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their character possessed no excellence to compensate what he might deem its blemishes, he would still venerate them as the instruments, in a very considerable degree, of that diffusion of religious zeal which has so happily distinguished the latter portion of the 18th century from its commencement. Who would offer indignițies to the rock at Kadesh, though at this hour it should be barren, unshapely, and grotesque, since it was once consecrated by the touch of the Omnipotent, and emitted a stream from its bosom, which revived the people of God when fainting in the wilderness? A man of reflection and sensibility, who has found it necessary to relinquish bis religious sentiments and connexions, would never be persuaded to expose either the one or the other to ridicule; he : would feel it a gross violation of delicacy to attack them with mockery and impertinence. If a conviction of duty to the cause of truth and the welfare of society, compelled him reluctantly to become their opponent, he would maintain the most scrupulous tenderness in his manners; to vindicate his character, or to dissipate their prejudices, he would urge thé strongest “. reasons” in the most “ candid" and friendly temper. But the seceder from the Methodist society, we apprehend, might feel obligations of additional and peculiar force. In the article of Christian communion, if we may credit Archdeacon Paley, this society approaches nearer than any other, except the Moravian, to the standard of the primi. tive church. Their frequent private meetings for conference and worship, must naturally induce a 'degree of religious intimacy, of mutual confidence, of sympathy, and of personal attachment, which would require somewhat more self-denial, and somewhat stronger motives, than are necessary in other cases, to enable an individual member to rend himself away. With much greater anxiety, therefore, he will refrain from grieving, or injuring, or offending, a society which he regards with filial love, into which he had been so closely incorporated, and from which he still must feel that he is scarcely disunited.
How, then, shall we persuade our readers, that Mr. N., who was not only a member, but a preacher in this connexion, and who was bound by so many general and peculiar obligations to treat it with impartiality and decorum, has not merely been betrayed into disrespectful expressions concerning it, in the warmth of discussion, but has been able deliberately to write an octavo volume of four hundred and ninety pages, calculated in a very peculiar manner, by the intertexture of truth and falsehood, of casual censure and continual irrision, to make it appear contemptible in the estimation of the world! So complete a reversal of the most reasonable expectations will render them a little curious concerning the
nature of Mr. N.'s separation from the Methodist connexion; and this solicitude will be the more excited, by considering the creed and the society which he has embraced. He has left a sect distinguished by its scrupulous morality and vigilant discipline for one that is nearly without the semblance of discipline, and practically renounces the self-deuying code of the Gospel, under the name of puritanical preciseness ;--the one pervaded by a principle of close cohesion, the other by a principle of mutual repulsion ;-the one remarkable, in its higher classes at least, for evincing candour, the other for professing it; the one eminently zealous, the other peculiarly torpid and frigorific ;-the one adorned with the names of hundreds, who have made every sacrifice to religion and philanthropy, enduring, through their whole lives, labour, hardship, reproach, persecution, and personal jeopardy, in a conscientious promotion of the grandest of all causes ; the other incapable of producing one such name ;--the former exulting in the rescue of very many thousands from abject wretchedness and utter depravity, to the duties and delights and expectations of virtuous, rational, and immortal beings; the latter shrinking from the challenge to enumerate as many individuals; the small acquisitions which it makes being won, not from the base and vicious, but from the polished and regular; not from the wilds of nature, but from the gardens of other Christian societies, precisely resembling (if the change of simile may be allowed) the shoes manufactured after the manner of Orator Henley, by cutting away the best part of a pair of boots !
Mr. N. has not said a syllable to explain all this; not a syllable to account for his important change of sentiment, nor to unfold the motives which have induced him to lampoon the Methodists; he has the fortitude, rather than do this, to brave all the astonishment and speculation and curiosity of a prying world. How can this world avoid presuming that he durst not avow his motives, that he had no arguments to which he could trust his apology, and that he had rather incur every suspicion than reveal facts ?
The public, we are sure, would feel much indebted to us, if we could assist their curiosity to pierce, this obstinate sea crecy. In order to appreciate the book, they will reflect, it is often necessary to appreciate the author, just as it is necessary, in order to estimate evidence, to understand the character of the witness. Mr. N.'s book is precisely of this kind ; much of it consists of his own depositions, which could only be refuted or confirmed by a much more intimate and extensive aca quaintance with the subject, than we have had opportunity to acquire, or than is accessible to general readers, and must therefore be rested on the credibility of the deponent. They have to thank Mr, N. however, for enabling us, in some dea
gree, to perform this duty, by a Memoir of his early Life, published some years ago, and not noticed in his present pub. lication
In the Arminian Magazine for June and July 1797, the reader will find a narrative intitled the “ Conversion of a Deist," and signed J. N., the authenticity of which our author will probably not dispute. It is an interesting and very natural statement. During his apprenticeship, Mr. N. attended the Unitarian chapel (at Chowbent, Lancashire, as it seems from his present work, pp. 339, 340) of which the Rev. Henry Toulmin was then Minister. “ Here (says he) was laid the foundation of those errors in which I was afterwards involved; here I was taught to set my own reason above every other aid which God has afforded to man; here I was soon initiated into the false dogma of Socinianism ; here my young mind was at once led into gross errors; in short, here were sown the seeds of infidelity in my heart, which I cultivated pretty much by the reading of Priestley, Hopton *, Heyneas, and others, upon the subject of Unitarianism. In these books the reasonings appeared so plausible, that I really thought it a species of the grossest blasphemy to assert the existence of a Trinity of persons in the Godhead. Accordingly, these sublime truths I treated with the utmost indignity ; I ridiculed them in every place where I had an opportunity; they afforded me subject matter of entertainment upon all occasions : I read the creed of St. Athanasius in the same manner, I read Tooke's Pantheon, for I regarded them both as alike erroneous. In this manner I went on a considerable time, attacking Trini, tarians of every sect that came in my way. But what gave the finishing to all this, and hurried me nearer and nearer the gulf of infidelity, was reading Dr. Priestley's Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit." With such a rank habit of mind, inflamed by politics, and 6 going on in a “mad. career of wickedness", Mr. N. was sure to be infected with the dreadful pestilence of infidelity, which the fiend-like Paine was then scattering through the moral atmosphere of England. Dr. Priestley's Answer to Paine “ was not in the least satisfactory' to Mr. N.; he was soon a confirmed Deist; pursuing " a wicked course of life,” and regarded by his neighbours " as little less than a devil incarnate." Having been betrayed by drunkenness“ into other crimes too shocking to mention, and finding thein known and magnified, he was stung nearly to despair with remorse and shame, and made preparations for committing suicide ; he was withheld from this irretrievable ruin, partly by the consideration that “ by such an unnatural act he should considerably hurt the cause of Deism.” He had
* Hopton Haynes.
