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Art. VII. Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Arthur Ashley
Sykes, D. D. By John Disney, D: D. F. A. S. 8vo. 55. Johnson.
fender of the Christian religion, of the rights of protestantism, and of the civil liberties of his country. His eminence in these respects, having attracted strongly ihe attention of Dr. Disney he was induced to prepare the present memoirs for the eye of the public.
In the life of Dr. Sykes there were no surprizing or me: morable events. His time was chiefly devoted to his studies. The work before us is of consequence employed almost wholly in accounts of the controversies in which he was engaged, and of the performances which he published. The characteristics of Dr. Sykes as a writer are learning, spirit, and candour. He wrote from conviction, and did not hesitate to urge boldly his sentiments.
His productions were numerous; and it appears that they were highly beneficial to the cause of truth and liberty.
The diligence of Dr. Disney in the present 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 pleasing relation of the progreffive studies of his author; and he every where discovers a sincere solicitude to advance the interests of Christianity and mankind.' To those who are disposed to inquire anxiously into Scriptural knowledge, and to enter into controversial points of theology, these memoirs will afford a very considerable share of entertainment.
It would be a task disproportioned to the purposes of our journal to follow Dr. Disney through his descriptions of the different books and pamphlets which were composed by Dr. Sykes; but it is proper that we submit to our readers, the character he has delineated of that pious and eminent Divine.
' In private life, Dr. Sykes was of easy, gentle, and obliging manners, naturally cheerful and good tempered, modest and unata suming, unfoured by controversy, not proud of, or confident in his learning. He was strictly just 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 sermons were rather plain than elegant ; but they were always clear and intelligible, though sometimes argumentative. He was always careful in the choice of his fubstitute, when he was necessarily absent from town, where he chiefly refided, except during some part of every summer, which he constantly
spent at Rayleigh, and his occasional residence at Winchester and Salisbury. And he never wanted the ready assistance of some of the highest order of the clergy. A person now living, who himself regularly attended public worship in King-itreet chapel, remembers to have heard three bifhops preach for him, on three fuccefiive fundays.
* It is very observable, that Dr. Sykes applied himself early in life, to the study of the scriptures ; and he pursued it with equal application and success, to a good old age. He was also well verted in the writings of the fathers, and the early philosophers; and added to these acquirements, he was happy in a quick discernment, and a folid judgment. In all his various political debates, and literary controverfies, he always conducted himself with temper and good manners towards his adversaries ; infomuch, that it will be difficult to find one single infance, wherein he exceeded the bounds of decorum and civility. Few men have laboured more unweariedly to serve the best intereits of christianity and protestantism; for while he defended the truth and evidences of our common faith, he displayed the same zeal for the sacred right of private judgment, without which the revealed will of God would cease either to lead us into a reasonable faith, or influence a rational conduct. He was warinly attached to the civil liberties of his country, to the principles of the revolution, and the protestant succession,
. In his person, our author is said to have been rather low of stature, and something inclined to corpulency; to have been flightly mạrked with the small pox, and of a fresh complexion.
His countenance is also said to have been a faithful mirror of his mind, pleasant 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, Esq. and I am inforịned, it is now in that family,
• What has already been said, in the preceeding pages, should seem to preclude any particular display of our authors abilities as a scholar, and a divine; his works will speak his just praise. His honest love and ardent zeal for truth are apparent, and have already been occasionally noticed, and appear the leading features of his character. “Whatever my abilities are," says he to Mr. Whifton, s« which I freely acknowledge to be not great, yet be they more or less, truth I love, and truth I constantly search after, and make truth the ftudy of my life, and I hope nothing will ever have influence enough to make me. swerve from that." And elsewhere he writes,--" How well I have succeded in my design, the reader is now to judge. Perhaps it may be thought that I have inistaken the meaning of fome passages of scripture. All that I can say for myfelf is this only ; that in the explication of so 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 sure of, that my intentions were good and upright." And Dr. Gregory Sharpe, in Is Review of the controversy about the meaning of the demoniacs, bears his testimony to the amiable and ingenuous disposition of his friend ; " If I may guess," fays he, “at the inquirer's temper, I believe he had, at any time, rather emጊ 4
"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 most respectable clergyman in the established church, whose situation in this great city, derives peculiar honour and credit to his nobļe patrons. In a mixed company, w here Dr. Jortin was present, and at a time when certain of Dr. Sykes's publications were the subject of conversation, it was observed by some gentleman, (who probably inherited his own principles and opinions in the same quieț undisturb ed way, that he had succeeded to the paternal inheritance of his fa: mily,) 'that in whatever debate Dr. Sykes was engaged he was sure to be on the wrong side." To this Dr. Jortin replied, that without entering into the particular question then before the company, this he was well affured of, that Dr. Sykes was deserving of much praise; for even if he was so frequently in the wrong, as the gentleman had observed, it inust be remembered, that no man took inore 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 wish him all success, and
hope he will at length receive, what he ought to have had many
years ago, an encouragement suitable to his learning, and real 66 merits.”
