Leland, John

, an eminent writer in defence of Christianity, was born at Wigan, in Lancashire, Oct. 18, 1691. Soon after, his father, who had lived in good repute for many years, being involved in pecuniary difficulties, gave up his effects to his creditors, and removed to Dublin. Finding here an opportunity for settling in business, he sent over for his wife and family of three sons, and was enabled to support them in a decent manner. John, the subject of this memoir, was his second son, and when in his sixth year, which was before they left England, as our account states, he met with a singular misfortune. He was seized with the small pox, which proved of so malignant a kind that his life was despaired of; and when, contrary to all expectation, he recovered, he was found to be deprived of his understanding and memory, which last retained no traces of what he had been taught. In this state he remained a year, when his faculties returned; but having still no remembrance of the past, he began anew to learn his letters, and in this his second education, made so quick a progress, and gave such proofs of superior memory and understanding, that his parents resolved to breed him up to one of the learned professions. In this, from | their situation in life, they probably had not much choice, from the great expenses necessary to law or physic; and this, with their religious principles, induced them to decide in favour of divinity. He was therefore educated for the ministry among the dissenters; and having first exhibited his talents to advantage in a congregation of dissenters in New- row, Dublin, was, in a few months, invited to become joint-pastor with the Rev. Mr. Weld, to which office he was ordained in 1716. As he entered upon this station from the best and purest motives, he discharged the duties of it with the utmost fidelity; and, by indefatigable application to his studies, he made at the same time such improvements in every branch of useful knowledge, that he soon acquired a distinguished reputation in the learned world. In 1730 Tindal published his “Christianity as old as the Creation,” and although several excellent answers appeared to that impious work, Mr. Leland was of opinion that much remained to be said, in order to expose its fallacious reasonings and inconsistencies. Accordingly he first appeared as an author in 1733, by publishing “An Answer to a late book entitled ‘ Christianity as old as the Creation, &c.’” in 2 vols. In 1737 he embarked in a controversy with another of the same class of writers, Dr. Morgan, by publishing “The Divine Authority of the Old and New Testament asserted against the unjust aspersions and false reasonings of a Book entitled * The Moral Philosopher.'” The learning and abilities displayed by Mr. Leland in these publications, and the service which he rendered by them to the Christian cause, procured him many marks of respect and esteem from persons of the highest rank in the established church, as well as from the most eminent of his dissenting brethren; and from the university of Aberdeen he received, in the most honourable manner, the degree of D. D. In 1742 Dr. Leland published an answer to a pamphlet entitled “Christianity not founded on Argument;” and in 1753 he distinguished himself still further as an advocate in behalf of Christianity, by publishing “Reflections on the late lord Bolingbroke’s Letters on the study and use of History; especially so far as they relate to Christianity and the Holy Scriptures.” It is said to have been with some reluctance that he was persuaded to exert himself upon this occasion; for although, as he himself observes, no man needs make an apology for using his best endeavours in defence of | Christianity when it is openly attacked, yet he was apprehensive that his engaging again in this cause, after having done so on some former occasions, might have an appearance of too much forwardness. But these apprehensions gave way to the judgment and advice of his friend, the late Dr. Thomas Wilson, rector of St. Stephen’s, Walbrook; and in complying with his recommendation, he performed an acceptable service to the Christian world, and added not a little to the reputation he had already acquired.

Dr. Leland being now justly considered a master in this branch of controversy, at the desire of some valuable friends he sent to the press, in 1754, “A View of the principal Deistical Writers that have appeared in England, in the last and present century, with observations upon them, &c. In several letters to a friend.” This friend was Dr. Wilson, to whom the letters were sent by the author, in the form in which they appear. When the work was ready for the press, the copy was so little esteemed that no bookseller would give more than 50l. for it; on which Dr. Wilson generously printed a numerous edition at his own risque, and the subsequent editions sold with great rapidity and profit. The design of this work was to give some idea of the productions of the deistical writers, and of the several schemes which they have advanced, as far as the cause of revealed religion is concerned. He afterwards published a supplement relating to the works of Mr. Hume and lord Bolingbroke, and this was followed by a third volume, comprehending the author’s additions and illustrations, with a new edition of “Reflections upon lord Bolingbroke’s Letters,” &c. The whole of this work is now comprised in two volumes; it secured the author general public approbation, and encouraged him to continue his exertions to a very advanced age. Accordingly, when he was upwards of seventy years old, he published, in 2 vols. 4to, “The advantage and necessity of the Christian Revelation, shewn from the state of religion in the ancient heathen world, especially with respect to the knowledge and worship of the one true God; a rule of moral duty, and a state of t’uture rewards and punishments,” &c. This work was afterwards reprinted in two volumes, 8vo. Dr. Leland died in’his seventy-fifth year, on the 16th of January 1766; he was distinguished by considerable abilities, and very extensive learning; he had a memory so tenacious, that he was often called “the walking library.” After his death a | collection of his sermons was published in four volumes octavo, with a preface containing some account of the life, character, and writings of the author, by the Rev. Dr. Isaac Weld, who preached his funeral sermon at the meeting in Eustace-street, Dublin, of which Dr. Leland had for ma-jy years been the pastor. The extensive circulation 01 luticiel writings about twenty years ago, induced the Rev. Dr. W. L. Brown, principal of Marishal college, Aberdeen, to superintend a new edition of the “View of the Deistieal writers,1798, 2 vols. 8vo, to which he added an excellent * View of the Present Times, with regard to religion and morals, and other important subjects." 1

1 Weld’s preface, as above, and funeral sermon. Life, in British Biogr*. gjraphy, vol.X,