Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

SIR,

THE REVIEWER REVIEWED.

To the Editor of the New Evangelical Magazine.
Audi alteram partem.

I certainly should not have requested your insertion of the following strictures, if the pages of the Baptist Magazine were open to discussion, or if there were the least probability that its Editor or Editors would insert an appeal from the ipse dixit of a Reviewer, to the good sense and candour of their readers. Your Magazine has, at least, the merit of admitting the free discussion of a subject, whatever be your own opinion; and it is the best, if not the only medium, through which something may be conveyed in the shape of an antidote to the mischievous effects of a late Review in the Baptist Magazine. A Reviewer, if he performs his office with fidelity and ability, does an important service to the public; but he is also capable of doing much injury, if he possess not the requisites to a proper discharge of his office. By making a wrong impression on the minds of his readers-by misrepresentation through a want either of integrity or of capacity, he may not only injure the property of an author, prevent the accomplishment of the object he has in view, and exceedingly wound his feelings; but it may injure his character, and in a considerable measure destroy the usefulness of his future life.

[ocr errors]

heavy fines which have been imposed, and the long imprisonment which has followed, are matters of notoriety. These have been applauded by some, and to others they have been a cause of regret. The Author of this pamphlet could not sympathise with those who rejoiced in the application of force, in calling in the aid of chains and dungeons to maintain Christianity. He saw the impression made, and likely to be deeply engraven on the minds of unbelievers by this method of procedure; he perceived the increase of their prejudice against Christianity; he felt for the men as his fellow creatures; he felt for Christianity, which he conceived to be thus abused; and his object in this address is to remove prejudice from the minds of those whom severe measures had irritated, to induce them to consider the Christian religion as it is exhibited in the Sacred Writings, and to show them that the measures which have been adopted to silence their objections are not to be imputed to Christianity itself, but to the mistaken views of those who profess to be its advocates. "The whole of this pamphlet," says a cotemporary and able Review, "does credit to the writer's head and heart. While he labours earnestly and successfully to exculpate Christianity from the charge of countenancing persecution, he is equally solicitous to win the unbeliever to a serious examination of its evidences." A noble lord, who is an honour to his age and country, and to whom the dissenters are much indebted for his able support whenever their rights have been questioned in the senate, wrote to the publisher soon after the appearance of this pamphlet in terms of high approbation, an extract from which appeared on the cover of the Baptist Magazine; and yet this redoubtable Reviewer can see nothing in such an attempt but "awful impiety," "futile reasoning," and "inconclusive arguments."

In the Baptist Magazine for last month, there is a professed Review of " An Address to Deists, on the recent prosecution of persons vending books against Christianity," which for its spirit, its reasoning, and its tendency, is a disgrace to the Magazine; and, as far as this publication is identified with the denomination whose name it bears, a discredit to the whole body. I am anxious on the part of myself and others to disclaim it utterly, to shake off the reproach which it fixes on every one concerned in it; and I would that this disclaimer could be read by all who have seen the pitiful Review. The Reviewer gives the public to understand that he knows the Author, informs them that he is a minister, a young man, of a speculative mind. It is not likely that his name will remain long concealed from others; and if they never read his pamphlet for themselves, what an opinion must they form of him! His congregation may by this time know the Author; and the direct statements and still worse insinuations of this review may inflict a most serious in-treatment the most horrible; who, though jury on his usefulness.

The prosecutions which have recently taken place for Deistical publications, the

If it were possible that a ray of reason could penetrate the mist of dulness and prejudice which appears to surround the Reviewer, I would venture to ask him, where in the Scripture he finds his warrant for the employment of prisons and fines to punish those who reason and rail against Christianity? Is it in the precepts of the meek and lowly Jesus? or is it in his practice, who heard blasphemy the most awful against himself, and received

he might have sent them, immediately, to the prison of eternal woe, expires on the cross exclaiming, "Father, forgive them,

they know not what they do?" Or, is it | founded on the conduct of the apostles, the spirit of their writings, or in the example of those early Christians who meekly endured every torment, and died, like their Master, praying for persecutors and blasphemers? Or has this mode of proceeding been justified on the ground of expediency? has it convinced a single Deist of the truth of Christianity? has it lessened the prejudices of objectors? has it diminished the number of those who read deistical publications? On the contrary, has it not given publicity to such works, most enormously increased their sale, deepened prejudices already existing, and in many instances won over the feelings of sympathy in favour of those who have suffered so severely? How often has it been repeated with triumph, "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church?" Papists have had their martyrs, Protestants of almost every sect have had their martyrs; a reference to such witnesses has confirmed the faith of others, and strengthened their attachment to their religious peculiarities. And now even Deists are glorying in their martyrs, or at least, in the sufferings and constancy of those who have been ruined in their temporal circumstances, by opposing what they consider as a popular superstition.

