Imatges de pàgina

of Christianity, which he found advances its sublime objccis, and must realized in no Christian cohumunily be firmly and unalterably inaintained; or church, existing in his days. but, that matters of smaller monient, Perhaps, purs, primitive, vital Christ in which, however, the generality of ianity is to be found only in the Sacred mankind have, in all ages, been din Scriptures, and no sinall degree of posed to place the very substance of purification must probably take place, religion, aught to produce no schism before iis genuine form, with all its among Christians, but must be viewed celestial features, can be restored to with mutual forbearance and charity. this earth.

It would have been bappy for the Althongh this circumstance does Christian church, if these apostolical infinite credit to Mr. Burnett's in- sentinents, which have, in fact chategrity, his understanding seems, on racterized also the allest and best this point, to have been misinformned. inen, since the apostolic times, had He appears not, at this period of his been generally adopted. Much coulife, to hare reflected on the veneral fusion would have been prevented, obligation, resting upon all men,' to and one great cause of intolerance and worship their Creator, both in prillie persecution would have ceased to opeand in privale, nor to have rightly dis- rate. Now, as the fundamentals of tinguished between die finndamental Christianity seem to be preserved 'articles of Christianity, and those points among all Protestants, with the excepwhich are of subordinate importance; tion of such as esclude, from salvation, between those which are essential to those who differ from them in the its crisicnce, and those which are, most ininute article of order, or corcomparatively, less momentous. He ship, there appears to be no solid seenis not to have reflected on the reason for withdrawing from any truly judicions and divinely liberal Protestant communion, in which a persentiments of the Apostle Paul, on son has been educated, and refusing this, ' aud other similar subjects. to join with any other, on this sole “ Him, that is weak in the faith;" 'ground, that assent cannot be given says he,“ receive ye, but not unto to every individual tenet which is doubtful disputations. One man members may profess. On the saine esteemeth one day above another; principle, there could hardly be arry another esteemeth erery day alike. society among men. For, there exist Let every nian be fully persuaded in not, perhaps, any two individuals his own inind. He, that regardleth the whose opinions are, on all subjects, day, regardeth it into the Lord ; and perfectly conformable to each other. he that reg.irdeth not the day, to the Such conformity of sentiment would Lord he doth not regard it. He that not, on the whole, be conducive to eateth, eareth to the Lord, for he the advancement of truth, or to the giveth God thanks; and he that eat. attainment of happiness. It is by

eth not, to the Lord he eateth not, diversity of opinion, by the different * and giveth God thanks. The king- 'aspects in which the saine object is dom of God is not meat and drink, viewed by different minds, that a but righteousness, and peace, and joy variety of information is collected, and in the Holy Ghost. Hast thou faith? that the stores of knowledge are ipPlave it to thyself before God. Happycreased. The real bond of union, is he that condemneth not himself in therefore, is not exact conformity of that thing which he alloweth. What- ' opinion, but, mutual charity, freedom soever is not of faith, is sin."

of discussion, and true, not pretended, The spirit of those passages is to liberality of mind; is the subjugation of this parpose; that pure Christianity pride, the renunciation of tyrannical consists not in points comparatively supremacy, and the unqualified acknowindifferent, but in certain grand and ledgment of those rights, in religious important views; and that whatever matters, as belonging to others, which is subservient to these, or connected we claim to oursclees. If Mr. Burnert with them, constitutes its essence, bad reflected on these principles, his

excellent heart would liave prohibited

his withdrawing from pultic worship . Rom. xiv. 1.

in every religious community. In + Rom. xiv. 6. 17. 32, 23. fact, we shall itumediately see that

Memoir relative to Johu Burnett, Esq. of Dens.

439 his mind, ever open to conviction, be of the highest importance to his afterwards assumed, on this subject, present comfort, and to his eternal the complexion which reason appears happivess. Nor were his pains unsucto dictate.

