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(Ianuary, 1809.) Letters from a late eminent Prelate to one of his Friends. 4to. pp. 380. Kidderminster : 1808.
WARBURTON, we think, was the last of our cordiality among all the virtuous and enlightGreat Divines—the last, perhaps, of any pro- ened, wasted their days in wrangling upon fession, among us, who united profound learn- idle theories; and in applying, to the specuing with great powers of understanding, and, lative errors of their equals in talents and in along with vast and varied stores of acquired virtue, those terms of angry reprobation which knowledge, possessed energy of mind enough should be reserved for vice and malignity. to wield them with ease and activity. The days In neither of these characters, therefore, can of the Cudworths and Barrows—the Hookers we seriously lament that Warburton is not and Taylors, are long gone by. Among the likely to have any successor. other divisions of intellectual labour to which The truth is, that this extraordinary person the progress of society has given birth, the was a Giant in Literature—with many of the business of reasoning, and the business of vices of the Gigantic character. Strong as he collecting knowledge, have been, in a great was, his excessive pride and overweening measure, put into separate hands. Our scho-vanity were perpetually engaging him in enlars are now little else than pedants, and an- terprises which he could not accomplish; tiquaries, and grammarians,—who have never while such was his intolerable arrogance toexercised any faculty but memory; and our wards his opponents, and his insolence toreasoners are for the most part, but slenderly wards those whom he reckoned as his infeprovided with learning; or, at any rate, make riors, that he made himself very generally but a slender use of it in their reasonings. Of and 'deservedly odious, and ended by doing the two, the reasoners are by far the best off; considerable injury to all the causes which and, upon many subjects, have really profited he undertook to support. The novelty and by the separation. Argument from authority the boldness of his manner—the resentment is, in general, the weakest and the most tedi. of his antagonists—and the consternation of ous of all arguments; and learning, we are in- his friends, insured him a considerable share clined to believe, has more frequently played of public attention at the beginning : But such the part of a bully than of a fair auxiliary; was the repulsion of his moral qualities as a and been oftener used to frighten people than writer, and the fundamental unsoundness of to convince them, -to dazzle and overawe, most of his speculations, that he no sooner rather than to guide and enlighten. A mo- ceased to write, than he ceased to be read or dern writer would not, if he could, reason as inquired after,—and lived to see those erudite Barrow and Cudworth often reason; and every volumes fairly laid on the shelf, which he reader, even of Warburton, must have felt fondly expected to carry down a growing that his learning often encumbers rather than fame to posterity. assists his progress, and, like shining armour, The history of Warburton, indeed, is unadds more to his terrors than to his strength. commonly curious, and his fate instructive. The true theory of this separation may be, He was bred an attorney at Newark; and therefore, that scholars who are capable of probably derived, from his early practice in reasoning, have ceased to make a parade of that capacity, that love of controversy, and their scholarship; while those who have no- that habit of scurrility, for which he was afterthing else must continue to set it forward-wards distinguished. His first literary assojust as gentlemen now-a-days keep their gold ciates were some of the heroes of the Dunciad; in their pockets, instead of wearing it on their and his first literary adventure the publication clothes-while the fashion of laced suits still of some poems, which well entitled him to a prevails among their domestics. There are place among those worthies. He helped "pilindividuals, however, who still think that a fering Tibbalds" to some notes upon Shakeman of rank looks most dignified in cut velvet speare; and spoke contemptuously of Mr. and embroidery, and that one who is not a Pope's talents, and severely of his morals, in gentleman can now counterfeit that appear- his letters to Ćoncannen. He then hired 'his ance a little too easily. We do not presume pen to prepare a volume on the Jurisdiction to settle so weighty a dispute ;-we only take of the Court of Chancery; and having now the liberty of observing, that Warburton lived entered the church, made a more successful to see the fashion go out; and was almost the endeavour to magnify his profession, and to last native gentleman who appeared in a full attract notice to himself by the publication trimmed coat.
