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Christ is, in their eyes, a Heresy. This is the radical evil of all dogmatic systems, that they sanctify the natural sloth and stagnation of our spiritual powers, -and that they designedly excite the persecution of Society against the man who reverently lifts his soul to the infinite God, and professes a faith in the possibility of new communications from His unexhausted Truth.
It is indeed most painfully descriptive of the state of Religion in this Country that an act so simple as the honest expression of Opinion should, by artificial difficulties, be elevated into a rare virtue,—that in this respect it should still be with the servant as with his Lord,—and that fidelity to conscience, though not actually led to the cross, should yet have its more refined and lingering martyrdom. It would seem to be the most natural of moral occurrences, and certainly not marked with any extraordinary merit, that a man should speak as he felt,—and having in simplicity sought the Truth, should in simplicity declare what he had found. But the sectarian spirit in Society, the spirit of Churches under every form, has subjected to the severest temptations that simple honesty which would otherwise be a matter of course, the unprompted expression of the soul; so that the reverence for Truth which meets unmoved the frowns and seductions of that spirit, and pays its single obedience to inward conviction, deserves to be signalized, for it is rare indeed. Christians, while they profess a great regard for the Truth of Christianity, have shown very little regard for the only Christian truth a man can know any thing of,—truth to himself, and while they pray that he may be led into the Truth, they surround his path with every temptation to become a deceiver. Why was that venerable Confessor, for no less he was, whose worn remains were lately committed to the peaceful grave in Liverpool, in the presence of a few, who came to honour Truth in a Christian man, and to supply, as far as may be, with silent Reverence, the place of long familiar Love,—why was he, in his own pathetic words, in feebleness, in sickness, and in sorrow, “ made a beggar for kindness ?” In the name of Christian humanity, what was there in the mere circumstance of his having adopted some of our opinions, to place him exclusively within the range of our personal intercourse, and to make him a dependant on our sympathies? We think these questions ought to be put,- and answered by those whom they concern.*
• The writer of these notices would be doing great injustice to the friends of BLANCO WHITE who belong to the Church of England, if he produced the impression that their affections were alienated from him by his religious opinions. He has reason to know that their friendship, and love, and generous care for him, never ceased. He would be understood therefore only to speak of the necessities of system, as manifested
Why came he to Liverpool in the last stage of worn life to make his home with strangers ? Why was he, with that noble heart so formed to love, and where he loved to instruct and bless, an almost solitary man, over whose head whole days and weeks passed in which he had no happiness but what he drew from Conscience, and only not alone because his Father was with him? Why should that which it was his Christian duty to do be visited with such cruel penalties? Why should a change in his views of objective Truth, necessitate a change in all the circumstances of his life, and in all the daily friendships of his heart? Is this the way in which Christians express their reverence for Truth, by cruelly punishing every honest expression of it? We speak not of individuals, but of the Spirit of Systems. But this is the retributive stab which the dogmatism of the Intellect inflicts upon the heart. Whoever erects himself into a Judge of saving truth, withers his own affections for all who refuse his Tribunal. Those who presume to know God's judgments will act accordingly. They will not love those whom God does not love. And this is the social spirit of Orthodoxy!
And that these are feelings which we do not impute to him, but which actually embittered every day and hour of the last years of his life, we can produce most affecting evidence. It appears from his Journal, that on one occasion, he attended in that humble burying ground where now some of the most honoured of the earth repose, brought there by the same desire to pay respect to humanity which lately led others to his own grave. We will extract the record of his feelings on that occasion : it will make him known better than the descriptions of another.
Liverpool, January 18, 1837. “I am just returned from seeing a Unitarian minister* who lived near me laid in his grave. This is the only funeral which I have attended, during my long residence in England: but I feared there would be few present, and I wished to show this mark of respect to the deceased, as well as to my new religious connection. I could not prevent my tears falling while the coffin was let down. There is indeed much in my sensibility which is nervous ; yet a mind so stored with baffled affections and regrets as mine, may be excused for its weakness. My efforts to suppress external marks of feeling are indeed very great, but not equal to the intended object. My tear, however, was not for the deceased personally, with whom I was not at all intimate; it was for humanitysuffering, struggling, aspiring, daily perishing and renewed humanity. As to the grave, and the descent of the coffin, and the strange noise of the sliding ropes--these things raise no melancholy feelings within me. I know not how soon I shall be laid in that same ground-for I have desired in my will to be buried in Renshaw-Street Chapel-and the thought of my last home came vividly before me. No! it is not death that moves me; but the contemplation of the rough path, and the darkened mental atmosphere, which the human passions and interests, disguised as Religion, oblige us to tread and cross on our way to the grave. What uncharitable, nay, what barbarous feelings, under the name of religious fears, would the view of the good, and, I believe, long-tried man whom we committed to the ground, have raised in the bosom of many otherwise kind-hearted persons whom I know! What shock would my own presence have given to a multitude of orthodox persons, who, but for my secession from the Church, would proclaim themselves my attached friends! Is there no hope that the notion of Orthodoxy—that most deadly moral poison for the heart-shall be well subdued, if not totally conquered, in this country?"
in the facts of Mr. White's change of condition, and separation from former friends. These necessities individuals cannot consistently set aside, so long as they are identified with the system called Orthodoxy, which limits Salvation to those who agree in certain opinions. He rejoices however to believe that, in this case, there were individuals who would forcibly have set aside every thing but the dictates of inextinguishable love for a revered friend.
• The Rev. Mr. Perry.
