Imatges de pàgina
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Still, however, no small part of these imputations must be restricted to the earlier years of Dr. Watson's professorship: for an acute man, without much formal study, yet constantly exercised in theological disputations, cannot but acquire theological knowledge; and happy would it have been for the University could it have longer enjoyed his more mature and better digested lucubrations ! happy for the state and the church had he never been drawn forth ex unbrâ academi into the light and sunshine of political life! But in the year 1782, a minister was at the helm, whose prejudices would have permitted bim to bestow mitres on Priestley and Price, had not their own honesty 'kept them back from honour.' At no great distance from them, however, in religious and political principles, was a man educated in the bosom of the church, yet, by his own confession, indifferent to its interests; ready on every occasion of advancement to subscribe to a body of Articles which he professed to despise ; prepared, in the last place, and for the same end, to undertake the office of imposing the same subscription upon others, while he publicly avowed that such imposition was an unwarrantable restriction upon the consciences of men.

By this minister, himself, so far as he was a Christian at all, a dissenter and a patron of dissenters, whenever it was in his power to employ them, was our author appointed bishop of Landaff

. The appointment was in this respect consistent and judicious; for the minister lenew his man, who, if he had no prejudice against, had certainly no predilection for the church of England, but, according to his own account, a sincere regard for the church of Christ. We have read of one who refused to be made a citizen of Athens because he was already a citizen of the world. Not so our liberal and catholic professor. He was willing to accept an office of high trust and bonour in a society to which he felt himself indifferent at best, never reflecting that by the very fact of his appointment that society acquired an exclusive right to his active and zealous services in her cause. There is something however in his own account of the matter, which coming as it does from a vehement declaimer against ministerial cabals and political management in the disposal of high preferments, is more grossly revolting than any thing that we have ever met with in the most unblushing apologies for this species of unballowed influence. The spiritual nature of the office itself, the solemn obligations which it imposes, and all expression of difficulty and doubt in the aspirant's mind as to his fitness for undertaking such a task, sentiments which, though often pretended, ought always to be felt on such solemn occasions, are as completely forgotten as if the former had no existence and the latter were neither fitting nor seemly. « On the 12th of the same month the Duke of Rutland wrote to me, that he had determined to support Lord Shelburne's administration, as he had received the most positive assurances that the independence of America was to be acknowledged. He further told m.e that the bishopric of Landaff, he had reason to believe, would be disposed of in my favour, if he asked it, and desired to know whether, if the offer should be made, I would accept it. I returned for answer, that I conceived there could be no dishonour in my accepting a bishopric from an administration which he had previously determined to support. In this manner did I acquire a bishopric. But I had no great reason to be proud of the promotion ; for I think I owed it not to any regard which he who gave it me had to the zeal and industry with which I had for many years discharged the functions of an academic life; but to the opinion wbich from my sermon he had erroneously entertained that I was a warm and might become an useful partizan.'

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In this opinion of the motives and conduct of his patron the bishop of Landaff was certainly right, and to his honour be it spoken, that he took the tirst opportunity of undeceiving him; for when in the confidence of unlimited compliance from a sense of recent obligations, this minister disclosed to the new prelate his favourite plan of pillaging the church and converting it into a pensionary establishment, to his intinite disappointment he found that he had to encounter reasons which he could not answer and scruples which he could not overcome. Another instance occurs from which it may be inferred that he would have pursued as independent a course with respect to the ministry which advanced him as he did towards those who prevented his further promotion; and the consequence in all probab:lity would have been, that had his own friends continued in office, demands refused and expectations disappointed would have kept him, if not at Landaff, yet beneath the highest honours or emoluments of his profession.

It is one of the many singularities which entered into the strangely compounded understanding of Bishop Watson, that he should not have foreseen to what consequences a conduct like his own in the present state of human nature necessarily tended. No being but the Searcher of hearts can discover in what exact proportions this eccentric and uncomplying temper was mixed up of native honesty and stubborn independence on the one hand, or of pride, obstinacy and disappointment on the other. In his own eyes and in those of his enemies no such mixture existed; he was in one unblended mass, either the most upright or the most perverse and wayward of mankind. But knowledge of mankind might have taught him that a conduct like his own when fairly tried and developed is precisely that which forfeits the esteem of all parties, and which no patron will ever reward.

It is one of the most difficult problems in all casuistry, to determine what sacrifices of feeling or opinion, in the combinations of

