« PreviousContinue »
priated exclusively for the promotion of the emigration of virtuous and industrious persons from Great Britain and Ireland. To restore this revenue to its proper use, taxation to a large amount must now be resorted to; and it cannot be doubted, that whenever the colonists come to be taxed, as they certainly will very shortly, to the amount of from £50,000 to £100,000 per annum, for the support of three or four contemporanevus established churches, they will just do what the Americans found it both expedient and necessary to do, in precisely similar circumstances, by refusing the tax, and leaving all these churches to the Christian feelings and affections of their respective adherents. So long as the salaries of the colonial clergy are paid from the custom-house chest, or the produce of indirect taxation, the colonists are not likely to murmur ; but the case will be prodigiously altered when they come to be paid from a revenue arising from direct taxation. The colonists will then most certainly refuse the rate, and leave the clergy to the operation of the voluntary system.'
pp. 4, 5.
Dr. Lang was desirous, on returning to his native land for a short season, to visit the United States; and to witness with his own eyes the result of the voluntary principle, in all its bearings, upon the political, the moral, the literary, and the religious interests of that enterprising people. He traversed the various states, and collected a multitude of facts, solely to illustrate this one point. The result is nothing new to us; but it is gratifying to have the facts attested by such a witness. What he states may perchance find its way where an argument or a fact from another person would be unheeded. Without awakening suspicion he may perhaps be permitted to unfold the curtains to some small degree which surround the state-church; and let a little light into an apartment which prejudice has kept for ages in comparative darkness. What we then ask, is the finding of this active, intelligent, and withal, this disinterested witness ; for be it observed, that Dr. Lang has for the last fifteen years been engaged as a regularly ordained minister of the church of Scotland, and on the highest salary allowed by the state to any minister of that denomination : what, we ask, is the result of his researches ? It is this : that notwithstanding its boundless extent, its scattered population, and its juvenile institutions, the United States of America are absolutely more fully supplied with elementary instruction and the means of grace than are either England or Scotland, notwithstanding the antiquity of their institutions, the amplitude of their endowments, and the full scope which for the last century has been afforded to voluntary agency. Dr. Lang had, moreover, found that the two systems were tried there on equal terms; that the endowment system was discarded by the ministers themselves in the states where, under British influence, it had been esta
blished, chiefly on the ground of its inefficiency :--that Unitarianism rose and spread under the shelter of a state-establishment; but that the voluntary principle is now recording its decline and downfall :—that infidelity, except among recent European emigrants, is little known, and among the intelligent circles, nowhere avowed :-in short, that the United States exhibits a large argument in favor of free institutions for the spread of education and religion; a national refutation of the entire scheme which unites the church with the state for the benefit of the people.
Information on this subject is just now additionally important, since the rage for colonization is more active than was ever before known. Are we, then, to carry to every country where our overplus population locate, a cumbrous, expensive, inefficient ecclesiastical apparatus to fatten upon the undeveloped resources of our new colonies ? or, are we to trust to the vital energy of religion itself,—to the zeal of those who feel its importance; and more especially to that innate necessity of human nature which is the strongest impulse to its provision and the surest guarantee for its continuance.
Dr. Lang, though not at all times select in his language or clear in his reasoning, is a spirited, discursive writer; gathers up facts and anecdotes with insatiable zest; has his eyes open in every company he enters; and sees and hears more in a few months than others would in as many years. Independent of the important subject which is discussed, and upon which all his facts have a bearing, this is a very lively and instructive volume: the reader travels with the writer in true rail-road fashion; and is entertained all along the way by an activity of mind and a range of information which affords no leisure for drowsiness or fatigue.
The work closes with a chapter on Slavery Abolition and African Colonization, which we regret to say is a disparagement to the book, as well as to the judgment of the writer. We can be at no loss to ascertain what animal squatted at his ear, and poisoned him with these absurd misrepresentations. LIBERIA ! We verily believed that bubble had burst long ago. Our only apology for Dr. Lang is, that he describes a country he never saw ; and was duped, either by men whose interest it was to mislead, or whose characters were pledged to statements they once believed to be true, but who had too much obstinacy to listen or too much pride to retract, when these statements were proved to be false.
THE measure of modern episcopal biography is not abundant,
1 and, for the most part, the quality but meanly atones for the defect in quantity. During nearly a century, the bench has supplied but few great subjects, yet there have been several whose talents, character, and actions were sufficient to have rendered a composition vital for generations to come. The inference, therefore, is—and it is also the fact-that the superior class of their lordships, although themselves men of letters, and surrounded by persons addicted to literature, have not been fortunate in respect of biographers. Seldom, indeed, has the history of a mitre been penned by the hand of a master. We are inclined to doubt whether Bishop Burgess be an exception; and, before we terminate our strictures, we shall assign our reasons; but in the meanwhile we must glance at the main facts of his lordship's long and laborious career.
