« AnteriorContinuar »
The advantage of which scheme above the present is manifest, if it was only for this reason, that you distress and corrupt thousands now, for one that you would ever have occasion to punish. Our author, nevertheless, "is humbly of opinion, that it is much better to take proper precautions beforehand;" he must, with all his "humility," know that when it has been proposed to take proper precautions of the press, by subjecting authors to an imprimatur before publication, instead of punishment after it; the proposal has been resented, as an open attack upon the rights and interests of mankind. The common sense and spirit of the nation could see and feel this distinction and the importance of it, in the case of pub lishers; and why preachers should be left in a worse situation, it is not very easy to say.
with her doctrines? Might not the church lose, what she can ill spare, the service of many able and industrious ministers? Would those she retained, be such as acquiesced in her decisions from inquiry and conviction? Would not many, or most of them, be those who keep out of the way of religious scruples by lives of secularity and voluptuousness? by mixing with the crowd in the most eager of their pursuits after pleasure or advantage? One word with the answerer before we part upon this head. Whence all this great inquisitiveness, this solicitude to be acquainted with the person, the opinions, and associates of his adversary? Whence that impertinent wish that he had been "more explicit in particular with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity?" Is it out of a pious desire to fasten some heresy, or the imputation of it, upon him? Is he "called out of the clouds" to be committed to the flames?*
The example of the Arminian confession is, upon this occasion, recommended by the author of the Considerations; a confession which was The 40th page of the Answer introduces a pacompiled for the edification and instruction of the ragraph of considerable length, the sum, however, members of that church, without peremptorily in and substance of which is this-that if subscripsisting upon any one's assent to it. But it is the tion to articles of faith were removed, confusion misfortune of the Arminian to be no national would ensue; the people would be distracted with church-the misfortune, alas! of Christianity her- the disputes of their teachers, and the pulpits filled self in her purest period; when she was under with controversy and contradiction. Upon this the government of the apostles; without alliance" fact" we join issue, and the more readily as this with the states of this world; when she composed, is a sort of reasoning we all understand. The nevertheless, a church as real, we conceive, and extent of the legislator's right may be an abstruse as respectable, as any national church that has ex-inquiry; but whether a law does more good or isted since. harm, is a plain question which every man can ask. Now, that distressing many of the clergy, and corrupting others; that keeping out of churches good Christians and faithful citizens; that making parties in the state, by giving occasion to sects and separations in ion; that these are inconveniences, no man in his senses will deny. The question therefore is, what advantage do you find in the opposite scale to balance these inconveniences? The simple advantage pretended is, that you hereby prevent "wrangling" and contention in the pulpit. Now, in the first place, I observe, that allowing this evil to be as grievous and as certain as you please, the most that can be necessary for the prevention of it is, to enjoin your We now come, and with the tenderest regret, preachers as to such points, silence and neutrality. to the case of those who continue in the church In the next place, I am convinced, that the danwithout being able to reconcile to their belief every ger is greatly magnified. We hear little of these proposition imposed upon them by subscription; | points at present in our churches and public over whose distress our author is pleased to in-teaching, and it is not probable that leaving them dulge a wanton and ungenerous triumph. They at large would elevate them into more importance, had presumed, it seems, that it was some apology or make it more worth men's while to quarrel for their conduct, that they sincerely laboured to about them. They would sleep in the same grave render to religion their best services, and thought with many other questions, of equal importance their present stations the fairest opportunities of with themselves, or sink back into their proper performing it. This may not, perhaps, amount place, into topics of speculation, or matters of deto a complete vindication; it certainly does not bate from the press. None but men of some refully satisfy even their own scruples: else where flection would be forward to engage in such subwould be the cause of complaint? What need of jects, and the least reflection would teach a man relief, or what reason for their petitions? It might have been enough, however, to have exempted them from being absurdly and indecently compared with faithless hypocrites, with Papists and Jesuits, who, for other purposes, and with even opposite designs, are supposed to creep into the church through the same door. For the fullest and fairestrially" complying with what we are not able to remove; representation of their case, I refer our author to alluding, no doubt, to the case of Church governors, the excellent Hoadly: or, as Hoadly possibly may be no book in our author's library, will it provoke his "raillery" to ask, what he thinks might be the consequence, if all were at once to withdraw themselves from the church who were dissatisfied
Our author, who can much sooner make a distinction than see one, does not comprehend, it seems, any difference between confessions of faith and preaching, as to the use of unscriptural terms. Did a preacher, when he had finished his sermon, call upon his congregation to subscribe their names and assent to it, or never to come more within the doors of his church; there would, indeed, be some sort of resemblance betwixt the two cases; but as the hearers are at liberty to believe preachers or no, as they see, or he produces, reasons for what he says; there can be no harm, and there is a manifest utility, in trusting him with the liberty of explaining his own meaning in his own terms.
