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in good harmony with one another. These things are deemed impossible at Oxford, but they are realized in the world.
As to the many particular opinions, of which this writer lightly, very lightly indeed, descants, I shall not enter into them in this letter to you, (it being evident that he has not yet read my Disquisitions on Matter and Spirit, which he takes upon him to censure, and acknowledges he had not read Mr. Lindsey's Sequel any farther than p. 87,*) but I hold myself ready to discuss them with more able opponents. That the genuine sense of scripture, and the general tenor of it, are clearly in favour of what I have advanced, I have no doubt; and as to the principal of them, on which every thing else of consequence depends, I am now, in my History of the Early Opinions concerning Christ," earnestly calling upon his superiors, such as Dr. Horne, Mr. White, and Mr. Howes, to prove the existence of that doctrine which he holds so sacred, in the three first centuries of Christianity; a period in which there is no want of records, to prove what were the opinions of both the learned and the unlearned. The evidence which I have produced, that the Christian church was originally Unitarian, has now been some time before the world, and it challenges the most rigorous examination of his masters.
This Under-graduate ironically thanks me for "my compliment to your Universities, as resembling pools of stagnant waters, secured by dams and mounds, and offensive to the neighbourhood."+ If you would wipe away the reproach, make a proper outlet for your stagnant water; let learning flow at Oxford as freely as the Isis in its neighbourhood; and admit not only any native of Great Britain, but any inhabitant of the world, to enjoy the advantages of it, unfettered by your illiberal subscriptions. When I am asked, as I often am, by foreigners, at which of our Universities I was educated, and am obliged to say in reply, that at neither of them would myself, or any son of mine, be admitted to study, I blush for you and for my country. You ought to blush for yourselves. When I was lately at Oxford, and was struck beyond my expectation with the noble advantages for study of which you are possessed, I could not help saying with Horace, Cur eget indignus quisque, te divite ?+ A professor in the University of Cracow, who lately visited me, and who had come through Oxford in his way to Birmingham, told me, he was absolutely astonished to find that
* Letter, p. 29. (P.)
1 Satirarum, Lib. ii. Sat. ii. 103.
+ Ibid. p. 45. (P.)
such a seminary as that is, was not open to all the world, and that he should hardly have believed the fact, if he had not been informed of it at the place. In his own University he said, the professors, indeed, must be Catholics, but the students might be of any religion. He said, they had several Protestants, and some Jews. In another part of Poland, he informed me that there is an University countenanced by the government, in which all the professors are Protestants. With respect to liberality, we shall soon, to appearance, be once more the divisi toto orbe Britanni. Let those blush whom it may concern.
I am sorry to see so able a writer as Mr. Paley (whose work is, in several respects, very justly admired in the Universities) defend the subscription to the articles of the Church of England on so very poor a ground, as a supposition that it was the intention of the compilers of them to exclude from the church only the Papists, the Anabaptists, and the Puritans; and, therefore, that any person who belongs to none of these classes, may safely subscribe them. They," says he, "who contend that nothing less can justify subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, than the actual belief of each and every separate proposition contained in them, must suppose that the legislature expected the consent of ten thousand men, and that in perpetual sucession, not to one controverted proposition, but to many hundreds. It is difficult to conceive how this could be expected by any who observed the incurable diversity of human opinion upon all subjects short of demonstration."*
* "Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy," 1785, 4to, p. 181. (P.) "I blush for him," says Wakefield, “ I blush for this degradation of my species, when I see a man like Dr. Paley, of great worth and talents, and whose sentiments, from their general diffusion, must be so important to society, when I see that author stain the pages of his incomparable book with such a shuffling chapter on subscription to articles of religion.
"The question is not, he knows very well, without any information from me, what a legislature, little versed in the genuine principles of Christian liberty, might expect from the subject, but for what the subject in reality engages. Whether the words and conduct of the subscriber, in all plain construction of language, and conformably to every interpretation of human actions, do not imply an acceptance of the contents of those articles, for religious truths?" Mer. of Wakefield, I. pp. 129-131.
"What," says Whiston, "will become of all oaths, promises, and securities among men, if the plain, real truth and meaning of words be no longer the measure of what we are to profess, assert, or practise; but every one may, if he do but openly declare it, put his own strained interpretation, as he pleases, upon them; especially if this be to be allowed in the most sacred matters of all, the signing articles of faith, the making solemn confessions of the same, and the offering up public prayers, praises, and doxologies to the GREAT GOD, in the solemn assemblies of his worship? This I own I dare not do, at the peril of my salvation." Hist. Mem. of Clarke, Ed. 3, 1748, p. 40.
But how are we to judge of men's intentions, but by their language? Absurd, no doubt, it was, to expect what Mr. Paley states; but the compilers of the articles certainly did expect it, or they would have had recourse to different and shorter expedients. Had they meant nothing more than to exclude Papists, Anabaptists, and Puritans, they would have confined their subscription to such articles as were inconsistent with their peculiar tenets. Can Mr. Paley believe that, if any one of them had been asked, whether he did not mean to exclude all Arians and Socinians from the Church of England, he would not have replied in the affirmative? And, therefore, according to Mr. Paley's own ideas, none of them ought to subscribe.
