Page images
PDF
EPUB

scribers consists of persons who have very sincere intentions of doing good. That they have, in some instances, done a great deal of good, we admit with the greatest pleasure. We believe that, in the hands of truly honest, intrepid, and, above all, discreet men, such a society might become a valuable institution, improve in some degree the public morals, and increase the public happiness. So many qualities, however, are reqnired to carry it on well,—the temptations to absurdity and impertinence are so very great,that we despair of ever seeing our wishes upon this subject realised. In the present instance our object has been to suppress the arrogance of suppressors, -to keep them within due bounds,—to show them that to do good requires a little more talent and reflection than they are aware of,-and, above all, to impress upon them that true zeal for virtue knows no distinction between the rich and the poor ; and that the cowardly and the mean can never be the true friends of morality, and the promoters of human happiness. If they attend to these rough doctrines, they will ever find in the writers of this Journal their warmest admirers and their most sincere advocates and friends.

STYLES ON METHODISTS AND MISSIONS.

(E. REVIEW, April, 1809.) Strictures on two Critiques in the Edinburgh Review, on the Subject of Methodism and

Missions; with Remarks on the Influence of Reviews, in general, on Morals and Happi

ness. By JOHN STYLES. 8vo. London. 1809. IN routing out a nest of consecrated cobblers, and in bringing to light such a perilous heap of trash as we were obliged to work through in our articles upon the Methodists and Missionaries, we were generally conceived to have rendered an useful service to the cause of rational religion. Everyone, however, at all acquainted with the true character of Methodism, must have known the extent of the abuse and misrepresentation to which we exposed ourselves in such a service. All this obloquy, however, we were very wil. ling to encounter, from our conviction of the necessity of exposing and correcting the growing evil of fanaticism. In spite of all misrepresentation, we have ever been, and ever shall be, the sincere friends of sober and rational Christianity. We are quite ready, if any fair opportunity occur, to defend it, to the best of our ability, from the tiger-spring of infidelity; and we are quite determined, if we can prevent such an evil, that it shall not be eaten up by the nasty and numerous vermin of Methodism. For this purpose we shall proceed to make a few short remarks upon the sacred and silly gentle. man before us,-not, certainly, because we feel any sort of anxiety as to the effect of his strictures on our own credit or reputation, but because his direct and inarticulate defence of the principles and practices which we have condemned affords us the fairest opportunity of exposing, still more clearly, both the extravagance and the danger of these popular sectaries.

These very impudent people have one ruling canon, which pervades every thing they say and do. Whoever is unfriendly to Methodism is an infidel and an atheist. This reasonable and amiable maxim, repeated in every form of dulness, and varied in every attitude of malignity, is the sum and substance of Mr. Styles's pamphlet. Whoever wishes to rescue religion from the hands or didactic artizans—whoever prefers a respectable clergyman for his teacher to a delirious mechanic-whoever wishes to keep the intervals between churches and lunatic asylums as wide as possible--all such men, in the estimation of Mr. Styles, are nothing better than open or concealed enemies of Christianity. His catechism is very simple. In what hoy do you navigate ? By what shoemaker or carpenter are you instructed? What miracles have you to relate? Do you think it sinful to reduce Providence to an alternative, &c. &c. &c. Now, if we were to content ourselves with using to Mr. Styles, while he is dealing about his imputations of infidelity, the uncourtly language which is sometimes applied to those who are little curious about truth or falsehood, what Methodist would think the worse of him for such an attack ? Who is there among them that would not glory to lie for the tabernacle ? Who that would not believe he was pleasing his Maker by sacrificing truth, justice, and common sense to the interests of his own little chapel and his own deranged instructor? Something more than contradiction or confutation, therefore, is necessary to discredit those charitable dogmatists, and to diminish their pernicious influence ;-and the first accusation against us is that we have endeavoured to add ridicule to reasoning.

