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lutions of states and kingdoms, he exhibits a more awful and affecting spectacle, the human race itself withering under the breath of his mouth, perishing under his rebuke; while he plants his eternal word, which subsists from generation to generation, in undecaying vigor, to console our wretchedness, and impregnate the dying mass with the seed of immortality. As the frailty of man, and the perpetuity of his promises, are the greatest contrast the universe presents, so the practical impression of this truth, however obvious, is the beginning of wisdom, nor is there a degree of moral elevation to which it will not infallibly conduct us.
"The annunciation of life and immortality by the Gospel, did it contain no other truth, were sufficient to cast all the discoveries of science into shade, and to reduce the highest improvements of reason to the comparative nothingness which the flight of a moment bears to eternity.
"By this discovery the prospects of human nature are infinitely widened, the creature of yesterday becomes the child of eter nity; and as felicity is not the less valuable in the eye of reason because it is remote, nor the misery which is certain less to be deprecated because it is not immediately felt, the care of our future interests becomes our chief, and, properly speaking, our only concern. All besides will shortly be nothing; and, therefore, whenever it comes into competition with these, it is as the small dust of the balance.
"Is it now any subject of regret, think you, to this amiable princess, so suddenly removed, that her sun went down while it was yet day? or that, prematurely snatched from prospects the most brilliant and enchanting, she was compelled to close her eyes so soon on a world of whose grandeur she formed so conspicuous a part? No: other objects occupy her mind, other thoughts engage her attention, and will continue to engage it for ever. All things with her are changed; and viewed from that pure and ineffable light, for which we humbly hope religion prepared her, the lustre of a diadem is scarcely visible, majesty emits a feeble and sickly ray, and all ranks and conditions of men appear but so many troops of pilgrims, in different garbs, toiling through the same vale of tears, distinguished only by different degrees of wretchedness.
"In the full fruition of eternal joys, she is so far from looking back with lingering regret on what she has quitted, that she is surprised it had the power of affecting her so much; that she took so deep an interest in the scenes of this shadowy state of being, while so near to an eternal weight of glory; and, as far as memory may be supposed to contribute to her happiness by
associating the present with the past, it is not the recollection of her illustrious birth and elevated prospects, but that she visited the abodes of the poor, and learned to weep with those that weep; that, surrounded with the fascinations of pleasure, she was not inebriated by its charms; that she resisted the strongest temptations to pride, preserved her ears open to truth, was impatient of the voice of flattery; in a word, that she sought and cherished the inspirations of piety, and walked humbly with her God. This is fruit which survives when the flower withers, the only ornaments and treasures we can carry into eternity.
"While we look at this event with the eyes of flesh, and survey it in the aspect it bears towards our national prospects, it appears a most singular and affecting catastrophe. But considered in itself, or, more properly, in its relation to a certain, though invisible futurity, its consequences are but commensurate to those which result from the removal of the meanest individual. He whose death is as little regarded as the fall of a leaf in the forest, and he whose departure involves a nation in despair, are, in this view of the subject (by far the most important one), upon a level. Before the presence of the great I AM, into which they both immediately enter, these distinctions vanish, and the true statement of the fact, on either supposition, is, that an immortal spirit has finished its earthly career; has passed the barriers of the invisible world, to appear before its Maker, in order to receive that sentence which will fix its irrevocable doom, according to the deeds done in the body. On either supposition, an event has taken place which has no parallel in the revolutions of time, the consequences of which have not room to expand themselves within a narrower sphere than an endless duration. An event has occurred, the issues of which must ever baffle and elude all finite comprehensions, by concealing themselves in the depths of that abyss, of that eternity, which is the dwelling-place of Deity, where there is sufficient space for the destiny of each, among the innumerable millions of the human race, to develop itself, and, without interference or confusion, to sustain and carry forward its separate infinity of interest."- pp. 405-408.
The volume before us (which, we remark in passing, contains almost every thing fully worthy of Hall's reputation that has been preserved) gives us also four other sermons, and among them that on Modern Infidelity," which is a calm, thorough, logical analysis of the remedies for social and political inequalities and evils proposed by the French school of atheistical philosophy, which had then [in 1799] multiplied its proselytes and partisans in England.
Two of the longest articles in the volume are political pamphlets, published during the first stages of the French Revolution. At this period, the movement seemed to be solely in behalf of civil and religious liberty, and against inveterate abuses and corruptions in church and state. It had therefore the hearty sympathy and the favoring suffrages of the great body of the dissenters in England, as well as of the more moderate and liberal party in the national church, while, on political grounds solely, and without any suspicion of the demoralizing and destructive agencies so soon to be brought into play, it encountered the most vehement opposition and abuse from the High Churchmen and the Tories. Attempts were sedulously made throughout the kingdom to suppress free discussion, and to flatter the lowest orders of the people into disorderly outbreaks of vulgar and unreasoning loyalty. Malicious prosecutions were instituted against the liberty of the press, and mobs were excited in various parts of the kingdom by the most atrocious slanders against the apologists for France and the champions of liberal principles. Hall was at this time a young minister at Cambridge, and his own sympathies conspired with the urgent entreaties of his friends in drawing him into the lists. He appeared before the public, first as an antagonist to the Rev. John Clayton, himself a dissenter, but a vehement accuser of his brethren, mainly on the ground that the liberal party had brought orthodox Christians into an unnatural and sacrilegious alliance with Priestley and other reputed heretics. His attack called out Hall's "Christianity consistent with a Love of Freedom," which for severity of rebuke, pungency of sarcasm, and honest, whole-souled indignation, can hardly find a parallel in English literature, while it is based on indisputably sound principles and conclusive arguments. After the heat of controversy had subsided, the author refused to consent to its republication, from sincere respect for Clayton's eminent private worth and ministerial faithfulness; but its popularity was so great that several editions were surreptitiously issued, the last after the lapse of more than a quarter of century. The following passage is well worth quoting, both for the noble vindication of Priestley at the hand of a theological opponent, and as giving a specimen of the power of keen satire and withering invective, which it must have acquired no small measure of self-control to keep so entirely in abeyance, as Hall ever after held it in pursuing the functions of his sacred office.
