Art. IV. Sermons on several Subjects by the late Rev. William Paley, D. D. Subdean of Lincoln, Prebendary of St. Paul's, and Rector of Bishop Wearmouth. 3d Edition. pp. 327. London. Longman and Co. 1808. Memoirs of William Paley, D. D. by G. H. Meadley. p

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Art. IV. Sermons on several Subjects by the late Rev. William Paley, D. D. Subdean of Lincoln, Prebendary of St. Paul's, and Rector of Bishop Wearmouth. 3d Edition. pp. 327. London. Longman and Co. 1808.

Memoirs of William Paley, D. D. by G. H. Meadley. pp. 216. To which is added an Appendix. pp. 168. Sunderland. 1809.

[pp. 75-88] [original article in PDF format]

  1. NO writers are rewarded with a larger share of immediate celebrity, than those who address themselves to the understandings of general readers who investigate truths, develope principles, and convey instruction, in that popular style and that plain expressive language, which all read with pleasure, and comprehend with ease. It is grateful to those whom indolence indisposes to great exertions, and consolatory to those who mistrust their mental powers, to perceive the path of knowledge made plain, easy, and practicable—to find obstructions removed and intricacies unravelled; to see the abstruse and lofty theme, brought within the scope, and lowered to the level of common understandings.

  2. It might be difficult to mention an author who has more recommended to the public taste useful knowledge and solid sense, by conveying them under a pleasing form, than Dr. Paley. He never made an affected pretension to the fame of abstruse erudition, by pedantically involving his meaning in a tortuous style; nor did he catch at an ephemeral popularity, by flimsily addressing the imagination instead of speaking to the understanding. He proposed to himself the high distinction of writing on subjects primarily useful, in such a manner as to ensure extensive perusal. He, therefore, took peculiar pains to clothe the harsh and rugged in a smooth and agreeable garb, to disguise novelty under the appearance of common-place, to employ, on all occasions, clear explanation, methodical arrangement, and exact expression.

  3. His success has been singularly great. No modern writer perhaps has diffused more widely the knowledge of moral and religious truth. None has seen his works pass through more editions in the same time: and none will be found with more certainty to hold a place on the shelf of every private library. We deem it a matter of imperious duty to bestow some notice on this posthumous publication of an author [75] so justly celebrated—and we are glad, by considering under the same head, a memoir of his life by a Mr. Meadly, to take an opportunity of conveying to our readers some little sketch of his history and character.

  4. The volume of sermons, to which we are directing our attention, appears under circumstances which must altogether disarm the critic of his sharper weapon. Dr. Paley explained in his will, that it had been in his contemplation to prepare a collection of his discourses for gratuitous distribution amongst his parishioners—the business was left at his death in an unfinished state; but directions were given to the executors to prosecute the design, with an injunction expressly added, that the sermons should not be published for sale. His high popularity made the compliance with this injunction literally impracticable. It was found that the eagerness of the public to procure a production of so esteemed an author was so great, as absolutely to force the sermons into general circulation, after the printing of the copies for private distribution had taken place: and the executors wisely determined to prevent, by an authorized and correct edition, the certain risk of a surreptitious publication.

  5. Here then we have no willing author boldly stepping before the public, challenging their opinion, provoking the free discussion of his merits, with the feeling on his mind, that his fame must stand or fall, according as he exceeds, or falls short of, the expected standard. We have, on the contrary, one who shrinks from exposure to the public eye, who seems to express a consciousness that the work is too imperfect to go abroad to the world, and positively enjoins, that it shall be confined to a private circulation. And, it would be a case of very peculiar hardship, if his established character and known ability should become the means of drawing down upon him any severity of censure—if the public should condemn him in a harsh and decisive tone, because, in a work confessedly unfinished, he has not attained the standard of perfection which was expected.