We are a good deal amused, indeed, with the extreme disrelish which Mr. John Styles exhibits to the humour and pleasantry with which he admits the Methodists to have been attacked ; but Mr. John Styles should remember that it is not the practice with destroyers of vermin to allow the little victims a veto upon the weapons used against them. If this were otherwise, we should have one set of vermin banishing small-tooth combs; another protesting against mouse-traps ; a third prohibiting the finger and thumb; a fourth exclaiming against the intolerable infamy of using soap and water. It is impossible, however, to listen to such pleas. They must all be caught, killed, and cracked in the manner and by the instruments which are found most efficacious to their destruction; and the more they cry out, the greater plainly is the skill used against them. We are convinced a little laughter will do them more harm than all the arguments in the world. Such men as the author before us cannot understand when they are out-argued ; but he has given us a specimen, from his irritability, that he fully comprehends when he has become the object of universal contempt and derision. We agree with him, that ridicule is not exactly the weapon to be used in matters of religion ; but the use of it is excusable when there is no other which can make fools tremble. Besides, he should remember the particular sort of ridicule we have used, which is nothing more than accurate quotation from the Methodists themselves. It is true that this is the most severe and cutting ridicule to which we could have had recourse ; but, whose fault is that?

Nothing can be more disingenuous than the attacks Mr. Styles has made upon us for our use of Scripture language. Light and grace are certainly terms of Scripture. It is not to the words themselves that any ridicule can ever attach. It is from the preposterous application of those words, in the mouths of the most arrogant and ignorant of human beings; it is from their use in the most trivial, low, and familiar scenes of life;—it is from the illiterate and ungrammatical prelacy of Mr. John Styles that any tinge of ridicule ever is, or ever can be, imparted to the sacred language of Scripture.

We admit also, with this gentleman, that it would certainly evince the most vulgar and contracted heart to ridicule any religious opinions, methodistical or otherwise, because they were the opinions of the poor, and were conveyed in the language of the poor. But are we to respect the poor when they wish to step out of their province and become the teachers of the land ?-when men, whose proper “talk is of bullocks,” pretend to have “wisdom and understanding," is it not lawful to tell them they have none ? An ironmonger is a very respectable man so long as he is merely an ironmonger,-an admirable man, if he is a religious ironmonger ; but a great blockhead, if he sets up for a bishop or a dean, and lectures upon theology. It is not the

[graphic]

poor we have attacked-but the writing poor, the publishing poor-the limited arrogance which mistakes its own trumpery sect for the world : nor have we attacked them for want of talent, but for want of modesty, want of sense, and want of true rational religion-for every fault which Mr. John Styles defends and exemplifies.

It is scarcely possible to reduce the drunken declamations of Methodism to a point, to grasp the wriggling lubricity of these cunning animals, and to fix them in one position. We have said, in our review of the Methodists, that it is extremely wrong to suppose that Providence interferes with special and extraordinary judgments on every trifling occasion of life : that to represent an innkeeper killed for preventing a Methodist meeting, or loud claps of thunder rattling along the heavens merely to hint to Mr. Scott that he was not to preach at a particular tabernacle in Oxford Road, appeared to us to be blasphemous and mischievous nonsense. With great events, which change the destiny of mankind, we might suppose such interference, the discovery of which, upon every trilling occasion, we consider to be pregnant with very mischievous consequences. — To all which Mr. Styles replies that, with Providence, nothing is great, or nothing little-nothing difficult, or nothing easy; that a worm and a whale are equal in the estimation of a Supreme Being.– But did any human being but a Methodist, and a third or fourth rate Methodist, ever make such a reply to such an argument? We are not talking of what is great or important to Providence, but to us. The creation of a worm or a whale, a Newton or a Styles, are tasks equally easy to Omnipotence. But are they, in their results, equally important to us? The lightning may as easily strike the head of the French'emperor, as of an innocent cottager ; but we are surely neither impious nor obscure when we say that one would be an important interference of Providence, and the other comparatively not so. But it is a loss of time to reply to such trash; it presents no stimulus of difficulty to us; nor would it offer any of novelty to our readers. | To our attack upon the melancholy tendency of Methodism, Mr. Styles replies, “That a man must have studied in the schools of Hume, Voltaire, and Kotzebue, who can plead in behalf of the theatre; that, at fashionable ball-rooms and assemblies, seduction is drawn out to a system ; that dancing excites the fever of the passions, and raises a delirium too often fatal to innocence and peace; and that, for the poor, instead of the common rough amusements to which they are now addicted, there remain the simple beauties of nature, the gay colours and scented perfumes of the earth.” These are the blessings which the common people have to expect from their Methodistical instructors. They are pilfered of all their money-shut out from all their dances and country wakes—and are then sent penniless into the fields, to gaze on the clouds, and smell to dandelions !

