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Who, that has a mind open to conviction, or a heart capable of feeling an ardent love of liberty, for others as well as himself, can fail to be impressed with the passage in relation to the degraded situation of the Catholics of Ireland?
"Theologians have forgotten it in their controversies. men have forgotten it in their laws. Never was there a greater blunder in legislation, than that by which the forces of the statutebook have been enlisted on the side of truth; and error, as was quite natural, instead of being subdued, has been thereby settled down into tenfold obstinacy. The glories of martyrdom have been transferred from the right to the wrong side of the question; and superstition, which, in a land of perfect light and perfect liberty, would hide her head as ashamed, gathers a title to respect, and stands forth in a character of moral heroism, because of the injustice which has been brought to bear upon her. She ought, in all wisdom, to have been left to her own natural decay—or, at least, reason and kindness are the only engines which should have been made to play upon her strong-holds. But with such an auxiliary, as the mere authority of terror upon the one side, and such a resistance as that of a generous and high-minded indignation upon the other-there have arisen the elements of an interminable warfare. And not till truth, relieved of so unseemly an associate, be confined to the use of her proper weapons, will she be reinstated on her proper vantage ground. It is not in the fermentation of human passions and human politics, that the lessons of heaven can be with efficacy taught; and ere these lessons shall go abroad in triumph over the length and breadth of the land, we must recal the impolicy by which we have turned a whole people into a nation of outcasts. To exclude is surely not the way to assimilate. It is by pervading, instead of separating into an unbroken mass, and then placing it off at a distance from us; it is by extensively mingling with the men of another denomination, in all the walks of civil and political business; it is then, that the occasions of converse and of courtesy will be indefinitely multiplied; and then will it be found, that it is by an influence altogether opposite to the wrath of man, that we are enabled to work the righteousness of God."
"A Letter to the Protestant-Dissenters in the Parish of Ballykelly, Ireland; occasioned by their objections against their late Minister: By John Nelson.-1766.”
THE first objection made to Mr. Nelson's ministry, was, that he opposed human creeds and confessions. To this he replies, "It may be doubted whether most creeds and confessions, even where they contain nothing but the truth, be so well calculated for the instruction of young people,
as the Sacred Scriptures: their manner of expression is generally too abstracted to be readily entered into by a youthful giddy mind. For the illustration of this, let us attend to the answer given to this question in our Shorter Catechism: What is God? Ans. God is a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.' To the justness of this, I have no objection. It is an excellent summary of the divine perfections. Would to God it were always present to our minds, in our reasonings concerning the divine conduct! But is it readily apprehended by a mind that has not yet formed exact notions of what holiness, equity, wisdom, or goodness are in themselves? Would it not affect a child more to be acquainted with the actions of God, related in sacred history, where instruction and entertainment are agreeably intermixed? A man's real character is best known by his actions, and so is the character of God himself. This method of engaging the attention of youth, is the more necessary, that in this period of life their judgments are weak, but their memories very tenacious of interesting facts. Let a child open the Bible, where the story of Joseph is told with such a charming simplicity, and how clearly will he be convinced, that in the most gloomy dispensations, God is the never-failing friend of the righteous, while vice, in the greatest pomp, is the object of his abhorrence. In what catechism shall we find a dry catalogue of the divine perfections so well adapted to make a lasting impression upon the minds of youth, that in the practice of virtue, they may be assured to continue the favourites of heaven, even in the deepest distress, and sooner or later, to be delivered from it all and crowned with glory?
