« AnteriorContinuar »
"It is a singular circumstance in the ecclefiaftical history of this country, that in proportion as a man loses all sense of religion and becomes immoral, he sees before him a beccer prospect of enjoying all the privileges of the established church.'
How far prejudice may have dictated the following remark, we pretend not to determine : ' I never (says this Writer) knew an instance in which a convi&tion of the errors of Popery has made one profelyte. They become Protestants as soon as they cease almost to be Christians. It must surely be a bad arrangement, which thus exposes to oppression the fincere and the virtuous, and which opens to the vicious and diffipated man the road of ease, of honour, and of preferment ! Under the article of Priests, the Author informs us,
" that by an arrangement which took place in the reign of James II. England was divided into 4 districts, and a bishop was appointed to prefide over each. They had then 1000l. per annum settled on each of them out of the exchequer ; but this only continued till the Revolution, when they were reduced to the necessity of supporting themselves by the bett means in their power.
Since that time the same regulation with regard to numbers has continued; and as they have no particular place of residence allotted, each bishop generally chuses to live in the most centrical and convenient situation. Their office is to attend the small concerns of their respective districts; to administer the facrament of confirmation, to provide the different congregations with priests, and to take care that these perform their duties, and behave in a manner becoming the character of churchmen-One hundred pounds per ann, is more than equal to the revenue of their episcopal see!
* As far as I can rely on my information, which I think is accurate, the number of priests now employed is about 360. Their diftribution is as follows: In the northern district, which takes in the counties of Northumberland, Cumberland, Westmoreland, Durham, York, Lancaster, and Chelter, there are about 167. Of these, 48 are Ex. Jeluits. Three places are now vacant.
This diftri&t contains the greareit number of priests, and also the greatest number of Catholics; but not in proportion to the number of clergy, many being private chaplains to gentlemen, where there are no congregations. Since their dissolution, nine places have been given up by the Ex. Jesuits, iwo of which are not likely ever to be revived.
• In the mid-land districts are about 90 priests; 28 of which are Ex Jesuits. There are now 14 flaces vacant. This district declines very fall, as appears from the great number of congregations now without priefis. Most of them have been vacant for some time; and no clergymen unengaged have hitherto been found to supply them. It may be noticed, that this district, though composed of the greatest number of counties, and those mostly large, to the amount of 16, contains only 8,460 Ca:holics, which is computed to be about two thirds of what there were about 30 or 40 years ago.
• The weitern diftri&t contains about 44 parishes; 23 are ExJesuits. There is one place vacant, and has been so for fome time, This district is the thinnest of Catholics of any in England, though
its extent is great, It contains eight English counties, and the whole of N. and S. Wales.
• The London district, comprising nine counties, has 58 priests'; 11 are Ex Jesuits. There are five places vacant.
This district hath also diminished, and is decliniog very taft.
• These priests, whose number and distribution I have given, either live as chaplains in the families of Gentlemen, and have the care of the little congregations around them; or else, they refide in towns, or in some country places, where funds have been setuled for their fupport. The chapels are in their own houses.-Twenty pounds per ann, is thought a very handsome salary for a Gentleman's chaplain; and if the rural curate hath (wenty more to keep himself, his horse, and bis servant, it will be said that he is very well provided. Some may have small annuities from their own families; but this is
Our prieits in their general character are upright and fincere : but narrowed by a bad education, they contract early pre: judices, which they very seldom afterward deposite. The theological lumber of the schools supplies, in their minds, the place of more useful furniture.'
With respect to the Popith schools in England, the Author avers, that it is a real fact, that the Catholics have not opened one new school, since the year 1778. The whole number of those which we have, are I think but three; at leait those of any note.
There is one in Hertfordshire, one near Birmingham, and a thi:d near Wolverhampton in Staffordshire. In London are some day-schools'; and in other paris may be perhaps fome little ettablishments where an old woman gives lectures on the Horn.book, and the art of spelling. At the first mentioned schrols, are generally about twenty or thirty boys, who have them about the age of twelve or fourteen, That in Staf. fordshire is far the most numerous; its design is to give some education to children of a lower clafs : they learn their religion, and such other things as may qualify them for trade, and the usual business of life When it can be ovvided, they never admit Proteitanis, from an apprehenfion that it might give offence; as also f:om a well-grounded foipicion, what it would lead gradually to weaken the religious prina ciples of ihe Catholic boys.'
