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Soon after this the reverend Dr. Ewing arrived from London, and brought me some printed copies of the Sermon, presented to me by Messrs. Dilly; who, besides the small edition printed at the expense of the Chamberlain, had published in a . short time two elegant editions, in a large size on his own account. Editions also, were printed and published at Bristol and elsewhere in Great-Britain and Ireland; so that, without any seeking of mine, I found it to be very generally circulated; and it appeared by the news-papers, that came over at the same time, to have become a subject of considerable attention and controversy among the polemical and political writers of the parent countries.
The authors of the Monthly Review for August, 1775, gave the following favourable criticism on Dilly's second edition.
“ Our readers are not unacquainted with the abilities of this « American orator; whose volume of discourses preached on “ public occasions at Philadelphia, was recommended in the « 21st volume of our review; and again, on the appearance of a « new edition, with additional sermons, in vol. 29th.”
The reviewers then give some account of the occasion of the sermon, extracted from the preface, and proceed as follows, viz.. “ It is left for us to add—what could not, with equal pro« priety, have come from the pen of the author-That his dis. « course is equally sensible and animated, and that his zeal for “ the cause of American Liberty, though warm enough to kindle « the hearts of his hearers, never transports him beyond the « bounds of that moderation, by which true Patriotism, on either 6 side of the Atlantic, will ever be guided.
“ Towards the conclusion of his Sermon, the preacher grows “ Prophetic; and as his Prophecy is included in a few words, « we shall give it as a specimen of the author's manner and « spirit."
“ For my part (says Dr. Smith) I have long been possessed « with a strong and even enthusiastic persuasion, that Heaven “ has great and gracious purposes towards this Continent, which “ no human power or human device shall be able finally to frus“ trate. Illiberal or mistaken plans of policy may distress us “ for a while, and perhaps sorely check our growth; but, if we
* maintain our own virtue; if we cultivate the Spirit of Liberty « among our children ; if we guard against the snares of Luxury, « Venality and Corruption; the Genius of America will still “ rise triumphant, and that with a power at last too mighty for “ opposition. This country will be Free-nay, for ages to come, « a chosen seat of freedom, arts and heavenly knowledge, which « are now either drooping or dead, in most parts of the Old “ World!”
Upon this paragraph the reviewers add—“ If, by judging of “ the Past, we may predict of the Future, the Doctor may prove “ a true Prophet, without laying any claim to Divine Inspiration.”
The authors of the London Magazine, for August 1775, have also given their judgment of the Sermon as follows, viz.
“ Dr. Smith, though an Episcopal Clergyman, appears to “ be as zealous a friend to the Liberties of America, and as “ warm against the measures of administration, as any person whatsoever.
“ Enough (says he) has surely been attempted by way of “ experiment, to be convinced that the people of America know “ their rights and will not consent to a passive surrender of “ them-Must we give up our birth-right, or any part of that “ great Charter of Privileges which we not only claim by inheri“ tance, but by the express terms of our colonization? I say, God forbid!”
He shews further—" That a continued submission to vio« lence is no tenet of the Church of England; and that the “ doctrine of absolute non-resistance hath been fully exploded « by every virtuous people. The discourse is judicious, perti“ nent, sensible, animated, and worthy the attention of admini« stration and the public”
Thus far Dr. Priestly, Dr. Price, and the authors of the Monthly Review and London Magazine-But these are reckoned whig-writers, or at least friends to the liberties of America. Another set of writers in pamphlets and news-papers, some of which have fallen into my hands, speak of the sermon in another strain.
The venerable John Wesley, with one foot in the grave, but yet retaining all the language of a courtier, leads up the van;
for which he has been severely chastized by the supposed author of the letters signed Junius.
Some of this old gentleman's strictures are as follows; but, as he will clearly appear to have been in his dotage, they will need but little answer.
“ A sermon (says Mr. Wesley) preached by Dr. Smith, in " Philadelphia, has lately been re-printed here, (viz. in Bristol). " It has been much admired, but proceeds all along upon wrong “ suppositions."
“ Dr. Smith supposes they have a right of granting their own “ money: that is, of being exempt from taxation by the supreme power.”
ANSWER. Dr. Smith did, indeed, suppose that the American colonies formerly had the Sole right of granting their own money; but not “ exempt from taxation by the supreme power;" because their taxes were granted by their own Legislatures, which were legitimate and competent branches of the supreme power of the Empire, in which the King had generally even a double voice.