"at

dubious hint, that the Author will,
some future period of his life," repent
what he has now done? Perhaps this ad-
vocate for the salutary discipline of a
legal prosecution might even now try an
experiment with him, if he had it in his
power-his mode of reasoning would jus-
tify it. Certainly to defend publicly the
commission of crimes, is an offence scarcely
less criminal than the transgression itself;
and the Reviewer boldly denounces the
Author as "the defender of those, who,
like Carlile, have blasphemed God and his
Christ," the "apologist for published
infidelity and blasphemy!"

The following extract is made with a shudder of horror at its contents-"He (the Author of the pamphlet) does not wish to deny, that many, who have rejected Christianity as decidedly as he has embraced it, have exhibited a strength of intellect, and splendour of talent, which have seldom been exceeded, and which would have enabled them to advocate, with effect, any cause in which their hearts were warm. Nor does it appear to him, that every man who denies the Divine Mission of Jesus, must, necessarily, be more depraved than his neighbour, who merely professes to believe it: or that at the final judgment, an uninfluential assent to the truths of revealed religion will give, In endeavouring to prove to men of to the vicious, man who has yielded it, any deistical principles, that the religion of pre-eminence over another, who has reChrist is not chargeable with any of thejected the name of Christianity, as well as coercive measures which its professed ad- its substance." Now, what is there so vocates may employ, the Author adduces impious or false in this extract? Does a arguments which are unanswered, and un- zeal for religion require the sacrifice of answerable, while the New Testament truth? Is this the way to serve the inremains the standard of Christian faith, terests of piety, or to subdue the prejudice and the rule of Christian practice; but the of its opposers? Were the splendid talents sagacious Reviewer pronounces, sans cere- of many of the abettors of scepticism ever monie, "his reasoning futile, and his ar- questioned before? Would the Reviewer guments inconclusive." Now these are have us affirm that Voltaire and Rosseau words very easily written, but this literary were idiots? that Hume and Gibbon were censor, at least, has not the brains to mere drivellers? But perhaps it is the prove them. Ye powers of logic, of what latter part of the quotation which is conterrible delinquency must this son of rea- sidered so profane. Now what is there son have been guilty heretofore, that in which prevents the extreme degeneracy, this moment of need, you should thus have the abominable depravity of some, who forsaken him? To determine what the have the name of Christians, from exGospel sanctions or prohibits, the Author pressing their disbelief of Christianity and appeals to the New Testament; to over- their hatred to it, but a want of honesty throw his arguments, the Reviewer appeals to speak out the feelings of their hearts, or to the "common law" of England. The a profound indifference to the subject of Author quotes Christ, and Paul and Peter, religion, which prevents any personal inand the Reviewer quotes Judge Black-vestigation of its claims? And is this stone and Robert Hall! And as the writer of the pamphlet adheres so pertinaciously to the letter and spirit of Scripture, it is inferred by a rare deduction, that he is certainly on the high road to some dangerous error through a speculative mind. What does the mysterious Pythian mean, as he sings the fates from his reviewing tripod, by the dark and

[ocr errors]

hypocrisy, this determined carelessness, to give them any comparative advantage in the awful day of retribution? If the Reviewer is "a Christian minister," and such are his statements in the pulpit, surely it is himself more than the Author, who may be accused of laying "the flattering unction to the soul."

If I understand the Reviewer, for it is

THE REVIEWER REVIEWED.

