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Act* xxvi. int-iTiibly polite; to the Athenian*, Act* xvii. eloquent and learned; to the Jews, argumentative, from principles which they universally acknowledged. To all he was faithful. In all cases there was adaptation; there was no abandonment of truth, but a selection of the right topic, addressed in the most proper manner.
'Adaptation requires, that we place the same truths in various lights, that he who misses it in one representation may perceive it in another. Adaptation requires us to distinguish between the characters of our hearers, that we may "give to every man hit "portion in due season." The broad and general distinction of saint and sinner is by no means sufficient. A medical practitioner not only distinguishes the sick from the healthy, but duly considers the different kinds of their maladies, and the various degrees and circumstances of each kind. We should not only lay down the general and decisive marks of distinction "between the precious "and the vile," but diligently study the various characters of every species, of every class, of every individual, till, without the appearance of personality, we insulate every man from his fellow, and constrain him to hear the voice of conscience, following our descriptions with—" Thou art the man !" * pp. 21—23.
As the Sermon is within the reach of almost all our readers, we shall not multiply extracts, but refer them to the discourse itself, and particularly to its closing pages.
Art. X. Resolutions and Statements relative to the Persecution of the French Protestants, Extracted from the Proceedings of Protestant Dissenting Ministers of the three Denominations, in and about the Cities of London and Westminster. 8vo. pp. 28. price 6d. Longman and Co. 1816.
l'< alluded to this publication in our last Number, but we deem it advisable to place it more distinctly before our readers as the accredited report of a Committee of the whole body of Dissenting Ministers in London, whose character is staked on the genuineness and authenticity of the details which it contains. These details are not derived from doubtful or anonymous sources, although, for obvious reasons, the names of the individuals referred to are withheld, but they are extracted from the correspondence which the Committee have found the means of maintaining with their suffering Protes ant brethren in France.
This subject has been involved in so much mistake and misrepresentation, owing to the political shape which it has lately assumed, that it may be necessary to state in as few words as possible, for the information of some of our readers, the plain matter of fact as it respects the proceedings of this Committee, in reference to the object in question: an object, as they conceived, not of a political, but of a religious nature; which claimed their attention as men, on the simple ground of uuInanity, but which appealed to them more emphatically as the Ministers of the Gospel of peace.
On receiving the first authentic intelligence with respect to the apprehensions and the actual sufferings of Protestants in the South of France, the Dissenting Ministers of London delegated some of their general body to lay before his Majesty's Government the information they had received, and-to acquaint the Minister with the steps which they intended to take in consequence, ihe deputation were received by his Majesty's Ministers with that respectful attention which the present Administration have uniformly manifested in the case of official communications from the General Body of Dissenters: and no objection was made on the part of the Government to the collections which the Committee stated it to be their intention to recommend to the congregations of their several denominations throughout the kingdom, on behalf of the Protestants in the South of France.
In the Resolutions which the General Body subsequently adopted, no opinion was expressed as to the degree of responsibility attaching to the rulers of France from the impunity with which the enormities in the South of the kingdom had been committed. There was a guarded avoidance of all political sentiment, as being inappropriate to the simply religious character of their object and proceedings.
It is no small benefit which must be considered as having already resulted from their exertions, that the very pains which have been taken to disprove the necessity of such interference, forms a standing concession as to the impolicy, and wickedness of countenancing in future, all such nefarious aggressions: while the English Government seems now to be still more strongly pledged to watch with jealousy the attempts of the ultra-royalist faction to infringe upon the provisions of the French charter with regard to religious toleration. What they have been in part the means of eliciting, has already served to let us more into the knowledge of what is transacting in France, than we otherwise might have gained. Spontaneous declarations of gratitude without the incentive of obligation, and professions of attachment without the plea of occasion, are more than suspicious: they betray the operation of latent motives either of fear or of interest; and when they are contradicted by the private assurances of the same individuals, there needs no key to unravel the cipher.
The fact is, that many of the published Letters purporting to be addressed by the Protestant Clergy of France to the Dissenting Ministers of London, have never been received by the Committee; nor is there reason to suppose that they were intended for any other purpose, than that of satisfying the suspicions of the police by whom it was known they would be intercepted: a regard to personal safety has induced many estimable men to resort to this expedient, and the venerable M. Marron, President of the Protestant Consistory of Paris, has addressed a letter to an individual of the Committee of Dissenting Ministers, which forms a most impressive comment on his published letter.
The Dissenting Ministers have acted strictly in character, by declining to satisfy curiosity or appease incredulity, at the expense of betraying the confidence and endangering the persons, and perhaps lives, of those in whose behalf they feel themselves under the strongest obligations to take an active interest. It is not to be supposed that they would invite the contributions of their congregations towards a chimerical object, or one which they had not secured the means of effecting, by a prudent distribution of the funds with which they are and may be entrusted. Still less is it to be supposed, that they would lend their united influence to the advancement of the views of any political faction.
It is extremely difficult to obtain any competent information which may enable us to form a just estimate of the internal state of France. The prospect is, however, at present sufficiently gloomy. There are three means of government, which form at the same time the elements of social cohesion ; religion, law, and public opinion. Which of these can have any beneficial operation in a country, where religion is made to consist in pageants, or in intolerance, where the Charter is decried in proof of loyalty, and where opinion is regulated by the police?
