Графични страници
PDF файл

(Acts xvi. 4, 5), and tending to the establishment of her children in sound doctrine, and her own enlargement and extension. There is much valuable matter both in the sermon itself, and the appendix annexed to it. We subjoin a few extracts :

Perhaps there never was a time when Pilate's question, “What is truth?” recurred to men's minds—especially to the minds of those just entering upon life-with more frequency, and with more anxious and intense interest, than it now does. A state of things seems to have come upon us, like that which once prevailed among God's ancient people, when “there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Only there is this difference, that the present anarchy is an anarchy of opinion. Each thinks himself free to believe and to make public whatsoever doctrines shall have approved themselves to his own mind. It is true, indeed, a rule of faith is acknowledged : holy Scripture is appealed to as the ultimate standard, by which orthodoxy is to be tried: but it is not less true, that every variety of opinion exists among those, by whom the appeal is made.

What has been said applies to the Church at large : our own communion is not excluded. We may not deny it: even among the members of the Church of England, a great variety of opinion, and that on many important points, prevails. Who has not, at one time or other, been conscious of thoughts like these springing up within his mind? Here are two men taking opposite views of the same question : each appeals to Scripture in support of his opinion. Each is, to ail appearance, a sincere lover of truth : each is respected for his judgment, and revered for his piety. Which is right? Which is wrong ?These are searchings of heart with which many among us must bave been familiar. These are questions which must have been asked again and again, with feelings of anxious and painful perplexity. There are those, it may be, who have almost wished themselves within the bosom of Rome, that they might resign themselves to the entire guidance of one, whom they could regard as an infallible instructor, and be freed for ever from the embarrassment of choosing whom to follow.

But is there no medium belween the despotism of Rome, on the one hand, and universal anarchy of opinion, on the other? Is there no place of shelter, to which we may retire, where, while we enjoy as much liberty as is consistent with our well-being, we may, at the same time, be removed from the turmoil of strife and dissension, and may have leisure and encouragement, calmly and undisturbedly, to acquaint ourselves with the ways of God?

There is.-Submission to the authority of our Church in matters of doctrine, if rendered in that way and to that extent which reason and Scripture warrant, would, under the divine blessing, be followed by like happy effects : that it would prove a means of freeing many of her children from doubts and perplexities, by which they are now embarrassed ; of establishing them in the faith; of enabling them to make solid progress in religious knowledge; and of causing them to abound in all the fruits of holiness : and that our Church herself, as a necessary consequence, would become flourishing and prosperous, that she would “stretch forth ber boughs unto the sea, and her branches unto the river," and spread her shadow over the length and breadth of the land.-Pp. 91–93.

What then is the submission, in matters of faith, which is due to the Church at our hands? It is this : that in all cases in which we are incompetent, of ourselves, to decide—in all cases in which we are doubtful, yea, in which the shadow of a doubt remains-we should waive our own judgment, and defer to ber authority. The Church is not infallible. She may err, and many Churches have erred; and therefore, if she should require anything to be believed as au article of faith, which, by clear and demonstrative proof can be shown to be contrary to God's word, in that particular there is an end of her authority. We must hearken to God, rather than to man. And these are precisely the limits under which our Church claims the submission of her children; while, on the one hand, she asserts explicitly, that “the Church hath authority in controversies of faith," she not less explicitly restricts that authority within the bounds of Scripture. “ It is not lawful,”-these are her words it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another.” But then, surely, it behoves us, in common modesty, to pause long, and to examine carefully, and with all possible self-suspicion, and with many and most earnest prayers, before we venture to admit that she has proved false to her trust. And, as has been already said, while the shadow of a doubt remains, we are bound to waive our own judgment in deference to hers.--Pp. 96—98.

But it may be objected, that the account which bas been given of the Church's authority over her children, would apply to the case of any Church, how corrupt soever. It might be affirmed of the Church of Rome, as well as of the Church of England, that a person born and educated within her communion, would be bound to defer to her authority, until he should be convinced, by necessary proof, that her doctrines were at variance with the word of God. Of course he would. Nay, we might go farther: we might adınit, that a person born and educated a Mahometan, or a Heathen, would owe a like debt of deference to the doctrines in which he had been trained. It would be his duty to acquiesce in these, till he should see necessary cause for believing them to be contrary to that standard which God had given him. But what does this prove? Surely nothing more, than that, in the wondrous and inscrutable dispensations of God's providence, some men are circumstanced less favourably than others. Blessed and praised be his holy name, there have been in every nation, to which the Gospel has been proclaimed, those whom his grace has enabled to surmount the disadvantages under which they were born. With regard to such Christian communities as have erred from the faith, there is always this consolation, that while they preserve and hand down the pure word of God, they carry within themselves that which bears witness, how silently soever for a time, against their corruptions, and which may one day, through God's mercy, as we have already seen exemplified in our own land, prove the means of reformation.— Pp. 107, 108.