There are other things in our Catechism much more above the capacities of children. In answer to the first question, we are told, that the chief end of man is to glorify God: a most certain truth. But you might as well speak Hebrew to a child. How many persons, when grown up, have clear notions of what is meant by glorifying God? or of the nature or end of man? In short, the first part of this Catechism is evidently wrote in such scholastic language, upon the different subjects of controversial divinity, where the learned have never been able to understand one another, nor themselves, that for real instruction, you might as well send youth to the darkest
problem in Algebra. Some, indeed, lay it down as a principle, that children should store their memories with words at first, from a presumption that they will come to understand them afterwards. But, besides the disagreeable impression such a drudgery must make upon a young mind, which is of more consequence than we generally attend to, is it not the original design of words to convey the knowledge of the things signified by them? What sense, then, is there in separating the one from the other; or in stringing words together without any regard to the meaning of them? Is there any thing worth knowing, but may be expressed in language plain enough to be understood by every mind that can enter into the subject spoken of? Until it grows capable of the one, why should the other be pressed upon it? We can all see the absurdity of giving a child food that is too strong for its digestive powers. But is it not equally applicable to the mind and the body, that there should be milk for babes? One obvious mischief, arising from the violation of this rule, is, that by the familiar use and frequent repetition of mere words, people are insensibly led to imagine, that they understand them. Hence the mind, without perceiving it, is often stored with unmeaning sounds and conceit, instead of knowledge; or, which is still worse, where the language is plain, but the sentiment false, learners rashly swallow it before their judgments are ripened, and carry these notions to the Bible as principles of Christianity.
"A lady in this kingdom some time ago, having a negro servant, was charitable enough to desire he might be instructed in the Christian religion; for this purpose she put him under the care of a teacher, who, according to custom, furnished him with Catechisms, commented upon them, and made a favourable report of the quickness of his understanding: this the pious lady, in the joy of her heart for saving a soul, mentioned to a clergyman of her acquaintance, adding her request, that he would examine her servant; with this he readily complied, and asked such simple questions as these: Who was the author of the Christian religion?' 'Where Jesus Christ came from?' or, 'What he came to do in the world?' To none of which was any reply made. My lad,' says the clergyman, I have been informed you understand the principles of Christianity;' and so I do, Sir,' returns the other; and pray,' says the parson, 'what are these principles?' To which he replied,
expressing his opinions in his own words, from the confusion he was in, these, Sir, are the principles of the Christian religion, there was an old man and an old woman that robbed an orchard long ago, and for this we are all damned ever since.'-A lovely religion to be sure, if these are the principles of it! What opinion would the poor negro, from the mere light of nature, entertain of the equity or goodness of the Judge of all the earth, of whom he was taught to believe such things? Certainly, however he might be afraid to speak it out, yet he would not in his heart esteem him much above the gods he had formerly worshipped; perhaps not equal to them, for this plain reason, that he had probably never heard of their doing such a wicked thing. But Jesus never taught this as a principle of his holy religion; his instructions, however, are not put into the hands of learners. A strange backward method is here observed by most Christians, to which they are bound with a pious care by their teachers. They learn their religion from their several manuals, and then bring the Bible to speak their sense; instead of taking their religious sentiments immediately from the Bible itself: this is the fruitful source of all the errors keenly maintained in the world. A cask long retains the flavour of the liquor first put into it; but it is much more difficult to purify the human mind from the first impressions, however foul they may be."
(To be Continued.)
THE CHRISTIAN PIONEER.
GLASGOW, January 1, 1828.
AMERICAN QUAKERS.-WE noticed the important questions agitating in this body, in our last Number. The friends of Christian liberty, and opposers of creed corruption, invited those who thought with them, to send Delegates to Philadelphia, for the formation of a Yearly Meeting on these principles, to assemble in October last. This Meeting was accordingly held, and upwards of fifty out of sixty-four Monthly Meetings, composing the old Orthodox Yearly Meeting, sent Representatives to the new Yearly Meeting. There were present, two thousand men and fifteen hundred women. Probably seven-eighths of the Pennsylvanian Quakers reject the doctrine of the Trinity, and its concomitant opinions; and advocate the Oneness of Deity, and perfect freedom of conscience and inquiry. About the same proportion prevails in the state of New-York; but, as the leading and influential ministers are on the side of Christian liberty, there will probably there be no division.
THE Rev. B. Mardon has resigned the Congregation at Maidstone, and accepted an invitation to Worship-Street, London, as successor to the late highly respected and benevolent Dr. Evans.
MR. Tagart having resigned the Congregation at Norwich, the Rev. W. J. Bakewell of Edinburgh, has been invited to succeed him.
THE REV. A. Melville, formerly student at the University of this City, has been chosen the Minister of the Unitarian Congregation at Ipswich.
We have just received the following lines. We cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of their insertion. They breathe so sweet and pure a spirit, that we can form no better wish for our friends, at the commencement of another year, than that they may find a responsive feeling in every heart.