« AnteriorContinuar »
tored from his lamentable malady. To those who are at all
Calvin, John, is here, as usual, charged with directing "the
We bave not room to discuss this point; 'and therefore avoid insisting that Calvin himself did not mean that the punishment should actually extend to death. But a very few remark's will demonstrate, that Dr. Lempriere bas neither the liberality nor the consistency that are indispensable in an Universal Biographer. The error of Calvin was in great ' measure an error of judgement'; he acted in conformity with a prevailing sentiment of the age, that heretical opinions in religion were proper objects of civil disabilities and punishments ;- and the guilt is so far from being peculiar to him, that some of the best men, including More and Cranmer, are exposed to a similar charge Socinus is well known to have been concerned in coinmitting Davides to prison, where he died, for rejecting the worship of Christ. On these accounts, it is illiberal in any man, but es pecially in "Dr. L. as an impartial biographer, to add his petu, lant yelp to the cry which theological animosity has excited and kept up against Calvin, 'as if he were the first and the only in dividual that ever disgraced his religion by employing the civil power to crush its enemies." It is inconsistent because the very same Dr. L. studiously conceals or sophistically pälliates the cruelties committed by such men as Whitgift, Laud, Mackenzie,and many other agents of ecclesiastical tyranny in the Reigns of Elizabeth and the Stuarts, by whom not one, but multitudes, were deliberately murdered, according to law, for presuming to take thai road to heaven which they believed to be pointed qui in the scriptures. How Dr. L., and such as Dr. L., can protect themselves from public contempt for this most shameless illiberality and inconsistency, (except indeed they claim for the cpiscopacy, exclusively, the privilege of plundering, chaining, maiming, and slaughtering conscientious dissenters from its faith,) we profess ourselves totally unable to conjecture. No man can have the smallest right to stigmatize Calvin as a persecutor, who is not prepared to disown the erroneous princi, ple on which he acted, and to apply precisely the same brand of reprobation to the character of every prince, prelate, or mi nister, who has committed a similar crime. Dr. L. seizes this opportunity to prove " that he has been actuated by the purest motives of impartiality." Take, for example, the following spe. cimen, in reference to Calvin's principles:
• His creed was either from singularity, or opposition, [of course, not from conviction), contrary to the tenets of the other protestants; and the untenable doctrines which he propagated about an absolute predesti. nation have tended to render his followers, not only during his age, but in succeeding times, gloomy, presumptuous, obstinate, and uncharitable.?
Had the writer of this article been a Calvinist, he would very probably have treated the calumny with silent contempt ; but as he is not, he feels it a debt of justice to a very large and va, Juable body of Christians, to state, that during a tolerably free and extensive intercourse for some years with persons of various persuasions and opinions, he never met with any whọ were more cheerful, humble, open to conviction, candid, and charitable, than the Calvinists with whom he has associated.
Many similar specimens might be given of the reverend Doctor's " motives of impartiality," toward those from whom he differs on points of theological controversy; we shall particularize one more. In the account of Romaine, we are told that
he was a popular preacher before the University ; but the love nf singularity, and a propensity to the doctrines of Calvin, prevailed
him to seek for distinction in the applauses of a London audience.”. He was in 1764 appointed rector of St. Anne's, Blackfriar's, and when not engaged in the itinerant labours of the ministry, he continued to collect there and at St. Dunstan's, those numerous congrega: tions which admired the vehemençe of methodistical effusions, and the familiar addresses of a vociferous preacher." As Dr. L. cannot imagine any other cause of religious difference than this love of singularity," we are afraid some of his ill-na'tured readers will doubt whether he has any other reason for thinking and acting according to law, than the dread of singuJarity. We do not
consider, as any counterbalance to this illiberality, the friendly and familiar references made by the Rev, author to all the most noted players and playwrights, of whom he gives copious memoirs.
Cartes, Réné des, the founder of the Cartesian system of philosophy, occupies rather inore than a column in this Uni. versal Biography, where, indeed, we are informed that his vortices cannot stand the examination of truth, and the clear demonstrations of the Newtonian philosophy;" but there is no statement of the general principles of his physical of metaphysical creed. It is the same with regard to the astronomical system of Tycho Brahe : our biographer says "thewildness of his opinions (a fayourite phrase, we presume] is sufficiently proved by the absurựity of the system which he endeavoured to establish in mere opposition to the Copernican;" but the system is not described, although it might have been in ten lines. Cowper, the poet, is the
subject of a memoir of about a co. lumn and a half, which we notice as not containing one mark of the author's religious prejudices. He is even disposed to panegyrize ; for he speaks of Mr. Newton as an eloquent supporter of the doctrine of Calvin. In a wretched attempt at appreciating Cowper's genius, he thus alludes to “the Sofa"; “ in that, and in his other larger poem the Task &c.”;-How admirably must that Biographer, who imagines that the Sofa and the Task are two distinct poems, be qualified to criticise Cowper!
Crubb, Habakkuk, formerly of Royston, who, though a very worthy and respectable man, was known, we apprehend, scarcely to twenty persons beside those who subscribed for his posthumous volume of Sermons, is here styled an eminent dissenter. In truth, the weariness of plodding through this book is often relieved, by the amusement derived from our author's curious appropriation of epithets: for example : Crabb, Habakkuk, an eminent dissenter: Watts, Isaac, a res. pectable divine : Baxter, Richard, a
nonconformist! Woolston, Thomas, an English divine! This English divine, it may
be proper to add, is the noted Woolston; who wrote agaiost miracles, and who was alike celebrated for his humour, his profaneness, and his blasphemy,
Delany, Patrick, wrote the Life of David, king of Israel ; a work which, according to Dr. L., “while it displayed the ingenuity, learning, and judgment of the author, little contributed to the honour of the Sacred Writings, whose authenticity and character cannot rest upon the labours of men." This is, altogether, a strange sentence. In Dr. Delany's Life of David, all the insinuations of Bayle relative to the character of that king, and his corresponding inferences against the authenticity of that part of the Old Testament History, are completely and triumphantly refuted. How this shouid contribute “ little to the honour of the Sacred Writings" we are quite at a loss to guess : and low such an argument against defending the Scriptures, as Dr. L. suggests, should ever have dropt from the pen of a clergyman, is to us per fcctly astonishing.
