Obrazy na stronie

cial to the ministers of the emulating bodies. The reputation which dissenting teachers have acquired for a more accurate knowledge of the doctrines of the Gospel, and for their greater zeal in enforcing them (not withstanding their disadvantages in other respects), appears to have had its influence in remedying the acknowledged deficiency of theological education in our universities. Hence the increasing seriousness of our students and the growing numbers of pious, and (as all parties agree to call them) evangelical, clergy. Nor is the principle of emulation without its more direct efficacy on the established clergy; for the careless pastor has the continual mortification of seeing the bulk of his parishioners neglecting the excellent, but ill-conducted, services of his church, and preferring the more animated worship of Methodists and Dissenters; and how is this calculated (if he has any remains of moral sensibility) to awaken in him the most bitter reflections against himself, for his want of that pious zeal, which (with far less advantages in other respects) are so successful in those whom he has affected to pity or despise. And even in those cases where the cler gyman is of a better stamp, how much tendency has the vicinity of the laborious Dissenter or Methodist to stimulate him in the functions of his sacred vocation*.

The Church of Rome, though miscalling herself the Catholic Church, deprived herself of these advantages by her narrow and intolerant spirit. Allowing no diversity of religious profession, though distracted with discordant sentiments, her morals de

• Now and then we have witnessed a rare instance of a Churchman and a Dissenter possessed of two kindred souls, placed by Providence in the same neighbourhood, each endued with learning, candour, piety, and mutual esteem, animating and exciting each other in the same great cause (though not drawing in the same yoke) and infusing into their people the same spirit. Such was the instance of Hervey and Doddridge,

[ocr errors]

generated; her creed became full of absurdity, and her worship of superstition; and both clergy and laity necessarily sunk together into the very abyss of ignorance and profligacy; while her zeal, excepting only in the essential articles of replenishing her revenues and persecuting heretics, became languid in the extreme. And it appears worthy of consideration, whether the salutary effect of the Act of Toleration, in counteracting that which enforces uniformity, has not had its effect in preserving us from evils of a similar tendency*.

It might lead us into too expansive a field, and is not so immediately within the design of this paper, to consider what advantages we may have derived from our dissenting brethren with respect to our civil liberties; but these have been ac knowledged by historians least favourable to their principles.

We have daily experience of the beneficial effect of the spirit of Christian emulation in the formation of societies, having for their object the general good. A Dissenter shall rise up, and propose a plan of no less extensive utility than the national education. He shall, as probably so ordained by Providence, belong to a denomination of Christians, calcu lated from peculiar circumstances, to engage him great and high patronage. His august Sovereign, and, after him, the Prince Regent, as parents of the community, though themselves of another religious communion, shall, from a conviction of the paramount importance of the

This point is carried much further by a learned clergyman, Dr. Edwards, who thus expresses himself:-" If we would but open our eyes, we should see that we are beholden to the Dissenters for the continuance of a great part of our theological principles; for if the High Churchmen had no checks, they would have brought in Popery before this time, by their over valuing pomp and ceremony in divine worship. So that if there had been no Dissenters, the Church of England had been long since rained."-Preacher, vol. ii. P. 133.

rection*. It is no longer the insignificant brook or petty current, but assumes the majesty and force of a great river, bearing down all opposition before it, and increasing con tinually in its progress till it expands itself into a mighty ocean. Here the little private and party views of individuals are overwhelmed in the magnitude of the objects surrounding them. Their prejudices and animosities subside. Coming into nearer contact with men of other denominations, they can perceive and admire their excellencies, and learn still more and more to approximate in spirit, till, in essentials at least, they are agreed, and their differences in non-essentials (if they do not by degrees altogether subside) serve only, in a sweet and powerful ri valry, to provoke one another to greater measures of love and of good works.

object, favour his system with their powerful and benignant sanction; and thousands shall be instructed, so far as to be enabled to read the Scriptures. But still the benevolent wish of our beloved Sovereign, that "every child" in the British dominions may be taught to read his Bible, cannot meet with its accomplishment; for the prejudice against this man, as a Dissenter, will prevent the complete establishment of his system. To meet this prejudice, and that too in such a way as to accomplish the great object, it shall be ordered by Providence, in this conjuncture, that a clergyman shall step forward and revive his dormant claim to the merit of introducing the mechanism of this new plan of education, and shall combine with the common principles of it the peculiar tenets of the national church; and thus the zeal of both parties, fostered by the spirit of rivalry, shall completely accomplish the effect.