Against the orthodox clergy of all descriptions our sour devotee proclaims, as was to have been expected, the most implacable war;—declaring that "in one century they would have obliterated all the remaining practical religion in the Church, had it not been for this new sect, everywhere spoken against.Undoubtedly, the distinction of mankind into godly and ungodly -if by godly is really meant those who apply religion to the extinction of bad passions—would be highly desirable. But when, by that word, is only intended a sect more desirous of possessing the appellation than of deserving it, -when, under that term, are comprehended thousands of canting hypocrites and raving enthusiasts-men despicable from their ignorance, and formidable from their madness—the distinction may hereafter prove to be truly terrific : and a dynasty of fools may again sweep away both Church and State in one hideous ruin. There may be, at present, some very respectable men at the head of these maniacs, who would insanify them with some degree of prudence, and keep them only half mad, if they could. But this won't do Bedlam will break loose, and overpower its keepers. If the preacher sees visions and has visitations, the clerk will come next, and then the congregation : every man will be his own prophet, and dream dreams for himself: the competition in extravagance will be hot and lively, and the whole island a receptacle for incurables. There is, at this moment, a man in London who prays for what garments he wants, and finds them next morning in his room, tight and fitting. This man, as might be expected, gains between two and three thousand a year from the common people by preaching. Anna, the prophetess, encamps in the woods of America, with thirteen or fourteen. thousand followers, and has visits every night from the prophet Elijah. " Foanna Southcote raises the dead, &c. &c. Mr. Styles will call us atheists, and disciples of the French school, for what we are about to say ; but it is our decided opinion that there is some fraud in the prophetic visit, and it is but too probable that the clothes are merely human, and the man measured for them in the common way. When such blasphemous deceptions are practised upon mankind, how can remonstrance be misplaced, or exposure mischievous? If the choice rested with us, we should say—give us back our wolves again-restore our Danish invaders-curse us with any evil but the evil of a canting, deluded, and Methodistical populace. Wherever Methodism extends its baneful influence, the character of the English people is constantly changed by it. Boldness and rough honesty are broken down into meanness, prevarication, and fraud.

While Mr. Styles is so severe upon the indolence of the Church, he should recollect that his Methodists are the ex-party; that it is not in human nature that any persons who quietly possess power, can be as active as those who are pursuing it. The fair way to state the merit of the two parties is to estimate what the exertions of the lachrymal and suspirious clergy would be, if they stepped into the endowments of their competitors. The moment they ceased to be paid by the groan-the instant that Easter offerings no longer depended upon jumping and convulsions—Mr. Styles may assure himself that the character of his darling preachers would be totally changed; their bodies would become quiet, and their minds reasonable.

It is not true, as this bad writer is perpetually saying, that the world hates piety. That modest and unobtrusive piety which fills the heart with all human charities, and makes a man gentle to others and severe to himself, is an object of universal love and veneration. But mankind hate the lust of power when it is veiled under the garb of piety ;-they hate canting and hypocrisy ;-they hate advertisers, -and quacks in piety ;--they do not choose to be insulted ;-they love to tear folly and impudence from that altar which should only be a sanctuary for the wretched and the good.

