptions of sin, that for many months be lost his appetite, his sleep, and all peace of mind. In the end, by a continuance in prayer and deep humiliation before God, he found mercy and received comfort. This memorable

event was in the thirty-fifth year of his age, when he resolved to enter upon the work of the ministry. Having . received much from the Lord, he loved much, and was desirous of being employed for much usefulness. Having '

Sreached at .various places for about two years, Sir Augustin ichols, one of the justices of the common pleas,» presented him, in the year 1609, to the rectory of Broughton in Northamptonshire, at which place he continued to the day of his death. Upon his presentation to Broughton, Bishop King thanked the worthy judge, but observed, that he had deprived the university of one of its brightest ornaments.t

Mr. Bolton was a most authoritative and awakening preacher, being endowed with the most masculine and oratorical style of any in his time. He preached twice every Lord's day, and catechized the youth of his congregation. Upon every holiday, and every Friday before the sacrament, he expounded a portion of scripture; and constantly prayed six times a day, twice in secret, twice with his family, and twice with his wife. He kept many days of fasting and private humiliation before God, especially for the protestant churches abroad. He was a comely and grave person, commanding in all companies, and ever zealous in the cause of Christ; yet so prudent, as to avoid being called in question for those things in which he was unconformable to the ecclesiastical establishment. As a minister of the gospel, he was famous for charity, courage, wisdom, and impartiality. f He was so deeply engaged in his work, that it is said, " he never delivered a sermon to his people in public till he had preached it to himself in private.*

In his last sickness, which was n quartan ague, Mr. Bolton, finding that his complaint increased, revised his will, and retired from the noise of the world, employing the remnant of his time in sweet meditation on the joys of heaven. Though his sickness was tedious and painful, he bore it with admirable patience, and endured it as seeing him that is invisible. During the intervals of his fits, he often exclaimed, " Oh! when will this good hour come ? When shall I be dissolved ? When shall I be with Christ?" Being told, that though it would be better for him to be

* Sir Auguitln wm a learned man, an upright judge, an excellent christian, nnd a zealoui promoter of true religion.—US. Chronology, Voi. iii. A. D. 1626.

t Life of Mr. Bolton prefixed to hta " Four Last Things." Edit. 1632.

% Ibid. \ Ambrose'* Works, p. ii. Edit. 1701.

dissolved, the church of God would lose the benefit of his ministry, he replied, " If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me his habitation; but if otherwise, lo! nere I am; let him do what seemeth good in his eyes." Being asked whether he should not be content to live, if it were the will of God, he immediately said, " I grant that life is the great blessing of God, neither will I neglect any means to preserve it, and do heartily desire to submit to God's will; but of the two, I infinitely prefer to be dissolved, and to be with Christ." During the progress of his complaint, many of his people and acquaintance visited him, but he only allowed his intimate friends to see him, desiring that his preparation for heaven might not be interrupted. But to those who had access to him, he gave very affectionate and appropriate exhortations. Though his body was much wasted, his mental powers were as lively and vigorous as ever. He encouraged ministers who came to him, to be diligent and courageous in the work of the Lord, and not to let their spirits sink under the troubles of the way. He exhorted all who came to him to make sure of Christ before they came to die. He thanked God for his wonderful mercy, in plucking him as a brand from the fire, and in blessing his ministry to the conversion of so many souls, ascribing to him all the glory.

About a week before his departure, he desired his wife not to be troubled at his dissolution, but to bear it with christian fortitude, assuring her they should meet again in Leaven. Turning towards his children, he observed, that they must not now expect him to say any thing to them, for his strength was gone; and he had told them enough in time past, which he hoped they would remember after he was dead; and he said, " he verily believed that none of them durst think of meeting him before the tribunal of God, in an unconverted state." As in his public ministry he had made known to his people the unspeakable comforts of the gospel, they now desired to know what he felt of them in his own soul. " Alas," said he, " do they look for that of me now, who have not breath and strength to speak ? I have told them enough in my ministry. But to give them satisfaction, I am, by the wonderful mercies of God, as full of comfort as my heart can hold, and feel nothing in my soul but Christ, with whom 1 heartily desire to be." And looking upon those who were weeping near him, he said, M Oh \ how much ado there is bctbrc one can die."