cessful. Some time before his death, · While he entertained this erroneous he had obtained clearer and more satisopinion, which was certainly, on his factory views of those doctrines, in part, most sincere, die seems to have regard to which he had experienced fallen into one of those inconsistencies the greatest difficulties. If his life incident to the hunan character, even had been prolonged, he would, in all in its most amiable forms. He would probability, have again joined in not allow his servants to be absent publie worship. Ile was remarkable from church, on any occasion, al- for his scrupulous observance of the though he interfered not with their Lord's day. On that day, during general adherence to any religious pany years, he never opened any profession. Now, while he himself letters on business. This is, at least, abstained from attendance on public a striking proof of the sincerity of his worship, because he could not assent religious sentiments, whatever opinion to all the tenets of any church, or may be entertained, by some, of their sect whatever, it seems not to have enlargement. I cannot pretend to say occurred to him that any of his ser- how he could discover, before opening vants might, on the ground of con- a letter, if it was ou tusiness, or on scientious scruples, have urged the some sulject connected with religion. same plea for his non-attendance. He probably knew the hands of his The celebrated Mr. Howard was a correspondents. strict predestinarian. He had been Punctuality and integrity, in all threatened with the Bastille, if he ever his dealings, were prominent features ventured again to pass through France. of his character. He was, indeed He had resolved, for a certain object considered, as difficult and hard in which he judged to be of the first making bargains. When, however, importance to traverse the whole they produced greater advantage than extent of that country. When I he expected, or thau he deemed 10 strongly urged on him, the danger be fair and just protit, he returned, to to which he exposed hiinsell, he his correspondents, as a gratuity, the asserted his firm belief in predestina- şurplusage of his honest computation. tion, as a ground for his proceeding. In this manner, during the course of He said, however, that he would his mercanule career, some thousand not expose his servant to the same pounds were restored. When the danger, sent him round by Italy, and, question was put to him, if he thought as he himself was resolved to go to that his correspondents would have Toulon, ordered him to meet his treated him in the same manner, had master at Nice. The servant was just the bargain been equally unfavouras much secured, by predestination, able, as it had been favourable to as his master ; yet Mr. Howard would him; and, when the severity, which not venture to apply the doctrine to his father bad experienced, was the poor fellow. The master, never- brought to his recollection; his reply theless, escaped all danger, accom- uniformly was---- With the conduci of plished the object of his journey, and, others I have nothing to do. It is my afterwards related to me the wonder- duty to regulate my own by the rules ful particulars of his perilous adven- of equity, as they appear to me.". tare. Such are the inconsistencies to This was an answer expressive of which the most vigorous and noblest a great mind. It is, to nie, a proof minds are, sometimes, liable.

of the strength of his religious princiMr. Burnett called his servants to- ples. For, these only could have gether, regularly, every Sunday evening, dictated such sentiments and conduct, and read prayers to them. Although, I would faiu hope that, however un some points, he had peculiar doubts, different the general sentiments may he was far from being a sceptic in be, there are several instances of a regard to the grand doctrines of the similar kind, in the mercantile world, Christian religion. By diligent read- which may not be generally known. ing, accurate examination, and serious To the best interests of mankind the teflection, he endeavoured to acquire fael, which I have just now recorded, thas information which he deemed to is of high importance. For, selfish

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minis, actuated by groveling and succeeded by a brother, a clergyman sordid opinions, have a strong ten- in the Church of England, who died dency to ascribe their own characters without issue. It devolved to a to the whole human race, and to nephew, son of another brother of regard, as visionary, feelings of a more Mr. Burnett, who, now, possesses it. exalted description. To all such Mr. With the exception of this property, Burnett's conduct and principles, and and of moderate legacies and annuities those of a similar complexion, may to various relatives, the residue of be triumphantly opposed, and serve, his fortune was appointed by him to on the ground of experience, to vin- be applied to charitable purposes. dicate, from the imputation of being Since his death, these charitable mere theorists, those who applaud destinations have increased in value, and recommend more generous, and, and may, now, produce, altogether, therefore, better principles of action, about 7001. of annual income. They than are entertained by the herd of were, by the testator, appointed ignolle moralists.

to be applied in the following His affection for his relatives was also warm and constant. His hu- 1. For the relief of the poor in the manity was expansive and vigorous, city of Aberdeen, with a preference to and particularly interested in the wants those who may be bed-rid, or may of the poor. During many years, he labour under diseases deemed incurable. appropriated one or two hours every II. For the relief of the poor residay, to the hearing of their cases, and ding on his own landed property, to their relief. In this manner, he descending to his heirs. applied more than 3001. yearly.

