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ill-founded and extravagant. Nay, the opinions formed on the steps which have been hitherto taken, are not the most judicious. Experiments may be to the public as fallacious as fables: they often occafion as many errors, and are always expected to prove too much. If the Institution in Margaret-Street were only to prove, that a liturgy may be drawn up, on principles which all mankind acknowledge, and may be used without offence, even to sectaries and bigots, it would deserve consideration and respect. A bihop quitting his diocese, and attended by both Houses of Parliament, in the same experiment, might have given it more eclat, but not more certainty. In the present case, it is a discovery made by a private man, at some risque, and at some expence. It holds up to the world a fact which bath at all times been deemed incredible ;---the importance of which to morals and policy may be understood, when men raise their thoughts from the elementary to the intellectual world; and the benefits which may be enjoyed in fiiture by persons who might not have undergone the apprehensions, anxieties, and inconveniencies by which it hath been ascertained.
' 'That good men of all nations and all religions :-that he Jievers in Moses, Christ, and Mahomet, Free-thinkers, Deists, and even Atheists, who acknowledge beneficent principles in nature, may unite in a form of public worship, on all the great and most important truths of piety and morality, can no more be a question : for it is demonstrated; not by the arts of logic, or the declamations of oratory in books, but by a stated, public service, to which any man may have recourse for satisfaction.'
Mr. Williams proceeds to state the use of his discovery for the benefit of preachers and politicians. The principal use arifes from the freedom of communication, which, as he obferves, conftitutes the bonds by which all affociations, all clubs, and all parties, are held together.' In the illustration of this profound remark, the Author hath thrown out hints which seem to mean something; but we acknowledge ourselves unable to get to the bottom of them.' And in truth they must be very deep!--quite out of common reach, fince leveral perfons,' he informs us, ' eminent for their knowledge in the present science of politics, have not understood him.'
For our parts, we see nothing very extraordinary in this Gentleman's experiments or discoveries. Whether it be, that our • thoughts are not yet raised from the elementary to the intel. lectual world,' or that we have yet some little predilection remaining for Christianity, or from whatever caule it may arise, we presume not to determine; but we must acknowledge, that we cannot see the great utility of this project (confeffediy a Uropian one) of uniting the most heterogenous parties, from the orthodox believer down to the speculative Atheist. No plan of
worship, however vague, equivocal, or comprehensive, can afford a link to join such hostile extremes : or provide them with • a loop or hinge to hang their doubts on,' while they repair, in all the nakedness of pure nature, to offer their united sacrifices at the same altar, and make their responses to the same priest. It is contrary to the nature of man-it is contrary to the express defignation both of the Jewish and Christian religion: and notwithstanding our Author's experiments and discoveries, we are at length fully convinced, after mature observation, that his project is a trial of mere curiosity, and chiefly affects as a novelty.
Mr. Williams's capital mistake lies in fuppofing, that what holds good in society at large, holds equally good in a religious community; and that nothing ought to bound the one which doth not limit the other : but he concludes too hastily, from premises that will be granted by very few, whether believers or infidels.
In the support of civil life, the most opposite professions of religion may be united for the common good by universal principles. Here, even the Atheist may be a useful member. He may be such on the ground of self-love. Society hath no farther claims on him, than it may possibly be for his own interest to obey. The laws of civil life ought then to be as comprehenfive as the good of society will admit: and Government acts a wise, as well as a benevolent part, when it applies all its members to the best use, and makes even the most dilimilar profesfions administer to the general welfare and peace of the community. These maxims of policy were unknown to, or even unheeded by our forefathers. They imagined, that toleration, instead of lessening, would encrease diffentions in the state :--that good subjects, and good churchmen meant the same thing, and could not be disunited without the ruin of both characters. To preserve their alliance, the Act of Uniformity was passed. A fair trial was made of this project. We know how it fucceeded.
As to Mr. Williams's project—which he hath now extended, by a fingular act of grace, to the utmost extreme of infidelity, we do not, on the most serious reflection we can form of it, see its absolute necessity, or even its fingular utility, on the broad ground of civil polity. The state hath saved all the trouble; and by mutual indulgence, dependence, and obligation, allowed and strengthened by Government, all the ends of political life are sufficiently secured and provided for: Now these, we apprehend, are Mr. Williams's sole objects.
Religion, that derives its capital motives from the Omniscience of the Deity, and ends not in a momentary glow of admiration, excited by a view of the works of nature, but looks
forwards to a future ftate, can be no part of an institution which includes Atheists in the number of its votaries.
Mr. Williams acknowledges, that it is not material to his purpose, whether the Atheist exclude the word, God, from his religious dialect, and ascribe all we fee to nature, necesity, or chance it is the character only of necessity, of chance, or of the deified forms of human imagination, which can affect us.'
