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not expect from them even accidental This modesty is stilt more incumbenefit. Such must be directly at- bent on me, when the nation which tacked by every friend to man, and one believes to be in such errors, has, the more direct the assault, the better: in other points, made itself venerable all delays by circuitous means are un- by wisdom and virtue, and counts justifiable. Of this nature are all the amongst it a number of great men, errors and prejudices which destroy who deserve to be considered as betheir own and their neighbours' con- nefactors of the species. So noble a tentment and peace, and root out the portion of the human race must, when seed of truth and virtue in men before met by any one, himself human, be it can shoot. On the one side, fana, indulged. Who should be so rash as ticism, hatred and the spirit of perse- to lose sight of the excellencies of eution ; on the other side, vanity, de- such a nation, to attack it where he bauchery and immoral libertinism. believes he has found a weakness ?
But sometimes the opinions of my These are the motives which my relifellow men, which I hold to be errors, gion and my philanthropy furnish, refer to the higher theoretical princi- and induce me carefully to avoid reliples, and are too far removed from gious disputes; add the domestic sipractice to be immediately injurious ; tuation in which I live amongst my but they constitute, from their very fellow men, and you will think me generality, the foundation, out of fully justified. I'am the member of which the people who adopt them has an oppressed people, who must imdrawn its system of morals and social plore shelter and protection from the life; and hence to this portion of the ruling nation; and even this it obtains human race are accidentally become not every where, and no where withof great importance. Openly to con- out limitation. My brethren in faith test such principles, because they ap- are willing to renounce liberties which pear to us prejudices, is, without sup- are granted to all other classes of porting the structure, to dig a pit men, and are contented if they are under it, in order to examine whether tolerated and protected. They esteem it be firm and secure.
it no small act of beneficence in the He who cares more for the happi- nation which receives them only on ness of men than his own fame, will tolerable conditions, since, in many withhold his opinion concerning pre- states, even residence is refused them. judices of this description, beware of Is your circumcised friend allowed, by attacking them directly, and without the laws, to pay you a visit at Zurich the greatest caution, that he may not What obligations, then, do we not destroy a doubtful principle of morals, owe to the nation which receives us before his fellows are fit to receive a with general philanthropy, and allows true one. I can, therefore, consis- us, unhindered, to worship the Altently with my principles, believe I mighty according to the manner of perceive natural prejudices and false our forefathers ? We enjoy in the religious notions, and yet feel myself state in which I live the most becombound to be silent, when these errors ing liberty, and ought we not to avoid do not immediately destroy natural contesting the religion of the governreligion, or the natural law, and much ing party, that is, attacking our promore when they are accidentally con- tectors on the side of which men of nected with the promotion of what is virtue are the most sensible ? good. It is true, the inorality of our According to these principles it was actions scarcely deserves that naine my resolution always to act; and, when it is grounded on error, and the consequently, to shun all religious disgood can always be inore securely and putes, if not compelled by some exbetter preserved by truth, when it is traordinary incident to alter my resorecognised, than by prejudice. But lution. so long as it is not recognised, so long Private challenges from men of reas it is not become national, so that spectability I have dared to pass over it cannot operate on the multitude so in silence. The intrusion of little powerfully as deep-rooted prejudice, minds, who thought themselves allso long must even prejudice to every thorized publicly to attack me for my friend of virtue be almost sacred. religion, I have thought inyself author
rized to despise. But the solemn ap- form a curious department in the peal of a Lavater compels me, at least, history of the human mind; and serve to openly declare my mode of think- to illustrate the danger of departing ing—that no one may interpret a si- from the suggestions of good sense in lence, too long preserved, into confes- matters of religion. By disciplining sion or contempt.
the affections to a hatred of the world, MENDELSOHN. and an indifference to every pursuit
that did not contribute directly to the An Essay on the Causes of the De- promotion of spiritual objects, they cline of Nonconformity.
acquired the distinction of ascetics.
