« AnteriorContinuar »
explain to the Public the occasion of my departure from the original proposal of comprising the work within the space of two volumes. This I fully in tended to accomplish at the time when the former part of my History was sent forth ; but suggestions imparted by individuals of high eminence and respectability, could not well be disobeyed. It is in compliance with these suggestions that I have introduced the two treatises, on Church Government, and on the Quinquarticular. Controversy ; which were no more than short sketches in the original manuscript; and that: I parpose annexing an Index, a Chronological Table, and a general View of the present State of the English Church, to that part of the History which is yet to appear. As the Unitarians and Methodists, however, are the only two remaining sects, demanding a very extended consideration, and, as the ecclesiastical history of England, after the restoration of Charles II. presents, comparatively, few details to the pen of the historian, the work can very easily be completed in a Supplemental Volume.
From this alteration in the plan, I cannot help flattering myself, that considerable benefit has been
derived. There are certain topics, which it were better not to treat at all, than to dismiss with a superficial consideration. Of this description is a polemical discussion of the principles maintained by any distinguished religious body. The argument must be sifted, if possible, to the bottom ; for, otherwise, the advocate will only strengthen the cause of his adversary, by discovering the weakness of his own replies. To the Society, for whom this History was originally sketched, a Society composed exclusively of members of the church, short answers to the tenets of dissenting bodies might have been useful, as compendious recollections of their own stores of learning. But, now that I am come before the bar of the Public,-now that I am throwing myself, as it were, into an arena, where it is not improbable that the disciples of every religious school will consider themselves unfairly used, and may enter the lists against me, it seems necessary, for my own sake, as well as for that of the church which I defend, that I should endeavour to arm myself at all points. To drop the metaphor : had · I restricted myself too much in room, I could
only have skimmed slightly oyer a multiplicity of important themes, and presented the Public with
a paltry sketch. As it is, I am not without hopes, that I shall be found to have offered a production, satisfactory to some minds harassed by uncertainty, and not wholly discreditable to myself.
There is no epoch of church history, to which that maxim of Lord Bacon's, selected as the motto to this work, is more applicable, than to the period treated of in the present volume. During the reigns of the first James and Charles, and under the Protectorate, religion was politics, re. ligion was pleasure, religion was occupation, religion was every thing. Almost every theological question was then ably and fully discussed; and to study these discussions, is to read treatises in Divinity. As a St. John's man, I have certainly felt an esprit de corps, in entering into an ample vindication of Archbishop Laud. It cost me more pains than many may conceive it to have merited : yet there are minds which will deem it not the least interesting part of the work. To vindicate the departed from unjust aspersions, is expedient for preserving the character of history as a register of truth. It is a pleasant labour of the judgment. It is an exercise of Christian benevolence. It is doing as we would be done unto,
The history of the Sealed People may not prove useless at a period when so much has been writ. ten, and so little understood, concerning the leader of this sect, and her followers. With all reasonable minds the letter of Dr. Sims is decisive : but that gentleman, the Editor of Variety, and other writers, are widely mistaken, in taking it for granted that we shall hear no more of this delusion. Has Southcott herself recanted ? Has there been a single apostacy from her sect? Has the worthy, but deluded Miss Townly (whom I am sorry if I shall have here offended, in consequence of finding her in low and bad company); has Ann Underwood, deserted her? Has any one respectable adherent shown even a disposition to retract ? Has Foley, Ash, Bradley, Tozer, or Owen? Was she not received, on her flight, into the house of a clergyman, beneficed in the church, and the brother of an English nobleman? Has Halhed blushed for his Pater est quem nuptiæ demonstrant? Has Mr.Wetherell, a man of unquestionable intelligence and probity, been convinced by Dr. Sims's report? No. He writes to me (Sept. 1oth), of Mrs. Southcott's important mission; and it is absolutely necessary, he says, that a female of her age and
.: A2 . . .
in her situation should be kept quiet and still, till medical aid is required.
Such being the case, I cannot help regretting, that Dr. Sims, the Editor of Variety, Mr. Cobbett, and other writers, have not perceived the mischief they are occasioning, in failing to represent this woman in her true colours, as a compound of delusion and artifice. It appears not that these gentlemen have been acquainted with her wretched publications ; or, even in regard to the recent occurrence, that they have adverted to all the facts. The Third Book of Wonders, in which the expected birth was announced, is dated March 10th, 1814. It appears from the Fifth Book, that the symptoms of her uterine complaint had, about that time, begun to show themselves. Now, I willingly grant, that she may have worked up her diseased mind into the belief in a divine incubation. This is the FANATICAL and excusable part of the story, But observe the cunning with which she then travels back to the 13th of October in the preceding year; and relates a vision, predicting the birth, which she tells us, but not until the 10th of March, she had, at that early period, been favoured with. This is the ARTIFICE; which has not yet been properly exposed.