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RIGHT HON. JOSEPH ADDISON.
To which are added, Discourses againft
With a Preface,
Containing the Sentiments of
Mr. BOYLE, Mr. LOCKE, and Sir ISAAC NEWTON,
THE character of Mr. Addison and his writings, for juftnefs
of thought, itrength of reasoning, and purity of style, is too well eftablished to need a recommendation; but their greatest ornament, and that which gives a lustre to all the reft, is his appearing, throughout, a zealous advocate for virtue and religion, against profaneness and infidelity. And because his excellent discourses upon those subjects lie dispersed among his other writings, and are by that means not fo generally known and read as they deserve, as was judged to be no unseafonable service to religion, to publish them in a distinct volume; in hopes, that the elegance and beauty peculiar to Mr. Addison's writings, would recommend them to persons of superior character and liberal education; and, as they are the productions of a layman, they may be the more readily receiyed, and considered as a proper manual of religion.
Sceptics and infidels are great pretenders to reason and philosophy, and are willing to insinuate, that none who are really possessed of those talents, can easily affent to the truth of chris. tianity. But unfortunately for them and their cause, many persons, who were doubtless the most perfect reasoners and philosophers of their time, are also known to have been form believers; we mean Mr. Boyle, Mr. Locke, Sir Isaac Newton, and Mr. Addison: who were as perfect reasoners as any of the sceptics and infidels of this day. Some of them might have been fingular in their opinions about particular points in christianity, which will ever be the case as long as men are prone to error; but what we here insist on, is, that they were accurate reasoners, and at the same time, firm believers.
Mr. Boylc, the most exact searcher into the works of nature that any age has known, and who saw atheism and infi- delity beginning to prevail in the loose and voluptuous reign of king Charles the second, pursued his philosophical inquiries with religious views, to establish the minds of men in a firm belief, and thorough sense of the infinite power and wisdom of the great Creator.
This account we have from Dr. Burnct, who was intimately acquainted with him, and preached his funeral sermon: "It appeared to those who conversed with him in his inqui. ries into nature, that his main design in that (on which as he had his own eye most constantly, fo he took care to put others often in mind of it) was to raise in himself and others, fubliiner thoughts of the greatness and glory, and of the wisdoma A 2
and goodness of God. This was so deep in his thoughts, that he concludes the article of his will which relates to that illus. trious body, the royal society, in these words :" "wishing them a bappy success in their laudable attempts to discover the true nature of the works of God; and praying that they, and all other searchers into physical truths, may cordially refer their attainments to the glory of the great Author of nature and to the comfort of mankind.' The same person also speaks thus of him: “He had the profoundest veneration for the great God of heaven and earth that ever I observed in any person. The very name of God was never mentioned by him without a perceptible pause in his discourse.”
And of the strict and exemplary course of his whole life, he says, “ I might here challenge the whole tribe of libertines to come and view the usefulness, as well as the excellence of the christian religion, in a life that was entirely dedicated to it.”
Against the atheists, he wrote his Free enquiry into the received notion of nature,' (to confute the pernicious principle of ascribing effects to nature, which are only produced by the infinite power and wisdom and God;) and also his . EfTay about final causes of things natural,' to thew that all things in nature were made and contrived with great order, and every thing for its proper end and use, by an all-wise Creator.
Against the deists, he wrote a treatise of things above reason;' in which he makes it appear, that several things which we judge to be contrary to reason, being above the reach of our understanding, are not therefore to be thought unreasonable, because we cannot comprehend them, since they may be apparently reasonable to a greater and more comprehensive understanding. He wrote another treatise, to shew the possibility of the resurrection of the fame body.'
The veneration he had for the Holy Scriptures, appears not only from his studying them with great exactness, and exhorting others to do the same; but more particularly from a distinet treatise which he wrote on purpose to defend the scripture style, and to answer all the objections which profane and irreligious persons have made against it. And speaking of morality considered as a rule of life, he says, “I have formerly taken pains to peruse books of moralily; yet, fince they have only a power to persuade, but not to command, and sin and death do not necessarily attend the disobedience of them, they have the less influence; for since we may take the lia berty to question human writers, I find that the methods they take to impose their writings upon us, may serve to countenance either truth or falsood.
His zeal to propagate christianity in the world, appears by many and large benefactions to that end; which are enumea rated in his funeral sermon. “ He was at the charge of the translation and impression of the New Testament into the Malayan language, which he sent over all the East Indies. He gave an ample reward to the translator of Grotius's incomparable book of the truth of the christian religion into Arabic, and was at the charge of a whole impression, which he ordered to be distributed in all the countries where that language is understood. He designed to have carried on the impression of the New Testament in the Turkish language; but the East India company thought it became their duty, and accordingly undertook it; but he contributed liberally towards the con. pletion of the translation. He was at seven hundred pounds expence in the edition of the Irish Bible, which he ordered to be distributed in Ireland, and he contributed largely both to the impressions of the Welsh Bible, and of the Irish Bible, in Scotland. He gave, during his life, three hundred pounds to advance the design of propagating the christian religion in America; and as soon as he heard that the East India company entertained the like design in the east, he sent an hundred pounds as an example, to induce others to contribute, but in. tended to increase his donation, when there should be a probability of accomplishing the undertaking. Tho’accident prevented him from settling it during his lise, he ordered in his will, that a liberal provision should be made for a clergyman, who should, in a course of well digested sermons, every year es. tablish the truth of the christian religion in general, without descending to the subdivisions amongst christians; and who 1hould be changed every third year, that fo this laudable ftudy might be pursued by many divines, by which means many might become masters of the arguments advanced on the subject.
In his younger years he had thoughts of entering into holy orders, but one reason that determined him against it, was, that he conceived he might, in some respects, be more ferviceable to religion by continuing a layman: “His having no interests with respect to religion, besides those which con. cerned his own happiness, would add a weight to the arguments he adduced in its vindication. He knew the free