Page images
PDF
EPUB

66 and

my friend ; that I was really aware of my being liable to an excitement of the nature supposed, and was on my guard against it; and that I had abstained from any communication with any human being, until after the death of my friend."

Mr. Kelly is, in part, right in his idea of the view which I take of the real circumstances of the case; and, in part, he misconceives it. He makes a supposition which is not fully borne out. I conceive that, with an excitable and feelingly impressible mind (he himself avows he is aware of such excitability), he was, from benevolent motives of the highest nature, predisposed to construe, in the way most congenial with his heart's wishes, whatever expressions dropped from Mr. Knox’s lips in reference to evangelical religion. “Sorry I should be,” says Mr. Kelly, in his first letter to me, must be, on my principles, to see any thing that would require me to give up the conviction I have, that my dear friend, Mr. Knox, did think and feel as he appeared to do, when I visited him in his last illness.” So says Mr. Kelly most truly, and from the ground of his heart. And what say I? Glad was Mr. Kelly; and, on his principles, glad must be have been, to detect in those interviews any thing which his heart construed into an adoption, on the part of his friend, of such views of religious truth as Mr. Kelly himself deemed more evangelical than those which he had through life known that friend to entertain : views, as Mr. Kelly deemed them, better calculated to insure present peace, and, probably, more promotive of everlasting blessedness.

Mr. Kelly will, of course, be equally glad, if, in his judgment, the same opinion of a change in his friend's sentiments can still be conscientiously retained. But he is too fair a man to retain that opinion, or to wish others to retain it, in opposition to real truth. Sorry as he must be to give up his pleasurable belief, “ I should be," he says, " still more so to be the cause of making any impression on the public not according to truth.” I am sure that he would ; and, therefore, (as well as for the effectual dis

charge of a duty which circumstances have imposed on me), I am not held back by motives of false delicacy to Mr. Kelly (which would be misplaced), from searching out closely what I believe to be the truth, and from placing it broadly and plainly before the public.

To such an inquiry I now address myself. I have stated what I conceive to be the predisposition of mind in which Mr. Kelly, on the several occasions of his interviews, visited Mr. Knox. I think, that when words were uttered which seemed to Mr. Kelly to contain the germ of the thought, his “ wish” (though not “ father to the thought") did most affectionately cradle and nourish it ; did in solitude revisit it: neither bringing it to the test of definite expressions, by committing them instantly to paper, nor fixing them in the minds of others, by relating them, so soon as he could hurry home from the interview, to his chosen friends or his family, Mr. Kelly buried the thought, which lay germinating in his mind, and still more in his heart; until, after the lapse of several silent months, when death had closed the lips of his friend, the brooded ideas broke forth, clothed, I am sure, in such words as he then believed his friend to have once uttered.*

What are those words? I must again quote them, as stated by Mr. Kelly. It is stated, that “about three months before his death," Mr. Knox being then“ very

9

I give, in Mr. Kelly's own words, the history of the gradual develope. ment and breaking forth of these ideas. In a letter to me, Mr. Kelly writes that he thinks " he spoke of it to his own family, very shortly, if not immediately, after Mr. Knox's death.” He names two ladies as the first persons, except his own family, to whom he spoke of what had passed : it was on the occasion of his seeing them for the “ first time after the death of Mr. Knox had occurred." That time I have ascertained was in August 1833, two years and two months subsequent to the occurrence. In 1835, four years after Mr. Knox's death (vide Mr. Kelly's printed letter), after “ reading the Review of the Correspondence between Mr. Knox and the Bishop of Limerick," Mr. Kelly “ prepared a letter.” “Upon reflection" he “ doubted whether he was called on to put himself forward;" and, “ for the time, abandoned the idea :” but was at length induced to make his statement public, in August 1836, after conversing on the subject of the publication “ with one or two judicious friends."

а

- be

unwell,” on the occasion of a visit from Mr. Kelly, made voluntarily a communication to that gentleman, to the effect that his mind was not happy; that he was ginning to suspect that his views had not been sufficiently evangelical ;" and that he was “ disposed to trace the present depression of his mind to that cause."

