Sidor som bilder

on political occasions for one year, i.e. till Michaelmas next. Note. It was called a third body, because some present were very desirous to exclude the term congregational out of the whole question, unless the first rule were followed, and the congregational ministers distinguished by agreeing to the Savoy Confession. Night coming on, and the ministers withdrawing themselves, those of the other opinion permitted the question to be put in this form, rather than break up the assembly and do nothing.” The leaven of antinomianism was now spreading in the metropolis; and certain ministers who wished to be ranked with the congregationalists, entertaining latitudinarian principles, of course objected to the Savoy Confession as a test of admission, because opposed to their views – hence, the conclusion that was resorted to.

The eminent services which Watts had rendered to religion and literature, had long attracted the notice and called forth the approbation of scholars at home and abroad; and, in addition to the marks of respect he privately received from them, he was honoured in 1728 by the universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a diploma of Doctor of Divinity. Never was academical distinction more properly bestowed: it was wholly unsolicited on his part, and we may gather from his modest and unobtrusive character, wholly unexpected. “Academical honours,” says Dr. Johnson, “would have more value if they were always bestowed with equal judgment.” “Learned seminaries,” Toplady remarks, “would retrieve the departing respectability of their diplomas, were they only presented to (I will not say such men as Dr. Watts, for few such men are in any age to be found), but to persons of piety, orthodoxy, erudition, and virtue.” “The presenting of such titles,” observes Erasmus Middleton, “to people who either can pay for them, or whose silly vanity prompts them to have their names ushered in with a sound, without any just qualification in the world beside, exposes the honours of a university to contempt, and the persons who

bear them to ridicule. The name of Doctor, though it cannot make a man intuitively learned or wise, should give the world a just expectation not to find him at least weak or illiterate." Several of Watts's brethren in the metropolis were diplomated at the same time; as Mr. Jabez Earle, Mr. John Evans, Mr. William Harris, Mr. John Comyng, and Mr. Zephaniah Marryat. This event gave rise to the following humorous lines, sent by Dr. Earle, to his friend Harris :

“ Since dunces now are doctors made,

As well as men of skill;
What does the title signify?

I'll tell thee, honest Will.

“The same as trappings to a horse,

Which, be he feet or jade,
Not for his own, but rider's sake,

So wondrous fine is made.

“So when our universities,

Doctorial honours give,
"Tis not our merits they declare,

But their prerogative.”

Dr. Watts once more appeared before the public as the friend of education, and published “ An Essay towards the encouragement of Charity-Schools, particularly among protestant dissenters, 1728.” This was the substance of a sermon preached before the managers of one of these institutions, probably the one kept in Crutched Friars, Aldgate, as it was printed at the request of several gentlemen connected with it. It is true, with reference to these benevolent establishments, as it is with almost every other method of usefulness now in operation, that the dissenter has led the way for the churchman, and provoked him by example to “labours of love.” In adopting means for the education of the poorerclasses, the establishment has but followed in the track of the nonconformity she so indignantly spurned from her pale; and whilst this fact ought not to be advanced to encourage the spirit of party, it ought not to be

concealed, as an evidence of the superior practical utility of a voluntary Christian association to that of an endowed corporation. The first English charity-school was founded among the dissenters in Gravel Lane, Southwark, in 1687,* as an antidote to the school of one Poulter, a Jesuit, who instructed the children of the poor gratis. This was during the semipopish reign of James, when protestantism was threatened by a catholic monarch, and the principles of his creed were in. dustriously disseminated by Jesuitical emissaries. The dissenters commenced their school with forty children, but these soon increased to one hundred and thirty, who were admitted without distinction of parties and denominations, and taught reading, writing, arithmetic, and the principles of religion, according to the Assembly's Catechism.t

In his Essay Dr. Watts, whose candour cannot be impeached, gives us the following account of the progress of these institutions in the church and among the dissenters: “Many others were formed by persons of the established church, to which several dissenters subscribed largely. But at last they found, by sufficient experience, that the children were brought up in too many of these schools in principles of disaffection to the present gorernment, in bigotted zeal for the word CHURCH, and with a violent enmity and malicious spirit of persecution against all whom they were taught to call Presbyterians, though from many of their hands they received their bread and clothing. It was time, then, for the dissenters to with

