« ZurückWeiter »
Here, then, was a real disagreement between our practice and our laws. It is true, the disagreement was not very generally known, because, although all persons are well acquainted with the toleration actually allowed to unitarian dissenters, very few were aware of the existence of statutes prohibiting that toleration under such severe penalties. In fact, the statutes on the subject of the unitarians were a mere dead letter. So far as we are informed, no person professing unitarian tenets was ever convicted, or even proceeded against, on these statutes; and the penalties which they inflicted were of such extreme severity that we hold it to be probable that no court of justice would ever have put them in force.
In this state of things, we certainly think that the uvitarians had no very serious ground of complaint, and might well have remained content. They enjoyed, in point of fact, the same liberty of publicly professing their tenets, which all other dissenters enjoy; and, though they were nominally subject to penalties, they knew, by long experience, that they were not in the smallest actual danger of suffering them. In truth, this body of people had sufficiently tried the patience of the public by their many bold and scurrilous attacks on the received doctrines of Christianity, to be perfectly convinced that the law was never likely to be employed against them; and after having escaped with impunity in their • improved' edition of the New Testament, a work which not only conveyed as daring an attack on Scriptural truth as ever was made, but which also carried falsehood and fraud on the face of it, they were tolera. bly certain that no measures of hostility to which they could afterwards resort were likely to draw down upon them the vengeance of the law. They thought proper, however, not to be satisfied. They complained of the stigma which the penalties in the statute-book cast upon their party; they pretended to be under an apprehension that these penalties might be put in force against them !--in fact they were determined to exert themselves in endeavouring to procure a repeal of the statutes in question, for the purpose of gaining a point which might furnish them with a subject of public triumph and exultation.
When the subject was once pressed upon the attention of the legislature, it was obvious that something ought to be done towards removing the inconsistency which subsisted between our statutes and our practice. Either our practice, in tolerating that body of dissenters, was right, or it was wrong. If it was right, the statutes ought to be repealed: if it was wrong, the penalties against these persons ought to be put in execution. It appears that the feeling of the members of the legislature was very decided on the subject; for the measure passed without any opposition or discussion, or apparent difference of opinion. They determined that our practice in giving
. a free
a free toleration to the unitarians, as a body of professing Christians, was right; and that, therefore, the statutes which enact severe penalties against them for publicly professing their opinions, ought at once to be repealed.
We shall not be suspected of any undue partiality in favour of the unitarian sect, when we give our decided opinion that the legislature took, on this occasion, the only step which they could take, without departing from those great principles of toleration acknowledged by our constitution, and interwoven with its very frame. On some accounts we could have wished that the subject had not been pressed upon them; but, when this was once done, we see not how their determination could have been different from what it was.
The grounds of this opinion we will briefly state. We conceive that the legislature is bound, on principles of equity, to act in an uniform manner towards all dissenting Christians, that is, towards all Christians who receive, in common with us, the Holy Scriptures as of divine authority, and admit them as a rule of faith, but differ from us as to their mode of interpreting those Scriptures, and the doctrines which they deduce from them. On this ground, we hold that the same toleration, the same liberty of asserting their opinions and of exercising their peculiar modes of worship, which is granted to one class of Christian dissenters, ought to be extended to all without exception. Thus, on the very same principle on which we tolerate the quaker who disallows the appointment of the Christian sacraments, and the ordination of Christian ministers; the antinomian who denies the necessity of good works to salvation; the calvinist who maintains the doctrines of partial redemption and irreversible decrees; the papist who admits, in addition to the Holy Scriptures, the traditions of the church as a rule of faith; and the Swedenborgian who believes in other revelations as divine :-on the same principle, we think we are bound to tolerate the arian who maintains that our Saviour was inferior to God, and the socinian or unitarian who maintains that he was merely man. It has been sometimes asserted that a distinction ought to be made with reference to the importance of the doctrines affirmed or denied by particular sects, and that persons who deny the essential doctrines of Christianity ought to be excluded from that toleration which is granted to others, dissenting on points of lesser importance. We cannot, however, discern much advantage in a distinction of this nature, or much equity in attempting to act upon it, since it would be impossible to come to any thing like an agreement respecting what is essential to Christianity, and what is not. For our parts, we hold that many of those Christians, who have been always tolerated by the law, have dissented on points which are of essential imporD 2
tance to Christianity. We maintain that it is essential to Christianity to believe in the validity of ordination and the sacraments; also to believe that our Saviour died upon the cross for all men ; and that a good life is absolutely necessary for salvation; and again, that the Scriptures which we derive from men inspired by God, form the sole rule of Christian faith. All who differ from us on these points, differ, as we must ever maintain, on points essential to Christianity; and if arians and unitarians were excluded from the benefits of a legal toleration on the ground of their dissenting on matters of essential importance, we should maintain that all who dissent on the points we have just inentioned, ought to be excluded from them on a similar principle.
