Imágenes de páginas

superior to its friends in clearness of expression, and elegance of style, the chief requisites of an agreeable writer. The defenders of our holy religion, depending on the strength of their arguments, have sometimes paid too little attention to arrangement and perspicuity. Whereas the advocates for infidelity, who are destitute of solid arguments, endeavour to make amends for this defect, by the beauty of language, and allurements of eloquence, which, like the voice of the Syrens of old, are only designed to charm us to our ruin. "What's the reason, sir (I said to Mr. Skelton once) that these deistical writers, Hume, Bolingbroke, and Gibbon, are so clever, while their opponents, worthy good clergymen, are often inferior to them in point of composition?"-" Do you think," he replied, "the devil ever sent a fool on his errand?" He then remarked, that God Almighty often made use of weak instruments, like him, in the support of his religion, to shew, that with the most puny defenders, he could overcome all the strength of his enemies. "For the weakness of God is stronger than man."

Upon Mr. Skelton's arrival in London, he brought his manuscript to Andrew Millar the bookseller, to know if he would purchase it, and have it printed at his own expense. The bookseller desired him, as is usual, to leave it with him for a day or two, until he would get a certain gentleman of great abilities to examine it, who could judge if the sale would quit the cost of printing. These gentlemen who examine manuscripts, in the bookseller's cant, are called "triers." "Can you guess (he said to me) who this gentleman was, that tried my Deism Revealed."—" No, I "cannot."-" Hume the infidel." He came it seems to Andrew Millar's, took the manuscript to a room adjoining the shop, examined it here and there for about an hour, and then said to Andrew, print. By Deism Revealed he made about 2001. The bookseller allowed him for the manuscript a great many copies, which he disposed of himself among the citizens of London, with whom, on account of his preaching, he was highly famed. His powerful pulpit eloquence, which he displayed in their churches, brought him into notice. The citizens of London, to whom he afterward dedicated a volume of sermons, were, he said,

at that time excellent men, and admirable judges of preaching.

Mr. Thompson and he took lodgings at a noted coffeehouse. He had an opportunity, he said, of making many observations on mankind, during his residence in that great city, which affords such an amazing variety of characters, and he found his understanding to increase daily by his conversation with people of good sense and knowledge of the world; whose observations made him discover many errors and deficiences in his Deism Revealed, which he took care to rectify and supply, passing after his arrival there, a great part of his time in altering and improving his book. He spoke always with a degree of rapture of the citizens of London, from whom he received many public and private civilities. He had a letter of credit, he told us, upon a great merchant there, who, without regarding it, though it was very good, gave him money on his own account, saying, "Sir, I am to take as many of your books as will nearly amount to all this."

One day he went to a jeweller's shop in London to look at some articles of great value, which he was commissioned to buy; and when he observed that he could not purchase them, till he should get an acquaintance of skill to examine them, the jeweller, though a stranger to him, bade him take them with him, for he had an honest face, and he was sure he would bring them back. This was a degree of confidence which an Irish visitant but rarely experiences in England.

He remarked, that the London merchants seldom had company at dinner, as their business prevented them from staying to enjoy the glass. But they made sufficient amends for this seeming parsimony by splendid and elegant suppers, furnished with every rarity and luxury. At these, he said, he passed many agreeable hours with company fit to entertain and instruct him. It was pleasant, he observed, to see merchants, many of whom had the whole, or at least the greater part of their property at sea, liable to the mercy of the winds and waves, relaxing themselves in private with as much ease and complacency, as if they had not a ship exposed to the fickle elements.

At one of these entertainments, he happened to meet

with the late Dr. Lowth, who was afterward raised for his learning to the bishoprick of London. Mr. Lowth was then, he said, a tall, thin, remarkably grave man. When he perceived Mr. Skelton was a clergyman from Ireland, he told him, he could have been highly promoted in the Irish church, but he refused it, as he did not wish to live in that country. "Well sir," replied Skelton," there are good pickings in the Irish church, and some of your coun trymen have no objections to come over and take a large share of them, to the great sorrow of us poor clergymen, natives of the land." Mr. Lowth, like every man of genius, was sensible of his own merits, which, he thought would raise him in the English church, where learning and abilities are respected and often rewarded. It was natural, therefore, as he had a choice, that he preferred promotion in his own country. Mr. Skelton had a high opinion of that learned and ingenius prelate, the late ornament of the English church. "Lowth on the Prophecies of Isaiah," he said, "is the best book in the world next to the Bible."

