Page images


EXETER RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY. On Sunday, September 13, a meeting of the congregation assembling in George's Meeting House, South-street, Exeter, was held in that place, in order publicly to mark their sense of, and to express their thanks to, the Rev. Henry Acton, one of their Ministers, for the very able and convincing arguments in which he had replied to the attacks made on Unitarian Christians, by the Rev. Daniel Bagot, in discourses recently delivered by him in the church of St. Sidwell, Exeter: when Mr. Charles Bowring was called to the chair.

In moving the several resolutions (for which see below), the meeting was addressed by the Chairman and others, who bore testimony to that great truth, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only true God, and the only proper object of religious worship. In a spirit of Christian charity, also, some of the speakers characterized the conduct of the Rev. Daniel Bagot as an attack gratuitous and wanton, but fortunately made in a city where he met an opponent, who, though not desirous of imitating him in his bitterness, yet had most successfully combatted his arguments, and exposed and laid bare the sophistries to which he had recourse. The conduct, also, of some of his supporters was the subject of animadversion, and it was lamented that men calling themselves clergymen, and men who had the benefit of good educations, should at this day have made such an exhibition of bigotry, ignorance of others, and intolerance of spirit, as they had done. It was declared that the Unitarian Christians courted inquiry, since it was the Truth they sought:—this alone that they desired to know,

On the subject of the result of the late controversy, as respected the numerous hearers of the reverend contendents, they expressed themselves in terms of the greatest confidence. Never before had that Meeting House been so filled; indeed, capacious as it is, it had been inadequate to contain the numbers who desired admittance ; and the consequence was, that many who had, all their lives before, been content to take things on trust, had now begun to search and inquire for themselves. This was what, as Unitarians, they desired this was precisely the effect they wished; satisfied, if men would but inquire, that the Truth was as plain as it is great, and that it would prevail.

The following Resolutions were unanimously passed :

1. That this Congregation, being firmly convinced that the popular doctrine of the Trinity is incompatible with the Scriptural Doctrine of the Unity of God, and that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the only true God, have heard with entire satisfaction the defence of this important truth lately delivered in this Chapel by their respected Minister, the Rev. Henry Acton.

2. That this Congregation desire to return their best thanks to the Rev. Henry Acton, for the able manner in which he has conducted the recent controversy with the Res. Daniel Bagot, and for the judgment and moderation with which he has exposed the uncandid insinuations and unfounded statements that have been put forth against the Professors of the Unitarian Faith.

3. That the Rev. Henry Acton be respectfully requested to publish the Lectures he has delivered on this occasion.

4. That a deputation consisting of the following Gentlemen-the Chairman, J. Mackintosh, Esq. and Dr. Barham, be appointed to communicate these Resolutions to the Rev. H. Acton, and to present him with the sum of One Hundred Pounds, subscribed by the Congregation as a testimonial of their respect and attachment, to be applied in the manner most agreeable to himself.

JUBILEE OF THE REFORMATION. From the Lake of Geneva, August 24.-The Jubilee of the Reformation has just been celebrated at Geneva with appropriate solemnity and genuine popular joy, free from all unpleasant alloy, which was not a little promoted by the presence and participation of so many distinguished clergymen from Switzerland, Germany, France, England, Scotland, and even North America. After the hospitable reception of these worthy strangers at the harbour and in the Botanic Gardens, they were conducted to those persons who had offered, nay, entreated, to accommodate them.—(This was on the 21st, in the afternoon.) On Saturday morning, the 22nd, there was a grand general ecclesiastical conference, in which several Swiss and Foreign clergy spoke of the great importance of religion and general Protestantism, as it is now understood by the Church of Geneva, contrasted with Methodism in that city. In the afternoon there was in all the churches a distribution of the Jubilee medals, admirably executed by M. A. Berry, a Genevese, settled in Paris, and of an historical essay on the Reformation at Geneva, expressly written for this occasion by the Rev. M. Cellerier, which were given to all the children of Geneva and the environs, from seven to fifteen years of age, without distinction of the rank or circumstances of the parents. These children then proceeded to the neighbouring extensive garden, where they had dancing and other amusements. Sunday, the 23d, was properly the day of the Jubilee. It was ushered in by the ringing of bells, after which there was divine service in all the churches, which were handsomely decorated for the occasion. In the evening there was a concert of sacred music in St. Paul's church, which was finely illuminated. As soon as it grew dark the general illumination of the city began, which was remarkably fine, especially on the quays, and in what are called Rues basses, which were so remarkable at the commencement of the Reformation in Geneva; a mass of at least 30,000 citizens, country-people, and strangers, thronged the streets, quays, and squares of the city, which is not very large, without the slightest disorder or confusion, or even any improper expressions. Everybody felt the importance of this religious festival, in which no political feeling mingled. Thus did the Genevese celebrate worthily, and in a manner to be imitated by other cities--the great festival the festival of their religious and national restoration. On Monday there was another ecclesiastical conference, then a grand entertainment to our foreign guests, and afterwards an excursion on the lake. The greater part of the Jubilee was favoured by the finest weather. The Catholics in Geneva and the neighbouring communes were so far from endeavouring to disturb the festival, that many took part in it by illuminating their houses.

