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temporal views, of sliding into fulsome or swelling panegyrics, through any respect that should be entertained for the memories of faithful men. It becomes us, in this case, to consider what the persons we venture to celebrate, would say of us or to us, could they read what fell from our pens, now their spirits are made perfect, and divested of all the vanity and conceit of the flesh. I believe, they would readily own, with the Apostle, that they were at best but empty vessels in themselves; that whatever they enjoyed of goodness was entirely out of that Fullness, which filleth all in all; and that, by the grace of God, they were whatever they were, either in themselves or for others, in point of usefulness and worth. And, in consequence of this acknowledgment, they would be much more ready to chide than to thank us, were we to dignify their persons for public view, and to forget to mention, that they had nothing worth having but what they freely received from their Master. Under this impression of mind, which we would wish never to forget, we shall select, from the various memoirs which have been published of this excellent man, chiefly what has been given by the late Dr. Samuel Johnson, as the most concise, judicious, and candid of any ; to which we will add a few edifying particulars, which, we conceive, cannot but be grateful to our serious readers.
· Isaac Watts (says Dr. Johnson) was born July 17, 1674, at Southampton, where his father, of the same name, kept a boarding-school for young gentlemen, though common report makes him a shoemaker. He appears, from the narrative of Dr. Gibbons, to have been neither indigent nor illiterate. Isaac, the eldest of nine children, was given to books from his infancy; and began, we are told, to learn Latin when he was four
at home. He was afterwards taught Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, by Mr. Pinhorne, a clergyman, master of the free-school at Southampton, to whom the gratitude of his scholar afterwards inscribed a Latin Ode. His proficiency at school was so conspicuous, that a subscription was proposed for his support at the university ; but he declared his resolution to take his lot with the Dissenters. Such he was, as every Christian church would rejoice to have adopted. He therefore repaired in 1690 to an academy taught by Mr. Rowe, where he had for his companions and fellow-students Mr. Hughes the poet, and Dr. Horte, afterwards Archbishop of Tuam. Some Latin Essays, supposed to have been written as exercises at this academy, shew a
degree years besides; conversation
years old, I
degree of knowledge, both philosophical and theological, such as very few attain by a much longer course of study, He was, as he hints in his miscellanies, a maker of verses from fifteen to fifty, and in his youth he appears to have paid attention to Latin poetry. His verses to his brother, in the glyconic measure, written when he was seventeen, are remarkably easy and elegant. Some of his other odes are deformed by the pindaric folly then prevailing, and are written with such neglect of all metrical rules as is without example among the ancients; but his diction, though perhaps not always exactly pure, has such copiousness and splendour, as shews that he was but at a very little distance from excellence.
His method of study was to impress the contents of his books upon his memory by abridging them, and by interleaving them to amplify one system with supplements from another. With the congregation of his tutor Mr. Rowe, who were, I believe, independents, he communicated in his nineteenth year. At the age of twenty be left the academy, and spent two years in study and devotion at the house of his father, who treated him with great tenderness; and had the happiness, indulged to few parents, of living to see his son eminent for literature, and venerable for piety. He was then entertained by Sir John Hartopp five years, as domestic tutor to his son ; and in that time particularly devoted himself to the study of the Holy Scriptures ; and being chosen assistant to Dr. Chauncey, preached the first time on the birth-day that completed his twenty-fourth year; probably considering that as the day of a second nativity, by which he entered on a new period of existence. In about three years, he succeeded Dr. Chauncey ; but, soon after his entrance on his charge, he was seized by a dangerous illness, which sunk him to such weakness, that the congregation thought an assistant necessary, and appointed Mr. Price. His health then returned gradually, and he performed bis duty, till (1712) he was seized by a fever of such violence and continuance, that, from the feebleness which it brought upon him, he never perfectly recovered. This calamitous state inade the compassion of his friends necessary, and drew upon him the attention of Sir Thomas Abney, who received him into his house; where, with a constancy of friendship and uniformity of conduct not often to be found, he was treated for thirty-six years with all the kindness that friendship could prompt, and all the attention that respect could dictate. Sir Thomas died about eight vears afterwards; but he continued with the lady and her daughters to the end of his life. The lady died about a year after him.
- A coalition like this, a state in which the notions of patronage and dependence were overpowered by the perception of reciprocal benefits, deserves a particular memorial; and I will not withhold from the reader Dr. Gibbon's representation, to which regard is to be paid as to the narrative of one who writes what he knows, and what is known likewise to multitudes besides.