The same result, from the same principle, takes place in other instances. May we not exemplify it in the different institutions for the conversion of the Jews, and in the Society of Missions to Africa and the East, which probably took the first hint of its establishment from the London Missionary Society, in the formation, conduct, and support of which Dissenters have taken so large and liberal a part; as the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge has derived a manifest accession to its energy, as well as its finances, from that excellent institution the British and Foreign Bible Society,-a so ciety founded on principles at once so simple and comprehensive, so wise and energetic, that, while its very constitution secures its permanence and extension, it bids fair to be the greatest instrument in the hands of Providence of reforming the world. And here we may observe, that our principle flows with the most powerful, and yet most refined energy, when Christians of various denominations combine in a great design, and all their united zeal operates in one dis

[ocr errors]

J. L.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer, Ir is a great consideration to a serious and reflecting mind, in this age of angry controversy, to observe how the over-ruling wisdom of God maketh even "the wrath of man to praise him," by promoting his sacred cause. The original controversy respecting the Bible Society, commenced by Dr. Wordsworth, brought the knowledge of that noble institution to many who were previously ignorant of it, or but imperfectly acquainted with it; it put them upon inquiring into its claims upon the public support, and eventually produced a considerable accession to the number of its members. The venerable Society for promoting Christian Knowledge also participated in the good effects of this discussion, which roused its dormant zeal, and inspired it with

It should be acknowledged, to the honour of the Dissenters, that, on some recent

occasions, they have discovered a spirit which might be contrasted, much to their advantage, with that which has been displayed by a party in the Establishment.

unwonted activity; so that we may now say of it, as Florus does of the Roman empire in his time, "Movet lacertos, et, præter spem omnium, senectus imperii quasi reddita juventute revirescit." Similar advantages will, doubtless, be produced by the revival of the controversy by Dr. Marsh. His attack upon the Bible Society, like that of his predecessor, will add to its triumphs, and it will go on "conquering and to conquer," wielding "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

One great advantage which may be confidently expected from the present discussion, is the distribution of the Prayer-book, by the members of the Bible Society who are of the Established Church, to a greater extent than has yet taken place. Although it is certain, that they cannot justly be charged with having neglected this duty, (and Dr. Marsh himself seems afraid to venture farther than to prove by "abstract reasoning," that their connection with the Society ought to produce that effect, whether it actually does or not); yet they will naturally be anxious, in consequence of this anexpected objection, "to cut off occasion from them that desire occasion" to reproach them, by redoubling their activity in the distribution of the Prayer-book: and the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge will, of course, exert itself in extending the circulation of that book to which Dr. Marsh teaches them to look "to correct the evil" of the rapidly increasing tribution of the Bible alone by the Bible Society. Thus the two Societies will provoke each other to good works." Happy would it be for the Church of England, and for the interests of religion in general, did they also provoke each other" to


[ocr errors]

ligion are now generally omitted in the Book of Common-Prayer. What can be the reason of this omission? Have not the Bishop of Lincoln and other eminent divines, proved that they are not Calvinistic? What harm, therefore, can they do? And why should they be detruded from that station which they legally hold among the public formularies of our Church? Dr. Marsh very properly pleads for the distribution of the Prayer-book amongst our parishioners, in order that they may be directed by it to the true sense of Scripture as received and professed by our church. Now to what particular portion of its formularies would those who wished to be instructed in its doctrines, especially look for information but to the creeds and the Articles? Why, therefore, should not the latter be retained as well as the former? The privilege of printing Bibles and Prayer-books is properly confined to the Universities and the King's Printer, in order to secure the integrity of the text of each. Is it not, therefore, a breach of trust to publish (see Christ. Obs. p. 79) imperfect editions of either?

It is with great pleasure I have heard that a Society is projected by some Members of the Established Church, for the purpose of a more extensive distribution of the Prayerbook and the Homilies. And I confidentally trust that they will make it a fundamental rule of their insti tution, that the Prayer-books disdistributed by them shall always con tain the Articles of Religion. We may then hope that, by the blessing of God upon the use of these authorised standards of our faith, and the diligent instructions of their pastors, our congregations will be well grounded and established in

This brings me to that remark, for the sake of which I have address ed these lines to you. I have long observed with great regret, in common with many other members of Our church, that the Articles of Re

those doctrines which our Reformers taught, and our Martyrs sealed with their blood. I am, &c.


P. S. This subject suggests to me to notice an error which is to be

found in the greater part, if not all, of the more modern editions of the Homilies. In the beginning of the Sermon of good Works annexed unto Faith, we read, "and St. Paul proveth that the eunuch bad faith, because he pleased God," Heb. xi. instead of "that ENOCH had faith," p. 38, Oxford edition, 1802, 8vo.

To the Editor of the Christian Observer.

A CONSTANT Reader of the Christian Observer, having felt much interest in perusing Mrs. Grant's Essays on the Superstitions of the HighJanders, has been particularly impressed with her suggestions respecting the pressing want of religious instruction among the Gaelic emigrants, which appears a point well worthy the attention of those societies who are so laudably engaged in the successful promotion of the best of all causes; but having no such access to them as through the channel of your valuable work, she has transcribed the passage with a view to its publication, if it should be thought likely to do good; or in the hope that a more judicious extract may be made, and the case so stated, as to draw the attention of such as have it in their power to relieve the wants of those to whom a little belp, now seasonably afforded, promises an abundant benefit.

