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pealing to any other principle but truth and holiness, will be removed also.
There however have been, in many cases, worldly things, treated of by men of this world: a pernicious principle was admitted; but the source of truth and holy earnestness was not yet poisoned; banter had not yet been employed upon things Divine. This is now inadvertently commenced, and the more dangerously because inadvertently. Hitherto it had scarcely been found except among Infidels.
I would then, Sir, request you for a while to lay aside the thoughts of the amusement which your Letter has caused to yourself or others, and to consider in earnestness some of the evils into which it has betrayed you, and may and must betray others. I will confine myself to three :
1. Irreverent treatment of holy things.
And these I impute, not to yourself: on the contrary, I think that, in your natural character, you would be very far from them. I would speak of them only as inseparable consequences of the line which you have taken.
I. IRREVERENCE.-It may suffice, Sir, to mention some of the subjects which were necessarily brought into your
1. Persons' belief as to our Lord's presence in the Communion.
2. The mode in which the Commission ordained for the preaching and maintenance of the everlasting Gospel has been continued to this day.
3. The maintenance of the form of our public worship, and the doctrines therein contained.
4. The comfort which the dying Christian obtains from the provisions of our Church. 5. The unity of the Church of Christ.
6. The authority of His bishops, or of His Church.
7. The quiet frame of mind of a simple, undisputing Christian.
It is not here the question, whether any of the writers whom you ridicule, over-stated the truth upon any of these points. I am convinced that they have not. But granting that they had, is ridicule a safe, a Christian, a godly, weapon to employ in such matters? Is it possible that those who should have been thereby made ashamed of, or scared from, any of those statements, would approach the consideration of the truth itself with that deep and considerate earnestness and reverence of mind which the subject requires,—if, indeed, you yet hold that there be any truth at all connected even with these subjects ? Is it not too probable that the infection of this ridicule will extend to other truths; some of which, I presume, you would not wish to see thus assailed ? since the efficacy of Baptism, the strengthening of the believer's soul by the Body and Blood of his Lord in the holy Eucharist, the Divinity of our Redeemer, and His sacrifice for sin, have been, and still are by some, represented as relics of Popery? The Socinians, and, , more recently, the Rationalists of Germany, regarded or represented themselves as carrying on the work of the first Reformers, in purging Christianity from Papal corruptions.
Ridicule cannot be employed with impunity as a test of truth: error and truth often lie so closely together, nay, most religious error has so much of truth mingled up with it, that the very love of truth ought to preclude the use of jesting ; not
that the fearfulness of the subject, and the majesty of Almighty God, might well instinctively awe man into sobriety. For, through this close connexion of truth and error, mire cannot be cast at error, without defiling the truth also. To take the most palpable errors,—Could a man jest at Transubstantiation, and not thereby unfit his mind for the reception of the holy mystery of the Communion? or would not a mocking at the false doctrine of the Mediation of the Saints lower
men's notions of their high and holy state? or has not the jesting, even at the most unreal delusions of the imagination, injured men's faith in the influences of God's Blessed Spirit ? Throughout, Sir, we are standing upon holy ground; and it beseems us to pull the shoes from off our feet, and tread reverently. Let error be removed as a disease, gently handling those who suffer under it, or repressing those who wilfully propagate it; but let us not sport with the Enemy of men's souls.
This subject, however, has been handled by one to whose talents you would perhaps pay deference,—Bp. Warburton; and to him I would refer
He has not indeed the earnestness or depth of the writers of the seventeenth century, yet he states facts which it were well for this age to lay to heart. For we are now reaping the harvest which the infidels of his day sowed ; only in his times men yet looked to principles—in these they regard only their practical efficiency in carrying a point: then the evil was without, now it is admitted within the Church. I will now, then, request your attention to a few extracts only from his Address to the Freethinkers, to whom he dedicates the first three books of the Divine Legation.
“ Your writers offer your considerations to the world, either under the character of petitioners for oppressed and injured truth, or of teachers to ignorant and erring men. These sure are characters that, if any, require seriousness and gravity to support them. But so great strangers are we to decorum on our entry on the stage of life, that, for the most part, we run giddily on, in a mixed and jumbled character; but have most an end, a strong inclination to make a farce of it, and mingle buffoonery with the most serious scenes. Hence, even in religious controversy, while the great cause of eternal happiness is trying, and men and angels, as it were, attending the issue of the conflict, we can find room for a merry story.-
“This quality [of making men laugh] causing the writer to be so well received, yours have been tempted to dispense with the solemnity of their character, as thinking it of much importance to get the laugh on their side. Hence ridicule is become their favourite figure of speech. It is inconceivable what havoc false wit makes in a foolish head. “The rabble of mankind,' as an excellent writer [Addison] well observes, being very apt to think, that every thing which is laughed at, with any mixture of wit, is ridiculous in itself. Few reflect on what a great wit (Wycherly] has so ingeniously owned, that wit is generally false reasoning.'
