be made; that all men were impostors ; that 'they should seek the

gratification of their benevolence to no purpose ; and that the principle itself must be unnatural, romantic, and useless. Greater wisdom, greater experience, and a greater knowledge of the world, would instruct them in a general truth, which is sufficient to obvia ate all these difficulties that art and imposture are attended with assurance, indolence, and profligacy; and that merit is modest, diffident, and industrious; that the wicked offer themselves, and form the foremost phalanx, through which you must penetrate, and behind which you must seek and folicit the truly deserving. However, we are by no means to adhere'even to this general rule. Distress, brought on by vice, is often artful and impoling. When we are even assured of this, it is not always a reason for withholding our beneficence. A human creature in misery is an object of beneficence, whatever may have been the cause of that misery. It is the part of wisdom to judge what relief we can afford them, confiftent with the obligations we are under to ourselves, and more de erving objects in real distress."

That's a human creatures in misery is an object of beneficence," we give our anfeigned afsent. This duty is strongly enforced and recommended in the New Testament, here we will ask Mr. Williams, what was the practice of our great and divine mafter ? To this we answer for him, that his darling principle was ".to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, to give unto to them that mourn, beauty for alhes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” attention to the piteous cries of 'every object in misery, and made this heart-reviving reply: “What wilt thou that I shall do for thee ? " To use the words of a late writer, Mercy, with a heavenly voice, spoke in all he uttered

i Charity poured forth her ftores in all he did."

We will fubmit the following paffage to the consideration of our readers, and leave them to draw fuch conclufions as they shall think suitable and convenient. Mr. Williams is ada dressing himself to his audience,

" To have your faculties in their natural order and vigour; to hold your place as a member of society; to act uprightly and well in it; and to find your happiness in the happiness of the whole--these are ihe views of a man:-it is not poslible for a human being for an angel--with reverence be it fpoken--for Almighty God himself to have noble motives of action. Offer these to the degraded, though 'proud and haughty, votaries of religion, as motives to virtuous actions ; you will not gain their ata tention. Tell them they will be damnd, if they do not perform certain rites-Ay, that's a motive !" they'll say.-It is the ass's whip, and they'll move only while they tingle with the pain. It is


He paid

[ocr errors]

time to be ashamed of these things. It has ever been the lana guage of impofture and of tyranny, that men are to be held in this degraded and dishonourable view ; and in order to enslave and govern them as brutes, they have ever been spoken of and treated as such. Our business is with men, and our pleasure their happiness; kings and priests only have an interest and delight in the ig. norance and misery of mankind. We must regret, however, that when we speak to men as men, delineate their duties, and thew the best reasons and motives for them, we have a chance of being, understood or attended to by very few persons. The process of causes and effects, in the natural world, are not more regular and methodical than in the moral world. Nothing happens, nothing arises but in the order of nature, unless it be now and then a mon. ster; and that is only an apparent and trifling deviation : nothing can come to pass without its assigned and proper cause.

“ Moral happiness, the highest possible object of human wish, desire, and aim; which not only renders our actual existence worth having; but inspires us with poetic frenzy; makes us create ima. ginary worlds, and extend our existence into Paradise, Elyfium, and Heaven, to perpetuate our enjoyments-this universal idol, and universal motive of pursuit and action, wants only to be un. derstood to be enjoyed. We do worse than lose our time, if we seek it at a distance and in imaginary regions; for it is with us, and every moment is sacred to its pleasures. It is the effect of order, vigour, activity in the principles of our minds, which constitutes our virtue : it is the result of a natural and just difpofition of men and priociples in society, which constitutes public virtue ; and this result is the effect of causes, as regular, as certain, as necessary as those which produce day and night, and summer and winter. If all men were capable of comprehending the order of nature in the moral world, all men would be virtuous. Rewards and pue nishments are the expedients of ignorance and vice; and they will as soon produce day and night, and summer and winter, as they will true and genuine moral happiness in any one instance. You are not to wonder that when I tell you temperance or mode. ration is necessary to the right arrangement of all your faculties ; to that natural order of your principles and affections which makes you virtuous; to fit you for your proper station in society, where all the principles which unire you should be so restrained and tempered to harmonize, coalesce, and produce an effect, which alone is real happiness : -you are not to wonder, when I say this, I should suppose myself entitled to your attention : for I hold be. fore you the utmost attainment of man, in its proper and only place, where alone it is possible to obtain it : nay, I hold it be.

minds are calm ; when reason, unmolested by hopes and fears, can clearly see and judge ; and when 'alone the mind should chuse and determine. The delirium of the passions, like intoxication from liquors, is unfriendly to the judgment; and those who canvass for heaven, merely by the hopes and fears of men worked into frenzies, are just such moralists, and just fuch 3


fore you

when your

[ocr errors]

honest men, as those politicians, who intoxicate their constituents, to enable them to make a right and judicious choice of senators and legislators. As the causes are the same, we should expect that the effects would be the fame; and that heaven, like some fynods, conclaves, and public assemblies, would, on their plan, be occupied principally by such persons as no honest and virtuous man would wish to keep company with.",

We shall conclude our account of this ingenious, but impious perforinance, with an extract of a paffage containing observations on true and false wit.

