Imatges de pàgina
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mere abecedarian in Hebrew, had in former times been considered as necessary accomplishments for a divinity professor; and the time was to come when with all his subterfuges and all his front, he was sometimes taught to feel that this radical deficieney could neither be supplied by mother-wit nor by subsequent acquirements. The period at which 'Watson appeared in the University of Cambridge may justly be regarded as the Augustan age of that university; the physics of Des Cartes had just before given place to the sublime geometry of Newton; the metaphysics of human nature, as taught by Locke, had supplanted Aristotle, and the old scholastie theology had been superseded in the schools by a set of rising and enlightened divines under a learned and candid professor. It was certainly to the advantage of the academical studies that the higher algebra was not yet invented, and that the study of philosophy in general was not hitherto pushed so far as either to engross or to exhaust the understanding of the academical youth. A due place was also allowed and required for classical pursuits, while the purest writers of antiquity were studied, not so inuch for the purpose of consummating the knowledge of points and metres, as of acquiring the noblest ideas of morals and politics in the clearest and most elegant language. Precisely at this period arose a constellation of young men eminently qualified both by the force of their understandings and by the elegance of their taste, to avail themselves of these, advantages, and the names of Hurd and Powell, of Balguy and Ogden, are never heard by those who knew them or know their books, without the associated ideas of all that is clear in ratiocination, profound in research, and beautiful in language. As they disappeared from the scene, abstract mathematics began to prevail in the University, the equilibrium of study was destroyed, the liberal and manly system of education which had produced so many men of business and of the world, as well as of science, gradually disappeared; while the rewards which became necessary as stimuli to the higher acquirements of classical literature, tended to urge on the pursuits of difficult and recondite minutiæ in criticism, as inapplicable in one way to any practical purpose of life, as the obscurities of Waring's Miscellanea Analytica in another. The effects of this declension are but too visible at present in a hard, dry, exsuccous' style of writing, which has long since superseded, excepting in one or two solitary instances, the Attic graces of the Jast generation. At the period when this declension was taking place, the subject of this memoir began to be distinguished in Cambridge, arrogating every thing for his favourite mathematics, and looking down with insolent disdain on every elegant pursuit; yet, by an inconsistency apparent to every one but bimself, he was then aspiring to a chair occupied by a master of latinity and ancient literature, while the other regius professorships were filled

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by. Plumtree, who spoke the idiom of Terence, and by Halifax, who had transfusecl into his style the more flowing graces of Cicero. Another inpediment to any serious or systematic preparation for the theological chair was the habit of taking private pupils, which, however favourable to the present interests or future fortunes of the tutor, has, from its commencement, had a most pernicious effect upon the general learning of the University. But to the pursuit of this system the attractions are almost irresistible. Between the public tutor and the pupil there still continue some remains of distance and reserve, which prevent the formation of intimate friend ship; but in private tuition, the tutor has a fair chance of unit ing himself in the closest bands of attachment and familiarity witly some future statesman, or some wealthy patron, by whom he may expect to be placed in a situation of independence, if not of digni'cy. To such a connexion with Mr. Luther, our author himself was indebted for the basis of his fortune, well earned indeed by ma ny active exertions of the most zealous friendship.

But it is ol svious that under such a system the interests of literature must give way to private expectations. The tutor moves round and round, year by year, in the narrow circle of academical institution, ai id be whose time and attention are absorbed by teaching can riever learn. He leaves the University at forty with the attainments of twenty, and the intention of Fellowships, which was, to retain the most deserving young men in their several colleges, with full leisure and opportunity for study till they should be of standing for the higher degrees, is wholly defeated. This course it was ibat made all the learned men of the last two centuries; and it is the abandonment of this course, together with a tedium of all future exertion, frequently induced by the excessive application of the first three years of academical study to abstract science, which,, under the present narrow and exclusive system, leaves the grea ter part of fellow's of colleges at the point whence they ought to have set out, questionists for life.

