Imatges de pÓgina
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wish well to the cause of rational countenance ; and in company he Christianity. I am the more dis- often drags his associates into a contenposed to make this observation, on tio:1 about some favourite and perhaps account of having often been pained frivolous topic, or at best not fit to be to see the free pews in our chapels debated in a mixed assembly, where, filled with strangers whose attendance if the subject of religion be introduced, was doubtless with an intention to it should be discussed only upon achear what might be said in behalf of knowledged principles. An old Puritan the doctrines held by Unitarians, but thus describes such professors : who must inevitably have gone away “They crowd about a little spark, with disappointment, perhaps with a Contend and wrangle in the dark; determination to come there no more, Nerer more bold than wheu most blind, having been disgusted rather than And they run fastest when the truth's informed by hearing (what is called) behind." a dry moral discourse. I do most sin- Such a spirit is of hurtful tendency ; cerely hope that this subject will be it is the bane of that common love we taken into serious consideration by owe to all mankind, of peace and friendly Unitarian ministers, particularly those intercourse; it will wither our virtues of our more opuleni congregations. and reflect disgrace upon our profesIf a doctrinal or controversial sermon sion : nevertheless, as just hinted, we were to be preached regularly once a must. sometimes dispute; for what fortnight, I think it would be calcu- topic of religion or of'norals hath not lated to do much good; for those who been made a subject of controversy? felt an interest in the cause would Only let us be careful to observe the then know when to invite their essential circumstances of time, place friends who are of a different opinion, and manner. but not indisposed to inquiry. A lec- As in a mixed company, so in a ture on theological subjects given on sermon delivered to a mixed congrea week day evening, is I think another gation, we should not enter much into thing very much to be desired; for, disputed points, meaning here, not the no doubt, there are many people who great outlines of natural and revealed would attend our meetings, at con- religion, which, though they have venient opportunities, but cannot con- been controverted, are supposed to be scientiously absent themselves from acknowledged and partly understood the service of their own respective by the majority of Christian hearers, places of worship.

J.B.

but those points about which the sin

cere professors of the gospel differ. On Controversial Divinity. The former will ever constitute an Sept. 7th, 1816.

essential part of all sound legitimate CHE dispute about religion,” says scriptural preaching; the latter it is

.Dr. Young," and the practice plain should be treated of only in a of it, seldom go together.” This asser- general way. It is impossible in a tion must be taken with some grains single discourse to state all questions of allowance. It could be designed relative to a disputed article or to anonly to guard us against the influence

swer all objections: there is a decorum, of a contentious and controversial spirit, a manner to be observed in a sermon, to the neglect of real religion; and not never to be departed from. At the to discourage the sober investigation of same time that the faithful minister truth: for this eminent writer was should guard against every thing that himself, saving perhaps in some articles would nourish foolish and hurtful preof his creed, one of the profoundest rea- judices, every thing that has the apsoners. The disputatious professor en- pearance of trimming, compounding ters into the church or into company or reconciling things in themselves to criticize, to judge and to condemn. irreconcileable, he should avoid in He can discern a minister's creed by the matters of speculation ; for in marals turn of bis prayers, by the naming of there must be no ceremony though his text,* or even by the lines of his there should be method : in ircating of

matters of speculation he should avoid •That's an Arminian text,” said a sage every thing irritating or calculated to disciple once to his pew-mate as soon as the hurt the feelings of the weak, but minister had spoken it.

humble believer, who certainly had

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better for the present be suffered to retain a simple error of the intellect, rather, than that by having his evil passions awakened, he should unhap pily fall into some vice of the heart. The preacher in this case is in danger of alarming the prejudices of his hearers without convincing their understandings, and perhaps, to shorten his work, will unawares be led into railing instead of reasoning.

These remarks do not apply to religious conversations strictly so called, to printed sermons on particular occasions, or to lectures in the form of sermons professedly treating on particular subjects where the hearers are prepared for discussion, and which may all be eminently useful in their way, though even here the character of a sermon should be preserved, but chiefly to general preaching. "It is a kind of sacrilege," says Dr. Hartley, "to rob God's flock of the nourishment due to them from public preachings, and in its stead to run out upon questions that minister no profit to the hearers, at least to the greatest part. These things are much better communicated to the world by the press than to a mixed assembly by the pulpit."