Our next observation (says Dr. Gibbons) shall be made upon that remarkably kind providence which brought the Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and continued him there till his death, a period of no less than thirty-six years. In the midst of his sacred labours for the glory of God, and the good of his generation, he is seized with a most violent and threatening fever, which leaves him oppressed with great weakness, and puts a stop at least to his public services for four years. In this dístressing season, doubly so to his active and pious spirit, he is invited to Sir Thomas Abney's family, nor ever removes from it till he had finished his days. Here he enjoyed the uninterrupted demonstrations of the truest friendship. Here, without any care of his own, he had every thing which could contribute to the enjoyment of life, and favour the unwearied pursuit of his studies. Here he dwelt in a family which for piety, order, harmony, and every virtue, was an house of God. Here he had the privilege of a country recess, the pure air, the retired grove, the fragrant bower, the spreading lawn, the flowery garden, and other advantages to soothe his mind, and aid his restoration to health, to yield him, whenever he chose them, most grateful intervals from his laborious studies, and enable him to return to them with redoubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for this most happy event, he might, as to outward view, have feebly, it may be, painfully, dragged on through many more years of langour and inability for public service, and even for profitable study, or perhaps might have sunk into his grave under the overwhelming load of infirmities in the midst of his days; and thus the church and world would have been deprived of those many excellent sermons and works, which he drew up and published during his long residence in this family. In a few years after his coming hither Sir Thomas Abney dies, but his amiable consort survives, who shews the Doctor the same respect and friendship as before, and most happily for him, and great numbers besides ; for as her riches were great, her generosity and munificence were in full proportion, her thread of life was drawn out to a great age, even beyond that of the Doctor's, and thus this excellent man through her kindness, and that of her daughter, the present Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, who in a like degree esteemed and honoured him, enjoyed all the benefits and felicities he experienced at his first entrance into this family, till his days were numbered and finished, and, like a shock of corn in its season, he ascended into the regions of perfect and immortal life and joy.'
• If this quotation (says Dr. Johnson) has appeared long, let it be considered that it comprises an account of six-andthirty years, and those the years of Dr. Watts. From the time of his reception into this family, his life was no other, wise diversified than by successive publications. The series of his works I am not able to deduce; their number, and their variety, shew the intenseness of his industry, and the extent of his capacity. He was one of the first authors that taught the Dissenters to court attention by the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, whether of learning or acuteness, was commonly obscured and blunted by coarseness, and inelegance of style. He shewed them, that real and purity might be expressed and enforced by polished diction. He continued to the end of his life the teacher of a congregation, and no reader of his works can doubt his fidelity or diligence. In the pulpit, though his low stature, which very little exceeded five feet, graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utterance made his discourses very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr. Foster had gained by his proper delivery to my friend Dr. Hawkesworth, who told me, that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to Dr. Watts. Such was his flow of thoughts, and such his promptitude of language, that in the latter part of his life he did not precompose his cursory sermons; but having adjusted the heads, and sketched out some particulars, trusted for success to his extemporary power. He did not endeavour to assist his eloquence by any gesticulations; for, as no corporeal actions have any correspondence with theological truth, he did not see how they could enforce it. At the conclusion of weighty sentences he gave time, by a short pause, for the proper impression. To stated and public instruction he added familiar visits and personal application, and was careful to improve the opportunities which conversation offered, of diffusing and increasing the influence of religion.
• By his natural temper he was quick of resentment; but, by his established and habitual practice, he was gentle, modest, and inoffensive. His tenderness appeared in his attention to children, and to the poor. To the poor, while he lived in the family of his friend, he allowed the third part of his annual revenue, though the whole was not an hundred a-year; and for children, he condescended to lay aside the scholar, the philosopher, and the wit, to writé little poems of devotion, and systems of instruction, adapted to their wants and capacities, from the dawn of reason through its gradations of advance in the morning of life. Every man acquainted with the common principles of human action, will look with veneration on the writer, who is at one time combating Locke, and at another making a catechism for children in their fourth year. A voluntary descent from the dignity of science, is perhaps the hardest lesson that humility can teach. As his mind was capacious, his curiosity excursive, and his industry continual, his writings are very numerous, and his subjects various. With his theological work3 I am only enough acquainted to admire his meekness of opposition, and his mildness of censure. It was not only in his book, but in his mind, that orthodoxy was united with charity. of his philosophical pieces, his logic has been received into the universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation : If he owes part of it to Le Clerc, it must be considered that no man, who undertakes merely to methodize or illustrate a system, pretends to be its author. In his metaphysical disquisitions, it was observed by the late learned Mr. Dyer, that he confounded the idea of space with that of emply space, and did not consider, that though space might be without matter, yet matter being extended, could not be without space. Few books have been perused by me with greater pleasure than his “ Improvement of the Mind," of which the radical principles may indeed be found in Locke's · Conduct of the Understanding ;' but they are so expanded and ramified by Watts, as to conter upon him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleasing. Whoever has the care of instructing others, may be charged with deficiency in his duty, if this book is not recommended.
I have mentioned his treatises of theology as distinct from his other productions; but the truth is, that whatever he took in hand was, by his incessant solicitude for