« PreviousContinue »
with an hospitality truly English, introduced me to the other professors, and I am on terms of familiarity with all the students, as well as with two of the pastors of the Protestant Church here; one of whom, an eloquent preacher, I may venture to call my friend. I have permission to attend the college lectures free of expense; and though the professors and students know that I am a heretic, for I have made no secret of my principles, yet the most orthodox of them treats me as a Christian brother. To complete my good fortune, I am lodged in a boarding-house delightfully situated in the suburbs, where all besides myself are students at the college." In a letter, prior to his leaving Bourdeaux, was the following passage: "On Sunday I went to the Protestant church, and was highly gratified by seeing a crowded and most respectable congregation, and by hearing an admirable French sermon, delivered in a masterly manner. The minister is one of the best speakers I have yet heard. His sermon abounded in eloquent and pathetic passages, pronounced with such force and feeling as evidently came from the heart, and easily found their way to the hearts of the audience, some hundreds of whom were dissolved in tears. I have been happy enough to be introduced to this excellent preacher and good man." To another correspondent he writes from Montauban: "I am collecting all the information in my power on the state of the French Protestants, who in general are very far from being Calvinists. I have never yet heard a doctrinal sermon, and in general I do not even hear an orthodox expression in the public services, if I except some vague language on the merits of Christ. At Bourdeaux there are several demiunitarians, and their most popular minister would be condemned at once by our English Calvinists as a Socinian. Like the pastors of Geneva, he maintains an absolute silence. He has favoured me with a very friendly notice. In a letter which he did me the honor of writing, some weeks ago, he says: Pour moi, je ne jure ni par Luther, ni par Calvin.
sais ni d'Apollos, ni de Céphas: je suis de Jesus Christ. Tout ce qui est clairement revélé dans l'Ecriture Sainte est l'objet de ma foi. J'admets tout ce
qu'elle dit sans vouloir, sur ce qui est obscur, expliquer témérairement le pourquoi, et le comment. Les choses cachées sont pour l'Eternel.' So far as I have yet learnt, this language is applicable to the majority of Protestant ministers in France. Believing that secret things belong unto God, they seldom preach upon the mysteries of the gospel, as they are termed. Election, Predestination, Justification, and the operation of Divine grace, are subjects almost exploded; if there remain any orthodox doctrine in the pulpit, it is that of satisfaction.
"This city is the seat of Protestant instruction in France. Their college contains at present about forty students and six professors, who are salaried by the government. I board at the same house with one of the pastors and nine of the students. You will readily believe that my heresy is no secret. We have daily discussions on the divinity of Christ, which most of the students believe. My opinions have been reported to one of the professors, who, though orthodox, as I believe all of them are, still receives me kindly, and seems anxious to be acquainted with some of the Unitarian books of England. He understands English, and has just translated Wilberforce's View, which he is about to publish. Mr. Robert Haldane, of Scotland, is also here, busily engaged, as he has been at Geneva, in translating and publishing orthodox pamphlets. He is a strict Calvinist, and in his writings, as well as conversation, refuses us the Christian name. Notwithstanding this, he is very benevolent and mild. He heard of my arrival, and expressed a wish to see
I was introduced by a common friend, and we had a conversation of five hours on the leading doctrines of the gospel. He is extremely friendly, and kindly hopes that God will convert me. I have a pressing invitation to his house; he gives me his printed works and lends me any of his books. Under these circumstances, is it not highly desirable to translate and circulate a few of our best tracts? In two months to come,
I shall be able to translate them correctly, with the assistance of one of the students; and though I dare not publish, I can easily and cheaply print and circulate some of them. In the
public mind there is much indifference, but the opinions of Geneva excite attention amongst the students and pastors and some of the people. Would the Unitarian Fund be willing to expend eight or ten pounds in this good work? I need not say that I should proceed economically and prudently, and that my personal exertions would be willingly given. How I should rejoice and adore the wisdom of Providence, if my sickness should thus be rendered instrumental to the introduction of divine truth into this extensive and enlightened empire!"
This was penned little more than two months before the death of the writer. We see, then, that to the latest period, his desire of usefulness remained in full vigour.
