Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

time vacillated as to what party he should seek employment among, or whether he should desert religious teaching altogether, and follow a secular employment, was, what Isuppose they would call it, providentially thrown in their way; and it will not be amiss to point out some of the links of the great chain by which Providence accomplished this important work.

While Mr. Aspland was unsettled as to what line of conduct he should pursue, or how he should turn his learning and talents to the best account, he was invited to take the charge of a congregation in the Isle of Wight. In this place he continued till a better offer presented, of being tutor in a gentleman's family. He then left that congregation without a pastor, but in his way to take possession of his new employe ment, though he had deserted his former congregation, and left them to seek a teacher where they could-he was invited to accept a much more eligible situation, the people being richer and the salary more liberal at Hackney, than those he had left in a widowed state. After some feigned reluctance of, “I won't be a bishop,” he was constrained to accept their earnest invitation, and with the consent of his new employers, he succeeded Mr. Belsham, who went to officiate at Essex Street. These then are the links by which this great and learned man became the teacher of those who had before been taught by Messrs. Price, Priestley, and Belsham; and who, if Mr. Aspland was to leave them, must again look out for some other stranger who had eloquence enough to tickle their vitiated ears, or learning to defend their doctrines.

Here then is a proof of the blessings of modern practice; but I would ask what principle must those men possess who 'would chuse for a teacher of their duty, a man who, if a public preacher is a necessary article for a congregation, had so for. gotten or misunderstood his own duty as to leave those people destitute over whom he was first appointed and why, if they had any principle at all, did they not send him back to the Isle of Wight, when they had pretailed upon him again to resume the ministerial office? The answer is obvious, they loved themselves better than their neighbour; "they did not do as they would be done by;" and he never thought of doing so himself, because his talents being his merchantable commodity, he sold them of course to the best bidder.

His conduct reminds me of an anecdote of a preacher in America, who told his congregation he had a call from God to become the minister of another set of people. A black man (aye! a negro slave) had sense enough to ask hin these questions. 66 Massa, you say God call you to go to another people; pray, massa, what you get in this place ?” “ One hundred pounds per year," said the priest; “and, pray,

massa,” says. the black, “how much you have with the other people ?” Two hundred pounds,” replied the priest. “Ah! massa, massa,” says the black, “ Í see why you listen to call of God to go from us-God might call you, massa, till he be tired, to leave two hundred pounds per year, to go and teach poor souls for one hundred.

This reasoning of the black's has been admired by most Christians who have read it, as too true a picture of the clergy; but should a Christian attempt to say as much of Mr. Aspland, he would be called a calumniator and uncharitable; but can two cases be more alike? yet Mr. Aspland is chosen, and continued to be, a teacher of the enlightened congregation at Hackney!

But it will not be foreign to my subject to state a few particulars of the man whom he succeeded. Mr. Belsham is a man of learning, and I believe possessed of considerable private property. He is a man whom, with or without his canonicals, nature or habit seems to have marked, in legible characters, on his face and whole deportment- priest. This man who succeeded Dr. Priestley at Hackney, followed invariably the customs of that place, as handed down by his predecessor. I do not know that he ever altered one article of the faith left by Dr. Priestley. He dressed in black, he wore no gown, he read his prayers and sermons, and did as Dr. Priestley did, with little or no deviation; and wlien be removed to Essex Street, he as readily put on the trammels ready prepared for him at that place, as he put off those he had practised at Hackney.

Both people being Unitarians in sentiment, it may not be amiss to state where they differ in practice. At Hackney, the preacher writes his own prayers, he wears black cloaths, but no canonicals, and the people are Presbyterians; at Essex Street, the minister is cloathed in all the nonsensical paraphernalia of a church parson, and reads every Sunday the same prayers over and over again, called the Reformed Church Liturgy, and they are reformed churchmen. To all these differences Mr. Belsham's conscience made no scruple, and he put them on as he would have put on a new suit of cloaths. It has been said that Mr. Belsham could have no pecuniary motive in removing from Hackney to Essex Street, because at the former place he received four hundred pounds per year, and at the latter only three hundred pounds; but let it be observed that this congregation is supposed to be composed of persons of greater riches and consequence than the other: nay, it is now acknowledged that the late Duke of Grafton, whose me. mory Junius has made so famous, ranked among the number, and' was admitted to pay his subscription under the name of # friend. . A friend to the cause indeed he must be, who was

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ashamed to give it his name, and who brought up one of his sons to be a minister in the church of England; and consequently to teach a doctrine directly opposite to that to which he is allowed the title of a friend ; yet to this man's memory did this supple teacher, Mr. Belsham, preach a funeral sermon. »

In a congregation composed as this is, we are not to look merely at the salary, any more than of a benefit night at the theatre, we are to look at the price of the box ticket; but think of the genteel method practised by great men on such occasions. With a gentle squeeze of the hand-my dear Sir, you have contributed so much to my amusement, do honour me by accepting this small, very small acknowledgment; and it will immediately explain the cause why Mr. Belsham left four hundred pounds per year to accept three hundred, without believing him to be a follower of the example of Jesus and his apostles, or the most disinterested man in the world.

