Page images
PDF
EPUB

any of the doctrines to which we have alluded. But we do say, that a work so eminently adapted, by the general purity of its morals, and the pious and affectionate spirit which pervades its pages,

for

reception into the homes of men, would secure a wider sphere of usefulness by carefully abstaining from every possibility of giving offence through the causes to which we have adverted. We may be thought too scrupulous, but let us not be misunderstood. We would fain see this book the companion of the domestic circle-we think much good would arise from its extensive perusal—and for this reason we would sedulously exclude all that could tend to circumscribe its influence.

We shall, by way of conclusion, subjoin the following description of the Penitent anointing the feet of Jesus,' which will serve as a specimen of a series of sketches, under the denomination of Scripture Characters.'

There was a mournfulness in angel eyes
That saw thec, woman-bright in this world's train,
Moving to pleasure's airy melodies,
Thyself the idol of the enchanted strain;
But from thy beauty's garlands, brief and vain,
When, one hy one, the rose-leaves bad been torn;
When thy heart's core had quivered to the pain,
Through every life-nerve sent by arrowy scoru :
When thou didst kneel to pour sweet odours forth,
On the Redeemer's feet with many a sigh;
And showering tear-drops of yet richer worth,
Than all the costly balms of Araby ;-
Then was there joy—a song of joy in heaven,
For thee-the child won back--the penitent forgiv'n!

H. H.

[ocr errors]

MUTUAL TOLERANCE. On Mutual Tolerance, and on the Ultimate Test of Truth, occasioned by a recent Pub

lication, entitled, · A Beacon to the Society of Friends,' by the Author of Remarks on Catholic Einancipation,' &c. London, Whittaker; and Lancaster, Hudson. 1835. pp. 66. We had occasion, in the number for May, to animadvert with some severity upon the · Beacon,' a work recently put forth by one of the Society of Friends, as containing sentiments subversive of those principles of religious freedom which we consider to lie at the foundation of vital religion, and, though that is a matter of less moment, in direct opposition to the teachings of Penn and others, to whom that community of our fellowChristians are accustomed to defer. We could not refrain from the expression of a fear, that the Friends were receding from their primitive simplicity, to take the van in the march of bigotry. But we are bound in justice to state, that the sentiments promulgated by Isaac Crewdson in the Beacon,' have not the universal concurrence of the members of his religious community. Whether the protest that has been put forth will avail to stop the career of intolerance, or whether the protesting party constitutes a considerable portion of the whole body, we cannot undertake to say; but heartily do we rejoice, for the sake of the righteous cause, that some one is found to come forward and vindicate himself and his friends from the fearful imputation that has been sought to be fixed upon them.

The name of the pamphlet to which we allude will be found at the head of this notice. The writer of it is Benjamin Dockray, of Lancaster, the avowed author of Remarks on Catholic Emancipation.' It contains a temperate and well-reasoned defence of the right of individual inquiry and individual opinion on religious matters; and the principles are fearlessly carried out to their utmost and legitimate extent. In opposition to the • Beacon,' which asserts that the only true source of the knowledge of God, and of his salvation, is the Scriptures—a proposition which, of course, involves infallibility of interpretation—the author of Mutual Tolerance' contends that the New Testament cannot be designated a rule of faith, since men may differ respecting its meaning, and one may allege it rules this, while the other alleges it rules the contrary.'--p. 23. In such an emergency, they are left to their internal conviction : assisted, as we believe, by the Holy Spirit, to the extent that pleases Him. Are they honest in this conviction, which is their last resource? If they are, they have done what they could.:p. 23–24. This is truly liberal, and amounts to the doctrine which we shall always maintain in our pages, as the doctrine upon which the elevation, intellectual and spiritual, of our species depends, that our honest and dispassionate convictions constitute our sole obligation in disputed cases.