Oo the subject of the foreign fobools for English Catholics, the Author remarks ihat! in the year 1508, Dr Allan, afterwards Cardinal, founded a college for the English at Duway, a town in Flanders, then subject to the Spanish King; and in process of time, o:her colleges and places of education were ettablished in Franre, Spain, and Portu. gal..... The college of Drway is most confiderable, and is governed by a President, and other superiors, all of the English nation. It be. longs to the fecular clergy; and ihe number of Itudents is generally above 100. The revenue of this college is very moderate, and the pention which provides every thing is but 20 l. per annum.
• The clergy have also other feininaries of inferior dillinction at Paris, at Valadolid, in oid callile, at Rome, and ac Lisbon, The number of tudents at these places is considerable..... While the Ję. fại:s stood, Sr. O ner was their grea: school for cladical improvements, and they supplied England with many able and active churchinen. At she expultion of that body from France, their college was given to
the Clergy at Doway, in whose hands it now is, but it answers little purpose. The Jesuits themselves first retired to Bruges, in the Auftrian Netherlands, where they opened another college ; but at their total suppression a few years after, that house was dissolved, together with every other foundation they possessed. They then erected an academy at Liege (for their spirit of enterprize was not to be broken) under the protection of the Bishop, and Prince of that place. They are now no longer Jesuits; but their academy is in great eftimation, and the children of our Catholic gentry principally resort thither for education. However as their object is not to form churchmen (for they think the Church has used them ill) but to instruct youth in the fathionable arts of polished life, the order of Aaron will receive little assistance from their labours.'
The Monks of the order of St. Benedict have also houses abroad, and their prieits come to England. The Friars of St. Francis's order have likewise a college at Doway, which supplies fome priests. Within these few years they have greatly decreased, owing to the wise regulations France has adopted, for the reduction of religious orders; as also because the true spirit of Friarism is much abated.... There is also a third order which now begins rather to encrease. The. Dominicans since the suppression of the Jesuits have grown into more visible form : they have a school near Brussels, and a small convent at Lorrain, in the Austrian territories. Some priests of this order are likewise in England. ' At this day the English Nunneries abroad are no less than twenty
France and the Low Countries have almost the whole number, It is incredible how they have here been able to support themselves; for though in many houses their numbers are very thin, yet they go on braving all the storms of adverse fortune!'
On this subject the Author, in a strain partaking of serious reason-, ing, and lively raillery, observes, that though he is sensible that no mode of education can be less adapted to improve the mind, and to inftil such principles as may form it to the business of life, yet so it, happens, that few ladies have higher pretenfions to the palm of female perfection than have many of the Catholic persuasion. The Public knows the truth of this observation. A display of their characters would I fear offend their modesty, otherwise I would say as wives, as mothers, as citizens, and as Christians, they itand unrival. led. One is sometimes tempted to suspect, that in moulding the soft texture of their minds, nature, too kindly partial, threw in some elements, which otherwise might have fallen to the share of their huss bands.'
On the whole we have received much information, and much entertainment from the perusal of this work. As it was the Author's principal design to convince the Public that neither the church nor the state have any thing to fear from the English Catholics, he hath brought forward every species of materials which his sources of information could supply. I have defcribed (rays he) the Catholics as they really are, and from this description, if it be not evident to the weakest fight, that all is secure, there must be a timidity in Englithmen, that will shudder at the most feeble suggestions of fancy.'
Art. II. Letters to a Philosophical Unbeliever. Part 1. Containing
an Examination of the principal Objections to the Doctrines of Natural Religion ; and especially those contained in the Writings of Mr.
Hume. By Joseph Priestley, LL.D. F.R.S. 8vo. 35. Johnson, T!