“To see what little good is to be expected in this way of wit and humour, one may go further, and observe, that even the ridicule of false virtue hath been sometimes attended with mischievous effects. The Spaniards have lamented, and I believe truly, that Cervantes's just and inimitable ridicule of knight-errantry rooted up, with that folly, a great deal of their real honour. And it was apparent that Butler's fine satire on fanaticism contributed not a little, during the licentious times of Charles II., to bring sober piety into disrepute. The reason is evident: there are many lines of resemblance between truth and its counterfeits; and it is the province of wit only to find out the likenesses in things, and not the talent of the common admirers of it to discover the differences."
But if these evils result from ridiculing religious error, what shall be said, if what you have ridiculed be after all the truth? And yet, because ultra-Protestants of the present day think any truth to approximate to Popery, it follows not that it is Popish, or if found in Popery, it follows not that it is untrue, else must all the Catholic verities be untrue also. Whenever you shall be pleased to abandon the ground of ridicule, and to treat questions of religious truth with seriousness, then will we also show, that the positions which you have ridiculed are neither Papistical nor untrue, but that you have been ridiculing the truth. Meanwhile we propose for
consideration a catalogue of writers (which might easily be swelled to any amount), who, upon the subject which you have chosen for your chiefest ridicule, and which ultra-Protestants of this day are most ashamed of, have spoken as strongly as they, whom you on that ground decry as Papists : I mean, Apostolical Succession.
I would only observe by the way, since persons in these days dispense lightly with truths, the value whereof they do not understand, that in jesting at the doctrine of apostolical succession you despise a fact, wherein one of the acutest writers of any age or land saw an evidence for the truth of our holy faith. The apostolical succession of ministers is a fact which satisfies Leslie's criteria of the truth of the history wherewith it is connected; and the sceptical Middleton in vain attempted, during
i See Appendix. Tracts for the Times, No. 74.
above ten years, to find any case, to which Leslie's criteria applied, and which yet was untrue.
I will extract such portion of Leslie's words, as may suffice to explain this. (Short and Easy Method with the Deists,
“Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, were instituted as perpetual memorials of these things (the matters of fact recorded in the Gospel of our Blessed Saviour); and they were not instituted in after-ages, but at the very time when these things were said to be done, and have been observed without interruption in all ages through the whole Christian world, down all the way, from that time to this. And Christ Himself did ordain apostles, and other ministers of His Gospel, to preach and administer these sacraments, and to govern His Church, and that always, even unto the end of the world. Accordingly, they have continued by regular succession to this day; and no doubt ever shall, while the earth shall last. So that the Christian clergy are as notorious a matter of fact, as the tribe of Levi among the Jews. And the Gospel is as much a law to the Christians as the books of Moses to the Jews; and it being part of the matters of fact related in the Gospel, that such an order of men were appointed by Christ, and to continue to the end of the world, consequently, if the Gospel was a fiction, and invented (as it must be) in some age after Christ, then, at that time, when it was first invented, there could be no such order of clergy, as derived themselves from the institution of Christ; which must give the lie to the Gospel, and demonstrate the whole to be false. And the matters of fact of Christ being pressed to be true, no otherwise than as there was at that time (whenever the Deists will suppose the Gospel to be forged) not only public sacraments of Christ's institution, but an order of clergy, likewise of His appointment, to administer them; and it being impossible there could be any such things before they were invented, it is as impossible that they should be received when invented.”
Of a truth, you know not wherewith you are trifling; and I would mention this rather as an unexpected benefit, derived from adherence to the truth, than as the use of that truth,—an instance how many hidden values every truth contains within it, though but gradually perhaps evolved to us, how much more than we are aware we lose, if we abandon truth.
The progress of error on this head is indeed a warning how men be ashamed of any, even though it seem to them the least portion of the truth committed to their trust; men first suppressed it as invidious, and an obstacle to charity, then were ashamed of it, then disbelieved it, lastly ridicule it. Those