I have thought it necessary to make these reniarks on these X va two reverend gentlemen; because I mean to make their prac- 37 Gini tice, and the constitution of wbat they call their churches or congregations, the criterion between modern and primitive practice. Both their churches are united upon a similar plan, a building is erected, pews allotted for the people, and a pulpit for the preacher, and public instruction is confined to the preacher; every person who pays for a ticket is a worshipper in this temple--entitled to a pew-mand becomes a member of the congregation, let his character be what it may. Each of them have some little accommodation for strangers; but the pews are in general preserved for the subscribers, I believe with most strictness at Essex Street. They have no laws to govern them as a body; the priest, and a belief in the unity of Deity, are the only bond of union. At Hackney, as I have said hefore, a prayer is read by the priest, such as he approves; at Essex Street, the reformed church liturgy, hy Dr. Clark, is a standing dish, At both places the preacher takes a text, and in a written sermon, or from copious notes, explains it to the people; (by this practice it would take one year and a half to preach upon, and explain all the verses in the 119th psalm; seventysix years to go through the New Testament, and two hundred and twenty-three years for the old ; and to explain and preach upon both, two hundred and ninety-nine years, allowing for two sermons every Sunday, there being in the New Testament seven thousand nine hundred and fifty-three, and in the Old Testament, twenty-three thousand two hundred and fourteen verses !) Can we then be surprised that people need a teacher all their lives, who sanction such a practice? After this sermon, this descanting upon a verse of the bible, the priest reads. or says a prayer, the people sing a hynn, and then depart, ex

[ocr errors]

( food

cept on sacrament Sundays, when all who please may partake of what they call the Lord's supper, from the hands of the priest.

I am not certain whether these men call themselves preachers of the gospel, or pastors of a church; if the latter, and their preaching is the feeding of their flock, I think what I have stated above will prove their utter inutility; if preachers of the gospel, their business must be with sinners; they may, perhaps, address themselves to such, but how are they to hear? the places being all taken by, and the parson employed for the service of, the saints, without whose pay he would never preach. But in addition to these practices, which are nearly held in common by the reverend Mr. Aspland, and the reverend Mr. Belsham, the former, since he has come into the connection, has introduced some additional methods for the promotion of Christianity. He has instituted tavern feasts, at which every thing that good cheer, a compliance with the world, fulsome fattery of the preachers and of the people can do, to make men

Unitarian Christians, is done-even the assistance of John the there waiter is not refused. Here book societies, academy societies,

the missionary societies, and gossiping societies, are all encouSeram raged, for the laudable purpose of promoting genuine Chrisgoooffry tianity, alias for making Unitarian converts to supply the 'z uredithshops and bellies of idle and expectant priests! heferincfeld Having thus, Sir, shewn you a fair outline of the modern furgaring method of propagating Christianity, and the constitution of

modern congregations or churches, from two of the most enafmuld lightened and rational that exist, I shall endeavour to prove aluse from scripture, that it is altogether contrary to, and subver

sive of Christianity; and that even on the ground of expediency and utility, the scripture method is infinitely preferable in every respect; of course, all pretence of expediency and utility for déviating from it must fall to the ground.

As the words preach and teach will frequently occur in the course of my quotations, and as they apply to distinct and se. parate actions, it may be necessary to give some explanation of their true and original meaning, as they are never put for each

other in the whole of the New Testament. The word preach Bende signifies to proclaim, and preacher, a herald or proclaimer. (See

Wilson's Christian Dictionary). It originated from the Olympic Games, in which the herald proclaimed the combat, the prize, or the laws of the game. In the New Testament, it is used for proclamation, or crying out, to give warning. A proclamation may be one short sentence only; and every one would see the absurdity of a monarch who should issue a proclamation that was so ambiguous as to require an order of men for ever to explain it. The proclamation that Jesus bad, as *

form an

[ocr errors]

herald, to make was, “repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at land;" and the apostles' proclamation was the resurrection

and exaltation of the Messiah. All this we have in the New Testament, and therefore need no herald to proclaim it; and though announcing publicly the reign of the Messiah comes always under the term to preach or proclaim, no moral instructions given by Jesus or his apostles are ever in the gospels or acts of the apostles so denominated. The sermon of Jesus on the mount, as it is called, his conversations, his parables, his private discourses with his disciples, are always called teaching, but never once preaching, proclaiming, or heraldising; of course, the modern practice of preaching has no authority from the New Testament; as uttering a discourse is not a proclamation, and these men have no commission as heralds, or any thing new to proclaim. The word teaching is equally inapplicable ; for, in all those places where it occurs, it will be found that it was that familar kind of conversation that adinit. ted of question and answer, with which pulpit teaching is totally incompatible; and I would ask which is the most use. fuland expedient method of instruction, that where the teacher utters all he has to say without giving an opportunity to the hearer to make his objections, or to ask a solution of any difficulty—and that adopted by Jesus and his apostles, which admitted of both ?

Now I shall proceed to shew the plan adopted by Jesus and bis apostles for the propagation of the Christian religion in their time; next, the means they took to perpetuate it ; and, lastly, the constitution, discipline, and practice of the Christian church during the lives of the apostles: and first, as to the method pursued by Jesus! He was, is allowed by all Chris tians, a man commissioned by God to establish a new dispensation, in which he was to be both king and lawgiyer; he was properly qualified for his office, knew perfectly the mind and will of God respecting it, and of course was well acquainted with the best means of accomplishing this divine mission. He did not erect a pulpit, and deliver stated discourses to a select audience; he did not require pay for his services; he did not distinguish himself by any peculiar garb or title from his dis. ciples--he always acted upon one simple plan, and directed his disciples to do the same. When he performed the office of an herald he proclaimed, “ repent, and be converted, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”- when he sent out his twelve disciples (Luke ix. 1 to 6) he commanded them to do the same, and we find (verse 6)“they departed, and went through the town, preaching (proclaiming) the gospel (or good news.)” And again, when he sent seventy others (Luke x, 1 to 16) be gave them like orders, (verse 9) “and say unto them, the

« AnteriorContinuar »