Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of adversaries ever ready to take advantage of their negli'gence. There may be a hint or two of a higher object, but the tenor of the Address is unequivocally in this spirit His Lordship appears to consider his elevation to the Ecclesiastical peerage, as requiring from him, in gratitude or in consistency, a zealous maintenance of the interests of the Establishment in precedence, if not in exclusion, of all higher interests, except so far as they are identified, in his conception, with the Establishment itself. It is true that he speaks of the necessity of perma

nent fences for the protection of the flock, of regular channels • for the distribution of the living waters,' as a security against

the alternations of zeal and the fluctuations of opinion,' implying by this language a remote reference to the interests of Christianity ; but nothing, we think, can be more evident, than that his Lordship’s ideas of beneficially promoting the interests of Christianity, are confined to upholding the Church of England as by law established.

The next observation which will be suggested by the perusal of this Charge, is, that it breathes throughout a spirit of determinate hostility against the whole body of Dissenters, which he characterizes as formning, with a saving clause in favour of the rational and sober, 'a dangerous faction,' united in a confederacy against the Church, and animated by a spirit of malignity. Dissenters, as such, seem to be the objects of his Lordship's antipathy; a sort of natural enemies, whose active attack is to be met, by correspondent demonstrations of hostile vigilance on the part of the clergy. That any motive of a pure and imperious nature,- that either reason or conscience, prevailingly actuates those of his fellow countrymen who dissent from the Episcopal Church, seems not to enter into his Lordship's conception : still less that the radical principles of civil liberty and personal accountability are involved in the question of Dissent, and form the very basis of Nonconformity. The utmost latitude of his candour, comprehends a 'respectable • description of men,' wlio are represented as unintentionally seconding the views of this faction, from a mistaken 'indifference 'to ordinances and forms;' who are, therefore, Dissenters from accident, or want of fixed sentiments as to the circumstantials of religion, that is, not from principle, but from no principle, and are made the unsuspecting tools of a political party. This exception, wowever, is not to be allowed to influence the policy. of the Clergy. Every populous village, unprovided with a « national school, must be regarded as a strong hold abandoned to the occupation of THE ENEMY!' and who this enemy is, the context leaves us at no loss to conjecture. . In• fidelity and fanaticism' are combived in unnatural league against

the national faith, and in the prosecution of their hostility, the attachment of the promiscuous multitude to a particular creed' is forgotten. But the parishioners of his Lordship's clergy are

to learn to regard the pretences and artifices of corrupt or illiterate teachers with indifference or disdaim :' a disdain which those illiterate teachers will know how to repay, in the spirit of the Gospel, with unfeigned pity and benevolence.

Let us not be unjust, however, in attributing to his Lordship, as a personal charge, sentiments which he has imbibed only in common with his Episcopal brethren, and which we are persuaded he holds in unfeigned sincerity. These prejudices respecting Dissenters, form an article of traditional belief, which is as implicitly adopted by the dutiful sons of Alina Mater, as any other established notion respecting the Ecclesias. tical polity of their country. The name of sectary is the earliest subject of aversion or ridicule to the candidate for holy orders : an indefinite terror of schism grows up within him during the whole of his Academic progress, till it attains the full power of an instinct; and by the time he assumes the lawn and mitre of Episcopacy, he has learned to concentrate all bis, notions of religious duty in opposition to the puritans, fanatics, or sectaries, who are encompassing the Establishment with every engine of open or insidious mischief, and plotting to undermine its sacred foundations.

In reply then to the question which has often been put to us,do the representations respecting the character and principles of Dissenters, which obtain currency, ainong the higlier orders of the clergy especially, and which lay the foundation for so much illiberal enmity and alarm, originate in misapprehension or in party spirit ?--we have no hesitation in expressing our convietion, that the principal source ofthose misrepresentations, isignorance. The higher classes generally, and especially the endowed clergy, are as utterly uninformed in regard to the real state of religion in this country, and more particularly of the Dissenters as a religious body, as they are of the subdivisions of religious opinionists in Russia or in China. A great proportion, indeed, have scarcely any idea of religion itself, but as a political ordinance, or as a subject of historical belief; and nothing could be more foreign from their feelings and habits of association, than the exercise of individual judgement in matters connected with the public maintenance of Scriptural truth, as a primary duty founded on personal responsibility, as well as an unalienable right. The reception of the Gospel, as an act of sincere faith, the result of a nei moral principle, and in fact, the whole of Christianity itself, as an experin eiltal system, is to many of the well informed, the learned, and the polite, a

the greabably taughtley do not their prin.

mystery or “ foolishness :" nor is there any thing in the education or habits of the clergy, to lead us to suppose that they have necessarily clearer or more just notions upon this subject. There is, however, another large and more truly respectable class, who add to a tolerably correct knowledge of the doctrines of the Articles and Homilies, a faithful discharge of their professional duties, and it is to persons of this description we allude. Their education and babits have removed them entirely, perhaps, from intercourse with intelligent Dissenters; and having neither motive nor inclination to examine their principles, it should create no wonder if they do not understand them. They have been probably taught, at school or at col

lege, to consider the great rebellion,' by which the blessed i martyr Charles I. was, dethroned, as the result of a fanatical

corr'ination of sectaries, leagued against Church and State; and the old fable of the Wolf and the Lamb still continues in force with respect to the supposed descendants of the authors of those troubles. Neale's History of the Puritans, is a book not much studied in Universities; and we question whether the Nonconformist's Memorial is to be found in a College library. It might be supposed, that afterwards, on their entering upon life, the numbers of the Dissenters, the high literary celebrity of some of their Ministers, and the incontestable efficacy of their preaching, might, even as a subject of political economy, engage their impartial attention to the subject, and perhaps conciliate their respect for so large a class of their fellow subjects. But before this time arrives, the mind has provided itself with opinions which it does not care to have disturbed, and reposing on the bosom of authority, it contentedly devolves its doubts and scruples on those who, it is supposed, assuredly know best. The avenues of information, too, become closed by the formation of babits and connexions, no less than by the growth of prejudice; and the only tidings which reach the incumbent faculty, come in the shape of indefinite alarm.