Each of the: je remarks applies to the case of Mr. Watson, as a candidate for the theological chair. The professor of chemistry was only master of arts, and not of standing for the degree of doctor in divinity, when, to the infinite loss of the university, Dr. Rutherforth, the regius professor, died. This was a thunderstroke, and seems to have produced in the young and wholly unqualified expectant, with all the native arrogance of his temper, a momentary fit of diffidence. •I had,' says he, . for years determined in my own mind to endeavour to succeed Dr. Rutherforth, provided he lived till I was of proper age and fully qualified for the undertaking. His premature and unexpected death quite disheartened ne. I knew as much of divinity as could reasonably be expected from a man whose course of studies had been

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fully in other pursuits,' (that is just nothing at all,)" but with this curta supellex in theology, to take possession of the first theological chair in Europe seemed too daring an attempt even for my intrepidity. The case was indeed perfectly novel and unprecedented; for though, from the first professor Bucer, to Rutherforth the last, this chair may have been filled by some divines not distinguished for acumen or elegance, ignorance in their own science could be imputed to none; their erudition might be ponderous and dull, but erudition they had, and great erudition, the labour of many years preparatory study, directed almost exclusively to this single object. It would be a matter of little interest to the present generation to go back to the academical politics of 1771, and trace the sudden elevation

of him who with a meteor's fire Shot boldly furth, disdaining dull degrees,' to that very chair of which even he bad almost despaired: but some men in his situation might have felt that there was yet remaining some ground of alarm. Not so our intrepid professor. Looking at the backs of many weighty folios, be found that much had been written, and much had apparently been read w former times on the subject of theology. The public libraries apprized him that there existed a formidable array of fathers, councils, critics, commentators upon creeds and articles which had been supposed to belong to the non curta supellex of his profession. This was seriously distressing. But the new professor of theology had not forgotten his late occupations as a chemist. He threw the whole of these unwieldy articles into his alembic, and, by a process of his own, extracted for future use a simple and sublime quintessence, which would wholly supersede any necessity for the grosser materials. Let us hear his own intrepid account of this singular process. I reduced the study of divinity into as narrow a compass as I could, for I determined to study nothing but my Bible, being much unconcerned about the opinions of councils, fathers, churches, bishops, and other men as little inspired as myself. This mode of proceeding being opposite to the general one,' indeed it was, like himself, perfectly original,) and especially to that of the master of Peterhouse, who was a great reader, he used to call me autod@axtos, the selftaught divine. That very learned prelate, we doubt not, was secretly conscious how much more accurately his friend would have been defined by shortening the epithet.—But we proceed

• The professor of divinity had been nicknamed Malleus Hæreticorum: it was thought to be his duty to demolish every opinion which militated against what is called the orthodoxy of the Church of England.*

This brings to our recollection a couplet which our faithful and zealous friend of the church had probably forgotten when he wrote the sentence before us.

Ex cathedra at orthodoxy laugh,
And rise to Lambeth from decayed Landafi.'

Now

Now my mind was wholly unbiassed, and I had no prejudice against, no predilection for the Church of England,' (shame then upon bim for having accepted a station, which, almost above every other, bound him to watch over her interests,)' but a sincere regard for the Church of Christ, and an insuperable objection to every degree of dogmatical intolerance. I never troubled myself with answering any arguments which the opponents in the divinity schools brought against the articles of the church, nor ever admitted iheir authority as decisive of a difficulty ; but I used on such occasions to say to them, holding the New Testament in my hand, En codicem sacrum-here is the fountain of truth; why do you follow the streams derived from it by the sophistry or polluted by the errors of men? This mode of disputing gained me no credit with the hierarchy, but I thought it an honest one, and it produced a liberal spirit in the university.

So consistent indeed with every sense of duty and obligation was the conduct of our liberal professor in this respect, that he had fairly entitled himself to the inverted appellation of Malleus Orthodoxων. .