As to religion,—all we can do for France is to endeavour to secure its toleration, and surely this is the first duty of a Protestant country. We cannot give the name of religion to the mummeries of the Romish Church: they cannot humanize a nation. It is utterly revolting to the feelings, to observe the imbecile complacency with which some of our journalists detail the pious orgies of Superstition, and reiterate the phrases of beatification in reference to the 'holy martyr king, Louis the virtuous.' One would imagine that in the infatuated passion for legitimacy in government, it were actually deemed by some a matter of satisfaction, that we had re-established the legitimate religion of France. Are we indeed retrograding to the days of Divine right, and are we Protestants to learn anew the lesson of Christianity in the dialect of Rome? What a dereliction of principle, to bestow the term of piety on the miserable delusions of a bigoted and ignorant priesthood! Is it to be wondered at, that persons capable of this folly should be base enough to lend themselves to the propagation of falsehood and calumny, in reference to the Protestants of France, and the Dissenters of "England?
Art. XI. Ihe MisceUaneoui Works of Edward Gibbon, Esq. mth Memoirs of hi* Life and Writings; composed by Himself; illustrated from hii Letlrrs, with occasional Notes arid Narrative. By the. Right Hon. John Lord Sheffield. A new Edition, with considerable Additions, 5 vols. Svo. pp. xlviii, 2928. Price 31. 5s. London. Murray. 1815.
(Concluded from Page 20, of the prenent Volume.} \XTft have already hinted, that, while Mr. Gibbon's History ** may, notwithstanding some blemishes, be pronounced, upon the whole a most noble work, and one which reflects honour, through its Author, upon the whole British Nation; it exhibits two very exceptionable features, both deriving their origin from the character of the man, and both of a nature so serious, that they ought not to be passed over without marked reprobation. These are religious scepticism, and indelicacy of allusion. It will be seen in the sequel, that these two spots, with which the face of a work, otherwise of extraordinary beauty, is so miserably disfigured, are more closely connected with each other in their origin, than is generally supposed. Notwithstanding this connexion, however, we shall, for the sake of distinctness, consider each of these two points separately; and if, in the course of our discussions, we should be led into investigations of some length, we trust, the extreme importance of the subject to the best interests of mankind, will be admitted as a sufficient apology.
To begin then with religious scepticism. In entering upon this part of his duty, the writer of the present article may put in a claim to more than ordinary attention on the part of the reader, by virtue of a confession, which he is led to make, with deep contrition for his former fault, and fervent gratitude to God for his recovery, that he was himself once a determined and systematic infidel, and indeed not far removed from absolute atheism. For, without supposing the state of mind which gives rise to infidelity, to be in every instance exactly the same, some resemblance must necessarily exist in the cause, where there appears so striking a similarity in the effect. And surely, one, who has himself experienced the state of mind which he examines, though perhaps under some diversity of circumstances, must possess an advantage over those, who know it only from the observation of others, or from what they have heard or read on the subject.
We should have thought it quite superfluous, to prove that Gibbon was a sceptic in religion, had we not ourselves been acquainted with a person of strong sense, though of some singularity of manners, and one too, who had himself gone through a school of doubt on the subject of religion, by whom we were
gravely assured, that he had perused the two noted chapters of the "Decline and Fall," the fifteenth and sixteenth, with much edification; and that he should never have detected scepticism in them, had it not been pointed out to him by others. Few readers, we believe, will be similarly deceived, since the traces of scepticism in Gibbon, are not confined to those chapters, but run through the whole of his work. Yet, as there may be others, besides our friend, who, blinded by that charity which thinketh no evil, are not convinced that our historian was really an unbeliever, we shall produce only one passage from the present publication, which we think is fully sufficient to substantiate the charge. And let it be remembered, for the corroboration of our argument, that the Noble Editor seems to have carefully and laudably expunged from the pieces he has published, whatever he thought might prove dangerous to the interests either of morals or of religion.
In a letter of Mr. Gibbon to his bosom-friend, the Editor of Lis posthumous works, written at a moment when the death of Lady Sheffield must have solemnized both their minds, so as to produce, one might imagine, a temporary religious belief, even where it did not generally exist;—in a letter too, written upon that very subject, and written in the true spirit of condoling friendship; he could afford no more decided expressions of faith, than the following:
'But she is now at rest: and if there be a future life, her mild virtues have surely entitled her to the reward of pure and perfect felicity.'
In the opening of this sentence, we have, from his own pen, a declaration of religious scepticism; and in the conclusion of it, there is, to say the least, more of friendship than of Christianity, in another letter of condolence, written on the same occasion, we read these similar expressions.
1 IftTtere'be any invisible guardians, may they watch over you and yonrs.'
With these clear declarations, the reader may combine the following pleasantries, and we think no doubt will remain in the mind of the most charitable judge, respecting the decided and confirmed scepticism of the writer, on every question connected with religion. They all occur in his correspondence with Lord Sheffield.
'I have as little to say on the subject of my worldly matters, which •eera now, Jupiter be praised! to be drawing towards a final concision.'
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