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It may not be amiss here to offer a few remarks upon the several names and denominations into which the Christian church is divided; and to which, to names and not to things our present reflections will be confined. It is indeed certain that as "the evil shall bow before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous;" so, things as well as names will finally settle upon their proper bases. That which hath an unstable foundation must necessarily fall of itself; and were it not so, the decree as to all the corruptions of religion is final and irrevocable: " every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up." But names may be come obsolete long before the things signified by them are fallen into decay; that is, the asperities and excrescences of sects and parties may wear off, and they may learn to view one another without aversion and disgust, and even with cordial amity and good will, though they should still retain many of their own peculiar notions. And this desirable event appears to be rapidly accomplishing every day. Some emínent Protestants have written to prove that the Pope is Anti-Christ, and in the

opinion of their own party they have written well: but we must not confine Anti-Christ to any particular denomination: wherever there is a desire of governing consciences or of lording it over God's heritage, there is AntiChrist.*

But wherever these obnoxious principles are disowned, we must not judge our brother" because he followeth not with us." The charity of the great Founder of our religion and of the sacred writers, is extended to a degree of which a true bigot of any denomination, cleric or laick, established or un-established, can scarcely form an idea. Our Lord would not permit those strangers to be forbidden who attempted to cure diseases in his name; and St. Paul permitted those to preach the gospel who built nothing upon it but wood, hay and stubble;" and allowed that though their works should be made manifest "by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning," the men themselves might be saved; and he rejoiced that "Christ was preached," though from improper motives: and thus must we act if we would approve ourselves true Christians, though we should find it impossible entirely to coalesce with some particular communities.

If a Protestant of the denomination of "Friends" were introduced into the cathedral of St. Peter's at Rome at the celebration of some solemn festival, what would be his sensations?—the gorgeous temple, the holy water, the superb ornaments, the pompous processions, the change of postures and of vestments, the blaze of candles at noonday, the smoke of incense, the instrumental music, the chanting of the choristers, the prayers in an unknown tongue-would altogether serve in their general effect absolutely to distract him! Or if perchance he could gain an interval of reflection, it would be to say within himself is this the religion of Jesus Christ? are these the disciples of the prophet of Nazareth," the man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs?" of him who laid down "poverty of spirit" as the first stone in his spiritual building; of him whose "kingdom was not of this world?" Perhaps he

* "Ignorance in doctrine, superstition in worship and persecution in temper, are full proofs of Anti-Christ."

Robinson on Claude.

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might be told in the sermon, if perchance it should be preached by a L'abbé Pluche or a Fenelon, that all this pomp and pageantry was nothing, any further than as it served to promote internal sanctity and the religion of the heart but this would not suffice; he would immediately reply-if it be nothing, then it is nothing worth, a needless expence upon the public, and much better omitted. And even in a church of more chaste and sober forms, the pealing organ, the frequent repetitions, the monotonous buz of a general response and the careless gabble of charity children, would tend rather to depress than to exalt his devotion. And on the other hand, bring an uninformed Romanist into a silent meet ing, and, from a total ignorance of their peculiar principles, he would inquire wherefore they were come together?

And yet, might not the Romanist and the Friend, together with some of the intermediate classes, converse together upon the outlines of natural religion and of Christian faith; and if accidentally cast into situations where their particular worship was not to be Irad, meet together on the Lord's day, depute one as the organ of the congregation to pray with or without a form, read some portions of Scripture, exhort either from a written table or from "the table of the heart," and praise the great Creator and Governor of the universe, through Jesus Christ? Nay, might not those among them who held the perpetuity of the ordinance of the Lord's Supper, unite in eating bread and drinking wine, in commemoration of their common Lord, together with some short and appropriate prayers and thanksgivings; and yet each retain for the present his own peculiar ideas as to the nature of this religious rite? Cer tainly all this may be done by sober and considerate persons in different parts of the world, not only without offence, but much to their mutual comfort and edification. But if upon any such occasions a Gardiner or a Bonner should unexpectedly enter, thunder out his anathema, tell those of his own community that a ceremonial worship was necessary to their religious improvement, that public prayer cannot be duly celebrated without the priest, nor the sacrament without the mass book, and they were to believe him;

then indeed for the present there must be an end of the business! In such a case those who are left ought, in a religious view, to think and act for themselves. "The whole world," says Dr. Hartley, " will never be reformed but by those who are of a truly Catholic spirit."

