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'Εγχρίμπτεται βοά, ποτάται,
'Iw, iù, ià, i6.* Amidst the champions of the Church, our author hears “imbecile petulance inveighing against dissent," when they ought to recognize in the fact of increasing schisms "presumptive evidence of the existence of some capital flaws, or at least errors of management on the part of the Establishment.” On the other side, he detects “factious hopes, founded on the embarrassments of the National Church,” and a spirit of reckless agitation against “the consolidated institutions of the land," at war with “the dictates of common sense,” the maxims of “political wisdom,” and “the precepts of the gospel.” The periodical press marshals the respective hosts, and embitters their deadly strife : for —those inauspicious exasperations which at present obstruct the course of our national religious improvement, attach far more to the leaders and organs of parties than to the mass of the people.-P. 18.
Hence our author gallantly attacks what he is pleased to call " the despotism of the public press ;" and though he confesses it to be an “imprudent” undertaking to call in question those who "sit as the masters of his destiny,” yet, at all hazards, he is resolved “to loosen the yoke fastened upon the neck of the people by our newspapers, magazines, and reviews,” which he lashes with merciless, and (as far, at least, as we of the CHRISTIAN REMEMBRANCER are concerned,) with unprovoked asperity,
We ask (writes our author) whether the qualities that usually call men into the service of our periodic literature are, a genuine intelligence, and a high sense of duty and principle; or rather the mere faculty of ready composition, and the coinmand of a spirited style, together with that mental vivacity and those inflamed intellectual passions which are seldom combined with vigorous good sense, or with expansive views, or with substantial acquirements; and never with humble and fervent piety. The very dispositions we most need in difficult seasons, are those that ought not in fairness to be looked for in that scene of fluller and necessity- the editor's room.-P. 21.
Now, upon this harsh representation, in perfect good humour, (for such rhetorical invectives move us not,) we would crave the humble privilege of asking whether our author be exactly the sort of writer from whose lips this charge, founded upon editorial flutter and necessity, should proceed, when he himself may be safely classed amongst the annual periodicals, and is still impregnating the press with his fecundity? But let this pass. Proceed we to Section the Second, embracing the consideration of " the general conditions of hierarchical power.”
Our author shall sum up the contents of this able and eloquent discussion in his own words.
We have thus briefly presented to view the four main conditions that affect the power of hierarchies; namely, the quality of the religion, the national temperament of the people, the political position of the clergy in the state, and the source of church revenues. Spiritual despotism, to reach its utmost height, must be favoured by each of these conditions; that is to say, the religion which is the vehicle of it must be fraught with superstition--the people must have sunk into a servile and sluggish humour-the Church must have got the better of the civil power, and the wealth of the country must, without regulation or control, be at the command of the clergy. Spiritual despotism is necessarily redressed, or excluded—when theology is reformed--when learning and commerce restore intelligence and liberty to the people—when the civil authority resumes its functions and rights, a friendly reciprocity being established between Church and State ; and lastly, when the nice matter of revenue is well defined, and is set clear of the opposite liabilities to disorder that affect it.—Pp. 76, 77.
The question of ecclesiastical revenues and clerical support is one upon which the cunning dissenter, the crafty politician, the covetous miser, and the canting hypocrite, have expended all their foul stores of exaggeration, and falsehood, and calumny! The enormous wealth of a bloated Establishment,—the pampered idleness of " hireling" priests, the ravenous extortions of prelatical rapacity,-has been the prominent theme of Schismatics, Radicals, and Infidels, and swelled the chorus of their hatred against the Established Church with ominous singleness of design! Our ears are made to ring with the insufferable despotism of compulsory payments in her support, whilst the voluntary system of dissenters is boasted of, and gloried in, as the very life's blood* of their scheme of revenue. To rebut these statements, we adduce the unexceptionable testimony of our author, (himself, we believe, a dissenter,) and beg our readers to mark how irresistible is his reasoning,-how emphatic his language,-how bold his confession.
It has always been seen, (he writes,) and the history of early Christianity affords the most striking exemplification of the truth, that when church revenues flow from the precarious liberality of the prople, and are altogether undefined, exaggerations of doctrine, perversions of morality, superstitions, mummeries, hypocrisies, usurpations, cruelties, gain ground, not always slowly, until priests and people—the Church and the State, are thoroughly infected with the worst sort of corruption-religious corruption. Pp. 53, 54.
