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the penalties denounced against them by the law as being considered a little too severe. It is by full, free and reiterated discussion alone, that the friends of the Dissenting interest, I would rather say of the general interests of truth and liberty, (apart from these the Dissenting interest shews paltry and base,) can hope finally to eradicate that dissocial, antichristian system under which the Saviour has been so often mocked with the purple robe of worldly dominion, and conscience has been made tributary to Cæsar's treasury. It is said, however, that preliminary discussion will expose our weakness, and lay open our assailable points to the attack of the enemy; but with reference to the Corporation and Test laws, are we not also concealing from our friends the precise situation of danger in which they stand, if, relying upon fancied indemnity, they should aspire to serve the public in civil offices? There are not many, it is to be hoped, who are perfectly contented to enjoy their birth-right, as it were, by stealth; and if amongst us there be any individual who has enough of the spirit of a Hampden publicly to hurl defiance against these degrading laws, or of another Curtius boldly to leap into the gulf of civil incapacity and penalties which they denounce, his glorious aim is to be answered, not by concealment, but by a full disclosure of the risk and danger he encounters, and by a fearless challenge to the supporters of these favourite laws to display their excellence in their amiable operation. In short, ours is not a petty question of duties and drawbacks, or of agricultural or commercial preferences, upon which we must necessarily approach the bar of the Legislature through the audience-chamber of the First Lord of the Treasury: we boldly but temperately ask, Is it fitting that large classes of the community should remain under the proscription of statutes which were not originally levelled against them, and which were enacted under the pressure of a political exigency long since passed away? If we are still denounced as unfit to be invested with civil trust and honour, let us be content to dignify our private stations by consistency in profession and unwavering integrity in practice; but if bigotry and intolerance receive a pub
lic defeat, and our just claims be conceded, we shall have "our charter and freehold of rejoicing to us and our heirs," and our triumph will consist not so much in the advancement of our personal and sectarian interests, as in rescuing our great and beloved country from the taunts of other nations, far behind her in religious knowledge, but whose renovated codes are happily free from the abomination of imposing a theological shibboleth at the threshold of the council-chamber or the custom-house.
It was my intention to have brought into discussion the inconveniences to which Nonconformists are subjected by the present state of the law with respect to the registration of the births of their children; inconveniences which, like the grievance of the Marriage Law, are the result of that incongruous union which subsists between functions purely civil and those of an ecclesiastical nature; but I must be brief. It is well known that Dissenters have made provision against the loss, destruction or negligent keeping of their congregational registers, by a Register at Dr. Williams's Library, the great utility of which cannot be disputed, and ought to be still more generally known. But as this register is unsupported by any legal sanction, the evidence supplied from it is not in a legal point of view of the highest and most conclusive kind, and a recent instance occurred at the Rolls' Court in which the Register was not admitted. See 1 Jacob and Walker's Reports, p. 483. It is understood that the evidence has since been accepted; but the legal difficulty unquestionably remains, and may prove a fruitful source of vexatious and expensive delay whenever it is urged. It is passing strange, that in a case of such general concernment, and which by no means presses exclusively upon Dissenters, (for the children of Dissenters sometimes swell the ranks of Conformity,) the Legislature should suffer the squeamish scruples of a few of the Church clergy to stand in the way of reformation. If the object were to make the clergy the collectors of a tax for some just and necessary war, how few of them would express any distaste for the office, or that part of it in particular which would bring them into collision with the self-ex
communicated Dissenter! This is not an uncharitable prognostication, but is grounded upon fact and experience.
By the statute 6 and 7 William III., duties were imposed upon marriages, births and burials, for carrying on the war against France with vigour ; and by the 24th section, persons in holy orders, deans, parsons, &c., were, for better levying those duties, directed within their respective parishes, and to take an exact and true account, and keep a register in writing of all persons married, buried, christened or born, under a penalty of £100.