  6. We certainly have said this under an impression that some partial allowances must be made in favour of the volume before us. Marks there are in it of haste and negligence: repetitions of the same sense occur in different parts. The style is at times too loose and incorrect. The turn of the sentences is here and there awkward and involved—the language disfigured with some vulgar and colloquial phrases. The expression is sometimes [76] amplified, without the addition of a new idea. We wish, however, to be considered rather as noticing a fact, than as conveying a censure: because we are convinced that in no composition of Dr. Paley's, intended for publication, would such blemishes have been discoverable.

  7. The general merit of the discourses must be considered, independantly of these particular defects. If the reader shall sit down to their perusal, with the expectation of finding in them superior and perfect models of pulpit eloquence, he will feel himself undoubtedly disappointed. He will not meet with the copious invention of a Barrow, the elegant terseness of an Atterbury, or the fine touches of an Ogden. He will not find a style abounding with splendid bursts of sacred eloquence, ennobled with grand conception and sublime description, or enriched with a various display of striking and well-chosen imagery. He must indeed have formed very little previous acquaintance with Dr. Paley, if he expects to find, in any production of his, qualities such as these. Paley's excellence consisted, not in a fruitful and creative imagination, but in a clear understanding. He was formed, not for an impassioned orator, but for a cool, acute, perspicuous reasoner: he felt the department, in which his talent peculiarly lay, and confirmed, by habit and experience, the turn which nature had given to his mind. Hence, in the volume before us, we have a collection, rather of useful disquisitions on religious subjects, than of impressive sacred orations. We see before us rather a clear-headed moralist, coolly investigating truth, analyzing and dissecting with skill the subject which he takes in hand, reasoning upon it with an accuracy which all must feel, and stating his results in a method which ail. must understand, than a powerful master of eloquence, endeavouring to work upon the conviction of his hearers by addressing as well their passions as their understandings, calling to the aid of argument great conceptions, striking imagery, and animated description.

  8. We merely mean to characterize these discourses of Dr. Paley, not to degrade them, when we give them the name of essays or disquisitions. If to give this name be to convey a censure, it is a censure under which a very large proportion of the sermons produced by the greatest English divines are included. All sermons should bear this character to a certain extent. The province of the preacher is to instruct, as well as to persuade. When he instructs, his discourse must assume this [77] character entirely; and, when he persuades, it must assume it in part, because persuasion ought to proceed on the conviction of the understanding. The style of cool reasoning is indeed the style of the English pulpit, even to a fault; and our divines too often read essays, when they ought to be preaching sermons.

  9. However, Paley displays one cardinal qualification of the sacred orator: he appears to be thoroughly in earnest in his business. Warmly impressed himself with a strong religious feeling, he is anxiously bent on imparting that feeling to others. His piety, as evinced in these discourses, is genuine, unaffected, glowing; his temper formed in the mould of true Christian benevolence; his sense of the infinite importance of religious considerations built on a sound and rational conviction. Of the topics which he selects, many are the most obvious and common, such as apply closely to the business of mankind, and are generally interesting to their feelings. In the discussion of these, we perceive him, not coldly and listlessly, but anxiously and zealously, endeavouring to promote amongst his hearers good conduct and right feeling, to rouse them from a torpid insensibility to religious motives of action, and to make the conviction of the vast importance of their eternal interests operate towards the practical discharge of the great duties of social life. He treats the most common subjects in a manner well calculated to strike the apprehensions, and catch the attention, of all whom he addresses. Although not master of that rich and powerful eloquence, which enchains the passions, and dazzles the understanding, he is well able to express plain truths with energy and force—he possesses that command of various language, by which he can clothe his meaning in terms always apt and appropriate; and he has the talent of amplifying his ideas so judiciously, as to place his matter in different lights, and discuss it with varied illustration, without conveying the appearance of sameness, or exciting the impression of tediousness. In some of the discourses, he undertakes theological points of difficult investigation, and in these he displays an excellence more peculiarly his own. He sees clearly and deeply into the subject, he has a just conception of it himself; and admirably infuses that conception into others by a methodical arrangement of the different parts, conveyed in perspicuous expressive language. Every where acute and penetrating, he unravels what is involved, throws light upon what is obscure, [78] and dives into what is concealed. He carefully avoids giving to his discussions an air of abstruseness: his reader is surprised at the clear apprehension which he acquires, of subjects deemed the most intricate and difficult.

