« AnteriorContinuar »
his monstrous belief in the universal rest or annihilation of man in a future state; and forget that he is one of those who
"Play such tricks before high heaven,
as ofTencl against all moral taste; as attempt to shake the verypillars of domestick happiness and of publick security?
It is, however, a matter of congratulation, that his lordship, in common with the republican Confessor, has not revealed his creed without very honestly displaying the influence of this creed upon his own mind. We should not, indeed, have credited a man of his sentiments, had he assured us he was happy:1 happiness takes no root in such soils. But it is still better to have bis own testimony to the unmixed misery of licentiousness and unbelief. It is almost comforting to be told, if we dared to draw comfort out of the well of another man's miseries, that
"Though gay companions o'er the bowl
It is consolatory also to contrast the peace and triumph of the dying Christian, with the awful uncertainty, or rather the sullen despair, which breathe in these verses.
"* Aye—but te die and go'—alas!
Where all have gone, and all must go;
Nor can religion be more powerfully recommended than by the following avowal of an apostle of the opposite system.
"No, for myself, so dark my fate
Through every turn of life hath been,
But whilst, for the benefit of others, we thus avail ourselves of the antidote supplied by his lordship to his own poison, we could wish also that he might feel the efficacy of it himself. Could we hope that so humble a work as this would reach the lofty sphere in which he moves, we would solemnly say to him: "You are wretched, but will nothing make you happy? You hate all men; will nothing warm you with new feelings? You are, (as you say,) hated by all; will nothing make you an object of affection? Suppose yourself the victim of some disease, which resisted many ordinary applications; but that all who used one medicine uniformly pronounced themselves cured:—would it be worthy ol a philosopher not merely to neglect the remedy, but to traduce it? Such, however, my lord, is the fatuity of your own conduct as to. the religion of Christ. Thousands, as wretched as yourself, have found 'a Comforter' in Him; thousands, having stepped into these waters, have'been healed of their disease; thousands, touching the hem of His garment, have found ' virtue go out of it.' Beggared then of every other resource, try this: 'Acquaint yourself with God, and be at peace.'"
His lordship may designate this language by that expressive monosyllable, cant; and may possibly, before long, hunt us clown, as a sort of mad March hare, with the blood-hounds of his angry muse. But we hope better things of him. We assure him, that, whatever may be true of others, we do not " hate him." As Christians, even he who professes to be unchristian, is dear to us. We regard the waste of his fine talents, and the laboured suppression and apparent extinction of his better feelings, with the deepest commiseration and sorrow. We long to see him escape from the thick cloud which, by what may fairly be called his " black art," he has conjured up around himself. We hope to know him as a future buttress of his shaken country, and as a friend of his yet "unknown God." Should this change, by the mercy of God, take place, what pangs would many passages of his present work cost him! Happy should we be, could we persuade him, in the bare anticipation of such a change, even now to contrive for his future happiness, by expunging sentiments that would then so much embitter it. Should he never change, yet, such an act would prove, that, at least, he meditated no cruel invasion upon the joys of others. Even Rousseau taught his child religion, as a delusion essential to happiness. The philosophick Tully also, if a belief in futurity were an errour, deemed it one with which it was impossible to part. Let the author then, at all events, leave us in unmolested possession of our supposed privileges. He plainly knows no noble or " royal way", to happiness. We find in religion a bark that rides the waves in every storm; a sun that never goes down; a living fountain of waters. Religion is suffered to change its aspect and influence according to the eye and faith of the examiner. Like one side of the pillar of the wilderness, it may merely darken and perplex his lordship's path: to millions it is like the opposite side of that pillar to the Israelites, the symbol of Deity; the pillar of hallowed flame, which lights, and guides, and cheers them as they toil onward through the pilgrimage of life. Could we hear any voice proclaim of him, as of one reclaimed from as inveterate, though more honest, prejudices, " behold, he prayeth;'* wc should hope that here also the scales would drop from the eyes, and his lordship become the eloquent defender and promulgator of the religion which he now scorns.
PROM THE aVARTERLT REVIEW.
The judgment delivered Dec. 11, 1809, by the Right Hon. Sir John JVicholl, Knt. LL. D. Official Principal of the Arches of Canterbury; upon the admission of articles exhibited in a cause of office promoted by Kemp against Wickcs, Clerk, for refusing to bury an infant child of two of his Parishioners, who had been bahtized by a dissenting Minister.
A Respectful Examination of the Judgment, l3"c. in a Letter to Sir John JVicholl. By the Rev. Charles Daubeney, LL. B. Archdeacon of Sarum.
Remarks upon a late decision in the Court of Arches, l$c. By the Rev. George Hutton, D. D. Vicar of Sutterton, &c.
IT was our intention to avoid all notice of the controversy maintained in these pamphlets; not because we considered the question as unimportant, or the parties engaged in it as undeserving of attention, but because, in truth, we lamented that such a dispute had ever arisen, and were unwilling by any remarks of ours to prolong its existence or increase its notoriety. Circumstances, however, have occurred to make us depart from this determination. We have heard of late from various quarters, that the question has not been suffered to sink into oblivion; that persons of high authority in the church have thought it necessary to raise their wice against the dangerous consequences of Sir J. Nicholl's judgment; and, in particular, that one learned prelate has not only addressed his clergy on the subject, but has also circulated some printed ' Reflections,' in which he endeavours to prove that the decision of the Court of Arches is unfounded, and that nothing less than the integrity and stability of the established Church is involved in the issue. Even the labours of Dr. Hutton, though they ffm nothing else, show that the question is not yet at rest. His imphlet, indeed, is invested with somewhat more of authority an its uitrinsick merits could claim, from being ' dedicated "by Amission, to the Lord Bishop of Peterborough,' within whose diose the case arose, which has given origin to so much discustm.