The 4th of October being the tercentenary of the translation of the whole Bible into English, is, it is understood, to be observed by many churches in this country. We hope the Grand Orange Chaplain, the Bishop of Salisbury, and other men of the same stamp, will not desecrate the occasion by unmeasured and anti-Christian denunciations against their fellow-Christians of the Catholic communion. While Protestants rejoice in their privileges, let them be lenient towards those whose advantages are inferior, and looking rather at their own deficiencies, make the occasion one of self-improvement.

A. Statement of Facts relating to the proceedings of the Council of the London University, in their attempt to obtain a charter of incorporation, has been transmitted to the subscribers, from which it appears that it has been decided by the King in Council that there shall be two charters in favour of the University-one reducing its style to that of College, and the other constituting a Metropolitan University, with power to confer degrees on candidates from all parts of tbe United Kingdom, and from every seminary of education, whether cliartered or unincorporated.

The Rev. C. Wicksteed, of the Park Chapel, near Liverpool, has accepted an invitation to Leeds, as successor to Dr. Hutton, removed to Carter: lane, London.

UNITARIAN CHAPEL, PADUAM.—It must be gratifying to those who subscribed to release the above-named chapel from its ground-rent of £10. a year, that a sufficient sum has been raised. Owing, however, to the death of the party of whom the land was purchased, the debt cannot be redeemed for some years. Meanwhile the money has been put out on mortgage, and will bring in nearly enough to pay the rent. On a recent visit we were glad to find the congregation very flourishing, and that they had procured and inclosed a piece of ground for burials, which improves the appearance of the place, and will serve as a new bond of attachment to the members.

DORCHESTER.–TRIBUTE OF RESPECT TO TILE Rev. L. LEWIS.-The respected Unitarian minister of this town being about shortly to leare his present congregation, with which he has been connected for eighteen years, was presented with a handsome silver inkstand, at a meeting held in the chapel on the 2nd August, bearing the following inscription ;— Presented to the Rev. L. Lewis, by the young men of the Unitarian congregation, Dorchester, as a testimony of their gratitude for his exertions in promoting their moral, religious, and intellectual improvement, A.D. 1835.' This token of esteem must be extremely gratifying to the Rev. Gentleman's feelings, for, as he well observed on the occasion of the presentation, nothing can cheer the heart of a minister more, than to feel sensible that those whose welfare he seeks, and to whose improvement he is devoted, take a lively interest in his efforts, and thus afford him hopes that he does not labour altogether in vain.'

TO CORRESPONDENTS. We have been disappointed in not receiving the concluding part of Dr. Tuckerman's recollections of Rammohun Roy.

S.'s paper on · Unitarian Reform' is acceptable.

"Feinale Education' in our next; also, Thoughts on Peual Legislation.' V, must stand over : also, several papers long in hand. We beg our friends to bear with us patiently. Their papers shall be inserted as soon as, all things considered, we find it possible.

Our Dorchester and Exeter friends are thanked.-G. B. came too late for the present number.— The number was made up before E. C. came to hand. Shall appear in the next.

N. B. Communications designed for the out-coming number of the Christian Teacher niust be in the Editor's hands at the latest by the 15th of the current month.

Forrest and Pool, Printers, Manchester.


