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while the nominal Christian followeth things which have only a • shew of wisdom, and is taken in his own craftiness.'”
But surely, dear Sir, there is no real evil, no unseemly appearance of evil, no dimness in that goodly aspect which a Christian church favoured by the laws ought to wear in the sight of the Christian world, when separating the strength from the weakness of human reason, we call in profane learning to our aid in the study of sacred-or, when we blend the principles of morality and occasionally even the words of the wise and virtuous sages with the simple and hallowed language of holy writ--or, when we insist upon the love of our neighbour, as a sure criterion of sincerity and proficiency in the love of our Maker-or, when we investigate the evidence which natural religion supplies for the probability of a future state, and at the same time distinguishing between that evidence, and the animating prospects which revelation opens to us, we hold up to the admiration and the gratitude of mankind, the doctrine of BTERNAL LIFE, as especially and solely the unmerited and covenanted “ χάρισμα του θεού εν ’IncoŨ Xplotą.” If this be Heathenism, where are the well-educated or the unlearned to look for Christianity? Not, I am sure, in those new lights which we cannot follow without maintaining, that for many revolving ages, and amidst the acknowledged progress of society in arts, science, and civilization, yes, in concerns far weightier, the clergy and laity have been doomed to wander in utter darkness, mutually deceiving and deceived, mutually corrupting and corrupted—not in quarters where pharisaical ambition may be lurking, and pharisaical pride has already stalked forth in open day-not among the rapturous panegyrists of faith and grace, exclusively understood, and exclusively, forsooth, experienced by themselves-not among the insidious or contemptuous revilers of good works, which being “ written by the law on our hearts," and carrying with them “ the witness of our consciences," are recommended by us, the unenlightened and unregenerate, as indispensable conditions of salvation to all true believers, and indeed all moral agents. That the majority of Christians in every church and almost every sect, have not yet been called to the knowledge of any“ saving truth,” and that a few only have been chosen to partake of it, is a position not very likely, I think, to support the spirits of those who have embraced what we call the gospel, or to check the triumphs of those who reject it. So, however, within the bosom of the established church, do some men teach, and so, within as well as without the pale of it, do many believe.
As a friend to toleration I would not impose restraints upon mere opinion in controverted points of doctrine ; and of my consistency I give a plain proof, when knowing, and in many points differing from the respective creeds of Rational Dissenters and Roman Catholics, I should be glad to see both of them delivered from certain distinctions, which are directly offensive, and may be indirectly, az some men think, even oppressive. But the froth of petulance and the foam of zeal cease to be only contemptible when, mingling with the venon of malevolence, they are scattered in the sanctuary. Hence, as a well-wisher to decorum, to Christian charity, and to the public peace, I think that such presumptuous vauntings, such outrageous revilings, such mischievous insinuations as I have stated in two of the foregoing pages, call aloud for some notice from the legislature. Have not our forefathers been told, that “ dominion is founded in grace ?" Silent, indeed, but rapid is the growth of such grace, and who but the elect are worthy to experience its inpulses ? But they who introduce the gospel today may hereafter think themselves qualified and even commissioned from above to found a State.
“The passions," says Malebranche, “ justify themselves," and it has often been remarked, that hypocrites, while they deceive others are themselves by themselves deceived. Ambition, however disguised in the garb of humility, is steady in the pursuit of its own purposes, and fanaticism, however it may revel in the luxuries of its own visions in heavenly things,* is wont to
* Experience shews that a spirit of fanaticism is cherished by the circulation of prophecies, which, however they may point for a time to one definite event, prepare the minds of the credulous and illiterate for participation, or at least acquiescence, in other changes, as means for the final accomplishment of the de. sired end. I shall, therefore, leave the venerable prelates, and other guardians of the English Church, to their own reflections upon the ultimate tendencies of a letter which appeared in the Birmingham Commercial Herald of May 1, and the Birmingham Gazette of May 8, 1909, which is signed by a grave clergyman turn an oblique and “ lingering look" to things earthly, not, we shall be told, as ultimate ends, but as favourable means for
of the Establishment, and which, from the circumstances of publication and re-publication must have been designed to excite much attention, and to produce considerable effect, in a large manufacturing town and its neighbourhood. After stating that “ a Joanna Southcott had been falsely accused of three heavy charges—that, as to the first charge, though Mary Bateman, who had lately suffered the just sentence of the law at York, had a seal, yet the wicked and diabolical conduct of Bateman cai no more, in justice, be ascribed to Southcott," who, as it appears from the sequel, distributed her own seals, “ than the wicked and diabolical conduct of Judas can be ascribed to our blessed Lord, because he was one of his disciples ; and this the wise will understand, though the wicked will not :"
That as to the second charge, Southcott had not predicted the destruction of Bath on Good Friday, but had pronounced the person who uttered that prediction “a false prophetess :"
That as to the third charge, Southcott, “on the evidence of fifteen thousand persons, could be proved not to have sold her seals for half a crown each, nor suffered them to be sold, but to have given them without money and without price,' a free gift to all who had faith to believe in her inspired writings, as well to the poor as to the rich :"
The reverend writer thus proceeds :
“ I shall give a short sketch of her divine mission, which is, to warn the world of the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, to destroy Satan's kingdom of misery, evil, and woe, and to establish his own glorious kingdom of love and peace upon earth for a thousand years, as is promised in the 20th chapter of the Revelations, when he will reign in spirit during that period among the children of men before the general judgment.
