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Memoirs of the late Rev. THEOPHILUS LINDSEY, A. M. Including a Brief Analysis of his Works; together with Anecdotes and Letters of eminent Persons, his Friends and Correspondents: also, a General View of the Progress of the Unitarian Doctrine in England and America. BY THOMAS BELSHAM, Minister of the Chapel in Essex-street. 8vo. pp. xxiv. 544.
As the life of Mr. Lindsey is evidently adopted as a vehicle for the propagation of Socinian sentiments, we shall be excused for being more copious in our remarks upon it, than the biography of a man of such extreme mediocrity of talents could otherwise possibly justify. If a zealous attachment to any system of opinions, can be supposed to be aided by its association with personal reputation, we cannot wonder at finding Mr. Lindsey's fondness for Socinianism so ardent and so persevering, inasmuch as the annals of religion scarcely furnish an instance of a celebrity acquired so entirely by the adoption of a particular creed. Luther and Calvin would have risen to distinction, in all probability, if the Reformation had never been heard of; while the existence of such a man as Mr. Lindsey, would not have been known beyond the precincts of his parish, had he not, under a peculiar combination of circumstances, embraced the tenets of Socinus.
His reputation is altogether accidental and factitious. Though the leading events of his life, with one exception, are marked by no striking peculiarities, yet, by the help of a great deal of adventitious matter, Mr. B. has contrived to make it the ground work of a bulky, and not unentertaining volume: disfigured, however, throughout, by that languid and inelegant verbosity, which characterises all his compositions. It must be confessed, Mr. Belsham has taken care in this work to exhibit himself as no ascetic, no religious enthusiast, but quite a man of the world; not by lively delineation of its manners and foibles, still less by a developement of the principles by which mankind are actuated, but by such a profusion of compliments bestowed on men of rank and title, and so perfect a prostration before secular grandeur, as has
never been paralleled, we suspect, in a Christian Divine. At the 'pomp and circumstance' of human life, this philosopher appears awed, and planet struck, and utterly incapable of exercising that small portion of discrimination with which nature has endowed him. Every nobleman or statesman he has occasion to introduce, is uniformly ushered in with a splendid retinue of gorgeous epithets, in which there are as little taste and variety as if they had been copied verbatim from the rolls at the Herald's office. Orators of pre-eminent powers, together with virtuous and enlightened noblemen, meet us at every turn, and we are not a little surprised at finding so much of the decoration and splendor of this mortal scene, in so close contact with the historical details of Unitarianism. We have long remarked the eagerness of Socinians to emblazon their system by associations with learning, rank, and fashion; but on no other occasion have we seen this humor carried so far, as in these Memoirs.
The leading events of Mr. Lindsey's life are the following. He was born, June 20, 1723, at Middlewich, in Cheshire, where his father was a mercer in respectable circumstances, but was afterwards reduced by misfortunes. His mother, whose maiden name was Spencer, was distantly related to the Marlborough family, and, previously to her marriage, lived twenty years in the family of Frances, Countess of Huntingdon-a circumstance which led to considerable intimacy, that continued for some years, with the celebrated Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, who married the son of that Lady. Under the patronage of Lady Betty and Lady Ann Hastings, Mr. Lindsey was educated first at a school in the neighborhood of Middlewich, whence he was removed, and placed under the care of the Rev. Mr. Barnard, master of the free grammar school in that town, who is represented as a gentleman of distinguished learning and piety. His vacations were usually spent at the mansion of his noble patronesses in the vicinity of Leeds, during the life of Lady Betty Hastings, and, after her decease, at Ashby Place, near Ashby de la Zouch, in Leicestershire, where Lady Ann then fixed her residence. In the 18th year of his age, May 21, 1741, he was admitted a student at St. John's, Cambridge, where he acquitted himself with credit in his academical exercises, and behaved with such exemplary propriety as to attract the attention of Dr. Reynolds, Bishop of Lincoln, who thought fit to entrust him with the care of his grandson, a youth of fifteen. He was elected fellow of St. John's College, in April, 1741. Having been ordained by Bishop Gisbon, he was, at the recommendation of Lady Ann Hastings, presented to a chapel in Spital-square, by Sir George Wheeler. În a short time after his settlement in London, the Duke of Somerset received
him into his house in the capacity of domestic chaplain. He continued after the decease of that nobleman, to reside some time with the Dutchess dowager, better known by the title of Countess of Hertford, and, at her request, he accompanied her grandson, the present Duke of Northumberland, then about nine years of age in a delicate state of health, to the continent, where he continued two years; at the expiration of which time, he brought back his noble pupil, improved both in his health and learning. From this distinguished personage, he continued to receive attentions and favors as long as he lived. Immediately after his return from the continent, he was presented by the Earl of Northumberland, to the valuable rectory of Kirkby Whiske, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, at first under condition to resign it when the person for whom it was intended should come of age; but this young man dying a short time afterwards, it was given to Mr. Lindsey unconditionally, in the usual form. In this very retired situation, Mr. Lindsey continued about three years; and during his residence in Yorkshire, he became acquainted with the celebrated Archdeacon Blackburne at Richmond; a circumstance which led to important consequences, and to which he was indebted under Providence for the most important blessing of his life.
