Слике страница
PDF
ePub

the least intention to deprive them of this freedom: nay, rather seem to extol that clemency, which ceases to push on a rigorous execution of the severe statutes made againit them in the days of our fathers, saying, if we had lived in those days, we would not have carried matters with so high a hand : yet, alas! do not even we sometimes betray an inclination to keep fuch inhuman laws ftill banging over their heads, and thereby hold the unhappy subjects of them always at our mercy!--This may appear to fome a more decent and refined piece of political wil. dom, which answers all ends more effectually, than either countenancing or complying with any attempt to enforce fuch fta. tutes by a too odious and invidious prosecution. Whereas, in truth, these same penal laws, wbile they fubfift, give so great encouragement to informers, that it is often out of our power to prevent the execution of them, were we never so well dirposed to do it: and it may at length perhaps merit our consideration, whether an absolute denial of relief to these our Protestant brethren, on their repeated fupplications (who best know their orun fore, and their cwn grief) must not prove an ill return for all the labours which many of them have successfully be- . lowed upon the common cause of Christianity and Protestantism; labours, which if we were as ready to reward, as we are : to adopt, would have procured them a different treatment from that of being exposed to confiscations, and imprisonment.

• We are told indeed, that it is sometimes better and safer to let a law drop by disuse, than to abolish it by a formal repeal. But no example of this is given ; and it is so far from being the general sense of our Legislature, that hardly a feffion is fuffered to pass without expunging from the statute books some or other of these antiquated crdinances.

With respect to an entire, complete Toleration, the mat. ter of fact seems to be no other than this : In countries where moft liberty is allowed, we find the most knowledge of Chriftianity; and by consequence, molt room to expect the purest profeífion of it. To what else can be ascribed the manifcft fuperiority, which we justly boalt over our Popish neighbours ? And nould not we, on any other occasion in the world, think of extending an expedient, which, so far as it has hitherto been tried, ever has succeeded fo well and happily! We are sometimes indeed terrified with the mischievous consequences that might arise, if people were suffered to declare their own religions, without fubfcribing to what we please to call the

Fondamentals of Christianity: and yet what mifchiefs, have | arisen from permitting the Jews to exercise their religion, with

out any fuch fubscription *?

I remember, indeed, a fort theological dispute was once attempted to be raised against naturalizing them, from that ingenious Rev. Feb. 1774,

H

topic

• But how agreeable soever fuch a Toleration may appear to all found policy, as well as to the first principles of our benevolent religion ; it is much to be doubted, whether a confiderable majority amongst us do not ftill continue tenacious of quite different maxims; nor is it less doubtful, to what causes this may be most juftly attributed : whether to any fuch apprehenfion, as that above-mentioned; or to fome secret love of spiritual domination, which ftill holds possession of their hearts ; and which is ever presenting itself, under a variety of fpecious titles and appearances : though it be hardly now admitted as A POWER TO RULE THE CONSCIENCES OF MEN; in which very form this favourite doctrine was long tacked, and aukwardly enough, to the Bible itfelf, and keeps its place there in several editions t yet it comes in for its claim of submission, as including some kind of coercive jurisdiction, some branch of a certain power of the keys ;-as an authority of order, &c. &c. whatever may be comprehended under such more plausible terms. But how fond soever fome Clergymen may be of Clerical Authority, the beft of their predeceffors, the Apostles, appeared to have small concern about it. When a warm controversy arose in the church of Rome, concerning a distinction of days, and meats, and drinks ; of equal importance with many, that have fubfifted since; we do not find St. Paul, with the officiousness of later church governors, proceeding to frame an Article upon this question ; but on the contrary, leaving each person to the persuasion of his own mind; and neither decreeing nor recommending any other practice or profession relative to it, beside that of charity and mutual forbearance I.

• What an engine for other purpofes has the commission, which Christ is supposed to have given St. Peter *, been in other hands! And yet Peter bimself never once appealed to it, nor claimed any kind of pre-eminence from it. Nay, it is somewhat remarkable that Mark, who is said to have written under Peter's own infpection, has omitted the very mention of this commission, though he has preserved the history which led to it: so little anxious was the Apostle, to display any such token of fuperiority ! And how much greater reason have we topic the great danger of defeating prophecies. It was first ftarted in a small performance, said to be done by one of the Common Council of London ; which probably gave the original cue to some persons, of greater eminence, for sounding an alarm. This piece was wrote with much appearance of fimplicity, and had a suitable text fet before it: These men being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,

.*+ Vid. Contents of the latter part of Pfalm cxlix. Ed, Bill, 4to. 1702. Basket, 4to. 1733. Do. fol. 1739. Though I must do both our Universities the juftice to remark, that in their late editions, this is tolerably qualified.' I. Rom. xiv.'

* Matth. xvi. 18.' !! * Mark väi. 29.

at this day, to abandon all such claims under every denomina. tion? Since we have seen the effects of them early and late, abroad and at home : each period of church history yielding most abundant evidence, that all such Fortifications, as they are usually filed, when once mounted with a proper train of artil. lery, and that properly played off, instead of serving to annoy the enemy, are but too apt to hurt our friends.

• Such doctrinal Formularies exclude none, but conscientious men, from any particular communion; they create no difficulty to others, who subscribe them as things of course, and in this like circumstances, will subscribe any thing.

• Neither can these Tefts hinder the most cautious and inoffenfive persons from delivering their real sentiments on any fubject, which they judge to be of importance; and where they must think themselves obliged to bear their teftimony, not with standing that the opposite fide happens to have been decreed with all folemnity. Nor in fact, does there now appear a less variety of opinions, though a less safe one, among thinking persons, where any competent degree of liberty remains, than in all probability there would have been, if no such decrees ever had exifted. Nay, how could any thing, do we imagine, but enjoining the belief, and annexing emoluments to the profeffion of fundry opinions, have ever given importance to them, or caused contefts, and created animofiries about them?

