Page images

fuch ambiguous terms, as leave ample' room, in case of being presled by an adversary, for evasion and subterfuge!

If it be asked, what is the hárm of supporting opposite religions? He answers, in one word, universal irreligion. His manner of proving this is extremely curious: hear part of what he says: “ The opinions of the people are, and must be, founded more on authority than reason. Their parents, their teachers, their governors, in a great measure determine for them, what they are to believe, and what to practise. The fame doctrines uniformly taught, the same rites constantly performed, make such an impression on their minds, that they heftate as little in admitting the articles of their faith, as in receiving the most established maxims 'of common life: and, whilft they want the advantages of reflexion and study, they are at the same time free from the uneafiness and the mischief of dispute and doubt.

1.6. I would not be thought to prefer an implicit faith to a rational determination. I only deny the use of reason to the bulk of mankind, on religious fubjects, because they cannot use it : because many of them want capacity, most of them opportunity, to think and judge for themselves. They must be content, in all ordinary, cafes, with that religion which chance has thrown in their way; because they can do no better.-Nothing is clearer, than that the uniform appearance of religion is the cause of its general and easy reception. Destroy this uniformity, and you cannot but introduce doubt and perplexity into the minds of the people.'

Now, though it be true that the opinions of the people are, in reality, founded more on authority than reason, it by no means follows that they must be so; that the bulk of mankind cannot use their reason on religious subjects; and that they want capacity to think and judge for themselves. The great practical truths of religion are so plain and ealy that he who runs may sead them. To suppose the contrary, were to suppose that the all-wise and gracious Author of our nature has endowed us with capacities fully fufficient for all the purposes of the present life, but in our most important concerns, in what relates to our everJasting welfase, has formed us incapable of thinking and judge ing for ourselves. But this is far from being the cale; the evidences for all the great truths, whether of natural or revealed religion, that are necessary to be believed in order to our acceptance with God, are so clear and obvious, that a man of piain understanding and common sense is capable of comprehending them, and reasoning upon them. Religion, indeed, when represented in its native colours, and original fimplicity, unadulterated with metaphysical refinements, and the subtleties


of school-divinity, is one of the plainest things in the world, and would, we doubt not, make its way to the undeítandings and to the hearts of the bulk of mankind, were it not rendered unintelligible by human mixtures and additions, which have debased it into an abstruse, and intricate science, introduced doubts and perplexities into the minds of men, and given riie to malignant zeal, and all its complicated and horrid confequences. Who the men are that have been most industrious in adulterating and debating religion, and have thereby prevented, in a great measure, its efficacy, and contributed to the {preading of infidelity, might very easily be shewn, were this a proper pl.ce for it.

But fuppofing the truth of what Dr. Balguy urges in regard to the incapacity of the bulk of mankind for reasoning on religious subjects, does it follow that universal irreligion would be the confequence of the magistrate's supporting opposite religions, or is this confiitent with what he says in favour of toleration? Wherever toleration takes place, that uniform appearance of religion, which the Doctor lays so much stress upon, is destroyed, and yet experience thews that universal irreligion is not the consequence.

The following passage we cannot avoid inserting. Our Readers will make the proper reflections upon it: 'If it should be thought that I am here offering a defence of Popery, it would only be too candid an interpretation. I mean to defend every established religion under heaven. The least defensible cannot be worse than downright Atheism. Restraints, though milapplied, are ftill restraints : and it is better to act wrong on a principle of conscience, than to have no conscience at all. --In general, we may safely affert, that religion, even false religion, is the great bond of human society : that every civilized na. tion, in every age, has seen and felt the benefit of it, under all the mistakes and corruptions which have overspread the world : and that contradictory religions, equally favoured by the magistrate (if it were pollible for lo absurd a constitution to re

ain for any considerable time in any country) must of necelfity destroy all religious pşinciple, and end in the ruin of the ftate itself.'

In the further prosecution of his subject, the Doctor main. tains several positions which deserve a full and distinct consideration : but this is not our province. Among other extraordinary things, he tells us, that fubscription to the scriptures is absolutely nothing; that it is conlistent with every imaginable absurdity and mischief; and is not even free from the in allest of these objections, which, with so much tragical declamation, have been pressed and inculcated upon the ear of the public, Sırange language this from the mouth of a Protestant divine !


He concludes his Charge in the following manner : In whatever light this subject is viewed, it will evidently appear, that fame articles of religion (I speak of human articles) must be prescribed by public authority. Indeed our adversaries themfelves are willing to afford any further proof of their abhorrence of the Antichriftian power and spirit of Popery, which the legislature jhall think proper to require. The misfortune is, that, in making this concession, they give up their pretended principles, and discover their true. They will allow, it seems, the magistrate to exclude some forms of religion from his protection and favour: but they must determine what forms are fic to be excluded; and they wish to exclude none but Popery.--Perhaps, if this were granted them, we might soon find the number of Popis doctrines considerably increased. For, after all, the teners of the church of Rome are neither all true, nor all falle: and the magiftrate should be well advised, when he attempts to make a diftinction between them. If he shall ever think fit to consult these modern reformers, I know not whether the Trinitarian doctrine, for instance, will be esteemed by them Catholic or Protestant:, I suspect they will not be quite content, that the followers of Athanasius should remain ministers of the Eng. Jith church. I can scarce think they will chufe to be joined with them in the care of the same congregations. I am confident they may most of them be brought to endure the requisition of a subscription to this capital article. God the Father is the only true God. He who can lay his hand on his heart, and folemnly deny the truth of this suggestion; he who is content to leave to others the same liberty which he claims for himself; must be allowed at least to be a confiftent opposer: and, however we may dispute the truth of his opinions, we cannot reafonably distrust the fincerity of his professions, or question the integrity of his conduct.'

