Imatges de pÓgina
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in these instances an atonement for each other; for the gospel, for the truth, and even for Christ himself? Does it require the aid of learning and a new translation of the passage to prove the fallacy and gross absurdity of the imputed orthodox meaning?

The true meaning then of the terms, "As God for Christ's sake forgave you," is, "Be kind, be courteous to each other, imitate the benevolence of God, and forgive one another, as he, in or by Christ, has forgiven you." .D. EATON.

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my attention. Should you, notwithstanding that circumstance, think the following observations admissible into your useful miscellany, as calculated to induce persons to discuss the sub ject who are better qualified for the work, they are at your service; de claring, however, that I do not mean to become a theological polemic.

A young friend visiting me in the country, brought with him and read to me Lord Byron's" Cain." Although I am not stiffened with the illiberality of either Peter or Martin, nor yet with that of their co-adjutors in Jack's tattered coat, I was surprised at some part of its contents.

Notwithstanding, also, that I have long since renounced the odious prac tice of imputing bad motives and wicked intentions to those who differ from me in opinion, considering such imputations, when unsupported by other proofs of evil designs, calumnions and cruel; still I own that it is matter of regret to me when I observe great talents employed, either by orthodox or heterodox, in giving such representations of the Deity as tend to excite strong mental disgust and abhorrence: and if such were his Lordship's intention, it induces the questions-Will the best interests of society be promoted Will our moral relations be strengthened, or our benevolent affections improved, by effacing from ..our minds those impressions of veneFation and esteem for the Deity, which almost all receive and many cherish ander a just persuasion that benevolence predominates in the world, years of sunshine and comfort, mi

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Suppose then an intelligent first cause employing his energies in creat→ ing: it transcends contradiction and dispute that his creatures must be either perfect or imperfect; an inter mediate condition of neither perfect nor imperfect cannot exist under any of the possible modes of existence. It is a plain contradiction, an impos sibility. But perfect they could not be unless equal to the Creator. Equal to the Creator!!!! Most absurd thought! Let me ask, how is infinity to be created? How can a creature's existence equal its Creator's? How can independence be created? Surely these questions involve contradictions insuperable. So thought Jesus Christ when he declared, there is none good or perfect but God. Creation implies commencement of being: how can creatures then be infinite? And if the creature's existence be posterior, it is evident that his powers must be inferior to the Creator's. Creation and dependence are correlatives. Now mark the consequence, the inevitable consequence, if the creature, however exalted his powers, has less knowledge, less wisdom, &c.; the liability to mistake, to err, to fall, must exist, with all the evil resulting from such an unavoidable constitution of things, if ever his knowledge, wisdom and power be called into action. The creature must be necessarily imperfect. Adam was innocent only, not perfect. Im. perfection involves the idea of incon venience, of evil. Thus we arrive at the conclusion I had in view, that if the Creator employs his energies in creating, without attributing malig

nity to his scheme or defect to his power, except the defect of working absurdities and contradictions, which is no defect in truth, the result of creation must be such as we find it. With reverence I add, the Deity had no option; evil must occasionally appear, but no more than the nature of things necessarily generates. If my principles be correct, and I think them incontestably so, then,

"In spite of pride, in erring reason's spite,

One thing is clear, whatever is, is right."

Consequently, to interpret literally the beautiful allegory of the fall, contained in the Book of Genesis, must be wrong. This the advocates of a literal interpretation virtually admit. They attribute the introduction of all evil, moral and physical, to Adam's transgression, and yet place the rebellion of the Devil and his angels anterior to that event. If so, Adam's lapse was not the origin of evil, for crime, by their own shewing, had been previously committed, and of course evil existed prior to his fall. It has been and is still pertinaciously maintained by many, that the Devil, in the form of a serpent, tempted Eve to take the forbidden fruit. This itself was evil, and pronounced by themselves to be

so.