"

325

should he jumble together the Author's words, his own, and those of some other person, under the appearance of a quotation from the work reviewed? It is impossible to acquit the Reviewer of carelessness and incapacity.

not easy always to perceive his meaning, the principal ground on which he rests his argument for the employment of these "carnal weapons" is, that Christianity is the law of the land, and therefore that "infidelity and blasphemy" are "crimes to be punished by the state. And is the Nor are these the only charges I have Editor of the Baptist Magazine, then, an to bring against him. With unblushing advocate for a religion established by law? effrontery and shameful misrepresentation, A dissenter and above all a Baptist, ad- he calls the writer" the defender of those, vocating the establishment of Christianity who, like Carlile, have blasphemed God by law! I should very much like to hear and his Christ:" the "apologist for pubthis dim-sighted Reviewer take the intro- lished infidelity and blasphemy:"-who ductory service at one of our ordinations, "has undertaken to defend" those who and state the reasons of dissent. I should are "infidels and blasphemers." This is like to know on what principle he would false and scandalous. Did this Reviewer justify an attempt to introduce the prin- ever take any pains by his writings to conciples of Protestantism where Popery is vince these men of the truth of Christianity, established by law, or Christianity into a to divest them of their prejudices, to inMahometan state, contrary to the injunc-duce them to study the Gospel of Christ tions of the magistrate. If this is not the meaning of the Reviewer, to what purpose has he quoted Blackstone, to what purpose is his defining these crimes against the state, and referring us to the authority of the magistrate?

But it is really no wonder if I should misunderstand him. There is quite a contrast between the style of the Author and that of the Reviewer. The course of thought in the pamphlet flows on like a current, regular and clear; the effusion of the Reviewer is like a gutter stream, turbid and muddy, sputtering among stones and brick bats. Whether the Author is right or wrong you cannot possibly mistake his meaning; his sentences are clear and perspicuous, you can see before you an object distinct and well defined; but the production of the Reviewer is like one of Ossian's misty ghosts-there is something, but you cannot tell what, yet it appears vast and seems to frown-it shrieks on the hollow wind, but its accents are unintelligible.

What a precious specimen of compilation is the paragraph beginning thus "The Author of the pamphlet says," &c.The first attempt at quotation is a blundering mistake; the Author, I would venture to say, never wrote such a sentence in his life. The second sentence is marked also as a quotation-from the pamphlet, a reader might suppose-No, not a word. Whence is it? the most probable guess is, that it consists of scraps from Blackstone, and perhaps also from others, patched up, with some filling up stuff of his own, in a manner so bungling, as to distort even its grammatical construction. Misquotations in a review are shameful; no excuse can be pleaded. Why should the Reviewer place in emphatic italics, words on which the Author laid no particular stress? why should he alter his expressions, and make his language appear contemptible? why

in the Bible, and not in the lives of the majority of its adherents? Now this is the pious and benevolent object of the writer of the Address, of this "apologist" for "blasphemy!" And all that he has done to provoke the gall which is thus spit on him, is that he has proved, beyond the possibility of contradiction, that neither Christ or his apostles ever encouraged coercion to maintain the interests of Christianity. What can the Reviewer think of himself, in using such epithets, after he had read in the Address to Deists such expressions as these:-"That the tendency of infidelity on society is deleterious, he cannot deny; and were he arguing with the promoters of the measures which he condemns, should feel himself bound to concede, both that Christianity is calculated to improve society, and that Infidelity subverts the whole foundation of morals, But he should be disposed to contend, that though the circulation of books which ridicule all that is holy, and blaspheme all that is adorable, be in its tendency excessively baneful; yet the evils of punishing the free expression of sentiment on religious subjects, are far greater than the evils arising from the communication of the most objectionable cavils or sneers," p. 26.-" Let the spirit of Christ actuate his ministers; let the regulations of Christ govern his churches; let the doctrine and precepts of Christianity control the hearts and lives of its professors; and Infidelity will soon hide its blank and gloomy countenance, ashamed of the contrast between itself and the genuine uncorrupted religion of the Redeemer," p. 28.-" Recollect, however, how much remains at stake. You may please yourself with the idea that the Bible is not of God; but you feel that there is a possibility that you may be mistaken. And if you should have been disc eived, Oh, what a revelation will burst on your

