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ments and feets use the language of liberty and toleration : they exclaim against the barbarous cruelcies of the Church of Rome. They say—“We would not for the world be guilty of cutting your throats; but we will make it not worth your while to live, and then it is to be hoped you will save us the dishonour, and cut them yourselves.”
• I am apt (lays our Author) to speak harshly when I mention intolerance ; because there is no principle I deteft so much.' -Mr. Williams seems indeed to speek feelingly, and with all his heart. His reflections on this subject discover evident symptoms of a mind that still smarts from the recollection of ill treatment from bigotry and zeal. But can be not apply to himself his own benediction-Blessed be those glorious spirits who still struggle for the freedom of human reason, and all the great rights of human nature ! Thus shrouded beneath the wing of his own blessing, he may smile at the impotent efforts of malice and envy, and set even Presbyterian art and treachery at defiance. The saints (says Bp. Warburton) are vindictive.'But he said it in a jest, when he opposed their power to their inclinations :
“ Unchain'd then let the harmless monsters rage." For the famé good Bishop observes, that the most they can do is to “ mumble, with toothless fury, the game they have not the power to destroy."
Mr. Williams, in the succeeding Lecture, treats of Creation. He enumerates the various opinions of the ancient philosophers on this extremely difficult subject. Most of them he conliders as absurd and improbable, in the highest degree. In speaking of the system of Democritus (who defined the Deity to be " the images and ideas of all sensible objects”—which images and ideas he considered as “ the only things that have existence”] our Author observes, that 'the opinions of this philofopher were revived by Dr. Berkley, and have been adopted by many who have perfuaded themselves to fancy that there is no material world. This opinion of Democritus was adopted by Taulerus, a celebrated mystic divine of the fourteenth century. In his treatise on the Tree of Life (a subject Mr. Williams hath passed over, and also the Garden of Eden, in his Lecture on the Creation) this illuminated Doctor of the school of St. Dominic afserts, that there is no material world. We see nothing that hath a real existence without us. The whole visible universe is but a shadow-a mere object of intellect, and as unsubstantial as an image in a mirror.
Dr. Priestley, by divesting matter of its impenetrability, and allowing it nothing but powers unsupported by folid fubkances, hath, in the opinion of many, advanced so very near to the Berkleian hypothesis, that the difference between him and the Bishop of Cloyne is almost too minute to be distinguished.
Mr. Williams acknowledges that the subject of Creation is very ambiguous, whether we consider the account traditionally given of it by Moses and the ancient poets and philosophers, or whether we speculate on it ourselves, without regarding the hypotheses of others. . We have no ideas (says he) of Creation, or making a world, farther than that of disposing, or rendering useful, materials already made and endued with certain properties. What we call making, or inventing, or creating, means no more than discovering what effect, what beauty, or what use arise from certain arrangements of materials and qualities. -- Ingenious men have therefore meant by Creation, the disposition of things from disorder to order, and from deformity to beauty. If we grant them a chaos confisting of all the principles, materials, and laws which will bring the world together and form it, they will give us a very tolerable idea of the process of Creation. In the disposition of those things we find most eminently those qualities which we admire -Wisdom, power, and goodness. These qualities uniformly co-operate with each other; we therefore refer them to one great principle, which we call God.'
In the feventh Lecture, the Merit of Believing,' is considered. On this fubject the Author advances nothing new. He treats, with great contempt, what he calls the sophism of believing what is above our comprehenfion, but not contrary to our reason. There is (says Mr. W.) as much sense, and truth, and posibility, in believing what is above our underftanding, as in seeing what is beyond our fight, hearing what is out of hearing,' &c. &c.
Is not Mr. Williams, in his eagerness to expose a sophism, led into one himself ? If the writers, whom he thus ridicules for what he calls ó a jingle upon words, invented for the pure pose of impoling on the ignorant,' had laid it down as a theological position, that we might understand what is above our understanding, and comprehend what is above our comprehension, his allufion to the eye, the ear, &c. might have been proper and consistent enough : but he himself hath first created the ab. surdity, and then exposed it as the sophism of others. When divines speak of believing what is above our comprehension, they frequently mean an asent of the mind to the revelation of facts, which they are unable to account for on the common principles of human nature. The eye is bounded by certain objects: the understanding limited by a certain degree of knowledge and comprehension: but þelief gives credit for more than We fee or know. What can we know of the eternity of God?
Surely Surely it exceeds all the possible comprehension of a finite understanding; and yet, is it not an object of belief? Doth not the mind acquiesce in the truth of this first principle of the Deity? It cannot comprehend it; but justly concludes that the thing is real, and submits with faith and reverence. Mr.Williams himself allows that a person may believe in the miraculous birth of our Saviour, in the miracles which he wrought, his resurrection from the dead, and his ascenfion into heaven, without committing himself to the refuge of myftery and abfura dity; for he grants that a person may consider them as ftand-ing on the fame ground of evidence as the actions of an Alexander or a Cæfar, to be believed on the credit of historians, who had no interest to deceive, and because the things related were poffible and even probable.' In this case (fays our Auchor) wbat is there in believing Christianity more than believing any historical fact which we clearly comprehend, and has nothing in it that we should deem impoflible ?' We are glad that Mr. Williams hath condescended to make this concession to the faith of Christians. And yet they will tell him that they do not understand, nor can they comprehend the miraculous conception of a virgin-nor the ascension of a body into heaven, though they firmly believe, i.e. affent to, the truth and reality of these facts, on the testimony of credible historians. Nothing more than this modest afsent of the mind is required by divine revelation when it relates facts which human reason cannot account for, and of the made of their operation it can form no poffible idea.
