Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

lowers admitted, indeed, that tradition should be respected, but that every individual should be his own judge as to its weight and value. It seems clear that some of the most eminent lights of the Anglican Church, amongst whom we may reckon Archbishops Laud and Sheldon, acquiesced in the truth of this doctrine, when it was originally propounded by Chillingworth. At first it was viewed with great jealousy, and many treated it as a daring impiety. It is impossible to read without indignation, the manner in which some Protestant divines annoyed Chillingworth in his last moments, on account of what they called his irreligion. The doctrine insensibly gained ground. It was openly espoused by the latitudinarian writers” of Cambridge, of whom Burnet has given so interesting an account. Their great wish was to terminate entirely the asperities of controversy, to put Christian sects into good humour with one another, and to prove that sound morality was of greater consequence than religious orthodoxy. This they generally left to each man's own conviction, although they subscribed the Thirty-nine Articles, and adopted the liturgy and ceremonies of the Established Church. It soon became a question how far this was reconcileable with honour and with honesty, a question which has been often put to them, and by which they have been much embarrassed. Three modes of answering, or rather of evading it, have been invented. In the first place it is said that Chillingworth, with the approbation, as it would seem, of Laud and Sheldon, considered the Thirty-nine Articles not as terms of communion, but as articles of peace, which were sufficiently observed if the party did not impugn them openly by word of mouth or in writing. Secondly, these terms of peace were widened by Doctors Hoadly and Balguy, and the other members of the Hoadlian school, who maintain that the peace is not broken, if the Articles be not impugned in the pulpit or in the national rites. Thirdly, a still more lax interpretation has been given by Archbishop Fowler and others, who maintain that the Thirty-nine Articles have lost their original meaning, and are now to be construed at the will of any party who subscribes them, provided he only adhere to the Bible, and oppose the Roman Catholic religion. We cannot say that we approve of any of these doctrines; we think with Dr. Tomline, the late Bishop of Winchester, that no person ought to subscribe the Articles, unless he be convinced of the truth of the doctrines imported in them, in the sense in which they were understood by those who framed them. In the mean time a still greater religious revolution has taken

* A good history of Hales and Chillingworth, and their latitudinarian followers, is much wanted. They are not to be considered as a separate sect, but as numerous individuals, more numerous, perhaps, than they are supposed to be, and existing either openly or secretly in almost every sect.

place in Germany, the seat of the reformation. Affrighted at the acrimony with which theological controversies were carried on, many wished to banish such contentions altogether, and to make charity the only essential point of faith. Consistently with this doctrine, these persons have simplified religion to the duty of loving God and our neighbour, in the manner prescribed by the Gospel. A German divine, of great eminence, was the founder of this sect, whose members have acquired the name of Pietists. A large proportion of the inhabitants of that country have taken another direction; although they have adopted the Bible, they deny its divine inspiration altogether, and maintain that the whole of its contents ought to be tried by the same rules as other works. They reject the miraculous relations; some miracles they explain away, and the rest they get rid of, either by denying the truth of the relation, or by contending that the event, if it really happened, was merely human, and that the supernatural circumstances intermixed with it, proceeded from the enthusiasm, weakness, or artifice of the narrator. The disciples of this sect are called Rationalists. It is a surious fact, that they were first made known in this country by the Bishop of Peterborough's translation of “Michaeli’s Introduction .o the New Testament,” and by the annotations which the learned relate appended to that work. In these he mentions several of he religious delusions which prevail in Germany, but never comYats or exposes them. The Rationalists excited the particular ndignation of Mr. Rose, who attacked them in those well known liscourses, which we have noticed in one of our former numbers; Jut they found a zealous advocate in Mr. Pusey, of whose works we have also given some account. The German Rationalists also found means to reconcile to their 2Onsciences the profession and support of the doctrines which we have mentioned, with the subscription of their respective formuaries of faith. We have already ventured to express our disaprobation of the manner in which this has been done by the diines of our own country; but we think that the schemes devised y the German Rationalists, for a similar purpose, are still more open to objection. We are, however, utterly at a loss to conceive, how it is posible for any Protestant divine, who adopts the principle of Chilingworth, that the Bible, and the Bible only, according to each man's interpretation of it, is the religion of Protestants, (and we elieve that this principle is universally adopted), can, with any co

