[from Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley]
To the Rev. JAMES WILKS.
I think it would not he amiss, if Mr. Register were to be at the trouble of taking a copy of the Archbishops letter, and have it in his pocket, to obviate objections, as occasion may offer ; such, as an evil spirit may suggest, which is never wanting to oppose and misrepresent good designs such, for example, as it seems begin already to be raised, against what I, and my super-excellent predecessor judged would be a blessing to this country ;as if I were about to ruin it, by introducing Scotchmen to our best livings, by means of the Liturgy and Scriptures being printed in the Manks tongue!
His Graces opinion of the Proposals which I have been endeavouring to bring into effect, will, I hope, together with the late bishops opinion, excuse, at least, if not justify and recommend my labours, for the good, and not for the destruction, of the diocese of Mann. Applause, or even acknowledgement, I neither seek nor expect ; but I would willingly steer clear of blame and obloquy, for the pains I have been taking.
My conscience, however, acquits me of mal-intentions : it continues to concur. with my real purposes of service to the people of my charge; and with the great Governour of all events I leave the success : in full confidence that I have abed the part, how imperfectly soever, of a christian Bishopthe-Father of a people committed to his care.
I have no need to subscribe this hasty scrawl. My register will easily guess the hand and heart of THE WRITER.
THE occasion of this letter is not now clearly known. It came to Mr WiIks the 28th of September, 1762, from the bishop, then in England ; and was accompanied with a copy of the preceding answer from the primate of York. Whatever were the cause, to a man of Dr. Hildesleys mild temper it could not have been trivial.
For some times after reading the above letters the editor hesitated whether or not to give it to the press : but a young friend having brought to his recollection a remarkable circumstance, recorded in Mr., Boswells Life of Dr. Johnson,. (4to. Vol. 1. p. 286.) he could no longer think of withholding it. It seems, some of the members of the " Society, in Scotland, for propagating Christian Knowledge", had opposed the scheme of translating the Holy Scriptures into the Erse, or Gaelick language. Dr. Leechman, a name gratefully and most deservedly celebrated in the Highlands was the gentleman, to whose influence the plan was chiefly owing ; and the opposition to it, we are told, arose from mere political. considerations, of the disadvantage which might possibly result, from keeping up a distinction betwixt the Highlanders and the other inhabitants of North Britain. Informed of this by Mr. William Drummond, (as it is supposed,) a respectable bookseller in Edinburgh, Dr. Johnson wrote to him, with a generous indignation, the following letter. It was not intended, says Mr. Boswell, for publication ; but it has as strong marks of the writers sentiment and style as any of his compositions ; and is, perhaps, one of the best productions of his masterly pen. .
Johnsons-Court, Fleet-street, August 13 , 1766.
I did not expect to hear that it could be, in an assembly convened for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge, a question, " whether any nation uninstructed in religion should receive instruction ; or whether that instruction should be imparted to them by a translation of the Holy books into their own language." If obedience to the. will of GOD be necessary to happiness, and the knowledge of his will be necessary to obedience, I know not how he, that withholds this knowledge, or delays it, can be said to love his neighbour as himself. He that voluntarily continues ignorance, is guilty of all the crimes which ignorance produces ; as to him, that should extinguish the tapers of a light-house, might justly be imputed the calamities of shipwrecks. Christianity is the highest perfection of humanity : and, as no man is good, but as he wishes the good of others, no man can be good in the highest degree, who wishes not to others the largest measures of the greatest good. To omit, for a year, or for a day, the most efficacious method of advancing Christianity, in compliance with any purposes that terminate on this side of the grave, is a crime of which I know not that the world has yet had an example ; except in the practice of the planters of America ; a race of mortals, whom I suppose no other man wishes to resemble.
The Papists have, indeed, denied to the laity the use of the Bible : But this prohibition,in few places now very rigorously enforced,is defended by arguments, which have, for their foundation, the care of souls. To obscure, upon natives merely political, the light of Revelation, is a pratice reserved for the reformed ; and, surely, the blackest midnight of popery is meridian sunshine to such a reformation !