of his once famous book on the Alliance He was not only the last of our reasoning between Church and State,” in which all the scholars, but the last also, we think, of our presumption and ambition of his nature was powerful polemics. This breed too, we take first made manifest. it, is extinct ;—and we are not sorry for it. By this time, however, he seems to have Those men cannot be much regretted, who, passed over from the party of the Dunces to instead of applying their great and active that of Pope; and proclaimed his conversion faculties in making their fellows better or pretty abruptly, by writing an elaborate de viser, or in promo ng mutual kindness and fence of the Essay on Man, from some imputa
tions which had been thrown on its theology a victory, which is now generally adjudged in and morality. Pope received the services of his opponents. The object of the Divine this voluntary champion with great gratitude; Legation,” for instance, is to prove that thi and Warburton having now discovered that mission of Moses was certainly from God, -: he was not only a great poet, but a very honest because his system is the only one which man, continued to cultivate his friendship with does not teach the doctrine of a future state great assiduity, and with very notable success: of rewards and punishments! And the obFor Pope introduced him to Mr. Murray, who ject of “the Alliance” is to show, that the made him preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and to church (that is, as he explains it, all the adMr. Allen of Prior Park, who gave him his herents of the church of England) is entitled niece in marriage, obtained a bishopric for to a legal establishment, and the protection of him,-and left him his whole estate. In the a test law,-because it constitutes a separate mean time, he published his “Divine Lega- society from that which is concerned in the tion of Moses,"—the most learned, most arro- civil government, and, being equally sovereigo gant, and most absurd work, which had been and independent, is therefore entitled to treat produced in England for a century ;-and his with it on a footing of perfect equality. The editions of Pope, and of Shakespeare, in which sixth book of Virgil, we are assured, in the he was scarcely less outrageous and fantas- same peremptory manner, contains merely tical. He replied to some of his answerers in the description of the mysteries of Eleusis; a style full of insolence and brutal scurrility; and the badness of the New Testament Greek and not only poured out the most tremendous a conclusive proof both of the eloquence and abuse on the infidelities of Bolingbroke and the inspiration of its authors. These fancies, Hume, but found occasion also to quarrel it appears to us, require no refutation; and, with Drs. Middleton, Lowth, Jortin, Leland, dazzled and astonished as we are at the rich and indeed almost every name distinguished and variegated tissue of learning and argufor piety and learning in England. At the ment with which their author has invesied same time, he indited the most highflown their extravagance, we conceive that no man adulation to Lord Chesterfield, and contrived of a sound and plain understanding can ever to keep himself in the good graces of Lord mistake them for truths, or waver, in the least Mansfield and Lord Hardwicke;-while, in degree, from the conviction which his own the midst of affluence and honours, he was reflection must afford of their intrinsic abcontinually exclaiming against the barbarity surdity. of the age in rewarding genius so frugally, The case is very nearly the same with his and in not calling in the aid of the civil ma- subordinate general propositions; which, in gistrate to put down fanaticism and infidelity: so far as they are original, are all brought The public, however, at last, grew weary of forward with the parade of great discoveries, these blustering novelties. The bishop, as and yet appear to us among the most futile old age stole upon him, began to doze in his and erroneous of modern speculations. We mitre; and though Dr. Richard Hurd, with are tempted to mention two, which we think the true spirit of an underling, persisted in we have seen referred to by later writers with keeping up the petty traffic of reciprocal en- some degree of approbation, and which, at comiums, yet Warburton was lost to the pub- any rate, make a capital figure in all the funlic long before he sunk into dotage, and lay damental philosophy of Warburton. The one dead as an author for many years of his natu- relates to the necessary imperfection of human ral existence.
laws, as dealing in Punishments only, and not We have imputed this rapid decline of his in Rewards also. The other concerns his reputation, partly to the unsoundness of his notion of the ultimate foundation of moral general speculations, and chiefly to the of- Obligation. fensiveness of his manner. The fact is ad- The very basis of his argument for the mitted even by those who pretend to regret necessity of the doctrine of a future state to it; and, whatever Dr. Hurd may have thought, the well-being of society, is, that, by human it must have had other causes than the decay laws, the conduct of men is only controlled of public virtue and taste.