The proposal of Mr. Goodier to translate some of the English Unitarian tracts, into the French tongue, was laid before the general meeting of the Unitarian Fund, in 1818, and was received with an unanimous feeling of approbation and of gratitude to this zealous and disinterested advocate of truth. But some of the mem. bers of the Book Society, who were present, suggesting that the patronage of such a scheme belonged to that Society rather than to the Unitarian Fund, the meeting acquiesced; and the measure being brought forward at the first meeting of the Book So. ciety, which was held after this period, it was resolved, that the sum specified should be granted to Mr. Goodier for the accomplishment of his design, and that suitable tracts should be transmitted to him. The speedy change in his health, followed by his melancholy decease, rendered these resolutions abortive; but it may be hoped that the design will not be wholly abandoned. Almost with his dying breath, Mr. Goodier bore his testimony to the necessity and practicability of diffusing religious knowledge in France, and the attempt would be the most congenial tribute of respect to his memory.
[To be concluded in the next Number.]
Memoir of the late Dr. Cogan.
R. COGAN was in the large
and was accustomed to join in Unitarian worship, though the habits of his mind prevented his being a parti
zan, and his love of truth for its own sake would not allow him to subscribe to any human system of theology. He differed from the majority of modern Unitarians on the subject of the divine assistance in answer to prayer, and on the extent of the mediation and the efficacy of the death of Christ. On these and some other points his opinions agreed with those of Mr. Locke; he did not however borrow them from this great man, but was on the contrary, late in life, surprised as well as pleased to discover the coincidence.
His theological views cannot be better represented than by the following letter which he addressed to Mr. Aspland, the Secretary to the Unitarian Fund. He was a member of this society, and the letter grew out of some conversations in which he had expressed an earnest wish to see the foundations of the society widened in order to embrace a greater number of such as are desirous of opposing the moral tendency of Calvinism. "MY DEAR SIR,
"I have often felt deep regret that a society which is formed upon such excellent principles, and with such liberal motives, has adopted a title that does not sufficiently express them, and has a tendency to irritate the minds of those whom you wish to convince. They are more disposed to resent your having assumed a title of distinction which does not, in their opinion, exclusively belong to you, than to listen to your arguments. They argue, in their turns, that, as you admit that a speculative opinion which is not injurious to morals, is not of a damnable nature, you seem more ac tuated by a spirit of opposition, than of zeal to spread important truths. And it must be confessed that your exordium, as it now stands, is not adapted sufficiently to remove these objections. It appears to me that a more extensive and more rapid success would be secured, were you more explicitly to state those other principles which you deem to be so closely con nected with the doctrine of the Divine Unity, and render it infinitely momen
I would therefore propose that something analogous to the following
Rules at page 4, after intended to elevate them.'
"The society have denominated
themselves Unitarians in opposition to the Calvinistic doctrine of the Trinity, because they consider that doctrine as the basis of many pernicious errors. The strong assertions so incessantly repeated, that a firm belief in that tenet is necessary to salvation, have driven many conscienfious Christians into despair, have induced men of reflection to reject the whole Christian Creed, rather than to embrace a sentiment so repugnant to their reason, and will continue to be an insuperable bar to the conversion of every thinking Jew, to a system which opposes the most important article of their own religion.
"The society rejects also with horror, the corrupt tenets which are intimately connected with the Trinitarian Creed: which represent the Universal Father as incapable or unwilling to forgive the sins of his offending offspring, without the expiatory sacrifice of his well-beloved Son. Nor can they admit that the glad tidings of salvation, for which the whole human race are called upon to rejoice, will consist in the election of a few to eternal life, and in the final condemnation of myriads and myriads to everlasting misery! They have not the boldness to assert that a Being possessed of infinite power, infinite wisdom, and infinite goodness, is still destitute of the ability or the disposition, to save any of his offending creatures from so tremendous a doom. They know that it is an incumbent and a delightful duty to 'love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength;' but they deem it impracticable to comply with the injunction, upon the principles which they op. pose, and against which they loudly protest.
"Rational Christians have hitherto been too cautious, &c.'