*We were unwilling to decline the defence of the per
siderations which brought on the attack, manifestly
sons here described, though the expression in the Conrelated to a different subject. The author of the Considerations speaks of being bound" to "keep up" these forins until relieved by proper authority; of ministe
who are the instruments of imposing a subscription which they may disapprove. But the answerer, taking it for granted, that ministerially complying" meant the compliance of ministers, i. e. of clergymen officiating transferred the passage to a sense for which it was not in their functions, has, by a quibble, or a blunder, intended.
that preaching is not the proper vehicle of contro- | "strong in the faith" will refuse to "bear with the infirmities of the weak?" The few who upon principles of this sort opposed the application of the Dissenters, were repulsed from parliament with disdain, even by those who were no friends to the application itself.
versy. Even at present, says our author, "we speak and write what we please with impunity." And where is the mischief? or what worse could ensue if subscription were removed? Nor can I discover any thing in the disposition of the petitioning clergy that need alarm our apprehensions. If they are impatient under the yoke, it is not from a desire to hold forth their opinions their congregations, but that they may be at liberty to entertain themselves, without offence to their consciences, or ruin to their fortunes.
Our author has added, by way of make-weight to his argument, "that many common Christians," he believes, "would be greatly scandalized if you take away their creeds and catechisins, and strike out of the liturgy such things as they have always esteemed essential." Whatever reason there may be for this belief at present, there certainly was much greater at the Reformation, as the Popish ritual, which was then "taken away,” had a fascination and antiquity which ours cannot pretend to. Many were probably "scandalized" at parting with their beads and their mass-books, that lived afterwards to thank those who taught them better things. Reflection, we hope, in some, and time, we are sure, in all, will reconcile men to alterations established in reason. If there be any danger, it is from some of the clergy, who, with the answerer, would rather suffer the "vineyard" to be overgrown with "weeds," than "stir the ground," or, what is worse, call these weeds "the fairest flowers in the garden." Such might be ready enough to raise a hue and cry against all innovators in religion, as "overturners of churches" and spoilers of temples.
The question concerning the object of worship is attended, I confess, with difficulty; it seems almost directly to divide the worshippers. But let the Church pare down her excrescences till she comes to this question; let her discharge from her liturgy controversies unconnected with devotion; let her try what may be done for all sides, by worshipping God in that generality* of expression in which he himself has left some points; let her dismiss many of her Articles, and convert those which she retains into terms of peace; let her recall the terrors she suspended over freedom of inquiry: let the toleration she allows to dissenters be made "absolute;" let her invite men to search the Scriptures; let her governors encourage the studious and learned of all persuasions:-Let her do this— and she will be secure of the thanks of her own clergy, and what is more, of their sincerity. A greater consent may grow out of inquiry than many at present are aware of; and the few, who, after all shall think it necessary to recede from our communion, will acknowledge the necessity to be inevitable; will respect the equity and moderation of the established church, and live in peace with all its members.
I know not whether I ought to mention, among so many more serious reasons, that even the governors of the church themselves would find their ease and account in consenting to an alteration.— For besides the difficulty of defending those deBut the cause which of all others stood most in cayed fortifications, and the indecency of desertthe way of the late petitions for relief, was an ap-ing them, they either are or will soon find them-prehension that religious institutions cannot be selves in the situation of a master of a family, disturbed without awakening animosities and dis- whose servants know more of his secrets than it sensions in the state, of which no man knows the is proper for them to know, and whose whispers consequence. Touch but religion, we are told, and whose threats must be bought off at an exand it bursts forth into a flame. Civil distractions pense which will drain the "apostolic chamber" may be composed by fortitude and perseverance; dry. but neither reason nor authority can controul, there is neither charm nor drug which will assuage, the passions of mankind when called forth in the cause and to the battles of religion. We were concerned to hear this language from some who, in other instances, have manifested a constancy and resolution which no confusion nor ill aspect of public affairs, could intimidate. After all, is there any real foundation for these terrors? Is not this whole danger, like the lion of the slothful, the creature of our fears, and the excuse of indolence? Was it proposed to make articles instead of removing them, there would be room for the objection. But it is obvious that subscription to the 39 Articles might be altered or withdrawn upon general principles of justice and expediency, without reviving one religious controversy, or calling into dispute a single proposition they contain. Who should excite turbances? Those who are relieved will not; and, unless subscription were like a tax, which, being taken from one must be laid with additional weight upon another, is it probable that any will complain that they are oppressed, because their brethren are relieved? or that those who are so