The facts of this case are, in brief, as follows: the Rev. J. W. itkes, Rector of Wardb/, refused to bury Hannah, the infant lighter of John and Mary Swingler, protestant dissenters of the munation of Calvinistick Independents; assigning, as the reason tos refusal, the baptism of the said infant by a minister, preacht or teacher of the same class of dissenters, which baptisjn wis Vol. I,—No. I. Y
with water, and in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. For this refusal articles were exhibited against Mr. Wickes in the Arches Court of Canterbury: the admission of these articles was opposed on the plea that, if the facts were true, still the defendant had been guilty of no offence. When, after a patient hearing of the whole cause, the official principal, Sir John Nicholl, decided that the minister, in refusing to bury the child, had acted illegally, and consequently admitted the articles exhibited against uim.
It is our intention to lay before our readers an impartial view of the grounds of this decree, and of the arguments by which it has been controverted: we shall not scruple to give our own opinion of the merits of the controversy, and to make such observations as may occur to us, on the principal points involved in it.
The 68th canon, and the rubrick before the office of burial, comprise the whole law of the case. The canon ordains,' that no minister shall refuse to bury any corpse brought to the Church or churchyard, except the party deceased were denounced excommunicated majori excommunicatione for some grievous and notorious crime.' The rubrick adds two other exceptions expressly. 'Here is to be noted that the office ensuing is not to be used for any that die unbaptized or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands on themselves'. In the present instance the question is, whether this infant did die unbaptized within the true meaningof the rubrick. This, at least, is considered to be the only point at issue in the judgment of Sir John Nichollj other matters are introduced by him, but incidentally, or for the sake of illustration.
To ascertain the meaning of the disputed word, the learned judge has recourse to the ordinary rules of construction: first, he considers it in its general sense, and unconnected with the rubrick, and states it then to mean 'not baptized at all, not initiated into the Christian Church.'—p. 11. He next examines whether in the •context there be any thing to vary or limit this general meaning. The context associates with the unbaptized, persons excommunicate, and suicides, obviously not contradicting, but, in the opinion of Sir John Nicholl, rather confirming the former construction, that persons unbaptized are those who are not Christians at all; for such, he thinks, excommunicates also, and suicides are to be deemed.
Having thus considered the Word in its general meaning, and in its context, he notices another rule of construction, namely, that the general Jaw is to be construed favourably, and the exception strictly. Here the general law is, that burial is to be refused to no person; and, since exceptions must not be extended by mere implication so as to limit the general law, it would have been necessary, instead of using the term ' unbaptized,' to have said 'not baptized according to the form prescribed by the book of Common Prayer,' if it had been the intention of the legislator to give to his exception so large a meaning.
He next proceeds to examine whether there be any tiling in the history of the law to confirm or disprove the interpretation, to which the course of his argument hitherto has led him: particularly whether lay-baptism has been recognised as valid by die church of England; for if it has, he contends that the Church cannot mean by the word ' unbaptized,' to exclude from burial all persons who have not been baptized according to the forms of its liturgy.
In prosecuting this inquiry, he first refers to the law of the English Church before the Reformation, and deducing it both from the general canon law and also from the particular constitutions of this country, he finds that down to that period, lay-baptism was allowed and practised; ' it was regular anci prescribed in cases of necessity, and in all cases, when administered with water, in the name of the "Holy Trinity by a laick, a schismatick, or a heretick, it was so complete and valid, that it was by no means to be repeated.'—p. 21.
'Thus the matter stood at the time of the reformation; and that period is an important one: for if lay-baptism had been considered as one of the errours of the Church of Rome, it would then have been corrected; but the fact is otherwise, for the use of lay-baptism was manifestly continued by the English reformed Church.' In proof of this assertion, he adduces the rubricks before the office of private baptism in the reigns of Edward VI. and Queen Elizabeth. Such was the state of things till the time of James I., except that in 1575, an article was passed by convocation, but rejected by the crown, restraining private baptism to the lawful' minister.
On the accession of James I. conferences were held at Hampton Court, for the purpose of revising and reconsidering the liturgy, and particularly that part of it which relates to private baptism. It was here agreed ^o far to alter the rubrick, as, to direct that private baptism should be administered by a lawfui minister; but neither the king, (who disapproved of the practice of lay-baptism,) or any of the bishops, or others, present, maintained that such baptism was invalid: on the contrary, the king himself expressly declared, that a person so baptized ought not to be baptized again.
The rubrick at that time agreed on, was not confirmed by parliament, and owed whatever force it had to a proclamation of the king, in which he speaks of the result of'the conference as utterly unimportant. 'We have thought meet, that some small matters might rather be explained than changed.' From those words, Sr. John Nicholl contends, that so great a change in the constitution of the Church could not have been intended, as that baptism by a layman, administered with water and the proper invocation, which had hitherto, even since the reformation, been considered as valid, should now be regarded as wholly null and void, and that such a baptism could bear re-baptization.—p. 25.
'In construing all laws,' he further argues, * it is proper to inquire how the law •feroasly stood; for it will require more express and distinct terms to abrogate an