Moved alone by selfish considerations, (Concluded from p. 347.)
they were utterly regardless of human VOWARDS the middle of the last improvement. With political subjects
century, an occurrence took place they never meddled, because Christians that will furnish another clue to the have nothing to do with the affairs of decline of Nonconformity. Within this world. °From questions in philothe bosom of the Church of England sophy or in morals they would start there arose a new party of religionists, with horror, as injurious to the health headed by Messrs. Whitefield and Wes- and safety of the soul. Ecclesiastical ley, who, bringing to the support of topics were too mean for their notice; their cause a larger portion of real and they regarded learning as an iinthan had been seen for a long time in pediment to spiritual improvement. England, soon gained numerous con- Adverse to the pleasures of social inverts, and created a schism in the tercourse, and to a temperate enjoyChurch, but without any intention of ment of the bounties of Providence, a departing from her communion. As morbid sensibility passed with them their followers increased, they took for tenderness of conscience. In fine, possession of some of the vacant ineet- whatever may be thought of their preing-houses, and built new tabernacles tensions to the next world, the tenor places for religious worship. The dency of their faith was decidedly to enthusiastic pretences of these people, unfit them for the present. To reaand their disregard to ecclesiastical son with persons encircled within the discipline, caused them to be regarded folds of this ignorance would have with an eye of jealousy and disappro- been uiterly futile ; for, as they felt bation by the real Dissenters. But, no interest in the discussion of quesas they addressed themselves in plainer tions that concerned material beings, language to the common people, whose so they could never be brought to unpassions are more easily influenced derstand them. than the judgment, it is not surprising · The qualifications necessary for the that they gained an easy access to expounders of this sort of religion popular favour, and soon supplanted were so very few, and so easily attain. thein in the esteem of the multitude. ed, that their ministers seldom made
The congregations that were forined any pretensions to literature, and were by the early apostles of Methodism, generally taken from the order of megave a new feature to the religious chanics. In their view, to educate men character of the age. Indifferent al. for teachers of religion, was virtually together to the various schemes of to deny the operations of the Spirit, church government, all their energies and learning was no better than a were directed to the maintenance of mark of the beast. · As the phraseothose doctrines in the belief of which logy adopted by them in their sermons they placed the essence of Christianity. was apparently sanctioned by the liteBy giving a mystical turn to the phra. ral interpretation of the Scriptures, seology of Scripture, and converting their appeal to them was frequent; religion into a fanciful intercourse and professing to discard the study of with the Deity, they deluded each other books, their knowledge of the other into a belief that they were the Bible entitled them to the appellation peculiar favourites of heaven, and, as of good textuaries. To this attainsuch, the subjects of a miraculous ment they added a fluency of speech inspiration. The extravagancies they acquired by frequent exercise, and committed, under this impression, an earresthess of manner that alsorbed the attention of their hearers. sufficient to warrant a separation, I Professing to receive their message cannot imagine any tolerable pretence inmediately from heaven, they as- to justify its continuance. In the sumed all the authority of inspired Church of England, the State has propersonages, and dealt about their ana- vided ample means for the instrucEhemas with an unsparing hand. Re- tion of the people in the doctrines and solving all religion into the possession duties of Christianity, and she posof a supernatural faith, they thought sesses a numerous body of clergy who that those only who were thus myste- are zealously devoted to their work. riously wrought upon, had any sensi- But the same remark will apply ble token of the Divine favour, con- equally to the Catholic Church, or to sidering the highest moral worth, any other corrupted form of Chriswithout it, as no better than splendid tianity. A dissent from the Church sin. A love of the marvellous is so of England can only be justified upon closely allied to ignorance, that it is a one of the two following grounds : food easily digested by the common 1. That the civil establishment of repeople. Unable to form any just con- ligion is altogether useless or improclusions themselves, they became a per ; or, 2. That the present Church prey alternately to the passions of of England is not the best adapted to hope and fear, and were thus prepared answer the purposes of truth and utito resign their consciences to their lity. Whoever leaves it upon any spiritual dictators. A religion thus other ground has a motive for dissent taught and thus acquired, referring all that I cannot comprehend. As for the events of the present life to the the artifice above alluded to, it is altoimmediate interference of Providence, gether unworthy of notice in the conand providing a spiritual reinedy for troversy, any farther than as it has the various ills to which it is incident, served to divert the attention froin the is peculiarly adapted to the common main subject. people, which accounts for its success. Since the rise of Methodism, the But being at variance with good sense, face of Nonconformity has been wholly and with any rational scheme of im- changed, if, indeed, it has not been provement, it inust ever be confined swallowed up in the vortex. The within their precincts.
