« ZurückWeiter »
attributes of justice and goodness ; destroy every benevolent end in the creation ; render it the splendid work of an ingenious and all-powerful artist, devoid of every principle of true wisdom and greatness ; set loose the vicious and inordinate affections of the artful and the powerful to prey on the weak, the simple, and the injudicious; and by adding the insupportable horrors of despair to the afflictions of the unfortunate, increase the evils of human existence beyond the possibility of human bearing : hence proceed the numerous suicides, and all those acts of violence and desperation, which help to sadden the annals of English history," Against these infamous productions, the wit and acuteness of South, the labour of Bramhall, and the unmeasurable erudition and unanswerable argument of Cudworth were directed, and not in vain : for not an objection was left unanswered, not a cavil unexposed. Unfortunately, speculative wickedness has ever a powerful ally in the natural depravity of the human heart, and men will commonly attend to what flatters their passions, in preference to a system which restrains them. If there were no wicked men there would be no unbelievers ; and as bishop Atterbury somewhere remarks„It is not a freedom of thinking for which these men contend, but a freedom of acting and living as they please. To the young and unlearned, for it is only the unlearned, or the half-learned, that can be assailed by the miserable sophistry of modern infidels, we may recommend the serious perusal of bishop Burnet's account of the life and death of the witty and profligate earl of Rochester, a man of great talents, whom a perverted education, vicious associates, and ungovernable passions, had made an unbeliever ; but who was no sooner made acquainted with the proofs of Christianity, than he yielded to them his entire conviction, . and found, in those truths which he had before rejected, the only consolation during his expiring moinents.
· The truths of religion were not only defended ably and with success by the divines of the established church at this period, þut by some of the non-conformist ministers, who were not inferior to their brethren of the establishment either
in erudition or ability. Among the first of these we may consider the venerable Richard Baxter, whose “ Unreasonableness of Infidelity," and “ Catholic Theology,” may be still read with infinite advantage. Of this able and laborious writer, the saving of Dr. Barrow is, on the whole, a just character—"That his practical writings were never mended; his controversial seldom confuted;" and the candid and libe. ral Burnet remarks of him, he “ was a man of great piety ; and if he had not meddled in too many things, would have been esteemed one of the most learned men of the age. He wrote near 200 books, of these three are large folios, . He had a very moving and pathetical way of writing, and was his whole life a man of great zeal and much simplicity ; but was most unhappily subtle and metaphysical in every thing." Mr. Baxter was one of the most unhappy examples of the black ingratitude of the British Tiberius. On the Restora. tion, for his zeal and loyalty he was made chaplain to the king; and the discerning Clarendon laboured hard to remove his scruples, and reconcile him to the church. After the disgrace of that minister, his whole life was a continued scene of persecution, and he was an inhabitant successively of most of the prisons in the metropolis. Towards the end of his life he had the misfortune to be tried for a libel before the execrable Jefferies, who wrested some passages in his annotations on the New Testament from their legitimate meaning into a censure on episcopacy in general, and a compliant and das. tardly jury found him guilty. The trial is upon record, in which the greatness of mind displayed by the accused forms a singular contrast to the low and vulgar abuse of the illiterate Jefferies ; and he appears a Socrates before a contemptible tribunal. He however lived to see the downfal of his persecutors, and to partake of the blessings of liberty which were the effects of the glorious Revolution of 1688 ; an æra now equally abused by the extravagant democrats, and by the wretched and misguided tories, but which will ever be held in just estimation by every man who possesses the gehuine sentiments that become an Englishman.
of the celebrated Edmund Calamy we had occasion to
speak in our last volume : his writings are more controversial than those of Baxter. Dr. William Bates, the friend and coadjutor of Mr. Baxter in the Savoy conference, was also a man of considerable erudition. “ He is universally understood (says the late editor of the Biographia Britannica) to have been the politest writer among the non-conformists of the last century.” To these we may add the names of Howe, Jacombe, and Wilde, all of them eminent as preachers, and useful as writers. The former of these divines is characterized by Anthony Wood, who is not very favourable to the presbyterian party,, as “a person of neat and polite parts, and not of that sour and unpleasant converse, as most of his persuasion were ; so moderate also and calm in those smaller matters under debate between the church and his party, that he had not so inuch as once interested himself in quarrels of this kind, but hath applied himself to more beneficial and useful discoveries on practical subjects.”
Of the theological writings of the other sectaries but few are at present held in much esteem ; but Barclay's Apology for the Quakers will be read as long as sound learning, acute reasoning, and aniination and correctness of style continue to be admired. The preface, addressed to Charles HI. is a model of true eloquence, and the scriptural arguments of the author against war will never be refuted.
After this hasty sketch of the state of learning and science in the theological department during this period, we find ourselves reluctantly obliged to break off with some abruptness. In the other sciences a wide field lies still before us, and the political occurrences of this eventful year are so many, and so important, that to extend this dissertation further, would either abridge the reader of what is more immediately interesting, or extend the volume to an unmanageable size*.
* Burnet, -Macaulay, Hume, Anthony Wood,--Biographia Britannica,-Biographical Dictionary, &c &c.