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GIB (ADAM), a Scotch divine of considerable talents and zeal, and one of the founders of the Secession church in Scotland, (See Erskine, Ebenezer, and Ralpu), and the leader of that division of the seceders called the Antiburghers, was born in Perthshire, in 1713, and was educated at the university of Edinburgh. Soon after 1730, violent disputes occurring in the general assembly of the church of Scotland, respecting the law of patronage, Mr. Gib was among the keenest opponents of private church patronage, and in 1733 was with three others dismissed from his pastoral charge. These afterwards formed congregations of their own, to one of which, at Edinburgh, Mr. Gib was ordained, in April 1741. This congregation gradually increased, and with others of the same kind, was in a flourishing state, when in 1746 a schism took place among them respecting the swearing of the oaths of burgesses,
and from this time the secession church was divided into two parties, called burghers and antiburghers, and Mr. Gib was cousidered as the ablest advocate for the latter. In 1774 he published " A display of the Secession testimony,” 2 vols. Svo, and in 1786 his “ Sacred Contemplations," at the end of which was an :Essay on Liberty and Necessity,” in answer to lord Kames's Essay on that subject. Mr. Gib died at Edinburgh, June 18, 1788, and was buried in the Grey-friars church-yard, where an elegant monument has been erected to his memory, at the expence of his congregation, among whom he bad unweariedly laboured for the long period of forty-seven years."
GIBBON (EDWARD), an eminent English historian, was descended from an ancient family of that name in Kent. His grandfather, Edward Gibbon, a citizen of London, was appointed one of the commissioners of customs under the Tory administration of the last four years of queen Anne, and was praised by lord Bolingbroke for his knowledge of commerce and finance. He was elected one of the directors of the unfortunate South-sea company, in 1716, at which time he had acquired an independent fortuve of 60,0001. the whole of which he lost when the company failed in 1720. The sum of 10,000l. however, was allowed for his maintenance, and on this foundation he reared another fortune, not much inferior to the first, and secured a part of it in the purchase of landed property. He died in December 1736, at his house at Putney, and by his last will enriched two daughters, at the expence of his son Edward, who had married against his consent. This son was sent to Cambridge, where at Emanuel college, be “passed through a regular course of academical discipline," but left it withoạt a degree, and afterwards travelled. On his return to England he was chosen, in 1734, member of parliament for the borough of Petersfield, and in 1741 for Southampton. In parliament he joined the party which after a long contest, finally drove sic Roþert Walpole and his friends from their places. Our author has not concealed that “ in the pursuit of an unpopular minister, he gratified a private revenge against the oppressor of his family in the South-sea persecution.” Walpole, however, was not that oppressor, for Mr. Coxe has clearly proved that he frequently endeavoured to stem the torrent of parliamentary vengeance, and to incline the sentiments of the house to terms of moderation.
'Starke's Biog. Scptica.--Encyclopædia Britannica, art. SecEDERS.
Edward Gibbon, the more immediate subject of this article, was born at Putney April 27, 0. S. 1737. His mother was Judith Porten, the daughter of a merchant of London. He was the eldest of five brothers and a sister, all of whom died in their infancy. During his early years, his constitution was uncommonly feeble, but he was pursed with much tenderness by his maiden aunt, Mrs. Catherine Porten, and received such instruction during intervals of health, as his years admitted. At the age of seven he was placed under the care of Mr. John Kirkby, the author of “ Automathes,” a philosophical fiction. In his ninth year, January 1746, he was sent to a school at Kingston upon Thames, kept by Dr. Woodeson and his assistants; but even here his studies were frequently interrupted by sickness, nor does he speak with rapture either of his proficiency, or of the school itself. In 1747, on his mother's death, he was recalled home, where, during a residence of two years, principally under the eye of his affectionate aunt, he appears to have acquired that passion for reading which predominated during the whole of his life.
In 1749 he was entered in Westminster-school, of which, within the space of two years, he reached the third form, but his application was so frequently rendered useless by sickness and debility, that it was determined to send him to Bath. Here, and at Putney, he recovered his health so far as to be able to return to his books, and as he approached his sixteenth year, his disorder entirely left him. The frequent interruptions, however, which he had met with, and probably a dread of the confined air of the city of Westminster, had induced his father to place him at Esher, in Surrey, in the house of the rev. Philip Francis, the translator of Horace. But his bopes were again frustrated. Mr. Francis preferred the pleasures of London to the instruction of his pupils; and our scholar, without farther preparation, was burried to Oxford, where, on April 3, 1752, before he had accomplished his fifteenth year, he was matriculated as a gentleman commoner of Magdalencollege.
