Page images

charge. Under such circumstances, it is next to impossible for them not to become powerful and impressive. Were it not indelicate to mention names, we could easily confirm our observations by numerous living examples. Suffice it to say, that perhaps no denomination of christians ever produced so many excellent preachers; and that it is entirely owing to them, that the ordinance of preaching has not fallen, in the established church, into utter contempt.

[ocr errors]

With respect to the remarks the author makes on the "hypochondriacal cast of preaching heard among them," of their "holding their hearers by details of conflicts and experiences," and of their prosings on the hidings of God's face," we need not detain our readers. To good men it will be matter of serious regret, to find a writer, from whom different things were to be expected, treat the concerns of the spiritual warfare in so light and ludicrous a manner; while the irreligious will heartily join in the laugh. It should be remembered that he is performing quarantine, purging himself from the suspicion of methodism, and that nothing can answer this purpose so well as a spice of profaneness.

After expressing his contempt of the evangelical clergy as preachers, he proceeds to characterise them in the following manner as writers :—

"Here," says he, " I can with great truth affirm,

In the second edition, the author has changed the term "prosings" into "discoursings."

"that many included in that description of clergy"men now under consideration are sorely grieved,

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


by much of what comes out as the produce of

authorship on their side. And well they may 'be; to see, as is frequently the case, the blessed

truths of the gospel degraded, by being associ"ated with newspaper bombast, with impudence, "with invective, with dotage, with drivelling cant, "with buffoonery, and scurrility! Who can read "these despicable publications, without thinking "contemptuously of all who abet them? But let "not every one, in whom an occasional coinci"dence of opinion may be recognised, be included "in this number. For it is a certain truth, that "the writings of avowed infidels are not more "offensive to several of the clergy in question, "than are some of the publications here alluded Let them not, therefore, be judged of by that which they condemn; by productions which they consider as an abuse of the liberty of the press, and a disgrace to the cause which their "authors profess to serve."-P. 179.


[ocr errors]


Whoever remembers that the most learned interpreter of prophecy now living ranks with the evangelical clergy, whoever recalls to his recollection the names of Scott, Robinson, Gisborne, and a multitude of others of the same description, will not easily be induced to form a contemptuous opinion of their literary talents, or to suspect them of being a whit behind the rest of the clergy in mental cultivation or intellectual vigour. In a

[blocks in formation]

subsequent edition, the author has explained his meaning, by restricting the censure to all who have ranged themselves on the side of the clergy under consideration. But as far as the most explicit avowal of the same tenets can indicate any thing, have not each of the respectable persons before mentioned ranged themselves on their side? Or if he will insist upon limiting the phrase to such as have defended them in controversy, what will he say of Overton, whose work, for a luminous statement of facts, an accurate arrangement of multifarious articles, and a close deduction of proofs, would do honour to the first polemic of the age? In affecting a contempt of this most able writer, he has contradicted himself, having, in another part of this work, borne a reluctant testimony to his talents. He closes his animadversions on the clergy usually styled evangelical, with the following important concessions:

"We are ready to own, though there have been "a few instances to the contrary, that the moral "conduct of the men in question is consistent with "their calling; and that though the faults above "detailed are found among them, yet that, as a "body, they are more than free from immorali"ties."-P. 162.

The men to whom their accuser ascribes an assemblage of virtues, so rare and so important, must unquestionably be "the excellent of the earth," and deserve a very different treatment from what they have received at his hands.

Before we put a final period to this article, we must beg the reader's patience to a few remarks on the general tendency of the work under examination.

For the freedom of censure the author has assumed, he cannot plead the privilege of reproof. He has violated every law by which it is regulated. In administering reproof, we are not wont to call in a third party, least of all the party to whom the persons reproved are directly opposed. Besides, if reproof is intended to have any effect, it must be accompanied with the indications of a friendly mind; since none ever succeeded in reclaiming the person he did not appear to love. The spirit this writer displays toward the objects of his censure, is decidedly hostile; no expressions of esteem, no attempt to conciliate; all is rudeness, asperity, and contempt. He tells us in his preface, "It is diffi"cult to find an apology for disrespectful language "under any circumstances: if it can be at all ex"cused, it is when he who utters lets us know "from whence it comes; but he who dares to use it, "and yet dares not to put his name to the abuse, 'gives us reason to conclude that his cowardice "is equal to his insolence." (Pref. p. iv.) In violation of his own canon, he seems to have assumed a disguise for the very purpose of giving an unbridled indulgence to the insolence he condemns.


If we consider him in the light of a public Censor, he will appear to have equally neglected the proprieties of that character. He who under

takes that office ought, in all reason, to direct his chief attention to vice and impiety; which, as the common foes of human nature, give every one the privilege of attack: but, though his subject naturally led him to it, we find little or nothing of the kind. In his eagerness to expose the aberrations of goodness, the most deadly sins, and the most destructive errors, are scarcely noticed. In surveying the state of morals, the eccentricities of a pious zeal, a hairbreadth deviation from ecclesiastical etiquette, a momentary feeling of tenderness towards dissenters, are the things which excite his indignation; while the secularity, the indolence, the ambition, and dissipation, too prevalent in the church, almost escape his observation. We do not mean to assert, that it is always improper to animadvert on the errors and mistakes of good men; we are convinced of the contrary. But, whenever it is attempted, it ought to be accompanied with such expressions of tenderness and esteem, as shall mark our sense of their superiority to persons of an opposite description. In the moral delineations with which the New Testament abounds, when the imperfections of christians are faithfully reprehended, we are never tempted to lose sight of the infinite disparity betwixt the friends and the enemies of the gospel. Our reverence for good men is not impaired by contemplating their infirmities: while those who are strangers to vital religion, with whatever amiable qualities they may be invested, appear objects of

« PreviousContinue »