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stars. His character, therefore, must be formed from the multiplicity and diversity of his attainments, rather than from any single performance; for it would not be safe to claim for him
the highest rank in any single denomination of literary dignity; yet perhaps there was nothing in which he would not have excelled, if he had not divided his powers to different pursuits. As a poet, had he been only a poet, he would probably have stood high among the authors with whom he is now associated; [i. e. among the poets, the lives of whom, almost every body knows, Dr. Johnson has most elegantly written.] For his judgment was exact, and he noted beauties and faults with very nice discernment; his imagination, as the “ Dacian Battle” proves, was vigorous and active, and the stores of knowledge were large by which his fancy was to be supplied. His ear was well-tuned, and his diction was elegant and copious. But his devotional poetry is, like that of others, unsatisfactory. The paucity of its topics enforces perpetual repetition, and the sanctity of the matter rejects the ornaments of figurative diction. It is sufficient for Watts to have done better than others, what no man has done well.
This must be read cum grano salis, considering, who wrote this life, and for whose perusal it was chiefly written. That it is impossible for language so to ornament divine truths, as to make themr acceptable to an ungodly world, is too serious a fact to be disputed; but that divine truths are without beauty, or the most sublime and enrapturing beauty, can only be affirmed by those who have no spiritual eyes to see, or gracious hearts to enjoy them. Dr. Johnson unhappily wrote for those, who understand the language and the arts of men more than the voice and the things of God: Otherwise he too would have confessed, that there is more sublimity, excellence, and glory, of all kinds, in one page of Isaiah, than in all the writings of the poets he collected, or could have collected from the ancient heathen or modern world. A critic, who may be learned in all books but one-I mean the Bible, may affect to smile at such a remark; but nevertheless there is no hazard of breaking truth in making it, that the first poem which ever appeared on earth, I mean that in the 15th chapter of Exodus, has more real majesty, beauty, force, and propriety in it, than all that lying Greece or brutal Rome, or any other country or age, have ever produced ; and I may add, it is celebrated by more competent judges, and will last infinitely longer ; for it is sung by spirits perfectly enlightened, and will be sung by them throughout eternity. And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvel. lous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true ure thy ways, thou King of saints, Rev.
xv. 3. • His poems on other subjects seldom rise higher than might be expected from the amusements of a man of letters, and have different degrees of value as they are more or less laboured, or as the occasion was more or less favourable to invention. He writes too often without regular measures, and too often in blank verse; the rhymes are not always sufficiently correspondent. He is particularly unhappy in coining names expressive of characters. His lines are commonly smooth and easy, and his thoughts always religiously pure; but who is there that, to so much piety and innocence, does not wish for a greater measure of sprightliness and vigour? He is at least one of the few poets with whom youth and ignorance may be safely pleased; and happy will be that reader, wbose mind is disposed, by his verses or his prose, to imitate bim in all but his nonconformity, to copy his benevolence to man, and his reverence to God." Thus far Doctor Johnson.
But, glad as we are to consult brevity in our accounts of gracious persons, in order to admit as many as possible within the prescribed limits of our work, we cannot dismiss this article, without a few edifying additions to the memorial of this excellent man. What some critics have observed
the most valuable circumstance of his character, which they have been pleased to style, the enthusiasm of his heart, operating on a fanatical creed, which hurried him too often into extravagance and absurdity,' only proves, that they are not blessed with a mind like his, capable of understanding the same intellectual good, and that consequently they are too incompetent to decide upon what is so much above them. Whatever rises in the least degree above earth and sensual comprehension, is to men, who know no happiness (if it deserve the name) but what comes from earth, altogether fanatical, enthusiastic, and absurd. The logic of their decision is, • We know it not, therefore it is not to be known; we feel no influence of grace, therefore there is none; therefore it is all chimera ; therefore we have a right to ridicule. But, omitting the reflections of men, whose absurdities are more dangerous to themselves than prejudicial to the cause of truth, we subjoin a few of the dying
sayings of this blessed man, which were preserved and communicated to the world by Dr. Jennings, who preached his funeral sermon, about a fortnight after the body had been interred at Bunhill Fields. “I bless God,” says he, “ I can lie down with comfort at night, unsolicitous whether I wake in this world or another!" His faith in the promises was lively and unshaken: “I believe them enough to venture an eternity on them!" Once, to a religious friend, he expressed himself thus: “ I remember, an aged minister used to say, that the most learned and knowing Christians, when they come to die, have only the same plain promises for their support, as the common and unlearned. And so (continued the Doctor) I find it. It is the plain promises of the gospel that are my support: And, I bless God, they are plain promises, which do not require much labour and pains to understand them: For I can do nothing now, but look into my Bible, for some promise to support me, and live upon that.” On feeling any temptations to complain, he would remark, “ The business of a Christian is, to bear the will of God, as well as to do it. If I were in health, I could only be doing that: And that I may do now. The best thing in obedience is, a regard to the will of God: And the way to that, is to get our inclinations and aversions as much mortified as we can.” If our readers wish to read a more prolix account of the Doctor and his writings, we must refer them to the memoirs drawn up by Dr. Gibbons, to which are added several valuable letters written to him by his friends, among which were the late Dr. Secker, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Hart, Archbishop of Tuam, Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London, Lady Hartford, afterwards Duchess of Somerset) the first Lord Barrington, Mr. Hervey, &c.
His Works. “ I. Sermons on various Subjects, divine and moral, with a sacred Hymn suited to each subject. II. A Guide to Prayer, &c. III. The Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, &c. Vindicated by plain Evidence of Scripture, without the Aid or Incumbrance of human schemes. IV. Seven Dissertations relating to the Christian Doctrine of the Trinity, in two parts. V. Death and Heaven, or the last Enemy Conquered, and separate Spirits made perfect; attempted in two funeral discourses in memory of Sir John Hartopp, Baronet, and his lady. VI. A Defence against the Temptations to Self-murder, &c. together with some Reflections on excess in strong Liquors, Duelling, and other Practices akin to this heinous Sin. VII. A Caveat against Infidelity, or the Danger of AposVOL. IV, T