Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and the manner of stating particular doctrines, good men and good friends may have different apprehensions: but you always propose your sentiments with such good humor, modesty, candor, and frankness, as is very amiable and exemplary; and the grand desire of spreading righteousness, benevolence, prudence, the fear of God, and a heavenly temper and conversation, so plainly appears, particularly in this volume of sermons, that, were I a much stricter Calvinist than I am, I should honor and love the author, though I did not personally know him. DR. PHILIP DODDRIDGE: Letter to Dr. Nathaniel Lardner; apud Kippis's Life of Lardner, Appendix No. 8.

[ocr errors]

Numberless tributes of respect have been paid by all sects of Christians to this indefatigable writer and good man.

I must contend, that the "Essay on Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations" [by David Hartley], stands forward as a specimen almost unique of elaborate theorizing, and a monument of absolute beauty, in the perfection of its dialectic ability. In this respect, it has, to my mind, the spotless beauty and the ideal proportions of some Grecian statue. - THOMAS DE QUINCEY: Literary Reminiscences, vol. i. pp. 169, 170.

This may well be regarded as high praise, coming, as it does, from a writer so able, but yet so prejudiced, as De Quincey; who introduces it by saying that "Coleridge was profoundly ashamed of the shallow Unitarianism of Hartley," and who takes frequent opportunity, in his writings, of speaking contemptuously of " Socinians " and "Socinianism," as well as of those divines in the church of England whom he accuses of favoring Unitarian sentiments.

Were I to publish an account of silenced and ejected ministers, I should be strongly tempted to insert Mr. Lindsey in the list which he mentions in his "Apology" with so much veneration. He certainly deserves as much respect and honor as any one of them for the part he has acted. Perhaps few of them exceeded him in learning and piety. I venerate him as I would any of your confessors. As to his particular sentiments, they are nothing to me. An honest, pious man, who makes such a sacrifice to truth and conscience as he has done, is a glorious character, and deserves the respect, esteem, and veneration of every true Christian. JOB ORTON: Letters, vol. ii. p. 159; as quoted by Belsham, in his Memoirs of Theophilus Lindsey, p. 41.

It is said by some writers, that ORTON, who was the assistant and friend of Dr. Doddridge, became, in his latter years, an Arian. In the above-cited

paragraph, he refers to the circumstance of Lindsey's resignation of the vicarage of Catterick in Yorkshire, the advantages of which he renounced, on account of his having embraced the principles of Unitarianism, though he had no prospect of finding means of subsistence.

Reverend and dear Sir, — Although I am far separated from you, and possess but few opportunities of intercourse with you, yet my heart ever contemplates you with affection and gratitude. Nor, indeed, can it be otherwise; for, while I feel myself surrounded with comforts, I cannot, I trust, ever forget the man to whose kindness so many of them are owing.. Whatever differences of opinion may exist between us on religious subjects, I hope and trust that I shall be enabled to imitate that sincerity of soul, of which you have given me and the world so bright an example. My heart, I can truly say, is alive to the duties and the importance of Christianity, and I trust that I am not altogether a stranger to its pleasures. WM. WINTERBOTHAM : Extract from a Letter to the Rev. Theophilus Lindsey.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Mr. WINTERBOTHAM was minister of a Calvinistic congregation at Plymouth Dock, who, under the Pitt administration, suffered four years' imprisonment on a false charge of having uttered seditious language. In this letter, written several years afterwards, he alludes to the sympathy and kindness which Lindsey had manifested towards him during his confinement. See Belsham's Memoirs of Lindsey, pp. 358–61.

[ocr errors]

Though of a sentiment in religion very different, I must say that Lindsey, Jebb, Hammond, Disney, and others, who have sacrificed their preferment [in the church of England] to the peace of their own minds, are honorable men deserving of all praise. — DAVID SIMPSON: Plea for Religion, p. 165.

