Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

contrary to a very erroneous, but too prevalent notion, that “ the laity, the more illiterate especially, have little concern with the mysteries of revealed religion, provided they be attentive to its duties."

But the most striking part of this charge, is that wherein the Bishop combats the delusive and dangerous maxim, that “morality is the sum of practical religion, which maxim ha been almost as much as any thing, the cause of that general indifference to Christian doctrine and Christian order, which is so visible in these planet-stricken times. This Charge, as we have already observed, on its appearance from the press, became the subject of general attention. The sentiments contained in it, and some expressions concerning the “ Moralizing Unitarians, gave great offence to those who affectedly call themselves “ Rational Christians." Gilbert Wakefield vented his indignation in a very scurrilous philippic against the Bishop; and a sturdy Socinian at Caermarthen published two pamphlets on the subject of the Charge, written in a very coarse style, under the title of a

a Welsh Freeholder.”

Of late this Charge has been pretty much quoted by those writers who assert the Calvinism of the Church of England, and who arrogate to themselves the name of “True Churehmen," on account of their own attachment to that systein. Because Bishop Horsley maintains the doctrine of justification by Faith, and denies that morality is religion, or that works are meritorious, these gentlemen have very wisely concluded, that he is on their side. Nothing can be more unjust. The Bishop's ideas are perfectly scriptural, and in unison with the doctrine of the articles and homilies ; but he never denied free agency in man, or the conditional obligation of good works for justification. Because he warned his Clergy against a corrupt mode of teaching, which made “ morality all in all, and ex. cluded the peculiar doctrines of revealed religion," these pretended True Churchmen have taken and applied particular passages of his Charge in favour of their tenets, to which, in fact, they have just as much relation as the sound doctrine of our Church with regard to the Euchacharistic sacrifice, has to the Popish error of the real presence.

In 1789, the Bishop preached the anniversary serion before the Royal Humane Society, of which he was vice president, on that appropriate passage, Ecclesiastes xico

. The title of the printed discourse is, “ The Principle of Vitality in Man, as described in the Holy Scriptures, and the difference between real and apparent death." This is, indeed, a most able and philosophical sermon, and it passed through several editions. From the description of the human system given by Solomon, the learned prelate infers, that he was acquainted with the frue doctrine of the circulation of the blood.

This year he also dictated the address which was prem sented by the same society to their Royal patron, on acom count of his recovery.

The vigorous attempt made by the Dissenters in 1790 to obtain

the repeal of the Corporation and Test acts, occasioned the Bishop to publish, but without his name, 16 A Review of the Case of the Protestant Dissenters;" a pamphlet of extraordinary merit, and distinguished by great novelty of argument on a subject which had repeatedly engaged the powers of the ablest reasoners. Though this tract was anonymous, all parties united in ascribing it to the real author, and some of the Dissenters directly replied to it as the production of the Bishop of St. David's.

All Europe was filled with astonishment at the atrocities which marked the French revolution; and deep, indeed, was the concern which every feeling mind expressed on the inhuman butchery of the mild and virtuous Louis the Sixteenth. The English parliament being then sitting, it was thought proper that the thirtieth of January should be observed with due solemnity by the two houses; and the Bishop of St. David's was accordingly appointed to preach the Sermon on the oce casion before the Lords at the Abbey. The attendance was very numerous, the recent circumstance as it were, naturally recalling to general recollection the bloody stain which disgraces the English annals in the murder of a religious monarch, on a scaffold before his royal palace. The Bishop's sermon is a complete refutation of that preposterous, but too generally received hypothesis, that absolute liberty is natural to man. He proves that man never did exist in what is called a state of nature; consequently that “ Civil Society, which always implies Government, is the condition to which God originally destined man. Whence the obligation on the citizen to submit to government, is an immediate result from sbat first principle of religious duty, which requires that

man

man conform himself as far as in him lies, with the will and purpose of his Maker.” At the conclusion of this discourse, the Bishop drew a strong picture of the state of France, which very sensibly affected his auditors, and was circulated all over the kingdom through the public prints. When the sermon was printed, his Lordship subjoined to it an appendix, in which he vindicates Calvin from the charge of being a friend to the levelling system.

At the yearly meeting of the charity children at St. Paul's, June 6, 1793, the Bishop preached a most excellent sermon on Luke iv. 18, 19, in which he defends, with his accustomed strength of reasoning, the doctrine of Christ's divinity, and urges, in a beautiful strain of eloquence, the benefit and duty of communicating religious instruction to the poor.

The year following, the Bishop was translated to the see of Rochester, with the deanry of Westminster, void by the death of Bishop Thomas. In the church of Westminster he made several excellent regulations, particularly with regard to the condition of the members of the choir, whose salaries he caused to be augmented.