original principles of separation have Whatever may have been the effect been nearly forgotten, or sacrificed to of Methodism in confirming the po- the shrine of custom; whilst the paspular belief in its leading doctrines, sions have been entirely absorbed in and in reclaiming the people from vi- doctrinal contentions. Scarcely known cious habits, no man who has watched any longer as the three denominaits progress, and is qualified to pro- tions, they are now distinguished by nounce an opinion upon the subject, the more popular designations of orcan doubt for a monient that it has thodox and heterodox, two names had an injurious effect upon the inte- which carry eninity in their foreheads. rest of Nonconformity, whilst it has Amongst both parties will be found given vigour and stability to the Na- persons holding various shades of opitional Church. I am well aware that nion upon the subject of church goit will be contended by a numerous vernment ; approximating more or class of persons, who are called Disa less to the Nacional Church or recedsenters, but in reality are no other ing from it. Some are friendly to the than the spawn of Methodism, that, principle of church establishments, as the main end of preaching is the although differing in opinion upon conversion of sinners, in coinparison their detail; whilst others are hostile with which all other considerations to the principle itself. As the Al are mere trifles, so this object can be mighty has not seen fit to entail naattained as well in one place, and by tural talent upon the belief of any one description of men as by another. particular theological tenets, and as without disputing the truth of either no sect has, as yel, obtained an excluof these propositions, I shallo merely sive patent for private worth, so perobserve, that they have nothing to do sons of both descriptions will be found with the question of Dissent, which in each party, as well as some whose must stand or fall upon considerations talents have been improved by educa. perfectly distinct. If these are not tion. In point of numbers, the
thodox Dissenters greatly exceed their opinions or the conduct of our oppoopponents; but the congregations of nents, who must be judged by the the latter usually contain a larger pro- same test as ourselves, and may, perportion of persons of wealth and re- laps, have an equal chance of being tinernent: it is to be observed, how- in the right. In the course of my ever, that these do not abound in the experience, I have found persons of congregations of either party. In zeal all parties who discourse upon relifor their respective tenets they may be gious topics with as much confidence considered as pretty equally matched, as if they were capable of a mathemaas they are in providing active means tical demonstration; and, in accordfor their diffusion; but they differ in ance with this feeling, they expect the degree of importance which they their opinions to be received as impliattach to them. The orthodox are citly as if they were not as much a very generally agreed in consigning matter of inquiry to others as to over their adversaries to endless per- themselves. This spirit of dogmatistn dition, on account of their misbelief; is as injurious to truth, as it is offenwhilst the innocency of mental error sive to good sense, and repugnant to is as strenuously contended for by the those kindly feelings which it is the other party. Bigotry is a vice of little interest of every one to cherish. There minds, and to be found more or less is one Being alone to whom we must in all parties. Education does much render an account of the use or abuse to soften its asperity, but an inter- of our talents, and we have no authocourse with the world does more; and rity to usurp his judgment-seat. If those whose minds are liberalized by we would gain an erring brother, we philosophy feel the least of its influis must treat him neither with hatred ence. Although there is nothing in nor reproach, nor hunt him from sonature more truly contemptible, yet ciety : this would only convert him there are few vices, perhaps, that so into an enemy, and confirm him in generally predominate amongst the his error. But we must shew our professors of religion.