If the state refuse to endow the Clergy
Exaggerated doctrines will supply the place of legal provisions. .... The claims of God's ministers will be asserted in a hyperbolic, yet insidious style. The merit of the offering laid upon the altar of the Church will be overrated in a manner that at once enfeebles morality, and corrupts doctrine. Genuine virtue will be made to give way to fictitious virtue. The just symmetry or relative magnitude of duties will be enormously distorted. Superstition, and her handmaid Farce, proffer their aid in this work, and some accommodated articles of belief, or certain special usages, which may have had another origin, and may possess some shadow of reason, will be converted to the purpose of
• See Dr. Lee's Second Letter to Dr. Pye Smith, p. 84.
levying incidental contributions. By newly discovered or newly expanded terrors, the conscience of the laily will be screwed up to the necessary pitch in the matter of pecuniary aid; and what the designing and the interested had first set a going, the sincere and fanatical will afterwards eagerly push forward as a sheer article of piety. Iu the next age learned theologians may be seen wasting their oil in confirining from Scripture, practices of which knaves were the inventors.—Pp. 53, 56.
Again, in speaking of the voluntary and compulsory systems, our author says, that
The phrases in question, as used in the controversy of the day, refer to levies of money, made for the support of the ministers of religion. In the one case the fund accrues from the upprescribed contributions of those who act, individually, under the mere impulse of their personal feelings and opinions. In the other case it flows, in an equable stream, from the entire community, and at the immediate bidding of the State; which, moreover, exacts from each citizen a sum regulated, as are other taxes, by his ability, or by the scale of his general expenditure...... Thus the country taxes itself for the maintenance of religion; and, far from grudging a liberal support to its best friends and worthiest servants, it sees that its own highest welfare is involved in 'the comfort and independence of those who are at once to teach, and to enforce, morality! .... The voluntary principle takes effect upon the sereral orders of the community in no just proportion, or rather, in no proportion at all; for while the middle and lower ranks yield themselves to its influence, the opulent and the noble are scarcely touched by it. .... In the second place, the voluntary principle fails in relation to the objects to which ic may be applied..... It is sometimes found to exceed the demand made upon it, where vivid excitements can be brought afresh and afresh, to bear upon popular feelings; but in those instances which yield no such excitements, and which involve a comprehensive regard to remote consequences, it almost entirely fails, or leaves momentous interests to dwindle or perish. .... The clamour which we now hear in behalf of the voluntary principle, is in character with that principle itself, and affords a proper specimen of its qualities ;-it is unthinking, variable, and reckless of remote consequences. . ... Where a legal provision for the Clergy actually exists, and has long existed, the voluntary system, which never yet has been seen to cover any country with the means of religious instruction, and which is not apt to work favourably, cannot be allowed to break up that provision.- Pp. 57, 58, 59, 61, 65, 73.
We have indulged in these compressed extracts from the work before us, upon a topic of absorbing interest at the present crisis, to disabuse the public mind of the mischievous and unfounded prejudices which have been permitted to environ it. At the same time, we confess a further intention in making these important quotations ; for we would contrast our author's bold opinions here unequivocally expressed with the views and feelings and doctrines of the general body of dissenters upon the same point, to shew how absolutely chimerical are his hopes of consummating such a Conservative reform of the Established Church as shall satisfy separatists, and enlarge her spiritual influence, and secure“ an augmentation of comfort and of credit to the ministers of religion.” O, how vain the dream! how fond the fancy! The efforts of our pious author to remedy ecclesiastical abuses, if he would retain the compulsory system of our endowments, and yet expect to have the support of those who are dissentient from the very principle of an Established Church, is the acmè of childish infatuation.
Men free from factious motives will not for a moment entertain the thought of demolishing, or of suffering to be demolished, our ecclesiastical institutions, on the ground of any mere hypothesis of church polity.-P.419.