. A little before his departure, and expecting every moment to be his last, being told that some of his best friends were about to take their last farewell, he caused himself to be raised up, and bowing himself upon his bed's head, after struggling for breath, he spoke as follows: "I am now drawing on apace to my dissolution. Hold out, faith and patience; your work will soon be ended." Then, shaking them all by the hand, he said, " Make sure of heaven; ana keep in mind what I have formerly delivered to you. The doctrine which I have preached to you for the space of twenty years, is the truth of God, as I shall answer at the tribunal of Christ, before whom I must soon appear." This he spake when the very pangs of death were upon him. A dear friend taking him by the hand, asked him whether he felt much pain. " Truly no," said he, " the greatest pain I feel is your cold hand," and presently expired. He died December 17, 1631, aged fifty-nine years.*

Mr. Nicholas Dstwick, who preached Mr. Bolton's funeral sermon, gives him the following character : be says, " How industrious a student he was, and how well furnished with learning, is well known. The Lord enriched him with a great measure of grace, and his life was unreprovable. All his days he was a hard student, and laborious in his ministry, yet was never ambitious of worldly greatness. He sought his own sanctification and the sanctification of others, and was the means of plucking many out of the snares of Satan. While his preaching was searching, it was happily calculated to quicken and strengthen languished souls; for which many had cause to bless God." Our author adds, " A great man is fallen in our Israel, and there will be a great loss of him. His wife will find the loss of a gracious husband; his children a gracious father; his flock a gracious shepherd; ministers, the loss of a grave, learned, and gracious brother; the devout christian, who desired to have all his sins discovered, will find the loss of a gracious and soul-searching minister; he that would avoid sin, and make progress in holiness, will find the loss of a wise and experienced director; he that is wounded in his conscience, will find the loss of a skilful physician; the poor will find the loss of a liberal benefactor, a wise instructor, and a gracious friend; and the whole land will find the loss of a zealous and powerful wrestler with God for the continuance of its happiness."t The Oxford historian denominates him,

* Life of Mr. Bolton.

+ Funeral Sermon for Mr. BoKoo.

" a most religious and learned puritan, a painful and con» stant preacher, a person of great zeal for God, charitable and bountiful; and so famous for relieving afflicted consciences, that many foreigners resorted to him, as well as persons at home, who found relief. He was so expert in the Greek language, that he could write it, and dispute in it with equal ease as in English or Latin."* Fuller says, " he was one of a thousand for piety, wisdom, and steadfastness ; and his enemies, who endeavoured to injure him in his ministry, were never able, by all their plottings, to do him any more harm than only to shew their teeth."t Echard styles him, " a great and shining light of the puritan party," and says, " he was justly celebrated for his singular learning and piety."J

His eloquent and valuable writings will recommend his memory to the latest posterity. Most of them were published after his'death by his worthy friend Mr. Edward Bagshaw, who wrote and published his life, to which reference has Been already given. Mr. Bolton had been ..a._notorious sinner, and having been reclaimed by great terrors, his writings are excellent both for'conviction and consolation. style is said to be inclining to the bombast, yet many expressions are truly great and magnificent. The beauties of imagination are chiefly apparent in his " Four Last Things;" but his most useful works are his " Directions for Walking with God," and " Instructions for Comforting AfflictedConsciences." There we see the traces of a soul rnosf InfimateTy acquainted with God.^

It is observed of this holy and reverend divine, that he was so highly esteemed in Northamptonshire, that his people who beheld bis white locks of hair, could point at him and say, " When that snow shall be dissolved, there will be a great flood;" and so it proved: for there never was a minister in that county who lived more beloved, or died more lamented. Floods of tears were shed over his grave.|| His remains were interred in the chancel of Broughton church, where there is a half-length figure of him, with his hands erected in the attitude of prayer, resting on a book lying open before him; and underneath is a monumental

• Athens Ozoo, vol. i. p. 479,480. + Fuller's Abel Redivivns, p. 591. i Hist, of England, uol. ii. p. 98. ( S Doddridge's Works, vol. T. p. 489. Edit. 1804, (j Bolton on Usury, Pref. Edit. 1637.

inscription upon black marble, of wHchihe following is a translation:*

Here lies, peaceably sleeping in the Lord, the bod; of Robert Bolton, who died December the seventeenth, in the year 1631. He was one of the first and most learned of onr church. i His other excellencies all England knoweth, lamenting the day of his death.

His Works.—1. A Discourse about the State of trne Happiness, 1611,—2. Directions for Walking with God, 1624.—3. Meditations of the Life to come, 1628.—t. Instructions for the right Comforting Afflicted Consciences, 1631.—5. Helps to Humiliation, 1631.—6. The Four Last Things—Death, Judgment, Hell, and Heaven, 1632.— 7. Assize Sermons, and other Sermons, 1632, &c.—8. Funeral Notes on his Patron Sir Angustin Nichols, 1633.—9. Carnal Professor; or, the woful Slavery of Men guided by the Flesh, 1634.—10. The Saints', sure and perpetual Guide, 1634.—11. The Saints' self-enriching Ex- • amination; or, a Treatise concerning the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, 1634.—12. The Saints' Soul-exalting Humiliation, or Soulfatting Fasting, 1634.—13. A short and private Discourse between Mr. Bolton and one M. S. concerning Usury, 1637.—14. Devout Prayers on Solemn Occasions, 1638.—15. A Cordial for Christians in the Time of Affliction, 1640.—16. The Last Visitation, Conflicts, and Death of Mr. Thomas Peacock, B. D. and Fellow of Brazen-nose college, Oxford, 1646.

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