Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση
[merged small][ocr errors]

fluence amongst the Dissenters of Cornwall, Devonshire, and Somersetshire. At first, it was conducted on liberal principles, and attempted no interference with the liberties of individual Ministers and congregations; but, eventually, like most other Conclaves of Divines, it assumed the power of legislating for the subjects of the Redeemer's kingdom. In the year 1718, there were four dissenting ministers in Exeter; and two of these, Joseph Hallet and James Peirce, were suspected of having adopted Arian opinions. To nip this heresy in the bud, a meeting of the Association was convened; and it was proposed that they should declare against the errors and heresies relating to the Son and the Holy Ghost. Mr. Peirce proposed that they should likewise declare against the errors relating to the Father ; because, on that subject, many entertained dangerous views, and uttered blasphemous expressions. This led to a warm debate; but the Assembly closed with declaring " that there is only one living and true God: and that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are the one God.” The subsequent proceedings are thus detailed by Mr. Peirce, himself.

“ The thirteen Trustees then sent for seven Ministers in the country.... They drew up a paper of advice; but we thought they had no more right to draw up tests for us than we had for them. March 4th, they came again, and the four Ministers were desired to meet them; and then the paper was read to us. It consisted of three articles: that with which we were charged was, that the denying the true and proper Divinity of the Son of God, is a sufficient foundation for the people to withdraw from the communion of their Ministers holding it, and contrary to the doctrine of the Holy Scriptures and the common faith of the reformed churches.

“Then it was put to us, whether we owned that the Son of God was one God with the father. I urged them not to be hasty, as the heads of advice of the London Ministers were shortly expected...... I then told them I would own that Christ and the Father were one, because he said so. They asked if I would own they were one God. I answered, if they would turn to the text that said so, I would own it; but would subscribe no tests that were not expressed in Scripture words. Mr. Hallet next refused to give his assent. I told them, that in case they would heal the breach, and hold communion with one another, I should be very glad to be laid aside.

"The next day (Friday), three of the four proprietors of the house, where Mr. Hallet and I preached, took up the keys of the house. On Saturday morning I sent to know what they designed, since I must study if I were to preach. He answered that I might preach an old sermon. Some hours after, I had an answer that Mr. Wallet and I might preach in the little meeting, and Mr. Withers might preach in that near the Bow. On Monday, the 9th, was published a pamphlet, entitled, “Arius detected and confuted, &c. charging us with things we do not own....... On Tuesday, the proprietors consulted with the people, and determined that we should have neither of the houses. With much difficulty we procured a place against next Lord's day, where I preached on the evil and cure of divisions, which sermon was printed.”

I am not of the opinion of Sabellius, Arius, Socinus, or Sherlock. I believe there is but one God, and can be no more. I believe the Son and Holy Ghost to be divine persons, but subordinate to the Father; and the

insist upon

unity of God is, I think, to be resolved into the Father's, being the fountain of the divinity of the Son and Spirit.”

Twenty-one Ministers of the Association absolutely refused to sign any declaration of Faith, couched in human language ; and many others, of the same mind, declined attending the meeting, in order to escape odium. Mr. Peirce, Mr. Hallet, and Mr. Withers, wero ejected by the Exeter Trustees : and before retiring from his charge, Mr. Peirce thus addressed his people, in relation to his right “to declare boldly the whole counsel of God!” This liberty let others tamely give up as they please; I do and will

it for myself, as a reasonable creature, a Christian, a Protestant, and a Dissenter. As I pretend not to impose upon others, so neither will I be imposed upon by others. No king, no parliament, no church, no council , no synod, no minister, or body of ministers, shall

be acknowledged by me to have any power or rightful authority over me. They may deprive me of my civil liberty, of my estate, of my life; but this liberty, by the grace of God, they never shall deprive me of—to think and speak of the matters of God, and of religion, only in that manner in which I apprehend they are spoken of in the Holy Scriptures by God himself. Tell me not of what Athanasius, or Arius, or what the council of Nice or Rimini have said ; but what Christ, and Peter, and Paul, and James, and John have said. I call no man master upon earth.”