by the fear of punishment, and not excited by În fact, when we look quietly and soberly the hope of reward. Both these sanctions over the vehement and imposing treatises of however, he contends, are necessary to reguWarburton, it is scarcely possible not to per- late our actions, and keep the world in order; ceive, that almost every thing that is original and, therefore, legislators, not finding rewards in his doctrine or propositions is erroneous; in this world, have always been obliged to and that his great gifts of learning and argu- connect it with a future world, in which they mentation have been bestowed on a vain at have held out that they would be bestowed tempt to give currency to untenable paradoxes. on all deservers. It is scarcely possible, we His powers and his skill in controversy may believe, to put this most important doctrine indeed conceal, from a careless reader, the on a more injudicious foundation, and if this radical fallacy of his reasoning; and as, in were the only ground either for believing or the course of the argument, he frequently inculcating the doctrine of a future state, we has the better of his adversaries upon inci should tremble at the advantages which the dental and collateral topics, and never fails to infidel would have in the contest. We shall make his triumph resound over the whole not detain our readers longer, than just to field of battle, it is easy to understand how point ont three obvious fallacies in this, the he should, for a while, have got the credit of most vaunted and confident, perhaps, of all
the Warburtonian dogmata. In the first place, (ishment, it evidently would not add to its perit is obvious that disorders in society can fection, to make it also the distributer of rescarcely be said to be prevented by the hope wards; unless it could be shown, that a simiof future rewards: the proper use of that doc- lar disorder was likely to arise from leaving trine being, not to repress vice, but to console these to the individuals affected. It is obaffliction. Vice and disorder can only be vious, however, not only that there is no likequelled by the dread of future punishment-lihood of such a disorder, bnt that such an whether in this world or the next; while it is interference would be absurd and impracticaobvious that the despondency and distress ble. It is true, therefore, that human laws which may be soothed by the prospect of do in general provide punishments only, and future bliss, are not disorders within the pur- not rewards; but it is not true that they are, view of the legislator. In the second place, on this account, imperfect or defective; or it is obviously not true that human laws are that human conduct is not actually regulated necessarily deficient in the article of providing by the love of happiness, as much as by the rewards. In many instances, their enact- dread of suffering: The doctrine of a future ments have this direct object; and it is ob- state adds, no doubt, prodigiously to both these vious, that if it was thought essential to the motives; but it is a rash, a presumptuous, well-being of society, they might reward quite and, we think, a most shortsighted and naras often as they punish. But, in the third row view of the case, to suppose, that it is place, the whole argument proceeds upon a chiefly the impossibility of rewarding virtue gross and unaccountable misapprehension of on Earth, that has led legislators to secure the the nature and object of legislation ;-a very peace of society, by referring it for its recombrief explanation of which will show, both pense to Heaven. that the temporal rewards of virtue are just The other dogma to which we alluded, is as sure as the temporal punishments of vice, advanced with equal confidence and pretenand at the same time explain why the law sions; and is, if possible, still more shallow has so seldom interfered to enforce the for- and erroneous. Speculative moralists had
The law arose from human feelings been formerly contented with referring moral and notions of justice ; and those feelings and obligation, either to a moral sense, or to a notions, were, of course, before the law, which perception of utility ;-Warburton, without only came in aid of their deficiency. The much ceremony, put both these together: natural and necessary effect of kind and vir- But his grand discovery is, that even this tie tuous conduct is, to excite love, gratitude, is not strong enough; and that the idea of and benevolence;—the effect of injury and moral obligation is altogether incomplete and vice is to excite resentment, anger, and re- imperfect, unless it be made to rest also on venge. While there was no law and no the Will of a Superior. There is no point in magistrate, men must have acted upon those all his philosophy, of which he is more vain feelings, and acted upon them in their whole than of this pretended discovery; and he
