Page images
PDF
EPUB

performed, and by that means in respect of the persons on whom it is to be performed; and, by the formulary, against any abuse in the mode of performance. If he varies, this holy person, from the formulary, though it be but an iota, the operation is void, and the sins are not forgiven : ask Sir William Scott else, or Mr. Justice Bailey, or Mr. Justice Parke.

Zealot.-Oh, but to give the boy these powers, would be to give him Priest's Orders : and he is not so much as in Deacon's Orders.

Graduate.-Priest's Orders! Deacon's Orders! Where did you get these Orders ? From Jesus? Alas! no. From whom then? Even from the Whore of Babylon, alias Holy Mother Church. Why did you ever quit her? Go back to herget absolution from her and make your peace. From her you may have a whole heap more of Orders, one upon another : all of them under Deacon's, each of them conveying altogether as much inspiration as can be conveyed by Deacon's. Turn to the Acts of the Apostles. What else was a Deacon but a manager of the common funds ? Whatsoever a Deacon was then, is not a Churchwarden now ?-Well, if you cannot part with your Deacon's Orders, keep them then: it need make no difference. You cumulate Divinity Degrees (in your Universities I mean) :-you cumulate the two Divinity Degrees :-what should hinder your cumulating these two Orders ? — True it is, that when, on his way to the priesthood, a man is as yet but a Deacon, he has no power of himself (you say) to forgive sins: all he can as yet do is to beg of God Almighty to forgive them,—who, therefore, on this particular occasion, is left to do as he pleases : accordingly, instead of the Absolution, what the Deacon reads is no more than a Prayer: it is only when, by having been made to receive the Holy Ghost, he the Deacon has been transformed into a Priest, that he receives this power: and then and thereafter it is, that, immediately upon his pronouncing the Absolution, the sins vanish off the score, whether God Almighty pleases or not :-or else where is the difference ?The implied con. fession thus put into the Deacon's mouth-the confession of his own incapacity to pronounce the Absolution of the incapacity he labours under, as to the forgiving the sins otherwise than with the help of the Almighty-is one of your contrivances--and a more ingenious one could not easily have been hit upon—for satisfying the people, that the incapacity will be changed into power, as soon as the Deacon is ripened into a Priest. The boy, be he ever so young,--if he says, or is supposed to have said his Catechism, you give him Confirmation. What then should hinder your giving him Deacon's, and Priests, or any other Orders, at the same time?-It will be so much trouble saved : ånd, generally speaking, you are not overfond of trouble. After all, if it be more agreeable to you to take two ceremonies to do it in than one, so be it.

One word more. The power of forgiving or retaining 'sins, and thereby of sending any body to heaven or hell at pleasure being given, how came you-aye, and how do ye now continue to be-80 barbarous, as to send men in such multitudes to hell—aye, or so much as a single one of them ?-Why do you leave any man’s sins unforgiven? Why do not you keep on forgiving sins as fast as they are committed, and thus send every body to heaven?

Zealot. Sir, we know better things. Sir, if I were to send to heaven a man who ought to go to hell,-yourself, Sir, for example,—this would be a sin, Sir,--and a most enormous sin, and God would send me to hell for committing it.

Graduate. Not he, indeed: if you would but manage properly, as you might do without difficulty. Take to yourself, for example, one other man endowed with the same useful powers. At the same instant, each of you forgive, in one breath, all the sins of the whole world,—those of his partner included,--and in particular, for fear of mis. takes, this last sin, which consists in the forgiving of all the other sins. This done, what sin is there left, for which God could send you to hell, or do any thing else to you that you would not like? Now then, if hell overflows, and heaven is almost a desert, with none but a few choice Church-of-Englandists to roam about in it, who is it that is to blame?- Who but you and yours?

Zealot. Alas! what is all this but ridicule 2-And ridi. cule--can it, even in your own estimation, be considered as fair argument ?-fit to be made use of as a test of truth?

Graduate. That depends upon where it is fetched fromwhether from without or from within. If from without, no: as if, for example,-in speaking of your notion about causing a man, by laying your hands upon his head, and speaking certain words to him, to receive the Holy Ghost, -I were to compare you to a juggler, who making as if he had put a ring into a box, gives it to a man to hold, who, upon opening it, finds there is no ring there. Here the way in which ridicule cast upon the serious and important subject is cast, is-by presenting to view along with it another subject, which is in itself a trifling one, and has not any connection with it, material to the purpose in hand.

But if it be by matter taken from the subject itself, and necessarily belonging to it, that the ridicule is reflected upon it, no argument can be fairer: nor can there be in this case a fairer test of truth, i.e. a surer proof that what

is given for true is not so,—than what is applied, whert, by the matter thus drawn from the notion itself, the quality of ridiculousness is shewn to belong to it. Such is the case, in so far as any position, which is either a necessary consequence of the one in question, or necessary to be advanced to form a ground for it, is to a certain degree absurd: viz. to such a degree as to appear ridiculous :—the more palpably absurd it is, the more flagrantly ridiculous.

Thus as to this notion of yours this notion of your having power to give power to other men to remit sing. What ground do you produce for it? What other than the above passage in St. John's Gospel, in which he speaks of Jesus as conferring this power on his Apostles. Now then, (say I), there is only one supposition, on which, by his conferring it upon his Apostles, he has conferred it upon you : and that is your being the same persons with those his Apostles. Necessary is an assumption to that effect to the proving of your having any such power: orto take it the other way_assuming that, in consequence of what Jesus thus said to his Apostles, you have this power,-it follows that you are the same persons with those his Apostles. But—this notion of your being the same persons with those Apostles of Jesus—to such a degree, in my view of the matter, I must confess, is it an absurd one, that if it be not a ridiculous one, I know not where any such notion as a ridiculous one is to be found. To come then to the principal notion-viz. that of your having the power to remit sins, or to give to any body else that same power—the cause of the ridicule cast on it, is it any thing external and foreign to the notion itself? No: it is a quality, not only belonging to the notion itself, but inseparable from it: viz. its requiring this other undeniably absurd and ridiculous notion for a necessary support, or

including it as a necessary consequence. Exhibit it with its necessary supports and consequences, no otherwise than by misrepresentation can this, or any other notion, which is thus in itself ridiculous, be made to appear not ridiculous.

Let but this be received as law, viz. that nothing that, in the exercise of their power, has on the subject of religion been advanced by men in power, is to be caused to appear ridiculous,-then may every thing which is not only most absurd, but most mischievous as well as absurd, be ad. vanced by them without possibility of contradiction, and, for want of refutation, assent by force of authority procured to the most pernicious notions, practice altogether governed by them,--and the public mind reduced to the state in which it is already in Spain, and, thanks to those who rule in England, will presently be in France.

Zealot.-Well, Sir, you seem to be talking all this while very much at your ease, but will you find it altogether so easy to exculpate this talk of yours from the charge of blasphemy?

Graduate.- This depends upon what you mean by blasphemy. If it be language intentionally expressive of, or proceeding from, disrespect towards the Almighty,--towards a being believed by myself to exist, and to be Almighty,neither on this present occasion is any such blasphemy to be found in me, nor on any occasion in any man whatsoever has any such blasphemy been found, unless the man were absolutely and literally mad. Not being mad, no such sentiment towards the Almighty do I entertain,-of no such sentiment is this or any other language of mine intentionally expressive. In this sense then have I as easily as effectually exculpated this my talk from the charge of blasphemy. But, if this be not what you mean by blasphemy,-then, unless you mean by it something

« PreviousContinue »