Demosthenes is honoured with about 24 lines among Dr. L's “Copious accounts of eminent persons"; and Cicero with almost 16 lines. So that those who want to know any thing worth knowing of these distinguished orators, must still turn to some other book of biography, or to their old friend Plutarch. Such as
are desirous of seeing a very able disquisition on the different kinds of eloquence of these great men, and of their comparative fitness for the audiences they had respectively to address, will read with much pleasure the remarks of La Harpe in his Cours de Littérature, dncienne et Moderne, tome 3me, part. Tre.
Euler, Leonard, is the subject of one of the best written accounts we have yet found in this volume. - The piety of this distinguished philosopher is properly held up to imitation. He was also a man of very refined taste; had a remarkable recollection of the best poetry in all languages ; and was a great proficient in music. Dr. L. does not seem aware that Euler invented the clavichord.
For, Burke, and Pitt, have their relative merits as orators and as statesmen tolerably delineated; except that Dr. L. has not been wise enough to sink the partizan in the biographer. The conduct of Fox during the latter half year of his life is upduly depreciated; while, on the contrary, Burke's reception of a pension is commended, the circumstance of his being paid for his “ Reflexions” by the French court is disguised, and the whole vocabulary of commendation is ransacked to find terms for a character of Mr. Pitt." His history is the history of civilized nations”- 56 No state chicanery, no narrow sys. tem of vicious politics sunk him to the level of the guilty great!"-" The penetration of his mind was sagacious, was infinite !" And a great deal more, equally elegant and correct.
Gustavus, Adolphus '; of course we expected to find the Rev. Doctor eloquent in praise of this protestant hero's piety; butthough he can lavish columns on profligate authors and insignificant clergymen, not one word could he afford to say upon this subject. There is some reason to think, however, that, like the ancient Stoics, he considers the word king as expressive of every excellence, and therefore deemed it unnecessary to praise the genuine piety of one who was “religious” er officio.
Gay, John, occupies above a column and half. Not one word of censure escapes the Rev. biographer on the indecencies of this poet, or the immorality of the Beggar's Opera, for which he can find vo worse term than this fuvourite play.'
Hammond, the author of the “ Love Elegies," is not overlooked by our biographer ; but we think he speaks too harshly of Miss Dashwood, whom he characterises as "his eruel mistress.”. Although the intellects of poor Hammond became disordered, and he died of a broken heart in his 33rd year, the blame attaches not to that lady, but to Lord Hervey, her guardian. The answer to Hammond's 15th Elegy, in which the Lady is made to talk of “Gilding her ruin with the name of wite," and being made “a poor virtuous wretch for life," was actually written by Lord Hervey; and the ruin adverted to, was that of living happily in the country upon Hammond's income of 5001. a year, together with the income arising from her own property. What were Lord Hervey's reflexions on
the consequences produced by his sordid advice, we know not; but the "cruel” Miss Dashwood, it is well known, never after the death of Hammond heard his name mentioned without exhibiting emotions of the tenderest regret.
Of Dr. Samuel Johnson, we are told, that “ his Religion was devout and pious !” — and far be it from us to presume to dispute the authority of a D. D. He has indeed a singular knack at saying odd things: as in the iustance of Voisin ---" This excellent character died suddenly." Did the character die? And he tells us that. Young in his poetry was occasionally obscure.” Is there any occasion for obscurity? When he speaks of a person being accused of a capital and odious crime, he uses such a phrase as this: “It is said he again forgot his character." (Art. Muretus.) As a proof of the ability of a critique, he notices the facility of answering it ; Badcock's observations on Priestley, he tells us, “ were so pointed, so forcible, and so well supported, that they drew an answer from the Author (Dr. P.) in less than a month, in which the abilities of the unknown critic were allowed to be great and respectable." (Art, Badcock). Of Sacheverel be avoids expressing any decided opinion, except that he was “an English divine of celebrated notoriety !” If he has to speak of a college for theological students, he will have it to be “ for the education of young persons in the future labours of the ministry!" (Art. Lady Huntingdon), We might cull. such flowers as these from almost every page of the book.
Law, William, was " an able divine," but not, as this biographer informs us, “a preacher among the dissenters, who possessed influence.” He was not a dissenter, but a non-juror; and this character, which as Gibbon the historian states “hé held to the last, is a sufficient evidence of the tenaciousness of his principles in Church and State.” In his three celebrated Letters to the Bishop of Bangor, which Dr. L. though he mentions them has probably never seen, Law writes in vindication of the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.
Leibnitz, according to our biographer, “ Had, in his life, the singular felicity of being esteemed the greatest and most learned man in Europe, and he did not bely the public opinion,” We beg to submit to the Doctor's consideration, whether Barrow, Clarke, and the Bernoullis, were not at least the equals of Leibnitz, as philosophers, as men of genius, and as scholars;. and whether among his other contemporaries there was not a man called NEWTON'?
Leslie, Charles, is not forgotten ;, but almost the only production of his ever read now, is not mentioned at all, we mean, his “ Short Way with the Deists.” Through similar