Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ of the patriarch, but that every occurrence in his life might na“ turally have been preserved by tradition from father to son.”

In his tenth discourse, in 1793, he mentions, with a satisfaction which every pious mind must enjoy, the result of the enquiries of the society over which he presided.

.“ In the first place, we cannot surely deem it an inconsiderable 4 advantage, that all our historical researches have confirmed the “ Mosaic accounts of the primitive world, and our testimony on “ that subject ought to have the greater weight, because, if the “ result of our observations had been totally different, we should “ nevertheless have published them, not indeed with equal plea. “ sure, but with equal confidence: for truth is mighty, and what“ever be its consequences, must always prevail : but independently “ of our interest in corroborating the multiplied evidences of Re“ vealed Religion, we could scarcely gratify our minds with a more “ useful and rational entertainment, than the contemplation of " those wonderful revolutions, in kingdoms and states, which have “ happened within little more than four thousand years; revolu

tions almost as fully demonstrative of an all-ruling Providence, “ as the structure of the universe, and the final causes, which are “ discernible in its whole extent, and even in its remotest parts.”

The preceding quotations sufficiently demonstrate the sentiments of Sir William Jones on the subject of Revelation, and they may be fairly considered as evincing an anxiety on his part to impress his own belief on others, for the very expressions, which may seem to imply hesitation or indifference in his mind, are particularly adapted to enforce conviction on those, to whom they were addressed. It is worthy of remark, that the reflections in many of the passages cited, although such as would naturally occur to a

SB

believer

believer in the Scriptures, are not necessarily called for by the subject under his discussion, and could only proceed from his zeal in the investigation and propagation of truth. This was the fixed object of his whole life, as he has himself declared in the following elegant couplets :

Before thy mystic altar, heav'nly Truth,
I kneel in manhood, as I knelt in youth :
Thus let me kneel, till this dull form decay,
And life's last shade be brighten’d by thy ray:
Then shall my soul, now lost in clouds below,
Soar without bound, without consuming glow*.

A disciple of Voltaire, would have omitted the observations made by Sir William Jones, or have tortured the premises on which they are founded, into the service of infidelity; nor would he have declared that, “ in order to enlighten the minds of the ignorant, and “ to enforce the obedience of the perverse, it is evident à priori, " that a revealed Religion was necessary in the great system of “ Providence t."

The mind of Sir William Jones was never tainted with infidelity; but there was a period, as I have already observed, before his judgment was matured, and before he had studied the Scriptures with close attention, when his belief in the truth of Revelation was tinged with doubts. But these were the transient clouds, which for a while obscure the dawn, and disperse with the rising sun. His heart and his judgment told him, that Religion was a subject of supreme importance, and the evidence of its truth worthy his most serious investigation. He sat down to it without prejudice, and rose from the enquiry with a conviction, which the studies of his future life invigorated and confirmed. The completion of the prophecies relating to our Saviour, had impressed upon his youthful mind this invaluable truth, that the language of Isaiah, and of the prophets, was inspired; and in this belief, to which fresh proofs were progressively added, he closed his life. He has I trust received, through the merits of his REDEEMER, the reward of his faith.

* These lines were written by Sir Williain Jones in Berkley's Siris ; they are, in fact, a beautiful version of the last sentence of the Siris, amplified and adapted to himself ; “ He that would make a real progress in knowledge, must dedicate his age as well as “ youth, the latter growth as well as the first fruits, at the altar of Truth." + Worke, vol. i. p. 169.

portance, a mere

In matters of eternal concern, the authority of the highest human opinions has no claim to be admitted, as a ground of belief, but it may with the strictest propriety be opposed to that of men of in. ferior learning and penetration ; and, whilst the pious derive satisfaction from the perusal of sentiments according with their own, those who doubt or disbelieve, should be induced to weigh with candour and impartiality, arguments which have produced conviction in the minds of the best, the wisest, and most learned of mankind.

Among such as have professed a steady belief in the doctrines of Christianity, where shall greater names be found, than those of Bacon and Newton ? Of the former and of Locke, it may be observed, that they were both innovators in science; disdaining to follow the sages of antiquity through the beaten paths of error, they broke through prejudices, which had long obstructed the progress of sound knowledge, and laid the foundation of science on solid ground, whilst the genius of Newton carried him extra flammantia mænia mundi. These men, to their great praise, and we may hope to their eternal happiness, devoted much of their time to the study of the Scriptures : if the evidence of Revelation had been wėak, who were better qualified to expose its unsoundness ? if our national faith were a 'mere fable, a political superstition, why were minds which boldly destroyed prejudices in Science, blind to those in Religion? They read, examined, weighed, and believed ;, and the same vigorous intellect, that dispersed the mists which concealed the temple of human knowledge, was itself illuminated with the radiant truths of Divine Revelation.

Such authorities, and let me now add to them the name of Sir William Jones, are deservedly entitled to great weight: let those, who superciliously reject them, compare their intellectual powers, their scientific attainments, and vigour of application, with those of the men whom I have named ; the comparison may perhaps lead them to suspect, that their incredulity (to adopt the idea of a profound scholar) may be the result of a little smattering in learning; and great self-conceit, and that by harder study, and a humbled mind, they may regain the religion which they have left.

I shall not apologize for the extracts which I have introduced from the works of Sir William Jones, nor for the reflections to which they have naturally led. The former display that part of his character, which alone is now important to his happiness ; and I am authorized to add, not only from what appears in his printed works and private memoranda, in more than one of which, containing a delineation of his daily occupations, I find a portion of time allotted to the perusal of the Scriptures, but from private and satisfactory testimony, that the writings of our best divines engaged a large share of his attention, and that private devotion was not neglected by him. The following lines, which afford a proof both of his taste and piety, were written by him after a perusal of the eighth sermon of Barrow, in his retirement, at Chrishna-nagur, in 1786; and with these I shall conclude my observations on his religious opinions :

As meadows parch’d, brown groves, and withering flow'rs,
Imbibe the sparkling dew and genial show'rs;
As chill dark air inhales the morning beam,
As thirsty harts enjoy the gelid stream;
Thus to man's grateful soul from heav'n descend,
The mercies of his FATHER, Lord, aud FRIEND.

I now turn to the last scene of the life of Sir William Jones. The few months allotted to his existence after the departure of Lady Jones, were devoted to his usual occupations, and more particularly to the discharge of that duty which alone detained him in India; the conipletion of the digest of Hindu and Mohammedan law. But neither the consciousness of acquitting himself of an obligation which he had voluntarily contracted, nor his incessant assiduity, could fill the vacuity occasioned by the absence of her, whose society had sweetened the toil of application, and cheered his hours of relaxation. Their habits were congenial, and their pursuits in some respects similar: his botanical researches were facilitated by the eyes of Lady Jones, and by her talents in drawing; and their evenings were generally passed together, in the perusal of the best modern authors in the different languages of Europe. After her departure, he mixed more in promiscuous society; but his affections were transported with her to his native country. :

On the evening of the 20th of April, or nearly about that date, after prolonging his walk to a late hour, during which he had imprudently remained in conversation, in an unwholesome situation, he called upon the writer of these sheets, and complained of aguish symptoms, mentioning his intention to take some medicine, and repeating jocularly an old proverb, that “ an ague in the spring is medicine for a king.” He had no suspicion at the time, of the real nature of his indisposition, which proved in fact to be a complaint common in Bengal, an inflammation in the liver. The disorder

was,

« PreviousContinue »