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knowing observer with a prescient impression of the real character of the person. And, above all, in such a character as Toland's will presently appear to have been, these indications are never wanting. The adventurer is ever marked by some of those fine irregularities of aspect and manner which are best designated by the term “scampish.”
Toland came over to Dublin, where his fame had preceded him. He heard his book analyzed, and its intent exposed and refuted in the pulpit; and was, very generally, encountered with question and controversy. This was, however, rendered personally hurtful by the manner and temper in which it was met. The overweening vanity of the man led him to the display of arrogant pretensions, and to a rude and dogmatic disregard for time, place and person. The caution which, in some degree, guarded the pernicious absurdities of his book, was abandoned in colloquial discussion; and it is probable, too, that numerous unrecorded, but easily inferred, indications in his habits, such as we have already described, led to a more true and just appreciation of his real views. He gradually accumulated a body of opinion and feeling against himself, and the consequence is stated in a letter from Mr Molyneux to Locke:“ Mr Toland is, at last, driven out of our kingdom. The poor gentleman, by his imprudent management, had raised such an unusual outcry, that it was even dangerous for a man to have been known once to converse with him. This made all wary men of reputation decline seeing him-insomuch that, at last, he wanted a meal's meat, as I am told-and none would admit him to their tables. The little stock of money which he brought to this country being exhausted, he fell to borrowing from any one who would lend him half-a-crown; and ran in debt for his wigs, clothes, and lodgings, as I am informed. And, last of all, to complete his hardships, the parliament fell on his book-voted it to be burned by the common hangman—and ordered the author to be taken into custody by the serjeant-at-arms, and to be prosecuted by the attorneygeneral at law. Hereupon he is fled out of the kingdom, and none here knows where he has directed his course.” We consider this account so far important, as it exhibits the real character of this wretched man-in whom no small intellectual powers were wasted and degraded. We are desirous to take the opportunity to illustrate an important first truth—that there is a nearer connexion than is, perhaps, generally suspected between moral virtue and right reason. With this consideration we shall not, however, interrupt our narrative, as it will find a more convenient place at the end of our memoir, when every part of the subject will have been distinctly stated.
From Dublin Toland proceeded to take refuge in London. There, comparatively secure in the obscurity of the throng, he digested the insults his vanity had sustained, and meditated vindictive attacks on the christian religion. His courage was not equal to his resentment. Not daring to give a direct blow to the object of his malice, he seemns to have projected, from the first, what he considered the safer course. As he had commenced with a design to overthrow revealed religion under the pretext of friendship, by placing it in an assailable position, he next conceived the project of attacking it more directly under the pretext of arguments apparently unconnected with it. For this purpose it was easy to find the pretext-the genuineness of the Icon Basilike presented precisely the occasion to misrepresent the evidences for the canon of scripture, without committing him directly on so dangerous a subject. Of course, however, in a country like England, the remotest and most dexterous falsification of the laws of evidence could not escape, nor could the cowardly artifices of sophistry be long permitted to lurk, under the cover of perfidious insinuation. Toland was quickly dragged to light by Dr Blackall, afterwards bishop of Exeter. He had the poverty of spirit to vindicate himself by falsehood, and asserted that it had been his design, not to attack, but to illustrate and confirm the canon of the scriptures.
The subject was introduced in the lower house of convocation, and five propositions were extracted from his former publication, “ Christianity Not Mysterious”-on which the resolution was past, that, “in their judgment, the said book contained pernicious principles, of dangerous consequence to the christian religion; that it tended, and—as they conceived-was written on a design to subvert the fundamental articles of the christian faith,” &c. The resolution, of which this is a portion, was reported to the upper house, and it passed a resolution to prosecute the author. This course was prevented by the opinion of the law authorities consulted upon the occasion, that the convocation could not act without a license from the king. Toland had the weakness to triumph in such an escape; and, drawing the conclusion that he might now proceed more boldly, he began more freely to avow his genuine views.
It does not appear to us in any way necessary to waste our fastcontracting space, in detailing the political adventures of Toland. He was a political pamphleteer of great expertness and talent; and his character and abilities found their most appropriate level in party intrigue. Had the elements of his moral temper been of a higher and firmer order, and his career exclusively that for which his talents qualified him, we might, happily, have here a different and more agreeable duty to discharge. But in the actual case, he has no claim upon us but as a deist mischievous in his generation.