Again, the advocates of a literal meaning, who allow the fore-knowledge of God, differ in sound more than in sense from the scheme I propose. They maintain as I do, that the Deity possesses ALL PERFECTIONS infinite knowledge, wisdom, goodness, power, &c., and yet he has produced the present system of things. Now, the very fact of its existence, as the work of SUCH A BEING, proves its pre-eminence, that it is the best. Shew me how, under the influence of SUCH ATTRIBUTES in its formation, it could be otherwise. To attribute to him the ability to devise and execute the best scheme, and at the same time to charge him with the adoption of a worse, this is indeed, if I understand the term, the most fearful and blackest blasphemy. This is to rob the Divinity of its brightest attribute, INFINITE GOODNESS. This is to identify the Deity and the theologian's Devil, as

one in disposition. The latter is represented as exerting himself to make others miserable, without benefit to himself, from mere malignancy of nature. To represent the Deity as voluntarily adopting a plan productive of misery, when a better one was in his power, is exhibiting him in the same light, and thus, without intending so to do, they degrade the benevolent God into an Almighty Devil. Horrible even in idea!

But to affirm that the Deity did not foresee what would actually take place, as it depended upon man's free will, is only removing the difficulty to a greater distance. It is similar to the Indian's mode of supporting the world by placing under it an elephant, crocodile and camel. The objection introduces us to a new kind of God, a sort of demi-god, who knows the results of part of his scheme only; but this is not a God of infinite knowledge. It supposes him ignorant of what is actually to take place till illustrated by the event. How can it be predicated of such a being that "he knows the END from the BEGINNING", which the Scripture asserts, if events are strictly uncertain, unless it be meant that they are known as uncertainties?. On such remarks I have neither time nor inclination to comment.

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Besides, this doctrine does not relieve the case of any of its difficulty. Can that benevolence be infinite which places creatures in stations, of risk, when it might have placed them in security? In equivocal circumstances, the result of which is unknown, may be happiness or may be ineffable misery? Is this the work of beneficence that is infinite? But all those and similar difficulties are obviated by the considerations which I have proposed. They place the condition of all creatures and the infinite benevolence of God in perfect harmony: hitherto a questio vexata.

A highly respectable and highly esteemed friend objected to my hypothesis as incompatible with the Scripture representation of our improved knowledge and happiness in a future. state. I look forward with some degree of hope to that futurity; but in contemplating the figurative descriptions of Scripture on that head, I confess I am at a loss what limits to

will consist in placing us where we may sleep soundly, spend an interminable existence in looking one at the other calmly, or in playing on harps undisturbedly?

assign its metaphors. Knowledge, in acquisition and communication, is a source of great, of the purest enjoyment; but if my hypothesis be reject ed and the literal meaning of the metaphors maintained, this source must fail in a future state, for all will be inspired. Knowledge is experience evolved, and in its progress furnishes us with many a delightful day and retrospect. According to my views, experience is the tree of knowledge of good and evil, never to be extirpated. That inspiration is to supersede experience and render it useless, appears to me impossible, unless it prove an everlasting narcotic. I do strenuously insist, that an infinitely wise and good Being will always do that which is best and possible; and what is best now must be best hereafter, for with him there is no variation: scripture and reason concur in proof thereof. "We can reason only from what we know." Mental inactivity is not happiness. If it were, the dormouse in winter is perfectly happy. Inspired knowledge would leave us in the dead sea of torpidity and listlessness. But we know that "life's cares are comforts, such by Heaven designed; he that has none, must make them or be wretched." Without them there is no escape from the deadly tadium vitæ.

This raises the question, of what use can that sort of knowledge be? It cannot benefit others, for they will be equally inspired; nor ourselves, for we and others shall be placed, according to the popular notion, beyond the reach of temptation, perplexity and doubt. But knowledge and wisdom in their useful application, import difficulty and the necessity of selecting. Superior knowledge and wisdom appear in the judicious selection and adroit application of means to a desired end, eluding evil and securing good. But according to the objection, there will be no difficulty to make demands on our wisdom and knowledge. Then the high degrees of knowledge talked of as peculiar to that state, will stagnate and become putrid; that is, useless as to any beneficial application. And is our improved happiness to consist in uselessness? Is there any imagination so romantic as to suppose that the great improvement in our future condition