And to promote this desirable and important end we are called upon as Christians, both in our private and public capacities. Nothing can be more obvious, if we believe Scripture, and, as it hath been well illustrated by many eminent writers, than that the world is carried on for the sake of the church, not this or that particular church, not the clergy as distinct from the laity, but the church of God, consisting, first, of "the household of faith," emphatically so called, that is, true Christians of every denomination, and secondly, of "the children of God: who are scattered abroad, those other sheep who are not of the first fold, the sons and daughters whom God shall bring from afar, from the east and the west, the north and the south, to sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in his kingdom." The Jewish nation also, which, as such, was the ancient and peculiar people of God, the only nation which has any right to plead favouritism, and that not on their own account-which was never entirely cast off, and which is to be finally res stored, must be included in this general idea. It is no enthusiasm to say that in this sense "dominion is founded in grace," and that "the saints shall judge the world" but then this is a spiritual and not a civil dominion the dominion of virtue over vice, of truth over error, of simple real religion over superstition, of a spirit of peace and charity over a spirit of bigotry and intolerance: " For the needy shall not always be forgotten, the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever; nor shall the rod of the wicked for ever rest upon the lot of the righteous!" Providence sometimes brings about these events by gradual means, and sometimes He operates more sensibly. There is a period when the church is represented as crying out, "It is time for Thee, O Lord! to work, for they have made void thy law: Arise, O Lord! judge the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nations." In the 24th and 34th chapters of Isaiah we have a description of what

is called "the day of the Lord's ven

SIR,

geance, and the year of recompences for the controversy of in

RELY on

guage the most awfully sublime, when I insertion of the following remarks,

The indignation of the Lord shall be upon all nations, and his fury upon their armies; when the hosts of heaven shall be dissolved, and the heavens themselves rolled together as a scroll, as a leaf falleth from the vine, and a falling fig from the fig-tree: When the earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and be removed like a cottage; and the transgression thereof shall be heavy upon it, and it shall fall and not rise again: When the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed, and the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem and before his Ancients, gloriously;"figurative expressions, no doubt, in a great measure, which, nevertheless, must have a precise and determinate meaning, though we may possibly mistake in their application.

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In the mean time, it behoves both subjects and the rulers of churches and kingdoms to" discern the signs of the times;" the former, to attend chiefly to personal and family reformation, to I pray for the peace of Jerusalem," and for a spirit of wisdom and justice in their governors; not to forestal the Divine plans, never to disturb the state, in order to purify the church; to wield no sword in defence of the truth, but "the sword of the spirit;" and, while they" abide in their several callings," and perform their duty, to leave the rest to time and Providence :-and the latter, to revise obsolete and to change obnoxious laws; not to obstruct reasonable and gradual reformation; never to encourage the horrid and flagitious principle of national enmities and antipathies, (for a heathen could say "Homo sum, nihil humani a me alienum puto"); and ever to act under the impression of this important maxim, that that is likely to prove the most durable government, which hath its foundation in justice and equity, and in the good opinion of the people.

AN OCCASIONAL READER. P.S. The above was written before An Occasional Reader had read the ingenious letter of Homily (p.456-460). There are only some slight shades of difference between Homily and himself as to controversial discourse and controversial preaching.

Newington Green,
October 8th, 1816.

occasioned by the notice of Philosophic Etymology in your last Number (p. 538-544). That notice is not more severe but less candid and sufficient than I expected. The writer of it has remarked, indeed, that if the book "should not have a fair and impartial trial, the author will have principally himself to blame. Mr. Gilchrist's peculiar manner has made it impossible that his work should be tried dispas sionately by many of those who are qualified to sit in judgment upon it."

It is generally understood, I believe, that judges ought to be peculiarly dispassionate: whether they could justify themselves, in conducting an unfair trial and pronouncing angrily an unjust sentence by saying it was impossible to be dispassionate, may admit of doubt. It were unreasonable indeed to exact extreme virtue from the gravest judges or most learned doctors; and therefore I " principally blame myself for not having a fair and impartial trial." Had I written as libellously of law and lawyers, as of our learning and the learned, of schools and schoolmen, it is probable that my condign punishment would have been far more afflictive, and that ridicule and hisses would have pursued me to Newgate.

