Imatges de pàgina


entertain little anxiety to know in to the reflecting mind a difficulty, ! what manner controversialists may ters may even say a contradiction, beyond ninate their disputations respecting the limits of human comprehension? the former.

Is not the free inquirer astounded, It may possibly be said, that the when he first perceives, that though example I have here adduced is so the great and benevolent Author of entirely speculative, and so little con- Nature has forbidden, under the senected with human conduct, that it verest penalties, the commission of ought not to be placed in comparison every act which can occasion evil, with a subject of such universal intera however remote, either to the agent est as the nature of the Supreme himself, or to the creatures placed Being. This objection, whether well within his sphere of action, yet that or ill founded, certainly will not be the very evil which the Creator bas alleged against the second example thus prohibited, should in all its rewhich remains to be noticed. I have volting forms, be one of the principal read the last edition of Dr. Southwood instruments in his own hands of proSmith's Illustrations of the Divine ducing good? The very notion that Government with attention, and I may pain and sorrow should be the only, add, with much interest, though I or, if not the only, at least the best do not profess to concur in all his mode of promoting joy and tranquillity, reasonings. He is one of the very few contains a mystery of which we shali writers even on that side of the ques- in vain attempt to frame any satisfaction, who ascribes the existence of tory solution. The fact may be true, evil, as well moral as physical, to but how, or why, are questions which the will of the Almighty, as its truly it is impossible to answer. efficient cause; and when this admis- He, however, who professes an sion is traced to its consequences, it ardent attachment to the cause of involves one of the greatest conceivable truth, must not shrink from its conmysteries. It is somewhat singular sequences; and that man well deserves that Jonathan Edwards, the most suc- the appellation of timid, who, when cessful vindicator of the doctrine of convinced that any doctrine is supphilosophical necessity, and whose ported by indisputable argument, dares leading arguments are irrefragable, not follow the results to which it should yet hesitate in inaking the same finally leads. There are undoubtedly admission, and should adopt the Ar- many persons who, while they admit ininian distinction, as far as it regards that evil is adopted by the Divine moral evil, that its prevalence is per- Being as the most effectual instrument mitted, but not ordained, by the all- of good, are yet unwilling to view the wise Ruler of the universe. He en- subject more in detail. But with all deavours to support this distinction by their reluctance, there is no escape, a very inapt illustration taken from unless they voluntarily relinquish their the sun, considered as the cause of light claim to the character of sound reaand heat, and as the cause of darkness soners. Be their timidity what it and cold; but, in truth, however unwil- may, they cannot avoid conceding not ling many persons may feel to acknow. only that the accumulation of sorrow, ledge it, that Being who consents to affliction and suffering, which we the existence of any effect which he observe in the various gradations of had the power to prevent, and which society, is ordained for the purpose he has evidently taken no measures to of increasing the amount of human prevent, is to all intents and purposes happiness, but that all the crimes, the the cause of that effect. With more depravities, the atrocities of the worst consistency, therefore, Dr. S. Smith part of the species, are selected as the maintains that the Deity is the cause best possible means of promoting the of moral evil in as real and strict a ultimate purity and félicity of the sense as he is of natural evil, and that delinquents themselves. The most " he has appointed both for the same flagitious enormities that ever stained wise and benevolent purpose, namely, the moral character, must be regarded because he saw that they would pro- as the best instruments which could duce the greatest sum of good.” have been chosen for effectuating the

But does not this assertion present designs of intinite benevolence. What


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The Nonconformist. No. XXVII. ever is most revolting in the catalogue party to which they belong, against of human crimes, adultery and incest the mysterious nature of some of the and murder, with all their terrific orthodox opinions of the National effects, must be viewed as the best Church. modes which unlimited wisdom could CLERICUS CANTABRIGIENSIS. devise of leading the perpetrators of these offences to spotless purity and endless peace. All the deeds, cruelty

The Nonconformist. and bloodshed which took place during

No. XXVII. the existence of the Jewish polity; ali the excesses of impurity and profi- An Essay on the Causes of the Degacy prevalent among the most po

cline of Nonconformity.

