Imágenes de páginas

with the same composure as though he had only been about to leave home for a short time. Though it was fatiguing to him to talk, he read a good deal in the works above mentioned. On Friday he was much better. He sat up a good part of the day reading ‘Newcome;’ ‘Dr. Disney's Translation of the Psalms;’ and some chapters in the “Greek Testament,’ which was his daily practice. He corrected a proof sheet of the ‘Notes on Isaiah.” When he went to bed he was not so well; he had an idea he should not live another day. At prayer-time he wished to have the children kneel by his bedside, saying it gave him great pleasure to see the little things kneel; and, thinking he possibly might not see them again, he gave them his blessing. On Saturday, the 4th, my father got up for about an hour while his bed was made. He said he felt more comfortable in bed than up. He read a good deal, and looked over the first sheet of the third volume of the ‘Notes,’ that he might see how we were likely to go on with it; and having examined the Greek and Hebrew quotations, and finding them right, he said he was satisfied we should finish the work very well. In the course of the day he expressed his gratitude in being permitted to die quietly in his family, without pain, with every convenience and comfort he could wish for. He dwelt upon the peculiarly happy situation in which it had pleased the Divine Being to place him in life; and the great advantage he had enjoyed in the acquaintance and friendship of some of the best and wisest men in the age in which he lived, and the satisfaction he derived from having led an useful as well as a happy life. On Sunday he was much weaker, and only sat up in an armed chair while his bed was made. He desired me to read to him the eleventh chapter of John. I was going on to read to the end of the chapter, but he stopped me at the fortyfifth verse. He dwelt for some time on the advantage he had derived from reading the scriptures daily, and advised me to do

the same; saying, that it would prove to me, as it had done to him, a source of the purest pleasure. He desired me to reach him a pamphlet which was at his bed's head, ‘Simpson on the Duration of Future Punjhment.”—“It will be a source of satisfaction to you to read that pamphlet,' said he, giving it to me, ‘it contains my sentiments, and a belief in them will be a support to you in the most trying circumstances, as it has been to me. We shall all meet finally; we only require different degrees of discipline, suited to our different tempers, to prepare us for final happiness.” Upon Mr. coming into his room, he said, ‘You see, Sir, I am still living.” Mr. observed, he would always live. ‘Yes,’ said he, “I believe I shall; and we shall all meet again in another and a better world.” He said this with great animation, laying hold on Mr. 's hand in both his. Before prayers he desired me to reach him three publications, about which he would give me some directions next morning. His weakness would not permit him to do it at that time. At prayers he had all the children brought to his bedside as before. After prayers they wished him a good night, and were leaving the room. He desired them to stay, spoke to them each separately. He exhorted them all to continue to love each other. “And you, little thing, speaking to Eliza, “remember the hymn you learned ; “Birds in their little nests agree,” &c. I am going to sleep as well as you : for death is only a good, long, sound sleep in the grave, and we shall meet again.' He congratulated us on the dispositions of our children; said it was a satisfaction to see them likely to turn out well; and continued for some time to express his confidence in a happy immortality, and in a future state, which would afford us an ample field for the exertion of our faculties. On Monday morning, the sixth of February, after having lain perfectly still till four o'clock in the morning, he called to me, but in a fainter tone than usual, to give him some wine and tincture of bark. I asked him how he felt. He answered he had no pain, but appeared fainting away gradually. About an hour after, he asked me for some chickenbroth, of which he took a tea-cup full. His pulse was quick, weak, and fluttering, his breathing, though easy, short. About eight o'clock, he asked me to give him some egg and wine. After this he lay quite still till ten o'clock, when he desired me and Mr. Cooper to bring him the pamphlets we had looked out the evening before. He then dictated as clearly and distinctly as he had ever done in his life, the additions and alterations he wished to have made in each. Mr. Cooper took down the substance of what he said, which, when he had done, I read to him. He said Mr. Cooper had put it in his own language; he wished it to be put in his. I then took a pen and ink to his bed-side. He then repeated over again, nearly word for word, what he had before said; and when I had done, I read it over to him. He said, ‘That is right; I have now done.' About half an hour after, he desired, in a faint voice, that we would move him from the bed on which he lay to a cot, that he might lie with his lower limbs horizontal, and his head upright. He died in about ten minutes after we had moved him, but breathed his last so easy, that neither myself or my wife, who were both sitting close to him, perceived it at the time. He had put his hand to his face, which prevented our observing it.”

