A sermon preached before His Grace the Archbishop
of York, and the
clergy, at Malton, at the Visitation, Aug., 1809. By the Rev. Sydney
Smith, A.M., Rector of Foston, in Yorkshire, and late Fellow of New
College, Oxford. Carpenter, 1809.
In the execution of this sermon there is little to commend. As a system of duties for any body of clergy, it is wretchedly deficient:—and really, when we call to mind the rich, the full, the vigorous, eloquent, and impassioned manner in which these duties are recommended and inforced in the writings of our old divines, we are mortified beyond measure at the absolute poverty, crudeness, and meanness of the present attempt to mimic them. As a composition, it is very imperfect: it has nearly the same merits, and rather more than the same defects, which characterise his former publications. Mr. Smith never writes but in a loose declamatory way. He is careless of connection, and not very anxious about argument. His sole object is to produce an effect at the moment, a strong first impression upon an audience, and if that can be done he is very indifferent as to what may be the result of examination and reflection....
If Mr. Smith is not only not a Socinian, but if in his heart he doubts as to the least important point of the most abstruce and controverted subject on which our articles have decided, if, in short, he is not one of the most rigorously orthodox divines that exists, he has been guilty of the grossest and most disgusting hypocrisy—he has pronounced in the face of the public to which he appeals, and of the church to which he belongs, in the most solemn manner, and on the most solemn subject, a direct, intentional, and scandalous falsehood—he has acted in a way utterly subversive of all confidence among men; and the greater part of the wretches who retire from a course of justice degraded for perjury rank higher in the scale of morality, than an educated man holding a respectable place in society, who could thus trifle with the most sacred obligations. He could be induced to this base action only by a base motive, that of obviating any difficulties which a suspicion of his holding opinions different from those avowed by the establishment, might throw in the way of his preferment: and of rendering himself a possible object of the bounty of “his worthy masters and mistresses,” whenever the golden days arrive, in which they shall again dispense the favours of the crown. Such must be the case, if Mr. Smith is not sincere. There is no alternative. Now this is scarcely to be believed of any gentleman of tolerably fair character, still less of a teacher of morality and religion, who holds forth in all his writings the most refined sentiments of honour and disinterestedness.
The style of his profession of faith, however, partakes very much of the most offensive peculiarities of his manner. It is abrupt and violent to a degree which not only shocks good taste, but detracts considerably from the appearance of sincerity. It seems as if he considered his creed as a sort of nauseous medicine which could only be taken off at a draught, and he looks round for applause at the heroic effort by which he has drained the cup to its very dregs.