WHERE are few subjects that sanguinary proceedings of the Inqui- appeal with a stronger interest sition in the darkest period of papal to man than those which stand con. susperstition; and all the enormities nected with religion. Whether it be and tortures of the African slave trade viewed in a moral or in a speculative in more recent times, though in direct light, or presented as a matter of hiscontradiction to the laws of God, and tory, it affords ample scope for intethe general interest of society, though resting reflection. No sooner does at variance with the plainest precepts the attention become awakened to its of Christianity, and the best feelings importance, than the mind seeks relief of the human heart, must appear to in an external profession, and it then those who adopt this theory of the obviously becomes a question of some origin of evil, to be nothing more than interest, Under what form has the the wisest preparatory measures that teaching of it been best administered ? could be ordained for the moral im- From the period of the Reformaprovement of the race of man, and to tion, and indeed long before, there constitute an essential part of that have been various religious bodies in divine system of education by which the nation, contending for supremacy, the mind is to be trained to perfect and all upon the reasonable presumpvirtue and interminable happiness. In tion, that the scheme they proposed short, the worst crimes of the very approached the nearest to scripture worst man that ever imbibed the and to antiquity. If the means adopted breath of heaven, must, according to for deciding their pretensions had been this view of things, not only contri- equally rational, truth would have bute to the permanent prosperity of stood some chance in the contest, and the world at large, but must be deeined good sense would not have been ofabsolutely requisite for the ultimate fended. But the current of history perfection of his own character, and goes to prove that nothing is so arbifor the final completion of his own trary and unnatural as the ascendancy welfare.

of religious sects. From the reign of In spite, however, of these conse- Henry the VIII. to that of Elizabeth, quences, it is strenuously maintained, and within the short space of twenty that without this explanation of the years, the national religion underwent existence and tendency of evil, it would four or five several changes, to suit be impossible to vindicate the Divine the temper of the sovereign; and, at character; for if benevolent at all, it each change, the foregoing profession must be infinitely so; and nothing was proscribed as false and impious. can be more truly preposterous than When James I. ascended the throne, the attempt to reconcile the boundless the ecclesiastical fabric, reared by benevolence of the Creator with a Elizabeth, was thought to be in jeopreponderance of misery among his pardy, the new king having been trainintelligent creatures.

ed in the hot-bed of Presbyterianism. While the preceding doctrines, there. That it was not then overturned, was fore, involved as they are in difficulty owing more to the humour of James, and contradiction, are advocated by than to any want of pliability in the Unitarian writers of eminence, they Parliament or the nation ; for it is must, in my apprehension, be destruc. pretty evident that the bishops and tive of the argument, advanced by the courtiers were looking forward to such

an event. Its subsequent overthrow, knowledge and experience. But so in the reign of Charles I. was owing to enlightened a procedure squared as the power of the sword ; and in the little with the policy of the sovereign course of a few years parties became as with the temper of the age. The so equally balanced, that, at the Re- arm of improvement was to be parastoration, it fell to the monarch to lyzed by a dull monotonous unifordecide their pretensions, by throwing mity, and the rights of thousands his own weight into the favoured sacrificed to a state-policy veiled under scale.

the name of religion. The reign of Charles II. was emi- As Elizabeth and her successors nently the triumph of Episcopacy: governed with an absolute sway, the For, notwithstanding there was a con- retention of the supremacy was with siderable party in opposition to it, them a matter of first-rate importance, yet, it then became more entirely not only as it increased their power identified with our political institu- and patronage, but as it furnished tions; and the powerful circumstances them with a numerous body of auxof interest, education and habit, gra- iliaries, whose interests were closely dually rendered it the predominant connected with their own. Another religion. The power thus acquired, reason that may be supposed to have enabled the party to make its own influenced them was, the consonance terms at the Revolution, and to coun. of this form of ecclesiastical governteract the liberal principles of the new ment with that of the state. The king, whose influence extended no hierarchy contained within its bosom further than to curb the passions of a vast variety of official personages of the more violent, and to restrain their different degrees, including a wealthy talent for doing mischief. From this aristocracy, whose revenues enabled time, the interest of the sovereign them to vie with the nobles, with became closely identified with that of whom they held equal rank; and, the church-established, and has con- being expectants of preferments, they tinued so to the present day.