  10. But more than enough has been said, in attempting to sketch the general merits of the work before us. We must enter a little into the particular contents, and by giving an extract or two, enable the reader to form some judgment for himself.

  11. A plain impressive discourse, recommending seriousness in religious matters stands, by the author's express injunction, first in the volume. Others which follow on 'the taste for devotion,' on 'meditating on religious subjects,' on 'purity of heart and affections,' &c. are admirably calculated to excite, and to invigorate religious dispositions, feelings, and motives of action, in opposition to levity, sensuality, and indifference. We produce a passage from his first sermon as a specimen of the common style of the whole. It may serve to shew his disapprobation of the treatment too generally bestowed on the misguided fanatic, and ignorant well-intentioned methodist—who are considered, not as beings to be pitied, instructed, and set right—but as reptiles to be trampled on, as noxious beasts to be hunted down wherever they are met, as fair game for every species of insult, ribaldry, and abuse. He is speaking of levity in religious matters.

    'The turn which this levity usually takes, is in jests and raillery upon the opinions, or the peculiarities, or the persons, of men of particular sects, or who bear particular names; especially if they happen to be more serious than ourselves. And of late this loose, and I can hardly help calling it, profane humour, has been directed chiefly against the followers of methodism. But, against whomsoever it happens to be pointed, it has all the bad effects both upon the speaker and the hearer, which we have noticed: and, as in other instances, so in this, give me leave to say, that it is very much misplaced. In the first place, were the doctrines and sentiments of those who bear this name ever so foolish and extravagant, (I do not say that they are either,) this proposition I will always maintain to be true, viz. that the wildest opinion that ever was entertained in matters of religion, is more rational than unconcern about these matters. Upon this subject, nothing is so absurd as indifference, no folly so contemptible as thoughtlessness and levity. In the next place, do the methodists deserve this treatment? Be their particular doctrines what they may, the professors of these doctrines appear to be in earnest about them: and a man who is in earnest about religion [79] cannot be a bad man, still less a fit subject for derision. I am no methodist myself. In their leading doctrines I differ from them. But I contend, that sincere men are not, for these, or indeed any doctrines, to be made laughing stocks to others.—A phrase much used upon these occasions, and frequent in the mouths of those who speak of such as in religious matters are more serious than themselves, is, that they are "righteous overmuch." These, it is true, are scripture words; but in the way and sense in which they are used, I am convinced that they are exceedingly misapplied. So long as we mean by righteousness, a sincere and anxious desire to seek out the will of God, and to perform it, it is impossible to be righteous overmuch. There is no such thing in nature: nor was it, nor could it be, the intention of any passage in the Bible, to say that there is, or to authorise us in casting over-righteousness as a reproach or a censure upon any one.'—p. 20-22.

    Sermon VIII. 'on prayer, in imitation of Christ,' rises above Paley's general style in animated description and tender eloquence. The following passage is much in the manner of Ogden, and would not, we think, be obscured by comparison with any thing of his.

    'We find our Lord resorting to prayer in his last extremity; and with an earnestnes, I had almost said a vehemence of devotion, proportioned to the occasion. As soon as he came to the place, he bade his disciples pray. When he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray ye, that ye enter not into temptation. This did not content him: this was not enough for the state and sufferings of his mind. He parted even from them. He withdrew about a stone's cast and kneeled down. Hear how his struggle in prayer is described. Three times he came to his disciples and returned again to prayer: thrice he kneeled down at a distance from them, repeating the same words. Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: drops of sweat fell from his body, as if it had been great drops of blood: yet, in all this, throughout the whole scene, the constant conclusion of his prayer was, "not my will, but thine be done." It was the greatest occasion that ever was—and the earnestness of our Lord's prayer, the devotion of his soul, corresponded with it.—Scenes of deep distress await us all. It is in vain to expect to pass through the world without falling into them. But, whatever may be the fortune of our lives, one great extremity at least, the hour of approaching death, is certainty to be passed through. What ought then to occupy us? What can then support us?—Prayer. Prayer with our blessed Lord was a refuge from the storm: almost every word he uttered during that tremendous scene was prayer: prayer the most earnest, the most urgent; repeated, continued, proceeding from the recesses of the soul; private, solitary; prayer for deliverance; [80] prayer for strength ; above every thing, prayer for resignation.'—p.144.