“ Her writings only lead those who will follow their directions , to the scriptures of truth, and point out how the promises and prophecies of that golden book, the Bible, will be fulfilled and accomplished ; and demonstrate irresistibly, that the kingdoms of this world will soon become the kingdom of the living God, and he will reign for ever and ever. Illustrious era! Thine it is to close the long series of preparation which Providence has been carrying on from the first of time ! Thine to fulfil the wishes of the worthy and devout of every age and every clime! Thine to recover man from depredations and dishonour! Thine to consummate the mission, and to adorn with its brightest honours the crown of the Saviour of the World! Thine to vindicate the government, glorify the perfections, and illustrate the
introducing and diffusing vital religion among nominal Christians. Now the spirit, as well as the notions of the old Puritans, has spread itself among certain sectaries of our own days, and their allies in the English church. Hence, towards the Roman Catholics,
“ vetus atque antiqua simultas,*
all-bounteous character of the God of Love! Thy approach, glad period, will be hailed by myriads of intelligent beings, who, animated by thee with a celestial glow of devotion, will give expression to their raptures in the long-suspended song of angels
Glory to Gud in the highest, on earth peace, and good will towards men.'
Thomas Philip Foley,
Rector of Old Swinford. Old Swinford, Worcestershire, April 1809.
I would beg leave to state, that the animated conclusion of Mr. Foley's letter, beginning with the words “ illustrious æra,” is taken almost verbatim, without acknowledgment, from the close of a very eloquent sermon, delivered at Newport in the Isle of Wight, on the Fast Day in 1803 ; written by the Rev. Robert Aspland, who does not speak of a millennium, and printed at Cambridge in 1804 by B. Flower.
* I cannot yield unqualified assent to the sarcastic observation of Mr. Gibbon, that “the vices of the clergy, to a philosophic eye, are far less dangerous than their virtues.'
I hold the general proposition to be false, and I should hope, that if he “ who professed even in a conqueror or a priest to surprise a word or an action of unaffected humanity," (vol. v. p. 155, 251.) had looked with an unprejudiced eye on the English clergy of his own days, he would have found abundant reason for approving in them the practice of those virtues which adorn and sustain society, and none for being surprised, if he were to have found that such virtues are congenial to the letter and the spirit of the religion which they profess. But I do most unfeignedly agree with Mr. Gibbon, when he says, that “God has written his existence on all his works, and his law in the heart of man” (p. 205);that “ benevolence is the foundation of justice, since we are forbidden to injure those whom we are bound to assist—that a prophet, though he may reveal the secrets of Heaven and futurity, can in his moral precepts only repeat the lessons of our own hearts” (p. 205);-that “ many a sober Christian would rather admit that a wafer is God, than that God is a cruel and capricious tyrant.” (p. 537.) If it be said, that an infidel, even where he is neither directly nor indirectly defending the cause of infideImmortale odium, et nunquam sanabile vulnus
Ardet adhuc."* That hatred may be mingled with sincere disapprobation of some opinions now maintained by the Church of Rome. But it may also be accompanied by other considerations not entirely spiritual—I mean, by a secret and restless jealousy of that ascendancy which a religious instructor in the Romish or any other church may be supposed to gain over his followers, when they have once been persuaded to associate the idea of merit with prompt and implicit assent upon mystical or controverted points of doctrine -to confound inexplicable phænomena with contradictory propositions to admit interpretations of scripture, which upon strict inquiry may appear to be against reason, under the pretext that the subjects are above it-to abandon what is plain, for the sake of dogmatising upon what is obscure-to pronounce a favourite teacher infallible in his tenets, because they are the immediate and genuine suggestions of the “Spirit," not a given to him," by scant" measure,” but abundantly, as is ineet, and even necessary, for the holy duties of one who is professedly and preeminently "an apostle according to the faith of God's elect."
“ En animam et mentem, cum qua Dii nocte loquantur."
lity, rarely sees truth, or writes good sense, on subjects of religion, I should reply, that the passage last quoted from Mr. Gibbon, though similar in principle, does not carry the conclusion from it quite so far as it has been carried by Lord Bacon. “It were better," says this great and real philosopher, "to have no notion of God at all, than such an opinion as is unworthy of him, for the one is unbelief, the other contumely."-Essay 18.
They who hold, as I do, that in addition to the bad tendency of atheism upon the morals of men in private life, it may co-operate very powerfully with other causes, “in perturbing states, will agree with the same philosopher, where he, in the same essay, observes, “ Superstition" (he means when united with fanaticism, as it often is,) “ hath been the confusion of many states, and bringeth a primum mobile, that ravisheth all the spheres of government. The master of superstition is the people, and in all " such “superstition wise men follow fools, and arguments are fitted to practice in a reversed order."