In the year 1756, at the request of the Huntingdon family, he resigned the living of Kirkby Whiske, for the living of Piddletown, in Dorsetshire, which was in the gift of the Earl of Huntingdon. In this place he lived seven years; and in 1760, married Miss Elsworth, the step-daughter of Archdeacon Blackburne, a lady whose principles were congenial with his own, and who is represented as possessed of a superior understanding, and of exalted virtue. It was during his residence in that situation that he first began to entertain scruples concerning the lawfulness of Trinitarian worship, and of his continuing to officiate in the established church. It appears he had from his early youth disapproved of some things in the thirty-nine articles. Some years afterwards, these doubts were matured into a full conviction that the Divinity of Christ was an erroneous tenet, and that the Father was the sole object of worship; in consequence of which, while in Dorsetshire, he took some previous steps with a view to quitting his preferment in the church. In the year 1762, upon the appointment of the late Duke of Northumberland to be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, he was strongly urged to accept the place of chaplain to his Grace; which, from the preference he gave to a retired situation, he declined. An opportunity occurring the year following of exchanging his living for that of Catterick in Yorkshire, he made the exchange, for the sake of enjoying the society of Archdeacon Blackburne and his family, who lived in that neighborhood. On
this occasion, Mr. Belsham justly remarks, It may appear singular that Mr. Lindsey could submit to that renewed subscription, which was requisite in order to his induction to a new living.
'And the case,' he adds, 'appears the more extraordinary, as many clergymen, who, in consequence of a revolution in their opinions, had become dissatisfied with the Articles, would never, for the sake of obtaining the most valuable preferment, subscribe them again, though while they were permitted to remain unmolested, they did not perceive it to be their duty to retire from the church.' p. 17.
The extreme want of candor and sincerity evinced by such conduct, is very unsatisfactorily apologized for by Mr. Lindsey, and is very gently reproved by Mr. Belsham. The principal plea alleged by Mr. L. in defence of himself, is, that as he continued to officiate in the forms of the liturgy, his renewed subscription gave him little concern, since he considered himself, every time he used the liturgy, as virtually repeating his subscription. At length, he brought himself, he says, to consider the Trinitarian forms in the liturgy, and the invocations at the entrance of the litany, as
A threefold representation of the one God, the Father, governing all things by himself and by his Son and Spirit; and as a threefold way of addressing him as a Creator, and original benevolent cause of all things, as Redeemer of mankind by his Son, and their Sanctifier by his Holy Spirit.' p. 23.
How far he was influenced by mercenary considerations in retaining his station under such circumstances, it is impossible to say; but that he was guilty of much collusion and impious prevarication in this affair, cannot be reasonably doubted; nor is there any species of simulation or dissimulation in religion, which might not be justified on pretences equally plausible; and when we recollect that Mr. L. persisted in that conduct for a series of years, we shall find it difficult to conceive of him, as that prodigy of virtue, which Mr. Belsham represents him. He must be a severe moralist,' says Mr. B. 'whom such a concession does not satisfy.' And what is this concession, that is to stop every month, and to convert censure into praise? We will give it in Mr. L's own words; it is this:
'Not,' says he, 'that I now justify myself therein. Yea, rather I condemn myself. But as I have humble hope of the divine forgiveness, let not men be too rigid in their censures.' p. 24.
It is impossible to conceive a confession of conduct extremely criminal, in terms of lighter reprehension, but agreeably to the