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sin, and he did so, without prevarication or reserve. Let the world think ill of his conduct; the more they do this, the better: but, as to their thinking well of his future state, he discovered no concern about it.
Besides, except his acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence, he had no claim to the credence of the spectators for the sincerity of his repentance. Unless his life had been prolonged, he could give no proof of it: what right then bad he to expect to be credited as to his future happiness? The testimony of a single witness was not admitted in certain cases under the Mosaic law; whatever, therefore, such a witness might know, be would not be forward to utter, and still less to claim credit for the truth of that of which he could produce no legal proof: so the truly penitent convict, knowing that he has no such means of proving his sincerity as he would have if bis life were prolonged, will not be eager in proclaiming! t. '»;
The above remarks are submitted to the serious consideration of those ministers or private Christians who are called to attend persons under sentence of death. Let the case of the dying thief have all its weight in encouraging us to use means for their conversion; but let us not hastily flatter ourselves, and still less the unhappy convict, that we have succeeded. If his supposed penitence be attended with an eagerness to proclaim his own sincerity, and his certain expectation of future happiness, it should be strongly suspected ; and if, with a denial of what has been clearly proved against him, oc a disposition to palliate or prevaricate, utterly discredited.
The boasting language so common among convicts who profess to repent and believe the gospel, in our times, has caused some to ask ' whether the gallows was not the surest way to heaven?'
There certainly are principles, apart from religion, which account for much, that in such circumstances passes for conversion. Besides what has been observed under the first remark, of men being induced to profess repentance for their other sins, while they deny that for which they are to suffer, in hope of saving their lives, there may be tlrong feelings respecting a future state, while yet there is no true repentance. When a man has received the sentence of death, and he knows he must shortly stand before his Maker, is it surprising that his heart fails him? And if, when his character and condition are faithfully stated to him, he weeps, is it any wonder? I add, >f when the hope of salvation by Jesus Christ is held up to him, he catches at it with eagerness, as his «nly refuge against terror; and if a gleam of hope be thus kindled in his mind, and he be encouraged to think well of his state, it does not require the supernatural influences of the Holy Spirit to cause him to weep for joy. And this, in the account of a good minister, whose desires are ardently drawn forth for his salvation, will render him an object of hope. But after all, should the convict be pardoned, the minister, if he be wise as well as good, will have many painful appprehensions lest the event that terminates his terrors shoald also terminate his religion!
If only one in ten of those for whom hope is entertained in the hour of terror, should, on their lives being prolonged, prove truly religious characters, it is sufficient to encourage the utmost efforts for the conversion of such unhappy men, but not to justify our pronouncing on every one, who dies with apparent contrition, that he is gone to heaven.
The longer a Christian lives, and the more he observes of what is passing before him, the more reason he will see for preferring a candid and impartial judgment of men and things. All parties in their turn declaim against prejudice and party zeal, but it is not from declamation-that we must form our judgment. If we wish to know the truth, we must read those who think differently from us, who, whether they be impartial towards us or not, will be much more likely to detect our faults than we are to detect them ourselves.
These remarks have been occasioned by reading a critique on The History of Dissenters by Messrs. Bogue and Bennett, and some other kindred pieces in The Quarterly Review for October 1813. This article, though manifestly written by one who is no more a friend to the Puritans and Nonconformists than he is to the present race of Dissenters; and probably no more friendly to evangelical religion in the church than out of it, yet contains a considerable portion of impartiality towards individuals, and even his censures are often worthy of our attention. From reading this review, as well as from perusing the volumes reviewed, there is one truth of which I am fully convinced; which is, that both eulogy and censure are commonly bestowed with too little discrimination, and often applied to communities where they ought to be confined to individuals. If a few men excel in a community, such is the vanity of human nature, that the whole must arrogate to themselves the praise; or if a few be guilty of impropriety, such is the invidiousness of partyzeal, that the whole must be censured on their account. Could we be more discriminate, both in our praises and censures, we should be much nearer the truth, and what we write would be far more likely to do good. We can consent for every man to have his due, and to bear his own burden; but are disgusted with those who are continually eulogizing their fathers that they may exalt themselves, and stigmatizing other men's fathers that they may depreciate their neighbours.