ourable propriety, object to the Rationalism of the German divines, nasmuch as they, who so object to it, act upon the very principle pon which that Rationalism is founded. They acknowledge the 3ible, and adhere to their own interpretation of it. This, and no hore than this, is done, and professed to be done, by every Proestant. We are equally at a loss to understand how the Latitudiarian, or the Hoadlian, reconciles it to his conscience, to maintain doctrines directly contrary to, or at least widely differing from those of the Established Church, and for the maintenance of which the ecclesiastical benefices were fashioned at the time of the “reformation.” If the Church has in fact departed thus most materially from the purposes for which those benefices were then declared to be intended, what becomes of its moral right to possess them any longer ? It cannot be denied that, almost universally, those who subscribe the Thirty-nine Articles are guilty of hypocrisy and falsehood, in order to afford themselves a legal qualification for holding those benefices. Ought such a demoralizing and scandalous system as this to be permitted to go on any longer? The Church has not the power to correct this profligate system; it canmot, even if it would, bring back religion to the state in which it was when the Articles were at first promulgated and established ; it cannot, consistently with the design of those Articles, substitute for them another formula of belief, and exact implicit adherence to it. Such an attempt would be eminently ridiculous and absurd, and must be ineffectual. Upon this point, we may refer the inquiring reader to the sermons of Mr. Lee, who has wholly failed in proving the necessity or utility (in a “reformed” Church) of a confession of faith of any kind. That reverend gentleman must either believe or disbelieve the maxim of Chillingworth above mentioned. If he disbelieve it, then he must admit that nothing has been gained in the shape of spiritual freedom by the reformation, and that the reformation was altogether unnecessary : if he believe in the maxim of Chillingworth, then he must admit that the Rationalist is as much entitled to interpret the Scriptures in his own way, as Mr. Lee, or any other Protestant. This is the real point in dispute between that gentleman and Mr. Pusey; and until Mr. Lee shews that he, and those who maintain his doctrines, have a right to the exercise of their private judgment, and that no other Protestant has the same right, all his arguments amount to nothing, they are mere “leather and prunello.” But the demerits of the “reformed” Church do not stop here; they are not limited to the hypocrisy that enables men, for the purpose of obtaining benefices and other temporal advantages, to subscribe and declare that they believe articles which they really do not believe: much more than this is fairly, and, indeed, inevitably to be imputed to the principle of religious freedom, which has been established by that Church, and which, by leading men's minds astray from the true course, has of necessity plunged them into the vast abysses of error that are now yawning for new victims everywhere around us. It is well known that Luther had scarcely sounded the trumpet of evangelical liberty, when up rose, obedient to the rebel call, the Anabaptists in Germany and the Low Countries. What was their creed ? They held that they were expressly authorized by God to despoil and kill all the wicked, and to establish a kingdom of the just, to consist of such persons only as should be re-baptized, and become members of their communion: The head of this sect, for a while, was a tailor of Leyden, who proclaimed himself king of Sion, and actually assumed and exercised the sovereignty of Munster, in Lower Germany. Guided by what he called the inspirations of the Deity, he married eleven wives, whom he put to death, together with numberless others of his subjects. He openly claimed the city of Amsterdam as his property, maintaining that it was conferred upon him as a gift by the Lord of the creation; he accordingly sent some of his disciples to take possession of it, who ran through the streets howling out “Woe to Babylon " “Woe to the wicked " When these enthusiasts were brought to the scaffold for their crimes, they sang aloud, and danced with joy, believing that they were full of the Holy Spirit ! We shudder at reading of such enormous follies as these, and can scarcely conceive it possible that the human mind could fall into absurdities still more insane. But we find that Herman, another of this sect, illuminated by the same supposed interior light, proclaimed himself the Messiah, and taught his hearers that it was their duty to murder all the priests and magistrates in the world ! We find, moreover, that another of their preachers, David George, persuaded a numerous sect of them, that “the doctrine both of the Old and the New Testament was imperfect, but that his own was perfect, and that he was the true son of God l’” We do not mean to charge Luther with having inculcated such abominable doctrines as these; but we maintain that it was his principle of private judgment that gave rise to these, and the many other horrible excesses 5f a similar description, which have stained the history of mankind since the period of the much miscalled “reformation.” Who has not heard of Nicholas and Hacket in our own country, and of their “Family of Love,” who held that the essence of religion consisted in the feelings of divine love, and that all other things relating either to faith or worship were of no moment? Need we mention our Venner, and his fifth-monarchy men, who proclaimed shat they would acknowledge no sovereign but King Jesus, and Spenly acted upon the internal assurance that “one of them would out a thousand enemies to flight, and two of them ten thousand 7” The Quakers are at present a harmless sect enough; but in their 3rigin they were not so. They derive their existence from the