And this was not the first time that this spirit had cast him, alone and friendless, upon the wide world,-his whole life was one continued struggle for Conscience sake, and slow and weary was the obstructed way by which he forced himself forwards from light to light,-honoured and cherished by each Party in turn, as long as they could boast themselves of his name, or make use of his reputation, but cast out, (reluctantly indeed, and only under the necessities of system, but still cast out, as soon as, having become familiar with the ground they occupied, he saw that it was not co-extensive with the Truth of God, and attempted to enlarge its boundaries. We use his own words in the preface to his latest work:
“ Convinced that it is my duty publicly to dissent from some doctrines upon which the Orthodox seem to consider themselves as incapable of mistake, (else they would not treat those that deny them as guilty of something worse than an error of judgment,) I perceived the necessity, and submitted to the pain of quitting the domestic society of a family, whose members showed me an affection seldom bestowed but upon a near relative, and whom I love with all the tenderness and warmth of a heart which nature has not made either cold or insensible to kindness.
“It is not my intention to court the sympathy of the public on the score of what I have had to endure on this occasion. I will not complain ; though this is certainly the second time that Orthodoxy has reduced me to the alternative of dissembling, or renouncing my best external means of happiness. But I humbly thank God, that the love of honesty and veracity which He implanted in my soul, has been strengthened, constantly and visibly, from the moment that, following its impulse, I quitted my native country. From that time to the presenta period of five and twenty years*-every day seems to have made me more and more obedient to the principle, not to deceive either by word or deed. To countenance externally the profession of what internally I am convinced to be injurious to the preservation and proper spread of Christ's true Gospel, would be a conduct deserving bitter remorse and utter self-contempt.”—Heresy and Orthodoxy.
It has been said that there is no sight on which the Divine eye rests with such full love, as that of a good man struggling with difficulties,-a true mind seeking light. We shall aim to present this spectacle as it was, with a regard for reality, which here, indeed, we are under no temptation to violate; for in this case, reality itself will require the deepest colours of the heart.
Joseph BLANCO WHITE, by birth and education, and, for a time, by earnest faith and clerical profession, was a Roman Catholic. Of Irish descent, but a Spaniard by two generations, he was born in Seville, unfortunately for him, the most bigotted and ascetic town in Spain ; and there, from his tenderest years, he was subjected to that monastic discipline, that awful influence over the senses and the imagination, by which the Roman Catholic Church usurps the infant mind. The only object of his parental education was “to make him religious in their own sense of the word, and in perfect deference to the Priest who directed the conscience of the family."
“Of the excellence of my parents' hearts,” he says, “of their benevolence, their sincere piety, it is impossible to speak too highly. Their misfortune and my own, as far as my happiness depended on their influence, was their implicit obedience to the system of religion in which they lived and died. In accordance with what that system established as Christian perfection, they endeavoured to bring me up consistently with the models proposed by the Church of Rome. By keeping me from the company of other children they imagined they could preserve my mind and heart from every contamination. They thus made me a solitary being during my childhood. I well recollect how I looked on the children of the poor who were playing in the streets, and envied their happiness in being allowed to associate with their equals. The theoretical part of my religious education was confined to the knowledge of the catechism, with theological explanations in the jargon of school divinity. In such explanations of mysteries I certainly became an adept for my age. The practical part consisted in a perpetual round of devotional practices, of which I still preserve the most painful recollection. I absolutely dreaded the approach of Sunday. Early in the morning of that formidable day I was made to go with my father to the Dominican Convent, where his confessor resided; afterwards we went to the Cathedral, where I had to stand or kneel for hours. Many times did I faint through exhaustion,
# Written in 1835.
but nothing could save me from a similar infliction on the succeeding Sunday. The day ended in visiting the wards of a crowded and pestilential hospital, where my father, for many years, spent two or three hours of the evening in rendering to the sick every kind of service, not excluding the most menial and revolting.”
These ascetic practices produced their natural effect on a child of excessive sensibility: he was wretched, but he was a spiritual captive, helpless in the hands of his directors. At the risk of dwelling too long on these early influences, which in the mysterious providence of God did not destroy, perhaps irritated into life the seeds of the after freedom of his mind, we must add his own most instructive account of his first confession, for the sake of the light it throws on the natural elements and susceptibilities of his character.
“ The effects of confession upon young minds are, generally, unfavourable to their future peace and virtue. It was to that practice I owed the first taste of remorse, while yet my soul was in a state of infant purity. My fancy had been strongly impressed with the awful conditions of the penitential law, and the word sacrilege had made me shudder on being told that the act of concealing any thought or action, the rightfulness of which I suspected, would make me guilty of that worst of crimes, and greatly increase my danger of everlasting torments. My parents had in this case done no more than their duty according to the rules of their Church. But though they had succeeded in raising my fear of hell, this was, on the other hand, too feeble to overcome a childish bashfulness, which made the disclosure of a harmless trifle an effort above my strength.”
“ The appointed day came at last when I was to wait on the confessor. Now wavering, now determined not to be guilty of sacrilege, I knelt before the priest, leaving, however, in my list of sins, the last place to the hideous offence--I believe it was a petty larceny committed on a young bird. But when I came to the dreaded point, shame and confusion fell upon me, and the accusation stuck in my throat. The imaginary guilt of this silence haunted my mind for four years, gathering horrors at every successive confession, and rising into an appalling spectre when, at the age of twelve, I was taken to receive the sacrament. In this miserable state I continued till, with the advance of reason, I plucked, at fourteen, courage enough to unburthen my conscience by a general confession of the past. And let it not be supposed that mine is a singular case, arising either from morbid feeling or the nature of my early education. Few, indeed, among the many penitents I have examined, have escaped the evils of a similar state ; for what bashfulness does in children, is often in after life the immediate effect of that shame by which fallen frailty clings still to wounded virtue. The necessity of confession, seen at a distance, is lighter than a feather in the balance of desire; while at a subsequent period, it