It will be easy to show, that the result which is represented as having ensued in the Asiatic Churches upon their acquiescence in the decrees of the council of Jerusalem, is the very result which might naturally be expected to follow at all times under like circumstances; and that in the case of our own Church in particular, submission to her authority in matters of doctrine, in the extent and under the limitations which bave been spoken of, would be an effectual means by which her members, under the divine blessing, might be established in the faith, and increased in number.—Pp. 110, 111.

In the last discourse, our Lord's precept of " casting out the beam in our own eye,” is ably applied to the duty of eradicating those tempers and dispositions which tend to widen the breach between Christians of different denominations. The subject is a difficult and a delicate one; but it is handled with great judgment and discretion; and though the faults more especially prevalent among Churchmen are particularized, the meekness and wisdom of the warning will claim attention without giving offence. Our opinion of the volume has been sufficiently marked by the use which, with little note or comment, we have made of it; and if, perchance, we should hesitate to subscribe, in toto, to the writer's views, there is not a line which does not demand the most serious consideration, both by members of the Church, and those who dissent from her communion.

Art. II.—Memoirs of the Life and Works of the late Right Ilon. Sir John

Sinclair, Bart. By his Son, the Rev. Join SINCLAIR, M.A., Pemb. Coll. O.xford, F. R. S. E. Author of Dissertations vindicating the Church of England ; an Essay on Church Patronage, fc. 2 vols. 8vo. Edinburgh : Blackwood. London: Cadell. 1837.

(Continued from p. 149.) Sir John Sinclair was dismissed from the Presidentship of the Board in 1798, restored 1806, and finally resigned 1813. The institution gradually languished, and was at length broken up. The eminent secretary, Arthur Young, died 1820. The statistical account of Scotland forms also an imperishable record of the baronet's zeal and industry. It was compiled from a mass of communications procured from the Scotch Clergy, by means of queries addressed to each of them. The details of this proceeding are interesting.

The next measure of Sir John was to obtain for his work the patronage of the General Assembly of the Church, so that obedience to authority might be added to the other inducements for compliance with bis solicitatious. A vote passed unanimously, recommending and urging the Ministers “ to contribute with all the. expedition in their power, to complete a task of such apparent public utility.” . A copy of this vote was transmitted by the Baronet to all his procrastinating correspondents, accompanied by a sixth circular, written for the first time in manuscript, entreating compliance with the recommendation of the supreme ecclesiastical After two other circulars, the number of recusants was so much diminished, that on the 25th August, 1794, he was enabled to write his ninth circular with his own hand. After ten additional circulars, proceeding from request to entreaty, from entreaty to remonstrance, and from remonstrance to expostulation, as a last resort, he penned an epistle in red ink, facetiously announcing that the laws of Draco were in force against delinquents, who would be proceeded against with Draconian severity. In all, Sir John's circulars amounted to twenty-three, besides several transmitted by his political and clerical friends. A venerable Principal, now alive, humorously acknowledged that “nothing but the laws of Draco would have enforced bis obedience."

Notwithstanding all these exertions, as there were several parishes from which no report could be procured, the Baronet had recourse to the singular expedient of employing persons, whom he designated “Statistical Missionaries,” who personally, at his expense, visited the undescribed parishes, and drew up reports of them. He himself contributed an account of Thurso, his native parish, which is among the most ably written, and in its details perhaps the most copious of the whole compilation.

Among the many disheartening circumstances which impeded the undertaking, may be mentioned the destruction of the fourteenth volume by fire, in the premises of the printer; and, what was more vexatious, the total loss of twelve reports, which caused a necessity for soliciting the contributors to recommence their labours. At last, however, on the 1st January, 1798 (a most auspicious day to the indefatigable author), aster seven years, seven months, and seven days (as he somewhat minutely calculated) of incessant labour and anxiety, he had the bappiness to complete the work in twenty-one thick and closely printe: octavo volumes, comprehending the contributions of above nine hundred individuals.

Perhaps a more interesting exhibition of diversified talent was never made



than in the original manuscript reports from the multitude of authors, whom public spirit, personal friendship, private influence, gratitude, or importunity, had called almost simultaneously into the field of authorship. Many of the reports showed great natural ability as well as literary acquirement; and the whole collection did the highest honour to the Church of Scotland. The contributions, however, as might be expected, were of very unequal merit. Some of them betrayed much ignorance, prejudice, and inaccuracy; soine imperfect and jejune; a far greater number tedious and verbose. Lord Hailes, in a letter to Sir John, dated 18th February, 1791, warns him not to receive with implicit confidence, all the statements trausmitted to him by his correspondents. “There is muchi,” he says, “ to be learned even from your specimen volume, but I



you will check the information you receive from the clergy with what you learn elsewhere.” Other friends, in whose bands be placed some of the manuscripts for revision, expressed, in strong terms, their disappointment and vexation at the crude and undigested materials submitted to their consideration. The account of

says the Rev. Dr. Hardy, " was the strangest paper I have yet met with—a good deal of important information ill expressed, and lying run-rigg with a great quantity of nonsense. the task of giving uniformity and precision to this multifarious series of papers, Sir John Sinclair, and the literary friends employed to assist him, might have justly adopted the saying of an old Scottish jurist, who, having undertaken the task of abridging and condensing some enormous mass of writings, describes, with great satisfaction, how he had “ cropped, lopped, pruned, pared, and amputated the huge mass before him into readable dimensions."

