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writing against him has made good his own positions: he may perhaps now revise that opinion. Added to these reasons there is yet one other motive which has led to this publication. If, as Mr. James contends, the Christian religion condemns theatrical amusements, and if notwithstanding they are innocent and rational, it then follows that man was not made for the Christian religion, although that religion was made for man: the scandal of such an inference, and its infallible support of scepticism (which Mr. James says is so prevalent), cannot but make it highly desirable to prove that the Christian religion does not condemn them.
There are here brought to light some of the most extraordinary literary plagiarisms ever detected, which have necessarily called forth a corresponding censure; it has however been the studious object of the author of the exposure to avoid all personality and invective ; such he is sure has been his intention, whatever construction may be put on the performance when obliged to call things by their right names.
Bigotry, and the desire of inflaming the prejudices of religious party-feeling, have had no share in these pages, which seek not to create but to allay intolerance and to explode uncharitable opinions. Would that the religious world could agree to differ! · The author is not a “play-goer ;' the last few years he has rarely entered a theatre, not because the attraction of the theatre had decreased, but because other objects of intellectual occupation and worldly calling had superseded its interest: he is therefore in some degree a disinterested advocate, and his discrimination of the abuses of the stage is not blinded by habit or prejudice. He avows however, with unaffected fervor, his literary worship of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. Gratitude for early associations, and obligations towards those great spirits of former ages—those household gods of literature-command this his humble exertion in defence of the drama.
But as the author has before observed, his chief reasons for publication are the vindication of his fellow townsmen, and the assay of Mr. James. The florishing existence and increasing popularity of the drama and the stage are a fair presumption that they will prosper without the author's support, and survive the assaults of the Reverend John Angell James.
REV. JOHN ANGELL JAMES.
SIR, In addressing this letter to you, I beg to premise that I am not of the number of those who seek to degrade the clerical character ; I wish to see the ministers of the gospel, whether members of an established or dissenting church, enjoy that elevated and influential rank in society, which superior education and sanctity of morals should secure to them. I also duly respect the institutions and ordinances of religion, and highly estimate the value of religious habits in the young; and although I do not consider the external ceremonies of religion, or the notional ideas on certain niceties of speculative belief, as religion itself, yet the forms of religion are of essential and serious importance : they are the “ enamel of virtue;'? and that pregnant sentence of Johnson's cannot be too often enforced, that, “ To be of no church is dangerous : religion, of which the rewards are distant, and which is animated only by faith and hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, unless it be invigorated by external ordinances, by stated calls to worship, and the salutary influence of example.—But on the other hand, it was well observed by Erasmus, of the opposite extreme, that the profusion and immoderate value of external ceremonies teach us backwards, and bring us back from Christ to Moses. Muffling Christianity up in forms and mysteries is only burying its beauties and destroying its utility. To persuade men to the life of Christ is the pith and kernel of all religion : and those many opinions about religion, that are every where so eagerly contended for on all sides, where this does not lie at the bottom, are but so many shadows fighting with one another." I have made these brief
'Cudworth, Sermon before the House of Comnions. 1647.
estionably of reason auld not
preliminary remarks, Sir, because I know it is fashionable to confound reflections on the ministers of religion with the disbelief of religion itself—as if it were not possible to distinguish between the minister and the object of ministration and that you might at once clearly perceive, which doubtless you do, the nature of my own individual belief-viz, that I judge of a man's religion by its quality, not by its quantity.
I beg leave also, in the opening of this letter, distinctly to disavow all intention of reflection or insinuation against your private character. I allow the excellence of that by common report, although I have not the honor of a personal acquaintance. I do not question the sincerity of your religious zeal, and I am even willing to admit the partial good effect of your public labors in the pulpit. It is your public character as an author, which you have voluntarily placed at the bar of public opinion, that I have now to assay; and as you are the popular oracle of a numerous congregation, it is unquestionably important that your pretensions should be submitted to the tests of reason and truth. Had your labors been confined to your chapel I should not have interfered with them ; but as you have extended the circle of their influence by. publishing your compositions, or more correctly speaking, what you have put forth as your compositions, the responsibility and consequences of this letter rest on yourself.
When a man prints and publishes, two things are presupposed, first, that the compositions so given to the world are the works of the author whose name appears in the title-page; and next, that the author considers them above mediocrity.
Now Sir, in the first place, as to your attacks on the public amusements and character of your fellow townsmen and country. men, I shall prove in the sequel that you are an incomparable Plagiary: and in the second place, that more defamation and illiterate ignorance have seldom been exhibited.
As to the vice of plagiarism I shall say but little : the moral turpitude of the offence is differently estimated by the moral apprehensions of different persons. In a minister of the gospel of truth I cannot, however, but consider it as a peculiarly disgraceful offence. It is appropriating more talents to yourself than you can honestly claim : it is an injustice to the reputation and rights of the real author : nothing can justify the falsehood or the meanness ; you have no right ever to do evil that good may come. It has ever received the condemnation and contempt of all past and present ages, and I trust it will continue so to do.
