Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Mr. Hove in Answer to Y. N.'s Objection to the Divine Government. 563 what he conceives to be real life, I specting the present constitution of shall adopt the same mode. As to things, I shall not enter on the statethe generality of widowers and widows ment of the many and forcible proofs then, judging of those I do not know, both positive and presumptive of the from the persons of this description I prevalence of happiness over misery do know, however much affected at the in this varied scene, introductory to a painful separation, time and reflection future and more perfect state of being. alleviate their grief, and they are not For that satisfaction on this point such wretched objects as this gloomy which the prosent writer has himself painter draws them. Many of them received, he takes leave earnestly to indeed, not altogether relishing the recommend to Y. N. the attentive

solitudein which they are left, perusal of the chapter, “on the Goodhave no objection to repair their lossness of the Deity,” in Dr. Palęy's by another union, a proof by the way “Natural Theology,” Mr. Lindsey “on that they were not led by experience the Divine Government," and more to entertain such formidable, terrific especially “Illustrations of the Diideas of matrimony as your Corre- vine Government,” by T. Sonthwond spondent Y. N.

Smith, a work which was judiciously I shall not enter into the argument reviewed in the Monthly Repository to which he refers of Mr. Lindsey for August, and which may be justly and others, that the comparatively few ranked among the most masterly instances of suicide, furnish a proof productions of the age, on this imof mankind in general not being un- portant subject. happy: Some who are weary of their Many useful reflections and much mortal existence are no doubt restrain. moral improvement may be derived, ed from rushing on death for relief, from the inquiry proposed by Y. N. from fear of the consequences hețeafter, Whether happiness or misery really which « makes them rather bear preponderates, it becomes us as men those ills they have, than fly to others and professing Christians, to learn, with they know not of.” I cannot how- the Apostle Pant, “ in whatsoever ever agree with Y. N. in thinking, state we are to be therewith content," that if self-murder was “not disre- as the appointment of a Being whose putable, and if a general conviction wisdom cannot err, whose providence prevailed that this world ends all is umiversal, and whose goodness is human feeling, hundreds of thou- infinite and unchangeable. In formsands would thus die.” Happy for ing a due ustimate of human life, let mankind the experiment is not likely us guard against mistaking the excepto be made ; but even in this supposa- tions to the usual course of things, for ble case, the love of life is I conceive the general rule, and deducing our so strong and ardent, and there is such inferences from the former instead of a natural dread of losing that exist- the latter. This it appears to me ence and those active powers we pos- Y. N. has done, which has led him sess, as would prevent those hundreds to his gloomy conclusions. It has of thousands of whom he speaks, from pleased the Supreme Lord of the effecting self-destruction. The wisdom universe to act by general laws which Y. N. applauds of those phi- (excepting peculiar cases of miraculous losophers who said "the best thing operation) : and that this mode of possible was never to be born, and the government is the wisest_and_best of next best to die the hour of one's any conceivable plans, Dr. Priestley birth;" will be very differently appre- adduces many solid arguments to ciated, I presume, by most of my prove, in the first volume of his readers who believe in the infinite « Letters to a Philosophical Unbewisdom and goodness of our Creator, liever.” It is evident, however, that and the pure doctrines of the Christ- this constitution of things, must be ian revelation, teaching us that man attended with unavoidable partial is destined for an immortal life, for evils. The same element of fire for the enjoyment of which he is fur- instance which is of incalculabile uti'ity nished with the means of preparing, in to the world, will sometimes conthis state of trial and probation. sume the comfortable habitations of

As the design of this paper is chiefly men and occasion great distress. Are to obviate the leading objections of we therefore justified from the latter Y. N. to the divine government re* accidental circumstance, in reasoning

