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Dr. PRIESTLEY, when he published his great work, in two volumes, entitled The Corruptions of Christianity, sent the Historian a copy, begging his perusal of it, and inviting him to the examination of Revealed Religion. Enraged at the present, he indignantly refused to enter the lists, and took his revenge by consigning over the intrepid, but honest, Divine to the notice of the civil and ecclesiastical constitutions of his country; pointing to two passages in his works, at one of which he said, "the priest," and at the other," the magistrate, may tremble." This was cowardly, and savoured of the blackest malignity. * But Dr. WATSON, the late Bishop of Llandaff, met with better treatment. He addressed an able series of letters to Mr. Gibbon, entitled An Apology for Christianity, most strangely considering the Historian as a believer, who had incautiously expressed himself on the subject. This was grati. fying to his vanity, and accordingly a very complimentary letter was returned the Prelate on the presentation of a copy of his work. But, alas! this
*The first of these obnoxious passages simply predicted the fall of all antichristian establishments, and the other, awfully portentous to the infidel and worldly ecclesiastic, runs thus, concluding with a prayer for the arrival of the Millennium, in which the devout of every denomination might join throughout Christendom: "It is nothing but the alliance of the kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world, (an alliance which our Lord expressly disclaimed,) that supports the grossest corruptions of Christianity; and perhaps we must wait for the fall of the civil powers before this most unnatural alliance be broken. Calamitous, no doubt, will that time be. But what convulsions in the political world ought to be a subject of lamentation if it be attended with so desirable an event? May the kingdom of God and of Christ (that which I conceive intended in the Lord's Prayer) truly and fully come, though all the kingdoms of the world be removed in order to make way for it!"
Waving the discussion of the subject, he artfully remarks in the note, "Mr. Gibbon entirely coincides in opinion with Dr. Watson, that as their different sentiments on a very important point of history are now submitted to the public, they both may employ their time in a manner much more useful as
courteous effort to reclaim the pseudobeliever met with no success. The obnoxious passages of his History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire remained unrectified, and he sunk still deeper into the mire of infidelity.
Now mark the attempts to recover LORD BYRON. They indeed were of a more private nature, but equally unavailing, and both attended with a nearly similar treatment.
These statements are drawn from authentic sources, and shall be transcribed with scarcely any note or comment. They speak for themselves, and will, I trust, generate an useful impression upon the minds of the rising generation.* R. C. DALLAS, Esq., has just published Recollections of the Life of Lord Byron from the Year 1808 to the End of 1814, in which the following expostulatory letter occurs, addressed to his Lordship respecting his infidelity:
"I compare such philosophers as you and Hume and Gibbon (I have put you into company that you are not ashamed of) to mariners wrecked at sea, buffetting the waves for life, wards land, where, meeting with rugand at last carried by a current toged and perpendicular rocks, they
well as agreeable, than they can possibly do by exhibiting a single combat in the amphitheatre of controversy.' Bishop Hurd did not like the Apology for Christianity-not savouring of the scurrility of the Warburtonian school-saying of it," It was well enough, if the author was in earnest." But there could be no doubt of Dr. Watson's sincerity. His treating his opponent as a believer, was the only exceptionable circumstance every thing else did equal credit to his head and heart.
* The writer here begs leave to recommend to his young friends two excellent little manuals-Lectures on Natural and Revealed Religion, by the Rev. Lawrence Holden, of Tenterden; and Illustrations of the Evidences of Christianity, by Mrs. Maria Hack, of Chichester. There is also an anonymous pamphlet well worth perusal, entitled An Address to Deists, said to have been written by the Rev. Mr. Grosser, Particular Baptist Minister at Maidstone. See a late number of the New Evangelical Magazine, where its merits were duly appreciated; whilst by the Old Baptist Magazine it had the honour of being reprobated.
