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Sykes, D. D. By John Difney, D: D. F. A. S. 8vo. 5s. Johnion. London.
T is known that Dr. Sykes was a learned and strenuous de
fender of the Chriftian religion, of the rights of protef tantism, and of the civil liberties of his country. His eminence in these respects, having attracted strongly the attention of Dr. Difney he was induced to prepare the prefent memoirs for the eye of the public.
In the life of Dr. Sykes there were no furprizing or me morable events. His time was chiefly devoted to his studies. The work before us is of confequence employed almost wholly in accounts of the controverfies in which he was engaged, and of the performances which he published. The characteristics of Dr. Sykes as a writer are learning, fpirit, and candour. He wrote from conviction, and did not hefi
tate to urge boldly his fentiments. His productions were numerous; and it appears that they were highly beneficial to the cause of truth and liberty.
The diligence of Dr. Difney in the prefent memoirs, is a tribute to virtue, literature and patriotism; and we cannot but bestow our best approbation upon the intentions which directed him. He affords a pleafing relation of the progreffive ftudies of his author; and he every where discovers a fincere folicitude to advance the interefts of Chriftianity and mankind. To thofe who are difpofed to inquire anxiously into Scriptural knowledge, and to enter into controverfial points of theology, thefe memoirs will afford a very confiderable fhare of entertainment.
It would be a task difproportioned to the purposes of our journal to follow Dr. Difney through his descriptions of the different books and pamphlets which were compofed by Dr. Sykes; but it is proper that we fubmit to our readers, the character he has delineated of that pious and eminent Divine.
In private life, Dr. Sykes was of eafy, gentle, and obliging manners, naturally cheerful and good tempered, modeft and unaffuming, unfoured by controverfy, not proud of, or confident in his learning. He was strictly juft in all his concerns with others, faithful in his engagements, humane to the poor; fingularly exact in all his appointments, and punctual in his payments.
His manner and delivery in the pulpit, were very generally approved, and admired. His fermons were rather plain than elegant; but they were always clear and intelligible, though fometimes argumentative. He was always careful in the choice of his fubftitute, when he was neceffarily abfent from town, where he chiefly refided, except during fome part of every fummer, which he constantly
spent at Rayleigh, and his occafional refidence at Winchester and Salisbury. And he never wanted the ready affiftance of fome of the highest order of the clergy. A perfon now living, who himself regularly attended public worship in King-ftreet chapel, remembers to have heard three bifhops preach for him, on three fucceffive fundays.
It is very obfervable, that Dr. Sykes applied himself early in life, to the ftudy of the fcriptures; and he purfued it with equal application and fuccefs, to a good old age. He was alfo well verfed in the writings of the fathers, and the early philofophers; and added to these acquirements, he was happy in a quick difcernment, and a folid judgment. In all his various political debates, and literary controverfies, he always conducted himself with temper and good manners towards his adverfaries; infomuch, that it will be difficult to find one fingle infiance, wherein he exceeded the bounds of decorum and civility. Few men have laboured more unweariedly to ferve the beft interefts of christianity and proteftantifm; for while he defended the truth and evidences of our common faith, he displayed the fame zeal for the facred right of private judgment, without which the revealed will of God would ceafe either to lead us into a reasonable faith, or influence a rational conduct. He was warmly attached to the civil liberties of his country, to the principles of the revolution, and the proteftant fucceffion,
In his perfon, our author is faid to have been rather low of ftature, and fomething inclined to corpulency; to have been flightly marked with the fmall pox, and of a fresh complexion. His countenance is alfo faid to have been a faithful mirror of his mind, pleafant and good tempered. There is a portrait of him, taken when he was between forty and fifty years of age, painted by Wills. It was given by Mrs- Sykes, his widow, to Robert Bristow, Efq. and I am informed, it is now in that family,
What has already been faid, in the preceeding pages, fhould feem to preclude any particular difplay of our authors abilities as a fcholar, and a divine; his works will fpeak his juft praife. His honeft love and ardent zeal for truth are apparent, and have already been occafionally noticed, and appear the leading features of his character. "Whatever my abilities are," fays he to Mr. Whifton, "which I freely acknowledge to be not great, yet be they more or lefs, truth I love, and truth I conftantly fearch after, and make truth the study of my life; and I hope nothing will ever have influence enough to make me fwerve from that," And elsewhere he writes," How well I have fucceded in my defign, the reader is now to judge. Perhaps it may be thought that I have mistaken the meaning of fome paffages of fcripture. All that I can fay for myfelf is this only; that in the explication of fo many, it is well if I have not. However, I have fincerely endeavoured to follow truth, being very little folicitous where it led me; and if I have failed, yet, this I am fure of, that my intentions were good and upright." And Dr. Gregory Sharpe, in his Review of the controversy about the meaning of the demoniacs, bears his teftimony to the amiable and ingenuous difpofition of his friend; "If I may guefs," fays he, "at the inquirer's temper, I believe he had, at any time, rather em24 • brace
brace the truth, let who will teach it, than continue in an error "with the multitude."