Let us view in connexion with this subject the popular creed which refers the introduction of all evil, moral and physical, to Adam's transgression. Its abettors admit that man, in capacity and knowledge, was superior to all in this world, yet he mistook, erred and fell. They admit also, that the angels who fell were of a class and order superior in these respects to man. Here then are two cases according to that creed, which prove that the Scripture representation of increased knowledge in another state does not militate against my theory, but against theirs who place such confident hopes of security on our future vast accessions of knowledge. Knowledge has failed to preserve in innocence. The angels have failed in obedience, though, as asserted, in the immediate presence and favour of God. It is certainly difficult to conceive how in such circumstances they could be tempted to deviate from duty, but by that liability to mistake, to err, which is inherent in all creatures, and which must be co-existent with every state and condition; and which, with reverence I repeat, Omnipotence cannot prevent, unless it could work contradictions. That such and that similar events have taken place in every part of the animated universe, appears to me more than probable, being consistent with reason, consonant with Scripture, and in full accordance with the infinite perfections of God.

Another objection may be urged from the possible seasonable interposition of Divine Power to preserve his creatures from evil. To those who believe that the perfections of God are infinite, there is a short answer. He has not nor does he apparently so interpose in favour of man, nor, according to the popular creed, in favour of angels. I therefore fearlessly avow my belief, that it cannot be done consistently with his general scheme; if it could, an infinitely wise and beneficent Being would mark his presence by a preventive interference. Reasoning à priori, we should be conducted to that conclusion, and reasoning à pos

teriori, facts in abundance present themselves to establish its validity, Even those events which have borne the strongest marks of such a character, may have been no more than the gradual developement of the varied ordinations of a grand whole, attended by circumstances not familiar to observation, and consequently attracting general attention.

To these views of the subject, it may be objected that they weaken the sense of our dependence on the Divine power. This I cannot admit. Substitute expectation of Divine interpositions for sense of dependence, and I grant it is weakened. The preceding views certainly rebuke the practice of invoking when we ought to be labouring, of kneeling when we ought to be shouldering the wheel. They make unceasing demands on our activity and care as the basis of our well-being here and hereafter. Nor have I ever known a single instance of a fool hav. ing been made wise, an ignoramus learned, a poor man rich, a distempered constitution healthful, by invocation, without the use of the proper means. Of the objectors I challenge the proof of such a fact, without referring to what took place at the first promulgation of Christianity, and without considering its aid as a collateral mean. With consequences I have not any thing to do: I leave them where I find them, in much better hands: I am anxious only to relieve the human mind from the apprehensions which the foul aspersions cast on the Divine character, sometimes produce.

Bigots will, I know, censure what I have written. It is not to them I address myself. They are afraid to reason, and their fears and selfishness make them unjust. Had they been accustomed to offer their children to Moloch, to Moloch would they continue to offer the unnatural and horrid sacrifice. I address those who are perplexed by the subject, as I have been. If the principle of my theory be right, it will find abler advocates and prevail: if erroneous, let it sink for ever. Such an event, however, I do not anticipate. Whatever be the result, I shall always feel the satisfaction of having been influenced by the purest motives-an ardent wish to vindicate the ways of God to man,

and thereby to obviate all doubt of his benignity; a settled anxiety to repress the presumption of creatures who, with finite and very limited faculties, dare arraign and condemn the measures of an Infinite Mind. When our

knowledge and wisdom become infinite, then, and then only, shall we be qualified to decide.

After I had written the preceding observations, it occurred to me as probable, that it will be objected to this scheme, that it requires an interpretation of various passages of Scripture inconsistent with their general tenor. I am not aware that it will require greater latitude of construction than has been used on other occasions by the most pious and judicious interpreters of Scripture of all denominations: for instance, it was declared to Adam, "on the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die;" but Adam did not die on that day. Here a positive averment and denunciation is construed figuratively to reconcile it with the actual event. One of the apostles writes thus, "for as in Adam ALL die, so in Christ shall ALL be made alive." Interpreters generally allow the word all, in the first sentence, to be a term of striet universality, as far as relates to the animated beings of our planet, and at the same time insist that the same word, in the second sentence, is not a term of such universality, but of partial import only, not even implying a majority, but the contrary; and this is done to reduce it to a consistency with their system. Again, Christ said, "This is my body, this is my blood,” referring to the bread and wine. The Papists interpret both phrases literally. Most other Christians, to render them compatible with fact and common sense, put a figurative construction on them. The Scripture declares that the wicked shall be cast into unquenchable fire, into everlasting fire. But many good men have maintained, that such phrases do not refer to the durability of its inflictive agency, but to the intensity of its destructive powers. It certainly appears to me that no greater licence in the exposition of Scripture will be required to support my hypothesis, than has been taken and allowed in expounding the preceding passages, and many,

very many others which might be adduced, but which the limits of a letter will not allow.

VI. and Elizabeth, and directed by the canons of 1603. At that time, to dissent from the Established Church was a crime in the eyes of the Legislature of great magnitude, and continued to be considered so, until the glorious

RUSTICUS.

SIR,

Feb. 12, 1823.

AGREEING completely with the reign of William III, when the Act

statement of Dissenter and a Parent, p. 33, that "it has again and again been laid down that any register of a birth may be, under certain circumstances, good evidence: the hand-writing of a father in a familybible or pocket-book has been received: and it cannot therefore be that so regular and formal a registry as that at the Library, in Red-Cross Street, should be invalid:" the only remark I have to make upon it is this, that even Sir Thomas Plumer never denied the Register to be evidence; what he refused, was a copy of that Register.

of Toleration was passed, which, according to the words of Lord Mansfield in the Sheriff's Case, "renders that, which was illegal before, now legal: the Dissenters' way of worship is permitted and allowed by this Act; it is not only exempted from punishment, but rendered innocent and lawful; it is established; it is put under the protection, and is not merely under the connivance of the law." And further, "Dissenters within the description of the Toleration Act are restored to a legal consideration and capacity; and an hundred consequences will from thence follow, which are not mentioned in the Act." On this important subject I hope your readers will excuse my quoting the opinion also of Mr. Onslow, once Speaker of the House of Commons, (from Dr. Furneaux's admirable Letters to Mr. Justice Blackstone,) "that as far as the law could go, in point of protection, the Dissenters were as truly established as the Church of England; and that an Established Church, as distinguished from their places of worship, was, properly speaking, only an endowed church; a church, which the law not only protected, but endowed with temporalities for its peculiar support and encouragement."

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If, then, the effect of the Toleration Act is such as Lord Mansfield and Mr. Onslow considered it, it must follow not only that the rites and ceremonies of Dissenters, as distinguished from those of the Church, are legal and established, but also the omission of such ceremonies, as conscientious Dis senters consider unnecessary, and even contrary to the meaning of scripture, is permitted and legal.

Now, church baptism is inconsistent with the profession of Dissent, and, indeed, in the opinion of many conscientious Dissenters, baptism is not enjoined by any part of the Scriptures. These persons could never submit themselves or their children to be baptized, or at least not according to the form prescribed by the Church of England, but then their names could

Whether his decision was founded on legal principle, it is now my intention to consider; and, for that purpose, it must be determined under what class of instruments, whether of a private or of a public nature, the Register at Dr. Williams's Library should be placed.

If it should be considered a private instrument, of the same nature as a family-bible or a pocket-book, then I allow, according to the doctrine of Chief Justice Holt, 3 Salkeld's Reports, p. 154, that a copy is not evidence, unless the original is lost or destroyed. I, however, maintain that this Register is of a public nature, and would be evidence, if produced, and therefore, according to the doctrine of the same learned Judge, an immediate sworn copy will be equally admitted. The question then appears to turn upon the meaning of the word public. According to some, that in law is only public which is recognized by the Legislature in an Act of Parliament. Though this definition is not sufficiently comprehensive, to include every thing of a public nature, let us at present consider, whether it does not virtually comprehend the Register at Dr. Williams's Library.

The Church of England is established by Act of Parliament, and the keeping of parish registers for entries of births and christenings commenced in the reign of Henry VIII., was enforced by injunctions from Edward

VOL. XVIII.

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