III. For behoof of all the poor On the return of his brother, James, within the bounds of the county and from India, about the year 1773, they synod of Aberdeen, which last conresolved to discharge their father's tains 96 parishes, a sum, not less than debts, each of them paying, one half. 201. and not exceeding 50l. in proporThe only exceptions, which they tion to the extent of each parish, and made, were in the case of one or two to its peculiar circumstances, is to be creditors, who had been, in the first paid annually, in rotation, till this instance, chiefly instrumental in payment has extended over all the ruining their father's credit, and then, parishes within the jurisdiction of after his failure was accomplished, the synod. When this rotation has treated him with the greatest harsh- taken place, it is to begin anew, and ness, and severity. This important circulate, in this manner, in constant fact, so honourable both to the sub- succession. The donation to each ject of this Memoir, and to his parish is to be applied, for the benefit brother, proves that strict integrity of its poor, according to the discretion and honour were inherent in the of its minister, or ministers, and family. As family-likenesses are ex- elders. hibited in the countenance; so, we IV. A sum is appropriated for the often find them in the moral and intele benefit of lunatics, or persons deprived lectual character. Those two brothers of reason. thus paid, on their father's account, V. Another portion is destined to about 70001. or 80001. This sumn, promote inoculation among the children which, compared with modern of the poor. This money is, now, failures, may appear insignificant, applied in support of a Vaccine Institiewas, when the failure of Mr. Burnett, tion in Aberdeen-an improvement of sen. happened, and even at the time inoculation unknown at the time of the his debts were paid by his conscien- donor's death. tious sons, considered as of no trivial VI. A small sum is appropriated magnitude.

to the benefit of the prisoners in the The younger Burnett was never jail of Aberdeen, and, especially, to married, and, at the age of 55 years, assist in procuring, to them, the condied on the gth of November, 1784. solations and correctives of religion,

He possessed a small landed estate, by the regular performance of divine lying in Buchan, in Aberdeenshire, worship within the walls of their conand situated about 25 miles northward finement. of Aberdeen, which he inherited from VII. A small part of this general his mother. In this property he was fund is appointed to be set aparty

Memoir relative to John Burnett, Esq. of Dens.

441 annually, and allowed to accumulate, all is doubtful. To such, considerafor a two-fold purpose-1st ; for his tions, independent of Revelation, are Tuo Prizes : 2dly ; for an addition to necessary. To bring them to a conthe provision previously made for the viction of a Deity is of the utmost poor of Aberdeen. This accunulating consequence, and a step to a belief fund is, for ever, to be applied to its in Revelation. The considerations objects, at the end of every fortieth on the subject may be beneficial to year. The accumulation of the first all.” 2.5 years, if not less than 16001. is From the words, last stated, it is destined for Prizes to the authors of not improbable that Mr. Burnett had the two best Essays, on the subjects been frequently in coinpany with which he prescribed, and the follow- persons who attacked Revelation, on ing Work discusses. Three fourths Atheistical principles ; and, as, from his

are assigned to the first, and one fourth being unavoidably much engaged in I to the second in merit. Whatever business, he could not be supposed to

exceeds these sums, allotted to the have studied such subjects with philoPrizes, is to be added to the fund for sophical accuracy, that he found the use of the poor of Aberdeen. himself perplexed to reply to their What this fuud may produce, in the distorted metaphysics. This conjecture, course of a long period of years, it is which is merely that of the writer of impossible to determine. In all pro- this Memoir, will acquire more probability, it will amount to a very large bability, when it is considered that, sum.

when Mr. Burnett must have been in His motives for founding his two the prime of life, Hr. Hume's PhiloPrizes can be collected only from the sophy, which did so much mischiel terms in which the foundation of them, to the young and volatile, was in high and his other benevolent destinations, fashion in Scotland. To sneer at are expressed. It can hardly be religion was deemed to be genteel. doubted that he was chiefly influenced That Philosophy, as far as it relates to by the strong impression, resting on religion, and morals, has been ex, his mind, of the high importance of posed, as utterly false, by men of the the subjects proposed, and of the inost distinguished talents

. W’hether, benefits likely to result, to mankind, or not, religious principle be, now, from the comprehensive and able more firmly established, and more discussion of them. This appears generally diffused, than was the case chiefly from what is expressed in his in Mr. Burnett's time, I pretend Deed of Settlement, in behalf of the not to determine. The French poor of Aberdeen, and in his Provision Revolution exhibited the most ferofor the Prizes, contained in the same cious aspects of infidelity, as connected deed. To these he subjoins the fol with politics. An alarin was, hence, lowing sentences :--"And I make the spread; and, although it be evident, above Destination, with an hearty de to the smallest reflection, that irreligion sire 10 be sincerely thankful to the has a tendency to subvert the best Providence of Almighty God, for interests of society, if not to dissolve having conferred, upon me, the power it; still, no reasoning, or persuasion, to do so; and with an humble hope could have excited the terror occathat the sanie will, in some degree, sioned by this revolutionary. comulsion. be acceptable in his sight; and as Hence, greater erternal respect, at becoming a disciple, and conformable least, has been shewn to religious to the precepts of the Holy, Jesus, institutions ; and infidelity is, now, being intended for the relief of the generally connected with licentious distressed ; and to promote a thorough political opinions. This may probably couviction of those truths, which are procure a fair hearing to the Gospel, of the greatest consequence to man, and obtain a candid examination of kind."

