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Medical Reviews pronounce "beyond all comparison the best of the kind in the English language," and its author "one who could devour whole libraries."
Such were the perpetual occupations of this eminent man, literary and professional, and such the splendid acquirements which he gained by his genius and industry, even amid a larger share of perplexities and disappointments than have served to damp the energies of many who might otherwise have shone as stars of the first magnitude. Thus illustrating his claims to true merit, which, according to Oliver Goldsmith, "consists, not in a man's never falling, but in rising as often as he falls."
So great a variety of occupations would have thrown most men into confusion; but such was the energy of Dr. Good's mind, such his habits of order and activity, that he carried them all forward simultaneously, and suffered none to be neglected, or inadequately executed. Indeed, his practical maxim was akin to that of another eminent individual of indefatigable application, the late Dr. E. D. Clarke, who said, "I have lived to know the great secret of human happiness is this,—never suffer your energies to stagnate. The old adage of 'too many irons in the fire' conveys an abominable lie. You cannot have too many; poker, tongs, and all—keep them all going."
Hence we find him at one and the same time engaged in acquiring several distinct languages; translating largely from others; editing and sustaining Reviews; contributing to other periodicals on various and distinct branches of polite literature; preparing for the press original works; enriching his commonplace book with "elegant extracts," the result of his immense reading, besides daily performing the arduous duties of a general practitioner, to an extent of which many would have complained, though they had no other occupations; and which thousands make a sufficient apology for neglecting to read even the professional improvements of their own time. The great secret of his distinguished career was, in having adopted early in life Mr. Mason's "Rules for Students," as commended by the example of his father; that, for eminence and success in literary pursuits. " five things are necessary; viz. a proper distribution and management of his time; a right method of reading to advantage; the order and regulation of his studies; the proper way of collecting and preserving useful sentiments from books and conversation; and the improvement of his thoughts when alone."
In these five particulars it will be perceived that Dr. Good greatly excelled; and his eminence as a scholar, philosopher, linguist, and physician was, no doubt, the result of his perseverance in practising them, rather than of any extraordinary originality of genius, or splendid endowments of nature.
Among the rare excellences of the character of Dr. Good, and by no means the least interesting traits of his history, may be mentioned his extraordinary temperance, fortitude, humility, and devotion. Amid all the occupations of his professional life, and all his application to literary pursuits as a student and an author, he still found time and inclination to investigate the claims of Christianity; and, having become convinced of its truth and importance, practised upon its precepts with rigid scrupulousress, and was eventually led to embrace its doctrines and its spirit as the great ultimatum of human attainments. In the language of his biographer, he had " sought for intelligence at the Great Fountain of intellect, and had found Him whom to know is life eternal."
It is true, that in the former part of his life, Dr. Good was led into many errors of opinion, which he found reason to recant; and he afterward deprecated the errors in practice resulting from those opinions. But although, at that time, the ranks of infidelity were most numerously, and, we may add, ably occupied, and by many of his literary associates; yet he could never altogether overcome the principles impressed upon his mind by the early instructions of his father: and hence he was preserved from those fatal errors, which, if received into his mind at that time, would doubtless have led him into a labyrinth of metaphysical subtlety, from which he might never have extricated himself.
But he avoided these dangers to which by his early associations he was exposed; being protected by the impressions made on his mind under his paternal roof, in favour of the truth and authenticity of the sacred Scriptures; and he wrote an essay on the "Credibility of Revelation," which is still extant: but, it seems, he either wanted the opportunity, or perhaps the moral courage, to publish it, although it was admirably calculated to be useful, judging from the extracts furnished by his biographer.
Still, however much as he admired the general system of revelation, and ably as he could defend it, it would seem that he vacillated in his creed from one error to another, and wandered in the mazes of intellectual and moral obscurity, in full view of the Light which could alone illuminate his path. He acknowledged its existence, occasionally glanced towards it, which only served to make his "darkness visible;" yet still he sought not for tranquillity and peace by implicitly yielding to its influence. In an essay "On Happiness," written about this time, he reasons himself very elaborately into the persuasion that there is an intimate connexion "between morals and natural philosophy;" that "the same spark that shoots through the mind the rays of science and information, diffuses through the heart the softer energies of nature," and he thus exhibits the final issue of this momentous inquiry:
"From such considerations as these, then, it results, that he is pursuing the most probable path to human felicity, who, blessed by nature with a soul moderately alive to the social affections, and an understanding that elevates him above the prejudices and passions of the ignorant, cultivates with a sedulous attention the one that he may best enjoy the capacities of the other."
