« AnteriorContinuar »
who do not think with me, upon this of all others the most important subject. I beg your pardon, for this declaration of my belief: But my temper is naturally open; and it ought, assuredly, to be without disguise to a man whom I wish no longer to look upon as an antago nist, but a friend.-I am, &c. R. WATSON.
Upon the folly of those who think an infidel cannot be sincerely or effectually opposed, without the language of invective and abhorrence, we need hardly make any comment. If the infidel is sincere, he is indeed an object of the deepest compassion, for he has sacrificed to his reason the most delightful and permanent gratification of his hopes; but surely anger is the last feeling that he ought to excite in a true Christian's mind. To attack by ribaldry, or with virulence, or before the multitude, what millions of our fellow creatures believe and hold sacred, as well as dear, is, beyond all question, a serious offence ;-and the law punishes it as such. But to investigate religious questions as philosophers, calmly and seriously, with the anxiety which their high importance and the diffidence which their intricacy prescribes, is not only allowable but meritorious; and if the conscientious inquirer is led by the light of his understanding to a conclusion differing from that of the community, he may still, we should think in many cases, promulgate it to the philosophical world: the cause of religion will only gain by the free discussion of the question, and the unfettered publication of the result. To affect infidelity, and espouse its cause insincerely, for spiteful, or factious, or immoral purposes, is a grave crime; but not much worse than theirs who affect religion to serve similar ends. Charity is as much the duty of the one side as of the other, towards honest adversaries; but surely, if it is incumbent in a peculiar manner on either, it is upon those who defend and profess the gospel of peace and universal good-will. Does any sober-minded man now think that Christianity gained more by the furious intolerance, the repulsive dogmatism, of Warburton and Priestley, than by the truly benevolent and liberal manner of discussion adopted by Watson and Paley; or that the base and foul-mouthed followers of the former, who in our times run down Watson as insincere, because he was moderate, are better friends to the cause they affect for interested purposes to have so much at heart, than the venerable Bishop Bathurst, and the other ornaments of the Church, whose exemplary spirit of tolerance bears a true and natural proportion to their profound learning, and pure unaffected piety?
We have already seen several instances of Mr Pitt's coincidence with the worst of the errors which we have been exposing. In this, as in all other matters where the loss of power
was involved, it is melancholy to see how prone he was to bend before the Court, and how unwillingly he ever could be induced to risk a contest with the immediate dispensers of place. At first he stood on higher ground, and obtained his office through the voice of the country, the ultimate and substantial dispenser of power. But soon the scene changed, and we never find him hazarding any quarrel with the Crown,-or with those whom his father described as behind the Throne, and greater than itself. Other traits of this disposition are to be found in the work before us.
About a month before the death of the bishop of Carlisle, a relation of Sir James Lowther had preached the Commencement-sermon at Cambridge. Mr Pitt happened to sit next to me at church, and asked me the name of the preacher, not much approving his performance. I told him, report said that he was to be the future Bishop of Carlisle; and I begged him to have some respect to the dignity of the Bench whenever a vacancy happened. He assured me that he knew nothing of any such arrangement. Within two months after this, Sir James Lowther applied to Mr Pitt for the bishoprick of Carlisle for the gentleman whom he had heard preach, and Mr Pitt, without the least hesitation, promised it. This was one of the many transactions that gave me an unfavourable opinion of Mr Pitt; saw that he was ready to sacrifice things the most sacred to the furtherance of his ambition. The gentleman, much to his honour, declined the acceptance of the bishoprick, which Mr Pitt, with true ministerial policy, had offered him.' p. 189.
His conduct towards our author was of a piece with this. He entertained no distrust of Dr Watson's principles; he knew his sincerity, and the soundness of his theology never gave him a moment's disquiet. Yet his most partial friends cannot avoid openly blaming him for yielding his reason to the prejudices of others, and making himself the tool whereby those unjust prepossessions worked against a man whom he admired. Mr Wilberforce thus mentions it in a letter to Dr Watson, upon one of the many occasions of his being overlooked. "I was in "hopes of ere now being able to congratulate Your Lordship on "a change of situation, which in public justice ought to have taken place. It is a subject of painful reflection to me, and I will "say no more on it; but as I am writing to Your Lordship you "will excuse my saying thus much. I will only add, that the " event at once surprised and vexed me." Lord Camden's opinion upon the same subject, is thus cited by a near relation of his own. "What I think of your public merits can be of
no consequence to you; but what Lord Camden thought (in "which I perfectly coincided with him) would perhaps gratify "you to know. He never changed; but always told Pitt, that
"it was a shame for him and the Church that you had not the "most exalted station upon the bench, as due to the unrivalled "superiority of your talents and services. "
Dr Watson's views of Church preferment, and of the proper measures to be taken for securing at once the dignity, independence and purity of the establishment, are frequently given in this volume, and they form an appropriate sequel to the remarks which we have just felt compelled to make.
My temper could never brook submission to the ordinary means of ingratiating myself with great men; and hence Dr Hallifax, (afterwards Bishop of St Asaph), whose temper was different, called me one of the Barai; and he was right enough in the denomination. I was determined to be advanced in my profession by force of desert, or not at all. It has been said, (I believe by D'Alembert), that the highest offices in church and state, resemble a pyramid, whose top is accessible to only two sorts of animals, eagles and reptiles. My pinions were not strong enough to pounce upon its top, and I scorned, by creeping, to ascend its summit. Not that a bishoprick was then or ever an object of my ambition; for I considered the acquisition of it as no proof of personal merit, inasmuch as bishopricks are as often given to the flattering dependants, or to the unlearned younger branches of noble families, as to men of the greatest erudition; and I considered the profession of it as a frequent occasion of personal demerit; for I saw the generality of the Bishops bartering their independence and the dignity of their order for the chance of a transla tion, and polluting Gospel-humility by the pride of prelacy. I used then to say, and I say so still, render the office of a bishop respect. able by giving some civil distinction to its possessor, in order that his example may have more weight with both the laity and clergy. Annex to each bishoprick some portion of the royal ecclesiastical patronage which is now prostituted by the Chancellor and the Minister of the day to the purpose of parliamentary corruption, that every Bishop may have means sufficient to reward all the deserving clergy of his diocese.