* Pages 41, 42
Having thus examined in their order, and, as far as I understood them, the several answerst
* If a Christian can think it an intolerable thing to worship one God through one mediator Jesus Christ, in company with any such as differ from him in their notions about the metaphysical nature of Christ, or of the Holy Ghost, or the like; I am sorry for it. I remember the like objection made at the beginning of the Refor mation by the Lutherans against the lawfulness of
communicating with Zuinglius and his followers, be
cause they had not the same notion with them of the elements in the sacrament. And there was the same
objection once against holding communion with say such as had not the same notions with themselves about the secret decrees of God relating to the predestination and reprobation of particular persons. But whatever those men may please themselves with thinking who are sure they are arrived at the perfect knowledge of the most abstruse points, this they may be certain of, that in the present state of the church, even supposing dis-only such as are accounted orthodox to be joined toge ther in one visible communion, they communicate together with a very great variety and confusion of notions, either comprehending nothing plain and distinct, or differing from one another as truly and as essentially as others differ from them all; nay, with more certain difference with relation to the object of worship than if all prayers were directed (as bishop Bull says, almost all were in the first ages) to God or the Father, through the Son.-Hoadly's Answer to Dr. Hare's Sermon.
† In his last note our author breaks forth into "astonishment" and indignation, at the "folly, injustice,
II. That this experiment of leaving men at liberty, and points of doctrine at large, has been attended with the improvements of religious knowledge, where and whenever it has been tried. And to this cause, so far as we can see, is owing the advantage which protestant countries in this respect possess above their popish neighbours.-No answer. III. That keeping people out of churches who might be admitted consistently with every end of public worship, and excluding men from communion who desire to embrace it upon the terms that God prescribes, is certainly not encouraging,
but rather causing men to forsake, the assembling of themselves together.-No answer.
That men are deterred from searching the Scriptures by the fear of finding there more or less than they look for; that is, something inconsistent with what they have already given their assent to, and must at their peril abide by. -No answer.
and indecency" of comparing our church to the Jewish in our Saviour's time, and even to the "tower of Babel;" mistaking the church, in this last comparison, for one of her monuments (which indeed, with most people of his complexion, stands for the same thing) erected to prevent our dispersion from that grand centre of catholie dominion, or, in the words of a late celebrated cas. tle builder," to keep us together." If there be any "in. decency" in such a comparison, it must be chargeable on those who lead us to it, by making use of the same terms with the original architects, and to which the author of the Considerations evidently alludes. This
detached note is concluded with as detached, and no
less curious, an observation, which the writer thinks may be a "sufficient answer" to the whole, namely, that the author of the Considerations " has wrought no miracles for the conviction of the answerer and his as sociates." For what purpose this observation can be "sufficient," it is not easy to guess, except it be designed to insinuate, what may perhaps really be the case,
that no less than a miracle will serve to cast out that
kind of spirit which has taken so full possession of them, or ever bring them to a sound mind, and a sin
cere love of truth.
V. That it is not giving truth a fair chance, to decide points at one certain time, and by one set of men, which had much better be left to the successive inquiries of different ages and different persons.-No answer. VI. That it tends to multiply infidels amongst us, by exhibiting Christianity under a form and in a system which many are disgusted with, who yet will not be at the pains to inquire after any other. No answer.
At the conclusion of his pamphlet, our author is pleased to acknowledge, what few, I find, care any longer to deny, "that there are some things in our Articles and Liturgy which he should be glad to see amended, many which he should be willing to give up to the scruples of others," but that the heat and violence with which redress has been pursued, preclude all hope of accommodation and tranquillity-that " we had better wait, therefore, for more peaceable times, and be contented with our present constitution as it is," until a fairer prospect shall appear of changing it for the better. -After returning thanks, in the name of the "fraternity," to him and to all who touch the burden of subscription with but one of their fingers, I would wish to leave with them this observation, -That as the man who attacks a flourishing establishment writes with a halter round his neck, few ever will be found to attempt alterations but men of more spirit than prudence, of more sincerity than caution, of warm, eager, and impetuous tempers; that, consequently, if we are to wait for improvement till the cool, the calm, the discreet part of mankind begin it, till church governors solicit, or ministers of state propose it-I terposition with whom nothing is impossible) we will venture to pronounce, that (without His inmay remain as we are till the " things."
renovation of all
REASONS FOR CONTENTMENT,
ADDRESSED TO THE •
LABOURING PART OF THE BRITISH COMMUNITY.