He who rendered kindness, received speaks of it, we are persuaded, twenty times, kindness; and he who inflicted pain and suf- without once suspecting the gross fallacy fering, was sooner or later overtaken by re- which it involves. The fallacy is not, how. torted pain and suffering. Virtue was rewarded ever, in stating an erroneous proposition- for Therefore, and vice punished, at all times; it is certainly true, that the command of a and both, we must suppose, in the same superior will generally constitute an obligameasure and degree. The reward of virtue, tion: it lies altogether in supposing that this however, produced no disturbance or dis- is a separate or additional ground of obligaorder; and, after society submitted to regula- tion,--and in not seeing that this vaunted distion, was very safely left in the hands of covery of a third principle for the foundation gratitude and sympathetic kindness. But it of morality, was in fact nothing but an indiwas far otherwise with the punishment of vidual instance or exemplification of the prinvice, Resentment and revenge tended always ciple of utility. to a dangerous excess,—were liable to be as- Why are we bound by the will of a supesumed as the pretext for unprovoked aggres- rior?-evidently for no oiher reason, than besion, and, at all events, had a tendency to cause superiority implies a power to affect our reproduce revenge and resentment, in an in- happiness; and the expression of will assures terminable series of violence and outrage. us, that our happiness will be affected hy our The law, therefore, took this duty into its own disobedience. An obligation is something hands. It did not invent, or impose for the which constrains or induces us to act ;-but first time, that sanction of punishment, which there neither is nor can be any other motive was coeval with vice and with society, and for the actions of rational and sentient beings, is implied, indeed, in the very notion of in- than the love of happiness. It is the desire jury it only transferred the right of apply- of happiness-well or ill understood-seen ing it from the injured individual to the pub- widely or narrowly,—that necessarily dictates lic; and tempered its application by more all our actions, and is at the bottom of all our impartial and extensive views of the circum- conceptions of morality or duty: and the will stances of the delinquency. But if the pun- of a superior can only constitute a ground of ishment of vice be not ultimately derived from obligation, by connecting itself with this sin. law, neither is the reward of virtue ; and al- gle and universal agent. If it were possible though human passions made it necessary for to disjoin the idea of our own happiness or law to undertake the regulation of that pun- I suffering from the idea of a superior, it is obvious, that we should no longer be under any in the fields of controversy. Fortunately, obligation to conform to the will of that supe- their example has not been generally follow. rior. If we should be equally secure of hap- ed; and the sect itself, though graced with piness—in mind and in body--in time and in mitres, and other trophies of worldly success, eternity, by disobeying his will, as by com- has perished, we think, in consequence of the plying with it, it is evidently altogether incon experiment, ceivable, that the expression of that will should A second, and perhaps, a still more formiimpose any obligation upon us : And although dable mischief, arose from the discredit which it be true that we cannot suppose such a case, was brought on the priesthood, and indeed it is not the less a fallacy to represent the will upon religion in general, by this interchange of a superior as a third and additional ground of opprobrious and insulting accusations among of obligation, newly discovered by this author, its ministers. If the abuse was justifiable, and superadded to the old principle of a regard then the church itself gave shelter to follý to happiness, or utility. We take these in- and wickedness, at least as great as was to be stances of the general unsoundness of all found under the banners of infidelity ;-if it Warburton's peculiar doctrines, from topics was not justifiable, then it was apparent, that on which he is generally supposed to have abuse by those holy men was no proof of debeen less extravagant than on any other. merit in those against whom it was directed; Those who wish to know his feats in criticism, and the unbelievers, of course, were furnished may be referred to the Canons of Mr. Ed- with an objection to the sincerity of those inwards; and those who admire the originality of vectives of which they themselves were the his Dissertation on the Mysteries, are recom- objects. mended to look into the Eleusis of Meursius, This applies to those indecent expressions