Some of infide all this hat camerable tir
proceeded a good way in writing a defence of Paine against Taylor ; this he burnt before it was completed, having fallen in the way of some pious persons, and beginning from this time with a most torturing process of feeling to recover his faith in Christianity. At length " I believed (says he) that the Lord was a God hearing and answering prayer, and was firmly persuaded that the time was fast approaching when I should no longer be in a state of uncertainty about religion.” “O Sir! (he afterwards exclaims to his friend) prayer, mighty prayer, cannot be too much recommended.” He joined the Methodist society, and, after deep convictions of sin, and “ excruciating tortures" of soul, his peace was established at a particular “ Class-Meeting :" .66° Here,” says he, " when the leader had done speaking to the people, he desired I would tell them what the Lord had done for my soul.” “I told them as well as I could, how I had gone on that day; we then went to prayer, and in a few minutes the Lord, in tender mercy, set my burdened guilty soul at perfect liberty ; I was brought out of darkness and raised up into marvellous light! Out of bondage into blessed liberty : My' soul was filled with redeeming love, and with peace, that passeth all understanding. This was on the 18th of June 1796. Dear Sir, you will excuse me describing the transports of my soul at this instant ; words cannot do this, nor could all the powers of eloquence ever give the least idea of it. If you can tell the joys of heaven at the conversion of a sinner, if you know what it is to taste the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, then, Šir, you may form an idea of the happiness I then felt.” Here Mr. N's narrative ends. None of our readers, we think, will suffer the quaint and technical manner in which he describes the state of his feelings to suppress their concern for it, or their deep regret that impressions so promising (if indeed they were not feigned,) should prove so transitory. But with what horror will they consider the present state of this man's mind, when they perceive that he can absolutely ridicule these solemn emotions, and turn the doctrine of regeneration and the illustration of it, revealed and consecrated as they were by the lips of Truth himself, into impious and detestable burlesque ! We quote literatim. ... .
I remember on the day of my Conversion, which was the 18th of June, 1796, being extremely distressed on a religious account, and living a few miles distant from the place where a Class-Meeting was held, I was induced to run, as if life and salvation depended thereon, through much rain, to the meeting, all in my undress, because I had opened upon that passage where our Lord tells his disciples, that they knew the truth, and that the truth should make them free. Had the meeting been at five times the distance; and had my good mother, who opposed, or wished to moderate, my youthful zeal, been much more averse to my going than she was, nothing could have stopt me, so fully was I persuaded, that that very night, and at that very Meeting, I should be set free from the pains of the new birth, and be born again of the spirit of truth !' pp. 450. 451. .
Truly we should scarcely have thought it possible for the “ legion,” which Mr. N. has since harboured in his mind, so. completely to trample out the solemn impressions which, according to his account, were produced on that day, or so thoroughly to infernalize his soul as to make him deem them fit subjects for buffoonery.
In Mr. N.'s narrative we have noticed his warm recommendation of earnest prayer; in his Portraiture he describes the persons who pray at private meetings for worship, under the character of such " as feel themselves impelled to exhibit their powers of utierance by PEREMPTORY DEMANDS or COAXING PETITIONS, that the great father of heaven would send down his blessing, or himself make one in their assembly."!!! p. 168.
We shall give another specimen of Mr. N.'s present disposition to scoff at piety and the scriptures.
• Those (in these prayer meetings) who are groaning for full redemp. tion—who seek to have their robes washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb—who will not be comforted until the last remains of sin are removed from their hearts, and God declares that they “ are all fair that their (there) is no spot in them,” are more than commonly solicitous that the Holy Ghost would come and dwell in their soule without a rival; and that the enemies they had seen that day, they should see no more for ever.' p. 184.
It is rather out of order to introduce these uncouth attempts to be witty, these asinine imitations of Voltaire, into this part of our strictures; they will however shew 'under what shape; among his multifarious transformations, Mr. N. now ventures once more to attract the attention of the world, and will induce the reader to adopt our wish, that a continuation of his narrative to the present time, had made at least a part of the present publication. Such a document, ample, minute, and authentic, would have been particularly curious and valuable. From the extent of our acquaintance, however, the advantage of our situation at the centre of intelligence, and the sensation which is naturally produced by such a phenomenon as Mr. N., it happens that we could, in some degree, supply this desideratum. We recoil from such a task ; and are couscious also, that in order to produce, in others, the same absolute reliance that we feel on the accuracy of our information, especially considering its extraordinary nature, we should be under the necessity of laying the authorities before the public.