astonished faculties, when death having done its office, the veil which conceals unseen realities is removed, and you behold the angry God, and the neglected Saviour!" p. 31.-"If the Bible be his word, it will be hereafter an awful subject for investigation, whether we have endeavoured to promote its influence among others, or to excite their antipathies against it; whether by our example and conversation we have endeavoured to lead the youth of our age to treat it with reverence, or to reject it with scorn. If Christianity should after all prove to be true, the consciousness of having slighted its dictates, or refused to investigate with impartiality and earnestness its contents, will add infinite horror to the melancholy sentence which shall for ever separate us from him, to whom we have said by our conduct, •Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."" p. 33, 34. How was it possible that the Reviewer could employ such infamous language, after reading the whole of the Author's powerful and affectionate appeal to the consciences of Deists, from p. 28 to the end!

Evidently unable to answer the Author's arguments, the Reviewer endeavours to throw discredit on them, by representing the writer as a beardless youth, who is given to wanton speculation. "This juvenile defender,"-juvenile, and what then? Is truth the less important though it should come from "the mouths of babes and sucklings?" It would be really amusing to see what a figure this blustering Goliath would cut, were he to attempt to break a spear with this stripling in the fair field of argument. But invisible, with a Reviewer's coat of darkness, he speaks "great swelling words," and lays about him with an apparent design to crush the poor juvenile wight, who has no opportunity of defending himself from his blows, or of returning them. And what is achieved after all this bustle? Parturiunt montes, nascitur ridiculus mus. Now this same youth, to whom the Reviewer seems half inclined to take the birch, has, if report speaks truly, passed about half the portion of years which the Psalmist specifies as the usual boundary of human life. But he possesses "a speculative mind." This is, very often, a charge brought by plodding dulness against those who venture to think for themselves. If a man exercise the faculties which the Creator has given him-if they are employed in the active search after truth-if, like the Bereans of old, he is not content with the opinions of others, but makes truth the object of his personal inquiry, he is stigmatized by those who are too idle or too feeble to think for themselves, as a man of "a speculative mind.”

But there appears to be a wicked in

sinuation conveyed in the form of a charit able "hope;" especially when coupled with the general tenor of his review. "Hinc semper Ulysses "Criminibus terrere novis ; hinc spargere voces "In vulgum ambiguas."

Does not the Reviewer more than hint, that from what he knows privately of the habits and character of the Author, he is very likely to embrace some dreadful heresy? "Why the man," said a friend to me, after perusing the review, "the man is well known to the Reviewer, and he is likely to become a Socinian or a

Deist himself." Now is it not difficult to

[ocr errors]

give a writer "credit for good intentions, who can use such language, and throw out such hints? I appeal then on behalf of the Author, be he whoever he may, against the unjust sentence of this self-constituted judge, to the good sense, the piety, and the candour of all the readers of the article in question; and before the bar of the public I charge him not only with obscurity and clumsy writing, but with unfairness, misrepresentation, and contemptuous per

sonalities.

In taking my leave, however, of the Reviewer, charity shall make a stretch in return for his compliment to the Author, to "give him credit" for good intentions and in imitation of his example, shall close he will leave off reviewing, and turn his with expressing a very friendly hope, that attention to what he is more competent; or if the cacoethes scribendi is incurable, that this scourge of small cords may teach him to be a little more circumspect in future, lest the saying of a wise man be verified in him, "Though thou shouldst bray a fool in a mortar-yet will not his foolishness depart from him."

MR. EDITOR,

Your's,

QUERIES.

JUSTITIA.

We want a subject of considerable importance to the Christian world discussed, and that is the following:-How offences are to be healed or proceeded in, on scriptural authority, between two ministers of the same denomination—between two ministers of different sects-between two members of the same denomi nation, but of different churches-between two members of different persuasionsbetween two Christians, one a member of a Christian church, the other a member of no church, but who is regarded as a sincere Christian-between two Christians who are members of no churches. This is a subject upon which I never remember having read any discussion, and for want of some directions much evil abounds in the professing world. R. C. F.

Religious and Literary Intelligence.

BAPTIST ITINERANT SOCIETY, For Preaching the Gospel in the High

lands and Islands of Scotland.