“private judgment” of George Fox, a shoemaker of Leicestershire, who held that “the Scriptures are not the adequate primary rule of aith and manners, but a secondary rule, subordinate to the spirit, rom which they have their excellence and certainty, and that the estimony of the spirit is that alone by which the true knowledge if God has been, is, and can be revealed.” The voice of this spirit, t appears, induced him to feel a particular objection to oaths; it Yade one of his disciples, William Simpson, to go naked through he streets, and to preach nakedness as a virtue ! His doctrine was acted upon by a female, who walked stark naked into White

hall chapel, when Cromwell was there, and by another woman, who went into the Parliament-house with a trencher in her hand, which she broke in pieces, saying, “Thus shall he be broke in pieces !” Another of the friends stationed himself at the door of the Parliament-house, with a drawn sword in his hand, with which he wounded several persons, saying that “he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to kill every man that sat in that house.” This inspiration was the result of his “private judgment,” and a similar guide led the celebrated James Naylor to fancy himself the Messiah, in which character he rode into Bristol, his disciples spreading their garments before him, and crying, “Holy, holy, holy, Hosannah in the Highest s” The impostor, after he was scourged by order of Parliament for his impiety, was followed by a number of deluded women, who kissed his feet and wounds, and hailed him the “Prince of Peace, the rose of Sharon, and the fairest of ten thousand ''' Is it not to the same principle of private judgment that the world is indebted for the Muggletonians, the Labbadists, and others, who were led by it into the most immoral practices ! Do we not behold it also as the basis of the doctrine of the famous Baron Swedenborg, who, however, limited the right to himself, maintaining that “he was chosen to explain to men the interior and spiritual sense of the Scriptures " The faculty of performing this office, he said, he received immediately from God, with whom he held frequent communications. According to his doctrine, God was a mere man, the angels were male and female, and intermarried, and followed different avocations; and he discovered a “new Jerusalem,” which he prophecied would spread over the whole earth. In point of fact, it has spread very extensively in this country, for the New Jerusalemites have chapels in most of the principal towns. To the same prolific source of delusion we also owe one of the most impudent of all modern impostures, that of Joanna Southcote, who at first gave herself out to be the woman of Genesis, destined to crush the infernal spirit, and the woman of the Revelations, crowned with twelve stars, the said stars being so many ministers of the Established Church, one of whom, by the way, acted as her secretary. She had the amazing fortitude to give out, that she was specially authorized to sign 144,000 passports to Heaven, which she accordingly issued to her followers at a moderate price. Her private judgment subsequently took a new turn, which led her to proclaim that she was pregnant of the Messiah, and it is well known that the most costly nursery utensils of gold and silver, and cradles decorated in the most splendid manner, were prepared for the reception of the infant! The woman died without fulfilling the expectations of her disciples, but, strange to say, her sect still exists, and is increasing in some parts of England, the belief of her followers now being, that Joanna has only disappeared for a season, and that she will return to them at the appointed time, in order to give birth to the Messiah. They practice the rite of circumcision after the manner of the Jews, and also wear the beard on the chin.

« ElőzőTovább »