Benjamin Dockray well exposes the futility of the argument, that if we do not assign a standard of opinion, we open a door for the admission of errors without number. Our liability to error he shows is part of our condition, as probationary creatures, and we must deal with man as he is.' From this liability arise many duties, and no inconsiderable part of our intellectual and moral discipline: just as from other disadvantages we are under, doubtless for beneficent purposes, other duties arise and other modes of instructive discipline.

• The principal exercise of the highest of Christian virtues, Charity, is to be found in bearing with each other in our providentially-appointed liability to error, and in assisting each other in several difficulties which thence arise.'-p. 22-23.

The hollowness of any profession that is not founded upon individual persuasion, is shown in the following passage :

* Men are required by their opponents to believe that on the authority of Scripture, the contrary of which they believe on the same authority. They are required to believe that which, relying on the Scripture, they are convinced is not true !—p. 23.

Again: the persecuting spirit in which · Isaac Crewdson' speaks of the followers of Elias Hicks, meets with the following just rebuke: it also points out the proper limits of ecclesiastical interference:

• But supposing that a religious society, in consequence of circumstances, is under a necessity of expressing its judgment on the religious sentiments of a part of its members, to what extent is it entitled to proceed ? I contend that it ought to assume no more than would be implied in saying, those sentiments are not the sentiments of the society -are not consistent with that view of Christian truth, which, as we prefer, we deem it our duty to profess; and they are sentiments which, in our estimation, are of an injurious tendency. This disclaimer, which the Society of Friends has made, in regard to the parties in America who have dissented from us, amounts to this and no more. They are no longer members of our religious community—that is to say, they are in the same relation to us that other persons are who never have beenexcept that, in regard to them, it is peculiarly our duty to cherish the hope of their restoration. But I cannot consider that such is the treatment which they have received from all who have assailed them.'-p.

.26. It becomes the Quakers the least of any section of the Christian community, to assume the prerogative of fixing definitively the sense of Scripture. With perhaps a single exception, they deviate most widely, and in the greatest number of instances, from the prevailing modes of belief; and the only justification they can plead is, their conviction that they act up to the spirit of the Gospel. Is it seemly in them, when they have attained a respectable eminence among theological investigators, to cast away the ladder by means of which they have reached it, and to demand at the hands of their neighbours implicit deference to their peculiar views, under the penalty of being denounced as heretics or infidels ? Such conduct may subserve the purposes of a sect-it may concentrate the failing energies of a party; but it will never conciliate dissidents, nor bring over the disinterested seeker for truth,

In conclusion, we beg to express the ardent hope, that this tract, . On Mutual Tolerance, may be extensively circulated among the Friends, to whom it is primarily addressed, and indeed among all classes ; for the principles it developes are of universal and lasting importance : and we also fervently pray, that a love of truth among men may speedily drive out the all-inordinate dread of infidelity, and that sympathy with those who are joined in the search, may take place of that virulence of assertion, and impugning of motives, which are, unfortunately, the chief weapons with which religious disputants love to contend,

G. L.

ON THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

ENDOWMENTS.

To the Editor of the Christian Teacher. Sir,-When a man has been betrayed into a false view of an important principle, it is his duty, as soon as he perceives his error, to point it out, and to acknowledge it unreservedly. Aware, myself, of having fallen into an error on a subject of considerable practical importance, you will perhaps allow me room in your pages to perform the duty which the discovery of it imposes; and this I will do as briefly as possible—the tranquillity which I have enjoyed during the last nine months having enabled me to reflect on the question with greater collectedness, and to separate the different points of it more clearly from each other, than was practicable during the agitations and excitements of the preceding period.