over

against tho wisdom and goodness of reigneth, let the earth rejoice ; let the God in this invaluable blessing, or multitude of isles be glad thereof. for his not miraculously interposing at Clouds and darkness are round about all times of threatening injury to him; righteousness and judgment are individuals, to counteract its natural the habitation of his throne.” effects ? Let us not confine our views Convinced by abundant satisfactory to the erils which we see around us, proofs, that the communication of hapor know by our own experience, with piness is the great leading object of the out considering the salutary tendency divine administration, ii becomes us of these evils themselves, and how to co-operate in the.gracious designs much they are overbalanced by bless of the Deity, by discharging the duty ings, from the author of nature" who we owe to society, of contributing as is good to all, and whose tender much as lies in our power, to lessen mercies are all his works." its evils and increase its comforts. While contemplating any part of the This is incumbent on us as children plan of the divine administration, let of the same gracious Parent, and us make chie allowance for the narrow therefore brethren of the same family limits of the human understanding of mankind, as members of the same We shall not be then surprised to community, and I may add professors find some of the dispensations of of the religion of the gospel, the chief Providence respecting both nations characteristic of which is love. The and individuals, to our view involved happiness of society is promoted by in clouds and darknesss. Can a finite improvements made in the arts of mind comprehend infinity ? How few civilized life, by the education of the links do we see of that amazing chain rising generation among all ranks and of causes and effects, which is sus- conditions, by the diffusion of general pended from the throne of God, and knowledge, and more especially by extends from everlasting to everlast- the spread of just and worthy sentiing? . To censure therefore any of the ments respecting God and religion. proceedings of Heaven, because we The estimate of human life, I doubt do not immediately perceive the recti- not, as to the preponderance of its tude, wisdom and goodness of them, sum of enjoyments over its evils, will would be more unreasonable and be proportionally more favourable, as presumptuous, than for an ignorant attention is paid to the important peasant, seeing only a single wheel or objects just mentioned. To a state of spring of an ingenious complicated society greatly more enlightened, more machine, to pronounce this wheel or improved in moral excellence, and conspring useless, though really so con- sequently happier, than in any precenected with other parts, that without it ding period of the world; to a state of the whole piece of machinery would society distinguished by the prevalence cease to move. The instructive pages of truth, peace and righteousness, of history, sacred and profane, present inspired prophecy directs our views : us with many events of direful' aspect and the many pious and benevolent when viewed separately by them- institutions which do honour to this selves, which, under the disposals age and country (among which may of the propitious Power that presides be ranked those that are established over the world, and is continually for the promotion of free inquiry, of educing good from apparent evil, have . pure Christianity, and the practice of been made to produce invaluable bless- virtue as not of the least importance), ings to mankind. That this will be are some of the means which the the actual result of those astonishing Supreme Disposer of all things will changes and revolutions (attended probably, adopt, for bringing about with atrocities and calamities deplored this auspicious era. by every friend to humanity and liberty) which have for many years

Sir, Bristol, September 10, 1816. past agitated Europe, is as

IT:

T was with much pleasure I read able to conclude from the wisdom the article on Doctrinal or Con. and goodness of the Most High troversial Preaching, in the Reposiwho ruleth in the kingdom of men, tory for last month, [p: 456,] the and giveth it to whomsoever he will,' writer of which is entitled (I feel no as it is consolatory to the pious and hesitation in saying) to the most benevolent Christian. “The Lord cordial thanks of all those who On Controversial Divinity.

reason

585 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

TH

better for the present be suffered to opinion of their own party they have retain a simple error of the intellect, written well: but we must not contint Tather, than that by having his evil Anui-Christ to any particular denomipassions awakened, he should unhap. nation : wherever there is a desire of pily fall into some rice of the heart. governing consciences or of lording it The preacher in this case is in danger over God's heritage, there is Antiof alarming the prejudices of his Christ.* hearers without convincing their un- But wherever these obnoxious prinderstandings, and perhaps, to shortenciples are disowned, we must not judge his work, will unawares be led into our brother“ because he followeth not railing instead of reasoning.

with us." The charity of the great These remarks do not apply to re. Founder of our religion and of ligious conrersations strictly so called, the sacred writers, is extended to to printed sermons on particular occa- a degree of which a true bigot of sions, or to lectures in the form of any denomination, cleric or laick, essermons professedly treating on parti- tablished or un-established, can scarcecular subjects where the hearers are ly form an idea. Our Lord would prepared for discussion, and which not permit those strangers to be forbidmay all be eminently useful in their den who attempted to cure diseases in way, though even here the character his name; and St. Paul permitted of a sernion should be preserved, but those to preach the gospel who built chiefly to general preaching. “It is a nothing upon it but * wood, hay and kind of sacrilege," says Dr. Hartley, “t0 stubble;” and allowed that though rob God's flock of the nourishment due their works should be made manifest to them from public preachings, and “by the spirit of judgment and the in its stead to run out upon questions spirit of burning," the men themselves that minister no profit to the hearers, might be saved; and he rejoiced that at least to the greatest part. These “Christ was preached,” though from things are much better communicated improper motives : and thus must we to the world by the press than to a act if we would approve ourselves the mixed assembly by the pulpit.” Christians, though we should find it

