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is no respecter of persons; he will be justified in his saying, and clear when he is judged."
The above work, “ on the Church," was published evidently with a view to counteract their designs, about the time when some of the clergy of this kingdom had taken a most singular and unaccountable step with respect to their subscription of the thirty-nine Articles of Religion. Certain clergymen of the Church of England, and certain members of the two professions of Civil Law and Physic, met at a tavern in the Strand, called the Feathers Tavern, and thence this meeting was denominated the Feathers Tavern Meeting, and prepared a petition to Parliament, praying to be relieved from subscription of the Articles which all of them had subscribed; and having, by advertisement in the newspapers, invited all who thought themselves aggrieved in this respect, to join them in endeavouring to obtain redress, I am sorry to say the petition was signed by about two hundred clergymen.
This petition was offered to be presented to the House of Commons, and a motion was there made that it be laid upon the table. This was strenuously opposed, and warmly debated. It was observed, and justly, that Parliament could not grant relief to those who had already subscribed, as they had no power to vacate oaths; and it was a little singular, that those who made no scruple to subscribe the Articles, and to declare their unfeigned assent and consent to them, and every part of them, in order to obtain a living, had no sooner obtained one, than they were desirous of being relieved from those very Articles, without assenting to which the living could not have been conferred. And it was further said, that as to those who were not yet beneficed, and who wanted to seize on the emoluments of the Church, without believing in her tenets, or complying with her laws, they were not at all to be listened to; as from every principle of reason and justice, they should be excluded from her for ever. It was also argued, by the most moderate men in Parliament, that it was necessary that those, who were appointed to be the public teachers and instructors of the people, should be bound by some certain principles, from which they were not to deviate : that to prevent disorder and confusion, it was fitting that some public symbol should be established, to which they should all assent, as a mark of their conformity and union : that a simple assent to the Scriptures would, in this case, be of no signification; as it was too well known that the greatest absurdities, and even blasphemies, had, at different times, been attempted to have been supported or defended, upon their authority: that the Clergy were under no necessity of accepting benefices contrary to their consciences: and if their scruples arose afterwards, they had it always in their power to quit them. The petition was, therefore, rejected by a very great majority; many members of the opposition joining with administration in the rejection. The numbers for rejecting were, 217—for receiving the petition, 71: and I never have read or heard, that any of the actually beneficed Clergy, who signed the petition, and whose scruples had arisen after they had accepted the preferment, resigned their charge, in consequence of their petition being rejected, except the Reverend Theophilus Lindsay; who, by afterwards opening an Unitarian Chapel, in Essexstreet, and composing a new Liturgy for the use of his congregation, shewed, that his objection went, not to the subscription merely, but to the fundamental doctrines of the Church of England. It was, in order to give correct notions upon these important subjects, that Mr. Stevens published the abave pamphlet. But that was intended for grave and serious readers only. He thought, however,
ne desire of doing it, led me to and to presentleman
that a little of his playful wit and humour might be successfully exerted upon this occasion. Accordingly, in the same year, a beneficed clergyman, (whose name I purposely omit) having published “ An Address to the Clergy of the Church of England in particular, and to all Christians in general,” Mr. Stevens printed “ Cursory Observations on a Pamphlet, entitled, “An Address, &c.'” which are written in such a strain of easy unaffected pleasantry, accompanied with such solidity of argument, as have not often been combined in the same author. He thus begins his pamphlet, by remarking on the oddity of the title, “ Seeing advertised a pamphlet, entitled, 'An Address, &c.' I had a mind, being one of the people called Christians in general, to know what the gentleman had to say to me, and accordingly I sent for it. Free choice, and a desire of doing good in my generation, as the author expresses it, led me to make a few observations upon the said pamphlet, and to present them to the public for their emolument. The gentleman sets out with acquainting us, that he is an obscure brother; and, lest any sceptical mind should doubt the truth of it, he has proved it to a demonstration at the very entrance of his address.
« On å supposition that we shall wish to know more of him than the name he bears, he next informs us, he is one whom free choice, and a desire of doing good in his generation, led at first into the ministry, for which his friends and family had not intended him. This piece of intelligence cannot fail of giving his readers a very favourable opinion of the good sense and judgment of his friends and family; and the more we see of him, the more we shall be disposed to wish that he had listened to their advice, instead of following his own inclinations.” After following him through his pamphlet, and giving him that sort of chastisement and goodhumoured rebuke, which, as a beneficed clergyman
of the Church, he thought he deserved, he concludes his excellent observations thus, (which I have thought it my duty to transcribe, for the sake of shewing the opinion entertained by so deep read a layman of the Articles and Liturgy of our Church.) “Our author,” says Mr. Stevens, “ sums up the whole with a petition, which he wishes to be preferred to the Bishops; and I will conclude with what I wish the real friends of the Church may present to them by way of counter-petition. That the present set of Articles, which, for the soundness of their doctrine, are the glory and ornament of our Church, and cannot aggrieve any. but its open or secret enemies, may be preserved to us whole and entire: for we have no objection to subscribing them fairly, as they contain nothing but what is read in Holy Scripture, or may be proved thereby; and we verily think they are our best security against the Papist, the Infidel, and the Heretic. That our Liturgy, compiled from the Liturgies of the first and purest ages of the Church, not only as to the form, but as to the matter and expressions, and composed with such simplicity and majesty, as to be adapted to the capacities of the ignorant and unlearned, ånd edifying and instructive to the most enlightened, may be continued to us in its present perfection, without addition, and without mutilation. That our Church may still be, what it always hath been, the honour of the Reformation, the strongest bulwark of the Gospel against Popery, and the brightest star in the Christian firmament. The terms of our communion are pure and scriptural; and if they, who now dissent from us, will continue to do so, the fault is theirs, not ours: we have done our duty, and they are to see, whether separation from such a Church does not involve them in the guilt of Schism.”
But, strenuous as Mr. Stevens was, in defending the Doctrines, Articles, and Liturgy of our venerable Church, and sharply as he treated the work above mentioned, yet his generous conduct to the individual was just what might have been expected from one, who knew, that to do to others as you would wish them to do to you, was a prominent command in that Gospel, which he made the guide of his life. An enemy of this Clergyman, finding Mr. Stevens to be the author of the “ Cursory Observations,” wished to furnish him with some personal reflections on that Reverend Gentleman; but he was dismissed by the good-humoured and kindhearted man, telling him, that the faults of the book, and not of the man, were the objects of his attack. Many years afterwards, by the kind instrumentality of a mutual friend, these two literary combatants became very sociable. Mr. Stevens certainly never altered his opinions; whether the Clergyman ever changed his, I know not; but as many years have now elapsed, since he published: his Address, which was the object of our author's remarks, and he must then have been a young man, it is fair to presume that he saw reason for changing the opinions he entertained when he published that pamphlet.
In the year 1776, Mr. Stevens published “A Discourse on the English Constitution, extracted from a late eminent writer, and applicable to the present times." His motive for this publication was to counteract the dangerous absurdities which, about that time, were published in factious newspapers, to answer the purposes of a party, and to throw every thing into confusion, by furnishing people with a few rational principles concerning the nature of civil power, the necessities of society, and the positive laws of their own country. His object, therefore, in publishing this tract, was, to convince his deluded fellow-subjects that there
cerenigyman wave now as the obje steen a youth