The sensitiveness of authors is well known, and was abundantly called forth when the corrected manuscripts were printed. Many of the Clergy were loud in their expressions of dissatisfaction. Correction and emendation naturally appeared to involve a charge against the competency of the writers. The parts opitted were judged to be most important, and those supplied to be needless interpolations. On the other hand, there were many Clergymen, and in some instances the ablest, who not only took in good part the censorship of their reports, but thanked Sir John for the improvement they had personally derived from the diversified studies to which bis numerous queries invited them. He more than once refers to this as amongst the most pleasing circuinstances connected with the undertaking.

It is gratifying to record that a work, 30 honourable to the talents, industry, and patriotism of the Clergy, was the means not only of raising the Church in the estimation of the public, but of benefiting its most necessitous ministers. The exposure of their privations, in connexion with the evidence of real worth afforded by their productions, elicited the patronage of the Legislature. In addition to the royal grant already mentioned, which operated so beneficially towards their families, laws were passed for regulating the augmentation of their livings, either from the parochial funds, or, where the tithes were exhausted, from a parliamentary grant in their behalf. By this enactment, it was provided that £150 per annum should be the lowest stipend of a Clergyınan of the Church of Scotland. It may be added, in connexion with the benefits resulting to the Clergy from the “Statistical Account," that their labours bave supplied statesmen with a fresh argument in favour of ecclesiastical establishments. Pinkerton, the historian, congratulating Sir John Sinclair on the completion of his labours, observes, that he had thus furnished “one of the strongest practicable arguments for the utility of the clerical body.”—Pp. 20—25.

The following testimony, among many others, is given to the value and importance of this splendid work:

“ The valuable accounts,” says Mr. Malthus, “ which the author of the Statistical Account of Scotland has collected in that part of the island, do him the highest honour; and will ever remain an extraordinary monument of the

learning, good sense, and general information of the Clergy of the Church of Scotland. That work, with a few subordinate improvements, and accurate and complete registers for the last 150 years (which, however, no diligence could have effected), would have been inestimable; and would have exbibited a better picture of the internal state of a country, than has yet been presented to the world."--Pp. 32, 33.

We admire the patriotic confidence which prevented Sir John Sinclair from partaking of the gloomy forebodings expressed by his political friends during the war with Napoleon. He adhered to the maxim of his friend Adam Smith, “ It takes a great deal to ruin a nation." He appears, however, to have been fully sensible to the magnitude of the danger; and it is said to have been at his suggestion that Bishop Watson of Llandaff published a pamphlet, of which the conclusion is truly eloquent, and is well designated by the reverend biographer "a spirit-stirring composition."

“They” (the French) “ remained but three months in Germany; here they would remain for ever: there their extortions and ibeir atrocities were, for want of time, confined to a part of the people; here they would be universal; no sort, no part, no particle of property would remain unseized; no man, woman, or child, would escape violence of some kind or other. Such of our manufactories as are movable they would transport to France, together with the most ingenious of the manufacturers, whose wives and children would be left to starve ; our ships would follow the same course, with all the commerce and commercial means of the kingdom. Having stripped us of every thing, even to the stoutest of our sons, and the most beautiful of our daughters, over all that remained they would establish and exercise a tyranny such as the world never before witnessed. All the estates, all the farms, all the mines, all the land and the houses, all the shops and magazines, all the remaining manufactories, and all the workshops, of every kind and description, from the greatest to the smallest—all these they would bring over Frenchmen to possess, making us their servants and labourers. To prevent us from uniting and rising against them, they would crowd every town and village with their brutal soldiers—who would devour all the best part of the produce of the earth, leaving us not half a sufficiency of bread. They would besides introduce their own bloedy laws, with additional severities, they would divide us into separate classes-hem us up in districts—cut off all communication between friends and relations, parents and children, which latter they would breed up in their own blasphemous principles; they would affix badges upon us-mark us in the cheek — shave our heads-split our ears, or clothe us in the babits of slaves !- And shall we submit to misery and degradation like this, rather than encounter the expenses of war; rather than meet the honourable dangers of military combat; rather than make a generous use of the means which Providence has so bounteously placed in our bands? The sun, in his whole course round the globe, shines not on a spot so blessed as this great and now United Kingdom-gay and productive fields, lofty and extensive woods, innumerable flocks and berds, rich and inexhaustible mines, a mild and wholesome climate, giving health, activity, and vigour to fourteen millions of people ; and shall we, who are thus favoured and endowed shall we, wbo are abundantly supplied with steel, powder, and lead -shall we, who have a feet superior to the maritiine force of all the world, and who are able to bring two millions of fighting men into the field-shall we yield up this dear and happy land, together with all the liberties and honours, to preserve which our fathers so often dyed the land and the sea with their blood ? Shall we thus at once dishonour their graves, and stamp disgrace and infamy on the brows of our children? And shall we, too, make this base and

« ПредишнаНапред »