By another Act, passed in the following year, (7 and 8 William III. c. 35,) after reciting that divers children, who were born within this kingdom, were not christened according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England, and many were christened in private houses, nor were the parents of such children obliged to give notice to their respective ministers, of the births of such children, for want whereof an exact register of all persons born was not kept, and many persons chargeable with the duties escaped payment: for remedy thereof it was enacted, that the parents of every child which should be born during the continuance of the Acts should, within five days after such birth, give notice to the rector, vicar, curate or clerk of the parish, of the day of the birth of such child, under penalty of 408., the which rector, &c., was required to take an exact and true account, and keep a distinct register of all persons so born and not christened, for a fee of 6d., under a penalty of 40s. It is wonderful that a regulation of so much political utility should be made dependant upon the continuance of a paltry tax; but, at any rate, we possess in these expired Acts that all important ally, a precedent, in attempting, at some convenient opportunity, to impose on the clergy the duty of registering the births of all children within their parishes, without distinction of sect, or at least to press upon them the alternative of performing efficiently the office of public registrars, or of relinquishing it altogether. It is matter of notoriety, that the Act, passed a few years ago, relative to parochial registers, was rendered very imperfect in its operation through the intolerant scruples of some of the
clergy, there being, in fact, no provi❤ sion for recording the date of the natural birth, which is therefore left to other evidence, or to vague presumption as to the length of the interval between the birth and baptism. The objections of the clergy on this point are the more unreasonable, as it has been solemnly decided that, according to the canons of their own Church, lay-baptism is as valid as any sprinkling by consecrated fingers.
If this union of the Church and State, of ecclesiastical and civil funetions, is like the union of the ivy with the oak, to blast or check all wholesome improvement in the latter, the more liberal adherents of the Church must admit that the treaty of alliance needs some revision, and that the complaints of their Dissenting fellowsubjects are not, to this extent at least, either selfish, frivolous or vexatious. R. D.
N adverting to the inquiry, so point
edly yet modestly proposed in a former Number, whether the ancient Patriarchs and Israelites believed in a future state, it may be observed, first, that the Christian Church in general hath been on the affirmative side of the question; and though this is not an absolute proof of the fact, yet, in a case which involves no palpable absurdity or contradiction, where it is impossible to prove a negative, and which admits at least of many plausible reasons in its behalf, general consent will operate as a considerable argument in its favour, since it is found, that, in similar circumstances, wise and reflecting men in all ages have thought nearly alike upon all great and important subjects. If, therefore, under the light of nature alone, such persons, reasoning from the best ideas they could form of the Divine perfections and character, from the present state of man, his fears and his hopes, his desires of continued existence, and his anticipations of futurity; principles which are not confined to the learned and acute, but are to be found, in different degrees, in the lowest and most degraded forms of human society, and which will bid defiance to all the opponents of natural religion, whether sceptics or ultrabelievers, to the end of time: if from
these principles, they arrived at considerable degrees of moral certainty in this important point, for "God and nature," says Mr. Baxter, "do no thing in vain," it must surely appear strange, if the leading members of the primitive church of God, with the additional aid of particular revelations and the occasional evidence of miracles, should deem these supernatural interpositions as only intended to promote a length of days in the earthly Canaan, and smooth their path through the present imperfect state, and leave them finally in the darkness and silence of the grave. They could at least reason as well upon general principles as Cicero or Seneca, Plato or Epictetus, and the certainty of higher states of existence and of superior beings, of which they had absolute demonstra tion, would naturally elevate their desires and expectations towards them. But let us briefly attend to the outlines of their history.
When the great Protoplast was introduced into Paradise, as, on the one hand, he could lay no claim to immortality, so, on the other, he could enter tain no rational fear of dissolution, while he maintained his allegiance and integrity, and had continual access to "the tree of life," as a pledge or symbol of the Divine favour, and of his continued existence and happiness for, being made perfect in his kind, and favoured with frequent communications from above, he could not avoid forming the most enlarged, the most unlimited expectations from the Divine bounty. To what end, would he naturally exclaim in the solemn season of devout meditation,-to what end hath the Almighty called me from nothing into being, and placed me in this fair and well-furnished world? To what end hath he endowed me with such astonishing powers and capacities, and rendered me superior to the numerous tribes of animals with which I am surrounded? Wherefore bath he made me capable of contemplating himself, of adoring his perfections, and of attaining to still higher and higher degrees of conformity to his moral image and likeness? Is it that, after a few revolutions of the seasons, I should lie down in the dust and return to my primitive non-existence? Impossible! Infinitely self
sufficient to his own happiness, he hath created me for happiness also; and though as yet I have had no particular revelation of the number of my days, I will trust in his infinite goodness and his infinite power, and entertain, with gratitude and joy, the full, the delightful, the inestimable persuasion, that, while I continue to walk in the paths which he hath prescribed, I shall continue to be a partaker, in my measure and degree, of his favour and of his immortality.