THOMAS BURGESS was born November 18, 1756, at Odiham, near Basingstoke, in Hampshire, where his father, a worthy and pious man, carried on the business of a grocer. He learnt the first elements of knowledge at a dame's school, and in 1768, he entered that of Winchester, where he continued till 1775. Of this school at that period the head master was no other than Dr. Joseph Warton, the essayist on the Genius and Writings of Pope. Warton was himself a man of taste, and had no mean talent for poetry; but, like most men of the same class, he disliked philology, and that dislike entailed ignorance to an extent which incapacitated him for his high vocation. Of this fact the work before us supplies examples. He was sometimes sorely put to it, to get through the chorus of a Greek tragedy; and his wit but ill sufficed to conceal his embarrassment. While a scholar was reading the puzzle passage, and was just on the eve of 'sticking fast,' the poetical preceptor would break out with a loud voice, and demand an account of noises among the boys, which nobody heard but himself! So uniformly was this method of solving difficulties resorted to, that the late Bishop Huntingford was wont to say, he so well knew what would happen on the approach of a dark passage, that he often said to the boy next him, “Now we shall have a noise.' During the settlement of the noise,' the reader was allowed to proceed as he best could ; thus the slough was passed, and the work went on. In 1755, he was removed to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, upon a Winchester Scholarship, which he honorably gained
by a severe competition. Dr. Lawrence, the future friend of Edmund Burke, entered at the same time. Here again disgraceful ignorance filled the chair assigned to wisdom. The tutor of Burgess and Lawrence soon discovered that the youths were in advance of him, and he, therefore, prudently intimated that he should dispense with their future attendance at lectures! To most young men such a state of things, both at school and at college, would have been fatal; but in Burgess there was a spring and a power that nothing could repress. He felt his deficiency, he saw his danger, and he sought a remedy. With a resolution which did him credit, he betook himself to the study of Greek criticism; Hoogeven, Bos, and Vigerus became his constant companions, and he actually submitted to the drudgery of committing to memory the whole of Nugent's Greek Primitives. Of this weary toil, however, he experienced the benefit through life, and, in after times, he often urged on his youthful friends the great importance of thoroughly mastering first principles, upon all subjects of human inquiry. On this foundation a splendid superstructure was ultimately reared; the four years which he spent at Oxford, previous to taking his degree, were intensely devoted to the study of Greek. The versatility of his mind was indicated also by the fact, that he not only delighted in metaphysical inquiry, but directed not a little of his attention to elegant literature both classical and English. From an admirer, he became a votary, of the muses; and, in the year 1777, he published Bagley Wood, a poem. But poetry was not his element; and he had the good sense to consecrate his best energies to more substantial pursuits. In 1778, still before taking his degree, he edited Burton's Pentalogia—a work comprising five of the finest Greek tragedies, illustrated by annotations for the use of students. Burgess enriched his edition with an appendix of learned notes, and an improved Greek index. Such an undertaking by an under-graduate, although nothing very marvellous in itself, was an occurrence so remarkable, that it commanded great attention at Oxford and elsewhere, and procured for him the friendship of various learned men. In 1778, he took his Bachelor's degree, and afterwards commenced the preparation of a new edition of Dawe's Miscellanea Critica—a work of great erudition, which consists of critical disquisitions on the text of the Attic poets, comprising conjectural emendations, remarks on peculiarities of construction, dissertations on Greek metre, and inquiries into the properties of the Æolic Digamma-a letter, for the restoration of which to the Greek alphabet, we are indebted to the learning and acuteness of Dr. Bentley. This publication, under providence, was the pivot on which his ecclesiastical fortunes chiefly turned. He was thus brought under the notice of Mr. Tyrwhitt, a gentleman, a scholar, a man of genius, a quick discerner, and a stedfast friend of modest worth. This person soon discovered the solid character and singular merit of the youthful Burgess; he devised means to enlarge his straitened circumstances, and he lost no opportunity of improving his fame and fortunes. In 1779, Burgess was a competitor for the Chancellor's Prize at Oxford, On the affinity between Poetry ‘and Painting,' but without success, as the prize was carried away by Mr. Addington, now Lord Sidmouth, who, it will subsequently appear, thirty years afterwards procured him a bishopric. In the following year, however, he tried again, and was adjudged a victor.
From this time his circle of friends and of correspondents enlarged, and among them we find Lord Monboddo, a name well known in the learned world, and not less remarkable for genius than for eccentricity. We cannot withhold from our readers a criticism on style, which occurs in a letter of his lordship to Burgess, after the perusal of the Pentalogia.
Since I came into the country, I have had time to go through your work, which, I think, is much improved in the second edition. I am glad to find that you compose in the true ancient taste, and have not got into that fashionable short cut of a style, first introduced by Sallust, and made worse by his imitator, Tacitus, who have been the model of French, and of a great deal of English writing, of late years. It is a style of writing that, I think, does not deserve the name of composition; and I would rather call it notes or memorandums for composing. But, abrupt and disjointed as it is, I like it better than such composition as Mr. Gibbon's, loaded with epithets altogether improper for prose, and generally concluding his sentences with two substantives, and each with its attendant epithet.'--p. 44.
In a letter from Edinburgh, dated 1783, we find his lordship laboring hard upon his favorite, though preposterous and ludicrous, theory of human nature. He thanks Burgess for his diligent inquiry concerning Peter the Wild Boy. His lordship then launches out in the following singular disquisition on the dignity of our origin, in which he shows that the highest reach of our knowledge of the philosophy of man amounts to this ; man in his natural state is simply a beast, and the orang-outang
is in a stage of human nature a little further advanced. But let us hear the noble philosopher himself.
*As there is nothing I love so much as knowledge, you could hardly have obliged me more, and I am glad to find that, at the same time, you have gratified your own curiosity,—which, I see, rises to higher objects than that of those who call themselves philosophers, in this age.