Meek, gentle, and humane; acute, eloquent, and profoundly skilled in politics and philosophy, take him for all and all, the qualities of his heart, with the abilities of his head, and you may rank Price among the first ornaments of his age. Posterity will do him the justice of which the proud have robbed him, and snatch him from the calumniators, to place him in the temple of personal honor, high among the benefactors of the human race. VICESIMUS KNOX: Spirit of Despotism; in Works, vol. v. p. 197.

The religious tenets of Dr. Priestley appear to me erroneous in the extreme; but I should be sorry to suffer any difference of sentiment to diminish my sensibility to virtue, or my admiration of genius. From him the poisoned arrow will fall pointless. His enlightened and active mind, his unwearied assiduity, the extent of his researches, the light he

[ocr errors]

has poured into almost every department of science, will be the admiration of that period when the greater part of those who have favored, or those who have opposed him, will be alike forgotten. Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw lustre from reproach. The vapors which gather round the rising sun, and follow it in its course, seldom fail, at the close of it, to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide. Though I disapprove of his [Dr. Price's] religious principles, I feel no hesitation in affirming, in spite of the frantic and unprincipled abuse of Burke, that a more ardent and enlightened friend of his country never lived than that venerable patriarch of freedom. R. HALL: Works, vol. ii. pp. 23, and 99, 100.

[ocr errors]

Thus generously and eloquently does ROBERT HALL, the large-hearted Christian, defend the virtues and the reputation of the "Socinian" Priestley and the "Arian" Price. But the same Hall, as the narrow-minded Calvinist, in a Letter dated Feb. 5, 1816 (Works, vol. iii. p. 256), feels no hesitation in putting "Socinians " on a level with "professed infidels," and inferring from John vi. 40 and 1 John v. 12, that they will be excluded from the realms of heaven. Alas for some of the best and most devout of men, if superior virtue adorning the character in private life, and eminent endowments devoted to the public good, be passed by as altogether worthless in the great judgment-day, and nought avail but a belief in dogmas which have been regarded by their rejecters as dishonoring God and libelling humanity! May we not say, in the language of HALL himself (ii. p. 100), where he is vindicating his eulogy of Priestley, that " if any thing could sink Orthodoxy into contempt, it would be its association with such Gothic barbarity of sentiment"?

Let Dr. Priestley be confuted where he is mistaken. Let him be exposed where he is superficial. Let him be repressed where he is dogmatical. Let him be rebuked where he is censorious. But let not his attainments be depreciated, because they are numerous, almost without a parallel. Let not his talents be ridiculed, because they are superlatively great. Let not his morals be vilified, because they are correct without austerity, and exemplary without ostentation ; because they present, even to common observers, the innocence of a hermit and the simplicity of a patriarch; and because a philosophic eye will at once discover in them the deep-fixed root of virtuous principle, and the solid trunk of virtuous habit. ..... . I have visited him, as I hope to visit him again, because he is an unaffected, unassuming, and very interesting companion. I will not, in consequence of our

{

different opinions, either impute to him the evil which he does not, or depreciate in him the good which he is allowed to do. I will not debase my understanding, nor prostitute my honor, by encouraging the clamors which have been raised against him, in vulgar minds, by certain persons, who would have done well to read before they wrote, to understand before they dogmatized, to examine before they condemned. Readily do I give him up, as the bold defender of heresy and schism, to the well-founded objections of his antagonists; but I cannot think his religion insincere, while he worships one Deity, in the name of one Saviour. . . . I know that his virtues, in private life, are acknowledged by his neighbors, admired by his congregation, and recorded almost by the unanimous suffrage of his most powerful and most distinguished antagonists. — DR. SAMUEL PARR: Works, vol. iii. pp. 317; 282-4.