It is now, I find, very much the custom to say, that you may safely subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, provided you think that it is, upon the whole, the best constituted of all the established churches, or that you think it preferable to any of the sects of the Dissenters, though there are many things that you disapprove of in it, and many of the particular articles that you do not think to be true.
But can you think that this was the idea of those who framed the articles, or has there been any act of the legislature, since their times, that authorizes such a subscription? And certainly there is no other power that has a right to define the meaning of subscription.
If, however, this be your own real meaning in subscribing, honestly declare it at the time of subscription, and see how it will be received. At present, when you subscribe to all the articles together, (which is the same thing as subscribing to each of them separately,) you assert some truths and some falsehoods. But is there any other case in which the telling of some truths will excuse the telling of any falsehoods? What would you think of any man who, when upon his oath, should do so in a court of justice? And is not a deliberate subscription a thing as solemn as that, and a case that requires as scrupulous an adherence to exact truth?
Besides, if a general preference of the constitution of the Church of England would justify your subscription to all her articles, you ought at least to have examined whether it is entitled to that preference, by a careful comparison of it with other churches; and you ought to be particularly upon your guard, lest the external advantages of an established and endowed church do not lay some bias on your
judgment. But can you say that you have done any thing of this, at the time of your subscription, whether at matriculation or afterwards?
Far would I be, gentlemen, from leading you to despise your tutors or your parents, or to resist any proper authority, as several of my opponents more than insinuate. I know the feelings of both parent and tutor, and am sensible how necessary it is that young persons should submit, and in some cases even implicitly, to their superiors. But there is a power to which myself, my children, and my pupils are equally subject, and to this we all owe the greatest deference. We are all the children of God, and he is styled the God of truth; and you need not be told that you must obey God rather than men.
As you value the favour of God, therefore, you must respect truth and sincerity; and on no consideration, at the injunction of no authority whatever, should you declare, in any form, that you believe any doctrine to be true, when you know that you have not duly considered it, and, therefore, cannot tell whether it be so or not. The doctrine being of itself true, will not excuse you. Your declaration implies that you believe it to be true, and, consequently, that you have seen sufficient reason to believe it, that is, that you have duly examined it; otherwise you might just as well subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles at your baptism, or have your godfathers or godmothers subscribe them for you.
Let me recommend to your perusal an excellent work of the late Archdeacon Blackburne, entitled the Confessional,* in which you will see every pretence for subscribing what is not really believed, exposed as it ought to be. But surely this is a case that cannot require any arguing. Had not the temptation to subscribe, and the inconvenience of not subscribing, been so great, we should never have heard of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, as articles of peace or communion, or any other of those wretched subterfuges that we now hear of, but which would have been reprobated with the greatest indignation by the framers of the articles, as they are by those who subscribe bona fide at this day. What Dr. Croft + says of the clergy, applies with equal force to all who join in worship with them. "What ought
* First published in 1766; a third Edition 1770; since republished in the author's Works, 1804. He died in 1787. See Vol. III. p. 378. It is remarkable that this author was so inconsistent, that in the case of Mr. Lindsey, he " utterly disapproved the measure of leaving the church." See Mr. Belsham's Mem, of Lindsey, p. 76.
† See infra, p. 507.
to be imagined," he says, "concerning those who enter the holy temple, and offer supplications to God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, and yet disbelieve them to be objects of adoration? Is not the sin of hypocrisy and duplicity aggravated when committed in the more immediate presence of Him unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid?" Unless, therefore, you really believe Christ to be a proper object of worship, you ought neither to subscribe a declaration that he is so, nor, on any account, join in such worship.
Of Dr. Croft's Bampton Lectures.
I am, &c.
GENTLEMEN, THOUGH Dr. Croft's Sermons do not immediately concern myself, yet as they relate to the subject of my address to you, I cannot wholly pass them without notice. He avows himself a friend to freedom of inquiry, but advances many things utterly inconsistent with it; and the general tendency of all his discourses is evidently to discourage it. But his own faith is so great, that it is the less to be wondered at, that he should expect to find a considerable degree of it in others.
"If transubstantiation," he says, prayers for the dead, purgatory, or any other part of their institution" (viz. that of the Catholics)" which Protestants reject, had been found in the sacred writers, our opposition would be unwarrantable. We should be found to fight against God." This brings to my mind the story of a good old woman, who, on being asked whether she believed the literal truth of Jonah being swallowed by a whale, replied, yes, and added, that if the Scriptures had said that Jonah swallowed the whale, she should have believed it too. How a man can be said to believe what is, in the nature of things, impossible, on any authority, I cannot conceive. Perhaps Dr. Croft can explain the mental process by which it is performed.
This writer has formed the highest idea of the importance of a civil establishment of religion, and he ascribes every mischief to sectaries; while others, who are sufficiently attached to an establishment, have the generosity to acknowledge that sectaries are of some use, at least, like an † Ibid. p. 125. (P.
* Sermons, p. 129. (P.)