I wish not to offer any remarks on the notice of my work considered as a review: the real merits or demerits of the book are still before the judges: your contributor has (prudently perhaps) left them to the sagacity of my readers. The capital, I may say sole offence, preferred in the indictment, or set forth in the sentence pronounced upon me, is, "arrogant contempt of all who have gone before me or who stand beside me." On this charge I wish, both in respect for the public and in justice to myself, to solicit a patient and candid hearing.

I acknowledge that there is much bitter contemptuousness in my writings. I acknowledge such contemptuousness to be very wrong and very reprehensible, and promise that I shall carefully weed it out of my publications whenever (if ever) any of them shall pass through my hands into a second edition. Had I been fortunate enough to study deeply the doctrines of a certain

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masterly dissector of human nature and human society before commencing authorship, my compositions would have been untinctured with that rude, audacious disdain, which is one of their discriminative features. I ought not indeed to have vailed or cloaked my contemptuous feelings a la mode, but I ought to have suppressed and subdued them as workings of that untaught vicious nature, in renouncing and mortifying which consists the moralist's victory over himself. The contempt which I have so plentifully displayed did not originate in but was sanctioned by an error of judgment, which error was only rendered more obstinate by such rebukes as those grounded on Philosophic Etymology, Commonplace criticism and stale satire are, to persons of original thinking, offensive for insipidness rather than sourness, and, instead of diminishing, increase the acidity of contemptuous feeling. I have however derived much profitable reflection and feeling from my present reprover; and I can sincerely assure him (though he despaired of me) that arrogance, contempt (especially if forced or affected), and angry vanity, &c. are become so odious in my sight, that I hope never to be guilty of them any more. Contemptuousness is one of the spurious offspring of pride; vet even pride ought to make elevated minds despise it: any person can look or speak scornfully, but every person cannot think clearly or reason power

fully.

Having frankly confessed my guilt, it cannot be unreasonable to remonstrate charges brought against me. I am accused of" contempt of all who have gone before me." Others have charged me with extravagant admiration of some who have gone before me. Surely my antagonists ought not to blow cold and hot upon me thus with the same mouth of crimination. Will my worthy admonisher assert that I have shown contempt towards Shakspeare, Bacon, Hobbes, Wilkins, Tucker, Locke and Horne Tooke? It may be said that these did not stand in my way, and therefore I had no temptation to wish to thrust them aside or knock them down: but I beg to say that they were all great masters in the science of words and ideas, and are the best teachers in our language of Philosophic Etymology or Rational Grammar.

VOL. XI.

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My Reviewer has intimated that I think it an act of condescension on my part to instruct my kind-insinuating that I vainly look down with disdain from some fancied eminence on all men. But I will not yield to him or any other in respect for common men and common sense. I have found at least a considerable portion of the dif ferent classes of society philosophers in their own way; and I always respect thinking beings whether they think rightly or wrongly, with me or against me. I would rather converse a whole day with the plainest ploughman concerning the important science of husbandry, than a single hour with soine learned doctors concerning grammar, etymology, rhetoric or logic. It is more blessed to give than to receive: I think it a privilege to communicate instruction.

I have (as already acknowledged) expressed much contempt for some who have gone before me and some who stand beside me: but when it is considered that Johnson's Dictionary and Murray's Grammar, &c. are adopted as standards of the English language, will not those who have attended to the philosophy of language admit that there was much temptation in my way? And if I have attempted to undervalue some popular works as much as they are usually overvalued, it should be remem bered, that if a rod or rule has been bent to one side, it must be as much bent to the other to bring it straight. JAMES GILCHRIST.

SIR,

H

October 11th, 1816. AVING presumed in a former tention of your readers to the appre hended failure of the Proposal for a New Edition of Dr. Priestley's Theological Works, and to suggest a few imperfect hints with a view of promoting the design, I am happy to ob serve in your present Number [p. 521] that the observations then made have called forth an abler pen to advocate the same cause. Sensible of my own incompetence to render any important service to such a design, Í did, however, indulge the expectation that an appeal (however imperfect) in its behalf, would not be altogether in vain! that expectation has not been disappointed, nor am I willing to abandon the hope that the projected plan may yet be placed" beyond the probability

of failure."

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