To Oxford, he informs us, he brought " a stock of erudition that might have puzzled a doctor, and a degree of ignorance of which a school-boy would have been ashamed.” During the last three years, although sick. ness interrupted a regular course of instruction, his fondness for books increased, and he was permitted to indulge it by ranging over the shelves without plan or design. His indiscriminate appetite fixed by degrees in the historical line, and he perused with greatest avidity such' historical books as came in his way, gratifying a curiosity of which he could not trace the source, and supplying wants which he could not express. In this course of desultory reading he seems inconsciously to have been led to that particular branch in which he was afterwards to excel. But wbatever connection this had with his more distant life, it was by no means favourable to his academical pursuits. He was exceedingly deficient in classical learning, and went to Oxford without either the taste or preparation which could enable him to reap the advantages of academical education. This may probably account for the harshness with which he speaks of the English universities. He informs us that he spent fourteen months at Magdalencollege, which proved the most idle and unprofitable of his whole life; but why they were so idle and unprofitable, we cannot learn from his Memoirs. To the carelessness of his tutors, indeed, he appears to have had some reason to object, but he allows that he was disposed to gaiety and to late hours, and therefore complains with little justice, that he was not taught what he affected to despise. The truth seems to be, that when he sat down to write his Memoirs, the memoirs of an eininent and accomplished schio.
lar, he found a blank which is seldom found in the biography of English scholars ; the early displays of genius, the laudable emulation, and the well-earned honours; he found that he owed no fame to his academical residence, and therefore determined that no fame should be derivable from an university education.
When he first left Magdalen-college, he informs us that his taste for books began to revive, and that “unprovided with original learning, unformed in the habits of thinking, unskilled in the arts of composition, he resolved to write a book.” The title of this first essay was “ The Age of Sesostris,” the sheets of which he afterwards destroyed. On his return to college, want of advice, experience, and occupation, betrayed him into improprieties of conduct, late hours, ill-chosen company, and inconsiderate expenee. In his frame of mind, indeed, there appears to have been originally a considerable proportion of juvenile arrogance and caprice. At the age of sixteen be tells us that his reading became of the religious kind, and after bewildering himself in the errors of the church of Rome, he was converted to its doctrines, if that can be called a conversion which was rather the adoption of certain opinions by a boy who had never studied those of his own church. This change, in whatever light it may be considered, he imputes principally to the works of Parsons the Jesuit, who in his opinion had urged all the best arguments in favour of the Roman catholic religion. Fortified with these, on the 8th of June 1753, he solemnly abjured what he calls the errors of heresy, before a catholic priest in London, and immediately announced the important event to his father in a very laboured epistle. His father regretted the change, but divulged the secret, and thus rendered his return to Magdalén college impossible. At an advanced age, and when he had learned to treat all religions with equal indifference, our author speaks of this conversion with a vain respect, declaring himself not ashamed to have been entangled by the sophistry which seduced the acute and manly understandings of Chillingworth and Bayle. The resemblance is more close, however, in the transition which, he adds, they made from superstition to scepticism.
His father was now advised to send him for some time to Lausanne, in Switzerland, where he was placed, with a moderate allowance, under the care of Mr. Pavilliard, a Calvinist minister. Mr. Pavilliard was instructed to reclaim his pupil from the errors of popery ; but as he could not speak English, nor Mr. Gibbon French, some time elapsed before much conversation of any kind became practicable. When their mutual industry had removed this obstacle, Mr. Pavilliard first secured the attention and attachment of his pupil by kindness, then directed his studies into a regular plan, and placed within his power such means of information as might remove the errors into which he had fallen. This judicious method soon proved successful; on Christmas day 1754, after “ a full conviction,” Mr. Gibbon received the sacrament in the church of Lausanne; and here it was, he informs us, that he suspended his religious inquiries, acquiescing with implicit belief in the tenets and mysteries which are adopted by the general consent of catholics and protestants.
His advantages in other respects were so important during his residence at Lausanne, that here, for the first time, he appears to have commenced that regular process of instruction which laid the foundation of all his future improvements. His thirst for general knowledge returned, and while he was not hindered from gratifying his curiosity in his former desultory manner, certain hours were appropriated for regular studies. His reading had now a fixed object, and that attained, he felt the value of the acquisition, and became more reconciled to regularity and system. He opened new stores of learning and taste, by acquiring a knowledge of the Greek, Latin, and French languages, Of this proficiency, although his tutor ought not to be robbed of his share of the merit, it is evident that Mr. Gibbon's unwearied industry and laudable avidity of knowledge were at this time uncommon, and bespoke a mind capable of the highest attainments, and deserving of the highest honours within the compass of literature. To mathematics only, he showed a reluctance ; contenting himself with understanding the principles of that science. At this early age it is probable be desisted merely from finding no pleasure in mathematical studies, and nothing to gratify curiosity; but as in his more mature years it was his practice to undervalue the pursuits which he did not choose to follow, he took an opportunity to pass a reflection on the utility of mathematics, with which few will probably agree. He accuses this science of “ hardening the mind by the habit of rigid demonstration, so destructive of the VOL. XV.