The suspicions and suggestions contained in this concluding paragraph of the Doctor's Charge, whatever may have been his intentions, will, we are perfuaded, create no prejudice in the mind of any candid and impartial Reader, against the cause or character of the Petitioning Clergy; nor will the Petitioners ever be afraid or ashamed, we hope, to declare publicly, that they acknowledge no other God but God the Father, that God whom our blefled Saviour calls his Father and his God.

To conclude, we cannot help observing that, with whatever contempt the Petitioning Clergy may have been treated by many of their brethren in the higher orders of the Church, the cause of truth and Proteftant Christianity is much indebted to them. If they have asked too much, as perhaps they have, it should be remembered that there was no disposition nor inclination in the bench to grant any thing. Every one who has turned his at


tention to this subje& must know, that the most respectful and earnest application has, within these few years, been made to the Bishops, in regard to a further reformation of our ecclesiastical conftitution. Had such application been attended to in fuch a manner as many of the wisest and best men this country can boaft of think it 'deerved, the petition of the Clergy, we have reason to think, would never have been presented to Para liament. Some of the Bishops, in confequence of the public attention excited by the petition, and the respect thewn it by many persons of distinguished abilities and integrity in the House of Commons, have declared that something must be done. There is no reason to think that such a declaration would have been made had it not been for the Petitioning Clergy; and if any alterations are made for the better, whoever may take the merit of it, it will be obvious, to the most superficial observer, to whom the merit is due. This much, as friends to Christianity and the cause of religious liberty, we thought it incumbent upon us to say in favour of the Petitioners.

Art. VII. Miscellanea Sacra : Containing an Abstract of the Scrip

ture-History of the Apoitles, in a new Method. With four criti. cal Essays : I. On the Witness of the Holy Spirit. II. On the Distinction between the Apostles, Elders, and Brethren. III. On the Time when Paul and Barnabas becamc Apostles. IV. On the Apoftolical Decree. To which is added, an Efray on the Dispensations of God to Mankind, as revealed in Scripture : Together with a Dissertation on Hebrews xii. 22–25. Now first published. A new Edition, with large Additions and Corrections. 8vo. 3 Vols. 15 s. bound. White.

Correspondent having obferved that we occasionally take A for their learning, or their utility to the public, especially, when they have received any material additions or improvements, expresses his surprize that we have overlooked a muchimproved edition of Lord Barrington's Miscellanea Sacra, &c. but he thinks it is 'not too late for us to gratify the curiosity of many of our Readers, with respect to a publication of so much emi. nence among the lovers of sacred literature.

We are entirely of our Correspondent's opinion, concerning the merit and importance of Lord B.'s writings; and we should, no doubt, have noticed, in course, the new edition of them (the date of which, in the title-page, is 1770) had we observed it to have been advertised. We have now procured a copy and we find that some of the tracts are very greatly enlarged ; and that a new map of St. Paul's travels is given, according to Mr. Bryant's hypothesis with regard to the island of Melite, as well as to the commonly received opinion; that on a comparative view of both, the preference may be given to that which seems best entitled to it.

In looking over the contents of these learned theological volumes, we could not avoid being fruck with the aimolt finguhar circumstance of the tank and station of the Writer. To fee a Nobleinan dedicating a confiderable portion of his time, and attention, to such ferious and important ftudies as those which employed the retired hours of Lord B. is a phænomenon which feldom appears in the higher circles of human life: where, for one Bacon, or Shaf:efury, or Clarendon, or Barrington, how many Rochesters, Buckinghams, Baltimorcs, and ********'s I. It is, therefore, with pleasure that we pay our tribute of respect to the memory of the noble Author of the Miscellanea Sacra : and we are the rather induced to embrace the present occasion of introducing his Lordship’s writings to the notice of such of our Readers who are not already acquainted with them, as the first edition was published several years before the commencement of our Review.

The Editor t of the present impresion very properly observes, in his prefixed advertisement, that the high opinion entertained of the viscellanea Sacra, by the learned of all denominations, and the scarcity of the first edition, would be sufficient reasons for a second ; even if the work had not received such improvement from the Author, as adds new force to his arguments, and elucida:ion to his criticisms.'

Lord Barrington (the Advertiser informs us) ' employed the interval between the publication of his work in 1725, and his death in 1734, in reviewing, correcting, and enlarging it.' We are farther told that the additions, which bear no small proportion to the original work, are now faithfully given to the world from an interleaved copy, written in the Author's own hand.'

To the pieces formerly printed there is now added a tract, entitled, Å Dissertation on Heb. xii. 22-25. in which, says the Editor, it is believed there will be discovered the same critical sagacity, and the same accurate knowledge of scripture, which so peculiarly characterize the other writings of this Au. thor. As this tract was never published before, we ihall add a word or two concerning it.

The pafiage of fcripture which occurs in the four verses above referred to, is, as Lord B. remarks, one of the most difficult in the New Testament; and there is scarce any on which com

I As the last intended noble Lord may live to repent his follies, we forbear

brand his name. + We suppose the Editor to be the present Biniop of Llandaf, fon to the noble Author.


« PreviousContinue »