As Mr. Williams bath divested Faith of all merit, he also confiders what hath been called a previous disposition to admit certain principles, as a thing of no value. No plausible argument (fays be) hath been left on the fide of uncharitableness and bigotry, but that which makes a right faith to be the consequence of being well and properly disposed. It is very true that a man may dispose himself, i.e. he may warp and bias bis mind so as to make any doctrine or principle fuit it. But All kinds of pre-disposition and pre-arrangement are injuries to the judgment.
But though Mr. Williams speaks thus fcornfully of a predisposed habit of mind, yet he allows of its beneficent influence in the following Lecture on the Fear of God. I need not (says he) be at any great pains, to those who are well- disposed, in shewing the effects of this principle on the general conduct of a man's life. The atheistic libertine might here retort his own language, and, by the moft mortifying of all arguments, the argumentum ad bominem, easily prove that a well- disposed, is but a mere paffible term, for a biassed and prejudiced mind;
and that all kinds of pre-disposition, &c. are injuries to the judgment.'
The great principle and duties of Christianity, though founded on the best reason, yet owe much of their support and influence to a virtuous disposition of mind. A good man would wish them to be true, and a bad man would be interested in seeing them proved to be false. Both, it is certain, are under some bias. But Christianity is not the less rational becaufe the prepoffeffions of virtue are on its fide, and those of vice at eternal enmity with it.
In the ninth lecture, on · Universal Religion, our Author makes an apology for the name of Deist, with which,' he informs us, he had been reproached by ignorance. He assures us, however, that so far from disliking this noblest of all appellations, he felt no other regret than that he was 'not worthy of it. I could,' says he, 'look up to Jupiter and Apollo, to Mars and Venus, to Moses, Christ, and Mahomed, and not even from my errors and faults be afraid to wear their names : but to be called after the name appropriated to that perfectly wise and perfectly good Being, who animates and blesses the universe, seems to call for a character of understanding and virtue, which is alarming; and though I could rejoice in deserving, I should be very cautious in assuming it. We need make no comment on this paffage: but cannot avoid observing, that for the indecency of the allusion, and the artful malignity of (the insinuation, it hath scarcely been paralleled since the days
of Julian the Apoftate. a The lectures on Universal Toleration contain little that is worthy of particular notice. The Author rings his changes fo often on liberty and free enquiry, that by repetition his sentiments become tiresome, and in their commonness lose their influence. His compofitions, in general, bear the marks of great hafte; and these two lectures, in particular, seem to prove that he wanted much to get to the conclusion. Indeed, we seldom observe any beginning or middle in Mr. Williams's productions. He appears to be always somewhere or other about the end. This arises from a want of a regular fyftematic plan; or a logical correctness and economy of thought.
The following reflections on persons who pride themselves in having souls made of sentiment, are very juft, though they might have been introduced as well in any other part of his work, as where we chance to find them. • Try a sentimental man, or a fentimental woman, on any of the subjects which they are diffolving or even dying upon, when reading some quaint tale, and you will find them wholly destitute of the genuine and useful principles of nature; not in the fituation of
persons who want to be induced to act juftly and virtuously; but incapable of good impreslions. There are no brutes on earth so unfeeling as these disolving, dying people; nor any perfons so incapable of virtue as thole who waste their whole lives in reading tales of the virtues of other people. Look on a modern mother, whose time is spent in reading histories and novels, and enervating her own constitution and that of her children by the effects of sentiments. Look back into antiquity, and see the virtuous matrons of Greece and Rome, fulfilling their duties with an active and amiable dignity; teaching their children to think and act so as to contribute largely to the public happiness, and you will see the difference between real and pretended knowledge.'
Our modern sentimentalists are indeed very poor creatures ! All their effufions, and all their feelings, are seldom any thing better than evidences of paralytic affections. Though they melt, and languilh, and die, on the soft pillow of sentimental tenderness, yet when their charity is tried, their exquisite sensations vanish in a moment, and benevolence is only a pretty word, that begins in fancy and ends in sound !
Our Author's aversion to those sentimental beings, leads him to renew his satire on them, in his second lecture on Modesty ; in which, after drawing an admirable and truly characteristic picture of vanity, he observes, that when religion had credit enough to serve as a cloke to infirmities and vices, the vain man was always religious, and covered his pretences with it. But now, an undefinable and unintelligible matter called SentiMENT, is the substitute. All that we know of what is commonly called Sentiment, is, that it supplies the place of wisdom and virtue ; and is a rule of life which every man and woman keeps in some elegant receis of the mind; that it vibrates like a mulical instrument, and all the events of life play upon it: but being totally different in different persons, it admits of that wonderful mixture of wisdom and folly, virtue and vice, which we see around us. There is no virtue refined enough for its regard: and no vice which it will not admit of. In short, by letting aside the use of investigation, reason, education, habit, and reflection,-Sentiment becomes the very principle of profigacy; and, by its ineffable and supernatural emotions, renders the mind abandoned and worthlels.
Here therefore, if any where, vanity must have a chance of success. As sentimental virtues exist only in tales, letters, and conversation, where the imagination is at liberty to invent, and no more judgment is requisite than to preserve probability, one would think a vain man, who is essentially a liar, must find bis account in this sentimental commerce. He does so as to impose longer upon men in this way than in any other. The