    But the discourses which appear to us the most valuable, both on account of the subjects discussed, and of the sensible perspicuous manner in which sound scriptural doctrine is laid down, are one on conversion, and several connected ones on the influence of the Spirit.

  12. Amongst the misguided fanatics of the present day, the doctrine of the 'new birth,' implying a necessity, under which all men lie, of some sudden sensible conversion, is a branch of rather extensive error, and, it may be feared, the source of considerable mischief. It tends to make religion consist, rather in certain mystical and rapturous feelings, than in real purity and practical morality. It generates, on the one hand, a sort of spiritual pride, an undue security and confidence which check real improvement; and, on the other, alarms and depresses weak minds with needless, ill-grounded apprehension. Paley considers the subject as deduced from scripture, with admirable clearness. He allows the possibility of a sudden impression so working on the mind as to effect a change which may be called conversion: but he denies that this either must necessarily, or does generally, take place. Many persons may be conscious of having always acted, in some sort, from religious motives—others may have been gradually reclaimed—may have been wrought upon, at different times, by impressions, admonitions, or suggestions, which have concurred to produce an effect, without there having existed any one specific moment of conversion. A gradual advancement towards perfection, a growing improvement in true religious feeling, may be requisite in all—but the necessity of some sensible instantaneous change, amounting to a complete conversion, is neither pointed out by scripture, rendered probable by reason, nor proved to exist by facts.

  13. The nature and effects of spiritual influence are discussed at considerable length. There are three sermons on spiritual influence in general, and three on its efficacy in encountering sinful propensities. It is pleasing to see thus judiciously treated a subject which has proved such a teeming source of wild fanaticism and lamentable absurdity—a mistaken apprehension of which, operating on weak but well disposed minds, has too often produced consequences of the most painful reflexion. We cannot allow ourselves even to trace the outline of his reasoning. Suffice it to say, that he has conducted the discussion with his [81] wonted penetration and clearness—that he obviates the leading difficulties—lays down the just limitations, and fixes those opinions, which are best warranted by scripture properly interpreted.

  14. Sermon XIX. on 'the need which all have of a Redeemer,' describes rationally and forcibly the grounds of true Christian humility, and the insufficiency of unassisted human endeavours. In serm. XXX. 'On the neglect of Warnings,' is given a favourable specimen of Paley's ability to express plain truths with warmth and energy, so as to make them come home to the feelings of his readers. And sermon XXXI. 'On the Terrors of the Lord,' describes the future misery to be apprehended by the wicked, with peculiar judgment and propriety—the delineation is strongly, but not coarsely exhibited; the picture is highly coloured, but not overcharged with horror.

  15. The reader must be aware, from what we have already said, that, in bestowing on many of these discourses high and unqualified approbation, we mean not to impress upon him the idea, that the merit of the whole volume is by any means uniform. In some parts, there is little pretension to originality, either in the matter or the manner. Several of the sermons are entirely of the plain and useful stamp; well adapted for country congregations indeed, but preferring small claim to eminence, as literary compositions; and of a character which would not have attracted any considerable notice, without the sanction of Paley's respected name.