There are many of his Lordfhip’s observations, which it would give us pleasure to place before our Readers; but we muft content ourselves with adding the following passage:

• It is this fatal scheme, says he, of making ours the mea. fure of every other man's Faith, and obtruding it upon him, instead of having it to ourselves before God; which above all things tendech, and will always tend, to increase the growing infidelity amongft us ;-To create a careless disregard, or a fan fidious contempt of all religion in some persons ; with a severe censure of, and a strong renitency against this abhorred practice of enforcing whatever shall be taken for it, in others; who feem determined thoroughly to fift our Conftitution: and it is evident, that by the increase of general knowledge, and a no Jess general taste for liberty, numbers become equally qualified and disposed to do fo ; while others yet appear not to be duly sensible, under what difficulties we of the Establishment must lie, in such a confused' state of things, as is necessarily produced by the want of those timely revisals, and gradual reformations, which might enable it to keep pace with each improvement in every branch of science.

'Were fome persons sensible of this, they would not surely be fo forward to suspect us of hypocrisy and prevarication, while we efteem ourselves bound to keep up all these forms, till

relieved

H 2

relieved by proper authority : nor impute it wholly to our private intereft, when we ministerially comply with what we are not able to remove; and patiently remain in pofts, however invidiously misrepresented, where it is conceived that we may do more good, and perform a more acceptable service to our common Master; by continuing to labour on in his waste vineyard, and wait his own good time for opportunities of using our little influence [hereby prevented from growing still less] towards pruning a few wild branches in it, and rooting out some of the rankeft weeds; rather than despond immediately on every just cause of offence, that must occur to us; or peevithly re: volt at each injurious reproach, that will be caft upon us, . If our first Reformers had quitted their stations in the Church, instead of using all their endeavours to amend it; thould we have had reason either to admire their spirit, or applaud theis conduct at this day?'

In regard to this paffage, we cannot help observing, with the greatest deference to his Lordship's opinion, that a different conduct from what he mentions might conduce greatly to the advancement of virtue and true religion. Were 'but a few of the fuperior clergy, of respectable characters and distinguished abilities, to unite in endeavouring to bring about a farther reformation, and exert their utmost endeavours for this pure. pose, notwithstanding any opposition they might meet with from minifters of state, or merely political men, and, failing in the attempt, were they to quit their stations in the church, such a conduct could not fail to be attended with the most beneficial consequences. It would stamp a real dignity on their characters, it would be the ftrongest proof that could polibly be given of their fincerity, it would contribute not a little towards telfening that contempt for the clergy which many laymen are too apt to express, it would place the neceflity of altering our ecclefiastical constitution in the clearest point of view, and would tead more towards awakening even the most thoughtless to a ferious sense of religion, than the most judicious and elaborate productions from the press.

ART. V. Conclusion of the Account of Mr. Lindsey's Apologs. See our

latt Month's Review.

that Mr. Lindsey has given, at the close of his Apology, of his conduct with regard to the resignation of his living, we now revert to the beginning of the work; the first chapter of which contains some strictures on the origin of the doctrine of the Trinity, and the opposition it met with, to the time of the reformation. In the course of these strictures, the learned Au

thos

thor obferves, as others have done, that the word Trinity is an unscriptural term, and that it was not known among Christians for near two hundred years after Chrilt, being first used by Theophilus, a Gentile convert, Bishop of Antioch; but in no great conformity to what it is made to signify at present. It is acknowledged to be entirely of Heathen extra&ion, borrowed from Plato, and the Platonic philosophy: and this being its true origin, it should seem that a proper zeal for God's word, and regard for Christ and his inspired apostles, Thould make us relax a little of our paffion against those who scruple to use a language not fanctified by their authority, in speaking of and addrefling the great God. Mr. Lindsey farther thews, that a disbelief of the Trinity is no blameable heresy, as Christians, før fome ages after our Lord's appearance, were wholly Antitrinitarians. In confirmation of his assertion, he confiders by what means the doctrine of the Trinity prevailed ; and, in defcribing the rise and progress of this doctrine, he has gratified bis readers with several historical circumstances, relative to the fects or persons who embraced Unitarian principles. From his account, it is evident, that what is called the Catholic doccrine of the Trinity, was first establithed, and hath been all along supported, by violence and the secular power ; an argument in its behalf surely not to be boasted of, and concerning which the gospel of Jesus is wholly filent.

In the fecond chapter, our Author pursues the history of Unitarianism, and describes, in a more especial manner, the fate of it in our own country, from the æra of the reformation, to nearly the present times. This account includes in it many curious particulars, relative to those who professed and supported the Unitarian doctrine. But we shall only transcribe what Mr. Lindsey has recorded, from Fuller, of the zeal which King James the First shewed to convert Bartholomew Legate ; who, in 1611, was burnt to death in Smithfield, for Arianism, or rather for Socinianism. • King James caused this Legate often to be brought to him, and seriouly dealt with him to en deavour his conversion. One time the King had a mind to Surprize him into a confession of Christ's deity (as his Majesty afterwards declared to a right reverend Prelate, Archbishop Usher) by asking him, whether or no he did not daily pray to Jejus Christ? which had he acknowledged, the King would infallibly have inferred, that Legate tacitly consented to Christ's divinity, as a searcher of the heart. But herein his Majesty failed of his expectation, Legate returning, that indeed he had prayed to Christ in the days of his ignorance, but not for these lalt leven years. Hereupon the King in choler sput ned at him with bis foot'; away, base fellow (saith he) it sball never be faid H 3

that

« ПретходнаНастави »