But we may carry this reasoning still farther. It is well known that we allow freedom of opinion and of worship even to jews, who not only deny, with the unitarians, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of our Saviour, but who even deny the truth of the Christian scriptures and the divine mission of Jesus. Times have been, it is true, before the principles of toleration were sufficiently understood, or at least, were rightly acted upon, when jews, in this and other Christian countries, were subject to penalties of the greatest severity, for the mere profession of their opinions. We believe that all the laws which affect them have been for some time repealed in this country. We are certain that the temper of the times is decidedly adverse to putting any such laws in execution, and we are convinced that, if any severe restraining law upon the jews were found lurking in our statute-book, and the repeal of it were moved in parliament, it would pass at once without hesitation or discussion. It was precisely thus that the repeal of the laws against the unitarians was carried. The spirit and the practice of the times had repealed them long before, and the formal act of the legislature was a matter which, as soon as attention was called to it, followed of course. But we must again most earnestly protest against the inference which the unitarians wish to make the public draw from it, than which nothing can be more wide from the truth; the inference, we mean, that the repeal was in any degree connected with an approbation, on the part of the legislature, of the principles or the practices of this body of dissenters. We speak from actual knowledge derived from those whose opinions had the greatest weight on the occasion, when we affirm that the repeal was consented to, and suffered to pass without discussion, solely and entirely on the ground that the enactments were inconsistent with the acknowledged principles of toleration, and that all professing Christians ought to be placed on the same footing, and to have the same favour extended to them by the legislature.
The fact is, that the public opinion respecting the unitarians is
now much the same as it has been in all periods of the church. They have existed in small numbers, under various names, from the earliest times to the present. They are, for the most part, a cool philosophizing set of people, pretending to be more clear-sighted in matters of religion, and more free from vulgar prejudices, than other Christians; gaining some few proselytes by appealing to their pride of reason, and disgusting many more by the cold repulsiveness of their tenets and modes of thinking, and by the manifest violence which they offer to all the received rules of interpretation in supporting their opinions. Not willing to proceed to quite the same length with the deist, in throwing off all belief in revelation, they choose rather to make their stand half way; to pare down revelation till it accords with their ideas, and thus to believe just as much of it as they please. The unitarians of the present day are extremely fond of circulating their opinions by writing, under the hope, of course, that, by so doing, they may stand the chance of advancing their cause. We much doubt whether they are likely to succeed in this purpose, even in the slightest degree. In proportion as they produce and reproduce, under new forms, their old confuted arguments, a correspouding activity will naturally be displayed in detecting their misrepresentations and exposing the unsoundness of their reasonings. And as the consequence of discussion, fairly conducted, must ever be the more complete development of truth, we have no fears for the result of any controversies which the unitarians may provoke.
There is one case, and one only, in which we should wish to see legal penalties put in force against the unitarians; and this is, when they depart from the course of regular reasoning, and have recourse to light and indecent ribaldry in assailing the received doctrines of Christianity. Instances have occurred of late, in which some writers of that party have offended in this respect: we trust they are not likely to recur. At all events, we are convinced that, notwithstanding the late repeal, the legislature will never be found backward in framing suitable enactments, which may effectually protect from ridicule and insult those sacred truths which are and have been received with reverence and awe by the great body of Christians, in all ages and countries.
Art.III.1. Narrative of Napoleon Buonaparte's Journey from
Fontainebleau to Frejus, in April, 1814. By Count TruchsesWaldbourg. Second Edition. pp. 68. 2. Histoire de l'Ambassade dans le Grand Duché de Varsovie
en 1812. Par M. de Pradt, Archevêque de Malines, alors Ambassadeur à Varsovie. Paris. 1815. pp. 239.
$. Histoire 3. Histoire du Cabinet des Tuileries depuis le 20 Mars, 1815, et
de la Conspiration qui a ramené Buonaparte en France. Paris.
1815. pp. 93. 4. Histoire des Quinze Semaines, ou le dernier Règne de Buona
parte. Paris. 1815. pp. 68. 5. Conspiration de Buonaparte contre Louis XVIII. Roi de . France. Par M. La Martillière. Paris. pp. 95. 6. Le Portefeuille de Buonaparte. 1e, 2e, et 3e livraisons. La
Haye. 1815. 7. Extract of a Journal kept on-board H. M. S. Bellerophon,
from July 15 to August 7, the Period during which Napoleon Buonaparte was on-board that Ship. By Lieut. J. Bower
bank, R. N. London. 1815. pp. 76. 8. A Narrative of the Events which have taken place in France
from the Landing of Buonaparte to the Restoration of Louis 'XVIII. &c. By Helen Maria Williams. Second edition.
8vo. London. 1815. pp. 390. W E have collected these publications into one article, because,
dissimilar as they are in some respects, they all tend to elucidate the character and proceedings of Buonaparte, and will enable us to continue, down to his political death, the history of this extra- ordinary person.
Our readers will recollect, that in Article XI. of Number XXIII., we conducted our hero from Mosco to Elba; and that we expressed strong apprehensions that an evasion from this illchosen place of exile would again endanger the peace of Europe.
We did not, however, foresee that he would have been able, as if by magic, and without striking a blow, to march from Cannes to Paris, and re-seat himself without opposition on the imperial throne. We saw in Buonaparte the same restlessness, audacity, and bad faith, which had distinguished him during his whole career ;-we saw, in the acknowledgment of Murat's sovereignty, a plague-spot that could not fail to spread and infect Italy ;and we were convinced that Elba was the place, of all others, in which Napoleon could the most conveniently intrigue, and from which he could most effectually put his intrigues into practice-but we did not think, we confess, that France would have been the first object of his movements. We had not indeed much confidence in the moral or political virtues of the revolutionized part of that - country; still we were not prepared for the horrible scenes of perjury and treason in which so great a number of its marshals, peers, deputies, judges, generals, officers, and soldiers, hastened (with the emulation of scoundrels jealous of one another's baseness) to act their infamous parts. Buonaparte knew those people better, and trusted-less their affection for bim than—their hatred of the prin