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After expressing his contempt of the evangelical clergy as preachers, he proceeds to characterize them in the following manner as writers.
'Here,' says he, 'I can with great truth affirm, that many included in that description of clergymen now under consideration, are sorely grieved, by much of what comes out as the produce of authorship on their side. And well they may be; to see, as is frequently the case, the blessed truths of the gospel degraded, by being associated with newspaper bombast, with impudence, with invective, with dotage, with drivelling cant, with buffoonery, and scurrility! Who can read these despicable publications, without thinking contemptuously of all who abet them? But let not every one, in whom an occasional coincidence of opinion may be recognized, be included in this number. For it is a certain truth, that the writings of avowed infidels are not more offensive to several of the clergy in question, than are some of the publications here alluded to. Let them not therefore be judged of, by that which they condemn; by productions, which they consider as an abuse of the liberty of the press, and a disgrace to the cause which their authors profess to serve.' p. 179.
Whoever remembers that the most learned interpreter of prophecy now living ranks with the evangelical clergy, whoever recalls to his recollection the names of Scott, Robinson, Gisborne, and a multitude of others of the same description, will not easily be induced to form a contemptuous opinion of their literary talents, or to suspect them of being a whit behind the rest of the clergy in mental cultivation or intellectual vigor. In a subsequent edition, the author has explained his meaning, by restricting the censure to all who have ranged themselves on the side of the clergy under consideration. But as far as the most explicit avowal of the same tenets can indicate any thing, have not each of the respectable persons before mentioned ranged themselves on their side? Or if he will insist upon limiting the phrase to such as have defended them in controversy, what will he say of Overton, whose work, for a luminous statement of facts, an accurate arrangement of multifarious articles, and a close deduction of proofs, would do honor to the first polemic of the age? In affecting a contempt of this most able writer, he has contradicted himself, having, in another part of this work, borne a reluctant testimony to his talents. He closes his animadversions on the clergy usually styled evangelical, with the following important concessions.
'We are ready to own, though there have been a few instances to the contrary, that the moral conduct of the men in question is consistent with their calling; and that though the faults above detailed
are found among them, yet that as a body they are more than free from immoralities.' p. 162.
The men to whom their accuser ascribes an assemblage of virtues so rare and so important, must unquestionably be 'the excellent of the earth,' and deserve a very different treatment from what they have received at his hands.
Before we put a final period to this article, we must beg the reader's patience to a few remarks on the general tendency of the work under examination.
For the freedom of the censure the author has assumed, he cannot plead the privilege of reproof. He has violated every law by which it is regulated. In administering reproof, we are not wont to call in a third party, least of all the party to whom the persons reproved are directly opposed. Besides, if reproof is intended to have any effect, it must be accompanied with the indications of a friendly mind; since none ever succeeded in reclaiming the person he did not appear to love. The spirit this writer displays toward the object of his censure, is decidedly hostile; no expressions of esteem, no attempt to conciliate; all is rudeness, asperity, and contempt. He tells us in his preface, ' It is difficult to find an apology for disrespectful language under any circumstances; if it can be at all excused, it is when he who utters, lets us know from whence it comes; but he who dares to use it, and yet dares not put his name to the abuse, gives us a reason to conclude that his cowardice is equal to his insolence.' (Pref. p. 4.) In violation of his own canon, he seems to have assumed a disguise for the very purpose of giving an unbridled indulgence to the insolence he condemns.
If we consider him in the light of a public Censor, he will appear to have equally neglected the proprieties of that character. He, who undertakes that office, ought, in all reason, to direct his chief attention to vice and impiety; which, as the common foes of human nature, give every one the privilege of attack. Though his subject naturally led him to it, we find little or nothing of the kind. In his eagerness to expose the aberrations of goodness, the most deadly sins and the most destructive errors are scarcely noticed. In surveying the state of morals, the eccentricities of a pious zeal, a hair-breadth deviation from ecclesiastical etiquette, a momentary feeling of tenderness towards Dissenters, are the things which excite his indignation; while the secularity, the indolence, the ambition, and dissipation, too prevalent in the church, almost escape his observation. We do not mean to assert, that it is always improper to animadvert on the errors of good men ; we are convinced of the contrary. But, whenever it is attempted, it
ought to be accompanied with such expressions of tenderness and esteem, as shall mark our sense of their superiority to persons of an opposite description. In the moral delineations with which the New Testament abounds, when the imperfections of Christians are faithfully reprehended, we are never tempted to lose sight of the infinite disparity betwixt the friends and the enemies of the gospel. Our reverence for good men is not impaired by contemplating their infirmities; while those who are strangers to vital religion, with whatever amiable qualities they may be invested, appear objects of pity. The impression made by the present performance is just the reverse. The character of the unquestionably good is placed in so invidious a light on the one hand, and the bad qualities of their opponents so artfully disguised and extenuated on the other, that the reader feels himself at a loss which to prefer. Its obvious tendency is to obliterate every distinctive mark and characteristic, by which genuine religion is ascertained.
The writer of this work cannot have intended the reformation of the party on which he has animadverted; for, independently of his having, by the rudeness of his attack, forfeited every claim to their esteem, he has so conducted it that there is not one in fifty guilty of the faults he has laid to their charge. Instead of being induced to alter their conduct, they can only feel for him those sentiments which unfounded calumny is apt to inspire. The very persons to whom his censures apply, will be more likely to feel their resentment rise at the bitterness and rancor which accompanies them, than to profit by his admonitions.