  16. The subject of Dr. Paley's theological tenets, as evinced in this volume of sermons, must not be unnoticed. A large share of free censure has been poured forth against him on this head, in some of the publications of the day. He has been accused of maintaining a very marked and suspicious reserve on some points, more especially on the important question of our Saviour's divinity. The charge is a very serious one, and thus much must be conceded, that he has no where absolutely and unequivocally expressed his belief of this doctrine, although he has frequently used terms most nearly approaching to it. However, it must be borne in mind, that the sermons are professedly unfinished, not in a state prepared for publication, and having every expression maturely weighed. On this account, common justice and candour demand that no decisive inferences of direct design should be drawn from omissions or from silence, which in all probability may be entirely accidental. Nevertheless, we will not disguise, that, if any intentional reserve arising from an [82] unwillingness to give offence to particular sectaries, could be proved against Dr. Paley, we should bestow on such conduct our decided reprobation. Every minister of the church has formally attested his belief of certain tenets: and these tenets he is bound openly to profess, and publicly to teach. A suppression of truth amounts in such cases to an encouragement of error. If it could be allowed that even a temporary good end could be answered by it, there would be radical impropriety in the principle, great and serious mischief in the example and in the consequence.

  17. We now turn to the memoirs of Dr. Paley's life, compiled by Mr. Meadley. This biographer appears to be a plain sort of a person, not mightily gifted indeed with the talent of writing, but sufficiently so to tell a common story, and make common remarks. He comes forward with no great pretensions, telling us that he knows his work is very imperfect, and that his motive for undertaking it was the desire of doing justice to the memory of Paley. We can believe that this motive may have been a principal one—but we suspect that one or two others have been accessory. We surmise that he was partly swayed by a certain desire of making a book; which same desire has further impelled him to spin out his memoirs, by introducing needless repetitions and dwelling too much on trivial circumstances—also to fill up half of a goodly octavo, by cramming in analyses of Paley's sermons, tracts formerly published, &c. In fact, a memoir of Paley's life might have been properly attached to some edition of his works, but is far too scanty of matter for a separate publication. We surmise moreover that another motive, operating on our biographer, was a desire of professing before the public the sanction of Dr. Paley's name for what he is pleased to call, the cause of civil and religious liberty. Certain it is, that he takes no common pains to impress upon us, what is undoubtedly true:—That this excellent man was always the warm friend of religious toleration; and also to make us believe that he wished to abolish, or to relax, subscription to the articles of our established church. However, we are by no means disposed to quarrel with Mr. Meadley, and are glad to glean from him some little account of Dr. Paley's life.

  18. It is pleasing to trace the progress of a distinguished character to eminence, by the natural buoyancy of merit, without any underhand arts, or mean attachments to party, or servile cringings to great people. Paley, born in 1743, was the son of a country clergyman, schoolmaster at Giggleswich in Yorkshire. Educated [83] under his father, he gave promise rather of fair abilities, than of distinguished excellence. His mind was from the first remarkably active and enquiring. In bodily movements he was always singularly clumsy.

    'I was never a good horseman,'—he used to say of himself—'and when I followed my father on a poney of my own, on my first journey to Cambridge, I fell off seven times: I was lighter then than I am now, and my falls were not likely to be serious. My father, on hearing a thump, would turn his head half aside, and say, "Take care of thy money, lad."'—p. 5.

    His father at this time perceived the germ of his future distinction.

    'My son,' he said, 'is now gone to college—he will turn out a great man—very great indeed—I am certain of it: for he has by far the clearest head I ever met with in my life.'—p. 7.

  19. He appeared at the University as a raw, uncouth, unformed, sizar, singular in dress and manner, not remarkable for regular studious habits, but recommending himself by his good humour, social talent, and general ability. He obtained the public distinction of Senior Wrangler on taking his degree, and had afterwards a bachelor's prize adjudged to him for a Latin dissertation.