"I think, my dear Sir, that some statement of this kind will render your society extremely popular. These principles openly avowed, are calculated to make a strong impression upon all who are not bewildered in the mazes of controversy. Calvinism will appear more than absurd, it will appear dishonourable to God, inconsistent with his moral character, and inimical to that filial reverence which every intelligent being confesses to be
due to him. Those who are now so terrified at the anathemas of presuming theologians, that they dare not disbelieve a doctrine repugnant to their reason, will be alarmed at sentiments so unworthy of the divine character, and destructive of human happiness. For, if the doctrine of eternal misery bad the influence upon those who believe in it which naturally belongs to it, every individual would feel the torments of hell, through anxiety for himself or for those whom he loves.
"The above are principles in which I suppose every member of the society will agree; and space is left for minuter differences respecting the precise nature of the mediatorial office, the divine influence, whether the future punishment of the impenitent will be by annihilation, or corrective, &c. &c. No modification of these can be a libel upon the Deity, similar to the preceding.
"These hints are submitted with deference to the consideration of yourself, and the Gentlemen of the Committee, who will modify them as they shall deem most proper, if they think that they ought not to be totally rejected.
"I am, dear Sir, "With great respect, yours, THOMAS COGAN. "5, Norfolk Street, Strand,
"June 5, 1814."
This interesting letter could not fail of exciting the serious attention of the Committee of the Unitarian Fund: the amiable and respectable writer was invited to a conference upon the proposal contained in it: but after much discussion, it was thought that a declaration of faith could not be adopted by the society without risking the inconveniences that have usually followed subscription to a creed.
Whatever the reader may think of Dr. Cogan's opinions, he cannot help regarding it as worthy of admiration, that, having given up the ministry at an early age, having exercised a different profession for years, and having spent a considerable part of his life on the continent, mixing with men of the world of every country and description, he should have retained that love of moral and theological inquiries which rendered them the favourite study and principal occupation of the latter period of his life.
His conviction of the importance of divine truth grew with his attention to the subject. He laid it down as a maxim, that "Religion is every thing, or it is nothing; it is the one thing needful, or a phantom of the brain." Among his papers there was found a preface to a revised edition of his Treatise on the Christian Dispensation, of which this is the concluding paragraph:
"Before this edition will see the light, it is probable that the eyes of the author will be closed in darkness. Should this be the case, the following declaration may excite some attention to it. Its principles have afforded him much consolation during a large portion of life; they have rendered advanced years placid and serene, and enabled him to contemplate death itself, notwithstanding its gloomy appearance, as one of the most essential blessings in the whole plan of Providence.
"Fellow-Christians of every denomination, fare ye well! May we all meet round the throne of our reconciled Father, with filial joy and mutual congratulation !"
The following is the list of Dr. Cogan's acknowledged publications. 1. "Memoirs of the Society instituted at Amsterdam, in favour of Drowned Persons, for the years 1767, 1768, 1769, 1770, and 1771; translated from the original, 1778," 8vo. 2. "The Rhine; or a Journey from Utrecht to Frankfort, &c. 1794," in two volumes 8vo. with Plates. 3. "The Works of Professor Camper, on the Connexion between Anatomy, and the Arts of Drawing, Painting, &c. Translated from the Dutch, 1794;" in one volume 4to, with Plates. 4. "A Philosophical Treatise on the Passions: second edition, corrected, 1802," 8vo. "An Ethical Treatise on the Passions, founded on the Principles investigated in a Philosophical Treatise; 180710." 2 vols. 8vo. 6. "Theological Disquisitions; or, an Inquiry into those Principles of Religion, which are most influential in directing and regulating the Passions aud Affections of the Mind. First Disquisition, on Natural Religion. Second Disquisition, on the Jewish Dispensation, respecting Religion and Morals, 1812," 8vo. 7. "A Theological Disquisition, The benefit aud delight which he on the Characteristic Excellencies of derived from his moral and theological Christianity; or, an Inquiry into the studies are described in a still more superior Assistance it affords, and interesting manner in a solemn address Motives it contains, for the Practice to the Deity, written upon the com- of Virtue, Cultivation of the best pletion of his Ethical Treatise on the Affections of the Heart, and preparing Passions. It would not be proper to the Moral Offspring of God for perlay before the public what was in- manent Felicity, 1813," 8vo. The tended as a private expression of de- last