Page images

learning. Because sometimes a man is called a learned man, who after a course of several years hard study, can tell you within a trifle, how many degrees of the non-entity of nothing must be annihilated, before it comes to be something. See King's Origin of Evil, ch. iii. p. 129, with the note. That such kind of learning as that book is filled with, and the present age is much given to admire, has done no service to the cause of truth, but on the contrary, that it has done infinite disservice, and almost reduced us from the unity of Christian faith to the wrangling of philosophic scepticism, is the opinion of many besides ourselves, and too surely founded on fatal experience.”—“ As to those who are engaged in the study of useful Arts and Sciences, Languages, History, Antiquities, Physics, &c. &c. with a view to make them handmaids to divine knowledge; we honour their employment, we desire to emulate their industry, and most sincerely wish them good luck in the name of the Lord.” The Metaphysical System alluded to above was a book in great request at Cambridge between the years 1740 and 1750; and was extolled by some young men who studied it as a grand repository of human wisdom. The notes were written by Dr. Edmund Law, afterwards Bishop of Carlisle. Having heard so high a character of it, I once sat down to read it, with a prejudice in its favour. I afterwards shewed it Mr. Horne: and, when he had considered it, we could not but lament in secret, what he at length complained of in public, that a work so unfounded and so unprofitable should have engaged the attention, and excited the admiration, of scholars, intended for the preaching of the Gospel. The account here given of it has some

thing of the caricature; but the leading principle of the book is in substance as the apologist has described it.

Whoever the author of the pamphlet was, he seems to have entered upon his work with a persuasion, that the gentlemen of Oxford, to whom he gives the name of Hutchinsonians, were in such disesteem with the world, so little known by some, and so much disliked by others, that any bold attack upon their characters would be sufficient to run them down: and imagining that his book must have that effect, he foretels them how they must submit, in consequence of it, to “descend and sink into the deepest humiliation," &c. This is not criticism, but unmerciful outrage; and the author has so much of it, that the apologist, having collected it together, concludes with a very pathetic remonstrance: “These, sir, are hard speeches against men, of whom, their enemies themselves being judges, must own that they are sound in the faith, steady to the Church, and regular in their duties—Upon an impartial survey of all that has been said or written against us-I must declare, that neither against the law, neither against the temple, neither against Cæsar, is it proved that we have offended any thing at all,&c. &c.

The reader may perhaps observe upon what I have presented to him, and he would see it more plainly, if he were to read the whole book, as I would advise him to do, that the dispute relates chiefly to the foundations of religion. Of Mr. Hutchinson we hear but little ; his name was the match that gave fire to the train: but the question seems really to have been this; whether Christianity, in the truth and spirit of it, ought to be preserved; or whether a spiritless thing called by the name of Christianity, would answer the purpose

better: in other words, whether the religion of Man's Philosophy, orthe religion of God's Revelation, should prevail. If this was the question, a more important one was never agitated since the beginning of the Reformation; and every true Christian hath an interest in the issue of it. The temper with which Mr. Horne conducted himself, though under very great provocation, is very much to be admired. There never was a piece of invective more and completely taken down than in the Apology; the matter of it is both instructive and curious : several points of divinity, more than my short abstract would admit, are truly and clearly stated : and as to the characters of the writer himself and his friends, we see the crimes of which they were accused, and the defence they were able to make; of which defence those persons could form no judgment, who had taken their opinion of the parties from the Reviews and other disaffected publications of the time; unless they were wise enough to collect by inference, that where bad things were so much applauded, that which was dispraised and outraged must have some good in it. As to myself, I freely confess, I am to this hour delighted and edified by that Apology; and after so many years, I see no reason to depart from any one of its doctrines; but should be thankful to God, if all the young clergy of this church were almost and altogether such as Mr. Horne was when he wrote it; and I heartily rejoice that it is now republished, that they may have an opportunity of reading it. And I would advise, if it were possible, they should see what the learned Dr. Patten wrote in the same year; who was author of another Apology; which, with its defence against the Reverend Mr. Ralph Heathcote, displays the meekness of great learning against the vain blusterings of

great assurance *: and, to shew how the Reviews of this country impose upon the ignorant and the credulous, Mr. Heathcote was highly commended, and the character of Dr. Patten was taken from the representation of his adversary, without reading his book +.

But I must now proceed to another cause, which made more noise in the world, and is in itself of such importance, that it ought never to be forgotten.

After his Apology, Mr. Horne took a part in the controversy with Mr. Kennicott on the Text of the Hebrew Bible $; in which he and his friends so deeply interested themselves, on a principle of conscience as well as of literary evidence, that it is impossible for me to proceed in the task I have undertaken, without giving a plain and impartial account of what passed upon that occasion; and it will afford me an opportunity of bringing to light an extraordinary character of whom the world never heard.

Mr. Kennicott having distinguished himself as a person learned in the Hebrew :.a proposal was set on foot by himself and his friends for collating the text of the Hebrew Bible with such manuscripts as could now be procured; in order to reform the Text, and prepare it for a new translation to be made from it into the English language. Mr. Kennicott explained at farge the nature of this design, and attempted to

* What David Hume calls the illiberal Petulance, Arrogance, and Scurrility of the Warburtonian School. See his Life, page 21.

+ Vestra solum legitis, vestra amatis: cæteros, causâ incognitâ, condemnatis. See the Crit. Rev. for April, 1756. In the year 1759 Dr. Patten preached another sermon before the University, which he printed. In this the subject of his two former pieces is continued, and the argument carried on farther, and well supported.

# In a pamphlet published in 1760, entitled, A View of Mr. Kennicott's Method of correcting the Hebrew Text, &c.

prove the necessity of such a measure, in some learned dissertations on the state of the printed Hebrew Bibles. The design came at length to maturity; Mr. Kennicott himself was appointed the sole conductor of it; and such powerful interest was made in its behalf, that persons of the first honour and eminence supported it by an annual subscription to a very great amount. Manuscripts were collected from all parts of the world; and a company of collators were employed under the eye of Mr. Kennicott at Oxford; who gave an annual account, attested by Dr. Hunt the Hebrew professor, of the state of the collation. The subscription was continued, and the work went on for several years. A new Hebrew Bible was at length printed in folio; a copy of the first volume of which came to the library of Sorbonne while I was at Paris in the year 1776, and was shewn to me by Mr. Asseline the Hebrew professor of that time *.

Far be it from me to speak with disrespect of an undertaking, which had the encouragement of so many great, so many good, and so many learned persons ; who must be supposed to have acted with the best intention, in consequence of such reports as were laid before them; for many of them certainly had no judgment of their own upon the subject. But Mr. Horne, and some other readers of Hebrew never approved of the design from the beginning; and Dr. Rutherforth of Cambridge, a man of no small erudition, wrote professedly, and with some asperity, against it; or, at least, against the way in which he thought it would

* After the Revolution of 1789, this gentleman was made Bishop of Bologne by the King; but by reason of the increasing troubles, he went to Brussels, and afterwards into Germany. He is universally spoken of as a person of great worth and learning.

« PreviousContinue »