A brief statement of some otherwise unimportant facts, may, however, be very available for our main purpose. Toland appears in two characters distinct in themselves. We think it a part of our task to identify them. There is a truth of much general application, which should be here observed. On every side, in all great questions in which principle is involved, both parties will find zealous support from persons of extreme, and, therefore, pernicious and false views. Thus, as we shall find order and religion often maintained by prejudice and official corruption, so will the intriguer for license appear among the advocates for liberty. There is, therefore, no deduction to be made from the unfavourable portrait we would here draw for Toland, that his political principles place him among the constitutional ranks of the whigs of 1690. The ability of his pamphlets gave him a momentary importance. His “ Anglia Libera” was published in 1701, upon the passing of the act of settlement; and when the earl of Macclesfield was sent to Hanover with a copy of the act to the electoral family, whose succession was thus secured, Toland accompanied him, and the earl presented his book to the princess Sophia. He was, consequently, received with all the favour due to a zealous and useful supporter of the succession: he remained for some weeks at court, and, on his return, was dismissed with presents and honours, among which were portraits of the members of the electoral family. He visited Berlin, with such favourable recommendations, as gave him there, also, access to the court. Such advantages, with the useful talents which he unquestionably possessed, placed him on a footing from which a man of high masculine virtues would have scarcely failed to rise to eminence, and such honours and promotions as are the main objects of public life. But the person who can be used in services of doubtful respectability is, for obvious reasons, not likely to be raised to a higher sphere of action: there are those whose perceptions of the difference between the lofty and the mean are so obtuse, that their ambition will seldom fail to rush upon courses of low subserviency as the paths of advancement, and become the useful and despised servants of firmer and prouder spirits. Such a man we see all reason to pronounce Toland. His pen was employed by Mr Harley, and he obtained the character of being employed by him as a spy. The imputation sits at least consistently upon his character, as known by all the earlier known incidents of his life. Indeed, upon Toland the character reflects no discredit, and it is only important for the lesson which we have endeavoured to point out;-he had the talents and opportunities which gave a different kind of importance to the characters of Swift, Steele, and Addison. If, however, it were worth while to reason out the allegation, it is to be observed, that there is strong confirmation, in a variety of ascertained particulars, which mark the habits and relations acquired in a course of active political intrigue. Without having attained reputation or honourable promotion, Toland was evidently in the use and possession of the underhand avenues and approaches, which enabled him to assume the pretence of an influence which he did not possess, and to act as a place-broker for others. This is not, however, intended to be charged wholly to fraudulent intent. His inordinate vanity led him to exaggerate his importance,—he was useful, and thought himself important. Deficient in the fine and lofty instincts of more elevated minds, Toland could walk with unconscious vanity in degrading ways, and glory in positions where others would be ashamed.
In the course which may be thus generally described he spent several years,-most successful as a pamphleteer, employed by statesmen, and rewarded by profuse gifts and remunerations,-passing also through a great variety of vicissitudes and adventures, of which there is no record but the evidence of vaguely described results. In 1718, he seems at last to have subsided into the philosopher again—the spirit of his youth returned, and he began to publish a continuation of the series of writings for the sake of which we notice him here. In 1725, his “Pantheisticon” appeared, in which it plainly appears, that the opponent of those mysteries which are made known by revelation, may have no objection to mysteries of his own invention. The following is a specimen:-“ In mundo omnia sunt unum; unumque est omne in omnibus; quod omne in omnibus Deus est; æternus ac immensus, neque genitus neque interiturus. In eo vivimus, movemus, et existimus. Ab eo natum est unumquidque, in eumque denuo reverturum.” Such is the statement of what may be regarded as the fundamental tenet of the sect of Pantheists—the blasphemous and atheistic society to which Toland belonged. Its entire want of distinct meaning, is such as to suggest the anxious question,—why it is that those who reject the plain and forcible evidences of the christian religion, can be imposed upon by such senseless absurdity. The answer is complicated with numerous considerations; among which is the important fact, that deism is not founded either on the use, or even the abuse of reason, although, in common with all the errors and crimes of men, it is thought important to plead so imposing a sanction; and hence appears the very common phenomenon of persons disclaiming what they would call the impositions of priests and seets, on the alleged ground of the same want of sense and reasonable ground, which is truly and glaringly perceptible in those creeds and philosophies which they set up for themselves. But the secret is made far more apparent from the direct comparison of that which they follow and that which they reject. The religion which would “mortify the deeds of the body,” may, in the present instance, be weighed against the pantheism described by Toland. Pantheism, on the authority of a pantheist, was the elevation of every vice into a virtue, by the only means in which human reason could be forced into a sanction—the adoption of unintelligible tenets to perplex the understanding—and, under pretence of reason, set common sense aside. The pantheists were a bacchanalian society, which met to participate in the most frantic follies and indulgences, and encourage each other into a defiance of all restraints of conscience. At those ineetings, it was customary to have authorities for atheism brought forward, and passages read out of such ancient writers as might seem to favour the same object. Thus, indeed, -and it is but one of a class, of similar cases,—the very religious feelings implanted in the human breast are converted into a barrier against religion itself.