five articles form one complete votional feeling, and an unwitnessed work, under the following title: "A consecration of himself to God: but Treatise on the Passions and Affecwithout transgressing the bounds of tions of the Mind, Philosophical, Ethidelicacy it may be stated, that he cal and Theological; in a Series of considered it as matter of devout Disquisitions: in which are traced, thanksgiving that his mind had been the moral History of Man, in his Purpowerfully directed in the latter part suits, Powers, and Motives of Action, of life to pursuits which increased his and the means of obtaining permanent love of God and virtue, which un- well-being and Happiness, 1813," 5 folded to him the nature of true hap- vols. 8vo. 8. "Letters to William piness, and led him to the sources from Wilberforce, Esq. M. P. on the Docwhich it is to be derived; and that the trine of Hereditary Depravity. By a wish which was nearest to his heart Layman," 8vo. 9. "Ethical Queswas, that, if it should please the great tions; or, Speculations on the prinDisposer of events to allow him time cipal Subjects in Moral Philosophy, to complete what he had begun, he 1817," 8vo. Besides these, it is well might be a humble instrument in the known that Dr. Cogan was the author hands of Providence of doing some of a humourous little volume in 12mo, thing to advance the glory of God, published many years ago, under the and to promote the present and futtle of " John Buncle, Junr." well-being of mankind.
pository and various other publications on the decline of the Dissenting churches, especially amongst those improperly denominated Presbyterian. Improperly, because every separate church was quite unconnected, as far as authority went, with any other, no right of interference being ever given, or seldom attempted or thought of, by any neighbouring societies: the whole body being less closely united than those denominated Independents, to which name those called Presbyterians have from their first separation had a full claim. The Presbyte rian ministers, those who, if they had possessed the power of forming an establishment, would have adopted the plan approved in Scotland, soon discontinued any other union amongst themselves, than what was perfectly free and voluntary. Their successors retained the name by which those who formed their societies had been distinguished, though that form of spiritual government ceased to exist amongst them.
Those denominated Presbyterians were for a long while the most numerous, as well as the most learned part of the Dissenting clergy, and those of the Baptist persuasion styling themselves General Baptists, though few in number, far excelled in learning such ministers as were followed by the more numerous part of those who rejected infant baptism.
That the number of congregations and ministers styled Presbyterian, for some time gradually, and afterwards rapidly, declined, has been frequent matter of observation. From the writings of many, and the recorded abilities and exemplary characters of more, who faithfully discharged their duty, endeavouring to promote know ledge, truth aud holiness by their preaching and their living, one important point is evident.
Their heaters did not fall off, owing to the incapacity or the neglect of
their teachers, considered not individually, but as a collective body. So few worldly encouragements, in the best times, presented themselves to can
generality of those who offered themselves to the work were young per sons of serious, pious dispositions. In their places of education, commonly called academies, the most diligent application was required. Improvement in various parts of knowledge, especially those connected with the ministerial office, was absolutely requisite towards their being recom mended and approved, as fit for public teachers of religion. Many socie ties, highly respectable for numbers, wealth, and the worthy characters of the majority of those who composed them, especially in our metropolis, have been dissolved, and others are apparently going to decay. The causes which have led to this may be a useful subject of inquiry.
1. When two thousand ministers nobly refused to make declarations opposed to the dictates of conscience, numbers adhered to them from personal regard, from the duty thought to be owing to them, as faithful teachers, from whose instructions they had derived advantages of a spiritual nature, on which they set a high value. Few of these ministers scrupled, occasionally, attending the service of the Church, though they could not conform ministerially; nor did they dissuade their friends from such attendance, though wishing for, and endeavouring to obtain services in their estimation more pure and scriptural. When these pious pastors were removed by death, those who adhered to them from personal regard, if their places in the Established Church happened to be filled by serious divines, began to attend that worship constantly, which occasionally they had never been taught to decline, by the advice or the examples of their favourite spiritual guides. Thus there was very early a falling off, as to numbers amongst the Nonconformists, particularly of persons in the higher ranks, many of whom had adhered to