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So long as it shall please that God, in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways, to continue me in that relation, in which I think myself happy in standing to you at present, I trust that I shall not fail to endeavour to impress your minds with a just sense of what you owe to God, to your country, and to mankind. Let it be our mutual care to derive the most durable advantage from our present temporary connexion, by growing continually more established, strengthened, and settled in the habit and practice of all the virtues which become us as men and as Christians; that we may secure a happy meeting and mutual congratulation in the future kingdom of our Lord and Saviour.
CHARACTER OF THE REV. RICHARD PRICE, D. D.
We are now, my Christian brethren, assembled on the mournful occasion of the decease of a truly excellent man; one who stood in the endearing relation of pastor to this congregation,* but in a much more important relation to his country, and even to the world. If, after this, I may add, as an excuse for those who have made choice of me to addrses you on the occasion, he was one with whom I had been connected by an acquaintance of more than thirty years, and an intimate friendship of more than twenty. In consequence of this, I have never failed to occupy his place of preacher to you, on my annual visits to the metropolis; and if a circumstance, which adds something to the impression on my own mind, may be mentioned on the occasion, this is the very day on which, if our friend had been alive and well, I should of course have preached for him. Little did I expect, when I set out on my journey, that this would be his Funeral Sermon; for at that time there were hopes of his recovery, and about a month before, there was no more appearance of his approaching dissolution, than there is of that of any of ours at present. For though he was not of a robust constitution, and was drawing toward the usual term of human life, he had of late years recovered a better state of health and spirits than had generally fallen to his share; so that, judging by appearances, he might have lived happily to himself, and usefully to the world, many years longer. May the reflection lead us all to the true wisdom of considering our latter end, that we may hold ourselves in constant readiness for our summons hence;
* At Hackney, near London.
since, at such an hour as we think not, that summons may come. ,
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The virtues of Dr. Price, I may say, without being charged with extravagant panegyric or flattery, which should be far from this sacred place, as it was remote from his pure and simple mind, will live in the memory not only of the present, but of future generations. For few persons in the private walks of life, in no public office or employment, and wholly remote from courts, were ever more generally known or respected. His labors made him in pretty early life the benefactor of mankind. Not only was his object in his more abstruse mathematical studies, the benefit of his countrymen, by reducing to greater certainty, and setting in a clearer light than had ever been done before, the doctrine of Annuities, and many interesting subjects, for which thousands in this country have reason to thank him; but so ardent was his zeal for the natural rights of men, and so forcibly and effectually did he plead the cause of liberty, civil and religious, that no inconsiderable proportion of the human race acknowledged his writings to have been of eminent use to their attainment of those great blessings; and the most august assembly in the world, by which I wish to be understood the National Assembly of France, have justly styled him the Apostle of Liberty. Not that he added much to the clearness of its principles; but strongly feeling their force, he inspired all his readers with the same ardent love of it and zeal for it, so as to make liberty appear more desirable, and tyranny more detestable; and in this respect, though dead, he yet speaketh.
In the writings of Dr. Price, men and citizens may ever see their rights and magistrates their duty; and so plainly and forcibly are these lessons given, that our children may understand and feel them. That the great end of civil society and the object of all civil government is the public good; that every form of government is excellent in proportion as it 'aDted to gain this end; that all persons employed and paid by the public, are the servants of the public, that they are accountable to the public, and of course punishable for their neglect of duty, are now considered as axioms, as indisputable as any in geometry; and the writings of Dr. Price have contributed more than those of any other person, I may almost say, living or dead, to make them generally understood, and what is more, to their importance being truly felt. It may be considered as a universal truth, that no man can rise to great eminence without having enemies in proportion to it; and few men have had more of this honorable appendage to real merit than Dr. Price. He long stood the object of reproach and calumny to the interested tools of power, to the prejudiced and to the timid. And on this account some may think it necessary to apologize for his conduct, in the writings to which I now refer, especially as his profession was that of a preacher of the gospel of peace. But I cannot apologize for public virtue and public spirit, in any man. It is universally praiseworthy, and a just subject of encomium.
Whatever else we be, we are all members of society, and citizens of the world; and as such, we are bound to consult the public welfare, as far as we have an opportunity to promote it; which was eminently the case of Dr. Price. His character and his writings gave him access to men in power, and who have influence in public affairs, not only in England, but also in America, and in France, not to mention other countries; and his wise counsels were not always without effect. But persons in less conspicuous situations are justifiable, and more than justifiable, for their endeavours to serve the public, be they more or less attended to; and in every free, that is, in every equitable and just government, the voice of every man interested in it will be heard and attended to in proportion to his interest.
These duties respecting the public need not to interfere
with those of a more private nature. Did our deceased
friend, notwithstanding his attention to politics, neglect any
part of his duty as a minister of the gospel, or a member of society in any other respect? You know that he was ever exemplary in them all. Was the strain of his pulpit discourses ever factious? Did they tend to make you discontented with government, or inflame your passions against those who had the administration of it? You know the contrary. The mild but warm benevolence of his own heart he diffused into yours. It was his business and delight, on all occasions, to inculcate the great duties of piety and resignation to God, and good-will to all men, together with that happy equanimity which prepares the mind for all events, prosperous or adverse, public or private. You could not, I am confident, leave this place, after attending his services in it, without feeling yourselves more meek and placid, more disposed to forbearance and forgiveness, than to revenge.
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But from one species of reproach and abuse, to which most declaimers against government are subject, Dr. Price was universally exempted. His bitterest enemies, in their greatest violence, never taxed him with it. I mean his having interested views. His patriotism, though warm, was ever of the purest kind, looking to nothing for himself; and when he had the freest access to men in power, never using it for his own emolument, or that of his nearest friends. In this situation he conferred favors, but never received any. So generally was his character in this respect known, that when he gave a great part of his time to the service of his country, in calculations, for judgment and accuracy in which he was the only man particularly looked up to by those who composed the legislature of his country, no pecuniary reward was ever thought of by him, or for him. He gave his labors in the same disinterested manner to several private societies who wished to establish funds for the benefit of their posterity, and in return had nothing but the warmest acknowledgments for the most important services. In calculations of this kind the merit of Dr. Price stands unrivalled, and would be alone suf