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which the parents were members. Had every church in this land set itself to work, and either acted singly in any one of these measures, or united with others to effect a part of that which was too mighty for itself alone, not only would far greater real work have been performed, but far greater apparent work also, and with less ostentation and vain-glorious boasting.
These several seeds and principles of insubordination to ecclesiastical order and authority are inherent in the very nature of all self-constituted societies, and are fast producing a state of universal religious radicalism. Many excellent Nonconformist ministers see,
and complain of, the evil. The High-church party saw that things would end in this manner from the very first; but, instead of acknowledging their own delinquencies, supineness, and dereliction of duty, they contented themselves with railing at those who endeavoured to supply their deficiencies ; whereas, had they repented, and returned to their first works, they might have saved all. It is now too late : the time is gone by; and nothing now remains but to watch the working of those throes which constitute one of the strongest signs that all which we see around us is ready to perish, and that the Lord is indeed“ turning the earth upside down,"
We scarcely know in what terms to allude to a society calling itself" for the Protection of Civil and Religious Liberty.” It seems to employ itself in raking together all the petty disputes that ever take place between the Clergy of the Church of England and any Dissenter, no matter who or what he is. Disputes between two Dissenters they take little or no notice of; but wherever they can find the remotest ground for imputing blame to any Clergyman, no stone is left unturned which may aggravate it, and exaggerate it into a subject for inflammatory declamation at their annual meeting. That any body of persons can in sober sadness believe that civil or religious liberty would be in the smallest danger without their labours, is scarcely to be credited : for there is an average quantity of folly and vanity in the world, from whence our conclusions should be deduced ; while, on the other hand, considerable ingenuity must be acknowledged to be displayed in making so large a yearly shew out of such very slender and meagre materials.
The most practical, or rather immediate, evil produced by the Religious Societies, was the constant and unremitting false prophecies which were promulgated at the annual meetings. The events which are now taking place in the world will probably shame those who cannot be convinced, from prognosticating any longer the arrival of a Millennium without previous judgments. The ghost of Dr. Bogue would blush, if he were to rise up amongst us, at his own book; and Dr. Pye Smith will shortly be left the solitary surviving instance of a delusion at one
time universal among the Dissenters, if not throughout the whole religious world. But within the last two months men's eyes have become wonderfully opened : the journals which were foremost in ridiculing the novelties” and new doctrines” of the prophets, are now themselves recommending a “judicious study” of the prophetic parts of Scripture; and have had the reluctant confession extorted from them, that all wisdom on these subjects was not bid with themselves. It will be curious to observe the altered tone which the next May meetings in the metropolis will assume. We should not, however, be greatly surprised, if the same spirit of dissolution which is breaking into pieces and fragments and shreds the monarchies and other long-established ordinances of political and ecclesiastical Europe, would also be manifested in the disruption of these heterogeneous meetings.
The Religious Societies for a long time produced the effect of destroying all independence of thought and mind in the persons who attached themselves to them. Many, however, have since emancipated themselves. This thraldom was partly produced by their managers contriving to prevent all persons from speaking at their anniversary meetings who should be likely to take any line of thought or expression other than the common-place sentences and sentiments in which committees delight. This destruction of independence operates not only on religious but also on merely charitable subjects; and there is probably more charity performed by deputy in this country than in any other ; while in other countries, where this substituting machinery is not at work, there is more real benevolence, and exercise of personal kindness, than in England. · The effect of this mechanical system on religion and morals, is well stated in the following extracts from the Edinburgh Review for June 1829 :
“Were we required to characterize this age of ours by any single epithet, we should be tempted to call it, not an heroical, devotional, philosophical, or moral age; but, above all others, the mechanical age. It is the age of machinery, in every outward and inward sense of that word. Nothing is now done directly, or by hand; all is by rule, and calculated contrivance.......Not the external and physical alone is now managed by machinery, but the internal and spiritual also. Here, too, nothing follows its spontaneous course, nothing is left to be accomplished by old natural methods : every thing has its cunningly devised implement, its pre-established apparatus ; it is not done by hand, but by machinery. Thus we have machines for education : Lancasterian machines, Hamiltonian machines; monitors, maps, emblems. Instruction, that mysterious communing of wisdom with ignorance, is no longer an indefinable tentative process, requiring a study of individual aptitude, and a perpetual variation
of means and methods to attain the same end; but a secure, universal, straight-forward business, to be conducted in the gross, by proper mechanism, with such intellect as comes to hand! Then we have religious machines, of all imaginable varieties... The Bible Society, professing a far higher and heavenly structure, is found on inquiry to be altogether an earthly contrivance, supported by collection of monies, by fomenting of vanities, by puffing, intrigue, and chicane.....and yet in effect a very excellent machine for converting the Heathen. It is the same in all other departments. Has any man, or any society of men, a truth to speak, a piece of spiritual work to do, they can in no wise proceed at once, and with the mere natural organs, but must first call a public meeting, appoint committees, issue prospectuses, eat a public dinner-in a word, construct or borrow machinery wherewith to speak it and do it.......With individuals, in like manner, natural strength avails little: no individual now hopes to accomplish the poorest enterprize single handed and without mechanical aid; he must stake interest with some existing corporation, and till his field with their oxen.......... These things, which we state lightly enough here, are yet of deep import, and indicate a mighty change in our whole manner of existence. For the same habit regulates, not our modes of action alone, but our modes of thought and feeling. Men are grown mechanical in head and in heart, as well as in hand. They have lost faith in individual endeavour, and in natural force of any kind. Not for internal perfection, but for external combinations and arrangements, for institutions, constitutions--for mechanism of one sort or other do they hope and struggle. Their whole efforts, attachments, opinions, turn on mechanism, and are of a mechanical character .........To what extent theological unbelief-we mean, intellectual dissent from the church, in its view of Holy Writ-prevails at this day, would be a highly important, were it not, under any circumstances, an almost impossible inquiry. But the unbelief which is of a still more fundamental character every man may see prevailing-with scarcely any but the faintest contradiction, all around him, even in the pulpit itself. Religion, in most countries, more or less in every country, is no longer what it was, and should be,--a thousand-voiced psalm from the heart of man to his invisible Father, the Fountain of all goodness, beauty, truth, and revealed in every revelation of these; but for the most part, a wise prudential feeling, grounded on mere calculation; a matter, as all others are now, of expediency and utility; whereby some smaller quantum of earthly enjoyment may be exchanged for à far larger quantum of celestial enjoyment. Thus religion too is profit; a working for wages: not reverence, but vulgar hope or fear."