With a view to heal the divisions which had taken place in Exeter and the neighbouring country, the Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the three Denominations in and about London, viz. Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists, held a numerous meeting at Salters' llall, February 19, 1719. The object of this great Assembly was to bring the influence of the metropolitan pastors to bear upon their provincial brethren, in order to effect a reconciliation; but the London peacemakers quarrelled amongst themselves, as to the tenor of the advice which they should offer; and the matter was ardently and ably debated for several days. At length it was moved to insert, in “ The Advice," a declaration, “that there are three Persons in the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; and that these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” This proposal was negatived, after a stormy debate by a majority of 57 to 53; so that, as it was tartly remarked, the Bible only carried it by four.

In consequence of this vote, the Assembly was split into two parties -the Subscribers retiring to the gallery of Salters' Hall MeetingHouse, and the Non-subscribers continuing to occupy the ground-floor. Each party thereupon drew up a separate Advice to their Provincial Brethren; so that the wound, instead of being healed, was only the more inflamed by the contradictory prescriptions of the rival physicians. But, if peace was not promoted, the great cause of liberty and truth was essentially advanced. The very heresy which it was de

signed to eradicate, only took the deeper root. “ The Salters' Hall Debates,"like“ The Exeter Controversy,"and the history of Emlyn's persecution, were published far and wide; and, to those events we are largely indebted for the speedy and permanent establishment of Rational Christianity, in the most important towns and rural districts of England. The city of Exeter, in particular, became the centre of Unitarian Christianity in the south-west; and it still contains one of the finest congregations in the kingdom-richly endowed for the support of worship and education by the enlightened liberality of past generations, instructed by a happy succession of eminent Ministers, and worthily sustained at the present day by the valuable services of Mr. Francis Bishop and Mr. Thomas Hincks—two young gentlemen of great promise, and equally distinguished by ability, zeal, energy, and moral excellence.

About the same period, the Established Church was greatly agitated by a controversy concerning the nature and dignity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The principal advocate of the Arian view, or, as it was then generally called, “ The Middle System,” was Dr. Samuel Clarke, a most learned and able Divine of the Church of England. Dr. Clarke had cultivated an intimate acquaintance with Mr. Emlyn, from the time of his settlement in London; and there can be no doubt that the opinions of the excellent Dissenter exercised much power over the mind of the eminent Episcopalian. In the year 1712, Dr. Clarke published his celebrated work, entitled, The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity, which created an amazing sensation and alarm in the ranks of established orthodoxy. This able book was assailed by many adversaries, but by none so powerfully as by the eminent scholar and divine, Dr. Waterland. In a short time, all puny combatants left the field, and the public contemplated, with intense interest, the mighty war of the two intellectual giants. The partisans of each, as usual, claimed the victory for their own champion; but the public mind was roused-new views and new interpretations of Scripture obtained currency, and thousands began to see that the doctrines of their creeds and catechisms had no foundation in the Word of God. Dr. Clarke, too, enjoyed the advantage of being a favourite with Queen Anne; and it has been alleged, that she would have made him a Bishop, had she not feared the clamour of the orthodox, of all denominations.

All the events above detailed—the Exeter Discussion, the Salters' Hall Debates, and the Clarke and Waterland Controversy—materially tended to increase the spirit of free inquiry which had been awakened in Ireland by the writings and sufferings of Emlyn. The Ministers of the Synod of Ulster, indeed, had no suspicion of such a condition of affairs. They reposed in perfect security under the protection of their Presbyterian order, their subscription to the Westminster Con

fession, and the salutary terror inspired by the fate of Emlyn, under the judicial sword of Chief Justice Pyne. Indeed, they were not only secure, but they waxed vainglorious, and ventured to lecture their brethren, in England, with regard to the evils and dissensions which had sprung up amongst them. On the 29th of June, 1720, they addressed the London Ministers thus :