So completely does this want of information prevail, respecting the subdivisions of the religious world, the distinguishing tenets of different sects, and their relative numbers, that we have good reason for believing, that many of the more pious among the clergy, are really impressed with the persuasion that the greater part of the Dissenters secede from the Church on account of a difference of doctrine, and that Socinians and Antinomians constitute by far the most nume-, rous classes. They have no idea of the accordance of sentiment and purity of doctrine, in all essential respects, which characterize the great body of what are termed Orthodox Dissenters, and that even the doctrines of Calvinism, as held and

[ocr errors]

preached hy their acknowledged Ministers, are divested of la
those systematic and technical peculiarities, by which their
adaptatio: to the ends of preaching, is frequently estimated.
We fecl persuaded, that if many of this respectable class would
exercist half only of the curiosity and half of the diligence of
investigation, which they bestow- upon the internal policy and
opinions of foreign nations, in ascertaining the real dispositions,
sentiments, and beneficial exertions of the Dissenters at large,
not only would their peace of mind be promoted by the dissi-
pation of a thousand shadowy apprehensions, but they would
feel a benevolent pleasure in discovering how much good is
going forward by means of a multitudinous agency, whose ex-
ertions had not been taken into account in their philanthropic
calculations. They would doubtless rejoice to lear, that those
who did not follow in their company, were efficiently employed
in casting out devils in the name of their master; and they
would learn to think that whosoever was not against them,
might be considered as on their part.

'The only evil which we can imagine to arise from this juster
appreciation of the character and objects of the sectaries, would
be, that the exigences of the occasion' being diminished, the
clergy of the diocese of London, to go no further, might be
in danger of relapsing into negligence, as the strongest mo-
tive for exertion urged upon them by Episcopal authority,
would be proportionably weakened.
· One circumstance which may have led to the prevailing sup-
position of the general heterodoxy of modern Dissenters, is,
that the clergy, for want of better information, have been apt
to attach the character of some one popular, perhaps notorious
character, to a whole body or an imagined sect. Any man tsat
preaches without the walls of a Chureh, is registered in the
Bishop's books as a Dissenter, and takes out bis license ac-
cordingly. Thus Huntingdon, and Tozer, and every mise-
rable, self-deluded fanatic, (for the term has its appropriate
meaning,) may be conveniently termed Dissenting teachers; and
their followers, Dissenters of course, though they may have
been but yesterday, the regular attendants of a parish Church,
are arrayed into a new army of malignant confederacy against
the Church. On the other hand, the recent demonstrations of
proselyuing zeal and literary industry, which have been mani-
fested on the part of the Unitarians, who lose no opportunity
of attracting publicity, and of giving a specious importance to
their proceedings, have alarmed many well meaning persons
for the safety of all pious believers unprotected by the fence of
an Establishment. This idea of the predominance of Socinian
tenets, bas, we believe, received accidental countenance from a

[ocr errors]

circumstance to which we hope we shall be excused for adverting. It is with no disrespect for the individual alluded to, that we notice the fact, that one of the leading representatives of the Dissenters in Parliament is generally supposed to have embraced the Unitarian system. In the mean while, the silent diligence of thousands of pious labourers in the vineyard of God, among the Calvinistic Non-conformists, unregistered in the gazettes of literary or political celebrity, undiplomatized, unbeneficed, unknown but in the narrow circle of their duties, form no item in the calculations of the Ecclesiastical economist: or the populous village, which is the scene of their unambitious exertious, shall be designated, ex cathedra, as a strong hold abandoned to the occupation • of the enemy.'

One remark, however, we would wish, if possible, to convey to the right reverend Author of the Charge before us : yet as it is not likely, without the favourable interposition of Dean, or private Secretary, these pages will ever attract his attention, we must content ourselves with urging it in the form of general admonition. Before either lords or gentlemen think themselves authorized to charge on their fellow citizens and fellow countrymen who may dissent from the Established Church, attempts tending to the subversion of that Church, or any political project, as their ultimate aim, they will do well to produce some document, something more substantial than supposed tendencies, or suspected views, as a foundation for their accusation. If the charge does not originate in a degree of ignorance scarcely excusable in any situation, it inust arise from the most uns el istian and dishonest party spirit. Do these gentlemen wish for information ? There are, surely, publications enough, from which to extract their evidence. Of one periodical publication alone. supported by one particular denomination of Dissenters, (for such the Wesleyan Methodists must be termed), there are regularly sold between 20 and 30,000 copies; of another monthly publication decidedly supported by the Dissenting in

interest,' above 20,000; and of a third, more recently established, upwards of 5,000. Now these are, it must be con fessel, formidable organs of sedition and heresy, and they cannot fail to be employed as a means of disseminating sentiments of malignant hostility agaiust the Episcopal Church The ultimate views, the leading objects of the sectaries, may doubtless be discovered in the pages of these works. They have been heretofore only supposed to be the repositories of fanatical error and impiety. We do not recollect that either the Barrister, or the Edinburgh Reviewer of Ingram on MethoVol. III. N. S.

3 P

« AnteriorContinuar »