"The religious tenets of Dr. Priestley appear to me erroneous in the extreme; but I should be sorry to suffer any difference of sentiment to diminish my sensibility to virtue, or my admiration of genius. From him the poisoned arrow will fall pointless. His enlightened and active mind, his unwearied assiduity, the extent of his researches, the light he has poured into almost every department of science, will be the admiration of that period, when the greater part of those who have favored, or those who have opposed him, will be alike forgotten. Distinguished merit will ever rise superior to oppression, and will draw lustre from reproach. The vapors which gather round the rising sun, and follow it in its course, seldom fail at the close of it to form a magnificent theatre for its reception, and to invest with variegated tints, and with a softened effulgence, the luminary which they cannot hide.
"It is a pity, however, [that] our author, in reproaching characters so illustrious, was not a little more attentive to facts; for unfortunately for him, Dr. Priestley has not in any instance displayed that disaffection to government with which he has been charged so wantonly. In his Lectures on History, and his Essay on Civil Government, which of all his publications fall most properly within the sphere of politics, he has delineated the British constitution with great accuracy, and has expressed his warm admiration of it as the best system of policy the sagacity of man has been able to contrive. In his Familiar Letters to the Inhabitants of Birmingham, a much later work, where the seeds of that implacable dislike were scattered which produced the late riots, he has renewed that declaration, and has informed us, that he has been pleasantly ridiculed by his friends as being a Unitarian in religion, and a Trinitarian in politics. He has lamented, indeed, in common with every enlightened citizen, the existence of certain corruptions, which, being gradually introduced into the constitution, have greatly impaired its vigor; but in this he has had the honor of being followed by the prime minister himself, who began his career by proposing a reform in parliament, merely to court popularity it is true, at a time when it would not have been so safe for him to insult the friends of freedom after having betrayed their interest, as he has since found it.
"Dr. Priestley has, moreover, defended with great ability and success the principles of our dissent, exposing, as the very nature of the undertaking demands, the folly and injustice of all clerical usurpations; and on this account, if on no other, he is entitled to the gratitude of his brethren. In addition to this catalogue of crimes, he has ventured to express his satisfaction on the liberation of France; an event which, promising a firmer establishment to
liberty than any recorded in the annals of the world, is contemplated by the friends of arbitrary power throughout every kingdom of Europe with the utmost concern. These are the demerits of Dr. Priestley, for which this political astrologist and sacred calculator of nativities pronounces upon him that he is born to vex the state. The best apology candor can suggest, will be to hope Mr. Clayton has never read Dr. Priestley's political works; a conjecture somewhat confirmed from his disclaiming all attention to political theories, and from the extreme ignorance he displays through the whole of his discourse on political topics. Still it is to be wished he would have condescended to understand what he means to confute, if it had been only to save himself the trouble and disgrace of this publication.
"The manner in which he speaks of the Birmingham riots, and the cause to which he traces them, are too remarkable to pass unnoticed.
"When led, says he, speaking of the sufferers, by officious zeal, from the quiet duties of their profession into the Senator's province: unhallowed boisterous passions in others, like their own, God may permit to chastise them. For my own part I was some time before I could develop this extraordinary passage; but I now find the darkness in which it is veiled is no more than that mystic sublimity which has always tinctured the language of those who are appointed to interpret the counsels of heavens.
"I would not have Mr. Clayton deal too freely in these visions, lest the fire and illumination of the prophet should put out the reason of the man, a caution the more necessary in the present instance, as it glimmers so feebly already in several parts of his discourse, that its extinction would not be at all extraordinary. We are, no doubt, much obliged to him for letting us into a secret we could never have learnt any other way. We thank him heartily for informing us that the Birmingham riots were a judgment; and, as we would wish to be grateful for such an important communication, we would whisper in his ear in return, that he should be particularly careful not to suffer this itch of prophesying to grow upon him, men being extremely apt, in this degenerate age, to mistake a prophet for a madman, and to lodge them in the same place of confinement. The best use he could make of his mantle would be to bequeath it to the use of posterity, as for the want of it I am afraid they will be in danger of falling into some very unhappy mistakes. To their unenlightened eyes it will appear a reproach, that in the eighteenth century, an age that boasts its science and improvement, the first philosopher in Europe, of a character unblemished, and of manners the most mild and gentle, should be torn from his family, and obliged to