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theory of Mr. B. the merit of repentance so much exceeds the moral turpitude of transgression, that the faintest indications of it. transport him with admiration. For our parts, were we not aware of the tendency of Socinianism to produce a most attenuated conception of the evil of sin, we should have expected to find such insincerity and impiety deplored in the strongest language of penitential sorrow. As we wish, however, to do ample justice to the real virtues of Mr. L. we feel a pleasure in quoting the following account of the manner in which he conducted himself while he was rector of Catterick.
'No sooner was he settled,' says his biographer, in his new situation, than he applied himself with great assiduity, in his extensive and populous parish, to perform the duties of a parochial minister. He regularly officiated twice on the Sunday in his parish church, and in the interval between the services he catechised young people. He visited the sick, he relieved the poor, he established and supported charity-schools for the children, he spent considerable sums of money in feeding the hungry, in clothing the naked, in providing medicines for the diseased, and in purchasing and distributing the books for the instruction of the ignorant. In his domestic arrangements, the greatest economy was observed, that he and his excellent lady might have the greater surplus to expend in liberality and charity; for it was a rule with him to lay up nothing from the income of his living.' p. 26.
This is, unquestionably, a pleasing picture of the character of an exemplary Christian pastor. It does not appear that any considerable success attended his labours. On this head he contents himself with expressing a faint hope, that some of the seed he had sowed, might not be lost.
In this situation he continued ten years, till a dangerous fit of sickness roused his conscience, and rendered his continuance in the discharge of his ecclesiastical functions insupportable. We are far from wishing to depreciate the value of that sacrifice which Mr. Lindsey tardily and reluctantly made to the claims of conscience; but we cannot conceal our surprise, that a measure to which he was forced, in order to quell the apprehensions he most justly entertained of the displeasure of the Almighty, after a system of prevarication persisted in for upwards of ten years, should be extolled in terms, which can only be applied with propriety to instances of heroic virtue. To prefer the surrender of certain worldly advantages to a perseverance in conduct highly criminal, evinces a mind not utterly insensible to the force of moral obligation, and nothing more. Our admiration must be reserved for a higher species of excellence ;-for an adherence to the side of
delicacy and honor, where many plausibilities might be urged to the contrary; or a resolute pursuit of the path of virtue, when it is obstructed by the last extremities of evil. Mr. Lindsey renounced, it is true, a respectable and lucrative situation in the church, rather than continue any longer in the practice of what he considered as idolatry. But he was unincumbered with a family; he possessed some personal property, and enjoyed the friendship of several great and noble personages, who were never likely to suffer him to sink into absolute poverty. He merely descended to the level where many of the best, and some of the greatest of men, have chosen to place themselves, and where his friend Dr. Priestley, whose talents would have commanded any preferment in the church, chose, from an attachment of the same principles, to remain for life. We approve his resignation of his living, but we confess we are more disposed to wonder that he could reconcile himself to continue in his situation so long, than that he should feel himself compelled to quit it at last.
This event took place in the year 1773; after which he came to London, and a plan was soon set on foot for opening a chapel for him in the metropolis, where, retaining the use of a liturgy modified agreeably to his views, he might promulgate the tenets of Socinus. Many persons, Mr. B. informs us, both of the establishment and among the dissenters, aided the undertaking, among whom are particularly enumerated the following: Dr. Priestley, and Dr. Price, Samuel Shore, Esq. of Norton Hall, in Yorkshire, and Robert Newton, Esq. of Norton House, in the same village.
These gentlemen, in conjunction with others, entered into a subscription, to indemnify him for the necessary expenses incurred in procuring and fitting up his chapel. The place fixed upon for this grand experiment, was a room in Essex House, Essex Street, which having before been used as an auction-room, was capable, at a moderate expense, of being turned into a convenient place of worship. Here Mr. L. introduced his improved liturgy, formed very much upon the plan of Dr. Clarke's, but with such variations as corresponded to the difference of his views from those of that celebrated divine. From this period, the life of Mr. L. proceeds in a very equable and uniform course, with little worthy of remark, besides the various publications to which the system he had adopted gave birth; and over the congregation formed in Essex Street, he continued to preside till his 70th year, when he thought fit to retire from a public station; after which he lived sixteen years, when he was attacked with a disease which was judged to be a pressure of the brain, and expired in the 86th year of his age. Such are the outlines of a narrative which Mr. Belsham has contrived to extend to upwards of five hundred o6
tavo pages. It is by no means our intention to follow the biographer through his boundless excursions, or to criticise every remark which appears to us justly obnoxious to censure. We shall content ourselves with selecting a few passages, and making a few observations, which may serve to illustrate the genius and progress of Socinianism, the promotion of which evidently appears to be the sole object of the writer of these Memoirs.