When he was in London, there was a man from the parish of Derriaghy, he assured us, that passed there for a wild Irishman, and was exhibited as a public show, dressed up with a false beard, artificial wings, and the like. Hundreds from all quarters flocked to see a strange spectacle, which they had often heard of before; and among others, a Derriaghy man, who happened to be in London, came in the crowd, and saw the wild Irishman, a hideous figure, with a chain about him, cutting his capers before a gaping multitude. Yet notwithstanding his disguise, he soon discovered, that this wild Irishman was a neighbour's son, a sober civilized young man, who had left Derriaghy a little before him. When the show was finished he went behind the scene, and cried out so as to be heard by his countryman, "Derriaghy, Derriaghy." Upon this the seeming wild Irishman, staring with surprise, spoke aloud, "I'll go any place for Derriaghy." They had then a private meeting, when he told him, that being destitute of money, he took that method of gulling the English, and succeeded far beyond his expectations.

Mr. Skelton, while in London, once attended the levee, dressed in his gown and band. The king, he said, being

unable to lift up his feet as he walked, was forced to sweep them along the floor. His majesty as he passed him, stopped awhile and looked in his face, which might be owing to his striking appearance. Some of his friends then whispered to him, "You are in the way of promotion, the king has you in his eye." Possibly his majesty in his reign promoted persons less worthy of the royal patronage than the great and good Mr. Skelton.

He spent a great part of his time in going through the city purchasing books at a cheap rate, and laid out on these most of the money which he got by Deism Revealed, and obtained a good library for a curate. The managers of a review offered, he said, at that time, to enrol him among their number, and give him a share of their profit, on condition of his staying in London. But he refused, for he thought an Irish curacy a more secure provision, than the precarious subsistence to be acquired by criticism.

He went, through curiosity, to a certain cheap place to get his dinner, which cost him three halfpence, for which he got a quart of thick soup and a piece of bread. The soup was made up of broken meat collected from cook-shops, kitchens, and strolling beggars. However he did not choose to try the experiment a second time. He told us of his cheap dinner when he was teaching a young man to live on little money in Dublin.

In London he continued about half a year, and then returned to his curacy in Ireland. At sea, I am told, he had a dangerous voyage; the vessel he sailed in being nearly lost. The newspapers indeed gave an account that it was wrecked, and that all on board perished. But it pleased God to preserve his life some time longer for the benefit of mankind.

The first edition of Deism Revealed, published by Andrew Millar, in 1749, was comprised in two tolerably large octavo volumes. It consists of eight dialogues; in the first seven there are four, and the eighth only two, speakers. At first three unbelievers attack one Christian, who at last makes a convert of one of them, a young gentleman of great fortune, but of good sense and candour. In these dialogues, the most of the infidel objections against the gospel are introduced with their whole force, and fully and can

didly answered; so that the book is rather a complete answer to deistical cavils, than a regular proof of the divine authority of the gospel. But if their cavils are proved groundless, Christianity consequently is true.

The title of Deism Revealed shews it was intended to expose the craft of the infidels. In this book there is a great deal of good sense, sound argument, and original observation. It proves the author deeply read, and well acquainted with the subject of which he treats. But it is defective in point of arrangement; the matter is too loosely thrown together, the arguments do not follow each other in regular order. This remark, however, only applies to particular places. The style is also somewhat coarse; words are uselessly multiplied, and arguments drawn out beyond their proper bounds. The author in his attempts at wit, frequently fails; he is merry himself, but the reader unhappily cannot join with him in the joke. True wit subsists where the writer is grave, and the reader merry.

This book was in high repute on its first publication. A second edition was required in a little more than a year. Among others, Dr. Delany admired it, well pleased with the growing fame of his pupil, to whom he had proved himself so sincere a friend; and even now, there is scarce any man of reading in this country that has not at least heard of Deism Revealed. A few months after its publication, the bishop of Clogher happened to be in company with Dr. Sherlock, bishop of London; who asked him if he knew the author of this book? "O yes," he answered carelessly, "he has been a curate in my diocess, near these twenty years."-" More shame for your lordship," replied he, "to let a man of his merit continue so long a curate in your diocess."

The ingenious bishop of London sent a message once to inform Mr. Skelton, that he would promote him in his diocess, if he would write a book upon Christian morals. On which he desired the messenger to ask his lordship, what objection he had to the old Whole Duty of Man? To this question he never received any answer. The old Whole Duty of Man was one of his favourite books. The style, he said, was admirably qualified for instruction,

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »