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LONDON CRITICAL JOURNAL.
Art. I.—Memoirs of Granville Sharp, Esq. composed from his own
Manuscripts and other Authentic Documents, By Prince Hoare; with Observations on Mr. Sharp's Biblical Criticisms, by the Right Reverend The Lord Bishop of St. David's. 4to. pp. 589. London. Colburn, 1820.
It might be difficult to find any appellation among the milder class of vituperatives which conveys a more emphatic sneer than that of a philanthropist. There is nothing, indeed, in simple benevolence which partakes of a ridiculous or exceptionable character; but, whether from a tincture of infirmity and imbecility in some very good men, or from an incapacity in the world at large to conceive of the existence of such a quality as disinterested benevolence, or from the frequent real or supposed mixture of hypocrisy with loud pretensions to this virtue, or from the current identification of selfish policy with wisdom, and self-denial with mental weakness, or from the effort to avoid the reproach of wanting benevolence by disparaging the virtue itself, or from whatever other cause, it is
certain that a philanthropist is understood by very many to mean a sort of moral Quixote, who, standing in need of some engrossing pursuit, has chosen the one which best suited his humour or his interest. Persons styled philanthropists are therefore commonly divided into two classes-knaves and fools. That the knavish class is sufficiently large may be very true; and we presume it is so when we find that even empirics and lottery-offices issue their respective proposals solely “ for the good of the public,” and In
VOL. XVI. NO, XXXI.
quisitors torture their victims " pour l'amour de Dieu.” But, after all, real benevolence is to be found in the world, and it is greatly to be lamented that its influence should ever be impeded, or its existence rendered suspected, by the admixture of any thing imbecile or visionary with its operations.
In this view the character of Mr. Granville Sharp was somewhat open to exception. He had peculiarities which assisted the opposition made to his plans by those who could not estimate his virtues, or were excited by self-interest to oppose his benevolent projects. He had, like many other good, and we may add great men, his peculiar views on many subjects,—views not always dictated by the good sense which guided his other opinions and influenced his general conduct. The benevolent Bishop Berkley, “ blessed,” as Pope says, “ with every virtue under heaven,” was the champion of tar-water; Jonas Hanway fought as vehemently against souchong and hyson as Don Quixote against windmills; and Howard himself was a complete visionary in the education of his child. We are not, therefore, scrupulous to have it concealed that Mr. Sharp had also his weak points; and, in particular, that his views of Scripture prophecy, and its application to the times in which he lived, were characterised by certain strange fancies, of which it was not the least singular that the spring of 1811 was to be the commencement of the Millennium. Some of his inferences also from the fundamental principles of political liberty were not such as the existing condition of the world would admit of being reduced to practice; and Mr. Sharp was not to be induced to soften down his principles from fear of censure, or to court the approbation of those who differed from him in opinion by a sacrifice of what he considered to be truth. He had none of the worldly policy which might induce him to conceal what it might be disadvantageous to his interest to disclose. He was transparent wherever his conscience dictated the duty of promulging his opinion; and of this duty he, considered himself the proper judge. But trivial, indeed, were the failings of this eminent man when compared with his numerous virtues, exhibited in a long life of purity, integrity, piety, and unwearied beneficence. Whether we view him as a scholar or a philanthropist, as a Christian or a churchman, it is impossible not to feel the highest veneration for his character, and to be deeply grateful for the benefits which he was the instrument of conferring upon the world.
Granville Sharp had the happiness of springing from a family in which piety, virtue, and benevolence, seemed almost hereditary: · His grandfather was the venerable Archbishop Sharp of York, of whom some notices occur in the volume before us