In a letter addressed to the Manchester Times, in the month of September last, on the subject of tithes, I have made two statements, which I now perceive to be inconsistent with each other. I have stated, first, that tithes constitute a national property; and, secondly, that if, in each separate parish, the appropriation of them were left in the hands of the parishioners themselves, they would assume the character and fall under the conditions of a private endowment-in regard to which the only question for conscience would be, whether it could accept the terms with which the enjoyment of such endowment was connected. Both of these propositions cannot, however, be true. Either tithes are the property of the church-a certain proportion of the produce of a particular district, attached from time immemorial, and belonging of right to a certain institution existing within its precincts; or they are the property of the nation, which merely concedes the usufruct of them to the church. If the former view be correct, then tithes, or any equivalent fund into which they may be commuted, stand on the same footing with private endowments, the legislature (according to the views usually entertained on the subject of property devised for particular uses) having no further power to interfere, than simply to see that the conditions under which the property is enjoyed are faithfully executed. In this case, supposing the church to be completely separated from the state, and to have ceased to be in any sense a political institution, and supposing the people, for whose benefit the appropriation was made, to have an immediate controul over its disposal —the property, consisting in tithes, would, I apprehend, be constituted in the same way with Lady Hewley's foundations, or any other endowments attached to Dissenting churches and institutions, the conditions coupled with it being all that conscience was interested in: and the question, in fact, would then resolve itself into a simple election between the respective advantages of the endowed and voluntary principles, as a means of outwardly supporting religion.

If, on the other hand, tithes be national property—then, as no fresh distribution of them for religious purposes, let the principle of their application be as Catholic and popular as possible (to embrace every variety of religious belief, and to exclude all restriction and favouritism would be obviously impracticable) as no fresh distribution of them could take place, except through an organic act of the legislature--the final constitution of their application in each particular parish must involve a confusion of the perfectly distinct provinces of religion and legislation; and he who holds (as I do) that such confusion is in itself irrational and pernicious, ought to have no participation in the benefits of any system which proceeds from it. Most distinctly, then, do I now see, and most willing am I now to acknowledge, that the two suppositions which I formerly made destroy each other. If tithes, under any

circumstances, can fall under the conditions of a private endowment, they must be the property of the church; if they are not the property of the church, but of the nation, they can never assume the character of a private endowment.

That tithes do constitute a national property, I have no doubt; the simple fact of their alienation from one church to another, through a legislative process, at the time of the Reformation, having indelibly stamped on them the mark of the ownership of the nation; and, being a national property, the will of the majority of the nation for the time being must dispose of their application. The most obviously equitable mode of their adjustment—and one which society will doubtless finally adopt—would be to apply them to some purpose by which the whole of the nation could directly benefit—not, however, receding further than necessary from the spirit of their original appropriation, but consecrating them, without trenching on ground purely religious, to the moral and intellectual civilization of all classes.

Whether society is prepared for, or could at present beneficially adopt in its whole extent, so great a change in the means of providing for the religious instruction of the whole community, is another and more difficult question. The change will come—and come peacefully and beneficially—when the mass of the intelligence of society are convinced of its expediency; and to produce in them that conviction there is no other method but the circulation of knowledge and the discussion of principles. The final result may be left with confidence to the progress of opinion, the course of events, and the order of Providence.

I have wished to acknowledge in this letter an erroneous view which I formerly embraced. I wish also to state, that the same train of reflection which has led me to a clear perception of that error, has made ne also feel, with increased conviction, that, whatever may be the practical difficulties attending the dissolution of old religious establishments, and however much we may be aware of the present inadequacy of the voluntary principle to meet the whole extent of the religious wants of society-still the Protestant Dissenter has no other course to follow, than to be true, in his own sphere of action and example, to the broad fundamental principle of the perfect distinctness from each other of religion and legislation; that no love of peace, no dislike of sectarianism, no wish to join with the liberal and enlightened of other sects in some more comprehensive bond of church-fellowship, no fears for the interests of learning, civilization, or refinement-ought to blind him to the paramount claims of that great principle; and that, in whaterer degree he allows apprehension and distrust in relation to these subordinate and collateral considerations, which do not affect the essence of religion, to cause him to recede from the prominent assertion of the principle, he retards—and that, in whatever degree he adheres to it, he advances--the arrival of the day of complete religious freedom and universal religious equality. Bonn on the Rhine, July 4, 1835.

JOHN JAMES TAYLER.

« PreviousContinue »