David Williams, 1738-1816. By W. Philip Williams, M.A. DAVID WILLIAMS was born at Watford, near Caerphilly, 187 years ago, of Dis- senting parents who had been strongly influenced by the Methodist Revival. What more natural, therefore, than that they should decide to make a preacher of their son, who accordingly spent four years at the Car- marthen Dissenting Academy, an institution which was at this period a hot-bed of Arianism. After three years as minister at Frome, Somer- setshire, the young heretic moved to Exeter, where he imposed a Socinian (i.e., Unitarian) Liturgy on his congregation; thence, in 1769, he went to London as pastor of Southwood Lane Chapel, Highgate, and forthwith plunged into the political life of the metropolis, a form of activity which he much preferred to the pulpit, entered in the first place only from a sense of filial duty. Before long, under the influence of David Hume's writings, he completed his reli- gious evolution, and became a Deist; a con- summation which made further connection with his church at Highgate impossible. The relief with which he resigned his pastorate was tempered by the fact that he had a newly- wedded wife to support, so he turned school- master, establishing a boarding school at Chelsea, which proved entirely successful, though he charged a fee of no less than £ 100 per annum. For that time, Williams' concep- tion of his task as schoolmaster was noble, and his methods were somewhat original his aim was to produce good husbands and wives, good parents, dutiful/ children, affectionate relations and friends, useful members of com- munities, and benevolent citizens of the world." School government he entrusted to the pupils, who met in general assembly to formulate rules, which were, when occasion arose, enforced by trial by jurv. There was no corporal punish- ment. School work was mainly of a practical nature, such as globe and map making, and botanical study in the garden. He abandoned the school on his wife's death in 1776, but his interest in education grew rather than waned with the years. At a later date he delivered a series of lectures on the subject, which were published in three volumes in 1789. As a political philosopher, he came to the conclusion that education alone would secure political freedom for the individual (he was writing in the days of the property qualification and of rotten boroughs) and happiness for humanity at large. Meanwhile, he had become acquainted with Benjamin Franklin; and, with eleven other Deists, they established a Thirteen Club for philosophical discussion. They further decided to meet on Sundays for worship; and being dis- satisfied with all existing liturgies, they com- missioned Franklin and Williams to draw up a new one. The-flatter displayed such zeal and invention in the discharge of the mandate that his admiring coadjutor dubbed him The Priest of Nature." Increasing tension between the Mother Country and the American Colonies compelled Franklin to return home in 1775. The following year Williams, who had evidently developed the Liturgy still further, published it as the "Liturgy on the Universal Principles of Religion and Morality," the following extract from which is typical of the whole:- MINISTER: 0 God, the Father of All Man- kind, may Thy pure worship prevail throughout the world; may wisdom and goodness, liberty and peace, charity and happiness everywhere abound, and Thy Kingdom of Truth and Righteousness be extended through the whole earth. PEOPLE: We have all one Father, and one God hath created us. The author intended it for the use so he ex- plained, of all who acknowledged the existence of God, believed in the immortality of the soul, and recognised the utility of public prayer and praise otherwise, beyond stressing the necessity for brotherhood and philanthropy, nice points of doctrine were left to the individual conscience. For the next four years Williams delivered lectures on religion and morality to a score or so of friends every Sunday morning, most of which were published in 1779 under the title of Lectures on the Universal Principles and Duties of Religion and Morality." Theophilanthropy attracted little attention in England outside the author's immediate circle, though it is interesting to note that Iolo Morganwg, who considered David Williams his good friend, and probably attended some of his lectures, became a convert but on the Continent both Frederick the Great of Prussia and the French philosopher, Voltaire, who was better qualified to act as judge, approved of the Liturgy which was its foundation. "It is a great comfort to me," wrote the great Frenchman, at the age of eighty-two years, to see toleration openly taught and asserted in your country, and the God of all mankind no longer pent up in a narrow tract of land. That noble truth was worthy of your pen and your tongue. I am, with all my heart, one of your followers and of your admirers." The Prussian king's approval was instrumental in getting it translated into German in France, Voltaire's praise so popularised it that during the Directory period 1795-1799, when, at the end of the Reign of Terror, the Girondists recovered the reins of power, Theophilanthropy was adopted bv the elite of the nation." The French, having abolished the Catholic Church, and seemingly finding little satisfaction in the
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