  20. For a short time subsequent to his first degree, he underwent the drudgery of acting as usher at a private school at Greenwich. Fortunately, he soon quarrelled with the schoolmaster, and, having been elected fellow of the college to which he belonged, fixed his residence in the university. He spent about 10 years of his life engaged in the business of academical tuition. His reputation in this situation rose extremely high. He was remarkable for the happy talent of adapting his lectures singularly well to the apprehensions of his pupils. He was considered as belonging to what was called the liberal party in the university, in politics and religion. In 1772, he was invited to sign the petition for relief in the matter of subscription to the articles, then presented to parliament: his refusal was conveyed in the jocular terms, that 'he could not afford to keep a conscience.' His biographer acts, we think, no very friendly part, when he attributes this refusal to prudential motives, acting in opposition to his real sentiments. Paley was a man of the most unvarnished honesty: we are convinced that his refusal must have been founded on a real disapprobation of the measure itself, of the [84] means adopted in furthering it, or of the persons engaged in promoting it.

  21. In 1776, he married and retired to a small living in Westmoreland, but was soon advanced successively by his friend Dr. Law, then bishop of Carlisle, to a prebendal stall, the archdeaconry, and chancellorship of the diocese. In this retirement, he digested and prepared his great work, the 'Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy,' which appeared in 1785.—His Horæ Paulinæ followed in 1790, and his Evidences of Christianity in 1794. After the latter publication, preferment, the well-earned fruit of his services and talents, poured fast upon him. In the space of one year, he was presented by different patrons to a prebendal stall in St. Paul's, the subdeanery of Lincoln, and the valuable rectory of Bishop Wearmouth. The latter place was the scene of his declining years. His Natural Theology, which appeared in 1802, was the only literary work in which he afterwards engaged. He made himself practically useful, by carefully performing the offices of a parish priest, discharging the more active duties of a magistrate, and guarding the moral conduct of his neighbours. A painful disorder, which visited the close of his useful life, marked him to be, in the hard task of suffering, as well as in acting, a firm sincere Christian. In 1804, the respect, and the regret of all good men, followed him to the grave.

  22. Paley was, in private life, a cheerful, social, unassuming character; of an equable temper, satisfied with his present lot, devoid of restless craving ambition. He entered with great zest into the common enjoyments of life: he never assumed an austere character of sanctity and stiffness, but was anxious to promote good humour and harmless mirth on all occasions. His conversation was free and unreserved, wholly untainted with that pedantic gravity and cold superciliousness, in which superior talent is too apt to clothe itself. He was remarkable for an extensive acquaintance with men and manners: he had a strong relish of wit, a copious fund of anecdote, and told a story with peculiar archness and naivetè. He was a particular admirer of theatrical performances; even in his latest years, he would place himself in a conspicuous part of a provincial theatre, when any celebrated performer arrived in his neighbourhood.

  23. He appears to have been at no time a regular profound student. He was able to chain his attention closely to any particular subject, which he had in hand: but his general habit was, to engage in desultory reading, to pursue any train of casual investigation, [85] and to enlarge his store of knowledge from every quarter. His mind, in fact, was never idle, always searching for matter of observation, and laying up food for reflexion. He was peculiarly happy in the talent of gleaning information from persons of different habits and professions with whom he conversed.

  24. Such was Paley in the private walks of life. Of his mental talents and acquirements, of his public principles and opinions, the estimate must be drawn from his writings.

  25. One very prominent, and very amiable feature of character displayed in his works, is a candid allowance of the errors, prejudices, and partialities of others. A spirit of liberality, fairness, and moderation, tempers all his opinions: he is never so blindly bigotted to what he himself approves, as not to be aware that an opposing bias, or a different cast of thought, may cause others to draw conclusions directly the reverse: he is every where the friend to enlightened policy and free discussion. In some of his opinions on public questions, it has been his fate to be censured by opposite parties: he has gone too far for some, and not far enough for others. All, we believe, with few exceptions, have agreed, that he has spoken honestly, opinions weighed maturely—that as he has sought his results coolly, so he has expressed them dispassionately—that he has always aimed at advancing the great cause of truth, and of lending the best support to good government and social order.