The secession of Mr. Lindsey from the established church produced much less impression than might have been expected; nor does it appear that his example was followed by one individual among the clergy, until Mr. Disney, his brother-in-law, after the lapse of some years, adopted the same measure, and afterwards became his colleague in the ministry. The establishment of a Socinian chapel with a reformed liturgy in the metropolis, is narrated by our biographer with the utmost pomp, as forming a distinguished epoch in the annals of religion; and undoubtedly great hopes were entertained of its producing a memorable revolution among the Episcopalians, but these expectations were frustrated. The attendance, composed chiefly of persons of opulence, (among whom the Duke of Grafton made the principal figure,) was at no time very numerous, and no similar society was formed from among the members of the established church in any part of the United Kingdom. The utmost that the efforts of Lindsey, Priestley, and others, effected, was to convert the teachers of Arianism among the dissenters, into Socinians, who exerted themselves with tolerable success to disseminate their principles in their respective congregations; so that the boasted triumphs of Socinianism consisted in sinking that section of the dissenting body, who had already departed from the faith, a few degrees lower in the gulf of From these very Memoirs under consideration, we derive the most convincing evidence that the tenets of Socinus, with respect to the nation at large, have lost ground, and that the people of England are much less favorably disposed to them than formerly. They also present us a very full and particular account of the association of a part of the clergy at the Feathers Tavern, to procure relief in the matter of subscription; for which purpose, agreeably to a resolution of the general body, on the 6th of February, 1772, a petition was presented to the house of commons. The number of the petitioners amounted to nearly two hundred and fifty, among whom, the names of the celebrated Archdeacon Blackburne, and Law, Bishop of Carlisle, were the most distinguished. Of the state of the public mind in the metropolis, we have a striking picture in a letter from John Lee, afterwards solicitor-general, a zealous friend of the discontented clergy. 'It will surprise you who live in the country, (says he,) and conse
quently have not been informed of the discoveries of the metropolis, that the Christian religion is not thought to be an object worthy of the least regard; and that it is not only the most prudent, but the most virtuous, and benevolent thing in the world, to divert men's minds from such frivolous subjects with all the dexterity that can be. This is no exaggeration, I assure you; on the contrary, it seems to be the opinion (and their conduct will show it) of nine-tenths of both houses of parliament!' Allowing for some slight exaggerations arising from the chagrin and vexation of the writer, it is still impossible not to perceive, if any credit is due to his statement, that the parliament were not in a disposition to feel any conscientious objections to the repeal of the articles, and that if they opposed such a measure, that opposition originated simply from the fear of innovation common to politicians. The manner in which the debate was conducted when the affair came actually under the consideration of the house, confirms the conclusion.
There was not one member who expressed his belief in the articles: it was treated entirely as a political question, without once adverting to its intrinsic merits, as involving a religious controversy, and Mr. Hans Stanley opposed the bringing up of the petition, as it tended to disturb the peace of the country, which, in his opinion, ought to be the subject of a fortieth article, which would be well worth all the thirty-nine. With such levity and contempt was the national creed treated at that time. Will the sturdiest champion of Socinianism affirm that a similar discussion in the house of commons, or in the upper house, would be conducted in a similar manner at present? or that there would not be one member who would contend for the continuance of the articles on the ground of their intrinsic excellence and verity? The fact is, that through the secularity and irreligion of the clergy, evangelical truth was nearly effaced from the minds of the members of the establishment in the higher ranks, and that an indolent acquiescence in established formularies, had succeeded to the ardor with which the great principles of religion were embraced at the Reformation. Such was the state of the public mind, that in a contest between orthodoxy and heresy, the former proved triumphant, merely because it was already established, and had the plea of antiquity and prescription in its favor. Since that period, vital religion has revived in the national church, the flame of controversy has been widely spread; the inconsistency of Socinianism with the Scriptures, together with its genuine tendency and character, has been fully developed; it has lost the attraction of novelty; it
* See pages 54, 55, of these memoirs.
has revolted the minds of men by its impiety; and having been weighed in the balance, has been found wanting. If among the clergy there still subsist a small remnant who are attached to those unscriptural tenets, they are content with being connived at, and nothing could now urge them to the imprudence of presenting their claims for legal security to the legislature. We hear nothing of an intention to renew the scenes which took place at the Feathers Tavern in 1772.
We consider this as a decisive proof that Socinianism has lost ground in the nation, notwithstanding its prevalence in societies of a certain description among the dissenters; those who never formally renounced the orthodox doctrine, have, in consequence of recent discussions, become more than ever attached to it; while that class of dissenters who were already moving in an heretical direction, have reposed in Socinianism, as their natural centre of gravity. From several other circumstances recorded in these Memoirs, the same inference may be drawn with respect to the discredit under which this system lies at present, compared with the countenance and indulgence with which it was received thirty or forty years back. While Mr. Lindsey was deliberating on the propriety of quitting his living, it was suggested to him by Dr. Priestley, that he might continue to officiate, by making such alterations in the public offices of devotion as corresponded to his peculiar views. Nor was there any ground to suspect,' says Mr. B. that he would have met with any molestation from his superiors.' Mr. Chambers, who held the living of Oundle, in Northamptonshire, Mr. Disney, for many years, and others, did so without being called to account for their conduct. We should be sorry to express ourselves with an improper degree of confidence, but we may venture to express a firm persuasion, that such a silent repeal of the doctrine of the church by the mere authority of a parochial minister, would not now be permitted to pass unnoticed, or uncensured, in any part of the kingdom. The dignitaries of the church are alive to the importance of the distinguishing truths of Christianity, and would shew themselves prompt and eager, as appears from recent instances, to discourage the open disavowal of them. We have no hesitation in asserting that the hope of rendering the tenets of the Polish heresiarch, popular and prevalent throughout this nation, was at no period so completely extinguished as at the present; and from a certain air of despondency which the memorialist of Lindsey betrays, amidst all his gasconades, we are convinced he is of the same opinion. The disposition on all occasions to vaunt of their success, and to predict with great confidence the speedy triumph of their principles, is a peculiar feature in the character of modern Socinians, and