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And in another letter, dated December 20th, he says; “ The climate of France agrees wonderfully with Mr. B. who is in robust and uninterrupted health, although occasionally a little homesick. His greatest danger, at present, is of becoming bankrupt, from the number of books which he continues to buy.” These were grateful hopes, and such as would inspire a tone of gaiety ; but it is well known how mournfully they were disappointed.
On account of the restraints imposed by the Berlin decree, the friends were obliged to remain in Paris much longer than they had intended; and it was not till the February of 1807 that they were able to return to London.
While in France, Mr. Thacher had felt himself restrained from writing with freedom about politics or distinguished men ; because he knew that all his letters were inspected by the police, before they were permitted to leave the country. But once more in England, he could indulge himself in full epistolary liberty; and in one of his letters from London he gives a lively description of Bonaparte, whom he saw for a few moments at St. Cloud. It does not vary in its partiulars, from descriptions of his appearance which have been given to the public; but every thing possesses a certain degree of interest, which relates to that fallen wonder of mankind.
“ It was at morning mass, just before the present war was announced ; and from his wearied and unrefreshed countenance, I did not envy him the night he had been passing. He had the appearance of a man, exhausted by intensity of thought, and now vainly endeavouring to escape from the subject of his meditations. He was perpetually restless and uneasy ; some part of his body was in continual motion; he was now swinging backward and forward, then drawing his hand over his forehead and face, and then taking snuff, with an air which evidently implied that he was unconscious of the action. The whites of his eyes bear a much greater proportion to the
a coloured part than usual, and he makes them more remarkable by perpetually rolling them about. It is a very curious fact, that it is still a dispute what is their colour, and among the thousand pictures of him hung up in Paris, part make them blue, and part hazel or black. Upon the whole, however, he has a very fine countenance, and I must confess my opinion of his capacity was heightened by observing the fine proportions which it displays."
In August Mr. Thacher sailed with his friend from Liverpool, and in September arrived in Boston. Soon after his return he accepted the office of Librarian of Harvard College, and entered on his duties in 1808.
While abroad he still had continued his connexion with the Monthly Anthology, and preserved all his interest in its success unabated. He now contributed to its pages some valuable articles, which will be noticed in an Appendix to this memoir. One of them, however, deserves a particular mention here, on account of the attention which it excited when it first appeared, and the ability with which it is written. It was a review of The Constitution and Associate Statutes of the Theological Seminary in Andover; with a sketch of its Rise and Progress. Published by order of the Trustees. 1808.
In the commencement of this piece, the reviewer adverts to the very low state in which critical and exegetical theology then was in our country, and expresses a lively pleasure in the prospect of an establishment, where so lamentable a defect should be as far as possi
a ble remedied, by instructing candidates for the ministry in the knowledge of that book which they were hereafter to expound to others. So long as the means of information are communicated, he regards the peculiar doctrinal opinions of the instructers as of little comparative importance. “We profess then,” he says, “before we commence the review of this pamphlet, that we rejoice in the foundation of a Theological Academy at Andover; we do not lament that it is directed by men, whose opinions differ from ours; and our only inquiry will be, whether the principles, on which it is established, are such as in any degree to impair or destroy the good, which such an institution is calculated to effect.”
In prosecuting this inquiry, notice is first taken of the connexion between Phillips Academy and the Theological Institution; and the reviewer goes on to show, that the donations of two distinct bodies of founders were designed in the first instance to support two different systems of divinity, the Calvinistic and the Hopkinsian, and that those gentlemen who, after the coalition, drew up the “i Associate Statutes," and the “Creed," had very
adroitly given the spirit and complexion of the latter scheme to their work, though they had avoided any expression of difference so open and hostile, as to alarm or offend the friends of the former. This position he proves by comparing the Creed, which he quotes at length, with the known principles of the two systems above mentioned; asserting, as the result of this comparison, " that the only article in which the Calvinists differ from the Hopkinsians is omitted, and that almost every important article, which the Hopkinsians add to Calvinism, is either expressed or strongly implied.” The conclusion drawn from this circumstance is, as might be supposed, of a kind not the most favourable to the Theological Institution.
He then proceeds to state, with great strength of argument and language, his objections to the imposition of any creed whatever.
The first is, that creeds“ are founded on the assumption, that the essential doctrines of Christianity are not distinctly and explicitly expressed in the language of the volume which contains them.” This, he says, the advocate of an imposed creed is obliged to maintain in fact, though he dare not in words; and
; he thus concludes his remarks on this head; “ As soon as you convince us, that a study of the scriptures will not certainly secure an honest man from fatal error, we sha ither give up our faith in Christianity, or have recourse, not to you, but to the infallible judge at Rome, to direct us.”
His second objection to the use of creeds is, " that they
are directed against the honest and conscientious, and operate as a temptation and premium to dishonesty." The third is founded on the constitution of the human mind, which renders a perfect conformity of opinion impossible. The fourth is, that a right is assumed, by the imposition of creeds, " which it is the very essence of Protestantism to deny to any human being." The fifth and last relates particularly to the Andover Creed, and is chiefly directed against the provision which requires from the instructers the renewal of their signature every five years, and thus confines them with enduring chains.
An answer to this review was published in the Panoplist, a calvinistic magazine. It drew from Mr. Thacher a defence of his article, in which his former charges were vigorously supported and maintained. The following is the concluding paragraph.
“ The whole object which induced us to enter into this unpleasant controversy has been attained. We were desirous of reminding those men, who were attacking our friends, invading the tranquillity of our churches, and attempting to revive the exploded absurdities of the dark ages, that the friends of rational and scriptural religion, though enemies of theological polemics, are not so, because their antagonists have nothing vulnerable in their system. The charge which they bring, that we have been influenced in this affair by a desire of interrupting the harmony of two sects, who had agreed to forget their differences, will not be believed. We disdain the imputation. We attacked them, not because they are