Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

Cuaded he means not to mislead; but universal, or even com plete, toleration, feems to be short of what the Diflenters with: for, to remove every barrier, would be levelling all distinctions; and if one was not superior, it could no longer tom lerate. Let us attend, however, to the author's reasoning.

* A question, however, here arises-Whether it be the duty of the magistrate to provide, at the public expence, teachers of one sea of Christians (for I speak not now of Pagan or Mahometan magistrates, but confine my confideration to a Christian magiftrate), or teachers of every sect into which his socicty may happen to be divided. This is a question which cannot perhaps be easily decided by those who serioully consider it : I must not, on this occasion, undertake to discuss it ; I will rather affume as a principle to be admitted, that the morals of the community will be better secured by an exclusive establishment at the public expence of the teachers of one fect, than by a co-establishment of the teachers of different fects of Christians. Yet I can never admis that it is agreeable either to the principle on which civil society is formed, or useful to the attainment of the ends men have in view in forming such society, that those who differ from the religion of the magistrate should, on account of that difference alone, be subject to persecution ; and an exclusion from civil offices is persecution : it is not indeed the persecution of the Inquifition or of Smithfield; it differs from them in degree, but it resembles them in kind. I have argued myself into this opinion in the following manner :-Punishment for religious opinions is perfecution, and evil of any kind, inflicted by the authority of the civil magiltrate, is punilhment. This evil may respect a man's person, or liberty, or property, or character. Civil incapacity, brought upon men by law, is an evil affecting their property and their character : their character, as it exposes them to the imputation of being bad citizens; their property, as it takes from then the poflibility of acquiring advantages attendant on certain civil offices. These advantages, whether they confit of wealth, power, influence, or honour, are worth fumething; their value may be variously appreciated ; yet being worth something, the posibility of acquiring them is worth fomething, and the taking away from a'y man that possibility on account of his religion, is perfecution t. The law indeed does not permit every man to be a clergyman, a lawyer, or a phyhcian; but the ground of this prohi.

bition

** An objetion to this manner of arguing has occurred to me, and I have ao inclination to conceal it.-The supremie magistrate in every civil conniue nity has a right to take from the individuals composing that community, arý prtion of their atual property which he may judge requisite for pronoting in: public good, tor securing the public salty. This principle, I believe, i

bition is quite different from that by which men of integrity and ability, and every way qualified for the discharge of their duties, are hindered from executing civil offices' on account of their religious opinions.'

On this subject we need only remark, that the alliance between church and state, generally considered, is a jargon. It has only a meaning, when the principles of any particular church are inimical to those of the state: this has been the cafe with the Papists, and is at present with the Diffenters, who are generally attached to republican doctrines, as they seem to have shown in their resolutions, and late publications. In a political view, an observation of Dr. Watson is certainly of importance. The Diflenters are now united by a common cause: if this cause of union were removed, their real differences of opinion would be sufficiently powerful to prevent any danger from their union. We know not, however, whether a sufficient bond might not remain, at least to occasion anarchy and disturbances. - We shall conclude our account of this very candid address by the following pailages, in the close of the Charge : we must leave the comment to our readers.

• The gospel of Christ has been poluted by the craft of men'; it has suffered this pollution from the earliest ages of the church to the present times; and nothing, under God's providence, seems more fiited to restore it to its original purity than the sober zeal of learned ad unprejudiced inquiries after truth. Statesmen in general, and, I am sorry to add, too many churchmen, are enemies to free inquiry. It is a maxim with many of both denominasions, that the religion which is established in a country must be maintained; and they are disposed to calumniate and to punish those who would call in question any of its doctrines. This principle originates, probably, in the churchman, from an apprehenfion of the mischief which may attend innovation : and it originates, probably, in the statesman, either from a confined knowledge not nniversally admitted; it appears, however, to me to be just, and this principle being admitted, does it not follow that the magistrate has at least au equal right to ule, for the fame ends, the contingent property of individuals, attendant on their eligibility to certain offices ? May he not justly say to such individuals, “The majority of the persons conftituting the civil society of which you a e members, is of opinion, that the public safety will be better secured by your being deprived of he property appertaining to certain offices, than by your being poliested of it. You, the minority, are of a different opinion ; and there is no common judge to determine which is in the right. You are a: liberty to form another civil society; but whilst you continue members of this, you ougłt to acquicsce in the judgment of the majority. This objec. tion is not so strong as chat nuthing can be said to invalidate it ; nor is it so weak as that nothing cau be urged in its support: I am fatisdied with having impartially, Itated it."

of the Christian system, or from a belief that one mode of religion may answer the purpose of government as well as another, and that all religions are but state contrivances, to allilt the impotency', and to enlarge the extent of human laws. Whilst this principle remains in the heart of any man, free inquiry in religious concerns will, as far as his influence reaches, be checked; anu if the teinper of the times does not controul the temper of the man, pains and penalties will be inflicted on all those, who, in conscience, differ from the doctrines of the state.

• The divine doctrines of our holy religion want not the aid of human laws for their support. When Christian magistrates allume to themselves the right of interprering doubtful paffages of fcrip. ture in a definite sense, they pollute the altar of the Lord, though with a view, perhaps, of adorning and defending it, and often fanctify error by the authority of civil laws. The hittory of the church, from the time of its civil establishment, affords a thousand proofs of the truth of this remark. Examine the acts of the councils, convened by imperial or royal authority in different parts of the Christian world, from the council of Nice to the council of Trent, and you will find, that in many of them such doétrines were established as we protestants believe to be absolute criors. Examine the confessions of faith of the different protestant churches now subsisting in Europe, and you will observe in many of them such a diversity of doctrine as will make you wish that none of them had assumed any portion of that infallibility which they properly denied to the church of Rome.

• In fine, my brethren, you, perhaps, will think it to be your duty, and I am convinced that it is mine, to endeavour to secure the protection of God in another world, by propagating the pure gospel of his son in this : and the purity of that gospel can by no mean be so well ascertained as by a modeit and sincere inquiry into what has been written by the evangelists and apostles, rather than into what has been delivered by Calvin or Arminius, by Sabeliius or Socinus.'

The Nature, Extent, and Province of Human Reason considered.

12mo. 35. Boards. Edwards. 1791. THE great fundamental argument of the modern resining

theologians is, that reasonable and accountable creatures cannot be expected to believe what is contrary to reaton; for, if they are accountable because they are rational beings, their reason must be designed to aflift their comprehension and belief. This argument, fpecious and plausible as it is, cannot be admitted without some discussion. The terms are not pro

G3

perly perly limited, and the province of reason is mistaken. Perhaps reason is folely and exclusively employed in estimating and ascertaining the relation of material objects, or the ideas derived from them : it appears capable of doing no more, and is, in general, limited in its excursions, by our comprehension. The mathematician compares length, extent, and folidity; and, from the relation, draws his conclusions: but he evolves rather than discovers, and only fees with more clearness, in his conclusion, what was more involved in his theorem. The moral philofopher argues on virtue, and shows its relation to human happiness, by pointing out its expedience, and its utility in promoting the good of the whole. But his argument, in an abstract form, is scarcely less sensible. He generalises only the idea of the virtuous man, and of a happy community, in consequence of the benefits arising, by his conduct and example, to the group of individuals. Nor does he more than the mathematician add to our knowledge, or introduce ideas not involved in his principles. He only analyses the happiness, Thewing its source and its consequences. When we go beyond the province of reason, we are foon loft in confusion, or our conclufion terminates in an absurdity; and this is usually the case, when we depart from a foundation laid on the ideas borrowed from our senses. The principle or the reasoning is consequently wrong, and it is of consequence to enquire in what particular we first deviate from our stable ground. If we examine the reasoning of those who contend that every thing in the word is material, or of those who are equally confident that we have no evidence of matter exifting, we shall find that the error, in the first step, has produced the uncertainty. Berkley's first principle led him astray, for he saw action without a material caufe; and believing that it may in any case be produced without a material agent, none was, in any cafe, required. The opposite fect was equally in error : they found the ideas of rcfiffance fallacious in fome cases, and concluded that it probably was so in every other.

If then the province of reason is only to examine the relations of material objects, and when we hep beyond this, wc are left in confusion and error, is it to be expceted that we çn fathom the courcils of the Almighty, or eftimate the propriety and the judgments of his works ? Even in those of his works, which are more purely material, our investigation goes but a litile way, and we foon find ourselves perplexed. When we ascend to a superior scale of beings, and attempt to investigate the extent of fuperior intelligence, our enquiry ends in words only. Are we then to fuppoíe, that, while in fucceflive gradations, we see animal life defcending to bodies inanimate and inorganic, that there are no gradations above us? Is the power of the Almighty limited by the human race ? and are we his chiefest works? Yet we must believe, if reason is our only guide ; for we have no ideas of any thing beyond the talents and qualifications of humanity,

power

After having thus very briefly stated the question in a way, that we think unprejudiced and dispassionate, let us attend to the authors before us, for they are many. The late bishop of St. David's Charge, in which he recommends to the preachers the choice not only of moral subjects, but those of divinity also ; not the doctrines of the second table exclusively, but some of the peculiar tenets of christianity, occafioned a conversation between some clergymen of his diocese, the result of which is now before us; and, without engaging to defend every pafsage, or to approve of every kind of argument, we may add, that we think this. Consideration’able and judicious.

In the first chapter, the authors enquire whether there be any thing in the nature and condition of man, to oblige him to think that his own reason is to be the judge of doctrines revealed from God. If we admit the principles just stated, it will appear, that man is so far from being obliged to entertain this opinion, that he is wholly incapable of it; and to exact this duty would be nearly as unreasanable as to require of a blind man to assert, in their varying successive shades, different coloured cloths. But, in all this enquiry, we should perhaps substitute comprehension for reason. We think, for instance, that the divinity of Christ is expressly pointed out in the gospel. How can we conceive, objects an unitarian, that the Divine Being put on humanity, and become a man? It is contrary to reason. This is incorrect language : we cannot conceive it; and therefore it is not an object of our reafon. It relates to principles different from matter, which we are totally unacquainted with, and of course whose relations we cannot know. Those who think the trinity is with equal certainty taught by the Evangelists, may make the same reply: the doctrine is in no respect the object of our reasoning faculty, and cannot therefore be styled reasonable or unreasonable. Our authors pursue the subject in a different train of reasoning, and prove their position very satisfactorily.

· Every other instance of vanity, every degree of personal pride, and self-esteem, may be a pardonable weakness in comparison of this. For, how small is that pride, which only makes us prefer our personal beauty or merit to that of our fellowcreatures, when compared with a self-confiding reason, which is too haughty to adore any thing in the divine counsels, which it cannot fully comprehend; or to submit to any directions from God, but such as its own wisdom could prescribe, or approve ?

Thus

G4

« AnteriorContinua »