its principles and tenets. To a mind, Again ; in a codicil, he adds", habituated to refer all events to the see it a great duty to be impressed with direction of Providence, it will appear the inexpressible love of the Lord that, to produce this result, was pros Jesus to mankind; and with a sense bably one reason for the permission of of the invaluable benefits they receive such horrible convulsions, and treby him. Some unhappily do not mendous calamities, as have charac. acknowledge Revelation, and think terized our own times. On the other


hand, it must be acknowledged that to be understood, which they that are men's minds have been so much unlearned and unstable wrest, as they engaged by war, and politics, whose do also the other Scriptures, unto their influence is far from being auspicious own destruction." to the cultivation of rational piety, that Mr. Burnett's scruples evinced that they have had little leisure, and, per- he was a conscientious believer, and haps, less inclination, to attend to the an anxious inquirer after truth. I great concerns of Religion. Her voice, have, already, pointed out one erronehowever, musl, and will be heard, at ous conclusion which, at a certain last, if not in the calm tone of argu- period, they led him to adopt. But, ment, or in the mild and affectionate even this was sincerely erroneous, and language of admonition, at least, in it appears that his mind, atterwards, the thunder of general calamity. embraced a juster view of the subject,

Mr. Barneti's opinion, relative to in respect to which he erred. It is the effect that the conviction of a Deity only persons of some discernment, and has in leading men 10 a l'elief of the of upright hearts, that ever entertain truth of Revelation, will appear per- religious scruples. The profligate, the fectly just to every person who under- indifferent, the ligot, the enthusiast, stands, and reflects on the subject. and the hypocrite, never have their In fact, Infidelity and Atheism, in some minds perplexed in this manner. The form or other, are more intimately profligate and the indifferent are utterly connected than may be generally sup- regardless whether the whole, or any posed. It will be found that the part of the religious system, which is greater part of modern infidels have professed, be true, or false. The tigot had, and still have, no religious prin- and the enthusiast adopt, without ciple at all.

Christianity adinits, examination, any set of opinions, and establishes, and expands all the just neither entertain doubts themselves, principles of Natural Religion, and por suffer others to entertain them, enforces them by sanctions which no with regard to their professed creed. hunnan authority conld pretend to The hypocrite pretends to believe whatenact. To reject Christianity is, there- ever is subservient to his temporal fore, to reject Natural Religion herself, interests. The honest inquiner will, invested with her fairest, most en- sometimes, experience douts

, with gaging, and most venerable aspect. respect to certain points, and, ever **The truth is, that by far the greater open to conviction, will be anxious to part of infidels never give themselves obtain their solution. the trouble 10 make any inquiry con- The preceding narrative, and the cerning religious subjects. Under the quotations with which it is inimpression of certain vague, indefinite, terspersed, evince the subject of it to and hastily assumed notions, they have been a character of no ordinary discard the Christian faith, by reason stamp, in regard whether to his intelof a secret aversion from its purity lectual, or to his moral qualities. of principle, and exalted moral com- Though assiduously occupied in busiplerion.

ness, he, nevertheless, directed his The peculiar nature of Mr. Bur- mind to the most important and nett's religious scruples has not been noblest objects that can fix the attenascertained. It is evident, however, tion of man. Though employed in that they could not relate to the funda- merchandise, and attentive to its chief mental articles of Christianity. For, aim -- the acquisition of wealth-he of these he not only, professes, in his expanded his heart to the most will, his firm belief," but also his deep generous and comprehensive imprese sense of the incrpressible, love of the sions of benevolence, and, in the Lord Jesus, and of the invahvalle kene midst of an increasing fortune, was fits which mankind receive by him. That constantly mindful of the indigent ; there are difficulties in Revelation itself in the enjoyment of ease and comfort, po rational divine will deny. But, felt for the distresses of those who these affect neither the essential doc- " had none to help them."! Active trines, such as they exist in the Sacred in the discharge of the duties of his Seriptures, nor the moral precepts of Christianity. The Apostle Peter says, " that, in the Epistles of his beloved

*. 2 Pet. ii. 16. brother, Paul, are some things hard

+ Job xxix: 12.

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