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All these considerations however were below the trascendental dignity of the Revolution Society
Whilst I continued in the country, from whence I had the honour of writing to you, I had but an imperfect idea of their transactions. On my coming to town, I sent for an account of their proceedings, which had been published by their authority, containing a fermon of Dr. Price, with the Duke de Rochefaucault's and the Archbishop of Aix's letter, and feveral other documents annexed. The whole of that publication, with the manifest design of connecting the affairs of France with those of England, by drawing us into an imitation of the conduct of the National Assembly, gave me a considerable degree of uneasiness. The effect of that conduct upon the power, credit, prosperity, and tranquillity of France, became every day more evident. The form of constitution to be settled, for its future polity, became more clear. We are now in a condition to discern, with tolerable exactness, the true nature of the object held up to our imitation. If the prudence of reserve and decorum dictates filence in some circumstances, in others prudence of an higher order may justify us in speaking our thoughts. The beginnings of confusion with us in England are at present feeble enough; but with you, we have seen an infancy still more feeble, growing by moments into a strength to heap mountains upon mountains, and to wage war
with Heaven itself. Whenever our neighbour's house is on fire, it
cannot be amiss for the engines to play a lite tle on our own. Better to be despised for tog anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident a security:
Sollicitous chiefly for the peace of my own country, but by no means unconcerned for your's, I wish to communicate more largely, what was at first intended only for your private satisfaction. I shall still keep your affairs in my eye, and continue to address myself to you.
Indulging myself in the freedom of epistolary intercourse, I beg leave to throw out my thoughts, and express my feelings, just they arise in my mind, with very little attention to formal method. I set out with the proceedings of the Revolution Society; but I shall not confine myself to them. · Is it possible I should ? It looks to me as if I were in a great crisis, not of the affairs of France alone, but of all Europe, perhaps of more than Europe. . All circumstances taken together, the French revolution is the most aftonishing that has hitherto happened in the world. The most wonderful things are brought about in many instances by means the most absurd and ridiculous; in the most ridiculous modes; and apparently, by the most contemptible instruments. Everything seems out of nature in this strange chaos of levity and ferocity, and of all sorts of crimes jumbled together with all sorts of follies. In viewing this monstrous tragi-comic scene, the most opposite paflions necessarily succeed, and sometimes mix with each other in the mind; alternate contempt and indignation ; alternate laughter and tears; alternate scorn and horror.
It cannot however be denied, that to some this strange scene appeared in quite another point of view. Into them it inspired no other sentiments than those of exultation and rapture. They saw nothing in what has been done in France, but a firm and temperate exertion of freedom; so consistent, on the whole, with morals and with piety, as to make it deserving not only of the secular applause of dashing Machiavelian politicians, but to render it a fit theme for all the devout effusions of sacred eloquence.
On the forenoon of the 4th of Noveinber last, Doctor Richard Price, a non-conforming minister of eminence, preached at the diffenting meetinghouse of the Old Jewry, to his club or society, a very extraordinary miscellaneous fermon, in which there are some good moral and religious fentiments, and not ill expressed, mixed up in a sort of porridge of various political opinions and reflections: but the revolution in France is the grand ingredient in the cauldron. consider the address transmitted by the Revolution Society to the National Assembly, through Earl Stanhope, as originating in the principles of the sermon, and as a corollary from them. It was moved by the preacher of that discourse. It was passed by those who came reeking from the effect of the sermon, without any, cenfure or qualification, expressed or implied.
If, If, however, any of the gentlemen concerned fhall wish to separate the fermon from the resoJution, they know how to acknowledge the one, and to disavow the other. They may do it: I
For my part, I looked on that sermon as the public declaration of a man much connected with literary caballers, and intriguing philosophers; with political theologians, and
" theological politicians, both at home and abroad. I know they set him up as a sort of oracle; because, with the best intentions in the world, he naturally philippizes, and chaunts his prophetic fung in exact unison with their designs.
That sermon is in a strain which I believe has not been heard in this kingdom, in any of the pulpits which are tolerated or encouraged in it, since the year 1648, when a predecessor of Dr. Price, the Reverend Hugh Peters, made the vaulo of the king's own chapel at St. James's ring with the honour and privilege of the Saints, who, with the “high praises of God in their mouths, and a
two-edged sword in their hands, were to execute judgment on the heathen, and punishments
upon the people; to bind their kings with chains, « and their nobles with fetters of iron *." Few harangues from the pulpit, except in the days of your league in France, or in the days of our folemn league and covenant in England, have ever breathed less of the spirit of moderation than
* Psalm cxlix.
this lecture in the Old Jewry. Supposing, however, that something like moderation were visible in this political sermon; yet politics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character, to assume what does not belong to them, are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave, and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with fo much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day's truce ought to be allowed to the diffenfions and animofities of mankind.
This pulpit style, revived after so long a difcontinuance, had to me the air of novelty, and of a novelcy not wholly without danger. I do not charge this danger equally to every part of the discourse. The hint given to a noble and reverend lay-divine, who is supposed high in office in one of our universities *, and to other lay-divines “ of “ rank and literature,” inay be proper and seasonable, though somewhat new. If the noble Seekers fhould find nothing to satisfy their pious fancies
• Discourse on the Love of our Country, Nov. 4, 1789, by Dr. Richard Price, 3d edition, p. 17 and 18.