decide that it is impossible to land, and, though some of their companions point out a firm beuch, exclaim, 'Deluded things! there can be no beach unless you can melt down these tremendous rocks. No! our ship is wrecked, and to the bottom we must go! All we have to do is to swim on till fate overwhelms us!' You do not deny the depravity of the human race. Well, that is one step gained: it is allowing we are cast away; it is, figuratively, our shipwreck. Behold us, then, all scattered upon the ocean, and all anxious to be saved-all, at least, willing to be on terra firmathe Humes, the Gibbons, the Voltaires, as well as the Newtons, the Lockes, the Johnsons, &c. The latter make for the beach; the former exhaust their strength about the rocks, and sink, declaring them insurmountable. The incarnation of a Deityvicarious atonement the innocent suffering for the guilty-the seeming inconsistencies of the Old Testament and the discrepancies of the New, &c. &c.-are rocks which I am free to own are not easily melted down; but I may be certain that they may be viewed from a point on the beach in less deterring forms, lifting their heads into the clouds indeed, yet adding sublimity to the prospect of the shore on which we have landed, and by no means impeding our progress upon it. In less metaphorical language, my Lord, it appears to me that Freethinkers are generally more eager to strengthen their objections than solicitous for conviction, and prefer wandering into forced inferences to pursuing the evidence of facts-so contrary to the example given to us in all judicial investigagations, where testimony precedes reasoning, and is the ground of it. The corruption of human nature being self-evident, it is very natural to inquire the cause of that corruption, and as natural to hope that there may be a remedy for it. The cause and the remedy have been stated. How are we to ascertain the truth of them? Not by arguing mathematically, but by first examining the proofs adduced, and if they are satisfactory, to use our reasoning powers, as far as they will go, to clear away the difficulties that attend them. This is the only mode of investigating with any hope
of conviction. It is, to return to my metaphor, the beach on which we may find a footing, and be able to look around us; on which beach I trust I shall one day or other see you taking your stand. I have done and pray observe that I have kept my word: I have not entered on metaphysics on the subject of Revelation. I have merely stated the erroneous proceeding of Freethinking philosophy, and, on the other hand, the natural and rational proceeding of the mind in the inquiry after truth. The conviction must, and I am confident will, be the operation of your own mind.”
Mr. Dallas then adds, "LORD BYRON noticed, indeed, what I had written, but in a very discouraging manHe would have nothing to do with the subject. We should all go down together, he said; 'so,' quoting St. Paul, Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die'! He felt satisfied with his creed, for it was better to sleep than to wake. Such were the opinions which occasionally manifested themselves in this unhappy young man, and which gave me a degree of pain proportioned to the affection I could not but feel for him; while my hopes of his ultimately breaking from the trammels of infidelity, which were never relinquished, received from time to time fresh excitement from some expressions that appeared to me to have an opposite tendency."
At a later period, LORD BYRON was addressed respecting his infidelity by another gentleman, who has furnished us with the correspondence, attached to a second edition, just published, of an interesting little volume entitled, Thoughts chiefly designed as a Preparative or Persuasive to Private Devotion, by John Sheppard. This communication is of a singular and impressive nature, and shall be transcribed. It exhibits his Lordship in a more favourable light, and reflects some degree of honour on his memory.
"To the Right Hon. Lord Byron, Pisa.
"Frome, Somerset, Nov. 21, 1821. MY LORD,
"More than two years since a lovely and beloved wife was taken from me by lingering disease, after a very short union. She possessed un
varying gentleness and fortitude, and a piety so retiring, as rarely to disclose itself in words, but so influential as to produce uniform benevolence of conduct. In the last hour of life, after a farewell look on a lately born and only infant, for whom she had evinced inexpressible affection, her last whispers were-God's happiness! God's happiness! Since the second anniversary of her decease, I have read some papers which no one had seen during her life, and which contain her most secret thoughts. I am induced to communicate to your Lordship a passage from these papers, which, there is no doubt, refers to yourself, as I have more than once heard the writer mention your agility on the rocks at Hastings :
which, deprived of the grand fountain of good, (a deep conviction of inborn sin, and firm belief in the efficacy of Christ's death for the salvation of those who trust in him and really seek to serve him,) would soon dry up, and leave us as barren of every virtue as before.
· Hastings, July 31, 1814.’
"There is nothing, my Lord, in this extract which in a literary sense can at all interest you; but it may perhaps appear to you worthy of reflection, how deep and expansive a concern for the happiness of others the Christian faith can awaken in the midst of youth and prosperity. Here is nothing poetical and splendid, as in the expostulatory homage of M. Delamartine; but here is the sublime, my Lord; for this intercession was offered on your account to the Supreme Source of happiness. It sprang from a faith more confirmed than that of the French poet, and from a charity which, in combination with faith, shewed its power unimpaired amidst the langours and pains of approaching dissolution! I will hope that a prayer, which I am sure was deeply sincere, may not be always unavailing. It would add nothing, my Lord, to the fame with which your genius has surrounded you, for an unknown and obscure individual to express his ad miration of it. I had rather be numbered with those who wish and pray that wisdom from above and peace and joy may enter such a mind!”
"Pisa, December 8, 1821. "SIR,
"I have received your letter.-I need not say that the extract which it contains has affected me, because it would imply a want of all feeling to have read it with indifference. Though I am not quite sure that it was intended for me, yet the date, the place where it was written, with some other circumstances which you mention, render the allusion probable. But for whomsoever it was meant, I have read it with all the pleasure which can arise from so melancholy a topic. I say pleasure, because your brief and simple picture of the life and demeanor of the excellent person whom,
""O my God! I take encouragement from the assurance of thy word to pray to thee in behalf of one for whom I have lately been much interested. May the person to whom I allude (and who is now, we fear, as much distinguished for his neglect of thee as for the transcendant talents thou hast bestowed upon him) be awakened to a sense of his own danger, and led to seek that peace of mind in a proper sense of religion which he has found this world's enjoyments unable to procure! Do thou grant that his future example may be productive of far more extensive benefit than his past conduct and writings have been of evil; and may the sun of righteousness, which we trust will at some future period arise on him, be bright in proportion to the darkness of those clouds which guilt has raised around him, and the balm which it bestows healing and soothing in proportion to the keenness of that agony which the punishment of his vices has inflicted upon him. May the hope that the sincerity of my own efforts for the attainment of holiness, and the approval of my own love to the great Author of religion, will render this prayer, and every other for the welfare of mankind, more efficacious, cheer me in the path of duty; but let me not forget that while we are permitted to animate ourselves to exertion by every innocent motive, these are but the lesser streams which may serve to increase the current, but
I trust, that you will again meet, cannot be contemplated without the admiration due to her virtues and her pure and unpretending piety. Her last moments were particularly striking; and I do not know that in the course of reading the story of mankind, and still less in my observations upon the existing portion, I ever met with any thing so unostentatiously beautiful! Indisputably, the firm believers in the gospel have a great advantage over all others, for this simple reason, that if true, they will have their reward hereafter, and if there be no hereafter, they can be but with the infidel in his eternal sleep, having had the assistance of an exalted hope through life, without disappointment, since (at the worst for them) out of nothing-nothing can arise,' not even sorrow! But a man's creed does not depend upon himself. Who can say, I will believe this, that, or the other, and least of all that which he least can comprehend? I have, however, observed, that those who have begun life with extreme faith, have in the end greatly narrowed it, as Chillingworth, Clarke, (who ended as an Arian,) Bayle and Gibbon, (once a Catholic,) and some others; while, on the other hand, nothing is more common than for the early sceptic to end in a firm belief like Maupertuis and Henry Kirke White. But my business is to acknowledge your letter, and not to make a dissertation. I am obliged to you for your good wishes, and more than obliged by the extract from the papers of the beloved object whose qualities you have so well described in a few words. I can assure you that all the fame that ever cheated humanity into higher notions of its own importance, would never weigh in my mind against the pure and pious interest which a virtuous being may be pleased to take in my welfare. In this point of view, I would not exchange the prayer of the deceased in my behalf for the united glory of Homer, Cæsar and Napoleon, could such be accumulated upon a living head. Do me at least the justice to suppose that—
Video meliora proboque,
however the deteriora sequor may have been applied to my conduct. I have
Upon this characteristically interesting epistle of LORD BYRON, Mr. Sheppard makes several appropriate reflections; for which I refer to his work; whilst the following paragraph is deserving transcription, being fraught with the divine spirit of charity: "Intercessions I cannot doubt had long been anxiously offered on his behalf, at least by relatives, and some of these in the blessed spirit of Christian forgiveness; others, as the preceding pages affectingly shew, by one unknown to him, from the pure promptings of a Christian solicitude for his welfare, enhanced by his fine gifts and high responsibility. Till the heavenly records of Christian charity shall be at last unrolled, we know not what more and similar petitions may have been poured from hearts that responded to his genius and deplored its aberrations! Nor can any pronounce till after the judgment is set and the books are opened,' that these were ultimately and altogether use
It may not be unworthy of observation, that LORD BYRON had in the original manuscript of his Childe Harold's Pilgrimage this offensive stanza respecting a future state of being
"Frown not upon me, churlish priest! that I
Look not for life where life may never be
am no sneerer at thy phantasy; Thou pitiest me, alas! I envy thee.
Mr. Sheppard is the author of two other volumes-" A Tour in 1816 through France and Switzerland, with incidental Reflections on Religion ;" and also "An Enquiry on the Duty of Christians respecting War," with reference to the Peace Societies ;-both marked by good sense and an unaffected piety.
Such, indeed, are the endearing hopes, such the transcendant prospects of a blissful immortality! Much hath been advanced respecting the manner after which unbelievers should be treated in their rejection of Christianity. I have no hesitation in declaring, that mild but firm expostulation is the alone method suggested by reason and sanctioned by revelation. For, every man to give a reason of the hope that is in him with meekness and fear, is the apostolic injunction; and My kingdom is not of this world, is the declaration of the Saviour of mankind.-Reproach irritates, violence confounds; both are alike hostile to rational conviction. Pious Herbert, the brother of Lord Herbert, the father and the best of English Deists, hath thus sweetly sung in strains never to be forgotten"Fear frightens minds, whilst love, like
heat, Exhales the soul sublime to seek her native seat.
To threat the stubborn sinner oft is hard, Wrapp'd in his crimes, against the storm prepared.
But on this important subject I have already borne my humble testimony, at the close of the article on Deism in the last, or 14th, edition of my Sketch of the Denominations.The paragraph having had the honour of being read in court at the trial of the unhappy and deluded Carlile, now immured in the dungeons of Dorchester, may form no improper conclusion. Though the pernicious tendency of infidelity is to be reprobated, yet the prosecution of Deists is altogether contrary to the genius of Christianity. It extends the evil deprecated, and affords a miserable specimen of the spirit by which we are actuated. See an interesting correspondence, affixed to Kippis's Life of Dr. Lardner, between the Bishop of Chichester and Dr. Lardner, who thus writes with his usual good sense and liberality: Your Lordship freely declares Wollaston ought not to be punished for being an infidel, nor for writing at all against the Christian religion, which appears to me a noble declaration! If the governors of the Church and civil magistrates had all along acted up to this principle, I think the Christian religion had been before now nearly universal. But I have supposed it to be a consequence from this sentiment, that if men have an allowance to write against the Christian religion, there must also be considerable indulgence as to the manner likewise. This has appeared to me a part of that meekness and forbearance which the Christian religion obliges us to, who