  26. On his qualifications and talents as a writer, we have touched already. He did not possess a comprehensive and grasping genius, nor was he endowed with a rich and sparkling imagination. His mind was well-informed, but not furnished with deep, extensive, ponderous erudition. We do not find him, like a Hoadley, or a Warburton, opening a vast battery of learning, and bringing forward a copious store of illustrating matter on the point which he is discussing. His distinguishing characteristic is a penetrating understanding, and a clear logical head: what he himself comprehends fully, that he details luminously. He never builds a conclusion on unsound or insufficient premises. He takes a subject to pieces with the nice skill of a master, presents to us distinctly its several parts, and explains them with accuracy and truth: he illustrates his meaning with apposite remarks, and much various allusion. He makes great amends for the want of abstruse erudition, by a large fund of various common-place knowledge, and a thorough acquaintance with men and manners. He has been taxed with a want of originality. If it is merely meant that he has chiefly taken in hand subjects [86] in which others have preceded him, the charge is obviously true. But, still in the line of discussion which he takes, he strikes generally out of the beaten track—he pursues new trains of investigation—places matters in a new light—lays down new principles, and illustrates by new arguments. In fact, he has the peculiar merit of being often truly original, where a common writer could only have been a tame and servile imitator. 'He is thought less original than he really is,' says an ingenious writer,* 'merely because his taste and modesty have led him to disdain the ostentation of novelty; and therefore he generally employs more art to blend his own arguments with the body of received opinions, so that they are scarce to be distinguished, than other men, in the pursuit of a transient popularity, have exerted to disguise the most miserable common-places in the shape of a paradox.'

  27. But he has left us one work, much less generally known and read than it deserves to be, which is truly original in its subject, in its construction, and in its details. We allude to his 'Horæ Paulinæ.' In this, he traces a new species of internal evidence for the authenticity of St. Paul's epistles, by observing the undesigned and less obvious coincidence of allusions and expressions, with the narrative in the acts of the apostle. In his statement of the value of this species of argument, he is clear and judicious. In pointing out the several passages, which furnish the proof, he shows a most intimate acquaintance with St. Paul's writings, the fruit of patient investigation and most close attention. He is singularly ingenious in hitting on a casual agreement, where a common mind would have overlooked it: he appreciates with judgment the true value of every head of evidence which he brings. He makes his deduction, just as far as that instance bears him out, and no farther; and, on proper occasions, he presses his reasonings with convincing force. Thus he has furnished a mass of most valuable evidence, which is peculiarly his own, and which no one else could have invented so well, or traced so clearly. He has given too an admirable model for similar investigations on other subjects. Had he produced no other work, his fame would have stood on no weak or narrow basis.

  28. Amongst the tracts and papers, with which Mr. Meadley has contrived to swell his volume, is a tract on the question of subscription [87] to the articles, published in 1774, in defence of a pamphlet of Bishop Law's. In bringing this to notice as an undoubted work of Dr. Paley's, we think that he suffers his zeal against the church, by law established, to outstrip his regard for his friend's reputation. He is by no means warranted in decidedly ascribing it to Dr. Paley. He produces no direct evidence—does not pretend that it was ever, in any circumstances, avowed, and merely pleads general report. We must be allowed to suspend at least our judgment on the subject. Internal evidence, we think, is strong against the fact. An acrimonious spirit of controversy pervades the tract, foreign to Paley's general manner: at times there is a puerile flippancy of remark—the argument is in some parts directed against all means of securing a conformity of faith in the ministers of any established church, an opinion which Paley never maintained, and the bare supposition of his holding which is an impeachment of his understanding. We must contend, that a discreet friend to his memory, who had no prejudices of his own to gratify, would not have been thus forward to give, on very disputable grounds, the sanction of his name to this production.

  29. On the whole, Paley was an amiable, and a respectable character in all the departments of life; one who taught well, and defended ably truths which he firmly believed, and duties which he admirably practised. Superiors he has undoubtedly had in those high talents and vast acquirements which dazzle and astonish; but still a place must be allowed him in the very foremost rank of eminence, if the consideration of his actual abilities be combined with that of their useful application—if his claim on the applauses of mankind be united with that on their gratitude.

Published @ RC

September 2006

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