Now, to this I answer, first : That supposing, for a moment, it were conceded that every word in the above statement is a correct report of what was said by Mr. Knox (a concession which, without any slight to Mr. Kelly, I cannot make), supposing Mr. Knox to have said, “ my views are not sufficiently evangelical,” it is obvious that the whole force and import of this avowal will turn upon the sense in which Mr. Knox used the term evangelical.” And for his sense of that term, we have the authority of his own written statement.*

66 To be evangelical, is to FEEL that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.” So he writes. We have also the assertion of his claim, to use the term in this its correct sense, not abandoning it to those whom he deemed to have usurped, and to misuse it. For this we have the evidence of his expressions in conversation with his friend : + “ What! give up the use of a scriptural term, because of their abuse of it? No, no; never will I consent to relinquish it to them.” So he speaks, with a veracity that proves the heart of his sincerity.

Men of unbiassed minds will, I think, construe rightly his use of the term. I have a pleasing proof, that a candid and discerning mind, seeking, without prejudice, to discover where the truth of this matter lay, will interpret it after this fashion. Such a man (a stranger then to me), writing to inquire what was the truth of the statements respecting Mr. Knox’s asserted change, says, in reference to his use of this word, “ How is it to be understood ? With

a

Vide Letter, Vol. IV. I have printed the words exactly, with such emphasis as Mr. Knox bas himself marked by the lines scored under his writing

+ The substance of this conversation will be given hereafter more at large.

[ocr errors]

reference to the party in the church so named ? or purely doctrinally, and not exclusively? or, as simply indicative of that feeling which, without affecting the doctrine embraced, makes a inan, in the view of death, value a Saviour more and more ; and, while his heart is hot within him, speak to that effect with his tongue ?”

On the first supposition, then, I should contend, that, if Mr. Knox lamented over the deficiency of his evangelical views, all that he designed to say was, that the sense of religion was not sufficiently strong in his mind to make it felt by him in all the fulness of its acknowledged power of support and consolation.

But I make no such concession. I do not suppose that the word “views” was used ; nor do I think that Mr. Kelly's recollections serve him aright, when he says that Mr. Knox used the words, “I begin to suspect." Through life, Mr. Knox distrusted views. He has unvaryingly borne his testimony against merely doctrinal views; he always disparagingly contrasted them with “ actual experience." Was he, in a moment, to turn round, and to fly for shelter to what was theoretic, in the place of what was real? What he valued in the Evangelicals, as they are called (we have these his own recorded words* for it), was “not their doctrinal views; but that they have been the chief instruments of maintaining experimental Religion in the reformed churches; and, how

may

have been done, I must think it an invaluable blessing."

Such being Mr. Knox's ways of thinking through life, nd, as I have shewn, at a period later than that of Mr. Kelly's conversation, I do not hesitate to avow my firm persuasion, that, from his lips, the precise words which Mr. Kelly has attributed to him did never proceed. I believe that something, akin in sound, and partially very like them, was said ; but I do not believe that the words themselves (and specially the words which alone bear distinctly on the point at issue) were ever spoken by

ever this

[ocr errors]

* Letter of Augnist 5, 1828. Vol. IV. p. 501.

Mr. Knox; nor that, while he possessed an understanding mind, and the power of connecting it with articulate speech, he could possibly have ever spoken them. I can believe that the words, “not sufficiently evangelical,' were used. The words of which I believe Mr. Kelly to entertain a wrong idea, as spoken when really they were not spoken, are these, “ I begin to suspect that my views.” I believe these to be words, respecting which Mr. Kelly's mind has played him a trick; and of which, after the lapse of five years, he retains an erroneous, but, no doubt, a confirmed recollection.

It is not for me to assert what was actually said ; but something of the following kind I can well imagine to have been said : and words to this effect I do believe were the ground on which Mr. Kelly's statement is founded : “ I have to regret that my religion is not sufficiently erangelical ; and I trace the present depression of my mind to that cause." This in the sense in which Mr. Knox would use such language) is in perfect unison with the sentiments that are frequent throughout his letters. And it is to be noted, that the expression which I have allowed, and which, in its right sense, is consistently accounted for, is the precise expression which fixed itself in Mr. Kelly's mind; and on which he dwells, as pointing out to him the inferences that he drew --- which, he honestly avows, were inferences -- inferences, such as, “ from the fact in question, I considered myself fully justified in making; and, I confess, it would much surprise me" (therefore, at the time of his statement, he was not altogether unprepared for some such future surprise), “ if any subsequent fact should render that inference questionable."

I have produced subsequent facts; I have freely (I hope not rudely) questioned some portion of the original fact. It is not for me to conjecture how far this may alter the state of the questionable inference in Mr. Kelly's mind; but, if his view of the case shall have undergone a change, of that change, I am certain, Mr. Kelly will make an open statement,

9

« PreviousContinue »