In 1795, we find our indefatigable prelate preaching and publishing two sermons: one before the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and the other at the anniversary of the Magdalen, in the chapel of that institution. This last is entitled, The Enjoyments of the future Life and true Notion of Christian Purity,” from 1 John iii, 3; and though a very orthodox and perspicuous explication of the doctrine, “that the glorified bodies of mortals will resemble, in some measure, that of the Saviour in his exaltation;" it was made the subject of some severe remarks in that singular performance the “ Pursuits of Literature,” the learned but eccentric author of which, seemed to have a personal pique against the Bishop of Rochester. Why he should, it would, perhaps, be no very difficult matter lo ascertain, if our conjecture respecting him be right.

The primary charge of the Bishop to his clergy at Rochester, in 1796, was printed the same year, and contains a very striking picture of the times, particularly with regard to religion, and an exact delineation of the advantages, difficulties, and duties of the Clergy.

“We are fallen,” says he,“ upon times which, more perhaps, than any which the Christian Church hath seen,

since its first struggles with the powers of darkness in the three first centuries, require in the Preachers of the Gospel, those two qualities in particular, which our Lord told the Twelve he required in them, when first he invested them with their high commission, the policy" of the serpent united with the harmlessness of the dove."

In noticing the advantages of hunan learning, he repeats and amplifies what he had observed in his ordination sermon at Gloucester. Learning,” he says,” is to us the best substitute for that preternatural illuinination of the understanding, which was the privilege of the first preachers.”

There is one passage in this Charge which deserves to be extracted, and very carefully to be considered by those ministers, who, by way of excusing their inattention to the studies peculiar to their function, gravely say, that they are engaged in the study of men.

“ So far as it has fallen in my way,” says the Bishop, “ to observe the good effects of this study of inc1, they amount not certainly to what those who addict theinselves to the pursuit, tell us we might expect from it. I have never perceived among these juvenile Divines any extraordinary unction in the usual strain of preaching; nor have I discovered any thing more seemly, in the fashion of their lives, than the common polish of good breeding. Of all that wear the garb of Clergymen, they have certainly the least about them, either of the policy of the serpent, or of the harmlessness of the dove. And if the taste for this study of men, with a neglect of books, and the true study of men, should become general among our younger Brethren, (which God avert!) the enemy in the next generation will be likely to regain the advantageous post we have for centuries maintained.”

In this year, also, the Bishop presented to the learned world, but without his name, a very elaborate disquia sition, “ On the Prosodies of the Greek and Latin Languages,” dedicated, in warm terms of friendship, to Lord Thurlow, whom he compliments on his taste and skill in the subject of this profound investigation.

The signs of the times seem to have strongly drawn the attention of Dr. Horsley to the subject of the Prophecies of the Old and New Testaments; of the success of which application he published an excellent specimen in 1799, under the title of “ Critical Disquisitions on the sviih Chapter of Isaiah, in a Letter to Edward King,

Vol. XI. Churchm. Mag. for Dec. 1806. SG Esq."

a land

Esq.” That respectable veteran in literature, had not long before published a Treatise on the Signs of the Times, in which, though there are undoubtedly many valuable remarks, there is also, as in most of his writings, much of what is fancifully ingenious. This chapter in par-. ticular, which according to Bishop Lowth, " is one of the most obscure prophecies in the whole book of Isaiah,” Mr. King considered not only as yet to be fulfilled, but as representing the restoration of the Jewish nation by means of France, wbich he supposed to be figured under the description of " shadowing with wings;" because the map of that empire, in his opinion, has something of that appearance. This notion is visionary enough to make one smile; but our learned prelate, who always lived on terms of intimacy with the worthy author, took up the subject in a grave manner, and has given us the best version and explanation of this difficult chapter, which can be found in language. He observes in the introduction, that, “ first the prophecy, indeed, predicts some woeful judgment; but the principal matter of the prophecy is not judgment, but mercy, a gracious promise of the final restoration of the Israelites. Secondly, the prophecy has no respect to Egypt, or any of the contiguous countries. What has been applied to Egypt is a description of some people, or another, destined to be the principal instruments in the hand of Providence in the great work of the re-settlement of the Jews in the Holy Land, a description of that people by characters by which they will be evidently known when the time arrives. Thirdly, the time for the completion of the prophecy was very remote, when it was delivered, and is yet future; being, indeed, the season of the second advent of our Lord."

What the country is which is to be the instrumentin the hand of God for the restoration of Israel, the Bishop does not attempt to determine ; but he is decidedly of opinion, that “the Atheistical Democracy of France is not destined to so bigh an office;" it should seem, however, from the following passage, that he was not without an idea and hope, that the British Isles may be intended : “ The couptry, therefore, to which the prophet calls, is characterized as one, which in the days of the accomplishment of this prophecy, shall be a great maritime and commercial power, forining remote alliances,

« PoprzedniaDalej »