It may not be amiss here to offer a impossible entirely to coalesce with few remarks,

upon

the several names some particular communities. and denominations into which the If a Protestant of the denomination Christian church is divided; and to of “Friends” were introduced into the which, to names and not to things our cathedral of St. Peter's at Rome at the present reflections will be confined. celebration of some solemn fesuval, It is indeed certain that as “the evil what would be his sensations ?-the shalt bow before the good, and the gorgeous temple, the holy water, the wicked at the gates of the righteous;" superb ornaments, the pompous proso, things as well as names will finally cessions, the change of postures and of sciile upon their proper bases. That vestments, the blaze of candles at nounwhich hath an unstable foundation day, the smoke of incense, the instrumust necessarily fall of itself; and mental music, the chanting of the were it not so, ihe decree as to all the choristers, the prayers in an unknown corruptious of religion is final and tongue-would altogether serve in their irrevocable : “ every plant which ny general effect absolutely to distract heavenly Father hath not planted shall him! Or if perchance he could gain an be rooted up." But names may be- interval of reflection, it would be to come obsolete long before the things say within himself—is this the religion signified by them are fallen into decay; of Jesus Christ ? are these the disciples that is, the asperities and excrescences of the prophet of Nazareth, " the man of sects and parties may wear off, and of sorrows and acquainted with griefs?" they may learn to view one another of him who laid down" poverty of without aversion and disgust, and even spirit” as the first stone in his spiritual with cordial amity and good will, building; of him whose kingdom though they should still retain many of was not of this world?" Perhaps he their own peculiar notions. And ihis desirable event appears to be rapidly * “ Iguurance in doctrine, superstition in accomplishing every day. Some emí- worship and persecution in temper, are full nent Protestants have written to prove proofs of Anti-Christ." that the Pope is Anti-Christ, and in the

Robinson on Claude.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

On Controversial Divinity.

387 might be told in the sermon, if per- then indeed for the present there inust chance it should be preached by a be an end of the business! In such a L'abbé Pluche or a Fenelon, that all case those who are left ought, in a rethis pomp and pageantry was nothing, ligious view, to think and act for themany further than as it served to promote selves. “ The whole world," says Dr. interual sanctity and the religion of the Hartley, “ will never be reformed bus heart: but this would not suffice; he by those who are of a truly Catholic would immediately reply--if it be spirit." nothing, then it is nothing worth, a Andito promote this desirable and Dieedless expence upon the public, and important end we are called upon as much better omitted. And even in a Christians, both in our private and church of more chaste and sober forms, public capacities. Nothing can be the pealing organ, the frequent repe- more obvious, if we believe Scripture, titions, the monotonous buz of a gene- and, as it hath been well illustrated by ral response and the careless gabble of niany eminent writers, than that the charity children, would tend rather to world is carried on for the sake of the depress than to exalt his devotion. church, not this or that particular And on the other hand, bring an un- church, not the clergy as distinct from informed Romanist into a silent meet- the laity, but the church of God, coning, and, from a total ignorance of sisting, first, of “the household of their peculiar principles, he would faith," emphatically so called, that is; inquire wherefore they were come true Christians of every denomination, together?

and secondly, of “the children of God And yet, might not the Romanist who are scattered abroad, those other and the Friend, together with some of sheep who are not of the first fold, the the intermediate classes, converse to- sons and daughters whom God shall gether upon the outlines of natural bring from afar, from the east and the religion and of Christian faith; and if west, the north and the south, to sis'. accidentally cast into situations where down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, their particular worship was not to be in his kingdom.” The Jewish nation hrad, meet together on the Lord's day, also, which, as such, was the ancient depute one as the organ of the congre- and peculiar people of God, the only gation to pray with or withont a form, nation which has any right to plead read some portions of Scripture, exhort favouritisin, and that not on their own either from a written table or from account thich was never entirely “the table of the heart," and praise: cast off, and which is to be finally rex the great Creator and Governor of the stored, must be included in this general universe, through Jesus Christ? Nay, idea. It is no enthusiasm to say that might not those among them who held in this sense“ dominion is founded in the perpetuity of the ordinance of the grace," and that “the saints shall judge Lord's Supper, unite in earing bread the world;" but then this is a spiritual and drinking wine, in conmemoration and not a civil dominion the dooiinion of their common Lord, together with of virtue orer vice, of truth over error, some short and appropriate prayers and of simple real religion over superstition, thanksgivings ; and yet each retain for of a spirit of peace and charity over a the present his own peculiar ideas as to spirit of bigotry and intolerance: “ For the nature of this religious rite? Cer the needy shall not always be forgotten, tainly all this may be done by sober the expectation of the poor shall not and considerate persons in different perish for ever; nor sball the rod of parts of the world, not only without ihe wicked for ever rest upon the lot offence, but much to their mutual com- of the righteous!” Providence -somefort and edification. But if upon any times brings about these events by such oceasions a Gardiner or a Bonner gradual means, and sometiines He should unexpectedly enter, thunder operates more sensibly. There is a out his anathema, tell those of his own period when the church is represented community that a ceremonial worship as crying out, “ It is time for Thee, . was necessary to their religious im- O Lord! to work, for they have made provement, that public prayer cannot void thy law: Arise, O Lord! judge be duly celebrated without the priest, the earth, for thou shalt inherit all nanor the sacrament without the mass. tions." In the 24th and 34th chapters book, and they were to believe him ;– of Isaiah we have a description of what

17

« AnteriorContinua »