Imágenes de páginas

find a good reason, that to have done so should seem a thing quite irreconcilable with what we imagine to have been their state of mind, but not at all at variance with any feelings of which we are conscious in 'ourselves. If we admit that Christianity had no “ persuading terrors," no " exceeding

hopes," for its first disciples, which it has not for us, why should we allow ourselves to feel as though we had, so to speak, more space to breathe in, more licence to look about us, more liberty to feel at our ease, when eternal realities are presented to us, than they had; or, as if it were in our option, at times, to withdraw ourselves from our individual liability to endless happiness or misery, that we may indulge in the diversion of proposing the tremendous conditions of our existence, as the subjects of literary games.

Whenever, therefore, any plan professing to have for its object the promotion of Religion, is to be discussed, we would endeavour to confine ourselves to the real subject by rejecting the abstraction,--the promotion of Religion; reinembering; that nothing is worth promoting, but the Piety of men as individuals ; and that whatever may be justly suspected of having an unfavourable tendency in this respect, must not be defended on the ground of its coincidence with the maxims of human prudence; for we know that the advancement of true religion depends upon the operation of principles wholly different from, and for the most part of a nature directly opposed to, those upon which the affairs of the world move forward.

[ocr errors]

Art. XI. Means of improving the Condition of the Poor in Morals

and Happiness considered, in a Lecture delivered at the Minor Institute, August 22, 1816; to which is prefixed, a short Account of that Institution. By Thomas Williams. Published by Request. retical speculation, information which it is of the 'utmost importance to diffuse as extensively as possible, for the purpose of awakening the attention and of stimulating the moral exertions of all classes of the community.

8vo. pp. 64. Price 2s, 6d, Hatchard. MR. WILLIAMS has been at the pains of compiling from

authentic sources, a vast mass of valuable documents relative to the present state of the population of the conntry, and the causes of the spread of indigence and crime. We must decline to follow him through the variety of topics on which he bestows his passing animadversions, since they would demand each a separate discussion. His statements are entitled to the praise of accuracy, and his opinions bear the stamp of Christian benevolence. We therefore with pleasure recommend this production of the worthy Lecturer, to general perusal, as comprising in a popular form, divested of all pretensions to theo

[ocr errors]

Art. XII. Religious Education enforced in a Series of Family Conversa

tions, wherein the Covenant Right of Infunts, and the Mode of Christian Baptism, are very calmly and very seriously considered, To which is added, an Address to Parents roho admit of Infant Baptism. Written for the Use of the Author's Family, by the late James Bowden, of Lower Tooting. Now edited, with Cor

rections and Additions, by the Rev. B. Richings, A.M. Curate of · Dunton, Leicestershire. 12mo. pp. xv. 255. Price. 58. Seeley,

1815. THOSE NHOSE are not always the publications most adapted for

usefulness, which are occupied with the defence of controverted truths, because the controversial form is not that in which the truth can be most advantageously exhibited, in its practical bearings and its genuine influence on the character. It is very necessary that there should be works of able reasoning and logical accuracy, which we may put into the hands of the inquirer; but the point of conviction being obtained by means of sufficient evidence, we are then, and not till then, prepared to receive the full force of those considerations attaching to the subject, which, how unavailing soever for the purpose of convincing an opponent, form, on the supposition that our conclusions are correct, the most striking illustration of their truth and moral tendency. We are too apt, in our solicitude to prove the truth of our opinions, to forget the use we ought to make of them; and yet when all other arguments are exhausted, the practical efficacy of our opinions is that strong hold in which we shall find we must take refuge from the doubts that assail us.

We do not imagine that the present work would be esteemed the Very

best defence of the sentiments of the Pædobaptist Dissenters; nor does it profess to have in view the vindication of their truth, as its chief design. It places the subject, however, · in its true light, as a question of great practical interest ; it ex

hibits the duties which result from this view of the ordinance, in * a very instructive and impressive manner, by enforcing the solemn obligations of the Baptismal covenant; and it appears to us better calculated than, almost any work on the subject, to promote both personal religion and domestic piety. The venerable Author had no other view in the composition of the

work, than the instruction of his family and the benefit of his friends ;'on which aacount, the edition printed in his life time was never regularly published. He modestly states in the original advertisement, that

! He could have had no expectation of producing an impression, by representations here given, on the minds of such as think and practise differently. His address, therefore, is to those of his friends who, in respect of infant baptism, are of one heart and soul with hicaself ; stating those views of the great things of God against which they have no fixed prejudice. His wish is, by an illustration of the promise, to relieve their anxieties, and cherish their hopes, and aid their endeavours, in training up their children " in the nurture and 5 admonition of the Lord." He has no solicitude to determine the question relating to the quantity of water to be used in baptism; for since there is nothing saving in the quality, he is indifferent about the quantity. Nor would he have touched upon that sacrament in any controverted view of it, were it not for the relation in which it stands to what he deems at once the basis and the most powerful instrument of religious education.' P. xii.

There is a quaintness in the general plan, and occasionally in the phraseology of this little work, which shews that the Author was more familiar with the writings of divines of other days, than with modern taste. The readers for whom this work is designed, will, however, readily excuse any defect or peculiarity of this kind. The Editor, a clergyman of the Church of England, in editing this work of a Dissenting Minister, has set a commendable example of—must we term it--liberality?