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religious or political society, are compatible with perfect sincerity of heart, and how far it is required of persons placed in situations of trust and power to contract their regards and their exertions to the views of that particular association by which they have been entrusted. With respect to the first; if, in matters of trilling moment, no private wish, no individual opinion is to be sacrificed to the interests of the society to which we belong, no society can exist; if every thing is to be given up for that purpose, the rights of conscience are at an end, and unprincipled selfishness will swallow up every dignified and every independent feeling of the heart. With respect to the second; it is obvious that in no instance whatever are we permitted to oppress, or in any way do wrong to societies to which we do not belong, iu order to serve the individual interests of that to which we do belong. But this is all.—To withhold positive assistance; to discountenance accessions of power or numbers to rival associations, and not to hold ourselves indifferent, provided that the general interests of religion or of literature be promoted, by whom they are promoted—these are imperious and pressing duties owing by every one who has accepted an office of power and trust towards the society to whom he is indebted for the office. It is the implied, and, in many instances, the express condition on which it is offered. Such, however, was not the conduct of Bishop. Watson. He was elevated, paid, entrusted by the Church of England; yet, overlooking her special claims on bis services, he deemed himself acquitted of all unfaithfulness to her interests, when, with avowed indifference to her as to a particular and national establishment, he expressed a regard to the universal church of Christ, and acted accordingly. In conformity with this principle, though be has no where told his readers of the fact, while resident in the University of Cambridge, he promoted a subscription for rebuilding the University of Edinburgh, alleging, in his large and liberal spirit, that if the interests of learning were promoted at all, it was of no importance to mankind whether they were promoted on this or that side of the Tweed. This was true as a general proposition; but he might have remembered that it was of importance to his own university, to which he was antecedently bound by every tie of fidelity and gratitude. However pernicious and however detestable bigotry may be, (and we are ready to stigmatize it as severely as our author, such universal laxity and indifference its opposites) are scarcely less prejudicial to the interests of mankind. There is much warm and generous feeling, after all, in local, in professional, in national, in academical prepossessions; all of which is annihilated by these wild and generalizing principles-the flame cools in proportion as it is diffused. Henceforward we must cease to contemplate the life and character of Dr. Watson with any mixture of satisfaction. We can look back with pleasure on the toils and attainments of his early academical life; the vigour and activity with which he discharged its most laborious offices, and even the high and independent spirit which he manifested on every occasion. Hitherto we can pardon the natural effects of success, almost unexampled, upon a spirit too elate and haughty; but we would, if our duty permitted, turn with disgust indeed, yet in disappointed silence, from the conduct and the teniper of his latter days, stimulated as he was by one step of ecclesiastical rank to an unappeasable ambition of more ; courting translations, now by mean application, and now by rude defiance; and lastly, pouring out the vials of his wrath, without measure and without mercy, on the real or supposed authors of his disappointment. To verify these facts must be our reluctant and painful task in the remainder of the present Article.

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Were we to transcribe every passage in which, in terms or by implication, the writer vaunts of his own candour and liberality of sentiment, when, in fact, he is merely defying something venerable in the church or respectable in the state, our labours would have no end but with the volume before us. We shall content ourselves, therefore, with extracting certain præconia, which few men, but the bishop of Landaff, would not have blushed to produce on their owu behalf.

• This doctrine' (it matters not what) · Mr. Fox had been taught, not only by Sydney and Locke, but by Sir George Savile and the late Earl of Chatham; and if these authorities would not suffice, he would refer the House to a sermon preached by Dr. Watson, the present bishop of Landaff-replete with manly sense and accurate reasoning.'

Again :— Ortus a quercu non a salice, I knew not how to bend my principles to the circumstances of the times. I could not adopt the versatility of sentiment which Lord Bacon, with more of worldly wisdom than of honour, recommends as necessary to a man occupied in the fabrication of his own fortune. Ingenia,” he says, gravia ac solennia, et mutare nescia, plus plerumque habent dignitatis quàm felicitatis." Of course, the disposition of Dr. Watson was, in his own conception, one of the gravia ac solennia et mutare nescia.- Once

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• My temper could never brook submission to the ordinary means of ingratiating myself with great men. I was determined to be advanced in my profession by force of desert, or not at all.'

On another occasion :- Amongst other complimentary letters, I received one from Dr. Keene, bishop of Ely, in which he expressed his wishes that I had formed my character solely upon the learning and ability (he was pleased to say) I possessed, and not on politics.' VOL. XVIII. NO, XXXV.

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His lordship thanked me, and said, “ He should be happy to have an opportunity of serving the public by serving me.”

Of the bishop's speech on the Regency Bill, he was told, that it was looked upon, by at least one side of the house, as the best which had been produced in either House of Parliament.' It was, indeed, clear, forcible, and argumentative. After this he was told by the regent, on being seized by a sudden resolution to retire from all public concerns, · No; you shall never retire: a man of your talents shall never be lost to the public.'--'When I sat down,' (after his speech on the union with Ireland,) the bishop of Rochester (Horsley) complimented me with saying, that he had never heard such a speech in the House of Lords, and should never hear such another;' to which the infatuated egotist subjoins, with great glee, a letter from Dr. Joseph Warton, in which he styles this same speech most eloquent, nervous, convincing, and unanswerable. — Obe jam satis est !

On the cold reception of his collection of Theological Tracts among his brethren, he says, “I was not at all mortified at this conduct of the two archbishops, for I had but a poor opinion of the theological knowledge of either of their graces.'

• I considered the acquisition of it (a bishopric) as no proof of personal merit, inasmuch as bishoprics are as often given to the flattering dependents, or to the unlearned younger branches of noble families, as to men of the greatest erudition; and I considered the possession of it as one great cause 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 translation, and polluting gospel humility by the pride of prelacy.'

This refers to his crude and impracticable plan, which, after all, was not originally his own, but Burnet's, for equalizing the bishoprics of England. This being accomplished,' (mark, gentle reader! mark what follows, and from whom,)“ 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 bis admonitions reclaim the reprobate ; and by the purity of bis life render religion amiable and interesting unto all.'

Dr. Watson, when this portentous instance of human inconsistency, or rather audacity, escaped him, was a richer man than his equalizing plan would have rendered the bishop of Landaff. He is now, to use an elegant and favourite word of his own, rotting in his grave, otherwise we should have presumed to ask, In more than twenty years, how many days has your lordship resided in your diocese'?- At the distance of two hundred miles, how have you directed and inspected the flock of Chrisť: ---By what'exbor

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