Give every Bishop income enough, not for display of wordly pomp and fashionable luxury, but to enable him to maintain works of charity, and to make a decent provision for his family; but having done these things for him, take from him all hopes of a translation by equalizing the bishopricks. Oblige him to a longer residence in his diocese than is usually practised, that he may do the proper work of a Bishop; that he may direct and inspect the flock of Christ; that by his exhortations he may confirm the unstable,-by his admonitions reclaim the reprobate, and by the purity of his life render religion amiable and interesting to all. p-71, 72.
Upon Lord Shelburne's accession to office in 1782, he cultivated our author's friendship with the assiduity which he showed in attaching eminently gifted men to him, whether in politi
cal or scientific pursuits. He said, that having Dunning to assist him in matters of law, and Barrè in military questions, he desired to have Dr Watson as his clerical monitor. How far his honest and liberal views of Church affairs qualified him to fill this important office, the following paper may prove, which he gave in to the minister, almost immediately after his promotion to the see of Landaff-offering at the same time to introduce a bill founded on the same principles into the House of Lords.
"There are several circumstances respecting the Doctrine, the Jurisdiction, and the Revenue of the Church of England, which would probably admit a temperate reform. If it should be thought right to attempt making a change in any of them, it seems most expedient to begin with the revenue.
"The two following hints on that subject may not be undeserving Your Lordship's consideration:- First, a bill to render the bishoprics more equal to each other, both with respect to income and patronage; by annexing, as the richer bishoprics become vacant, a part of their revenues, and a part of their patronage, to the poorer. By a bill of this kind, the bishops would be freed from the necessity of holding ecclesiastical preferments in commendam,-a practice which bears hard on the rights of the inferior clergy. Another probable consequence of such a bill would be, a longer residence of the bishops in their several dioceses; from which the best consequences, both to religion, the morality of the people, and to the true credit of the Church, might be expected; for the two great inducements, to wish for translations, and consequently to reside in London, namely, superiority of income, and excellency of patronage, would in a great measure be removed.
"Second, a biil for appropriating, as they become vacant, an half, or a third part, of the income of every deanery, prebend, or canonry, of the churches of Westminster, Windsor, Canterbury, Christ Church, Worcester, Durham, Ely, Norwich, &c. to the same purposes, mutatis mutandis, as the first fruits and tenths were appropriated by Queen Anne. By a bill of this kind, a decent provision would be made for the inferior clergy, in a third or fourth part of the time which Queen Anne's bounty alone will require to effect. A decent provision being once made for every officiating minister in the Church, the residence of the clergy on their cures might more reasonably be required, than it can be at present, and the license of holding more livings than one, be restricted. p. 96, 97.
During the interval' (he says afterwards) between Lord Shelburne's resignation and the appointment of the Duke of Portland to the head of the Treasury, I published my Letter to the. Archbishop of Canterbury. I sent a copy to every Bishop; and, of them all, the Bishop of Chester alone (Porteus) had the good manners so much as to acknowledge the receipt of it. I had foreseen this timidity of the
bench, and I had foreseen also that he must be a great-minded minister indeed, who would bring forward a measure depriving him of his parliamentary influence over the spiritual lords: but I believed that what was right would take place at last, and I thought that, by publishing the plan, it would stand a chance of being thoroughly discussed. Men's prejudices, I was sensible, could only be lessened by degrees; and I was firmly of opinion that no change ought ever to be made in quiet times, till the utility of the change was generally acknowledged.
Mr Cumberland published a pamphlet against me on this occasion; but he knew nothing of the subject, and misrepresented my design. He laid himself so open in every page of his performance, that, could I have condescended to answer him, I should have made him sick of writing pamphlets for the rest of his life. Some other things were published by silly people, who would needs suppose that I was in heart a republican, and meant harm to the Church establishment. Dr Cooke, Provost of King's College, was one of those few who saw the business in its proper light: he thanked me for having strengthened the Church for at least, he said, an hundred years by my proposal.' p. 107, 108.
Nor was it only to secure the independence of the Episcopal bench, and thereby promote the political purity of the Church at large, that his efforts were directed. He was anxious to restore the doctrinal purity of the national faith, or at least of those observances in which it is embodied. A tract had been published by the Duke of Grafton, a most sincere christian, and pious man, to whose publick character infinite injustice has been done, by the sarcastic virulence of Junius, but who deserves the high praise of having been a warm friend of civil and religious liberty, and enjoyed the useful and enviable distinction of transmitting the same principles unimpaired to his family. In this work, his Grace earnestly recommended a revisal of the Liturgy. He was, of course, bitterly attacked by bigots and hypocrites. Our author wrote a pamphlet in his de fence, but so liberal, that the Duke most candidly and kindly begged him not to publish it, saying, he never would be forgiven for it. The Bishop, with his accustomed honesty and boldness, after thanking his friend for this considerate advice, declared, that no view of interest could deter him from doing his duty. How' (said he) shall I answer this at the tribunal of Christ? You saw the corruption of my church-you had some ability to attempt a reform; but secular considerations checked your integrity. Accordingly, the pamphlet was published, under the title of Considerations on the expediency of revising the Liturgy and Articles of the Church of EngVOL. XXX. NO. 59.