But when Adam fell, these glorious prospects were obscured; they were obscured, but not obliterated or de stroyed. In strict law, indeed, he was utterly lost; and in him, consequently, all his supposed posterity; (the latter not morally, but naturally;) he was judicially consigned over to death, not, as some suppose, to eternal torments, which are not mentioned in the record, but to death, which was the penalty annexed to the transgression: but now mercy intervenes, the sentence is suspended, a mysterious promise of a restoration to himself and his race is promulgated, and the first sinner, from a state of darkness and doubt bordering on absolute despair, is immediately raised to a state of exalted hope and confidence in God. In these circumstances, during the long course of his earthly pilgrimage, and probably favoured with further Divine com munications of which we have no account, his hopes would naturally improve, and his prospects brighten. These sentiments would infallibly be transmitted to his posterity, and continually receiving fresh accession and increase; for, "it is natural to suppose, that God having once spoken to man, mankind would retain and repeat with great punctuality what had been said, and listen after more.” *
instruction, probably at the new moons and on the sabbath-day, which some have thought, as a day of rest, was instituted in Paradise. We find, soon after, that "Enoch was translated without seeing death;" and Jude informs us, that he "prophesied" and preached to the people. Whether the sacred writer here refers to a genuine document or to an apocryphal writing, the book itself existed long before Christianity, and the quotation proves that Enoch, or the author of the book, (which is all one in this case,) believed "in the unity of God, and his natural and moral perfections, the essential difference of moral good and evil, and a day of future, impartial retribution." "Behold the Lord cometh with his holy myriads." Noah, likewise, “was a preacher of righteousness while the ark was preparing." In the frequent supernatural revelations with which Abraham was favoured, (called, in Scripture language, which is never to be taken literally, "talking with God, and seeing God," among other tokens and assurances of the Divine regard, it was announced, that "all the nations of the earth should be blessed in him." Melchisedeck " was a priest of the Most High God," which, in the primitive sense, conveys an idea of every thing excellent and sublime, awful and alluring! "How charming, upon a primitive mountain, beneath the shade of a venerable grove, the voice of a Melchisedeck, the father, the friend and priest of his people, publishing good tidings of salvation; and then, with holy hands, calling upon the name of the Lord, the everlasting God!" +
Although "the law came by Moses," both the moral and the ceremonial, enforced by additional divine sanctions; yet, in reality, Moses preached and taught something beyond the law: he taught the essential goodness and placability of the Deity, ascertained by the symbol of sacrifices, and the promise of a mediator and restorer, like unto himself. Prophets and seers, in succeeding ages of the church, were all "preachers of
Robinson's Notes on Claude, Pref. + Ibid.
righteousness," in opposition to the errors and superstitions of the surrounding nations, and to the false prophets, the blind leaders and visionary enthusiasts of their own land; the pastors that "destroyed and scattered the sheep," instead of nourishing and sustaining them.