* Yet the National-School Society, for promoting the education of the poor in the principles of the established church, in their annual report say, that the “first English charity-school was opened in Westminster, in 1698.” In thus contending for the honour of the establishment, the truth of history is unwittingly violated; for eleven years before, the Southwark presbyterians founded theirs. Matthew Henry observes, in his private MS. “I went early, January 1, 1712–13, to Gravel Lane, in Southwark, Mr. Marriott's meeting place, where there has been a charity-school for twenty-five years" (answering to 1687), “there I preached an anniversary sermon, on Prov. iii. 9: Honour the Lord with thy substance.' A collection was made, amounting to £35."

+ See Charity-School Sermons, by Read, Chandler, and Neal.

draw that charity which was so abused; and since the favour of our rulers gives us leave to educate children according to our sentiments and the dictates of our consciences, some generous spirits amongst us have made attempts of this kind, and employ their bounty in the support of a few such schools. And as we hope this charity will be acceptable to God and useful to mankind, so we are well assured it will be a sensible service to the present government, which has no friends in the world more sincere and more zealous than the protestant dissenters.”* That the grave charge here brought by Watts against the charity-schools of the establishment, that of propagating disaffection to the Hanoverian succession and sentiments friendly to the exiled Stuarts, was not unfounded, is candidly acknowledged by Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London. “ This is,” says he, “a very heavy objection indeed, that in many of the charity-schools the children are trained up to disaffection to the government, and it is a point that the government is nearly concerned to look after, since it is to little purpose to subdue and conquer the present ill humours, if a succession of disaffected persons is to be perpetually nursing up in our schools.” After this his lordship adds, “ that there is not at present the like ground to complain of disaffection as there was some years ago ;" yet he acknowledges, “that while the protestant succession remained doubtful, and no stone was left unturned to defeat it, some persons who had their views a different way, that is, Jacobites, endeavoured to get the management of these schools into their hands, and to make them instrumental in nourishing and spreading an aversion to the protestant settlement.” The attempt to convey a political bias to the popular mind under the mask of charity, was happily discovered; and the exposure served to place in a stronger light the claims of the dissenters to the gratitude of

• Essay. Works, vol. iv. 527, 8vo. edit.

the monarch as his staunchest adherents, and to his protection from the repeated persecutions of the dominant hierarchy.

But few memorials of the personal history of Dr. Watts at this period can be collected; his time was spent principally between London and Theobalds, chiefly in his study; and though he was associated with his brethren in many of their transactions, yet he seems to have avoided as much as consistent with duty, from weakness and perhaps from inclination, the distractions of public life. He was in correspondence at this time with the Rev. Mr. Francis, and probably with his aged father, concerning the dissenting interest at Southampton. The congregation there had been long under the care of Mr. Boler, but growing infirm Mr. Francis removed from Girdler's Hall in the city to be co-pastor with him. Several letters passed between Dr. Watts and this gentleman, which I have not been able to discover; but in them he persuades his continuance at Southampton, and expresses himself in terms of the warmest affection and esteem.

The institution of an academy in the midland districts of the kingdom, was the subject of anxious deliberation during the year 1728. Upon the death of Mr. Jennings in 1723, the academy under his care at Hinckley, in Leicestershire, was dissolved; and to repair the loss sustained by the dissenting interest, a proposal was made to revive it under the direction of Mr. afterwards Dr. Doddridge. This excellent man was then commencing his career at Kibworth, a small village in the same county; and his eminent acquirements, as well as his knowledge of Mr. Jennings's plan of education, whose pupil he had been, pointed him out as a proper person to undertake the charge. A letter detailing the course of study pursued, from the pen of Doddridge, was taken up to town by Mr. Some of Harborough, and submitted to the inspection of Dr. Watts, for the purpose of indirectly ascertaining his opinion upon the project. This letter was returned to the country with some observations by the Doctor, from which he

« FöregåendeFortsätt »