Such, however, was our professor's conception of the nature of his office, and such the narrow limits within which his discretion had led him to confine his theological inquiries. It must not, however, be dissembled, that he ascended the chair with many eminent qualifications for the duties of his difficult and distinguished function. The exercise of four years as moderator of the philosophical schools had rendered his faculty of speaking Latin perfectly easy ; by great assiduity the vices of his early education had been so far corrected, that a false quantity was never heard to escape him; all the tricks and shifts of school logic were familiar to his mind; in addition to which his acuteness and ingenuity were admirable. When pressed by a difficulty which could not be mastered, he knew the precise moment when his credit required him to extinguish it with a probes aliter. When a subject was referred to of which he knew nothing, he would scout it with contempt; and when a Scotch metaphysician was cited, he had on one occasion the grave effrontery to dispose of the whole fraternity and their opinions in the following words : -Scotos illos metaphysicos nunquam legi, neque legam; quid igitur dixerit nescio: dicam autem quod dixisse debuerit.' With all his professed contempt for the Fathers, the auditors were on another occasion somewhat startled by bearing him mouth out, 'Gregorius* Nazianzenus, quem semper in deliciis habui,' as if that pious and eloquent Father, of whom in fact he knew nothing, had been the object of his daily meditations! It turned out however on inquiry, that these deliciæ had been very lately excited; for having gone, as usual, on the very morning when the words were uttered by

It is remarkable that this identical expression was borrowed from the first line of Erasmus's dedication of Augustine's works to Fonseca, Archbishop of Toledo, 'Sextus Aurelius Augustinus, quem semper in deliciis haboi.

him, to extract matter from the learned prelate already referred to, he had lighted on the passage which sounded so plausibly. An admirable professor indeed he was for boys and strangers. His majestic and commanding tigure, his terrific countenance, his deep sonorous voice, the uninterrupted tenor of his sentences, which, though far from classical, were never barbarous or solæcistic, and, above all, the boldness and originality of his sentiments seldom left the under graduates' places unoccupied in the theological school. But (alas ! for pomp and pretence !) he had sometimes an auditor or two of another stamp-some petulanti splene cachinno, who came to spy out the barrenness of the land, and bring back to the evening party a few precious fragments of sounding inanity or dexterous sophistry. To such as these it was sport to see how the grave professor would glide over the surface of his subject with every appearance of profundity, or when pinned, as his opponent hoped, into a corner, would wind himself out with all the lubricity of an eel.—Still, he had a large mind; he endured, he encouraged, he delighted in the opposition of able men; he never flinched from the strokes of those who had more information than himself, secure in the consciousness of his own ability to encounter learning by invention. The same tolerance of contradiction, the same dexterity in parrying attacks be brought with him iuto private conversation, which rendered him, when the poison of politics did not operate on his constitution, a most agreeable and amusing debater. In those happier hours, and they were not few, he would even smile at the pomp and magniticence of his own manner, and relax into all the playfulness and pleasautry which are alınost inseparable from real genius.

Among Dr. Watson's predecessors in the theological chair, it is certainly a very high compliment to the latter professor to say, that he most resembled Bentley. This great man, indeed, was a very accurate Hebraist, a master of the purest and most classical style of latinity, and, in general, orthodox io his determinations; but, like Watson, he was rough and bold, and, like him too, by a prejudice unworthy of a great critic in ancient learning, he contemned the Fathers. For this he was well scourged by Thirlby, in a passage which is equally adapted to the late professor.

* Quid enim magis ridiculum aut fieri aut fingi potest, quàm homo Christianus, sacerdos, Theologiæ Professor, omnibus “Philosophiæ studiis” initiatus, in suis peregrinus atque hospes ? Chysostomum, Au. gustinum, Gregorios, Basilios, Origenem, Athenagoram, Iræneum, Justinum, Ignatium, ne nomine quidem novit. - Nibil ille de Manichæis, nihil de Gnosticis, nihil de alia quavis antiquâ hæresi Christianorum neque scit neque scire curat ; neque talibus ineptiis acumen unquam admovit suum.'*

Thirlbeii Dedicatio Apologiarum Justini Martyris.

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