After the Mosaic law was committed to writing, it became the standard of sound doctrine. In the course of time, synagogues were erected; and "in the days of our Saviour, public preaching was universal; synagogues were multiplied; there were thirteen at Tiberias, and at Jerusalem, they say, four hundred; including, perhaps, the proseuchas, or small places for private prayer. We have only short memoirs, analyses or abridg ments of the primitive sermons, which were, doubtless, delivered more at large; but what is recorded is sufficient to prove, that they taught the primitive truths of natural and of the then revealed religion, which included the necessity of repentance, of devotion and conformity to God, and the doctrine of a future Redeemer and Restorer."*
Now supposing that there is no record in the Pentateuch sufficiently explicit to prove, that the doctrine of a future state constituted a part of the public instructions of the patriarchs, or of the law of Moses, as it was proclaimed amidst the lightnings and thunders of Sinai; yet, is not the probability on the other side of the question? Were not the mysterious promises to Adam and to the father of the faithful, to Moses and to the succeeding prophets, indicative, to their minds, at least, of something greater and better than mere earthly power and dominion, prosperity and glory? What were pardon of sin, conformity to God, and a sense of his favour, if the effects of them were to terminate with the present state, and be finally lost in the land of darkness and forgetfulness? What did the sacred historian intend by his favourite phrase, that the primitive saints "were gathered to their fathers"? Did he mean only, that their ashes should be mingled together? Was this the ultimate hope
* Robinson's Notes on Claude, Pref.
and expectation of an inspired prophet; of one who had such superior manifestations of the Divine power and presence, as to have it recorded concerning him, that, in a celestial colloquy, he saw God face to face, and conversed with him, as a man talketh with his friend"? When dying Jacob said to his beloved son Joseph, "Behold, I die; but God shall surely be with you, and bring you again to the land of your fathers;" was this all that was intended? In the history of the Patriarchs we read, that, for the most part, they were divested of their earthly frames with little bodily suffering, and in a state of mind comparatively tranquil and serene; but could this have possibly been the case if eternal annihilation had been before them; if they had no prospect of a future recompence, but, in the language of the sceptic, were about to take leap in the dark"? Life is, indeed, a great blessing in proportion to its length and utility; man, considered merely as a rational animal, has enjoyments and privileges far above the brutes; virtue gives much in hand, and much in reversion, in the benefits we can procure for ourselves, for our descendants and for posterity; but still, the blank of death without the prospect of futurity draws a veil over all our comforts, and must have chilled the devotion even of an Abraham or a Noab, a Moses or a Methuselah.
Moreover, the translations of Enoch and Elijah, in conjunction with the successive visions and revelations from Moses to Malachi, would combine to produce in their order, fresh arguments in behalf of a future state; and the former operate as a striking and indubitable proof of the reality of such a state; a sensible encouragement to their faith and hope, at least in the minds of considering persons, who would be zealous on all proper occasions to promote the influence of this grand and important principle; for, by an easy inference and analogy, independent of abstract reasoning, they would be led to conclude, that if among the leading and distinguished characters of the ancient world, some, without controversy, were highly worthy of a future existence, and two, as they had reason to believe, so signally favoured as to be actually intro
duced into it " without seeing death," it was highly unreasonable to suppose, that the great mass of mankind should be overlooked; man being, by his very nature, accountable, and the individuals of his race, however differing from one another in external advantages, in spiritual attainments and moral qualities, in talents and capacity, yet from this very circumstance, as well as many others, partaking of a sameness or similarity which renders them amenable to the tribunal of their Maker, who is not to be regarded only in the awful sublimities of his nature, his infinite power, wisdom and knowledge, but in unison with his inimitable excellencies and perfections, his justice, mercy and goodness, as the moral governor and final judge of his rational offspring.
Nor are the Jewish Scriptures so silent upon this subject as some suppose. Besides the passages above referred to, numerous texts might be cited in favour of this opinion; but a few for the present may suffice.
After the fall, Adam and his posterity were placed (says Matt. Henry) "in a second state of probation, upon new terms;" and the sum and substance of the new primitive law was comprised in the blessing and the curse set before Cain, in these memorable words: "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." The succeeding Patriarchs lived under the influence of these divine sanctions. "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation" and Abraham
was called the friend of God." In the record of his death, the peculiar expression first occurs, "he was gathered to his people," a phrase which seems to imply, at least, as before hinted, a deliverance from absolute death, and a safe conduct under the Divine keeping. Isaac, in blessing Jacob, implores for him "the blessing of Abraham, to him and to his offspring." Jacob, in his last interview with his children in the land of Egypt, though in the prophetic spirit he chiefly foretells temporal blessings and events, yet does not confine himself to these, but breaks out in the midst into a holy ejaculation,-"I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord." Moses, in his divine song, recited before