" Reafon and philofophy have relieved the world of abundant quantities of that trash which has gone under the name of wit ; and they will proceed until only what is genuine remains; that sprightly, enchanting quality, which is one of the instruments of prudence and virtue, in heightening the felicity of life. Here a distinction obviously arises between true and false wit, as well as between true and false prudence. False wit is the talent of producing strong and grotesque fimilitudes, which may tempt fools to laugh at virtue ; may make' murder grin, and tyranny unfold its brows. This, it must be confessed, is a talent; and this is the kind of wit which has moftly distinguished modern theatres. We are not to wonder, then, that this is not in alliance with reason, or prudence, or virtues and that it has fought all occasions to dishonour them. - But we have observed, there is a prudence, a servile caution, which it has ever attended to, and by which it has obtained its infamous and wretched support. True wic is the art of combining ideas apparently unlike; and forming simili. tudes which give pleasure to virtue, by fingularity, novelty, and Turprise. The fentations excited by talie wit, in a bad man, are violent and convulsive, and attended by languor and pain ; those of real wir, in a good man, are lively, exquifite, and delightful, fucceeded by tranquility and pleasure. We see the reason that the former is 'atrenmity with prudence, and that the latter is its chear. ful and happy instrument. False wit knows nothing of reason and virtue, but from their restraints. Genuine wit feels none of those restraints ; for the directions of reason and goodness to real genius are, like the hand of God in the universe, unperceived and unfelt. Bad men only are fettered and shackled by prudence : in good men it points out and regulates, but never restrains or gives uneafiness. A state of knowledge and virtue only is a state of freedom; the dominion and tyranny of other principles, whether : wit, hamour, love, avarice or ambition, is absolute and wretched flavery.

“ I thought it neceffary, in a discourse on prudence, to begin with its most forward and plaufible enemy, falle wic that talent for exciting laughter in weak and bad men, at the expence of their real intérest and happiness ; that talent, which some persons carry about them, like an offenfive weapon, to wound the reputation and peace of their acquaintance; which, when unaccompanied, as VOL. XI, X


[ocr errors]

it always is unaccompanied, with real wisdom and genuine benevolence, makes a man feared and hated for the mischief he can do ; and gives him only that superiority and consequence given to a venemous serpent, which men make way for to avoid, and which they observe and watch only to destroy.

“ The use of real wit, like that of all the secondary and inferior talents, should be regulated by prudence. Genuine wisdom, extensive and folid knowledge, an enlightened benerolence, and benign virtue : these great, these fupreme attainments of humanity, are not liable to abule-but the minor faculties of wit and "humour; the talents by which we sport and play, are those which require guidance and direction. And it is of very serious importance to the happiness of life, that they should be used with prudence. Brilliant and lively men, who have the faculty of giving every thing a laughable appearance, though we do not think them of importance enough to take them into our councils and our friendships, they are the orchestra of our festive entertainments, and we esteem them according to the effect of their performance, in making us laugh. The judgment we are to exercise is in the choice of the objects which we are to facrifice to our diversion. Vice and folly we are allowed to make free with ; but we are to be very

fure mistake them not. For as it is a maxim in cri. minal justice, that an hundred villains should escape rather than one innocent man suffer; so should it be in intellectual justice : it is even better that there should be no wit in the world, than that one virtuous or good man should be sacrificed by it. The talent of giving pleasure, of making a man agreeable, or of rendering others ridiculous, is a dangerous one; it often makes a man ridiculous, when marked out as in poffeffion of it; it is de: teftable when used at the expence of decency, of friendship, of truth, or of any moral virtue ; and though it be not a common topic of religious differtations, it is of fo much importance to the happiness of society, that it should be subject to the care and regulations of prudence.”

Erratum in the above article, page 1gi, line 6 from the tottom, for moble read nodler.


The Hiflory of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, from the

Death of Philip II. King of Spain, to the Truce made with Albert and Isabella. By William Lothian, D.D. one of the Ministers of Canongate. Dodfley and Longman, London; Dickson, Edinburgh. 4to. 185. boards.

Revolutions in states and empires are very proper subjects for history. Though when sudden and unexpected, they may excite surprise, yet when more gradual, the pleasure we feel in observing the progress is great, and the instruction we thus obtain useful and important. A variety of charac- .

[ocr errors]

ters are introduced upon the stage ; opposite paffions give life ty the scene; and while the catastrophe is in suspense we are kept awake. In such a field the virtues and vices are exhibited in a conspicuous light; and we learn from the effects what may be the probable consequence of any measures which policy may di&tate, ambition propose, or power attempt to pursue. When in any government one branch of the conftitution usurps the prerogative of another; when unalienable rights are invaded, or the liberties of a people are in danger, opportunity is then afforded for the exertion of talents and the operation of paffions, which in other circumstances would not have appeared. The importance of the object calls forth fingular exertions, and other confiderations besides the interest of the state, influence the conduct and mingle in the dispute. If the parties are equally balanced as to the force they can exert, and the struggle is long maintained, we wait the conclusion with anxiety. If power is on one side and justice on the other, our fears are excited. If, notwithstanding many disadyantages, the conteftis fupported; if the weaker party acquire strength, and, in every exigency, finds out resources, we hope for a favourable issue. In such situations almost every occurrence becomes material, and the history of such transactions yields ample matter for observation and reflection.

In the history of the Netherlands, during the reign of Philip II, to whom these countries devolved by the relignation of his father the Emperor Charles V. we have a strike ing instance of a misguided policy, and of a successful opposition to arbitrary power. Philip, though endowed with many talents for government, soon disgusted his subjects in the Netherlands, and raised suspicions of a design to deprive them of rights they had enjoyed from the most ancient times, and which he himself had, according to established usage, solemnly swore to preserve inviolated. It was impossible that any encroachment could either pass unobserved, or be viewed with indifference by a people accustomed to hold a large share in the administration, and to consider their prince as invested with very limited authority. Their situation rendered them quick-fighted in discerning any breach of their privileges, and perhaps jealous where there was no bad design. Philip's conduct, however, was neither reserved nor ainbiguous. His bigotted principles in matters of religion were ill suited to the dispositions of a people who, from their intercourse with strangers, had acquired a more liberal spirit ; his haughty manners displeased those who formerly lived in familiarity

X 2


« ElőzőTovább »