Imatges de pàgina

feet: she was a worthy sensible woman, and left him after three years to regret the loss of a rational companion.

· His attachment to religion was a principle imbibed from his earliest years, which continued steady and uniform through life. The body of Christians to whom he particularly united himself were the Independents, and his system of belief was that of the moderate Calvinifts. But though he seems early to have made up his mind as to the doctrines he thought beft founded, and the mode of worship he most approved, yet religion abstractedly considered, as the relation between man and his Maker, and the grand sup. port of morality, appears to have been the principal object of his regard. He was less solicitous about modes and opinions, than the internal spirit of piety and devotion; and in his estimate of different religious societies, the circumstances to which he principally attended, were their zeal and sincerity. As it is the nature of sects in general, to exhibit more earneftness in doctrine, and ftri&tness in discipline, than the establishment from which they disa sent, it is not to be wondered at that a person of Mr. Howard's disposition should regard the various denominations of sectaries with predilection, and attach himself to their moft diftinguished members. In London he seems chiefly to have joined the Baptist congregation in Wild-street, long under the ministry of the muchrespected Dt. Stennett. His connexions were, I believe, lealt with that class called the Rational Dissenters; yet he probably had not a more intimate friend in the world than Dr. Price, who always ranked among them. It was his constant practice to join in the service of the establishment when he had not the opportunity of attending a place of diffenting worship ; and though he was warmly attached to the interests of the party he espoused, yet he had that true spirit of catholicism, which led him to honour virtue and religion wherever he found them, and to regard the means. only as they were subservient to the end.'

Two years after the death of his first wife, he found a more suitable companion in miss Leeds, of Craxton in CambridgeThire; and his time was divided between his estate at Carding. ton, near Bedford, and Watcombe, in the New Forest, in the most active and useful benevolence to all around him. This. part of Mr. Howard's conduct leads Dr. Aikin to some reflections on the management of the lower ranks, who, at a certain period of improvement, may be intrusted, he thinks, with their own happiness, and become in their general conduct independent of their superiors, however judicious and beneficent the guidance may be. The reflections are incidental, and necd not draw us into a disquisition, which after all might be only a war of words. The meanest trade requires tuition ; and yet


the cultivation of the mind is to be neglected, and men sums moned to decide on intellectual subjects, while each of the mental faculties has neither been matured by experience, strengthened by exercise, or enlightened by instruction..

Mr. Howard's conduct, in the education of his son, has been the subject of much animadversion. 'He was guided by two principles : the one that the business of education commenced with the first dawn of the mental faculties; the other, that children, born with strong passions and delires, unregulated for a time by reason, were fit subjects of absolute authority, and the first lesson to be taught was unlimited obedience. The first was proper, but the latter evidently erroneous, since it tended to check the principle of reason, or prevent it from expanding. It is added, that the coercion was calm and gentle, but steady. The boy's mind, however, was naturally weak, or the coercion must have been violent, for Mr. Howard himself observed, that he believed his son would have put his finger into the fire if he commanded him.' This could be the result of no gentle means, but the apprehension of something which he had not experienced, or the dread of what he had felt. A weakness of mind, however, whether natural or the effect of an erroneous education, is not connected with madness; and no part of his system could have a tendency to bring it on : the whole was constitutional, and Mr. Howard had nothing to reproach himself on this account,

In 1756 Mr. Howard, in his way to Lisbon, was taken by a French privateer, and suffered all the indignities which these lawless miscreants often inflict, and for a time the distresses of a prisoner of war. This probably first led him to consider the subject; but the pasion only began to blaze in 1773, when he served the office of Theriff for the county. Since that period, his labours have been often the subject of our observations in different parts of this Journal; and Dr. Aikin gives a very judicious analysis of his different publications.

His death was occasioned by a fever highly malignant, which he supposed that he caught by visiting a young lady at Cherfon, in one of the worst Itages of it, when he found the effluvia highly offensive. Dr. Aikin scems to think that it was the effect of cold, as it only attacked him five days afterwards; it is probable, however, that the cold was the exciting cause, rouzing the dormant venom to activity by the temporary des pression of the vital powers. James's powder seems to have affifted its debilitating effects. We shall conclude this very judicious life of an excellent man by transcribing fome parts of Dr. Aikin's description of his person and delineation of his character.

: The • The first thing that fruck an observer on acquaintance with Mr. Howard, was a stamp of extraordinary vigour and energy on all his movements and expressions. An eye lively and penetrating, strong and prominent features, quick gait, and animated gestures, gave promise of ardour in forming, and vivacity in executing his designs. At no time of his life, I believe, was he without fome object of warm pursuit; and in every thing he pursued, he was indefatigable in aiming at perfection. Give him a hint of any thing he had left short, or any new acquisition to be made, and while you might suppose he was deliberating about it, you were surprised with finding it was done. Not Cæfar himself could better exemplify the poet's

