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multiplying, and my determination was already made to quit the church.” The spirit, with which these new dissenters attacked the church, may be learned from the reflections which he makes upon the immoral conduct of a clergyman of Liverpool, who had ; been a dissenting minister. “ My inference is as follows : it is scarcely possible, in my opinion, that any man who has been educated in the true principles of dissent from the establishment, can afterwards conform with a good conscience. By the true principles of dissent, I understand an abjuration of all human authority in propounding and enforcing articles of faith, collected by men, as the doctrines of Scripture, in their own terms, and according to their own interpretation ; because a compliance with such authority is a literal abjuration of the supremacy of Christ in his own kingdom, against the most explicit commands of Christ himself. The foundation, on which sensible nonconformists build their opposition, is, that which I have laid, and I must own a very strong presumption would be raised in my mind to the disadvantage of the moral character of an apostate from this principle.
9 To these departures from the national church, Cowper alludes in his Task.
The veil is rent, rent too by priestly hands,
In spite of every propensity to a charitable judgment, I could not but regard him in the beautifully allusive language of lord Bacon, as offering to the author of truth the unclean sacrifice of a lie'.” He goes on to prove his position by alluding to some parts of the conduct of a very successful apostate from the cause of dissent, archbishop Secker, and proves that the proselyte from the church had thoroughly learned the principles, if he had not imbibed the spirit of Towgood. In mitigation, however, of the severe censures on the moral character of all who desert the cause of the dissenters, it may be observed, that disa senters are not so diligent, as may be supposed, in inculcating their peculiar principles; so that many who are educated among them, never learn the rea. sons of their separation from the established religion of the country. The same recent convert from the establishment appeared again in 1790, as the advocate of the dissenters. He was called forth by the publication of “ an Apology for the Liturgy and Clergy of the Church of England," ascribed by some to Dr. Horsley, bishop of St. David's, but by others to bishop Halifax. Whoever the author was, he had rudely attacked a publication, entitled, “ Hints submitted to the serious Attention of the Clergy, Nobility, and Laity newly associated,” by a layman, whom fame reported to be the duke of Grafton, a zealous and able supporter of the new socinian species of dissenters. The spirit, with which Gilbert Wakefield defended the temporal against the spiritual Lord, was unhappily more like the unhallowed passion of the bishop, than the mild and reasonable temper of the duke. While many were pointing out the faults of the
Memoirs, vol. I. p. 205.
church of England, one, writer attempted, in 1792, to expose the evil of all national establishments of religion. The attempt was not, indeed, entirely new ; for many had glanced at the fallacy of the principle on which these monopolies are founded, and had hinted at the evil consequences which they produce; but Mr. Graham, a Scotch seceding minister, of Newcastle, has the honour of making the first grand systematic attack, in his “ Review of the Ecclesiastical Establishments of Europe.” With much comprehension of view 'he surveys the extena sive subject, with deep reflection he forms his esti. mate of the good or evil consequences of an alliance between church and state, and with unhesitating con. viction he announces the conclusion, that this long established connection is contrary to the dictates of the Scriptures, opposed to the genius of Christianity, fatal to the interests of religion, and dangerous to the civil state. The book, failing at first to excite the attention it deserved, provoked no immediate contro. versy; but as its merit was gradually discovered, its influence on the public mind was proved by an increased opposition to all exclusive establishments in religion, while the clergy of the state were roused to defend their monopoly, and thus a tone was given to the controversy with the establishment which conti. nues to this day. The periodical publication entitled “the Christian Observer,” may be pronounced the most able antagonist of Mr. Graham's system, which is still capable of more complete elucidation; and the attack, as well as the defence of national churches, is yet likely to call forth greater numbers and powers than have hitherto engaged in the contest.
OF DISSENTERS. The war of posts which has been carried on during this reign, changed its appearance towards the latter part of it; for after that socinianism had vexed the church by attacks upon her athanasian creed and trinitarian worship, she was inore seriously alarmed by the encroachments of the methodists and the orthodox dissenters. Such zeal was displayed, especially after the rise of the missionary society, for the diffusion of the Gospel in the rural parts of the kingdom, by village preaching and sunday schools, that it roused the jealousy of those who would neither teach the poor themselves, nor suffer others to “ supply their lack of service." These efforts became the theme of bishops in their charges, and of the clergy in their visitation sermons. Oxford, as might be expected, was among the first to proclaim the church in danger. Dr. Tatham preached a sermon to the university, which he published in 1792, reflecting severely on methodists and dissenters, for the ignorance of their teachers, whose want of apostolic call to the sacred office, also, exposed their unhappy followers to the danger of dying without those sacraments to which nothing but episcopacy could give validity. Mr. Benson, one of Mr. Wesley's preachers, wrote, “ a Defence of the Methodists,” which drew from Mr. Russel, curate of Pershore, some broad and not very friendly “ Hints to Methodists and Dissenters,” to which Mr. Benson again replied, in his “ further Defence of the Methodists.” As this antagonist of high church claims, had himself entered the university to perfect his education, and been disappointed of the advantages which he hoped to have gained there, he hesitated not to retort upon many of the clergy, the accusations of ignorance, which Dr. Tatham had so liberally heaped upon the methodists. Another attack was made, 1794, by Samuel Clapham, M. A. in a sermon preached at the visitation of the bishop of Chester, and published by his command. The preacher professed to consider “ how far methodism conduces to the interests of Christianity and the welfare of society,” but he merely repeats the vulgar charges of ignorance, enthusiasm, and unauthorised intrusion into the work of the ministry. Mr. Foley, a clergyman of Worcestershire, published a volume of discourses, entitled “ a Defence of the Church of England.” As this defence consisted, in great part, of evidence in favour of the divinity of Christ, which the preacher said “ the dissenters of his day almost universally rejected,” Mr. Best, of Cradley, wrote “ a true Statement of the Case, or a Vindication of the orthodox Dissenters." He defended dissenters as a body from the charge of unitarianism, and asserted in contradiction to Mr. Foley, that even the presbyterians of that part, who had been particularly accused of heresy, had by no means universally fallen into socinjanism.
A local controversy of minor importance scarcely deserves historical notice, except as it serves to afford a specimen of the spirit which prevailed at the time. Dr. Mant, rector of All Saints, Southampton, in a sermon preached at the consecration of his parochial edifices by the bishop of Exeter, attacked the dissenters, for offering up their public prayers without a liturgy, preferring rather, as the preacher said, “ to pour out
This was not built upon a new scite as might be supposed, but the new edifice covering rather more ground than the old one, took in some that had never been made holy, which rendered it Becessary to call in episcopal powers to consecrate the building,