Such is the statement of our author. What will dissenters say to it? What have they said ? Have they not clamorously shouted together in one concerted outcry against the wicked and unscriptural alliance of Church and State ? Have they not as uniformly decried tithes as a diabolical usurpation of priestcraft, and vauntingly gloried in the superior efficacy of their own voluntary payments? Has not Dr. Pye Smith termed this voluntary scheme “the life's blood of the dissenting cause?” Our author, with murderous hand, would spill that vital blood !!! And yet he hopes to effect an ecclesiastical reform generally acceptable to separatists, in which their voluntary payments are to yield to legal endowments !!! Then, again, as to the union of Church and State ;dissenters vehemently declaim against the incestuous alliance as “productive of the most mischievous and irreligious effects,"* and expend much rhetoric against the support of Christianity "by worldly sanctions, in the hands of worldly men,” and are sorely indignant when “religion is" thus "made the engine of ambition and worldly advancement, and prostituted, under the forms of law, to the purpose of obtaining places and preferments, and made the step-ladder to posts of honour and emolument." † Is our author credulous enough to believe that it is possible for the Church, retaining her inalienable rights, to be remodelled in such a manner as to satisfy the wishes and meet the opinions of that motly host, who unite in nothing but in their common hatred of the Establishment, and their affiliated efforts to consummate her downfall ? Churchmen and dissenters are broadly at issue upon questions of vital importance, and conscience and principles are appealed to, on the one side and on the other, to maintain their respective doctrines. The pious and well-meant efforts of our author seem, therefore, in our judgment, little likely to be crowned with success. Much as we lament the distractions, and weep over the schisms that rend the church of Christ in opposition to that perfect unanimity which is inculcated by holy writ, yet we confess we have no hope of curing these sins by the specifics of the eloquent writer, to whose learned pages we are at the present moment addressing our notice; and, surely, he deceives himself when he imagines that such feuds can be calmed "pulveris exigui jactu."
“ What, then," it will be said to us, “ do you counsel interminable war against your dissenting brethren ? Is there never to be peace
. * See Dr. Pye Smith's Reply to Dr. Lee, p. 78.
+ See Dr. Rees's Sermon on the Principles of Dissenters, preached at the Old Jewry Chapel.
amongst Christians ?” We answer,—“ What ! peace ! so long as the whoredoms of thy mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many ?"* We answer, that whilst we conscientiously hold dissent to be unscriptural, and therefore unjustifiable, and schism to be a sin of enormous mischief, and damnable in the sight of God, as productive of envying, and strife, and divisions,--we must for ever repudiate those principles which stand in palpable contrast with the spirit of the gospel, and the injunctions of the divine law, though factious separatists may talk fluently of their christian charity, and bear the olive branch in those hands in which our fears would sometimes teach us to think that we descry a dagger. We cannot hope for the blessing of Almighty God on a hollow union of religious parties," which is opposed in principle to his revealed will;" nor can we look for the spread of the gospel, the glories and countless benefits to be derived to human society from this, when, in truth, we are endeavouring to bring all about by means which he has actually forbidden !+ We are not the advocates of intolerance. We are not impugners of the right of private judgment. We would inflict no pains or penalties upon any forms of christian faith. We utterly detest the abomination of "spiritual despotism” as a “cursed thing." But we are stanch Churchmen, because we think our Church, in her doctrines, her endowments, and her polity, to be pure, and scriptural, and apostolic. It is upon these grounds that we would still maintain her in all her predominance.--It is upon these grounds that we would still maintain her union with the State, her wealth untouched, her honours undiminished, her ministers unaggrieved !- It is upon these grounds that we would fight the battle of our Church behind her last rampart, secure of the protection of beaven, and fearless of the desperate assaults of her confederate enemies, however “ furiously they may rage together!” We cannot consent to sacrifice our principles as Churchmen, to any specious plan of political expediency ; nor can we even wish for peace with schismatics, so long as they insist upon conditions of amity which are inconsistent with the very existence of the Establishment ! It is upon these grounds that we pronounce the notions of our author upon this topic to be chimerical, and his hopes delusive. We would advertise him of these things for the purpose of shewing him how vain are his expectations—how useless his schemes ! We would ask him,with friendly accent, admiring, as we do, his talents, and honouring his piety,—we would ask him whether the infusion of a more popular spirit, in these days of republican license, into the constitution of the English Church, will add to her security, or whether it be consistent with prudence to attempt her reformation with the view of conciliating dissenters, whose good-will she may then only hope for, when
• 2 Kings ix. 22.