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Letter II. Of the Argument for the Divinity of Christ

from Heb. i. 8. Letter III. Of the Reasons for appealing to Early Opi

nions concerning the Person of Christ. Letter IV. Of the Doctrine of Inspiration. Letter V. Of the immoral Consequences of my Opi

nions. Letter VI. The Conclusion.

233 237

242 246

CONSIDERATIONS ON DIFFERENCES

AMONG CHRISTIANS,

OF

OPINION

Section I. Of latent Infincerity, and direct Prevarication,

251 Section II. Of the Source of Bigotry, and Persecution. 258 Section III. Of the practical Tendency of different Systems of Doctrine.

260 Section IV. Of the Causes of Difference of Opinion,

and the Réading of the Scriptures recommended. 267 Segion V. General Advices.

270

LETTER I. Of the feditious Tendency ascribed by Mr. Madan to the late

· Public Meetings of the Disenters.

Hy

My generous Townsmen and Neighbours,
AVING lived very happily near ten years in this

part of the country, and being desirous to acquire, and preserve, your good opinion, I take the liberty to address

you on a subject to which your attention has of late been very frequently called, viz. the application to parliament for the repeal of the Corporation and Test Asts, and also on various other subjects relating to the Diffenters, and the established Church, especially by the justly respected rector of St. Philip's, in his Sermon, intitled, The principal Claims of the Disenters considered, in which he has advanced many things tending to give you a very unfavourable opinion of the Diflenters in general, and, not very obliquely, of myself in particular.

Mr. Madan's excellent character will lead you to give him entire credit for whatever he shall think proper to declare, especially from so sacred a place as the pulpit. For you will naturally conclude, that, speaking with such solemnity, he must have carefully considered what he aflerted; and his sincerity would not have been called in question, even if he had not thought necessary to declare, p. 6, that what he delivered were the settled principles and conviction of his heart, as he hoped for mercy from the God of truth. B

This

This is such a folemn form of an oath, or an appeal to God for his fincerity, as is not very common, and such as is never used except in cases in which a man supposes that there may be some cause to suspect his veracity; and how Mr. Madan Mould conceive that this could be his case I cannot imagine. Recourse should not be had to such peculiarly folemn forms of affeveration without neceffity, because it tends to make them too common, by which means they come at length to lose their effect.

Besides, I cannot help wishing that the preacher had kept up to the spirit of his text a little better than he has done. This advises us to speak evil of no man, to be gentle, and to jew meekness towards all men. But how is this consistent with his imputing to a numerous feet of his fellow-citizens (with many of whom he must have had, I doubt not, a pleasing and useful intercourse) some of the very worst and moit dangerous designs, for which he can liave no evidence besides his own surmises. He calls the late proceedings of the Dissenters to procure the repeal of the Test and Corpo. ration Ads, p. 4, clamorous and violent; and he intimates that our final views are of a feditious tendency. What favourable inference, fays he, p. 27, “can be drawn from the « alarm which their leaders are founding through every part o of Great Britain about their common cause; how are we "to understand their voluntary contributions for national “ meetings, and for other public uses,” direxing your particular attention, as you see, to the last words, as being of a more suspicious nature, by prioring them in italics.

Certainly, my good friends, the preacher, in bringing these railing accusations, has quite loft fight of his textThis is speaking evil. It is not being very genti', or fhewing much meekness. But I account for it by his imagination being strangely disturbed with groundless terrors, on account of the interest that he and his friends have in the system for which he is so very apprehensive; so that he fears where no fear is, and where no other man, except one in a fimilar Situation, can see any cause of fear at all. But per

ceiving ceiving how much he is agitated on the subje&t, I should not wonder if he suspected an enemy to be concealed in every bush, or to see him start at his own shadow.

For do but consider the thing coolly, and see what our proceedings have a tually been. Have they not been the very same that, without any censure, have been again and again adopted by the most peaceable classes of people in the country, manufacturers for initance like yourselves, who have no other wish than quietly to follow their own business, whenever they have imagined themselves to be aggrieved by any particular law, or measure of government? Have they not held their meetings by public advertisement? Have there not been many of them in this very town, many in London, and other places, to consider of proper measures to obtain redress, to solicit parliament, &c. and when these meetings are, as indeed they neceffarily must be, attended with expence, must not funds be established to defray those expences? Have not these things been done a thousand times in this country, without any body ever imagining that there was any thing feditious, or hostile to government in them? Now candour would suppose that we Diffenters, like other bodies of men who have held fimilar public meetings, have had no farther view than to relieve ourfelves in a legal way from what we consider as hardhips.

By printing the words other public uses in italics, Mr. Madan certainly meant to infinuate that, besides what we exprofs, we had some farther concealed and dangerous views; as if there were not many public uses of a very innoceni nature, for which money was neceffary, belides merely defraying the expence of public meetings. You see that we print and publith many pamphlets, as well as insert the Resolutions of our meetings in the public papers, in order to give our countrymen the information which we see they want concerning our situation, and the reasons for our application to parliament. This buôness also requires a very extensive corrispondence, which is necessarily attended with expence.

Now

B 2

Now, might not Mr. Madan's imagination, if it had not been of a very suspicious turn indeed, have led him to suppose that by other public uses were meant such expences as these, and others equally necessary, but not deserving to be particularly specified in a printed resolution?

What a strange suspicious turn must that man's mind have who could imagine that under such an innocent expression, any dark designs were concealed; as if we were ready to take arms in order to overturn the government. He must be a mere Don Quixote who can believe any such thing, and worse than a Quixote who could insinuate it without believing it. But as Mr. Madan solemnly declares that he speaks from the settled principles and conviction of his heart, as he hopes for mercy from the God of truth, I am willing to think, that strange as this notion is, and bordering even upon insanity, it has actually got possession of his mind. For can it be supposed that a minister of the gospel of peace, in the perfect use of his reason, could, on such a trising ground as this, endeavour to raise your indignation against persons with whom you have lived in good neighbourhood froin your infancy, and whom you know to be as well affected to government, and as peaceably disposed, as himself?

Whatever the Diffenters be with respect to their religious principles, which concern only God and ourselves, you see that we are not absolutely mad; and that we must be to think of overturning a government so well established as that of this country, even if we were not friends to it. But the Dissenters have given clearer proofs of their value for it, and especially of their attachment to the reigning family, than the generality of the clergy, whose loyalty, though they now make so great a parade of it, is well known to be of very late date; whereas ours was always zealous and active from the first accession of the present reigning family, as the most authentic documents testify.

As to our public meetings, which have given such umbrage to Mr. Madan, have not the Quakers always been in the

habit

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