"In various instances, a set of il literate peasants have, when forced to remove, gone about it in the most systematic manner. They have themselves chartered a ship, and engaged it to come for them, to one of their Highland ports, and a whole cluster of kindred, of all ages, from four weeks to fourscore years, have gone in mournful procession to the shore; the bagpipes mournfully playing before them a sad funereal air, and all their neighbours and relations accompanying them on board to bid a last farewel. Those kindred groupes have gone on with the same union and constancy be

yond the Atlantic. Far different from the single adventurers that yearly emigrate to the states, they usually keep within the bounds of British America, and prefer going very far into the interior, where they may get as much land as will accommodate them all, to separating for a more pleasant or advantageous settlement. How desirable that those associate bands of brothers, who carry with them such a principle of union, and such a desire of preserving the sacred fire of their first principles and attachments: how desirable, I say, would it be, that they should be encouraged to preserve, as much as is compatible with removal, their former character and opinions. They cannot afford any inducements to prevail on a clergyman, or even a school-master, to accompany them; yet what a divine charity would it be, to send out a missionary, with a small salary, to preach to them in their own language, and support their souls in the wilderness with the bread of life.

"The want of such instruction, and of such a bond of union is severely felt by those poor exiles in upper Canada. In some instances they have, for want of this and other mental indulgences,given themselves up almost entirely to the chace, and relapsed into a state little better than savages.

"Last year, there was at Montreal, I know not whether a regular clergyman or a mere itinerant, who preach ed Gaelic, and, I think I was told, administered the sacraments in the same language. Multitudes came from all the parts of upper Canada to hear the glad tidings once more in their native language. I heard, indeed, of some that came five hundred miles for that purpose. It may appear a paradox to say, that those who went across the Atlantic, without any knowledge of the English language, were less likely to acquire it there than among their native mountains. This is, nevertheless, strictly true. By means of the schools dispersed over all the High

lands, the English spreads quickly: youths and maidens, who go to serve in the bordering countries, also bring it home. But when a shipful of emigrants go together to settle in the remote wilds, they adhere so much to each other, and are so entirely detached from others, that they lose any little English they carried out, and speak nothing but Gaelic.

"Emigrations have been going on these fifty years and upwards; and there are numbers of people born in America, who never spoke a word of English in their lives: not only so, but when they have grown wealthy, and been enabled to purchase slaves, they have taught them their own language. I myself have seen negroes, born in such families, who could not speak a word of English. Music, poetry, and, indeed, imagination, do not seem to bear transplanting. The language remains; but its delicacies and its spirit evaporate.

"Enthusiasm and superstition seem to die together; and Donald is afraid of nothing but wolves and rattlesnakes, when once be gets beyond the mighty waters of the west. His devout propensities, however, still continue, and require but little encouragement to shoot out and flourish with fresh vigour. How melancholy, even in a political view, to let those energies of mind which devotion nourishes, die away; and to see people, inclined to make so much of a little knowledge, relapse into profound ignorance! Four or five missionaries, who were masters of the Gaelic language, and qualified and disposed, not only to preach, but to teach to read the Scriptures in that congenial and expressive tongue, would do incalculable good in British America. These poor well-meaning exiles have, even in their expatriated state, a more than common claim on the maternal feelings of the parent country.

"How very immaterial would be the expense, and how unspeakable the advantage, of supplying their spiritual wants, of sowing the good CHRIST. OBSERY, No. 124,

seed in the soil softened by tender sorrow, while it is moist with the tears of parting anguish! How sweet to those subdued and melted souls, to be enabled, in social worship, to lift up their voices in sacred chorus, with the words so dear to every pious Highlander: "Shi Dhia fheiri'm buachalich." "The Lord himself is my Shepherd!" And how melancholy to allow the fire that keeps the poor banished breast warm, even in exile, to languish into extinction for want of a favouring breath of instruction: that they may be thus forced to hang the harp of sacred melody on the willows, by those unknown streams, till they literally know not how to sing the Lord's song in a strange land.

"If their original impressions, the pious fervour which serves as a resource in this hopeless alienation, be once allowed to languish into extinction, the wish for instruction will diminish, as the power of procuring it increases. But, at present, while the desire continues in full ardour and the power is entirely withheld, if the spiritual wants of this well-meaning people were attended to, the union, industry, and good morals, that are the invariable results of strong impressions of religion, would soon enable them to procure for themselves this hallowed and much desired luxury. New settlers, that can barely exist till they draw subsistence from the bosom of the earth, may in a very few years have abundance of food and clothing; but then, from the remoteness of their situation, they have nothing they can turn into money, to answer so desirable a purpose. How auspicious an omen would it be to the beginning of a new reign, if the golden sceptre of a compassionate Sovereign were extended to these remote, yet faithful subjects! how earnestly would they pray for him, whose munificence should enable them to worship together in their native tongue, and to learn through that medium to 'fear God and honour the king."

2 G

« PoprzedniaDalej »