2. WILLIAM HUTCHISON, who resides in the neighbourhood of Kingussie, Badenoch, Inverness-shire, and a preacher in the church there, has accompanied William Tulloch on his principal tours, since the summer of 1819 inclusive. In his stated labours at Kingussie and in the neighbourhood, he is assisted by the church, Leith Walk, Edinburgh. When accompanying William Tulloch on his long tours, their

SOME years ago, the destitute state of several parts of the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland, as to the means of religious instruction, attracted the attention of a few individuals in more highly favoured parts of the country; in conse-joint expenses (uncommonly moderate) are quence of which, a Mission, on a small defrayed from the Mission Fund. They scale, was begun in July, 1816, and has are happily attached to each other, and been since maintained, chiefly in the sum- both very acceptable as Missionaries. In mer season, in different parts of Perth- December, 1823, he was very actively emshire, Inverness-shire, Aberdeenshire, Ar-ployed in the neighbourhood of Lochness, gyleshire, and in some parts of the Western Loch-Carron, &c. as appears by extracts Islands of Scotland. Of these itinerant from his Journals. exertions, regular annual journals have been published, which, by the plain unvarnished account of their actual labours, discover, on the part of the Missionaries, a happy combination of zeal and prudence of great exertion and unobtrusive modesty of lively concern for the souls of men, and the most economical self-denial. By these means the Missionaries have secured the affection of those whom they have visited, and the approbation of those who have contributed to defray the expenses of the Mission. Nor has the testimony of God, in rendering their labours useful, been wanting.

During the year 1823, there were five persons employed in the Mission; of whom the following particulars may be acceptable:

1. WILLIAM TULLOCH, who was first employed, and who has since been wholly supported from the Mission Fund, is a married man about fifty years of age, a native of the Highlands, and speaks the Gaelic language with accuracy and fluency. He is a man of known piety; of blameless character; and possessed of suitable quali- | fications for the important work in which he is engaged. When first employed in the Mission, he lived at Aberfeldy, in Perthshire; but removed with his family in April, 1819, to Kilmavionaig, in Athol, Perthshire; which is surrounded by some comparatively populous districts, favoura ble for itinerating labours, and which are in a considerable degree, in this respect, unoccupied. Here W. Tulloch continues to reside, and a meeting-house, capable of containing 200 persons, was erected about three years ago, at the very moderate expense of £34. 168. 8d. Accommodation has thus been provided for the church in which W. Tulloch is preacher, and for many others, who have now frequent opportunities of hearing the Gospel, for which they seem very grateful. When not employed at a distance from home, he statedly preaches at Kilmavionaig, and in the neighbouring populous glens.

3. PETER FISHER, preacher, residing at Ardionaig, Breadalbane, Perthshire, has also been frequently engaged as a fellowlabourer in this good cause. During last summer he visited Argyleshire, Skye, and some of the other western islands. He was induced to visit Skye, though far distant from Breadalbane, from knowing the destitute state of the inhabitants, as to the means of religious instruction, and the great readiness evinced by them in attending the preaching of the Gospel. Both of these he had an opportunity of witnessing when on a similar visit seven years ago.

4. JOHN ANDERSON. In these labours, the late John Anderson, who was pastor of a church at Tullimet, Athol, Perthshire, was accustomed, for many years, regularly to take a part. On all such occasions he bore his own expenses, and continued to labour in the cause with unabated zeal, till removed from this world by death in 1822. He was succeeded, as a preacher in the church at Tullimet and in his itinerat. ing services, by

5. JOHN M'EWEN. His labours in preaching the Gospel in that quarter, have been, and still are, very acceptable. He accompanied William Hutchison in the summer of 1822 to Skye, and was actively employed in preaching the Gospel in that island and otherwise for about two months, as detailed in last Report. From the number and circumstances of the church at Tullimet, they can contribute but little for the support of John M'Ewen, while, at the same time, the situation of Tullimet is so favourable as a missionary station, and the labours of J. M'Ewen so acceptable, that, if not otherwise provided for, it will be proper to assist him from the Mission Fund, in order to enable him to remain there.

The Committee for managing the affairs of this small society have lately published No. VIII. of their Annual Accounts, extending from October, 1822, to October, 1823, from which we present our friends with a short extract, and invite their at tention to it, as exhibiting a specimen of

« AnteriorContinua »