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NOTE TO THE ADVERTISEMENT.
The following is Dr. Pusey's answer to an Anonymous Pamphlet, reflecting on these Tracts, which appeared in the end of March 1836. The Pamphlet professed to be a “ Pastoral Epistle from the Pope to some Members of the University of Oxford.” Dr. Pusey's answer was entitled “ An Earnest Remonstrance to the Author of the Pope's Letter,” &c. Tract 74 was added to it as an Appendix. Two extracts have been added by the Author in the second reprint.
SIR, -Two reasons induce me to appeal to you, in reference to your recent Letter: First, that I have escaped your censures : Secondly, that (if report speaks right) you are one from whose straight-forwardness, sincerity, and love of truth, I once anticipated much. In both ways, therefore, I am freed from the risk of personal feelings.
I would, then, regard you as the representative of a certain class (as every one is, more or less); and would direct my observations to an evil prevalent in these times, not to you. That evil (and there could scarcely be a greater) is the use of banter and jest in things serious. It is true that the minds of a large portion of our countrymen seem to have become so inured to this, that persons have even despaired of addressing them, except in a tone even lower than that low tone to which they have sunk. It is true, that even among the better-instructed orders, persons, in their degree serious-minded, have often thought themselves obliged to condescend to the conventional language of the day, as their only
hope to gain a hearing. It is true, also, that the appetite has grown with its unwholesome nourishment; and now, as by a self-created necessity, all seem to be absorbed into the tide; and it is rare to find any cause advocated in the plain, open, straightforward tone which was once the characteristic of our land. Not simply our periodical literature, or our journals, but our courts of law, and that branch of the legislature which is liable to be affected by popular taste, are infected by the mal-aria of this destructive habit. Man's happiness, or God's displeasure, domestic misery or national sin, are continually a jest. Adultery, fornication, theft, drunkenness, lying, are daily matters of sport. If justice is to be perverted, men's minds blinded, sin to escape unpunished, a jest is the refuge ; caricatures are the vehicles of public instruction, and “a mock at sin” the source of public amusement.
It is indeed strange, and a lamentable part of this sad merriment, that many right-minded people are so little sickened at it, or so little express their weariness.
But so it is with every other prevailing sin ; those who live amidst it are, in their several degrees, infected by it: the fineness of our moral perceptions is blunted by the very acquaintance with sin, all mention whereof we at first loathed; our ears become untuned to the chords of Heaven, by listening constantly to the jarring sounds of earth, and are less offended by their discordancy. Most men feel themselves compelled to an over-acquaintance with the things of the day, and so are insensibly inured to its wretchedness, and deem it irremediable. They are indeed mistaken; the more earnest spirit is not fled: it sleeps only, or rather is drugged by these continued poisonous appliances ; and brighter days may yet come, when our countrymen shall again be spoken to, not as members of a vast machine, or as the slaves of temporal interests, but as responsible immortal agents, as Christians, as members of Christ the Son of God.
It is one consolation, that if all our outward privileges, yea, every thing except truth, be lost, then the temptation of ap
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.
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 to say 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 you.
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.'