regard for his welfare by acts of kind. In an inquiry of this nature, it might ness; and, in short, encourage the very naturally be expected that the same feelings towards hiin which we writer should enter into some farther would wish to excite in others towards particulars respecting the present cha- ourselves, under similar circumstances. racter and condition of the different Man is a dependent creature, and Dissenting parties. But, besides the this reciprocity of action is as much Jength to which these pages have ex- a matter of personal interest as it is tended, there are other reasons which of duty. would induce him to be very brief Upon looking into the state of parupon this subject. In forming opi- ties, the first thing that strikes us is pions of religious sects, there is always the disappearance of the Presbyterian danger of being warped by prejudice, denomination, which was formerly the a disease from which the most mode- glory of Nonconformity, and has now rate cannot always escape. Every one nearly vanished amongst English Diswho identifies himself with a party, senters. This result may be traced anust feel a partiality for it to a cer- to various causes, laut chiefly perhaps tain extent, and a corresponding dis- to the doctrinal differences that took taste to its opponents. This will be place in the early part of the last cenmore particularly the case when the tury. At that time, many learned mind is undisciplined, or thrown off and reflecting men, chiefly amongst its guard, or when the passions be- the Presbyterian Dissenters, thought come heated by enthusiasm. But, they saw sufficient ground for departunder the influence of happier cir-' ing from the standard of reputed orthocumstances, it is next to impossible doxy, not only as it respected the tenets to speak without offence. It is very of Calvinism, but also upon the doctrue, that, consistently with that de- trine of the Trinity. Some of these cided attachment which every person embraced the Arian hypothesis, others inust and ought to feel for the con- the Sabellian, and many at length bevictions of his own mind, it by no came (in the epithet once in vogue) means follows that there is any neces- Socinians. The divines who contrisity for misrepresenting cither the buted most effect"ally to the diffusion
of these opinions were, Lardner, Ben- sons of every shade of religious opison, Taylor, of Norwich, Bourn, nion, but the reputedly, orthodox of Birmingham, Cardale, Price and greatly preponderate, and of these Priestley. The popular favour being also, many are Antinomians. on the side of the orthodox, the Besides the parties just mentioned, preachers of the then new opinions there is a very large class of persons soon grew unpopular, their congrega- who take the benefit of the Act of tions declined, and several of them at Toleration, and worship in licensed length became extinct. At the same chapels, but who have no other pretime, the orthodox Dissenters, owing tension to the title of Dissenters. The to a variety of other causes, had been motives that bring together these rapidly declining, until the preaching heterogeneous masses are of the most of the Methodosts threw new life and miscellaneous kind. Some are attractvigour into the cause. It is a remark- ed by a favourite preacher; others by able circumstance, that the heterodox convenience of neighbourhood; but Dissenters should have experienced a the prevailing motive appears to be a revival from a similar quarter. The preference for what is called evangelisecession of Mr. Lindsey and some cal preaching, administered in a more other clergymen from the Established familiar and popular manner than is Church, about half a century ago, gave to be found in the generality of parish rise to the establishment of a new sect, churches. In many of these places, composed of persons of various opi- which are large and handsomely fitted nions in ecclesiastical matters, but up, the worship is conducted agreeably uniting in the rejection of the popular to the liturgy and ceremonies of the belief concerning the Trinity. With Church of England; and in many of these, the Presbyterian Dissenters gra- them the service is performed by episdually united, and they adopted a new copally ordained clergymen. There are name, expressive of a prominent arti- not a few of these places that have been cle of their faith, by which they are built by needy adventurers, and solely now usually distinguished.
with a view to profit. In such cases, The orthodox Pædobaptist Dis- the first object has been to procure senters having become amalgamated, popular preachers, in order to raise in a great measure, with the Calvinis- large congregations, and by means of tic Methodists, partake very much of pew-rents to provide an income for the same character ; and it may be the speculator. The effect of the sysremarked generally concerning the tein has been greatly to multiply the union, that whilst it has raised the number of religious professors, who standard of Methodism, it has pro- have thrown their weight into the portionably depressed that of Inde- scale of the orthodox party, and have pendency. The discipline of the latter given a kind of fashionable popularity is now but little regarded in many to the profession of religion. Its congregations, and in others, the very aspect upon the Church of England name is become extinct. As they may be considered as rather favourhave several academies for training able than otherwise, and will probably young men to the ministry, many of continue so as long as the Act of Toleratheir pastors are taken from thence; tion shall remain untouched. If there but these resources are far from being is any principle which these seceders sufficient to supply the continual de. hold in common with the Dissenters, mand. Many of their ministers, there it is one in which they are themselves fore, are without education, but having equally interested, viz. a liberty of acquired a talent for mystifying reli- preaching, and a liberty of hearing gion, and for familiarizing it with without any restraint by the state. the multitude, they become popular. By the efforts of the non-descript perMost of the congregations thus situ- sons just referred to, united with those ated may be considered direct Antino- of the regular Dissenters, the Wesleian mians. The Baptists, owing to the Methodists, and the various societies nature of their distinguishing tenet, set on foot for the dissemination of have continued a separate body, and religion, the number of places regisare probably more numerous now than tered for religious worship during the at any former period ; at least since last 30 years, is so prodigious as to the Revolution. They comprise per- give an imposing effect to the cause