Undoubtedly words, in themselves, are of little consequence. It is the ideas they excite that are principally to be attended to. Now, we ask, What idea the most speculative and metaphyfical Atheist can be supposed to affociate with the word, CHANCE? Or on what ground it can be imagined he should pay any adoration to the character of Chance ? Or what effe&t the contemplation of it can possibly have in improving his mind and morals? How, we ask, can the Atheist, who ascribes the productions of the universe, and all the operations of nature, to Chance, regard this original cause, as an object of delight, gratitude, and virtuous resolutions,' (as Mr. Williams expresses himself) or with any intention to act, in his little sphere, in fome degree, according to the great principle he hath been contemplating?'-To adore Chance-to bę grateful to Chance, are solecisms shocking to common sense, and which cannot be reconciled, even by the ingenuity of Mr. WilJiams. Perhaps he may tell us, that we do not understand him: but, in our view, nothing can throw a stronger ridicule on his all-comprehensive inftitution, than by supposing a num. ber of persons assembled in Margaret Street, to join in devotion and thanksgiving-fome to God-some to Nature- a third class to Neceflity, and a fourth to Chance :-- fome to a Principle allperfect and all-wise : and others, to a Being whose works they imagine are not always as they might be: and are not ordered according to their ideas of perfect wisdom and goodness. Yet Mr. Williams is ready to accommodate them all: and does not see any good reason why those sceptics, who are ready to find fault with the ways of God, should not yet adore him : for, putting himself in their situation, and fuppofing that he had inbibed their principles, yet (says he) as it is wonderful that things should be as well as they are, and that in the sum of existence, there should be so much happiness as to make it deGrable-this would claim my relpectful attention-and this attention would be all the religion of which I should be capable.
“ Now this is worshipful society,”-as Shakespeare, the true “ priest of nature,” humoroudly sings :-where folks may adore God, or adore without a God: where they may ascend on Plas tonic pinions to the το καλον
“ The first good, first persex, and first fair:".
* See Williams's Motto.
or reason § downwards till they doubt of his goodness and perfection, and then sink devotion into respectful attention.'
We have thus, without rashness, and on the grounds of obfervation and experience, given our free sentiments on the Institution in Margaret-Street:' and if we were inclined to appeal to any authority to countenance our freedom, it Ihould be to Mr. Williams himself, who tells us, that all thoughts, wrong as well as right, should be freely communicated.'-We hope, our freedom hath been tempered with moderation and decency: though if we were inclined to be abusive, we might plead his example to give a sanction to calumny: for be says, without scruple or reserve, that preaching keeps up an order of men who are under a necessity of diffembling their failings and faults, and, consequently, of tainting their own minds, and those of their hearers, with hypocrisy :--a vice almost in. separable from an assembly under the direction of a priest, whether called religious, moral, or sentimental.'
The clergy were first indebted to the politeness of Mr. Hume for this reflection on the character of their order. Mr. Wile liams bears bis testimony to the juftness of the reflection. This must give it double credit; for having been of the order himself-and still not satisfied (he tells us out of his employment, he must be a competent judge of the vice which naturally taints the mind of a priest.
As we have now done justice to our impartiality, we proceed to discharge another obligation; and that is, to do justice to the fingular merit of this lively and most ingenious Moralist. His Lectures have afforded us uncommon entertainment: for wild as some of this Gentleman's notions are, and deficient as his discourses may be in point of logical arrangement, yet peculiar beauties are scattered through almost every page of his work. He is entitled to this acknowledgment: and we could not refuse it, without doing manifest injustice to his abilities, We do not say, that the excellencies of these Lectures will atone for their errors and defects; but this we must say, that these excellencies are so various and striking, that they must ap. pear in spite of every thing that tends to obscure them.
The Lectures are in number forty-fix. They are, in general, prefaced with a text of Scripture : though some few are introduced with a motto from the moral writings of the Ethnic sages. This was consistent enough with his plan, which excludes the prescriptive authority of revelation; and the ruling principle of which, is, to adopt a maxim, not from its mode of recommendation, but from its intrintic excellence, founded on common nature, and which, of consequence, would be as much a truth in the mouth of a Heathen as in the mouth of an Apoftle. -His apology for omitting sometimes a text of Scripture by way of a motto to his discourse, forms a part of his introduction to the fourth Lecture, on the Knowledge of the Deity.'
$ See Pope's Dunciad,
• Those persons' (says he)' who are skilled in the mysteries of verbal criticism and mythological interpretation; who can write pages on a Greek particle, and deduce doctrines from the equivocations of a Hebrew word, should never address an 'audience but from a text, as they do sufficient honour to themselves, and to their sacred oracles, by dwelling on fyllables and letters, and spending years in explaining and preaching on what was spoken in a few hours. But the person who hath the desire and ambition of producing moral effects in the minds of his hearers, after the manner of those Philosophers, and those Apostles, who led the antient world to knowledge and virtue, by alluding to passages in their works, may betray so much of his design as to defeat it, or subject himself to a kind of ridicule which might prevent his success.
This passage is not happy for its perspicuity :—but it is frequently the custom with the first spirits of human nature' (to use Mr. Williams's expression) to mean more than meets the ear. But we Reviewers are often in a hurry, and if we cannot catch a meaning as we run on, we cannot afford time to turn back, and trace it out through any intricate or doubtful paths.-Nevertheless, Mr. Williams knows where he is, and what he is about; and he informs us, that these considerations will induce him often to address bis audience, without the inconvenient, and sometimes absurd custom, of prefixing a text of Scripture.' "Those of my hearers' (continues he) who are intelligent and candid, will remember these things as my reasons: those who are otherwise, will represent me with the same justice, and the same truth, as they do in regard to opinions and doctrines which they declare me at enmity with, because I never mention them. My views are not to be promoted by contentions and quarrels, though it be very poffible my interest may. I regard furious men, even under religious pretences, as wild beafs : and nothing but neceflity Thall ever throw me in their way.'
Mr. Williams begins his series of Lectures with a discourse on public worship. It is a defultory, but an ingenious and spirited eslay. He doth not reason according to the forms of logic; nor doch he declaim according to the rules of the pulpit ; but he frequently doch better than the mere man of logic, or the mere man of the pulpit is capable of doing.–We know, we shall please all Readers of taste and candour by the following extract.