swelled the troop of courtiers, and It would throw some light upon the gave éclat to the splendour of royalty. subject of this inquiry, if we were to A third consideration was the lax dissearch into the reasons that may be cipline of Episcopal Churches, which supposed to have operated upon our put fewer restraints upon the indulformer sovereigns in retaining the gencies of the court than were conpresent hierarchy. But the space al- sistent with the more rigid forms of lotted to me will not allow of a de- Presbyterianism. Far be it from me tailed narrative. At the time of the to insinuate that Episcopalians are Reformation, the world was governed necessarily less strict in their morals by arbitrary monarchs, who had eman- than other people. Human nature is cipated themselves from the trammels pretty much the same under every of the feudal system, and, by a train profession of religion; and when of circumstances, were enabled to temptations are thrown in the way, consolidate, in their own persons, the unless checks are provided, the bad power that had been before divided passions will find a vent. I speak between the aristocracy and the clergy. merely of the effect of the system England then possessed the same con- under the comprehensive denominastitutional forms as at present; but tion of a national church. the legislative branches were without The long reign of Elizabeth had a vigour, and betrayed a passive sub- powerful tendency to consolidate the mission to the nod of the inonarch. interests of Church and State. This

As the Reformers were divided in union was farther strengthened in the their notions upon church-government, reign of her pedąntic successor James if they had been left to themselves, I., whose absurd notions of governeach party would have followed its ment found numerous abettors amongst inclinations in the selection of a dis- an order of men, to whose religion he cipline, and the different forms of re- became an easy convert. The vexaligion, in common with other institu. tions which he suffered them to inflict tions, would have reaped the benefit upon the Puritans, drove them still of improvement afforded by increased farther from the Church, and, com

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The Nonconformist. No. XXVII.

343 bined with his practice of kingcraft, alterations have not been in its favour; in which he prided himself, laid the but by what means they have been foundation of those troubles which brought about, must be a subject of produced an explosion in the next anxious inquiry to all those who feel reign. The tyrannical government of any concern for its welfare. Charles I. occasioned a greater inter- În the discussion of this question, mixture of religion and politics, the it will be necessary to refer back to Episcopal party siding generally with the reign of King Charles II., when the the Court, and the friends of liberty relative condition of the two parties with the Puritans. In the conflict became essentially changed, and in a that ensued, the King and the Church manner finally decided. At the period fell victims to one common cause, and of the Restoration, the Nonconfor. a Presbyterian Establishment arose mists probably outnumbered their adupon the ruins. This new order of versaries; but the favour and patrothings, however, was but short-lived, nage of the monarch soon reversed being replaced at the Restoration by the balance. The religion of the the former Episcopacy. King Charles Court will always influence that of the II. bad long decided with his grand- people, and draw within its vortex the father, that Presbyterianism was not majority who never think, as well as a fit religion for a gentleman, although nuinbers who have private interests to he had formerly sworn to maintain it: gratify. Whatever stimulates the am so that, dismissing with his character. bition, feeds the avarice, or dazzles istic politeness the friends who had the senses, comes with too powerful a brought him back, he at once threw recommendation to be resisted by perhimself into the arms of an order of sons who are not under the influence men who gave him but little distur- of religious motives; and these always bance in his pleasures, and adminis- constitute the bulk of mankind. The tered to all the political vices of his Episcopalians now obtained a position reign. Thus Episcopacy became esta- in the state which they had never beblished upon a more permanent foot- fore known, whilst the Presbyterians ing than ever ; and the laws which were subjected to penalties equally were enacted for its protection in this new and monstrous." Oaths and tests and some following reigns, together were invented to exclude them not with other circumstances, such as a only from the churches, but also from monopoly of privilege, the decreased the universities, the magistracy, and power of the crown, and the sentiment in general from all offices, civil, eccleof society in its favour, have given tosiastical and military. The monopoly it a stability which is not likely to be thus given the favoured sect had an shaken, excepting by some sudden important influence upon the cause of national convulsion that shall involve Nonconformity, the effect of which both Church and State.

continues to the present day. The triumph of the Church of En- If we look at the relative character gland was the signal for the ruin of of the two parties, there is no reason her opponents; but it was accom- to suppose that the Nonconformists plished gradually, and by other me- were at all inferior to their adversathods than those she had prepared for ries. The ministers generally had rethe purpose. That religious sects par- ceived a liberal education at one of ticipate in the general fluctuations of the universities, and were not only society, is a matter rather of history good scholars, but well versed in anthan of speculation. The causes which cient and modern literature. They produce them being less obvious, were also pre-eminently distinguished are liable to be mistaken ; and, as for an attention to their official duties, greater tenacity is usually brought to and cultivated habits of personal piety. be upon religion an upon other