It is not intended elaborately to draw the character of Dr. Priestley. This is sufficiently disclosed in the narrative of his life and by the tone of his writings. They show that he was a man of various talents, and indefatigable industry in the use of them. His theological and miscellaneous writings have been collected in twenty-four large octavo volumes, and his other works would nearly equal these in quantity. The whole number of his publications exceeded one hundred and thirty. He was enabled to effect so much by strict habits of method and a great facility in labor; which enabled him, though accomplishing more than most men, to have as much leisure as any. His remarkable rapidity in thinking and writing was undoubtedly a snare to him, as it sometimes betrayed him into carelessness and error, though the instances of this are certainly far fewer than has been sometimes represented. His favorite subjects of study were those of natural philosophy, especially chemistry, and revealed religion. In the former, he was a great discoverer, and has been called the Father of modern chemistry. To the latter he applied himself with an earnest faith and devoted attachment, which increased as he advanced in life, and which displayed itself in perpetual efforts to make known its evidences and to advance its interests. When one perceives how this was the object nearest his heart, and how much of his time and labor was occupied in writing and publishing against infidelity, he cannot but feel amazed and mortified at that violence of theological party spirit which classes this defender of the faith with unbelievers. His peculiar views of Christianity were undoubtedly very far from agreeing with those which generally prevail, and they were oftentimes expressed in bold and unmeasured language, adapted to shock prejudice rather than to conciliate and convince. This was his fault; from which both his reputation and his principles have suffered. But it grew out of that frankness and simplicity which so eminently distinguished him, and which made him to his friends the object of such confidence and attachment. Simple as a child, he knew no disguise; he exposed himself naked, unguarded, heedless, to all alike, not weighing words or calculating consequences, but uttering whatever lay in his thought at the moment in the first words that occurred to him. There was something in this childlike, confidential, unsuspicious mode of intercourse extremely winning to those who were intimately associated with him; and, in connexion with his cheerfulness, equanimity, and gentleness, it made him an object of the deepest and most enthusiastic attachment. Few have ever had warmer friends. But it obviously exposed him to misapprehension and cavil from those who knew him not, and who regarded his opinions with

aversion. They put a wrong construction upon it and were exasperated by it; and they have signally punished him for it, by culling from his works a quantity of his hasty and rash expressions, and publishing them to the world as the deliberate judgments of those who adopt liberal opinions in religion. And as he was equally undisguised and unwary in his remarks on the faults of his own friends, they have not failed to triumph in what they regard as his testimony to the evil consequences of his religious system. These citations from his works, not very numerous after all, have been copied from one writer to another, till they have become a sort of stock-in-trade in controversy, and may be expected to appear as a matter of course in every new writer whose purpose is to cast obloquy on Unitarian views. Certainly there are some of his speculations and modes of speculating, there is much in his hastiness and something in his offensiveness, which are not to be imitated or approved. But, alas, how few controversial writers have a right to cast the first stone ! and he certainly is not to be judged for this fault without reference to his known disposition and character. And respecting these, as they appeared in ordinary and private life, there is but one testimony. Those who least favored his theological opinions were among the first to acknowledge and honor his worth as a man. Robert Hall, as remarkable for his hearty abuse of Unitarianism as for his talents and eloquence, could not withhold his eulogy of the character of Priestley.” “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 harmless.” – “Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and draw lustre from reproach.” The language of the celebrated and learned Dr. Parr was

* See also above, p. xxxvii.

« AnteriorContinuar »