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that one great tercentenary cycle of the Reformation was expired; that, during its course, a full degree of the zodiac had been passed over, by a retrograde movement, so that, consequently, the heliacal rising of the dog-star of fanaticism must, for the next Sothic period, be placed exactly one month and one day earlier, * on the fourth of October. As far as we have an interest in the matter, the change is in our favour. We would rather have the grand festival of Protestantism celebrated as a commemoration of its own principle, by the observance of the day on which its palladium or ancile-a Bible without comment, in the vulgar tongue--is supposed to have come down from Heaven, than see its triumphs marked by feast-days of a political character, calculated to perpetuate the evil feelings, which may have once prevailed among members of the same social body. Not that, even here, invidious comparison was intended to be eschewed; for care was taken, that the medal, which commemorated the final translation of the Bible by Myles Coverdale, on the 4th of October, should, on the reverse, exhibit Popery locking up the word of God. But still, the ground of rejoicing, now chosen, was less offensively hostile to us, in its nature, than those which had previously been selected to arouse the failing enthusiasm of Protestantism.
The calling of a general assembly to a festival of rejoicing, the proclamation of a universal jubilee, the directing of the voices of all preachers, and the prayers of all congregations, to a specific theme of thanksgiving, are offices, one should have naturally supposed, belonging to the highest authority, and requiring a power vested only in the superiors of a church. But, on this occasion, it was a matter of private responsibility. The Bishops slumbered, the Metropolitans took no part, the Church was silent; while others, more zealous, deemed them dumb dogs that would not bark, and undertook themselves to raise the new warwhoop of bigotry, from one extremity of the island to the other. Marvels were, indeed, expected from this new combination of the forces and energies of Protestantism. The saints had long languished for some new manifestation of the spirit; the happy millennium had been expected; the Irvings and the Fabers had prophecied its speedy approach, in the downfal of Popery ;-yet Popery did not even seem to totter; the land of promise was nearly in possession, but the walls of the spiritual Jericho seemed yet proud and strong. Proclamation went out, that, on the fourth day of October, 1835, being Sabbath, all the tribes should be gathered together in their strength, and march in solemn array about its bulwarks, bearing with them their boasted palladium ; while all the priests and Levites should sound forth their hostile trumpets, and shake, from coping to foundation-stone, the olden walls that rested upon the rock. Long, and loud, and sonorous was the blast, grating at once and grateful to the ears of the zealous; and if, to the honour of our countrymen, there were many parishes where this unauthorised summons was not answered, there were not wanting those, which, in the exuberance of their pious emotion, anticipated the chosen day, and even prolonged, to succeeding Sabbaths, the sweet music of their warlike notes. Nay, not so contented, they even felt themselves called to publish their scores for the benefit of posterity, and of those less fortunate souls who heard not their strain. Of this character are the publications before us.
* The great Egyptian cycle, called the Sothic period, was determined by the heliacal rising of Sirius, or the dog-star.
Let not the reader, for a moment, imagine, that we have selected them from the mass of similar effusions, as though exhibiting eloquence of a nobler order, or learning of greater research, or feelings of a higher standard, or arguments of a more formidable power. The choice, if choice it could be called, has been purely accidental. The pamphlets on our table fell in our way, we know not how, came we remember not whence; they were skimmed over in a few moments, and then cast away; nor would they have been deemed by us worthy of farther notice, had not one or two reflections, that sprung up in our minds after perusing them, appeared to us worth pursuing. In fact, they belong to the ephemera of the times; they are creatures called into existence by a day of accidental warmth, to dance upon the running waters, to flutter over the stream of events, in which they soon must meet their grave. A naturalist may catch a few, and find amusement and instruction in anatomizing them; but, when he has studied a few specimens, he finds them all alike, and too insignificant to repay the minute dissection they require.
The reflections, to which we have just alluded, are obvious and simple, and a few lines will explain them. It is determined, on a certain day, to unite all Protestants in voice and heart, for the commemoration of a certain event, vital to their religion, and containing in itself the practical verification of its essential principle. The Bible alone, accessible to every Christian, his indivividual right and possession, the Bible alone, without an infallible guide, without a dogmatical authority in the Church,-such is the basis of Protestantism, in contradistinction to Catholicity. Coverdale is supposed first to have rendered this principle of practical utility, by conferring on this nation a Bible which could be practically used. We waive the enquiry, whether the groundwork of the festival be correct, that is, whether the completion of Coverdale's version can be considered the first presentation of an English version to our country: for we wish to make our present investigation an investigation into principles, and are, consequently, willing to assume the correctness of the fact. It is, therefore, proclaimed and provided, that, on a certain day, the great Protestant principle shall be solemnly commemorated throughout the land, and the sympathies of all, who acknowledge it, are ordered to be concentrated on a point equally dear to all. It is a subject as important and valuable to the Dissenter as to the Churchman, to the Evangelical as to the High-Church clergyman, to the Hierarchist as to the Congregationist. For one Sunday, at least, out of the Sabbaths of 300 years, a unity of object, a harmony of feeling, a sameness of doctrine, a union of charity, an assimilation of thought, will pervade the whole body of Protestantism, and impel it to move, by a common law, in one given direction. At least, were the superiors of our Church, domestic or general, to command the observance of a certain day, as the 18th of January, in grateful commemoration of the blessing of unity bestowed upon the Church, through the authority vested in its pastors, and chiefly in the occupier of St. Peter's chair, we are sure that the same doctrine, the same motives of thankfulness, the same instructions would be presented in every church and chapel which obeyed the call. There might be richer treats of eloquence and erudition in one than in another, but the theme and the feeling would be but one throughout.
Well, then, was it so, with the great tercentenary commemoration of the principles of Protestantism ? Our materials are indeed scanty; but luckily, the fewer elements of comparison we possess, the smaller the chances of dissimilarity. If, therefore, we shall find, in a few instances, wide dissent, we may well conclude, that an extension of our objects of comparison would only still further encrease it. We will, however, draw occasionally upon other productions, in date nearly contemporary, and in purpose not dissimilar.
The first consequence, which we should naturally have expected from the character of this festival, would be an accordance in the great principles of the Reformation. But, had it been the lot of any one to hear two or more of these discourses, preached the same day, for the same object, he certainly would have been at a loss to discover, that anything more than the triumph of particular sectarian principles was intended to be commemorated. The Vicar of Blackburne, in the vivacity of his zeal, edified his congregation with five sermons on the occasion, and headed them with the pompous title of “ The Catholic Church.” He
stands in the pulpit, with all the solemnity of a minister belonging to a well-endowed church, to establish her claim to be the Catholic Church, and to thunder his withering anathemas against Popery and Papists. He minces not the matter indeed; he dilutes not, sweetens not, the bitter cup which he thrusts upon his neighbours' lips. Superstition, vice, ignorance, idolatry, infidelity—these are our qualities, these our possession; while the church-goers and rate-payers of Blackburne, 5000, we are told, in number, (p. 4) “ belong to a pure, apostolic church, as nearly approaching to perfection in doctrine and government, as any that has existed since the apostolic time”!-p. 45. Then, too, the reverend vicar hath great compassion on “the poor and ignorant Papist,” because he must “implicitly receive whatever his priest tells him he must believe, do, and
in order to obtain eternal life”! Why did he not conclude his sermons by the apposite prayer, which would so justly have summed up their substance and embodied their spirit:" Lord, We give thee thanks that we are not as the rest of men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers ;as also are these Papists” ? For, while these arrogant assumptions of exclusive righteousness were thus proclaimed in the parish church, the Catholic congregation was not far distant, learning, we doubt not, from their worthy pastor, to be lowly before God, and meek and charitable towards all men.
The conception, then, formed by Dr. Whittaker, of the principles and feelings, which this commemorative festival should excite, seems to be, that all acrimonious feeling against his Catholic neighbours and fellow citizens should be stirred up and renewed, that a barrier of hatred and bigotry should be drawn between members of the two religions, and that one should be held up to the other, as a “hideous mass of spiritual deformity and falsehood," as "the patron of ignorance, vice, and infidelity. -p. 72. Gracious heavens ! And is his Protestantism then synonymous with Christianity, with the religion of charity and love? Was the spirit of the Reformation one of hatred and antagonism, of misrepresentation and falsehood, that it should be deemed duly celebrated, by five mortal discourses, rank with a festering exuberance of these antichristian and antisocial feelings? And hath the mantle of its founders fallen from Heaven, if it could do no better than warm its inheritors into so unholy a zeal, and animate them only to scatter firebrands of religious animosity among a peaceful and friendly neighbourhood ?
For the honour of human nature, we hope that no religion, aspiring to the name of Christian, will recognize, as a worthy solemnization of its principles, a display of such unchristian sentiments. But after all, this “catholic church,” the beauties and
perfections of which have charmed the Vicar of Blackburne into so zealous a hatred of Popery, whereof does it consist ? The call upon men to rejoice in the translation of the Bible, was intended to unite all the tribes of Protestantism in one shout of praise; it was a motive of common joy to all, and all dissentient feelings were to merge in one universal song of gratitude. Dr. Whittaker too gives us, as a reason why the Protestant Churches should be considered the Catholic church, rather than ours, that “ they prevail over a larger space of the globe, (!) and are actuated by a more catholic and liberal spirit, not refusing to recognise, as brethren in Christ, those who are not governed by the same laws.”—p. 37. The “Catholic church,” therefore, consists of Protestant congregations, spread more extensively over the world than the Catholics are, and recognising one another as brethren, though they have different governments. Now, we beg the reader to compare these words with the following passage :
“ Our National Church of England was foremost in asserting the common rights of Christians-among the first to throw off the subjugation of Rome. Many (so called) Protestant Churches have apostatized from the primitive faith of Christ, and are now to be found fighting among our adversaries. But the Church of England...still exists, stiil remains the same as she was three centuries since, and still lifts her banner aloft to the nations."--p. 19.
How, we ask, were the hearers of these two passages to reconcile them together? The Protestant Churches are more extensively dispersed over the world than the Catholic, and yet many so called are apostates, and fight on the other side. Which are these many ? Switzerland we may suppose is one, in consequence of its defection to Socinianism; Protestant France is tainted with the same error, and Germany is deeply involved in rationalism. But the learned Doctor tells us as much. After saying that “it was quite otherwise on the continent, in France, Switzerland, and Germany,” than in happy England, he proceeds as follows:
“ And what has been the consequence? They are all of them, with few, I believe no exceptions, corrupted as to the essentials of Christianity. The cankerworm of Socinianism, the dry-rot of infidelity, have eaten completely through the whole body, substance, and into the very core of these foreign churches, which at first were as pure and as scriptural as was our own in the time of Edward VI... Most of these churches, to which we have made allusion, are chargeable with direct heresy; and are no more to be considered part of Christ's catholic church, than we have shown the apostate Church of Rome to be.”—p. 104.
Once more we ask, in the name of consistency, what and where are the Protestant churches, that prevail over a larger portion of the world than ours, if France, Switzerland, and