As for the people who attended subjects, the avenues to truth are nar- upon their ministry, they were not rowed accordingly. A slight glance not only irreproachable in their moral at the history of Nonconformity must conduct, brit remarkable for their convince any one that it has undergone punctual observance of religious dumaterial changes, both in its internal ties; and they patiently suffered the economy and in its political attitude. reproach of Christ rather than conIt is also equally evident that these form to a church which they consi

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dered as nothing better than a worldly jects, they argued with the skill of sanctuary. Notwithstanding the frowns practised polemics ; and their devoof the Court, their cause was still tional books discover a manliness of patronized by many persons of wealth piety, with a fervour of affection, suitand consequence, who frequented their ed to any age of the Christian Church. private meetings, and cheerfully paid The writings of Owen, Baxter, Bates, the fines that were levied upon them Charnock, Poole, Flavel, Gale, Man. for so doing. As a farther testimony ton, Goodwin,Jacomb, Alsop, Clarkson of their affection for the cause, many and Howe, besides a multitude more of them received their ministers as in- that might be named, have outlived mates in their houses, either in their their own and the succeeding age; and official character as chaplains, or as will probably survive as durable motutors to their children. But others, numents of their own fame, and of who were not so fortunate, “had trial the cause which they espoused. Upon of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, the whole, if this is to be regarded as moreover, of bonds and imprison- the period of triumph to the Church ments; they wandered in desarts and of England, so it was, in many rein mountains, being destitute, afflicted, spects, the golden age of Nonconfortormented; of whom the world was mity. not worthy.” Many of them were In the course of this reign, the compelled to seek refuge in a foreign terms of Conformity underwent a maland, whilst others, who staid at home, terial change from the requisitions of could, like former confessors, declare its former standard. By the Act of themselves“ strangers and pilgrims V.iformity, passed at its commenceupon earth, seeking a better country, ment, those who were to officiate as that is, an heavenly.” That these ex- ministers, were not only to declare cellent men were sincere in the cause their belief in the Thirty-nine Articles, they espoused, no man can for a mo- and to swear canonical'obedience, but ment doubt who contemplates their also to avow their unfeigned assent sufferings, and the noble sacrifice of and consent to all and every thing temporal good which they made upon contained in the Book of Common the altar of conscience.

Prayer, which, had it been more free The reign of Charles II. was emi- from error than it is, was a most abnently that of science and of literature. surd and tyrannical requisition. By In the production of this character, subsequent Acts, all persons who unthe Nonconformists are entitled to nó dertook ofice, either in Church or inconsiderable share, having, in the State, were enjoined certain political course of their residence at the uni- oaths, calculated only to bind fast the versities, superintended the education chains of slavery, and to tie up the of many of the great men of the pe- consciences of men from that free riod; and in other respects they con- exercise which is the prerogative of tributed largely to the general stock. their nature. Many of them were not at all inferior During the same period, the conin critical learning and in polite lite- troversy with the Church of England rature ; but in their contributions to underwent some important changes. theology, and to those branches of Most of the Nonconformists objected knowledge that pertained more im- not only to the ceremonial part of her mediately to their profession, they far worship, in common with the early outstripped their adversaries. In the Puritans, but also to the existence of number, extent and value of their the episcopal order as distinct from writings, the Nonconformists of this the pastoral; and there was a consiperiod may be safely compared with derable number who began to questhe writers of any age or nation, and tion the propriety of connecting reliare entitled to rank amongst the fa- gion with the state. Encompassed thers of the church. If they paid less with the chains of slavery, as the naregard to the ornaments of style than tion was at this time, it is pleasant to some of their opponents, they abun- find a noble spirit here and there dantly made up for it in the matter bursting its fetters, and proclaiming of their writings, which contain a mine the political rights of mankind. The of theological wealth, not easily to be writings of Milton and Owen, and exhausted. Upon controversial sub- Marvel and Locke, were, in this re

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