Toland's book was published at the call of hunger. He had dropped into poverty and neglect; he had been used and abused; and, like all such tools, thrown aside. He was compelled to write a book, not for sale, but to levy a contribution on charity. The subject readiest to his understanding, and nearest to his heart, was the raving impiety of pantheism. The book was privately circulated among such persons as could be prevailed upon to make it the excuse for their benevolence. Among its purchasers, it may be presumed that the greater number were ignorant of the real nature of the book.
Toland was living in London in the winter of 1722, when he fell so ill as to be compelled to have recourse to medical advice. The treatment he received was not successful, and he left his physician and retired to Putney, where he had long been accustomed to pass his summers. Here, for a time, he recovered his strength so far as to be enabled to write “ A Dissertation upon the uncertainty of Physic, and the danger of trusting our lives to those who practise it.” He soon, however, found that it was not impossible to die without a doctor's help; and, after a short and tedious illness, expired in March, 1722.
We approach, with some reluctance, the discharge of our critical duty in the estimate of the literary character of Toland. The space which he occupies in the history of literature belongs less to any claim of splendid ability or extensive acquirement, than to that false reputation which may be easily acquired by the meanest talents, when employed in the service of a reigning folly or a popular delusion; and most, perhaps, of all, in the support of any of those forms of unbelief which have their origin in the perversions of human nature. Any empiric-and such are the infidel writers from first to last-who will undertake to release men from the terrors and restraints of the law of God, as declared by himself, and substitute in its place some specious invention, of a kind more accommodating to sin, is sure of all the support that the worst dispositions of mankind can venture to give. To acquire eminence in the senate, at the bar, in the chair of science, is no easy matter,—but it is easy to rise to the vicious eminence of an apologist for vice or folly; and what but such a facility can account for Deism, and the fame of its most eminent professors? If, on any other subject of study which lies within the compass of their power, such reasoners as Herbert, Shaftesbury, and Spinoza, with their long train of jarring sectaries in folly, had appeared,—not even the splendour of eloquence, the original nerve and vein of thought, or the utmost dexterity of perversion, could for an hour impose on the meanest understanding capable of the perusal of such writings. If they had so reasoned on municipal law, on political economy, on mathematics, or on astronomy,replete as the history of human knowledge is with error,-it would at once be seen that they were gratuitous in their data, evasive and sophistical in their reasonings, and all irreconcilably at variance among themselves. On no other subject but revealed religion will the most coarse and palpable contradictions pass; or the most current and practical observation and experience which govern in all other things, be flippantly denied. Hundreds of persons may be met indeed in the public-room of a stagecoach hotel who pretend to have no acquaintance with history, or law, or science, or any branch of human knowledge beyond some low calling; and yet, if the subject of christianity should by accident be introduced, will shake their heads, smile sardonically, and rise to the dignity of philosophers. To these the mission of a man, like Toland, will always be an avatar of living inspiration. And though, happily, there is a predominance of respect for known truth, and a reverence for the rock-built structure of our faith which will combine against such men all that is respectable in society; yet he will not want a congregation. It is also a truth, applicable in this place, that artifice holds as large a place in the proceedings of the deist, as sophistry—to be heard by christians, he will profess to be a christian—when Satan preaches it will be in a garb of light, and perhaps not without interpretations of holy writ. Toland, like Herbert and Shaftesbury, set out with the profession of christianitylike these eminent men to whom, indeed, the comparison is no compliment, he professed friendship, in order to betray. It is curious to observe how the character of Judas has been transmitted. .