• Nil actum credens, dum quid fupereffet agendum.' • I remember that, having accidentally remarked to him that amongft the London prisons he had omitted the Tower, he was so ftruck with the deficiency (though of trifling consequence, fiace confinement there is so rare), that at his very first leisure he ran to London, and supplied it. Nor was it only during a short period. of ardour that his exertions were thus awakened. He had the ftill rarer quality of being able, for any length of time, to bend all the powers and faculties of his mind to one point, unseduced by every allurement which curiosity or any other affection might throw in bis . way, and unsusceptible of that satiety and disgust which are lo apo to steal upon a protracted pursuit. Though by his early travels hc had fewn himself not indifferent to those obje&s of taste and information which strike the cultivated mind in a foreign country, yet in the cours expressly made for the purpose of examining prisons and hospitals, he appears to have had eyes and ears for nothing else; at least he suffered no other object to detain him or draw him afide. Impressed with the idea of the importance of his designs, and the uncertainty of human life, he was impatient to get as much done as possible within the allotted limits. And in this difpofition confifted that enthusiasm by which the public supposed him actuated; for otherwise, his cool and steady temper gave no idea of the cha.. racter usually diftinguished by that appellation. He followed his plans, indeed, with wonderful vigour and constancy, but by na mcans with that heat and eagerness, that infamed and exalted ima. gination, which denote the enthusiast. Hence, he was not liable to catch at partial representacions, to view facts through fallacious mediums, and to fall into those mistakes which are so frequentin the researches of the man of fancy and warm feeling. Some pero sons, who only knew:him by his extraordinary actions, were ready enough to bestow upon him that sneer of contempt, which men of cold hearts and selfish dispositions are so apr to apply to whatever has the few of high sensibility. While others, who had a light acquaintance with him, and faw'occasional features of phlegm,


and perhaps harshnefs, were disposed to question his feeling alto. gether, and to attribute his exertions either merely to a sense of duty, or to habit fand humour. But both these were erroneous conclusions. He felt as a man should feel ; but no: so as to mise lead him, either in the estimate he formed of objects of utility, or in his reasonings concerning the means by which they were to be brought into effect. The reformation of abuses, and the re. lief of misery, were the two great purposes which he kept in view in all his undertakings; and I have equally seen the tear of fenfibility start into his eyes on recalling some of the distressful scenes to which he had been witness, and the spirit of indignation Alalte from them on relating instances of baseness and oppression. Still, however, his constancy of mind and self-collection never deserted him. He was never agitated, never off his guard; and the unspeakable advantages of such a temper, in the scenes in which he engaged, need not be dwelt upon.'

Letters to the Members of the New Jerusalem Church, formed by

Baron Swedenborg. By Joseph Priestley, LL. D. F. R. S. 8vo. 15. 6d. fewed. Johnson. 1791. THE Address to the Methodists is followed by Letters to the 1 Followers of Emanuel Swedenborg; but they are not of the same conciliating cast. They are curious in their substance, as they contain a rational account of what has hitherto been obscured by mystics, or misrepresented by enthusiasts : they are interesting, as they show to what an extent the human mind can wander when employed on subjects not adapted to its powers, and in investigations which it can neither comprehend nor judge of.

The manuscript of these Letters suffered in the fatal riots of July, and they are now partly published from a corrected copy formerly taken, and in part recomposed. This subject, of course the nearest to his heart, and the loss, which, as authors and philosophers we can feel, is a little expatiated on. To Dr. Priestley it must be more severe, because his thcological works are certainly, in his own opinion, meritorious; calculated to ina form and enlighten mankind in a subject of the nearest concern. His instances and his arguments, however, relate to works of ingenuity and innocent amusement; but our author's are of a different kind, and their loss is confequently more important or more trifling according to the opinion formed of their nature and tendency. Some just reflections on the influence of the repeated allertions of a man not apparently infane, though the aftertions are highly improbable, on the want of concurrent teftimony, follow: a short account of Swedenborg, with a list of his works, conclude the preface. As the tenets of baron Sweder

borg borg may be new to many of our readers, we shall enlarge a little on the subject of these Letters.

Dr. Priestley endeavours to conciliate his fellow-christians by remarking, that they think nearly the same of the corruptions of Christianity, and particularly of the doctrine of the Trinity. Their idea of God is, however, a singular one: they suppose that he always existed in a human form; but, for the sake of the redemption of the world, he assumed a material body, though not a human soul. This redemption, they think, confifts in regulating the heavens, and subduing the evil spirits; it saves man, and preserves even the integrity of angels; and was effected by numerous trials and temptations, particu. larly the Passion of the Cross. Besides the divinity and hu. manity of God, therefore, they admit of the operation of them both in the Lord Jesus: their Trinity consequently commenced at the incarnation, and continued only through its period. The spiritual sense of the scriptures they consider as having been revealed to M. Swedenborg alone; and in man the affections and passions, they think, are the effects of good and bad angels, while temptation consists in their struggles. Thete is, besides, M. Swedenborg tells his disciples, an universal influx from God into the minds of men, particularly inspiring them with the belief of the divine unity, and this eux is compared to the light of the sun in the natural world. We must add the rest in Dr. Priestley's own words:

• There are, says M. Swedenborg, two worlds, the natural and the spiritual, entirely distinct, though perfectly corresponding to each other; that at death a man enters into the spiritual world, when his soul is clothed with a body which he terms fübftantial, in opposition to the present material body, which he says is never to rise out of the grave. “ After death (he says) that a man is so little changed, that he even does not know but he is living in the present world, that he eats and drinks, and cven enjoys conju. gal delight as in this world ; that the resemblance between the two worlds is so great, that in the spiritual world there are cities, with palaces and houses, and also writing and books, employments and merchandizes; that there is gold, silver, and precious stones there. In a word, he says, there is in the spiritual world all and every thing that there is in the natural world, but that in heaven such things are in an infinitely more perfect state." Universal Theology, No. 734. Into this fpiritual world, M. Swedenborg says, that he, though living in this, was admitted, so that he conversed with Luther, Melanchon, and many other persons, as well as with angels. • * You believe that the coming of Christ to judge the world, and to enter upon his kingdom, is not to be understood of a perCrit, Ruv, N. Ar. (IV.) Feb. 1792.


« AnteriorContinua »