Art XII. Four Dissertations, Moral and Religious, addressed to the

Rising Generation. I. On Covetousness. II. On Hypocrisy. III. On the prosperous Condition of Men in the World. 10. On

Continuance in well-doing. Nichols. London 1815. SH

HOULD these Dissertations fall into the hands of any of our

Readers, we sincerely wish they may become less covetous, and less hypocritical, more contented, and more persevering in their efforts to do good, in consequence of the perusal of them. Our pages will readily supply the kind of remark which certain sentiments and expressions that occur in them, might be expected to call from us. We can easily believe, with the Editor, that many good effects were certainly intended and wished for ? by their original author,' as the reward of his labours; but, really, so old as the world is, it is strange that they wbo set themselves now to mend it, should so little understand the first principles of their undertaking, as to persist in addressing to those whom they seek to reform, considerations, which could produce good effect only upon reasonable and well-disposed creatures; but which repeated experiments have proved to be absolutely inefficient, when we bave to do with such a being as man.


Surely, we have not still to learn, that the human will is depraved, and that although the course it pursues may become somewhat less divergent, in this direction or in that, under inferior intluences, there is but one way in which the crooked 'thing can be made straight,' and that is hy the proclamation of the Gospel. Indeed, the very attempt to produce a radically beneficial impression on the hardness of the human heart, with the feeble implement of unchristianised ethics, is a virtual contempt of that Word which is a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.' The following sentiments, however, are just and pertinent.

Our judgment of things depends very much on the present state and disposition of our minds, just as the appearance of outward ob jects varies according to the light in which they are placed, and the situation from whence they are beheld. The rays of Truth can seldom penetrate through the gloom of Melancholy. Reason indeed might correct these illusions of fancy; but grief and reason, alas! seldom dwell-together. The justice of God's government becomes matter of question, when we ourselves are sensible of inconvenience under it. No matter how many orders of creatures are blessed, or how many systems are benefited by it. For how is it credible that the world should be governed by perfect wisdom, while we are unhappy in it, or how is it possible that should be conducive to the good of the universe, which is contrary to our own ? Such is the logic in vogue among the suffering part of mankind, with whom sentiment and selflove are the rule of judging. In spite of all the arguments that may justly be alleged to confirm their faith, their notions of Providence still vary with their condition, and their doubts keep pace with their misfortunes.' p. 50. Art. XIII. Observations on the State and Changes in the Presby

terian Societies of England during the last half Century : also, on the Manufactures of Great Britain which have been for the most part established and supported by the Protestant Dissenters : Tending to illustrate the Importance of Religious Liberty and Free Inquiry to the Welfare and Prosperity of a People. Preceded by a Sermon, on the Death of the Rev. Dr. Joshua Toulmin, in which his Character as a Member of Civil Society is attempted to be improved. By Israel Worsley. 12mo. pp. 136. Price 3s. 1816. THE HE term Dissenter, we have had occasion to remark, is

tvholly unmeaning, in reference to the religious principles of those various denominations of Protestants, to whom it is indiscriminately applied ; it denotes only the political predicament in which they are placed by the legislative establishment of

Episcopacy. When this term was first employed by the historian, the Roman Catholic Dissenters and the Protestant Dissenters, were thus with sufficient precision distinguished from each other, as the two grand political bodies, with whom,

Vol. VII. N.S.

on each side, the Established Church had, as she imagined, to contend; and it was with her a matter of small consideration, by what difference of religious opinions they might be characterized. The Protestant Dissenters themselves, united by oppresion in one common cause, did not indeed, except on the points of Baptism and of Church-government, maintain among themselves any material diversity of doctrine. The Presbyterian, the Independent, and the Baptist Nonconformists, were recognised by the Government of the country, as comprising, under three denominations, one grand religious body, and the phrase, Protestant Dissenters, though of a political origin, was sufficiently definite in its application.

Now, however, that the term Dissenter has become current in modern usage, without any restrictive adjunct, to denote Papists and Protestants, Episcopal Moravians and Congregational Independents, Wesleyan Methodists, Quakers, Sandemanians, and Socinians,-sects, some of which have originated in this country, and others acquired importance since the designation Protestant Dissenters was first bestowed; it becomes indispensably necessary to insist upon distinctions which are not logical, but which are real and fundamental. We have no objection to the designation considered in itself, but only to its injurious application as a term that is indiscriminative, and designed to be so by those who employ it.

Nonconformity is a religious question : Dissent is a political one. The Dissenter, as such, claims his civil rights in matters relating to conscience : The Nonconformist, upon religious principles, refuses to conform to requisitions of ecclesiastical authority, which he cannot approve or obey. Nonconformity originates in a sense of duty; dissent, in a sense of right. The one appeals to the Bible, the Bible only, the basis of Protestantism ; the other, to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of the Throne. It is obvious that individuals may without the least inconsistency adopt and act upon both the religious and the political principles, feeling that their spiritual privileges can be secured only by the inviolable maintenance of their seoular rights. Before Agrippa, their appeal would be made to “ the Prophets ;” before Festus, “unto Cæsar.” But to represent Nonconformity as a merely political question, and to confound together all denominations of Christians beyond the pale of Episcopacy, under the character of political dissidents, is either à trick of party, or a proof of ignorance.

Civil rights have nothing whatever to do with religious character; all classes, therefore, of Dissenters, Jews, Socinians, Papists, “ Methodists," have equal claims on the legislative protection of their country. And when we are discussing the importance of religious liberty in a political respect, and vindica-.

« AnteriorContinuar »