In a letter to Archbishop Magee, from which we shall again take occasion to quote, Dr. PARR says that there were several Unitarians with whom he thought it an honor to be acquainted; avows "the sincere respect" which he felt "for their intellectual powers, their literary attainments, and their moral worth;" and concludes by making honorable mention of the distinguished writers among the Polish Socinians, called the Fratres Poloni, and, amongst others, of the following English Unitarians: Dr. Nathaniel Lardner, Dr. John Jebb, Dr. John Taylor, Theophilus Lindsey, Thomas Belsham, the Duke of Grafton, Newcome Cappe, Charles Berry, E. Cogan, James Yates, J. G. Robberds, and Dr. William Shepherd. In reference to Belsham's work on the Epistles of Paul, Dr. PARR, in the Bibliotheca Parriana, p. 81, says: "I do not entirely agree with him upon some doctrinal points; but I ought to commend the matter, style, and spirit of the Preface; and, in my opinion, the translation does great credit to the diligence, judgment, erudition, and piety of my much-respected friend."

The more fervent admirers of Thomas De Quincey may place but little reliance on the testimony of Dr. PARR, as a Trinitarian, to the excellent qualities of mind and heart which he attributes to the English Unitarians; for, in an Essay which we think is marked alike by its exceeding cleverness and its bitter partisanship, the writer says (Philosophical Writers, vol. ii. p. 272), that PARR " has left repeated evidence, apart from his known leaning to Socinian views, that he had not in any stage of his life adopted any system at all which could properly class him with the believers in the Trinity." But the Rev. William Field, one of his biographers, who was intimately acquainted with him, and who was himself a Unitarian minister, says (vol. ii. p. 268) that PARR declared he was not a Unitarian. Dr. John Johnstone, another of his biographers, states (vol. vi. p. 685) that he had heard PARR repeatedly declare that his notions of the Trinity were precisely those of the profound Bishop Butler, author of the Analogy of Religion; in the Letter to Archbishop Magee previously referred to, Dr.

PARR requests his Grace to do him the justice to observe, that he "meant not, directly or indirectly, to defend the heretical opinions adopted by any of the worthies whom " he had "enumerated;" and, in a note to his Dedication of the Warburtonian Tracts (Works, vol. iii. p. 387), he says, "I by no means assent to the opinions which Dr. Priestley has endeavored to establish in his History of the Corruptions of Christianity." (See also Sermon 40, in Works, vol. vi. p. 464.)

Notwithstanding his eccentricities, his displays of vanity, his want of common prudence, and his political and theological antipathies, no one who has read the records of him published by Mr. Field and Dr. Johnstone can doubt, that, besides being, what he unquestionably was, a benevolent and pious man, a warm friend of popular education, and a bold advocate for Christian charity and universal toleration, he was also sincere and truthful in his professions. De Quincey himself, p. 293,- though he qualifies his praise by saying that, "in a degree which sometimes made him not a good man," he was "the mere football of passion," is forced to sum up the appreciation of his character by the remark, that, "as a moral being, Dr. PARR was a good and conscientious man." May we not, therefore, reasonably conclude, that, when the "conscientious" curate of Hatton affirms that he did not hold the leading doctrine which distinguishes Unitarians from their fellow-Christians, he is quite worthy of our credence? And is not the testimony of this distinguished Episcopalian to the intellectual, moral, and religious character of English Unitarians deserving of high consideration, in opposition to the attempts that have been so often made to take from them "the jewel of their souls," — their "good name "?

[ocr errors]

If ever there was a writer whose wisdom is made to be useful in the time of need, it is Mrs. Barbauld. No moralist has ever more exactly touched the point of the greatest practicable purity, without being lost in exaggeration, or sinking into meanness. . . . It is the privilege of such excellent writers to command the sympathy of the distant and unborn. It is a delightful part of their fame; and no writer is more entitled to it than Mrs. Barbauld. SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH: Letter to Mrs. John Taylor, Norwich; in Memoirs of his Life, vol. i. pp. 441–2.

We have taken for granted that Sir JAMES was orthodox as to the doctrine of the Trinity; but, if otherwise, as some of his expressions recorded in the Memoirs would seem to imply, his opinion of the moral influence of Mrs. Barbauld's writings may not be the less just. Whatever were his religious views, he unquestionably combined in his character the qualities of philosopher, patriot, moralist, and Christian.

I sit down to thank your Grace for your kind attention in sending me the "Improved Version of the New Testament."... I give due praise to the Committee for their Introduction to this work it is

« AnteriorContinuar »