Having concluded his defence of Methodism, this fanatical writer opens upon us his Missionary battery, firing away with the most incessant fury, and. calling names, all the time, as loud as lungs accustomed to the eloquence of the tub usually vociferate. In speaking of the cruelties which their religion entails upon the Hindoos, Mr. Styles is peculiarly severe upon us for not being more shocked at their piercing their limbs with kimes. This is rather an unfair mode of alarming his readers with the idea of some unknown instrument. He represents himself as having paid considerable attention to the manners and customs of the Hindoos; and, therefore, the peculiar stress he lays upon this instrument is naturally calculated to produce upon the minds of the humane a great degree of mysterious terror. A drawing of the kime was imperiously called for; and the want of it is a subtle evasion, for which Mr.

Styles is fairly accountable. As he has been silent on this subject, it is for us to explain the plan and nature of this terrible and unknown piece of mechanism. A kime, then, is neither more nor less than a false print in the Edinburgh Review for a knife; and from this blunder of the printer has Mr. Styles manufactured this Dædalean instrument of torture, called a kime! We were at first nearly persuaded by his arguments against kimes; we grew frightened ;-we stated to ourselves the horror of not sending missionaries to a nation which used kimes ; —we were struck with the nice and accurate information of the Tabernacle upon this important subject :-but we looked in the errata, and found Mr. Styles to be always Mr. Styles—always cut off from every hope of mercy, and remaining for ever himself.

Mr. Styles is right in saying we have abolished many practices of the Hindoos since the establishment of our empire ; but then we have always consulted the Brahmins, whether or not such practices were conformable with their religion; and it is upon the authority of their condemnation that we have proceeded to abolition.

To the whole of Mr. Styles's observations upon the introduction of Christianity into India, we have one short answer :-it is not Christianity which is introduced there, but the debased mummery and nonsense of Methodists, which has little more to do with the Christian religion than it has to do with the religion of China. We would as soon consent that Brodum and Solomon should carry the medical art of Europe into India, as that Mr. Styles and his Anabaptists should give to the Eastern World their notions of our religion. We send men of the highest character for the administration of justice and the regulation of trade-nay, we take great pains to impress upon the minds of the natives the highest ideas of our arts and manufactures, by laying before them the finest specimens of our skill and ingenuity. Why, then, are common sense and decency to be forgotten in religion alone? and so foolish a set of men allowed to engage themselves in this occupation that the natives almost instinctively duck and pelt them ? But the missionaries, we are told, have mastered the languages of the East. They may also, for aught we know, in the same time, have learnt perspective, astronomy, or anything else. What is all this to us? Our charge is that they want sense, conduct, and sound religion; and that, if they are not watched, the throat of every European in India will be cut :-the answer to which is, that their progress in languages is truly astonishing! If they expose us to imminent peril, what matters it if they have every virtue under beaven? We are not writing dissertations upon the intellect of Brother Carey, but stating his character so far as it concerns us, and caring for it no further. But these pious gentlemen care nothing about the loss of the country. The plan, it seems, is this :—We are to educate India in Christianity as a parent does his child, and when it is perfect in its catechism, then to pack up, quit it entirely, and leave it to its own management. This is the evangelical project for separating a colony from the parent country. They see nothing of the bloodshed, and massacres, and devastations, nor of the speeches in parliament, squandered millions, fruitless expeditions, jobs and pensions, with which the loss of our Indian possessions would necessarily be accompanied ; nor will they see that these consequences could arise from the attempt, and not from the completion, of their scheme of conversion. We should be swept from the peninsula by Pagan zealots; and should lose, among other things, all chance of ever really converting them.

What is the use, too, of telling us what these men endure? Suffering is not a merit, but only useful suffering. Prove to us that they are fit men, doing à fit thing, and we are ready to praise the missionaries; but it gives us no plea.

« PreviousContinue »