in confirmation of this excellent part of our author's character, I am happy to be able to produce the evidence of the eminently learned and liberal minded Dr. Jortin, from the information of a moft refpectable clergyman in the established church, whofe fituation in this great city, derives peculiar honour and credit to his noble patrons. In a mixed company. w here Dr. Jortin was prefent, and at a time when certain of Dr. Sykes's publications were the subject of conversation, it was obferved by fome gentleman, (who probably inherited his own principles and opinions in the fame quiet undisturbed way, that he had fucceeded to the paternal inheritance of his family,) that in whatever debate Dr. Sykes was engaged he was fure to be on the wrong fide. To this Dr. Jortin replied, that without entering into the particular queftion then before the company, this he was well affured of, that Dr. Sykes was deferving of much praife; for even if he was fo frequently in the wrong, as the gentleman had obferved, it must be remembered, that no man took more pains to be in the right,"And this good opinion of Dr. Jortin, seems to have been reciprocal on the part of Dr. Sykes, who in his letter to Dr. Birch, in July 1753, writes;-"As to my friend Mr. Jortin, "he is already fo far in the mire, that he cannot retire backwards, "confequently he must go on: I heartily wifh him all fuccefs, and 66 hope he will at length receive, what he ought to have had many years ago, an encouragement fuitable to his learning, and real "merits."
Dr. Sykes's fentiments refpecting the perfon of Jefus Christ are well known to have agreed with thofe of Dr. Clarke; and one of his tracts was exprefsly written in defence of his Scripture doctrine of the trinity. In the ufe of this word (trinity) I cannot but think that thefe learned men mifreprefented themselves; and while they rejected the doctrine which is generally understood by the word " trinity," they would have done well to have waved the frequent and indifcriminate fe of the term. Dr- Sykes, in one place, fpeaks of "the ever bleffed trinity ;" and in another, he fays, the doctrine of the trinity, when confidered as it lies in the new Testament, is not any abfolute myfterious notion, but only a doctrine holding forth that which the baptifmal creed likewife contains." And again, "the fcripture doctrine of the trinity ftands unfhaken." The learned Mr. Jackfon of Roffington, alfo fpeaks of being brought he trusts into "the true knowledge of Jefus Chrift his God and Saviour," and again, thanks Dr. Clarke "for his very learned and judicious book of "the fcripture doctrine of the trinity," to which he adds, " by "God's grace, he owed the then prefent fettlement of his mind in the true faith of the ever bleffed trinity."
And even fo lately as the year, 1784, the learned Mr. Taylor, author of the Apology of Benjamin Ben Mordecai, though he reprobates the phrafe (trinity,) citing at the fame time, the difapprobation of Luther and Calvin to the very name, continues the ufe of it under the general idea, that "fo long as that word is understood in a fenfe agreeable to the unity of Jehovah, and the fundamental principles of christianity, it can furnish no argument against the
"truth of that religion." All this is very plaufible, and the prac tice would be more excufable, if every man, or every reader reafoned accurately, and confidered things abftractedly; but fince this is not the cafe, the ufe of the word " trinity," by those who are well understood not to believe the full import of it, in it's common fignification, is ufing equivocal language, and fuch as will mislead many readers. It certainly tends more to edification, to use plain and determinate words; and to speak to the understandings of men in language that shall help, and not confound, or miflead their apprehenfions.
