« PreviousContinue »
memorial; and I will not withhold from the reader Dr. Gibbons's representation, to which regard is to be paid as to the narrative of one who writes what he knows, and what is known likewife to multitudes befides..
"Our next obfervation fhall be made upon that "remarkably kind Providence which brought the "Doctor into Sir Thomas Abney's family, and con"tinued him there till his death, a period of no "less than thirty-fix years. In the midst of his facred "labours for the glory of God, and good of his ge"neration, he is feized with a moft violent and threat
ening fever, which leaves him oppressed with great "weakness, and puts a stop at least to his publick ser"vices for four years. In this diftreffing season,
purfuits of his ftudies. "which for pięty, order,
doubly fo to his active and pious fpirit, he is in"vited to Sir Thomas Abney's family, nor ever re"moves from it till he had finished his days. Here "he enjoyed the uninterrupted demonftrations 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 Here he dwelt in a family, harmony, and every virtue, was an houfe of God. Here he had the pri❝vilege of a country recefs, the fragrant bower, the "the fpreading lawn, the flowery garden, and other "advantages, to footh his mind and aid his restora❝tion to health; to yield him, whenever he chose. "them, moft grateful intervals from his laborious "ftudies, and enable him to return to them with re"doubled vigour and delight. Had it not been for "this moft 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 publick fervice, and even for profitable ftudy, or perhaps might have funk 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 fermons and works, which he drew up and published during his long refidence in this family. In a few years after his coming hither, Sir Thomas Abney "dies; but his amiable confort furvives, who fhews "the Doctor the fame respect and friendship as be
fore, and moft happily for him and great numbers "befides; 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 prefent Mrs. Elizabeth Abney, who in a like "degree esteemed and honoured him, enjoyed all the "benefits and felicities he experienced at his firft entrance into this family, till his days were num"bered and finished, and, like a fhock of corn in "its feafon, he afcended into the regions of perfect " and immortal life and joy."
If this quotation has appeared long, let it be confidered that it comprises an account of fix-and-thirty years, and thofe the years of Dr. Watts.
From the time of his reception into this family, his life was no otherwife diverfified than by fucceffive publications. The feries of his works I am not able to deduce; their number, and their variety, fhew the N 4 intensenefs
Intenseness of his industry, and the extent of his ca. pacity.
He was one of the first authors that taught the Disfenters to court attention by the graces of language. Whatever they had among them before, whether of learning or acutenefs, was commonly obfcured and blunted by coarfenefs and inelegance of ftyle. He shewed them, that zeal and purity might be expreffed and enforced by polified 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 ftature, which very little exceeded five feet, graced him with no advantages of appearance, yet the gravity and propriety of his utter ance made his difcourfes very efficacious. I once mentioned the reputation which Mr. Fofter had gained by his proper delivery to my friend Dr. Hawkefworth, who told me, that in the art of pronunciation he was far inferior to Dr. Watts.
Such was his flow of thoughts, and fuch his promptitude of language, that in the latter part of his life he did not precompofe his curfory fermons ; but having adjusted the heads, and sketched out fome particulars, trusted for fuccefs to his extemporary powers.
He did not endeavour to affift his eloquence by any gefticulations; for, as no corporeal actions have any correfpondence with theological truth, he did not fee how they could enforce it.
At the conclufion of weighty fentences he gave time, by a fhort paufe, for the proper impreffion.
To ftated and publick inftruction he added familiar vifits and perfonal application, and was careful to
improve the opportunities which converfation offered of diffufing and increafing the influence of religion.
By his natural temper he was quick of refentment; but, by his established and habitual practice, he was gentle, modeft, and inoffenfive. His tenderness appeared in his attention to children, and to the 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 a hundred a year; and for children, he condefcended to lay afide the fcholar, the philofopher, and the wit, to write little poems of devotion, and systems of inftruction, adapted to their wants and capacities, from the dawn of reafon 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 catechifm for children in their fourth year. A voluntary defcent from the dignity of fcience is perhaps the hardest leffon that humility can
As his mind was capacious, his curiofity excurfive, and his induftry continual, his writings are very numerous, and his fubjects various. With his theological works I am only enough acquainted to admire his meeknefs of oppofition, and his mildness of cenfure. It was not only in his book but in his mind that orthodoxy was united with charity.
Of his philofophical pieces, his Logick has been received into the universities, and therefore wants no private recommendation: if he owes part of it to Le Clerc, it must be confidered that no man,' who
undertakes merely to methodise or illuftrate a fyftem, pretends to be its author.
In his metaphyfical difquifitions, it was observed by the late learned Mr. Dyer, that he confounded the idea of space with that of empty space, and did not confider that though space might be without matter, yet, matter being extended could not be without fpace.
Few books have been perufed 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 fo expanded and ramified by Watts, as to confer upon him the merit of a work in the highest degree useful and pleafing. Whoever has the care of inftructing others, may be charged with deficience in his duty if this book is not recommended.
I have mentioned his treatifes of Theology as dif tinct from his other productions; but the truth is, that whatever he took in hand was, by his inceffant folicitude for fouls, converted to Theology. As piety predominated in his mind, it is diffufed over his works under his direction it may be truly faid, The ologia Philofophia ancillatur, philofophy is fubfervient to evangelical inftruction; it is difficult to read a page without learning, or at least wishing, to be better, The attention is caught by indirect inftruction, and he that fat down only to reafon is on a fudden compelled to pray.
It was therefore with great propriety that, in 1728, he received from Edinburgh and Aberdeen an unfolicited diploma, by which he became a Doctor of Divinity. Academical honours would have more va