In reading the lives of the Puritans and Nonconformists, I read the lives of men of whom, with all their faults, the world was not worthy: but if I be impartial, I shall find many of the excellent of the earth who did not rank with either of them: and among those who did, I shall find many whose principles and conduct it will not be in my power to vindicate. Hardly as the Puritans were treated, if I had been one of them, and had held those intolerant principles which many of them avowed and carried with them into the New World, 1 do not perceive how I could have expected different treatment from others who were in power. I might have been treated more rigorously than I should have treated them, had I been in their place and they in mine; but the principle of intolerance is the same. That for which I should have suffered might also have been truth, while that for which I would have caused others to suffer might be pernicious error: but in a question of this nature, I should have had no right to take this for granted, seeing it would have been judging in my own cause. My rule ought rather to have been, to do unto others as I would that they should do unto me.
I am not able to vindicate Messrs. Bogue and Bennett, whose praises and censure, are both, it appears to me, much too indiscriminate; but I can perceive that their reviewer, while chastising them, is continually exposing himself to censure for the same things.
He seldom detects a fault in his authors without endeavouring to fix it upon the whole body, by ascribing it to their dissent. Speaking of divisions and separations among Dissenters, he says', "This evil rjrows out of the principle of dissent. The minister of an establishment has no temptation from vanity, or the love of singularity, or any mere worldly motives, to labour in insignificant distinctions : but amongst Dissenters the right of private judgment is so injudiciously inculcated, that the men who are trained amongst them learn not unfrequentjy to despise all judgment except their own." To say nothing of the temptations which the minister of an establishment has, though he may not have these, it is sufficient to reply, If unlovely separations arise from an injudicious inculcation of the right of private judgment, let them be traced to that cause, and not to dissent; let them be ascribed to the abuse of the right of private judgment, but not to the principle itself, or to any necessary step in order to obtain it. An advocate for despotic government might object to the disorders of our popular elections, and to the violence of our parliamentary debates, and might tell us that in certain countries there is no temptation to such disorder and such violence: but we should readily answer, They have temptations as bad, or worse, of another kind and ;the right of choosing our representatives, and that of free parliamentary debate, are of such importance to the well-being of the nation, that the evils which they occasion are as nothing when compared with it. The right of private judgment in matters of religion is of that account, that we cannot part with it without making shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience. As to the abuses of it, whoever is guilty of them, let him bear his own burden. The "schism which took place in the Evangelical Magazine," should not haye been lugged in by this writer for an example, without having first made himself acquainted with the triw cause of it.
If I dissent, from antipathy to a particular clergyman, or for the sake of gratifying ray own will, or to feed my own vanity, I am what this reviewer consider; me—a sectarian; but if I dissent for the sake of obtaining liberty to follow what I verily believe to be the mind of Christ, I am not a sectarian in the ill sense of the term, nor in any sense except that in which Paul avowed himself to be one. By this writer's own account, if I continue in the established church, I must make no " profession." That is, I must not profess to repent of my sins, and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation: if I do, he will construe it into " a profession of being better than my neighbours," which he tells me is inconsistent with " Christian humility," and insinuates that the whole is " pharisaical hypocrisy." This is certainly speaking out; and standing as it does, in direct opposition to the divine command of coming out from among unbelievers, and being separate from them, renders it easy to determine the path of duty.
The writer censures Messrs. Bogue and Bennett for ascribing almost every thing vicious and persecuting to Churchmen ; yet he himself ascribes almost every thing sour, litigious, and splenetic to Dissenters. He represents the intolerance of the Puritans as if it were universal, and as if all that settled in America were of the same spirit. But (to say nothing of Roger Williams, whom he himself not only acquits, but applauds, as " the man whose name, if all men had their due, would stand as high as that of William Penn, as having begun the first civil government upon earth that gave equal liberty of conscience,") there was a broad line of distinction between those Puritans who founded the colony of New Plymouth in 1620, and those who a few years after founded that