Since my attention was accidentally drawn to three of your publications, the more immediate objects of the present pamphlet, I have read what you have committed to the press at various times:
a greater mass of compilation and disingenuous use of other au: thors I have never had the labor to read, and I trust I never shall again. Your Sermon on the Attraction of the Cross, which first gave you literary distinction, is a most palpable compilation of the metaphors and sentiments of some of our best writers, and particularly of the most celebrated passages of forensic eloquence. Should you have the temerity to dispute this, I will publish the proof; in the mean time, it is beside my present purpose, and I am certain, that the following sheets will obtain for the assertion the credence of my readers, without the necessity of a particular citation.
The works which are now the subject of my animadversion, are 1. Youth Warned. A Sermon preached in Carr's Lane Meeting-house,
January 4th, 1824, and addressed particularly to Young Men. Birming· ham, 1824. 2. The Christian Father's Present to his Children, two volumes. · Lon
don, 1824. 3. The Scuffer Admonished. Being the substance of two Sermons preached
in Carr's Lane Meeting-house, July 18th, and Augrist 1st, 1824. Birmingham, 1824.
The first point I shall dispute with you is, the present state of public morals and literature. In page 13, of “ Youth Warned," you write
« Inflammatory novels, stimulating romances, lewd poetry, immoral songs, satires against religious characters, and arguments against revelation, form in general the works consulted by corrupt and vicious youth, and by which they become still more vicious. Never did the press send forth streams of greater pollution than at this time. Authors are to be found, of no mean character for talent, who pander to every corruption of the youthful bosom. Almost every vice has its high priest, to burn incense on its altar, and to lead its victims, decked with the garlands of poetry or fiction, to their ruin.”
In p. 17 of the “Scoffer Admonished,” you give the following infamous and overcharged picture of society
“ How often is the social circle the scene of this unhallowed sport: and the entertainment of the convivial party heightened by profane ridicule. Religion, like her divine Author, when he was led into Pilate's hall to be a laughing-stock to the Roman soldiers, is introduced only to furnish merriment for the company. One calls her an impostor, practising her arts on the credulity of mankind; another holds up the vices of her false disciples as chargeable upon her; a third tells a ludicrous anecdote of one of her sin cere and honorable votaries; then derided by all, defended by none, with no one to speak on her behalf, and not permitted to speak for hersell, she stands, like the Man of Sorrows, a silent object of derision, the swearer's jest, the drunkard's song, yet majestic still in grief, and dignified amidst surrounding scorn. How much of tavern, ale-house mirth is derived from this impious source! What a supply of merriment would be cut off from the sons of Belial if religion and all the subjects connected with it were suddenly, by some mysterious power operating upon their mind, either forgotten
or dreaded! Infatuated and miserable men! Can ye find nothing less sacred than this to give a relish to your wine? Will nothing less poisonous serve as an infusion into your cups? Has the social circle no charms or power to please unless the scoffer be there? Has wit no poignancy, genius no brilfiancy, satire nu sting, irony no point, humor no pleasantry, jesting no spirit, except scoffing at religion be practised ? Must the voice of the scori er rouse the slumbering genius of mirth, and all be flat and insipid till his perverted fancy yield the salt? It is not enough that ye can be gamesters, and drunkards, and swearers, but ye must be libellers and calumniators also; and even then, will nothing less serve as the object of your scandal, than piety and the pious ?"
Now Sir, either this « social circle” must have been witnessed by yourself or reported to you by some friend : if by a member, you could not consider it worthy of belief, and if by a convert, I should receive such a story with allowance as the exaggerated picture of his past sins, by way of increasing the merit of his present reformation ; I should consider the narrator as a sinner past saving. But however this may be, it is a mere false picture, and exists only in the disordered imagination of some religious fanatic, or of some mendacious knave who has imposed his contemptible narration on your credulity. What, Sir, can be your motive in joining this old « hue and cry of villanizing mankind ? Is it to enhance the necessity and value of your own services ? " There is a certain list of vices committed in all ages and declaimed against by all authors, which will last as long as human nature ! or digested into common places may serve for any theme, and neverbe out of date until dooms-day." 1 6The badness of the times has been a common topic of complaint in every age, and that they are growing worse continually, is what some persons think themselves obliged to insist on, with no less vehemence ; how hard soever they find it to account for this in any respect." 2
" It has been so long the practice to represent literature as declining, that every renewal of this complaint now comes with diminished influence. The public has been so often excited by a false alarm, that at present the nearer we approach the threatened period of decay, the more our security increases." 3
If it were necessary, Sir, I could produce regular chronological lamentations over the continual moral degeneracy of mankind, from the cessation of the flood to the present day: the disease, therefore, cannot be a galloping consumption, or ere this the world would have become one dreary waste. That the CLERGY, of all classes of detracters, should join in this sad complaint-of leaving Christianity in a worse condition than they found it is indeed
', Sir Thomas Brown's Vulgar Errors. 1646.
2 Law's Theory of Religion. 1750. 3 Goldsmith's Inquiry into the present State of Polite Learning,