But, Mr. Wesley adds—“ If they contend for this right, if they contend for neither more nor less than Independency."
ANSWER. If Great-Britain will not suffer the Dependency of the Americans to be reconciled with the security of their property, and the constitutional unalienable right of granting what part of it they might think necessary for the public good, according to their own free judgment; then they appear justifiable, before God and man, to contend for what Mr. Wesley calls “ Independency."
The following are some more of Mr. Wesley's strictures on the sermon." That you contend for the cause of liberty, is 66 another mistaken supposition You have no liberty, civil or “ religious, but what the Congress allows-Vainly do you com“ plain of Unconstitutional Exactions, Violated Rights, and Mu6 tilated Charters."
ANSWER. It is to be presumed that Parliament do not now consider these complaints as vain; but allow that some rights of the Americans were violated, some former exactions were uncon, stitutional, and some charters have been mutilated; since they
have passed some solemn acts, renouncing the claim of exacting money from them arbitrarily for the future; restoring at the same time some violated Charters, and propounding a mode of finally abrogating all laws passed since 1763, which were considered by America as intrenching upon her rights. But Mr. Wesley, not having the gift of Prophecy as well as Preaching, did not imagine that the nation would come to this sense at last, or that Power would finally yield to Reason!
Mr. Wesley goes on and seems astonished at my saying“ No power on Earth has a right to grant our Money, without " our Consent;" and tries to refute me thus" Then, you have "no sovereign; for every sovereign under Heaven has a right u to tax his subjects; that is, to grant their property, With or Without their Consent."
This he thinks an irrefragable argument; but it savours strong of a similar one of a courtly* Bishop, addressed to James Ist. God forbid but that your Majesty should not take s your subjects' money, whenever you want it-You are the “ breath of our Nostrils!” to which a much honester Bishop (Andrews) being pressed for his opinion, replied “I think your " Majesty may lawfully take my Brother Neale's Money; since she offers it.” The same reply will serve from me to Brother Wesley. The King is welcome to Brother Wesley's money; who, perhaps, does not make such a disinterested sacrifice as he would be thought to do; since, for the mite he offers, he is said to swallow in contemplation a large and immediate return, in a good Pension; or perhaps, a small Bishoprick-This, at least, the renowned Junius lays to his charge; with whose words, as better than any of my own, I shall take leave of Brother Wesley, in the most friendly manner.
“ I have read," says Junius to Mr. Wesley, “ Your address « to the Americans with much surprize and concern. That a “ man, after a long life devoted to the awful concerns of Religion, « and of a rigidity of morals strikingly contrasted to the times, « should in his old age step forth a champion in a political con« troversy, is a paradox only to be solved by a reflection on the
“ general motives of such compositions. They exhibit a proof, “ Mr. Wesley, that the most perfect men have hopes upon earth “ as well as in Heaven ; and indeed you have the moderation 6 and sincerity not to forbid us to believe so."
“ When you deliver your opinion, you say you may be the “ better believed, because unbiassed; and then express your“ self in this unguarded language-/ gain nothing by the Ame“ ricans, nor by the government, and Probably never shall. This “ is not only an invitation to the* Minister to reward your pious “ labours, but a thorn in his foot if he overlooks them. Had you " said, and Positively never will, I should then (as I always have) (* believed you to be an honest and pious man."
“ And now, Mr. Wesley, I take my leave of you. You have “ forgot the precept of your master, that God and Mammon “ cannot be served together. You have one eye upon a Pension " and the other upon Heaven-One hand stretched out to the “ King, and the other raised up to God. I pray that the first “ may reward you, and the last forgive you!"
The next writer that has fallen in my way, as a severe critic upon the Sermon, is in the London Chronicle, from September 2d, to 5th, 1775. He signs himself very preposterously “a « Friend to the Constitution;" though many readers will stile him “ the Advocate of Slavery."
“ The modern patriot, says he, may be described as a per64 son who despises Order, Decency and all kind of human " Authority. I have been lately tempted to add, that he also “ despises divine Authority. Some late publications, of a “ very extraordinary nature, have induced me to mention this “ disagreeable subject. At the very instant, in which our gra. * cious Sovereign is attempting, by his proclamation, to extin“ guish the sparks of Sedition, our Patriots are blowing up the “ Coals, and our Presses are teeming with Rebellion and Trea
. It is uncertain what reward the Minister gave Mr. Westey; but his pamphlet was given away gratis in London and elsewhere, as an antidote to this Sermon.