Speculations like these could never be pop- of violence and contempt, in which Warburton ular; and were not likely to attract the atten- and his followers were accustomed to indulge, tion, even of the studious, longer than their when speaking of their Christian and clerical novelty, and the glare of erudition and orig- opponents. But the greatest evil of all, we inality which was thrown around them, pro- think, arose from the intemperance, coarsetected them from deliberate consideration. ness, and acrimony of their remarks, even on But the real cause of the public alienation those who were enemies to revelation. There from the works of this writer, is undoubtedly is, in all well-constituted minds, a natural to be found in the revolting arrogance of his feeling of indulgence towards those errors of general manner, and the offensive coarseness opinion, to which, from the infirmity of human of his controversial invectives. These, we reason, all men are liable, and of compassion think, must be confessed to be somewhat for those whose errors have endangered their worse than mere error in reasoning, or ex- happiness. It must be the natural tendency travagance in theory. They are not only of- of all candid and liberal persons, therefore, io fences of the first magnitude against good regard unbelievers with pity, and to reason taste and good manners, but are likely to be with them with mildness and forbearance. attended with pernicious consequences in Infidel writers, we conceive, may generally matters of much higher importance. Though be allowed to be actual unbelievers; for it is we are not disposed to doubt of the sincerity difficult to imagine what other motive than a of this reverend person's abhorrence for vice sincere persuasion of the truth of their opinand infidelity, we are seriously of opinion, that ions, could induce them to become objects of his writings have been substantially prejudi, horror to the respectable part of any commucial to the cause of religion and morality; and nity, by their disclosure. From what vices that it is fortunate for both, that they have of the heart, or from what defects in the unnow fallen into general oblivion.
derstanding, their unbelief may have originatThey have produced, in the first place, all ed, it may not always be easy to determine; the mischief of a conspicuous, and, in some but it seems obvious that, for ihe unbelief itsense, a successful example of genius and self, they are rather to be pitied than reviled; learning, associated with insolence, intoler- and that the most effectual way of persuading ance, and habitual contumely and outrage. the public that their opinions are refuled out All men who are engaged in controversy are of a regard to human happiness, is to treat apt enough to be abusive and insulting: --and their author (whose happiness is most in danclergymen, perhaps, rather more apt than ger) with some small degree of liberality and others. It is an intellectual warfare, in which, gentleness. It is also pretty generally taken as in other wars, it is natural, we suspect, to for granted, that a very angry disputant is be ferocious, unjust, and unsparing; but ex- usually in the wrong; that it is not a sign of perience and civilisation have tempered this much confidence in the argument, to take advehemence, by gentler and more generous vantage of the unpopularity or legal danger maxims, -and introduced a law of honourable of the opposite doctrine; and that, when an hostility, by which the fiercer elements of our unsuccessful and unfair attempt is made to nature are mastered and controlled. No great- discredit the general ability or personal worth er evil, perhaps, can be imagined, than the of an antagonist, no great reliance is under. violation of this law from any quarter of influ- stood to be placed on the argument by which ence and reputation ;-yet the Warburtonians he may be lawfully opposed. may be said to have used their best endeav- It is needless to apply these observations to ours to introduce the use of poisoned weapons, the case of the Warburtonian controversies. and to abolish the practice of giving quarter, There is no man, we believe, however he may be convinced of the fallacy and danger of the ness, he disables both the judgment and ihe principles maintained by Lord Bolingbroke, candour of his instructor, and conceives a by Voltaire, or by Hume, who has not felt in- strong prejudice in favour of the cause which dignation and disgust at the brutal violence, has been attacked in a manner so unwarthe affected contempt, and the flagrant unfair- rantable. ness with which they are treated by this We have had occasion, oftener than once, learned author,—who has not, for a moment, to trace an effect like this, from this fierce taken part with them against so ferocious and and overbearing aspect of orthodoxy ;-and insulting an opponent, and wished for the we appeal to the judgment of all our readers, mortification and chastisement of the advocate, whether it be not the very effect which it is even while impressed with the greatest vene- calculated to produce on all youthful minds ration for the cause. We contemplate this of any considerable strength and originality. scene of orthodox fury, in short, with some. It is to such persons, however, and to such thing of the same emotions with which we