• Dr. Sykes's sentiments respecting the person of Jesus Christ are well known to have agreed with those of Dr. Clarke; and one of his tracts was expressly written in defence of his Scripture doctrine of the trinity." In the use of this word (trinity) I cannot but think that these learned men misrepresented 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 indir, criminate life of the term. Dr-Sykes, in one place, speaks of “the ever blessed trinity;" and in another, he says, " the doctrine of the trinity, when considered as it lies in the new Testament, is not any absolute" mysterious notion, but only a doctrine holding forth that which the baptismal crced likewise contains." And again, the icripture doctrine of the trinity ítands unshaken.” The learned Mr. Jackson of Rollington, also speaks of being brought he truits into
the true knowledge of Jesus Christ his God and Saviour," and again, thanks Dr. Clarke " for his very learned and judicious book of " the scripture doctrine of the trinity," to which he adds, “ by “God's grace, he owed the then present settlement of his mind in the true faith of the ever blessed trinity.”
• And even so lately as the year, 1784, the learned Mr. Taylor, author of the Apology of Benjamin Ben Mordecai, though he reprobates the phrase (trinity,) citing at the same time, the disapprobation of Luther and Calvin to the very name, continues the use of it under the general idea, that “ so long as that word is understood in
a sense 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 plausible, and the practice would be more excufable, if every man, or every reader reafoned accurately, and confidered things abstractedly ; but since this is not the case, the use of the word is trinity,” by those who are well understood not to believe the full import of it, in it's common fignification, is using equivocal language, and such 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 mislead their
• It is most probable that Dr. Sykes left several manuscripts behind him; but I have been particularly informed, by a learned gentleman in the neighbourhood of Winchester, of some valuable papers upon the authority of the civil magistrate in matters of religion, by way of dialogue, after the manner of Cicero; very well done, and fairly written ready for the press ; very candid and equal to any thing he has written.” Dr. Sykes has also been said to have left some manuscript remarks on Mr. Peirce's ordination sermon His own sermons are very credibly reported to have been fold.
Dr. Sykes's engagement in the several successive controversies of his time, has attracted the notice of some observers, and who, on that account, have affected to under-rate his eminent worth, and no less eminent learning, and the value of his writings. But these persons should contider, that in the accomodation and application of his learning and abilities to the different demands and exigences of the times, he rendered a very essential and permanent service to the cause of truth and liberty. For, notwithstanding the disrespect which is occasionally shewn towards religious controversy, by little and illiberal minds, it is to such 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 disparagement of the several controversies which have respected religious liberty, and the improved knowledge of the fcriptures, generally indicates an indifference to the nature and obligations of religion itself; or bespeaks a total ignorance of the blessings we derive and enjoy from free inquiry and debate, by means of the press ; or is the effect of a lamentable prejudice against every desire and attempt to bring all professing chris tians to abide by the plain and artless gospel of Christ. Or, when such aversion to controversy is held by well meaning and more candid minds, it is no other than their declaring their earnest desire to establish the end, while at the same 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 diftinguished friend of liberty, bore his testimony 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
complete set of the late learned excellent Dr. Sykes's works, to
bind and send to Harvard college, in America, for honourable $ preservation of his memory." "A collection," add the editors of " the Memoirs, the more neceffary, as well as the more valuable, $4 as some of the doctor's tracts were become exceeding scarce.
This testimony of Mr. Hollis, and of his biographers, will bring more reputation to the writings of Dr. Sykes, than it was in the power of the committee of convocation of 1717, to withhold or take away, by indirect reflection or threat, wlien they openly affailed the then bishop of Bangor.'
With regard to the arts of composition, it is observable that Dr. Disney is by no means a master. His manner is cold, and his diction does not aspire to elegance. He expresses himself, however, with sufficient clearness and precifion.
Art. VII. The Follies of a Day: or the marriage of Figaro, A
Comedy, as it is now performing at the Theatre Royal, CoventGarden, from the French of M. de Beaumarchais. By Thomas Holcroft, Author of Duplicity, a Comedy. The Noble Peafant,
an Opera, &c. 8vo. is. 6d. Robinson, London, 1785. M.
De Beaumarchais must have been equally flattered and
surprised when he first heard that his favourite Figaro had appeared on the English stage ; and that he was as mucho caressed in London as in Paris. · He is in truth a fel. low of much pleasantry, capable of relaxing the most rigid and saturnine muscles.
• The Follies of a day is avowedly an imitation of the Spanish Comedy, full of business, bustle, and stage effect.; hence its great success when represented, and hence too perhaps we may account for its not giving exactly the same pleasure in the closet; though even there it sufficiently rewards us for the perusal.
Figaro and Susan, the favourite servants of the count and countess 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 promise of marriage, which, in consideration of a sum of money, had been given to her by Figaro. The count, who has designs upon Susan, and who is to decide as judge on the validity of the promise, intimates plainly that his decision 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 succeeded by Susan's pretending to consent to an affignation. But unfortunately, while they are rejoicing over the success of their schemes, they are overheard by the Count, who enraged at being duped, gives judgment against Figaro.
While he is abandoning himself to grief for the loss of his cause, he is unexpectedly discovered to be the fon of Marce='