HESE Letters are, or may be supposed to be, addressed
to a traveller of an ingenuous disposition; who has had his mind unhinged, with respect to the first principles of natural as well as revealed religion, in consequence of the books he has lately read, and the company he has been obliged to keep. The Author therefore here attempts to give him all the satisfaction he is able, towards the solution of the difficulties that have been proposed to him on these subjects; confining himself however solely to the arguments which prove the being, and the moral attributes, of a Deity.
In the first letter, the Author treats of the nature of evidence in general; and, in the second, of the direct evidence for the belief of a God; which is founded on a conclufion, the justice of which must be acknowledged by every reasoning Being ; viz. that all effects have their adequate causes, or nothing begins to exist without a cause. And as a table or chair, for instance, must not only have had a cause, but likewise a designing cause, capable of comprehending their nature and uses; so the man that constructed them must likewise have had a designing cause, and a cause, or author, capable of comprehending all his powers and properties, of which he himself has only a partial incomplete knowledge, acquired by experience and study. Should it even be allowed, says the Author, that the human species had no beginning, it would not follow that it could be the cause of itself, or that it had no caufe ; for the idea of a cause of any thing implies not only something prior to itself, or at least cotemporary with itself, but something capable at least of comprehending what it produces; and our going back ever so far in the generations of men or animals, brings us no nearer to the least degree of satisfaction on the subject. After thinking in this train ever so long, we find we might just as well suppose that any individual man now living was the first, and without cause, as either any of his ancestors, or the species itself.'
The Author next proceeds to the confideration of the principal difficulties that have been started on this subject; and satisfactorily refutes the objections that have been urged against the belief of a Deity. On this head he observes, that it is of no avail to say that we cannot conceive the original existence of such a being as the Deity; for our having no idea at all of a thing does not imply an impoflibility or contradiction; but arises merely from the limited nature of our faculties. This is mere ignorance, and an ignorance which we can never overcome. In this case,
there is only a difficulty of conceiving, but nothing contrary to our experience ; which relates only to finite substances, that require a, cause. We may be dazzled and astonished at the idea of an uncaused being, but at the same time we are compelled to believe in the existence of an original cause of all things; as an hypothesis absolutely necessary to be assumed, in order to account for evident facts.
The Author next demonstrates the necessary attributes of the Supreme Being, particularly his omnipresence ; as necessarily following from his neceflary existence. While we admit that no power can act but where it is, it follows that God must be present to all his works, and exist even through the boundless extent of infinite space: - an idea just as incomprehensible as his necessary existence, but not more so.'— After this, adds the Author, the probability will be, that his works, as well as himself, occupy the whole extent of space, infinite as it must neceffarily be; and that as he could have had no beginning, fo neither had his works.'
In fupport of this last opinion, the Author obferves that we cannot posibly reconcile ourselves to the idea that a being, infinitely intelligent and powerful, should remain inattive a whale eternity; which must have been the case, if the creation had any beginning at all.- An eternal creation, being the act of an eternal Being, is not at all more incomprehenfible than the eternal existence of that Being himself. Both are incompre. beofible; but the one is the most natural consequence of the other. In fact, there is no greater objection to the supposition of the creation having been eternal, than to duration itself having been eternal; for there cannot be any assignable or imaginable period in duration, in which the creation might not have taken place.'-This opinion, however, the Author offers only as the most probable; and does not conceive it as being by any means a neceffary part of the system of natural religion.--He proceeds to demonftrate, in the same manner, the cmniscience, omnipotence, unchangeableness, and unity, of the Supreme Being.
It would lead us too far, were we to attempt to analyse the Author's arguments, and apposite illustrations, produced to prove the general, and probably infinite, benevolence of the Deity; the great, and nearly infinite, preponderance of good, notwithstanding the necessary existence of evil; the moral government of the world; and the evidence for a future state. We fhall confine ourselves to the giving an extşact from his eighth letter, respecting the last of these subjects; and in which he endeavours to convince even the Atheist, that, upon his own hypothefis, that there is no God, there yet may be a future ftate.
• I think it of some importance to observe, that the degree of moral government under which we are (the constitution of na