HUMAN life has been said to resemble the situa- when we see exorbitant fortunes placed in the tion of spectators in a theatre, where, whilst each hands of single persons; larger, we are sure, than person is engaged by the scene which passes be- they can want, or, as we think, than they can use. fore him, no one thinks about the place in which This is so common a reflection, that I will not say he is seated. It is only when the business is in- it is not natural. But whenever the complaint terrupted, or when the spectator's attention to it comes into our minds, we ought to recollect, that grows idle and remiss, that he begins to consider the thing happens in consequence of those very at all, who is before him or who is behind him, rules and laws which secure to ourselves our prowhether others are better accommodated than perty, be it ever so small. The laws which accihimself, or whether many be not much worse. It dentally cast enormous estates into one great is thus with the various ranks and stations of so- man's possession, are, after all, the self-same laws ciety. So long as a man is intent upon the du- which protect and guard the poor man. Fixed ties and concerns of his own condition, he never rules of property are established for one as well thinks of comparing it with any other; he is an another, without knowing, before-hand, whom never troubled with reflections upon the different they may effect. If these rules sometimes throw classes and orders of mankind, the advantages and an excessive or disproportionate share to one man's disadvantages of each, the necessity or non-ne- lot, who can help it? It is much better that it cessity of civil distinctions, much less does he feel should be so, than that the rules themselves should within himself a disposition to covet or envy any be broken up; and you can only have one side of of them. He is too much taken up with the oc- the alternative or the other. To abolish_riches, cupations of his calling, its pursuits, cares, and would not be to abolish poverty; but, on the conbusiness, to bestow unprofitable meditations upon trary, to leave it without protection or resource. the circumstances in which he sees others placed. It is not for the poor man to repine at the effects And by this means a man of a sound and active of laws and rules, by which he himself is benemind has, in his very constitution, a remedy against fited every hour of his existence; which secures the disturbance of envy and discontent. These to him his earnings, his habitation, his bread, his passions gain no admittance into his breast, be- life; without which he, no more than the rich man, cause there is no leisure there or vacancy for the could either eat his meal in quietness, or go to bed trains of thought which generate them. He en- in safety. Of the two, it is rather more the conjoys, therefore, ease in this respect, and ease result-cern of the poor to stand up for the laws, than of ing from the best cause, the power of keeping his the rich; for it is the law which defends the weak imagination at home; of confining it to what be- against the strong, the humble against the powerlongs to himself, instead of sending it forth to ful, the little against the great; and weak and wander amongst speculations which have neither strong, humble and powerful, little and great, there limits nor use, amidst views of unattainable gran- would be, even were there no laws whatever. Bedeur, fancied happiness, of extolled, because un-side, what, after all, is the mischief? The owner experienced, privileges and delights. of a great estate does not eat or drink more than the owner of a small one. His fields do not produce worse crops, nor does the produce maintain fewer mouths. If estates were more equally divided, would greater numbers be fed, or clothed, or employed? Either, therefore, large fortunes are not a public evil, or, if they be in any degree an evil, it is to be borne with, for the sake of those fixed and general rules concerning property, in the preservation and steadiness of which all are interested.
The wisest advice that can be given is, never to allow our attention to dwell upon comparisons between our own condition and that of others, but to keep it fixed upon the duties and concerns of the condition itself. But since every man has not this power; since the minds of some men will be busy in contemplating the advantages which they see others possess; and since persons in laborious stations of life are wont to view the higher ranks of society, with senti- | ments which not only tend to make themselves unhappy, but which are very different from the truth; it may be an useful office to point out to them some of those considerations which, if they will turn their thoughts to the subject, they should endeavour to take fairly into the account.
And, first; we are most of us apt to murmur,
Fortunes, however, of any kind, from the nature of the thing, can only fall to the lot of a few. I say, "from the nature of the thing." The very utmost that can be done by laws and government, is to enable every man, who hath health, to procure a healthy subsistence for himself and a family. Where this is the case, things are at their perfec
spect would be, that, lost in the perplexity of choosing, they would sink into irrecoverable indolence, inaction, and unconcern; into that vacancy and tiresomeness of time and thought which are inseparable from such a situation. A man's thoughts must be going. Whilst he is awake, the working of his mind is as constant as the beating of his pulse. He can no more stop the one than the other. Hence if our thoughts have nothing to act upon, they act upon ourselves. They acquire a corrosive quality. They become in the last degree irksome and tormenting. Wherefore that sort of equitable engagement, which takes up the thoughts sufficiently, yet so as to leave them capable of turning to any thing more important, as occasions offer or require, is a most invaluable blessing. And if the industrious be not sensible of the blessing, it is for no other reason than because they have never experienced, or rather suffered the want of it.
