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In a copy of Bishop Warburton's Works deposited in the Library of Hartlebury Castle, his friend and biographer Bishop Hurd has inscribed the following appropriate passage from the Roman Critic, where he speaks of some eminent writers of his own time; “ ad posteros virtus durabit, non perveniet invidia.”* This vaticination of that acute and elegant writer respecting the literary character of his great friend, has been in a remarkable manner fulfilled. Though opinions are, and perhaps ever will be, divided as to the merits of the main argument of the Divine Legation, as well as of some other of his works; yet the storm of opposition with which they were met on their first publication has long since died away; and, however parties may differ about the leading subjects of those works, the genius and learning of
* Quinctil. Inst. Orat. III, 1.
their author are now generally allowed.* Nor is this otherwise than might have been anticipated. The irritation which excited such excesses of feeling and expression, arose from temporary causes ; the excellencies on which Warburton's reputation is based are permanent. The causes of the opposition in question seem to have been two-fold — the natural defects of Warburton's temper, and his peculiar position as the acknowledged friend and correspondent of the able and learned, but sceptical Middleton. The former of these often betrayed his vigorous mind, conscious of its own powers, into arrogant claims of deference to its own views; and into a depreciation, generally supercilious and often unjust, of those who differed from him in opinion; which naturally excited correspondent exasperation of feeling and angry recrimination. The latter, taken in conjunction with the boldness of his theological speculations, not unreasonably threw suspicion on the soundness of his doctrinal views.
* The Editor remembers to have heard many years ago, with deep interest, a sermon from the University pulpit at Oxford, by the present Bishop of Llandaff, in which, with equal candour and discrimination, justice was done to the character both of the Bishop and of his great work.
The durable qualities on which Warburton's fame is established cannot be better expressed than in the just and nervous language of Dr. Johnson, which will carry the greater weight as being the testimony of one between whom and Bishop Warburton “mutual and strong dislike" is recorded by Mr. Boswell to have prevailed.
“ He was a man of vigorous faculties, a mind fervid and vehement, supplied, by incessant and unlimited inquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of knowledge, which yet had not oppressed his imagination nor clouded his perspicacity. To every work he brought a memory full-fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original combinations ; and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, the reasoner, and the wit.”
The public mind being thus in a position to form a candid judgment of the Bishop's character and writings, it is hoped that such of the following Papers as treat of theological subjects will meet with a favourable reception from both the advocates and opposers of his opinions. On those opinions the Editor does not consider himself competent to express a detailed judgment.
He will, however, venture briefly to remark, that while on
the one hand he cannot see the danger which some have professed to find in the argument of the DIVINE LEGATION* (an argument, be it remembered, maintained, so far as regards the omission of a future state in the Law of Moses, by Grotius, Episcopius, Bishop Bull, and Arnauld); on the other he is strongly opposed to the want of deference for ecclesiastical antiquity, and the prominence given to the authority of private judgment, which run throughout the Bishop's works. It is his desire to offer to the Public the theological part of these Papers rather as matters of literary curiosity than as sources of theological instruction :
* The following important concession of the Bishop would seem effectually to meet the essential objections made to his theory :
“ Though it appear that a future state of rewards and punishments made no part of the Mosaic dispensation, yet the Law had certainly a SPIRITUAL meaning, to be understood when the fulness of time should come: and hence it received the nature, and afforded the efficacy of PROPHECY. In the interim the MYSTERY OF The Gospel was occasionally revealed by God to his chosen servants, the fathers and leaders of the Jewish nation; and the dawning of it was gradually opened by the Prophets to the people ; and * which is exactly agreeable to what our excellent Church in its Seventh ARTICLE of Religion teacheth concerning this matter.”—Div. Leg. Book VI. Sec. 5.
and he begs that he may be considered as no way committed by any statements, whether of doctrine or discipline, which may be found in them. The same disclaimer he must record with regard to many sentiments and expressions in the Letters of the Bishop's Correspondents, particularly in one of Lord Lyttelton's, at page 202, where the defence of Protestantism against the Church of Rome is maintained in a singularly disingenuous manner. The Church of England can well afford to spare such ungenerous methods of controversial warfare: Non tali auxilio, &c.
On the whole, the Editor ventures to hope, that neither the literary nor moral character of Bishop Warburton will be compromised by the present publication; on the contrary, he has some confidence, that while the former may receive an accession of credit, the latter will be exhibited in a more amiable point of view than it has as yet appeared in.*
In proof of this point he would refer to the letters of Bishop Hare, from which it appears, on the testimony of a calm and dispassionate witness, that the attacks made on Warburton's great work at its first appearance were of so out
* Excepting, perhaps, in his correspondence with Dr. Doddridge.