" In this they lament the differences that had taken place among Protestants, especially of their denomination (meaning at Salters' Hall), and congratulate themselves on their escape from similar dissensions; and on their falling on such peaceful measures, as, they hoped, would strengthen and perpetuate their good agreement, as they found themselves in a comfort. able situation, entirely out of the strife, and not warmed with the zeal of party. They then lament the dissensions in London, and express their hope and desire, that they may lay aside their animosities. It appeared amazing to them that the English dissenters had not long ago run into pacific measures (as they had done), as their divisions arose about prudential methods, and matters of an inferior nature; concerning which difference of opinion ought not-they do not say, to destroy, but even in any degree to lesser charity. As healing expedients, they recommend frequent and free converse among brethren of opposite sides, and not to entertain or vent jealousies or suspicions concerning those who differ from them in things which are not the avowed subjects of debate. Why,” say they, “should there be insinuations of heterodory on the one part, or a designed opposition to Christian liberty on the other, when those charges are openly disclaimed by both?"

This peaceable and most tolerant Synod, however, had scarcely concluded its sittings, when that fierce dissension sprung up amongst themselves, which, at the end of seven years, resulted in the expulsion of the Presbytery of Antrim. The circumstances preceding and accompanying that important event, I reserve until next month,

(To be continued. )


(Continued from Vol. I, p. 305.)


In the first verse of this chapter the people are solemnly warned never to join hands with the wicked as an unrighteous witness. Oh, Israel! had you laid that command to your heart, and bound it as a frontlet between your eyes, then, in the day when the chief priests sought witness against him who “ went about doing good," they had not found a pretence for crucifying the Lord of Glory; but, lo! many false witnesses were found. So do we oftimes see, from the breaking of one little precept, a tide of evil overwhelm a people! The wise comm

imand, “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil," has been the foundation of various excellent discourses; yet still the broad path is crowded, and few, comparatively, care to walk lonely in the narrow way.

Kindness and justice are strictly enjoined throughout this chapter under consideration, and that to enemies as well as to friends-to poor and rich alike. Amongst the things enjoined, we observe a warning against receiving gifts. Why? Because a gift perverteth the words of the righteous—blindeth the wise. Here we see it is not a gift to the poor that is spoken of; it is no check to the impulses of a kind and generous nature that is given ; but the bribe to the man in power--it is that which blindeth the wise. Now, all Eastern people are particularly fond of gifts, and it would be thought an outrage on good manners and propriety for a man to come seeking the notice of the great, or the protection of the powerful, without providing himself with suitable presents, as an acknowledgment of respect for his superiors. On this subject see “Jamieson's Eastern Manners."*

Thou shalt not oppress a stranger (see verse 9), for ye know the heart of a stranger. Behold the spirit of that injunction of our Lord's: -“ As

ye would that men should do to you, do ye also so to them.” In such strokes we feel how the two covenants harmonize, the old and the new-how truly Jesus spake when he said, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The institution of the Sabbatical year was a command worthy of Deityas a chain of gold, such a law would bind together the hearts of the poor and the rich !

Verse 13—" And in all things that I have said unto you, be circumspect, and make no mention of the name of other gods; neither let it be heard out of your mouth." This was a wise and necessary caution to a people who were to be surrounded with idolatrous and ignorant nations. It seems, at first sight, that a Christian people can have little to do with it, but as an interesting record of history. One question, however, presents itself as we write. If no mention was to be made of the name of other gods—if there was danger in this, how does it happen, that instead of danger, there is utility-necessity for British youth, as soon as they are able to construe their Latin and Greek, or rather, as soon as they are able to read, to drive from their young minds what little they have, by maternal care, learned of the word of life, and fill their memories with the names, with the gross corruptions, with the contemptible fooleries of the ancient gods and goddesses. Doubtless, the wise and the learned know the great benefit that accrues to the world by this early initiating of the young into this path of knowledge. God said there may be danger in it: man says there may not; but ours are simple thoughts—we cope not with the learned.

In this chapter we find the yearly festivals appointed, three in number. The following particulars we have drawn from a learned writer:

“ Moses instituted eighty-two sacred days. The three great feasts were observed in the dry seasons, and the people all assembled in the courts of

* We cannot allude to this precious and most instructive work without taking the opportunity of recommending it to every young person who has pleasure in his Bible.

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »