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directly, made the least advantage of this scheme; but, on the contrary, am just so much a loser by it as the experiments cost me, I think it is not too much for the public to allow me, what I believe is strictly my due, the sole merit of the discovery; which, with respect to ingenuity, or sagacity, is next to nothing; but with respect to its utility is, unquestionably, of unspeakable value to my country and to mankind.” These are the sentiments of a patriot and a man of virtue.
His “Disquisitions relating to Matter and Spirit,” in which he considers the soul homogeneous with the body,” gave great offence, and excited much alarm amongst the professors of orthodox divinity. Indeed the existence of the spirit of man in a separate state is unequivocally proved by the words of our Saviour himself, “Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, to-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” The dying ejaculation of Stephen is an additional proof of the immateriality of the human soul: “Lord Jesus receive my spirit !” Nay, long before the coming of the Messiah this doctrine was embraced by the Jews: “ Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it.”f
* Speaking of Materialism, the Doctor observes:— “Man, according to this system, is no more than we now see of him. His being commences at the time of his conception, or perhaps at an earlier period. The corporeal and mental faculties, inhering in the same substance, grow, ripen, and decay together; and when the system is dissolved, it continues in a state of dissolution, till it shall please the Almighty Being, who called it into existence, to restore it to life again.”
Indeed, the doctrine of immortality, and the existence of the soul in a separate state, seems to have been traditionary among mankind, long before the invention of letters; and it was one of the greatest incitements to virtue in the most polished ages of Greece and Rome.
“The soul, secur'd in her existence, smiles
The simplified doctrine of Doctor Priestley, respecting our Saviour, also gave great offence
* St. Luke, cap, 22. verse, 43. Acts, cap 7. verse 59.
+ Ecclesiastes, cap, 12, verse'l
to devout christians. It is, however, so far from being irrational, that it seems founded on the principles of sound philosophy. But let us recollect that “The wisdom of the world is foolishness with God.” The mysteries of his saving grace are above human comprehension. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
A conviction of depravity and weakness must make every christian feel his insufficiency to attain consummate virtue without supernatural aid. The consolatory promises of the Gospel is the sinner's best hope. Indeed, the most enlightened philosopher, who trusts wholly to his own exertions, might as well think to counteract the laws of gravitation, and ascend bodily to heaven, as to become holy without that divine inspiration which is promised to his faithful followers by our Lord Jesus Christ.
“God never meant that man should scale the heav'ns
* Isaiah, cap. 50. verses 8 & 9.
That Dr. Priestley, however, made truth his primary object in all his theological and metaphysical discussions, we shall readily acknowledge; for such is his own profession, and the world never had reason to question his veracity.
In his “Lectures on History and General Policy,” the youthful student may find a treasure of historic information, systematically arranged. He exhibits the general uses of history under three heads: “ 1st. As it serves to amuse the imagination, and interest the passions in general. 2nd. As it improves the understanding. And, 3dly, as it tends to strengthen the sentiments of virtue.” With his usual perspicuity he points out the superiority of history over works of fiction, as more interesting, because it is a narrative of facts, exhibiting a most impressive view of the dispensations of divine providence to mankind.
He then expatiates on the benefit to be derived from the study of history, as an improvement of the understanding.
“By studying history,” as Lord Bolingbroke observes, “ and examining all kinds of causes and effects, a man may sharpen his penetration,
fix the attention of his mind, and strengthen his judgment.” The Doctor, therefore, considers the study of History as anticipated experience, which qualifies a young man to begin life with a considerable acquisition of what is called knowledge of the world; which is often too dearly bought in the school of experience. He then proceeds to elucidate the advantages of studying history, with a view to the acquirement of political knowledge, and expresses himself with that independence and freedom which he always manifested when investigating this critical subject.
“Political knowledge, it will be said, is useful only to politicians and ministers of state. But, besides that, it is a matter of reasonable curiosity, to examine into the springs of the great wheel of government, on the just balance and regular motions of which our temporal security and happiness depend; and though political affairs be almost wholly, but not entirely out of the sphere of private persons, under an arbitrary government; yet in free governments, as is admirably said by Lord Bolingbroke, “The public service is not confined to those whom the prince appoints to the several posts
in the administration under him. Men of all L