It is moft probable that Dr. Sykes left feveral manufcripts behind him; but I have been particularly informed, by a learned gentleman in the neighbourhood of Winchester, of fome valuable papers upon the authority of the civil magiftrate in matters of religion, by way of dialogue, after the manner of Cicero; very well done, and fairly written ready for the prefs; very candid and equal to any thing he has written." Dr. Sykes has alfo been faid to have left fome manufcript remarks on Mr. Peirce's ordination fermon His own fermons are very credibly reported to have been fold.
Dr. Sykes's engagement in the feveral fucceffive controverfies of his time, has attracted the notice of fome obfervers, and who, on that account, have affected to under-rate his eminent worth, and no lefs eminent learning, and the value of his writings. But thefe perfons fhould confider, that in the accomodation and application of his learning and abilities to the different demands and exigences of the times, he rendered a very effential and permanent fervice to the caufe of truth and liberty. For, notwithstanding the disrespect which is occafionally fhewn towards religious controverfy, by little and illiberal minds, it is to fuch controverfies as engaged the pens of Clarke, Hoadly, and Sykes, that we owe much of what is most valuable and dear to us. An affected difparagement of the feveral controverfies which have refpected religious liberty, and the improved knowledge of the fcriptures, generally indicates an indifference to the nature and obligations of religion itfelf; or befpeaks a total ig norance of the bleflings we derive and enjoy from free inquiry and debate, by means of the prefs; or is the effect of a lamentable prejudice against every defire and attempt to bring all profeffing chrif tians to abide by the plain and artlefs gospel of Chrift. Or, when fuch averfion to controverfy is held by well meaning and more candid minds, it is no other than their declaring their earnest defire to establish the end, while at the fame time they inconfiftently and peremptorily protest against the only means which can effect it.
The late Mr. Hollis, who was himself an active and greatly dif tinguished friend of liberty, bore his teftimony to Dr. Sykes's writings, by repeatedly advertising in the year 1766, his two tracts against popery, originally published in the year 1746, and reprinted 1763. And further, by collecting as he states in his diary, "a 66 complete fet of the late learned excellent Dr. Sykes's works, to "bind and fend to Harvard college, in America, for honourable "prefervation of his memory." "A collection," add the editors of "the Memoirs, the more neceffary, as well as the more valuable, as fome of the doctor's tracts were become exceeding scarce."
This teftimony of Mr. Hollis, and of his biographers, will bring
With regard to the arts of compofition, it is obfervable
ART. VII. The Follies of a Day: or the marriage of Figaro, A
M. De Beaumarchais must have been equally flattered and furprised when he first heard that his favourite Figaro had appeared on the English ftage; and that he was as much careffed in London as in Paris. He is in truth a fellow of much pleasantry, capable of relaxing the most rigid and faturnine mufcles.
The Follies of a day is avowedly an imitation of the Spanish Comedy, full of bufinefs, buftle, and ftage effect; hence its great fuccefs when reprefented, and hence too perhaps we may account for its not giving exactly the fame pleasure in the clofet; though even there it fufficiently rewards us for the perufal.
Figaro and Sufan, the favourite fervants of the count and countefs of Almaviva, have a mutual affection, and are em-¬ ployed throughout the play, in overcoming the obstacles that are opposed to their union. Marcelina, who had been Duenna to the countefs, endeavours to avail herself of a written promife of marriage, which, in confideration of a fum of money, had been given to her by Figaro. The count, who has defigns upon Sufan, and who is to decide as judge on the validity of the promise, intimates plainly that his decifion will be regulated by her compliance or noncompliance. The lovers, by a variety of contrivances, try to bring him to decide against the Duenna, and at last think they have fucceeded by Sufan's pretending to consent to an affignation. But unfortunately, while they are rejoicing over the fuccefs of their fchemes, they are overheard by the Count, who enraged at being duped, gives judgment against Figaro.
While he is abandoning himself to grief for the lofs of his caufe, he is unexpectedly discovered to be the fon of Marce