With these views of the nature of happiness and the best method of securing it, he was led to the avowal of the system of Materialism, and that of the Universalists, with respect to future punishment; and becoming associated with a number of gentlemen who professed their belief in the doctrines of modern Socinianism, he soon acquired a kindred spirit, and on his removal to London, in 1793, he joined the congregation of Mr. Belsham, a distinguished minister of that persuasion in the metropolis, where he constantly attended worship until the year 1807.
During the fourteen years he was thus connected with this Socinian congregation, his religious belief'was in nowise settled; and by his early familiarity with the truth, he was preserved to a great extent from the worst tendencies of this system. Hence, says his biographer, " He was too learned and too honest ever to affirm that the belief of the Divinity and atonement of our Lord was unknown in the purest ages of the church, but was engendered among other corruptions by false philosophy; and he had uniformly too great a regard for the scriptures of the New Testament, to assert that the apostles indulged in far-fetched reasoning, or made use of a Greek word ((lovoycwis) which conveyed an erroneous notion, from want of knowledge of the term they ought to have employed: he never contended that St. Paul did not mean to teach the doctrine of the resurrection of the body in the fifteenth chapter of the first epistle to the Corinthians; never sported the pernicious sophism that 'where mystery begins religion ends.' Being * buried alive' in occupations, and immersed in vexations of no ordinary occurrence, he did not commune frequently with his own heart, and too naturally sunk into a lamentable indifference to religion, at least, if that word correctly imply 'converse with God;' but he never evinced indifference to truth and rectitude, nor ever, I believe, became involved in the more awful perplexities of skepticism.
"Indeed, the Bible was always with him a favourite book; though for many years, it is to be feared, he turned to it rather as a source of literary amusement, or of critical speculation, than for any higher purposes. After his death there was found an interleaved Pocket Bible, bound in two volumes, in which he often entered notes and observations. This interesting relic is now in my possession. The annotations are very numerous, and, by the variations in the handwriting and the appearance of the ink, mark with sufficient accuracy the dates of their insertion, from 1790, when they were commenced, until about 1824, when he found the type in which the Bible is printed too small for him to continue reading it with comfort. These notes present decisive proofs of the nature of his sentiments in different periods of his life; and in some cases mark his solicitude in later age to correct the errors of the season of speculation and thoughtlessness." Although he had become bewildered by adopting erroneous sentiments, yet he never entirely lost his love of truth; and hence the forced and unnatural criticisms in which his theological friends indulged, and the skeptical spirit which some of them manifested, by shocking his uprightness, contributed to his ultimate emancipation.
After contending against the conflict within him for fourteen years, the preaching at the Socinian chapel at length gave him serious pain; and language from the pulpit, which Dr. Good regarded as equivalent to the recommendation of skepticism, led to the following correspondence.
"To The Reverend .
"Caroline Place, Jan. 26th, 1807.
"Dear Sir, "It is with much regret I feel myself compelled to discontinue my
attendance at the chapel in , and to break off my connexion with
a society with which I have cordially associated for nearly fourteen years
-1 sincerely respect your talents, and the indefatigable attention you haw paid to Biblical and theological subjects: I have the fullest conviction of your sincerity and desire to promote what you believe to be the great cause of truth and Christianity; but I feel severely that our minds are not constituted alike; and being totally incapable of entering into that spirit of skepticism which you deem it your duty to inculcate from the pulpit, I should be guilty of hypocrisy if I were any longer to countenance, by a personal attendance on your ministry, a system which (even admitting it to be right in itself) is, at least, repugnant to my own heart, and my own understanding.