WHATEVER merit modern unbelievers may have a right to claim, they cannot boast much of the originality either of the positions they have assumed, or the arguments by which they have laboured to maintain them. The armoury of unbelief has long since been exhausted of its weapons, and the most that the more recent assailants of Christianity have been able to effect, is to collect the missiles already hurled, and now and then to furbish up a sword which had been blunted and broken in the warfare. Substantially, the matter at issue between them and Christians has been long since determined. The cause has been again and again pleaded—the evidence on both sides adduced—the skill of the advocates exhausted—and the verdict pronounced. In whose favour? Let the existence of Christianity, let its continued and accelerated progress, answer the question. And surely that institution can have little to fear from the puny arm of its actual opponents, which has survived and flourished, notwithstanding the power and malignity of its first enemies-notwithstanding the learning of Celsus, the ridicule of Julian, the banded forces of the unbelievers of the seventeenth century in England, and of the eighteenth century in France. What Herbert, Voltaire, and Gibbon have, with a host of others, assailed in vain, may be fearlessly pronounced unassailable.

While Jesus was on earth, the attempt was made to fix upon him the stigma of an impostor. “We remember what that deceiver said, while yet alive, After three days I will rise again.'* Such was the plea urged by the Chief Priests and Pharisees, to induce the Roman authorities to employ the resources of their power against a cause which they had attempted to crush by putting its head to an ignominious death. The plea, however, contains its own confutation. What need of this precaution, if Jesus were, as denounced, a deceiver ? Would the heads of the Jewish nation have troubled themselves, or the Roman Governor, in seeking for a guard to watch the tomb of an executed malefactor, had they believed he was a malefactor and a deceiver ? Were their duties so light as to leave them time to care what became of the buried body? And supposing the reason they assigned to Pilate for their extraordinary request were realized by the disciples' stealing away the body, how could their inference ensue, that the last error will be worse than the first'? What magical power could there be in the corpse of a deceiver to disturb the peace of the whole Sanhedrim, and win away from them the allegiance of the people ? Let the disciples have had the corpse, and what more powerful argument

* Matt. xxvii. 63.

against themselves could have been adduced to show the emptiness of their pretensions ? Of all things, the exhibition of the dead body was most to be desired by the Jewish hierarchy, as furnishing an incontestible proof that the whole matter was of human folly or fraud, and not of God. Yet they urgently request a guard to keep the body in the tomb. Their conduct is a confession of their fears, and in their fears is a confession of the validity of the claims of Christ. They had succeeded in procuring his execution, and are terrified at his lifeless frame. They had broken the magician's wand, but tremble in looking on the fragments. Why, if they believed the wand to be common wood ?

There is another advantage ensuing from this self-convicted charge. It cannot be pleaded that the Jewish hierarchy were taken unawares. The alleged imposture did not grow up without attracting notice. It stood before the eye of its enemies. It was challenged by them as an imposture; and as an imposture, too, it was met by all the resources of their power.

As such it was denounced in the high places of the land; and as such, there can be no doubt, it was held forth to the abhorrence of the many. Yet the cause of Christ prevailed. The battle was fought and won ;-yes, on the very ground on which they must take their stand who are prepared to maintain that Jesus was an impostor-only, that the position of modern unbelievers cannot, in the nature of the case, be so advantageous as was their's who had not only the imposture-if imposture it were-standing at their own doors, and before their own eyes, possessing, therefore, every opportunity for its exposure and suppression ; but had actually, at least to human apprehension, more than half gained the victory, in having slain the enemy and made sure of

It must not be passed unnoticed, that the argument now urged is founded on the statement, not of friends to Christianity, but of its foes. The allegation is their's, not our's. that the story bears internal and indubitable marks of a Jewish origin ; for were the disciples likely to originate a plea against the cause on which they had staked their all, and such a plea as would furnish their opponents with a better weapon than any they could themselves fabricate? Especially, if deceivers, would they proclaim to the world the more than suspicion in which they and their's were from the first held ? Is it the custom of impostors to blazon their name on their foreheads—and that, too, without one word in exculpation? Yet the historian Matthew has recorded the charge without attempting to confute it. He has given the accuser all the advantage of his accusation, though that accusation goes to brand himself with the disgrace of abetting fraud. We are not to be told that such con

his corpse.

We mean

« PreviousContinue »