But it is time to bring these remarks to a close. The spirit
of man is still unbound, and we will endeavour to keep ours unfettered, and to exhort others to do the like: for we are convinced that the mechanical systems of theology and of duty, in which men move like horses in a mill, are the source from which many of those evils spring of which we have so much reason to complain.
DOCTRINE AND LEARNING OF THE CHIEF ORGANS OF THE
RELIGIOUS WORLD.' The foundations of all things are out of course, the confusion of Babel is acting over again. Persons know not by what name to call their friends, or even to designate themselves. Protestants no longer protest, Lutherans have abandoned the principles of Luther, and Calvinism is not the doctrine of Calvin. Nor is this laxity confined to the people, whose want of information might seem an excuse ; it affects even the ministry, and leads many to deny, or explain away, the plain meaning of the Articles and Confessions of those churches whose honours and emoluments they still continue to enjoy. Doctrine being thus relaxed, profession is of course still more loose. So far from desiring to mark an accurate distinction by a name of separation, such a badge would be thought uncharitable; and he is thought the best Christian who, to attain some Christian object, can enter into combination with the greatest variety of sects and parties without giving or taking offence; who reverses the Scriptural admonition, and says “ Be ye not separate.” We need not prove this, for it is notorious; and it is in fact avowed by the very title which the mass of professors have taken to themselves, “ The Religious World ;”—a title as contradictory as the combining of light and darkness, good and evil, Christ and Belial; and the very naming of such absurdity could only be tolerated in an age when all distinctions have been done away with, and when it can no longer be said, “ If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.” The“ political world,” and the “fashionable world,” are apt designations; but the term “ religious world” is a deep satire on the Christianity of our land.
Each world has now its periodical press; and so powerful an engine has this become, that it has not inaptly been termed the Fourth Estate of these realms, and possesses a power little inferior to that of the other three. The several organs for the instruction or entertainment of the Religious World are no less “ motley” than the thing itself. But being paid for their instructions, and knowing full well that they must please those
who pay them, they necessarily fall in with the current of their patrons, or, at most,
“ Just hint a fault, and hesitate dislike" of their malpractices; venting all their spleen on those who dare boldly censure whatever they think amiss, be it committed by the world itself, or by the religious world. It is this circumstance which has rendered it expedient for us to occupy a short portion of our readers' time in an exposure of some few of the unfair and ignorant attacks which have been made upon the doctrines we have endeavoured to maintain, and upon ourselves personally: the latter we should have been well content to pass by in silence, and leave to the infallible corrector, Time, but that we have been told our past forbearance has been misconstrued into conscious weakness, or even acknowledgment of defeat. The attacks upon our Journal have been so numerous that it would be impossible to notice them all; and they have been so similar that it would be needless repetition : we therefore select an instance or two from a single assailant in each of the three chief bodies which compose the religious world : and even with these individuals we intend not to enter into controversy, but shall only use them to point out the nature of the mistakes into which our opponents fall, and the vague kind of charges which they bring against us ; so as to enable our readers by these samples to judge of the rest, whether Church, Dissenting, or Scotch.
In the short period which has elapsed since the commencement of this Journal we find ourselves placed by our fellowlabourers in a situation which, had we then foreseen, we should have greatly deprecated: perhaps we might even have shrunk from our undertaking had we known it to involve such a consequence. But God, who sees the heart, and had given the honest intention, strengthened us to declare boldly what we believe to be the truth; and at the same time drew forth, from many whom we had not previously regarded as opponents, such monstrous avowals of error, and such incredible displays of ignorance, that we were mercifully prepared to endure with patience any obloquy which they might cast upon us. That our readers may see that we are not stating an imaginary case we transcribe a sentence from one of the most widely circulated of the religious journals :-"No set of men more call forth our pity and regrets, or more frequently excite mingled feelings of grief and indignation in our breasts, than the party which give utterance to their sentiments through the pages of the Morning Watch. Had the talents, industry, and acquirements, which they undoubtedly possess, instead of acting at the bidding of every wild breath of heaven, been under the controul of spiritual wisdom and Christian sobriety, how valuable would their services have been in the cause of truth and righteousness! VOL. II. —NO. IV.