As we are fully convinced that the controversy agitated between the evangelical party and their opponents, involves the essential interests of the gospel, and whatever renders Christianity worth contending for, we cannot but look with jealousy on the person who offers himself as an umpire; especially when we perceive a leaning towards the party which we consider in the wrong. This partiality may be traced almost through every page of the present work. Were we to look only to speculative points, we might be tempted to think otherwise. It is not, however, in the cool argumentative parts of a work, that the bias of an author is so much to be perceived, as in the declamatory parts when he gives a freer scope to his feelings. It is in the choice of the epithets applied to the respective parties, in the expression of contemptuous or respectful feeling, in the solicitude apparent to please the one, combined with his carelessness of offending the other, that he betrays the state of his heart. Judged by this criterion, this author must be pronounced an enemy to the evangelical party. We hope this unnatural alienation from the servants of Christ will not prove contagious, or it will soon completely
overthrow that reformation which the Established Church has experienced within the last fifty years.
When Samson was brought into the house of Dagon to make sport for the Philistines, it was by the Philistines themselves; had it been done by an Israelite, it would have betrayed a blindness much more deplorable than that of Samson. Great as were the irregularities and disorders which deformed the church at Corinth, and severely as they were reprehended, it is easy to conceive, but impossible to express the indignation Paul would have felt, had a Christian held up those disorders to the view and the derision of the heathen world. It is well known that the conduct of Luther, of Carlostadt, and of many other reformers, furnished matter of merited censure, and even of plausible invective; but he who had employed himself in emblazoning and magnifying their faults, would have been deemed a foe to the Reformation. Aware that it will be replied to this, the cases are different, and neither the truth of Christianity nor the doctrines of the Reformation are involved in the issue of the present controversy, we answer, without hesitation, that the controversy now on foot does involve nearly all that renders it important for Christianity to be true, and most precisely the doctrines of the Reformation, to which the Papists are not more inimical, (in some points they are less so) than the opponents of the evangelical clergy. It is the old enmity to the gospel, under a new form; an enmity as deadly and inveterate, as that which animated the breast of Porphyry or of Julian.
The impression of character on the public mind, is closely connected with that of principles; so that, in the mixed questions more especially which regard religion and morals, it is in vain to expect men will condescend to be instructed by those whom they are taught to despise. Let it be generally supposed that the patrons of orthodox piety are weak, ignorant, and enthusiastic, despicable as a body, with the exception of a few individuals; after being inured to such representations from their enemies, let the public be told this by one who was formerly their friend and associate, and is it possible to conceive a circumstance more calculated to obstruct the efficacy of their principles? Will the prejudices of an irreligious world against the gospel be mitigated, by being inspired with contempt for its abettors? Will it be won to the love of piety, by being schooled in the scorn and derision of its most serious professors?
We can readily suppose, that, stung with the reproaches cast upon his party, he is weary of bearing the cross; if this be the case, let him at once renounce his principles, and not attempt, by mean concessions and a temporizing policy, to form an impracti cable coalition betwixt the world and the church. We apprehend
the ground he has taken is untenable, and that he will be likely to please neither party. By the friends of the gospel he will be in danger of being shunned as an accuser of the brethren ;' while his new associates regard him with the contempt due to a sycophant.
It must give the enlightened friends of religion concern, to witness a spirit gaining ground amongst us, which, to speak of it in the most favorable terms, is calculated to sow the seeds of discord. The vivid attention to moral discrimination, the vigilance which seizes on what is deemed reprehensible, is unhappily turned to the supposed failings of good men, much to the satisfaction, no doubt, of an ungodly world. The practice of caricaturing the most illustrious men has grown fashionable among us. With grief and indignation we lately witnessed an attempt of this kind on the character of Mr. Whitefield, made, if our information be correct, by the present author; in which every shade of imperfection, which tradition can supply, or ingenuity surmise, is industriously brought forward for the purpose of sinking him in public estimation. Did it accomplish the object intended by it? It certainly did not. While the prejudice entertained against Whitefield, by the enemies of religion, was already too violent to admit of increase, its friends were perfectly astonished at the littleness of soul, and the callousness to every kind feeling, which could delight in mangling such a character. It was his misfortune to mingle freely with different denominations, to preach in unconsecrated places, and convert souls at uncanonical hours; whether he acted right or wrong in these particulars, it is not our province to inquire. That he approved himself to his own conscience, there is not the least room to doubt. Admitting his conduct, in the instances alluded to, to have been inconsistent with his clerical engagements, let it be temperately censured; but let it not efface from our recollection the patient self-denial, the inextinguishable ardor, the incredible labors, and the unexampled success, of that extraordinary man. The most zealous votaries of the church need be under no apprehension of her being often disgraced by producing such a man as Mr. Whitefield. Nil admirari, is an excellent maxim, when applied, as Horace intended it, to the goods of fortune; when extended to character, nothing can be more injurious. A sensibility to the impression of great virtues, bordering on enthusiasm, accompanied with a generous oblivion of the little imperfections with which they are joined, is one of the surest prognostics of excellence.
Verum, ubi plura nitent-non ego paucis