"Without adverting to subjects which have hurt me on former occasions, I now directly allude to various opinions delivered in your very elaborate and, in many respects, excellent sermon of Sunday last; and especially to the assertion that it is impossible to demonstrate the existence and attributes of a God j that all who have attempted such demonstrations have only involved themselves in perplexity; and that though a Christian may see enough to satisfy himself upon the subject, from a survey of the works of nature, he never can prove to himself the being and attributes of a God, clearly and free from all doubt.
"I mean merely to repeat what I understood to be the general sense of the proposition; and not to contend that my memory has furnished me with your own words. And here permit me to observe, that I have been so long taught a different creed, not only from the reasonings of St. Paul, Rom. i. 20, and elsewhere, but from many of the best theologians and philosophers of our own country, from Sir I. Newton, Clarke, Barrow, and Locke, that I cannot, without pain, hear what appears to me a principle irrefragably established, treated with skepticism, and especially with such skepticism circulated from a Christian pulpit.
"I have thus, privately, unbosomed my motives to you, because, both as a minister and as a gentleman, you are entitled to them; and because I should be sorry to be thought to have acted without motives, and even without sufficient motives. My esteem and best wishes, however, you will always possess, notwithstanding my secession from the chapel; for I am persuaded of the integrity of your efforts. I am obliged to you for every attention you have shown me, and shall, at all times, be happy to return you any service in my power.
"I remain, Dear Sir,
"To Johs Mason Good, Esq. Caroline Place.
", Jan. 27th, 1807.
"I am obliged to you for your polite communication of your intention to withdraw frorh ■■ chapel, and of your motives for that deter
mination. Having myself exercised to so great an extent the right of private judgment, I would be the last person to object to the exercise of that right in others.
"I cannot, however, help considering myself as peculiarly unfortunate, that after all the pains which I have taken to establish the truth of the Christian revelation, I should, in the estimation of an intelligent and, I would hope, not uncandid hearer, lie open to the charge of inculcating from the pulpit a spirit of skepticism, and that the allusion which I made on Sunday last to the unsatisfactory nature of the exploded d priori demonstration of the Divine existence, should have been understood as a declaration of a deficiency in the proper evidence of the being and attributes of God.
"1 certainly would not myself attend the ministry of a preacher who was skeptical either in regard to the Divine existence, or the truth of the Christian revelation. I must, therefore, completely justify you in withdrawing from my ministry while you entertain your present views. I can only regret, that I have expressed myself inadvertently in a manner so liable to be misunderstood; and sincerely wishing you health and happiness,
"I am, Dear Sir,
"Your obedient servant,
"To The Reverend *
"Caroline Place, Jan. 29th, 1807.
"I am obliged to you for your letter, and add only a word or two, in explanation of a single phrase which you seem to regard as uncandid. The term skepticism I have not used opprobriously, but in the very sense in which you yourself seem to have applied it, in the discourse in question, to the apostle Thomas, by asserting, upon his refusal to admit the evidence of his fellow-disciples, as to our Saviour's resurrection, that 'it is possible, perhaps, that the skepticism of Thomas may, in this instance, have been carried a little too far.'
"I quote your idea, and, I believe, your words. And here, without adverting to other expressions of a similar nature, suffer me to close with asking you, whether 1 can legitimately draw any other conclusion from such a proposition, than that a skepticism, in some small degree short of that manifested by St. Thomas, is, in the opinion of him who advances that proposition, not only justifiable, but an act of duty? and that, to a certain extent, he means to inculcate the spirit or disposition on which it is founded?
"It only remains that I repeat my sincere wishes for your happiness, and that I am,
« Dear Sir,
"Your obedient servant,
"John Mason Goon."
To this letter Mr. Good received no reply.
Soon after, he surrendered all the characteristics of the Socinian creed, and became a constant attendant upon Divine worship at Temple church; and in a few years afterward, he wrote another essay "On Happiness," differing very widely from that to which reference has been made in a former part of this memoir, and furnishing a happy commentary on the advantages he had derived from the evangelical reformation in his creed. It was not, nowever, until 1815, that Dr. Good distinctly communicated to his friends his cordial persuasion, that the evangelical representation of the doctrines