Again; some of the necessities which poverty
But Providence, which foresaw, which appointed, indeed, the necessity to which human affairs are subjected, (and against which it were impious to complain,) hath contrived, that, whilst fortunes are only for a few, the rest of mankind may be happy without them. And this leads me to consider the comparative advantages and comforts which belong to the condition of those who subsist, as the great mass of every people do and must subsist, by personal labour, and the solid reasons they have for contentment in their stations. I do not now use the terms poor and rich: because that man is to be accounted poor, of whatever rank he be, and suffers the pains of poverty, whose ex-(if the condition of the labouring part of mankind penses exceed his resources; and no man is, pro- must be so called) imposes, are not hardships but perly speaking, poor but he. But I, at present, pleasures. Frugality itself is a pleasure. It is consider the advantages of those laborious condi- an exercise of attention and contrivance, which, tions of life which compose the great portion of whenever it is successful, produces satisfaction. every human community. The very care and forecast that are necessary to keep expenses and earnings upon a level, form, when not embarrassed by too great difficulties, an agreeable engagement of the thoughts. This is lost amidst abundance. There is no pleasure in taking out of a large unmeasured fund. They who do that, and only that, are the mere conveyers of money from one hand to another.
And, first; it is an inestimable blessing of such situations, that they supply a constant train of employment both to body and mind. A husbandman, or a manufacturer, or a tradesman, never goes to bed at night without having his business to rise up to in the morning. He would understand the value of this advantage, did he know that the want of it composes one of the greatest plagues of the human soul; a plague by which the rich, especially those who inherit riches, are exceedingly oppressed. Indeed it is to get rid of it, that is to say, it is to have something to do, that they are driven upon those strange and unaccountable ways of passing their time, in which we sometimes see them, to our surprise, engaged. A poor man's condition supplies him with that which no man can do without, and with which a rich man, with all his opportunities, and all his contrivance, can hardly supply himself; regular engagement, business to look forward to, something to be done for every day, some employment prepared for every morning. A few of better judgment can seek out for themselves constant and useful occupation. There is not one of you takes the pains in his calling, which some of the most independent men in the nation have taken, and are taking, to promote what they deem to be a point of great concern to the interests of humanity, by which neither they nor theirs can ever gain a shilling, and in which should they succeed, those who are to be benefited by their service, will neither know nor thank them for it. I only mention this to show, in conjunction with what has been observed above, that, of those who are at liberty to act as they please, the wise prove, and the foolish confess, by their conduct, that a life of employment is the only life worth leading; and that the chief difference between their manner of passing their time and yours, is, that they can choose the objects of their activity, which you cannot. This privilege may be an advantage to some, but for nine out of ten it is fortunate that occupation is provided to their hands, that they have it not to seek, that it is imposed upon them by their necessities and occasions; for the consequence of liberty in this re3 R
A yet more serious advantage which persons in inferior stations possess, is the ease with which they provide for their children. All the provision which a poor man's child requires, is contained in two words, "industry and innocence." With these qualities, though without a shilling to set him forwards, he goes into the world prepared to become an useful, virtuous, and happy man. Nor will he fail to meet with a maintenance adequate to the habits with which he has been brought up, and to the expectations which he has formed; a degree of success sufficient for a person of any condition whatever. These qualities of industry and innocence, which, I repeat again, are all that are absolutely necessary, every parent can give to his children without expense, because he can give them by his own authority and example; and they are to be communicated, I believe, and preserved, in no other way. I call this a serious advantage of humble stations; because in what we reckon superior ranks of life, there is a real difficulty in placing children in situations which may in any degree support them in the class and in the habits in which they have been brought up by their parents: from which great and oftentimes distressing perplexity the poor are free. With health of body, innocence of mind, and habits of industry, a poor man's child has nothing to be afraid of, nor his father or mother any thing afraid of for him.
The labour of the world is carried on by service, that is, by one man working under another man's direction. I take it for granted that this is the best way of conducting business, because all nations and ages have adopted it. Consequently service is the relation which, of all others, affects the greatest numbers of individuals, and in the most sensible manner. In whatever country, 42*
tion. They have reached their limit. Were the princes and nobility, the legislators and counsellors of the land, all of them the best and wisest men that ever lived, their united virtue and wisdom could do no more than this. They, if any such there be, who would teach you to expect more, give you no instance where more has ever been attained.