only, that the refutation of infidel writers should see a heretic subjected to the torture, ought to be addressed. There is no need to or a freethinker led out to the stake by a zeal- write books against Hume and Voltaire for the ous inquisitor. If this, however, be the effect use of the learned and orthodox part of the of such illiberal violence, even on those whose English clergy. Such works are necessarily principles are settled, and whose faith is con- supposed to be intended for the benefit of firmed by habit and reflection, the conse- young persons, who have either contracted quences must obviously be still more perni- some partiality for those seductive writers, or cious for those whose notions of religion are are otherwise in danger of being misled by still uninformed and immature, and whose them. It is to be presumed, therefore, that minds are open to all plausible and liberal they know and admire their real excellences; impressions." Take the case, for instance, of -and it might consequently be inferred, that a young man, who has been delighted with they will not listen with peculiar complacency the eloquence of Bolingbroke, and the sagacity to a refutation of their errors, which sets out and ingenuity of Hume ;-who knows, more- with a torrent of illiberal and unjust abuse of over, that the one lived in intimacy with Pope, their talents and characters. and Swift, and Atterbury; and almost all the We are convinced, therefore, that the bully. worthy and eminent persons of his time ;- ing and abusive tone of the Warburtonian and that the other was the cordial friend of school, even in its contention with infidels, Robertson and Blair, and was irreproachably has done more harm to the cause of religion, correct and amiable in every relation of life; and alienated more youthful and aspiring -and who, perceiving with alarm the ten- minds from the true faith, than any other dency of some of their speculations, applies error into which zeal has ever betrayed ortho to Warburton for an antidote to the poison he doxy. It may afford a sort of vindictive demay have imbibed. In Warburton he will then light to the zealots who stand in no need of read that Bolingbroke was a paltry driveller- the instruction of which it should be the veVoltaire a pitiable scoundrel-and Hume a hicle; but it will, to a certainty, revolt and puny dialectician, who ought to have been set disgust all those to whom that instruction was on the pillory, and whose heart was as base necessary,—enlist all the generous feelings and corrupt as his understanding was con- of their nature on the side of infidelity;-and temptible! Now, what, we would ask any make piety and reason itself appear like preman of common candour and observation, is judice and bigotry. We think it fortunate, the effect likely to be produced on the mind therefore, upon the whole, that the controverof any ingenious and able young man by this sial writings of Warburton have already passed style of confutation? Infallibly to make him into oblivion, --since, even if we thought more take part with the reviled and insulted literati, highly than we do of the substantial merit of -to throw aside the right reverend confuter his arguments, we should still be of opinion with contempt and disgust,--and most proba- that they were likely to do more mischief bly to conceive a fatal prejudice against the than the greater part of the sophistries which cause of religion itself-thus unhappily asso- it was their professed object to counteract and ciated with coarse and ignoble scurrility. He discredit. must know to a certainty, in the first place, These desultory observations have carried that the contempt of the orthodox champion is us so completely away from the book, by the either affected, or proceeds from most gross title of which they were suggested, that we ignorance and incapacity ;-since the abilities have forgotten to announce to our readers, of the reviled writers is proved, not only by that it contains a series of familiar letters, adhis own feeling and experience, but by the dressed by Warburton to Doctor (afterwards suffrage of the public and of all men of intel. Bishop) Hurd, from the year 1749, when their ligence. He must think, in the second place, acquaintance commenced, down to 1776, when that the imputations on their moral worth are the increasing infirmities of the former put a false and calumnious, both from the fact of stop to the correspondence. Some little use their long friendship with the purest and most was made of these letters in the life of his exalted characters of their age, and from the friend, which Bishop Hurd published, after a obvious irrelevancy of this topic in a fair refu- very long delay, in 1794 ; but the treasure was tation of their errors ;-and then, applying the hoarded up, in the main, till the death of that ordinary maxims by which we judge of a dis- prelate; soon after which, the present volume putants cause, from his temper and his fair- I was prepared for publication, in obedience to